A FLASHBACK FROM TELEVISION LAND or GILLIGAN! DROP THOSE COCONUTS!!

Since this is August, we thought we would turn our attention to “Summer Reruns”, a term used by TV programmers to offer programming originally arranged for the summer season. This would be a series that only consisted of a limited about of episodes that would serve as a place marker on the TV schedule until a new(er) series would take its place. That new(er) program would replace the summer replacement, where the former would be highlighted and the latter would end its video run, never to be seen again!

So we through we would place a summer rerun (so to speak) by reprinting another column written by yours truly. This time around, this featured “golden oldie” comes from another publication that I was involved with.

In 2000 and 2001, I wrote a column called Richard By Far for the publication The Epicenter, the “official” newsletter for the Los Angeles chapter of The Catholic Alumni Club, a social group whose members were those that were unmarried and practiced the Catholic faith.

All of my columns consisted of what I was seeing within my domestic world, and an occasional look of what life is (was?) like as living as a non-married person of adult age. I never wrote about the Catholic faith per se since I didn’t have the knowledge to know enough about the faith in question. So all of my pieces were secular in nature, but would be of interest to those that would have access to each issue.

In the October, 2000 edition of The Epicenter, I wrote about a recent interview I had with comedy writer and television pioneer Sherwood Schwartz. Among many of the talents he had, he will be best known to be the creator of such TV sitcoms as Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, among other entries. So here is that column that I hacked out back in the day…

I recently has the opportunity to speak with Sherwood Schwartz. A long time joke writer for such comics as Bob Hope and Red Skelton, he is best known as the creator of such classic TV sitcoms as Gilligan’s Island, It’s About Time, The Brady Bunch, and a host of others.

During our conversation, he went on to tell me the intellectual philosophy(?!!?) behind the concept and theme of Gilligan’s Island.

“…It’s a social microcosm..” Sherwood tells me. “..We all live in one world. It’s about time we recognize that fact!…The show illustrates how people who are forced to live together can also learn to live with each other! That’s the story of our world!…”

I wanted to relate that bit of wisdom to this deal ol’ club. I don’t mean that we have among us a member that can build a radio transmitter out of coconut shells and seaweed, or a millionaire that carries suitcases full of money on three hour sightseeing cruises. We are a group of people that come from separate styles of existence, living in environments not necessarily experienced by all of us. Some of us are starting out in life, while others have seen much more of this same life. Though there are a few things in common that some of us share (material status, education, etc.), we are still all different within our own right, and have to get along with each other. The most important fact is to accept each person for who and what they are. This gives us the chance to see and learn from how we are like one another, and how we are not! Unlike the crew of the S.S. Minnow, we can “get off the island” any time we want. If we do leave, it’s for our own personal reasons. Some of the people in the group had left the club, never to return. While at the same time, some of these same folks did come back later—hopefully for a while, rather than just for a 13 week season.

So take it from your “ Little Buddy”. We are a great bunch to be part of. Whenever you possess what you want or need, or have less than the minimum (such as no light, no phone, no motorcar), we can be like a family! Think of this method as to living in one big household with a dog, a wacky maid, and maybe a could of kids to boot! (The youngest one in curls.)

Until the next station break

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When describing the types of movies that catered to a specific audience and held a theme or concept, one could understand what was a “comedy”, a “musical”, and even a “drama”, although there could be a variety of types of movies that could fit within the “drama” mode.

One type of movie that’s often understood is what’s called “Film Noir”. Some mistake it as a movie from France since it contained a french word. (“Noir” is the french word for “black”). Others may find that a Noir film is dark in nature, meaning that there is some emotional pain, misery, and regret among its characters and plotting. That is more correct than the notion of a French origin. It’s meaning as according to Oxford Dictionaries is …a genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity.

That might be the definition to a film scholar. But to a fan of old(er) movies, it’s a feature that contains tough and dangerous characters that shoots first and asked questions later. A flick that boasts women that are cunning and as equally dangerous with a gun or otherwise. There where those on the proper side of the law that were there to help or where there as part of the take. They all dwelled in big urban areas that started to grow up and grow out with all of the cheap women, cheap booze, and cheap lives that held them in. The best part about them all is that they were all captured on motion picture film shot in glorious black, white, and various shades of grey.

Eddie Muller, one of the leading fathers of film noir has recently expanded and revised his book Dark City-The Lost World of Film Noir (Running Press) a jammed pack title that writes upon the movies that graced the big screen for most of the middle 20th century that reeked with crime, justice, greed, corruption, revenge, sex, and even death by murder, suicide, or both!

Within the pages of this book, Muller examines many of these sort of feature films where its heyday was between the middle 1940’s through the later 1950’s, a time where most of the nation (as well as part of the world that benefited under the Marshall Plan) were showing prosperity. It even stemmed with the returning vets that fought in World War II where not everyone that returned was deemed a hero. Many of film noir’s characters were vets that not only lived a hell on the battlefield, but still held to shocks from the Great Depression from a number of years before, emphasizing who were the “haves” and the “have nots”. It was dog-eat-dog, and may the best man (or woman) win. lose, or both!

Not only Muller, in his classic writing style of a pulp fiction author adding plenty of color through his placement of words while exposing many of these types of features, he speaks about those that appeared on the screen, with such stars as John Garfield (the “face and voice” of noir), Burt Lancaster, Edmond O’Brien, Dennis O’Keefe, Robert Mitchum (Hollywood’s “bad boy”), Lloyd Nolan, and even Jimmy Stewart and Bogie taking a stab (pun?) in this genre.

And there were the woman that also made it happen, from Gloria Grahame, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Ida Lupino, and even such stars as Belita (born Maria Gladys Olive Jepson-Turner) whose hopes to be a ice skating star came to being iced out from an skating accident into appearing in dark pictures, and even comic star Lucille Ball appeared as a femme fatal in Fox’s The Dark Corner that co-starred Clifton Webb, William Bendix, and Mark Stevens–billed as He’s Different….and Dangerous!

Muller started to become a fan of these types of movies as a kid living in San Francisco in the 1960’s when KTVU programmed these features as part of a local version of Dialing for Dollars on daytime TV. Since that time and long after, he started to curate these movies that were once semi-forgotten into an art that they never were. He even went to supervise the preservation of some thirty plus films that were made by the big studios (all of them except for Disney(!) as well as the smaller “B” and poverty-row outlets. (Republic, RKO, PRC, Allied Artists, etc.) And although its “bright” period was the 1940’s and 50’s, a few post-era noir titles made its mark. Some were great (L.A. Confidential) while a few were indeed in the dark! (In order for this writer to mention those titles, you will have to place him under the third degree to make him sing!!)

This book is the ideal companion to really know and understand these kinds of movies and how they spoke upon what was going on in American society for the nation, (and the world that Hollywood fed), to become aware. And as Mike Hammer would say “She was a stalemate. So I slugged her!!”

PS..Turner Classic Movies gives this book its blessing as Muller is the host of TCM’s weekly showcase Noir Alley that plays tribute to these movies that were red hot and dangerous that can now be screened within the conformity and privacy of one’s video portal! Get it? Got it? Good!!

Dark City-The Lost World of Film Noir is available where better books are sold, both in store or online.

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