Category Archives: MOVIE

Thank You Leonard Nimoy and Spock

After days of rumors, they confirmed this morning that Leonard Nimoy passed away at his home. I’ve adored him for years, and wrote this tribute to him last summer. R.I.P. Leonard.


February 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of “The English Invasion”, when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones arrived in the USA for televised concerts.  The images of hundreds of screaming Beatles fans from their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show are part of music history burned into people’s minds.  As I watched them, something has always puzzled me: Why were the girls all screaming?  The answer to that question came to me as a result of watching Star Trek.

The show was scheduled against the hit show “Bewitched”, and it was not an immediate hit; at least not with me.  However, after watching a few episodes, I found myself (pardon the expression) fascinated with the alien character, Mr. Spock, as played by Leonard Nimoy.  Tall and thin, with shining dark hair, deeply set dark eyes, pointed ears and steeply slanted eyebrows, and yellow complexion, he was not as universally handsome…

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For most people, the Fourth of July immediately conjures up visions of barbequed meat, potato salad, cole slaw, hot corn on the cob with butter and beer.  As a daughter of a US Army Sargent growing up in the sixties in Junction City, Kansas, for me the Fourth is connected with marching bands, parades, and fireworks!

Nearby Fort Riley Kansas is the home post of General George A. Custer, (yes, from The Little Big Horn) and The Big Red One Infantry Division; one of the premier fighting units in World War II, Korea, and Viet-Nam. ( I’ll discuss crazy George some other time.)

On the Fourth, Fort Riley would send troops and the Big Red One’s marching band into the city to march in the annual parade, then they would have activities on post for people to come out and enjoy.  Usually the band would hold a concert on the parade ground (a huge open field the size of 4 football fields, where soldiers practice marching). Off to the side of the band you would see 6-8 small cannons, with gun crews eagerly standing by.  At the end of the concert of mostly John Phillip Sousa pieces, the band would do the last section of Tschaikovsky’s 1812 overture,   Of course that meant instead of using drums, they would shoot off actual cannons as the piece ended, then from the tallest hill nearby, more soldiers from the artillery brigade got to shoot off the fireworks.  Most years everything went off without a hitch, but my favorite year was when the cannons–which shoot flames out the back of the barrel as the gun fires–set all the grass on fire.  Half of the group ran to get water, while the rest kept firing the guns.  Every year thereafter, the post fire department had water trucks standing by at the concert.

Another year they cleared a huge field next to the body of water we laughingly called a river(it was usually a mud flat) and allowed people to actually ride on tanks, troop carriers, jeeps and other military vehicles….We had never known before that how LOUD, DUSTY, incredibly uncomfortable those vehicles are–with no shock absorbers as far as we could tell, but it was fun!

I am always disappointed when I attend fireworks displays today.  Since military bands marching music is considered corny now, programmers in NYC usually dig up some pop music and play that instead.  People don’t know what they’re missing.  I’ve even gone so far as to bring along a tape recorder, and play recordings of Sousa’s wonder music just loud enough for me to hear; and I’ve noticed people move closer so they can hear too….You’d have to be emotionally dead not to be moved by the piccolo solos at the end of The Stars and Stripes Forever.  Maybe some day the planners will go back to using the right music for fireworks celebrating our nation’s birthday.  In the meantime,

Happy Independence Day!!!

Casablanca-The Great Comic Movie?

Greta, Bogart and Friend at Casablanca Screening

Greta, Bogart and Friend at Casablanca Screening

Last week I was one of 1100 people who went to a special big screen viewing of CASABLANCA at the newly restored screens at the United Palace Theatre on West 75th  in NYC.   As a special treat, the theatre let anyone who showed up in formal dress or period clothes in free, and it was fabulous to see how many people took advantage of the chance to really pull out all the stops!

I have seen the movie many times(usually on Turner Classic Movies), but on a large screen, with full speakers, I was bowled over by all the gag lines in this supposedly serious movie!  Bogart seemed to be a straight man (no pun intended) for Claude Raines, who did joke after joke in each of their encounters. Here’s an example: 

Louis(Raines):I always wondered, Rick, just why you came to Casablanca.  Rick(Bogart): I came here for the waters(in other words for his health).  Louis: The Waters?  We’re in the middle of the desert. Rick: I was misinformed….

Although technically Bogart was the star, Claude Raines stole the movie.  Whenever he was speaking, he was disarmingly lighthearted and wise-cracking, but he changed into someone who was shrewd, calculating and much darker when people weren’t watching him.   Raines the actor seemed to do this a lot in his movies..he would change from someone vaguely (and sometimes not so vaguely) effeminate, to a man with a rumbling, stentorian voice and a commanding presence.  Check him out in the movie “Caesar and Cleopatra” with Vivien Leigh.  Up until the time his troops arrive, he acts like a kindly, bumbling scholar–then he becomes the man who could have easily conquered a world…

Paul Henried and Ingrid Bergman were playing everything straight, and their lines were usual dramatic fare–except that until the end of the movie, Bergman had no idea whether or not her character was getting on the plan with Bogey, or Victor.  She must have found it frustrating, but it gave a reality to her portrayal of a woman trying to decide between two men.

But! The major shock from seeing Casablanca in a theater is the MUSIC!  During all the scenes in Rick’s Cafe, the music constantly underscores–and comments on–the action….For me as a cabaret singer, I cracked up at the titles of the songs being quietly played.  Of course, people at the time of the film’s release would have known the songs as well as I do, making the music used in Casablanca an inside joke between the audience and the composer of the film score….Viewing the movie on a TV, you miss much of the music, and many of the jokes.  The next time you watch Casablanca, give yourself a treat and really crank up the volume.  You won’t be sorry….


girls in the band

Movie Alert: The Girls in the Band

A new movie, is crossing the country in limited release, about the FEMALE JAZZ MUSICIANS.   There have been many films about male musicians but very few detailing the Women of Jazz.  While they get little visibility, there are–and have always been–many female jazz musicians, in addition to the vocalists.  One of the big shockers for me was that Louis Armstrong’s wife was a composer, arranger and performer! I only knew that Louis was married–not that it was HER band. I watched the movie and was left with a new respect for the women, and a deep desire to learn more about them and their music.

After a limited run in New York City which garnered rave reviews, the movie is traveling to LA.  The hope is that it will get a larger release later (It has already been re-booked for a short run in NYC).

Keep your eyes peeled for “The Girls in the Band”!  Here is the link to the video promotion on YouTube: