Monday, May 24, 2021

Adventures In Technicolor

Began a gloomy, gray morning with breakfast and Blockbusters. I came in as a lady played a brother-sister pair. They'd only made it to the second round when the show ended for the day.

Switched to Muppet Babies while cleaning up and getting organized. Rizzo becomes a "Puppy for a Day" when the kids want to prove to Nanny that they're able to care for a pet. They find out how hard it is to take care of an animal when Rizzo runs off, won't fetch a stick, and gets sick from eating too much pizza. It's "No Laughing Matter" when Fozzie loses his uncle's joke book and thinks he can't be funny without it.

Headed out to run errands and do the laundry after the cartoon ended. It was windy and chilly...and after the dry heat the last few days, it felt wonderful. No wonder the laundromat only had a few people there. I ran to WaWa to use the bathroom after I stuffed my load in the washer. Picked up a sparkling water and pretzel while I was there. 

My underwear's seen better days. I quickly threw my laundry into the dryer, then walked a block to Family Dollar and bought two packs, one large, one small. Spent the remaining time working on story notes on the cement meridian behind the laundry building.

Spent a quiet half-hour when I got home putting the laundry and underwear away and going over my notes. Had a strawberry banana smoothie for lunch, then made Chocolate Chip-Cranberry Cookies. It's just dried cranberries added to that Oatmeal-Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe I got out of Prevention Magazine years ago.

Watched Arabian Nights at TV Time while I worked. Universal's first  three-strip Technicolor movie takes us to exotic Persia, as a sultan reads a fairy tale for his harem. Traveling troupe dancer Sherazade (Maria Montez) refuses to marry any but a Caliph. Kamar (Leif Erickson) is so infatuated with her, he tries to get his brother, the caliph Haroun-Al-Raschid (Jon Hall), off the throne. It doesn't work, but his brother pities him when he sees him strung up on a pole. 

His pity proves to be misplaced. Kamar's men attack and nearly kill him. He's taken in by the circus people, thanks to young acrobat Ali Ben Ali (Sabu), who hide him. Haroun eventually falls in love with Sherazade, and she with him, but Kamar is still determined to have her. Not only that, but his vizier Nadan (Edgar Barrier) wants the throne for himself...and will do anything to stop the two brothers and have Sherzade for himself, including selling the troupe into slavery and forcing Sherazade into an unwanted union.

I'm really enjoying the Maria Montez-Jon Hall movies. They're not great art. They're not even good art. What they are is pure Hollywood blarney with amazing sets and costumes, a strong leading lady, and terrific supporting casts, including Shemp Howard and John Qualen as a comic Sinbad and Aladdin. Definitely worth checking out if you love sand-set swashbucklers and Arabian Nights fantasies.

Pulled the cookies out of the oven as Press Your Luck began. Whammies flew thick and fast today, especially in the first half. Turns flew almost as quickly. In the end, the one man just barely one by a few dollars over the other lady and picked up a sail boat and lots of cash for his trouble.

(Oh, and the cookies came out beautifully, just sweet-tart enough.)

Worked on writing for a while next. Re-wrote some dialog to have Brett trying to call out to Red King Goodson and Red Knight Jack Klugman to ask them if they know where her sons ran off to. Jimmie the Dodo claims she needs to find the Cheshire Cat, who knows all and sees all in Wonderland.

I also checked my e-mail to see if Mrs. Stahl sent my Zoom invitation for tomorrow. She didn't...but she did tell me something came up and we needed to reschedule. I e-mailed her back for June 15th. 

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Made a variation on the Fried Potatoes recipe in Molly's Cooking Studio by pan-frying them in olive oil and sprinkling them with Herbs De Provenance as well as salt and pepper. They came out very well, nice and brown, and paired well with steamed asparagus and pan-fried cod.

Watched Match Game '76 as I made my dinner. Janice Pennington, long-time model for The Price Is Right, dodges the flirtations of Gene Rayburn and Richard Dawson in her only week on the show. Meanwhile, Charles draws a crown for the contestant, who'd been doing very well up to that point and seemed to have a bit of a crush on Brett.

Match Game PM was even more fun. This one came from the week featuring two of my favorite panelists who only appeared on the show for one week, sweet Dick Smothers and hilarious down-home Minnie Pearl. Minnie and Fannie Flagg weren't the only southern and western folks to appear on the show, either. The male contestants sported a cowboy hat and the name Buck Rodgers. Richard got top honors with his answer to what a baseball player brought along on his honeymoon. 

Sale of the Century started close, but the champ burst ahead in the second half. He bought an Instant Bargain and the Instant Cash and won the Speed Round by a wide margin. Just barely missed the Bonus Round, though.

Finished the night at Watch TCM with The Secret Garden. I never knew MGM released a version in 1949 until about a decade ago. Margaret O'Brian is Mary Lennox, the sour little girl who comes to her Uncle Archibald's (Herbert Marshall) house after being orphaned in India. Dean Stockwell is her invalid cousin Colin; Brian Roper is Dickon, the Yorkshire boy who cares for animals and befriends Mary. It does largely stick to the book in the first half...but things change a bit in the second half when Uncle Archibald almost sells the house. The scenes with the garden in full bloom are done in Technicolor...and as pretty as it looks, the back-and-forth between the color and the black-and-white shots is a bit jarring. The kids' performances are better, especially O'Brian and Stockwell trying to out-scream each other. 

My favorite version is still the one from 1993, but this has a lot to recommend it too, including the unique Technicolor sequences and a good cast.

Went to Dailymotion for another unusual retelling of a famous children's book. Hanna Barbara did a modernized musical Alice In Wonderland in 1966, with Janet Waldo once again playing Alice. This time, she chases her her dog Fluff through the TV and into an wacky all-star Wonderland. The truly bizarre cast includes Hedda Hopper (in her last role) spoofing her famous collection of hats, Zsa Zsa Gabor as the Queen of Hearts who constantly changes her mind and her verdicts, Sammy Davis Jr. as a super-hip Cheshire Cat, Howard Morris as the game-loving White Rabbit, Bill Dana as the White Knight with a bad Spanish accent, and for some reason, a random cameo by Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble as the two-headed caterpillar. Great music by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams helps make the weirdness a bit more palatable. 

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