Friday, October 28, 2022

The Screaming Bean is a Dream Come True

Every dream starts with a small beginning. Mine has been to own and run a coffee shop. And not just any ol' coffee shop, but one that provides an intrinsic sense of fulfillment for the employees. A company culture with a single mission: "Where Community Happens." A coffee shop that impacts the community by helping local fund raisers and charities. Basically a coffee shop that defines Main Street, not Wall Street.

It is mainly about connecting and impacting people. A coffee shop is just the bridge to connection.

With a full service espresso bar, the goal is to offer craft coffee -- not just drip coffee that is commonly available throughout Harford County. (Yes, there is a difference.)

If this comes as a surprise to you, don't sweat. Opening a coffee shop has been in the research and planning stage for five years and only my close friends knew about this. Today I can go public with the news.

My wife and I were handed the lease contract a few days ago, which took months of negotiation to ensure we have a good contract, not a bad one. Now we go into the architectural stage, permits, trending, drainage and plumbing, more permits, contracts, hiring, inspections and more permits. But as mind-boggling as all that might sound, right now we are stepping into the biggest and most challenging phase of the project -- fund raising.

It is regrettable that Interest Rates are the highest in two decades because a business loan will be murder. No one likes to pay interest. (I know I don't.) But today we have crowdfunding -- an alternative funding that make dreams come true. As of yesterday I launched a Kickstarter to generate starting capital. The more money we raise, the less we have to borrow from the bank.

(Have no fear, this new business venture does not mean my present book projects will come to a halt.)

I have never asked a favor like this -- ever. Usually it is I doing the favors, whether it includes funding other people's book projects, donating money to people on Go Fund Me who are down on their luck, or helping to raise money for children with treatable cancer at the annual MANC convention. Why? Because I have always lived with the mantra to make the world a better place than it was when I woke up this morning. It is my hope The Screaming Bean will become a shining example of how local business can support the local community. 

So this is my time to ask for a favor. 

Please visit the Kickstarter link below and if you share that same belief, consider pledging. 
And help spread the word to your friends.
With sincere appreciation,

Friday, October 21, 2022

Basil Rathbone in "The Man Who Was Hanged" (1936)

On the evening of February 2, 1936, The Baker's Broadcast presented the usual half-hour Sunday night feature of music, comedy and drama -- music provided by Ozzie Nelson, vocals by Harriet Hilliard, comedy by various comedians (formerly Joe Penner for a full season) and drama ranging from domestic squabbles to mystery thrillers. The program was also known as Believe-it-or-Not because Robert Ripley had a weekly feature on the program. Basil Rathbone was among the celebrity guests that particular evening and he starred in a six-minute sketch titled "The Man Who Was Hanged."

A few years ago all of the radio scripts were found and a digitizing process began to copy all of the programs into PDF files. As expected with many radio broadcasts of the 1930s, the majority of The Baker's Broadcast does not exist in recorded form. So these scripts prove valuable for almost every fan of pop culture. In this case, fans of Basil Rathbone would love to read the drama and as an interesting side note, he voiced the role of Will Purvis without being billed as Basil Rathbone. Why a character actor of radio did not play the role instead of Rathbone remains a mystery. But click the link below and enjoy this six minute oddity.

Friday, October 14, 2022

THE TWILIGHT ZONE: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963)

Production #2605 “NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET”

(Initial telecast: October 11, 1963)

© Cayuga Productions, Inc., October 4, 1963, LP27130

Dates of Filming: July 12 through 16, 1963

Script dated: April 25, 1963


Production Notes

Producer and Secretary: $1,626.02

Story and Secretary: $2,660.00

Director: $1,375.00 

Cast: $9,770.08

Unit Manager and Secretary: $726.01 

Production Fee: $1,800.00

Agents Commission: $2,500.00 

Legal and Accounting: $250.00

Below the line charges (M-G-M): $55,813.23 

Below the line charges (other): $3,374.82

Total Production Costs: $79,895.16


Cast: Dave Armstrong (police officer); Slim Bergman (a passenger); Nick Cravat (the gremlin); Extelle Ettere (a passenger); Madeline Finochio (a passenger); Ed Haskett (a passenger); Hath Howard (a passenger); Edward Kemmer (the copilot); Asa Maynor (the stewardess); Bob McCord (a passenger); Beryl McCutcheon (a passenger); Jean Olson (a passenger); William Shatner (Bob Wilson); and Christine White (Ruth Wilson).

Stock Music Cues: Etrange #3 (by Marius Constant, :09); Milieu #2 (by Constant, :21); Onslaught (by Fred Steiner, :35); The Station (by Bernard Herrmann, :07 and :07); Struggle (by Steiner, :36); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :31); Goodbye Keith (by William Lava, :06); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :04); Second Vision (by Steiner, :21); Puzzles (by Steiner, :46); Forboding Preamble (by Lyn Murray, :11); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :16); Struggle (by Steiner, :36); Goodbye Keith (by Lava, :06); The Sun (by Herrmann, 1:04); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :21 and :32); The Station (by Herrmann, :47); Dead Phones (by Steiner, :18); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :29 and :19); Ford’s Theater (by Jerry Goldsmith, :17); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :16); Goodbye Keith (by Lava, :06); Dirge (by Goldsmith, :14); Now We Move (by Nathan Van Cleave, :17); A Story #1 (by Constant, :03); Magdalena Curtain (by Murray, :05); and Milieu #2 (by Constant, arr. by Herrmann, :21).


“Portrait of a frightened man: Mr. Robert Wilson, thirty-seven, husband, father, and salesman on sick leave. Mr. Wilson has just been discharged from a sanitarium where he spent the last six months recovering from a nervous breakdown, the onset of which took place on an evening not dissimilar to this one . . . on an airliner very much like the one in which Mr. Wilson is about to be flown home . . . the difference being that, on that evening half a year ago, Mr. Wilson’s flight was terminated by the onslaught of his mental breakdown. Tonight, he’s traveling all the way to his appointed destination – which, contrary to Mr. Wilson’s plan – happens to be in the darkest corner . . . of the Twilight Zone.”


Plot: Robert Wilson, accompanied by his wife, Ruth, is flying back home one evening, having been released from a sanitarium for a severe case of nerves. Flying through a storm, Robert suddenly notices what appears to be a man on the wing of the aircraft. Regardless of the warnings, neither his wife, the stewardess or the copilot believe him. Robert’s problem grows when he realizes that it wasn’t a man outside – but a gremlin – and witnesses the creature tampering with one of the plane’s engines. Robert insists he is not having another nervous breakdown, but his wife gives him a pill to ease his nerves, hoping he will sleep peacefully until the plane lands safely. Minutes later, after his wife and everyone else on board falls asleep, he spits out the pill and sneaks down the aisle to secure a gun from an armed officer. Tightening his seat belt, he opens the emergency glass and amongst the chaos and screams of the passengers, Robert manages to shoot the gremlin off the wing. Back on the ground, Robert is taken away in a straitjacket . . . but content with the knowledge that he will soon be released when the inspectors find evidence that proves the engine plate was tampered with.


“The flight of Mr. Wilson has ended now. A flight not only from point A to point B, but also from the fear of recurring mental breakdown. Mr. Wilson has that fear no longer, though, for the moment, he is, as he said, alone in this assurance. Happily, his conviction will not remain isolated too much longer . . . for happily, tangible manifestation is very often left as evidence of trespass, even from so intangible a quarter . . . as the Twilight Zone.”


Trivia, etc. The wing section was secured by M-G-M from a plane that was being taken out of service. The transport of the plane wing from Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica to M-G-M Studios was $435. The exterior airline set cost $1,650, while full-size effects set construction cost $1,441. An eight-blade Ritter wind machine, the same kind used for the Twilight Zone episode “The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms,” cost Cayuga $180 in rental fees. Three extra special effects men were required to operate the machine and the gremlin’s wires, costing a total of $716 in employment costs. With additional costs involved, the exterior of the airliner cost a total of $4,800.


On July 8, 1963, Nick Cravat visited the Cayuga office to discuss the role he would play in this episode. After a full understanding of what he would be subjected to, high winds, water splashing on him, makeup on the face, and so on, he then went to wardrobe for a fitting and then to the makeup department so a preliminary mask could be made for the facial features. Before the day was over, Cravat visited Ralph Swartz regarding fittings for the wires, which would be used to keep him suspended on the plane wing. Nick Cravat was hired for the role of the gremlin because of his past expertise as an acrobatic circus performer (who once partnered with actor Burt Lancaster, performing as “Lang and Cravat”). His athletic prowess helped meet the physical demands of the role.

Actress Christine White, who had appeared in “The Prime Mover,” also played the role of Abigail Adams in Ichabod and Me, a short-run television comedy for which Serling had written a script. He and White remained friends for a number of years, and it was through their friendship that he arranged for her casting in this episode. 


Richard Matheson had wished that William Shatner and Pat Breslin, the same couple from “Nick of Time,” would play the leads, as he envisioned the two when he wrote the script. On July 11, William Shatner went to wardrobe before joining Christine White for a script reading. On the evening of that same day, Ralph W. Nelson wrote to Rod Serling, explaining that this episode “is rehearsing today and testing all of the effects in the airplane set. This set certainly looks like it will work out very, very well. Dick Donner is directing it.”


“I got the job directing ‘Nightmare’ because I was doing a lot of television shows for M-G-M at that time,” recalled Richard Donner in a phone interview. “I remember the initial sit-down with the producer and we discussed how this was going to be put together. We had rain hitting the actor in the gremlin suit, wind, and lightning. That was one of those moments I realized I had something material to make out of a simple television script. I recall we ran behind by the evening of the last day, so we kept filming all through the night. Someone needed to use the set the next day so we could not have possibly returned to finish the job the next day.”


The entire episode was filmed on Stage 14 at M-G-M Studios. “Someone must have complained about the long hours,” Donner continued, “because I almost lot my job there. After they viewed the rough cut, Bill Froug, I think he was responsible for making the studio heads change their minds, but Bill let me keep my job and assigned me a few more [episodes].”


All of the extras in this episode, the passengers on board the plane, were hired for scale – and informed in advance to bring topcoats and hats. “All should be smartly dressed for traveling aboard a modern airliner,” they were instructed. According to CBS policy, one Negro was hired to play the role of a sailor on board the plane.


“[William Shatner] was a great nut. We were always putting each other on and having the time of our lives,” Donner revealed in an interview with Robert Martin for the July 1981 issue of The Twilight Zone Magazine. “On that last night of shooting, he was visited on the set by Edd Byrnes, ‘Kookie’ from 77 Sunset Strip. We were all exhausted – it was quite late – and when my back was turned, Shatner and Byrnes decided to stage a fight. I happened to look up at the wing of the airplane and saw this fight going on. I started running over, of course, and just when I got there I saw Byrnes hit Shatner, who went over the wing of the airplane, down forty feet to the [water] tank below! What I didn’t know was that they had dressed a dummy in Shatner’s clothes. All I could think at the time was, screw Shatner, now I have to re-shoot this whole thing! But Shatner is a wonderful guy. I enjoyed working with him tremendously.”


After filming was completed, the wing section was stored by M-G-M, according to an interoffice memo: “as per Maj. Alberts of Air Force, Hollywood Office.” Much of the music for this episode was lifted from Bernard Herrmann’s music score from the premiere episode, “Where is Everybody?” while some small segments were lifted from Fred Steiner’s music score for “King Nine Will Not Return,” another episode involving an airplane.


The Tucson Daily Citizen reviewed this episode as “the only redeeming quality of this farfetched half-hour is the acting of William Shatner, as the only passenger in a plane who can see an inhuman creature tampering with the engine.”


This was one of three episodes to be remade for Twilight Zone – The Movie (1983). Richard Matheson recalled to interviewer Tom Weaver: “In my story, and in the original Twilight Zone episode, the guy had had a mental breakdown, but George Miller thought to make it just a guy who was afraid of flying. I can’t say that I liked the characterization, but I must admit that John Lithgow was marvelous – I mean, to start out at 99 percent of hysteria and build from that is a little difficult, but he somehow managed to do it! Visually that episode was marvelous, although a lot of it I didn’t care for. And I thought the monster in the movie was much better than in the television show.” (In the June 1984 issue of The Twilight Zone Magazine, Matheson was quoted as saying “I thought the monster on the wing was somewhat ludicrous. It looked rather like a surly teddy bear.”)


For the movie version, Gregory Peck was originally slated for the role of the nervous passenger, so Matheson wrote the script for the movie in which Peck was like the character he played in Twelve O’Clock High (1949), having already been familiar with gremlins. Suddenly, without advance notice, Peck was unavailable and director George Miller decided to go with John Lithgow. 


This episode influenced a number of salutes and spoofs including an episode of The Simpsons in which Bart witnesses a gremlin outside his bus window. The bus driver, of course, did not see the gremlin every time he humored the young lad’s screams. On The Bernie Mac Show, Bernie eats a slice of undercooked turkey and suffers his own “nightmare” when he dreams Vanessa is a gremlin on the wing of an airplane. In the motion picture, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), actor Jim Carrey looks out the window of an airplane and imitating William Shatner, claims he sees something on the wing. Shatner himself made an appearance on The Muppet Show when Miss Piggy sees a gremlin on the wing – and Shatner informs her that it’s no use – he’s been trying to tell people for years. On the television sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, William Shatner makes a guest appearance, arriving at an airport, making reference to having seen something on the wing of the airplane.


The 1979 album, Extensions, performed by The Manhattan Transfer, featured two tracks, back to back, titled “Twilight Zone,” which reached No. 12 on the Billboard’s Disco Chart. That musical number also made reference to this episode and “The Obsolete Man,” “The Last Flight” and “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” The 1990 album Cure for Sanity, performed by the pop rock group Pop Will Eat Itself, features a song titled “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

Martin Grams is the author of the award-winning book, The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. To order your copy, click here:

Thursday, October 6, 2022


The headline says it all.

It was over a year ago when I heard that Ana de Armas was going to play the role of Marilyn Monroe in a biopic about the actress, and I knew right off the bat that she was perfect for the role. For more than a year I looked forward to seeing this movie, even when Netflix later announced the film would be rated NC-17. Now, after watching this film on a wet and rainy afternoon, I found myself wasting three hours of my life I will never get back. 

Incidentally, I suspect the scenes that deemed the film NC-17 were insert shots -- filmed after production and inserted into the finished film to claim justification for the rating. To be fair, I have seen films rated R that had more graphic scenes than this one so the rating was not necessary and (I suspect) was nothing more than a marketing ploy.

The movie follows Norma Jean's life from a troubled little girl with a mentally disturbed mother to her untimely and unintentional overdose in 1962. She was a silver screen emblem for the era's sexual revolution that was to become synonymous with the 1960s. She could sing and dance and proved she could act and play a role -- not just be a pretty face on the silver screen. But Andrew Dominik not only wrote the screenplay (based on Joyce Carol Oates' novel of fiction) and directed the almost three-hour movie, chose instead to focus on her trials and tribulations as a tormented soul. In Blonde, Monroe faced the notorious casting couch, laughed at multiple times when she mentioned a book she read, physically beaten by her second husband, and was humiliated by the most powerful man in the country. What I hoped would have been a biography of triumphs was a three hour biopic of a woman abused and tormented. This was streamed on Netflix but had I paid for a movie ticket, I would have asked for my money back. No one wants to pay to see a depressing movie. 

Andrew Dominik's direction was terrible. It has been eleven years since I watched a movie with terrible direction and that was Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance back in 2011. That movie, if I recall correctly, had two directors and neither had enough experienced behind the camera to direct a major Hollywood production with a large production. They played with the camera in a manner as to make the movie a business card, but playing with the camera was a bad decision. In Blonde, Dominik did the exact same by filming every scene in a different manner from 1955 VistaVision to replicating a scene from the 1962 cult classic, Carnival of Souls. Worse, the script was written with the assumption the viewers knew everything about Marilyn Monroe -- a challenge for anyone writing a biopic but more often overlooked in such pictures. It seemed like every ten minuets I had to lean over and explain to my wife who the person on the screen was, that she had a number of miscarriages, that she was an obsessive reader, and other factoids that were never explained or revealed in the movie and were (apparently) necessary to understand the dialogue exchanged on screen.  

There were three movies on my "must-see" list this year and Blonde was one of them. I know sometimes, over a period of months, my expectations go up and the movie I wanted to see was below par as a result. Believe me, I went in with no expectations for this movie.

Ana de Armas should receive an Oscar nomination for best performance. As Marilyn Monroe, she was perfect. Adrian Brody was great as Arthur Miller. But what might have been the best performance ever given by Ana de Armas could not save this movie.