Friday, September 17, 2010

looney tunes redux

Here is something so very cool that I saw thanks to Jerry Beck over at Cartoon Brew. He posted a YouTube video that features a still from all of the over 1000 cartoon shorts from the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes output. It's set to various performers singing and performing the classic Looney Tune theme song, The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down.

What is so neat about this, other than being a time capsule and visual history, is that you can see in short order the change styles and evolving characters. It's a wonderfully hypnotic video. And you may be surprised at just how long the studio continued to put out the great and popular cartoons before closing up the animation department in the late 1960s.Thanks again to Jerry and the YouTuber known as radiobov who created this wonderful video.

Gotta love it.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

jack benny on password? classic.

I'm sure the phrase "They don't make 'em like that anymore," has passed many of your lips once or twice. Otherwise you wouldn't be reading blogs like these. I've mentioned before my absolutely lifelong fan-dom of Jack Benny; it knows no bounds and perhaps may, at some point in the future, be diagnosed for medication. I've been recently rereading his autobiography that wrote and his daughter Joan Benny finished after his death. It's a wonderful read, and full of Hollywood and OTR history and a wonderful portrait of the man, his family, friends and cast. What other comedian so successful built a persona that no matter what he did or would guest star in, his character would inevitably follow to the delight of the audience? And Jack was either grateful, humble or intelligent enough (or all three) to play it up and bring delight to the audience for decades. No talk of "typecasting" or lamenting about be limited from the real man - no matter how much the "miser" Jack would protest on air.

Jack's book, Sunday Nights at Seven, (so named because that timeslot was perennially his for decades), is hard to put down, and Joan's memories about her father are warm and loving- her respect and love for him really come out. In a passage about her father's later years, Joan recounts how she and her father would try and work together. One appearance of interest was an appearance by Jack and Joan on the classic game show, Password, as the celebrity guest stars. For years I have thought it would be nice to catch this episode on rerun or on DVD someday. For some reason the most obvious place to look never occurred to me in the past couple of years: the Internet! Yes, I am shocked that I had never considered it either.

Lo and behold, there it was: the whole episode- in three parts. And so for your viewing pleasure I share it with all of you to enjoy. Also I encourage you to pick up Jack's book. It is sadly out of print, but is available used via Amazon and other places, and perhaps your local library. Remember that place? It's still there. And guess what? They still lend books. Cool.

This is some funny stuff, especially if you are familiar with Jack. And watch for one of the password clues: Miser!

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

By the way, you can click the embeded screens above to pull up the video on YouTube itself. There you will find in the sidebar other videos of Classic Password with James and Gloria Stewart as guests. They really don't make 'em like that anymore.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

When another comedian has a lousy show, I'm the first one to admit it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

always remember...

Nothing I could say or write could adequately do or convey anything appropriate on this 9th year after such a great tragedy. Our prayers are still with those who need healing, those who need peace in their hearts, and those who have and do put their lives on the line to protect us. Thank you for the sacrifice. May we never forget or take our freedoms for granted...

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.

Friday, September 10, 2010

hidden treasures?

For the past several years, September usually meant, among other things, a detailed look at some Holiday DVD titles. The whole system seems to be upside down- releases of classic films are few and far between, and even classic cartoon releases even worse. A lot of what is coming along seems to be "Special Edition" retreads or Blu-Ray releases of extant titles. We've been fortunate with some great surprise releases like the Columbia Noir sets, the 5th WB Film Noir set. Film buffs have also been pleased to see some excellent titles emerging from the vaults (as it were) via the various DVD Manufactured on Demand systems from WB, Universal (got my Ruggles of Red Gap copy early this year, various TCM collections and now Columbia. I've been very pleased to see Shout and Classic Media and other outfits picking up the slack and finishing up some series that were left to languish- particularly Classic Media bringing out the 4th season of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. WB's new Looney Tunes Superstar series, which was intended to replace the Golden Collections, is a great effort and one that collectors and fans will definitely pick up, but not as jaw-dropping as the 6 volume Golden Collection- either in extras or titles.

And yet, the days of going into a Big Box shop or easily found retail shop to pursue the classic film titles or even find new classic film and cartoon titles are long gone. Even sure fire sellers like the Looney Tunes are "not available in stores" and mostly available online or at dedicated retailers like Barnes and Noble where prices are, well, pricey. The internet seems to be the main retail outlet, and while in this day and age, it's not complicated or difficult, it sure is different. While I really don't need a bazillion copies of the latest bombed at the box office teen, romcom or horror film, it sure would be heartening to see some copies of Rocky and Bullwinkle on the shelves to grab and pick up for a fun evening with the kids. And while Netflix is truly a gift from the film gods, where it truly falls down is when it makes deals with studios to delay rentals or not even offer rentals of Manufactured on Demand titles. I don't want to shell out $20 bucks to own a copy of Doc Savage; I mean, it wasn't that great- but it was cheesy fun from my childhood that I wouldn't mind seeing again at least once.

So here we are: knee deep in the hoopla as the kiddies of the 80s used to say, and yet when it comes to availability and access to titles, it feels like we are taking two steps forward, and they take two steps back. And when was the last time you read a sentence with two 80s pop music references that actually made sense? C'mon, admit it, that's why you love us.

The questions remains- are we standing still? At a crossroads, in a way? Playing a media game of chicken to see which company, consumer, or studio is going to blink first and rush headlong into downloading or some other option? Are we that committed to Blu-Ray? I know very few people who own them or are converting DVD titles to Blu-Ray. A jump from VHS to DVD, many can understand, but when a Blu-Ray player can also play DVDs- why bother? The few people I do know who have them have another reason- a computer with a Blu-Ray drive or a Gaming system. Studios are playing a different game with on demand titles- almost as if they were hedging their bets. By virtue of placing these MOD programs in motion, they also are set up for Downloading- WB already sells titles that way. They know there are really only a few kinds of consumers of their products. There is the average, buy DVD every so often consumer, the film fan/collector who buy and horde DVDs and will reluctantly pay more when they have to have a certain title and then there is the casual film fan who will rent or at least wait till a DVD hits the $5 dollar bin.

I have not changed my initial stance per se, I still think the opportunity and availability of titles still outweighs the loss in store shelf real estate and the loss in extras and special features. The price of some titles still gives me pause, which is why any purchases are few and have to have more justification. However, now I think that enough players have entered the fray that I believe we are beginning to see a real poker game emerge. And I think that in this instance, the next big risk taker among the studios or companies will be the one to hold the most chips in the end. I don't necessarily like Download - there are still some things that will have to be worked out. Anyone who has lost an important file due to a computer crash or glitch knows exactly what I mean. But, I do love my DVR, and have enjoyed being able to DVR TCM films and titles that aren't available any other way, and watch them when I can.

The tech sector will have to step up the game, and I think, given Apple's recent press announcements, that they are doing just that. Portable media players have been around for a while, but players that do a little of everything and store data, rather than play discs are where we are at now. Will we a film collection reduced to a small black box (I would prefer a lovely hunter green personally) hard drive that stores and plays our media? Or will we use some sort of portable hard drive to use from player to player? Or will there be advanced development in micro storage space that makes owning a film collection on a device like an iPod Touch or Kindle a more manageable reality. I don't know for sure- perhaps all of the above. Signs are pointing in the direction of some of this already happening.

One thing is for sure, technology developments move at a lightning pace and classic film fans, by nature, usually don't. As far as availability and adaptability, studios and consumers are a couple of steps behind. Consider that it really took a couple of years to really get a large group of titles available on DVD. If you can remember that far back, it was the same for VHS. It's happening with Blu-Ray now. Predictable sellers like perennial classics such as epics Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur, Casablanca and others hit the stores first to test the waters and establish base camp. Other titles come later, or don't come at all. Other venues try to make them available, but to be honest we don't usually see the same amount of available titles with each progressive wave of technology. There were more titles available on VHS than DVD and on DVD than on Blu-Ray now. The digital download option obviously bucks that trend. The sticky widget is deliverability and price. And as invested consumers we would do well to keep an eye on the trends and see where this thing is headed. I don't see the need to convert my DVD collection anytime soon, but I sure as heck am watching the Tech sector and its developments.

A bigger concern for me is how this will all change the viewing habits of consumers and will Classic films still resonate and have growth among new viewers. You have to admit, as a community, we are somewhat inclusive, yet exclusive. We always welcome new classic film fans and hope to see more, but at the same time we roll our collective eyeballs at those who only watch new films, don't get "classic films" or can't hang in there with the rest of us when we blog our 12 part series about the intricacies of the mechanics of the Flying Monkeys on The Wizard of Oz.

My argument is that, as a community that cares about classic films as a whole, and that cares about preserving the history, the work and the heritage and legacy that classic films represent, we need to be concerned about their exposure to younger and upcoming generations and doing something to grow that appreciation and love for classic Media as a whole for the future. We are making fantastic strides in certain areas- the phenomenal For the Love of Film blogathon that raised money for film preservation is an important part of keeping that heritage alive. And I believe that the two single most influential sources for creating new classic film fans and spreading that appreciation and knowledge has been the fantastic writing from bloggers and critics on the internet and, of course, the powerhouse known as TCM.

That being said, I also notice the signs of a changing society. Classic film appreciation will always have to hurdle the barriers that some people put up to loving them. However the change in technology is not just limitless, but limiting. Quick spurts of media exposure are the order of the day: watch a film in increments on the go or better yet, watch television online or on your smart phone or gadget when you can. Our society favors the fast pace, the anxiety and the short term attention span and memory. What you cannot simply digest in a short amount of time, and understand and appreciate, requires a greater investment- something which, I fear, people are not as willing to do anymore. Social media, music, news, entertainment news, even films -are all about the sound bite explosion. People have no problem posting their "status" of the mundane on Facebook throughout the day like a Tommy gun, but sitting down to watch a film that has visions of antiquated technology such as corded phones requires not only interest, but time to sit and digest. Sure the typical classic film fan can watch a small portion of a film and come back to it later with out much of a problem, but how many of you really want to? You want to soak it all in, you get wrapped up in familiar scenes, and you tell yourself- just a few more minutes. But you know and are familiar with classic films, the stars, and already have great interest. How do we get a FB-ing, earbud wearing, quick draw thumb texting teenage generation to begin to appreciate and invest time and interest in classic media (and I actually include books in that question)? Sure it starts at home. It starts with introducing and not pushing - letting them discover treasures on their own. And nurturing the interest along the way.

Is it really all that important, you ask? Do we seriously need to consider "creating" classic film fans? Don't worry, I don't envision an evangelical approach; however, I do think we need to find ways to encourage support and create new ways of exposing others to classic media. I think we need to continue all important preservation efforts, and to record and write the history of classic films. Sensationalist biographies can be fun, but I think we can use more works that record an overview of the history, the studio system, the stars, and the appreciation for the films, without dangerously becoming too specialized and insular in tone, and thereby alienating the new fan. And by all means- all of you writing out there- don't get discouraged! Keep writing! Combine the nostalgic memories with the movies. As I tell my students, the interest in history (or in classic films) often comes as a result of some kind of personal connection with it. Once the connection is made, the journey begins.

The old caretaker of the museum may reflect, upon retiring, who will love and nourish the things of the past as well as I? Do I leave this place in danger of a coming generation who no longer finds the relevancy or the need for such things? Will this building still stand when I am long gone? The sentiment is familiar to anyone who values and cherishes the lessons and the legacy the past has to offer. After all, so many generations removed from this or that, we cared- will someone else in the future still care? The real pressing question we have to ask ourselves isn't how much do we love classic films, but instead, do we love classic films enough to pass that love on down to someone else?

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

A strange twilight world opened up before me, and I felt as the first man to set foot on another planet, an intruder in this mystic garden of the deep.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

sponsored by...

Well, after yesterday's post, I have been thinking about Dolly Madison. How in the world could I get from an early Halloween candy sighting to Dolly Madison? Simple- Charlie Brown. Yep. I got to thinking about It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown while looking for an appropriate accompanying graphic. Then I was thinking about how we used to get excited around the holidays when CBS (or whatever station it was) would play that "CBS Special Program" music and spinning logo- for we knew that animated goodness was coming up. We didn't even mind the commercials; they were geared for kids anyway. I still kind of get chills when I hear a video clip: "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown...sponsored by...." I know, I know- it's crazy, but it just brings back warm feelings and fun memories.

Inevitably the Peanuts animated specials were usually sponsored by three primary products or companies: McDonalds (of course), York Peppermint Patties and... Dolly Madison cakes and pies. See? That's how we get from A to D...or is it E by now? Anyway, so then I started thinking about the fun trips to our local "Bread store" that I made with my mom or grandmother. The local Bread store sold all kinds of products, but they especially sold Dolly Madison. And to me, it was extra special as a Peanuts fan, because Dolly Madison featured Peanuts characters on their packaging. I didn't want just any old cake or filled pie; I wanted the ones with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy and the whole gang on 'em. Sure, I know that the comic books had ads for Hostess cakes and pies, featuring that other perennial favorite clique of kids, Archie and the gang. And while I was a big fan of the Riverdale crew- the simple fact was that the Peanuts gang held my heart. So naturally I was just the sucker, er... I mean, customer that the advertisers targeted.

So, take a virtual stroll with me down memory lane and let me share with you some fun Dolly Madison Peanuts ads from the past. Of course you realize that the characters, logos and etc are trademarks of their respective companies. I'm not trying to sell anything here- just presenting them for nostalgia and historic values sake. Enjoy!

Do you remember any of these? What are some items that instantly transport you to your childhood?

Wow. Now I'm feeling a bit nostalgic and hungry. Be sure to share your memories with us in the comments section.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, sponsored by.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

the times, they are a-changin'

Caught sight of the first signs that Fall is indeed around the corner; went into my local Walgreens and saw Halloween candy on display. Now I know a few of you are lamenting: "Wow. Already? Way too early." My youngest son said as much to me over the weekend: "Can't they at least wait til October?" Sure, I understand. Football just arrived, you might say. Some of you might even be complaining that you still wish to hold on to Summer and eek out its last gasp. Back to School is still kind of in session, some of you contend.

Me? Well, you have known me way too long to know that the kid inside me is doing jumping jacks. It was rather inappropriate for me to actually do them in the store, dontcha know. I've never been a huge fan of summer, as far as seasons go, and a long hot summer makes me itch for the cool weather, crisp fallen leaves and the cool husky evenings of fall and everything else that goes with it. And after the summer I've had, I think a little sign that it's almost here, is just what the Doctor ordered. I know you aren't ready, but the kid in me is ready.

So you know what to expect this holiday season here at the Shelf- more candy reviews, fun products, Halloween OTR, classic Halloween films and cartoons. I believe whole-heartedly that we should make Halloween fun and kid friendly again. I know full well the history behind the holiday, but I also know the harvest traditional fun that our early agricultural national culture seemlessly blended with the old world beliefs. Adults have taken over and practically ruined it for kids, not to mention a more dangerous world out there making it even less kid-friendly. So we aim to have some fun, remind you of your Halloween kid-dom and share the fun with all of you. Sure, we'll wait a little while to get going- I mean who wants the overkill. Just consider this "Coming Attractions." We return you now to you regularly scheduled other boring daily stuff.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.

Friday, September 03, 2010

a few of my favorite things...

Dear Shelfers, no doubt your patience has been tried, and the wonderings about your erstwhile host has gone on for far too long. And at times, I admit to have considered closing down the Shelf altogether myself. Life outside of the tinny walls of the internet has been quite full this summer; something which many can relate to, no doubt. I make no excuse, but only, in my most Puck-ish way, ask for your hands to make amends. While putting the Shelf on an indefinite hiatus was an option considered and attractive in some ways, the unintended temporary hiatus this summer gnawed at my conscience. Many things occurred, and were seen, which, I confess, led my thoughts immediately to you: the loyal reader. When a classic film favorite passed away, a new DVD release made it our way, or just simply a nostalgic journey held sway- my first thoughts were of the necessity to share them with you.

Five years ago, this month, The Shelf was born. At that time there were some great inspirational bloggers out there, toiling away at the virtual onion skin. Classic films, nostalgia, and American culture were their beat, and I was eager to throw in my own two cents worth of thoughts (despite, prices already being inflated). While by no means was I a lone voice in the wilderness, nostalgic and Classic film blogging was still under populated to a degree and I have been so extremely proud of our "community" to see so many others get out there and get involved and make their voices heard over the intervening years. So many great and talented writers have emerged, bringing to light information, discussing the underappreciated as well as the overrated, dissecting old arguments and perhaps starting new ones; Classic films and television has enjoyed a growing awareness, popularity and appreciation over the years. That is, in no small part, due to so many bloggers, critics, and writers that have emerged over the vast interweb landscape. It is a testament to all of you that when news occurs that in someway involves classic media, the story can be found in a short period of time on many websites. Many of you have been able to break down news items and reviews and provide a unique insight in such a wonderful, and admittedly (jealous confession) frustrating way, that at times I felt it not only unnecessary, but even criminal to try and add anything to it.

This is not a complaint so much as it is a celebration and even self-examination; there are so many sites available now, that it can be difficult to see where I can add any contribution at all. At the same time however, I value my blogroll, because my daily reading has increased so much over the years that I have found so much joy and entertainment in all that I can find. A double-edged sword indeed.

As I look back over the past few years, I remember the fun and joy I have had sharing with you my thoughts and finds, and even quirky ideas and reviews. I hope you can still find some worth in the old saws still available in the archives. As I tread these creaky boards, just as old actors are wont to do, I am inspired to continue to share as much as I can- if nothing else, to satisfy my own nostalgic yearnings. I may not be the first to acknowledge the passing of a film star, nor the only person to wax philosophical on the value of old television shows, or even the only one to recklessly proclaim my devotion to an underappreciated or overrated gem from the past. No, in fact, I am glad that is the case, because the wealth of knowledge, opinion, and discussion is so valuable and great that I am grateful to be counted among you and hope that this means that the past, which we treasure so much, will not be lost and counted as dust among the cluttered remains of human ephemera.

So with this I've “undeclared” my manifesto, with which Wolf and I began this experiment- to constantly comment, to be there on the scene, to boldly challenge ourselves to push everything and anything to the forefront. No - I release myself from this burden, and hope you will indulge me in the same. I wish to share in the joy, in the discussion, to jump in when I remember or think of something I wish to share with you. When I find some little treasure, I wish to post it here and share with you. Content may be more eclectic than in the past, but with your indulgence, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. It's nothing for me, in conversation with like-minded individuals, to jump from the Three Stooges, to Dean Martin, to Cicero, to Frank Capra, to Crazy Horse, to the Pilgrims, to classic Cereal commercials without so much as losing my place. Thus, you may see short posts of favorite nostalgic commercials, DVD reviews, discussion of history and just posting favorite pictures of radio show stars - all in the same week. Call it stream of consciousness, madness, or even a short attention span- I just call it - little old me. I hope to get Wolfie back on board- he's as busy as the rest of us- but hope springs eternal nonetheless.

To begin, with the new attitude and new look (hope you like it- we will still tinker with it a little) - here is something I've discovered as of late, which I've enjoy immensely. A classic television game show, known as What's My Line (I even play a modified version of the game with my students), in which the occasional famous individual would be a contestant. Often the movie or television star would arrive and have to disguise their voice to fool the panel. Many of these clips are available on YouTube and I have really enjoyed them of late. I would like to share a couple of gems with you in honor of The Shelf 2.0, so to speak.

First up: The Shelf favorite: Jack Benny. If only Fred Allen had been on the panel...

Secondly: Dedicated to our good friend and one of our favorite bloggers, Laura: Robert Montgomery. And interesting bonus- Peter Lawford is on the panel.

And lastly I have to include, the one, the only: Groucho.(Whom, by the way, more and more has reminded me of my father's father in more ways than I've ever realized.)

Late Addition!
I thought I would add one more that I watched earlier today that I got a kick out of: the mystery guest is Walter Brennen and on the panel are Adolphe Menjou and the lovely Greer Garson. Very cool:

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend, everyone, and stay tuned for more short attention span blogging.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Maria, these walls were not meant to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.


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