Tuesday, November 24, 2015

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be "Black Tuesday" :)

Hello All,

Since it's Tuesday, I thought I'd shine some light on Black Tuesday, a noirish little number in which Jack Kelly co-starred in 1954.

Heading the cast is Edward G. Robinson, who plays a murderous racketeer named Vincent Canelli. Canelli is about to be executed. All executions are scheduled on Tuesday in the prison where he's incarcerated--hence the title of the film.

JK enters the picture as cub newspaper reporter "Frank Carson". Instead of assigning a more seasoned journalist to cover Canelli's execution, Carson's boss chooses the newbie to provide a less hackneyed perspective of the event. 

Unfortunately, Frank is kidnapped by two of Canelli's henchmen before he reaches the prison. One of the men assumes Frank's identity and helps Canelli avoid execution with just moments to spare.

Guards are killed and hostages (including a doctor and a priest) are taken as Canelli escapes from the prison with "Manning", a young killer/bank robber played by Peter Graves. Manning is badly wounded in the escape. Canelli wants Manning kept alive because he's the only one who knows where the loot from the robbery is. Canelli covets the cash so he and his moll can flee the country. Canelli, Manning, and the hostages are driven to a hideout where Frank Carson and other captives are also being held.

Carson himself is later wounded when he tries to stop Canelli from shooting the priest (played by Milburn Stone of Gunsmoke fame). The young reporter lies unconscious on the floor as the priest tries to reason with the ruthless gangster, as illustrated in the still below (that's Vic Perrin as the doctor at right).

Below is a color version of the same scene, shown on this dynamite Italian lobby card which just joined the Kellection. The title Pioggia Di Piombo literally translates into English as Rain of Lead, no doubt a reference to all the bullets fired in the film.

Here's a close-up of the nearly shirtless JK in repose:

What happens next? Well, a synopsis of the entire film is available on the Turner Classic Movie (TCM) website.

Better yet, the entire film itself can be viewed (with what looks like Spanish subtitles) on YouTube:

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Blast From the Pages of the Past :)

Hello Everyone,

I love delving into vintage magazines and books to learn more about Jack Kelly. I've also enjoyed countless hours scrolling through various newspaper archives to research posts such "All the World's A Stage With JK".

While wandering around these archives, I've also found some great, rare pictures of JK to share. They're PDF images scanned from old newspapers, so they're not the clearest pictures, but I'm sure you'll enjoy them, nonetheless.

Remember my 2009 post about "JK Goes To Rodeo", with photos from a Japanese magazine showing JK at a rodeo? For years, the date and location of this rodeo was a mystery (at least to me--I don't read Japanese). Then, I finally learned that JK was the grand marshal of the annual Palm Springs Rodeo parade on January 28, 1961. The "queen" of the rodeo was actress Barbara Nichols, who'd co-starred with JK in "The Third Rider" episode of Maverick.

But, Ms. Nichols was actually a replacement rodeo queen! Thanks to a newspaper archive, I discovered that the original 1961 queen was none other than Bart Maverick's Charleston partner, Dorothy Provine, pictured here with JK putting a rodeo bumper sticker on a vehicle at the Warner Bros. studio:

Ms. Provine had to abdicate at the last minute due to an eye ailment. So, Ms. Nichols assumed the crown--er, cowboy hat. Below, she's clowning with JK. (He's plugging his ear because she's pretending to shoot at the photographer.) The newspaper story says that "thousands" of spectators were on hand to watch the Palm Springs parade and rodeo.

Now, here's a cute shot of JK getting a friendly smooch from one of his poodles in 1958:

I'd read that JK was a guest at Sammy Davis Jr.'s November 1960 wedding to Swedish actress May Britt. What I didn't know was that JK and James Garner had presented a humanitarian award from the Los Angeles chapter of the Shriner's organization to Davis earlier that same year. (That's JK second from right with his hand on Sammy's shoulder; singer Arthur Lee Simpkins is next to JG.) Strangely, the photo caption IDs JG as "Bart" and JK as "Bret"!

Finally, here's JK (at right) in 1969 presenting another award, this time to an amateur actor in Akron, Ohio. JK was appearing at the Canal Fulton Summer Arena at the time.

Coming up in TDS:
  • Forget "Black Friday". You don't want to miss "Black Tuesday"! :)
  • Part III of "All the World's a Stage With JK".
  • And more--stay tuned!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All the World's A Stage With JK - Pt II :)

"I've Got My Straw Hat, I've Got My Cane..."
Undated candid slide of JK
I've discussed Jack Kelly's summer stock performances before in TDS, but since I've discovered so much more new information about this topic, it's time for a re-visit.
JK was a very busy performer on the "straw hat circuit" in the early 1960's. After Maverick went on permanent hiatus in 1962, JK toured in The Music Man and The Moon is Blue. In 1963, he sang and danced in The Pajama Game in Anderson, Indiana.
The Hoosier state was a hotbed of summer stock activity at the time. In July 1964, JK appeared in Indianapolis as "Sky Masterson" in the Starlight Musicals production of Guys and Dolls.

Masterson is a smooth gambler (sound familiar?), but JK looks ruggedly handsome on the cover of the Guys and Dolls program:

Indiana didn't have a lock on summer stock, however. The following month, JK traveled north to appear in the farce Petticoat Fever at Prudhomme's Garden Centre Theatre in Ontario, Canada.

This theatre, located in a resort setting, was a rather unusual venue. According to the "World Theatre" website, owner George Prudhomme removed the seats each winter to convert the theatre into a curling rink! The seats were returned in the summer so audiences could watch celebrities such as JK and even a young Liza Minelli (in The Fantasticks) tread the boards.

JK made another jaunt to Prudhomme's in July 1965 to star in Love and Kisses, a comic play he'd done in Chicago in 1964. He also portrayed Rick Nelson's father in the film version, which was released in 1965. 
JK revisited Indiana as well in 1965 to appear in The World of Suzie Wong at the Avondale Playhouse (a.k.a. Avondale-in-the-Meadows) in Indianapolis from August 24 through August 29. The play's program states that JK broke box office records at Avondale when he'd starred in The Moon is Blue in 1962.

Suzie Wong, the popular "East meets West" love story, originated as a novel by Richard Mason. It was adapted into a play by Hoosier-born Paul Osborn and debuted on Broadway in 1958 with William Shatner as the male lead. It became a film starring William Holden and Nancy Kwan in 1960.
At Avondale, JK portrayed "Robert Lomax", a struggling artist who falls in love with Hong Kong prostitute Suzie Wong, played by Lisa Lu. (Ms. Lu's program bio lists her credits, but oddly doesn't mention the role she's probably best-known for: "Hey Girl" in TV's Have Gun--Will Travel.)
Suzie then ran August 31-September 5 at the theater's sister venue "Avondale-on- the-Mall". An ad in the program says this theater could be reached via "a short trip through colorful Southern Indiana, across the beautiful Ohio River, to Louisville, Kentucky". It was located in "'THE MALL', one of the nation's newest and largest Closed Mall 'Shopping Centers'", the ad proclaimed.
Avondale-on-the-Mall was an ambitious attempt to expand the Avondale brand to other cities. Unfortunately, the gambit was such a failure in Louisville, that, according to the website "indianahistory.org", the Playhouse board was forced to liquidate Avondale's assets. 
JK wasn't a failure, however, especially with Jane Marlow Willis, the editor, publisher and entertainment columnist for the weekly Meade County (KY) Messenger. On 9/16/65 she wrote, "Miss Rose Grinnell and I went to Avondale Playhouse for the last production of the season, THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, starring Jack Kelly. Mr. Kelly is a most interesting person and quite gracious about posing for pictures. His performance as Robert Lomax was great. Although most of us know him as Bart Maverick and expect him to be typed as Maverick, he is a versatile actor, and as at home in the role of Lomax as he was on Maverick...THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG is a rather difficult play for an arena theatre, but the Avondale players did it quite well. The summer is usually a slow theatre season, but Avondale has made summer a good season for theatregoers in the Louisville area."

In 1966, JK co-starred in the comedy Mary, Mary at the Music Center in Houston, Texas. A reviewer in the Bellaire & Southwestern Texan newspaper wrote on 10/26/1966 that the production was "delightful" and continued, "There's a keen cast: Jack Kelly (remember when he was Bart Maverick) and Marjorie Lord (she from The Danny Thomas Show) are a divorced couple who have a hilarious reunion...[then] a fading Hollywood actor tries to woo Mary to New Orleans, only to make her [former] husband furiously jealous...The Jean Kerr comedy is light, but highly entertaining as performed by these actors...Every scene clicks and that's because of good timing and expert line readings."

By this time, JK had also became an annual fixture at the Summer Arena in historic Canal Fulton, OH, located in Stark County near the cities of Akron, Canton and Massillon. The Arena began as the Canal Fulton Summer Theatre in 1954 and later moved into a renovated barn next to a pond. The Theatre's founder, David Fulford, staged productions with one "name" star per play and filled the supporting roles with local actors. This formula was such a crowd-pleaser that in 1959, the barn was upgraded into the air-conditioned Canal Fulton Summer Arena. (The pond was upgraded into a swimming pool.)

Undated postcard view of the Canal Fulton Summer Arena (courtesy CardCow.com)

JK first appeared at the Arena with The Moon is Blue from September 4 through September 9 in 1962.

He was brought back "by popular demand" to star in Neil Simon's Come Blow Your Horn in 1963. (Julie Sommars, later seen in TV series such as The Governor and JJ and Matlock, portrayed one of his girlfriends in this play.) JK starred in A Thousand Clowns in 1964 and Goodbye, Charlie in 1965. He headlined Tunnel of Love in 1966.

Arena audiences obviously loved JK and the feeling was mutual because he is quoted in the program for Simon's The Odd Couple (where he starred as slobby "Oscar Madison", 6/27-7/9/1967) as saying, "I hope I  never have to miss a season at Canal Fulton Summer Arena because it has become my second home. The Arena represents the gateway to the many friends and activities I have enjoyed over these recent years in the general area."

Incidentally, JK's bio in the Odd Couple program also contains some amazing information that I've not read elsewhere about a couple of tantalizing TV roles which unfortunately never happened:

"Jack Kelly once more is making his only summer appearances of the season at The Arena, where he has become one of our most popular repeat performers. Preparation of his new television series, Tolliver's Travels, is consuming most of his availability. Tolliver's Travels is geared for September production and January or mid-season release. The setting is Hawaii and all exterior photography will be shot in the Islands. Kelly, under contract to Universal for the past five years, has again had a very busy TV schedule, the past season having completed three Chrysler shows for Bob Hope [and] Run for Your Life for his old Maverick producer, Roy Huggins. Immediately upon completion of The Odd Couple he will return to Hollywood for another Run for Your Life segment that Huggins has lifted from the shooting schedule until Kelly is available."

At the Arena, JK also appeared in proven laugh-getters such as Under the Yum Yum Tree (as a lecherous landlord named "Hogan", 9/10-22/1968); Cactus Flower (as "Dr. Julian Winston", a dentist who stays single by pretending he's married, 6/24-29/1969); and other productions including that old standby The Moon is Blue (6/5-10/73).

 In July 1973, JK co-starred with Gale Storm in a political comedy called Affairs of State at Florence State University's summer theater  program in Alabama. The supporting actors were students at the University. JK participated in an engaging press conference with Ms. Storm. The play (and the actors) received a very nice review.
But sometimes, life onstage wasn't everything nice...stay tuned and learn about the play in which JK appeared that was so awful the audience demanded its money back! It's coming up in Part III.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween From TDS! :)

"That's some snake costume, but
the Halloween party
ended three hours ago--now scram!"

Friday, October 30, 2015

Flashback Friday--With a Twist! :)

Back in 1962, everyone was doin' it--the Twist, that is!

Even Jack and Donna Kelly. Here they are, twistin' the night away in Hollywood:

Now, let's twist into the weekend with Sam Cooke:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Flashback Friday: "He Wasn't The Man I Wanted to Marry...I Was Sure of It..." :)

I hope you enjoyed this Friday flashback from 1961 in which Donna explains how she first met "Kelly" but didn't think he was "the one" for her. (Um, looking at that top photo of JK, I don't think I'd have any doubts whatsoever... ;>)
The rest of the article is pretty long but here are a few highlights:
  • Sometimes, when JK came to the door for a date, Donna would pretend she wasn't home. So, he left little notes on her door. He wrote messages like 'Hi Kook, the Tiger was here' and drew little tiger paw prints at the bottom of the page!
  • Donna admits, 'But from the beginning, I felt so comfortable with Kelly. That's why I had to call him 'Kelly'. He was like an old shoe. Yet he had so much spring in his step...I could never call him 'Jack'. He's just Kelly. It's the right tag for him. His name should be Kelly-something. Kelly expresses his personality. It tells all about him."
  • And in conclusion: "Maybe now you've got an idea of what Jack Kelly's really like--even when the shades are drawn...This isn't saying that Kelly doesn't have his faults. He much too real not to have any. But don't try to prove them to me. As he can tell you, I have a lousy memory."
Now, don't you forget to come back to TDS for more kewl stories from the Kellection. By the way, I am still working on "All the World's a Stage With JK"--I just keep finding more research material! But, it will be worth the wait, I promise you. Have a great weekend! :)