Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christening 2014 On The Mark Twain



Champagne and New Year's Eve go hand-in-hand, so what better way to ring in the new year than to go back to July 17, 1955, when actress Irene Dunne christened the Mark Twain riverboat at Disneyland with a bottle of of water from a number of major American rivers. Thanks to the USC digital archives, we are able to see a number of views of this historic occasion. By herself, Dunne preps for her moment on television.



Joined by host Art Linkletter, the two have been caught in a moment of calm before the TV cameras start to roll on them.



I tried to zoom in for a closer look at the bottle to see what brand of champagne it was, but then was reminded by one of my readers that it was water. Doh.



There she goes! Irene breaks the bottle, as the cameras catch the moment from the front of the ship:



A detailed view:



And from the opposite angle, we see the water spraying all over the place. I wonder if they had it carbonated for better effect?



Art Linkletter either loaded on the zinc oxide or just happened to have his lower lip hit directly by a ray of light:



Afterwards, Art & Irene discuss the wreckage:



Wishing all of you out there a safe and happy New Year's Eve celebration!

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Sunset Boulevard Hotels, 1957



Travel back in time with Daveland to Hollywood's famed Sunset Boulevard, circa 1957. In this first image, you can see The Chateau Marmont on the left (still kickin'!) and The Garden of Allah on the right (bulldozed for a lousy strip mall).

This detailed view zeroes in on the Chateau, with the 6th Floor Penthouse suite visible on the right:



This detailed view shows a ginormous revolving Las Vegas showgirl statue that advertised the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas from 1957-1966. She was eventually replaced by a Marlboro Man Billboard.



Across the street in 1961, this Bullwinkle and Rocky statue (inspired by the short-lived Vegas Showgirl) was unveiled by Jayne Mansfield for the opening of the Jay Ward offices. The statue was removed last summer for a much needed refurbishment. Hope it comes back soon!



Back to our initial image, here's a detailed view of the Garden of Allah hotel:



For a front view of the hotel, here's an image from the USC digital archives:



Down the street a bit is the Sunset Tower, seen in this 1957 view:



Gotta' zoom in for a detailed view of the vintage cars:



Today, the Sunset Tower is still in operation (albeit with a few name changes along the way).



I guess 2 out of 3 survivors isn't too bad for Hollywood!

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fundraiser at the DeFore's, 1951



As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a batch of images that turned out to include Don DeFore ("Hazel" and Disneyland's Silver Banjo Restaurant) in them. His son Ron was able to explain their context:

These are from a fundraiser my Dad produced for the Village Church in Brentwood circa 1951. It was held at our house and had an old fashioned theme. Here’s another photo from that same event (see first black and white shot below). The local TV station covered the event, which included Eddie Bracken and a number of other celebrities.

A vintage publicity caption from July 25, 1951 provides some further info:

When the Village Church of Westwood, California needed funds for some new additions the Film Folk of the congregation decided to put on a Gay Ninetees box lunch social and entertainment to raise the money…Actor Don DeFore, one of the active members of the congregation, donated his home in Brentwood for the occasion and the rest of the film folk and congregation donated the box lunches which were auctioned off…the purchasers of the lunches then had the privilege of dining with the actresses who donated the luncheon. Tony Caruso, Don DeFore, and John Bromfield furnished some of the entertainment.



This closeup of the first image shows Don and his wife:



A detailed view showing actor/comedian Eddie Bracken:



He is best known to today's audiences for his cameo as Roy Wally of Wally World fame in the Chevy Chase comedy "Vacation":



The Village Church of Brentwood was built in 1946. Those not aware of this church may have at least seen the large cross which was lighted at night and visible for a mile along the 405 freeway.



DeFore and is wife are at left again in this image; I am sure there are a number of other celebrities that my readers would be able to identify. Many look familiar but I couldn't begin to name them.



I believe this last shot showing Ozzie and Harriet is from the same event.



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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Good News



It doesn't have the splashy over-the-top production numbers typical of other Technicolor MGM Musicals, but "Good News" is still one of my favorites from that period. Star June Allyson also considered this to be one of her personal favorites, and it surely shows in her vibrant performance as a student working her way through college. Note: Allyson was 30 years old when she made this film, and costar Peter Lawford was 24. Her perkiness and youthful zest makes the whole thing totally believable...or at least acceptable!



The plot is pretty simple: student librarian Connie Lane (Allyson) falls for Tait College's football star Tommy Marlowe (Peter Lawford) after giving him a lesson in French. A gold-digging vamp, Pat McClellan (Patricia Marshall), sticks her hooks in Marlowe when she mistakenly believes he comes from a wealthy family. Who ends up with Marlowe? Do you even need to ask? Department of Irony: Lawford spoke fluent French but Allyson did not, so he had to teach her how to teach him to speak French for their introductory scene, which you can see here:



As Allyson recalled: "No one made any effort to change Peter Lawford's British accent to American. For that matter, my French accent was atrocious and his was superb - he spent hours teaching me how to teach him French."



Originally, "Good News" was to be a blockbuster musical starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, but instead, the popular duo filmed "Strike Up the Band" (1940). By the time "Good News" appeared on the MGM production list, Garland's popularity precluded her from being in a lesser vehicle such as this. Fortunately, June Allyson was on hand to play Connie. Her natural performance and chemistry with Lawford make the film a total joy to discover. Choreographer Chuck Walters earned "Good News" as his first directorial assignment; he did such a great job that he was given "Easter Parade" with Garland and Astaire as a follow-up. MGM contract player Gloria DeHaven was unhappy about the roles being given to her, and thus refused to play the part of Pat McClellan, which led to a brief studio suspension. Irony of ironies is that had she taken this role, it most likely would have helped her career. Instead, her next film was the forgotten "Summer Holiday" with Mickey Rooney.



Lawford's singing leaves a bit to be desired (especially when compared to costar Mel Tormé's), but his dancing in the finale is top-notch, thanks to hours and hours of practice. When his former dance teacher saw the film, she exclaimed, "Anybody who could teach that boy to sing and dance in time has got to be a genius." You can see the fruits of Lawford's labor in the energy-filled finale, "The Varsity Drag":



Are your toes still tapping?

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Friday, December 27, 2013

1964 Olympic Team in Town Square



If you've never visited the online digital archives of UCLA, you should. There are a treasure trove of vintage images, like this September 27, 1964 shot of the U.S. Olympic Team in Town Square.

This detailed view allows us to identify one of the team members thanks to her name being on her pocketbook. The girl in heels and sunglasses, carrying an extra pair of shoes is Willye Brown White, the first American track and field athlete to compete in five Olympics: the 1956 Summer Olympics, the 1960 Summer Olympics, the 1964 Summer Olympics, the 1968 Summer Olympics and the 1972 Olympics. She won her second silver medal in 1964 as a member of the 400-meter relay team in Tokyo, Japan (along with Wyomia Tyus, Marilyn White and Edith McGuire). I found this quote online which is attributed to White:

"A dream without a plan is just a wish."

I'll bet she had a great time in the park!



I like this detailed view because of the gent in the center, who appears to be bowing his head in reverence. Either there was a flag ceremony going on at the time or he was just giving thanks to be at Disneyland!



Last detailed shot shows guests and other cast members watching the goings-on, taking photos and attempting to catch a glimpse of the Olympic Team.



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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Oscar Night, 1951



March 29, 1951: in this rare image, George Sanders is seen walking down Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Pantages Theatre with current wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor (1949-1954), holding his best supporting Oscar.

Sanders' win came for his performance as the acid-tongued critic, Addison DeWitte in "All About Eve." Here he is with costars Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, and Marilyn Monroe.



From youtube comes this color clip of Sanders winning his Oscar:



Interesting casting notes: Gabor very much wanted the role of Phoebe (Eve's obsessed and sneaky young fan at the end of the film), but instead was considered for the role that went to Monroe, Miss Caswell. Obviously, she didn't get either.

Because all of the slides from this batch were unlabeled, I am not sure if this shot of Esther Williams (with daughter Susan and husband Ben Gage) is also from Oscar night, but they are definitely dolled up for something special. The lady on the left looks something like silent screen legend Mary Pickford, which is actually why I purchased this slide.



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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Memories, Pt. 3



What was the worst part of Christmas? Waiting. Standing on the stairs while dad or mom took photos with all of the gifts just steps away. We could see them, but we were stuck on the stairs posing. Oops...have to get another Instamatic flash bulb...hang on a minute!

Then it was pictures in front of the tree with the wrapped presents.



Finally, we got to tear into everything! Another picture, son...please hold up what you got!



A few vintage shots from my brother's second Christmas in 1958. Nothing but drool!



Poor kid just didn't know what to make of all these toys!



If we were lucky, it was a white Christmas, which meant playtime in the snow. Here we are all bundled up against the elements for our very first east coast Christmas.



I was obviously digging the white stuff!



And let's not forget the food. While we played, mom (or grandma, or great-grandmother as shown here) slaved away in the kitchen preparing a fabtabulous meal.



Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. May the joys, hopes, and promises of the season surround you.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Memories, Pt. 2



Christmas day was always wonderful, but the anticipation of the night before was even more magical. Of course, there would be lots of photos taken, and my grandmother was typically on hand as well. The highlight of Christmas Eve was the reading of "The Night Before Christmas." At the feet of my brothers is the book that was brought out annually for the traditional reading.



Many years later, when I saw the same distinctive edition illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, I was overcome with a wave of nostalgia and immediately bought it (not sure what happened to the copy that my mom had).



Here's one of mom reading us Clement Moore's famous story:



There were stockings to be hung; my brother Jim's had been knitted by a family friend. Eventually, all three of us would have our own.



Zooming in, you can see the vintage reel-to-reel tape recorder that my dad had set-up to capture a few unscripted "kids say the darndest things" moments.



Here, my dad is attempting to explain to my brothers about my impending birth. I think they were more excited about the presents under the tree.



Naturally, my brothers were very angelic the night before the gift distribution occurred; the threat of coal in the stockings was very real from my parents!



Most of the presents were put out the night before, and all three of us would attempt to guess what was inside the wrapped boxes. There were a few gifts that magically appeared after we went to bed; those were the REALLY special ones...the ones that Santa would leave. Perhaps Bobo the Clown was one of those; I'm sure the wagon and scooter were.



My brothers were still looking angelic the next morning, sporting matching Santa outfits. Another tradition was that each person would take turns playing Santa and handing out the gifts. Mom was pretty careful to make sure that there were an equal amount for all under the tree.



My brother's reaction to the phonograph would be typical of what little kids today would have; what the heck is that contraption?!?



Once the unwrapping began, things got a little crazier. You could see wrapping paper and ribbon for days!



Most of the gifts were hits, especially these toy automobile dashboards.



Wow...my brothers were the envy of the neighborhood with these!



Just look at those delighted faces!



These teddy bears were a big success, too; have you ever seen another bear get so much lovin'?



And then there were the gifts that didn't go over so well. Take a look at the pitiful expression on my brother's face.



A few years after we moved back east, the family traveled back to San Diego to spend Christmas with my grandmother. Despite the plane trip, the stockings and other annual traditions were upheld. Note the plate of cookies for Santa with the accompanying note. I still remember the wonderment I felt when I noticed that there ashes from the fireplace on the carpet. Santa must have found us!



One of my favorite gifts was the matching Winnie the Pooh and Piglet set. They were a wonderful souvenir from my very first trip to Disneyland just a few days before!



Don't forget to put out your plate of cookies tonight!

Follow my Daveland updates on Twitter and view my most recent photos on Flickr. See more vintage & current Daveland photos on my main website.