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Tag Archive: Henry Morgan


Review by C.J. Bunce

If Turner Classic Movies says that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then the discussion is over finally, right?

It’s that time of year again and Turner Classic Movies is back showing some of the best Christmas movies from across the decades.  This year host Ben Mankiewicz is interviewing author Jeremy Arnold before and after the screening of movies Arnold has selected to feature in his new book, TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season.  And yes, Arnold’s list includes Die Hard.  So as the British say, “end of.”  Most readers and movie fans will likely agree with at least twenty of the selections discussed in the book, and the rest are there ready for some good discussions with friends over some egg nog this holiday season.

It’s also likely this bucket list of movies has several films that even avid movie watchers may have missed.  I set up my DVR to pick up a few in the book I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised at how superb a selection Holiday Affair is.  It stars Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, Henry Morgan, plus young Gordon Gebert in what must be the best-ever performance by a child actor in a Christmas movie.  This is exactly the kind of value you get with a book like Christmas in the Movies–this movie will now be added to my own favorite Christmas movie list.  For each entry Arnold discusses the actors, plot, audience reception and the impact of the film, and why it’s a good Christmas season film for audiences today.

Along with Die Hard, which is smartly defended by Arnold, you’ll find the usual suspects like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Elf, plus some lesser known gems, like Remember the Night, the first of four films that would pair Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, plus Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I’ll Be Seeing You, and Humphrey Bogart in We’re No AngelsArnold picks up genre films Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even a few Westerns, including 3 Godfathers starring John Wayne.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Amnesia.  A terrifying loss of self, or a chance to start anew?  This is the theme explored in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1946 film noir Somewhere in the Night, starring John Hodiak (Lifeboat, Battleground, The Harvey Girls) and Nancy Guild (Give My Regards to Broadway, Black Magic, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man).  Hodiak plays a WWII vet who awakens in a South Pacific hospital with a broken jaw and amnesia.  The only clues to his identity?  Doctors who keep calling him “George Taylor,” and a wallet empty but for a devastating, angry Dear John letter accusing him of destroying someone’s life.  Unable to stand the idea of being that person, yet without any other identity, Taylor returns stateside, where he discovers that an old friend, Larry Cravat, has opened a bank account in his name, ready to support him upon his return to civilian life.

But his efforts to claim the money open up a can of worms and set a gang of thugs, conmen, mobsters, and even an evil fortune-teller on Taylor’s trail played by Fritz Kortner (The Razor’s Edge), all convinced he can lead them to the mysterious–and still missing–Larry Cravat.

Hodiak’s Taylor is likeable, earnest, and sympathetic, as he tries to navigate the increasingly confusing and seedy world of his pal, Larry Cravat.  Mugged, beaten, chased by cops, thrown out of a sanatorium, and nearly run down by a truck (as it turns out, a villain’s weapon of choice), Hodiak can’t help but wonder: What kind of a guy is this Larry Cravat?

Along the way, Taylor hooks up with a few friendly faces–savvy nightclub singer Chris (Nancy Guild) has a soft spot for the guy, even when she finds out he’s on the trail of the man who broke her best friend’s heart and contributed to her death.  A sympathetic police detective, played with delightful aplomb by Lloyd Nolan (The Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, Airport, Earthquake) provides some backstory into the criminal dealings Cravat may have been involved in.  Chris introduces the local nightclub owner, played by Richard Conte (Call Northside 777, Ocean’s 11, The Godfather), who is in love with Chris and tries to help Taylor.  Keep an eye out for producer/director/actor Sheldon Leonard (It’s a Wonderful Life) and Henry Morgan (M*A*S*H, Dragnet) in bit parts.

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Little Green Army Men PC 2015

Plenty of fun was in store for everyone attending Planet Comicon 2015 this weekend.  With the Big 12 Championship basketball tourney between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Kansas Jayhawks, downtown Kansas City was booming Saturday.  At the third annual Planet Comicon at the Kansas City Convention Center at Bartle Hall, actors, writers, artists, cosplayers, vendors, and tens of thousands of fans of everything from comic books to toys and from Doctor Who to Walking Dead continued the convention tradition of sharing their common interests in a positive and exciting environment.

Elizabeth C. Bunce and your humble editor from borg.com were back again meeting up with creators and friends from past years (this year as Daniel Craig’s Jake Lonergan from Cowboys and Aliens and Kate Beckinsale’s Anna Valerius from Van Helsing).  Check out the great little green toy army men cosplayers at the show above.

Kent McCord PC 2015

Kent McCord, known best for his role on the classic TV series Adam-12, shared some great stories about working with Martin Milner, Jack Webb, Harry Morgan, and Stephen J. Cannell.  What better than to spend the day chatting with someone who has starred in shows like Dragnet and Unsub?

Pileggi PC 2015

We also had a great time with Mitch Pileggi, co-star of one of the all-time best genre TV series, The X-Files.  He talked about the possible renewal of his role of Director Skinner on a rebooted X-Files series and working with Judith Light on TNT’s reboot of Dallas as Harris Ryland.

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The TV Land network and their addictive marathon of M*A*S*H holiday episodes sucked me in once again.

First of all, my all time favorite character in any TV show or movie is Major Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce, played by Alan Alda.  Hawkeye has the toughest job in the toughest place in the toughest time period.  He lives and breathes tough decisions and his job is triage, discriminating between life and death realities, between saving this guy’s life over that guy’s life.  Dealing every day with friendly and unfriendly comrades he is just stuck with.  And yet, except for the last episode of the series (which I pretend does not exist), Hawkeye brings humor and optimism into the equation whenever he can.  And thanks to some brilliant writing over the years (now decades ago) we got not only the best TV series ever, we got the best drama and comedy wrapped into one, and at that, each episode had only 20-some odd minutes to make us all become familiar with a war seemingly firsthand that we never otherwise would have had a personal affinity toward.

What M*A*S*H probably did best was remind us that even though we may have our own issues that approached or even sometimes surpassed the trials of the characters of this wartime mobile surgical hospital crew, more often than not you could be reminded that whatever you were going through was not really that bad–that things will get better if you can just keep your head up and march through it all.

Many main and supporting characters came and went over the years, from Major “Trapper” John MacIntyre to Corporal Walter “Radar” O’Reilly, to Colonel Henry Blake, to Major Frank Burns.  Some of these characters we were supposed to love and others we were supposed to hate.  Colonel Sherman T. Potter was one of the best of the cast, the elder traditional soldier with a sense of both nostalgia for the golden days and humor for his young medical staff.  Potter was played by Henry Morgan, who passed away two weeks ago at the awesome age of 96.  Some great acting can be found in his list of films and TV series, from The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) with Henry Fonda, to State Fair (1945) with Dana Andrews, to Yellow Sky (1948) with Gregory Peck, to Bend of the River (1952) with Jimmy Stewart, and High Noon (1952) with Gary Cooper, to The Glenn Miller Story (1954) with Jimmy Stewart, to Strategic Air Command (1955) with Jimmy Stewart, to Inherit the Wind (1960) with Spencer Tracy, to How the West was Won (1962) with a who’s who of Hollywood, to his co-starring role as Officer Gannon with Jack Webb from 1967-1970 on the TV series Dragnet, and several supporting roles between and after, Morgan may not have been the leading man, but as a character actor he gave credibility to dozens of productions.

One of the often overlooked supporting characters of M*A*S*H was Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, played by David Ogden Stiers, who went on to be a guest character in hundreds of shows, including a guest role on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a memorable role as Reverend Purdy in the TV series The Dead Zone.  A snooty doctor of a old-money wealth, Winchester was typically a foil for the show’s own dynamic duo of Hawkeye and B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell).  With a long run like M*A*S*H, which aired from 1972-1983, we were able to share a number of holidays, and holiday episodes, with the cast of M*A*S*H.  If you saw the series, you probably remember this key secondary plot from the ninth season’s Christmas episode “Death Takes a Holiday.”  If you haven’t or even if you have seen it, track down a copy from your library or video source.

The army outfit has invited local refugees to the 4077th for Christmas.  Turkey dinners are being transported in, but Colonel Potter learns that the trucks aren’t going to make it.  Each key character had received care packages from their loved ones, from fruitcake from Hawkeye’s aunt, to fudge from B.J.’s wife, to ham from the Colonel’s sister.  Nurse Margaret Houlihan steps forward first to say she will offer up her care package of cookies to the refugee children and soon everyone joins in to plan a big party.  Everyone except Winchester.  Winchester will only offer up a small sardine-sized can of oysters, saying “it’s not the thought that counts, it’s the price.”  Corporal Max Klinger points out that Winchester received several packages labeled “perishable” so the other officers ask “what gives?”  Winchester is Scrooge once again.

And then the change-up occurs, that illustrates why this series was so good.  Because it had a lot of heart–behind all the war drama and laugh out loud practical joke antics.  Actor Mike Farrell wrote this episode that some may brush off as simply sappy.

We see a dark night, and Winchester covertly approaches the orphanage with giant boxes of gifts, one labeled from a certain premium confectioner.  The man running the orphanage thanks him for the gifts and invites him inside so the children can thank him, which Winchester immediately says “no” to.  Winchester recounts that his family has a tradition, going back every year since he was a child, and it only matters if it is done anonymously.  Winchester shares with the man a story of waiting inside a running car with his sister in an earlier winter from far long ago, excited as they waited for his father to run back to the car to drive away after quietly, sneakily leaving gifts on some needy person’s doorstep.  From the seemingly greedy and abrasive fellow, came an act of kindness and charity.  A touching scene, that seems to affect even the actor as he tells the story.

Sappy?  Maybe just a little.  But great actors and great writing made for a great series, and a nice Christmas story.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com