Friday, February 16, 2018

Revealing More of the "Truth!"

Yes, we just did a whole hair, jewelry and fashion parade of To Tell the Truth's Miss Kitty Carlisle not long ago. But since winter is still upon us and we've been watching vintage episodes two at a stretch during our lunch hours, there seemed to be more call for attention to some of the looks appearing on the show. This was initially going to be a post about various necklaces I spotted, but it soon turned into just a festival of some of the other ladies who made appearances on the TTTT panel, often with other notable accessories. It's time we paid some due to the glamorous gals who dotted the landscape of 1950s and early-'60s TV. The cover girl for this one is Betty Furness, who we'll see again in a little while.
A key To Tell the Truth panelist in its early days was Miss Polly Bergen. Her clothing and jewelry tended to be understated and usually tasteful.
One of her accessories was a pair of eyeglasses, but like many female TV personalities of the day she didn't wear them most of the time.  She'd just hold them up briefly in order to help her get a good look at the participants.
Mrs. Television as far as I'm concerned, Miss Betty White, worked on the early days of TTTT and continued here and there throughout its many renditions and variations (including the one that's been airing in the last year or so.)
This looks like a fun necklace from another gal who always dressed prettily, but not necessarily glamorously.
We can never quite get enough chiffon in our lives and also like a good brooch with it whenever possible. Jayne Meadows supplies both here.
I like the way she's holding her pencil here. Note the eyelash flick at the sides, which she kept probably to the grave...!
Monique Van Vooren helped inspire a hairstyle post involving Password and now here she is again, but with the focus on her earrings and brooch.
Her hair here isn't quite as big as it later got, but I do love the sparkling jewels and patterned top.
1940s model-turned-radio personality and actress Jinx Falkenburg. I just fell in love with the neckline on this dress as well as the snappy pin.
Ironically, this episode with Jinx on the panel concerned a steeplejack by the last name of Plunk who'd fallen several times up to 60 ft and whose parachutes had failed to open 12 times during his time in the service!
Commercial spokeswoman and actress of stage and screen, Julia Meade.
To tell the truth, I really wasn't all that familiar with Ms. Meade at all, but a visitor to The Underworld made mention of her during one of the other vintage game show posts, which led me to look into her more. Like so many TV game show ladies of this era, she lived a long life, passing away at ninety in 2016.
Movie and early-TV actress Faye Emerson, who also became a game show and talk show personality.
This is a rather atypical look for Ms. Emerson, who more often favored tightly drawn hair with a large bun at the nape of her neck. What a collar on this jacket...!
Now we come to Miss Betty Furness again. Actress-turned-spokesmodel and consumer advocate, Furness was a highly popular TV persona in the 1950s.
For many years, Furness had to deflect the urban legend that it was she and not her fill-in for the occasion (June Graham) who found a Westinghouse refrigerator door impossible to open, leading to a famous blooper. By the way, Betty is also showing a startling amount of cleavage for this show at the time!
One of THE most associated personalities with To Tell the Truth was Peggy Cass. The almost legendarily plain-dressing actress was a bit more done-up than usual on this occasion, which is why I chose it.
Famous for originating the frumpy role of Miss Gooch in Broadway's Auntie Mame (for which she won a Tony and also an Oscar nomination for the film version), Roz Russell must have gotten hold of her before this episode aired! A perky yet cranky character, she always made a perfect counterpart to the more austere ladies who often shared the panel.
Stage actress Phyllis Newman, wife of famed lyricist and playwright Adolf Green, was the initial inspiration for this post with the eye-popping creation she has around her neck in this instance.
She's lucky Joan Crawford didn't show up and snatch it off her neck mid-show. That's quite a statement necklace. I only wish we could have seen it (and the dress) in color.
Same goes for the confection Miss Dina Merrill is sporting here. I wonder what color or colors this was...!
The hair is higher and sleeker than usual and she's really got some eyelashes going this time out. Don't miss the great drop earrings, either!
Broadway musical star Sally Ann Howes popped up on TTTT more times than you might realize. She was always sleekly pulled together, contrasting with a rather daffy sense of humor.
This interesting neckline is augmented with a pretty brooch.
There's quite a lot going on here on Sheila MacRae. MacRae was a film, stage and TV actress as well as a popular nightclub singer. For twenty-five years she was the wife of Gordon MacRae.
I became a bit mesmerized by the hair, the bow, the eyelashes, the earrings, the beauty mark, the fur and the busily-patterened fabric! Of course any TTTT lady's best accessory is her ballot. Ha ha!
Every so often a glamorous stranger would show up to fill in, such as Joan Bennett or, as in this case, Miss Joan Fontaine.
This is another one of those episodes that was broadcast in color, but only saved in black & white, depriving us the chance to see what colors all went into her vivid dress. Note the considerable hunk of bracelet that she's wearing.
Miss Florence Henderson, then a stage persona, but soon to become a legendary TV icon for her work on The Brady Bunch.
She's rocking some nice high hair here, but counters with a very simply tailored dress and a fun pin.
Get a load of this necklace worn by Miss Kitty Carlisle!
One wouldn't want to wear this to the doctor during one's annual physical or it could significantly change the weight showing on the scale!
As the years and various incarnations of the show went by, glamour (apart from Kitty Carlisle) sort of died on the vine. Sometimes Betty White might bring a bit or Polly Bergen, but more often it was hard to find. Here, Cathy McAuley is sporting linebacker shoulders and some big earrings, though everything is to excess.
Billed as "Night Court's Cathy McAuley," she made less than half a dozen appearances on that series and her other credits are spotty indeed. The days of the elegant game show panelist seemed nearly dead. (And what's with that rat's nest of a hairdo?)
Yes, I said rat's nest!
One last gasp of glitz came courtesy of Miss America 1959, Mary Ann Mobley.
Her sort of taste recalled the glory days of the show to a certain extent. Important collar and sparkling jewelry.
She enjoyed her sequins and shoulder pads too, to be sure, but generally kept things more tailored and with a level of cohesion that didn't instantly scream out "cheap & tacky!" Or maybe it was just her inherent comportment and grace that helped sell the looks.
Still, no one ever quite did it up like Miss Kitty!
Thus, we have to end with her, regardless of her prior LENGTHY tribute!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Fond Farewell: John Gavin, 1931-2018

The other day, February 9th, the world lost one of its most ideally handsome faces, that of 1950s & '60s movie actor John Gavin. Gavin, a somewhat polarizing figure among film buffs because of his gentle, understated style which many found stiff and wooden, wound up appearing in more than a few classic pictures, some of which rank among my own all-time favorites. When his acting career began to taper off, he turned to public service and found success there as well. He'd been suffering for a while from leukemia in recent years and was felled by pneumonia at age eighty-six. A full-on tribute to Mr. Gavin was done here years ago, but on the occasion of his demise we revisit him once again.
While serving in the U.S. Navy, Gavin was set to serve as technical advisor on a film, but upon glancing the 6'4" darkly handsome hunk, Universal Studios offered him a screen test. He was soon put under contract as a sort of back-up Rock Hudson, who many felt he resembled. He made two minor films in 1956.
He did resemble Hudson in some ways, yet in this photo one can see some of the previous dark-hued matinee idol of the 1940s, Tyrone Power. The brown eyes and hair came courtesy of Gavin's Spanish, Chilean and Mexican heritage. Born in America as Juan Vincent Apablasa Jr, not too many folks were aware that he was almost fully Latino. When his mother remarried, he became John Golenar until (upon release of this third film, Four Girls in Town, 1957) he was rechristened John Gavin.
Gavin's fourth movie was the western Quantez (1957), in support of Fred MacMurray and Dorothy Malone.
This promotional cigarette card of the period somehow manages to give him blue eyes!
Now with the moniker (and monogrammed shirts to go with!) of John Anthony Gavin, he was a stalwart, devastatingly handsome gentleman on the brink of stardom as a leading man.
Unfortunately for him, his first outing as the star of a motion picture was A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958.) Directed by Douglas Sirk, who had already made a star of the aforementioned Hudson, the dramatic WWII romance was released at a time when audiences preferred established stars and movies with less somber subject matter. He and Lilo Pulver were not exactly household names (though she had extensive European credits prior to this) and the downbeat nature of the movie failed to gather large audiences. 
Sirk utilized him once again, though, in 1959's Imitation of Life, as the love interest of Miss Lana Turner. The dazzling soap opera of mother love and racial intolerance was a gargantuan hit (the highest in Universal's history until dethroned in 1970 by Airport.)
Gavin began establishing himself (though certainly through no design of his own!) as a gallant, reliable leading man who might occasionally steal the audience's focus thanks to his own good looks, but had little chance of distracting anyone from the leading lady's acting histrionics. Here, he's seen with Sophia Loren in A Breath of Scandal (1960.)
Another film of his that will eternally stand the test of time was 1960's Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. In it, he played the secret lover of Janet Leigh, who later pairs up with her sister Vera Miles once Leigh goes missing (along with a small fortune in cash.)
No one was accusing him of out-acting the movie's star Anthony Perkins (Hitchcock referred to Gavin as "the stiff" at times during interviews), but he was desirable enough to make Leigh pilfer a huge wad of dough from her boss in order to steal away and create a new life with her handsome lover.
A change of pace came with Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960), in which Gavin played Julius Caesar. I'm not sure if they truly got the resemblance they seemed to be looking for here, but it scarcely matters... we just love his 5 o'clock scruff and tousled hair.
Gavin's scenes in the Roman bathhouse opposite Laurence Olivier are the stuff of legend and fantasy! Gavin, who had steadfastly resisted any sort of beefcake prior to 1960, displayed a physique to die for (and in more than one photo out there, Olivier seems to be unable to look away from it himself!)
In the thriller Midnight Lace (1960), it was back to providing a (strong, gorgeous) shoulder for the leading lady, in this case a hysterical Doris Day.
1961 brought two films opposite Sandra Dee, with whom he'd worked in Imitation of Life two years prior. The movies were Romanoff and Juliet (directed by and featuring his Spartacus costar Peter Ustinov) and Tammy Tell Me True, in which he played a college English teacher.
He was the love interest of Susan Hayward (fourteen years his senior) in the plush soap opera Back Street (1961.)
The movie is a huge favorite of mine, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't due in large part to the hyper-bitchy role that his Psycho costar Vera Miles plays in it.
After Back Street, Gavin moved to television, in Universal products. He starred in the short-lived series Destry (as shown here), worked twice on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and attempted a second series, Convoy, which, like his prior attempt, only lasted 13 episodes before cancellation.
Taking career matters into his own hands in 1967, he headed to Mexico and starred in Pedro Paramo (based on a famous novel there), in which he was able to put his fluent Spanish to great use. Though little-seen in the U.S., the film is considered by many to be quite excellent and was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
While filming Pedro Paramo in Mexico, he read about the casting of a new movie musical called Thoroughly Modern Millie, produced by Ross Hunter. Gavin had worked in four prior Hunter-produced movies and suggested that if the movie needed a genial, charming, but straight-laced, type of guy then he'd be perfect for it! Thus, he wound up in the colorful escapade alongside Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore.
From this he headed to the European-made OSS 117 Murder for Sale (1968) an obvious rip-off, one of dozens at the time, of the popular and profitable James Bond 007 series of blockbusters.
What was notable about this one, and Gavin, is that 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service had featured a new James Bond - George Lazenby - when Sean Connery had departed the role and Lazenby was not coming back for the follow-up film. Until Connery finally opted to return (with much coaxing and monetary consideration), Gavin was on deck to portray the famed spy in Diamonds Are Forever and, in fact, was paid his full salary by United Artists without ever having set foot in front of the camera!
Gavin continued to make the odd low-budget film, TV appearances (including The Doris Day Show) and TV-movies, but turned his attention to the stage, surprising many with his baritone voice in The Fantasticks and then replacing Ken Howard in Broadway's Seesaw, a musical based on Two for the Seesaw, opposite Michele Lee. He also toured the U.S. with that Michael Bennett-directed show opposite Lucie Arnaz.
Divorced from his first wife since 1965, Gavin met and married actress Constance Towers. Their forty-four year union ended only with his recent death and was a happy one for them both.
In projects like the TV-movie Doctors' Private Lives (1979), he was still appearing frequently. Gavin portrayed Cary Grant in Sophia Loren's 1980 televised biography, Sophia Loren: Her Own Story. He made the rounds on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island as well as Hart to Hart. But Gavin's own heart now lie elsewhere and he gave up acting entirely in 1981.
That chiseled granite face would now be put to use in business and public service. He'd already served as vice-president and president of SAG in the early-'70s. Sensing a need in the country from which his ancestors sprang, he was appointed by President Reagan as the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, a position which he fulfilled with considerable praise. Following that stint, he proceeded with many business ventures while also remaining active in charitable causes.
We adore Mr. Gavin for not only the physical beauty he brought to the screen in many projects, but also for the gentle, comforting, appealing personality he lent to his parts. Many stars of old are criticized by contemporary viewers for their overacting. That's something that Gavin need never have worried about! But his underplaying may make his work more accessible to those young'ns who are looking at classic films now.
The End.