Vic Mizzy 1916 - 2009

Posted by Whitmore, October 21, 2009 10:22am | Post a Comment

American composer Vic Mizzy, best known for his absolutely note perfect theme songs for such iconic 1960’s television shows as The Addams Family and Green Acres, died of heart failure this past weekend at his home in Bel-Air. He was 93.
Mizzy’s brilliance has been indelibly etched in television history with his ability to accentuate the quirkiness of those shows with his own offbeat, clever sensibility. "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky: the Addams family."
Born in Brooklyn on Jan. 9, 1916, Mizzy’s first instrument was a toy accordion, later he learned to play a real one along with the piano. When he was 14, he met fellow Brooklyn native Irving Taylor, the two began a successful writing partnership that continued while Mizzy attended New York University and through the Second World War when both Mizzy and Taylor served in the Navy. They co-wrote a number of hits, including "Three Little Sisters," There's a Faraway Look in Your Eye," and "Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes," and "Take It Easy." After the war, with another songwriting partner, Mann Curtis, Mizzy wrote more hits like "My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time," "The Whole World Is Singing My Song," "Choo'n Gum" and "The Jones Boy." His songs were recorded by celebrated pop vocalists like the Andrews Sisters, the Mills Brothers, Doris Day, Dean Martin, Perry Como and Billie Holiday.
However, he found his greatest success in his television work. Mizzy first wrote themes for the Shirley Temple Storybook, “The Enchanted Melody,” and The Richard Boone Show, but it was his ghoulishly fun theme song for the television classic The Addams Family that won him lasting fame. Based on Charles Addams' macabre New Yorker cartoons, it starred John Astin as the twistedly dapper Gomez Addams and Carolyn Jones as his sexy and devastatingly beautiful wife Morticia Addams. Mizzy chose to play a harpsichord to help conjure up the bizarrely unconventional air; he also punctuated the rhythm with some cool proto-beatnik finger-snapping which helped to define the peculiar humor of the show. When Filmways, the production company, refused to pay for vocalists, Mizzy simply overdubbed himself singing and looped in actor Ted Cassidy, who portrayed the butler Lurch, for the "neat, sweet, petite" section. Mizzy’s underscores were as comical as his themes; he had a knack for enhancing the lunacy of the characters and the situations with just the right instrumentation, just the right melody.

The following year Mizzy composed the title song for Green Acres, the 1965-71 comedy starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. For the Green Acres theme, Mizzy used the unique combination of a bass harmonica and a little fuzz laden guitar and an electric bass clarinet to create the loopy hoedown vibe. He also flawlessly explained the entire back story in the lyrics -- definitely a lost art! -- of the wealthy Oliver and Lisa Douglas chucking away their New York penthouse lifestyle so that Oliver could live out his fresh air dreams and be a farmer. One of Mizzy’s most brilliant moves, financially speaking, was retaining the publishing rights to Green Acres and The Addams Family themes. Not only have they both been in constant reruns for over four decades, but ownership enabled him to license them for use in commercials (like the recent M&Ms ads that featured the Addams Family theme). As he always joked, a couple of finger snaps paid for a real good life in Bel-Air.

Happy Birthday Sheriff John!

Posted by Whitmore, October 2, 2009 05:57pm | Post a Comment

If you were a kid growing up here in Southern Californian and your family owned a television set in the 1950’s or 60’s, inevitably you watched Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade, which aired on KTTV-TV Channel 11 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm, and a late afternoon show, Sheriff John's Cartoon Time. I spent many a day as a sickly child watching Sheriff John and cartoons like Crusader Rabbit, Tennessee Tuxedo (voiced by Get Smart’s Don Adams) and Underdog.
Today the host of those shows and one of the true originators and unsung pioneers in early kids television, John Rovick, is 90 years old. Born in Dayton, Ohio, October 2nd, 1919, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corp in the Second World War, trained as radio operator and gunner on a B25 Bomber -- he survived some 50 combat missions, even a mission when the plane had to ditch at night off the coast of Italy. He started as a staff announcer on KTTV when the station first went on the air in 1949. Starting in 1952 Rovick began portraying the Sheriff for Cartoon Time and in 1953 John Rovick won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program.
Sheriff John started each show singing as he walked through the door of his Sheriff's office, "Come on now, laugh and be happy, and the world will laugh with you." He then said the Pledge of Allegiance, read a daily safety bulletin, and for good measure threw in some health tips for the youngsters.
But the highlight of the show was always the birthday celebration. Sheriff John would read dozens of kids' names, roll out a cake, and sing the classic kids song "The Birthday Cake Polka." For a certain age group, a telltale sign of a native Angelino is the ability to sing the song, word for word. In 1970 both shows were cancelled, but Rovick continued to work as an announcer for KTTV until his retirement in 1981. For decades he was also a favorite in the Hollywood’s Santa Claus Lane Christmas parade. After retirement he moved to Boise, Idaho where he still resides. In 1998 Sheriff John made one last special appearance on the Emmy’s, being introduced by longtime fan and Culver City native Michael Richards.
Happy birthday, Sheriff John! Now everybody sing along!
Put another candle on my birthday cake
We're gonna bake a birthday cake
Put another candle on my birthday cake
I'm another year old today

Guiding Light 1937 – 2009

Posted by Whitmore, September 21, 2009 08:45pm | Post a Comment

The longest-running drama in US broadcast history, Guiding Light, has wrapped it up after 15,762 episodes and an incredible 72-year run. This past Friday, September 18th CBS aired the final episode. Because of its high production costs and falling ratings, it was decided last April to pull the plug. Though there was a huge outcry over the decision, viewership over the last year was still down to about 40 percent of the audience it captured a decade ago. CBS plans to replace the soap opera on October 5 with yet another, newer version of Let's Make a Deal, hosted by Wayne Brady. That sounds like a winning idea!
According to what I heard by the water cooler this afternoon, the daytime Soap icon went out big and tearful, with most of the characters gathering for the perfect picnic on the perfect day. Meanwhile back in the town of Springfield, in front of the old light house, the incessantly on-again-off-again romance between Reva and Josh met Fate one more time, one last time, where finally, once again, they reconfirmed their love for each other. This time -- it was best of times, music filled the air tenderly as a beautifully slow moving, gauzy camera shot gazed over the lovers driving off into the sunset in Josh's pick-up truck, no doubt destined for bliss and wedding bells and living happily ever after in the foggy Neverland of cancellation.
Some fans complained the ending was rushed. Other fans are still in denial, thinking this must be an elaborate and misplaced April Fools joke, a publicity stunt. Some are saying CBS is crazy, out of their minds, that CBS and their collective heads are up their collective asses, and though it’s great Reva and Josh are finally together again, what about Jeffery, nobody mentioned Jeffrey, what happened, is he still alive, where’s Jeffrey?
Nonetheless, millions of devout fans are having to bid adieu to those wonderfully dysfunctional Spaulding and the Lewis families and the seemingly infinite number of marriages, scandals, divorces, affairs, remarriages, re-divorces, the missing, the found, the dead, the back-from-the-dead, little white lies, big bad lies, secrets, shames, gossip, cheats and scoundrels, lusty scoundrels and cheats, the innocent, love gone bad, gone mad, temptations, taboos, mind boggling miracles and mind bending seductions, steamy and sexy story lines heating up kitchen tables and kaffeeklatsches across this star spangled land of ours where old and young hearts skip beats in odd polyrhythmic patterns.
Created during the Depression, The Guiding Light debuted January 25, 1937 as a 15-minute program on NBC radio. It was the original soap opera; being owned by Procter & Gamble, most advertisements spotlighted P&G’s line of products like Ivory, Tide, Mr. Clean, Cascade, Zest and Crest toothpaste. The Guiding Light first moved to the CBS radio in 1947 and later premiered on the same television network on June 30, 1952. No American Television show has come this close to spanning the entire history of the medium.
So as we fade to black, stay tuned for the award winning drama The Edge of Night, next over most of these CBS stations. This program was recorded.”

Aquanauts - heroes of oceanic exploration

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 13, 2009 08:23am | Post a Comment
Lego Aquanaut

Aquanauts - What Are They?

Aquanauts, as the name implies to anyone with even the most basic awareness of Latin and ancient Greek, are the oceanic equivalent of astronauts, cosmonauts, taikonauts and other nauts. However, there's more to being an aquanaut than wearing a blue blazer with gold buttons paired with white trousers. Nor are aquanauts mere scuba divers or snorkelers. Even donning a Breton sailor's shirt and Greek fisherman's cap, puttering around in a pressure-and-climate-controlled sub just makes you a submariner. If you want to be an aquanaut, you've got to get your hands wet. There's also an implication that you have to be indigenous to land because no one ever described a porpoise or a jellyfish as an aquanaut.

SEALAB I  Inside Sealab

Famous, Real-Life Aquanauts

Although every documentary about the Earth's oceans points out how much more interesting the oceans are than space (and how we know less about it), aquanauts are never as famous as their spacegoing rivals. Whereas everyone knows the names of the first astronauts on the moon, who can name any of the crew who first descended the Marianas Trench? See if any of these "famous" aquanauts' names ring any diving bells:

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Asian-American Cinema Part IX - the 2000s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 27, 2009 04:00pm | Post a Comment
The ninth of a nine part series on Asian-Americans in front of and behind the camera


The first efforts to combat negative racial stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans in film began in the silent era, when a few empowered figures attempted to create an alternative Asian-American Silent Cinema. After their efforts faltered, Hollywood provided most cinematic images of Asians in the '30s, 40s, 50s, and '60s. With the birth of Asian-American theater, Asian-American cinema was revived in the 1970s and began to take off as a viable independent cinema in the 1980s. By the '90s, the scope of Asian-American Cinema broadened considerably, a trend that continued in the 2000s.

In the 2000s, Asians became the fastest growing racial minority in the county. As of 2006, there were over thirteen million Americans of Asian descent (not counting Native people). Of the top ten languages spoken in American homes (English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, Italian and Russian), four are Asian.

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