Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Book Review: "Gale Storm: A Biography and Career Record"

Gale Storm, Zasu Pitts and Boris Karloff in The Gale Storm Show (1959)
David Tucker is one of the nicest people I know on Facebook.  He is a writer whose area of expertise is, in his own words, "the funny women of classic TV."  He has written books about Joan Davis, Martha Raye, Shirley Booth and Eve Arden.  The nice author has now written a nice book about one of the nicest stars of early television - Gale Storm.  Never has so much unabashed delightfulness been contained in the pages of one book.

Gale Storm and Charles Farrell in My Little Margie (1954)
Tucker examines, in his usual comprehensive fashion, Storm's 50-year acting career.  The actress is best known for having starred in two back-to-back sitcoms, My Little Margie and The Gale Storm Show, from 1952 to 1960.  The actress was pretty, perky and headstrong as she scurried from one comic mishap to another.

Again, it must be stressed that you shouldn't expect scandal in the pages of Tucker's book.  The production of Storm's films and television shows went on with little problem. Cast members got along well together. Storm enjoyed a happy homelife, maintaining a good relationship with her husband and children. The actress sometimes worked too hard and had a brief battle with alcohol in the 1970s, but she had enough self-awareness to identify her problems and make the appropriate course corrections. Some people prefer to read about actors who fought with co-workers and had messy personal lives. I, myself, find it intriguing and helpful to read about people who got it right.  It is heartwarming to read about the success of a good-natured actress and learn the history of the sweet and silly sitcom that she helped to make a television classic.

The majority of the book is dedicated to Storm's credits (the "career record" portion of the book). Tucker includes plot summaries, production details and critical assessments for the films and plot summaries, notes and quotes for the television episodes.

Have yourself a nice time reading Gale Storm: A Biography and Career Record, which can be purchased with no comic mishap from Amazon.

Tidbits for June, 2018

I watched Dr. Strangelove (1964) many times before I realized that the centerfold model that Slim Pickens peruses in his Playboy magazine is Tracy Reed, who later appears in the film as the girlfriend of General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott).


Don't ask me how I missed that.  I suppose that I am just get a shy guy who averts his eyes at the sight of a beautiful naked woman.  It's just something a virtuous guy like me does.

The lovely Ms. Reed would not be able to show off her feminine beauty in today's films.  An online protest of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2018) raged after the following publicity still was released.

Feminists were appalled to see actress Karen Gillan in this sexy outfit.  Excuse me, I must avert my eyes again.

Welcome to the Jungle is about a magical video game that transports players into an imaginary jungle as various game avatars.  Jess Denham of The Independent wrote: "[W]hile her male co-stars are well-covered up, Gillan is wearing a tight-fitting crop top, tiny hotpants and boots that look far more sexy than they do durable [for the jungle]."

Gillan told Vanity Fair, "I don't know if I was fully expecting that much sort of controversy around it.  However, I have to say, I think everybody had a point.  To look at the picture out of context, it is ridiculous, and that is exactly the point that we're making with it."

Producer Matt Tolmach said, "[T]here's a very real consciousness and idea there. When all the noise came out it was like, this is exactly what we anticipated, and is very definitely spoken to in the movie… Super aware of what we were doing there, and it’s addressed in the movie."

Run, Bad Ass Girl, Run!!!
Simon Abrams of The Hollywood Reporter did not agree that the sexism concerns were resolved by the film.  He wrote:
Martha pre-emptively pushes people away because she doesn't like herself, as Bethany diagnoses in one scene. So apparently the cure for what ails her is to assume the identity of generic lady badass Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and "dance-fight" her way out of situations.  Again, this is a cop-out solution, since the idea here is that, at film's end, Martha feels empowered by abilities that she does not naturally possess. Which self is Martha supposed to believe in: the scantily-clad, karate-chopping stereotype that reeks of unexamined sexist values or the sassy teen girl whose character flaws are magically fixed as soon as she accepts milquetoast Spencer's generous offer to date him?
Abrams is probably one of those white knight idiots that averts his eyes at the sight of a beautiful naked woman.  Okay, fine, you got me - I lied.  I cannot get through a day without ogling a naked woman.

I don't know what to say about the Welcome to the Jungle controversy.  I get my philosophy of life from the 1971 film Cold Turkey.  The booze bone is connected to the smoke bone and the smoke bone is connected to the head bone and that's the word of the Lord!

Abrams is right that woman are being unduly influenced by films.  Women are expressing a fascination with fish sex after seeing The Shape of Water.

A woman who has seen an endless stream of empowered women shoot guns in films decided that it was time for a woman to engage in a mass shooting.

Let me get to lighter subjects now.  

Kenneth Connor and Sid James find themselves avoiding a serial killer while spending a night in a gloomy mansion  in What a Carve Up! (1961).

Bob Hope must explain to Helen Vinson the reason he is in her room dressed in her gown in Nothing But the Truth (1941).

A final observation: a fish many not share in your sexual fantasies.

References sources

Simon Abrams, "'Jumanji' Has a Confusing Message for Teenagers," The Hollywood Reporter (December 23, 2017).  https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/jumanji-welcome-jungle-has-a-confusing-message-teenagers-1070207.

Jess Denham, "Jumanji 2: Dwayne Johnson tries and fails to calm sexism outcry over Karen Gillan's skimpy outfit," The Independent (September 21, 2016).  https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/jumanji-2-dwayne-johnson-tries-and-fails-to-calm-sexism-outcry-over-karen-gillans-skimpy-outfit-a7320456.html.

Yohana Desta, "Karen Gillan Agrees with You About Her 'Ridiculous' Jumanji Costume,: Vanity Fair (Decembe 18, 2017).  https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/12/karen-gillan-jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle.

Lloyd Hamilton: Remastered and Remarkable

Dave Glass and Dave Wyatt did excellent work on their recent Lloyd Hamilton DVD, which features comedies that the funnyman made for his fledgling production comedy in 1920.  This is Hamilton's man-child character before the comedian distinguished the character with absurd embellishments (a shabby gentleman's frock coat, a checkered cap with matching Victorian-era tie, and an extreme exaggeration of his funny walk).  There is a purity to this version of Hamilton that I greatly enjoy.

One of my favorite routines on the DVD involves a thief knocking Hamilton unconscious and making his arms look like Hamilton's arms as he steals a church's collection box.

This is a commedia dell'arte routine that Hamilton plays so well.

The DVD can be purchased at Amazon.