Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Ten Things You Might Not Know About 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' (1942)

In honor of the Fourth of July, here are some fun facts concerning the classic musical ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ (1942)!

1)      George M. Cohan wanted Fred Astaire to play him in the film, but Astaire’s ballroom style of dancing style was too different from Cohan’s stiffer legwork and Cagney got the part.

2)      Rosemary DeCamp played Cohan’s mother, but in reality she was more than a decade younger than Cagney.

3)      Cohan’s sister, Josie, was played by Cagney’s real-life sister, Jeanne, while Cagney’s brother, Bill was a producer on the film.

4)      The film was scheduled for a July 4, 1942 release, but in deference to Cohan’s failing health, it premiered in New York, New York on May 29, 1942.

5)      Cagney won his only Oscar for his work in this film, but the movie itself lost out to ‘Mrs. Miniver’ (1942) for Best Picture.

6)      Cohan’s choreographer, Johnny Boyle, worked closely with Cagney on the dance routines.

7)      Cohan was actually married twice, but in the movie he had only one wife, Mary.

8)      Actress Joan Leslie was only 17 and still in high school when she played the part of Cohan’s wife.

9)      Despite its patriotic flair, the film was already in production when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941.

10)   Josie Cohan was married to MGM director and Academy founder Fred Niblo.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ten Things You Might Not Know About 'I Love Lucy'

These fun facts might surprise you!

1)      The name ‘Fred’ Mertz was given to the character played by William Frawley as a nod to Lucille Ball’s real life brother, Fred.

2)      ‘I Love Lucy’ began as a radio show called ‘My Favorite Husband’ featuring Lucille Ball and Richard Denning as her spouse.  When the show transitioned to early television, Ball insisted that her husband, Desi Arnaz, be given the role.  Denning was out and Arnaz was in.

3)      Unsure whether she should take the plunge from movies to television, Ball had a dream about her good friend comedienne Carole Lombard who had perished in a plane crash almost a decade earlier. Lombard told Ball to take a chance and so she did.

4)      When selling the show to Philip Morris, Ball and Arnaz were told that Desi’s orchestra could only be used when they were an important part of the plot.  Arnaz was concerned about his ‘boys’ and explained that they had to be paid on a weekly basis whether they were in front of the camera or not.  The sponsors agreed. 

5)      As part of their negotiations with CBS, Arnaz asked if he and Lucy could own 100% of the shows.  Much to their surprise, the network agreed.

6)      Arnaz’s Cuban accent always got a laugh—whether he meant to or not.  Someone once hung a sign on his dressing room door that read:  “English broken here.”

7)      As CBS prepared for the show’s second season, the network provided Arnaz with a new budget.  Going over the numbers, the business-savvy actor noticed an extra million dollars.  The very next day, he took the paperwork back to CBS informing them of their error.  He was told to stick to his acting and leave the numbers to them.  He immediately spread out the paperwork and pointed out the problem.  The CBS brass suddenly had a newfound respect for the Cuban bandleader.

8)      Lucy and Desi tried to keep her second pregnancy under wraps for as long as they could. However, when Louella Parsons found out about it, she broke the news in her gossip column and at the same time apologized to the couple for her betrayal.  She then went on to explain that keeping such important news from her readers would be a disservice to them.

9)      William Frawley was a huge baseball fan and he had a clause in his contract stipulating that if his favorite team, The New York Yankees, made it to the World Series, he would be allowed time off to attend the games.   It happened four times during the show’s six-year run causing Frawley to be written out of the script more than once.

10) In 1953, Ethel Mertz was given a middle name of 'Louise'; 3 months later, the writers rechristened her Ethel 'Roberta' (Vance's real middle name, by the way); one year later, she was referred to as Ethel 'Mae'. I guess they couldn't make up their mind, but if anyone is checking, Fred's middle name was 'Hobart'--and that never changed.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Ten Things You Might Not Know About 'The Honeymooners'!!

What can you add to the list???  Put it in the comments below. 

1)    When Jackie Gleason met Audrey Meadows for the first time, he thought she was all wrong for the part of Alice Kramden—she was too pretty, too young and much too charming.  So Meadows went home and had several pictures taken in her apartment wearing old clothes and curlers sans make-up.  When shown the pictures, Gleason didn’t even recognize her, but exclaimed:  “That’s our Alice! Who is she?”

2)      ‘The Honeymooners’ was broadcast from New York City at Studio 50 on 53rd Street and Broadway.  ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ also aired from Studio 50 and the place has since been renamed ‘The Ed Sullivan Theater’, where David Letterman worked for many years.  It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

3)      ‘The Honeymooners’ originally began as a small segment of ‘The Jackie Gleason Show’, which first aired in 1952.  Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden became so popular that three years later, Gleason stopped filming his variety show and began the half-hour situation comedy—and those are the 39 episodes seen most often.

4)      The first Alice Kramden was played by Pert Kelton who was blacklisted during the Red Scare and let go by the network.  In deference to the actress, Gleason told his team that Kelton was ill.

5)      Prior to one show, Meadows had an allergic reaction to some shrimp—her eye swelled up.  Gleason, ever the improviser, wrote four lines of dialogue to cover the problem:

                                        Trixie:  What happened to your eye?

                                        Alice: I forgot to do the laundry.

                                        Trixie:  So?

                                        Alice:  Ralph threw his socks at me.   

6)      As the show grew more and more popular on Saturday nights, the fan mail increased.  Letters poured in from all over the country with fans enclosing hundreds of kitchen curtains and aprons hoping to cheer up Alice who was stuck in that dingy apartment.  One woman even enclosed a dime instructing Alice to buy a new curtain rod as it would be too cumbersome to send in the mail.

7)      The Kramdens lived at 328 Chauncey Street in Bensonhurst, a borough of Brooklyn.  Growing up, Gleason also lived in an apartment on Chauncey Street, but in Brooklyn’s Bushwick area—a poor section of town. He modeled the Kramdens’ apartment after his own boyhood residence.

8)      After each performance, Gleason sent one dozen roses to every woman appearing in the show.

9)      Audrey Meadows always wore flats when playing Alice Kramden so she would appear shorter than her onscreen husband.  She was five foot six to Gleason’s five foot nine.

10)   Art Carney claimed that his dramatic hand gestures were based upon his own father’s hand motions whenever the senior Carney had to sign one of his son’s bad report cards.