November 13, 2007

With a Song in My Heart available on DVD

November 12, 2007

Dark Victory by Ed Sikov

My Review of The Making of Hollywood Stars

Tommy Lightfoot Garrett has written another winner. He dishes the dirt with the best of them, but always has a kind word to say about his subjects, which is a hard-to-find commodity in celeb-related books these days.

If you're into today's stars, (with a few classics thrown in for good measure), buy this book. You won't be sorry.

The Making of Hollywood Stars

Director Delbert Mann dies in LA

LOS ANGELES - Delbert Mann, who transformed Paddy Chayefsky's classic teleplays "Marty" and "The Bachelor Party" into big-screen triumphs and helped bring TV techniques to the film world, died Sunday. He was 87.

Mann died of pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his son Fred Mann said Monday.

Mann's 1955 feature version of "Marty" won four Oscars: best picture and director, best actor for Ernest Borgnine and best screenplay for Chayefsky. The low-budget film with mostly little-known actors told the stark, poignant story of Borgnine's 34-year-old Brooklyn butcher who felt he was too ugly to find love. His life is changed when he meets an equally shy but sweet woman played by Betsy Blair.

"I knew we had a good story because I had already done it on television," Mann once told The Associated Press. "But I certainly never expected it to be the hit that it turned out to be."

Using techniques he brought from television, Mann took a mere 16 days to shoot the film version of "Marty," plus an additional three days for retakes. This compared with 45 days for typical features of that time, with epic pictures running far beyond that.

He followed "Marty" with 1957's "The Bachelor Party." They were some of the first examples of television's emerging role in Hollywood — not necessarily as a rival medium, but as a synergistic one.

The two teleplays were first seen in 1953 on "Philco-Goodyear Playhouse," considered one of the best dramatic anthology series of television's Golden Age. Rod Steiger played the title role in the television "Marty," while the woman he befriends was played by Nancy Marchand.

In all, Mann and famed producer Fred Coe collaborated on more than 100 of the live Sunday night "Playhouse" productions.

Mann's other feature credits include "Desire Under the Elms" (1957), "Separate Tables" (1958), "Middle of the Night" (1959), "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (1960), "The Outsider" (1961), "That Touch of Mink" (1962), "A Gathering of Eagles" (1963), "Dear Heart" (1964), "Fitzwilly" (1967), "Kidnapped" (1971), "Night Crossing" (1982) and "Bronte" (1983).

Despite his success with feature films, Mann longed for his television roots and in the late 1960s returned to the medium after a lengthy absence.

"I missed the excitement and concentration that live TV gave us in the old days," Mann said at the time. "I was able to achieve the artistic freedom I can't get in films."

Mann directed a string of prestigious prime-time productions, including "Heidi" (1968), "David Copperfield" (1970), "Jane Eyre" (1971), "The Man Without a Country" (1973), "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1979) and "The Last Days of Patton" (1986).

Through no fault of her own, "Heidi" enraged professional football fans across America on Nov. 15, 1968, when NBC decided to cut away from the dramatic final minutes of a New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game to begin the television movie at its scheduled time.

A native of Lawrence, Kan., Mann received his first dramatic training at Vanderbilt University, graduating in 1941. He later attended Yale's School of Drama after a stint as a bomber pilot in World War II.

Mann went on to take a directing job at the Town Theatre, a community playhouse in Columbia, S.C., succeeding Coe, who became Mann's mentor. Mann was affiliated with the Town from 1947 to 1949, before moving to New York to work with Coe in television.

Mann's wife, Ann Caroline, died in 2001. In addition to Fred Mann, he is survived by sons David and Steven. His daughter, Susan, died in an automobile accident in 1976.

November 06, 2007

Singing Osmond family patriarch dead at 90

LOS ANGELES - George Osmond, father and early manager of the singing siblings who shot to the top of the charts with "One Bad Apple" in the early 1970s, has died at age 90, a family spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Osmond family patriarch, who helped launch the musical careers of six of his eight sons, including Donny, and his only daughter, Marie, died of natural causes on Monday at an assisted-living center in Provo, Utah, said spokesman Kevin Sasaki.

The Wyoming-born George Osmond kicked off the family entertainment business by teaching barbershop-quartet harmony to four of his sons -- Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay -- who began singing together at church functions, family gatherings and events in Ogden, Utah.

On a trip to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, the boys landed a job as Disneyland performers, leading to a TV debut on "The Andy Williams Show." Younger brother Donny officially joined the group a year later and ultimately became its focal point.

With the family's move from Utah to California, George Osmond gave up his insurance and real estate business to focus on managing his sons' burgeoning career.

Following on the breakout success of Motown's sibling quintet, the Jackson 5, the Osmonds released their own debut album in 1970 and became instant chart-toppers with the catchy single, "One Bad Apple (Don't Spoil the Whole Bunch)."

They followed with a string of subsequent hits, including "Double Lovin'," "Yo-Yo," "Hold Her Right" and "Down by the Lazy River." Their 1973 release "The Plan," a concept album highlighting the family's Mormon faith, was less successful.

Jimmy Osmond, the youngest of the nine siblings, sang with his brothers off and on before starting his own solo career, and Marie Osmond, the only girl, began appearing with her brothers at age 13 but never officially joined the act.

She and Donny co-hosted a popular TV variety show, "Donny and Marie," from 1976 to 1978, and Marie Osmond is a contestant on the hit show "Dancing with the Stars."

The family's two eldest sons, Tom and Virel, did not perform with their younger siblings, Sasaki said. Their mother, Olive Osmond, died a few years ago.

She and George Osmond are survived by 55 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren, Sasaki said.

Father of Osmond family singers dies

SALT LAKE CITY - George Osmond, father of Donny and Marie Osmond and patriarch to the family's singing group, The Osmond Brothers, died Tuesday. He was 90.

Family spokesman Kevin Sasaki said Osmond died at his home in Provo, Utah. Because he had not been ill, he likely died from natural causes incident to his age, Sasaki said.

Marie Osmond, a contestant on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" who fainted following a live performance two weeks ago, was due to appear on Tuesday night's results segment, but instead boarded a plane in Los Angeles with her brother for Utah.

"He was the best man I've ever known," Donny Osmond told the "Entertainment Tonight" Web site.

The death was first reported on the "Entertainment Tonight" Web site and confirmed by The Associated Press through a spokeswoman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Osmond was a member.

Marie Osmond performed Monday night on "Dancing With the Stars," with Donny in attendance. She's not the only "Dancing" contestant to have lost a parent this season: Jane Seymour missed a show last month after the death of her mother, Mieke Frankenberg.

George Osmond married his wife, Olive, on Dec. 1, 1944. She died in 2004. The couple were the parents of nine children, many of whom became singing stars. Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay Osmond first became famous as The Osmond Brothers, a barbershop quartet singing at Disneyland and on "The Andy Williams Show."

Donny Osmond joined the group at age 6 and later hosted "The Donny and Marie Show" with his sister. The youngest son, Jimmy Osmond, is also a performer.

George Osmond also had 55 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren.

A World War II veteran, Osmond also served missions for the Mormon church in Hawaii and the United Kingdom. In his professional life, he worked in real estate, insurance sales and was once the postmaster for the city of Ogden. He gave up his work to manage the singing careers of his children.

Together, Osmond and his wife formed the Osmond Foundation, which later became the Children's Miracle Network, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for children's hospitals.

Osmond Dad Dies; Marie MIA from Dancing

George Osmond, the patriarch of one of showbiz's most successful singing clans, died at his Utah home Tuesday morning at the age of 90.

The news was confirmed by Marie Osmond's publicist, who said the performer would in turn be absent from the Dancing with the Stars results show, as she and her eight siblings head back home.

On Monday's show, the 48-year-old Dancing queen dedicated her performance of a WWII-inspired quickstep to her parents. Olive and George Osmond met after his tour of duty and danced together to earn money. Olive passed away in 2004.

The tribute dance earned Osmond a score of 28 out of 30 and a peck on the cheek from big brother Donny, who watched from the audience.

While Marie's publicist, Marleah Leslie, told E! News that Osmond would not be present for Tuesday's elimination, she did not immediately know whether Osmond would continue on the show or the just-announced tour, which kicks off Dec. 18 in Seattle.

It's also uncertain whether George's death will affect the Osmond family's scheduled appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show Friday.

Under the tutelage of George and Olive, sons Alan, Wayne, Merill, Jay and Donny became international sensations and multimedia stars. Later joined by Marie and younger brother Jimmy, the Osmonds sold million of albums, toured widely and appeared on several TV shows, including their own 1970s cartoon and, most famously, the Donny & Marie show. (Two older brothers, Tom and Virl, were born deaf and not part of the family act.)

In August, the Osmonds marked their 50th anniversary with a special Vegas concert. Donny has since said the family would tour in 2008.

Marie Osmond becomes the second Dancing contestant to lose a parent this season. Jane Seymour's 92-year-old mother, Mieke Frankenberg, died Oct. 1, just one week into the competition.

Like Osmond, Seymour bowed out of the following night's results show, but returned from England the following week and dedicated her remaining routines to her mother. According to Seymour, her mother was a major fan of the program and the reason the actress signed up.

Osmond's loss is doing nothing to dispel the notion of a Dancing curse.

Last month, the mother of eight fainted on-camera after performing the samba, leaving professional dancer Jonathan Roberts to tend to his fallen partner and host Tom Bergeron to quickly cut to commercial break.Osmond said the fainting spell was nothing unusual for her and that she's prone to such spells when she gets particularly winded.

The apparent jinx has extended to guest performers as well. The same week as Osmond's televised tumble, Jennifer Lopez was forced to pretape her performance to attend the funeral of her maternal grandmother.

A week earlier, Gloria Estefan scrapped her appearance entirely to return to Miami to be by her mother's bedside after she underwent emergency surgery.

November 05, 2007

"Mockingbird" author wins U.S. medal

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush awarded the highest U.S. civilian honor on Monday to two figures in the push for racial equality: former NAACP leader Benjamin Hooks and "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee.

Hooks and Lee received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony that also honored Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet.

Other recipients included Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker; Brian Lamb, co-founder of the C-SPAN public affairs cable network; former Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde; and Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project, the U.S.-led effort to map the human genome.

Hooks battled racial segregation throughout a career that saw him become Tennessee's first black criminal court judge and serve on the Federal Communications Commission. He also headed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 15 years.

Hooks was often treated with less respect than the prisoners of war he guarded during World War Two, Bush said.

"He never tired or faltered in demanding that our nation live up to its founding ideals of liberty and equality," the president said.

Lee's coming-of-age novel, published during the turmoil of the civil rights era, drew on her experiences witnessing racial discrimination in small-town Alabama, where she grew up as a neighbor and friend of author Truman Capote.

Inspired by a racially charged rape trial in the 1930s, "To Kill a Mockingbird" has sold over 30 million copies since it was published in 1960 and is on the reading list in many U.S. schools.

In 1961 it won Lee the Pulitzer Prize and in 1962 was made into a movie, which won actor Gregory Peck an Oscar.

Peck's wife, Veronique, looked on from the front row as Bush draped the ornate medal over Lee's shoulders.

The reclusive Lee, 81, has only published a handful of essays since the novel and has made few public remarks. She was taken to the stage in a wheelchair but stood throughout the 35-minute ceremony, smiling broadly.

"'To Kill a Mockingbird' has influenced the character of our country for the better," Bush said. "It's been a gift to the entire world."

Bush also praised Johnson-Sirleaf, who was elected as Liberia's first female president in 2005 after 14 years of civil war, and offered support to jailed Cuban dissident Biscet, whose son accepted the medal on his behalf.