Thursday, January 02, 2014

Jobs I Wish I Had

Starting a new feature I’ll do from time to time. “Jobs I Wish I Had.” We all have them. We grow out of most of them, but not all. Secretly, don’t you still wish you could be a ballerina or Navy Seal?

And then there are the jobs you’d love to have but no longer exist. Big band crooner, flapper, Czar of Russia.

Lately the GSN has been showing old black-and-white episodes of I’VE GOT A SECRET and WHAT’S MY LINE? in the middle of the night. (I think contractually they have to play them for so many days a year.) These were old musty game shows from the ‘50s and ‘60s. By today’s standard they are positively archaic. A panel of four personalities must guess the contestants’ job or secret.  That's it.  There was zero production value and if a contestant stumped the panel they won the whopping sum of $50. The shows were aired live (for the east coast anyway). Today they're great fun to watch.

WHAT’S MY LINE? was originally on CBS at (I believe) 10:30 p.m. The panelists all wore tuxedos and formal gowns. The host, John Daly was the most erudite emcee in the history of television. If there are 500,000 words in the English language, he knew and used 469,000 of them – each week. Everyone was very formal. Ms. Francis. Mr. Cerf. Ms. Kilgallen.

When little kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up they’ll often say fireman, or actress, or cowboy, or fashion model. I wanted to be a panelist. And you know what? I still do. Too bad those gigs have gone the way of the 8-Track tape.

Think about it. Sunday night. You go out and have a nice dinner in Manhattan. Roll into CBS at 10:00. Don your tuxedo and get made up. There’s nothing to prepare. You’re not supposed to know what will be on the show. You do the show live at 10:30. You play this parlor game and (in my case) say a few witty lines and get a couple of laughs. At 11:00 you’re done. No pick ups. No alternate takes.   By 11:15 you’re in a bar. For this you are handsomely paid, you’re famous, and these shows lasted upwards of fifteen years. You have job security.

You parlay this into appearing on other panels. Ka-ching!! You trade on your fame and write books (or have others ghost write them for you), speak at events for absurd fees, score lucrative commercial endorsements (“Hi, this is Ken Levine for Studerbaker!”), and be invited to all the A-list society parties. Judy Garland could pass out in my lap. 

I was always amused when one of these panelists missed a show because he was on vacation. Vacation from WHAT? A half-hour a week?

There are very few panelist opportunities today. The Red Eye overnight show on FOX NEWS and I’d love to do that program. Bill Maher’s HBO show, Chelsea Handler’s E! show – these are two others. But slim pickings for sure. What few celebrity game shows there are require you must be a has-been from some ‘70s sitcom. Rarely does the casting call go out for never-beens. So I’m at a distinct disadvantage there.

But that’s one of the jobs I wish I had had. What about you? What’s Your Fantasy Line?

p.s.

Another perk of being a panelist is you can plug your book. Available on Kindle for $2.99. Without that forum how will I ever plug mine?

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

What's My Line for many years was LIVE! at 1030pm ET on CBS Sunday nights. My parents told me it was the perfect capper to their weekend. Bright New York types with those great vocal accents - the formal Daly, the upper-crust book publisher Cerf, and the theatrical Kilgallen and Francis ... mixed in with interlopers like Steve Allen and special panelists like one Julius H. Marx in from the coast. This kind of television is lost, can't be duplicated, but at least Goodson-Todman ran kinescopes of most if not all episodes of WML ... segments of which are all over YouTube.

ScottyB said...

Yes, that was a more-elegant time. Which makes you wonder what the perks were down to for being a panelist on 'The Gong Show' or 'The Match Game' during the '70s.

Andy Ihnatko said...

How do you audition for such a gig? Do you need to show that you look very good in black and white while wearing a blindfold?

ScottyB said...

OTOH, these game show panelists instilled within me a great sense of curiosity. I can't count how many times I watched these shows thinking "Who the fuck is Arlene Francis???"

And we didn't have no Internet or Wikipedia to find out. Life was hell for a kid back then.

Mitchell Hundred said...

The Comedy Network, a Canadian channel, revived the old '70s game show Match Game a couple of years ago. They film in Montreal, I think, and have stand-up comics and other funny people as their panelists. I don't know how they choose people, but it might be worth a shot.

VincentS said...

My dream job sort-of doesn't exist anymore, unfortunately: Astronaut.

Charles H. Bryan said...

I wish you had that KABC gig. I listened to the available podcasts and enjoyed the shows, so much so that I might later free my nipples. The only frustration (not your fault) was that I never found out what happened to the dog that was running around on the Westbound 10.

I would like to be a traffic reporter here in rural northern Michigan. "Hey, there's a car! That's the second one this morning. Busy day!"

Professor Longnose said...

You'd be great on QI in England. You should started campaigning for that.

Dan Ball said...

I still want to be a pilot or astronaut. The only drawback to being an astronaut is that we still haven't gone beyond our solar system and if we did, it'd take forever. It's even worse than the Columbus sailing the ocean blue. At least as a pilot, you learn to set your expectations a little lower and be content with just flying fast or leisurely (as long as you don't stall out).

The biggest job I wish I had is one I'm still pursuing: being a film director. As a kid, I was always fascinated with the way movies were made. Even as a teenager, an obsession began with me to discover the power great directors had in making their audiences either have a lot of fun or a lot of fear.

Ray Barrington said...

You're pretty spot on about the work ... Bill Cullen once described going on I've Got A Secret as getting there, saying hi to everyone while being made up, do the live show, chat with Henry Morgan while they got ready for the second (taped) show, do the other show and go home. (So by that time, he was working only every OTHER week!)

Rinaldo said...

When I was a kid, the origin of those "panelists" was indeed mysterious. Bennett Cerf was known as a publisher, Bill Cullen hosted other more conventional game shows, but who were these others? Arlene Francis? Dorothy Kilgallen? Peggy Cass? Kitty Carlisle? Of course now I know that they all had a writing or acting identity, but at the time they seemed to have been bred specifically to be nothing but a panellist.

ODJennings said...

Dorothy Kilgallen is an odd one. I've never been able to reconcile the woman wearing a cat woman blindfold on What's My Line with the respected journalist who covered the Sam Shepherd murder trial and got the first interview with Jack Ruby (and according to conspiracy theories was killed to keep her from talking about what he told her).

Brian Fies said...

Some friends and I were on the subject of "people who were celebrities for reasons that would be impossible to explain to our kids" and got around to Orson Bean. I loved Orson Bean on "To Tell the Truth," but the notion of getting famous for being witty and drawing cartoons on little paper cards (Bean often doodled on the "1," "2" or "3" cards the panelists used to cast their votes) would mystify most under 40 or so. On the other hand, a sex tape they'd understand.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

When I was in college, I remember having two conversations. One was with a friend:

wg: I think it would be fun to go around and play folk music.
Friend: But do you really think you could do that?
wg: I just think it would be fun.

Anothe was with a different friend:
wg: I think it would be fun to write books.
Friend: But do you think you could really do that?
wg: I just said I thought it would be fun.

(or more or less).

Those were my only ideas for work I'd like to be paid to do. I've done both. A lot of it was fun.

I will be 60 in a few weeks. I think it would be fun to do more of both of those things.

wg

RockGolf said...

@MitchellHundred: The new Canadian Match Game is nowhere as good or funny as the original. The problem is that the original Match Game worked because of the things the celebrities couldn't say.
Example: On the original Match Game, a typical question might be "Did you hear about Superman? He stopped flying and fell flat on his BLANK" The celebs would, if clever, say "fell flat on his 'S'".
But TV allows much more these days, so they would answer "ass".
I gave up in one episode. I really don't need to hear "Dumb Dora is so dumb, she thought the 'down' button on the elevator meant BLANK" answered as "perform oral sex".

Mork said...

I'll second the recommendation for "QI"; it's a shame rights issues have prevented it from being shown in the States. Of course, in a country obsessed with racist duck call manufacturers and "real" housewives, a show of such intelligence wouldn't stand a chance.

Most of the episodes are available on the Tube of Youze.

Jaclyn M said...

There's the modern-day version of the panelist, which you see on "I Love the 80s", all of its spinoffs, and any other cable special that does a "countdown" of some aspect of pop culture. They get some D-list celebrities in front of the camera to make a few quips about Cabbage Patch Kids and Rubik's Cube. Probably no need for alternate takes there either, as they probably just riff for an hour or two and let the editors pick out the best 5 minutes.

Mike Barer said...

The Match Game got pretty raw in it's later years.

Corey said...

I think I'd like to be a Rabbi

Mike Doran said...

Brian Fies:

What Orson Bean was famous for (or at least what got him on game shows):
Orson Bean started out as a stand-up comedian with a sideline in sleight-of hand magic.
This got him on many of the earliest TV variety shows, from which he branched out into acting, serious and comic, on many of the live dramatic anthologies such as Studio One (quite a few of these are available on DVDs).
Bean had a reputation as an adroit ad-libber, which he plied on the earliest talk shows, and which got him noticed by Goodson-Todman for employment on games like To Tell The Truth.
I read an interview in which Bean stated that games show panels were cast, much as sitcoms and dramas were: Orson was the young smart-aleck, Peggy Cass was the tough city broad, Bill Cullen was the roguish uncle, and Kitty Carlisle was a Margaret Dumont type who would be mildly shocked by the others.
During the periods that he was doing Truth, Orson Bean was starring in hit Broadway comedies, many of which were later filmed with Tony Randall.
Because the TV/Film pecking order was still in force, people outside NYC were largely unaware of Bean's career outside of G-T games, which was usually only mentioned in passing (if at all).

I went into this absurd amount of detail because this whole idea of "only being famous for playing games on TV" is one of the most annoying fallacies about TV, one that has bugged me for as long as I've been reading TV Guide, all the way back when it was really informative.

In the case of What's My Line?, all the panelists had day jobs: Arlene Francis as a Broadway star, Dorothy Kilgallen as a "newshen", Bennett Cerf running Random House publishing, and John Daly running ABC News and being the anchor of their nightly news show.
Line was their weekend break; that it made them nationally known celebrities was a bonus.

So there too.

LouOCNY said...

As said, the best thing about WML. was the idea it was LIVE - there were many many times that came into play:

Louis Armstrong, during the run of HELLO DOLLY on Broadway, was the Mystery Guest one night, and of course, got guessed in about 10 seconds. Arlene Francis begged him to sing a chorus of the title song. Now, Armstrong's agent was in the control booth, and he had made an exclusive deal with the Perry Como Show or something to premiere Louis singing the song on TV. So of course, Armstrong sings a nice chorus of "Hello,Dolly!", and the agent is probably looking for a rope.

In 1964, when they celebrated all of the holidays on their proper dates, Memorial Day was on a Sunday, and the Giants and Mets played a doubleheader that day. It turned out to be the longest day in baseball history, as the second game lasted 24 innings and over 7 hours (even with todays slower game, that game is still right up there in the record books). Apparently Cerf had been watching it in the dressing room, because he comes out when introduced, and goes, "Wow - the Mets and Giants are in the 20th inning!", as TV sets in New York clicked over to Channel 9...

And Groucho's visit on the panel - plugging GROUCHO AND ME - in 1959 just might be one of the funniest half hours of TV ever...

Brule Eagan said...

Okay, Ken, you can be a panelist if I can be Johnny Olson. He made people laugh, he was Gleason's announcer, and when you heard his voice, you knew you were in for a treat. That was the job I wish I had -- Being Johnny Olson. A lofty goal.

Rob said...

I remember What's My Line, I know it was a family favorite. As I recall tho, it wasn't John Daly, it was "John CHARLES Daly" and for some reason the "Charles" was very important.

You'd be an awesome panelist on Red Eye, Ken. Have you tried to get on? I can't imagine why they wouldn't consider you. You're a lot funnier than many of the so- called comedians they use.

Just as long as they don't put on the left side of the screen in the chair reserved for the super hot, super leggy conservative lady pundit with the super-short skirt.

VP81955 said...

When "One, Two, Three" came out and Arlene Francis had a supporting role, I presume many who saw the movie wondered, "What's a game-show panelist doing in a Billy Wilder film?" And of course, Kitty Carlisle appeared in a number of '30s films, including Mitchell Leisen's pre-Code "Murder At The Vanities," where I believe she sings a paean to marijuana (alas, poor Kitty, too bad you didn't live to see pot sold at retail in Colorado; you would've been asked to sing at the opening ceremony).

My younger brother did some comic writing for the original version of "Red Eye," though he wasn't a professional writer and sent his stuff in by email (they sent him DVDs of his work). One of the semi-regulars on the show was a congressman from Michigan who liked the things he sent him, and thankfully my brother's writing never led to him losing an election (he retired on his own).

tb said...

I wanted to be the guy working on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. Shooting hippos all day while cracking wise, seemed like a swell gig to this eight year old

DJ said...

What's My Line is up there on my all time favorite shows. I've got a Secret, not so much. The main reason I watched IGAS was Betsy Palmer.I had such a crush on her. Henry Morgan a distant second.

Stephen Kelsey said...

My dream job was being a referee on the "professional wrestling" circuit, earnestly not seeing when the villain was "cheating".

normadesmond said...

i too would love to be a panelist on a WML type of program. i know exactly how to make sure my eyelashes are perfectly placed after i've removed my blindfold.

actually, i like to think of these little comment boxes as the closest thing we have to being panelists.

Anonymous said...

Kitty Carlisle was not only the female lead in A Night At The Opera, which should be props enough, she was married to Moss Hart.

Orson Bean, he of the dreaded Gaboon Viper, was on Broadway with Jayne Mansfield and tells great stories about her, and did a wonderful turn on Twilight Zone.

benson said...

My dream job would be to be one of Dan Patrick's Danettes. (And apparently Jim Parsons thinks so too, as he'll be back on tomorrow morning)

The whole conversation about WML and celebrity always reminds of Zsa Zsa Gabor and her ex step granddaughter, Paris Hilton. These people were famous for being famous. (Eva was a great light comedienne but Zsa Zsa was essentially famous for being famous.

WML fan said...

Ken, wasn't it 'Miss' Kilgallen or 'Miss' Francis? 'Ms.' was not in use when this pre-feminist show was on the air (1950-67 in the orginal network version).

RCP said...

Another fact about Kitty Carlisle Hart - she toured as a singer at age 96 - a year before she died.

I wouldn't mind having Ben Mankiewicz' job at TCM.

DBenson said...

Trivia: In the 70's Orson Bean voiced Bilbo Baggins for a bizarre animated TV version of "The Hobbit"; also Sir Boss for a merely bad cartoon of "A Connecticut Yankee."

The one who puzzled me was Durward Kirby, who was always the Special Guest co-host with Allen Funt on "Candid Camera". Never even heard of him in any other context, except for a Mad magazine joke and a Rocky and Bullwinkle anecdote (Kirby supposedly threatened to sue when Jay Ward's cartoon featured the "Kurwood Derby," a magical hat).

The closest existing gig to panelist is laugher. A sub-Ed McMahon species, laughers surround guys like Howard Stern and generally act like 7th graders trailing after the class bully and/or rich kid. Their main function is to keep telling you the boss is a comic genius, especially when there's a guest who'd outscore him before a real audience. Slightly more refined versions sit around tables with blowhard pundits and chuckle when their host delivers a cowardly and disprovable digs at persons not present.

Paul Duca said...

Durward Kurby was best known for being the announcer/sidekick on Garry Moore's daytime and prime time TV variety shows. In addition, he also co-hosted the CBS version of CANDID CAMERA with Allan Funt, and was a long-time spokesperson for Ivory dishwashing liquid.

chalmers said...

Speaking of Kitty Carlisle Hart’s longevity, she pulled off something in Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” that never fails to amaze me. As Woody’s character reminisces about wartime radio and music, she sings the humorous song “They’re Either Too Old or Too Young” (about the paucity of available men during WW2).

It’s a brief interlude, and she’s not introduced, but essentially she plausibly portrays a version of herself from 45 years earlier without any special makeup or voice enhancement. How many of us can do that? At a different point in the film, it seems Woody includes a snippet of other characters talk about seeing “the new Moss Hart play.”

Canda said...

What I loved about "What's My Line" was when one of the panelists would ask, "Were you dining at the Stork Club Saturday night"? In other words, not only did these panelists have great jobs in the greatest city in the world at the greatest time to live there, they went out many evenings to enjoy the greatest city in the world…and often ran into the celebrities that were going to be mystery guests.

It was a dazzling life. Unfortunately, the erudite Mr. Cerf died early, in the late 1960s. But maybe that was good, since the City never again was like it was in the 20 years after World War II.

Umbriago said...

Bennett Cerf agrees with you. He talked at length with Columbia University as part of its "Notable New Yorkers" series in 1968:

So they called me up and said, “Would you like to do it permanently?" I said, “Would I?”

At that time, they were paying something like $300 a week, which, for just playing a game for a half hour, was nice money, even for somebody who was a successful publisher. Of course as the show grew and grew, the fees grew with it. By the time that it was over we were making scandalous amounts of money every week.

Q:
How much were you making?

Cerf:
I'm not going to say. It was fantastic. There has never been such easy money in the world--for playing a game. There were no costumes, no rehearsals, no props. John and I would get there about fifteen minutes before game time. After a little while we didn't even wear dress coats anymore. We found out that we could get away with a black tie and fake it with a dark suit and a black dress tie, which I would ship off the minute the show was over. Five minutes after the show was over I was on my way out, dressed like a normal human being. What fun it was…


Link. It's a lot of fun.

Joey H said...

I loved that Daley himself was the last Mystery Guest on WML.

My dream job was Ed McMahon's: laugh at Carson's jokes and pitch Budweiser and Alpo.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

You kid, but my old writing partner left me after 25 years when he fund out that presenting a satirical news quiz was more fun than coming up with a new show and selling it.

And he was right.

Kosmo13 said...

I wanted to be the bass singer in a doo wop group.

Orson Bean also acted in "Anatomy of a Murder."

normadesmond said...

i've an addendum....

telling imbeciles that they are in fact
imbeciles and getting paid grandly for it?

judge judy has a great job.

CANDA said...

I should have pointed out that Bennet Cerf wrote a delightful memoir called "At Random". It's a small book, but filled with memories of great authors. Cerf died in 1971, not the late 1960s. My point remains that he was part of Manhattan after the war, when it was a wonderful, vibrant, sophisticated city, and not the wealthy playground it is today, filled with ethically challenged materialists on smart phones.

Hamid said...

When I was a kid I wanted to be a vigilante like Batman, wearing a cool outfit and beating up criminals. The Michael Keaton Batman, though, not the Adam West or the ones that followed. I'd still like to be Batman. All I need is to be a billionaire playboy with a mansion and a butler. Shouldn't be too difficult.

By the way, a classic Cheers rerun was on UK TV tonight: 'I' On Sports. Sam's groin injury rap always kills me, and Carla's reply when Sam asks her how he did on TV: "It was like watching old people eat".

Liggie said...

I'd like to be the public address announcer for a professional sports team, ideally hockey. Game show *host* is another.

On a completely different plane, a Las Vegas cabbie would be fun, for at least one night.

Greg Ehrbar said...

I'd like to be a talk show host but I haven't met Lorne Michaels yet.

Arlene Francis was in Orson Welles' Mercury Theater with her husband Martin Gabel. Kitty Carlisle was in "A Night at the Opera." Peggy Cass won a Tony for playing Agnes Gooch in "Mame." It might have been a little frustrating for some of these folks to retain stature after being labeled at "game show panelist." I've heard it haunted Charles Nelson Reilly (hull-hull!)

BTW, the 1977 animated "Hobbit" was a landmark of its time, highly acclaimed, and very impressive when you consider how many years intervened between that version and the current movies.

More here:
http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/the-hobbit-on-disneyland-records/

Greg Ehrbar said...

Oh, and wouldn't the dark, sordid, controversial life of Dorothy Killgallen make an interesting movie bio? It's got so many connections to events people still talk about.

At the very least, Lindsay Lohan could play her on cable.

S J said...

@MitchellHundred Just to be clear - in case anyone really cares - The Match Game is taped in Toronto. The host, Darren Rose, is all too familiar from many commercials (especially the annoying Pro-Line ones). But this also allows me point out that one occasional panelist - Teddy Wilson - is also host of a show that might qualify as something one might want to do - blow things up and burn them down: http://www.discovery.ca/article.aspx?aid=50969

Goldendreams said...

I would love to be a doo wop girl with a great dress and just singing syllables. Or an astronaut. Or a brewer. The last one might come true one day.

Roger Owen Green said...

There was a picture of a much older Orson Bean I had to identify (correctly) on JEOPARDY! 15 years ago.

Austin in Japan said...

For me, it would be the Universal Studios tram tour guide. You know, the guy on the mic with all the bad one liners. I don't know what the work policy is, but I would love to come up with some good jokes and ad-lib some on the spot. And if the tourists didn't like my shtick, guess what, they wouldn't be able to get off! I am sure the pay would be low, and I would probably have to roommate with a guy from Austria who has a green card and talks like Schwarzenegger and works at a guitar shop, but I think it would be a good gig for a while anyways.

Cap'n Bob said...

When I was a kid I wanted to be a cavalryman. I was heartbroken to learn they'd disbanded after WWI except for a ceremonial unit or two. Nearly every job I've had is now obsolete, and I'm very happy to be retired.

Yes, Ms. was not around in the glorious fifties and I still don't use it. It grates on my ear.

craig m said...

When a ball was fouled back onto the screen at the old Cleveland Stadium, a guy would run out and wait for the ball to roll off. He'd catch it, flip it to the ump and then wait for the next foul ball. That was my dream job but, alas, they tore the place down before I had a chance to submit my resume.

Robert A. Boowi said...

The closest existing gig to panelist is laugher. A sub-Ed McMahon species, laughers surround guys like Howard Stern and generally act like 7th graders trailing after the class bully and/or rich kid. Their main function is to keep telling you the boss is a comic genius, especially when there's a guest who'd outscore him before a real audience.

Something tells me you haven't heard much Howard Stern.

Chris Rock: "You're going to see me do an hour every four years? Reduce Howard Stern to an hour every four years, you'd have the most brilliant comedian who ever lived. It's not even close."

Johnny Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Walker said...

When I was a kid I saw a Making Of... Indiana Jones bit on TV. Watching Harrison Ford goof around on set made me fall in love with movie making. It looked so much fun, and you got to help create those wonderful things: Movies.

I wanted to be Steven Spielberg.

I told my careers advisor that I wanted to be a cameraman (too shy to say what I really wanted to be), and asked what the first step I should take in irder to get in the right path. He just looked at me and shrugged. Apparently my options were limited. And by limited, I mean non existent. Plus the guy probably didn't have a clue, in hindsight.

In my youth I was also in love with the idea of being a video game reviewer and stand up comedian, at various times.

The one trait that tied all these together was the idea that you got to hang around with fun people making each other laugh. At least, that's how it looked from the outside.

After reading the description, game show panellist sounds pretty good, too.

Anonymous said...

I used to work at the Santa Barbara Airport parking lot while I was in college. I'd sit in my little booth taking tickets, making stupid jokes and giving out change. Robert Mitchum came through once in is 911 Targa. John Travolta came through in a Rolls-Royce. Diminutive Paul Williams came through in a Ferrari 308 GTS and was a douche.

At the end of my shift, around midnight, I'd tidy up all the cash, place it in the safe and ride home on my bicycle. The streets would be empty, the stars would be out and so bright that it seemed like they were close enough to touch. I could ride in the middle of State street with my hands off the handlebars and look up at the stars.

When I left that little booth, I never once thought to myself, "Did I get everything done?" Or "How am I going to get through the work day tomorrow." When I was gone it was completely out of mind.

I didn't make much money, but geez I missing having a job I never had to think about when I was doing it. And I miss having a job that I never thought about when I wasn't doing it.

So, there you go, that's my dream job now.

Michael said...

I still want to be Vin Scully, but I love the old game shows. Big name celebrities sometimes would be panelists. Imagine today's stars trying to do those shows and sound intelligent without a script!

Jake Mabe said...

Ken: I love "What's My Line" so much, I nearly canceled my satellite service when GSN stopped showing it every night, and once dreamt that I was a panelist -- sitting between Dorothy Kilgallen and Arlene Francis.

My dream line is to be Bennett Cerf. More than honorable mentions: Roger Angell and Jonathan Schwartz

Mark said...

Ken, you already have the only 'fantasy' job I've ever wanted, since I was a boy listening to Lindsey Nelson & Bob Murphy: baseball play-by-play.

Igor said...

If you like Arlene Francis and want to see her shine on the "big" screen (so to speak), even if in a small role...

Watch Billy Wilder's 1961 film, "One, Two, Three". It stars James Cagney. Arlene Francis plays his wife.

I only discovered this comedy gem a few years ago. It helps if you have some familiarity with the geopolitics of the early 1960s, the Berlin Wall, etc., but in any event, the dialogue - and the delivery thereof - is a roller-coaster of a ride.

Jake Mabe said...

That's a heck of a hilarious film, Igor.

I read somewhere once that Jimmy Cagney said the film nearly killed him physically. Given his rapid-fire delivery for two-plus hours, one can see why.

Storm said...

Well, before I read all your posts (and the comments after) about what a drag it actually was/is to be one, I always wanted to be an all-night radio DJ on a free-form rock FM station. Basically, I wanted to be "Mother" (Eileen Brennan, rest her soul) from the movie "FM".

When I was 13, I wanted to be an independent comic book artist and publish my own book, like my hero, Wendy Pini of "Elfquest" fame. I worshipped that woman; part of me still does. Never drew comics, but I do still use my drawing skills for costume design.

Which leads me to my ultimate Dream Job; as a costumer and/or designer for either Weta Workshop in New Zealand (What a lovely, friendly lot they are, especially Richard Taylor), or Angels and Bermans Costumes in London. I get all giddy just thinking about wandering the aisles in A&B's, and I'd gleefully murder just to sweep their floors, much less design or sew for them.

Cheers, and a belated Happy New Year to all and sundry,

Storm

D. McEwan said...

I wouldn't say the Rankin/Bass The Hobbit was "bizarre." It made an honorable attempt to put Tolkien on TV with a budget that Disney would have spent on lunch. Its primary fault is trying to squeeze the entire book into 75 minutes (Sort of the opposite of Peter Jackson's approach, he trying to stretch the book into 9 hours of movie. His "Unexpected Party," that's just Chapter One, is practically 75 minutes by itself), and casting Orson Bean, who makes for a terrifically dull Bilbo. Brother Theodore made for a creepy and effective Gollum.

My dream job would have been to be a late-night TV horror movie host, like Zacherle, Jeepers, Vampira or a funnier Svengoolie. I came close, as I wrote the TV show Fright Night With Seymour its last year on the air, and "Sinister Seymour," aka Larry Vincent, was the best horror movie host ever.

Certainly, if you have a book to sell, sitting next to Bennett Cerf was a good place to be.

VP81955 said...

CANDA said...
I should have pointed out that Bennet Cerf wrote a delightful memoir called "At Random". It's a small book, but filled with memories of great authors. Cerf died in 1971, not the late 1960s. My point remains that he was part of Manhattan after the war, when it was a wonderful, vibrant, sophisticated city, and not the wealthy playground it is today, filled with ethically challenged materialists on smart phones.


As the child of native New Yorkers (albeit Brooklynites), I think that era fizzled out during the 1960s. When the decade began, Manhattan was home to seven dailies (I use the term "Manhattan" because there was a daily serving Queens, and one still serves Staten Island). But in October 1963, following a lengthy newspaper strike, Hearst decided to shut down the tabloid Daily Mirror, once the chief rival of the Daily News. Several other papers in town struggled in the mid-sixties, and in April 1966, three of them -- the Herald Tribune, Scripps-Howard's World-Telegram & Sun and Hearst's Journal-American -- decided to join forces and consolidated into something called the World Journal Tribune (nicknamed "Widget). It lasted less than a year before giving up the ghost, leaving New York with the Times, the Daily News and the evening tabloid Post (which Rupert Murdoch wouldn't own for another decade). No more Waldo Lydecker columnists, no more bulldog editions. The end of an era.

Curt Alliaume said...

"What's My Line?" was such a New York-centric show in its original incarnation. Dorothy Kilgallen was a New York newspaper columnist, Bennett Cerf was editor in chief of Random House, Arlene Francis was a Broadway actress, and later hosted a radio talk show on WOR for a quarter of a century. Daly was the vice president of ABC News (such as it was) from 1952 to about 1961.

Henry Morgan, as quoted in Jeff Kisselhoff's book on early TV, "The Box":

"I was the heavy and the funny guy on 'Secret.' I was an amusing Dorothy Kilgallen. [Laughs.] Isn't that an oxymoron?... I enjoyed 'Secret.' Most shows were work; this was even less than work. The show went on at seven-thirty. I used to arrived promptly at seven twenty-five, and I was out of the studio before the credits. I was being paid $1,650 a week. Is that fun?"