Amoeblog

(In which it's all about Eve.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 11, 2013 04:04pm | Post a Comment

All the cool kids are doing it.

Proving once and for all that I have my finger on the pulse of what youth today really want, I’m continuing my list of favorites from the so-called Golden Age of Radio. You older, out-of-touch squares can stop reading now and go listen to punk rock or trip-hop or whatever it is seniors are into these days.

Now that the fogeys are out of the (metaphorical) room, read and listen on...

Let’s consider a comedy, namely, Our Miss Brooks.

Premiering in 1948, Our Miss Brooks was an immediate success, garnering awards and a loyal fan base for its lead actress, Eve Arden.

People don’t speak of Eve Arden as much as her talent warrants. She had fantastic comic timing, capable of evoking laugh-out-loud moments with a single, monosyllabic word.

Our Miss Brooks has flimsy, unimaginative plot-lines, and you’ll never listen to it because you “can’t wait to find out what happens next.” The show is great because the cast is great, and Eve Arden delivers punch-lines with such wry deftness, it’s as if Touchstone from As You Like It has been reincarnated as a public high school teacher.

 

Our Miss Brooks was such a success that it was turned into a TV show, starring most of the original cast. I myself have never seen it, not because I don’t want to, but because I promised my grandfather on his deathbed that I would never watch any televised sitcoms that featured a character with the first name “Osgood.”

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Herman Stein - Architect of the Sound of Science-Fiction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 19, 2012 07:45am | Post a Comment
Though his name isn’t widely recognized, Herman Stein was a very influential American composer. Though he composed hundreds of film scores, he was most influential in for his work within the genres of horror and science-fiction. Some of his most recognized scores were created for Creature from the black lagoon, The incredible shrinking man, It came from outer space, Love slaves of the Amazons, The Mole People, The Monolith MonstersRevenge of the Creature, and This island EarthTarantula.



Herman Stein was born 19 August, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He began playing piano at the age of three and made his concert debut when he was six. Reportedly he was almost entirely self-taught, having spent many hours studying scores at his local public library.
He became a professional arranger when he was 15. In the 1930 and ‘40s he arranged for bands, including those of Blanche Calloway, Bob CrosbyCount Basie, David Rubinoff, Don RedmanFred WaringGus Haenschen, and Red Norvo. He also composed for radio programs, cartoons and commercials, as well as absolute music like 1967’s A sour suite.







During World War II he served in the army. In 1948, he moved to Los Angeles, California. There he studied with Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In 1949 he wrote Suite for Mario for his mentor, although it  wasn’t recorded until 2008. In 1950 he married Anita Shervin, a violist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In 1950 he was hired by Universal-International Studios, where the writing staff also included Hans J. Salter, William Lava, and Frank Skinner. He's said to have ultimately worked on the scores for about 200 films, usually uncredited, and often collaborating with fellow greats like Salter, Skinner and most often, a young Henry Mancini, who was hired by Universal in 1952. For the scores on which they collaborated, Stein would handle the opening titles and dramatic scenes whilst Mancini would handle the lighter moments and “Mickey Mousing.”

Stein also scored comedies, dramas and westerns such as
Abbott and Costello go to Mars, Has anybody seen my gal?,
Drums across the river, Horizons west, The intruder, Willie and Joe Back at the front as well as about half of the Ma and Pa Kettle films. He left Universal in 1958 and went on to score other films and primarily TV. One of his last film score's was for William Castle’s 1966 film, Let's kill Uncle.
For TV he composed for such series as Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, The life and legend of Wyatt Earp, Lost in space, M Squad, The time tunnelVoyage to the bottom of the sea, and Wagon train. His very last film score was for Al Adamson’s 1975 comedy western, Blazing stewardesses. After composing 1979's Mock march, he retired.




       Credit: 
Kathleen Mayne, 1996 



Stein's wife, Anita, died in 2001. On 15 March, 2007, Stein died of congestive heart failure in his home
at the age of 91.
Dick Jacobs - Theme from Horror Movies

My introduction to him (and Hans J. Salter and William Lava, for that matter) was as a child listening to an vinyl copy of Themes from horror movies (1959) performed by Dick Jacobs and his Orchestra and quirkily narrated by voice-over actor Bob McFadden (to text written by Mort Goode). At the time I hadn’t seen any of the films whose scores were included so I’d just listen to Stein's themes, look at the posters, and let my imagination take over. Almost inevitably, once I would get around to seeing the films they usually disappointed but Stein’s themes still managed to elevate even the worst of them. 

*****

For Ozoners Only -- On this day, in 1933, the first drive-in theater opened

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 6, 2012 11:22am | Post a Comment
THE FIRST DRIVE-IN


An advertisement for the first Drive-In 

The first drive-in theater opened on 6 June, 1933 at 2901 Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey. It was the invention of Richard M. Hollingshead Jr, who'd began screening films outdoors at his home with a 1928 Kodak projector sat on the roof of his car. He applied for a patent for his "invention" on 16 May, 1933. The feature film shown at his theater was the British comedy, Wives Beware.


The world's first Drive-In Theater

Before long, drive-ins, or automobile movie theaters, were opening in other states. California's first drive-in was the Pico Drive-In at 10850 W. Pico Boulevard, which opened  West Los Angeles in September, 1934. It was demolished in 1947 and was replaced by the Picwood Theatre in 1948. The Picwood closed in 1985, was demolished and replaced with the Westside Pavilion -- which includes the Landmark Theatre.


The Pico Drive-In

DRIVE-INS' PEAK


Although Hollingshead's pioneering theater closed in 1936 after only three years of operation -- a victim of a battle with Paramount Pictures -- the idea was popular although blasting sound outdoors necessitated the theaters being placed in less-developed areas.A major drive-in innovation occurred in 1941, when RCA introduced in-car speakers. Popularity exploded and by 1948 there were nearly 1,000 drive-ins. By the end of the 1950s, drive-ins accounted for 40% of theater grosses. In California, the number of drive-ins peaked in the 1960s, reaching 220.

THE RISE OF HOME VIDEO AND DRIVE-INS' DECLINE




Drive-ins popularity plummeted in the 1970s with the rise of home video's popularity. Family nights out could now be family nights in for the low price of a rental and some microwave popcorn. Betamax was released in 1975. VHS was introduced in Japan in 1976 and the US in 1977. DiscoVision, a precursor to LaserDisc, was introduced in 1978. Our family got our first VCR in 1978, coincidentally the last year the family went to the drive-in that I remember (Rocky at the Circle 25 Drive-In in Lexington, Kentucky -- demolished in 1982).

DRIVE-INS TODAY - CALIFORNIA LOVE


Thou shalt support drive-in theaters!

Nowadays there are about 500 drive-ins operating in the US and California – where cars double as family rooms -- is home to more than any other state. In the Southern California, drive-in lovers have some options.










SOCAL'S DRIVE-INS


The HiWay, SoCal's oldest functioning drive-in

Devil's Night Drive-In
is sort of an improvised drive-in/outdoor screening that takes place in a downtown parking garage at 240 W 4th St and screens mostly '80s movies to car-goers, bike-goers and people seated on a patch of astroturf. On 28 October, 2012 it is scheduled to relaunch as Electric Dusk Drive-In.

The HiWay Drive-In opened in Santa Maria in 1959. Today it’s the only remaining drive-in in Santa Barbara County.

The Mission Drive-In opened in Montclair in 1956 as a single screen. The original screen was demolished and replaced by four smaller screens in 1975. It was later re-named The Mission Tiki Drive-In.

The Paramount Drive-In opened as The Roadium Drive-In in Paramount in 1947. The screen went dark in 1991 and it re-opened in 2014 as The Paramount Drive-In.

The Rubidoux Drive-In opened in Riverside in 1948, with a single screen and amusement park rides thrown in. In 1983, two more screens were added.

The Santa Fe Springs Drive-In opened in 1950 in Santa Fe Springs as the La Mirada Drive-In. In 1965, they added a permanent swap meet – now a common feature at drive-ins. In 1990, in fact, the screen went dark except for rare, special occasions but the swap meet continues.

The Santee Drive-In Theatre opened in Santee in 1958 as a single screen drive-in. Around 1964, a second screen was added.

The Skyline Drive-In opened in 1966 in Barstow and went dark in 1987. In 1996, it re-opened as a single screen and has since added a second.

Smith’s Ranch Drive-In opened in 29 Palms in 1954 and has a pretty small (330 car) capacity.

The South Bay Drive-In opened in 1958 and is San Diego’s last operating drive-in.

The Sunset Drive-In opened in San Luis Obispo in 1950 as a single-screen theater and remains largely unchanged today.

The Van Buren Drive-In Theatre opened in 1964 in the historic Arlington neighborhood in Riverside.

The Vineland Drive-In opened in City of Industry in 1955 and has four screens.

*****

If you've never been to a drive-in show, you really need to do yourself a favor by visiting one in the near future. Especially in SoCal, where you've got great weather, serious car love and a fair number of these treasures still operate.
*****

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Happy Birthday, The Whistler! - rated by independent research the most popular West Coast Program in radio history

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 16, 2012 12:25pm | Post a Comment
Adventures of the Lone RangerMy introduction to old time radio was listening to a 1957 Decca 12” The Adventures of the Lone Ranger that my dad presumably procured as a child. As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I don’t think I ever made the connection that the album’s tracks were old radio episodes… I don’t think I even knew about radio dramas until I think I became vaguely aware of – but not interested in -- The Shadow sometime later.

It must’ve been around 2000 when I was hanging out with my friend Josh Beckman one night and he excitedly turned his radio on and dialed in to AM 1260 KNX to catch The Whistler. I’d never heard ofThe Whistler before but Josh was obviously a fan and whistled the Whistler’s theme as the program began. I listened and was entertained and surprised at how much more mature the story was – having previously assumed that all old time radio consisted of nothing but adolescent serials.

*****

The Whistler debuted on CBS on 16 May, 1942. For most its run it was sponsored by Signal Oil Company, an oil company founded in The Harbor’s Signal Hill community. Regular fans from any era feel their ears prick up when they hear the sound of clicking shoes, the haunting, whistled theme and the announcement, "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler.”


In 1944, it was adapted into a Columbia Pictures film, The Whistler, directed by the great William Castle and launched a franchise that ultimately included The Mark of the Whistler (1944)*, The Power of the Whistler (1945), Voice of the Whistler (1945)*, Mysterious Intruder (1946)*, Secret of the Whistler (1946), The Thirteenth Hour (1947), and The Return of the Whistler (1948).


The signature whistle was provided by Dorothy Roberts, who was backed by the theme’s composer, Wilbur Hatch and his orchestra. The voice of the titular Whistler was provided variously by Bill Forman, Bill Johnstone, Everett Clark, Gale Gordon, Joseph Kearns, and Marvin Miller but regardless of the actor, the opening announcement was always the same, “I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes... I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak.”


Unlike most programs, the protagonists of The Whistler were criminals and most episodes began with their having committed a serious crime. Ultimately justice is served thanks to a twist in the final act or something that was overlooked in the beginning having been overlooked. The Whistler’s shadowy narrator was undoubtedly inspired by the Shadow but was no superhero -- rather an omniscient narrator who provided ironic commentary and programs it was more in line with mystery anthology programs like NBC’s Mystery House, the Blue Network’s Inner Sanctum Mysteries, and Mutual’s The Mysterious Traveler and The Strange Dr. Weird -- but in my opinion it’s superior to all of them. 


For the shows first two seasons it was overseen by writer/producer J. Donald Wilson. He was succeeded in 1944 by director/producer George Allen. The scripts were written by Joel Malone and Harold Swanton. Directors included Sterling Tracy and Sherman Marks (who went on to direct episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.GrindlTammy and other TV series). 

  
                       Bill Johnstone                                          Cathy Lewis                                    Elliot Lewis


    
            Gerald Mohr                         Hans Conried                     Jack Webb                        Lurene Tuttle

Strangely, whereas its fellow and-not-dissimilar CBS anthology Suspense frequently featured famous Hollywood guess stars, most of the actors who appeared on The Whistler were better known as the stalwarts of Hollywood’s so-called “Radio Row,” e.g. Bill Johnstone (The Shadow, The Line-Up, Cavalcade of America, Suspense, Lux Radio Theatre, This Is Your FBI, Dragnet), Cathy Lewis(The First Nighter Program, My Friend Irma, Suspense, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen), Elliot “Mr Radio” Lewis (The Amazing Nero Wolfe, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, The Adventures of Maise, Broadway is My Beat, Suspense, Crime Classics), Gerald Mohr (The Adventures of Bill Lance, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe), Hans Conried (The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show, My Friend Irma, Suspense), Jack Webb (Dragnet, The Jack Webb Show, Pat Novak for Hire, Johnny Modero, Pier 23; Jeff Regan, Investigator; Murder and Mr. Malone, One Out of Seven), and Lurene Tuttle (The Adventures of Sam Spade, Suspense, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Great Gildersleeve, Brent House, Dr. Christian, One Man’s Family, The Red Skelton Show, Hollywood Hotel, Those We Love, Duffy’s Tavern).


Its final episode aired on 22 September, 1955 -- at a time when radio audiences were flocking to TV, where its influence can certainly be seen in anthology TV programs like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone (and later series like The Hitchhiker, and Night Visions). More than 200 of the 692 episodes are currently considered lost. Most of the rest are available on online, on LP, on cassette, on CD and other formats. 

*directed by William Castle 

San Francisco's "Russian Embassy" is a House of Legends

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, April 30, 2012 02:45pm | Post a Comment
house of legends russian embassy fulton street alamo square Some know San Francisco’s Westerfeld Mansion as the “Russian Embassy,” the site of an infamous brothel run by Czarist Russians in the 1920s. Some know it as a ramshackle boarding house for Fillmore district jazz performers of the 1950s. Most remember it as the magical crash pad of 1960’s counterculture luminaries that inspired Tom Wolfe, Janis Joplin, Ken Kesey, Anton LaVey, Bobby Beausoleil, and Kenneth Anger alike to fly their freak flag from the turrets of this Victorian palace.

For all of us who have wanted to know what mysteries Invocation of my demon brother kenneth anger house of legendsare contained within the walls of this Alamo Square manion, F for Fake Pictures brings you House of Legends, a feature-length documentary that explores the making of a legend by investigating the history and the myths behind San Francisco's Historical Landmark #135. 123 years in the making, the Westerfeld Mansion has a brilliant story to tell through many of its famous, infamous, and colorful inhabitants and visitors over the past 12 generations.

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