Thursday, September 22, 2016

Must-See Movie: Best Foot Forward

Best Foot Forward (1943)
A cadet at Winsocki Military Academy named Bud (Tommy Dix) sends an invitation to movie star Lucille Ball (as herself) to come to Winsocki's big dance. Ball's publicity-hungry agent Jack O'Riley (William Gaxton) convinces her to go in order to boost her career. Complications arise when Bud's girlfriend Helen (Virginia Weidler) unexpectedly shows up; she knows there is a dance that weekend and she wants to surprise him.

The real 40's slapstick unfolds when Bud asks Ball to pretend to be Helen, mostly because of the strict screening of the school that all guests must be pre-registered.

A subplot involves blind date (and hard up) Nancy (Nancy Walker), and her premiere role is hilarious.  But it's all a pretty straight-forward movie with some brief shining moments from supporting cast members Walker, Dix, Weidler, June Allyson, and Gloria DeHaven. Unfortunately, Ball's performance comes off as snobby and pretentious.  Yes, it's supposed to be a parody of herself, but not really a flattering one.

So why is this a "Must-See Movie"?  Two words: Harry James.  Not only does James execute rousing renditions of big band favorites like "Two O'Clock Jump," he demonstrates his true musical mastery with "The Flight of the Bumblebee."  (And if you can do that song with your fingers moving as fast as he does, well then I tip my proverbial hat to you as well!) Watch this, and see how seriously James takes his performance!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Va Va Voom" Star of the Day: Harry James

Harry James
Taken from the official Harry James website:
Harry Haag James was born in 1916 in Albany, Georgia, in the United States. He learned the trumpet from his father, a circus bandleader. James decided to pursue a professional career in music after winning a state high-school trumpet competition.

Harry began to perform with several dance bands, including that of Ben Pollack's popular group. The flawless, technically outstanding trumpeter played for several years with the Benny Goodman Band before forming his own band in 1939 with a gifted but little known vocalist, Frank Sinatra.

During the golden era of the big bands, Harry recorded a number of hits, including "I've Heard That Song Before," from the motion picture Youth on Parade (1942), "You Made Me Love You" (1941), the number-one instrumental hit "Sleepy Lagoon" (1942), "I Had the Craziest Dream" (1943), "You'll Never Know" and his theme song, "Ciribiribin." His band helped launch the careers of many pop music stars of the World War II era, including Frank Sinatra and Helen Forrest.  Ed. note: Doris Day sang with him on one of the greatest albums ever, "Young Man With a Horn," which was the soundtrack for the movie of the same name.

Friday, September 16, 2016


"The secret of staying young is to live honestly, 
eat slowly, and lie about your age."
-- Lucille Ball

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cocktail Recipe Du Jour: The B&B (and B)

If you've ever watched the Mel Brooks classic "High Anxiety" (like I have) and were captured by the 70's portrayal of the piano bar and cocktail scene (like I was), you'll appreciate this.  

In the 1977 film that pays homage to Hitchcock classics, psychiatrist Dr. Thorndyke (Brooks) suffers from "high anxiety" (a.k.a. vertigo).  One of his patients is a mystery that he is trying to unravel.  The patient's daughter Victoria is trying to assist him in his findings, so of course they meet at a piano bar to discuss matters.  Cut to the piano bar where we find Thorndyke and Victoria sitting by the piano, and a waiter is bringing them drinks.  "Here you have a B&B," he says, handing the drink to Thorndyke, "and you had the B and B and B," he finishes, handing Victoria her drink.

So what is a B&B, you ask?  Glad you asked.

Monday, September 12, 2016

"Va Va Voom" Star of the Day: Ava Gardner

This is an updated version of a previous post.
Ava Gardner
Beautiful, shining star of the MGM studio, Ava was born in 1922.  She was the youngest of 7 children living on a cotton and tobacco farm in the rural southern town of Smithfield, North Carolina.

Her show business beginning began just as simply.  Her brother-in-law, a professional photographer took her photo in 1941 and displayed it at his studio.  A theater clerk saw her photo and told the photographer that she oughta' be in pictures, and the in-laws sent her information and photo immediately to MGM.

According to reports, when Gardner first arrived at the studio and did a screen test, Louis B. Mayer said "She can't sing. She can't act. She can't talk. She's terrific. Sign her." She got a 7-year contract with MGM.  The studio worked with her to remove her Carolina drawl and teach her to act.  Soon she had been in several films with little to no notice, but was gaining experience on set.  It wasn't until 1946 in the film "The Killers" that Ava rose her to sex symbol status and made her a big star.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Good Things To Eat

Not "Delicious," not "Great," just Good.  I'm sure there's a sequel cookbook out there that then lists alternative recipes called BAD Things To Eat, but I'm glad I came across this small, aged cookbook at an estate sale.

Maybe back in 1936, when this was published, you just didn't get all that excited about food.  It was more a means to an end. You're hungry. You need to eat. Here's some stuff. It's cheap. It's easy. Period.

Monday, September 05, 2016

"Va Va Voom" Star of the Day

Grace Kelly
Today let us highlight the Princess of Monaco.

Grace struck out on her own after high school, heading to New York's bright lights to try her luck. Grace worked as a model but made her acting debut on Broadway in 1949. She also had a brief stint in television. Not content with the work in New York, Grace moved to Southern California for the more prestigious part of acting -- motion pictures.

In 1951, she appeared in her first film Fourteen Hours when she was 22. It was a small part, but a start nonetheless. The following year she landed the role of Amy Kane in High Noon, a western starring Gary Cooper and Lloyd Bridges which turned out to be very popular. In 1953, Grace appeared in only one film, but it was another popular one, Mogambo. The film was a jungle drama in which fellow cast members, Clark Gable and Ava Gardner turned in masterful performances. It was also one of the best films ever released by MGM.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cocktail Recipe Du Jour: The Fuzzy Navel

Did you know there are three different ways to make what people think is the typical "Fuzzy Navel"?

First, a history lesson: the 1980's brought a revival of cocktails and mixed drinks, and the fuzzy navel was one of the first to come forward. Over 30 years ago Ray Foley, a well known bartender and founder of Bartender Magazine was cutting an orange for a garnish when a man nearby made the remark that he could still smell the fuzz of the peach schnapps through the orange juice. Ray looked at the orange and saw the printed word "Navel" on the navel orange, and was inspired.

So what are the three ways to make it? There's the typical Fuzzy Navel:
In a rocks glass, over ice, pour 1 oz. Peach Schnapps and then fill with orange juice.

Then there's the Hairy Navel:
In a collins glass, over ice, pour 1 oz. vodka, 1/2 oz. Peach Schnapps, and then fill with orange juice.

And then there's the Pierced Navel:
In a collins glass, over ice, pour 1 oz. tequila, 1/2 oz. Peach Schnapps, and then fill with orange juice.

So now you know there are 3 ways to have your belly button cocktails!  Cheers!