Tuesday, April 30, 2024

PBS Retro - A New TV Channel

Last year I was feeling nostalgic and wanted to watch some older episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood but sadly, I couldn't find any free episodes on any of the streaming services on Roku. Every episode since the beginning of Mister Rogers Neighborhood was available on Amazon Prime for $1.99 an episode, but shucks.... none for free! Luckily, I discovered misterrogers.org and this site offers six episodes of the show rotated twice a month, so that fed my desire temporarily. 

However, patience is always rewarded. This morning, I discovered PBS Retro, a new channel available on Live Roku and - surprise! - 1970s and 1980s-era episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood play every morning from 10am-12pm EST (also at other times during the day).

A quick search online told me that PBS Retro is only a few weeks old. This channel is one of six free PBS channels available to stream, including PBS Food, PBS Antiques Road Show, Antiques Road Trip, PBS Nature, and the Julia Child channel. 

In addition to airing episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, PBS Retro also includes 1970s, 80s, and 90s classics like Kratts' Creatures, Thomas and Friends, Reading Rainbow, and Zoboomafoo. Unfortunately, no Wishbone, Electric Company, or NOVA, but I haven't checked out the channel at all times during the day, so perhaps they will pull out on occasion some rarities from their archives. Anyone remember 3-2-1 Contact? But right now, I am pleased that they are offering this - and the commercials are few. If you are looking for episodes of Painting with Bob Ross, old episodes of Fireman Sam, or This Old House there already are channels devoted to these shows on Roku. 

Happy days are here again!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

April in Paris (1952)

S. Wintrop Putnam made a terrible mistake. As Assistant Secretary to the Assistant to the Undersecretary of State, his task was to send an invitation to Ethel Barrymore asking her to visit Paris as a personal representative of the American theater at the International Festival of Arts. Instead, he addressed the invitation to Ethel "Dynamite" Jackson, a New York City chorus girl(!).

His faux-pas turns out to be "a stroke of genius!" and S.Wintrop (Ray Bolger) is sent to accompany the well-built Miss Jackson (Doris Day) on her ocean voyage to Paris - and naturally falls in love with her en route. 

April in Paris was one of the many comedy-musicals that Doris Day made in the early 1950s. It does not rank as one of her best, but it has its funny moments, especially during the shipboard scenes. Director David Butler, always a reliable professional, seems to have done his best with the material he had but the material he had was not substantial to begin with. Jack Rose's script needed more broader humor to support its thin plot or else a stronger - and sillier - leading man, such as Danny Kaye. 

As it is, the film feels like it was rushed into production and the script was hastily written while shooting began. Gay ooh-la-la Paree deserved better. 

French actor Claude Dauphin was given a large supporting role as a friend of both Ethel and Wintrop, but even this part needed a man with a more vibrant personality, like Fernandel. Fortunately, both Doris Day and Ray Bolger had plenty of opportunity to sing and dance and they were best in their numbers together. The "I'm Gonna Ring the Bell Tonight" performance is especially fun. Other songs included the titular "April in Paris" by Yip Harberg, and "That's What Makes Paris Paree", where Doris Day showed off one of the many beautiful Leah Rhodes costumes for the film.

The supporting cast of April in Paris included Eve Miller as Winthrop's betrothed, Paul Harvey and George Givot. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


Good heavens! Just when you think these games couldn't get any harder, you see a scene like this....blurry men walking blurry dogs. It just happens to be a lousy screenshot, because the film is quite clear - in fact, it has been released several times on DVD in various restored editions.

As always, if you need to know the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Who Done It? (1956)

Benny Hill done it, that's who! Before the famed English comedian made a name for himself on television as the star of The Benny Hill Show, he made this fast-moving farce playing a detective who sets out to capture enemy agents bent on destroying England with a weather-making machine. 

Hill stars as Hugo Dill, an ice sweeper at a skating rink who long dreamed of becoming a private detective. When he wins £100 and a bloodhound in a contest, he feels he is ready to embark on his new career. Within one day of opening his office doors, he gets embroiled in a scheme by a ruthless Iron Curtain gang to control England by using Professor Stumpf's newly-invented weather-making machine. Can you imagine what havoc the enemy could wreak if they caused rain to fall on England on a daily basis? 

Benny Hill had a natural flair for comedy and he is highly entertaining in Who Done It?, his first starring film and the last. Later on, Hill had roles in Skywatch (1960) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1970) and guest appearances in a few other films, but he never got a picture entirely to himself again... which is a shame, since he could carry a film better than many of his comedic peers. 

The script, by T.E.B. Clarke, was written especially for Hill and has some amusing moments, especially during the finale where Hill appears in drag (of course!) but, at the theaters, the movie did not bring in the tickets expected and Ealing Studios decided not to make another Benny Hill film. In fact, after many years of outputting fine comedies, this comedy was Ealing Studios' last. Hill made a number of suggestions to improve the script prior to filming, but director Basil Dearden rejected them all. Too bad...audiences would probably have come in droves to see Hill's unique and cheeky humor on display in full force. 

Co-starring with Hill is the delightful Belinda Lee who was a busy up-and-rising star at the time. She made a number of British films before moving to Rome to focus on Italian pictures. Unfortunately, her life was cut short when she died in a car accident at the age of 25. 

Also in the cast is David Kossoff as the ringleader of the Iron Curtain group. Kossoff later appeared in one of our favorite Disney spy films The London Connection as Professor Buchinski. What makes Who Done It? so fun to watch is all of the familiar character actors who make brief appearances. These characters include Thorley Walters, Ernest Thesinger, Irene Handl, Arthur Lowe, Terence Alexander, Glyn Houston, and the always entertaining Nicholas Phipps, who was wasted in such a small part. 

While Who Done It? may not appeal to some due to its broad humor, it's a pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon and get a few laughs. And, if you are one of the many Benny Hill fans, you'd be pleased to see him in his first screen appearance. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Film Albums: Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren (1960)

This month's featured film album is a departure from the usual soundtrack LP and features two popular stars of the 1960s - Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren - joining forces for a rollicking good time on a self-titled album. Peter displays his ability to change his voice for various characters on some comedic tracks and the remaining pieces are musical numbers performed as duets or just by Ms. Loren herself.

Sophia Loren had a charming singing voice with a heavy Italian accent. Her "Americano" number from It Started in Naples (1960) is probably her most famous song, but she also did the wonderful "Soldi, Soldi, Soldi" from Boccaccio 70 (1962) which I think was her best. On this album, she performs "Zoo Be Zoo Be Zoo" and "I Fell in Love with an Englishman" with Peter Sellers contributing some funny commentary. But don't think he can't sing! For the "Fare Thee Well" number, you'll hear that he has a surprisingly pleasant voice. 

This album probably sold a good number of copies on its release because it features the song "Goodness Gracious Me!" which reached into the Top 5 in the UK. This comedy novelty number was conceived by George Martin, the Beatle's producer, as a nod to The Millionairess and told the story of an Italian woman visiting an Indian doctor to tell him about her heart going "boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom" and eventually causing his heart to do the same! 

The wonderful Ron Goodwin and his Orchestra provided the music for this LP which was released by Angel Records (33910). 

Click here to listen to Goodness Gracious Me! on Youtube. (You can also find all of the other songs online)

Track Listing

Side One:

Goodness Gracious Me


Zoo Be Zoo Be Zoo

Side Two:

Oh, Lady be Good!

To Keep My Love Alive

Why Worry?

Grandpa's Grave

I Fell in Love with an Englishman

Fare Thee Well

Top Picks: Goodness Gracious Me, Fare Thee Well, Why Worry? Zoo be Zoo be Zoo

Saturday, April 6, 2024

From the Archives: Hazel (1962)


Caught in the act! Oh, Mr. B... you should be ashamed of yourself. Hazel caught you raiding the refrigerator again - and after you swore that you were going to stick with your diet! Tsk, tsk, tsk. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store: http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures