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Showing posts from December, 2015

Why Dickens movies play so well at Christmas

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Why Dickens movies play so well at Christmas

It can be argued that movie adaptations of works by Charles Dickens are popular any time of the year, but seemingly more so during the Christmas holidays. And it's not just that any yuletide season is incomplete without a showing of one of the numerous versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Somehow the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the author's characters, from David Copperfield to Nicholas Nickleby, cheer us in the viewing audience as we approach the end of the year and we gauge our own successes, failures and break-even status both economically and socially. Christmas, in the world of Dickens, provides a time of renewal and reflection as we, like his characters, look to improve our station in life.

Or as Dickensian scholar Stefan R. Dziemianowicz pointed out (in his forward to the collection CHARLES DICKENS'S CHRISTMAS TALES, New York: Bonanza Books, 1985, p. viii) of the closing vow by A CHRISTMAS CAROL's Ebeneezer Scrooge …

The Borgia Stick

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Neglected made-for-TV classic: 'The Borgia Stick'

Some time ago while putting together a study on the development of early made-for-television feature films, and working from a comprehensive list of these productions, I managed to neglect not only one of my favorites of the form, but also one of the first network TV flicks to win accord from both the viewers and critics. THE BORGIA STICK, which originally aired Feb. 25, 1967, on NBC and starring Don Murray and Inger Stevens, is a crackerjack crime/suspense thriller that marked the progression of the made-for-TV film from its uncertain beginnings a few years earlier to a more acceptable form of entertainment. Rarely seen today except on home video, THE BORGIA STICK holds up with an involving storyline, location shooting and sincere acting from a well-chosen cast.


Universal and NBC had moved into the field of producing movies as originals for television with SEE HOW THEY RUN, featuring John Forsythe and Senta Berger, in October …
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Do I know that TV sleuth from somewhere?

One of the more overt examples of the movie community's fear of television and its effect on ticket sales was in banning studio contract stars from appearing in the new entertainment medium. Among them was RKO Radio's keeping William Bendix, star of the popular radio show THE LIFE OF RILEY, from taking the lead in NBC's first attempt to bring the situation comedy to the small screen in 1949; the part went to Jackie Gleason for less than a season. And some stars were more busy with and focused on movies than anything else: John Wayne, not only a screen icon but also a successful producer, declined an offer to star in GUNSMOKE in 1955, but recommended a frequent player in his films, James Arness, be cast as Marshal Matt Dillon. Arness, every bit an impressive action lead as his mentor, went on to lead the CBS series for the next 20 years.

The new celebrities of the post-World War II era, such as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, embraced b…