Don Beddoe, “Everything But Pattie de Foy Grass”*

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This post is part of the third annual What a Character! Blogathon hosted by three classic movie bloggers: Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen, Kellee Pratt (@IrishJayHawk66) of Outspoken & Frecked, and Paula Guthat (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula’s Cinema Club. The Blogathon is devoted to those wonderful actors who rarely got leading parts, exhibiting instead a versatility and depth many leading players wished they had.

Not everybody was a glamourpuss back in the 40’s and 50s, and not everybody wanted to be.
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The ticket to steady employment and a crisp, new paycheck may not have been through the doors of Sidney Guilaroff’s MGM salon. It might have been through tending bar in a saloon, or running the general store, or even pecking out the latest update from the teletype, and Don Beddoe was obviously one of those even-keeled, level-headed professionals who took the road less traveled by the publicists and the power mongers.

Don was raised in Cincinnati where his father, the famous Welsh tenor Don Beddoe, spearheaded the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and his initial career began as a journalist.

Enjoy Beddoe’s father, tenor Don Beddoe (1863-1937) in a 1913 recording of “A Moonlight Song” here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=06OJQ_eJTyY

But something lured Don away from the typewriter and the heady aroma of freshly-inked front pages, and Cincinnati. Even though he intended a career in journalism, he began working with amateur and community theatre companies, and there is evidence that he appeared in a few silents. Somehow his journey from wordsmith to boards-stomper landed him on Broadway where Beddoe made his debut in a play starring Spencer Tracy.

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In 1937, he appeared as an uncredited District Attorney’s aide in the first release of 20 that year from the newly-formed Monogram pictures, which became Allied Artists in 1952. Perpetual Gunsmoke “Doc” Milburn Stone also appeared in that first Mongram release entitled The 13th Man, directed by William Nigh and starring Inez Courtney and Weldon Heyburn. Beddoe would eventually appear on an episode of Gunsmoke with Stone.

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Beddoe then began playing all sorts of roles on camera -doctors, reporters, barbers, deputies, sherriffs, clerks, mousy-husbands, attorneys, detectives, jockeys, majors, process servers, professors, police chiefs, chaplains, judges, and junk dealers. His acting credits include over 297 film and television roles, and his last was as a popuar fellow named “Kris” on a Christmas-themed Highway to Heaven episode in 1984.

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Married to first wife Jessie Evelyn Sebring in 1943, their marriage lasted until her death in 1974. Soon after, Beddoe wed actress Joyce Matthews, and Beddoe obviously settled her down a bit.

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Matthews had been married six times to four other men–twice to Milton Berle, who commented after their remarriage that Joyce reminded him “of his first wife.”

Joyce and Milton...

Joyce and Milton…

Matthews also married and divorced showman Billy Rose –twice. So Beddoe obviously knew how to treat someone like Joyce as they were married until Beddoe’s death, and Joyce never remarried. Alas, Beddoe had no children, but Joyce had her daughter, Victoria, that she had adopted while married to Berle.

One of Beddoe’s most high-profile roles in the 1950’s was as Walt Spoon in Director Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter. Beddoe was paired with Evelyn Varden, a burlesque and Broadway actress who had many high-profile films in her repertoire, too. When recalling Don Beddoe, Producer Paul Gregory stated that Beddoe was a “dear man,” and asked author Preston Neal Jones to give him that message. Beddoe’s response to Gregory’s comment? “Isn’t that nice.”

As 'The Meddler' in "Cyrano De Bergerac"

As ‘The Meddler’ in “Cyrano De Bergerac”

Beddoe supported many of Hollywood’s stars like Peter Lorre in The Face Behind The Mask, with Robert Mitchum in River of No Return as Ben, the owner of the general store, and with Cary Grant in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.

Author Preston Neal Jones visited with Beddoe shortly before Beddoe passed away when Jones was interviewing all the principals in his book, Heaven and Hell To Play With-The Filming of Night of the Hunter.

During Jones interview with Beddoe, he related celebrated British film historian Leslie Halliwell’s comments that he felt Beddoe was a “character actor with a genial, sometimes startled look.”
Beddoe responded “that means when I’ve blown my lines.”

Beddoe’s memories of working with Gregory and others on the set of Night of the Hunter are happy ones as he felt that Laughton was “always on his best behavior, completely friendly and warm.” Delighted that Laughton was able to direct the film, Beddoe recalled that “it came through so well. And it didn’t come through like a first attempt, at all. It was really professional, directorially.”

According to Beddoe, Laughton’s biggest problem was handling Mitchum, but all went well between the director and the actor with the “bad-boy” reputation as “there was a complete rapport between the two.” Beddoe also worked on “River of No Return” with Mitchum and claimed “it’s been a very cordial relationship.”

With Shelley Winters, Eveyln Varden, Sally Jane Bruce, and Mitchum...

With Shelley Winters, Eveyln Varden, Sally Jane Bruce, and Mitchum…

Recalling his visit with Don Beddoe and reminiscing about his pairing with Evelyn Varden in Night of the Hunter, author Preston Neal Jones revealed more about the endearing Beddoe when he participated in a visit at the classic film website, The Silver Screen Oasis:

Beddoe & Varden, that great team, were certainly appreciated by the film’s creators. Producer Paul Gregory enthuses in my book about their casting, adding, ‘You’d think they’d been married always.’ Davis Grubb, author of the original novel, felt that “they (the production company) should have paid her extra” for her contribution as Icey Spoon. As it happened, she and Grubb viewed the HUNTER answer print together at United Artists’ Manhattan screening room.”

Varden “was so anxious that he like it, Grubb recalled, that she kept a tight squeeze on his hand the whole time. I’ll tell you a touching anecdote about Don Beddoe, which I don’t think I put in the book. One of the great joys, you know, of meeting and conversing with these wonderful character actors is the opportunity it affords to learn about not just the subject at hand but many other films as well. (Mr. Mitchum had a lot to say, for instance, about CAPE FEAR.)

One of the famous movies in which Mr. Beddoe appeared was The Best Years Of Our Lives, in which he portrayed, if memory serves, the father of the bride,Teresa Wright. In any case, BEST YEARS was as we all know a rather long picture, and it necessitated a suitably long (and therefor expensive) shooting schedule. As the final film stands, Beddoe’s character really isn’t seen very much, but he originally had one important father/daughter scene containing a significant speech. He worked hard to prepare his monologue, only to be crestfallen when he went to the set and learned that the scene had been dropped.

William Wyler explained to the disappointed actor that they had already shot a lot of footage, and the director had agreed with the budget-conscious Sam Goldwyn that the film could get along without that scene. Poor Don Beddoe asked Mr. Wyler if he could at least do the speech for him, so he could show how he would have done it if it had been filmed, but the busy director turned him down.”

Even though Beddoe was momentarily crestfallen at Wyler’s rebuff, his 297 film and television credits attest to his 47-year popularity among those who hire and fire seasoned and reliable character actors in LA. As a fan of Beddoe, I am always on the lookout for one of his roles in classic film and television programs. His sweetness, his down-to-earth qualities, and his compassion can be found in the man who hands you your program when you go to the symphony, or the doctor who smiles at his patients, or the detective who won’t let somebody get away with murder.

Beddoe also supported his acting salary in real estate, and was active almost up until the time of his death at 87 in 1991.

* Beddoe’s line as Ben in River of No Return

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Follow me on Twitter @suesueapplegate or as Christy Putnam on Faceook.
Sue Sue Applegate is also on the TCM Message Boards Festivals Forum and The
Silver Screen Oasis.

Miss Kitty’s Long Branch of the Law

This review is part of the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Click here: http://classic-tv-blog-assoc.blogspot.com/2014/05/announcing-2014-summer-of-metv-classic.html to check out this blogathon’s complete schedule.

Grand Central Station, Kansas, 1874

The Long Branch Saloon actually existed, but as far as I can tell, it wasn’t managed or owned by anyone named “Miss Kitty.”

Front Street, Dodge City, KS, 1874, with Robert Wright and Charles Rath’s General store, Chalk Beeson’s Long Branch, George M. Hoover’s liquor and cigar store, and Frederick Zimmermann’s gun and hardware store.

The actual “establishment” hosted many well-known figures from the heyday of the Old West like Bat, Ed, and James Masterson, Doc Holliday, Clay Allison, Frank Loving, and Wyatt Earp. The fictional establishment inevitably seemed the home away from home for such characters as Matt Dillon, Festus Hagen, Doc, Chester, Newly, and many others seeking retribution, steady employment, a stiff drink, or a friendly game of cards.

Built in Dodge City, Kansas, the saloon was erected as a result of a bet between soldiers and cowboys playing ball. (Maybe that was what started that popular game for children’s recess, “Dodge” ball.) The soldiers agreed, if they lost the game, that they would provide building materials to construct a saloon.


Chalk Beeson, all slicked up to have his picture took…

William Harris and Chalk Beeson, a wealthy rancher, purhcased that very same saloon in 1878. The Long Branch was named after Harris’ hometown of Long Branch, New Jersey, and it was a standard storefront bar with little ostentation, and it prospered until the railroad replaced the financial influx of silver dollars from the dusty cattle drives which had been fillin’ the coffers and emptyin’ the bottles in the storeroom. The Long Branch Saloon was unfortunately the victim of a fire in 1885 and wasn’t rebuilt until someone decided to resurrect it as part of the fictional set of Gunsmoke.

Inside the real Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas…

Grand Central Station, 1970s, CBS…

Inside the real Long Branch Saloon on Gunsmoke

The Long Branch Saloon, featured in the longest running drama in television history for 19 years from September 14, 1955, to its final season in 1974, probably appeared in all 568 episodes, just as many as are credited to Miss Amanda Blake, who was born Beverly Louise Neill in Buffalo, New York. (Heck, yawl, ain’t that dangerously close to NEW YORK CITY?) Since ladies never give their age, you all will just have to google it, podners.

No one knew at the time that this lil’ gal would eventually become Amanda Blake who portrayed the apple of Matt’s eye, “Miss Kitty,” for 18 years on the longest running drama on television, Gunsmoke.

Blake left the penultimate year ‘cuz she just couldn’t stand to put on them curls, or reattach that derned bustle any more. She drew the line in the dusty dirt of Dodge City, and never crossed it again. But she sure did miss her friends. Blake told Mike Douglas that Milburn Stone, who played Doc, was kinda like her father figure.

(Amanda Blake tells it like it was on The Mike Douglas Show: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8KIDt27xEC4)

It tweren’t all smooth sailing in a prairie schooner, though. Blake needed a good friend on the set, too, ‘cuz Miss Kitty seemed to have at least one or two close calls ever year. She’d either get kidnapped as she was headed to the general store, or riding in an open buggy planning to have a picnic with Matt Dillon (James Arness), or she was headed back East fer a spell on the Overland Stage Coach, and it would get hijacked by a bunch of upstart poppinjays who were down on their luck. Real people who happened to live in Kansas, which is flatter than a buttermilk pancake made without bakin’ soda, just couldn’t understand those derned mountains up and down the trails on the t.v. set while they were a watchin’ the show. Why everbody in Kansas knowed that just tweren’t right. But Hollywood just had to show off them mountains in Califor-ny-yay whether it was geographically correct or not.

The real Long Branch was just as popular as the fictional one on T.V., and Old Chalky Beeson led a five-piece orchestra there that played dang near ever night. In addition to serving all kinds of alkyhol, and fancy champagne, and it wasn’t imported from Idaho, the selections also included beer, milk, lemonade, sasparilly, and tea. Dang. It was purty near as fancy as you could get in a dusty cow town.

When Gunsmoke began in 1955, Miss Kitty was just a working girl, but Matt took to her, right off….

But as things would happen, Miss Kitty bought a half-interest in the place, or won it in a game of poker or chuck-a-luck, and eventually she was able to buy the place outright and be the full owner after several years. Not bad for a workin’ girl.

And derned near everything happened in The Long Branch. Fights got started there, farms were won and lost at the poker table, purty gals just stood there a watchin’ when some cowpokes would be fightin’ over ’em, and Matt Dillon would stroll in, and keep the peace again and again, and if somebody got hurt, Doc would come and slap a bandage on whatever ailed ’em. Festus would just watch, or comment, but the best thing Festus did was speculate and worry.

Hear Miss Kitty sing “The Long Branch Blues” on Hee-Haw: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fGAly_oVO30

And if you miss that iconic song that always introduced an episode, watch it here:http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QYNuCsDrjK4
Or just tune in to MeTV and watch Gunsmoke all summer!

Amanda Blake’s filmography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0086469/?ref_=nmmd_md_nm

Christy Putnam is the KKES Radio classic film expert.

Follow me on Twitter: @suesueapplegate
TCM Message Boards: http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/39646-sue-sue-ii/

On The Set Of Turner Classic Movies With Ben Mankiewicz…

I was lucky enough to spend December 6th at the Turner Studios in Atlanta watching Ben Mankiewicz film some of his segments for our favorite cable channel, Turner Classic Movies, which will be twenty years old in 2014, and it is still commercial free.

Where else can classic film fans view their favorite films ad-free and with in-depth commentary by Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz?

My good friend Alexa Foreman, Senior Researcher at TCM, took me on a short tour of the offices of TCM personnel concerned with the responsibilities of the day-to-day operations, and I met the lovely Holly Harper, a sweet lady who just happens to be Programming Director. Harper also happily admits to reading the “Sue Sue” TCM Film Festival columns on the TCM Message Boards from time to time, some of which are archived on this blog, with more scheduled for updating by 2014. (The “Sue Sue” TCM Festival columns have a combined readership of over 100,000 views on three different blogs, one of which is The Silver Screen Oasis, host of a popular Guest Author Series highlighting authors concerned with classic film subjects.) Harper reads the TCM Message Boards every day and appreciates TCM viewers and their comments, and is enthusiastic about her dedication to TCM. I also was able to say hello to Tim Reilly, the director of my Fan Perspective Video filmed in 2010 on the roof of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, and watch the elusive but adorable Sean Cameron as he directed Ben Mankiewicz’s segments, as well meeting many other hard-working and dedicated staffers.


Senior Researcher Alexa Foreman hard at work…

I was most curious about how each introduction and final comments were written, reviewed, and filmed, and it is obvious that much detail and detective work accompanies scripts prepared for Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, and Mr. Osborne still reviews all the scripts used in the wraparounds.

A small portion of the TCM Research Library…

Ms. Foreman, as “The Keeper of the Flame” of accuracy and detail, reviews content, checks facts, and monitors a shoot while it is being filmed from her office outside of the studio. Foreman also reviews the video feed from the studio to modify any changes Ben Mankiewicz or Robert Osborne might make to a segment.

In order to research each script, Foreman has access to a huge library of film-related books, compilations, filmographies, encyclopedias, and biographies of actors, actresses, directors, technicians, photographers, and screenwriters, a roomful of digital files and interviews, and various other electronic sources in order to develop scripts for Osborne and Mankiewicz.


One of the many hallways leading to the studio where Ben Mankiewicz films his segments contains highlights of Turner Studios through the years…


When I arrived on the set before Ben had entered, I was immediately offered a sumptuous breakfast prepared by a local Atlanta caterer who had steam tables filled with hot biscuits, sausage, bacon, cheese grits, and eggs. Also prepared for the staff on set included coffee, tea, and sodas, fresh fruit, granola bars, and other yummy snacks. Since the action on the set is fast-paced and allows for a short lunch break and a ten-minute turnaround between sequences, TCM ensures all the breakfast and lunch needs of crew members to keep everyone happy!

Pat Segers, in charge of makeup and hairstyling on the set, is another sweet lady who has been with TCM since the beginning of operations, and has been privy to many of Robert Osborne’s Private Screenings as well as many of Osborne’s own wraparounds.

Segers shared that she met Betty Hutton, Robert Mitchum, Ann Miller, Jane Russell, and many other Private Screenings subjects, and marveled at how Osborne has been able to elicit such candid comments from many of Hollywood’s stars of classic films. Segers claimed Betty Hutton was quite nervous on the set, but Osborne’s manner helped to calm her for the cameras, and Hutton clutched her rosary for much of the filming. Ann Miller was very “polished” both in her appearance and her manner, and Robert Mitchum was laughing and joking with the crew, but was very ill at the time of his taping. Segers has her own personal styling business, and reveals that she “airbrushes” on all the foundation before her subjects are ready for their moment on the screen

When Ben arrived on the set, he smiled, and we started chatting about the last festival. He was happy to see I was there to chronicle his day in front of the camera.

Ben being prepped by a staffer for the next segment…

The first few moments before filming a segment, Ben reviews the scripts, and plans how he will pace his descriptions of each movie, sometimes repeating a name or phrase that he might be unsure of as he laughs and jokes with crew members in between preparation time and shooting the script. Ben also told me that he checks all his “scripts in the wraparounds” and receives copies several days prior to the shoot, editing and/or reviewing “every single one of them,” and often adding some of his personalized comments. On the day of filming, he reads through them again in order to make additional changes if necessary. With such detailed preproduction for the Mankiewicz and Osborne programs, Turner Classic Movies continues to be a cable channel whose personnel are all focused on accuracy and professionalism.

Ben also wanted me to share a photo with everyone…

The Atlanta set is decorated with Rookie’s leash and other pet related items, and Ben was wistful talking about Rookie, and was deeply impressed that his fans cared so much about his beloved furry friend. Since there had been such concern during the last festival about the death of Rookie, he wanted everyone to see his current pals–Petey, Lewey, and Bob, and he said that Bob is actually a girl!

More in Part 2 …

Many thanks to Ben Mankiewicz, Alexa Foreman, Sean Cameron, and the crew of Turner Classic Movies for a fabulous day in Atlanta!

Pat Segers has her own make-up and styling business and can be contacted at pat@patsegers.com.

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FLORENCE BATES: IT’S A GRAND FEELING!

FLORENCE BATES: IT’S A GRAND FEELING!

My Interview with Ann Hamilton, Florence Bates’ Granddaughter, and Rachel Hamilton, Florence Bates’ Great-Granddaughter

Ever watch a film with Florence Bates in it? If you did, you probably had a difficult time taking your eyes off of her formidable image or tuning out her dialogue as she clipped and snapped orders around the room. I know I did.

The first time I saw Rebecca with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, I knew who they were, but I was also impressed with someone else.

I wanted to know who the actress was who portrayed Edythe Van Hopper! She ordered poor Joan Fontaine around like she was a piece of furniture, she demanded that her hired nurse do her bidding, and I seriously doubt Mrs. Van Hopper paid much attention to her doctor or his orders when she demanded a chocolate right after she took her medicine.

Such curiosity also led me to seek out more information about Florence Bates, and I discovered that she has her own entry in the Texas State Historical Association website. Born Florence Rabe (pronounced “Robbie”) on April 15, 1888 in San Antonio, Texas, her father was the owner of an antique store. As a child, Bates showed unusually advanced musical talent on the piano, but an injury to her hand kept Bates from pursuing a professional career in music, even though she continued to play and to enjoy her arpeggios the rest of her life.

Bates graduated from high school in 1903 and pursued a degree in mathematics at the University of Texas in Austin, graduating in 1906. She subsequently worked as a schoolteacher and social worker until she married a man named Joseph Ramer around 1909, and gave up her career to raise her daughter, Mimi. When her marriage didn’t succeed, Bates divorced, a scandalous step in the early 1900s, and no one ever found out what became of Mr. Ramer.

Myrna Loy, William Powell, and Florence Bates in Love Crazy as Mrs. Cooper, the epitome of the nagging, nosy mother-in-law.

Encouraged by a judge in San Antonio who was a family friend, Bates used the judge’s personal law library to study for the bar, and passed the grueling exam six months later in 1914, becoming one of the first, if not the first woman to earn a law degree in the state of Texas, practicing law for four years.

When Bates’ parents died, she left the legal profession so that she and her sister could manage the family antique store, and traveled to Europe and Asia, using her foreign language skills and her ability to negotiate as a buyer for the retail establishment. It was also during this time that she became a bilingual radio commentator on a program designed to foster relations between the United States and Mexico. In 1929, Florence Bates’ sister died and after the stock market crash, she closed the antique business and married William F. Jacoby, a well-to-do Texas oilman.

She and her husband moved to Mexico and El Paso, but when Jacoby lost his financial holdings when Mexico nationalized its petroleum industry, they moved to Los Angeles and opened the P & J Bakery which operated successfully until 1940 when the Jacobys sold the company. (The “J” stands for Jacoby, but no one knows what the “P” symbolizes.)

According to Ann Hamilton, Florence Bates’ granddaughter, not long after arriving in California, Florence Jacoby went to the Pasadena Playhouse with a friend, Estelle Rosenfield, who had planned to audition for a role in Emma. Hamilton recalls that “Estelle was a mean, nasty woman. She really wanted the part, but since my grandmother had just come with her to the audition, the director, DeWitt Bodeen, told her to begin her reading. And my grandmother said, ‘No, no. I’m not here to do a reading.’ Bodeen told her,”well, you’re already here.” Hamilton stated that “My grandmother got the part, although Estelle really wanted it badly.”

Florence Jacoby’s experience with Emma was so successful that she kept the last name of her character, Mrs. Bates, and was billed professionally henceforth as ‘Florence Bates,’ and frequently flourished as a wealthy but aggressive matron, much like her character of Edith Van Hopper in Rebecca opposite Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.

But Hamilton claims that her grandmother was “larger than life, charismatic, and confident.” One episode came to light when she was contacted by a family friend, a man named Bernard, who still lives in Texas, and he related his experiences with Florence Bates when he met her on a visit to California in the 1940s. A mutual acquaintance of Bernard’s knew Bates, and helped him make a connection with her on his first visit to Los Angeles. “This friend, Sue, who is 85, stated my grandmother was a ‘true Bohemian’ ,” claimed Hamilton. “Bernard was 18 at that time, and my grandmother was in her 50s, and Bernard said that she picked him up at the station, and as he was in the army, he needed to go to San Diego for some reason, and she lent him her car. Bernard said she was incredibly warm, was the life of the party, and hosted several social events. He spoke lovingly of her nurturing, motherly self and said she was incredibly lively,” Hamilton said proudly as we spoke on the phone.


Cuddling with S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall…

“It was wonderful to talk to someone after so many years who knew about my grandmother, and Bernard also said that Will and Florence had a beautiful love affair, he was her advisor and supportive of her, they made a great team. Will was her anchor, and their marriage was a happy one.”

Evidently Will was a meek, mild, quiet kind of guy, but he completely supported Bates in all her endeavors, according to Bernard.

As for her personal attire while at home, Hamilton reveals that “Florence always wore a full-length dressing gown, or a floor length hostess gown, and carried her eyeglasses on a handle, a lorgnette. She dressed outlandishly, and had very long fingernails.” (Evident in her performance as Edith Van Hopper in Rebecca.) Hamilton also related that “she told me she was almost a concert pianist, and she told me she was good. Her fingernails were so long that they would click on the keys as she played the piano, and when they began to make more noise than the piano, she would trim them.”

Hamilton remembers that she spent a few summers at Big Bear Lake summer camp, and also went to several movie sets with her grandmother. “I helped Joseph Cotten with his lines in Portrait of Jennie. When Bates appeared at the La Jolla Playhouse in Arsenic and Old Lace, her granddaughter went with her and saw ten shows a week. “Richard Carlson had the Cary Grant lead in that particular run of the play.”

In rehearsal…

Ali Faranahkian, Frances Callier. Amy Poehler, Pat McCartney, Ed Smaron, Bill Chott & Rachel Hamilton

Ann’s daughter, Rachel Hamilton is an improvisational comedian, writer, and instructor living in San Francisco, and has appeared in 30 Rock, Chaos Theory, and spent several years as a cast member at Second City, Chicago, so the acting and performing genes definitely run in the family.

Comedian Rachel Hamilton with friend Tami Sagher

Rachel has gone to The Paley Center For Media during the time she was living and performing improvisational comedy in New York City, and seen footage of her great-grandmother performing on a game show in the 1950s with stars and celebrities of the day as they played charades in two different teams. “In that clip, she is not in character, yet she is in a full-beaded gown, with pince nez,” and she believes that Bates “walked the world in character.” Mother Ann chimed in and stated warmly that “she was warm and fuzzy and kindhearted and sympathetic as can be,” wherein daughter Rachel claimed her own mother was a “chip off the old block.” Both women speak fondly of their famous “character” relation, and their enthusiasm for Florence Bates’ acting abilities never ceases. “I loved her appearance in I Love Lucy (“Pioneer Women”episode, 1952) because she always seemed sharp, hilariously sharp” in all of her appearances.

Florence Bates has appeared in more than 70 films and television programs and some of her more memorable appearances are as the pushy Mrs. Manly in A Letter to Three Wives, and the vindictive Mrs. Van Hopper in Rebecca, but a few of her more kindly characters like the motherly Mollie Veech in Whistle Stop (Ava Gardner’s first major scree role) have also fascinated me because it was such an unusual departure from some of her aggressive, nasty ladies she usually portrayed to keep the action on screen moving forward.

In rehearsal…

Her turn as social arbiter Sophie Bellop in Saratoga Trunk starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman is my favorite Bates’ role because she is aggressive when she needs to be, but very sweet and endearing when she’s working her charms and trying to convince Ingrid Bergman as Cleo Dulaine to allow her to be Dulaine’s chaperon:

“I know my way around this world. I know what it is to be very rich, and I know what it is to be very poor…I live by my wits. It’s a grand feeling. They can’t take those away from me!”

Such a heartfelt comment was written in the script for the character of Sophie Bellop, but what made it ring so true on film was that it described the exciting, event-filled existence Florence Bates personally experienced.
Follow the link to view a clip of Florence Bates in Saratoga Trunk: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=e8Fuur3ViDU


John Warburton, Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, Florence Bates and Ethel Griffies in Saratoga Trunk

Filmed in 1943, but not released until 1945, Saratoga Trunk had been screened for two years to Armed Forces’ audiences in service club theaters all over the world. When it finally opened to the general public, it was a sensation, and by the fourth week of its release, the film, based on an Edna Ferber novel, had been seen by an audience one fourth the size of all of Los Angeles, and Look magazine ran a special issue hailing Saratoga Trunk as an exemplary film, and I must add that Sophie Bellop in Saratoga Trunk is one of Florence Bates’ most outstanding performances.

In her film career, Bates worked with Sam Wood, Joe Mankiewicz, George Stevens, Albert Lewin, David Butler and Alfred Hitchcock, who at first believed her to be from the British stage. Her characters have been women who moved the conflicts of film plots forward, and her own personal life as a “true Bohemian” has revealed what a character she really was. It was a “grand feeling” watching her in any of her appearances on film and on television, and it must have been “grand” seeing her on the stage of the Pasadena Playhouse.

But, then again, the world was her stage.

Florence Bates in A Letter To Three Wives: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mQBfZocvgzA

Title photo is of Florence Bates and Grady Sutton in My Dear Secretary(1949)

Personal Note: After completing all my research and speaking with Ann and Rachel Hamilton, I found that I actually had quite a bit in common with Florence Bates. I am bilingual, and a professional pianist! Many thanks to Ann and Rachel Hamilton!

Resources:
Texas State Historical Association, A Handbook of Texas: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fjact
International Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0060904/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
The Pasadena Playhouse: http://www.pasadenaplayhouse.org/
Personal Interviews with Ann Hamilton and Rachel Hamilton: October 2013

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CATTLE QUEEN OF THE SCREEN

I loved seeing Giant on the big screen this past year at the TCMFF 2013 and listening to all of Jane Withers’s stories about the making of that legendary film, and this summer I was able to do a little bit of traveling Texas myself.

In August I made my annual summer trek to the hill country to see my last living aunt who is 92, and visited friends and family in the area. We woke up in the morning and had coffee while we fed the deer off of the back porch and talked about what lovely animals they are.

One special deer came up very close…

While driving through Dripping Springs, I saw this lovely pair of horses enjoying a summer nibble…

And I also attended the Blanco County Rodeo in August in Johnson City…

…where I took this blurry action shot of the legendary Leon Coffee, a rodeo clown who has been entertaining audiences and challenging the roughest rodeo circuits for 44 years and counting…

Read more about wonderful Leon Coffee here and see some live action video: http://www.khou.com/entertainment/rodeo-houston/Rodeo-clown–196637291.html
The excitement of cowgirl heaven also reminds me that Hollywood stuntwoman Martha Crawford Cantarini will be visiting The Silver Screen Oasis this weekend, September 28th and 29th, to discuss her work for such luminaries as Jean Simmons, Rhonda Fleming, and Carroll Baker.

To learn more about Martha Crawford Cantarini, or learn about her autobiography, Fall Girl: My Life as a Western Stunt Double, visit us here:
http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewtopic.php?f=90&t=6343

Eleanor Parker and Martha Crawford Cantarini
Aren’t they amazing?

MeTV Summer Blogathon of Classic TV– “Bewitched, Bothered, and Belittled”


“This post is part of Me-TV’s Summer of Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association.”

Go to http://classic-tv-blog-assoc.blogspot.com to view more posts in this blogathon. You can also go to http://metvnetwork.com to learn more about Me-TV and view its summer line-up of classic TV shows.

“Bewitched, Bothered, and Belittled”

Watching the colorful caricature of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha cross the moon on her broom during the opening theme of Bewitched always made me feel at home wherever I was. Samantha’s house on Morning Glory CIrcle had family members popping in and out, much like at my house, and they almost all expected immediate veneration except for Aunt Clara. The humble scraping and genuflecting reminded me of my own home and how it must have been to walk the fence between Darrin and Endora, Maurice, Aunt Clara, or Uncle Arthur.

The character of Uncle Arthur always appealed to my pun-loving nature, and the practical jokes he loved to play while slyly grinning and ensnaring his latest victim of warlock waywardness appealed to my teenage sense of fun. Paul Lynde’s performances as Uncle Arthur inspired me to make fun if I wasn’t having any, and look for the laughter where there might not be any.

It’s obvious Sammy has hit a pensive note. Could Uncle Arthur be considering reformation?

But his first appearance on Bewitched had nothing to do with Endora’s younger brother, Arthur. The very first time Paul Lynde appeared on Bewitched in 1966, he had to tell Samantha how rotten she was. He didn’t want to, but it was his job.

A publicity photo early in Paul Lynde’s career…

Lynde’s first foray into Morning Glory Circle occurred in the guise of Harold Harold, a haplessly frazzled driving instructor hired by Darrin (Dick York) to help Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) navigate the cul de sacs and four-way stops endemic to suburbia in the sixties. Unfortunately, her driving didn’t sail as smoothly as her take-offs into the blue, and Harold Harold explained how his brothers-in-law took turns hiring and firing him, which obviously made him insecure, but Samantha helped Harold Harold to feel a little more stable by the end of the episode.

That signature style of snappy comebacks obviously couldn’t be ignored, and six or seven months later, in October of 1965, Lynde morphed into Uncle Arthur, a man no longer belittled, but empowered. Hailed by Endora (Agnes Moorehead) as the “Clown Prince of the Cosmos,” Lynde’s wisecracking warlock was not long-winded, just lively. His magical powers rivaled Endora’s and they often had round one, round two, and round three before the final bell when the credits would roll. Somehow the endless monikers Endora bestowed on Darrin because she couldn’t bear to use his real name never seemed to inspire Uncle Arthur to rename Endora. But I would have loved to see him try. Endearing? No that can’t have anything to do with Endora. Endymion? Unendurable?Endifferent? Endoscopy?

Lynde’s only album…

Everyone’s favorite warlock punster always must have been a ratings booster, and if he wasn’t, I’d be surprised. “The Joker is a Card” is Uncle Arthur’s first official “pop in” to “Sammy’s” place, and if you weren’t amused by Lynde’s nasally pronunciation of “Sammy” while flashing teeth in that permanently formed smile, you missed part of his initial charm. It wasn’t so much the words or the puns, it was his delivery. He loved to accentuate those plays on words with his signature grin and a twinkle-twinkle-twink in his eyes. I always knew Uncle Arthur was up to something. He always had a gag and a pun, just to put “Sammy” in a good mood.


Up to his “neck in work…”

In the first episode of Bewitched when Lynde’s Uncle Arthur initially appears, Arthur offers to help Darrin teach Endora a lesson by giving him a spell that will make her disappear, and Darrin initially rejects his offer, but not much later Darrin can be heard chanting a song to cast a spell with a cowbell and a duck call, a tune that still reverberates with the lovable silliness in Lynde’s first appearance in the Bewitched saga: “Yaga-Zoozie, Yaga-Zoozie, Yaga-Zoozie-Zam!”

It was supposed to make Endora disappear.

But with Uncle Arthur, there was more raucous fun than retribution as Darrin was just working up some “Yaga-Zoozie” fervor for Uncle Arthur’s own amusement. Later in the same episode, Uncle Arthur, Samantha, Endora and Darrin are having coffee. When Arthur asks Darrin if he wants some cream, Darrin replies “yes” and Arthur materializes a cow with the quip that Darrin could help himself. Of course, Arthur couldn’t help “milking a good joke,” because he was a serial practical joker and a powerful pun-lover.

But I loved Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur because he was always tempting “Sammy” to give in to her “naughtier” impulses. She always understood his jokes, and she always found something to laugh about with him. They had a familial relationship that made all of Samantha’s other relationships with relatives seem constrained. With Uncle Arthur,
he definitely…

became…

a man for all seasons.

After all, laughter is the best medicine any time of year.
But my favorite image follows…

I think this lovely photo might be how Paul Lynde would want to be remembered professionally. Elizabeth Montgomery is looking adoringly at him in this photo, and it’s apparent that she cherishes him, his humor, and his wit. I think that’s how he would like to be remembered. After all, he would often sign his fan photos with “Love and Laugher, Paul Lynde.”