Big doin's in Burbank over the weekend... the mayor, the local Congressman and no less a luminary than R. Lee Ermey dedicated the former Pacific Park to fallen Marine Larry Maxam, Burbank's only Medal of Honor recipient. Here's my page about it - more pictures to follow when I get 'em from Mike, my on-site photojournalist.
I am proud to note that Maxam and I have the United States Marine Corps and Burbank High School in common. (But there the resemblance ends!)
I saw "Decoy" (1946) last night. It is a very characteristic film noir - all fedoras, attitudes, cigarettes, betrayals and the meanest femme fatale (Jean Gillie) ever. It's now available on a DVD, but for years this film wasn't distributed in any other form than a videotape dub from Croatian television - this is the version I saw. (By the way, "doctor" in Croatian is "doktore.") It was excellent, and it's time to mention one of the great, unsung noir guys, Sheldon Leonard.
When this former Eagle Scout first got into acting, I'm sure the minute he opened his mouth the casting people must have thought, "New York hoodlum." So he played a thug for years in many films and television appearances. But he later became a successful producer, with Make Room for Daddy, The Andy Griffith Show, the Dick van Dyke Show and I, Spy to his credit. In fact, he's the one who made the decision to cast Bill Cosby in I, Spy - making Cosby one of the first black leading men on television. It might not be a stretch to say that the Cos owes Sheldon Leonard his fabled career.
From wikipedia: "Leonard also has the distinction (along with author Mickey Spillane) of being the first Miller Lite spokesman. Using his trademark accent, he told the audience 'I was at first reluctant to try Miller Lite, but then I was persuaded to do so by my friend, Large Louis.'" And here's a notable quote: "Inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, after receiving five Emmy awards for his producing/directing efforts. In 1995 he received a lifetime membership into the Director's Guild of America. Accepting the honor, he quipped, 'Giving a lifetime membership to a guy 88 years old -- big %$#%^***ing deal!'"
Jean Gillie would have had a more notable career except that she died just three years after Decoy was released, at age 33. But she certainly earned her place amongst the Dark City Divas with her portrayal in Decoy, her last lines a scornful laugh.
Noirheads love this film - and here's a great little five minute documentary explaining why.
As always, I like to figure out how many degrees of separation there are between me and the characters in a noir - the Connections Game. For Sheldon Leonard, it goes like this: Leonard undoubtedly shook hands with Andy Griffith, whose show he produced. But he also undoubtedly shook hands with Griffith's young co-star Ron "Opie" Howard. Ron Howard was in Happy Days with Anson "Potsie" Williams - Burbank High Class of 1967. I met Williams at the BHS 100th anniversary in 2008. So that gives me a Sheldon Leonard Number of 3.
Sometimes it's a bit challenging. For instance, last week I saw the obscure "Stakeout on Dope Street" (1958) with a cast of relative unknowns. Hmmmm. But wait! Abby Dalton was in it. She was married to Jack Smith, whom my father-in-law knows because they both graduated from Burbank High in 1945. (In fact, last week they met again at a Class of '45 reunion in Burbank.) So I have an Abby Dalton Number of 3.
I mentioned that I am working on a Bach Anna Magdalena minuet; it is driving me crazy. I have a piano lesson tonight - I play it for my teacher and get it out of my life. Hooray!
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