Recently Watched: Perry Mason

Erle Stanley Gardner’s lawyer-slash-detective character Perry Mason was created in 1933, and within a year Warner Bros. created a film series based on the books. The first film, “The Case of the Howling Dog” (1934), was based on a serialized novel published in Liberty Magazine earlier that same year. In all, six Perry Mason films were made before Mason disappeared from the big screen. In the 1940s, the character appeared on CBS radio for 12 years, voiced primarily by John Larkin. Gardner disliked the radio series and refused to allow it to be made into a TV show in the 1950s, so CBS revamped the radio show and turned it into the soap “Edge of Night” — also starring John Larkin, but not as Mason — and the soap ran for another 30 years. A few years after “Edge of Night” premiered, Gardner forgave CBS and helped create a nighttime Perry Mason television show. This show, starring Raymond Burr, was a huge hit and ran from 1957-1966, then again from 1985 to Burr’s death in 1993. It’s this television series that most people are familiar with, rather than the movie series, radio show, or even the books. I haven’t read a Perry Mason novel since I was a kid. I own a collector’s copy of The Case of the Sleepwalker’s Niece; it was originally bought as a gift for my dad, which wasn’t very well thought-out on my part. My father, born in 1927, didn’t think a book published in … Continue reading

Blogiversary: Part Deux

I didn’t know whether to go with “Part Deux” or “Electric Boogaloo” for my sequel subject title. “Part Deux” won out, it’s the lesser-known reference. It’s true that I just had a lengthy hiatus, but this is still SBBN’s 2nd blogiversary and I’m here to celebrate it in style. I love my blog and I’ve been having a ball working on stuff the past few weeks. The time off was great, but coming back to the blog was even better. In time-honored (for various values of both “time” and “honored”) tradition, I present to you a bunch of my favorite pictures to celebrate SBBN’s Terrible Twos: (Credits: Gladys Glad and Bela from Profiles in History 2008 auction, Rolled Stockings from Here’s Looking Like You Kid, Bette from the NY Times, Marie and Frankenstein from Dr. Macro, Peter from Dead Lantern, Corinne Griffith from Dr. Macro.)

Random Pictures: Terence Morgan

Oh, Terence Morgan, you look so good in tights. You know that’s the reason you got fan mail from teenage girls after playing Laertes in “Hamlet”. Terence Morgan is one of those actors that most people in the U.S. don’t know, or only barely remember as Sir Francis Drake in the 1960s television show. There are a million actors like Terence, but today, Terence gets the love. As Sir Francis Drake   In “Horatio Hornblower”   And some more pics of Morgan as Laertes in “Hamlet”, courtesy the Life archives:

In Memoriam: Larry Gelbart

No one ever knows how to write something like this. Wait, let me take that back: Some people can write what they feel, sincerely and beautifully, even if it’s a difficult thing to do. Larry Gelbart was one of those people. Sadly, we lost Larry today, age 81, from cancer. Immensely talented and one of the best American comedy writers around, Larry was also genuine, lovely, and warm. When I first found the Internet it was through Usenet back in the mid-1990s, and one of the first newsgroups I read was alt.tv.mash. Imagine my disbelief when someone who claimed to be Larry Gelbart posted there! It didn’t take long for me to be convinced that it really was Larry, especially when he mentioned the newsgroup in an interview. Larry, who went by the nym ElSig (and later “nick”, for some reason) was always so happy to answer questions and to jump in with a well-timed “That’s news to me” when someone who didn’t know much about “M*A*S*H” provided incorrect “facts” about Larry or the show. Larry Gelbart and I emailed back and forth a few times, and of course talked (in Usenet terms) on the group. This was years ago, I haven’t been active on Usenet for a very long time, but I’ll never forget him. He was kind enough to neither ignore nor laugh at me when I sent him a squeeing fangurl email. You see, “The Wrong Box” is one of my favorite films, and I was unable … Continue reading

The Keyhole (1933)

Many, many years ago, Kay Francis was the star of the month on TCM. I tell this story often, so I give my advance apologies to those who have heard me yammer about this before. TCM was new to our cable package at the time Kay was star of the month, so I assume this was about 1996. I’d bugged my cable company for months (they had a standard response: “Yes, we’re getting it, but due to contract delays it won’t be until 1996, so please stop calling already for the love of corn”). I loved classic films but wasn’t very familiar with films before the 1950s. When compared to everyone else around me at the time, I was practically a classic films expert despite what I realize now where enormous gaps in knowledge. It’s hard to remember, but back in the mid-1990s things were very, very different in the life of a cinephile. There were remarkably few resources online for movie buffs. It was basically just Usenet, eBay, and the IMDb before Amazon bought it. There was no YouTube, no torrent sites, and most people had no TCM.   People like me got our classic movies by luck and good timing. We had a local video store with a few classics available, and some channels showed classic films. Cinemax showed classics early in the mornings. They were often colorized, which is how I first saw “White Heat”. Can you imagine? PBS had movies on Saturday nights, TBS and TNT … Continue reading