Gypsy Actor…Lois Nettleton

After actor Carroll O’Connor left the series “All in the Family” he went on to another series that lasted for several years called “In The Heat Of The Night. ” The series took place in ” the new South” – a little city in Mississippi. One of the regulars on this series was a woman called Joanne St. John. I had remembered the actress who played that part from several different TV roles for many years. Her name was Lois Nettleton and if you have ever watch TV in the last 40 years then you to have seen her face.

Lois Nettleton has taken her Final Taxi at age 80. She appeared in over 120 films and TV shows during her career.

Miss Chicago 1948 (and a semi-finalist at that year’s Miss America Pageant), she was was born Lois June Nettleton on August 6, 1929 in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois.

She studied acting in Chicago before moving to New York to join the Actors’ Studio. Her Broadway debut came in Darkness at Noon and The Biggest Thief in Town, both 1949 productions. Returning to Chicago, she co-starred with Burt Reynolds in The Rainmaker.
Soon she became well-known on Broadway for appearing in Tennessee Williams’ plays. Theater critics noticed her when she was in the 1955 Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, staged by Elia Kazan. Barbara Bel Geddes’s understudy in the role of Maggie the Cat, she got to play Maggie herself once in a while.

Starring roles came in Silent Night, Lonely Night and The Wayward Stork. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1976 for They Knew What They Wanted, and won the Clarence Derwent Award for God and Kate Murphy.

She won enthuastic reviews in New York and across the Unted States for her part as Blanche DuBois in the 1973 revival of Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire.

Nettleton said in interviews that theater was her first love, but she moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her ailing mother. In Hollywood, starting in the 1950s, she was a guest actress on dozens of leading television series.

She had roles on Kraft Television Theatre and Studio One in the 1950s and appeared on The Twilight Zone in a 1961 episode titled The Midnight Sun. She played a woman coping with the radically shifting climate after the Earth falls out of orbit. Sci-fi genre fans will also remember her work in “Night Gallery” ” The Flash” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

Nettleton also had roles on Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Route 66, The FBI and The Fugitive in the 1960s and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Kung Fu, Medical Center, Cannon, Hawaii Five-O in the ’70s, among other series. She was a regular on the short-lived series “The Accidental Family.”

For two years in the late 1980s she was a regular on the police drama In the Heat of the Night. She also appeared on The Golden Girls, The Facts of Life, Murder She Wrote and Cagney & Lacey.

For three years in the 1990s, she had a role as Virginia Benson on the soap opera General Hospital. She also appeared in Seinfeld, Babylon 5, Baywatch, Full House and Coach.

She won Emmy Awards for daytime television for her role as suffragette Susan B. Anthony in The American Woman: Portraits in Courage in 1976 and her performance in an episode of the religious program Insight in 1983.

She made her movie debut in 1962 in Period of Adjustment, based on a play by Williams, opposite Tony Franciosa, Jane Fonda and Jim Hutton. The film is about two couples in rocky marriages. She also had roles in Mail Order Bride in 1964, The Man in the Glass Booth in 1975 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982.

Other feature film credits include “Come Fly With Me,” “Mail Order Bride,” “The Bamboo Saucer,” “The Good Guys and the Bad Guys,” “Dirty Dingus Magee,” “The Honkers,” “Echoes of a Summer,” “Soggy Bottom, USA,” “Deadly Blessing,” “The Feminine Touch” and “Butterfly” (she was nominated for the Razzie Award for worst supporting actress for that movie.)

Nettleton was a regular on the TV show “Crossing Jordan” playing Evelyn, the woman who is dating Jordan’s father, Max .

Lois Nettleton was married to the one and only Jean Shepherd, ( A Christmas Story) the radio and television humorist and writer, for seven years. Nettleton and Shepherd clicked when she called the humorist’s nightly radio show at WOR in the 1950s; the beguiled Shepherd broadcast their telephone conversations on the air. They appeared together in Shepherd’s off-Broadway play “Look Charlie” in 1959.

“It takes courage to be … a gypsy actor like I am,” Nettleton told the Los Angeles Times in 1985, adding that she liked playing a variety of roles. “I’m a character actress. I always wanted to be as different in everything as possible,” she said.

Advertisements

Suzanne Pleshette – Legendary TV and Film Actress

In the late 60’s, Disney would convert their movies over to a Super 8 or 16 mm and rent them out to elementary and high schools for them to raise money. It was a good plan and my little Alabama hometown elementary school did this about once a month. For many it was the only way they would ever see a movie. This was before we had VCRs and DVDs so film was the only way to see these movies.
One film I remember us showing was the 1966 Disney movie ” The Ugly Dachshund .” It is about a Great Dane who thinks he is a Dachshund. The film star Dean Jones who was in most Disney films during that time and a beautiful actress named Suzanne Pleshette.

I had not really discovered girls too much yet but she had an innocence that made her attractive to me.
I took further notice of her when later that year Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” came on TV and I saw that Pleshette was in that 1963 film.With sadness I must report that Suzanne Pleshette has taken her Final Taxi at 70 from lung cancer.

Born Jan. 31, 1937, in New York City, Pleshette began her career as a stage actress after attending the city’s High School of the Performing Arts and studying at its Neighborhood Playhouse. She was often picked for roles because of her beauty and her deep voice.

She met her future husband, Tom Poston, when they appeared together in the 1959 Broadway comedy “The Golden Fleecing,” and by 2000 both were widowed and they got back together, marrying the following year. (Poston took his Final Taxi in April 2007.)

Meanwhile, she had launched her film career with Jerry Lewis in 1958 in “The Geisha Boy.”

With her distinct, husky voice and dark good looks, directors and producers quickly took notice of the starlet and she racked up credits on the tube and silver screen. After appearing in a 1960 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the master of suspense hired her for a prime part in his hit 1963 horror film The Birds. Her performance as the frustrated school teacher in that film contains subtleties that are worth studying in acting class. She showed so much burning below the surface in her supporting role that the viewer can catch something new upon each new screening.

She also made her Broadway debut in 1961, taking over for Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan opposite Patty Duke as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.

During the next 10 years, she mostly plied her trade on the tube, appearing in episodes of Dr. Kildare, The Fugitive, The Invaders, Gunsmoke, Columbo and Bonanza. Her film credits included “Nevada Smith,” “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium,” “Fate is the Hunter,” “A Rage to Live,” “The Power,” “Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?,” “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” “The Shaggy DA” and “Oh God, Book 2.” Suzanne Pleshette appeared in nearly 130 films, TV shows and documentaries. She appeared on most of the notable TV shows from the 1950s to the present time. Her many TV credits range from “Have Gun, Will Travel” through “Will & Grace” & “8 Simple Rules.”

But it was her role as Emily Hartley, Newhart’s sarcastic, witty school teacher wife on CBS’ The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78), that brought Pleshette her greatest fame and earned her two Emmy nominations.

Pleshette reprised her role as Emily for the hilarious surprise ending of the funnyman’s followup sitcom, Newhart, in 1990. Newhart wakes up to find himself in his old sitcom prattling on about a dream he had running a cozy Vermont inn. Critics heralded the twist as one of the smartest finales of all time.

One of the last films she worked with was one of my favorite, both as a role for her and as one of my favorite films of all time. Voicing the animated character of Yubaba ( aka Granny) in Miyazaki’s Oscar winning “Spirited Away” won Suzanne Pleshette a special place in my heart.

Brady Bunch’s Sam the butcher – Allan Melvin

Being a fan of the Brady Bunch TV show, I remember watching as their maid, Alice, would go out on her off nights with Sam the butcher. Sam became a regular on the series.  When the TV show stopped we did see a few Brady Bunch movies where the girls all get married. In it we learn that Alice did land that man of her dreams. I often wondered what the marriage for that looked like. Would it have been in a bowling alley?

The actor who played Sam the butcher on the Brady Bunch was a jowly, happy actor named Allan Melvin.  Melvin played in over  130 different TV and movie production in his cast career.  He has taken that Final Taxi at the age of 84.

Allan Melvin  was born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in New York City Melvin attended Columbia University.  After graduation he served with the United States Navy and married his wife, Amalia, in 1943. ( They were still married after 64 years.)

While working at a job in the sound effects department of NBC Radio, he did a nightclub act and appeared and won on the Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts radio show. While appearing on Broadway in Stalag 17, he got his break into television by getting the role of Cpl. Henshaw on the popular “The Phil Silvers Show” program.  TV fans of this era usually best remember his role as Henshaw, Sergeant Bilko’s right hand man on that show. “

Blessed with the face of a bloodhound, Melvin was also known for decades for his second banana and sidekick roles on live-action sitcoms.

In the 1960s, Melvin played Staff Sergeant Charley Hacker for four seasons on “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” He also made appearances as Rob Petrie’s old Army buddy, Sol Pomerantz, on the “Dick Van Dyke Show.” Fans of “ The Andy Griffith Show” will remember Melvin  in eight guest appearances in eight different roles.

He was also Archie Bunker’s friend and neighbor Barney Hefner on All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place and for 15 years he played Al the Plumber in the Liquid-Plumr commercials. Other credits action credits include “Route 66,” “Perry Mason,” “Lost in Space,”  and “With Six You Get Eggroll.”

He also provided the voices of cartoon character “Magilla Gorilla”, the lion Drooper on “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour,”  Bluto and Wimpy on “The All-New Popeye Hou” and  Sgt. Snorkel in several “Beetle Baily” cartoons. Other voice credits include “The Smurfs,” “Scooby Doo,” “The Flintstones” and “Hong Kong Phooey.”

Allan Melvin probably was best known in live action for his role as Sam Franklin on The Brady Bunch from 1970 to 1973. Franklin, a butcher and bowler, was the boyfriend of Brady family maid Alice Nelson, who was played by Ann B. Davis.

“I’ve enjoyed the stuff I’ve done,” he told People magazine in 1996, “but the one you’re getting paid for, that’s what you enjoy most.”

Plan Nine’s Investor and Actor- Rev. Lemon

This must be the week for people tied to the campy classic film “Plan 9 From Outer Space” to take their Final Taxi. First was Vampira / Maila Nurma now I hear about the minister in the movie.

Reverend Lynn Lemon, 90, was one of the Baptist investors convinced by fellow pastor J. Edward Reynolds to bankroll director Ed Wood’s most infamous work.

As the director’s minister, Lemon was also one of a group of preachers and other church-related people who bankrolled Wood’s story and screenplay for Grave Robbers from Outer Space, (which became Plan Nine) intending for its profits to fund a proposed biopic of the early 20th-century evangelist Billy Sunday. Other feature films with Christian themes were planned after that.
As Lemon noted in interviews, it didn’t quite work out that way, and the backers never recovered their investment.

The investors lost their money. Rev. Lemon appeared in the film as the minister officiating Inspector Clay’s (Tor Johnson) funeral.

Rev. Lemon was portrayed by actor G.D. Spradlin in Tim Burton’s film “Ed Wood.”

Rev. Lemon also appeared in the 1973 film “Invasion of the Bee Girls” where he also played a minister at a funeral. This role came about by accident as Rev. Wood was working for the cemetery company in which filmmaker Denis Sanders wanted to film.

Lemon preached regularly into his late 80s, and during his later years, he enjoyed his notoriety as one of the last of the Plan 9 From Outer Space cast along side Maila Nurma who died earlier this week.

Wham-O’s toy inventor of the Frisbee and Hula Hoop – Richard Knerr

There was a group of us kids from the neighborhood that rode our bicycles all day long through the street of my small Alabama home town. We knew short-cut and could get anywhere. We loved our bikes. We all had the high handlebars with the banana seats. A few even had the wheelie bar on the back of the bike. This was a bar that attached to the rear tire and frame of the bike so you could ride around on the back tire. 

This wheelie bar was something kids my age loved and it was popular because of cartoon drawing we had seen called “Rat Fink.”  He was a hot-rod car that was a green, depraved-looking mouse with bulging, bloodshot eyes, an oversized mouth with yellowed, narrow teeth, and a red T-shirt with yellow “R.F.” on it. Rat Fink use the wheelie bar and so did we. The bicycle attachment was made by a popular toy company called Wham-o.

Wham-o has made many of the toys from my childhood besides the wheelie bar. The Superball, Slip ‘N Slide and Silly String are just a few. One of the most popular, of course, has the be the Frisbee.

The Wham-O toy company was started by Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, two college graduates unhappy with their employment, who began the company in a Los Angeles, California, garage in 1948.

It is Wham-O founder Richard Knerr who has taken that Final Taxi at the age of 82.

The two toymakers first market idea was a slingshot. The idea came up as the young men hurled meat into the air for the training of pet falcons and hawks. The slingshot was called Wham-O to resemble the sound of a target being hit. It stuck as the name of the company.

They branched into other sporting goods, including boomerangs and crossbows. When a friend told them in 1958 about a large ring used for exercise in Australia, they devised their own version and called it the Hula Hoop. Before  they knew it the toy had created one the biggest fads in history. 25 million were sold in less than four months, and in two years sales reached more than 100 million units. By the end of 1959, after US$45 million in profits, the  Hula Hoop fad slowly was dying out.

Around the same time, they bought the rights to a plastic flying disc invented by Walter ”Fred” Morrison, who called it the Pluto Platter.  Wham-O bought the rights and renamed it the Frisbee and sales took off in 1959.

In the early 1960s, they created the Super Ball®. It was made of a relatively hard elastomer alloy dubbed Zectron®, exhibiting a remarkable 0.92 coefficient of restitution when bounced on hard surfaces. They sold some 20 million of them during the 1960s.

Knerr had other products that tried to take advantage of existing national trends. In the 1960s, Wham-O came out with a US$119 do-it-yourself bomb shelter. In 1962, they sold a limbo dance kit to take advantage of that fad, and in 1975 when the movie Jaws was released, they sold plastic shark teeth.

Of course for me my favorite thing Wham-O made as a comic book. This one was one you could share with others. Most comic were so small only you could look at it, but with Wham-O Giant Comics you could lay in a floor and spread this 3 foot tall book across the living room floor. The art was great and stories were well written.

Other products invented by Richard Knerr included: The Hacky Sack, Super Elastic Bubble Plastic, Magic Sand, Boomerang, Water Wiggle, and so much more.

Horror Film Hostess Vampira – Maila Nurma

If you have ever saw Ed Wood’s camp classic Plan 9 from Outer Space then you may have remember a ghoulish vampire looking girl running around the graveyard scenes. That character was called Vampira who was a popular television horror host in the 1950s. She was played by actress Maila Nurma who has taken her Final Taxi at the age of 86.

Born Maila Syrjäniemi in 1921, Nurma moved to Ashtabula, Ohio with her family when she was two . Arriving in Los Angeles at age 17, she modeled for a while then gaining a foothold in the film industry with an uncredited role in Victor Saville’s 1947 film, If Winter Comes. Like many struggling actresses in the 1950s, Nurmi (along with Julie Newmar, Tina Louise, et al.) posed for pin-up photos in dozens of men’s magazines such as Famous Models, Gala and Glamorous Models. Nurmi was friends with Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and briefly dated Orson Welles.

The idea for her Vampira character was born in 1953 when Nurmi attended a masquerade ball in a costume inspired by a character in The New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams. ( Yes- this was Morticia from the Addams Family.) Her appearance with pale white skin and tight black dress caught the attention of television producer for KABC-TV. The name Vampira was the invention of Nurmi’s husband, Dean Riesner, screenwriter of Dirty Harry, Charley Varrick, Play Misty For Me and numerous other movies and TV episodes.On Friday night, April 30, 1954, KABC-TV aired a preview, Dig Me Later, Vampira, at 11:00 p.m. The Vampira Show premiered on the following night, May 1, 1954. For the first four weeks, the show aired at midnight, moving to 11:00 p.m. on May 29. Ten months later, the series aired at 10:30 p.m., beginning March 5, 1955. As Vampira, Nurmi introduced films while wandering through a hallway of mist and cobwebs. Her horror-related comedy antics included talking to her pet spider Rollo, and encouraging viewers to write for epitaphs instead of autographs. When the series was cancelled in 1955, she retained rights to the character of Vampira and took the show to KHJ-TV 9.
Nurmi made television history as the first horror movie hostess. In the years that followed, Universal Studios released a syndicated package of 52 horror classics under the program title Shock Theater. Independent stations in major cities all over the U.S. began showing these films, adding their own ghoulish host or hostess (including Vampira II and other lookalikes) to attract more viewers.Nominated for an Emmy Award as “Most Outstanding Female Personality” in 1954, she returned to films with 1955’s Too Much, Too Soon, followed by The Big Operator and The Beat Generation. Her most notable film appearance was in Ed Wood’s camp classic, Plan 9 from Outer Space, as a Vampira-like zombie ( 1959). In 1960, she appeared in I Passed for White and Sex Kittens Go to College, followed by the 1962 film, The Magic Sword.In the 1980s, Nurmi was asked by KHJ-TV to revive her Vampira character for television. She worked closely with the producers of the new show and was to get an executive producer credit, but Nurmi eventually declined their proposal. KHJ-TV continued with the show and changed the name of their character to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Later, Nurmi sued Cassandra Peterson, the actress who played Elvira. The case was dismissed when Nurmi was unable to pay for legal expenses. In 1994, Maila Nurmi was portrayed by actress-model Lisa Marie in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.

Until her death, Nurmi lived with her pets in a small North Hollywood apartment. Unlike Elvira, Nurmi authorized very few merchandising contracts for her Vampira character, though the name and likeness has been used unofficially by various companies since the 1950s.

Crematorium Saving Fuel By Making “Body Heat”

A crematorium near Manchester, England, has introduced the idea of using heat produced by burning bodies to keep mourners warm.

Tameside Council officials are planning to use heat generated from cremating bodies to keep people warm at Dukinfield Crematorium, the Daily Mail reported Monday.

The council said the plan would reduce its carbon footprint by capturing and reusing the energy.

The heat generated could be enough to power the boiler and light the chapel. The idea has already been given the green light by a few locals.

“I have no problem with it,” said Rev Tim Hayes of St John’s Church.
“They treat people with real dignity at the crematorium, but the procedure itself is a very scientific process. I’ll be very interested to see how the plans unfold.”

The Rev. Dr. Vernon Marshall of Old Chapel called it a “final act of generosity” that is “a lovely way for the dead to provide comfort for the living at a difficult time.”