Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Parade: Shaking The Blues Away

What better way to celebrate Easter today than with a vintage photo and publicity blurb featuring MGM's talented Queen of Tap, Ann Miller, from the movie "Easter Parade"?

HOLLYWOOD'S DANCING DAUGHTER…She's Ann Miller, who, with her stellar role in Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade," reaches the peak of a film dancing career that began when she was just fourteen. The film also stars Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, and Peter Lawford. In addition to two numbers with Astaire, Miss Miller appears in two show-stopping solo routines in the Technicolor musical. One of these is to the old-time Berlin favorite, "Shaking the Blues Away." In addition to ten of his nostalgic old-timers, Berlin wrote seven new song hits for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picture which Charles Walters directed. Arthur Freed produced, with Robert Alton as director of the musical numbers.

Her whirling feet are tapping out a lightning-fast rhythm here as she displays the talent that has led to her recognition as Hollywood's foremost feminine dancing star today.

My other favorite song is "Alabam;" probably one of the best dance numbers Garland ever did.

The movie is also well known for the "Couple of Swells" number, where Judy Garland and Fred Astaire dress as hobos, while poking fun at high society snobs. It is so rare to see Astaire dressed shabbily, let alone dancing with such joyfully comic and playful abandon that it is easy to see why this part of the film has become a classic.

Although there was a 23-year age difference between Garland and Astaire, the warm rapport and chemistry between the two makes the love story of the movie totally believable. Still, it would have been interesting to see Gene Kelly with Garland, since he was the original one hired to play Astaire's role until an injury forced him to decline.

Do you have your bonnet ready for the Easter Parade?

See more "Easter Parade" photos on my Judy Garland web page.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hollywood meets San Francisco at The St. Francis

Typically when I travel, if I'm able to splurge on a nice hotel, I will pick a smaller boutique hotel, preferably one that is historic. The St. Francis in San Francisco, built in 1904, is a bit large for my tastes, but it is still a well-maintained facility that pays homage to its history and classic sense of style.

The expansive lobby gives an impressive "welcome" to guests as they walk in.

The hotel is distinctive for its historic Magneta Grandfather Clock, located in the lobby. It was the first master clock (controlling all the other clocks in the hotel) brought to the west and has served as a meeting place for San Franciscans since 1907, inspiring the phrase "Meet me under the clock!"

This vintage photo showing Shirley Temple at the St. Francis hangs near the lobby.

Plenty of cool light fixtures (both indoor and outdoor) for me to obsess over:

EVERY classic hotel has a shoeshine stand; the St. Francis is no exception.

This hallway leads to room 1221, one of the most infamous rooms in the hotel.

On September 5, 1921, silent screen comedian Fatty Arbuckle held a Labor Day party in suites 1219, 1220, and 1221, with friends and acquaintances from Hollywood. One guest was a young actress from Hollywood named Virginia Rappe, 26, a model and bit-part actress, whose greatest claim to fame was that her portrait graced the cover of the sheet music for “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

Virginia Rappe already suffered from chronic cystitis, a condition that flared up whenever she drank (which was often). She developed a reputation for getting drunk at parties and tearing at her clothes from the resulting physical pain. She had also undergone several poorly-done abortions and was preparing to undergo another as a result of being impregnated by her boyfriend, director Henry Lehrman.

In mid-afternoon Arbuckle summoned a house doctor and reported that Rappe was sick. She was taken to another room and put to bed, with Arbuckle returning to Hollywood the next day.

A few days later Arbuckle learned that Rappe had been taken to the hospital and had died, and that her friend Maude Delmont, who had been at the party, told police that Arbuckle had assaulted and raped her. Delmont's testimony was later regarded as unreliable by the police when it was discovered that she had a lengthy prior record of extortion. There was also a telegram she had sent to friends that read, “We have Roscoe Arbuckle in a hole here. Chance to make some money out of him.” The doctor who examined Rappe found no evidence of rape, either. Regardless of the facts, the story blazed across the country with scandalous newspaper headlines.

Arbuckle was brought to trial for manslaughter in November 1921. Arbuckle's lawyers argued in two trials that Virginia Rappe had died of natural causes, caused by too much alcohol; both trials ended with hung juries. Arbuckle was finally found not guilty in the third trial that ended on April 12, 1922, when a jury decided (in five minutes) that Arbuckle was not guilty. “Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done to him... there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime. He was manly throughout the case and told a straightforward story which we all believe. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgement of fourteen men and women that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame,” the jury foreman told the court.

Arbuckle was free, but his career was ruined. His films were withdrawn by Will H. Hays, the President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. To escape being blacklisted, Arbuckle directed a few films under an assumed name, William Goodrich. In 1932 Arbuckle signed a contract with Warner Bros. to star under his own name in a series of two-reel comedies. These six shorts are the only recordings of his voice. The films were very successful in America and led to him signing a contract on June 29, 1933 at Warner Bros. to make a feature-length film. He supposedly said, "This is the best day of my life." Sadly, he suffered a heart attack later that night and died in his sleep at the age of 46.

Entertainer Al Jolson ("The Jazz Singer") collapsed and died of a massive heart attack while playing poker in his St. Francis suite (the same one from the Arbuckle scandal) on October 23, 1950; he had just returned from entertaining the troops in Korea. This photo was taken September 17, 1950:

From the New York Times:

Al Jolson, “The Jazz Singer,” died at the St. Francis Hotel here tonight. He had recently returned from Korea after entertaining troops there.

Death came just after 10:30 P.M. (PST) as Mr. Jolson was playing cards in his room with friends. He was in San Francisco to be the guest star on the Bing Crosby radio program scheduled to be recorded Tuesday night.

Mr. Jolson checked in at the St. Francis today. He was playing gin rummy with Martin Fried, his arranger and accompanist, and Harry Akst, songwriter and long-time friend.

His last words were said to be "Boys, I'm going." The Al Jolson Society held a séance in the suite, but there were no signs of Jolson. Still, there are staff members who insist that Jolson, Arbuckle, and Barrymore haunt Suite 1221.

There are a number of displays throughout the hotel filled with memorabilia documenting the hotel's history:

The rooms are large, but seem a bit lacking in warmth and personality.

Still, you can't beat the location and service...and the history.

See more Westin St. Francis Hotel photos on my St. Francis Hotel web page.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Palace of Fine Arts

Disney California Adventure was originally built as a "best of" version of the Golden State. Naturally, there was a section of the park that was supposed to represent San Francisco. In this April 2002 photo on the right, you'll see the Disney version of The Palace of Fine Arts, the only remaining structure from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

As you can see, as originally conceived, the DCA version is a scaled-down and simplified version of the beloved San Francisco landmark. The DCA color scheme was fairly faithful to the original:

This view was taken from California Screamin' in Summer 2005:

Once the Whoopi Goldberg movie "Golden Dreams" left the DCA attraction building...

and was replaced by The Little Mermaid dark ride, the color scheme became much more fanciful. The homage to the Palace of Fine Arts is almost unrecognizable.

Back to the original, here's a panoramic view:

And a few detail shots to round out the post:

See more Palace of Fine Arts photos on my Palace of Fine Arts web page.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Adventureland Bazaar

Before it became a retailer of Disney-themed merchandise, the Adventureland Bazaar had a delightful assortment of treasures from faraway places. Photo number one of the exterior is from October 1962, followed up by a close-up FauxD© image showing the Rolly Crump designed interior displays:

The March 2, 1978 Disneyland Line Newsletter featured this interesting article about The Bazaar:

The Adventureland Bazaar, A Marketplace of Friendly Smiles

Adventureland is known as a land of mystery and intrigue. It's a land of lush tropical surroundings and outdoor bazaars, where excitement lurks around every corner and goods from the Asian and African continents tempt passers-by. Yet there's not secret to the success of shops like those in our Adventureland Bazaar—it's the winning combination of exotic merchandise and a top-notch team of Hosts and Hostesses.

Guests walking through the Bazaar are easily awed by the wide range of imported merchandise neatly displayed in its three shops. Located in the left-hand corner of the Bazaar is the Adventure Traders shop, which specializes in merchandise from the Hawaiian Islands. In the center of the complex is the Magic Carpet shop which offers guests a wide selection of wares from India.

The third shop which composes the Bazaar is Far East Imports, where jade jewelry, oriental carvings and other products imported from the Far East can be found.

According to Adventureland Merchandising Buyers Donna Scarnecchia and Susan Cleave, the main merchandising philosophy of the Bazaar, as well as throughout Disneyland, is to create for our guests an atmosphere which makes them feel they're actually shopping in the Far East, India or Hawaii. One of the ways in which this goal is accomplished is by, as Donna puts it, "merchandising looks, which means keeping like merchandise together so that it has more visual appeal."

Helping to maintain this "look" along with assisting our guests, are, of course, the Bazaar's Onstage Cast. Working under the expertise of Working Leader Sue Wuchner, the Adventureland Bazaar crew includes regulars Cindy Diemert, Pam Doyle, Stephanie Alex, Annie Pruett, Bob Fulton, Steve, Hayden, Lance LaVenture, Jody Coffee, Yuki Sechi, Sandy Nagamoto, Patty Flynn and a supporting cast of many more.

Due to the intriguing nature of Adventureland and its shops, many interesting situations can arise. Such an incident took place in Far East Imports recently, when an art instructor from Japan recognized one of his creations displayed on the shelf. Hostess Yuki Sechi recalls seeing the man burst into tears when he saw his clay Hukata dolls. As she asked the man what was wrong, he told her that he was overwhelmed with happiness to see a piece of his artwork on sale at Disneyland.

It's that kind of international renown that keeps attracting visitors to Disneyland and shops like those in Adventureland Bazaar—and it's the smiles and courteous service of our Hosts and Hostesses that keep bringing them back!

See more vintage & current Adventureland Bazaar photos on my Adventureland Bazaar web page.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fifty Cents

That's right; that's all it used to cost to take the Grand Circle Tour on the Disneyland Railroad. Today, the cost is $87. Talk about inflation! As many of you already know, when the park first opened, there was a general admission charge to get into the park and then an additional ticket cost for each attraction. Ticket books held colorful tickets that were grouped (and priced) according to the excitement factor of the attraction. Today, you pay one charge (starting at $87 for adults) to enjoy all the attractions. The first image for today shows the Fantasyland Station and Ticket Booth of the Disneyland Railroad, circa 1956, which is when this structure opened. The original location of the Fantasyland stop is approximately where the Kodak photo kiosk is today.

One from 1957/1958:

A closeup of the ticket booth, October 1958:

In 1965, this station was closed and the train track was moved to its current location during the construction of 'it's a small world.' The Mickey's Toontown Station opened in January 1993. Here are a few contemporary shots:

See more vintage & current Fantasyland/Toontown Depot photos on my Fantasyland Toontown web page.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tacos for Two

El Trio Gonzalez (aka The Gonzalez Trio, as seen in this October 1962 image) entertained guests for years from this little gazebo in Frontierland. According to the red placard, they could be seen on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays from 10:45 to 6pm. One of their best known tunes was "Tacos for Two," a parody of "Cocktails for Two," a song made popular by Duke Ellington in 1934 and Spike Jones and His City Slickers in 1944.

The earliest photo I have of the group is from 1957, showing Carmelita Gonzalez:

And the latest one is this previously posted shot from 1966, with the trio standing in front of the Casa de Fritos restaurant:

Today, this area is part of the Rancho del Zocalo restaurant as can be seen in this recent photo:

Today, if you want to hear music in Frontierland, you'll need to seek out Farley the Fiddler:

or stop by the Golden Horseshoe. I can't remember the last time I heard latin music in Frontierland.

See more Gonzalez Trio photos on my Gonzalez Trio web page.