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PCR #348. (Vol. 7, No. 47) This edition is for the week of November 20--26, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! A little early this week as I head to Chicago for Thanksgiving with my mom.

Return of the Godfather: Herschell Gordon Lewis  by ED Tucker
"Bobby"  by Mike Smith
Horrorfest Report....Jack Palance Remembered....Robert Altman is Gone....Happy Thanksgiving  by Andy Lalino
A True Master....Now I Guess We'll Never Know....Kosmo, Kosmo....PS....'Tis The Season To Give....Happy Turkey Day.... My Favorite Films, Part 47: "The Wizard of Oz"  by Mike Smith
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Very sad by the news today that Robert Altman, director of certified classic films like "M*A*S*H" and "Nashville," had passed away at the age of 81. The news was taken especially hard here in Kansas City as this was Mr. Altman's hometown. After graduating from Rockhurst High School and attending the Wentworth Military Academy in Missouri, Mr. Altman joined the Air Force. Upon his discharge he headed to California to pursue a dream of working in film. He did some minor work, but nothing substantial. Dejected he and his first wife, LaVonne, headed back to Kansas City where he began working for a local film production company. Soon Altman was directing, writing and editing short films, everything from the latest sports highlights to educational films. He headed west again in the late 1950s and began directing episodic television, working on such shows as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Peter Gunn,"Hawaiian Eye" and "Route 66." He also directed several episodes of "Bonanza." In 1970, he directed the film, "M*A*S*H," earning his first Academy Award nomination. He followed with "Brewster McCloud, which featured many of his "M*A*S*H" actors (Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman, John Schuck). His next three films he not only directed, but wrote, "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," "Images" and "Thieves Like Us." He also delivered the classic Raymond Chandler/Phillip Marlowe thriller "The Long Goodbye." In 1975, he released, in my opinion, his greatest film, the multi character driven "Nashville," which was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The next decade and a half were filled with hit and miss movies. Some, like "3 Women" and "A Wedding" were well reviewed but not big money makers. Others, like "Popeye" and "Quintet" were drubbed by critics and audiences alike. In 1993, he returned to form, earning his third Oscar nomination for the "inside Hollywood" comedy, "The Player." He followed that up the next year with "Short Cuts," receiving Best Director nomination number four. He was nominated two more times, as director and a producer of "Gosford Park." Earlier this year, Mr. Altman received an Honorary Academy Award in recognition of his career. His last film, "A Prairie Home Companion," was released earlier this year.

Of course, I couldn't mention Mr. Altman's passing without remembering the late 1970s when he shot the film, "HealtH" in St. Petersburg, FL. The memory makes me smile because I keep thinking about how Scott A. Gilbert wanted so badly to stalk Lauren Bacall. Yes indeedy, SAG had a certifiable crush on Miss Betty.

Congrats to Fox Television for having the decency to pull the upcoming O J Simpson special. Though in a way I'm disappointed as I understand their planned event for December was "What I Would Say If I WAS A Racist" featuring Michael Richards.

By now I'm sure you've seen or at least heard Michael Richard's tirade against a couple of black hecklers last weekend during his comedy routine. In watching it a couple of times, I noticed that for a moment, when he stopped railing the first time, he could have played it off, a la Lenny Bruce, as to what kind of words people find offensive. Sadly, he didn't.

Don't forget to buy Season 7 of "Seinfeld," now available on DVD.

When I moved to Kansas City almost 12 years ago, I read about a man known only as Secret Santa. Every year around the Christmas holidays this man would travel all over the city distributing $100 bills to anyone he thought looked like they needed a hand. His approach was very simple. He would walk up to the unsuspecting citizen, hold out the money and say, "Excuse me, I think you dropped this." Each year the news was full of accounts of his kindness. In 2001 he bestowed his gifts on the citizens of New York City. Last year, New Orleans. He did this anonymously. No one knew his name. Until now. As the holiday season approaches, Santa has come forward. His name is Larry Stuart and he lives in the same town I do, Lee's Summit, Missouri. Mr. Stuart has revealed his identity because earlier this year he was diagnosed with cancer. He hopes that others will continue his tradition of helping others, be it with money, food, shelter or just a kind word. It is estimated that in the 20 plus years he has been KC's Secret Santa, Mr. Stuart has given away more then $1.3 million. It is his way of repaying the kindness of a man he had never seen before years ago when Mr. Stuart himself was down on his luck and hungry. While at a coffee shop and reading a menu with prices he couldn't afford, a man handed him a $10.00 bill and said, "Excuse me, I think you dropped this." I hope everyone reading this takes a moment out from their busy day and does something good for someone in need. Not only during the holidays but whenever they can.

Well, I'm off to Chicago to spend some time with my mom. I wish everyone here at the PCR, staff and readers, a very safe and happy Thanksgiving. Of course, when I was growing up, it wasn't Thanksgiving without...

Starring: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan and the Munchkins
Directed by: Victor Fleming

FIRST SEEN: My television, Cleveland, Ohio
FAVORITE LINE: "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
FAVORITE SCENE: Dorothy discovers the Munchkins.

  • Academy Awards for Best Original Score (Herbert Stothart) and Best Original Song - "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Best Special Effects, Best Color Cinematography and Best Art Direction.

    Long before video tapes and DVDs, children all over the country (and probably around the world) always looked forward to Thanksgiving for one reason. Sometime that special week, CBS would air "The Wizard of Oz," which would be like running "Ben Hur" for the adults. The little ones would all sprint from the "kiddie" table to the living room, fighting for positions in front of the television. Ah, memories.

    The story of a girl who finds new friends when she journeys "over the rainbow," the film was based on the books of author L. Frank Baum. His adventures, featuring Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion, had fascinated children all over the word for years. In fact, in the early days of Hollywood Baum had himself produced some short film versions of his stories. When the film was announced, several names were suggested for the various characters. The studio wanted W.C. Fields to play the Wizard, but Fields wanted too much money. Originally cast as the Tinman, rubber legged Ray Bolger requested to play the Scarecrow because his dance mentor, Fred Stone, had played the roll on stage in the early 1900s. Buddy Ebsen was then cast as the Tinman, but had to leave the production when he had an allergic reaction to the aluminum powder makeup used. Of course, top of the list to play Dorothy was the most beloved child in America, Shirley Temple. However, it was decided that, talented as she was, Temple wasn't up to the task yet physically. Enter Judy Garland, the little girl with the big voice. A veteran of the Andy Hardy movie series, Garland had also appeared in a series of musical shorts with her sisters, billed as The Three Gumm Sisters. Filmed in both black and white and color, the film took audiences to places they had only imagined as children. Ironically, "Over the Rainbow," which was recently voted the greatest film song of all time by the American Film Institute, was almost cut from the picture after preview audiences thought it dragged the film some. If you're curious about the limited number of Oscar nominations, consider that 1939, the year "Oz" was released, is often considered the greatest year in Hollywood history. 10 films were nominated for Best Picture. And "Gone With The Wind" was one of them!

    One of my favorite personal memories occurred in August 1999, when, in my capacity as director of marketing and promotions for the theatre chain I worked for, I arranged to have four of the original Munchkins appear at a new theatre opening. Needless to say, people went wild anywhere they went, be it the lobby of the theatre or just out to dinner. My guests that weekend were Jerry Maren (The Lollipop Guild Munchkin that presents the large lollipop to Dorothy), Meinhardt Raabe (The Coroner), Margaret Pellegrini (Sleepyhead) and Clarence Swenson (Munchkin Soldier). When they weren't greeting their public, they told stories of their lives that were just mesmerizing. My favorite memory from the event was during a screening of "Oz" that we had in their honor. I was shocked to learn that none of them had ever seen the film on the big screen! Knowing this, I had a special section of the theatre roped off for them and their guests. The thrill of sitting with them in a darkened theatre as they watched themselves for the first time 40 feet high is a memory I will always cherish.

    Next week we'll take a look at the western that came out of nowhere to win the Oscar for Best Picture, Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven."

    Well, that's it. Have a great week. See ya!

    "Mike's Rant" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.