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Mary Wickes: I Know I've Seen That Face Before (Hollywood Legends Series)
Mary Wickes: I Know I've Seen That Face Before (Hollywood Legends Series)
by Steve Taravella
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $31.01
44 used & new from $18.08

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Woman Behind the Face You've Seen Before, July 31, 2013
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Steve Taravella masterfully uncovers the true story of Mary Wickes, one of the screen's most recognizable character actresses and whose career spanned more than sixty years. Employing the actress's personal papers, maintained at her alma mater Washington University in St. Louis, and valuable interviews with many of her intimates, Taravella illuminates the influences, motivations, qualities, and foibles of Mary Wickes. The first six chapters are chronological, tracing Wickes's steps from her native St. Louis to New York and later Hollywood. They include rich information available nowhere else: details about how she became interested in acting, how she broke into the business, how she fit into her family's dynamics, and her relationships with fellow actors and friends. The chronology is interrupted for the next eight chapters as Taravella explores facets of the actress's personality, including her steadfast friendship with Lucille Ball, her dependence and devotion to her mother, her idiosyncrasies, the "secret" cousin she refused to acknowledge, her sexuality, and the ultimate consequences of taking the life path she chose. While this structuring may confuse some readers, such as those who've commented previously on this site in rather dismissive reviews, it does make sense in the end. These eight chapters really give the reader a feel for the true Mary Wickes. With the final three chapters, Taravella resumes the chronological flow, including detailed accounts of her final stage success in "Oklahoma!" and her last shining moment on screen in "Sister Act," as well as her physical decline and eventual demise.
I've been a fan of the brilliant Miss Wickes since my childhood, first when I delighted in her man-hungry portrayal of Esther Cathcart on TV's "Dennis the Menace" and then later upon discovering and relishing every moment she was on screen in movies such as "The Music Man," "Dear Heart," and "The Man Who Came to Dinner." As a Wickes fan, I most certainly disagree with Amazon reviewer "takingadayoff," who states that "the biography was a better effort than her career warranted." Everyone has a life story, and it's high time that character actors like Wickes be explored in full detail as Taravella has ably done. The book is quite readable, and you will enjoy the anecdotes about "Stage Door," "Sister Act," etc. You'll also learn trivia not only about Mary, but about Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, Orson Welles, et al. Most importantly, you'll discover the real woman behind the face you've seen before.


Petticoat Junction: Return to Hooterville
Petticoat Junction: Return to Hooterville
DVD ~ Edgar Buchanan
Price: $9.90
27 used & new from $8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something old, something new, something borrowed, but, happily, nothing blue!, March 18, 2013
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Admittedly, this compilation does contain some previously released segments, but the new stuff is well worth the asking price. Since I'm a devout Bea Benaderet fan, I was ecstatic to finally see her guest appearance on THE DANNY KAYE SHOW. Bea worked so much on regular series like BURNS & ALLEN, PETER LOVES MARY, BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, and PETTICOAT JUNCTION that it was very rare for her to appear as a guest star on any other series. Exceptions are her appearances in TV shows from the 1959-60 and 1961-62 seasons and this guest shot on DANNY KAYE. The neat thing about her appearance on the KAYE show is that by this point she was quite recognizable as the star (finally!) of her own show. You'll love her as Kaye's pushy Brooklynese mother in one skit and as his zany Southern wife in another..."Mayberry" fans will be delighted to see both Jim Nabors and Andy Griffith in the latter sketch. Equally important is Bea's radio interview (two-part, audio only, of course) with Lucille Ball on Ball's 1964 radio show, something else I've waited years to hear. There's a brief video clip from the ART LINKLETTER SHOW, which has been previously released, and I still wonder why it ends so abruptly. There has to be more from this show?? Especially touching and rare is a segment featuring a current interview with Jack Bannon, Bea's son, who reminisces about her, PJ, and the cast. As he speaks, various clips and still photos are shown, including rare (evidently from Bannon's collection) photos of a brunette Bea from the 1920s-1940s. Jim Pierson does a great job guiding the conversation between Linda Henning and himself in a segment showing out takes from the show, mostly shots of the real train, taken on location in Jamestown, CA. I'm so happy that Bea is getting some recognition, just wondering why her image was not on the cover?
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2013 1:02 AM PDT


Fieldale Virginia
Fieldale Virginia
by Thomas David Perry
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.99
14 used & new from $15.98

2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking, July 17, 2012
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This review is from: Fieldale Virginia (Paperback)
I was very disappointed in the quality of photo reproduction in this book. They appear to be computer scans and so blurry they look like they were taken underwater. The cover gives the appearance of another of the high-quality Arcadia books, but don't be fooled. As for content, I expected a much more research-based product.


Dennis The Menace: Season 2
Dennis The Menace: Season 2
DVD ~ Jay North
Offered by Phase 3, LLC
Price: $14.39
20 used & new from $8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming and Heartwarming, August 3, 2011
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This review is from: Dennis The Menace: Season 2 (DVD)
Believe it or not, Season Two surpasses Season One, all due to the sparkling performances of Jay North, Herbert Anderson, Gloria Henry, Billy Booth, Sylvia Field, and the inimitable Joseph Kearns. They are all just so entertaining to watch---all pros at their craft, with special praise for the child actors. Billy Booth and Jay North are so natural together. Watch their scenes carefully, study their facial expressions, especially Booth's. Just terrfific! And Joe Kearns hit his career pinnacle, of course, after serving in supporting roles in film, TV, and most of all, radio. His George Wilson may be predictable, but never boring. Kearns' interactions with Sylvia Field (another charmer) and North are delightful. The most amazing thing about the season (and all four seasons) is the wealth of character actors in semi-regular and guest appearances. Mary Wickes shines brightly this season as mancrazy Miss Cathcart...some of her best work. Irene Tedrow, always reliable, adds grit as Kearns' nemesis Mrs. Elkins. Paul Barselow, Charles Lane, Jeannie Russell, and the rest make Dennis' neighborhood the place to be for character-actor fans. Special nod to Spring Byington, playing herself in a guest spot between her runs on DECEMBER BRIDE and LARAMIE. Innocent fun and hearwarming, especially when crusty Kearns realizes the error of his ways and the "Mr. Wilson" theme plays, tugging at your heart as it did fifty years ago. Looking forward to Season Three already and hoping Four (albeit sans Kearns) will be released to make it all complete.


The Lucy Show: The Official Third Season
The Lucy Show: The Official Third Season
DVD ~ Lucille Ball
Offered by westcoastmedia
Price: $14.10
22 used & new from $9.18

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for the Ann Sothern episodes, February 7, 2011
This season of THE LUCY SHOW is not up to par with Season Two, or even Season One, however it was worth buying for me because I love the Ann Sothern - Countess Framboise episodes so much, especially "My Fair Lucy" with Sothern's former second banana and LUCY SHOW/HERE'S LUCY alum, the magnificent Reta Shaw. The color is fantastic, production values top notch. I was not disappointed in that, but some eps are just not worth a second viewing. Vivian Vance is a joy to watch in each ep, though.


My Three Sons: Season 2, Vol. 2
My Three Sons: Season 2, Vol. 2
DVD ~ Fred MacMurray
Offered by westcoastmedia
Price: $23.04
15 used & new from $19.04

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Those Were the Days, My Friends!, October 14, 2010
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Wow, releases of shows like MY THREE SONS make me so happy because I get to see the fine character actors of the golden age of television. In this set, the stalwart performers who add so much sitcom spice include Billy Barty, Mary Jackson, the incomparable Reta Shaw, and the versatile Verna Felton (in one of her very final sitcom roles). I was especially happy with this particular set's release, as the only copy I had of Miss Felton's episode "COINCIDENCE" was a bootleg. I recently authored her biography, VERNA FELTON, published by Bear Manor Media. She shines, although briefly, in this guest spot. Fred MacMurray is awesome as Steve Douglas, and the boys are all charming in their characterizations, just as pleasing as William Frawley is grumpy as "Bub." Very happy this has been released, but like so many others, I dislike the two volumes per season.


The Lucy Show: The Official Second Season
The Lucy Show: The Official Second Season
DVD ~ Lucille Ball
Price: $14.45
21 used & new from $9.39

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IN LIVING COLOR, albeit the CBS version!, July 23, 2010
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As much as I love vintage B&W TV shows, I must admit that the color reproduction on this set is AMAZING. I keep staring at little things like Lucy and Viv's eyeshadow makeup, the vibrant throw pillows on their living room sofa, and their classy 60s fashions. It's as much fun to finally see the true colors as it is to watch the brilliant nuances of Misses Ball and Vance's performances. Not to mention, the never-better vocal inflections of the divine Gale Gordon as Mr. Mooney. He really shines in this role, so much more so than he did as Osgood Conklin or Harrison Carter. He is just the best. And the episodes offer a fantastice lineup of expert character actors: Kathleen Freeman, the superb Mary Wickes, Carole Cook (I had to watch her bonus interview twice because she was so fantastic!!!), Lyle Talbot, Jay Novello, Dorothy Konrad, Ellen Corby, etc. Let's just hope we dont' have to wait another year to see Season Three which features my all-time favorites Reta Shaw, Madge Blake, and Ann Sothern. Not to take attention away from the stars, mind you, because I think Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance were just the best team ever! Especially Viv. Much underrated. Just watch her every little move. She was perfection. Still miss her. But this set brings it all back---I watched it in primetime when I was a little kid, and then later on morning reruns. Been waiting for these pristine prints a longggg time. If only CBS would release other shows like DECEMBER BRIDE and DENNIS THE MENACE...maybe one day!


Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years
Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years
by Laura E. Skandera-Trombley
Edition: Hardcover
69 used & new from $0.01

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tale That Needed Telling, June 16, 2010
I was fascinated by this account of Twain's final years. Using archival records,contemporaneous newspapers, and Isabel Van Kleek Lyon's diaries, author Trombley weaves an engrossing tale which makes events from 100 years ago vividly come to life. If you enjoy well-documented and carefully planned biographies, you'll like this work. It was worth the sixteen years the author took to complete it. I came away with little respect for most of the Clemens family, but at the same time I could understand clearly their motivations for their behavior. As for the almost forgotten Miss Lyon, she really deserved this work. I really sympathized with her and the way she was mistreated by the Clemens clan. At last, the true story is available to us all.


Close-Ups
Close-Ups
by Eddie Lucas
Edition: Paperback
Price: $20.66
42 used & new from $17.34

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic & Warm, March 25, 2010
This review is from: Close-Ups (Paperback)
Eddie Lucas has assembled a collection of interviews with past television personalities that is both easy-to-read and fun. From Peter "The Big Valley" Breck's candid and humorous recollections to Elinor "Father Knows Best" Donahue's pleasant yet revealing insights, CLOSEUPS is a great way to learn some behind-the-scenes details about some of TV's best-loved shows and personalities. Eddie asks important technical questions related to work schedules, location shoots, filming techniques, but he also concentrates on his subjects' memories of those performers no longer with us, like Robert Young, Liz Montgomery, Shirley Booth, and Don Knotts.

But Lucas also succeeds as an interviewer when his subjects share personal information about themselves. The interviews with Peter Lupus, who offers great, detailed autobiographical information, and Alice Ghostley, whose tender interview would become her final one, are favorites of mine. Particularly, I was happy to read the origin of her "Black Man! Black Man!" song from "Designing Women."

This book also reveals the reasons behind the terminations of some series---I never knew the Shirley Booth pulled the plug on "Hazel"---I thought it ended because the final season ran without Whitney Blake and Don DeFore. You'll learn other facts like that, including cast changes, relationships among actors, and the subjects' favorite episodes from their own series. There's even the actors from "What's Happenin'" for those with an interest in shows later than the 1950s and 60s golden era. What a fun read!


The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms
The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms
by David C. Tucker
Edition: Paperback
Price: $39.95
28 used & new from $34.72

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Fact-Filled !, March 10, 2010
David Tucker has thoroughly researched his subjects and presents their unique stories in a easy-to-read style. Without a doubt, he is quite the wordsmith and researcher. I was delighted to find little-known information on some ladies, like Spring Byington and Joan Davis, who are overlooked today by some television historians. We all love Lucy, but the other nine actresses here are just as worthy of a book like this. Any fan of classic TV must have THE WOMEN WHO MADE TELEVISION FUNNY. And I agree with the other reviewer that this work merits a sequel! In the meantime, I can't wait to read David Tucker's LOST LAUGHS, forthcoming from McFarland.


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