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  1. Top News Stories

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    • Revisit the Set of THE GREAT ESCAPE in New Documentary on DVD & Digital HD August 21

    • From filmmaker and film historian Chris Espenan comes The Coolest Guy Movie Ever--a fascinating forensic documentary about the making of the classic World War II adventure film The Great Escape--to DVD and digital HD from Virgil Films on August 21, 2018, after a special screening earlier this year at Marché du film in Cannes.

      Before Evans, Hemsworth, and Downey Jr. there was McQueen, Garner, and Bronson. These men represented what it meant to be tough guys in the 1960s, and they had the acting chops to play the toughest characters around--including the real life airmen who pulled off one of the most improbable escapes in war history.

      The filming locations of the enormously popular World War II adventure The Great Escape have become enshrined over the years by film buffs and historians alike, forever changing the landscape of the small German towns that once played host to these Hollywood heavyweights. Now for the first time, Filmmaker Chris Espenan set out to visit all of the locations in Germany where the 1963 film was made, while compiling facts, behind-the-scenes stories, and inside information on how the film was produced.

      From visiting Geisel Gastag Studios in Munich to the Bavarian town of Füssen, Espenan assembled a unique team of cameramen, historians, film buffs, and local experts who painstakingly found the exact spots where actors Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, David McCallum, and others toiled in the summer of 1962.

      Uncovering treasures such as footage from a German television news shoot--which included a rare interview on the set with Steve McQueen--to getting first person interviews from the locals who were there during filming, The Coolest Guy Movie Ever is a true labor of love, fashioned by filmmakers who exult The Great Escape as one of the most memorable World War II movies ever made, featuring one of the greatest casts ever assembled, and for many, indeed, The Coolest Guy Movie Ever.

      "The Great Escape is my favorite film of all time," said Producer Steve Rubin. "It is the first film I started researching for my book 'Combat Films 1945-2010', the subject of my 1993 documentary Return to The Great Escape, and the reason I was nominated for Best Classic Commentary in 2004 for The Great Escape: Special Edition. When filmmaker Chris Espenan came to me with the idea for The Coolest Guy Movie Ever, I literally dropped everything to help him."

      Executive Producer and Virgil Films CEO Joe Amodei echoed Rubin's sentiments when he said "As a young boy exploring the big wide world of motion pictures for the first time The Great Escape excited me, thrilled me and cemented a love for movies that has stayed with me forever. This is the film that started it all."


      About Virgil Films - Virgil Films & Entertainment was founded in 2003 by Joe Amodei to acquire, market and distribute DVD, TV and Digital Product in the feature film, documentary, special interest and sports categories. The company has built partnerships with OWN, Sundance Channel Home Entertainment, National Geographic Cinema Ventures, Pure Flix Entertainment, Major League Baseball Productions, Morgan Spurlock's Warrior Poets and other high-profile entertainment brands since their inception. Releases from Virgil Films include the Oscar-nominated documentary Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me; the award-winning documentary Miss Representation; the critically acclaimed, timeless, best-selling Forks Over Knives; and the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo and its sequel Korengal. They have also released the compelling Facing Darkness, I Am Chris Farley, I Am Heath Ledger, Blood on the Mountain, Legends of the Knight, The Winding Stream and others. Follow them on twitter: @virgilfilms
      www.VirgilFilms.com

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  1. New Books

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    • Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World


    • By Sloan De Forest

      Spanning nine decades and branded by the most trusted authority on film, Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-Fi showcases 50 of the most shocking, weird, wonderful, and mind-bending movies ever made.

      From A Trip to the Moon (1902) to Arrival (2016), science fiction cinema has produced a body of classics with a broader range of styles, stories, and subject matter than perhaps any other film genre. They are movies that embed themselves in the depths of the mind, coloring our view of day-to-day reality and probably fueling a few dreams (and nightmares) along the way.

      In Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-Fi, fifty unforgettable films are profiled, including beloved favorites like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Fantastic Voyage (1966), groundbreaking shockers like Planet of the Apes (1968) and Alien (1979), and lesser-known landmarks like Things to Come (1936) and Solaris (1972). Illustrated by astounding color and black-and-white images, the book presents the best of this mind-bending genre, detailing through insightful commentary and behind-the-scenes stories why each film remains essential viewing. A perfect gift for any film buff or sci-fi fanatic!


      Sloan De Forest is a writer, actor, and film historian who has written about film for Sony, Time Warner Cable, the Mary Pickford Foundation, and Bright Lights Film Journal. She has contributed essays to the books Natalie Wood: Reflections on a Legendary Life by Manoah Bowman and Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl by Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman. She lives in Hollywood-mentally, spiritually, and geographically.

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    • Hooked on Hollywood: Discoveries from a Lifetime of Film Fandom


    • by Leonard Maltin

      Leonard Maltin is one of the world's most respected film critics and historians. From his thirty-year tenure on the hit TV show Entertainment Tonight to his annual paperback reference work Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (and its companion volume, Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide), Maltin stands without equal as a thought leader on Hollywood's past and present.

      On July 2, 2018, Maltin - a New York Times bestselling author several times over with over 7 millions books sold - will release a gorgeously produced 400-plus page trade paperback, HOOKED ON HOLLYWOOD: Discoveries from a Lifetime of Film Fandom. This newest work of Maltin's will be released by GoodKnight Books, an award-winning boutique American publisher, which in recent years has become well-known for their expertly curated catalog of biographies and non-fiction books about Hollywood's Golden Era (including the 2016 bestseller, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe by Robert Matzen).

      In HOOKED ON HOLLYWOOD, Maltin opens up his vast and illustrious personal archive to take readers on a fascinating journey through film history. A pioneer of "self-publishing," Maltin began interviewing greats of Hollywood as a precocious teenager in 1960s New York City. At only thirteen-years-old he became a regular contributor to the magazines Film Fan Monthly and The 8mm Collector (known today as Classic Images), as well as publishing his own humble journal called Profile - "literally cranked out by a mimeograph machine," he reveals. He has since gone on to enjoy a prolific freelance writing career with regular bylines in publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Smithsonian, and Playboy magazine (where he served as film critic for six years).

      Featuring over 200 rare photos and a veritable treasure trove of never-before-seen material, HOOKED ON HOLLYWOOD is divided into four key sections:

      "Hollywood Featurettes" - key feature articles from Maltin's Movie Crazy newsletter are shared for the first time, providing new perspectives on such topics as the masterful soundtrack subtleties of Casablanca and Hollywood's long standing love affair with remakes.

      "Early Interviews" - which shines the spotlight on teenaged Maltin's interactions with movie stars, directors, and movers and shakers in Hollywood's Golden Age, including Warner Bros. sexy, wise-cracking pre-Code siren Joan Blondell, Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Burgess Meredith, early screen heartthrob George O'Brien, and Cecil B. DeMille's right-hand-man Henry Wilcoxon, among others.

      "Later In-Depth Interviews" - where Maltin shares first-hand stories of working with Orson Welles, how Buster Keaton forged a new career for himself in the television era, and what life was like under Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, Harry Cohn, and other titans of Tinseltown through seven carefully selected conversation transcripts with some of Hollywood's most significant behind-the-scenes players.

      "The Forgotten Studio" - an eye-opening look at RKO Radio Pictures, which gave us such classics as King Kong and the many dance musicals of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

      Leonard Maltin's love of movies and vast knowledge of their history shines through from HOOKED ON HOLLYWOOD's first page to the last, which is sure to prove as wildly entertaining to readers as it does deeply informative to future film scholars.


      Leonard Maltin is one of the world's most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely used reference work, Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide, as well as his thirty-year run on television's Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, appears regularly on Turner Classic Movies, and hosts the weekly podcast Maltin on Movies for the Nerdist network with his daughter Jessie. His books include The 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, votes for films to be selected for the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He is the recipient of awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, George Eastman House, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego's Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park (or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?)

      He holds court at www.leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter (@LeonardMaltin) and Facebook (/LeonardMaltin).

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    • Herbert Marshall - A Biography


    • by Scott O'Brien

      Herbert Marshall - A Biography (BearManor, 2018) details the unique twists and turns in the career of a man who reluctantly became an actor. "My father was responsible for making me dread the theater," he admitted. After being sacked as an office boy for a London accountant, Bart Marshall (as friends called him) finally followed in his father's footsteps. That is, until King and Country stepped in during WWI. "I was a Lady from Hell," he mused years later. "The London Scottish, a kilted infantry regiment." On the Western Front, shrapnel destroyed Bart's knee. His leg was amputated. What Marshall brought to the screen was rooted in the unforeseen consequences of this traumatic war injury.

      Film historian/author Kevin Brownlow (who wrote the book's Foreword) notes how Marshall played subtlety with audiences emotions. Norma Shearer rhapsodized, "The first time I ever saw Mr. Marshall on screen ... I thought I had never seen a lady so thoroughly and convincingly loved." Her sentiments were echoed by Garbo, Dietrich, Colbert, Stanwyck, Crawford, Bette Davis--all clamoring for his service as leading man. Off-screen, Bart was seduced into a scandalous affair with Gloria Swanson. Marshall's forte, as director Edmund Goulding pointed out, was having "the most seductive voice on the screen." Marshall could coax moonlight into champagne for the Lubitsch classic Trouble in Paradise (1932). He was equally adept at stripping away one's sense of security, playing the menace in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940).

      Not to be overlooked is Marshall's dedication helping hundreds of amputees and vets during WWII. He was more candid about himself in these situations, and made a tremendous hit with the men. While Marshall cast his spell on moviegoers, he was adamant about one thing. "I am not a gentleman," he insisted. "To me the term implies artificiality--a studied pose, and I'm damned if I'm artificial!" As the late Robert Osborne aptly stated, "Marshall's personal story is a fascinating one."


      Scott O'Brien's biographies on Kay Francis, Virginia Bruce, Ann Harding, Ruth Chatterton, George Brent and Sylvia Sidney made the "Best of the Year" category in various publications. Herbert Marshall - A Biography is illustrated with 170 photos from the actor's private life and professional career.

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    • Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero


    • By Nancy Schoenberger

      For over twenty years John Ford and John Wayne were a blockbuster Hollywood team, turning out many of the finest Western films ever made. Their most productive years saw the release of one iconic film after another: Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. But by 1960, the bond of their friendship had frayed, and Wayne felt he could move beyond his mentor with his first solo project, The Alamo. Few of Wayne's following films would have the brilliance or the cachet of a John Ford Western but, taken collectively, the careers of these two men changed movie making in ways that endure to this day. Drawing on previously untapped caches of letters and personal documents, Nancy Schoenberger dramatically narrates a complicated, poignant, and iconic friendship, and the lasting legacy of that friendship on American culture.


      Nancy Schoenberger is a professor of English and creative writing at the College of William and Mary. She is the author of Dangerous Muse: The Life of Lady Caroline Blackwood, and coauthor with her husband, Sam Kashner, of books on Oscar Levant, George Reeves, and the relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. She lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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  1. DVD Reviews

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    • Dick Dinman & George Feltenstein are GUN CRAZY!

    • DICK DINMAN & GEORGE FELTENSTEIN ARE "GUN CRAZY!": Producer/host Dick Dinman and Warner Home Video's Sr. V.P. of Classic & Theatrical Marketing George Feltenstein salute the Blu-ray debut of the certifiable noir masterwork GUN CRAZY as well as the Blu-ray debuts of LES GIRLS (Gene Kelly's final MGM dance delight), Sergio Leone's spectacular THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES and two drastically different Vincente Minnelli CinemaScope and color triumphs: the delightful comedy DESIGNING WOMAN and the intensely dramatic TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & George Feltenstein Salute 7 BRIDES FOR 7 BROTHERS Blu-ray Debut!

    • DICK DINMAN & GEORGE FELTENSTEIN SALUTE "7 BRIDES FOR 7 BROTHERS" BLU-RAY DEBUT!: For more than a decade passionate fans of the joyous Oscar-winning once-in-a-lifetime musical classic 7 BRIDES FOR 7 BROTHERS have been waiting for the day when this incomparably original and unique certified masterwork would make it's debut on 1080p Blu-ray. Well, fans, that day has finally arrived and your producer/host Dick Dinman and his frequent guest Warner Home Video Sr. V.P. of Classic & Theatrical Marketing George Feltenstein celebrate this momentous occasion while George explains the herculean challenges and obstacles he and his dedicated staff faced in ultimately bringing this happiest of all cinema classics to Blu-ray fruition.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman Salutes the Scott/Boetticher Blu-ray Collection!

    • DICK DINMAN SALUTES THE SCOTT/BOETTICHER BLU-RAY COLLECTION: British home video label Indicator/Powerhouse has just released FIVE TALL TALES: BUDD BOETTICHER & RANDOLPH SCOTT AT COLUMBIA BLU-RAY COLLECTION and to celebrate this long-awaited occasion legendary western star Randolph Scott is saluted along with the director of seven of Scott's finest cinema classics Budd Boetticher. Dick Dinman's guests are Michael Dante who costarred with Scott in a Boetticher directed western and has some great stories to tell, as well as Senior Vice President In Charge Of Restoration for Sony Pictures Entertainment Grover Crisp who describes the arduous and time-consuming process it took to bring the Scott-Boetticher cinema milestones to home video.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & Bob Furmanek Survive the Horror of the 3D MAZE!


    • DICK DINMAN & BOB FURMANEK SURVIVE THE HORROR OF THE 3D "MAZE"!: With their amazingly immersive 4K 3D Blu-ray release of the terror-filled chiller THE MAZE (distributed by Kino Lorber Entertainment) the 3D Film Archive continues their acclaimed tradition of painstakingly restoring the original 50's 3D classics to their visual sensation-inducing brilliance and to celebrate the occasion the 3D Film Archive's head honcho Robert Furmanek rejoins producer/host Dick Dinman with his account of the challenges inherent in restoring not only 3D picture but 3 Channel Stereo Sound to this much requested creep-fest.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & Eddie Muller Dispense a Double Dose of Dana!

    • DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER DISPENSE A DOUBLE DOSE OF DANA: The Warner Archive has just released on Blu-ray legendary director Fritz Lang's last two American-made edge-of-your-seat thrillers WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS and BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT in their original wide screen SuperScope incarnations and popular film noir author and TCM host Eddie Muller rejoins producer/host Dick Dinman as they both salute the unjustly underrated star of both films, Dana Andrews.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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  1. Press Release

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    • Revisit the Set of THE GREAT ESCAPE in New Documentary on DVD & Digital HD August 21

    • From filmmaker and film historian Chris Espenan comes The Coolest Guy Movie Ever--a fascinating forensic documentary about the making of the classic World War II adventure film The Great Escape--to DVD and digital HD from Virgil Films on August 21, 2018, after a special screening earlier this year at Marché du film in Cannes.

      Before Evans, Hemsworth, and Downey Jr. there was McQueen, Garner, and Bronson. These men represented what it meant to be tough guys in the 1960s, and they had the acting chops to play the toughest characters around--including the real life airmen who pulled off one of the most improbable escapes in war history.

      The filming locations of the enormously popular World War II adventure The Great Escape have become enshrined over the years by film buffs and historians alike, forever changing the landscape of the small German towns that once played host to these Hollywood heavyweights. Now for the first time, Filmmaker Chris Espenan set out to visit all of the locations in Germany where the 1963 film was made, while compiling facts, behind-the-scenes stories, and inside information on how the film was produced.

      From visiting Geisel Gastag Studios in Munich to the Bavarian town of Füssen, Espenan assembled a unique team of cameramen, historians, film buffs, and local experts who painstakingly found the exact spots where actors Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, David McCallum, and others toiled in the summer of 1962.

      Uncovering treasures such as footage from a German television news shoot--which included a rare interview on the set with Steve McQueen--to getting first person interviews from the locals who were there during filming, The Coolest Guy Movie Ever is a true labor of love, fashioned by filmmakers who exult The Great Escape as one of the most memorable World War II movies ever made, featuring one of the greatest casts ever assembled, and for many, indeed, The Coolest Guy Movie Ever.

      "The Great Escape is my favorite film of all time," said Producer Steve Rubin. "It is the first film I started researching for my book 'Combat Films 1945-2010', the subject of my 1993 documentary Return to The Great Escape, and the reason I was nominated for Best Classic Commentary in 2004 for The Great Escape: Special Edition. When filmmaker Chris Espenan came to me with the idea for The Coolest Guy Movie Ever, I literally dropped everything to help him."

      Executive Producer and Virgil Films CEO Joe Amodei echoed Rubin's sentiments when he said "As a young boy exploring the big wide world of motion pictures for the first time The Great Escape excited me, thrilled me and cemented a love for movies that has stayed with me forever. This is the film that started it all."


      About Virgil Films - Virgil Films & Entertainment was founded in 2003 by Joe Amodei to acquire, market and distribute DVD, TV and Digital Product in the feature film, documentary, special interest and sports categories. The company has built partnerships with OWN, Sundance Channel Home Entertainment, National Geographic Cinema Ventures, Pure Flix Entertainment, Major League Baseball Productions, Morgan Spurlock's Warrior Poets and other high-profile entertainment brands since their inception. Releases from Virgil Films include the Oscar-nominated documentary Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me; the award-winning documentary Miss Representation; the critically acclaimed, timeless, best-selling Forks Over Knives; and the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo and its sequel Korengal. They have also released the compelling Facing Darkness, I Am Chris Farley, I Am Heath Ledger, Blood on the Mountain, Legends of the Knight, The Winding Stream and others. Follow them on twitter: @virgilfilms
      www.VirgilFilms.com

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    • Web Reviewer Glenn Erickson Launches 'CineSavant'


    • Web reviewer Glenn Erickson, aka 'DVD Savant' has established a new home under a new identity, 'CineSavant.' Reviewing independently since 1998, the Savant database has grown to over five thousand reviews and articles, and become one of the most respected and sought-out review pages on the web for news and opinions about classic films on disc. Readership boomed when the page Trailers from Hell picked up Glenn's reviews as featured content in 2015.

      A varied background helps add perspective to Glenn's reviews; from the UCLA Film School he worked in special effects, and then moved on to TV commercial work, and trailers for The Cannon Group. A long stint with MGM/UA Home Video led to editing large-scale DVD extras and other special projects. He began writing for the web in 1997 as 'MGM Video Savant.' Working with the film curators at MGM, Glenn helped detect and produced the restoration of the original ending of the film noir classic Kiss Me Deadly. Glenn has published two books of reviews, and has been writing and researching for TCM since 2004.

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    • TCM Remembers Neil Simon (1927-2018)

    • Turner Classic Movies pays tribute to Neil Simon on Friday, September 14 with the following festival of films. This program will replace the previously scheduled movies for that night so please take note.

      The new schedule for Friday, September 14 will be:
      8:00pm - The Odd Couple (1968)
      10:00pm - The Goodbye Girl (1977)
      12:00am - Lost in Yonkers (1993)



      Neil Simon passed away on Sunday, August 26 in New York City at the age of 91.

      A staff writer on the signature comedy series of television's infancy, "Your Show of Shows" (NBC, 1950-54), Neil Simon went on to establish himself as one of Broadway's most prolific and consistent hit makers. Over the course of four decades, a Simon play or musical opened most seasons on Broadway and were often turned into major motion pictures within a couple of years, including "Barefoot in the Park" (1967), "The Out-of-Towners" (1969), "The Sunshine Boys" (1975) and "California Suite" (1978). Simon also wrote his share of original screenplays, such as the mystery spoof "Murder By Death" (1976) and the charming romantic comedy "Seems Like Old Times" (1980), though it was largely his stage work that earned him his reputation. Perhaps his most enduring creation was "The Odd Couple," which was a play in 1965, a film in 1968 and a television show that ran five seasons starting in 1970, while over the decades popping up in other incarnations. In the 1980s, Simon began a series of semi-autobiographical coming-of-age plays focused on his alleged alter-ego, Eugene Jerome. Dubbed the Eugene Trilogy, the plays consisted of "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (1983), "Biloxi Blues" (1985) and "Broadway Bound" (1986), with the former two being turned into mildly successful feature films. After years as an unbridled hit maker, Simon earned the overwhelming respect of critics with "Lost in Yonkers" (1991), which earned him a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for drama. Though his success tapered off in his later years, Simon remained the most important playwright of the latter-half of the 20th century.

      Born on July 4, 1927 in The Bronx, NY, Simon was raised in Depression-era Washington Heights in northern Manhattan by his father, Irving, a garment salesman, and his mother, Mamie. Because his parents were engaged in a rocky relationship that often threatened to break apart, Simon and his older brother, Danny, were sent to live with one group of relatives or another. His father often left the family for long periods of time, leaving their mother to fend for herself until his return. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School when he was 16, Simon attended New York University, where he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force Reserve during the waning days of World War II, which led to an assignment at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, CO, where, as a corporal, he began writing for the USAF sports paper, the Rev-Meter. Following a short stint at the University of Denver, Simon moved back to New York, where he spent two years working in the mailroom of the East Coast Warner Bros. offices before quitting to write radio and television scripts with his brother, Danny.

      Simon and his brother managed to wrangle an interview with radio comic, Goodman Ace, who hired the sketch writing duo for $200 a week after reading just one of their jokes. Simon partnered with his brother for the next nine years, with the two writing for such radio programs as "The Robert Q. Lewis Show." They soon moved on to television to write for the day's biggest shows, including "The Red Buttons Show" (CBS/NBC, 1952-55), "The Phil Rivers Show" (CBS, 1955-59), and "Your Show of Shows" (NBC, 1950-54), which starred Sid Caesar and featured perhaps the best group of comics ever assembled: Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart. Following his entrée into the theater world with the Broadway revue, "Catch a Star" (1955), which he collaborated on with Danny, he became a staff writer on the sitcom, "Stanley" (NBC, 1956-57), which starred Buddy Hackett as the slovenly proprietor of a hotel lobby newsstand. Eventually, Simon struck out on his own when he wrote his first play, "Come Blow Your Horn" (1961), which told the story of a young man who yearns to leave his parents' home to live at his brother's swinging bachelor pad.

      "Come Blow Your Horn" opened on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where it ran for two years and became a big hit. Simon followed with "Little Me" (1962), which, while not as well-received as his first play, still earned the playwright his first Tony Award nomination. After "Come Blow Your Horn" was adapted in 1963 into a feature film starring Frank Sinatra, Simon had one of the biggest stage hits of his career with "Barefoot in the Park" (1963), a lighthearted comedy focusing on the marriage between a buttoned-down lawyer husband and his free-spirited wife that played on Broadway for over 1,500 performances, making it one of the longest-running non-musicals in the history of the Great White Way. The play was turned into a successful 1967 film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Meanwhile, his brother had gone through a divorce and was living with another divorced man, which sparked the idea for what eventually became "The Odd Couple" (1965). After several attempts to write the idea, Danny threw the idea over to Simon, who turned the comedy about a freakishly neat newspaper writer thrown out by his wife and forced to move in with a slovenly sportswriter into a Broadway smash that ran for over 900 performances and earned several Tony Awards, including Best Play.

      As with many of Simon's plays, "The Odd Couple" was adapted for the big screen in 1968, and starred Jack Lemmon as the fastidious Felix Unger and Walter Matthau, reprising his original Broadway role, as the slob Oscar Madison. Possibly one of the best feature adaptations of his stage work, the highly successful movie earned several award nominations, including Simon's first for an Academy Award. During this time, he churned out stage plays like "The Star-Spangled Girl" (1966), "Plaza Suite" (1968) and "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" (1969), which continued his string of critical and financial hits. The following year, "The Odd Couple" was spun off to the small screen, where it spent five seasons on ABC with Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar. Meanwhile, he wrote the play to perhaps his second-best remembered stage production, "The Sunshine Boys" (1972), which focused on two aging vaudevillians forced back together after growing to hate each other for a television reunion. Following another Tony Award win for Best Play, the production was adapted into a critically acclaimed 1975 film starring Walter Matthau and George Burns; the latter of whom won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

      With his career at an all-time high, there seemed to be nothing that could bring Simon down. But in 1973, his wife of 20 years, Joan Baim, died after a prolonged battle with cancer. The agonizing 15 months of watching his wife slowly slip away left the playwright empty and devastated. Four months later, however, Simon shocked friends and colleagues when he married actress Marsha Mason following a brief courtship. He continued writing successful plays like "The Good Doctor" (1973), "California Suite" (1976) and "Chapter Two" (1977) while scripting original screenplays like "Murder By Death" (1976), a spoof on whodunit mysteries that featured Truman Capote as a wealthy recluse named Lionel Twain, who lures top private detectives (an all-star cast of Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, David Niven, Maggie Smith and James Coco) to his secluded mansion to solve a murder that's about to be committed. He next wrote the original screenplay for "The Goodbye Girl" (1977), an adult romantic comedy about a divorced mother and ex-Broadway dancer (Marsha Mason) engaged in a romance with an arrogant actor (Richard Dreyfuss) whose career is nearly ruined by a myopic director (Paul Benedict). Dreyfuss went on to win the Best Actor Oscar for his winning, wacky performance.

      Returning to adaptations of his own work, Simon wrote the scripts for the screen treatments of "California Suite" (1978) and "Chapter Two" (1979), while writing the script for the comedy spoof "The Cheap Detective" (1978), starring Peter Falk, the book for the musical "They're Playing Our Song" (1979), and the stage play for "I Ought to Be in Pictures" (1980), which he turned into a feature starring Walter Matthau and Ann-Margaret in 1982. Simon next wrote the original screenplay for the feature comedy, "Seems Like Old Times" (1980), which starred Chevy Chase as a down-on-his-luck writer who seeks refuge from a pair of bank robbers at the home of his ex-wife (Goldie Hawn), only to run afoul of her new stuffed-shirt husband (Charles Grodin). Following his lighthearted romantic comedy, "Fools" (1981), which was directed for Broadway by longtime collaborator Mike Nichols, Simon adapted his play "The Gingerbread Lady" (1970) into the film "Only When I Laugh" (1981), which again starred wife Marsha Mason. Simon next wrote the play to "Brighton Beach Memoires" (1983), a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age comedy about a young Jewish teenager who experiences puberty and has a sexual awakening while trying to deal with his struggling family. The play was turned into a mildly popular film in 1986 starring Jonathan Silverman as Simon's alter-ego, Eugene Jerome.

      Simon returned to the stage with the more popular "Biloxi Blues" (1985), the second installment to what became known as the Eugene Trilogy. This time, the young Jewish kid from Brooklyn enlists in the Army and is sent to Biloxi, MS for basic training, where he falls in love, loses his virginity and runs afoul of an offbeat drill sergeant. In 1988, the play was adapted into a well-received film starring Matthew Broderick as Eugene and Christopher Walken as Sgt. Toomey. In 1983, Simon suffered another personal setback - albeit one not as tragic as losing Joan - when he divorced actress Marsha Mason following 10 years of marriage. Despite the split, the two remained friends and continued working together. Meanwhile, he reimagined "The Odd Couple" as "The Female Odd Couple" (1985), which was staged on Broadway with Sally Struthers and Rita Moreno in the leads. Simon rounded out his Eugene Trilogy with "Broadway Bound" (1986), which followed Eugene and his brother Stanley - obvious doubles for Simon and his own brother Danny - as they try to make it as comedy writers on radio and television. Unlike the previous two installments, however, "Broadway Bound" was not immediately adapted into a feature film or even television movie - the rare Simon play not to make such a transformation.

      During this time, Simon remarried once again, this time to Diane Lander, a former employee at the Beverly Hills department store, Neiman Marcus. Their relationship proved to be a rocky one, ending in divorce in 1988 following 18 months of marriage, only to reunite in early 1990. Though they again filed for divorce two years later, the couple reconciled until finally splitting for good in 1998. Though asked on several occasions, Simon had been remiss to talk about his relationship with her; even going so far as to not draw from their experiences in his work - a shock given his mining of all other areas of his life. Meanwhile, he wrote the farce "Rumors" (1988) for the stage before achieving massive popular and critical success with "Lost in Yonkers" (1991), a coming-of-age drama about two brothers left in the care of their intimidating grandmother who also houses the mentally deficient, but good-hearted Aunt Bella (Mercedes Ruehl). Simon's difficult tale of family dysfunction won several awards, including a Tony for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. After returning to the world of "Your Show of Shows" for a Broadway production of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" (1993), he cited the high cost of producing plays on the Great White Way, controversially insisting that "London Suite" (1994) be produced off-Broadway.

      After penning a television version of his 1992 play "Jake's Women" (CBS, 1996), Simon wrote his 30th stage production, "Proposals" (1997), which opened on Broadway, but quickly closed, proving to be one of his least successful stage efforts. On the flip side, a revival of "The Sunshine Boys" enjoyed a much longer run thanks to the popularity of stars Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. Meanwhile, Simon's feature output fell off following the box-office failure of "The Marrying Man" (1991) and "Neil Simon's 'Lost in Yonkers'" (1993), causing the writer to turn to the small screen with "Neil Simon's 'London Suite'" (NBC, 1996), with a cast that included Kelsey Grammer, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Richard Mulligan, and a misguided "The Sunshine Boys" (CBS, 1997), which was filmed in 1995 with Peter Falk and Woody Allen. His return to the big screen with the sequel "The Odd Couple II" (1998) sank at the box office despite the presence of the original actors, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Later that year, a remake of "The-Out-of-Towners" (1998), starred Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn in the roles originated in 1970 by Lemmon and Sandy Dennis.

      Turning to the publishing world, Simon wrote his memoirs in two parts, starting with Neil Simon Writes: A Memoir (1996); he followed with part two a few years later, Neil Simon The Play Goes On: A Memoir (1999). In his later years, Simon's stage work also began taking a hit with critics, though he found mild success with "The Dinner Party" (2000), starring John Ritter and Henry Winkler. After "45 Seconds from Broadway" (2001), which lasted just a few months, he revamped his two most famous characters for "Oscar and Felix: A New Look at the Odd Couple" (2002), which starred John Larroquette as Oscar and Joe Regalbuto as Felix, followed by his staging of "Rose's Dilemma" (2003) off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Also later in his career, his plays found new life on television with "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" (Showtime, 2001) and "The Goodbye Girl" (TNT, 2004) being adapted for the small screen.

      (Biographical data courtesy of TCMDb)

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    • Vic Damone (1928-2018)

    • Vic Damone, the legendary singer who came up in the big band era and saw his popularity as a crooner develop into a long career as a recording artist, nightclub entertainer, actor and radio-TV presenter, died February 11, 2018 in Miami Beach, FL at the age of 89.

      No less a figure than Frank Sinatra once proclaimed singer Vic Damone as possessing the "best pipes in the business," which he parlayed into a popular recording career in the late 1940s and 1950s with such hits as "You're Breaking My Heart," "Again" and "My Heart Cries for You," among many other lush romantic ballads. Damone also enjoyed a secondary career as an actor, largely as lovestruck youth in such Hollywood musicals as Deep in My Heart (1954) and Kismet (1955). Like many pop crooners, Damone was unmoored by the rise of rock-n-roll in the early 1960s, though he segued successfully into the casino circuit in the 1970s, where he remained active and in fine voice until his retirement following a stroke in 2001. Though never a cultural institution like Sinatra or Nat "King" Cole, Vic Damone's rich baritone provided him with a slew of hits in the 1950s and a career on stage that compared with and even outlasted many of his contemporaries.

      Born Vito Rocco Farinola on June 12, 1928 in Brooklyn, NY, Vic Damone was one of five children and the only son of electrician Rocco Farinola and his wife, Mamie Damone, both of whom were immigrants who hailed from Sicily. Music was an important component of Damone's life from an early age; his mother taught piano, while his father played guitar. However, he drew his greatest inspiration from Frank Sinatra, whose meteoric rise to pop stardom inspired the younger man to take singing lessons. These were cut short when his father suffered a serious injury in a work accident, prompting Damone to drop out of school and work as an usher and elevator operator at the Paramount Theater in Manhattan. While bringing Perry Como to his dressing room following a performance at the theater, Damone asked the singer if he would hear him sing in order to judge if he had talent. His rendition of "There Must Be a Way" impressed Como, who referred Damone to a local bandleader. After adopting the stage moniker of Vic Damone, he made his professional debut as a singer in early 1947 with a performance on WHN radio in New York shortly before capturing first place on "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" in April of that year. This in turn led to regular appearances on the Godfrey show, where he met Milton Berle. The comic helped to broker a contract for Damone to perform at the La Martinique and Aquarium nightclubs, which afforded him major exposure. By the summer of 1947, Damone had signed with Mercury Records, which released his debut single, "I Have But One Heart." The record reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, as did its immediate follow-up, "You Do."

      Damone was soon hosting his own radio program, Saturday Night Serenade, while playing live dates at major New York theaters such as the Copa and even his previous employers, the Paramount. In 1948, he scored four Top 30 singles, including a duet with Patti Page on "Say Something Sweet to Your Sweetheart," before returning to the Top 10 with the million-seller "Again" in 1949. His next release that year, "You're Breaking My Heart," became his first and only single to top the pop charts, though he would visit the Top 10 on several occasions in the late '40s and early '50s, most notably with a 1950 cover of "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena," an Israeli folk song adapted by the Weavers, and "My Heart Cries for You," which reached No. 4 in 1950. That same year, he signed a film contract with MGM, which led to his screen debut as an amorous Frenchman in pursuit of Jane Powell in Rich, Young and Pretty (1951). After scoring one more Top 5 hit with "My Truly Truly Fair" in 1951, Damone was inducted into the Army, where he served until 1953. Mercury kept him in the spotlight during this period by releasing a steady string of material recorded by Damone prior to his tour of duty, including the Top 10 hits "Here in My Heart" (1952) and "April in Portugal" and "Ebb Tide," both in 1953.

      Upon his return from military service, Damone resumed his film career, enjoying featured or co-starring roles in major musical productions like Hit the Deck (1955) and the screen adaptation of Kismet (1955). His singing career, however, entered the doldrums, prompting him to leave Mercury for Columbia in 1956. That year, Damone would score a No. 4 hit with "On the Street Where You Live," from the musical "My Fair Lady," but the single would prove his final visit to the Top 10 pop charts. Though his albums performed well, Damone had lost his ground on the singles chart to the growing rock-n-roll movement, and by 1961, he had left Columbia for Capitol. The label attempted to groom Damone into a mature balladeer with 1962's "Linger Awhile with Vic Damone" (1962), which, like its five follow-ups, earned him critical acclaim but few record sales. From 1962 to 1963, he hosted an NBC variety series called "The Lively Ones," which featured an impressive array of jazz and folk performers.

      Damone again changed labels in 1965, moving to Warner Bros., where he earned a Top 30 hit with "You Were Only Fooling." It also reached No. 8 on the adult contemporary charts, where he would consistently place in the Top 40 for the next half-decade, until earning his final U.S. chart hit with "To Make a Big Man Cry," which reached No. 31 on the adult contemporary charts in 1969. Damone's finances took a downward turn in the early 1970s, forcing him to declare bankruptcy. But after staging a major concert in Las Vegas in 1971, he became a staple of the casino and nightclub circuit, which returned him to solvency. Damone soon became such a popular figure in this arena that he expanded his touring to the United Kingdom, where he was received warmly by audiences. Damone's popularity overseas prompted him to return to recording, issuing several albums through RCA between 1992 and 1995. He remained active until 2000, when a minor stroke brought his stage career to a close with a farewell concert in Palm Beach, FL. In 2009, he penned his autobiography, Singing Was the Easy Part, shortly before breaking his retirement with a special one-off performance in 2011.

      by Paul Gaita

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To Kill a Mockingbird - 50th Anniversary DVD
$8.55
was $14.98
Out of the Past DVD
$14.36
was $17.99
Rear Window DVD
$10.47
was $14.98
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  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
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  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca