Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mr. Chicken And Some Book Reviews

Ok, ok, ok-

Were back today with a few book reviews. When I put Jonathan's (he graciously allowed me to use his real name) post up the other day, I meant to quickly write up a snappy review of the three books I told you about to go along with it. However since nothing get's done quickly around here I was forced to just forget the whole thing, three days after I told Jonathan he could look for his post on my blog. So now I'm back, with a cute little 60's horror/comedy feature and three semi-short/long reviews.

1. Child Star, by Shirley Temple Black. (Yes, that little Shirley Temple with a Black added to her name)

Beginning with the first chapter, a detailed, informative, and interesting look at her birth, parents, and beginnings in show-business (at the age of three!). It then moves on to talk about her career in show-business, fellow actors and actresses, directors, agents etc. I'm making this review short because I didn't get too far in this book, in part I think because Shirley Temple was never one of those people I really took and interest in and her book doesn't seem to mention any of them, and also- her attitude as she gets farther on begins looking...cynical. How could you expect anything more? The girl has been working in the twisted world of Hollywood since the tender age of three, sure she entertained America during the depression, but she also had her childhood stolen away from her by a whirlwind career that ended in her teens.
Bottom Line; I can't say anything about age-appropriateness because like I said, I didn't go beyond her paramount and Warner brother days, and there very well may have been some gritty incidents as she got older, I just wouldn't know. Its a good look at what it was really like for her; and that was tough. I guess my biggest complaint is that nothing about her career is really remembered in fondness, not that I expected any.

Gracie; A Love Story by George Burns

Putting this one up next to the Shirley Temple just isn't fair, there was no possible way I wouldn't like this book. not only because George Burns was a funny man with a good sense of humor, but his wife was Gracie Allen and his two best friends were Jack Benny and Harpo Marx (coincidentally, those happen to be two of my most favoritest people in the world). So yes, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I would put the kid rating at like 13 and up or depending on what parents say- not that Burns is being unnecessarily crude, just honest, and it was written more for adults anyway. The cussing factor however is surprisingly low for a biography/autobiography written in the 80's. I want to give you a little snippet of the stories he tells, so here is my favorite, when he's talking about tricking his best friend Jack Benny;

"Another thing I admired about Jack Benny was that he thought I was the funniest man in the world. I could make him laugh so hard that he would literally fall down and pound the floor with his fist. Obviously, that was very embarrassing to him, so I tried to do it only when we were in public. Then I would tell people not to be concerned, he was only having a fit...

The worst thing I ever did to him took place at a party at his house. It was a lovely party, there were about one hundred fifty people there, and everybody seemed to be hav
ing a good time. But Jack took me aside and said nervously, "I don't the party's moving." "Sure it's moving," I told him. "Everybody's talking and drinking." He actually started to get angry. "I'm in show business to you know. I know if a party's not moving. This one isn't." What could I do? Tell him to take his pants off and put on a stupid hat? Absolutely. "You want to liven it up a little," I said, "here's what you do: go upstairs and take off your pants, put on one of Mary's big hats, then come downstairs in your shorts playing your violin." That appealed to him, "You think that'll make the party move?" "Oh yeah, sure." What else could I say? Trust me? Me?

As soon as Jack went upstairs I got everybody's attention and said "In a few minutes Jack is going to be coming downstairs in his shorts, wearing one of Mary's hats and playing the violin. When he does, don't pay any attention to him, Just ignore h
im completely." A few minutes later Jack appeared at the top of the stairs, wearing his shorts and one of Mary's wide-brimmed hats, playing the violin." And everyone ignored him. It took him only a few minutes to realize he was dressed in his underwear and a woman's hat, playing the violin and being ignored by one hundred fifty people. and then he realized I'd done it to him again. Jack pounded the floor. When he got his breath, he looked at me and said "NOW the party's moving."

Bottom line, I loved this book.

The last book on the list is Audrey Hepburn; An Elegant Spirit, written by her son, possibly the only not-adopted kid in Hollywood, Sean Hepburn Ferrer.

It's really more of a scrapbook than an autobiography, with plenty of glossy, full-scale pictures with helpful captions. Her son paints a brief but emotional image of her life and then moves on to talk about her as a person for the rest of the book. Lots of time is spent examining her: what kind of person she was, what kind of mother, wife, actress, etc. And I'll give you a little hint; he has nothing but good things to say about her. It's a nice book if your looking to find out what she was like as a person, but not a very helpful biography. A complete G-rating on this one.

Finished! Hooray! We've accomplished something! So on the subject of auto-biographies, I may as well tell you that I didn't find the one I really wanted. It's called Barney Fife and Other Characters I Have Known. Take a wild guess who wrote that one. The title somehow even sounds like it was said in his voice. Anyway, after watching a lot of TAGS and hearing that it's an essential in biographies department I was disappointed at not finding it. And so while were on the subject of Don Knotts (aren't I great at linking things up?) let us move on to our movie;

I love glossy old movie posters that just say it all for you.

This movie was never a classic and you may not have heard of it, but it's certainly nothing new to me. My dearest great-grandmother has been a fan of Don Knotts for years, and watching his collection of movies in her well carpeted living-room brings back many fond memories. However, I cut no movie any slack (even if it has the words 'Marx brother' or 'Muppet' in it! ). So where to begin? I think that the place the writers began was Don Knotts. It's first grade: if your going to have a movie in which your title character does a copious amount of freaking out, get Don Knotts. There's never been a better freaker-outer in the business. Can you imagine getting to write a movie for Don Knotts? It would be incredibly easy;
"OK, so what's the plot so far?"
"Well there's this haunted house."
"Ooh that's great! That's great."
"Yeah, and he has to spend the night in it."
"I dunno..we'll figure that out later. OK, so he's in front of the house..."
"And I guy pops out of the bushes!"
">laughs hysterically< Can you imagine his face?"
"OK, so then he goes into the house..."
"How? It has to be some funny way."
"He falls through a coal chute!"
"Then a phonograph starts playing!"
"Yeah, and then we do some mirror gag...."
"And the ghost starts playing the organ!

See what I mean? The majority of Knott's is acting skills in this movie...and for that matter most of his others....rely not his ability to say lines or portray emotion but to find a way to react hilariously to cornucopia of scary situations. Not that this makes him any less of a great comedian, but it does say something for this movie; and that is that brilliant original writing is not it's strong point. This plot has all the perfect elements of a "Barney Fife becomes a reporter" storyline.
I mean, it's inevitable that a guy like Don Knotts is going to be stuck playing the same kind of character in every film, so it's not the fact that there is virtually no difference between Luther Heggs from this story to any of the other characters he plays. Jim Nabors once said he asked Don how he managed to be so funny, and he replied "Well it helps to look like I do." Whether you slap the title Luther Heggs, Barney Fife, Mr. Limpet, Alexander Figg or whatever on him, he's always gonna be Don Knotts. Long story short, character development was not a problem for these people.

So what else is left? Plot, OK, well that wasn't a problem either.The makers of this film apparently decided that the audience would either be busy studying Don Knott's facial expressions or kissing (this was the swingin' 60's) by thirty minutes into the movie, and no one would bother their sweet little heads about music. Well I, as an amateur movie reviewer did: and realized that it consisted of one tune, consisting of two notes, which sounded almost identical to the opening credits of The Addams Family which is played repetitively during the entire film. Yes, in case you wondering, it gets quite aggravating around the middle of the movie.

As far as other actors go, there isn't much to brag about. There's that guy who looks like a neanderthal who plays Sam's husband on Bewitched, an Irish fella who looks really familiar but whom I can't seem to place, and...other people. Oh, and I almost forgot, (and this is a plot spoiler) in the end, thirty-something Don Knotts gets to marry gorgeous model Joan Staley.
("Atta boy Luther!") Did I mention this movie was Don's personal favorite??

So anyway, bottom line; This, despite all the problems I just underlined, is a cute, moderately funny little movie that I'm sure anyone ages 6-11 would enjoy. My 8-year-old sister has watched it three times already, and that music is really starting to grate about now. It might be just slightly scary for littler kids (there's an invisible organ-playing ghost and a stabbed portrait, just judge for yourself) but it's doubtful anyone is going to be terrified.

So anyway, thanks for a long belated listen.

P.S. My class just started back, so from now, consider that an acceptable excuse for my long bouts of absence from this blog.

P.P.S. Anyone know of a good Christian/homeschooler magazine that takes submissions from teen unknowns? Thanks!

No comments: