Saturday, February 25, 2017
Friday, February 24, 2017
George Leslie Gobel (May 20, 1919 – February 24, 1991) was an American comedian and actor. He was best known as the star of his own weekly NBC television show, The George Gobel Show, which ran from 1954 to 1960 (the last season on CBS, alternating with The Jack Benny Program).
He was born George Leslie Goebel in Chicago, Illinois, His father, Hermann Goebel, was a butcher and grocer who had emigrated to the United States with his parents in the 1890s from the Austrian Empire. His mother, Lillian (MacDonald) Goebel, was born in Illinois to immigrant parents from Scotland. He was an only child.
Gobel graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Chicago in 1937.
Gobel initially pursued an entertainment career as a country music singer, appearing on the National Barn Dance on WLS radio, and later on KMOX in St. Louis. Gobel enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and served as a flight instructor in AT-9 aircraft at Altus, Oklahoma, and later in B-26 Marauder bombers at Frederick, Oklahoma. In a 1969 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Gobel joked about his stateside service, "There was not one Japanese aircraft that got past Tulsa." After his discharge at the end of the war, he switched from singing to comedy.
Gobel began a comedy show on NBC in 1954. It showcased his quiet, homespun style of humor, a low-key alternative to what audiences had seen on Milton Berle's shows. A huge success, the popular series made the crew-cut Gobel one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1950s. The weekly show featured vocalist Peggy King and actor Jeff Donnell, as well as numerous guest artists, including such stars as Jimmy Stewart, Fred MacMurray, Henry Fonda and Tennessee Ernie Ford. In 1955, Gobel won an Emmy Award for "most outstanding new personality."
On October 24, 1954, Gobel hosted Light's Diamond Jubilee, a two-hour TV special broadcast on all four US television networks of the time.
Gobel and his business manager David P. O'Malley formed a production company, Gomalco, a composite of their last names Gobel and O'Malley. This company also produced the first four years (1957–61) of the 1957-63 television series Leave It to Beaver.
The centerpiece of Gobel's comedy show was his monologue about his supposed past situations and experiences, with stories and sketches allegedly about his real-life wife, Alice (nicknamed "Spooky Old Alice" and played by actress Jeff Donnell). Gobel's hesitant, almost shy delivery and penchant for tangled digressions were the chief sources of comedy, more important than the actual content of the stories. His monologues popularized several catchphrases, notably "Well, I'll be a dirty bird" (spoken by the Kathy Bates character in the 1990 film Misery), "You don't hardly get those any more" and "Well then there now" (spoken by the James Dean character during a brief imitation of Gobel in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause).
Gobel's show used some of television's top writers of the era: Hal Kanter, Jack Brooks and Norman Lear. Peggy King was a regular on the series as a vocalist, and the guest stars ranged from Shirley MacLaine and Evelyn Rudie to Bob Feller, Phyllis Avery and Vampira.
Gobel labeled himself "Lonesome George," and the nickname stuck for the rest of his career. The TV show typically included a segment in which Gobel appeared with a guitar, started to sing, then got sidetracked into a story, with the song always left unfinished after fitful starts and stops, a comedy approach that prefigured the Smothers Brothers. He had a special version of the Gibson L-5 archtop guitar constructed featuring diminished dimensions of neck scale and body depth, befitting his own smaller stature. Several dozen of this "L-5CT" or "George Gobel" model were produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also played the harmonica.
In 1957, three U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers made the first nonstop round-the-world flight by turbojet aircraft. One of the bombers was called "Lonesome George." The crew later appeared on Gobel's primetime television show and recounted the mission, which took them 45 hours and 19 minutes. Lonesome George, the non-breeding Galapagos tortoise that was the last of its subspecies and that died in June 2012, was also named after Gobel.
From 1958 to 1961, Gobel appeared in Las Vegas at the El Rancho Vegas and in Reno at the Mapes Hotel. In 1961, Gobel starred (with Sam Levene, Barbara Nichols, and Paula Stewart) in a Broadway musical called "Let It Ride!" Score by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Gobel's singing voice proved accurate and charming in a laid-back manner. Critics compared the show unfavorably to How to Succeed in Business ... and it closed after only a couple of months in New York. He continued to work club dates and performed in many of the Playboy Club properties.
TV guest appearances
Gobel was a guest on various TV programs, including The Dean Martin Show; The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford; The Bing Crosby Show; The Dinah Shore Show; Death Valley Days; and Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show. An episode of My Three Sons starring Fred MacMurray in December, 1960 was titled "Lonesome George," in which Gobel played himself on the episode. He appeared on F Troop as Henry Terkel in the 1966 episode: "Go for Broke."
In an often-replayed segment from a 1969 episode of The Tonight Show, Gobel followed Bob Hope and Dean Martin, walking onstage with a plastic cup with an unidentified drink. Gobel ribbed Carson about coming on last and having to follow major stars Hope and Martin. He quipped to Carson, "Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?," to which Carson, Hope, Martin, and the audience came unglued with laughter. After the laughter died down, Carson asked Gobel about his career in World War II as a fighter pilot. Gobel feigned bewilderment at why people laugh when he says that he spent the war in Oklahoma, pointing out that no Japanese plane ever got past Tulsa. Gobel also began to get some unexpected laughs, being unaware that Dean Martin had begun flicking his cigarette ashes into Gobel's drink. Observing all of this, Carson finally asked rhetorically, "Exactly what time did I lose control of the show?!"
Interestingly, Gobel had employed the tuxedo joke at least once before, on the June 22, 1957 episode of his show. The comedian complained that the TV director and crew treated him: "...as if they were a tuxedo and I was a pair of brown shoes." On this occasion, the gag received a respectable, but not overwhelming, response.
In the 1970s, Gobel was a regular panelist on the television game show Hollywood Squares hosted by Peter Marshall. He was also the voice of Father Mouse in the 1974 Christmas special Twas the Night Before Christmas, and sang the song Give Your Heart a Try in that production. He also made a guest appearance on Hee Haw in 1976. In the early 1980s Gobel played Otis Harper, Jr., the mayor of Harper Valley in the television series based on the film Harper Valley PTA.
When ratings soared on The George Gobel Show (rated in the top ten of 1954-55), Paramount promoted Gobel as their new comedy star, casting him as the lead in The Birds and the Bees (1956), a remake of The Lady Eve (1941) featuring David Niven playing a third-billed supporting role under Gobel and leading lady Mitzi Gaynor.
However, Gobel's TV success did not translate to the big screen. The film performed so poorly at the box office that release was delayed on his second movie, I Married a Woman, filmed in 1956 by RKO Radio but not released until 1958. Although scripted by Goodman Ace, it also resulted in disappointing ticket sales, and Gobel's career as a Paramount movie star came to an abrupt end. He settled into a succession of TV guest star appearances and did not return to movie screens until two decades later, as a character actor in Joan Rivers' Rabbit Test (1978), followed by The Day It Came to Earth (1979) and Ellie (1984). He appeared in nine TV movies during the 1970s and 1980s.
Gobel was considered for the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh by Walt Disney, but turned it down after reading the books and finding Pooh to be "an awful bore." 
George Gobel died in 1991, shortly after undergoing heart surgery. He was survived by his wife Alice and three children. He is interred in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, Los Angeles, California.
1. Obituary Variety, March 4, 1991.
2. TCM Overview
3. 1920 census, Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois, enumeration district 1640, sheet 5B
4. "Roosevelt at a glance". Chicago Sun-Times. June 15, 1994. 95
5. CPS Alumni-Journalists and Media Personalities-George Gobel
6. For Gobel, KMOX Was A Step On The Ladder, St. Louis Media History Foundation
7. The George Gobel Show (TV series 1954-1960)
8. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shoes, 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 1412. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
9. Movie director, producer, writer
10. Original cast album on RCA Victor
11. Jim Hill: From the Archives - April 3, 2001
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Mabel Ethelreid Normand (November 9, 1892 – February 23, 1930) was an American silent film actress, screenwriter, director, and producer. She was a popular star and collaborator of Mack Sennett in his Keystone Studios films and, at the height of her career in the late 1910s and early 1920s, had her own movie studio and production company. Onscreen, she appeared in 12 successful films with Charles Chaplin and 17 with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, sometimes writing and directing (or co-writing/directing) movies featuring Chaplin as her leading man. Throughout the 1920s, her name was linked with widely publicized scandals, including the 1922 murder of William Desmond Taylor and the 1924 shooting of Courtland S. Dines, who was shot by Normand's chauffeur using her pistol. She was not a suspect in either crime. Her film career declined, possibly due to both scandals and a recurrence of tuberculosis in 1923, which led to a decline in her health, retirement from films, and her death in 1930 at age 37.
Early life and career height
Born in New Brighton, Staten Island, New York, she grew up in a working-class family. Normand's mother, Mary "Minne" Drury, of Providence, Rhode Island, was of Irish heritage, while her father was French Canadian. Her father Claude Normand was employed as a cabinet maker and stage carpenter at Sailors' Snug Harbor home for elderly seamen. Before she entered films at age 16 in 1909, Normand worked as an artist's model, which included posing for postcards illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson Girl image, as well as for Butterick's clothing pattern manufacturers in lower Manhattan.
For a short time, she worked for Vitagraph Studios in New York City for $25 per week, but Vitagraph founder Albert E. Smith admitted she was one of several actresses about whom he made a mistake in estimating their "potential for future stardom." Her quietly effervescent lead performance, while directed by D. W. Griffith in the dramatic 1911 short film Her Awakening, drew attention and she met director Mack Sennett while at Griffith's Biograph Company. She embarked on a topsy-turvy relationship with him; he later brought her across to California when he founded Keystone Studios in 1912. Her earlier Keystone films portrayed her as a bathing beauty but Normand quickly demonstrated a flair for comedy and became a major star of Sennett's short films. Normand appeared with Charles Chaplin and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in many short films as well as Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, and Boris Karloff.
She played a key role in starting Chaplin's film career and acted as his leading lady and mentor in a string of films in 1914, sometimes co-writing and directing or co-directing films with him. Chaplin had considerable initial difficulty adjusting to the demands of film acting and his performance suffered for it. After his first film appearance in Making a Living, Sennett felt he had made a costly mistake. Most historians agree it was Normand who persuaded him to give Chaplin another chance, and she and Chaplin appeared together in a dozen subsequent films, almost always as a couple in the lead roles. In 1914, she starred with Marie Dressler and Chaplin in Tillie's Punctured Romance, the first feature-length comedy. Earlier that same year, in January/February, Chaplin first played his Tramp character in Mabel's Strange Predicament, although it wound up being the second Tramp film released; Chaplin offers an account of his experience on the film in his autobiography.
She opened her own company in partnership with Mack Sennett 1916. It was based in Culver City and was a subsidiary of the Triangle Film Corporation. She lost the company in 1918 when Triangle experienced a massive shake up which also saw Sennett lose Keystone and establish his own independent studio.
In 1918, as her relationship with Sennett came to an end, Normand signed a $3,500 per week contract with Samuel Goldwyn.
Director William Desmond Taylor shared her interest in books, and the two formed a close relationship. According to author Robert Giroux, Taylor was deeply in love with Normand, who had originally approached him for help in curing her cocaine dependency. Based upon Normand's subsequent statements to investigators, her repeated relapses were devastating for Taylor. According to Giroux, Taylor met with federal prosecutors shortly before his death and offered to assist them in filing charges against Normand's cocaine suppliers. Giroux expresses a belief that Normand's suppliers learned of this meeting and hired a contract killer to murder the director. According to Giroux, Normand suspected the reasons for Taylor's murder, but did not know the identity of the man who killed him.
According to Kevin Brownlow and John Kobal in their book Hollywood The Pioneers the idea that Taylor was murdered by drug dealers was invented by the studio for publicity purposes. There is no evidence that Normand was an addict, despite the fact that this is often repeated as if it were established fact.
On the night of his murder, February 1, 1922, Normand left Taylor's bungalow at 7:45 p.m. in a happy mood, carrying a book he had lent her. They blew kisses to each other as her limousine drove away. Normand was the last person known to have seen Taylor alive. The Los Angeles Police Department subjected Normand to a grueling interrogation, but ruled her out as a suspect. Most subsequent writers have done the same. However, Normand's career had already slowed, and her reputation was tarnished. According to George Hopkins, who sat next to her at Taylor's funeral, Normand wept inconsolably.
The Dines shooting
In 1924, Normand's chauffeur Joe Kelly shot and wounded millionaire oil broker and amateur golfer Courtland S. Dines with her pistol. At the time of the shooting, Dines was romantically involved with Normand's friend (and frequent Chaplin co-star) Edna Purviance. Purviance was also the next door neighbor of William Desmond Taylor.
The Roscoe Arbuckle trials
Normand's co-star in many films, Roscoe Arbuckle was the defendant in three widely publicized trials for the rape and manslaughter of actress Virginia Rappe. Although Arbuckle was acquitted, the scandal destroyed his career, and his films were banned from exhibition for decades. Since she had made some of her best works with him, much of Normand's output was withheld from the public by default.
Later career and death
Normand continued making films and was signed by Hal Roach Studios in 1926 after discussions with director/producer F. Richard Jones, who had directed her at Keystone. At Roach she made the films Raggedy Rose, The Nickel-Hopper, and One Hour Married (her last film), all co-written by Stan Laurel, and was directed by Leo McCarey in Should Men Walk Home? The films were released with extensive publicity support from the Hollywood community, including her friend Mary Pickford.
In 1926, she married actor Lew Cody, with whom she had appeared in Mickey in 1918. They lived separately in nearby houses in Beverly Hills. However, Normand's health was in decline due to tuberculosis. After an extended stay in Pottenger Sanitorium, she died on February 23, 1930, from tuberculosis in Monrovia, California, at the age of 37. She was interred as Mabel Normand-Cody at Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles.
Mabel Normand has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard.
Her film Mabel's Blunder (1914) was added to the National Film Registry in December 2009.
In June 2010, the New Zealand Film Archive reported the discovery of a print of Normand's film Won in a Closet (exhibited in New Zealand under its alternate title Won in a Cupboard), a short comedy previously believed lost. This film is a significant discovery, as Normand directed the movie and starred in the lead role, displaying her talents on both sides of the camera.
A nod to Normand's celebrity in early Hollywood came through the name of a leading character in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, "Norma Desmond," which has been cited as a combination of the names Mabel Normand and William Desmond Taylor. The film also frequently mentions Normand by name.
The 1974 Broadway musical Mack and Mabel (Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman) fictionalized the romance between Normand and Mack Sennett. Normand was played by Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston portrayed Mack Sennett.
"Hello Mabel" is a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band released in England on their second album The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse (released as Urban Spaceman in the US.) in November 1968.
Normand is mentioned during Series 2 Episode 1 of Downton Abbey by ambitious housemaid Ethel Parks. Daisy Mason (née Robinson), the kitchen maid, inquires what she is reading and Ethel responds, "Photoplay about Mabel Normand. She was nothing when she started, you know. Her father was a carpenter and they'd no money, and now she's a shining film star."
Singer/songwriter Stevie Nicks wrote a song about the actress entitled "Mabel Normand," which appears on her 2014 album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault.
Normand is played by actress Marisa Tomei in the 1992 film Chaplin opposite Robert Downey, Jr. as Charles Chaplin; by Penelope Lagos in the first biopic about Normand's life, a 35-minute dramatic short film entitled Madcap Mabel (2010); and by Morganne Picard in the motion picture Return to Babylon (2013).
In 2014, Normand was played on television by Andrea Deck in Series 2, Episode 8 of Mr Selfridge and by Kristina Thompson in the short film Mabel's Dressing Room.
1. Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors (Illustrated ed.). Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1-55783-551-2.
2. Harper Fussell 1992, pp. 50–52.
3. Harper Fussell 1992, pp. 71–73.
4. Harper Fussell 1992, pp. 64–70.
5. cite magazine article Films in Review September 1974 Mabel Normand A grand Nephew's Memoir Normand, Stephen
6. Ward Mahar, Karen (2006). Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood. JHU Press. p. 131. ISBN 0-8018-8436-5.
7. Rhode Island State Census, 1875
8. Sherman, William Thomas. "Mabel Normand: An Introductory Biography". mm-hp.com.
9. Smith, Albert E. in collaboration with Phil A. Koury, "Two Reels And A Crank," Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1952.
10. Chaplin, Charles (1964). My Autobiography. Penguin. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-14-101147-9.
11. Harper Fussell 1992, pp. 70–71.
12. Chaplin, Charles (2003) . My Autobiography. London: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0-14-101147-5.
13. Robert Giroux, A Deed of Death: The Story Behind the Unsolved Murder of Hollywood Director William Desmond Taylor, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1990.
14. Brown low and Kobal, Kevin and John (1979). Hollywood The Pioneers. New York: Alfred A Knopf. p. 111. ISBN 0394508513.
15. "Press Film Star For Taylor Clew; Police Conduct 'Long And Grueling' Examination, Working on Jealousy Motive. Mabel Normand Speaks Tells Reporters Affection For Slain Director Was Based on Comradeship, Not 'Love.'". NYTimes.com. New York: New York Times. February 7, 1922. ISSN 0362-4331. A motion picture actress was subjected to what the police termed a "long and grueling" examination at her home here tonight in an attempt to obtain a clew to the murderer of William Desmond Taylor.
16. Giroux (1990), page 236.
17. Milton, Joyce (1998). Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin. Da Capo Press. p. 221. ISBN 0-306-80831-5.
18. Basinger 2000, p. 92.
19. McCaffrey, Donald W.; Jacobs, Christopher P. (1999). Guide To the Silent Years of American Cinema. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 84. ISBN 0-313-30345-2.
20. Vogel, Michelle (2007). Olive Thomas: The Life and Death of a Silent Film Beauty. McFarland. p. 9. ISBN 0-7864-2908-9.
21. "Thriller and 24 Other Films Named to National Film Registry", Associated Press via Yahoo News (December 30, 2009) Archived January 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
22. "A Happy Homecoming For Long-Lost Silent Films". NPR. April 16, 2009.
23. "Taylorology" (about William D. Taylor and era), (literateweb.com), September 2003, webpage: LitWeb-WDTaylor.
24. Staggs, Sam: Close-up on Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder, Norma Desmond and the Dark Hollywood Dream. St. Martin's Griffin Books, 2002
26. Spicer, Megan (2 January 2014). "Darien yard transformed into Keystone lot for short film". Darien News. Bridgeport, CT.
27. Hennessy, Christina (3 June 2014). "Darien-filmed short spotlights cinematic pioneer Mabel Norman". Hearst CT News Blogs.
28. Denise Lowe (2005). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films, 1895-1930. Psychology Press. p. 406. ISBN 978-0-7890-1843-4.
29. Kehr, Dave (June 6, 2010). "Trove of Long-Lost Silent Films Returns to America". NYTimes.com. New York: New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
Basinger, Jeanine (2000). Silent Stars. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6451-1.
Harper Fussell, Betty (1992). Mabel: Hollywood's First I-Don't-Care Girl (Illustrated ed.). Limelight Editions. ISBN 978-0-87910-158-9.
Sherman, William Thomas (2006). Mabel Normand: A Source Book to Her Life and Films
Normand, Stephen (1974). Films in Review September Issue: Mabel Normand - A Grand Nephew's Memoir
Lefler, Timothy Dean (2016). Mabel Normand: The Life and Career of a Hollywood Madcap. ISBN 978-0-7864-7867-5
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Richard Baer (April 28, 1928 – February 22, 2008) was an American writer and screenwriter. Baer wrote for more than 56 television shows, many of which were sitcoms, throughout his career, including The Munsters, Leave It to Beaver and Bewitched.
Richard Baer was born in New York City in 1928. He was the only child of Herbert and Ede Baer. He earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Yale University and his master's degree in cinema from the University of Southern California.
Baer's maternal uncle was David Sarnoff, a broadcasting pioneer who headed the RCA company. Sarnoff is credited with beginning Baer's career and forming his interest in television. According to Baer's 2005 autobiography, Sarnoff called a vice president at NBC at 6 A.M. and ordered him to find Baer "a job by 9 o'clock" that same morning. The vice president obliged. Baer was hired in 1953 for his first job in television as an assistant for the William Bendix sitcom The Life of Riley, which aired on the NBC network. He later wrote several episodes for the show.
Baer wrote the script for the film Life Begins at 17 for Columbia Pictures in 1958.
Baer began writing for Hennesey, which starred actor Jackie Cooper, in 1960. Baer wrote a total of 38 episodes for the series. His work on Hennesey earned him an Emmy nomination.
In the twenty five years that followed 1960, Baer wrote for over 56 separate television shows. For example, Baer wrote ten episodes of That Girl and 23 episodes of the television classic Bewitched.
Baer also wrote five scripts for The Munsters. His favorite episode of The Munsters which he personally penned was Just Another Pretty Face. In the episode, the character Herman Munster is struck by lightning, which changes his face into that of a normal human being. The Munsters are shocked by how ugly they think Herman has become. His other sitcom credits included The Andy Griffith Show, F Troop and Petticoat Junction.
Baer began working on television movies later in his career. His writing credits included the 1972 ABC comedic television movie Playmates, which starred Alan Alda and Doug McClure as divorced single fathers. The Los Angeles Times called Playmates "spiced with biting wit" in its review of the movie. Baer also wrote the CBS movie I Take These Men, which aired in 1983.
Baer's wrote his last television sitcom script for an episode of ABC's Who's the Boss? in the 1980s. He then successfully tried his hand as a playwright. Baer's Mixed Emotions, a romantic comedy play about two widowed friends who start a romantic relationship during their later years, debuted in 1987. The play first opened in Los Angeles. Baer's play later debuted on Broadway in New York City in 1993 and ran for more than six weeks. Mixed Emotions was later performed in theaters worldwide, including Eastern Europe and Australia.
Baer was an active member of the Writers Guild of America. He served on the WGA's negotiating committee during the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike.
Richard Baer died at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, on February 22, 2008, at the age of 79. He had suffered a heart attack in January 2008. He was survived by his wife, Diane Asselin Baer, a television producer, whom he married in 1994, as well as his children, Josh, Matthew and Judy and three grandchildren. His first wife of 35 years, Louise Golden, died in 1991.
Richard Baer ashes were spread in the rose garden at Westwood Village Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
1. "Writer Richard Baer dies at 79". Variety Magazine. 2008-02-25.
2. Nelson, Valerie J. (2008-02-26). "Richard Baer, 79; wrote for many popular sitcoms". Los Angeles Times.