Large Association of Movie Blogs
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

R.I.P. Norm Macdonald

One of our all-time favorite standup comedians, the brilliant Norm Macdonald, has passed of cancer at 61.
photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

Norm will be much missed.

We'll defer to Norm's contemporaries and colleagues in comedy now.

Jim Carrey
My dear friend Norm MacDonald passed after a brave 10 year battle. He was one of our most precious gems. An honest and courageous comedy genius. I love him.

Jim Gaffigan
Oh my God. We lost a legend. Norm was punishingly funny. A unique special point of view and completely organic. RIPNormMacDonald

Gilbert Gottfried
This photo was taken after I was a guest on Norm's show. At dinner the laughs just continued nonstop. He will be missed. RIP Norm Macdonald

David Letterman
I was always delighted by his bizarre mind and earnest gaze. (I’m trying to avoid using the phrase, “twinkle in his eyes”).
He was a lifetime Cy Young winner in comedy. Gone, but impossible to forget.

Seth MacFarlane
To so many people in comedy, me included, there was nobody funnier than Norm MacDonald. You always hoped he would hang around after the work was done, just so you could hear his stories and get a laugh. So hilarious and so generous with his personality. I’m gonna miss him.

Steve Martin
We loved Norm MacDonald. One of a kind.

Lorne Michaels
"Today is a sad day. All of us here at SNL mourn the loss of Norm Macdonald, one of the most impactful comedic voices of his or any other generation.There are so many things that we'll miss about Norm -- from his unflinching integrity to his generosity to his consistent ability to surprise. But most of all he was just plain funny. No one was funny like Norm."

Conan O'Brien
I am absolutely devastated about Norm Macdonald.

Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so relentlessly and uncompromisingly funny. I will never laugh that hard again. I'm so sad for all of us today.

Patton Oswalt
Good bye, Norm. You were never not 100% hilarious.

Adam Sandler
Every one of us loved Norm. Some of the hardest laughs of my life with this man. Most fearless funny original guy we knew. An incredible dad. A great friend. A legend. Love u pal.

Sarah Silverman
Norm was in a comedy genre of his own. No one like him on this planet. Please do yourself a favor and watch his stuff. He was one of a kind of all time.

Jon Stewart
No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald. Hilarious and unique. Fuck cancer.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Monkee-ing Around on a Sunday

A recent listening of an outstanding interview with Mike Nesmith of The Monkees, The First National Band and Elephant Parts fame on Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast led to today's blogpost, as did a fun fact: today just happens to be the 55th anniversary of the premiere of The Monkees on NBC-TV on September 12, 1966.

The lads - Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork - still hold a soft spot for many of us of a certain age, those of us who were elementary school students when The Monkees TV show (a.k.a. A Hard Day's Night meets The Marx Brothers) and first three albums hit the pop culture zeitgeist.

For starters, we recommend watching the Hey Hey Were The Monkees documentary, directed by Alan Boyd & The Monkees. For those not steeped in the group's history and mid-1960's pop culture, this is an excellent primer.

As is the following. . .

Hit songs by The Monkees, musically closest to the contemporaneous Pacific Northwest garage rockers turned popsters Paul Revere & The Raiders, had an enduring impact and have been covered by very diverse recording artists. One enthusiastic and enjoyable example is Run DMC's cover of Mike Nesmith's song Mary Mary.

To answer the question of who, besides Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, were The Usual Suspects in the story of The Monkees, the short list includes Don Kirschner, Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Jeff Barry, Chip Douglas, Paul Mazursky, Larry Tucker, Bob Rafelson, Burt Schneider, James Frawley, Gerald Gardner, Dee Caruso, The Wrecking Crew, (Brill Building songwriters) Neil Diamond, Carole King and Gerry Goffin . . . and none other than Jack Nicholson.

Kirschner, the hitmaker with the magic touch, produced the first two Monkees albums, which featured a slew of songs by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart. Working with Kirschner: Jeff Barry.

Boyce & Hart wrote incredibly catchy tunes both for The Monkees 1966-1967 heydey and the later reunion albums and tours (Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart).

The Monkees TV show was developed by (future feature film director) Paul Mazursky, Larry Tucker, Burt Schneider and Bob Rafelson.

Among the scenarists on The Monkees TV show - in between stints on the U.S. variation on That Was The Week That Was and as head writers on season 4 of Get Smart - were Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso.

Hollywood studio virtuosos The Wrecking Crew provided inspired backing on darn near every pop record waxed in mid-1960's Los Angeles, from Brian Wilson to The Mamas & The Papas to Arthur Lee & Love. They're all over the first two Monkees albums, and appear to a lesser degree on subsequent records (after The Monkees demanded they be allowed to play on their own records and Kirshner was fired), beginning with Headquarters, produced by Chip Douglas.

Always wondered if that EPIC drum riff on The Monkees theme song was Hal Blaine and whether it was Glen Campbell or Tommy Tedesco who played the outstanding lead guitar break. Who wrote the hits (in addition to Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart)? the Kingston Trio's John Stewart wrote one of their best songs, Daydream Believer, and Neil Diamond, Carole King and Gerry Goffin penned many more excellent tunes.

Rafelson and his friend Jack Nicholson concluded that it was time, after the cancellation of the TV series in 1968, to finish off The Monkees as surely as if the boys were a rival gang in a 1930's Warner Brothers crime flick starring Jimmy Cagney.

The plan: casting the beloved TV stars and bubblegum popsters in a bizarre stream-of-consciousness movie utterly counter to their wholesome image and titled Head. The objective: kill The Monkees once and for all. The uncredited scribes of Dangerous Minds wrote all about the film, which acheived its objective and then some.

This worked like a charm - this anti-Monkees experimental feature, written and produced by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, and directed by Rafelson, bombed at the box office, but not necessarily with the group's 420-soaked fans.

Hopefully, there were pizzas, tacos and plenty of crunchy snack items available at concessions for whatever stoned-out audiences showed up.

We're fans of this psychedelic anti-movie, especially the scene in which the Prefab Four are dandruff in Victor Mature's scalp. This is with the full understanding that continuity as such and any links whatsoever between the various segments are not a factor at any point in the film.

As fate would have it Monkee $$$$$$ from record sales would fund two subseqent projects of Rafelson and Nicholsen. . . Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, which he followed with The King of Marvin Gardens (1972).

Their last TV appearance was on the special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, which aired on NBC on April 14, 1969. This is entirely a musical special and would be this writer's pick of all their TV work, much as The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees remains this music aficionado's favorite of all the Prefab Four albums.

After prog rockers Brian Auger & The Trinity introduce them, the lads do their individual specialties: Micky belting out r&b flavored rock/soul, Mike offering his spin on quirky country rock and Davy returning to his Broadway musical theatre roots. At one point, Micky sings with Brian Auger & The Trinity and does a duet with the group's commanding vocalist, Julie Driscoll.

As the Monkees were splitting up in 1969, with Peter Tork having already left, the band made a memorable appearance on The Joey Bishop Show. Micky's Stax-Volt take on "I'm A Believer" is a very good reimagining of the song.

The Monkees re-formed and toured again starting in 1986, after MTV revived their TV show to great popular success. Young fans who saw The Monkees for the first time on MTV and Nickelodeon got to see them in concert.

One can purchase Monkees albums at Rhino Records and buy Nesmith's records and videos on Michael Nesmith's Videoranch. It has been a few years since this blogger has revisited the music of The Monkees, its offshoots (Boyce & Hart) and especially Mike Nesmith’s solo records with First National Band and other groups. Like The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, the PreFab 4's best and most fully realized album, Nesmith's first solo record, The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, is a goody.

Thankfully, Mike (a.k.a. "Nez" "Wool Cap") and Micky are very much with us in 2021 and still making music, having just started the Monkees Farewell Tour.

The Monkees and The Box Tops share a certain era in pop music and cachet, along with the other pop/rock band with a TV show, Paul Revere & The Raiders (who Boyce & Hart also penned songs for). It’s tough to say whether the catchy as catchy can be songs from More Of The Monkees, the Raiders' Midnight Ride album or the hit Box Tops singles The Letter and Cry Like A Baby win the prize for best ear worm ever; they may all be tied for that honor. Meanwhile, the post-1960's solo albums of The Monkees' Mike Nesmith and The Box Tops' Alex Chilton (with and without Big Star) remain Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog favorites.

While a year or two after The Monkees' first album, the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Yardbirds (morphing into Led Zeppelin), Traffic, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, the San Francisco bands (Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother & The Holding Company) and the impassioned soul music of Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and James Brown would be spinning repeatedly and emphatically on our turntables and in our brains en masse, along with The Beatles and Rolling Stones (alas, Brian Wilson's symphonic pop suite "SMiLE" would not see the official light of day until 1993), in 1966, The Monkees were the cat's meow for us 1956-1959 babies.

We extend respectful tips of the top hats worn in a Monkees episode to Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart and the many backing band musicians who have contributed to their tours. Thanks, gentlemen, for making the transition from a TV show to a real touring band, starting in 1966, and entertaining succeeding generations well into the 21st century.

For more cool stuff on the Prefab Four, check out Michael Nesmith’s Videoranch on YouTube, the Culture Sonar website, The Monkees Live Almanac, Andrew Sandoval's book The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story, the numerous reviews of Monkees episodes by prolific writer on 1950’s and 1960’s television David Lawler posted on The Blissville Podcast.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Labor Day Weekend Cartoons for 2021

The truth is we LOVE cartoons, even those loved by no one, including the artists who made them, at this blog and, Labor Day is no exception. While the posts on the Cartoon Research website covered Industrial Cartoons at length, Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog shall nonetheless offer our two cents on Labor Day cartoons we'll be watching this weekend. We'll start with Otto Messmer's fearless Felix The Cat, who proves himself a most effective feline organizer in Felix Revolts.

Bugs Bunny, while fighting to keep his home, tackles labor/management issues at a construction site and tangles with a brawny, bullheaded and boneheaded foreman - a bad boss if there ever was one - in Homeless Hare, directed by Chuck Jones.

Also much beloved here is Porky's Bear Facts, a particularly hilarious B&W Looney Tune directed by Friz Freleng.

Porky's Bear Facts is part of a sub-genre of subversive cartoons that turn the Grasshopper & The Ants fable upside-down. What particularly cracks this blogger up is the song that the bear living in the dilapidated, deteriorating and ramshackle shack next to industrious Farmer Porky sings, beginning at 1:25 . . . HILARIOUS! Even better: in a dig at human nature, the cartoon animal anti-protagonists learn absolutely nothing and are even more slovenly at the end. For those who yearned to hear the line "and then. . . the ants dropped dead of heart attacks," this is your cartoon.

And speaking of derelict bears and cartoons which skewer a Disney-esque "good work is its own reward" premise mercilessly, there's The House That Jack Built (1939), one among many Columbia Color Rhapsody cartoons cranked out by the prolific production crew led by Art Davis and Sid Marcus. The premise: a seedy panhandler bear and his goofy ostrich pal, a scuzzy "Ham & Bud" style duo if there ever was one, interfere with the obnoxiously industrious Jack Beaver's attempts to clean house.

A post on the Cartoons Of 1939 blog that panned The House That Jack Built offered a very perceptive observation about it, "This cartoon is feverish; not that it moves quickly, just that it feels like it was born of a fevered brain." EXACTLY!

In typical Columbia cartoon fashion, "Jack Beaver" is such a jerk that he manages to make the bear and ostrich look good. At one point, in a gag that would be used to considerably greater effect a few years later in Mexican Joy Ride with Daffy Duck, the embattled beaver pulls a rifle possessing the fire power of a tommy gun used in the infamous 1929 St. Valentine Day's Massacre on the grimy pair.

Love the loosey-goosey animation on Joe the Ostrich throughout.

Don't know if this is Art Davis' animation - that would be for the experts and especially those possessing Charles Mintz Studio drafts to answer - but the movement is quite lively indeed. The mayhem-filled ostrich sequences and those involving the "Termite Wrecking Co." are the standouts. In the singular opinion of Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, while The House That Jack Built does not compare to the brilliantly funny cartoons Bob Clampett was directing at Schlesinger/WB in 1939, it beats the heck out of the Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies made by the Ben Hardaway & Cal Dalton unit, as well as Chuck Jones' early attempts to imitate Disney - and everything emerging from the Walter Lantz Studio and Terrytoons then.

Shifting gears entirely, here's Hell Bent For Election, sponsored by UAW and made to promote FDR's 1944 campaign by a crew including many moonlighting artists from the Warner Brothers and Screen Gems studios and directed by Chuck Jones. It's a fascinating history lesson and among the first films by United Productions Of America (a.k.a. UPA).

Again, Jonathan Boschen’s series of articles on the Cartoon Research website remain the last word on Labor Day themed animation: Industrial Cartoons part one, page two and page three.

Friday, August 27, 2021

This Weekend: Paper Prints and Thunder Lizards

August 2021 comes to a close with several classic movie related events. While our minds are on the recent passings of Charlie Watts and Don Everly, the Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog reprobates will turn our short attention spans to film preservationists and giant radiated reptiles. Like dark chocolate and coffee, they go together!

On Sunday, August 29 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 12:00 noon Pacific Time, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents Reanimating History: Preserving the LoC’s Paper Print Collection. Library of Congress archivists Meghan Holly and Erin Palombi tell the story of how silent movies, preserved over 110 years ago on paper rolls, are getting restored to film and how this process has evolved over the decades.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival press release elaborates:

During the earliest days of cinema, the Library of Congress received moving image copyright deposits on paper instead of celluloid. Filmmakers submitted a series of still images printed on paper rolls resembling film reels.

These unique artifacts form the basis of the Library’s Moving Image Collection and in many cases are the only surviving evidence of a film’s existence. Since the 1940s, many efforts have been made to reanimate these prints as projectable moving images. Advancements in preservation technology have brought us ever closer to being able to view these images as they were originally intended. Join Library of Congress archivists Meghan Holly and Erin Palombi to learn more about what is surely one of archival history’s most often-revisited preservation projects!

Following last weekend's "King Kong Crashes Godzillafest" screenings of the 1962 King Kong Vs. Godzilla and the new Godzilla Vs. Kong epic at the Balboa Theatre, the official Godzilla Fest rampages through the San Francisco venue yet again. Godzilla remains a most marketable franchise and new thunder lizard epics keep coming out every year, so this year's lineup combines 1960's and 1970's classics such as Invasion Of Astro Monster (a.k.a Monster Zero), Godzilla Vs. Megalon and Terror Of Mechagodzilla with more recent versions of the King Of The Monsters such as Godzilla 2000, Giant Monsters All Out Attack, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. and Shin Godzilla.

We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog love Godzilla, Ultraman, Johnny Sokko & His Flying Robot, Inframan, even cheaper thunder lizard variants and the SCTV sketch starring John Candy as Gigan. Now these movies demand a rowdy SRI crowd hooping and hollering, so I hope they get a good turnout. If you plan to attend, remember to bring a mask and a proof of vaccination card, thanks to That Darn Coronavirus.

Godzilla Fest 2021 lineup is as follows:

4PM Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)

5PM Godzilla 2000 (1999)

7PM Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

8PM Godzilla (2014)


11AM Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973)

12PM Terror Of Mechagodzilla (1975)

2PM Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

3PM Giant Monsters All Out Attack (2001)

5PM Godzilla: King Of The Monsters (2019)

6PM Shin Godzilla (2016)

8PM Godzilla Vs. Kong (2021)


11AM Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

12PM Godzilla (2014)

230 PM Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)

3 PM Invasion Of Astro Monster (1965)

5PM Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)

The Historic Balboa Theatre is in the San Francisco's outer Richmond District at 3630 Balboa Street, between 37th and 38th Avenues.

For more info, see the Cinema SF and Bay Area Film Events websites.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

August 21 Means Friz & The Count

Two 20th century greats were brought into the world on the 21st of August. One was responsible for a million laughs, the other a million concerts and countless outstanding recordings. We're talking cartoonmeister Isadore "Friz" Freleng and a bandleader with a flair for supple yet subtle piano, William James Basie a.k.a. "The Count" - two powerhouses from Kansas City! Both entertained audiences from Torrance to Toledo to Timbuktu starting in the 1920's.

The name I have seen on the silver screen and orthicon tube the most times is very likely Friz Freleng. Imagine someone whose name is in credits as frequently as William "One Shot" Beaudine whose films are, for the most part, actually good. That would be Friz!

Freleng, a cohort of Walt Disney and his gang of animators (Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising, Rollin Hamilton) in the 1920's, would work on numerous Harman-Ising productions released by Warner Brothers, including the first Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

Friz would be among the dream team of directors who cranked out inspired cartoons for Warner Brothers animation: Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson and Arthur Davis.

We'll start today's post with a documentary about Friz' amazing seven decade career as a producer-animator-director and Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies master.

Friz was also interviewed in 1980 as part of the Animafeastival event curated by Toronto film archivist Reg Hartt.

Freleng made a slew of lesser known humdinger cartoons in the 1940's and early 1950's.

A favorite of the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog is THE TRIAL OF MR. WOLF, which is riotously funny and preceded Tex Avery's MGM masterpiece RED HOT RIDING HOOD.

Of the WW2 propaganda toons DAFFY THE COMMANDO is among the best of the best.

Not to be outdone, Friz and his ace story writers (Tedd Pierce and Mike Maltese) followed a cartoon in which Daffy Duck takes on Hitler with HERR MEETS HARE, featuring Hermann Goering as a villain (as he and his ilk were emphatically in real life). The Mike Maltese disdain for Richard Wagner which would be a driving force in later Chuck Jones cartoons is a key factor in this Freleng gem. Love the commentary by film historian and animation expert Greg Ford.

Freleng was a master of the western spoof. It was said that Yosemite Sam was based on Friz!

Friz was also a jedi master of the extended chase and featured many variations on the chase within the twisted relationship between Bugs Bunny and ever-moronic Elmer Fudd.

The guy who writes this blog, a kid during the 1960's who watched The Addams Family, The Wild Wild West and Get Smart religiously - and also saw It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World on the big screen at our long-gone local movie palace - knew who Count Basie and Duke Ellington were because, in the halcyon days before the current mirage of many choices but in effect many less choices, jazz bands appeared often on television.

A few years later, this blogger would be among the rock generation kids who listened to rock & roll and progessive rock but also sought out jazz.

The extent to which jazz, even fairly gnarly modern jazz, was seen before 1971 on American television is astounding.

Often, swingin' sounds could actually be found on 1950's and 1960's television, especially on such programs as The Nat King Cole Show, Here's Edie, Art Ford's Jazz Party and The Hollywood Palace (where frequent hosts Bing, Frank, Sammy and Dino were clearly fans of the big band sound).

The Count Basie Orchestra was even the subject of SHOW OF THE WEEK in 1965.

The early 1960's lineup a.k.a. The Atomic Band, often appeared on television. Here is a concert which remains available on one of the Jazz Icons DVDs.

Bugs Bunny's favorites, The Duke Of Ellington, The Count of Basie, The Satchmo of Armstrong and sometimes even The Earl Of Hines would appear on TV in those days. American jazz would continue to be featured on European television, but seldom were seen anywhere on American TV. Even rock music got phased out once the 1970's ended; the point came when rockers would only be seen as guest stars on Saturday Night Live and SCTV (especially John Candy's glorious The Fishin' Musician sketches).

The BBC sometimes did music lovers a tremendous favor by featuring interviews with and about jazz greats, such as this one with Count Basie by fellow pianist Oscar Peterson. Once in a blue moon, these interviews would be shown on PBS or be used in documentaries.

The earliest appearances of The Count on 78s I've heard would be the 1920's and 1930's recordings of Bennie Moten's band.

While more in the Fats Waller stride school at this juncture, Basie drives the Moten band as surely as he would the powerhouse editions of the Count Basie Orchestra on The Atomic Count Basie and Sinatra At The Sands.

The recording of Lady Be Good by Jones Smith Incorporated was a watershed and featured the casual and smooth (while always soulful) musical genius of saxophonist Lester "Prez" Young.

Every Tub from 1938 is another Basie-Prez winner.

Unfortunaely, we don't have any film clips of Count Basie from the Bennie Moten or 1935-1936 Jones-Smith Incorporated days.

That said, there are silent film clips, dubbed in with Basie recordings, from the orchestra's famous performance from the 1938 Randall’s Island outdoor concert.

The early 1940's edition of The Count Basie Orchestra appeared in a bunch of Soundies, all prized by 16mm film collectors. There was a fascinating piece on the Hi De Ho blog about how Cab Calloway met Count Basie and that they worked together at one point. Footage of those two bandleaders working together would be even more prized than Cab's killer Soundies and Paramount 1-reelers.

In the following Soundie, vocalist Jimmy Rushing brings blues to the Basie mix in his rendition of TAKE ME BACK, BABY.

Fans of crooners got hip to Basie via his many collaborations with Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra-Basie, followed by It Might As Well Be Swing, are particularly wonderful albums and preceded Frank's memorable appearance with The Count Basie Orchestra on The Hollywood Palace.

Sinatra At The Sands, featuring the Count Basie Ocrhestra and charts by Quincy Jones, remains one of the Chairman Of The Board's most played and celebrated albums.

"Corner Pocket" is one of the cornerstones of the 1960's Count Basie repertoire.

The formidable Joe Williams does the honors on vocals on numerous 1950's and 1960's Basie records.

Closing this post: our all-time favorite photo of The Count. This one's a gem from the Library Of Congress collection, snapped by William P. Gottlieb, celebrated chronicler of mid-20th century music. This was shot at NYC's Aquarium Club and successfully captures both Basie's musical brillance and something essential about who he was.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

And This Blog Loves Stuff Smith

"The main attraction was Smith himself, attired in a worn-out top hat and sometimes sporting a parrot on his shoulder."

Hezekiah Leroy Gordon, a.k.a. "Stuff" Smith was born on this day in 1909. We respectfully tip a worn-out top hat to a consummate 20th century entertainer!

Stuff Smith was up there with Joe Venuti, Stéphane Grappelli, Michel Warlop, Eddie South, Svend Asmussen and Ray Nance among those intrepid violinists whose motto was "swing the Stradivarius."

This brief clip of Stuff rocking the violin on Art Ford’s Jazz Party is the best 44 seconds I could ever post.

Additional excerpts from this TV show, which can be seen in its entirety here, are not too shabby as well.

Smith successfully adapted European classical music's cornerstone instrument to the idiom of jazz and brought both the swagger and improvisational mojo of Louis Armstrong to the violin. Here he is, yet again swinging like mad with an all-star JATP/Verve Records ensemble, led by Ella "Perfect Pitch, Only Always" Fitzgerald, Roy Eldridge and Oscar Peterson's trio.

As Stéphane Grappelli did, Stuff repeatedly demonstrated an uncanny ability to bridge the musical eras.

Stuff's Live At The Montmarte concert album, a bluesy offering from late in his musical career, is a standout. He's backed by the killer quartet from Ben Webster's terrific albums on the Black Lion label: pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and drummer Alex Riel.

This exceptional group even appeared on television in the 1960's.

Smith began making recordings in the 1930's with The Onyx Club Boys, a swing quintet and New York City fixture also starring trumpeter Jonah Jones and drummer Cozy Cole. He continued making amazing albums through the mid-1960's.

Like Pops, Dizzy and the aforementioned trumpeter-violinist-vocalist Ray Nance (from The Duke Ellington Orchestra), Stuff was an entertainer and showman.

Not surprisingly, his frequent collaborators included Dizzy and Stéphane Grappelli. Dizzy Gillespie & Stuff Smith is a felicitous combination and favorite album of music lovers around the world.

In addition to Ella Fitzgerald and Roy Eldridge, headliners and bandleaders Nat King Cole, Earl Hines, Carmen McRae and Billy Taylor all incorporated the violinist's distinctive brand of string swing into their sonic mix.

A listen to The Complete Verve Stuff Smith Sessions is most illuminating. Did not, unfortunately, purchase this epic box set when the opportunity arose (briefly); Mosaic Records compilations sell out quickly. In particular, love the album with Stuff backed by the usual suspects from Verve Records (Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessel, Ray Brown & Alvin Stoller). Volume 1 of the Mosaic Records compilation, as well as volume 2 and volume 3 are incredible listening.

We're also enthusiastic fans of the Stuff & Steff album, in which The Hot Club of France meets The Onyx Club! Their equally swinging Violins No End album is another winner.

Also outstanding: MPS Records' Black Violin album.

This 1965 Paris concert of The Earl Hines All-Stars - Stuff Smith, Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Don Byas, Kenny Clarke and bassist from the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band Jimmy Woode - is particularly wonderful.

For an introduction to the scintillating string swing magic of Stuff Smith, the swing-obsessed population at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog highly recommend the following compilation of his blazing 1939-1944 recordings.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Eddie's Back!

While he never went away, especially in the hearts of classic movie buffs and devotees of Fractured Fairy Tales, the great Edward Everett Horton is back as of today - and always a favorite at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.

Not only is Eddie back, he's back on DVD as a headliner in silent movies. Yes, we kid you not, silents. The new 2-DVD set, mastered from Library of Congress 35mm prints, can be purchased here.

It would be an understatement to describe this week's releases of Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies, Thunderbean's Rainbow Parade cartoons volume 1 and Charley Chase At Hal Roach: The Talkies Volume 3 as fabulous news for classic comedy and animation fans.

As fate would have it, Horton starred in a series of very funny 2-reel comedies produced for Paramount Pictures by Harold Lloyd's company, Hollywood Productions. He's incredibly funny in these silents and you can practically hear the mutterings of his character. No surprise that Mr. Horton would subsequently be a riot as a prolific comic character actor in countless 1930's - 1940's movies and TV shows through the 1960's.

Ben Model's Undercrank Productions, along with Steve Stanchfield's Thunderbean Video (now shipping its new Rainbow Parade cartoons compilation) and Tommy Stathes' Cartoons On Film our favorite DIY producers of classic stuff on Blu-ray and DVD, has officially released Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies, featuring hilarious entries from this series. This release was the result of a successful Kickstarter last year, which we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog were delighted to contribute to.

Mr. Horton has his legion of fans, so it did not take long for the original Kickstarter to meet and exceed its goal.

Today's Travalanche post, Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies, penned by one of my favorite bloggers, has covered this new release by Undercrank Productions exceedingly well.