Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer is a singer-songwriter who accompanies himself on piano. He is primarily a satirist whose songs are very humorous and were topical during the height of his popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. I became familiar with his songs when I lived in California in 1974-76. I heard several of them on the "Dr. Demento Show" on radio Sunday evenings.

I collected his albums which were not difficult to find because they had been re-issued several times over the years, and now they're all available on cd.

In 1979, I called Mr. Lehrer, who was living in Santa Cruz, California. We had a brief conversation, during which I told him of my enjoyment and interest in his music and songs. I did ask him why he wasn't still performing, and he told me he thought that current events in the past few years were too serious to satirize. I asked if he'd send me an autographed photo, and he said he had a small snap-shot-type photo he sent to people, but asked me to write to him.

I went to my public library and found a book of his songs in sheet-music format, and copied the first page of a couple of them. I sent him the copies, and within two weeks, I received this photo from him. He also signed the copies of sheet music, which can be seen here and here.

Here are some videos of Mr. Lehrer performing some of my favorites:
"National Brotherhood Week"

"Wernher Von Braun"

"We Will All Go Together When We Go"

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Billy Halop

Billy Halop began his career as a juvenile as a juvenile actor in the Broadway production of "Dead End" in 1935. He went to Hollywood to appear in the movie version in 1937, and was known as one of the "Dead End Kids", a group which also included Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall. Future roles generally typecast him as a street-wise character who'd be on the wrong side of the law.

He continued acting on many tv shows into the 1970s. One of his last roles was as 'Bert Munson', a taxi-driving friend of 'Archie Bunker' on the 1970s sitcom "All in the Family".

Mr. Halop died in 1976, and I'd never written to him for a photo.

In 1989, through the same reliable dealer from whom I'd purchased autographs previously, I bought the photo shown below. It's a post card photo, postmarked on the back "Los Angeles, Calif. - June 8, 1940". The postage stamp was 1 cent, but the photo cost me $3.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Una Merkel

Una Merkel was a popular supporting actress in many movies of the 1930s and 1940s. She continued her acting on tv shows right into the 1970s.

I never got around to writing to her while she was still alive, and regretted it, as I wanted to tell her of my enjoyment of her portrayals of various characters, both comedic and dramatic.

In 1989, I purchased the photo seen below from an autograph dealer. It's a post card photo, and the postmark on the back is "Los Angeles, Calif. - April 12, 1937".

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ted Lewis - "Is Everybody Happy?"

Ted Lewis was a bandleader-musician-singer-entertainer from about 1915 right through the 1950s. He was famous for introducing himself and his band with the direct question to the audience, "Is everybody happy?". Another of his famous trademarks was wearing a battered top hat.

During my early years of collecting 78rpm records, I'd acquired some of his records, including one of his most popular songs, "When My Baby Smiles at Me". I liked his band's style and his pleasant singing voice.

I wrote to Mr. Lewis in the late 1960s, requesting an autographed photo. He, or his secretary, misunderstood my request apparently, because I received an unsigned photo. I didn't write again, and Mr. Lewis died a few years later, in 1971.

Many years later, in 1989, I'd made contact with a reliable autograph dealer, who was selling pieces from collections. One that was offered, for a mere $3, was a signed album page, shown below.

Here is a clip of Ted Lewis and His Band:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Binnie Barnes

Binnie Barnes was an English-born actress who appeared mostly in American-made movies when she moved to the U.S. in the 1930s. She was very prolific in supporting roles.

In 1981, I sent her this photo, to her residence in Los Angeles, and she signed and returned it within two weeks.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Elsa Lanchester

Elsa Lanchester was an English character actress who worked for many years in both the UK and US from the 1920s into the 1980s. She is best remembered for her role as the title character character in 1935's "Bride of Frankenstein", playing opposite Boris Karloff.

Miss Lanchester was married for more than thirty years to actor Charles Laughton until his death in 1962.

I remember Miss Lanchester not only for that role, but for her many appearances on tv shows in the 1960s and '70s. Her roles were varied, but usually of the comedic variety and it was always an enjoyment to see her.

In 1982 I sent Miss Lanchester this photo to her residence in Los Angeles, and she signed and returned it within two weeks.

Here she is in her first scene in "Bride of Frankenstein".

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kent Smith and Edith Atwater

Kent Smith was an actor with a very long career on stage, and in movies and tv shows. He began his Broadway career in the early 1930s, and soon after, went to Hollywood and appeared in many movies over the next forty years.

Mr. Smith is best remembered in movies by me for his roles in two Val Lewton horror/suspense movies, "The Cat People" (1942), and "The Curse of the Cat People" (1944), in which he played the same character 'Oliver Reed', who was married to a woman who believed she was a victim of an ancient curse.

Mr. Smith appeared in many tv shows during the 1960s, but the one for which I best remember him, is his role as 'Edgar Scoville' in the 1967 sci-fi series "The Invaders".

He was married to an actress, Edith Atwater, since the early 1960s. In 1982, I sent a photo of each to their Los Angeles residence, and they signed and returned them within two weeks. Kent's photo can be seen here and Edith's photo can be seen here, the latter being signed on a dark portion as it was the only portrait I could find).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall is an actress whose career began in the theater in the 1940s and continued into movies. She is known for her husky voice and sultry looks, which she used to advantage in many movies. Her first feature was 1944's "To Have and Have Not", in which she costarred with Humphrey Bogart, who would become her husband the following year and they would remain married until his death in 1957.

In 1980, I sent Ms. Bacall two photos, to her residence at the famed New York City Dakota Apartments. She signed both and returned them to me within one week. The photos can be seen here and here. It appears to me that she may have signed the photos hastily, as on the first one, she incorrectly spelled my last name, though it's a common error. On the second, while she spelled it correctly, her pen must have been running out of ink and she wrote over her own signature with a 'new' pen.

Here's a video of clips from "To Have and Have Not".

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jack Wild - 'The Artful Dodger'

Jack Wild was an actor in England in the 1960s and 1970s. As a teen, he played the role of 'The Artful Dodger' in both the stage and screen versions of "Oliver!", the latter in 1968 in which he sung "Consider Yourself". He co-starred with Mark Lester, who played the title character.

In the early 1980s, I wrote to Mr. Wild, sending this photo to his residence in England. He signed and returned it within two weeks.

Mr. Wild made several other movies besides "Oliver!" and also starred in the tv series "H.R. Pufnstuf" as the character Jimmy. He also starred in the feature movie "Pufnstuf" in 1970.

In 2006, Jack Wild died at the too young age of 53. He was a victim of oral cancer, which he attributed to his use of alcohol and tobacco for many years.

Here is the lengthy musical number "Consider Yourself" from the 1968 movie "Oliver!".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Helen Kane - 'Boop Boop A Do'

Helen Kane was a popular singer of the 1920s and 1930s, first appearing in Vaudeville, then continuing on to revues, Broadway shows, and movies.

She had large eyes and black curly hair, and she sang in a cutesy squeaky voice, punctuating several of her songs with a 'boop-boop-a-do'. Her most famous song is "I Wanna Be Loved By You", but she also had hits with "Button Up Your Overcoat", "He's So Unusual", "That's My Weakness Now", and "Get Out and Get Under the Moon", among others.

Miss Kane's image and voice-likeness were used as Max Fleischer's "Betty Boop" cartoon character, but the voice was actually done by Mae Questel.

Miss Kane died in 1966, and I remember reading of her passing in the newspaper. I was familiar with her songs because I had some of them on 78rpm records.

Her husband was Dan Healy, a well-known 'Master of Ceremonies' on Broadway, as well as an owner of a popular restaurant, Healy's Grill. In 1969, during the early years of my autograph collecting, I found a phone number for Mr. Healy, who was still living in the same residence he shared with Helen, in Jackson Heights, NY. With the intention of asking if he had any photos of her, I called him, but he was not in a good mood. I asked if he was the husband of Helen Kane, and he said "Yeah yeah", and when I started to ask a few other questions and explain why I called, he said, "Look kid, will you leave me alone?". I asked what was the matter and he said he had a terrible head cold, and I'd woken him from a sound sleep. I apologized and told him I'd write a letter, and he said, "Yeah, do that!" and hung up the phone.

I did write to him, but never received a reply. Later that year, he died.

In 1990, I purchased Helen Kane's signature on an autograph album page, from a reliable autograph dealer. (The original owner presumably wrote the date "6/34" on the page).

Here's a song from a 1929 movie, with Helen Kane singing and dancing with Skeets Gallagher.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Florian ZaBach

Florian ZaBach was a musician, mastering the violin at an early age. He played popular tunes as well as classical arrangements. His most popular melody was "The Hot Canary" and a recording sold more than one million copies.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, another of my hobbies was collecting 16mm movies. I never could afford to buy feature films, so my small collection consisted mostly of comedy shorts, cartoons, and a handful of tv shows. One of the latter I purchased, as part of a collection of miscellaneous shorts, was a "Florian ZaBach Show" from 1954. I found it to be very entertaining - Mr. ZaBach had a pleasant personality as he introduced and played each melody.

I wanted to contact Mr. ZaBach to tell him how much I enjoyed the one tv show of his I'd seen. I don't remember how I found his address, but it turned out he was living in Pound Ridge, New York, about 40 minutes north of me. His phone number was listed, and I called. His wife answered, and she said he was not home at the moment. I explained my interest in Mr. ZaBach's music, and said I'd like an autographed photo. She was very cordial and appreciated my interest. She took down my address and a few days later, I received this letter from Mr. ZaBach, in which he asked me how to obtain the catalog from which I purchased his tv show. He also included this vintage photo.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Connee Boswell

Connee Boswell was a popular and successful vocalist of the late 1930s through the 1970s. In the early 1930s, she and her sisters, Martha and Vet, formed a singing group, appropriately known as The Boswell Sisters. They were known for their harmonizing and jazz vocals.

When Connee's sisters retired in the mid-1930s, Connee continued on her own. However, I still prefer her and her sisters singing together.

In the late 1980s, I purchased the autograph shown below, for about $3. It's on an autograph album page, to which the original owner attached a tiny newspaper photo of Connee.
Here's a much nicer photo of Connee.

There is a group of devotees of The Boswell Sisters, and they have a website which I recommend visiting.

Here's a tv movie from 1952 of Connee singing in her New York City apartment.

Here's a video of The Boswell Sisters from a 1932 movie, with Connee on the left.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cheryl Ladd - One of "Charlie's Angels"

Cheryl Ladd is an actress who began her career in the 1970s. She appeared on many tv shows, but will be best remembered for her role as 'Kris', one of "Charlie's Angels" in the late 1970s.

I sent Ms. Ladd this photo in 1982 and she returned it within one month.

Here's the opening for "Charlie's Angels".

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jack Albertson

Jack Albertson was a character actor whose career started in vaudeville in the 1920s. He was an all-around entertainer - comedian, dancer, singer, musician.

Mr. Albertson appeared in several movies from the 1940s into the 1980s, and many tv shows from the 1950s into the late 1970s. While he played many memorable movie characters, he may be best remembered as the grandfather in 1971's "Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory". As for his tv roles, he'll be best remembered as 'Ed Brown' in the mid-1970s tv sitcom "Chico and The Man" (his character was 'The Man'), which also starred Freddie Prinze.

I wrote to Mr. Albertson in 1980, sending this photo to his residence in Los Angeles. He returned it within two weeks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lena Horne

Lena Horne is an actress and singer who's had a very illustrious career since the 1930s. She is perhaps most well-known for her singing of 'Stormy Weather' in the 1943 movie of the same name.

Many of Ms. Horne's recordings have been heard on soundtracks of several movies over the years.

In 1982 I sent Ms. Horne this photo, to her residence in California. She returned it within one month.

Here's Ms. Horne singing 'Stormy Weather'.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

John Alexander

John Alexander was a character actor who worked mostly in theatre, on Broadway. His career started in the 1930s and continued until the early 1960s, when he last appeared on some tv shows.

I remember Mr. Alexander for his portrayal of the insane character 'Theodore Brewster' in the 1944 comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace", directed by one of my favorite directors, Frank Capra. Mr. Alexander played the role in the Broadway play some years earlier.

Mr. Alexander was living in a nursing home in New York City when I sent him this scene photo in 1980. I couldn't find any portraits, and from what I'd been told by some other collectors, Mr. Alexander no longer had any photos to send.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jackie Coogan - 'Uncle Fester'

Jackie Coogan was a well-known child actor in the silent movie days of the 1920s, but continued his acting career into the 1980s. I remember him for his portrayal of the crazy 'Uncle Fester' on the 1960s tv bizarre comedy show "The Addams Family", which also starred Carolyn Jones and John Astin.

In 1980, I sent Mr. Coogan this photo of himself from the silent days, and he signed and returned it within a month, and included this additional composite postcard photo.

Jackie Coogan is responsible for the creation of the California Child Actor's Bill (also known as the Coogan Bill or Coogan Law). You can read about it here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Jean Rogers - Selling her autograph in 1981

Jean Rogers was an actress who is best remembered for her role as 'Dale Arden' in a couple of "Flash Gordon" serials in the late 1930s. She appeared opposite Buster Crabbe, who was 'Flash'.

In September of 1981, I sent Ms. Rogers a photo to sign, and instead of autographing and returning it to me in the postage-paid envelope I provided, she sent me these two notes, plus the rather poor Xerox copies of two photos, requesting payment of $2.00 for each photo sent to her for autographing.

The notes were actually Xerox copies, except for her signature on each, and the 'Bill' and the 'P.S.' note on one.

This was the very first time I was asked by a celebrity to pay for an autograph, and I couldn't understand why she was doing this, as I'd sent her a photo with return postage. Yet she took the time to sign the two notes she sent me!

I replied to her, explaining that I wasn't going to pay for her autograph, and requested she return the photo to me. I was kind of hoping my reply would give her a guilty conscience and that she'd sign it anyway, but a week later I received it back, unsigned.

Here is the photo I sent her.
And here is one of her as 'Dale Arden', with Buster Crabbe as 'Flash Gordon'.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Frankie Howerd

Frankie Howerd was an English actor and comedian who began his career in the 1930s. I remember him from his appearances in several of the "Carry On..." movies of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the "Up..." series ("Up Pompeii", "Up the Front", etc.). Some of those latter movies were only shown once or twice in the 1980s on a local NYC PBS station that featured tv shows and movies from England a couple of nights a week.

In 1982, I wrote to Mr. Howerd at his residence in England and requested a photo. He replied within one month, sending this postcard-size photo.

Here he is telling a joke on a BBC talk show in 1971.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ruth Buzzi - 'Gladys Ormphby'

Ruth Buzzi is a comedic actress who has been in many movies and tv shows since the early 1960s.

Ms. Buzzi is perhaps best-remembered as the spinster 'Gladys Ormphby' (photo below) on the comedy-sketch tv show, "Laugh-In". She'd wear a long dress and her hair in a bun covered by a visible hairnet. In those sketches, Arte Johnson would play the 'dirty old man' character 'Tyrone'. A typical exchange would have her sitting on a park bench, and along would come Johnson who'd sit down next to her. He'd ask, "Do you believe in the hereafter?" She'd reply, "Of course I do!". Then he'd say, "Well then, you know what I'm here after!" and she'd proceed to bash him with her purse.
In 1982 I sent Ms. Buzzi this photo and she returned it within two weeks. I was hoping she'd also send a photo of herself as 'Gladys Ormphby' but no such luck.

I wasn't able to find a video from "Laugh-In", but here is a video of Ruth (as 'Gladys') 'roasting' George Burns on a Dean Martin show.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Garry Moore

Garry Moore was a comedian and tv entertainer who had his own show in the 1950s, but is best remembered for hosting the game shows "I've Got a Secret" in the 1950s-1960s, and "To Tell the Truth" in the 1970s.

In 1981, Mr. Moore was already retired for a few years, when I sent him this photo, to his residence on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He signed and returned it in less than two weeks.

Here is a video of a segment from an "I've Got a Secret" show.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

UPDATE on "Dorothy Dare" Blog

On Tuesday, May 13, I published a blog about a 1930s movie actress, Dorothy Dare. In that blog, I published a photo that was provided by the person who was perpetrating the fraud - pretending he was Dorothy, and communicating by email with movie fans who really thought they were receiving informative emails from a genuine old-time movie actress.

The person in that photo has now been identified as Anne Slater, a New York City socialite.

You can do a Google Search with her name and find more pics.

For more information about this, please go to the original blog and read the final comment at the bottom, by "nonsportsnut".

Comments are always welcomed and encouraged!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Carol Corbett

While I'm on the subject of hosts of kid's tv shows, I want to write about Carol Corbett. Ms. Corbett hosted a local kid's tv show in New York on WPIX in the 1960s. I remember her for wearing an artist smock and her friendly personal way of talking. One of the shows, which I believe showed cartoons of "The Mighty Hercules", was on around noontime and she'd have lunch, eating a sandwich and telling the viewers what was in it, and she always had a glass of milk, too.

Later in the 1970s, she hosted "The Patchwork Family" which was shown on CBS locally in NY but syndicated for broadcast nationally. I never watched the show (well, maybe one or two, but by that time, I was no longer a 'kid').

In the early 1980s, I remembered Ms. Corbett and wanted to write and tell her of my memories of her show. I didn't know where she was living, so I called the tv actors union, AFTRA, and they gave me a contact phone number, which was in New Jersey. It was Ms. Corbett's home, and she was married for many years at this point, with her own children. When I called, she answered and we had a delightful several minutes reminiscing about her tv show and some of the other tv show hosts at WPIX. When she heard my last name, she remarked "Oh, Italiano, eh? My husband is Italian, my married name is DeVito". I asked for her photo, and she took down my address. A few days later, I received this post-card-size photo in an envelope, with this handwritten note on the back: "Hi Bill, Thanks for the call, it was nice talking to you. Thanks too, for remembering. Carol Corbett DeVito".

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

'Officer' Joe Bolton

Joe Bolton was a veteran in the broadcasting industry, starting in radio then going into tv. In radio, he was a sportscaster, but when he started on tv, for WPIX in New York, he was at first a weatherman.

When Columbia Pictures released a package of Three Stooges comedy shorts in 1958, WPIX was the local NY station to run them, and they selected Joe Bolton to introduce the movies each day. He screen persona was as a police officer, and he was called 'Officer' Joe Bolton. I was one of the many thousands of NY kids who watched the show from the first telecast.

Mr. Bolton remained as host for a few years, then he was replaced by some other WPIX personnel for the next few years, and eventually returned as host of Three Stooges comedies. More about that can be read here, a tribute page to Joe Bolton, written by my friend Ron Smith.

I wrote to 'Officer' Joe several times over the years, beginning in the early 1960s. He sent me this post-card-sized color photo. He was very courteous in replying to the letters, always giving me answers to any questions I had about the Stooges (at that time, very little information was available, other than studio publicity and a few newspaper articles promoting the comedies on tv).

In 1965, Joe played the role of 'Rob Dalton' in the Stooges feature, "The Outlaws IS Coming". All of the 'outlaws' in the movie were played by hosts of the Stooges' movies in various cities across the U.S. Here is one of the publicity photos he would send to his fans.
He signed it on the back:

Here are a couple of letters I received from him, to show his thoroughness in replying to fans questions.

One Sunday afternoon in the early 1970s, my friend Jack and I went to New York City, for what reason I don't remember, but probably to hunt for movie photos and records. When we were in the area of WPIX-TV, he stopped to use a phone booth (any of you readers remember those?). He called the tv station and talked to Joe Bolton, and Joe invited us up to the studio for a brief visit. Joe was on broadcast duty, it seemed, occasionally interrupting a movie to make a station announcement. But he had time to sit with us and talk. Jack had already known him very well, because of a college project involving Joe. We had a pleasant conversation, and Joe was very much the gentleman, appreciative of his long-time fans.

It wasn't long after that, Joe retired, and moved to Santa Monica, California during the same time I was living in North Hollywood. When Jack told me this news, I looked up Joe's number and called him. He remembered me, and while cordial, declined meeting for lunch. He said he was retired and liked to spend much of his time at the pool in his apartment complex. I never called again, figuring he was entitled to a fan-free retirement. He died in 1986.

I will always have fond childhood memories of my 'introduction' to The Three Stooges, through 'Officer' Joe Bolton.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Arthur Tracy - 'The Street Singer'

Arthur Tracy was a popular singer whose career began in the 1920s in vaudeville. In 1931, he had his own radio show, "The Street Singer". He became immensely popular in Europe, too. His theme song was 'Marta, Rambling Rose of the Wildwood".

During my years of collecting of 78rpm records, I occasionally came across some of his records, and while I was familiar with, and liked, his theme song, Mr. Tracy's records 'introduced' me to other popular songs of the era.

Mr. Tracy semi-retired in the 1960s, and would sometimes be a guest on Joe Franklin's tv show in New York. He came out of retirement in 1981 with the release of the movie "Pennies from Heaven", as a new generation was introduced to his original recording of the theme song.

I wrote to Mr. Tracy in early 1982, requesting a photo. He replied within a few weeks, apologizing for the delay. His letter can be read here. In part, he writes:

"Please excuse the long delay. I've been touring and in Europe until now, since the opening of the film PENNIES FROM HEAVEN in which they used my record, it shot me back top side again and I'm opening at the COOKERY in N.Y. for six weeks on February 15. It's great again!"

He continued, thanking me for my loyalty and support, and signed the letter, "Always in song, Arthur Tracy". He enclosed this photo.

Below, Mr. Tracy can be seen in clip from a movie in which he sings "Marta" and "Trees".

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sethma Williams

Sethma Williams is a little-known bit player in some Hollywood movies of the 1930s. What brought her to my attention was the publication of a photo in the latest issue of The Journal of the Three Stooges Fan Club. She is pictured with another actress, Judy Malcolm, in a pose with The Three Stooges for one of their short comedies, "Dizzy Pilots" (1943) - however, neither actress is in the completed movie.

(Below, Sethma on the right, between Moe and Larry):
I decided to try to locate Ms. Williams, and a search through archival records at, led me to finding her living in California. I turned over the contact information to Frank Reighter, another star member of the 'Stooges Supporting Players Locating Team'. The notes and information below have been compiled by Frank after he had a few conversations with Sethma, as well as doing further research at Ancestry. I'm publishing the notes here as Frank sent them to me, so readers of this blog can see how information is compiled and pieced together. The photos have been provided by Gary Lassin, president of the Fan Club.
Born Nov 1, 1911 or 1915 in either Jasper, KS. or in 1917,somewhere in Missouri (1911 or 1915 from Ship Passenger Logs); (1917 from 1930 Federal Census).
Mother is Grace F. Williams, born about 1882 in Illinois. No Father named, but listed in Census as being born in South Dakota. Grace may have been an unmarried mother. She was a Real Estate Saleswoman.

Maternal grandmother is Mary E. Ellars, born in Indiana about 1853 Her father was born in New York; her mother in Indiana.

Grace F. Williams also had a daughter listed in 1930 Census: Mildred E. Hawkins, born in California about 1926. May not have been her natural daughter. Mildred's parents are listed as being born in (father) Virginia; (mother) in Michigan.

Residence in 1930 Census: 527 1/2 Walnut Avenue, Long Beach City, Los Angeles, CA.
At some point, Sethma married Philip Frederick Morgenstern (Later known professionally as Freddy Morgan). He was a member of Spike Jones City Slickers. He died Dec. 21, 1970 in Alameda, CA. of a heart attack suffered in the midst of his stage act.

They traveled, possibly in connection with Freddy's performing. He was also a partner in an act called "Morgan and Stone" (Leo Livingston, a school chum).They landed from Plymouth, England aboard the Champlain, in New York, NY Mar 29, 1933. From Le Havre, FR. aboard the Normandie, in New York, NY Sept. 28, 1936, and from Le Havre, FR. aboard the Normandie, landing in New York, NY Sept. 26, 1938.

Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, was her "God Uncle".
"Uncle Harry" may have had the photos done for "Dizzy Pilots", even though there was never a scene planned for the ladies.

Sethma's film career is listed on IMDB as follows:
  1. My Favorite Spy (1951) (uncredited) .... Dancer
  2. Dizzy Pilots (1943) (uncredited) .... Girl in hangar
  3. Footlight Serenade (1942) (uncredited) .... Chorus Girl
  4. Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942) (uncredited) .... Native
    ... aka The Story of Benjamin Blake
  5. Too Many Girls (1940) (uncredited) .... Marie
In May, 1940 the Marx Brothers performed on stage at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. a stage review of their yet-to-be-filmed feature movie "Go West". Among the cast were Sethma and Rudolph. Rudolph Caspers was William T. Caspers' brother. Sept. 5, 1955, the LA Times reported a Labor Day weekend in Santa Barbara, CA., with entertainment provided by Rudy and Lorna Caspers, and Sethma and Bill Caspers (Banjos +). The LA Times reported on April 21, 1957 that Santa Barbara was planning a 175th Anniversary Celebration. Among the entertainment will be "the Sethma-Bill Caspers entertainment troupe, which included Rudolph and Lorna Caspers, giving musical and dance impressions of their South Pacific jaunt".
Divorce filing listed in LA Times Aug 13, 1941 by Sethma Morggenstern (sic) against Phillip. Philip Frederick Morgenstern was her first husband (professionally known as Freddy Morgan).
She later married William T. Caspers, born Aug. 19, 1922. Public Records show a Divorce between Sethma Williams and William T. Caspers in Jume 1972, and a marriage between William T. Caspers and Joyce E. Carr, aka Joyce E. Anderson (born about 1928) in Santa Barbara, CA. Oct. 10, 1981.
Social Security Death Index lists William T. Caspers Died April 24, 1999.
Social Security Death Index lists Rudolph W. Caspers Died Aug 29, 1958 in Santa Barbara, CA.

Here are two more photos:
Sethma Williams Caspers is alive and well, now living in Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, California.

She is expected to make her first public appearance at the Hollywood Collectors Show in Burbank, California on July 11 and 12.

UPDATE: December 26, 2014

Sethma Williams died on or about November 25, 2014, age 99. 

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Elizabeth Montgomery - Forever 'Samantha Stephens'

Elizabeth Montgomery was a movie and tv actress whose career began in the 1950s. She guested on many tv shows until she landed the starring role as 'Samantha Stephens' on the 1960s sitcom "Bewitched". Of all the various roles she played in other tv shows and movies over her long career, it's this one for which she will always be remembered.

In 1983, I sent her this photo, to her home address in Beverly Hills, California, and she returned it within a month.

Here is a "Bewitched" mini episode.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Emil Sitka - 'The Fourth Stooge'

I thought this would be an appropriate 'Fourth of July' posting, honoring 'The Fourth Stooge'.

Emil Sitka was a veteran comedic actor who appeared in nearly a couple of hundred movies and tv shows from the 1940s into the early 1990s. He is best known, however, for his many appearances (more than three dozen) with The Three Stooges, earning him the title of 'The Fourth Stooge'. He had the distinction of working with all six of the Stooges (Moe, Curly, and Shemp Howard, Larry Fine, Joe Besser, and Curly-Joe DeRita).

Sitka's most famous role was in "Brideless Groom" (1947), as a justice of the peace who begins every service with the words, "Hold hands, you love birds". It brought him lasting fame among Stooges fans, and the words are even inscribed on his grave marker.

When the Stooges were filming "Kook's Tour" (1970), Larry suffered a stroke, and couldn't continue in the act. Sometime afterward, Moe asked Emil if he would be the new "stooge in the middle" to replace Larry, and Emil accepted. There were some publicity photos circulated, but the new team never made any movies because Moe became ill and soon died, and Emil's membership as one of The Three Stooges ended.

In 1974, when I was living in North Hollywood, I'd heard that Emil Sitka was living in Hollywood and liked hearing from fans. I looked him up in the phone directory, and one Saturday afternoon, I called. Mr. Sitka was more than cordial - he was very open to hearing from fans, as he appreciated each and every one. We had a long conversation, and it was the first of many calls.

During my two years in California, I worked in the photography lab of a major defense company, and had access to all of the printing facilities. I had one very nice scene still of Emil with the Stooges, from the 1947 short "Hold That Lion". I made a negative and then printed several 4x6 photos. I sent them to Emil, asking him to sign one and he could keep the others to give to other fans. Emil signed the front of one photo with his name, and wrote on the back: 'To Bill, Let's "Hold That Lion' of friendship forever!" and signed it again.

We talked usually once a month, sometimes briefly if he was on his way out, and sometimes at length if he had many topics to discuss. When he got to know me better, he surprised me by sending me this composite photo, inscribed as: 'To Bill Cappello, My most special fan and friend-Emil Sitka'.

When Larry Fine died in January of 1975, Emil attended the funeral service, and when it was over, a woman walked up to him and hugged him, saying "Oh Emil, it's good to see you again!". He didn't recognize her at first, but when she'd gone away, he realized she was Christine McIntyre, whom I had located just a few months earlier. He always said he'd call her some day, but never got around to it.

I finally met Emil in person, on April 25, 1976, shortly before I left California to move back to New York. My friend Dick Baldwin came out to Los Angeles a couple of weeks earlier, and together we would drive back east. The three of us met at a Carl's Jr. hamburger restaurant in Hollywood, and enjoyed a light lunch and fun conversation. After the meal, we went outside and took some pictures. The three of us are in this photo, and here is one of Emil and me.

Below are two more photos taken that day, taken with my 35mm camera. Emil liked to do character poses, hence the 'strangling' photo below and the 'coffee cup' photo further down.
Here are two more photos, taken by Dick, with Emil's little Kodak Instamatic camera.
Over the next several years, I continued my friendship with Emil. We exchanged Christmas cards each year, of which a few randomly selected ones can be seen below.

From 1979:
This one is not dated, but from some time in the 1980s:

Emil suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s, and while he recovered somewhat, his handwriting became a bit 'shaky'. This is evident in the card shown below:
Over the next few years, Emil's activities were limited, but he still kept in contact as much as possible with his fans. In January of 1998, Emil suffered another stroke and died. He is very much missed by his legion of fans.

His son Saxon has created a website devoted to Emil, and it can be viewed here. It has had over 250,000 visits to date, and while it is not often updated, it is worth visiting.

Here is a photo of Emil's grave marker:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Adrian Booth (formerly Lorna Gray)

Adrian Booth was an actress who was born Virginia Pound, and used the stage name of Lorna Gray during the early part of her movie career. She later changed her stage name to Adrian Booth when she settled at Republic Pictures in the mid 1940s, and has been known by that name ever since.

Ms. Booth is very adept at playing dramatic roles as well as comedic parts. She is also very good at playing female villains, as she did in the 1942 serial "Perils of Nyoka", in which she was 'Vultura, Queen of the Desert'.

I remember Ms. Booth primarily for her role as 'Mattie Herring' in The Three Stooges 1940 short, "You Nazty Spy!". This short has the distinction of being the first Hollywood movie to spoof Hitler. But she appeared in a few other Stooges comedies, as well as two-reel comedies with some of the other comic actors at Columbia Pictures.

Ms. Booth was married for many years to actor David Brian, best remembered for his role as "Mr. District Attorney" in the 1954 tv series.

I wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Brian in 1982, sending each a photo, to their residence in Sherman Oaks, California. Both inscribed and signed the photos to me, and returned them within two weeks. Hers can be seen here and his can be seen here.

In 1995, Ms. Booth was a special guest at The Three Stooges Fan Club Convention in Trevose, Pennsylvania. I attended and had several enjoyable conversations with her. She presented me with this vintage scene photo from the Stooges movie "Three Sappy People" (1939), signed with both of her names.

Below is shown the front and back of one of the handouts from the 1995 Convention.
Below are a couple of photos from the 1995 Convention (the people seen with Adrian are other members of the Fan Club - I don't have any photos of myself with her).

On July 26, Adrian will be 91, and still attends conventions and reunions.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple was a child actress of the 1930s who became popular with audiences because of her perky on-screen personality. She continued acting into her adult years, and even had two of her own tv series: "Shirley Temple's Storybook" (1958) and "Shirley Temple Theatre" (1960).

One of my favorite fantasy movies of all time is a Shirley Temple feature, "The Blue Bird" (1940). Her role is that of 'Myltyl'. 'Mytyl' and her brother 'Tyltyl', a woodchopper's children, are led by the 'Fairy Berylune' on a magical trip through the past, present, and future to locate the Blue Bird of Happiness.

When she left the movie business in the 1960s, she ventured into politics and eventually held several diplomatic posts, including U.S. Ambassador to Ghana in the 1970s and to Czechoslovakia in the 1980s.

In 1981, I sent two photos to Ms. Temple, to her residence in Woodside, California. She signed both and returned them within a month. They can be seen here and here. She signed her full married name as she was known at that time, Shirley Temple Black.

Here is a slideshow featuring photos of Ms. Temple from child to adult.

And here she is singing her signature song 'On the Good Ship Lollipop' from the 1934 movie "Bright Eyes".

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sir Lancelot

Lancelot Pinard was a Trinidad-born calypso singer and actor. When he began his career as a calypso singer, he chose to add 'Sir' to his name, and became known simply as 'Sir Lancelot'.

He was seen in several of the Val Lewton-produced movies of the 1940s, including "I Walked With a Zombie" (1943), "The Ghost Ship" (1943), and "The Curse of the Cat People" (1944). In "Zombie", his role was a calypso singer whose song 'Shame and Sorrow in the Family' told the story of the characters in the movie. He sang a parody of this song in the 1945 comedy "Zombies on Broadway".

'Shame and Sorrow' actually became a well-known calypso novelty song, 'Shame and Scandal in the Family' with lyrics different from those heard in the movie. It was later recorded by several other calypso singers and groups.

In 1982, I found a phone listing for Mr. Pinard, who was living in Los Angeles. I called and had a pleasant but brief conversation with him, telling him how much I enjoyed his music. Mr. Pinard had a 'musical tone' to his voice when speaking. He appreciated my interest, and told me that he recorded many records over the years, but all were long unavailable (since then, there has been a cd release of several of his single records). I asked if he had any photos. He said he did and would be happy to send one, so I wrote to him, reiterating my interest.

Mr. Pinard sent this photo within two weeks of my written request. He apparently used two pens to sign, as you can see the words "With best wishes" are bolder than the inscription below it.

He died in 2001, shortly before his 99th birthday.

I haven't been able to find any videos of Sir Lancelot's movie performances, so the best I can do is provide this link to his cd "Trinidad is Changing" available from Amazon. You can listen to samples of the songs there.