Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer Magic ( 1963 )

Kate Douglas Wiggin's popular 1911 novel "Mother Carey's Chickens" was an ideal bit of literary property for Walt Disney Studios. It featured genteel characters, old-fashioned humor, a sweet story line, and a healthy dose of gaps in the plot ideal for musical intervals.

The story centered around a widowed mother ( Dorothy McGuire ) from Boston who moves her brood out of the city and into a long-vacant farmhouse in Maine. With the generous help of the local general store owner/postman/justice-of-the-peace Osh Popham ( Burl Ives ), they renovate the house unbeknownst to its owner, Tom Hamilton ( Peter Brown ), who is away in China. When Mr. Hamilton returns, he certainly is surprised to find his house being occupied by a family ( and rent free, at that! ).....but he soon comes to be smitten with the eldest daughter and everything turns out honky-dory. 

When Walt Disney decided to film the story in 1963 as Summer Magic, he gathered together some of his favorite leading players ( Hayley Mills, Dorothy McGuire, and Deborah Walley ) and a crackerjack pair of homespun character actors ( Burl Ives and Una Merkel ), dressed them up in colorful Bill Thomas period costumes, and surrounded them with bright and cheerful Carroll Clark sets. But he felt the story still needed some extra pizzazz, and so he asked the Sherman Brothers to pen some nostalgic-sounding tunes.... they came up with seven songs ( you could always trust the Sherman brothers to give more than what was needed ). What resulted was a pleasing, albeit fluffy, version of "Mother Carey's Chickens".
Summer Magic is a leisurely paced film that meanders along like sleepy folk heading home from an evening picnic. It captures that gentle lazy spirit of summer but not in so entertaining a way as Disney's own Pollyanna ( 1960 ) or MGM's Two Weeks with Love ( 1950 ). 

While the songs are fabulous ( especially noteworthy are "On the Front Porch", "The Ugly-Bug Ball", and "Femininity" ), the clever little touches of humor that are present in most Disney films was lacking, and both Hayley Mills and Deborah Walley's talents were wasted in parts that could have had more punch. The few scenes they played together were fun - especially the summer party croquet sequence - but there simply weren't enough of them. Screenwriter Sally Benson is at fault here, which is unusual considering she was the talented writer behind Meet Me in St. Louis ( 1944 ), Junior Miss ( 1946 ), and Come to the Stable ( 1949 ). 
Still, Hayley is a delight to watch and, even with the absence of the traditional Disney sparkle, sitting back with Summer Magic makes a pleasant way to spend a hot summer evening. Also cast in the film were Eddie Hodges, Michael J. Pollard, James Stacey, Peter Brown, and Jimmy Mathers ( younger brother to Jerry "Beaver" Mathers ). 

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

"Mangiare, Mangiare!" This family is getting ready to sit down for a hearty supper and if you look closely you may recognize Mama and Papa. They both made many great films! 

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!


GAME OVER. 

Congratulations to Betty who has correctly guessed "It's a Big Country : An American Anthology" ( 1951 )...a big film with an all-star cast including none other than Fredric March who is pictured here as Papa ( with Angela Clarke as Mama ) in the one of the sequences in this entertaining extravaganza. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bill Bixby and Fatherhood

"Reach out for your child. Reach out and touch him, because I didn't and my father didn't. I couldn't even talk to my parents. Maybe that's why this show ( The Courtship of Eddie's Father ) is so important to me. It probably represents a lot of things I didn't have." 

Actor Bill Bixby spoke these words in a 1971 magazine interview shortly after the death of his father to coronary thrombosis. Bill, who was born Wilfred Everett Bixby III in 1934, was an only child. His father had left him during his formative years to join the Army and serve overseas, and upon his return Bill resented him greatly. A growing distance spread between them. 

During the 1960s, while he was busy starring in the popular sitcom My Favorite Martian, Bill was known throughout Hollywood as being a playboy. He was a real life bachelor who dated every gorgeous girl he met and professed that he did not care for children. So he was an odd choice to be cast as widower Tom Corbett in the 1969 series The Courtship of Eddie's Father.....and yet, the part was a blessing to him because it made him change his outlook towards marriage and children. 
"The reason this show is so important to me is because it represents a lot of things I didn't have"

Bill Bixby recognized that the series had the potential to share with television viewers what a meaningful relationship between a father and son could be like. Bill did not have that kind of relationship growing up and playing the part of Tom Corbett allowed him to be the father that he did not have. It gave him the opportunity to show what fatherhood really is all about, and for so many youngsters who tuned in to watch the series, Tom Corbett became their surrogate father.

Indeed, he was such a good dad on screen that it is amazing that he was still single while the show was being filmed. It was Brandon Cruz ( "Eddie" on the show ) who had a lot to do with this change of heart. "Make no mistake, this little boy changed my life!" The comradery he had with little buddy onscreen and off made him yearn for a son of his own. He knew that having a child would not be an answer to his own problems, but he liked the thought of focusing his constant stream of energy into the loving and caring for another human being.

In July 1971, just a month after his father passed on, he married his long-time friend Brenda Benet and, in 1974, she bore him a son, Christopher. Their marriage lasted until 1979 and, after their divorce, Benet had custody of the boy. Bill remained close to him and was adamant that his son not be allowed to watch any episodes of The Incredible Hulk, worrying that his transformation from the mild-mannered doctor into the giant green monster would give the boy nightmares. 

Both Bill and Brenda doted on Christopher, but he was a sickly child and had respiratory problems. During a camping trip to Mammoth Lakes with his mother, the six-year old came down with epiglottis and suffered cardiac arrest during an emergency tracheotomy at the hospital.

"Christopher's death was the greatest shock in my life," said Bixby years later. He rented a house on the beach after his son's death and "I never left the second floor of that house. I didn't go out onto the sand for four months." It was a shock he never fully recovered from, nor did his wife Brenda Benet, who committed suicide just one year later. 

Brandon Cruz, who named his own son Lincoln Bixby in honor of his best friend and on-screen dad, once said "Bill was such a professional, such a giving actor, and caring person that it didn't even seem like work. It seemed like I was hanging out with my best friend. It was corny, but he was so wonderful to work with, you could not pay anybody to say a bad word about Bill. He was giving to a fault, basically."

Warner Archive Instant has just released the complete series of "The Courtship of Eddie's Father". A great series to enjoy! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

From the Archives : Bon Voyage! ( 1962 )


Deborah Walley bids farewell to Michael Callan in this charming scene from Walt Disney's Bon Voyage! ( 1962 ). One year later Walley would team up with Callan's look-a-like, James Stacey, in Disney's Summer Magic. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Friday, June 9, 2017

Listen, Darling ( 1938 )

For many years Freddie Bartholomew was one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's biggest box-office drawing child actors but, like most child stars, he found his popularity waning as he grew into adolescence. In 1938, he was no longer a wide-eyed little aristocratic tyke, but had matured into a handsome - if a tad bit scrawny - teenager, just ripe enough in age to play a second-fiddle beau to the child actor who would succeed him as star of the studio - Judy Garland - in the family melodrama Listen, Darling

Judy Garland had been signed to a MGM contract in 1935 and had quickly become such a favorite with audiences across the country that within three short years the studio was already preparing an adaptation of Frank L.Baum's The Wizard of Oz to be a starring vehicle for their newfound talent. 

Her characters were often shy, giggly, awkward little girls, but they were strangely appealing. Judy had a way of brightening up the screen the moment she walked into a scene and, when she opened her mouth to sing, that powerful voice would transfix audiences. Her singing was very mature and heart-felt for one so young. 

Judy had starred in only a handful of roles, her most recent being opposite Mickey Rooney in Love Finds Andy Hardy, when she was cast in Listen, Darling, a light-hearted melodrama aimed towards juvenile audiences. Today, it is remembered primarily for her performance of the song "Zing! Went the Strings of my Heart" ( which Judy kept in her stage repertoire until her final show some thirty years later ) but the film itself has many endearing qualities. It's quite touching, and often humorous. 
Judy stars as young Pinkie Wingate who, with her pal Buzz ( Freddie ), will stop at nothing - including kidnapping  - to keep her mother ( Mary Astor ) from entering a loveless marriage with the town's pompous banker ( Gene Lockhart ). Together they stow mother and baby brother into the old family trailer and head onto the open road to look for a handsome man who could whisk her mother off her feet. They think it will be a bumpy road to love but their mother quickly catches the eye of two suitors ( Walter Pidgeon and Alan Hale ), who, in Pinky's eyes, are both preferable to the banker.

Freddie Bartholomew and Judy Garland make a winning team of cupids but, since they were at opposite arcs in their careers, this would be their only screen pairing. Bartholomew confessed that he had a crush on Judy during the making of the movie but she only looked upon him as a younger brother, being a whole two years older than he. 

Listen, Darling is a sweet film and features that unabashed sentimentality which only MGM could capture on film so well. I especially enjoy it because of the fond memories I associate with the movie. One beautiful Saturday morning, my father, sister, and I were returning home from a camping trip at the lakeside town of Geneva, Ohio, when we stopped at a small library and found a mother-load of classic movies on VHS tape in their collection.... one of which was Listen, Darling. On most Saturday nights we watch MGM musicals or Walt Disney films, so we saw Listen, Darling that very evening to cap off that wonderful day and zing! went the strings of my heart....the film drew me in completely. Its fun camping theme and the spot-on performances from all the principal players made it a delight to watch and it has always remained a favorite. 

This post is our contribution to The Judy Garland Blogathon being hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Click here to read more posts about Judy, her films, and her career. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fred Astaire and his Long Lost Hair

A bald Fred in 1944
Fred Astaire has always been more famous for his fancy feet than for his hair, but if one was to take a closer examination of his hair style one would notice that it was quite unique. So unique that even as a Rankin/Bass puppet ( in The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town ) he was recognizable. Not too many Hollywood actors could boast such a large forehead as Fred. 

But what many do not know is that some of that hair was attached. Like other actors such as Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, and John Wayne, poor Fred had a receding hairline....even at an early age he was showing signs of baldness. His toupee stylist did a marvelous job of creating a piece that not only looked natural but appeared to be thinning itself. And what's most impressive is it stayed on while Fred waltzed with Ginger, jumped up on tables, and tapped his way around rooms, even up walls! 

Like most men of his generation, Fred never went out of doors without a hat and always wore his pieces on stage and for public performances. But he was happy to be rid of them when the public eye was not on him. After filming wrapped for Blue Skies, what Fred thought was his final film, he was said to have tore off his hairpiece and stomped on it in glee! Alas, his film career did not come to an end in 1946 and Fred continued to appear in films and television up until the mid-1980s, always sporting his "top hat", that famous hair-piece. 

Astaire, with and without his hair

This post is a part of our latest series entitled "Did You Know?".....sometimes we just feel like sharing interesting fragments of television and movie history and now we have a place to do just that. If you have a hot tip that you would like us to share on Silver Scenes, drop us a line!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tim Considine - A Disney Legend

Tim Considine was one of Disney’s most popular television actors and was in fact one of the very first of TV’s teen idols in 1955.

Born Dec. 31, 1940 in Los Angeles, California, Tim grew up not very much unlike his first screen roles – the restless son from a wealthy family. His family background included an Oscar-nominated movie producer ( John Considine Jr. ); a vaudeville impresario grandfather ( John Considine ); a sports writer for King Features Syndicate ( Bob Considine ); and a theatre magnet grandfather ( Alexander Pantages ). It’s no wonder that at a young age Tim wanted to enter into show business and try his hand at making a name for himself.

By-passing traditional “bit-part” starts, Tim was fortunate to have an endearing personality that made him appealing to producers from the start. He was given the lead in The Clown ( 1952 ) opposite Red Skeleton at the tender age of 12. It was a remake of MGM’s previous success The Champ ( 1932 ).

A few brief television roles followed an appearance in the star-studded Executive Suite ( 1954 ), where Tim played the son of William Holden and June Allyson. In later years he would return to television guest-starring on such television shows as Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Untouchables , Johnny Ringo and The Fugitive. His most successful characterization was that of a boarding school snob, a role which he played in Her Twelve Men ( Greer Garson, 1954 ) and The Private War of Major Benson ( Charleton Heston , 1955 ). These performances caught the attention of Walt Disney Studio executives who wished for him to continue these roles and offered him the lead in an upcoming serial for The Mickey Mouse Club – “Marty Markham”. Considine, however, didn’t want to be pigeon-holed and asked for the part of cool kid Spin Evans instead.
When the newly retitled The Adventures of Spin and Marty debuted, Tim Considine and costar David Stollery were instant successes. Fan mail began to pour in and Tim’s flat-top buzz-cut hairdo became the “in” style of the teen set of the 1950s.

The popular Hardy Boy’s serial The Mystery of Applegate’s Treasure followed in the heels of Spin and Marty’s success, as well as several other third and fourth season reprises of their signature roles, and a recurring role in The Swamp Fox with Leslie Neilson.
In 1959, Walt Disney decided to cast Tim Considine opposite his Hardy Boy brother Tommy Kirk in The Shaggy Dog, a film which grossed big at the box-office.

In spite of his blossoming success at the Walt Disney Studios, Considine wanted to branch out and try his hand at other things. A growing love for automobile racing was sparking as was a thirst for writing. Living in an apartment with his older brother John, Tim collaborated with him on several scripts and teleplays before serving overseas with the U.S. Air Force.
Upon his return in 1963 he was back in front of the cameras though- this time as Mike Douglas….Fred MacMurray’s eldest son in the popular My Three Sons television series. While working on the show he tried to contribute to the teleplays and direct sequences of episodes. Don Fedderson ( the producer of the show ) didn’t want Tim directing full episodes and after a disagreement over this, Tim walked out on the series in 1965.

Although Tim Considine continued to make films throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, he has devoted most of his time to writing, and pursuing his love of automobiles and photography. Three talents which he combined in his award-winning book “American Grand Prix Racing: A Century of Drivers and Cars” ( 1997 ).

Considine currently lives in California with his wife of 38 years, where he continues to write as a freelancer about sports, automobiles, travel, and photography.
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