Author Archives: mdoares

First-time Director Shows Inexperience
in Gorgeous Disaster
by John Francis

1. One Eyed Jacks PosterThere were a number of big Hollywood names attached to Marlon Brando’s first and only directorial effort, “One Eyed Jacks”: Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah, Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, and Rod Serling, none of whom made the final cut.

The convoluted path to get the film made only adds to Brando’s own complex and convoluted legacy. The great British director Kubrick (“2001: A Space Odyssey”) was initially set to helm the film, with another great director, Sam Peckinpah (“Wild Bunch”) set to write the screenplay on a first draft written by Serling of “Twilight Zone” fame.

Brando then fired Kubrick, who had fired Peckinpah, and brought in Calder Willingham, who was also fired, leading to Guy Trosper, who worked on the script with Brando, becoming the director. Film historians think that was Brando’s intention all along. When actor Karl Malden, who played Brando’s nemesis in the film, Dad Longworth, was asked who really wrote the film, his reply was: “There is one answer to your question — Marlon Brando, a genius in our time.”

Tracy and Fonda were both considered by Kubrick for the role of Dad, but once he was gone, Malden, who was on salary with Brando’s production company, was hired.

2. Brando DirectingSo, with Brando starring and directing, the film finally got off the ground, but Brando’s inexperience behind the camera would cause untold problems for the production.

The filming was supposed to take three months with a budget of $1.8 million. Brando spent six months and $6 million, shooting a million feet of film, six times the average film of the time. Brando also used Paramount’s new Vista-Vision process, which was much more expensive to shoot. His rough cut was eight hours, which he trimmed to five hours, then three. A frustrated Paramount took over and cut it down to its final length, 141 minutes.

Filming began at the end of 1958, but it was not completed until the fall of 1960 and released on March 31, 1961 in New York City.

Brando not only shot an inordinate amount of film, he was indecisive and methodical, pondered each camera setup while 120 members of the crew sat around doing nothing and would sit for hours waiting for the ocean waves to change for that perfect shot.

One story from the set had Brando getting drunk to film a scene in which his character Rio was drunk, but he got too drunk to act or direct, so he insisted on doing it again the next day. The following day, he again got too drunk to act or direct.

3. Brando and MaldenBrando talked about directing the film in a 1975 interview with Rolling Stone magazine: “You work yourself to death. You’re the first one up in the morning … I mean, we shot that thing on the run, you know, you make up the dialogue the scene before, improvising, and your brain is going crazy.”

Despite the studio taking over the film, never a good thing, the mixed reviews and all the turmoil and confusion on the set, “One Eyed Jacks” has fared well over the years. Many critics lament the fact that Brando never directed again, even though he showed flashes of brilliance in his own tortured way on “One Eyed Jacks.”

In 2016, Universal Pictures undertook a 4K digital restoration in partnership with The Film Foundation and in consultation with filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Scorsese did the introduction and film critic Howard Hampton contributed a lengthy essay ”One-Eyed Jacks: Zen Nihilism” who called the film:

“A muted riot of sweaty brows and deadly stares, star turned director Brando’s ominous, custom-tailored western ‘One Eyed Jacks’ belongs to a line of conflicted, half-mad productions that appear doomed from the outset yet turn into more impactful film experiences than a barrel of cautiously wrought, fastidiously executed “classics’.”

4. Brando in One Eyed JacksThe Criterion Collection called it “a western like no other, combining the mythological scope of that most American of genres with the searing naturalism of a performance by Marlon Brando — all suffused with Freudian overtones and masculine anxiety. Though the production was overwhelmed by its director’s perfectionism and plagued by setbacks and studio reediting, ‘One-Eyed Jacks’ stands as one of Brando’s great achievements, thanks above all to his tortured turn as Rio, a bank robber bent on revenge against his former partner in crime.”

Film writer Steven Schneider included the film among the “1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.”

Brando wasn’t so enamored of Paramount’s cut of his film, but by this time he had probably had enough of it anyway.

“Now, it’s a good picture for them (Paramount),” he’s quoted as saying when it was released, “but it’s not the picture I made … now the characters in the film are black-and-white, not gray-and-human as I planned them.”

Brando’s eight hours of footage has been lost to time, but it would have been fascinating to see that version of the film.

Watch One Eyed Jacks on now!

A Royal Black Actor Becomes A South African Politician
by Sheri Warren Sankner

1. Zulu movie photoOnly a few classic war films have stood the true test of time. “The Longest Day,” “Green Berets,” “The Dirty Dozen,” “Platoon,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Apocalypse Now” come to mind immediately. The 1964 British classic, “Zulu” is also one of these well-made electrifying films. It’s a must-see Watchlist film this week. From the stirring musical score to the outstanding cast and from the epic battle scenes (the last hour of the film) to the intimate character portrayals, “Zulu” has it all.

“Zulu” brings us the history of two clashing nations, both aggressive, expansionists. Through trade expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain suddenly possessed an empire encompassing one quarter of the Earth. The Zulus, under warrior-king Shaka Zulu, had become a society dedicated to warfare. Right up there with the Spartans over two thousand years before them, they were the most fearless soldiers the world had ever witnessed.

2. Defense of Rorke's DriftBased on true events in the Boer War, “Zulu” recounts the amazing story of the battle of Rorke’s Drift in January 1879, where 150 British soldiers heroically staved off around 4,000 Zulu warriors. This battle is preceded the previous day by Britain’s disastrous Battle of Islandlwana, when 1,800 British and allied troops were decimated by 20,000 Zulus, thus launching the Anglo-Zulu war. The Zulus, who were still looking for a fight, marched to Rorke’s Drift, a garrison standing on the border between the British colony of Natal and Zulu territory. Against the worst odds imaginable, the B Company of the 24th Regiment of Foot, South Wales manage, with exceptional courage, to hold off the Zulu attacks until morning. The valor of the men at Rorke’s Drift resulted in the awarding of eleven Victoria Crosses. The roll of honor is read by Welsh actor Richard Burton at the film’s end.

Survivors from the earlier battle had alerted the soldiers at Rorke’s Drift to the planned attack. Led by Lieutenant John Chard (played by Stanley Baker, who also produced the film along with director Cy Endfield), a member of the Royal Engineers who was there to oversee a pontoon bridge’s repairs, the unit quickly began beefing up their defenses. The garrison was actually commanded by Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead (played by Michael Caine in his first true starring role) who allowed Chard to assume command of the unit due to receipt of his commission three months before him. Baker and Caine are effective in the lead roles of rival lieutenants from different social classes who come to respect and like each other.

3. Michael Caine ZULU“Zulu” introduces movie fans to many notable character actors, including Nigel Green, who is cast as Color Sergeant Bourne; Jack Hawkins, who plays Otto Witt, the well-intentioned, fervent missionary; and James Booth, who plays Private Henry Hook, a malingerer in the garrison’s hospital with a surprising heroic side.

4. Buthelezi2Perhaps, the most remarkable and significant footnote in this film though is the involvement of future Inkatha party and real-life Zulu tribal leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who actually plays his own distant relative in the film, King Cetshwayo kaMpande. The producers of “Zulu” had visited him in 1963 to discuss extras for the film, but then ended up offering him the role of the Zulu King Cetshwayo, his own great-grandfather. Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi also acted in “Tokoloshe” (1965) and “Talking With David Frost” (1991).

5. 450px-Mangosuthu_Buthelezi_(1983)In 2014, commenting on the filming of “Zulu” during apartheid in South Africa, Dr. Buthelezi said, “In a sense we forgot we were in this country at the time. Whites and blacks could mingle without any fuss. You might say it was a very small thing but for this country, which was so racist at the time, it was something of great significance for us. The film helped restore to pride about where we come from – about how our people resisted the mightiest army in the world at the time, even though we were poorly equipped with cow-hide shields and spears.”

Dr. Buthelezi, great-grandson of King Dinizulu and direct descendent of warrior-king Shaka, was born Ashpenaz Nathan Mangosuthu GATT Buthelezi on August 27, 1928, at Mahlabatini, near the traditional Zulu capital of Lend. (King Dinizulu was banished and died in exile after the 1906 Zulu rebellion against British rule.) As heir to the Chieftainship of the Buzelezi tribe, Buthelezi’s royal Zulu ancestry was as vital to his political standing as his own political skills.

6. ButheleziThis iconic royal black actor went on to play a leading role in South Africa’s political history. Throughout most of the apartheid era, Buthelezi was considered one of the foremost black leaders on the continent of Africa. He also played a key role in creating a framework for a negotiated solution to South Africa’s racial conflict, signing the landmark Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith in 1974 with Harry Schwarz. Founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and heir to the Chieftainship of the Buzelezi tribe (1953—), he was elected Chief Executive Officer of the KwaZulu Territory in 1970, Chief Executive Councilor of the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly in 1972, and Chief Minister of KwaZulu in 1976. He also served as Chancellor of the University of Zululand and Minister of Home Affairs of South Africa from 1994 to 2004, in Nelson Mandela’s coalition government.

7. Zulu movie imageCheck out Mangosuthu Buthelezi on in his first starring role in Zulu.

Iconic Black Actor’s Performances

This week on, we salute four extremely fine performances by black actors in four very classic films that had tremendous impact on the movie business including Duane Jones in the 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead, Fred Williamson in the 1987 blacksploitation action film Black Cobra, Brock Peters in his unforgettable 1962 performance in To Kill a Mockingbird, and South African actor, politician and royal heir Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi in the 1964 epic war classic Zulu.
Sit back and enjoy the stellar performances of these outstanding actors and maybe even reflect on the many contributions of black actors and actresses – whether they be in horror, action, drama or historical war films – to all of our memorable movie-going experiences.

Night of the Living Dead

George A. Romero’s 1968 independent horror film Night of the Living Dead stars Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea and tells the ghoulish story of seven people trapped in a farmhouse in Western Pennsylvania that is attacked by a large and growing group of unnamed “living dead” monsters. Completed on a $114,000 budget, the film premiered on October 1, 1968 and became a financial success, grossing $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally. It has been a horror cult classic ever since.

Black Cobra

Black Cobra is the 1987 Stelvio Massi and Umberto Lenzi Italian blaxploitation action/thriller/martial arts film starring Fred Williamson and Eva Gimaldi where a detective protects a murder witness from a vicious gang of evil bikers. This is the first of a series of four Cobra character film sequels following the exploits of career detective Robert “Bob” Malone played by Williamson.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee’s classic coming-of-age tale examining fear, mental illness and racial bias brought to light in a small Alabama town in the 1930s. The drama was intentionally shot in black & white to portray the societal contrasts of the time, and interpreted for the big screen by Robert Mulligan in 1962. This iconic movie stars Gregory Peck, Kim Stanley and Brock Peters and one of the first appearances on the screen from a very young Robert Duval. In 2003, the American Film Institute named Peck’s character Atticus Finch “The Greatest Movie Hero of the 20th Century,” and that’s really saying something!


Set in 1879, Zulu is the 1964 Cy Endfield grand-scale, historical war drama starring Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, James Booth, Michael Caine and Mangosuthu Buthelezi, telling the story of the Zulu nation, having stood up to the British forces with a resounding defeat, go on to the smaller battle of Rorke’s Drift. Narrated by Richard Burton, this epic and iconic film is treasured within the 500 Greatest Films by both Total Film and Empire magazines.

“Night of the Living Dead”
by Chris Hoey

1. Duane Jones image 1Duane Jones, who played the hero, Ben, of “Night of the Living Dead,” set the stage in 1968 for many who followed his path to Hollywood stardom. As a student of live theatre, he was the best actor for the role of “Ben,” so he got the part. Even though the script didn’t mention race or ethnicity, Duane Jones got the part. But the story of talent winning the day, and actors relying on their craft to excel seems like a rare story in Hollywood today. How often does talent carry an actor beyond the stage and onto the screen for good?

2. Duane Jones image 2Sidney Poitier is another actor to leap from the stage to celluloid in the sixties. His role in “A Raisin in the Sun” both on stage and on film helped make him the first Bahamian actor to win the Best Actor Oscar for “Lilies of the Field.”

3. Duane Jones image 3Christopher Walken also used his theater background as a triple-threat to become an internet smash when he starred in Fatboy Slim’s video for “Weapon of Choice.” Walken swings, sashays, steps and snaps throughout a posh hotel in one of the most unanticipated performances in music video history. After revealing his song and dance roots, Walken’s career cruised into overdrive in films like “Hairspray” where all his talents could be on display.

Another unlikely song and dance man to make the transition to the silver screen was Jerry Orbach. Rising to fame as the world-weary detective Lennie Briscoe on the long-running “Law and Order,” Orbach’s training on the stage put him in position to voice the candelabra, Lumiere, in “Beauty and the Beast, ” who sings the show-stopping “Be Our Guest.”

A past in the theater has proven fertile training ground for actors to break out of being typecast into stereotypical roles. And there’s even more to Jones than his great theatrical skill – he was also an accomplished academic as well. He was well-versed as a leading man at several institutions of higher learning throughout his career, spearheading academically-oriented theater departments throughout the seventies.

Perhaps the respect Jones earned as an actor who earned a role in a film, rather than a black actor who portrayed a black character helped to trailblaze some of Hollywood’s most recent offerings. In Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” the horror genre follows Romero’s lead. Peele’s film has been nominated for three of the top Oscars this year.

4. Duane Jones image 4Another film that stands on the shoulders of the groundbreaking work of actors like Poitier and Jones is the smash-hit “Black Panther.” A film that makes no issue of race, but unquestionably breaks ground in a Hollywood that has withstood criticism for depictions of race for decades. Jones’ work, grounded in stage acting, shows that an accomplished actor can rise above society’s concepts of race and roles. Actors like Jones have played an important part in establishing Hollywood as the place where even the most unlikely dreams can come true.

Watch Night of the Living Dead on now!

How Bob Denver Made a Career from Playing “Gilligan”
by John Francis

1. Rescue From Gilligan's Island PosterPoor Bob Denver. What, you don’t know who that is? How about Gilligan of “Gilligan’s Island,” the goofy castaway and First Mate of the shipwrecked S.S. Minnow in the 60s sitcom?

Denver made a whole career out of playing Gilligan, not just in the original sitcom, which ran for three seasons from 1964-1967, but made-for-TV movie sequels, TV spinoffs, guest appearances, animated series (where he provided his voice), musicals and video games based on the series, documentaries and docudramas and even a reality show, “The Real Gilligan’s Island,” a Survivor-like competition in which contestants played character types from the original — a goofball like Gilligan, a sea captain, a movie star, a millionaire’s wife, and so forth.

Denver guest-starred on numerous shows after the series ended, but could never shed the image of the affable, but klutzy and simple-minded Gilligan, who always managed to mess things up with his bumbling ways. So he basically went with the flow and pretty much played Gilligan throughout his career. Even a previous character from the 1959 sitcom “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” Denver played goofy, but affable beatnik Maynard G. Krebs, essentially Gilligan with a goatee and beret.

2. Bob Denver as GilliganDenver played Gilligan, or as The Skipper used to call him, “Little Buddy,” on nine different series: the original “Gilligan’s Island (1964), “The New Adventures of Gilligan” (1974), “The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island” (1979), “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” (1981), “Gilligan’s Planet” (1982), “The New Gidget” (1986), “ALF” (1986), “Baywatch” (1989) and “Meego” (1997).

One of the most-asked questions about the original series, which became popular with a new generation after running for years in syndication, is “Did the castaways ever escape from Gilligan’s Island?” The answer is yes and no.

The hapless castaways never escaped in the original series, but did 11 years later in the 1978 made-for-TV movie, “Rescue From Gilligan’s Island,” in which the seven return to the mainland after lashing their huts together to escape an oncoming tsunami. They are rescued after Gilligan sets the huts on fire trying to cook food (that crazy Gilligan!) and a U.S. Navy helicopter sees the smoke.

The castaways make it back home, but everything has changed in their absence and they can’t quite adjust to life in civilization. On a reunion cruise on the S.S. Minnow II (the replacement for the original boat that they shipwrecked on), they end up marooned on the island once again, not that they mind it this time.

3. Gilligan's Island CastThe plot also involves a Russian spy satellite that crashed on the island containing a disc with top-secret information that Gilligan had found on the island and carried with him as a good-luck charm. Two Russian spies, Dmitri and Ivan, of course, are after the disc, which leads to the usual slapstick and shenanigans (at one point castaway Mary Ann is set to marry Dmitri until The Skipper and Gilligan ride in on a tractor to sweep her away and save the day).

It’s all pretty silly and inconsequential, but fans embraced it, happy to see the seven reunited again (except for Tina Louise, who played Ginger in the original, declined to appear in the film because of a dispute with the studio. She was replaced by a younger actress, Judith Baldwin) and up to their same comedic hijinks.

4. Alan Hale Bob DenverDirected by Leslie H. Martinson, a journeyman television director who directed episodes ranging from “Maverick,” “Ironside” and “Mission Impossible” to “The Brady Bunch,” “Mannix” and “Wonder Woman,” “Rescue From Gilligan’s Island” was virtually critic-proof. The plot, such as it is, is beside the point as long as the characters were being the characters fans knew and loved. The proof is in the pudding: these characters were trotted out numerous times over the years since the original series aired. The series even grew in popularity in the 70s and 80s when it seemed to be everywhere in syndication, especially in the late afternoon, when kids were home from school.

Gilligan — his full name was never revealed and no one knows whether it’s a first name or a last name — has become a true American TV icon. And in real life, Denver was quite the opposite from the bumbling Gilligan. He was talented, shy, quiet and introverted, and well read.

When asked about the silliness of “Gilligan’s Island” he would just say, “It’s silly, yes, but children laugh and adults can if they want to. It’s aimed at the vast everybody.”

Watch Rescue From Gilligan’s Island on now!

Jack E. Leonard in “The Fat Spy”
by Chris Hoey

1. Jack E Leonard image 1In 1998’s hit “When Harry Met Sally,” Harry — played by Billy Crystal — asks about the lyrics to the New Year’s tune “Auld Lang Syne.” He wonders if the song was about remembering the old friends we’ve forgotten, which is impossible because, after all, we can’t remember the things we’ve forgotten. Jack E. Leonard is one of those who should be remembered for a style of comedy that has become a classic — the roast. Leonard appeared beside all his generation’s greats, including Frank Sinatra, Jack Paar, Jerry Lewis, and Ed Sullivan. Jack Benny once quipped he could tell a great new talent because he’d laugh so hard he dropped his pencil. (Benny had a reputation for stealing jokes.) Some would argue that the legend Don Rickles imitated Leonard’s act to great success.

2. Jack E Leonard image 2Jack E. Leonard was known for opening his shows with the line “Good evening, opponents.” His style was quick and cutting and everyone understood that to be near him meant that you’d be in his crosshairs with a crack customised to make you laugh at yourself with the rest of the audience. But what happened to Leonard? Why doesn’t his name fall from our lips like so many of his contemporaries? After all, this is a man who accused Liberace of being “no Zsa Zsa Gabor, yourself!”

In order to understand a bit of why he’s faded from memory, it’s important to find what was memorable about him in the first place. When he appeared on “What’s My Line?” as a guest in 1962, the panel was stunned by the ovation he received. Even before signing in, the audience recognized him easily. He had also been a panelist on the show. In fact, the panel he faced needed only five questions before guessing who he was. He was very well-known in his time.

3. Jack E Leonard image 3Phyllis Diller, who starred alongside Leonard in “The Fat Spy,” was well known for decades after working with him. Her style of humor seemed to be to turn the classic roast inward, putting herself in her own crosshairs of wit. She claimed that on her honeymoon, she wore a peek-a-boo blouse. Her husband peeked, and then he booed.

Leonard’s style has also outlived his memory. Steve Martin and Martin Short have taken the roast on the road. Martin Short claims that it’s nice to be on the road with an organ donor, because it makes him feel safe. Short also remembers first entering Martin’s house and asking where he got all the money, because Short had “seen his show.”

4. Jack E Leonard image 4Leonard may have been so closely tied to his time that when the stars of the golden age of television faded, so did his gags. Leonard’s humor needed a target, and if the audience didn’t know or see the target any more, then his jokes also faded. Unlike Phyllis Diller, Leonard passed away suddenly at only 63 years old in 1973.

While his name may have been forgotten, Jack E. Leonard’s humor and style live on.

Watch The Fat Spy on

Slapstick Comedies

Comedy has many forms — but the comedic form of slapstick comedy is one of the most endearing, silly and often used vehicles in movies. Throughout the 20th century — but especially in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s — slapstick comedy was capitalized on by many of the most infamous comedy teams.

This week, is proud to feature four films from our collection of slapstick comedies starting with the 1946 Marx Brothers classic A Night in Casablanca; the 1950 Dean Marin and Jerry Lewis classic At War with the Army; the 1966 Phyllis Diller and Jack E. Leonard classic The Fat Spy; and the 1978 Bob Denver and Allan Hale Jr. reprisal in Rescue from Gilligan’s Island.

Make that popcorn a double order for this week’s parade of slapstick comedies! You’ll need it!

A Night in Casablanca

A Night in Casablanca is the 1946 black & white Archie Mayo slapstick comedy starring the Marx Brothers spoofing the hidden Nazi cache of artwork hidden in a Casablanca hotel. Groucho Marx’s portrayal of a smart but somewhat inept hotel manager is compounded and magnified by situational set-ups from his array of guests, and the Nazi Count Pfefferman’s attempts to gain control of the hotel.

At War with the Army

At War with the Army is the 1950 black & white Hal Walker comedy/war musical starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Mike Kellin telling the story of the exploits of ambitious army men struggling against the system to obtain higher rank and greater privileges within the WWII Military infrastructure. Some of those complications and obstacles include a Post Exchange worker who is pregnant, a company commander who gets all his information from his wife, a scheming supply sergeant and a defective Coca Cola machine.

The Fat Spy

The Fat Spy is the 1966 Joseph Cates fantasy comedy musical starring Phyllis Diller, Jack E. Leonard, Christopher Jordan and Jayne Mansfield in the story of the pursuit of the fountain of youth on an island off the coast of Florida overrun by partying youths. This was Phyllis Diller’s second foray into moviemaking from stand-up comedy. A couple of interesting and little known facts – a very young Barbra Streisand used to be Diller’s warm-up act in the early 60s at the Bon Soir in Greenwich Village; and Bob Hope once described Diller as “a Warhol mobile of spare parts picked up along a freeway.”

Rescue From Gilligan’s Island

Rescue From Gilligan’s Island is the 1978 Leslie H. Martinson comedy that was the first made-for-TV Gilligan movie after the popular 1964-1967 sitcom went off the air. Starring Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jr. and almost all of the rest of the TV cast, the film continues the story 15 years after the original shipwreck, after all of the characters have been rescued and have moved on with their lives, when they are similarly lost again at sea under very suspicious circumstances that may involve the Russians!

“At War With The Army”
by Sheri Warren Sankner

1. Jerry Lewis goofy eyesLong before John Belushi, Rob Schneider, John Candy, Chris Farley, or Jim Carrey, there was Jerry Lewis. His trademark high-pitched, nasally, honking voice, his elastic facial expressions, his bulging crossed eyes, and his silly spastic physical moves made him a global comedic superstar, unmatched by others of his time. Schneider has called the team of Martin & Lewis, “the Beatles of comedy.” Carrey, whose own comedy style was heavily influenced by Lewis, tweeted after his idol’s death at 91, “That fool was no dummy. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius, an unfathomable blessing, comedy’s absolute! I am because he was!”

Martin Scorsese, who directed Lewis in “The King of Comedy,” said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “Jerry Lewis was a master. He was a giant. He was an innovator. He was a great entertainer. He was a great artist. And he was a remarkable man. I had the honor of working with him, and it was an experience I’ll always treasure. He was, truly, one of our greats.”

2. Jerry Lewis clownThis entertainment great was born Jerome Levitch or Joseph Levitch (per various entertainment sources) on March 16, 1926 in Newark, NJ into a showbiz family. His father was a “borscht belt” Catskills entertainer and his mother was a pianist. During his career that started in his teen years, Lewis was a successful American comedian, actor, singer, director, producer, screenwriter, humanitarian and headliner. Known for his slapstick humor in film, television, on stage and on radio, Lewis truly reigned as the “King of Comedy.”

He partnered in a highly regarded comedy duo with suave Italian crooner and “Rat Packer” Dean Martin from 1946 to 1956. In addition to their nightclub act, Martin & Lewis starred in a successful series of comedy films for Paramount Pictures. In fact, from 1950 to 1956, they were the world’s top box office earners. They also were featured on NBC radio with “The Martin and Lewis Show” from 1949 to 1953. The Colgate Comedy Hour was their live comedy-musical variety series that aired on NBC from 1950 to 1955. The show featured many notable comedians and entertainers of the era as guest stars.

3. Dean_Martin_Jerry_Lewis_Colgate_Comedy_Hour_early_1950sLewis and Dean Martin appeared in 17 feature films together, including 1950’s “At War With The Army,” one of this week’s Watchlist films. This musical comedy, directed by Hal Walker, introduced Polly Bergen. The film takes place at a United States Army base in Kentucky at the end of 1944, during World War II. An unlikely buddy film featuring the characters of First Sergeant Vic Puccinelli (Dean Martin) and Private First Class Alvin Korwin (Jerry Lewis), who were partners in a nightclub song-and-dance act before the Army. Puccinelli wants to see active duty overseas, but is refused a transfer and instead is to be commissioned a Warrant Officer. Korwin wants a pass to see his wife and new baby. In addition, they have to rehearse for the base talent show and avoid the wrath of Korwin’s platoon sergeant, Sergeant McVey played by Mike Kellin. The pair sing together and do an impression of Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald by recreating a scene from “Going My Way” for the talent show. Add in a pregnant Post Exchange worker, a company commander who gets all his information from his wife, a scheming supply sergeant, and a defective Coca-Cola machine, and you’ve got the makings of a typical slapstick Martin & Lewis farce.

4. Martin Lewis and ClooneyOther Martin & Lewis films include “My Friend Irma” (1949), “My Friend Irma Goes West” (1950), “That’s My Boy” (1951), “The Stooge” (1951), “Sailor Beware” (1952), “Jumping Jacks” (1952), “Road to Bali” (1952), “Scared Stiff” (1953), “The Caddy” (1953), “Money from Home” (1953), “Living It Up” (1954), “3 Ring Circus” (1954), “You’re Never Too Young” (1955), “Artists and Models” (1955), “Pardners” (1956) and “Hollywood or Bust” (1956). After a farewell performance at the Copacabana on July 25, 1956, the 10th anniversary of their very first appearance together in Atlantic City, the odd pair of Martin and Lewis went their separate ways.

5. Jerry Lewis MDA TelethonIn addition to his comedy career, Lewis was also known for his charity fund-raising telethons, serving as national chairman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) for many years. In fact, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his 50 years of raising money to fight muscular dystrophy. He was honored with lifetime achievement awards from The American Comedy Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and Venice Film Festival, and given two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2005, he received the Governors Award of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Board of Governors, the highest Emmy Award. In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Lewis the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

6. Jerry Lewis with CarricatureA favorite in Europe as well as in the U.S., Lewis was nicknamed “Picchiatello” (which translates to “nut” or “crazy”) in Italian. At least three of his movies there use the word in their Italian titles. The French also adored this living legend. For his 80th birthday in 2006, he was inducted with a medal into the Legion of Honor by France and given the honorary title of “Legion Commander.” While he apologized for not speaking French at the ceremony, he said “even if the French people cannot hear my language, they have always heard my heart.” You can be sure that now no matter where his fans were in the world, we all heard his heart and watched his comedic magic in wonder on the big silver screen.

Watch At War With The Army on now!

“Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow”
by Chris Hoey

1. Yesterday today and tomorrow image1Sophia Loren certainly says a lot when it comes to matters of love and marriage, and all the other wonders that accompany such pursuits. In “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” she plays the wife who is always finding ways to keep a precarious marriage going by selling black-market cigarettes on the street and remaining pregnant to avoid jail. Audiences around the world love the stories behind the relationships and marriages that make up communities everywhere. If relationships are the building blocks of communities, movies about relationships are a study in architecture – both great and foolish.

O. Henry’s famous story about the husband and wife who both give up their most prized possessions in order to please the other brought the humble couple trying to make the most of their relationship to the masses.

2. Yesterday today and tomorrow image 2 Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” shows marriages in all states of development – Ms. Torso who shuns many suitors while awaiting her height-challenged serviceman, the newlyweds who spend most of their time with the shades drawn, the thirty-somethings who sleep on the fire escape together to escape the heat, and of course the Torvalds, who seem to Jeff (Jimmy Stewart) to have had the ultimate breakup. Even Lisa (Grace Kelly) and Jeff share a window into their relationship with the audience throughout the film as they contemplate taking the plunge into marriage.

In “The War of the Roses” we see a bitter divorce turn into a grudge match of epic proportions. A pair feuding partners tries to bully their stubborn spouse out of the house in order to gain the upper hand in the eyes of the court. In the end, everyone loses, especially the house.

3. yesterday today and tomorrow image 31988’s “Beetlejuice” even features a couple who make the most of their after-life together as they haunt the home they inhabited in their former life as people who were alive. Tim Burton renders Alec Baldwin and Andy McDowell as a pair too in love to let go.

In “Death Becomes Her,” Bruce Willis plays a plastic surgeon who uses his skill to keep his wife, Goldie Hawn, looking good even after “death.” A potion, it seems, to keep her young forever actually has some fatal side-effects, but the benefits include never aging.

4. yesterday today and tomorrow 4Perhaps O. Henry’s ironic tale takes its most twisted iteration in “Indecent Proposal.” Audiences found themselves rooting for the young lovers who are presented with an obscenely lucrative offer in exchange for their fidelity. Even the audience loses in this one.

The tale of the couple trying to make it in the world with only their love to guide them and the story of the pair that has had simply too much shine a light into the bedrooms and living rooms that make up our communities. Audiences will continue loving these stories yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Watch Yesterday Today and Tomorrow on now.

Travers and McKenna in
by Sheri Warren Sankner

1. Classic Hollywood CouplesSome of the silver screen’s greatest films have been made by real-life couples playing opposite each other. While not all of these relationships lasted personally, they certainly made for memorable performances and sometimes interesting headlines. There’s long-time lovers Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh, and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.

2. Bogart_and_Bacall_To_Have_and_Have_NotOne of Hollywood’s greatest love stories unfolded in the 40s despite a 25-year age difference between the two. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall fell in love while making their 1944 film “To Have and Have Not,” married in 1945, and then starred in three more successful films: “The Big Sleep,” “Dark Passage” and “Key Largo.” Unfortunately, Bogart passed away in 1957.

Another great love story that developed over 25 years and through nine films was that of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Tracy was a devout Catholic with a handicapped child who felt he could not divorce his wife, so the classic Hollywood pair never married. But they did share a deep emotional bond both on and off-screen. Their films included “Desk Set,” “Woman of the Year,” “Adam’s Rib,” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” among others.

3. Liz and DickOf course, no article on film working relationships would be complete without mentioning Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who were twice married and divorced. They met on set in 1963 while filming “Cleopatra” and their legendary volatile relationship was well documented. They made 10 films together, including “The Taming of the Shrew;” “The Comedians;” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf;” “Divorce His, Divorce Hers;” “The V.I.P.s;” and “The Sandpiper.” Despite their explosive relationship, the pair’s onscreen chemistry was undeniable and their projects were often award winning.

4. Paul_Newman_and_Joanne_Woodward_1958_-_2From the 60s to the 80s Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward epitomized a successful working relationship with a string of well-lauded movies, all while remaining happily married off screen. In fact, they could be considered the most successful married actors in the history of Hollywood. In addition to the Oscar-nominated “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” in 1990, they played opposite each other in six other films, including “Harry and Son (1984), “The Drowning Pool” (1975), “Winning” (1969), “A New Kind of Love” (1963) and “From the Terrace” (1960). Newman and Woodward married in 1958, after starring together in the highly acclaimed film, “The Long, Hot Summer.”

5. Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna


British actors Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna were also a noted successful husband and wife acting duo who made several successful films together, including this week’s Watchlist 1957 comedy, “The Smallest Show on Earth” (also known as “Big Time Operators”). Travers and McKenna play Matt and Jean Spencer, a young middle class couple who inherit a rundown neighborhood movie theatre known as the Bijou. Along with fleabag business comes its three elderly and tottering employees – a boozing projectionist Percy played by Peter Sellers, a doorman/janitor Tom played Bernard Miles and a ticket-taker and former silent-movie accompanist, Mrs. Fazackalee played by Margaret Rutherford.

6. Movie posterIn trying to make the best of a bad situation, the Spencer’s set up shop and began to deal with the trials and tribulations of small-time cinema ownership: second-rate sound and projection woes, meager film selections (mainly American B-Westerns), and miscellaneous audience mishaps. Just when they’re about to give up, old Tom hatches a dubious plan for the Spencer’s to make a huge profit on their less-than-thriving enterprise, whereby the Spencer’s attempt to run the business as usual in order to convince a successful competitor to buy them out. It’s a good-natured situational comedy with some amusing antics and memorable characters. The Travers-McKenna team really works well together both as a real-life and fictional married couple.

7. Travers and McKenna Born FreeTravers and McKenna met first when they appeared together in a London play, “I Capture the Castle” in 1954. They were both married to other people at the time. They reunited years later, after McKenna had split with actor Denholm Elliott. This time they connected, getting married in 1957, the same year the couple made “The Smallest Show on Earth.” They made six films together, (four playing husband and wife), including “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” (1957), “Storm Over Jamaica” (1958), “Born Free” (1966), “Ring of Bright Water” (1969), and “An Elephant Called Slowly” (1970).

Many believe the couple’s personal and professional crowning glory in films and in their ensuing passion for animal rights came with the 1966 groundbreaking film, “Born Free.” Portraying noted wildlife conservationists, Joy and George Adamson, in the film based on the best-selling novel, it dramatically shifted global perceptions on wildlife and ecology. Suddenly people were attracted to careers as veterinarians, preservationists and zoologists.

The international box office smash literally changed the course of Travers’ and McKenna’s lives forever. With the real George Adamson serving as technical director while shooting the film, it deeply affected them so much that they dedicated the rest of their lives to wildlife missions. They formed a documentary film company and wrote, produced and created nature/wildlife films. “The Lion Who Thought He Was People,” made in 1971 was one of the best known and loved documentaries.

8. bill-travers-profile-pictureAfter Bill Travers’ death 1994, the couple’s son, Bill Travers Jr., kept the family’s enthusiasm and wildlife mission alive, serving as CEO of the Born Free Foundation. Virginia authored several wildlife books, including “On Playing with Lions” in 1976, “Some of My Friends Have Tails” in 1970, “Beyond the Bars: The Zoo Dilemma” in 1987, “Into the Blue” in 1992, and “Journey to Freedom” in 1997. Her autobiography, “The Life in My Years,” was published in 2009. In 2011, she appeared in the long-running, award-winning BBC documentary series, “Natural World.”

Watch The Smallest Show on Earth this week on