Monday, July 4, 2022

Happy 4th of July from Bing & Fred

 That's Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Famed Broadway songwriter Irving Berlin was no stranger to Hollywood. In the classic film days, musicals were made featuring a Berlin music catalogue. Musicals such as ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND (1939), EASTER PARADE (1948), WHITE CRHISTMAS (1954) and THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS (1954) featured Irving Berlin classics from Broadway and new tunes he wrote for the films.

Paramount's 1942 hit, HOLIDAY INN, was no exception. It entertained with Irving Berlin standards and new songs for Crosby and Astaire to introduce. One new song that Crosby introduced got Irving Berlin the Oscar for Best Song. It was "White Christmas."

To acknowledge the 4th of July, here are Bing and Fred performing Irving Berlin songs from HOLIDAY INN.

Here are "Song of Freedom" and "Let's Say It With Firecrackers."

Man, how I love this Fred Astaire dance routine.

Happy 4th of July. Let's keep democracy alive.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Sitcom Actor Zelensky

 When Russia's Putin first attacked peace-loving Ukraine and started a war, we learned about 40-something Volodymyr Zelensky, the short and strong President of Ukraine. We've seen on the national news frequently since war started. With his working-class attitude and soulful eyes, he's won millions of hearts here in America. I pray that he's victorious and that Ukraine can rebuild. We also learned that he'd done comedy and appeared in a foreign version of DANCING WITH THE STARS before his political career began.

Today, I was taking an online stroll through Netflix and saw a show called SERVANT OF THE PEOPLE. I clicked on to read a description -- and discovered that, not only is it a subtitled sitcom, it starred....Zelensky!

His presidential career started in 2019.  SERVANT OF THE PEOPLE aired from 2015 to 2019. It's the story of a pretty ordinary guy -- an unmarried history teacher who lives with his parents -- who's elected President of Ukraine "in a democratic fashion," as TV journalists report, adding that he is "the Ukrainian people's choice." There are some who don't acknowledge the election results. (Hmmm. Does this all sound vaguely familiar?)

One day in his classroom, after class had been dismissed, he ranted to a buddy about how people need to take their votes more seriously and make wiser choices. A student, who was not visible to him, sees the rant records it on his cellphone and posts clips online. The rant is popular on social media. The students in his high school class unanimously tell him that their parents would vote for him in a heartbeat.

In the first episode, Vasyl (Zelensky) gets elected president -- and continues to live with his parents.

This subtitled sitcom has a very hip HBO vibe to it. It is smart and funny. Also, what our network news didn't tell us, is that Zelensky is excellent at comic acting. If his was living here in the States, if he wasn't fighting Russia, he'd be getting TV and film work. He's that good an actor. Here's a taste of the show.

Again, SERVANT OF THE PEOPLE is currently on Netflix.  This sitcom truly is a case of life imitates art.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

A Quick Note on Cagney as Cohan

 One of my favorite classic films to watch this time of year is YANKEE DOODLE DANDY with James Cagney as the famous Broadway song and dance man and songwriter, George M Cohan. When I was a youngster, KHJ-TV/Channel 9 was the local independent station that was connected to the Warner Bros. and RKO film libraries. Cagney had raised the goosepimples on my elementary school skin with his riveting performance as a cold-blooded gangster in 1931's THE PUBLIC ENEMY. Channel 9 aired that one and Cagney's other hoodlum films ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES and THE ROARING TWENTIES.

Then one weekend, when I was in the 3rd grade, Channel 9 aired the patriotic, extremely pleasing musical/comedy biopic YANKEE DOODLE DANDY with a wonderful singing and dancing performance from Cagney. It brought him the Best Actor Oscar for 1942. I was awestruck. The same man who sent chills up my spine as a vicious killer was absolutely lovable and touching as an all-American Broadway showman. 

How do I remember I was in the 3rd grade? Well, when the movie was over, I went outside in the backyard and tried to imitate Cagney's rather eccentric but totally cool style of dance in the movie. Come Monday, during lunch hour on the playground, a guy named Steven Grady was telling some classmates about the movie and tried to imitate some of Cagney's dance steps for them. We were all in Mrs. Anderson's 3rd grade class.

If you love Cagney as much as I do in that role, dig this:  George M. Cohan starred in a 1932 Paramount comedy called THE PHANTOM PRESIDENT. His co-stars were Claudette Colbert and Jimmy Durante. Cohan has a dual role. He plays a rather bland presidential candidate and the charismatic, non-famous entertainer who looks exactly like the candidate. As the election approaches, members of the candidate's team draft the entertainer into service. He pretends to be the candidate to bring in votes while the real candidate checks his relationship with his girlfriend.

Colbert plays the candidate's girlfriend. Durante practically steals the picture with his zany comedy.

Cohan dances near the end of the movie, which runs about 80 minutes. However, he's wearing a patriotic Yankee Doodle Dandy-like costume --- but he's in blackface.

When you see him dance, you realize how accurate James Cagney was in his choreography. Cagney recreated Cohan's unique style of dance. A brilliant performance. He deserved that Oscar. This shows you that Cohan really was in a Hollywood film.

 Happy 4th of July.

Friday, July 1, 2022

July 4th Movie Tips for TCM

July 4th. One of my favorite holidays of the year. Not just because of its historical significance here in the U.S.A., but because it brings back great childhood memories of my dad barbecuing in our backyard and then lighting festive fireworks in the front yard for us that night.

Just for the heck of it, for fellow classic film fans, I'm going to recommend a few classics that TCM could air -- if they were available -- for the 4th of July.

1776 (1972): I know TCM has this historical musical. Based on the Broadway hit of the same, it's about the signers and drafting of the Declaration of Independence. William Daniels and Ken Howard, two future presidents of the Screen Actors Guild, play future presidents of the United States -- John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Blythe Danner stars as Mrs. Jefferson. Veteran player Howard Da Silva, once blacklisted in the 1950s, should have been a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee for his spirited performance as Benjamin Franklin. This musical's dramatic core is seeing the frustrations and conflicts the men had as they tried to arrive at the perfect language for the document and the guilt at language they had to exclude as a political compromise. Specifically, language about slavery and equality.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (1934): From Paramount Pictures, this patriotic and breezy comedy really stays aloft thanks to the warm and charming performance of Francis Lederer (seen five years later wooing Claudette Colbert in the excellent screwball comedy, MIDNIGHT.) It's September 1776 and King George in England buys....yes, buys....Hessians (Germans) to fight on the British side in the Revolutionary War. Max, played by Lederer, is not interested in fighting even though he's a Hessian who was purchased for war. As Max says, "I'm no soldier, I'm a musician..." Max loves what America has to offer. He's thrilled by its Declaration of Independence. When the British troops, with Hessians, reach New York, some get messages from George Washington telling them they were bought and inviting them to come over to the American side. That's just what Max does. He defects and makes his way to a Connecticut farmhouse where he hides out. It's the home of a married couple, a lusty housekeeper and the couple's demure daughter, Prudence. Prudence is played by a blonde Joan Bennett

When the friendly Hessian with the boyish giggle sees her, it's love at first sight. She becomes attracted to him as he tries to convince New Englanders that there's no need to fear him. The town pastor preaches fear of them to his congregation and bundling is another major topic in his sermon.

A lot of us classic film fans first heard of bundling in the NOW, VOYAGER starring Bette Davis. Her character mentions it. In THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, a character defines it. In New England, bundling is the custom of a man and woman sleeping together fully clothed.

One of the best scenes in the movie is when Prudence has Max over for some conversation. She's attracted to him but she's being very demure. He's quite adorable and is now in love with her. The living room area is rather chilly and she suggests they relocate to another room to continue their talk.

When Prudence says to Max, "Shall we get into bed?" his jaw practically drops down to his boots. They're in the bedroom, her parents are away, and she introduces him to bundling. That makes him love American even more.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS is a sweet little film about "...liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Mary Boland (the Countess in 1939's THE WOMEN) and Charlie Ruggles provide laughs as Prudence's parents. The film runs about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

CENTENNIAL SUMMER (1946): This original screen musical from 20th Century Fox, was obviously inspired by the critical and box office success of MGM's MEET ME IN ST.  LOUIS starring Judy Garland and directed by Vincente Minnelli. CENTENNIAL SUMMER was directed by Otto Preminger. The story takes place in Philadelphia in 1876 as folks prepare to celebrate the centennial of the 4th of July. Two upscale sisters gently compete for the affection of a handsome Frenchman visiting the city to help decorate a pavilion as the city gets set for the 4th of July festivities. Also visiting is the girls' ultra-sophisticated, lovely and single aunt played by Constance Bennett (sister of Joan Bennett). 

"All Through the Day" and "In Love in Vain" are two of the original songs co-written by Jerome Kern for the movie. Fox's CENTENNIAL SUMMER stars Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Cornell Wilde and, as the parents, former silent screen star Dorothy Gish and Walter Brennan. He does his own singing. So, if you're up for a Walter Brennan musical, this is the film for you.

Here's a clip of the number that got an Oscar nomination or Best Song -- "All Through the Day" written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein.

Happy 4th of July. Save me some barbecue.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Ryan O'Connell, Still SPECIAL

Actor/writer Ryan O'Connell created and played one of the most huggable, lovable and complicated gay characters I've ever seen in a series. I blogged about him back in May of last year. He played Ryan Hayes, a Southern California intern at a hipster website in SPECIAL, an original Netflix series.

The character, like his creator and the actor who plays him, is a young gay man with cerebral palsy. The series and the delightful, talented, smart Ryan O'Connell have not received anywhere near the attention they should be getting from gay media. He is an original and a most creative trailblazer. But does he get the attention of an Andy Cohen, a Carson Kressley or a Lil Nas? No.

Rarely do we see current gay life through the eyes of someone with a physical disability. Let's face it -- the gay male community can often make a newcomer feel like he's on a rollercoaster that's constantly going down while he screams. No matter how good your manners are, no matter how spiritually substantial you are, if you're not a "hot-looking guy," you're not on the A-list of dating. Good looks are currency in the gay male community. You could have saved a half dozen orphans by pulling them out of a burning building. But, if you're not hot-looking and could catch on fire while sitting at the bar and the bartender would not pick up the seltzer gun to put you out. In the last 25 years, I've had that feeling in some Manhattan and West Hollywood bars. Ryan Hayes is a guy who wears thick glasses and has cerebral palsy.

His mother, wonderfully played by Jessica Hecht, loves living with her gay soon.  However, he needs to step out and became an independent citizen. And she clings to him because he's her buffer against loneliness. She's unmarried and afraid to step out into the world, meet a guy and start a new life for herself. We follow Ryan in his workplace and see the co-workers who become friends and we see him on some awkward dates. Ryan knows what the emotional and social obstacles are in his case, but he bravely moves forward.

Last season, in the spring of this year, Ryan O'Connell was absolutely charming and funny as a guest on CBS MORNINGS one weekday morning. He was on to promote his new book, a novel called JUST BY LOOKING AT HIM.

I don't recall seeing gay media giving him lots of attention for his book. In the touching final episode of Season 2, Ryan says to his mother "We deserve big, gorgeous lives."  So does Ryan O'Connell. As I wrote earlier, he is a trailblazer actor, writer and activist. I recommend you go to Netflix and watch the two seasons of SPECIAL. Those episodes are entertaining, enlightening and provocative. He gives us a fresh view of gay life that you can relate to even if you're straight and feel like an outside on the field of love.

Ryan O'Connell is someone who deserved to be in the spotlight for Pride month. Here's a peak at the show's Season 2.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Hear Me Out with Nancy Giles

 She had a scene with Tom Hanks in the movie BIG. She had a scene with Geena Davis in the 1994 romantic comedy, ANGIE. She was a regular on the ABC TV drama series, CHINA BEACH. Nowadays, Nancy Giles is a familiar face on national TV as a contributor on CBS SUNDAY MORNING. Nancy does some great interviews.

Nancy Giles now has a podcast and I was a guest on it for one show this month, I'm about to give you information on how you can hear us on her THE GILES FILES podcast now in Season 3.

Go to

When you get there, look for *Search* in the upper right corner. Type Giles Files in Search. When you see Nancy, click on her to enjoy our June 23rd chat. 

If you have time to listen, PLEASE write Nancy a short review or comment.

We talk about entertainment news of this year and classic films of yesteryear. One thing we talk about is my 1989 visit on St. Patrick's Day with TV sitcom legend, Lucille Ball. She invited me to her home for cocktails. I was working on VH1 at the time. She'd seen my interview of Sally Field on my weeknight celebrity talk show and liked it.

While I was there, having a vodka tonic, I mentioned that my favorite film of hers was 1942's THE BIG STREET co-starring Henry Fonda. I told her that, if I had a revival movie theater, I'd make it a double feature with MIDNIGHT COWBOY

She loved the idea and got why I'd pair them. THE BIG STREET is a drama with Lucy as a tough, self-absorbed Manhattan nightclub singer. She winds up crippled, wheelchair-bound and somewhat of a New York City down-and-outsider. She's forgotten by her upscale friends. She learns about friendship from Fonda's character who's also somewhat of an invisible citizen. He's a busboy. Now disabled, the singer dreams of going to Florida but that seems to be an impossible dream. The busboy gets her there.

Think of the crippled, ailing Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) in MIDNIGHT COWBOY who wishes he could get out of New York City and go to Florida. Hustler Joe Buck (Jon Voight), just as much an outsider as Ratso, gets him there.

I think THE BIG STREET has Lucille Ball's best big screen performance. Here's a trailer.

I hope you enjoy Nancy and me on THE GILES FILES podcast.

Monday, June 27, 2022

That's The Rub

 I was on Twitter and saw a positive tweet that caught my eye. A fellow had seen a short film, perfect viewing for PRIDE month (which June is) and he loved it. The short film is free to see on YouTube. I watched it -- and it is good! Although not a comedy, the title might make you think it is. Titled THE UNSURE MASSEUR, it runs only 15 minutes.

Human touch and the revelation of honest feelings between two gay men are at the center of this short feature.

A handsome, young Asian-American fellow has made an appointment for a legit massage. As he admits to the also young and handsome masseur when he's undressed and stretched out on the massage table, he's not just there for the rubdown. He says, "...I'm here to learn..." His love is landscaping. He learned the art from his grandmother in Sante Fe. She taught him about "...plants, garden design, what smells nice..." Her death left him heartbroken. He relocates to another city and considers becoming a masseur to make the money to pursue his landscaping dreams. He once considered working as a go-go dancer.

The masseur has them trade places for his tutorial. He has the client give him a massage so he could tell the client what to do, how to do it and what he might be doing wrong. He too opens up and reveals the challenge of keeping his work legit -- providing just a massage, no sexual services. The two lead actors are Jae Kim and Kevin Grant Spencer. The short film was written and directed by Reid Waterer. I loved the verbal intimacy that arises between the two gay men in addition to the physical intimacy of the massage. 

THE UNSURE MASSEUR is well-shot, well-acted and well-written. There's a sad warmth that comes from the client. He's lonely and needs to be touched. That's exactly what led me to get my first massage a year after my partner died. Again, this 15-minute feature is free for you to see on YouTube.

Happy 4th of July from Bing & Fred

 That's Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Famed Broadway songwriter Irving Berlin was no stranger to Hollywood. In the classic film days, mu...