Sunday, November 10, 2019

Cheating Hitler: Surviving The Holocaust-- One Of TV's Best Of The Season

Just when it seems quality programs on Canadian TV are fading fast along comes  this special documentary that may very well be the best of the year.
Called Cheating Hitler: Surviving The Holocaust this 88-minute masterful  documentary comes just in time.
The premiere is appropriately on History Monday November 11 at 9 p.m.
We are rapidly ending the era when there are any survivors of the Holocaust still living.
So cheers to director Rebecca Snow for allowing three feisty veterans of the Holocaust to tell their stories on the very locations where  millions of other Jews were slaughtered.
The premiere is entirely and appropriately scheduled for Remembrance Day--it runs on History Monday November 11 at 9p.m.
Snow tells me "The challenge was working with such elderly survivors. And of course I never knew exactly what the ending would be in all three stories. I think we told their stories of survival just in time."
First there is Maxwell Smart who was just nine when his family was rounded up as Nazi troops moved to send them in cattle cars on the way to slaughter.
It was his mother who told the little boy to run into the woods and hide.
And he survived for months in hiding until he met another boy Janek who was also in hiding.
Smart tells us he wasn't sure how long he'd survive but the two companions helped each other.
One day they rescued a woman and her baby in ice water. And Max thinks this was the reason Janek soon sickened and died.
And he has felt guilty ever after.
To survive he says "I became a human animal...I was alone for six months."
Then the story turns remarkable--the baby survived and may even be alive in Tel Aviv as an incredibly old woman.
The camera follows Smart to Tel Aviv and its here his incredibly odyssey ends.
The conclusion is truly amazing but you'll have ti watch the feature to find out.
The other survivors are Helen Yemus and Rose Lipszyc and against all odds they also survived.
Their True stories are indeed stranger than fiction.
And astonishingly the images of deep forest and lakes are incredibly beautiful, tranquil these days. At Sobibor where two million Jewsare said to have perished a vast lake of white stones marks the terrible spot of mass executions.
The  film should serve as history lesson for all of us who don't realize the magnitude of this event and how it changed the demographics of a huge portion of Eastern Europe.
These three eye witnesses remember the execution shots --at one spot empty German cartridges still litter the forest floor.
Helen remembers the fear inside the ghetto in Lithuania --she spent three years there, Rose returns to Sobibor where her family perished --the terrible, ghastly loneliness of theist now a museum is hard to take.
"Everything seemed to work out," Snow tells me. "It was a big gamble that mostly worked."
I simply believe Cheating Hitler is the type of true story that must be screened in every classroom.
MY RATING: ****.

Friday, November 1, 2019

I Remember Hal Wallis

It was June 1982 and I was still sleeping at 7 a.m. in my room at Los Angeles' Century Plaza hotel--the phone kept ringing until I picked it up.
"Hal Wallis here," came the booming voice. "My car will be picking you up in half an hour for our interview."
I sat upright. "I thought this was for lunch," I stammered.
"Right on!" came the booming reply. "I'm in Rancho Mirage this week. It will take my driver three hours to get you there. So get up and be ready at the entrance at 8:30!" Then Hallis rang off.
I did as I was told and at three hours later emerged from the sleek white Rolls to bang on the door of Wallis and his second wife Martha Hyer.
After pleasantries we retired to a gigantic sunken living room and later retreated to a fancy bistro for a leisurely lunch.
Here are highlights of our conversation:
MARTHA HYER:Jim, you should have been here last night as we ran Casablanca. Hal provided a running commentary for each scene including the last line which he thought of during the last night of filming at the San Diego airport.
JB: Mr. Wallis, that's an excellent way to begin the interview, your buying an un-produced Broadway play and turning it into one of the most treasured movies.
HW: The unproduced play was called Everyone Comes To Rick's. I could see it needed a whole lot of work and I had the Epstein twins work on it for a bit and later Casey Robinson rewrote some of their dialogue and then Howard Koch polished it a bit more. I needed Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa but David Selznick owned her contract and said she was set on going to Paramount to co-star with Gary Cooper in For Whom The Bell Tolls. I did a superb test with Michele Morgan but her studio RKO then asked for a double salary which made me hopping mad.  Hedy Lamarr had a one picture deal with Warners but she chose The Collaborators because it had a complete script.
I  sighed in relief when George Raft sent a note saying he couldn't possibly make a movie without seeing a full script. He'd already turned me down for The Maltese Falcon saying he had vowed never to do a remake. And for High Sierra he scrawled "I'm through with gangster types!" So one could say Humphrey Bogart who was my first choice became a huge star based on the scripts Grorrge Raft turned down.
JB: But Ingrid Bergman did wind up in Casablanca.
GW:Paramount decided on a contract player  Vera Zorina and Selznick phoned and we got her but for a limited time meaning I had to start production sooner than I'd wanted. I paid a fortune to get Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains and Conrad Veidt. Dooley Wilson couldn't sing much and he couldn't play the piano at all --MGM asked a fortune but it almost went to  Lena Horne! I thought she was too beautiful so I forked up to MGM. On some days the cast would be standing around until new dialogue pages arrived.
Mike Curtiz did a terrific job but at first he said no and I had to warn Vince Sherman he might have to jumping as director. Mike came around --he had an ability to shoot fast and goad his cast into great moments even if he was a bit of a bully.  Of course the Allies landing in North Africa just as we opened the picture certainly helped.
JB: Then came Oscar night.
HW: Jack Warner had nothing to do with this movie until he realized it was going to be this monster hit.  He made sure Paul Lukas also got a  best actor nomination  (for Watch On The Rhine) and campaigned against Bogey which was very perverse. Paul won and Casablanca was named as best picture and a phalanx of Jack's relatives blocked my aisle and Jack ran up and received the award.  I was stunned and then angry. I resigned the next day but stayed on to finish the editing on Saratoga Trunk which starred Bergman and Gary Cooper.
Days later the Academy sent over a second Oscar for me and the next year asked me to present the Oscar for best picture. As I trotted up to the stage I could see Jack glowering in rage. When he came to write his autobiography he never mentioned me once. Now that's carrying a real grudge.
JB: Let's get back to your roots and how you became such a powerhouse at Warners.
Hw:Well, I started at Warners in the publicity department in 1922 and worked my way through the system so that I knew everything about how movies are made and how they get targeted. It was an invaluable education, one young people simply can't get in any film school. And my mentor was always Darryl Zanuck who was one step ahead of me.
 In 1928 I was made head of First National --the Burbank studio Warners had bought cheaply the year before. First National had initially been a huge, sprawling success but it had one key weakness --the studio owned no theatres whereas feisty Warners may have been smaller but it pioneered talkies and was hugely rich. As the years went by the difference between First National and Warners was mainly a bookkeeping enterprise. The U.S. anti-trust department dictated the two studios could not merge and that went on until 1951 when TV started eating up the movie business.
JB: When you took up production what were the main problems you could see.
HW: We were riding high in brutality. We had the tough guy stars Cagney, Robinson, Muni but few female stars. In 1931 we bought the contracts of Bill Powell, Ruth Chattewrton and Kay Francis after Jesse Lasky inadvertently let their contracts lapse at Paramount.
I was determined to build our own cadre of female stars. I thought Bette Davis would go far. Ann Dvorak was equally talented but her brawls with Jack Warner got so vicious she finally left in a huff. I gave Olivia deHavilland her big breaks in 1935 when she was 19 in Captain Blood and A Mid Summer Night's Dream. I thought Jane Bryan had the looks and talent to go to the top but she married industrialist Justin Dart and retired from the business.
In 1938 I signed Miriam Hopkins and Merle Oberon to short term deals because we had such a need for leading ladies.  But neither of those ladies exactly fitted in. In 1939  I brought Geraldine Fitzgerald to the studio --on her first day Jack loaned her out as Estella in Goldwyn's Wuthering Heights for which she was Oscar nominated and then she co-starred with Bette Davis in Dark Victorty Bette gave her bad advice --to fight against any casting and she was on suspension when I was casting The Maltese Falcon and I was unable to use her.
JB: I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932) was a huge success but also a big gamble.
HW: Yes, because the author Robert Elliot Burns was in L.A. for the filming and we had to move him from safe house to safe house because the authorities from Georgia were determined to re-arrest him. At the time I was locked in combat with Jack Warner who wanted most features to run about an hour. He was very close with the exhibitors who wanted two new hourlong features a week but I pressed for longer features to better tell a story. Jack roared  because the length of Chain Gang  was 87 minutes. But the cost was under $200,000 because director Mervyn LeRoy filmed so quickly and Paul Muni was brilliant in it.
JB: Your thoughts on Muni.
HW: I once assigned him to High Sierra and he said "Hal, I've played my last gangster." I said "But you've never played a gangster at WB!"  Did this mean after the success with The Life Of Louis Pasteur he'd no longer play scientists. Or after The Story Of Emile Zola he was through playing writers. Those great men roles and their huge success meant he only wanted to play great men. I hated his make-up in Juarez--the face never moved but he said Indians never showed emotions. And it was a flop, he'd lost the sympathy of the audience. He came from Yiddish theatre where one hides  behind false noses and bears. There was intense rivalry between him and Eddie Robinson. Once Eddie said he didn't want ro do A Despatch From Reuters and I said "OK, Muni wants that one." And he grabbed the script and ran from my office.
JB: I saw you at the table with Bette Davis at her 1978 AFI dinner and it's obvious you knew how to deal with her.
HW: She'd yell and scream at Jack Warner but never at me. She'd try to intimidate her directors. For awhile Teddy Goulding could do no harm and then she became so difficult he faked a heart attack so he wouldn't have to work with her again on Old Acquaintance. She first knew Irving Rapper when he was her dialogue director on several pictures. They were very chummy on the set of Now, Voyager which I consider one of her best. But later after I left WB she tried to have him removed as director of Deception.  When she refused the female lead in Watch On The Rhine I said Irene Dunne wanted the part and Bette instantly said she'd do it. At the AFI dinner she was taken aback by how many of her co-workers simply had refused to come out and salute her.
JB: At one time William Wyler was her favourite.
HW: He got her the Oscar for Jezebel. During one scene he photographed her coming down the stairs to greet Donald Crip 13 times and the selected the second take. He could do that with Sam Goldwyn because Sam only released one or two pictures a year. On The Letter there's that marvellous opening on the Malay rubber plantation and he took a whole day and photographed it seven times. And I picked the first time and harsh words were spoken on both sides. I never borrowed him again and Davis later came in conflict with him when Goldwyn borrowed her for The Little Foxes --in return we got Gsary Cooper who we needed for Sergeant York. And the arguments between the two became so bitter Willie would never use her again. She refused to go to his AFI salute or  so I'm told  but he was there at hers which was a pleasant surprise.
JB:Probably your top picture of that era was The remake of the Maltese Falcon (1941).
HW: Jack Warner said "Make it or whatever --I don't care."I had to have Humphrey Bogart and was anxious that George Raft might insist but he sent me a letter explaining he'd never do a remake.  Then Jack forbade me using Gerry Fitzgerald as co-star because she was already on suspension. I'd wanted Mary Astor all along --she was seven years older than Gerry and I knew she could capture two two sides of Bridget. I promised Johnny Huston he could direct if he first produced a new screenplay. He bought multiple copies of the novel so he could paste verbatim some of the choice speeches from the book. And I assigned him an ace cameraman Arthur Edenson.
It really was an easy one to direct because there are mostly dialogue scenes in hotel rooms and Sam Spade's office and apartment. I watched the rushes and suggested a few times he speed up the action. The fire on the ship is the only big outdoor scene. Total cost was under $200,000 and it made five times that in first release.
And I know your next question will be why no sequel. Nobody thought in those terms at the time. A typical Warners sequel was Brother Rat And A Baby. But we didn't have the rights to use Sam Spade in another story and we asked Dashiell Hammett to supply a new novel but he just couldn't do it, he was so alcoholic by then.
JB: Jack Warner didn't want it to be Oscar nominated at all?
HWL He said it was a remake and beside the credits say "With Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor" so they couldn't be nominated as best actor and actress. He ordered Mary be nominated instead as best supporting actress for The Great Lie and she won.
JB: But then John Huston made Action In The Pacific (1942)
HW: Garbage! We took all the actors from Bogey to Greensatreet to Astor and put them in a melodrama about the Japs blowing up the Panama Canal. Johnny was drafted and left without finishing an ending so Vince Sherman had to make something up. But it made money!
JB: Let's look at 1938 when you produced  196 major movies. In 1940 you produced 21. the 1938 pictures includedJezebel, White Banners, Brother Rat, the remake of Dawn Patrol, the Adventures of Robin Hood. In 1940 you had such hits as City For Conquest, Virginia Vity, All This And Heaven Too, the Fighting 69th. How did you do it?
HW (chuckling): I need went home. No, seriously! I'd arrive at 8 a.m. and spend hours checking the rushes from the day before. All the time I was dictating memos to the associate producers. Let's see, I had Robert Llord ever since Chain Gang, David Lewis who I got from MGM after Thalberg's death, Mark Hellinger, Henry Blanke who replaced me as production head in 1943. but no doubt about it I was seriously overworked.
JB: You put Errol Flynn and Olivia deHaviland in their first picture together. And they went on to make six more blockbusters. I'm trying too be delicate but Errol was not a nice man.Our legal department had to extricate him from many serious issues. He simply didn't care about anything but pleasuring himself/ But underneath the golden boy facade there was a seriously ill man. He'd had TB and typhus in Australia and often an irregular heartbeat. In 1942 he collapsed on the set of Gentleman Jim with his first heart attack --the reason he failed a physical to get I not the army during wartime.
B: After Jack Warner grabbed the Oscar for Casablanca you resigned.
JB: I'm a big fan of your production of Kings Row (1941) but I wonder why it was done in black and white.
HW: Wartime restrictions. If we'd made it in color it would have been as popular today as Gone With The Wind. I hired Sam Wood to direct but hewasas slow as molasses. We were going to use Jeffrey Lynn as Parris but Sam said he looked too similar to Ron Reagan. So I narrowed Bob Cummings at the last minute from Universal. I needed aCassie but Ida Lupino went on suspension rather than do it. I used  Betty Field but she wasn't quite right. Bette Davis wanted it but she was a decade too old. I think Claude Rains was wonderful, so was  Charles Coburn as the cruel doctor who saws off Robbie's legs. This one made Reagan into a big star.
JB: You twice won the Irving Thalberg award but did you ever met him.
HW: I'd see him at premieres. Always beautifully dressed. Very pale and thin.  the big studios used to send out copies of their big hits. So he'd seen Captain Blood and said he liked it. Which was a thrill. Later, I wanted to nab Norma Shearer becauseWB needed female stars. She was very gracious but said --this was in 1942--that she considered herself totally retired.
JB: Why did you call the making of Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)  the happiest experience of your career?
HW: I knew this was going to be Jimmy Cagney's last WB picture. I'd starred Jim in such hits asG-Men,Boy Meets Girl, The Roaring Twenties and Strawberry Blonde. I phoned him and he immediately accepted but there were only few months before his contract expired. I hired his brother Bill as associate producer and agreed when his real sister Jeanne Cagney was hired to play his movie sister. On this one I believe Jimmy as co-director. When Curtiz had yelled at him in other films he'd roar right back. Here he set up every scene and let Curtiz concentrate on lighting and camera work. The facts were substantially altered because George M. Cohan wasn't the nicest of men. In this treatment he only has one wife and his nastiness was airbrushed out. Jimmy's dancing made the movie. That scene where Cphan visits President Roosevelt was tough to shoot--we had FDR Mostly with his back to the camera. And when Jimmy as George leaves Jimmy interpolated a little jig down the stairs. Then came the big test: Cohan had story approval and the movie was run for him in New York and he loved it. It made him a big name again and he died a happy man shortly after.
Jimmy found out how hard it was to make his own pictures. He made Johnny Come Lately and Blood On the Sun (1945) but they were inferior to his WB work.13 True Madeleine (1946) was for Fox.But his production of The Time Of Your Life bombed. So in 1949 he was back at Warners.
JB: But you are still incensed Jack Warner ran up on Oscar night and took the best picture statuete for Casablanca.
HW: Yes! His relatives blocked the aisle until he grabbed it. The audience knew what was happening. I call it the Curse of Casablanca. Because Jack did not win another Best Picture Oscar until 1964 for My Fair Lady. I'm still bitter about it. But I stayed to supervise postproduction of Saratoga Trunk which didn't have  much pep as far as I was concerned. Louis Mayer wanted me to become the new Thalberg at MGM but I finally formed a production unit releasing through Paramount. I'd have my own set of stars which Paramount could use and vice versa.
The first was Lizabeth Scott who I saw on Broadway and I promptly starred her with Robert Cummings in a tearjerker It Had To Be you (1945). I fully acknowledge I made a mistake with her --she was terrific as the girl with a past in The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers. She was sort of bad but really a good girl in Deserty Fury and then I loaned her to Columbia for Dead Reckopmning and she was typecast. Her rival art Warners was Lauren Bacall and Warners gave Lauren more challenges --she was excellent in Key Largo and I blame myself for not getting Liz into more sympathetic parts.
My second find was Burt Lancaster who had a circus background. He was born in 1913 and had almost no acting experience but I immediately loaned him to Mark Hellinger for the small but important part of The swede in The Killers. He looked terrific and was cast against another unknown Ava Gardner,. He got third billing on Desert Fury but attracted all the attention. He told me early on he wanted to move quickly into producing and he did so by the Fifties.
JB: You rarely used the old Warners stars.
HW: Bogey was always asking why I wasn't hiring him. But I had nothing for him and he was too expensive. I did buy Come Back Little Sheba for Bette Davis but she refused it after watchingShirley Booth on Broadway. So I had to use Shirley who had never made a picture and was10 years older than Bette. Then Burt Lancaster flopped me by saying he wanted to play Doc --he was 30 years younger than the alcoholic, elderly doctor but he was terrific. And he was terrific again with Anna Magnani in The Rose Tatoo --and she also won an Oscar. For The Rainmaker I wanted Eva Marie Saint but she refused to sign a term contract. So I used Kate Hepburn who was 20 years older and it showed and that one wasn't very successful.JB: You used Barbara Stanwyck a Lot in those days.
HW: Shared a contract for her with Paramount. She was terrific in Martha Ivers --her weakling husband was newcomer Kirk Douglas who came from the New York stage. He thought he was going to play Van Heflin's part but he was terrific as the alcoholic husband and began a career of sympathetic weaklings. Even then there was a rivalry with Burt that continues to this day.Kirk didn't get out of that typecasting until he made Champion in 1949,
And Barbara? She got an Oscar nomination for Sorry, Wrong Number (`948), Agnes Moorehead had played that part live on TV. I offered her a supporting role but she refused and good for her. Barbara was also great in The File On Thelma Jordan and The Furies, the last film of Walter Huston. But it didn't do as well. She was 43 by then and Paramount thought she could no longer appeal  to younger film goers. Sot she just kept going but at other studios.
HW: You made few comedies until Martin and Lewis came along.
HW: I saw them on TV. I tested them out in a comedy My Friend Irma in 1949 which grossed five times its actual cost. Sp I followed with My Friend Irma Goes West to the same uge reception. From the beginning I knew the boys hated each other. Dean wanted to be as funny as Jerry. Jerry wanted to be as suave as Dean. They'd make a picture a year for me. They also were rotating stars on Colkgate Comedy Hour. U always paired them with veteran directors to teach them the business.For At War with the army (1950) it was Hal Walker. For Jumping Jacks (1953) it was Norman Taurog.Scared Stiff (1953) was a remake of a Bob Hope vehicle The Ghost Breakers. I'd add some pretty starlets like Polly Bergen, Mona Freeman, even Donna Reed.Each vehicle could be churned out in about four weeks and the profits were large.
Jerry was always difficult to control, always making crazy demands. Sometimes he wasn't speaking to Dean or vice versa and finally he comes and tells me" I'm splitting up the act. I still had both of them on contract so I used Jerry solo on The Sad Sack and then he went off on his own way becoming ever more obstreperous, Nobody thought Dean could succeed on his own but after he made Rio Bravo (1959) with Duke Wayne for Howard Hawks he did just fine.
JB: You have a story about making Career at Paramount in 1959.
HW: Jerry Lewis was doing something,  I had  Career (1959) with Shirley MacLaine and Carolyn Jones --they switched roles with my permission and that worked out just fine. Perlberg and Seaton were in pre-production for The Pleasure Of His Company and that was it. The rest of the lot was dark and a majority of the employees had been dismissed.
HW: You've described Shirley MacLaine as difficult.
HW: Yes! But also very talented. I saw her dancing in a Broadway show and she had everything. She signed with me but I had little work for her. She did my Artisys And Models with Jerry and Dean. And I loaned her to Paramount for The Trouble with Harry.Mike Todd wanted her as the Hindu princess in Around The World In 80 Days.She did Hot Spell for me and Paramountr used her in The Matchmaker. In 1958 she garnered her first Oscar nomination for Some Came Running.Then came the incredible The Apartment. Magnificent! I wanted her to end her contract with Wives And Lovers but she turned it down so I refused to loan her for The Unsinkable Molly Brown. I used Van Johnson and Janet Leigh and that one just tanked so maybe Shirley  was right after all.
JB: You made buckets of dough with Elvis Presley.
GW: I saw him live on TV wigging those hips. I thought I just had to have him under contract. His agent Colonel Parkrt was a cagey old bird. He signed Elvis to contracts with me, Fox and MGM. I'm proudest of King Crerole where he really acts --I brought in Mike Curtis and they boded and Mike coaxed Elvis out of his shell. The craziest time came when I cast Angie Lansbury as his ma in  Blue Hawaii --and it worked. He was petrified when put against Barbara Stanwyxk in Roustabout --she'd bark ay him when he forgot lines. Elvis always reported to work with a paunch so I had to hire all his sidekicks --yjey were to play touch doornail with him out on the Paramount lawn every day and work him up to a sweat. But did I ever know age guy? No. He told me after his ma died that he really didn't care anymore. his favourite director as the years passed was Norman Taurog who usually directed little kids. And that's what Elvis remained --a little, starstruck kid.
JB: Why move to Universal in 1969?
Because Paramountt wasn't Paramount any more.Charles Bludhorn was chairman and it was part of a conglomerate.and he said nobody was interested in Becket  because "It was a "mediaeval thingy." But he was wrong. Then when I wanted to do Anne Of A Thousand Days he flew into a rage. He'd wanted Richard Burton to do narration on another picture and Richard said sure but he wanted Charles to give wife Liz Taylor a baubel or two. Chjarles went ballistic and cancelled the picture so I took it to Universal . And it was a hit and so was Mary, Queen Of Scots starring Vanessa Redgrave. Glenda Jackson refused Elizabeth I because shed already done the TV miniseries.Finally, she said she'd do everything in three and a half weeks.I think we finished with her latest night on the last day.
JB: Will Rooster Coburn  (1976) be your last picture?
HW: Probably. I'd outbid Duke Wayne for the right to True Grit, then the next day I phoned him and offered him the lead and he burst into laughter. For the girl I almost used Sally Field but I was told she was TV's Flying Nun and that might distress moviegoers. So I used Kim Darby plus Glenn Campbell. Henry Hathaway directed it. Then in1976 came the sequel Rooster Cogburn. Hathaway phones me and shouts "I'm 78, Duke is 69 and has cancer, Hepburn is 70 and twitches like crazy." So include men out. So we used Stuart Millar and Kate and Duke just rode roughshod over the young  guy. But it made a huge profit."
JB: Do you consider yourself retired?
HW: Not from life. I might make a few more films. Or Not. the picture business is in trouble these days. Too many sequels, special effects, murders. Whatever happened to telling a simple love story?
Hal Wallis did not make any more movies. He died at Rancho Mirage in1986, aged 88.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

I Remember Budd Schulberg

There I was last week watching the classic boxing movie The Harder They Fall starring Humphrey Bogart and written by Budd Schulberg --it was on Turner Classic Movies salute to Film Noir.
And then I sat upright --I remembered I'd interviewed Budd Schulberg at a fancy dinner party in Los Angeles in 1986.
It was the PBS portion of a 15-day tour by visiting TV critics and late on the last night.
I'd been out on sets all day so when I got back to the hotel it was after 8 p.m, and there was only one empty seat left in the vast ballroom.
I looked up and found myself seated next to Budd Schulberg andI instantly discovered why he rarely went on TV talk shows --he had a terrible stammer.
Here are highlights of our conversation.
JB: I remember watching you guest on the Merv Griffin talk show one late night and you told the other guest --Gloria Swanson-- that she'd been the inspiration for one of the main characters in your great novel The Disenchanted.
BS (chuckling): We taped in an old Hollywood movie theatre and afterwards Gloria jumped up, ran out the door and ordered her chauffeur to find a book store open so she could buy the book.
Well, there are lots of used bookstores on Hollywood Boulevard but were they open late nights? I was dubious.
JB:Your memoir of growing up in Hollywood, Moving Pictures, is one of the best books about "the  biz!..
BS: My father B.P. Schulberg ran Paramount Pictures after merging his own studio Preferred Pictures. He had one b ig asset Clara Bow who wasn't much of an actress but boy could she shimmy. I'd play jacks on the landing with her when she came over for a swim but if she lost she'd scream up a storm --a real sore loser. But Clara couldn't stand still --when talkies came in she had to stand still and speak into a big vase where the mike was located and she just couldn't do that.
JB: Then you say your happy family life blew up in 1931.
BS: When papa ran off with Sylvia Sidney who had replaced Clara as Paramount's hottest star. He was 60, she was 21 and, pf course, it didn't last.
JB: And then your papa was tossed out of Paramount by his body Adolph Zukor.
BS:Mean, nasty, and always triumphant over his enemies. He got rid of Jesse Lasky around the same time. For some reason the Great Depression affected Paramount more than any other studio. And Zukor made sure he was the winner in a very nasty power struggle. Papa went on to Columbia which was a Poverty Row studio and things were never the same again.
BS: You write about how B.P. would go one all night  benders of playing poker and almost always loose.
BS: One night he lost $20,000 which is around  a million dollars in today's money. He finally gambled away everything.
BS: You've written feelingly about working with F. Scott Fitzgerald on the 1939picture *(*(*(.
BS: I told the boss Walter Wanger that it needed a quick rewrite and he said "Oh, I've got Scott Fitzgerald working on dialogue in the next room. I'd thought Scott had died, it was years ago that he had a new book. So we went up to Dartmouth together and he got progressively more smashed and finally I did all the rewriting. He'd been one of my heroes but here was a tragic, broken man who just couldn't write the kind of snappy movie dialogue that any third rate writer could have delivered.
JB: Did you know what you were doing when writing your magnificent 1941 novel What Makes Sammy Run?
BS: I thought I was telling a great story but it rocked Hollywood. MGM head Louis Mayer demanded I be deported as if Hollywood was a separate country. I was toiling for Sam Goldwyn at the time and he ran down the stairs where he saw me and shrieked "Sammy how could you?" Exactly. How dare I tell the truth. I was fired on the spot.
JB: Many producers wondered if they provided the character of Sammy Glick?
BS: Jerry Wald swore it was him and he was mighty proud. But it was a compendium, I had so many bastards to chose from.
JB: I saw the 1959 live TV movie version. It had John Forsythe, Dina Merrill, Barbara Rush and Larry Blydeb as Sammy,
BS: There was also a 1949  TV version. More recently Steven Spielberg had an option on it to do a version with Ben Stiller, But I'm not sure. Steven makes blockbusters, safe, earnest productions but on the bland side.
JB: I recently watched The Harder They Fall, the terrific 1956 movie on boxing and Humphrey Bogart's last movie.
BS: He looked haggard. Coughed incessantly. Was very prickly. It has the wonderful actress Jan Sterling in a rare sympathetic role. Rod Steiger's histrionics could get out of place and I remember Bogey rolling his eyes as Rod ranted on and on. I've always loved boxing. But I don't think our wonderful director Mark Robson did. So there were some clashes over interpretation.  But as Bogey's last film it is an oddity and it did bigger business than On The Waterfront.
JB: Critics say On The Waterfront dramatizes the awful act of naming names.
BS: There was nothing awful about it. I named names, yes, but only people who had already been named. I'd joined the Communist party in the depth of the Great Depression ... then it was overtaken by the Stalinists and everything changed and I left the party.
JB: I'm surprised by what you just told me --Marlon Brando refused to do the Scene "I coulda been a contender"in On The Waterfront (1954).
BS: He told Elia Kazan it didn't ring true and he'd walk if forced to do it. Then it turned out the scene had Steiger pointing a gun at him and Gadge  knocks the gun away and Marlon did it on the first take and it's his signature thing. I saw the story as more an indictment of corruption on the waterfront. we tried selling the story to Darryl Zanuck at Fox and he yelled "Who the talk wants to see a bunch of longshoremen brawling?" So we took it to cagey  Harry Cohn and it won all kinds of awards.
JB: Describe your association with Kazan
BS: He's the rare director who likes and admires fine writing. As long as he staged and also edited Tennessee Williams those plays shone. When Tennesse went it along he had a chain of big flops.
JB: You were just telling me of an attempt to do a new version of A Face In The Crowd.
BS: I watched the rise of such TV icons as Arthur Godfrey who one day turned on his star singer Julius LaRosa and fired him, live on TV. From that I thought of a story of a country and western cowpoke who could indeed manipulate the medium of TV. We had a low budget so Gadge hired Pat Neal who needed the work and used an unknown Andy Griffith as Lonesome Rhodes and he was terrific and so was an unknown from Broadway, Walter Matthau. And it remains my favourite picture.
JB: What about a proposed new version:
BS: I was told Warners wanted a remake with Tom Cruise so they arranged a screening with many directors and screenwriters and at the end everybody just drifted out. I was told Tom Cruise's team said "This is a masterpiece, It can't be bettered or even matched."
JB: After that you seemed to drop out of movie making.
BS: I had a terrible experience with Wind Across The everglades and I even had to direct a few scenes when our director Nick Ray disappeared for a time. So I went back to memoir writing and writing about fighters.  They've even done On The Waterfront on stage. I'm not written out at all, I fully intend to go on and on.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Science Of Fear Will Scare You

Be Afraid: The Science Of Fear revs up the day after Halloween which is entirely appropriate.
You can catch it Friday November 1 at 9 p.m. on CBC-TV's The Nature Of Things.
Director Roberto Verdecchia on the phone tells me he first thought about the subject after his last Nature Of Things documentary on household insects seemed to incite fear in a whole lot of viewers.
The nature of fear  it seems is somewhat of a mystery.
And there's the suggestion some amount of fear could actually be good for us.
So he set about trying to find the nature of fear.
 He visited with a young motorcycle stunt rider who seems not at all fazed by  the stunts he must clearly execute to avoid injury.
There's the strange case of Miriam who with pulverized with fear over chickens.
We see how a therapist helps her until in one shot she is petting the very hen that caused her such misery.
Then there's the lady who is terrified of heights. Pills can help but she also needs to work through her problems with a therapist
I liked the segment on haunted houses--you would never ever get me inside one all the years I visited at the Canadian National Exhibition's Midway.
Some visitors would leave the haunted house feeling exultant they had confronted their fears --and survived.
But I would go on some of those gravity changing rides and yell and scream and really enjoy myself.
For many --not me-- the mere anticipation of fear is something they actually enjoy.  Our emotions get aroused but then rational behaviour sets in.
Some fears it turns out are good for us. It seems we're born with some senses of fear as a segment on babies demonstrates.
Women are four times as afraid of spiders and snakes than men.
And then there's the odd case of a woman who has no fear --it's due to an illness in her amygdala.
"She's not shown because we were fearful people could take advantage of her," Roberto explains to me.
"But we show she certainly has no anticipatory feels of fear no matter what."
It was only in a controlled experiment when she was deprived of oxygen for a second that fear appeared.
"It's an example of more than the amygdala controlling fear patterns."
By the way this hour may be filled with scare inducing moments but it ends on a bright, calm moment. Turns out some fear is necessary to survival for us all.
MY RATING: ****,

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

I Remember Diahann Carroll

The news of the passing of Diahann Carroll caught me off guard.
I'd known the black super star had been in declining health in recent years but I was astonished she was 84 at her passing --I always thought she was a bright, vibrant personality who could do it all --as the star of the pioneering sitcom Julia and later the elegant seductress of Dynasty.
I first interviewed Carroll when she was preparing toped as the star of the Canadian production of Sunset Boulevard in 1984. I later followed with several telephone conversations.
Here are highlights of our conversation:
JB: You are about to come the first black Norma Desmond. How does that  feel?
DC: Oh, I' m always breaking the rules, I guess.
JB: You also starred in the first sitcom to star a young black woman who wasn't a domestic --Julia which ran on NBC for three seasons which began in 1968.
DC: The first season we were up against Red Skelton on CBS and It Takes A Thief on NBC so the competition was always fierce. We stayed there for three seasons --in the third season we knocked out Red and went up against CBS's Her Haw. It was deemed revolutionary in its day and the only way I got through it was with the support of veterans Lloyd Noland and Lureen Tuttle. We had great guests stars --veterans Ezra Stone and Don Ameche  not only acted they also directed episodes. We were making a big statement of equality --I played the widow of a Vietnam veteran. Not a great show but a landmark nevertheless.
JB: How did you get started?
DC: Well, I was born in the Bronx, daddy was a subway conductor. I grew up wanting to be a singer and my parents reluctantly agreed that I could try but if over time I couldn't do it then I'd finish my university degree in sociology.
JB: Then you won a TV talent show on Chance Of A Lifetime?
DC: Yes, that was so long ago it was on the old DuMont network. I was also on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts on CBS. I sang at the Latin Quarter and then in 1954 I was signed for the musical Carmen Jones. Otto Preminger was the director and the stars were Harry Belafonte and the wonderful Dorothy Dandridge, Otto screamed a lot and Dorothy screamed right back at him. You have to remember there was fear among movie producers about highlighting black females. Dorothy's career was tragically short because she just couldn't get any traction and it preyed on her.
JB: Later on you were also in Porgy And Bess starring Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr., Dorothy Dandridge and Sidney Poitier. I've never seen this movie but I'm told your voice was dubbed.
DC: I was told my voice was tools and I was dubbed. I thought it was crazy. Qe started rehearsals with the great director Rouben Mamoulian who had directed the stage original. Then a gigantic fire resulted in destruction of all the huge sets on the Goldwyn lot.  We started over with --you guessed it --Otto Preminger who yelled even louder. I wasn't a fan of the finished product.  And these days the Gershwin estate won't permit it to be shown or so I'm told.
JB: I first saw you singing at the Imperial Room of the Royal York hotel  circa 1971 and realized you possessed one of the greatest voices. I had to review and interview such stars as Julie London and Peggy Lee who had the talent to just sing without much amplification.
DC: I loved singing in those clubs. I was told when Dorothy came to sing at the Imperial Room she asked "Where am I staying" and became tearful when told she'd have the penthouse suite.
JB: In fact she dropped to her knees and kissed the floor. In the American hotel supper clubs she had to stay at a black residence e such was the segregation of the times. But I'm wondering why you think the age of the luxury supper clubs has passed.
DC: In America it's scary. You have to dress up, go downtown after dark and there's violence everywhere. And some of the newer singers just don't have the skills to sing in such an intimate setting and hold the audience. They rely on amplification and just plain singing is foreign to them.
JB: I've listened to the cast album of No Strings, the brilliant 1962 Richard Rodgers, starring Richard Kiley and you in great voice. And I wonder why it never became a movie.
DC: They tried. Ray Star
 bought the rights but an interracial love story?No way! Ray tried to change the girl into a Eurasian and announced Nancy Kwan as the new lead. I felt devastated. But there was such a storm of controversy among the black community that he backed off and the project was shelved.
JB: But you did some movies, prominent ones.
DC:Paris Blues (1961) was a cute thing set in the jazz world starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and I was aired with Sidney Poitier who I almost married --what a mistake that would have been. Then Old Otto phoned me and signed me for Hurry, Sundown which starred Michael Caine and Jane Fonda. We shot in St. Francisville county, Louisians, home of the KKK. I received death threats, so did other cast members. It was all very scary, much more interesting than the actual ploy.
You always made TV acting a part of your career.
DC: I did them all but always as a guest star, never the series star.
JB: Tell me the story of joining Dynasty in 1984.
DC: Esther Shapiro who created the soap told me she had always been aware there was no prominent African American star.I told her I'd love to join but as an upscale character. And she came up Dominique who is half sister  to Blake played so well by John Forsythe.  The clothes were fantastic but are sometimes uncomfortable because they are so bizarre. I wondered what Joan Collins would make of all this. But she is a professional, she understands a series needs new characters to continue. And she knows everything about camera lenses, lighting. I loved playing this black bitch and I also got to co-star on seven episodes of the spinoff series The Colbys. And it made mr a name with all the younger audience who didn't know about Julia.
JB: You then joined the cast of Lonesome Dove in 1994 shot in Alberta.
DC: It told the true story of the American west. We're usually written out of the official story and its important to keep the record straight.
JB: And now you're a black Norma Desmond. I remember catching Diana Sands in Saint Joan and after a few moments the fact she was black seemed irrelevant --she was such a force.
DC: We're still in rehearsals. It's a new theatre the Ford way out in suburban Toronto. I saw the movie and I also saw a clip from the Tonight show where Gloria Swanson sang a so g from a musical version that never got fully produced. So far I'm walking up those d-d stairs so often I wonder if I'll survive. What I've been through in my career I think I'm finally ready to play this one, it has one of the greatest roles ever written for a woman.
NOTE: After her triumph in Sunset Boulevard Carroll returned to TV series work --she was on 25 episodes of White Collar (2009-14), and seven episodes of Grey's Anatomy (2006-10).
DIANNE CARROLL DIED ON ()()()(). She was 84.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

RCAF Is No More

The CBC caused much consternation the other day by announcing it was cancelling the venerable comedy sketch show Royal Canadian Air Face.
'My neighbour heard about the news and asked me "I thought that one was gone long ago."
I had to explain to her that indeed the weekly half hour series RCAF was gone but a New Year's Eve special had been running for some time.
By contrast NBC has constantly revived and re-invigorated Saturday Night Live as a case study in keeping a well regarded series going.
But CBC these days is trying to ditch as many of its older shows in a misplaced economy drive.
These days only two founding members of RCAF are still around: Don Ferguson and Luba Goy.
They've added to the roster other, younger comics but it's tough when you're only around once a year.
The real reason is CBC's determination to get out of producing entertainment shows.
And also RCAF doesn't travel well abroad --the rest of the world couldn't care less about Canadian humour.
For this reason CBC last year cancelled Ron James's annual one man show that usually ran on New Year's Eve. and last time out garnered a cool million viewers.
It seemed to be made for $1.99 and James was usually the whole show.
So what if it hit 1 million or so viewers? It didn't fit CBC's idea of what it should be doing.
Other shows like Murdoch Mysteries are kept around because they sell well in other countries and still fare fairly well at home, too.
So this New Year's will be the last time RCAF goes at it.
Some RCAF series are on video but just try finding a copy these days.
And just for the record the great RCAF team originally included Roger Abbott, John Morgan and Dave Broadfoot --all deceased,
CBC these days is out of the production field except for national newscasts.

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Kandahar Away Is Must See TV

A Kandahar Away is a complete surprise --a compelling but beguiling documentary about one man's decision to honour his home town of Kandahar by building a war memorial in another Kandahar --a Canadian prairie hamlet so small the entire population is 15 people.
This is one of those must-see productions we can still occasionally catch on Canadian TV.  The premiere is on Documentary Channel Saturday October 20 at 9 p.m.
It's a true life exploration of the emotional gulf that divides generations and was beautifully directed by Canadian filmmaker Aisha Jamal.
She also co-stars in the true life saga of her  articulate  and sensitive father  Abdul Jamal who remembers the days in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he grew up before being forced to migrate with his family to Canada.
Somehow Abdul discovered there was a second Kandahar in Saskatchewan and his heart ached so much for his home town he planned a trip with his family to explore this hamlet --it was named by Canadian soldiers returning from the war but in recent decades has deteriorated into a few habitable homes and nothing else.
The Jamals journey to this place with their five children who have grown up in Canada and have Canadian sensibilities.
All are surprised he wants to build a war memorial to the fallen Canadian soldiers --158 soldiers have died in the conflict which seems never ending. But he also wants to honour Afghan civilians who died in the war.
What do the few residents of Canada's Kandahar think of this? Some seem surprised or even bemused --they rarely see tourists at the best of times.
Aisha is such an accomplished filmmaker she makes us care for Abdul and his quest.
She also appreciates the skepticism of her siblings who wonder why build a monument in a place tourists never visit.
There are wonderful portraits drawn of the local Kandaharites -the mayor, the old man who spends winter snowed under in his tiny cabin and  the coffee shop waitress among others
We see the townsfolk  kicking up their heels at a local dance--they seem so accepting of the newcomers in their midst.  Abdul even gets to propose his plans to a surprised Canadian general Rick Hillier.
See, nobody wants to discourage him. Most of his children are silently opposed to the plan. They figure Abdul must discover reality of the situation for himself.
What Aisha has done is paint a vivid portrait of generational conflict --we all come from other countries and retain a vivid if misleading image of what it was like back then.
Abdul must confront reality for himself. His children must respect his deep wishes.Aisha has caught all the ups and downs of their journey beautifully.  The theme is universal --one man's dreams and home sickness confronting the harshness of  reality.
Says filmmaker Jamal: "I started this film without knowing how it would end. There were endless surprises particularly the wonderful way the Canadian residents of Kandahar took to my family. And it's a voyage that still continues."
As of air date Adbul Jamal remains determined to build his war memorial in the Canadian hamlet of Kandahar.
MY RATING: ****.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Divided Brain Divides Me

CBC's Documentary channel sent me a video link to a new 78-minute documentary The Divided Brain.
My left brain said no but my right brain said take a shot and since I'm an impulsive guy I watched and found it tremendously fascinating.
You can check it out on Documentary Sunday Sept. 22 at 9 p.m.
I think there'll be other showings during the next few weeks.
Dr. Iain Gilchrist is our fascinating hosts and he doesn't just stay in a classroom and read from his lecture notes.
We go on a dizzying wild ride from visits with various stroke victims to a fancy rehab centre high in the Swiss mountains to a guest appearance from John Cleese who helps explain why comics are heavily dependent on their right cortex.
For a documentary about such a complex subject the pace is very fast moving from the Egyptian pyramids to physicians who've battled their own brain problems to little kids who rely more on their right brain in early childhood.
Gilchrist originally taught English Lit at Cambridge University and it was there that he first realized our modern world is trapped in some dangerous imbalances.
We go to Maudsley hospital, constructed for Great War veterans, to see how people with strokes cope
We're told in the modern world that left and right hemispheres are constantly in conflict with each other.
I finally learned how my pet pigeon could differentiate between pebbles and grain kernels --so much for the term "bird brands".
Cleese trained as a lawyer but was only able to utilize his right cortex when he switched to comedy.
I feared this might degenerate into "talking heads" documentary but exactly the opposite is true.
The images are truly astonishing although I strongly suspect Gilchrist sometimes romanticizes the past.
In modern society he sees evidence of "a fix" favouring left brain accomplishments.
What he wishes for us all is more a sense of balance instead of our acquiescence in unlimited material growth.
I found the segment with a brain expert who suffered an aneurysm most fascinating--as her brain started to shit down she felt a kind of thrill at witnessing this first hand.
Talking to a group of New York graduate students Gilchrist is himself called out but he handles the dissension with verve.
The theme --our brain is not as mechanical as clockwork--is in itself revolutionary.
The human brain has remained the same in modern times but visits to people in Tahiti and the Amazon show how some peoples have not succumbed to theme to the left.
And talking to a Blackfoot chief Gilchrist sees that almost everything in that culture is animate --cuture produces these biological differences.
This outstanding production was made by Matter Of Fact Media --Vanessa Dylyn produced and the director is Manfred Baker.
I'' try to find out other airdates, I promise.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I Remember Rod Coneybeare

So there I was at The Hamilton Spectator in September 1971 and it was my first day on the job as TV critic.
My wonderful first features editor, Alex Beer, said he wanted me to start by surveying the state of children's TV and he even had the headline: "Sunshine Supermen".
And so the next morning I was on the bus to Buffalo to interview Commander Tom whose show for kids ran afternoons on WKBW-TV.
A day or so later I was on another bus --this time to Toronto to interview Bob Homme of CBC's Friendly Giant as well as Ernie Coombs who was Mr. Dressup.
That's my long winded way of saying I first met puppeteer Rod Coneybeare on the set of Mr. Dressup.
First shock: the series shared a studio up Jarvis Street with Knowlton Nash's The National news.
"We have to be out of here by 5 p.m.'' exclaimed Rod with that wry smile of his.
And so I spent a leisurely day on the set of this wonderful show. I saw the castle and the other sets.
I watched an unhurried taping as Homme said the introduction "Look up! Look way up!"
Friendly Giant was one of CBC-TV's greatest ever hits.
And yet Homme resolutely refused any commercialization of the show --there were no dolls or other accoutrements mass produced to sell to the kiddies.
"Guess I'm old fashioned," Homme smiled. "But the show is for kids and not the advertisers. I'll fight any effort at commercialization."
I loved watching the great rapport between Homme and Coneybeare who was the puppeteer and supplied the voices for Jerome the Giraffe andRusty the Rooster.
"I see Jerome as a kind of slow drawling Jimmy Stewart," Coneybeare said with a bit of a smile.
'"One thing we must never do is talk down to the kids. We treat them with kindness and courtesy and it has always worked out very well."
Homme came out of Wisconsin TV in the early 1950 as did his pal Mr. Rogers.
And I was surprised how much rehearsal went into every 15-minute show.
"We teach a little bit, we entertain a bit,"Coneybeare told me that day.
"And it works. By the time they go into Grade One we've lost them as daily viewers. Hopefully we've educated them and sent them on the way to be good and thoughtful to everyone they meet at school."
"I think I have a wonderful rapport with Rod," Homme said with a wide grin. "He's here because he wants to be --it's not for the money."
But the show absolutely had to be finished by 5 p.m.
"After that time they roll off our sets," Coneybeare told me. "And they roll in the set for The National."
Coneybeare also produced a CBC quiz show for a while --Yes, You're Wrong. And in later years he wrote for the Don Adams sitcom Check It Out which was produced in Toronto.
I had one later meeting with Coneybeare in the early1980s.
Toronto's Crest Theatre had been converted into a repertory house for old MGM flicks and I went one  Saturday afternoon to watch The Philadelphia Story.
I found a seat and looked up and there was Coneybeare smiling at me in the next seat.
"You have great taste in old movies," he cracked.
Coneybeare was 85 at his death and leaves his wife and several grown children and grandchildren.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Nature Of Things Continues To Fascinate

So here I am at Ryerson University for the retirement of eminent teacher and filmmaker David Tucker who in his day contributed several outstanding films for CBC's The Nature Of Things.
And gathered around Tucker are other NOT alumnae who are in complete agreement with me that this is one CBC series which has lost none of its lustre.
Just to prove my point I'm telling them I've just previewed another NOT gem which runs on CBC Friday Oct. 25 at 9 p.m. --First Animals, the title alone is intriguing.
This magnificent example of a pioneering NOT documentary was written and co-produced by veteran Andrew Gregg whose work I have been reviewing since his days on CBC's The Journal.
What really excites me about First Animals is that it introduces a possible new CBC star in evolutionary biologist Dr. Maydianne Andrade who teaches at Scarborough College.
The show is introduced as ever by the legendary geneticist Dr. David Suzuki who once posed nude for a cover of Starweek TV guide and at 83 seems as evergreen and vital as ever.
But this one depends on Dr. Andrade's agility as she sprints up a rock formation in B.C., the Burgess  Shale deposit that has been revealing clues to earth's past since the first Smithsonian expedition there in 1909.
We watch the way shale deposits are cracked open to reveal the very first animals who populated this sea 500 million years Ago.
Trapped in the sediment these creatures were perfectly preserved and they are indeed very odd --looking more like willowy plants than actual animals.
Through Dr. Maydiane Andrade's questions to the soft spoken Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron we become involved in this mystery hunt for the very first animals and with one crack a new species is discovered.
I liked Dr. Caron's line "They are staring at us after 500 million years."
It looks huge compared to the other finds --a sort of space ship with a gigantic shell and eyes at the bottom as it plowed the ocean floor for nutrients but also able to peer above for possible predators.
"Filming conditions were arduous," Gregg reports on the phone. "We weren't sure what if anything could be discovered during our shoot but instead we came away with a major finds."
Gregg's approach is to get to know these biologists and become fascinated by their laborious searching.
"We literally hit pay dirt," Gregg reports."It could be a major find as we track the evolution of  first animals."
This one is so well edited and presented it will have you wanting more.
"Well, there is a longer version, 10 more minutes of info," Gregg says.
But the CBC version is masterfully put together. we get to know just enough about Andrade and the senior researcher on the mountain cliff, softly spoken and humorous Jean-Bernard Caron.
Host Andrade is a natural for TV. She knows how to ask the right questions and Gregg admits "Getting those shots is a matter of luck, too, and we were really lucky this time."
There's a side visit to another site in Newfoundland and its even older --some 565 million years ago this was the sea bed. Some of these specimens lack eyes and a gut but they are not plants.
We're then transported to the back research rooms of ROM never penetrated by the public. We see  artists tracing out how this "Spaceship" creature must have navigated through the water.
Through the magic of animation the creatures live again, we see how they could speed through water, how they must have dominated their watery environment."
"It's quite a journey, I agree," laughed Gregg.
The hour also introduces us to a potential new star for future NOT episodes. Dr. Andrade knows how to ask questions and how to involve viewers in her search.
And the best thing about? First Animals?
There isn't a boring second-- it's so expertly and tight edited it will have you wishing for more.
MY RATING: ****.

Monday, September 2, 2019

I Remember Valerie Harper

News that my friend Valerie Harper had died from cancer aged 80 was disturbing but not unexpected.
Harper was battling the strange illness of cancer of the membrane of the brain lining and had several reprieves when she was declared cancer free.
But it reminded me of the wonderful times I had interviewed her at ,length and the warmth and friendship she had always shown me.
Here are highlights of our conversations:
BAWDEN: Here we are at a 1980 dinner at the Century Plaza hotel and you're with your husband fitness expert Tony Cacciotti.  People forget youre an accomplished dramatic actress and the TV movie Shadow Box (1980) must be one of your personal favorites.
HARPER:: It was directed by Paul Newman and looked at thee couples copping with terminal cancer at a hospital retreat. Joanne Woodward and Chris Plummer were one couple, IOIOIOI and Sylvia Sidney were the second and Jimmy Broderick and I played the third. He was a marvellous dramatic actor  (and star of Family) and he succumbed shortly afterwards to cancer and he never told me about it. It must have been so hard for him to be playing sick and actually have cancer but denying it for fear of being fired.
BAWDEN: These opportunities come to you because of your fame as TV's Rhoda.
HAPER: I completely realize that. It's the power of TV. It washes away everything else you've ever done. It's scary but also challenging. I was an unknown before I joined the MTM stock company.
BAWDEN: So how were you hired?
HAPER: By a sage casting director Ethel Winant who had spotted me at Second City improv outings. She called me in. I read for various people with the intent of becoming an eccentric sidekick to Mary Tyler Moore in her new 1970 sitcom and I got it. I wanted to shed few pounds but I was told "Stay large. you can play off that." So I didn't lose weight until the break before the second season.
We already had filmed a batch before we came on the air. The front seats were filled with CBS executives and their wives and everything seemed to point rot a hit from the first taping.
We'd shoot one show at 7 and a second show at 9:30 and from the first episode nothing much was changed. The writers and producers headed by Jim Brooks wrote so well that we didn't have to change a comma. The audiences were enthusiastic but they were invitees so one couldn't be quite sure.
BAWDEN: Remember your first lines?
HARPER: In the premiere episode I  flounce into Mary's apartment where she's unpacking and say "I have to lose 10 pounds by 8:30." And the audience screamed. I thought it was funny in rehearsal but not that funny.
HARPER: Tell me how the structure or hierarchy of the show worked.
'HARPER: Well, it was Mary's show but she never got tough with us on the set. I'm sure she had talks behind the scenes as to what she wanted to achieve. Mary Richards was a transitional figure. She was over 30 but she was unmarried and not divorced --the CBS censor said "No divorcee"! Mary just shrugged, she told me on her first (The Dick Van Dyke Show) the censor had initially balked her wearing  slacks so much.
BAWDEN: Did that make her TV's first feminist?
HAZRPER: Well, the character didn't want to marry at that stage in her life. She wanted a career. Whether or not any of the boyfriends slept over wasn't quite clear.
BAWDEN: How did the week progress?
HARPER: There was a table read on Mondays. Very few lines were cut. Something might be sharpened a bit. Then on Tuesday there was a dress rehearsal, that sort of thing. It became very leisurely with blocking starting on Wednesday and first rehearsals Thursday and we'd do the show on Friday. The success of MTM meant the company boughtt out the old  Republic studios and turned many of the stages into mini theatres for TV sitcoms.
BAWDEN: I remember one MTM party that took place for TV critics and the entire top floor of Chasen's was filled with a star at every take. I got Paul Sands from Friends And Lover, a rare MTM sitcom that didn't ,make it.
BAWDEN: I was listening in to the pre-dinner conversation at this gala and one of my fellow critics was pissed off you really weren't Jewish.
HARPER: I know! I told him it was great acting!I was born in a small town in upstate New York. I'm really not an urban creature at all. And by the way my mom isCanadian. born in Calgary. In fact we're thinking of getting her back there for the 50th anniversary of her graduation from the Calgary School of Nursing. I'm getting excited about that.
BAWDEN: What about your personal relationship with Mary Yyler Moore?
HARPER: What about it? She was my  boss, I'm the employee. Look, we're acting associates and friends. But there's a distancing around Mary. I'd never bother her with trivial matters.
BAWDEN: When they proposed a spin off what was your reaction?
HARPER: I was stunned. Why leave a surefire hit? But they kept pushing and finally in 1974 Rhoda came about and Mary even made an early appearance to help boost the show. You know Rhoda's wedding attracted a near record audiemce. But I was always leery, I thought she was funnier as a single. We ran four years and 110 episodes but spin offs are almost always less popular than the original.
CBS started us off Mondays at 9:30 hammock between Maude and Meduical Center and up against ABC football and NBC Monday night movies and it was a rough slot.
We barely survived--it was too late so CBS plopped us Mondays at 8 before Rhoda and All In The Family and we started to grow.
In 1977 we went Sundays at 8 after 60 Minutes and had high audiences. In 1978 we went on Saturday nights at 8 which was becoming the lowest rated night of the week and we died, just died there.
BAWDEN: But your wedding became a real TV event.
HARPER: I think it got something g like 50 million viewers.But people did not want to see Rhoda happily married. She lost her zing.So I gradually separated from Joe and finally got a divorce and all this was painful and not helpful. And I hated hurting David Groh who is such an accomplished actor. We brought back Nancy Walker as my ma but laughs were infrequent.  All those chefs at CBS had destroyed a sound comedic character and I was relieved it got cancelled. Mary had already closed down her show in 1977.
BAWDEN: But Mary and Rhoda were reunited?
HARPER: In 1980 we joined up for a reunion thingy which was an adult TV movie and not comedy. Not a great idea. People did not like these two as serious. It was a stark reminder they were getting old as we were. It was a bad idea I felt from the first day  of filming. Nobody cares to remember that dud but you.
BAWDEN: Tell me about Valerie.
HARPER:  Here's your scoop for tomorrow's edition. I'm not coming back. I'm not playing second fiddle to a bunch of teenaged boys. No, I won't do it. NBC put us up against the second half hour of Murder She Wrote. So we're a semi-success. But not with this girl. Not now. Not any time.
NOTE: As it turned out Harper came back for one episode and then walked again to be replaced by Sandy Duncan as a new character and with a new title Valerie Family.
Then in 1990 my phone at The Toronto Star was ringing an d Valerie Harper was cooing:"I'm back."
HARPER: It's called The Office and we're on CBS directly opposite guess what show --Valerie's Family. And on my show I have a grand gal LuAnne Ponce and she's the sister of Danny Ponce who I worked with before leaving. So the talks over breakfast in that house must be very interesting. I'm the secretary for packaging company and I've been there for 19 yearns Dakin Matthews is my inept boss and comedy ensues.
But both series crashed in the ratings fairly quickly.
I had one more phone call when Harper guested on Hot In Cleveland in 1990
HARPER: It's as close to a reunion show as we'll ever get, Mary is battling illness but she's still super disciplined. It was so wonderful just to see her and Cloris and Betty White and the whole thing was shot very quickly because we're veterans after all.
My disease is in remission. I'm a fighter first and foremost. In 2010 I played Talullah Bankhead on Broadway. I've done Dancing With The Stars --I started as a dancer. I'm grateful for the friends I've made and the TV shows I've been in. Rhoda I think of as my best friend, she's helped me get a slice of the acting pie and I ran with it and I'm still running as fast as I can.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Now Let Us Praise Sean McCann

Sean McCann was one of my favourite Canadian TV character actors.
His death at 83 although not unexpected creates a huge void in the Canadian TV acting community.
I guess I first met and interviewed him on the set of Night Heat, a series that was made for CTV and for CBS late nights.
He was always good, sometimes great.
Born in Detroit he gravitated to Toronto after deciding  a career in acting was what he wanted.
Like all Toronto based actors he supported American stars who were making TV movies in Toronto simply because it was cheaper.
When I asked McCann about it he simply shrugged and said "That's the reality of the situation. Every job helps pay the bills."
But he understood when younger Canadian actors set off for L.A. simply because they were tired of supporting American stars.
"That's the economics," he told me. And he'd say for the record the private networks including CTV and Global were simply not living up to their regulations dictating 50 per cent of prime time content had to be Canadian.
'"If I have to do Littlest Hobo, then so be it," he said with a laugh." And let me tell you the dogs used on that show are very professional."
But there was one time in 1983 when McCann proved his mettle.
He starred in Don Brittain's sizzling TV biography of our most successful prime minister, Mackenzie King.
Sure McCann got all the ticks right. He also dug deep to show the man's humanity--it was a masterful portrait.
And yet because of cruel politicking McCann never even got a Gemini nomination.
"Everything is politics," McCann told me with a laugh when he phoned me to thank me for the column. "I'm sure I ticked off the establishment with my warts and all portrayal."
"I was interested in what made him tick. weird he may have been but he won campaign after campaign, even diminishing his adversary Arthur Meighan who was considered the brainiest PM of all time."
I remember meeting up with McCann in on the set of  the 1985 TV movie remake of Anne Of Green Gables. And there he was at it again in the 2016 TV remake --but in a different role.
When I asked McCann he simply shrugged and said "That's Canadian TV for you."
And yet he survived and prospered for many decades giving finely textured miniature portraits that linger in the mind.
And already I'm missing the guy.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Place Of Tide And Time Is Remarkable

Watching the current trends in Canadian TV can be hazardous to the health of a veteran TV critic
I started my career in 1970 when CBC was fairly bursting with arts specials, dance profiles directed by the great Norman Campbell, Canadian TV movies and those ward winning "Raskeymentaries".
All are gone these days as the "Canadianness" of Canadian TV palpably recedes.
And then along comes a brilliant special A Place Of Tide And Time which is all about what it really means to be a Canadian.Titled A Place Of Tide And Time takes us to the Quebec village of St. Paul's River which has been around since the days of Jacques Cartier.
But the  whole English speaking community has been in retreat ever since limitations on cod fishing were imposed on the community more than two decades ago.
This brilliant profile of a people who simply refuse to retreat is amazing --the images are so stark and imposing, the citizens refusing to give over to self py.
There is real concern the village may eventually have to be abandoned.
We visit with the few teenagers --the high school only has seven graduates this year and these young people can sense there's no future for them.
They also know how special their environment is.
We get to know their parents and the other "oldsters" who have never known any other way of life.
There's fishing for crab but that is highly seasonal.
Tourists come through in the summer but the town's museum is no longer being funded by the provincial government.
By the film's end, we come to care for these special people;e and understand the reluctance to leave a community where everyone helps each other and there is no crime.
There are two directors listed: Aude Heroux-Levesque and Sebastien  Rist and they have managed to gain the confidence of their subjects who emerge as charming, brave and determined to stay just as long as possible in their own homes.
One Bonus: There's a first class salmon river that could be exploited for fishing parties.
We see them gathering at the convenience store, trying to think of new ways to exploit this unique way of life. I have a feeling there's absolutely no crime here which seems amazing these days.
We see how the high school has diminished to just a handful of kids who all say they'll have to move just to survive. And, yet, there still is a graduation ceremony.
We get inside these wonderful people, become involved at this collective show of courage, hope that against all odds they'll not only survive but  somehow prevail.
And all of a sudden I'm feeling less bleak about Canadian TV's future .
MY RATING: *****.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

CTV Looking To The Future

That was quite a performance CTV put Thursday afternoon to an over flood crowd of potential buyers as Canada's largest private network strutted itself.
It was the Annual Fall TV Preview and was as star studded as any I have covered.
The venue was Sony Centre an d there were dozens of stars running around and great gimmicks throughout.
We learned that friendly Mike Holmes and his son and daughter are defecting to CTV.
On a sadder note CTV's fine homegrown drama series Cardinal comes to an end after 14 more episodes.
The biggest challenge for Bell Media which runs CTV and a gaggle of other cable networks is how to balance the requirements of Canadian content requirements with the pricey but very popular U.S. imports.
I remember asking CTV former president Murray Chercover at my first CTV launch in 1970 why it was held at the CTV board room and with only 10 TV critics present.
"My big Canadian shows are Littlest Hobo and Stars on Ice," he said. "You want me to promote those?"
These days CTV can tub thump its ratings achievements and then some.
But 19 cities? Forget that. Most newspapers have dumped their TV coverage altogether and gone for wire copy.
I still say CTV's nightly news at 11 with Lisa LaFlamme is vastly superior to CBC's meandering newscast which often has no focus.
I'm not a fan, however, of the silly morning show. which replaced Canada AM.
Cancelling Canada AM was a huge mistake --here was one of the best known CTV shows around and it was dumped unceremoniously.
It was Canadian TV's first national morning show and one of the identifying markers for CTV. And I know a lot of viewers were unhappy --at 7 a..m. they wanted news and information --not Ben Mulroney chirping around.
But back in 1970 CTV had one channel on the air and that was that.
As TV Critic for The Hamilton Spectator I had 10 channels to cover.
These days the count is well over 100.
CTV is in the middle of rebranding many of its cable companies.
SPACE is becoming CTV SciFi.
The Comedy network becomes CTVComedy Channel.
Gusto becomes CTV Life Channel--guess CTV has forgotten Global once had a Life channel before it was rebranded.
What I really miss from CTV are the superb TV movies it used to make --but TV movies are missing from most networks these days. I'm told they can't be rerun because viewers tape everything these days.
However, CTV has signed a deal with Harlequin to manufacture20 TV movies and that sounds promising.
Up on the Sony Center stage dazzling array of imported stars and Canadian names strutted their stuff. The presentation was magnificent and and showed how positive Bell Media is about its future.
CTV after all gets first crack at the U.S. shows it needs to import and simulcast with the U.S. networks for huge ratings. The shows it turns down turn up on Global or Citytv.
I listened in to the chatter of the ad buyers as they muted on booze and dainties in the lobby and they were impressed. As was I.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Me And Doris Day

I'm  Remembering  Doris Day
I was lucky to share an interview with the legendary Doris Day .
The location was her swank dressing room at Warners' Burbank Studios in 1969
Also present was the ageless TV critic for The New York Daily News, Kay Gardella.
Why would the legendary lady give me the time of the day?
Well, she was having quite a time selling the rights to a Canadian network and figured a little publicity might help.
Here are highlights of our conversation:
BAWDEN: Doris, why have you jumped to a TV series after decades of movie stardom?
DD: Why not? They just aren't making the kind of movies I'd want to star in these days.
JB: I've heard that you turned down the choice role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1968)?
DD: I've heard that story also but nobody ever approached me. I'm not sure I'd do it because Annie Bancroft was so tremendous. They might have asked my late husband Marty Melcher but he never told me.
JB: How does it feel to be on theWarners lot again?
Dd:Painful. All my old co-stars have departed. Ronnie Reagan is in politics these days. Others are in heaven.
Describe your first day on the lot in 1948.
DD: I'd been signed for one movie originally written for Mary Martin --Romance On The High Seas. I only got through it because my co-star Jack Carson helped me overstep of the way. I was so scared I'd never even go to the commissary without Jack. I remember I was in wardrobe one day and Joan Crawford looked me up and down as if to say Who Do You Think You Are.
JB: But you made it.
DD: Barely a few years later and Jack Warner was no longer signing long term deals. I barely made it and I think Virginia Mayo was the last unsigned --she lasted here until 1960.
JB: Is it true you have ordered all the freckles on your TV photographs be erased?
DD: Why not. I hate these freckles.
JB: Doris I see over there a wet bar in your five-room dressing room. What gives?
DD: I have a little nip from time to time. It was my late husband (Marty Melcher) who was the milk drinker.
JB: Criticise today's movies.
DD: It's girls showing their boobs and people screaming dirty words at each other. Is that entertainment. I think suggestion is sexier. When Rock Hudson and I made Pillow Talk (1960) that's all there was --suggestion. And moviegoers ate it up.
JB: You have yet to win an Oscar.
DD I'm in good company.  After Love Me Or Leave Me (1955) premiered Louella Parson wrote a whole column about how I deserved an Oscar as Ruth Eating. But I was too Anna Magmnani beat me to the fifth nomination by a few votes. I did get nominated by Pillow Talk but comedies never win anyway.The actresses I most revere went Oscarless: Irene Dunne, Myrna Loy,. Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard. I'm  in good company. .
JB: But I did see you at the AFI Salute to Jimmy Cagney.
DD: I'd go anything for that man. But I don't usually go to those things. They'll never give it to a singer anyhow. I didn't;t go for Jimmy Stewart or Alfred Hitchcock. I'd rather stay home and read a good book.
JB: Will you ever sing live again --such as at a high class nitery?
DD: Nope. I did that for years as a big band singer. I don't want to repeat myself although there have been some very big offers.
JB: What's next after TV?
DD: Nothing! I want to retire and look after my animals. I bought a small hotel in Pebble Peach where people can take their dogs and cats along with them. Cruelty tp amid,asls is rampant/ It's a disease.
JB: How often do you sing these days?
DD: In the shower every morning. The voice is still there I'm proud to report.
JB: What's your latest movie offer?
DD: It was for one of those horror things. But my aim is bad. If I ran around with a hatchet I might actually hurt somebody. I'm a singer so I can scream with the best of them. But why bother? I stopped doing murder mysteries after Midnight Lace --it made a bundle but I'd lie awake shuddering all night.
 JB: Will you ever sing again  public?
DD: I hope not. I sang for years with those big bands. We'd go by bus all night between stops. I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore.
JB: Clint Eastwood says he sees you in the supermarket at Pebble Beach.
DD: Now if he offered me a western I might think about it. I've never dopamine a western.
JB: What co-stars do you keep in touch with?
DD: I was talking to Lauren Bacall and Kirk Douglas last year. We're the three stars of Young Man With A Horn (1950) and we're all alive and still kicking. That is an accomplishment.
JB" Favourite movie of yours?
DD: On Moonlight Bay (1951) because I was a tomboy in it and I got to sing with the  glorious Gordon McRae. And it was about a large family who struck by each other and I never had that in real life.
JB: Why was the format of your TV series changed after the first year?
DD: Because it wasn't working. I was a mom with two kids in the first year and my fans hated me in jeans. That's all gone, I'm m back in high society with lots of boyfriends my age.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Where Is Canadian TV?

I just spent Sunday night watching three hours of often brilliant documentary reportage.
And once again I wondered: Where the heck is CBC-TV these days.
First up was Fareed Zachara's one hour look at the very bizarre relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
It made for riveting TV because Fareed does not talk down to his TV audience.
But the best was still to come: the first two hours of a new look at the Bush family's political dynasty.
I immediately thought back to CBC-TV's brilliant series The Tenth Decade which looked at the pounding rivalry between prime ministers John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson.
This  one ran in 1972 and the Sunday night ratings went through the roof for CBC.
There followed a similar look at Pierre Trudeau's decade in politics but Trudeau insisted on so much content control this one seemed fizzled into a series of warm and fuzzy anecdotes.
I do know from a CBC source CBC has another "mini" all ready on Brian Mulroney but a certain scandal postponed it and it has never been seen or heard of since.
But Jean Chretien and Paul Martin are alert and able bodied but CBC doesn't seem to be interested in political documentaries anymore?
Why? Well, CBC does receive %1 billion in public funding after all.
And contrast the way feisty, independent CNN is treating Donald TRump and his scandals with the way CBBC has tip topes all around the first big scandal to have it Justin Trudeau.
It's strange but I never see anything "Canadian" on the HIstory Channel.
Canadian political specials can't be sold abroad because other countries just aren't interested in us.
I still want to see the  Mulroney miniseries which has now been a decade in the making.
Meanwhile I'll be staying home next Sunday night for another chapter of  that remarkable political dynasty --the Bushes.
And this just in: CNN has told me another political mini series Tricky Dick based on guess what U.S. president is coming up starting on March 17.
So what about it CBC?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

I Remember Fay Wray

I'm supposed to be on bed rest after a major operation but a brand new book arrived in the post and I just couldn't stop reading it until the wee hours.
Titled Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir, the book os from Pantheon Press and written by daughter Victoria Riskin.
And I can report it's a must read for anyone interested in Hollywood history.
And I can also report I was proud to be a friend with Fay Wray the Canadian born "Scream Queen" who starred in such classics as King Kong and Mystery Of The Wax Museum.
I first met Miss Wray at the checout counter at Gelson's Supermarket in June 1972.
I was then on my first trip to L.A. as the kidlet TV critic for The Hamilton Spectatir -=-=it was the first week in June and I arrived at the Century Plaza hotel and immediately went across the street to pick up dsome groceries.
There I was standing in line --I was wearing my Carleton University blazer --and there was a tug on my arm and the smartly dressed brunette lady behind me whispered "I'm a Canadian, too."
It was Fay Wray!
She lived across the plaza in a towering high riser with her third husband, famed neurosurgeon Dr. Samndy Rothen berg who worked just across the street at the Century Plaza hotel.
And we retired to a tea shop and talked all afternoon.
That converasation appeared in Leonard Maltin'smovie mafgazine Film FanMonthly and was thestart of a beautiful friendship.
I remember phoning her up when the remake of King Kong came out and her sharp reply: "I am the one and only Ann Darrow."
Over tea that day and later on she'd regale me with stories of working with the likes of Spencer Tracy and Wallace Beery.
But above all she remained a proud Canadian. The gigantic boulder outside the family ranch Wrayland was later transported to L.A. and rested on the lawn of her son Bobby.
The last rune we met in person was back in L.a.  in 1988 when she (aged 81) was promoting her autobiography On The Other HJand and she roared up to the restaurtanmt in her fancy red convertible.
Wray's life and times has been perfectly recorded by daughter Victoria.
Wrtay's second huisband was writer Robert Riskin who scripted most of the great Framnl Capra movies--Victoria finally gives her dad his due place in history.
The stills are wonderful, the stories ring true.
I' was just lucky to go went shopping for supplies that June day in 1972 or I  never would have met the legendary scream queen Fay WEray.

Monday, February 11, 2019

I Answer Your Em-Mails

At the Toronto Star I used to get a flood of letters regarding my columns on TV.
These days there are no letters but emails instead.
So here's a sampling of what's bothering viewers these days:
Dear Jim: I love watching CBB for its extensive coverage of American politics. My question is simply this:" why is CBC News so timid about covering Canadian politics? Mrs. H.K., Thornhill.
This is an easy one. CBC gets a grant of $1 billion a year so why would the Corp try to antagonize Justin Trudeau. The only sparky Canadian TV news show is CTV's nightly news at 11 p.m. hosted by the determined Lisa LaFlamme who knows just when to pop the tough questions.
Dear Jim: When I was growing up I feasted on such CBC kids shows as Mr. Dressup, Friendly Giant and Chez Helene. Now that I'm a mom I cant find anything left? Am I wrong or right? D.J., Hamilton,Ontario.
Dear D.J.: Absolutely right. I remember interviewing Friendly alias Bob Homme and he was adamant he'd never allow any toys to be made in his image. He took his educational duties very seriously.
Dear Jim: I've been trying for years to see CBC's 1962 version  of Pale Horse, Pale Rider directed by Eric Till and starring Keir Dullea. Why is it never shown on TV these days. R.S., Niagara Falls.
Dear R.S.: CBC has a warehouse in Mississauga filled to the overbrimming with classic TV shows it claims can't be shown these days because the copyright has lapsed. In terms of Pale Horses, Pale Rider the dramas pecial can only be shown at TV festivals where it gets standing  ovations. CBC has dozens of such shows and one veteran producer told me CBC is afraid of showing how great it once was compared to its contemporary fare. Biggest CBC hit of all times Beachcombers has never even been out in boxed DVD sets
Dear Jim: I'm sick of watching such American series as CSI on CTV's "E" Channel which are used as filler. Why can't we see such top CTV series as ENG instead of this constant flow of American fare? G.T., Vancouver.
Dear G.T: But CSI counts as 100% Canadian content. Because the series and spinoffs were financed by Alliance Atlantis! I agree ENG was a top show but it never even went out as DVD boxed sets. CBC is currently reviving Street Legal but that one has been in the vaults for so long few people remember it., I fear.
Dear Jim: What happened to Canadian TV movies? R.H., Simcoe.
Dear R.H.: All gone. CTV used to have 10 of these great TV movies a year but found the shows didn't do well in reruns and few of these ever went out on DVD. CBC has also virtually withdrawn from the TV movie field claiming they are too expensive. But some old CBC TV movie  titles do show up on Vision from time to time.
Dear Jim: Can CBC be saved? S.S., Toronto.
Dear S.S.: I say yes but only drastically revised as a northern version of PBS. Young people are completely intolerant of commercials, you see. CBC needs additional funding to become competitive once again.