Wednesday, January 18, 2017

NBC's TIMELESS Makes a Major League Error

NBC's latest television series TIMELESS
The good name and reputation of lawman Bass Reeves, one of the first African American U.S. Marshals, is going to be tarnished on NBC-TV this Monday. The weekly science-fiction program, TIMELESS, tells the story of a mysterious criminal who steals a secret state-of-the-art time machine, intent on destroying America as we know it by changing historic events of the past. Our only hope is an unexpected team: a scientist, a soldier and a history professor who use the machine's initial prototype to travel back in time to those critical events. While they must make every effort not to affect the past themselves, the intriguing aspect is that the fugitive is following instructions written in a journal (get this) written by the very history history professor who is trying to stop him. It seems she has not yet written that journal but one day she will.

Actor Colman Domingo
The television series was created by Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan, the same men responsible for such programs as SUPERNATURAL, REVOLUTION and THE SHIELD. Every episode is a history lesson for school children: a visit to the Alamo, America's moon landing, Harry Houdini, and this Monday an episode aptly titled, "The Murder of Jesse James." The teaser for next week's episode provides us with a glimpse of Colman Domingo,  a talented actor who only recently is getting his due, playing the role of Bass Reeves. Also featured in the teaser is one of the three main characters making reference to "The Lone Ranger." (...this is where you hear the sound of a record scratching...) Whoa, did he just say that? He sure did.

Sadly, the myth of Bass Reeves being the inspiration of the fictional Lone Ranger has been debunked many times through archival documents and the origin of that myth admitting he was only "suggesting," with no archival documents backing his claim. But that has not stopped history revisionists who attempt to tarnish the images of American heroes by dominating the broadcast media. And the media, aware of such errors, will never let the facts spoil a good story. As a friend once said, let us not forget the two old maxims that Hollywood clings to quite tenaciously:

1. Never let facts get in the way of a good story.

2. When choosing between history and legend -- print the legend. 

With no other choice I took the time to write to the production company. Not that it would make any difference to the telecast but I felt it was necessary for them to be aware of their major blunder. I have no doubt the primary focus of the episode concerns the accomplishments of Bass Reeves but I fear they will be overshadowed by a false story that has no bearing on Reeves' achievements. 

Kripke Enterprises
Eric Kripke
1880 Century Park East, Suite 950
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Dear Mr. Kripke,

My name is Martin Grams, historian of numerous vintage television and radio programs, including THE LONE RANGER. I regret to inform you that your weekly NBC-TV series, TIMELESS, has made a major error and sadly, may have inadvertently re-written history itself much like the characters of your television program.

This coming Monday you plan to air an episode which your lead protagonists meet with Bass Reeves, one of the first African American U.S. Marshals in recorded history. In 2008, an author wrote and published a biography about Bass Reeves and featured a chapter claiming “uncanny similarities” including (and I am quoting the author here) “Reeves may have ridden a white horse during one period of his career.” Also quoting the author, “I doubt we would be able to prove conclusively that Reeves was the inspiration for THE LONE RANGER. We can, however, say unequivocally that Bass Reeves is the closest real person to resemble the fictional Lone Ranger.”

When the Disney motion-picture of the same name was released in theaters a few years ago, the author rode the coat-tails of the movie’s publicity by claiming Bass Reeves was the inspiration of THE LONE RANGER, failing to note publicly that his book only suggests. Numerous websites quickly picked up on this story proving the academic adage that "fifteen books can be wrong and hundreds of websites are wrong." Historians often avoid “suggesting” non-conclusive material in fear that it would be mistaken as the gospel and create the exact opposite of what they set out to do.

Having scanned thousands of archival documents from the Fran Striker and George W. Trendle archives, including inter-office memos and contracts, I can assure you that Bass Reeves had nothing to do with THE LONE RANGER. Every aspect of The Lone Ranger was created by multiple parties. The director, Jim Jewell, requested Striker to create an Indian sidekick. It was Striker who created the name “Tonto.” Trendle, the producer, suggested a Western and a masked-vigilante in the vein of Robin Hood and Zorro. Striker borrowed a masked vigilante story from a former radio program, COVERED WAGON DAYS, to create The Lone Ranger character. I and my co-author, Terry Salomonson, have posted hundreds of archival documents verifying this on blogs and magazine articles, revealing the step-by-step process of how THE LONE RANGER was created.

What the author set out to do was Transmedial Migration. That is, properties of fictional characters as they relate to real-life historical figures. Burton chose to find a connection from fiction to real-life, not the other way around as any real historian of American History will assert.

Even Bill O’Reilly, who lent his name to a book and documentary series about Wild West heroes, later confessed the connection between Bass Reeves and The Lone Ranger was in error.

I know your time travel program is pure fiction, borrowing factual names and events for your stories, but your telecast on Monday evening will not only give credence to a fictional Lone Ranger connection, but take away the real accomplishments for which Bass Reeves should be properly remembered. And for that reason alone I can assure you that as a fan of your television programs (Tarzan, Supernatural, Revolution), I am deeply disappointed and expected better of you.

Martin Grams, Jr.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

TCM Pays Tribute to Debbie Reynolds

Turner Classic Movies pays tribute to Debbie Reynolds on Friday, January 27 with the following festival of films. This program will replace the previously scheduled movies for that day. This is not the first time TCM has revised their schedule to pay tribute to the passing of a Hollywood legend. The programming manager of TCM has made such arrangements half a dozen times a year, for many years. For a commercial free network to take time and pay homage to Debbie Reynolds with an all-day marathon of her classic movies is a tribute to the good folks who operate the station. 

The new schedule for Friday, January 27 will be: 
6:00 AM It Started With A Kiss (1959)
7:45 AM Bundle of Joy (1956)
9:30 AM How the West Was Won (1962)
12:30 PM The Tender Trap (1955)
2:30 PM Hit The Deck (1955)
4:30 PM I Love Melvin (1953)
6:00 PM Singin' In the Rain (1952)
8:00 PM The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)
10:30 PM The Mating Game (1959)
12:30 AM The Catered Affair (1956)
2:15 AM The Singing Nun (1966)
4:00 AM How Sweet It Is (1968)

Entertainer Debbie Reynolds embodied the cheerful bounce and youthful innocence of the post World War II era, buoying the genre's good-natured hokum with her sincere charm and energy. One of a long line of girls-next-door like Doris Day and June Allyson, Reynolds was never as sultry as Day could be, and was more of a showbiz cheerleader and less of a tomboy than either. In her most successful films like Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) and Singin' in the Rain (1952), she was often cast as a sincere young adult in the throes of puppy love - never the virgin chased by rogues like Day or the placid housewife like Allyson. Her squeaky clean image came in handy when, in the biggest Hollywood scandal of the 1950s, her then-husband, crooner Eddie Fisher, left her and their two children - Carrie and Todd Fisher - for sultry screen goddess, Elizabeth Taylor. Not surprisingly, the public was more than on Reynolds' side as the jilted wife. Once that furor died down, Reynolds was left to reinvent herself. In the late 1960s, when new sexual mores suddenly rendered the docile suburban female image a thing of the past, Reynolds shifted her focus to nightclub and theatrical stages. She was absent from the big screen for decades but settled into a comfortable presence in the American fabric by returning to film in the 1990s with funny mom roles in films like Mother (1996) and In and Out (1997) and hysterical guest appearances as the over-the-top mother of Grace Adler (Debra Messing) on Will & Grace (NBC, 1998-2006). Reynolds brought both self-mocking and nostalgia to these and other well-received comedic outings, using her persona as a perennially perky throwback to mine genuine laughs well into her 70s. 

It used to be that when a Hollywood celebrity passes away, a number of companies would sent out an e-mail blast offering discounted prices on DVD movies starring or co-starring the recently deceased. Many felt this was distasteful... the attempt to cash in on the recent trending of a celebrity obit. But it turns out such offers allow cinephiles the opportunity to revisit those old classics or in many cases, expose such talents to a generation that never knew the celebrity by name.  Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, you can watch many of her greatest films for free. Naturally, most of the movies being screened are owned by Turner Entertainment which means her films from 20th Century Fox will have to be purchased to be seen. And the Paramount classic, THE PLEASURE OF HER COMPANY, still remains one of the few Debbie Reynolds films that proves a challenge to find and view.

Friday, January 6, 2017

CLASSIC IMAGES Celebrates 500

Later this month the February 2017 issue of CLASSIC IMAGES magazine goes out to subscribers, marking a milestone with issue number 500. You read that right... 500.

CLASSIC IMAGES was the brainchild of a furniture store owner named Sam Rubin. From his home in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Sam began publishing a fanzine he called “8mm collector,” in June of 1962, in order to serve classic film buffs who ran films in their homes. In an era before the Internet, the idea was to give film collectors a place to talk about their hobby, focusing especially on the problem of sorting out the best and the worst film prints that were being sold on the collectors market at that time. Film collectors responded enthusiastically and their feedback started a tradition that lasts to this day with reader input being an important part of the publication. 

Today, many of the articles focus on biographical retrospectives of Hollywood actors and actresses. About a year ago Tom Weaver began contributing monthly columns of interviews with Hollywood actors and documentaries focusing on classic movies. The November 2016 issue, for example, featured Tom's coverage of "The Making of Universal's The Black Castle." Laura Wagner provides a monthly column of book reviews, keeping geeks like myself in touch with current publications released to the market. Robert Tevis provides a column reporting screenings of rare movies not available elsewhere. Harris Lentz III provides a monthly list of Hollywood celebrities who have passed on in the past month. Ray Frieders provides us with a list of movies coming out commercially on DVD and their street dates. There are frequent reviews of film festivals, loaded with on-the-scene photographs. Best summed up, CLASSIC IMAGES keeps any movie buff current with the latest news in the hobby.

CLASSIC IMAGES evolved in the 1970s when Sam Rubin sold the publication to Blackhawk Films in Davenport, Iowa, with Sam staying on as Editor-In-Chief and moving his office to Davenport. With the advent of the video revolution in the late 1970s the name of the periodical was changed to CLASSIC IMAGES and as the publication grew it came to serve all areas of movie collectibles including posters, stills, autographs, books and the whole gamut of movie memorabilia. 

In 1991 Bob King came on as editor following Sam’s retirement. In 1995 King launched FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE magazine as a quarterly sister publication to the monthly CLASSIC IMAGES newspaper. Editorially, CLASSIC IMAGES and FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE focus on classic movies, and the enhancement of classic film preservation and appreciation. As the “voice of film fandom” both magazines take strong stands against such threats as banning classic films, for example, the misguided “Chan ban” against the classic Charlie Chan detective films. Both magazines also provide a platform for writers who research and write about films and filmmakers who now are mostly ignored or misunderstood by the mainstream media. I would also like to note that FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE will reach issue #100 a year and a half from now, also reaching a milestone.

Quoting Bob King, "After 55 years of service to the movie buff community, CLASSIC IMAGES and FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE salute all our readers, advertisers and contributors whose commitment to classic films has accomplished so much. Sam’s original aim in 1962 was to give the film buff community a measure of clout that they could not have alone. We plan to carry on his good works well into the future."

If you do not have a subscription to either magazine, you can visit their website (loaded with note-worthy articles and hours of reading) and subscribe within minutes. Back issues are also available for sale.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

The way I look at it, if Sports Illustrated can have their own swimsuit issue, we can have one of our own to ring in the New Year!

Debra Paget
Sari Maritza
Frances Drake rings in the new year of 1935.
Virginia Dale
Guess Who?