Thursday, March 31, 2022

PLAYHOUSE 90: A New Book Coming Soon

I would be amiss if I did not take a moment to post news about an up-coming book due to be published a year from now. A concept of the cover art is featured below. 

Playhouse 90 was a weekly television anthology that aired over CBS from 1956 to 1960, spanning a total of 133 telecasts. Most of the episodes were produced at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, California. The series was meant to add prestige to the network, regardless of the budget. Now considered a landmark in television broadcasting, and the gold standard for "the Golden Age of Television," the series is best remembered for some of the original productions that later became long-running Broadway plays and box office sensations: Days of Wine and Roses, The Miracle Worker, Requiem for a Heavyweight and Judgment at Nuremberg to name a few. Others spawned controversy such as dramatizing mental health, racial injustice, unwed mothers, and subjects so taboo that many of the sponsors objected to the programs before they were even telecast. Yet, the series stole the majority of Emmy Awards and became the central discussion of newspaper columnists week in and week out.

Others were subject to lawsuits including "Seven Against the Wall," dramatizing the events that led up to the St. Valentines Day massacre, "A Sound of Different Drummers" which infuriated science-fiction scribe Ray Bradbury, and a sponsor request (from the American Gas Association) to bleep out the word "gas" from the episode involving the Nuremberg trials that referenced Hitler's gas chambers.

Dana Wynter in "The Wings of the Dove"

Commentary and recollections from cast and crew over the decades, along with almost two decades of research at archival collections across the country, make up the meat and potatoes of this book. They say 90 percent of a book is the editing. The rough draft is completed and the book is now being trimmed and edited for publication. The initial draft was over 1,500 pages and at the time I write this we have the manuscript down to 800. Scans of archival materials, along with never-before-published photographs, will also be included.

Robert Redford and Susan Kohner in "In the Presence of Mine Enemies"

Hope Lange and Charlton Heston on Playhouse 90.

For years television historians have been asking the big question, "Why hasn't someone written a book about Playhouse 90?" The program was so monumental that is was due for an extensive treatment and both Bob Tevis and I are pleased to announce the answer to that question: "It is coming soon." 

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Death of Buck Jones (1942)

In November of 1942, Hollywood screen actor Buck Jones raced into a burning night club to rescue some people who were trapped, only to succumb from injuries and died in a hospital. The newspapers the following day heralded him as a hero to young and old alike. 

Last week I stumbled on to a website that featured a rare photo of Buck Jones, days before he passed away. Not only is the photo rare, but the author of the blog (see link below) did an excellent job documenting the incident with an article and additional photographs. This blog entry of his is highly recommended.

Friday, March 18, 2022

THE ART OF PULP FICTION (Two New Coffee Table Books)

With so many books published in a calendar year, a large number of them can slip through the cracks and go unnoticed. So I wanted to take a moment and mention two full-color, hardcover coffee table books that are a feast for the eyes and enjoyable reads with lots of trivia. 


By Ed Hulse and Richard A. Lupoff

The Art of Pulp Fiction: An Illustrated History of Vintage Paperbacks chronicles the history of pocket-sized paperbound books designed for mass-market consumption, specifically concentrating on the period from 1940 to 1970. These three decades saw paperbacks eclipse cheap pulp magazines and expensive clothbound books as the most popular delivery vehicle for escapist fiction. To catch the eyes of potential buyers they were adorned with covers that were invariably vibrant, frequently garish, and occasionally lurid. Today the early paperbacks--like the earlier pulps, inexpensively produced and considered disposable by casual readers--are treasured collector's items.

Award-winning editor Ed Hulse (The Blood 'n' Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction) comprehensively covers the pulp-fiction paperback's heyday. Hulse writes the individual chapter introductions and the captions, while a team of genre specialists and art aficionados contribute the special features included in each chapter. These focus on particularly important authors, artists, publishers, and sub-genres. 

Illustrated with more than 500 memorable covers and original cover paintings. Hulse's extensive captions, meanwhile, offer a running commentary on this significant genre, and also contain many obscure but entertaining factoids. Images used in The Art of Pulp Fiction have been sourced from the largest American paperback collections in private hands, and have been curated with rarity in mind, as well as graphic appeal. Consequently, many covers are reproduced here for the first time since the books were first issued.

Ed Hulse displaying his book with pride.

The other book is...


By Ed Hulse and Doug Ellis

Experts in the ten major Pulp genres, from action Pulps to spicy Pulps and more, chart for the first time the complete history of Pulp magazines—the stories and their writers, the graphics and their artists, and, of course, the publishers, their market, and readers.

Each chapter in the book, which is illustrated with more than 400 examples of the best Pulp graphics (many from the editors’ collections—among the world’s largest) is organized in a clear and accessible way, starting with an introductory overview of the genre, followed by a selection of the best covers and interior graphics, organized chronologically through the chapter. All images are fully captioned (many are in essence "nutshell" histories in themselves). Two special features in each chapter focus on topics of particular interest (such as extended profiles of Daisy Bacon, Pulp author and editor of Love Story, the hugely successful romance Pulp, and of Harry Steeger, co-founder of Popular Publications in 1930 and originator of the "Shudder Pulp" genre). 

With an overall introduction on "The Birth of the Pulps" by Doug Ellis, and with two additional chapters focusing on the great Pulp writers and the great Pulp artists, The Art of the Pulps covers every aspect of this fascinating genre; it is the first definitive visual history of the Pulps.

If either of these two books intrigue you, they can be found on

I collect more paperbacks than pulps so the first of the two was of extreme fascination for me. I have two bookshelves with more than 500 paperbacks from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. I learned quite a lot about paperbacks that I did not know, making this a reference book worth keeping on my shelf next to those paperbacks.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Friday, March 4, 2022

"1883" is Possibly the Best TV Western in a Decade

If you enjoy raw adult westerns and have not seen Taylor Sheridan's latest now streaming on Paramount Plus, you are missing something truly special. It has been two years since I recommended a new TV series worth watching and five years since I saw a good western worthy of watching and even that series, Godless, streaming on Netflix, was not as high a caliber as this one. 

Sam Elliott in the role of Shea Brennan.

1883 is meant to be a prequel to the popular Yellowstone TV series, but you do not have to see Yellowstone to enjoy this gritty western. The series follows an earlier generation of the Dutton family as they journey from Fort Worth, Texas, to Montana, to establish a ranch and settle down in the savage country that has yet to be tamed. Their journey north and west through the Great Plains toward the last bastion of untamed America as they fled poverty to seek a better future in America's promised land.

The cast includes Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Sam Elliott, LaMonica Garrett and Isabel May -- the latter of whom provides the narration from her perspective. She sees the true beauty of the land while everyone else encounters hardship, venting complaints and shedding tears. In short, the story really focuses on her character, including her narratives that open and close each episode. While most of the cast have an authentic southern drawl, some have criticized her rendition but she has proven to be the breakout star of the series.

Isabel May playing the Elsa Dutton

The scripts were apparently strong enough to convince a number of celebrity actors to make cameos including Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Hanks. Many in the cast expressed discomfort at the cold temperatures while filming on location in Montana. Faith Hill deemed filming as "the most physically and mentally challenging thing we have ever done." Star Sam Elliott also expressed at his age filming the scenes was difficult, but "we're getting it on screen and in the end that's what matters. This is really going to be something special." Elliott, no stranger to westerns, knew just what he was talking about.

While every actor plays their parts perfectly, with no acting flaws from a single member of the cast, it is Isabel May who steals the spotlight. Her quest for "authenticity" concerning no cosmetics or shaving of underarm hair was evident during certain scenes. Clothes are torn, worn and dirty. Authenticity was called for and the cast and crew spared no expense. One of my pet peeves when watching westerns is when a stagecoach or covered wagon rides across the prairie with a dirt road that was clearly made for that purpose but show no signs of wagon tracks. Here, the tracks are not only evident but deep from past rains.

A warning for those who are not fans of Westerns. The series is raw. A woman is scalped alive and you while the act is seen in the shadows, we are later exposed to the gruesome view complete with blood and bone. As one man said, watching the woman crying in pain, "I don't know the Lord's Prayer, but if there is a God, he will not keep you out of heaven for what I don't know. You deserve peace, and this ain't it." A moment later he pulls his gun and puts her out of her misery. 

Considering this is the second or third TV series in ten years that I place on a list of recommendations, 1883 is truly a feast for anyone who seeks enjoyment.