Tuesday, September 15, 2009
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JACKIE COOPER AND A TRIP TO TO THE ARBORETUM
Jackie Cooper turns eighty-seven years old today. I especially loved to see him as a child actor in the "Our Gang" comedies and MGM pictures like "Skippy". My favorite role of his was a television series in the 1950's called "The People's Choice" in which his co-star was a basset hound name Cleo-- who of course "talked" to the audience commenting dryly on what had just happened to her owner. The voice of the dog was Mary Jane Croft (who was Lucile Ball's I Love Lucy friend/ nemesis The series was a 1955-1958 half-hour black and white sitcom airing on NBC. It starred Jackie Cooper as Socrates "Sock" Miller, an ex-Marine and New City, California politician. Of course the dog who balefully observes Sock's dilemmas, were recorded on the soundtrack for the viewers' amusement. Much of Cleo's dialog is in the form of witty wisecracks. The popularity of the basset hound breed increased markedly with the run of the show. But I found it interesting that he also is a wonderful television director on such classic TV shows like "Mash". Today, John and I are planning a trip to the Arboretum in Arcadia where "Fantasy Island" and many other movies like "The Boys From Brazil" were filmed. The old Tarzan movies were also filmed there. So we'll look and around and see some beautiful flowers and fauna. I finished the new musical's libretto and lyrics yesterday and now John and I will create the music. It is the story of Saint Valentine,the martyr priest who was killed by the Emperor Claudius II in the year 279. Of course, so little is known about the gifted saint that John and I had to take some real liberties with the story. We do know that Claudius only ruled two years and was done in by the Bubonic Plague. We had to figure a way to connect the barbarian with the priest. In real life, Valentine was arrested and imprisoned for marrying Christian couples publicly. But we had a dilemma: why would a Roman Emperor come to visit a priestly prisoner? We did discover that Claudius was disturbed by dreams that he had at night and so we decided to make Valentine a interpreter of dreams like the Joseph in the bible stories. Our real cheat was deciding to bring Zenobia, "The Warrior Queen" and Valentine together. Zenobia was one amazing woman. she was very brave and very beautiful and she captured all of Egypt and all of Palestine before she was defeated. Of course, John and I had to transplant her a few years forward to make the idea work. We hope that makes it fly. In real history, Claudius was very curious about Christianity but continually warned Valentine not to try and convert him. Dramatically that seems all well and good, but what would make Valentine actually continue to try the conversion so we brought in Zenobia for a bit of the betrayal angle. Let's hope that flies too. The final song in the show (The "Eleven O' Clock" number just before Valentine's execution is called "I Have Love Because Of You" was written in the vein of "One Last Miracle" that my friend Tony Westbrook sang and recorded for our musical "The Ghost Who Saved Broadway". Who knows? Maybe Tony can record that one too. Are you reading this, Tony? Also last night I invited my friend Tim over for a belated birthday bash. I made some rib-eye steaks on the BBQ after marinating them all day with baked potatoes, corn and veggies. Dessert was yogurt and fresh Swiss cheese-- Tim absolutely loves cheese. Well we're off to go see Fantasy Island, aks, the Arboretum in Arcadia. Boy, I can still hear the words "The Plane, the plane".