Grab Bag!

Because I’ve been too lazy to watch all the 1940/1946/1953/1954/1962/etc Best Actor Oscar nominees and thus revive my Oscar series as a buildup to this year’s ceremony. Because I am also too lazy to construct cohesive posts about the various topics that have been floating around in my head (there’s so much room up there). But mostly because I am oh so fascinating and have oh so many interesting thoughts about oh so many things…here is this month’s grab bag of a post–upcoming anniversaries, forgotten films, out-of-syndication television programs, and dead actors and musicians (actually just one…still livin’ and breathin’ nothin’ but Ricky Nelson ’round here), straight ahead!    

1. The Super Bowl wasn’t that super this year.

That’s right–I do turn on the television and pretend to live in this century every now and then. It’s harder, though, for me to pretend to understand the sport that is American Football. All I’ve got so far is scoring touchdowns is good. Anyway. The Super Bowl was kind of depressing and most definitely Boring with a capital B–except when they showed Paul McCartney chowing down on his vegetarian pizza. That was awesome. And it was oh so awesome when Bob Dylan asked, “Is there anything more American than America?” (I’m guessing…no?)

My sister was all, “Bob Dylan can still walk?”

2. Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

I honestly don’t know what the big deal is since last year was the 49th anniversary? But I am loving the big deal because everywhere it is Beatles, Beatles, Beatles, as it should be!

“Won’t you please sing something?”

“NO!”

Oh, I love nothing more than the Beatles. They have been my favorite people in the world since I was a little girl and will forever remain so. Looking forward to the CBS special this Sunday!

3. I have started spending a lot of time in a bar. 

Because I just want to go where everybody knows my name. And they’re always glad I came.

That’s right…I’ve started watching Cheers. I’m not really sure why, but I’m kind of in love. Coach and Cliff are my favorites so far, but I also like Norm and Sam and Carla and Diane is kind of annoying but she’s OK, I guess. I absolutely cannot wait for Frasier to come onto the scene! Only a few more episodes!

4. I FINALLY got to see Désirée, a 1954 film starring Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando as Napoleon Bonaparte. Thank you, TCM, for airing this gem at 2 A.M.!

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Can you say awesome?

Besides the awesomeness of Brando’s wardrobe (and Brando in general), I enjoyed the film way more than I thought I would. It was engaging and interesting and Brando, Brando, Brando! Was there ever a more attractive and compelling actor? Oh, yeah, Montgomery Clift. Hahahahahahahahaha. Great, now I feel like watching Clift compare guns with John Ireland and woo Olivia de Havilland and fall off a train all in one night.

5. That Darn Cat! (1965) is definitely superior to That Darn Cat (1997). 

The exclamation point totally should have given it away, but after watching and enjoying the original film, I wanted to re-watch the remake and compare notes. The remake has its moments but overall it is just so cheesy. And cheese gives me gas, man.

Plus the original is just so darn perfect. Perfect cast. Perfect soundtrack. Perfect cat, though darned he may be.

Oh, and I just happened to find this photo of Dean Jones this past week. You know me, always searching the web for a good Dean Jones photo. Here he is hanging out with Sal Mineo and the Nelson brothers. What a world this is!

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6. My My Three Sons diet is becoming harder to maintain because the episodes are so funny and poignant and just plain old wonderful.

I got the second season on DVD for my birthday in October and told myself I would have to limit myself to watching it sparingly because none of the other seasons are available on DVD (…WHY???) and it’s not in syndication here.

I recently watched the episode entitled “Bub’s Lodge.” In this episode, Bub is being honored in his Lodge where he will be crowned D’Artagnan of the East Door. He has a fancy outfit and everything. Meanwhile, Mike is aiming to become part of a fraternity and is worried that Bub and his ridiculous outfit will embarrass him. The episode is funny, of course, but it’s also so sweet and touching. My favorite part is the glimpse it allows into Bub’s room:

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There are pictures of Steve and the boys everywhere. D’awwwwww!

I love Uncle Charley and all, but Bub was the best. The early episodes are the best. Give me more!

7. I saw Two for the Road and loved it.

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Two for the Road is a polarizing film, I think, because it is so unconventional. It is not your typical romantic comedy. Everything is not tied neatly in a bow by the end of the film, and the overall narrative is non-linear and often difficult to follow, requiring careful and attentive viewing. The story of Mark and Joanna Wallace is not told in chronological order but rather story threads are loosely connected by a certain sight — like the sight of a ferry where they first met — or an object — like a hat — or something as simple as the weather. In the present, as the film begins, the audience sees Mark and Joanna, with obvious tension between them, embark on a trip and as they travel, they reflect on their relationship through other trips they took together. Their relationship has had its ups and downs, and toward the end of the film when Mark asks Joanna why they didn’t end their relationship at a certain point, part of you is wondering the same thing. But the other part also knows that these two people love each other, despite the difficulties of their relationship. The film is realistic in its portrayal of love and relationships — it’s not always easy and Shangri-La like in a movie but is instead often very difficult and requires a lot of effort and hard work.

8. I also watched Love and Kisses, starring Rick and Kris Nelson, and loved it. 

This movie has been described as nothing more than an extended episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and in some ways that is true. It’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is fun and cute and some really important things happened in this movie.

First, Rick wears some white pants that are really flattering.

Second, there is a dream sequence that involves Rick visiting a strip club/bar, and he gets into a major fight. Meanwhile, David and Wally sit at the bar and wonder if they know Rick. They decide they don’t. It’s cute.

Third, Rick (actually his character’s name in the film is Buzzy, which is bizarre so I am just going to keep on calling him Rick) gives this speech to his dad (who is not Ozzie which is also bizarre) about teeny-weeny jammies, itsy bitsy feet, diapers, and a trip to Disneyland. It’s awesome.

Finally…Rick (er…Buzzy) curses in this film. He let’s a “what the hell” rip not just once but twice and then claims that saying “what the hell” is not cursing. There’s also a bonus d–n. Pretty sure if this were released today, they would have to slap an “R” rating on it.

Anyway. This movie was cute, you can watch it on YouTube (in poor VHS quality, alas), and sorry about the curse words. I’m gonna put a bar of soap on my keyboard.

9. My current Rick Nelson phase is starting to scare me because I stayed up late last night watching an episode of The Hardy Boys that Rick guest starred in. 

Rick plays a rock star named Tony Eagle who actually sings Rick Nelson songs and he’s unknowingly involved in the disappearance of a man the Hardy brothers are investigating. It also involves a plane which makes me scream and cry inside for obvious reasons.

I’d never watched The Hardy Boys before and it’s so ’70s, but it was also kind of fun and entertaining. Getting to watch Rick sing so many songs was wonderful. He was so natural…and beautiful. Sigh.

10. I recently learned that Montgomery Clift reportedly turned down the part of Dude (eventually played by Dean Martin) in Rio Bravo

Do you realize what this means?  

Do you?

This means that had Clift taken the role, he and Rick Nelson would have been in the same movie and I never would have worn a clean pair of underwear in my life (as if I don’t have enough trouble with that already). Clift reportedly turned down the role because he did not want to work with John Wayne again (can’t blame him).

Thanks, Monty. I like wearing clean underwear.

OK, that’s it for this grab bag. I’m off to work on something cohesive and worthwhile…that is, after I finish watching this unaired pilot featuring Rick Nelson as some sort of bad guy in tights. Until next time!

Much love,
The Count Petofi

America’s Favorite Family, The Nelsons!

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The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is, quite simply, an American Institution. It began as a radio program in 1944, with David and Ricky joining the cast in 1949, and then made the move to television in 1952, after a full-length theatrical feature Here Come the Nelsons was released that same year. The show ran for 14 (!!) seasons, and America watched Ricky and David grow from bickering, wise-cracking little boys to married men–oh, and Ricky blossomed into a singing sensation somewhere along the way, too. Ozzie and Harriet, meanwhile, stayed Ozzie Harriet–wise, loving parents and the gosh darndest cutest couple that ever was.

Ozzie Nelson wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the television series, and he infused his values into the show–values like a loving family and good-natured fun, values that helped shape the Nelson family into the ideal American family, values that still hold up. Despite the show’s title, it wasn’t a very adventuresome show. Most of the plots center around little misunderstandings or mix-ups–but what funny, wholesome, entertaining misunderstandings and mix-ups they were!

Rick Nelson once said that watching episodes of the show were like watching home movies for him. Like a home movie, you can see the genuine love and warmth this family had for one another while watching the show. It makes you want to go over to their house and spend time with them, which you can’t do so you just have to settle for watching another episode, which works out well because there are 435! Here are a few–a very few–of my favorites.

The Pills
Season 1, Episode 3
Original air date: October 17, 1952

Ozzie thinks he needs to lose weight. Why? Harriet has bought him a new pair of pants–a size 33, which he thinks will be too big because he measured a size 30 for his pants in high school. Ozzie models the size 33 for Harriet and Ricky, who begins singing, “Roll out the barrels!” The pants are a little tight, and Ozzie believes it’s because the store sold Harriet the wrong size but still decides to dedicate himself to going on a diet in order to fit into the pants. When he learns that Thorny’s weight loss has actually been due to some appetite-suppressing pills, he decides to do the same…except the pills that he thinks are appetite-suppressing are actually the pills prescribed to Ricky to increase his appetite for nutritious foods (‘cos the kid can’t keep out of the cookie jar apparently). Laughs straight ahead!

Oscillating Ozzie
Season 1, Episode 39
Original air date: June 26, 1953

It all begins with Harriet frying instead of boiling Ozzie’s eggs for breakfast. She just thought he might like a change, but this unexpected change in routine spurs a discussion that perhaps Ozzie, like most men, has become “set in his ways.” Ozzie then becomes determined to prove that he is definitely NOT set in his ways, especially after a discussion with the most annoying character on this show, Emmy Lou. Emmy Lou is a teenager who is all “ooohs” and “ahhhs” and other annoying exclamations. She raves to Ozzie about a movie she recently saw. “What was it called?” Ozzie wants to know. “Farley Granger,” she sighs.

Speaking of Farley Granger, remember that time when a young Ricky Nelson starred in The Story of Three Loves? He was the most adorable, charming child who ran around terrorizing his governess, speaking French–s’il vous plaît, s’il vous plaît!, and wishing desperately that he was all grown up so that he could stay up as late as he liked and would have no more stupid French lessons. Oh, he was adorable and charming. And then he duly goes to bed in his white and blue striped pajamas…and wakes up as Farley Granger, who, try as he might, is just not as adorable and charming as young Ricky Nelson. Maybe because I have a tiny bit of trouble forgetting that time he took part in the “perfect” murder.

Back to Oscillating Ozzie, though.

Emmy Lou’s rave review about this Farley Granger film where Farley Granger is irresponsible and unpredictable convinces Ozzie that he must prove to Harriet that he is NOT set in his ways. He is unpredictable, prone to change his mind, crazy! So he does not buy one quart of vanilla ice cream and one quart of chocolate ice cream. Oh, no–he buys three quarts of Tutti Frutti ice cream! (“What’s Tutti Frutti?” asks Ricky. Ha! Ha! Ha! Spoiler alert! Pop’s gonna spend an entire episode looking for some Tutti Frutti ice cream, Ricky.) And he walks instead of driving–and doesn’t take his usual route, to boot. He changes his clothes for dinner. He decides to stay home and play his banjo instead of going out bowling with Thorny…until Harriet practically pushes him out of the house because she is having a new rug delivered while Ozzie is out because the change would upset him.

“I wonder what’s come over, Pop,” wonders Dave. Ricky just shakes his head and says, “Crazy, mixed up kid!”

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Boy, does that kid makes the show.

When Ozzie meets the rug delivery man on his way to meet Thorny, he discovers Harriet’s plot and decides once again to surprise her by being so incredibly unpredictable and crazy in an ending you have to see for yourself. Oh, Ozzie, we love you just the way you are!

Hairstyle for Harriet
Season 5, Episode 15
Original air date: January 9, 1957

This episode is kind of a companion to “Oscillating Ozzie.” When Ozzie can describe Harriet’s hairstyle perfectly, she believes it’s time for a change, which alarms Ozzie because he likes her hair just the way it is. He’s worried about what she’ll do to her hair and decides to change his own hair, which shocks everyone. Here’s Ricky’s reaction:

Even better, though, is the end of the episode, where Ricky and Dave head out to a costume party. Ricky dresses up as Elvis….and sings a few lines from “Love Me Tender” (this is just a few episodes before his singing debut). Sigh.

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An even deeper sigh. Check out those eyelashes!

And David, inspired by Ozzie, dresses up as Yul Brynner in The King and I, replete with “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” Not to be missed!

The Trophy
Season 6, Episode 13
Original air date: January 1, 1958

Ozzie cannot find his decathlon trophy and nobody at the Men’s Club believes he ever won it! So the family decides to enter (and win!) the upcoming Family Decathlon at the Men’s Club picnic. Harriet wins the pie-baking contest. David wins the football-throwing contest. Ricky wins at tennis. And Ozzie…well, Ozzie has a hard time.

There’s also a rock ‘n’ roll dance contest. Guess who enters?

…and scares everybody else out of entering, apparently.

But the final competition–and the one that will determine whether the Nelson family wins the Decathlon and the trophy–is the Obstacle Course, which Ozzie enters. Can he do it? What do you mean, can he do it? Ozzie can do anything!

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With Harriet’s help, of course.

Closed Circut
Season 6, Episode 25
Original air date: March 26, 1958

Ok, I love, love, LOVE this episode. It makes me laugh. A lot.

The Randolphs son, Joe Jr., has devised a way to broadcast television programs from the Nelsons’ basement. This allows for many tricks to be played on unsuspecting members of the Nelson family and visitors in their home! I love when Ricky is a supposed contestant on a game show and can’t answer the question, “What does the formula H2O stand for?”

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“Water!” shouts Ozzie.

“Oh, thanks, Pop!”

Later, Joe Randolph Sr. and Ozzie decide to use the set-up to play a trick on their wives, who have just been spending too much time at the Women’s Club meetings and not enough time at home cooking their dinners. With the help of Ricky, Dave, Joe Jr., and a bachelor friend named Fred, they create a nightclub–drinks, music, dancing, and beautiful girls included!

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Of course the trick backfires. But all ends well with the Nelsons watching Joe and Clara fight and make up on the television. And then….

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Yeah, they totally just broke the fourth wall. And they did it being lovelier and cuter and more endearing than anybody else ever in the history of television.

The Circus
Season 8, Episode 15
Original air date: January 27, 1960

The plot of this episode is actually kind of boring: David, now a budding law clerk, has to serve a summons to an owner of a circus, Mr. Cantini, and he doesn’t want to because the guy is so nice. The best part of this episode is that it allows David and Rick to showcase their actual trapeze talents. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet may have been idealized in some ways, but so many of its story lines were derived from real-life events or integrated their real-life hobbies and skills. David and Ricky actually performed all the flying trapeze tricks in this episode (David was also part of a group that travelled and performed during the summer), and it’s so fun to watch. It’s also fun to watch how Ozzie was able to incorporate their skills into the storyline.

David is restless, worrying about serving this dog-gone summons. “Hey, Ricky,” he asks. “What would you do if you had to serve a summons?”

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“The first thing I’d do is get a good night’s sleep,” responds Ricky, whose hair just happens to be perfectly groomed. Ricky then suggests that David serve Papa Cantini the summons when he swings across the trapeze. David falls asleep and begins to dream about just that…

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David’s the catcher and Ricky’s the flier, and they do some tricks that make me a little nervous. But it’s awesome….just like their outfits.

Let’s take a moment to consider and appreciate that the following photo is for sale on eBay for a mere $9.49:

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I am THIS close to messaging the following to the seller: “Hi, just wondering if this comes in a LARGE poster size. Thanks.”

Cafe Caper
Season 13, Episode 15
Original air date: December 30, 1964

I love this episode. Even though Rick and Dave have both moved out and married, this episode finds them going on a fishing trip with good ol’ Pop. Except they run into a little trouble. First, Harriet is supposed to make them a big breakfast–just like in the old days!–before they head out, but once she hears where June and Kris are spending their day (at a big sale down at the Emporium–where else?), she bolts, leaving the boys and Ozzie to make their own breakfast. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. So they head to a little diner, where they unwittingly witness a robbery, of which they (particularly Ozzie) also become the prime suspects. So…with the help of Harriet, they try to track down the person they believe actually committed the crime, a little old lady who sold them a few donuts before leaving the diner under suspicious circumstances. They eventually find her home, and this VERY important moment occurs:

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Yeah, little Ricky is all grown up…and married. And Kris is a really good cook!

This episode is a lot of fun, and it kept me wondering who really was in the wrong at that little diner. (Ellery Queen probably would have been disappointed in my deduction skills.) Plus, I just love that they are all together…which I guess they are now, too. Tear.

What a special family they were. Sometimes, I take a step back and think about how I’m spending my time watching what I’m watching. Like…why am I spending my time watching a reality show about people losing weight? (Really, I would like to know the answer to this.) Why am I spending my time watching a show where everyone in this hospital has slept with everybody else at some point? Why am I spending my time watching a show about people lost on an island? I don’t have to stop and wonder why I am watching The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. (Well, I have thought about when I actually reach the point where I have seen all 435 episodes–I’m about halfway–which will mean I have spent over 200 hours with this family, and that is kind of crazy.) I watch it because it’s a good show from start to finish–some shows lose quality over time, but not this one. I watch it because it is filled with genuine warmth, affection, and comedy. I watch it because Ricky Nelson has really long, beautiful eyelashes. (Just kidding! …kind of.) I watch it because it’s the Nelsons, America’s favorite family! My favorite family.

Five Favorite Newly Discovered Rick Nelson Gems

After six months of listening to nothing but the Brothers Gibb, it regretfully reached a saturation point, and I forced myself to enter a new listening cycle. Chest hair, pearly white smiles, and tight white satin pants have been replaced by the laid-back, natural, gorgeous tones (and head and shoulders and knees and toes and eyes and ears and mouth and a nose – oh, a nose!) of Rick Nelson.

In case you’ve missed one of the recurring themes of this blog, I can’t just like something. I can’t just watch a movie. I can’t just read a book. I cannot — and I refuse to — just listen to a song or an album or an artist’s complete discography. I must completely immerse myself, devouring every last morsel of information and media available to me. I guess you could refer to it as an “obsession.” So right now, I’m obsessed with Rick Nelson…again. (I also tend to recycle my obsessions.) I’ve been tracking down episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet I haven’t seen (can’t wait for the ultimate box set to be released!), raiding the library of all their Rick Nelson materials (do you think they’ll notice if I don’t return them?), absent-mindedly drooling over my Rick Nelson records (I am going to have to start investing in those clear protective sleeves), and, of course, listening to all the Rick Nelson I can, all in my search for THE REAL RICK:

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(Yeah, I have totally been carrying this picture around with me and pulling it out, asking people if they know or have seen THE REAL RICK. No one’s signed me up for any medical attention…yet.)

And whatd’yaknow, the real Rick — I think — is not found in the wise cracks of an irrepressible kid or the idealistic portrayal of life found on his family’s television show (which I love dearly) or even his dreamy blue eyes and long, long, long — man, are they long! — eyelashes but in his music. And, thankfully, there is so much music. So much, in fact, that I am still wading through it, trying to find it all, digesting it and loving it.

While digging through all this music, I have enjoyed listening to old favorites and forgotten favorites, but I have most of all enjoyed discovering new songs I had never heard before — and here’s a list of a few, out of many, of my newly discovered favorites, most of which were never major hits (or minor hits or any kind of hit) and all, save one, were penned by Rick himself — yes, not only could this guy sing the phonebook, but he could write, too!

5. “Dream Lover”
Single, 1979

Rick’s cover of Bobby Darin’s 1959 hit is subtle, magical, and dreamier than the original (or any subsequent cover) ever even hinted was possible. His voice is older, maybe not quite as smooth as it once was, but still as beautiful and captivating as it ever was. I love that this song, which could have signaled yet another comeback for Rick, was released amidst the sea of Punk, New Wave, and Disco. Rick didn’t change his style to gel with current trends; he sang what he knew and loved.

4. “Gypsy Pilot”
Rudy the Fifth, 1971

As understated and gentle as “Dream Lover” is, “Gypsy Pilot” is as loud and guitar-fueled — maybe even the loudest and rockiest song of his career. The autobiographical lyrics also offer a fitting epitaph, particularly the last verse: “When they claim my body/They won’t have much to say/Except that he lived a good life/He lived every day/And I know he saw the sunshine/And I know he felt the rain/And he loved everybody/And he hopes you’ll do the same.”    

3. “Easy to Be Free”
Single, 1970

I love that in the clip posted above, Rick is peacefully standing amidst the open country. He is calm and steady and completely at ease; the music, like his surroundings in the clip, is breathtakingly beautiful and lulling, perfectly mirroring the lyrics expressing freedom and the peace it brings. The ease and naturalness with which he sings this song reflects, I think, how he lived his life and directed his career. At times in his career, the music he created didn’t necessarily follow what was popular in the charts or reflect what many people perceived his (or, rather, their) “image” to be, but he did what he loved and believed in. He was genuine and heartfelt and free. But I doubt it was truly easy — nothing really is.

2. “Are You Really Real?”
Garden Party, 1972

Oh, I love this song so much. Hidden on the Garden Party album, this has to be one of the most beautiful songs Rick ever wrote (seriously, this dude could write songs — who knew? Not enough people!) or recorded. With the yearning lyrics and his voice doubled for effect, it envelopes the listener into a kind of a trance — the kind of trance where once the song ends, you have to listen to it again. And again. And again. And again…

1. “Life”
Rudy the Fifth, 1971

The trance of listening to “Are You Really Real?” on repeat indefinitely can only be broken by listening to “Life” on repeat. Fact. This song is so simple, yet so poignant, and despite posing some of humanity’s common questions (“Tell me life, what are you here for?/Tell me life, I wanna know more/Tell me life, what are we here for?”), implying uncertainty and a desire to know more, the song exudes bliss. Still, when Rick asks, “Life, will you go on without me?”, in the song’s opening line, it’s sobering. Life has gone on without Rick, and it will go on one day without each of us. That last sentence looks so depressing in print, but I swear this song is not depressing. It’s beautiful, and I could listen to it all day. (Pssst, I already have.)

Oh, and check out this performance from 1972. I have no idea what the premise of this special (“Fol-de-Rol”, according to the description) was, but it features Rick as a kind of minstrel, replete with tights, so you know it’s totally worth your time.

Rick Nelson was a great artist, understated and under-appreciated. Miss him! Can’t wait to discover even more gems buried in his discography…