Friday, December 24, 2021

The Christmas Tradition Continues

For those of you hoping I would continue with the annual tradition of featuring holiday glamour photos of Hollywood eye candy, you won't be disappointed. Randomly selected from the archive.... here you go!

Gabrielle Ray
Ann Sheridan
Patricia Ellis
Carole Lombard
Elizabeth Taylor, the girl who had everything.
The Bogart family celebrated the holiday.
Una Merkel
Can't go a year without sexpot Clara Bow.
Betty Grable and yes, her legs.
June Haver gift wrapped and ready.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

It was Christmas in July (July 1964 to be exact) when news first broke industry trade, reporting that Jalor Productions was about to film a low-budget science-fiction film titled – we kid you not – Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Despite warnings from producers and others along New York’s film row that “it couldn’t be done,” Paul L. Jacobson (president of Jalor) pulled off a minor miracle by completing a ten-day lensing schedule, requiring 14 sets and 100 percent union crews under a budget of $200,000. What developed was a holiday movie for the kiddies that has since built a cult following.

Renowned as a holiday cult classic, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians tells the story of the depressed children of Mars, who watch too much Earth TV. To bring them out of their funk, the Martian leaders travel to Earth to kidnap two local kids and Santa Claus himself, forcibly keeping them in a factory to make toys. But you cannot manufacture happiness, and Santa must teach his alien overseers the true meaning of Christmas. The premise might come across as hokey for those who never saw the movie, but one has to remember the film was created for children under the age of ten who prefer their movies laced not with LSD… but with ice-cream and tickle-rays. The movie generated decent box office revenue upon initial release, but fell into the public domain and ultimately faded into obscurity. Years later a new audience discovered the film when it was critiqued on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1991, giving the movie new life and a cult following who now screen the movie annually at home as part of their holiday yule log. 

Filmed at Michael Myerberg’s Long Island Studios (an abandoned aircraft hangar from WWII where such productions as A Thousand Clowns and A Carol for Another Christmas were also produced) with Nicholas Webster as director, prevailing labor conditions in New York City still make film historians today wonder if many involved in the production were paid under the table. Even with cast and crew paid not one penny over scale, reportedly, Jacobson ensured crewmen were not required for one particular day’s shooting.

Embassy Pictures quickly picked up the distribution rights, premiering the movie in an estimated 100 theaters in Chicago and Milwaukee, beginning November 21 and 22. As part of a national promo push, a music campaign tied with RCA Victor’s new Al Hirt record, “Hooray for Santa Claus,” was sent out across the country throughout the same month. That song, complete with bouncing ball, was featured prominently during the film’s closing credits. In Chicago and Milwaukee alone the film grossed $135,700 during opening weekend. As the weeks continued through the holiday season, and as the film continued to get distributed across the country, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians turned a tidy profit because of the low-budget production costs. The movie opened in New York City the weekend of December 16.

The movie was not without competition when a Florida showman, K. Gordon Murray, felt that the holiday offering was encroaching upon his territory. For the past four years he built up business for a 1959 Mexican production, Santa Claus, which concerns Satan (yes, the Devil himself) who sends his minion, Pitch, to foil Santa’s holiday plans. Pitch, in turn, recruits three naughty boys to help him set death traps for Santa. In 1964 alone Murray was renting out English-dubbed versions of the Mexican film (Murray himself supplied his own voice for one of the characters) and expanded from 30 prints to 100 in an effort to compete against Murray’s new production. The film’s unusual booking pattern was limited to seven weeks a year, three in November and four in December. The rest of the year it sat in a Miami film vault. Murray was first exposed to Santa Claus when it was an entry in the 1959 San Francisco Film Festival at which was named the “Best Family Film” of the year. 

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, however, was not restricted to seven weeks and continued to run in theaters across the country through February. The movie ran mostly during matinees (rarely evening hours) but that did not stop the movie from receiving additional box office revenue the next year courtesy of limited distribution during the re-release, then made available for television beginning in 1970. The movie also secured a three-picture contract with Jacobson and Myerberg in 1965, none of which met fruition. In 1972 Jacobson entered into partnership with Jules Power, producer of the Mr. Wizard television series, to produce a series of low-budget theatrical pictures; none of which met fruition. If you are starting to see a pattern, you are not mistaken. Jacobson attempted to produce so cheaply that his business partners hesitated greenlighting any projects on the table. By 1973 Jacobson was insisting any movie could be produced under $500,000, a larger figure after his business partners insisted on meeting union requirements. Regardless of his attempts to produce a second, third and fourth pictures, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians ultimately became the only movie written and/or produced by Paul L. Jacobson, who died in Port Washington, New York, in 2015.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians celebrates 55 years this December and you may even catch a glimpse of Santa Claus wandering the hallways during the weekend. The movie was Pia Zadora’s film debut; she played a Martian child. The movie also features the first documented appearance of Mrs. Claus (pre-dating the Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special by three weeks). The movie was also the inspiration for Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972), produced by R&S Film Enterprises in Dania, Florida.

Because the movie fell into the public domain, you can find copies of this holiday offering in varied quality from 16mm transfers. To be fair, I have yet to see a bad print transfer. But in December 2012, Kino Lorber released the movie on both DVD and BluRay from a superior 35mm print, to ensure the highest quality. As a child, I enjoyed the movie every year when telecast over PBS, so naturally I purchased the Kino release (pictured on the left, referred to as "Special Edition"). If you have never seen the movie, and remember no one is twisting your arm to make you watch it, accept my recommendation to watch the film this holiday for your amusement. 

Small postscript: the Kino DVD appears to be out of print. The BluRay is still available on Amazon.

Friday, December 10, 2021

OVER HERE! New York City During World War II

I have often said that American history can often be both fascinating and entertaining depending on the presenter. When we visit a museum, the tour guide can make the cost of admission worth it. And, when attending conventions and film festivals, subjects I am only casually interested in become fantastic presentations when the person delivering the slide show presentation does a great job. Case in point Lorraine B. Diehl's book, OVER HERE! New York City During World War II, published in 2010. 

Paying a visit to a used book store some time ago, I found myself combating the urge to not leave empty handed. (It is a weakness of mine.) So I left with a few books, one of which was Diehl's book that is wonderfully nostalgic. The book documented how men between the ages of 21 and 35 had to register for the draft more than a full year before the U.S. entered the war, and President Roosevelt in September of 1940 asking that a super dry dock be constructed in New York Harbor to handle the 45,000-ton battleships under construction in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. While many have the misconception that America went into war mode the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this book reveals how the country knew it was only a matter of time and legislation, materials and policies were already being put into place far in advance.

From Rockefeller Center's Victory Gardens and Manhattan's swanky nightclubs to metal-scrap drives and carless streets, the book captures a perspective that is not dry or dull. Rich in detail, from Macy's blackout boutique to Mickey Mouse gas masks for kids, this is a great read both fascinating and entertaining at the same time. Great prose, laid out simply like a Ken Burns documentary, loaded with rare photos from archives, this is a must for anyone who wants to enjoy a good read. Treat yourself this Christmas and grab a today today.

Friday, December 3, 2021

It's a Wonderful Life Bloopers

Christmas time is nostalgia time. Watching old holiday favorites often remind us of life's lessons we should remember throughout the year. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) challenges the status quo with a madman who might be a genius, a psychiatrist abusing his position to convict an innocent man, and a divorced woman painted in a good light.  It’s A Wonderful Life demonstrates the old proverb that we don’t understand the value of something until we lose it. It’s A Wonderful Life didn’t start out as a Christmas movie tradition until decades of TV re-airings. Having watched the movie for what was probably the 20th time in 20 years, I would like to endorse the re-mastered version from Paramount DVD which reveals intricate details such as snow on automobiles and George’s hair that gets more grey over the years. (This might explain why he is wearing a headpiece which briefly falls off in the swimming pool when the Charleston dance ends in disaster… you have to really watch for that…) Anyway, for those who have seen the film umpteen times might find fun is catching the following bloopers when the film is screened once again. 

Bloopers are listed in chronological order.

When Mary leans across the drugstore counter to whisper in George's bad ear, there is a small piece of tape on the edge of the counter right in front of her hand, presumably to show the actors where to position themselves for the camera shot.

While the old man is in the chair mourning over the loss of his son, the cigar disappears and then reappears in his mouth when he orders young George to deliver a prescription.

When the old pharmacist hits young George, the amount of blood coming from George's ear changes back and forth from lots of blood, little blood and lots of blood.

During a confrontation between old man Potter and Peter Bailey at the Building and Loan, Potter's bodyguard stands behind the wheelchair on its left side. But in the close-up shot of Potter, the arms and hands of his bodyguard can be seen extending from the right side of the wheelchair. In the next full screen shot, the bodyguard back on the left side of the wheelchair.

Same scene as last…. When George visits his father in his office and finds him arguing with Potter, his father is standing behind his desk talking to Potter. There is a cut away form this but upon return George's father is now on the same side of the desk as Potter.

James Stewart and Donna Reed
When George, Bert and Ernie chat in the street, they suddenly stop due to the appearance of Violet (played by Gloria Grahame) in her "this is what I wear when I don't care how I look" dress. The camera cuts back to them and we see a dark haired woman in a hat pass in front of Ernie's taxi. As Violet crosses the street, we see another shot of the boys staring after her -- and the dark haired woman passes in front of the taxi again… and again.

As George and Mary prepare to drive Martini's family to their new home, Mary (in a close up in the car) is holding the goat's horn/antler. The scene cuts to an extreme long shot in which her hand is nowhere near the goat.

When George arrives at home and finds Mary lying in bed, he puts his right hand on her right hand and kisses her. In the next shot, he is caressing her head with his right hand.

Moments after George passes out newspapers heralding his brother winning the Congressional Medal of Honor, George enters the Building and Loan with a Christmas wreath on his arm. On hearing that he has a phone call from his brother Harry, he tosses the wreath on a table and picks up the phone. In the next shot, the wreath still back on his arm.

When Uncle Billy walks up to the teller window, there is no one in line. In the next cut, there is a line of people behind him.

In the scene where Violette gets a "loan" of $20.00 from George Bailey, his pipe is in his mouth. When he reaches for the money to pay Violet, the pipe vanishes.

When George is kicking stuff in the living room of his house, after yelling at his children, his hair is messed up. After his wife scolds him, it's miraculously combed again.

When George Bailey crashes his car into the tree after leaving "Martini's Place," notice its position against the tree; an upward direct angle with both headlights. Then the car is seen next to the tree and one of the headlights is missing. (My wife caught that one.)

When George Bailey is going to jump off the bridge, watch the snow carefully. In one of the shots where Clarence is shouting in the water the snow all of a sudden quits, then it goes back to snowing when George jumps in.

In the scene after Bailey becomes nonexistent and they go to the bar, Clarence and Bailey are thrown out, but when they land they have switched positions.

When Bert the cop is struggling with Clarence and Clarence disappears, you can see Ernie's shadow which shows him pointing and gesturing with his hand before he actually does it.

When George first finds his brother's grave, the death date is visible. After arguing with Clarence he has to wipe snow from the base of the stone to reveal the date.

On Christmas Eve, when he is hugging Tommy, George is clean shaven. By the time he climbs the stairs to check on ZuZu, he has a heavy 5 o'clock shadow on his face.

A hat being held by someone donating money in the Bailey house first has a little snow, then a lot of snow, then no snow.

I'm not going to reveal where this one is. See if you can find this one…  
At one point George (James Stewart) called Violet (Gloria Grahame), Gloria.

Photo on Left: James Stewart and Gloria Grahame.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Vintage Christmas Radio Station

After two months of cataloging more than 3,000 of the old 33s, 45s and 78s to CD format, and separating those with a holiday theme, I loaded more than 300 Christmas songs onto a streaming playlist for you to enjoy. In the spirit of of mixtape from years gone by, I found a modern way to bring these songs to the masses for the holiday season, without having to burn hundreds of CDs. 

If you are like me, every holiday you tune to a local radio station that traditionally plays the same Christmas songs over and over and over... and yeah, it gets tedious hearing the same recordings every year. Christmas is a time to establish a fond look back through nostalgic vocals and my frustration grows knowing that Gene Autry's rendition of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Bing Crosby's White Christmas is going to play on rotation... again and again.

What you will hear on this streaming radio station (accessible with a simple click of a button on your computer, iPad, tablet, iPhone, etc.) are vintage Christmas offerings all dated pre-1960 and chances are you haven't heard these renditions. Examples include:

I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas (1954, Betty Johnson)
Frosty the Snowman (1950, Guy Lombaro and his Orchestra)
Santa and the Doodle-Li-Boop (1954, Art Carney)
I Want You for Christmas (1937, Mae Questel as Betty Boop)
All Around the Christmas Tree (1940, Raymond Scott and his New Orchestra)
Barnyard Christmas (1952, Spike Jones and The Bell Sisters)
The Birthday of a King (1949, Judy Garland)
Jingle Bells (1935, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra)
It Happened in Sun Valley (1941, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra)
Christmas in Killarney (1950, Dennis Day with The Mellowmen)
The First Noel (1942, Nelson Eddy and Robert Armbruster's Orchestra)
Let's Start the New Year Right (1942, Bing Crosby)
Hello, Mr. Kringle (1939, Kay Kyser)
Jingle Bells (1934, Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra, and Harriet Hilliard)
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth (1949, Danny Kaye and Patty Andrews)
Yah, Das Ist Ein Christmas Tree (1953, Mel Blanc)
Silent Night (1921, Florence Easton)
Silver Bells (1938, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys)
Christmas on the Plains (1949, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans)
The Night Before Christmas (1952, Gene Autry and Rosemary Clooney)
O Come, All Ye Faithful (1938, Frances Langford)
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus (1950, Patti Page)
Happy Little Christmas Friend (1953, Rosemary Clooney)
Ol' Saint Nicholas (1949, Doris Day)
A Ride in Santa's Sleigh (1953, Judy Valentine)
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1934, Harry Reser)
Santa Claus is on His Way (1941, Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra)
Silent Night (1940, Kate Smith)
Suzy Snowflake (1951, Rosemary Clooney)
Auld Lang Syne (1939, Erwin Bendel with Tiny Till and his Orchestra)
Baby, It's Cold Outside (1949, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan)
Christmas Day (1952, Eddie Fisher)
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe (1941, Dick Roberston)
Merry Christmas Polka (1949, Guy Lombardo and The Andrews Sisters)
I'll Be Home for Christmas (1947, Eddy Howard)
Five Pound Box of Money (1959, Pearl Bailey)
The Man with the Whiskers (1938, Hoosier Hot Shots)
March of the Toys (1939, Tommy Dorsey)
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (1938, Kenny Baker)
I Want You for Christmas (1937, Russ Morgan)
The Kissing Bridge (1953, The Fontane Sisters and Perry Como)
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1952, Molly Bee)
Here Comes Santa Claus (1949, Doris Day)
I Believe in Santa Claus (1955, The Mills Brothers)
Little Sandy Sleighfoot (1957, Jimmy Dean)
The Man with the Bag (1950, Kay Starr)
Merry Christmas Waltz (1949, Gordon MacRae)
Christmas Alphabet (1954, The McGuire Sisters)
Let It Snow, Let It Snow (1946, Bob Crosby)
I Saw Mommy do the Mombo (1954, Jimmy Boyd)
The Mistletoe Kiss (1948, Primo Scala and The Keynotes)
My Christmas Song for You (1945, Hoagy Carmichael and Martha Mears)
Christmas Night in Harlem (1934, Todd Rollins and his Orchestra)

Among the highlights you will hear "I Want a Television Christmas" by Mindy Carson (which happens to be a 1949 RCA sales promo), the 1953 Christmas Dragnet spoof with Daws Butler and Stan Freberg, a 1953 commercial recording of Amos and Andy's popular "The Lord's Prayer," Basil Rathbone narrating a musical rendition of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (1942), Bing Crosby's 1942 version of "White Christmas" (not the 1947 re-recording you commonly hear on radio today), Jerry Colonna's 1953 take on "Too Fat for the Chimney," the 1934 version of "Winter Wonderland" performed by Richard Himber (the first recording ever made of that song), and other rarities.

Of the 300 plus recordings, you will no doubt hear the same song (such as "Winter Wonderland" and "The First Noel") performed multiple times but each rendition with a different singer.  

Many familiar songs but with unfamiliar renditions from your favorite singers. (Believe me, I will have this radio station playing all day at home, and streaming through my iPhone when I travel during the holiday season.) I hope this musical yule log not only suits your palate, but many of these songs become a favorite of yours. 

The Beatles: Get Back, Four Stars

Every fan of The Beatles knows the story. It was January 1969 when the fab four gathered together at Twickenham Studio not only to create 14 new songs for a new album, but perform them in front of a live studio audience. This would be the first time the band played before a live audience since 1966. With the untimely passing of Brian Epstein, the man who truly discovered them and became their manager, the boys were in grief. Their film, Magical Mystery Tour, was a flop. They bickered over the trackless of what would become "The White Album," resulting in two LP records for the release and a cover that was not traditional. They only had two weeks to write new songs, polish them to perfection, and perform for an unprepared audience. The entire events was filmed and segments used for the Let it Be documentary, which would win an Academy Award, spawn an LP soundtrack, and establish a long-rumored misconception that The Beatles were at odds against each other during the breakup.

Peter Jackson spent considerable time restoring 60 hours of filmed footage from those two weeks, and more than 150 hours of recorded audio, to assemble what would become three documentaries now available through the streaming service known as Disney Plus. Get Back spans eight hours so breaking up the entire affair in three documentaries was a wise decision. The opening few minutes of Part One reminds us of the events that lead to the establishment of The Beatles and the reason why they went to Twickenham Studios. 

Watching John, Paul, George and Ringo experimenting with the notes and writing lyrics was almost tear-jerking. Never in years have I watched a documentary that moved me like this. The songs I grew up as a kid are being created right before my eyes. On my shelf I have about 30 music CDs -- half of them are Beatles. So you can my excitement when I first saw the trailer promoting this documentary and how pleased I am to deliver this message: if you are a fan of The Beatles, this is a must-see documentary.

Watching Yoko Ono remove notepads out of her purse to hand to John, which she apparently kept on hand at all times in case he needed to write lyrics that were inspired in the moment, Paul and George debating on different approaches while maintaining peace without walking off the set, and the jokes about what to title the songs reveal a candid side of their creativity. Day Four is when Paul played around with a song that, ten minutes later, had gone through multiple renditions and formed the song we know today as "Get Back."

Let it Be (1970) did not dwell on the dissension within the group at the time, but it certainly provided some glimpses into the dynamics that lead to their break-up. Get Back changes the perceptions we had all these decades and for the better. For anyone not fans of The Beatles or the younger generation that never grew up with their music, the documentary may become dull and boring after the first hour. But for fans of The Beatles, this was music in the making.

I could type pages of praise but to save you time reading what is best to see on the screen, I cannot state how good this documentary is. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Halloween, Hollywood Style

Once again, it's time for our annual Halloween photo shoot!

Nancy Carroll

Lynn Bari

Bessie Love

Muriel Evans

Audrey Young  1946

Clara Bow

Madge Evans

I have no idea who they are, but I love the photo.

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Adventures of Superman (The 1942 Novel)

Amongst the mythos of Superman are a number of trademarks which, to those who never read the comic books, originated from radio. Perry White, Jimmy Olson and Kryptonite was introduced to The Adventures of Superman radio program long before they made their first appearance in the comic book rendition, and the unsung hero was not Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster – it was George Ludlam, Robert Maxwell, Edward Langley and George Lowther. The latter of whom was responsible for scripting such radio programs as Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates and Renfrew of the Mounted, and to whom we are taking a quick moment to revisit.

Born in 1913, Lowther proclaimed to being the first page boy (at the age of 14) hired by NBC Studios in New York City, and his flair for words meant his scripts were sharper than those of his colleagues. Lowther would eventually maintain continuity and portray the man in tights as a heroic American who combatted the enemies who attempted to commit acts of sabotage during World War II. As Edward Langley once remarked, “Lowther basically was Superman Incorporated.”


Lowther reportedly wrote the majority of the radio scripts for the first Superman radio program, which was syndicated beginning in February of 1940 and ran a total of 325 episodes. Among the regional sponsors were Hecker’s Oat Cereal and Force Wheat Flakes. Because the series was recorded, transcribed and syndicated, the program aired on various days and time slots. In one area of the country the program was heard three times a week at 7 p.m., while in other areas the program was heard five nights a week at the 5 o’clock hour. (Today, all 325 episodes and the four audition recordings are known to exist in recorded form.) Many of the story arcs were adapted for Radio Mirror magazine for short stories. I was lucky enough to acquire a zerox of most of those stories and you can enjoy reading them here:


In 1942, The Adventures of Superman made a return to the airwaves, this time as a network program, five nights a week, over the Mutual Broadcasting System. A total of 1,612 broadcasts aired from 1942 to 1949, with the earliest episodes rehashed and recycled from the syndicated run, and by episode thirteen entirely new stories were created for the program. By this time George Lowther was not only involved with the script writing, but also the directing (and for more than a year, announcing chores as well). Lowther was eventually provided an assistant to handle the script writing, Edward Langley, to ease his position of wearing many hats. 


In 1942, Random House published a hardcover (with dust jacket) for Superman, a prose novel with illustrations by Joe Schuster. George Lowther wrote the novel during the downtime between the two radio programs. Lowther recycled the origin of Superman, how he comes to Earth and getting a job working for the Daily Planet, providing considerable detail when Clark Kent first discovered he had abilities beyond mortal men. Among the noticeable trademarks of the origin story (segments of which are also depicted on the radio program) was Eben and Sarah Kent, his adopted parents. Today, through studio and corporate branding, the names of Jonathan and Martha Kent are more familiar to television and movie goers. 


To eliminate confusion, and to provide clarity: Eben and Martha Kent were the names used in the 1948 cliffhanger serial produced by Columbia Pictures, while Eben and Sarah were used for the 1952 television rendition. In the comic book’s first extensive retelling of Superman’s origin (Issue #53, July-August 1948), the names were John and Mary Kent. Later stories, after the early 1960s introduction to the DC Multiverse, declared that the early renditions of the Kents were indeed John and Mary Kent (eliminating any reference to Sarah from the radio program and the 1942 novel) and live in the “Earth-Two” universe while Jonathan and Martha live in the “Earth-One” universe. 


The 1942 Lowther novel also reveals how Superman will have the power to fly on Earth, “but must walk a snail’s pace on the Earth’s surface” to avoid disclosing his ability of speed. Superman could also breathe under water.


The second half of the book contains an original story about a skeleton ship reported along a Maine shipyard. The rumored ghostly specter included a crew from Davy Jones’ locker, haunting men away from their jobs at the nearby Lowell Shipyard, constructing vessels for the war effort. Clark Kent, sent on his first routine job as a reporter for the Daily Planet, was sent up north to investigate. There, he shrewdly combines his efforts with reporter Lois Lane, while investigating solo to avoid revealing his super-human capabilities.


The underwater menace was a number of enemy submarine stationed offshore, ready to attack, and the ghost-like figures were merely meant to frighten workers away from the docks to cripple war production. 


“The skeleton ship with its crew leering down from the rail was a sight to set the strongest nerves quivering. A brief glimpse of it might be enough to send this girl into hysterics. Also there was Captain Joshua Murdock – a skeleton clothed in the tattered and moldy remains of clothes more than a century old – who prowled the pier at night and who no doubt would make his appearance before dawn…”


Elements from this story was dramatized on the radio program in the story arc known as “Last of the Clipper Ships,” syndicated in March and April of 1941. In that story, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen were sailing on the Clara M (not the Nancy M), last of the clipper ships. Mr. Barnaby, a one-legged sailor, and the mysterious “Whistler” make trouble for Captain Hawkins. Other elements from the same novel were used in “The Mystery Ship” (December 1942, MBS), involving “the Old Man of the Seaweed.” Regardless of elements borrowed, the story in the novel is an original and not one heard over the radio program.


Gavel price for George Lowther’s Superman varies based on marketplace. The dust jacket is worth more than the book but the demand for the hardcover is strong enough to ensure even the book has strong value. A facsimile edition was published in 1995 by Applewood Books, with a new introduction by Roger Stern, also available in hardcover. (You can tell the difference between the original and the facsimile by the front cover which discloses that the original was published in 1942 and with the new Introduction.) The reprint sells between $10 and $50, depending on who is selling it but never spend more than $20 with postage. As for the original, the red hardcover (without dust jacket) usually sells for about $75. The price goes up considerably based on the condition of the dust jacket.


If you are looking for further information about Superman on radio and television, look no further than Michael Hayde’s fantastic book, Flights of Fantasy. Link provided below.




Friday, October 8, 2021


You can thank Bold Venture Press for this new entry into the Zorro fold... whether you were captivated by the Disney ZORRO series on television or the Johnston McCulley printed prose, the masked avenger with athletic prowess and sharp blade is making a return with a new paperback containing 16 all-new stories. While many would consider this "fan fiction," some of these authors are experienced in their field and provide fantastic adventures. 

In the early 1800s, California was still under Spanish rule. Some military commanders plundered and won riches at the expense of the peace-loving settlers. Against these agents of injustice the settlers were powerless, until one man arose whose courage stirred the hearts of Californians. He alone gave them the spirit to resist tyranny. That man was Zorro!

These new exciting stories include such adventures wherein the “Curse of Capistrano” joins forces with Sgt. Garcia to halt an insurrectionist, teams with The Scarlet Pimpernel’s descendant, rescues damsels, gypsies and even a hog, and clashes with the Devil himself. Danger, swashbuckling adventure and romance await in Reina de Los Angeles, and Zorro always answers the challenge with a smile and his flashing sword! 

The authors include John L. French, Richard A. Lupoff, Will Murray, Francisco Silva (who contributed two stories), Joseph A. Lovece, William Patrick Maynard, Linda Bindner, Susan Kite, Diana Barkley, Bret Bouriseau, Daryl McCullough, Mari K. Ross, Robert Scott Cranford, Eugene Craig, and Pamela Elbert Poland. Introduction by Michael Uslan, executive producer of the Batman film franchise. There is also a brief essay about Johnston McCulley, creator of Zorro.

To order your copy, click here:

Friday, October 1, 2021


Looking for something spooky to enjoy this Halloween? Well, I might have just the thing.

The radio program, Inner Sanctum Mystery, famous for the signature opening and closing of a creaking door, offered a weekly dose of banshees who wailed while bats would gibber and thump in their belfries. The intended overtone of the stories was almost always one of supernatural dread. Fans of the horror radio program know that Boris Karloff routinely played a man tormented by demons. He read every line as though he was actually the living, breathing counterpart of the villain in the script. He built up a “hate” atmosphere, regardless of the worry and concern portrayed on the printed page. 

By comparison with the ghouls and mad scientists he played on the silver screen, Karloff loved performing on radio. The kill-by-kill account over a ghost-to-ghost network quickly became popular and Boris Karloff made a total number of ten guest appearances in 1941 (the program's first year). This book (published earlier this week) reprints nine of those radio scripts... chilling stories that are not known to exist in recorded form. 

In one episode, Karloff played the weather-beaten waterfront character who murdered a fellow seaman for revenge in “Fog,” the dread scourge of men who go down to the sea in ships and served as the eloquent title for a tale of violent death and retribution in the mists off San Francisco. Another episode, “The Green-Eyed Bat,” is a terrifying tale of a man buried alive because of a doctor’s error, a man doomed to horrifying entombment. A victim of a catatonic trance, his condition of suspended animation is mistaken for death. As the buried man returns to consciousness and discovers his predicament, a friend races to his rescue. But this provides us with a few pages of suspense: even if he is rescued, will the mental torture undergone in those awful hours have been too much for the victim? In “The Man Who Hated Death,” Karloff plays the sympathetic role of a friendless mortician who had to live on the fringe of society merely because he wanted to put death in its place. Things begin to clear when the richest man in town dies and his body is turned over to the humble undertaker. But when the dead man comes to life while the mortician is preparing the body for burial, he has a macabre choice to make.

With full disclosure, included with the nine radio scripts is an essay that I wrote, documenting the historical and cultural significance of the first year of Inner Sanctum Mystery, and how Boris Karloff's scheduled appearances changed the format of the program... for the better... from old dark house mystery to supernatural chillers. If you can envision the voice of Boris Karloff as you read these radio scripts, you will enjoy the "lost" episodes that do not exist in recorded form. Certainly a must-have for fans of Boris Karloff and classic horror.

You can order your copy here:

Friday, September 24, 2021


From the team that brought you The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom celebrates the centennial of Ray Bradbury’s birth with the publication of a unique volume of his earliest writing as a science fiction fan. Fans of Ray Bradbury will find this book a real treat (tho, not without an expensive price for the hardcover edition). 
Like iconic predecessors Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, Bradbury's work has stood the test of time. A virtuoso composer with language, he sang the bodies electric and human. His stories reached beyond the mainstream of science fiction, earning him recognition with the National Medal of Arts and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.

But you know all this. 

What you may know less well is that Bradbury began his life in science fiction as a fan, actively immersed in the nascent community of fans in the late 1930s who would shape the genre for the next several decades. Bradbury fell in with Forrest J Ackerman and the Los Angeles Science Fiction League (LASFL) in October 1937 at the age of 17. Just four months later, his first published science fiction story appeared in the January 1938 issue of the club’s organ, Imagination!

THE EARLIEST BRADBURY fills some important some gaps in that history. Here, readers will have a unique opportunity to experience some of Bradbury’s earliest steps on his road to mastery. A treasure trove of Bradbury's articles and stories from 1937 - 1941 are reproduced in full facsimile form, as they were originally published in amateur fanzines. These are not the short stories that appeared in anthologies and short story collections over the decades. Most of these artifacts have never been available outside the musty archives of fanatical collectors of early fan history. Letters, brief snippets of story ideas and proposals and other goodies make up this lavish coffee table book.

You can visit the publishers' website and order a copy today. The hardcover edition is limited to a printing of 100. Also, you can flip through the pages of the book virtually to look inside (a really cool feature).

“Ray Bradbury was a time traveler, his fantastic imagination replenished by memories of a childhood immersed in wonder. THE EARLIEST BRADBURY is itself a time machine, transporting us to the fulcrum point of Bradbury’s life when the ardent fan became a published writer. Through an excavation of rare publications, evocative photos and revealing illustrations, the book recreates a genuinely magical period of Bradbury’s life that continued to inform his later career. This is an essential work to understand his artistic development, and that of American fantasy in general.”
                — Michael Saler, Professor of History, University of California, Davis
                Author of As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality

“The Earliest Bradbury represents the first comprehensive effort to bring together the full visual spectrum of Ray Bradbury’s interactions with the many fanzine editors who constituted the First Fandom universe across America in the late 1930s and early 1940s. These archival images from original publications breathe life into the elusive record of the young Ray Bradbury satirizing, imitating, and experimenting with the craft of writing on the eve of beginning his seven-decade professional career.”
                — Jonathan Eller, Chancellor’s Professor and director of 
                The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University

Thursday, September 16, 2021


Great news! The great character actor Nehemiah Persoff recently finished his memoirs. If the name is not familiar, his face and voice would be. Anyone who has ever watched classic TV shows and movies knows the man... and here we have the opportunity to reach into the mind of the author... revealing (with poignancy and humor) his cultural and ethical clash with Broadway and Hollywood.


Born in 1919 in Jerusalem, Nehemiah Persoff immigrated with his family to America in 1929. Following schooling at the Hebrew Technical Institute of New York, he found a job as a subway electrician doing signal maintenance until an interest in the theater altered the direction of his life.

He joined amateur groups and subsequently won a scholarship to the Dramatic Workshop in New York. This led to what would have been his Broadway debut in a production of "Eve of St. Mark", but he was fired before the show opened. He made his official New York debut in a production of "The Emperor's New Clothes" in 1940.

WWII interrupted his young career in 1942, returning to the stage after his hitch in the Army was over, three years later. He sought work in stock plays and became an intern of Stella Adler  and, as a result, a strong exponent of the Actor's Studio. Discovered by Charles Laughton and cast in his production of "Galileo" in 1947, Persoff made his film debut a year later with an uncredited bit in THE NAKED CITY (1948).

Persoff as the cab driver in ON THE WATERFRONT (1954).


Short, dark, chunky-framed and with a distinct talent for dialects, Persoff became known primarily for his ethnic villainy, usually playing authoritative Eastern Europeans. In a formidable career that had him portraying everything from cab drivers to Joseph Stalin, standout film roles would include Leo in THE HARDER THEY FALL (1956) with Humphrey Bogart, Gene Conforti in Alfred Hitchcock’s THE WRONG MAN (1956), Albert in THE SEA WALL (1957) and gangster Johnny Torrio in AL CAPONE (1959). 

Nehemiah Persoff on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND

It was that same year he played another gangster, the small role of Little Bonaparte, in SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959), alongside Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. He was a durable performer during television’s “Golden Age” as he made guest appearances on six episodes of GUNSMOKE, MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, THE WILD, WILD WEST, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., THE UNTOUCHABLES, PLAYHOUSE 90 and THE TWILIGHT ZONE. In recent years he appeared on CHICAGO HOPE, MURDER SHE WROTE and LAW AND ORDER, playing hundreds of intense, volatile and dominating characters.

"Judgment Night" episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. 

In later years, his characters grew a bit softer as Barbara Streisand’s Jewish father in YENTL (1983) and the voice of Papa Mousekewitz in AN AMERICAN TAIL (1986) will attest. Later stage work included well-received productions of "I'm Not Rappaport" and his biographical one-man show "Sholem Aleichem."

After declining health and high blood pressure forced him to slow down, Persoff took up painting in 1985, studying sketching in Los Angeles. Specializing in watercolor, he has created around 100 works of art, many of which have been exhibited up and down the coast of California. He celebrated his 100th birthday in 2019.

To order his book, click here: