CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Most Dangerous Game”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

“The Most Dangerous Game” features a storyline that most people have probably read about or seen, but whose name they may not remember off the tops of their heads.

It’s an original short story, written by Richard Connell in the 1920s, and is required reading in many schools.

The plot? A man arrives on a remote island owned by an eccentric recluse with a unique desire for big game hunting.  The lost man, after being greeted warmly and initially treated very hospitably, soon discovers that he is the hunter’s next target in a do-or-die, winner-take-all game of hunting each other.

This story has been repeated many times for radio plays, television scripts and full movie productions.

But the first ever film version of “The Most Dangerous Game,” made in 1932, has several unique characteristics.

First of all, it was one of the first talking motion pictures to base its story on a recently written publication.

(Wray and McCrea as the film’s protagonists)

It featured four of the biggest movie stars of the time – Fay Wray, Leslie Banks, Joel McCrea and Robert Armstrong. Two of its stars, Wray (Kong’s love interest) and Armstrong (with his classic line: “it wasn’t the airplanes, it was beauty that killed the Beast”) would reunite the following year in the classic and original version of “King Kong.”

Noble Johnson also had smaller roles in both “Game” and “Kong.”

Many of the sets used in the former film were re-created for Kong’s homeland and several interior shots. In a few scenes, it’s easy to see the similarities where the same locations were reused.

(Banks as the sardonic Count Zaroff)

Buster Crabbe, who won a gold medal in swimming at the Olympics that same year, had a small role in the film as well. Crabbe would go on to star in over 100 films and have success playing the titular roles in “Flash Gordon,” “Tarzan,” and “Buck Rogers.”

“Game” was produced by soon-to-be legendary film creator David O. Selznick and distributed by the iconic David Sarnoff’s RKO pictures – the same company that would be responsible for “Citizen Kane,” a film widely regarded as the greatest movie of all time.

According to the “Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television,” the film grossed an unusually high (for its time) $70,000 in its initial release and $443,000 overall.

In addition to receiving widespread praise from both critical reviewers and moviegoers alike, it remains a favorite even today – receiving the almost unheard of 100% rating by Rotten Tomatoes.

In addition to multiple remakes, specific references to the 1932 film have been used in many modern-day vehicles, including the 2007 movie, “Zodiac,” starring Jake Gyllenthaal, and FX Network’s “Son of the Beach.”

“The Most Dangerous Game” will be featured in the RCN Movie Vault (Retro Movie Special) on Wednesday, June 4, at 9 pm, and again on Saturday evening, June 6, at 8:30 pm.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Jack Benny Program”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

In 1931 media mogul Ed Sullivan invited Jack Benny to guest host his national radio program.

Benny opened the program by saying, “This is Jack Benny.  I’ll pause while everyone says, Jack who?”

Following that appearance, Benny never went more than a few months without being on either a radio or television program, until his death on December 26, 1974.

The television version of his “Jack Benny Program” debuted on a Los Angeles TV station in 1949 as an hour long special.  This was followed by a regular 30-minute show continuing until 1965 when Jack decided to cut back and just do semi-regular hour-long “specials.”

But before he even appeared on the small screen, Jack was the most well-known radio character in the medium’s history, finishing with the best “Hooper Ratings” (before Nielsen came along) for many years in the 1930s-40s.

Unlike many radio personalities, Benny found a smooth transition to television and was a perennial ratings favorite in the 50s and early 60s.  Even though Benny himself wasn’t convinced it would work as he continued to do his radio show simultaneously with his TV program until 1955.

He was known in show business as the “comedian’s comedian” and even his harshest critics had to admit his comedic timing was impeccable.

To what did Jack attribute his success and longevity on radio and TV?

According to his memoir, “Sunday’s at 7,” Benny believed it takes about five years for an audience to become familiar with the characters, therefore allowing you to play around with his/her idiosyncrasies.  Once an audience becomes familiar with you, you can have a regular storyline while mixing in the comedy according to each actor’s quirks and personalities.  It also allowed for ongoing jokes that could follow characters from week to week and allow its writers to build ongoing bits of humor that could continue to get more outrageous as the series went on.

When he made the transition to television, the nation had already fallen in love with his cast, including Benny’s “professional” traits.  Jack’s most frequent characters on his television show were his sarcastic wife Mary, his quick-witted valet Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, singer Dennis Day, who was naive to a fault, his rotund but lovable announcer Don Wilson, voice genius Mel Blanc and character actor Frank Nelson, whose running gag was playing a different character on each appearance.

Jack had found success on radio playing a character who was incredibly cheap, vain and self-absorbed — complete opposites of the person he was in real life.  His reasoning was that everyone either has or knows someone who exhibits these foibles, so why not poke fun at them?  Years later, TV creator/producer Larry David would say almost the same thing about his greatest accomplishment, “Seinfeld,” following many familiar characteristics seen on the Benny show.

There’s many great stories to uncover and ways in which Benny broke new ground during this program’s 16-year run on TV.  We’ll delve into that discussion in another blog entry at a later time.

Meanwhile, it won’t take you five years to become familiar with the “Benny” players.  You’ll find that Jack and his talented team of writers developed timeless comedy (and great timing in the performers’ delivery) that is still incredibly funny over 70 years later.

“The Jack Benny Program” currently airs Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. on RCN TV.

To see the full listing of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Charade”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of  RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

If you want to see one of cinema’s greatest on-screen pairings, backed by a tremendous supporting cast, in front of a majestic Paris setting, a gorgeous Henry Mancini score and one of the most riveting climaxes to a movie in the 1960s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better film than “Charade.”
The film stars legendary actors Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, James Coburn, Ned Glass and others.

(Stars Grant and Hepburn)

“Charade” starts off with a beautiful pan shot of the countryside, the stillness shredded by the sound of a fast-moving steam engine, a body ruthless tossed off the train and a haunting extreme close-up into the eyes of the dead body, all in the first 30 seconds before rocking the audience into the movie’s famous opening theme song.

Viewers quickly learn that the widow, Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Hepburn) really didn’t know her new groom very well when she is told by the police that her husband had many aliases.  She is further startled to learn her husband not only sold all of their belongings but is the owner of a great deal of money, which three other seedy-looking characters (Kennedy, Colburn, Glass) claim is theirs.

In comes the charming Grant (we won’t spoil things by telling you his name) to try to help Reggie, who is quickly targeted by everyone else, including the CIA (no spoiler here either) as the only logical owner of the cash, but she claims she had no idea of its existence in the first place.

Adding to the web of lies, her new confidant turns out to have his own series of aliases, and questionable motives for trying to help Reggie.

The film’s tone rapidly alternates between humorous moments, romance, intrigue and mystery.  As suspects begin getting bumped off it leaves very little downtime before having all questions resolved in its edge-of-your-seat finale.

“Charade” received numerous Academy and Golden Globe Award nominations (winning several) and is one of the few films ever listed simultaneously on the American Film Institute’s top 100 moments in the often conflicting movie categories of comedy, romance, thrillers and murder mysteries … AND places in the top 100 film scores.

Plus, the funeral scene is one of the funniest “macabre moments” you may ever witness.

Oh by the way, the film was also directed by yet another cinema legend, Stanley Donen, whose long line of iconic films includes “Singing in the Rain,” “On the Town,” “Royal Wedding,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” and many others.

“Charade” is a must-see and will be featured in the RCN-TV Movie Vault on Friday, May 22nd at 7:30 p.m.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Beat The Devil”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Very few actors can say they were a bigger box office draw that Humphrey Bogart in the 1940s and early 50s.

He starred in several films regarded as the greatest of all time and won his first Academy Award in what many called the ultimate on-screen pairing with Katharine Hepburn, The African Queen, in 1951.

In 1999, the American Film Institute designated Bogart as the greatest male film actor of cinema’s “Classic Era.”

And in 1953, Bogart teamed with another screen legend, Peter Lorre, Academy Award winning director John Huston, multiple-Oscar nominated actress Jennifer Jones, Bernard Lee (the original “M” in the James Bond movie series) and one of the sexiest leading ladies of the era, Gina Lollobrigida, in one of Bogart’s last films, Beat The Devil.

(Beat The Devil stars, from left, Jones, Bogart and Lollobrigida)

The film was originally intended as a sequel of one of the greatest film noir flicks of all time, The Maltese Falcon.  However, shortly after co-writers Houston and Truman Capote started the screenplay, they changed direction and instead wrote a spoof of Falcon and similar films of the genre.

Unlike later parody films, the plot is interesting and the comedic lines nicely accompany the storyline with neither getting in the way of each other. While not a typical film style for any of the leading stars, the actors generally received positive reviews for their performances.

Bogart got in a real-life car crash during the production and had to have several of his lines dubbed over in order for the film to be completed on time.

The actor they hired to double Bogey’s voice?

The then-unknown actor Peter Sellers who, among other great films, became the genius behind The Pink Panther movies. (Can you tell which scenes he was in?)

Though nearing the end of his legendary career, Bogart was still clearly on his game, following up this film up with his Oscar-nominated performance in The Caine Mutiny.

Film critic Roger Ebert included Devil in his “great movie” list and singles it out as perhaps the first ever successful “camp film” in cinema history.

Beat The Devil will be featured in the RCN Movie Vault on Thursday, May 7, at 9:00 am.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website. 

 

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Heartbeat”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

For over 100 years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

People probably best remember Ginger Rogers as the other half of the greatest on-screen dancing team of all time.

But you may not know that Rogers also carved out a pretty significant leading lady persona starting in the late 1930s through the 1940s and starred in some very interesting flicks.

One of her top roles was a film called Heartbeat, directed by Sam Wood (The Pride of the Yankees, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, A Night at the Opera).

Initially, when starting her solo career, Rogers made the mistake of trying to cast herself with more reserved and less-known leading men. This backfired when, for one of her first starring films, she asked for a virtually unknown actor by the name of James Stewart to co-star in the film Vivacious Lady.  Stewart ended up stealing the spotlight despite Rogers participating in one of the most vicious on-screen fights of the time period.

(Stewart would receive his first Academy Award nomination in his very next film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, followed by an Academy Award-winning performance in The Philadelphia Story the next year.)

Rogers did not make that same mistake in Heartbeat. Her co-stars were Basil Rathbone (who starred many times as the titular character in the Sherlock Holmes film series) and Adolphe Menjou (the star of the Charlie Chaplin classic A Woman in Paris.)

Rogers stars as Arlette, a young and rather inexperienced pickpocket who gets adopted into the professional thieving world by Professor Aristide (Rathbone).  On her first assignment she is caught by a wealthy ambassador (Menjou) and is forced to partake in yet an even bigger game of deception.

The film is a wonderful blend of comedy and romance, complete with a very fulfilling twist in the end.

Heartbeat was one of Rogers’ great films during her solo years, sandwiched around classics like Tom, Dick and Harry, I’ll Be Seeing You, The Major and the Minor, Kitty Foyle and Bachelor Mother.

She would also return to co-star with Fred Astaire one last time a few years after Heartbeat in the production, The Berkeleys of Broadway.

Heartbeat will be featured in the RCN TV Movie Vault this Sunday, April 26,  at 4 p.m.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website. 

 

 

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE #2: Dangerous Assignment

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

(Donlevy, left, portraying Super Spy Steve Mitchell in Dangerous Assignment)

Spy thriller fans will probably argue forever about whether Sean Connery, Roger Moore or Daniel Craig is the best James Bond ever.

Barry Nelson initially played the “Jimmy Bond” character in an episode of TV show Climax entitled “Casino Royale”.  But you can make a strong argument that Brian Donlevy was the first actor to play a 007-esque character on the screen several years earlier.

Donlevy starred as the suave and sophisticated undercover spy in the early 1950s classic television show, Dangerous Assignment, where he was sent to exotic locations to complete impossible missions, using wit and fighting techniques (along with some unique technological gadgets) in order to save the world from villainy.

Right down to a quick opening teaser before the credits (over a decade before the first full-length Bond film, Dr. No) the format for the on-screen spy film was born.  Shortly after the introduction, Steve Mitchell (Donleavy) would report to his supervisor’s office (there was no “Moneypenny” yet) who would outline his upcoming mission, give key facts about the plot and supply him with the technology and inside information necessary for defeating his nemesis for that evening’s program.

From there, Mitchell would travel the world, charm women (his delivery paralleled Humphrey Bogart more than any actor who would later handle the role of Bond) and escape death-defying predicaments, with some rather uniquely choreographed fight scenes.  Like almost every James Bond film, Mitchell always won the day and featured were very intriguing storylines and exciting climaxes worth watching.

Guest stars included Hugh Beaumont who, within a couple years, would find success as Ward Cleaver on the classic Leave it to Beaver series, and Harry Guardino, who also guest starred in over a hundred television programs spanning a four decades career, in shows ranging from Studio One to Murder, She Wrote.

Another guest star includes a rare TV performance by Paul Frees who performed many commercial voice-overs and created famous cartoon voice. He was even regarded as the original “man of a thousand voices” (according to “The A to Z of Old Time Radio”) while working in the same time period as venerable voice master Mel Blanc.

Despite having success on NBC Radio, the show initially failed to grab a network television sponsor. Donleavy invested his own money and produced the first 39 episodes before the series was eventually picked up and later distributed by NBC Television.

Assignment additionally produced a total 167 radio programs made both before and after its run on the small screen.  It was also unique in that it was one of the first shows to have success in the syndicated market, decades before shows like Baywatch, Star Trek: The Next Generation and others began utilizing this valuable outlet.

Years later, TV comedy Police Squad, which spoofed many great spy and police-driven classics, paid homage to this Donleavy-led program by poking fun at a few of the show’s quirks, and even titled one of its initial episodes, “A Dangerous Assignment.”  Fans of Frank Drebin may want to revisit these shows to get a glimpse of the inside jokes. 

You can see the premiere episode of Dangerous Assignment as it debuts on the RCN TV spring schedule this Friday at 11:30 am.

To see the full listing of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website. 

 

 

Classic Video Showplace #1: Tales of Tomorrow

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

For over a hundred years the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.


Imagine “The Twilight Zone” LIVE!

That’s what you’ll experience when watching Tales of Tomorrow, a precursor to the classic Zone series that featured legendary TV and cinematic names.

Each week, Tales of Tomorrow viewers tuned in to see supernatural adventures performed live in front of television cameras.

And unlike other science fiction comic stories of that era aimed at children, Tales of Tomorrow targeted adults and geared its stories for more mature audiences.

This sci-fi thrilling series features an anthology format, with reoccurring characters traveling through the supernatural, taking on new adventures weekly in a style used decades later by shows such as The X-Files, American Horror Story and True Detective.

Included in Tales are early screen performances from:

Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cars 3)

Lon Chaney, Jr. (Wolf Man series, Son of Dracula)

Leslie Nielsen (Scary Movie, Naked Gun film series)

Cloris Leachman (Malcolm in the Middle, Young Frankenstein)

Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas) Bruce Cabot (King Kong)

Lee J. Cobb (On the Waterfront, The Exorcist)

Several of its featured stars would go on to become Academy and Emmy Award winners and nominees.

Furthermore, one of the series directors was Charles S. Dubin, who later directed more episodes of M*A*S*H than anyone else.  His other directorial credits include Hawaii 5-0, Murder, She Wrote, The Rockford Files and the 1965 television production of Cinderella, starring Lesley Ann Warren.

Tales also serves as an early vehicle for Arthur C. Clarke who, in addition to writing novels that would be made into the 2001: A Space Odyssey film series, would later be regarded as one of the “Big 3” science fiction writers of all time.

Some of the storylines for Tales of Tomorrow were “borrowed” by Rod Sterling a decade later when he made The Twilight Zone.  Tune in to see if you can spot any of the original plots that would resurface again years later.

There was also one episode in which an actor forgot that the show was live and made a classic blooper – see if you can spot it. 

Catch the RCN-TV debut of Tales of Tomorrow this coming Tuesday night at 10:30pm. The pilot episode, “Ice From Space,” features Paul Newman and Raymond Bailey. Bailey would later enjoy cult TV status as banker Milburn Drysdale on the long-running TV hit, The Beverly Hillbillies.

To see all of the classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.