Saturday, March 25, 2017

We Loved Lola Albright

She was one talented and under-utilized Hollywood actress.  If Anne Bancroft had not been available, Lola Albright would have made a great Mrs. Robinson in THE GRADUATE.  That's my opinion.   The entertainment news came that Lola Alright passed away peacefully in upscale Toluca Lake, California this week.  She was 92.
I picked up so much of love for classic films from Mom and Dad.  Not just Hollywood films but foreign ones too.  Mom worked as a registered nurse.  Dad worked at the main post office in downtown L.A.  On the rare times Mom had a weekday off from work, she was never one to watch daytime television unless to see a newscast or a special news presentation.  During a Christmas or summer vacation from school, I'd be the one watching a classic film on daytime TV.  Back then, long before cable and VHS tapes and DVDs and home entertainment hook-ups, independent local TV stations and the network affiliates went into their libraries and played old movies to fill up programming time.  If I was ever watching an old movie in the daytime and Mom stopped what she was doing to watch it with me or stopped and, said the name of the star and smiled, I knew the movie and/or the star was significant.  If NOW, VOYAGER was on, Mom would stand and look at the TV like she was under a hypnotic spell.  I loved those moments.  If I was watching an old movie and if Mom walked into the living room, saw the TV, paused and said "Oooh, Stanwyck" or "Oooh, Ingrid Bergman," "Brando" or "Mmmm, William Holden," I knew I should pay attention to the work of those actors.

I was especially fascinated at how much a fan Mom was of actresses who were not big stars in the Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn Hollywood sense, but they were women whose talent and work excited her.  Actresses like Simone Signoret, Lilli Palmer and Patricia Neal.  One such actress was Lola Albright.

Mom always said, "Hollywood should have given Lola Albright the kind of good scripts that usually went to Barbara Stanwyck."  As I got older and my passion for classic films deepened, I came to agree totally with my mother on that.  Look at Lola Albright as Kirk Douglas' leading lady in the boxing drama, CHAMPION (1949).
She's the long, cool, classy blonde we see cuddling and smooching Frank Sinatra in the opening scene of THE TENDER TRAP, a romantic comedy that always acts on me like a tasty tonic.  That is one of my favorite go-to feel-good films from the 1950s.
Mom loved watching her on the hit TV private detective series, PETER GUNN.  Blake Edwards created the series, Henry Mancini supplied the jazzy and very popular theme music that opened each episode.  Lola Albright played the private eye's girlfriend, a jazz club singer.
    
On TV, Lola Albright got to do what Hollywood films should have let her do -- she sang.  Here she is in a clip from PETER GUNN.  Craig Stevens played Peter Gunn.

Albright was such a good vocalist that she got a contract and cut record albums in the 1950s.
MGM let her sing for a few seconds.  In the open of EASTER PARADE (1948), she's one of the hat models who sings "Happy Easter" to Fred Astaire.

Watch the 1961 drama, A COLD WIND IN AUGUST, and you will see more of what a terrific actress she was.  She played the hip middle-aged stripper who falls for a guy who's almost 18.
For her performance in the 1966 satire of American teen culture, LORD LOVE A DUCK, Lola Albright won the Berlin International Film Festival for Best Actress.

She was married three times.  Her second husband was veteran film actor Jack Carson during his A STAR IS BORN (1954) and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) period.

Mom and I loved Lola Albright.

Friday, March 24, 2017

On Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher

I loved her work, her humor and her spirit.  When she went after the lead role in MGM's first-rate adaptation of the hit Broadway musical comedy THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, the casting of Debbie Reynolds turned out to be the perfect marriage of performer and material.  She was "unsinkable."  Debbie Reynolds was a walking lesson in perseverance.
I still give thanks for being hired by VH1 in the late 80s.  I loved every single work day during my three years.  That's where a dream came true for me.  I got to host an entertainment talk show.  And a pretty good one, if I say so myself.  I have so many great memories of that time.   Two days at the top of those memories are the days Carrie Fisher came to be a guest and the day her mother, Debbie Reynolds, came to be a guest.  I loved them.  The crew loved them.  Both Carrie and Debbie stuck around afterwards, posed for photos and gave autographs.  They were genuine and generous with their time.  And extremely funny.
By the early 1990s, I began to feel that, although they were very famous movie actresses, Hollywood never quite showed its appreciation for their hard work and their multi-talents.  Carrie could've just coasted on STARS WARS fame.  The original trilogy of STAR WARS adventures made her a pop culture icon and internationally famous.  But she proved to be a terrific writer, sort of the Oscar Levant of Baby Boomers.  She wrote best-selling novels and hysterically funny memoirs. She adapted her first book, the novel POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, into a screenplay that Mike Nichols directed.  Carrie's screenplay brought Meryl Streep another Best Actress Oscar nomination.  Her wise, witty and highly quotable screenplay was practically an original story.  Read the novel.  The movie star mother is in less than ten pages of the book.  She's a minor character in the novel.  However, the screenplay is all about the relationship between the fresh out-of-rehab actress daughter and her former queen of Hollywood musicals mother.  Carrie should have been an Oscar nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay.  She wrote a great script for Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.
The celebrated staircase argument scene between Suzanne Vale and her mother, Doris Mann in which Doris bellows "It twirled up!" isn't in the book at all.  Carrie gave us fresh material in her screenplay.
And did Carrie Fisher ever get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in her lifetime?
As for Debbie, I wish Hollywood had given her the same regard for her acting skills that it gave Oscar winner and 5-time Oscar nominee, Shirley MacLaine.  Debbie was a Best Actress Oscar nominee for 1964's THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.  She should have been in that category again for 1996's MOTHER, the sharp and insightful comedy written by, directed by and co-starring Albert Brooks.  Debbie was on top of her game in this character comedy role.
For decades, Debbie Reynolds was a tireless entertainer who loved Hollywood and worked hard to help preserve its history.  But Hollywood didn't seem to care about giving her a financial hand to help preserve that history.  And Hollywood seemed to think of her mainly as that cute star from a couple of A-list movie musicals. It overlooked the solid non-musical work she did in films like THE CATERED AFFAIR, THE RAT RACE, DIVORCE AMERICAN STYLE and WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?  When The Academy finally did get a clue and bestow her with an honorary Oscar in 2015, the SINGIN' IN THE RAIN star was ill and unable to attend to ceremony.
The mother-daughter bond that Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher had was the stuff of a classic tearjerker movie like TERMS OF ENDEARMENT.

Think about this:  If someone made a movie about a sometimes fractured, mostly loving mother-daughter relationship  -- both actressess -- that was so deep and so devoted that when the daughter unexpectedly dies in the last act, the mother unexpectedly dies the next day, critics would have roasted it.  They would have written that it was totally implausible and unbelievably sentimental.  But it happened in real life.  In real Hollywood life.  The Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds love and deaths are now the stuff of Hollywood legend.
The joint memorial for Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher will be held at 1pm Pacific Time on Saturday, March 25th, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.  According to The Los Angeles Times, the memorial will be live-streamed on DebbieReynolds.com.






Thursday, March 23, 2017

Give Michael Peña More Lead Roles

I totally dig actor Michael Peña.  He reminds me of every cool Mexican-American dude who was my classmate during my Catholic high school years in Watts back in South Central L.A.  Actor Michael Peña can go from serious dramatic work to giving you a solid comedy performance as easily as the snap of your fingers.  He is that talented, that versatile.  I've been a fan of his for over ten years.  He's not the leading man or the star of most the films in which I've seen him, but he always delivered.  He always stood out.  Each performance was good.  Each was different.  It's Thursday and he was a guest in the last hour of today's GOOD MORNING AMERICA.  He was promoting his new film, a big screen comedy version of the popular old TV cop series, CHIPS.  You can probably guess he took on the role that made Erik Estrada a TV star in the late 1970s.
Let's face it.  We can tell this movie is not exactly highbrow.  It's another very loose Hollywood update adaptation of a hit TV series from decades ago.  Critics haven't been keen on it.
BUT...Michael Peña has a lead role.  He plays the sexy, street smart half of the cop duo.  He deserves lead roles.  If CHIPS does well at the box office this weekend, Hollywood will notice and, I hope, send him more scripts with lead role offers.  Good script offers. Here's a CHIPS trailer.

I first really noticed Peña on the big screen in a small role.  He was in the Clint Eastwood film, MILLION DOLLAR BABY.  Eastwood's 2004 film won the Oscar for Best Picture.  Peña had a bigger role and played a key figure in the movie CRASH.  That crime story about racial images in Los Angeles won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2005.

Michael Peña has acted in five films that were Oscar nominees for Best Picture.  He did MILLION DOLLAR BABY, CRASH, BABEL, AMERICAN HUSTLE in which he stole scenes as the guy masquerading as the wealthy Sheik Abdullah, and he played a space crew member in THE MARTIAN.

In this age of diversity and inclusion matters, a minority actor being able to boast of having worked in five Best Picture Oscar nominees -- and two of them won -- that's pretty significant.  I would've mentioned that on GOOD MORNING AMERICA.

Michael Peña starred in a biopic that didn't seem to get much promotion and, unfortunately, didn't get much attention at the box office.  But it's a credit he can still be proud to have on his resumé.  He played a character who was extremely important to all of us in high school -- students and teachers alike.  The Mexican-American actor played CESAR CHAVEZ in 2014.  Actor Diego Luna (Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, MILK and ROGUE ONE) directed the biopic about the California civil rights activist and labor organizer.  America Ferrara co-starred.

I would've mentioned that in the actor's GOOD MORNING AMERICA introduction too.

For comic book movie fans, Michael Peña announced that there will be a sequel to ANT-MAN.  The big news is that he has completed the highly-anticipated film adaptation of the classic sci-fi fantasy novel, A WRINKLE IN TIME.  Ava DuVernay directed the film.  Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine also headline the cast.

I'd love to buy a ticket to that one right now.  Bravo, Michael Peña!  You are way overdue for movie stardom.  You've earned it.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A TOUCH OF EVIL Question

It's one of my favorite Orson Welles movies.  TOUCH OF EVIL, the black and white mystery film noir crime story released in 1958, written and directed by Orson Welles.  I was lucky enough to interview Janet Leigh when the restored version of the film was opening.  She was proud, thrilled and brought a copy of Welles' original script with her.  She was a great advocate for directors having the right to execute their own vision of a film without a studio later altering the final print.  In my introduction on the set "Good Day New York" set on WNYW/Fox5, I said that Janet Leigh had gone from being "the MGM girl next door" to sexy roles in dark dramas such as PSYCHO, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and TOUCH OF EVIL.  Charlton Heston co-starred in Welles' classic as her Mexican-American husband.
The director/screenwriter appears in the film as the seedy, rotund and slovenly police captain.
Marlene Dietrich stars as the woman who runs a brothel in a Mexican border town.  The police captain used to visit the place a lot for relaxation back in the day.  She can't place his face at first.  She hadn't seen him in years -- and he got really fat.  She says, "I didn't recognize you.  You should lay off those candy bars."
It's a good supporting role.  Blonde Marlene put on a dark wig to play the Mexican madam.
The glamorous Hollywood film star was in her 50s when she made TOUCH OF EVIL.

Now to my question.  Carmen Miranda, a sensation in 1940s Technicolor musical comedies at 20th Century Fox, quickly became a Hollywood icon.  Actors and actresses -- even Bugs Bunny -- did imitations of "The Brazilian Bombshell" with the festive headwear.
Dressed with what looked like fruit baskets on her head was a great gimmick, but there was more to Miranda than that.  She was a respected musician, recording artist and entertainer in Brazil before she hit Broadway followed by the Hollywood sound stages.  On screen, she was a natural actress with sharp talent for comedy.  She had wonderful timing, she was energetic, she was a sexy beauty with large expressive eyes and she had keen musical skills.  She had charisma and could easily steal a scene if not the whole picture.  For proof, just watch her in the 1941 musical comedy, WEEKEND IN HAVANA starring Alice Faye, John Payne and Cesar Romero.  She's terrific in it.
But, to me, Hollywood didn't give her a chance to show range.  It didn't utilize her obvious acting talent.  It kept her as a Latin "Miss Malaprop" who did zesty musical numbers in exotic costumes and was a fabulous comic sidekick.  Fox musical comedy stars Alice Faye and Betty Grable each got a chance to go dramatic.  At MGM, Judy Garland did a drama.  Universal's top musical comedy star, Deanna Durbin, proved she had solid dramatic skills in one movie.  I wish Carmen Miranda had been given a similar chance.  Hollywood life off-camera was not full of happiness for her.  She had bouts of depression. She struggled with alcohol and pills.

Her final screen role was in a 1953 Paramount comedy, SCARED STIFF, starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.  Singer/actress Carmen Miranda died in 1955 of a heart attack.  She was only 46.
My question is -- if she had lived and if Hollywood had given her opportunities to show some range beyond her musical comedy image, could she have played the role that Marlene Dietrich did in TOUCH OF EVIL and been effective?  What do you think?







Tuesday, March 21, 2017

METROPOLIS As a Miniseries

If I was teaching a course on classic film appreciation, this silent foreign film classic most definitely would be on my must-see list.  Fritz Lang's 1927 film METROPOLIS continues to be one of the most influential films of that decade.  Such striking, memorable visuals fill this science-fiction drama.  It's a great example of German expressionism.  METROPOLIS continues to excite artists today.
You may have seen the METROPOLIS influence and didn't realize it.  It influenced the art decoration for the Agatha character in Steven Spielberg's 2002 futuristic sci-fi drama, MINORITY REPORT.
METROPOLIS was the main inspiration for the look and style of Madonna's "Express Yourself" music video in the late 1980s.
It influenced the choreography and look of the "Food, Glorious Food" number sung by orphan boy laborers.  That's the opening number in Carol Reed's OLIVER!  Reed's musical film won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1968.
According to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, Fritz Lang's classic may inspire a TV miniseries.
Sam Esmail created the enormously popular TV series, MR. ROBOT, starring Christian Slater and Rami Malek.  The entertainment publication reports that Esmail wants to adapt METROPOLIS into a miniseries that would retain the original basis of the story.  The adaptation would take place in a futuristic society where the city is divided between the wealthy who rule from high-rise comfort and the lower class people who toil tirelessly to keep the city running.  In other words, it could be like modern-day Manhattan which has basically become a suburb of Wall Street.

Here's a film trivia question: The innovative and remarkable METROPOLIS, that classic silent film from 1927, has a major connection and link to the classic TV sitcom, I LOVE LUCY from the early 1950s.  Do you know what that connection to the innovative sitcom is?

Karl Freund, the cinematographer for METROPOLIS, was hired by actor, producer and TV visionary Desi Arnaz to be the cinematographer for TV's I LOVE LUCY.
This groundbreaking sitcom replaced TV cameras with three movie cameras.  No TV production was using three cameras and no TV production was using movie cameras.  But executive producer Desi Arnaz believed that shooting the show on film and with three cameras would give it more flexibility in editing and would improve the quality of its look.  This process of shooting a TV sitcom like it was a film initially was not easy to do but Arnaz's vision was innovative and proved to be a brilliant idea.  It paid off.  It started a trend that continues today.  And Freund made Lucille Ball, then in her early 40s, look great.
METROPOLIS turned 90 this month.  Karl Freund's credits as a cinematographer include these other films: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930), DRACULA (1931), CAMILLE (1936), THE GOOD EARTH (1937), GOLDEN BOY (1939), A GUY NAMED JOE (1943), DU BARRY WAS A LADY starring Lucille Ball (1943), WITHOUT LOVE starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Lucille Ball (1945) and KEY LARGO (1948).

It's been written that Karl Freund was a Jew who grew up in Berlin.  His family moved to Berlin when he was about 10.  When he was a young man working in film, he moved from Germany to Hollywood.  That was about 1929.  In 1937, he went back to Germany and got his only child, a daughter, and surely saved her from certain death.  Freund's ex-wife died in a concentration camp.

"There can be no understanding between the hands and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator." ~from METROPOLIS.



Monday, March 20, 2017

On BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED

Do you love Broadway theater?  Do you love the genius of Stephen Sondheim?  Are you aware that, as Stephen Sondheim wrote in the song "Putting It Together" from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, "art isn't easy"?  If so, you need to see a documentary called BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED.  Be prepared for a few tears to roll down your face during the last part of this moving, mature documentary about the casting, the opening night, the flop, the two decades that rolled by and then the revival concert show of Sondheim's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.  We see the original 1981 cast from auditions to casting to rehearsals.  They were new Broadway hopefuls cast to do a play that shifted in time.  We met the disappointed characters in middle age and the action take us back to when they were happy young graduates eager to start a new life and seek a career.
This documentary also becomes a look at the dreams of youth, the disappointing realities of life, and the opportunity in middle age or senior years to return to the place where those dreams began.  We see Broadway actors and, in the case of Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince, Broadway legends.  But this documentary does not feel like it's about theatrical stardom.  It's more about passages of life and the different roads you may take when some of your dreams didn't come true.  If anything, it shows you that stardom can be a bit limiting.  One of the stage newbies, one of the unknowns in a cast of young unknowns in the original Broadway production, was Jason Alexander.  When I got to New York City in 1985, I knew that Jason Alexander was one of the most versatile stage actors in town.  After the flop of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, he went on to other shows, shows that were hits, and then came a TV sitcom.  Yes, SEINFELD.  That was a huge success on NBC for years and is now a classic.  But that sitcom didn't display all Jason Alexander's talents the way Broadway did.  But Hollywood probably only saw him as "George" from SEINFELD.

In the early 80s, Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince were the golden boys of Broadway.  The buzz was that MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG would be another of their hits.  ABC news shot TV footage for a planned backstage special feature.  Those plans were scrapped when critics hated the Broadway show.  One of the original cast members was Lonny Price, now one of the most respected directors of Broadway plays.  He miraculously got possession of archive footage and put together this surprising, revealing and poignant documentary.  Price wears glasses in the pic with two other original cast members.
 Take a look at this trailer for Lonny Price's fine documentary film.

21 years after the show's failure, it was done as a concert performance with the original cast reunited.  Not all the original cast members continued with New York City theatrical careers.  One, for a time, became flawed like the lead character she played.  All the people involved were transformed by the experience.  This documentary runs a trim 95 minutes.  I recommend it.  You can find BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED on Netflix.
"We're opening doors, singing, 'Here we are!'..."  I had so many original Broadway cast albums in my youth.  MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG was one of them.  Yes, I cried during the last part of this documentary.  It touched me very much.




Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Shot of Scorsese

On Twitter, the IndieWire film site posted a short video that really made me smile.  It was a clever montage proving why Martin Scorsese's cameos in his own films matter.
Scorsese's appearances in his own films have a different attitude and tone that the cameos Alfred Hitchcock famously did in his films.  Hitchcock's appearances were more of a sweet, tongue-in-cheek sight gag.  Marty would go dramatic.  Like his part in TAXI DRIVER.  I also dig when the director appears in films directed by others.
My favorite is when he played himself in THE MUSE, a comedy written and directed by Albert Brooks.  In that one, Sharon Stone plays the seemingly mythical character in Hollywood who gives inspiration to creatively blocked people.  They give her great gifts in gratitude for their new success.  Albert Brooks plays the Hollywood screenwriter who's in a bit of an artistic slump, meets the muse and is quite skeptical. Unexpectedly, the glamorous muse taps into his housewife's unexplored artistic gifts and she becomes the success in the household.

The IndieWire video had a shot of Martin Scorsese in his film, HUGO.  Here it is.

Another film site on Twitter noted that March 18th marked the birthday of British actor Robert Donat.  GONE WITH THE WIND was the big winner for the Oscars of 1939.  It took Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress to name three.  But Robert Donat beat GONE WITH THE WIND star Clark Gable in the Best Actor category.  Donat won for playing a shy British schoolteacher in GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS.

He was a wonderful actor who was also seen in Hitchcock's THE 39 STEPS (1935), THE CITADEL (1938) with Rosalind Russell and the greatly overlooked and very good World War 2 thriller, THE ADVENTURES OF TARTU (1943).  Robert Donat is memorable and heartbreaking in a 1951 British film called THE MAGIC BOX.  In it, he has a passion for the idea of cinematography -- yet others unfortunately don't share his passion and his vision.  THE MAGIC BOX is based on a true story.  Donat plays photographer William Friese-Greene, an inventor and one of Great Britain's early pioneers in the cinema arts.  Here's Donat as that character.
Look at that photo of Robert Donat.  Look at Scorsese as a photographer in HUGO.  I have a feeling that Martin Scorsese has seen THE MAGIC BOX.

If you have the time, I highly recommend watching this Robert Donat film.

I think you'll find this biopic and Donat's performance to be quite interesting.  William Friese-Greene did create a working motion picture camera.  He was so focused on his passion to create it that other aspects of his life -- like love -- went unfulfilled.  Sadly, when he created a motion picture camera, no one seemed to care at the time.  The film is, from what I've read, a romanticized version of his history.  However, it does show one true thing to which Scorsese surely could agree --  art isn't easy.  Glynis Johns, Maria Schell, Margaret Rutherford and Richard Attenborough co-star in THE MAGIC BOX.



Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Julie Andrews Gem on Netflix

Dame Julie Andrews is a human treasure, as far as I'm concerned.  I don't believe I'm alone in feeling that way.  She has an educational show for kids on Netflix that shines a spotlight on why the arts are so important.  JULIE'S GREENROOM is such a winner that I wished I had little children so I could share it with them.  I watched and loved the first three episodes of this bright show, a show that embraces diversity and inclusion while bringing youngsters into the world of the fine arts.  On the show, Andrews is joined by new puppet characters from the Henson Company and guest stars.  Julie Andrews has stretched her talents beyond singer, Oscar-winning actress, and dancer.  She's now also a director and an author of children's books.  She co-created and co-wrote JULIE'S GREENROOM with her daughter, writer Emma Walton Hamilton.  Andrews plays the head of a modest performing arts company, one that could really use some financial help.  Her little troupe members, the puppet characters, are called "greenies."  From Miss Julie, the greenies learn about the performing arts, the power of working together as a team and they learn discipline in a most gentle way.
It's a smart and smartly-paced show for the pre-school and early elementary school group.  The puppets are not hyper.  There's no MTV-like quick editing to make the product seem hip.  It's relaxed and polite.  Basic theater terms and principles are taught, principles like "the show must go on."  Miss Julie's human assistant at the workshop is a charming young man named Gus.  Every episode has a special guest star visitor who teaches the troupe even more about the performing arts.  Besides the guests, there are short and very informative taped features about the arts.  The half hour show is well-produced and Julie Andrews is an endearing host who shares the spotlight.  Her warmth is magnetic.  By the way, she makes 80 seem like the new 60.
In the first episode, we are introduced to the greenroom.  We learn the purpose of a greenroom.  To start the greenies on their journey to discover "the magic of the performing arts," they all plan to do a version of THE WIZARD OF OZ.  But a serious plumbing crisis ruins their props and costumes.  Here's where we learn that "the show must go on."  THE WIZARD OF OZ business leads into the troupe meeting guest visitor, Idina Menzel.  She starred as the Wicked Witch on Broadway in WICKED.  Menzel teaches the little ones more about the arts.  Also, we learn about a performance arts company that Menzel started.

Julie Andrews sings a bit in the first episode.  That will definitely made you smile even more.  Chris Colfer, a star on the GLEE television series, visits in the second episode which focuses on writing.  I didn't know that Colfer was a published author.  Like Andrews, he's written children's books.  The greenies learn about William Shakespeare and they work together to write an original stage piece.  In their original story, there is an ogre.  The dramatic conflict is that the "ogre would steal all the arts."

This episode was completed quite some time before the recent news broke that Trump wants to cut all funding to the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS and National Public Radio.

The third episode is about singing.  We get voice lessons, we're taught the power of finding one's voice and individuality.  The special visitor is Josh Groban.  Wow.  Why hasn't he been cast in Disney movie musicals?  Such a great voice.

These are outstanding shows for kids.  I wish children's programming like this had a network home on Saturday mornings like shows I grew up watching.  Julie Andrews still has her magic and her excellent acting skills are on display.  Watch her with the greenies.  To her, they are not puppets.  They are youngsters.  She believes in them -- and that quality comes across.

Julie Andrews.  A Broadway star in THE BOY FRIEND, the original cast of MY FAIR and CAMELOT.  Best Actress Oscar winner for Disney's MARY POPPINS.  She's probably the only big musical star and multi-Oscar nominee who got all her acting Oscar nominations for musicals.  Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli got Oscar nominations for musicals and dramas.  Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra got their Oscar nominations for dramas.  Julie Andrews got Best Actress Oscar nominations for MARY POPPINS, THE SOUND OF MUSIC and the screwball comedy/musical VICTOR/VICTORIA with songs by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse.  She has directed an Australian stage revival of MY FAIR LADY that opens March 19th in Brisbane.

If CBS still had an annual airing of 1939's THE WIZARD OF OZ in prime time like it did when we baby boomers were kids, Julie Andrews would be the perfect host.  Watch her new series and you'll absolutely agree with me.  Dame Julie is a human treasure who always gives her best -- and her best is always excellent.
Thank you, Netflix, for JULIE'S GREENROOM.