Monday, 24 October 2016

Some Vintage Halloween Ads

Halloween has long been celebrated in the United States. It has also been commercialised for literally decades. Over the years advertisers have capitalised on the holiday, particularly in selling candy. Here are a few ads from a few decades in the 20th Century.

Here is a Crisco advert from 1936. Today it might seem odd for Crisco (which is a brand of shortening, for those of you who don't know) to have a Halloween themed ad, but in the Thirties many people still baked treats for Halloween rather than buying them in a store.

Here is a Curtis Candy Company ad from 1946. Trick or treating originated in the early 20th Century, spreading from western Canada and the northwest United States eastward. By the late Thirties it had reached the East Coast. Naturally advertisers were quick to take advantage of the newly established custom.

A Brach's candy ad from 1958. With improved colour photography, magazine advertisements changed dramatically in the Fifties. Where once adverts would have used illustrations, they now used photos in full colour.

Another Brach's ad, this one from 1962. To a degree this ad is a bit anachronistic. In 1962 instead of wearing home-made costumes, the kids might well be wearing store-bought costumes of the sort manufacture by Ben Cooper, Collegeville, or Halco.

And lastly, here is a Wrigley's Gum ad from 1974. Cartoon-style art was very popular in the Seventies, appearing in magazines, newspapers, and comic books.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Starring Boris Karloff

It is quite possible that Boris Karloff is the most famous horror film actor of all time. What is more, it seems likely he will always be identified with the role of Frankenstein's Creature more than any other actor who played the role. Of course, Mr. Karloff had a long career playing many other roles besides Frankenstein's Creature (which he only played three times). With the advent of television he frequently guest starred on various shows, and he was even the host of the suspense/horror anthology series Thriller in the Sixties. What many don't realise is that even before Thriller Boris Karloff was the host of his own suspense/horror anthology show very early in the history of television.

In the late Forties Boris Karloff was represented by David Susskind at the powerful talent agency MCA. Mr. Susskind put together a deal for Mr. Karloff, whose movie career was in the doldrums at that point, hosting a radio show and television series. Starring Boris Karloff, also known as The Boris Karloff Mystery Theatre and Boris Karloff Presents, was a half hour anthology series that debuted on September 22 1949 on the American Broadcast Company (ABC). Starring Boris Karloff aired on radio on Wednesday, followed by the television broadcast on Thursday.

From reports the series was very similar to Mr. Karloff's later show Thriller. Its debut episode, "Five Golden Guineas" dealt with a hangman who unknowingly executes his own son. It very closely resembles the later Thriller episode "Guillotine". Another episode, "The Shop at Sly Corner," was an adaptation of the Edward Percy play of the same name, in which a Devil's Island convict operates a suspicious antique shop.

Boris Karloff put in a good deal of work on the show, so much so that MCA wanted to credit him as a producer. Ever the professional, Mr. Karloff objected most strenuously.  He maintained he handled none of the production duties and should not be credited as such, and that the credit should go to actual producer and director Alex Segal. The next payday Mr. Segal noticed his pay cheque had increased from $75 a week to $125 a week. While Mr. Segal was not given a producer credit, Mr. Karloff's anger had convinced MCA to give him a pay raise.

Sadly, Starring Boris Karloff would only last thirteen weeks. Even more sadly, not one episode survives. Regardless, Starring Boris Karloff was among the earliest suspense/horror anthology shows. Short lived though it may have been, it would have an impact on such later shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Thriller.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

"Just a Little" by The Beau Brummels

This coming week is going to be a busy one for A Shroud of Thoughts. I'm doing my usual seven posts for Halloween, including posts on haunted houses, evil clowns, and the history of trick or treating. This Tuesday is the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman, so there will be a post for that as well. Given I have some posts that are going to take some time and effort to write, I thought tonight I would leave you with one of my favourites songs. It's "Just a Little" by The Beau Brummels. The song was written by Beau Brummels' guitarist Ron Elliott and his frequent collaborator Bob Durand. It was released in the spring of 1965 and peaked at no. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 that June.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Record Executive Phil Chess Passes on

Phil Chess, who with his brother Leonard founded Chess Records, died on October 19 2016 at the age of 95.

Phil Chess was born Fiszel Czyż in  Częstochowa, Poland. In 1928 he, his mother, his brother Lejzor (later named Leonard), and sister Malka joined their father in Chicago. The family name was later Anglicised to "Chess". Fiszel became Philip while Lejzor became Leonard. During World War II he served in the United States Army.

Following the war Phil and Leonard Chess operated a liquor store and then the Macomba Lounge nightclub. In 1948 Leonard Chess became a partner in Aristocrat Records, a Chicago recording company that was the first to record Muddy Waters. Leonard bought the other owners out and Phil Chess joined the label in 1950. Aristocrat Records then became Chess Record. As Chess Records the label's primary focus would be rhythm and blues. Chess Records' first release was  Gene Ammons's cover of "My Foolish Heart". It was in 1951 that Chess Records began a long association with  Sam Phillips's Memphis Recording Service.

Ultimately Chess Records produced a number of major R&B stars, including Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Etta James, Willie Dixon, and Chuck Berry. In 1951 the Chess brothers founded Checker Records as a subsidiary of Chess. Unlike Chess Records, Checker Records covered a wide range of genres, including blues, doo-wop, gospel, rock and roll, and soul. Checker Records produced its own number of music stars, including Little Walter,  Sonny Boy Williamson II,  Bo Diddley, and Dale Hawkins.

In 1969 the Chess Brothers sold Chess Records to General Recorded Tape (GRT) for $6.5 million. Phil Chess continued to work as a producer well into the Eighties.

Along with his brother Leonard, Phil Chess played a pivotal role in the history of both rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll. Not only was Chess Records home to many early and influential R&B and rock 'n' roll artists, but Phil Chess himself produced a number of important recordings, including the early work of Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, and others.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Eddie Applegate R.I.P.

Eddie Applegate, best known for playing Patty Lane's boyfriend Richard Harrison on The Patty Duke Show, died on  October 17 2016 at the age of 81.

Eddie Applegate was born on October 4 1935 in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. As a child he appeared on stage at the e Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. After he had graduated from high school he went to New York City to pursue his acting career. He made his television debut in an episode of Kraft Playhouse in 1956.

Mr. Applegate guest starred on an episode of Dobie Gillis in 1963. He was touring with a production of Bye Bye Birdie when the producers of The Patty Duke Show saw him. They cast him in the role of Richard Harrison, and he went on to appear in 70 episodes of the show. He guest starred on Daktari and Gunsmoke, and had a recurring role on the short lived series Nancy.

For many years Eddie Applegate worked as a talent agent. In 1999 he took part in the reunion special for The Patty Duke Show, The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin' in Brooklyn Heights. From the Naughts into the Teens he appeared in the films Exorcism (2003), Welcome to September (2005), Easy A (2010), and Rain from Stars (2013).

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time IMHO

In the October 6 issue of Rolling Stone the magazine published its list of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. The list was assembled by polling various actors, critics, writers, and producers. I have to admit that I have some serious problems with the list. First, it excludes several shows that one would expect on a list of the greatest shows of all time. Where is The Andy Griffith Show? Where is The Prisoner? Where is Playhouse 90? Given the many shows that were excluded, I feel lucky that they included The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Twilight Zone at all. Second, the list contains too many recent shows. To me, with but a very few exceptions, for a show to be included on a list of the greatest shows of all time, it must have stood the test of time. It's far too early to say that about a show that just made its debut in 2011. Third, the list skews far too American.  There are only a very few British shows on the list, even though many concede that British television is better than American television, even here in the United States.

Given my frustration with Rolling Stone's list, I decided to create my own.  As anyone who knows me would expect, my list skews more towards older shows than younger ones. In fact, the decade with the most shows is the Sixties, followed by the Fifties and Seventies. I did include some more recent shows, but not many at all (there are only four shows from the Naughts and none from the Teens). I also included a good many British shows. As to how to I went about choosing the shows for the list, I took in account various factors. Among these was the staying power of a show. If a show has constantly been rerun for the past fifty years, I think that does say something about its over all quality. Another factor I took into account in choosing these shows is how well regarded a particular show is. While there are a few exceptions on this list, there are many shows on this list that were critically acclaimed upon their initial runs and are still highly regarded.  Finally, I took into account the over all importance of a show to the history of television. There is a reason that shows like Studio One, Your Show of Shows, and The Phil Silvers Show are still remembered. They broke new ground and changed television forever.

Now I will confess I have included some shows that simply number among my favourites. I am sure some of the shows on this list would not make anyone else's "Greatest" list. That having been said, I also included a few shows that do not number among my favourites (if you know me you can probably guess which ones they are). There are a few shows I would like to have made the list, but did not.

Anyway, I am listing the shows in alphabetical order, as in many cases trying to put them in order would be like a parent choosing a favourite child for me. I have included the years of their original run and who broadcast them. For those who are interested in such things, CBS has the most shows on the list, followed by NBC. Of the British broadcasters, BBC One has the most. As mentioned above, of the various decades the Sixties has by far the most shows on the list. Discounting the Forties (when television was in its infancy) and the Teens (which is far too recent for a "Greatest" list), the decade with the least shows is the Naughts. As to the oldest show on the list, that would be The Ed Sullivan Show (it beat Studio One by a few months). The youngest is Mad Men at nine years old.

By the way, if any other bloggers out there want to compile their own list of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of all time, I think it would be interesting to compile our lists. I think such a list would be more defniitive than the one published by Rolling Stone!

1. The Addams Family (ABC 1964-1966)
2. Alfred Hitchcock Presents/The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (CBS 1955-1960 NBC 1960-1962, CBS 1962-1964, NBC 1964-1965)
3. All Creatures Great and Small (BBC One 1978-1990)
4. All in the Family (CBS 1971-1979)
5.  American Family (PBS 2002-2004)
6.  The Andy Griffith Show (CBS 1960-1968)
7. Are You Being Served? (BBC One, 1972-1985)
8. The Avengers (ITV, 1961-1969)
9. Batman (ABC 1966-1968)
10. Beany and Cecil (ABC,  1962--reran until 1969)
11. The Beverly Hillbillies (CBS, 1962-1971)
12.  Bewitched (ABC, 1964-1972)
13. Blackadder (BBC One, 1983-1989)
14. The Bob Newhart Show  (CBS, 1972-1978)
15. Bonanza (NBC 1959-1973)
16. Buffy the Vampire Slayer  (The  WB, 1997-2001, UPN 2001-2003)
17.  The Carol Burnett Show (CBS, 1967-1968)
18. Cheers (NBC, 1982-1993)
19.  Columbo (NBC, 1971-1991, ABC, 1991-2003)
20.  Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-present)
21.  Crime Story (NBC 1986-1988)
22. Dad's Army (BBC One, 1968-1977)
23. Dallas (CBS, 1978-1991)
24. Danger Man/Secret Agent (ITV, 1960-1962, 1964-1968)
25. Dark Shadows (ABC, 1966-1971)
26. Deadwood (HBO, 2004-2006)
27. The Dean Martin Show (NBC, 1965-1974)
28. The Defenders (CBS, 1961-1965)
29. The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 1961-1966)
30. Doctor Who (BBC TV, 1963-1989, BBC TV became BBC One in 1964, BBC One 2005-present)
31. F Troop (ABC, 1965-1967)
32. Farscape (Nine Network, 1999-2003)
33. Father Knows Best (CBS, 1954-1960)
34.  Father Ted (Channel 4, 1995-1998)
35.  Fawlty Towers (BBC Two, 1975-1979)
36. The Fugitive (ABC, 1963-1967)
37. Get Smart (NBC 1965-1969, CBS 1969-1970)
38. The Golden Girls (NBC, 1985-1992)
39. Gunsmoke (CBS, 1955-1975)
40. Have Gun--Will Travel (CBS, 1957-1963)
41. He & She (CBS, 1967-1968)
42. Hill Street Blues (NBC, 1981-1987)
43. The Honeymooners (CBS, 1955-1956; also aired as a recurring skit on The Jackie Gleason Show for years)
44.  I Dream of Jeannie (NBC, 1965-1970)
45. I Love Lucy (CBS, 1951-1957)
46. Inspector Morse (ITV, 1987-2000)
47. The Jack Benny Program  (CBS, 1950-1964, NBC 1964-1965)
48. The Jeffersons (CBS, 1975-1985)
49. Keeping Up Appearances (BBC One, 1990-1995)
50. Last of the Summer Wine (BBC One, 1973-2010)
51. Law & Order (NBC, 1990-2010)
52. Leave It to Beaver (CBS, 1957-1958, ABC, 1957-1963)
53. Letter to Loretta/The Loretta Young Show (NBC, 1953-1961)
54. Lou Grant (CBS, 1977-1982)
55.  M*A*S*H (CBS, 1972-1983)
56. Mad Men (AMC, 2007-2015)
57. Make Room for Daddy/The Danny Thomas Show (ABC, 1953-1957, CBS 1957-1964)
58. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (NBC, 1964-1968)
59. The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis/Dobie Gillis (CBS, 1959-1963)
60. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS, 1970-1977)
61. Maverick (ABC, 1957-1962)
62. Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC One, 1969-1974)
63. The Monkees (NBC 1966-1968)
64. The Muppet Show (ITV, 1976-1981)
65. Northern Exposure (CBS, 1990-1995)
66. The Odd Couple (ABC, 1970-1975)
67. Only Fools and Horses (BBC One, 1981-2003)
68. Perry Mason (CBS, 1957-1966)
69. Peter Gunn (ABC, 1958-1961)
70. The Phil Silvers Show (1955-1959)
71. Playhouse 90 (CBS, 1956-1960)
72. The Prisoner (ITV, 1967-1968)
73.  Profit (Fox, 1996)
74. Ready Steady Go! (ITV, 1963-1966)
75. Red Dwarf (BBC Two, 1988-1993, 1997-1999, Dave 2009-present)
76.  The Rockford Files (NBC, 1974-1980)
77. Rocky and His Friends/The Bullwinkle Show (as Rocky and His Friends on ABC, 1959-1960, as The Bullwinkle Show on NBC, 1961-1964)
78. Route 66 (CBS, 1960-1964)
79. The Saint (ITV, 1962-1969)
80. St. Elsewhere (NBC, 1982-1988)
81. Sanford and Son (NBS, 1972-1977)
82. Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975-present)
83. The Simpsons (Fox, 1989-present)
84. Six Feet Under (HBO, 2001-2004)
85. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (CBS, 1967-1969)
86. Star Trek (NBC, 1966-1969)
87. Steptoe and Son (BBC TV, 1962-1974, BBC TV became BBC One in 1964)
88. Studio One (CBS, 1948-1958)
89. Taxi (ABC, 1978-1983, NBC 1983-1983)
90. Thriller (NBC, 1960-1962)
91. Toast of the Town/The Ed Sullivan Show  (CBS, 1948-1971)
92. The Tonight Show (NBC, 1954-present)
93. The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959-1964)
94. The Untouchables (ABC 1959-1963)
95. Upstairs Downstairs (ITV, 1971-1975)
96. The U.S. Steel Hour (ABC, 1953-1955, CBS, 1955-1963)
97. The Waltons (CBS, 1972-1981)
98. The Wild Wild West (CBS, 1965-1969)
99. The X-Files (Fox, 1993-2002)
100. Your Show of Shows (NBC, 1950-1954)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Jean Alexander R.I.P.

Jean Alexander, who played Auntie Wainwright on Last of the Summer Wine and earlier Hilda Ogden on Coronation Street, died on October 14 2016 at the age of 90.

Jean Alexander was born on October 11 1926 in Toxteth, Liverpool. Jean Alexander was drawn to acting at an early age. While her father, an electrician, was working in a shipyard she stayed in a guesthouse in Barrow-in-Furness. It was there she watched twelve dancing girls practice and then that it occurred to her a  life on stage could be appealing. As a young girl she watched variety acts at the Pavilion Theatre in Liverpool. As a teenager she joined an amateur acting troupe called the Playgoers’ Club. It was while she was with the Playgoers Club that she developed skills as a stage manager. It was the same time she took elocution lessons to help overcome her accent. It was in 1949 that she was hired for £5 a week by the Macclesfield-based Adelphi Theatre Guild as an actress. In the Fifties she worked in theatres in Southport and York before moving to London.

It was in 1961 that Jean Alexander made her television debut in an episode of Deadline Midnight. It was in 1962 that she was cast as Hilda Ogen on Coronation Street. She would play the role for 25 years. In the Sixties she was also a regular on the series Badger's Bend. She guest starred on the shows ITV Playhouse, Top Secret, Winning Widows, Jacks and Knaves, Emergency-Ward 10, Z Cars, Maupassant, First Night, and Mary Barton. She appeared in the films In Search of the Castaways (1962) and If.... (1968).  In the Seventies she appeared on the TV series The Intruder. In the Eighties she appeared in episodes of Boon and Woof!, and in the feature film Scandal.

In the Nineties she played Granny Trellis on Rich Tea and Sympathy, Auntie Wainwright on Last of the Summer Wine, and Lily in The Phoenix and the Carpet. She guest starred on The Good Guys; I, Lovett; Harry; Cluedo; and Adam's Family Tree. She appeared in the film Willie's War (1994). 

In the Naughts she continued to star on Last of the Summer Wine. She had recurring roles on both Barbara and Where the Heart Is. She guest starred on Heartbeat and The Afternoon Play. She appeared in the short film "To the sea again" (2006). In 2012 she appeared in the TV production Eugene!.

There can be no doubt that Jean Alexander was an actress of enormous talent. Hilda on Coronation Street was meant initially to simply be a stereotypical, working class, nagging housewife. It was largely because of Miss Alexander that Hilda became much more. Hilda had the sort of pluck that allowed her and her husband Stan (played by Bernard Youens) to survive from week to week. And while Hilda and Stan might snipe at each other, they both clearly loved each other. Hilda was always the first to take up for Stan if anyone attacked his character.

Of course, Jean Alexander may be better known worldwide as Auntie Wainwright on Last of the Summer Wine. Auntie was the cunning owner of Auntie Wainwright's Shop, a bric-a-brac shop. She was well known for her greed and miserliness, to the point that she even once feigned blindness to avoid donating money to a church collection. She was also extremely overprotective of her shop, to the point that she would threaten customers over a loud speaker not to move lest they be electrocuted, among other things.

Jean Alexander played a number of other roles throughout her career. In the film Scandal, which was about the Profumo Affair, she played the mother of Christine Keeler. In "To the sea again" she played an old woman whose final wish to visit the seaside complicates the lives of her son and grandson. She even provided the voice of Mrs. Santa in the animated Christmas special Hooves of Fire. Jean Alexander had the extraordinary talent of bringing any character to life, so much so that it was sometimes hard for audiences to believe that was not how she was in real life.