Here’s the cover of an obscure magazine called Flashback (please click on it for a larger view). Jack Davis’s caricature of Errol Flynn is dead-on, isn’t it? Published in 1972, the mag is full pictures and articles about classic movies. And listen to this: I bought it Sept. 6, 1987, at Alliance Mart, the old flea market on Route 62 in east Alliance. I got it for half a buck from vender Rog Gonda. Gonda’s booth was called Yesteryears Paper Treasures and Collectables. Alliance Mart later burned down. I always regretted not buying a paperback copy of Max Shulman’s original “Dobie Gillis” novel that I saw in Gonda’s booth.
Archive for April, 2008
If you like classic TV comedy with snappy dialogue and colorful characters, then you’ll love “Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show 50th Anniversary Edition.” This is a treat for those who have seen the show, and for those who haven’t. Released in 2006, this three-disc DVD set has 18 half-hour episodes plus special features. Audio includes an introduction to each episode by the late Allen Melvin, who played Cpt. Henshaw.
One of my favorite espisodes in the set is “Bilko Joins the Navy.” Larry Storch, in his first TV guest-starring role, appears as “The Crying Sailor” who keeps losing his money playing craps. This makes him cry and holler, ”What am I going to tell my wife?” What makes the episode especially enjoyable is it has audio commentary by Storch and Mickey Freeman (Zimmerman). Storch tells some great stories about other shows he’s been on: “Car 54, Where Are You?” on which he guested a couple times as a lovable drunk who gets inebriated just thinking about booze, and “F-Troop” where he co-starred with Forrest Tucker in what Storch said was “Bilko on horseback.”
I never saw more than a couple episodes of F-Troop. When I was growing up, it was always on a station we didn’t get, like Channel 35 in Erie, Pa., or somewhere. I first saw Larry Storch on Saturday morning’s “Ghost Busters.” To me this will always be the original. Storch and Forrest Tucker, along with a gorilla, hunted spooks and monsters. It was a goofy sitcom for kids, but I liked it. (Maybe that’s when I started to like fake gorillas …)
“Car 54″ is one of my all-time favorite shows. I watched it religiously when it was on Nick at Nite back when Nick and Nite showed classic TV and there was no TV Land. Nat Hiken produced both Bilko and Car 54, and used many of the same actors. Joe E. Ross was Mess Sgt. Ritzik on Bilko then he was Gunther Toody on Car 54. Ross was famous for his raspy voice and his “Oo-oo” noise when he was thinking. In Phil Silvers’ final interview (one of the DVD’s special features), Silvers explains Ross used to have trouble learning his lines and he used say, “Oo-oo, wait, I know it!” when he was rehearsing. Silvers thought it was funny and made him do it in front of the camera. The noise became his catch phrase and, according to Silvers, it tripled Ross’s salary.
In later years, Ross did voice work in cartoons including “The Hair Bear Bunch” and “Hong Kong Phooey.” There again, I first became aquainted this actor’s work watching Saturday morning TV when I was a kid. I heard recently that Saturday morning cartoons may become a thing of the past. Is that true?
I found this glossy 8×10 my friend Joel McGonnell gave me a few years ago. Someone gave it to him. I think Dick Van Dyke’s autograph is legitimate, but I don’t know for sure. The guy pictured with Dick is Allan Melvin, one of the best supporting actors in television who passed away Jan. 17. Melvin was also an accomplished cartoon voice actor, providing the voices of Sarge Snorkel and Hanna-Barbera’s Magilla Gorilla. You can go here for a nice tribute to Allan Melvin on Mark Evanier’s weblog.
Yes, Charlton Heston, lived for a short time in Alliance. That was mentioned here before. Since writing that post April 9 I was able to find a file I made while working at The Alliance Review. The folder contained several photocopies of articles and photos, some notes, a letter and a clipping of the final story I wrote on Heston’s local ties.
The project started when I received a handwritten letter from Blanche Oyster in August 2001. She wrote that she went to school with Heston at Freedom School. “We were in the fifth grade together,” she said, “and I have a school picture to prove it.” Oyster said the photo was taken by Dimit Bros. Studios in 1935, but the note board in the picture is dated May 18, 1934. Of the picture, Mrs. Oyster wrote, “Needless to day it’s a keepsake.”
I went to Mrs. Oyster’s house in Alliance and she showed me the photo. There standing in the back row, fourth from the right, was little Chuck Heston. The handwritten identification on the back of the photo read “Charleton ‘Charles’ Heston.” On a side note, Saturday I watched an interview with Heston who told his interviewer, Robert Osborne, who addressed him as “Mr. Heston,” to call him “Chuck.” He added that he should not call him Charlie. “Only my wife calls me Charlie,” he said.
Heston was born Charles Carter. His parents divorced, and when he was 10 his mother married Charles “Chet” Heston, an Alliance native. Although the actor had used the name Heston since he was a child, it is not know if he was ever adopted by his stepfather.
For my story which ran Nov. 15, 2001, I also talked to Don Flitcraft, a relative of the Hestons who has since passed away. In researching Heston’s Alliance connection, I found some information in his autobiography, “In the Arena.” I also went to Rodman Public Library and looked at a couple articles that came out in the Review in 1960 when Heston won the best-actor Oscar for “Ben Hur.” The first article was on his acting debut as a fourth-grader in Alliance. It included a 1933 photo of the fourth-grade class at Freedom School, and a close-up of a young Charlton Heston. Or so it seemed.
The second article included portions of a letter Heston sent to the Review seeking to make a clarification that the boy pictured in the paper was not him. It seems the photo was taken in 1933, a year before Heston arrived in Alliance (my story says he came in 1935, but that has to be an error). Although the boy who was thought to be Heston, later identified as Merle Roose, resembled him somewhat in the face, the clothing was very different. Roose had bib-top overalls on and Heston was wearing a suit and tie.
Heston looked like a leading man even back then.
George Raft had some pretty good roles, often playing a gangster or a jaibird. He played a few honest characters, too, and was always good at whatever part he played. There’s a book out called “George Raft: The Man Who Would Be Bogart” (Bear Manor Media) by Stone Wallace. I found this on TMC.com.
I always liked George Raft. He was a Warner Bros. gangster, along with Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. He looked like a real gangster, tough but without the disfiguring scars. A little on the flabby side, he appeared to be living the good life of a successful crime boss.
Giving him a notorious reputation were reports he associated with a real gangster, Bugsy Siegel. On a side note, it was believed Frank Sinatra also associated with organized crime, but that seem to hurt him. Whether he had connections may be true. After all, Frank sang, “I did it my way.” I’m no expert on either Raft or Sinatra.
Raft was the first movie gangster to stand on a corner and continuously toss a coin in the air and catch it, a bit that was imitated in movies and cartoons. The book’s title alludes to the fact Raft turned some roles that help make Bogart a superstar. I can’t picture Raft in any of Bogie’s famous roles, but that is only because Bogie made them his own. I don’t think “The Maltese Falcon” would be the classic it is today if Raft had played Sam Spade.
But who knows. Raft could have put his own brand on the movie and made it a hit just the same. Doing it his way.