Monday, April 08, 2013
Annette Funicello was a champion. She was an amazing entertainer with a charm, a wit and a smile that few stars have. She was perhaps the most courageous person I've ever known--even if it was only briefly. I remember the Sherman Brother tunes that she recorded like "Pineapple Princess", "Tall Paul", "Jo Jo The Dog Faced Boy", "Mia Amora." The Shermans used to call her "their lucky star." She was absolute magic for these two songwriters. The very first song that the Shermans wrote and played for Walt Disney was for a very ordinary Wonderful World Of Color multi-part story called "The Horsemasters" with Roberta Stack and Tommy Kirk. That song was called "Let's Sing A Strumming Song" and this simple but clever was the very song that led Walt to sign the Shermans as exclusive songwriters for the studio, and to ultimately to write the songs for "Mary Poppins." She was diagonised with MS in the late 1980's and went public about twenty-one years ago in 1992. I remember her roles in Walt's first big screen musical called "Babes In Toyland." It co-starred another recording legend Tommy Sands, and it featured the genius of Ed Wynn. Annette was the kind of performer who could really sell a song and make you believe in every line of lyric she sang. If she was your friend, she was always your friend. And she never forgot her roots. In fact, she was always amazed when Frankie Avalon used to tell her that while traveling across the country on his own singing tours, in the 1990's just how popular and how loved she still was. That simply flabbergasted and amazed her. She was pure class. There simply wasn't a bone of ego in her entire body, and Walt Disney, himself discovered her in a local school production of "Swan Lake." Later she became the spokesperson for Skippy Peanut Butter. She made great films for the Disney studio including "The Monkey's Uncle" that the Beach Boys sang in the picture. And so dear Annette, idol of my own childhood, and later friend, God keep you in his heaven, dear lady, now safe and totallly without pain. Let us find an end to this dreaded disease called MS!
Monday, April 01, 2013
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the classic Hitchcock film "The Birds" that starred now 83 year old Tipi Hedren and Rod Stewart (whom we all loved in "The Time Machine" I found out that Walt Disney's amazing friend from Kansas City Ub Iwerks created the flying bird sequence that was nominated for an Academy Award for special effects in the 1963 Oscar race. Iwerks of course wasthe man that Mickey Mouse owes all of his development too and who was Walt's partner all those many years ago in Kansas City. Had Iwerks not left Disney to form his own compnay in the 1930's, his heirs would now have owned 20% of the Walt Disney Company. Oh the mistakes we make on the road of life. Hitchcock wanted Grace Kelly to play the female lead, but at that time she was married to Prince Ranier of Monacco and refused any other movie work. Hedren has said that old Hitch was quite possessive of her selecting all of her wardrobe and makeup and even refused to end her exclusive contract with him. Of course, "The Birds" is that all time frightening classic of the old master that I still remember scaring the absolute hell out of me. The budget of the film was by 1963 standards very impressive: 3.6 million dollars. It doubled its cost before the year was up back when movies didn't reach the stratosphere that they do today. It's also the 50th anniversary this year of "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." The one comedy film that was an absolute classic and starred just about every Hollywood comedian they could gather including Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, Dick Shawn,, Ethel Merman , plus Sid caesar and good old Jimmy Durante. Even Buster Keaton and the Three Stooges found a role in the classic film. You just coudn't remake classics like these, today! Hitchcock and Stanly Krammer were simply brilliant film makers. Does anybody remember where the massive treasure was hid? It was under the ... drumroll, please.... "The Big "W"-- a landmark in Santa Monica that is still there to this day! The original film was shot in Cinerama. It also starred the absolute amazing Spencer Tracy. Jonathan Winters destruction of that gas station was one of the absolute highlights of the picture!