Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Blackboard Jungle

Hello everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the long Labor Day weekend. Summer is over, or at least that's what society tells us. Considering it's 90+ degrees outside, I beg to differ. However, the time after Labor Day is indeed Back to School time, when we turn our thoughts from beaches and barbecues to books and binders. It's a busy time and an anxious time, but here at Me and You, I try to find the positive and the entertaining in the situation. Case in point: this week's Tuesday's Overlooked Film, the 1955 classic Blackboard Jungle.

Based on a novel by Evan Hunter, Blackboard Jungle stars Glenn Ford as a high school teacher trying to bring education and hope to the angry, delinquent students in his class. Classmates include future legend Sidney Poitier, the late Vic Morrow, and M*A*S*H alum Jamie Farr (credited in the film by his real name, Jamille Farrar). Despite being rejected by both the students and by the staff around him, Ford sallies forth to show the students a better path.

Blackboard Jungle is one of the first in the "teacher making a difference" subgenre of drama, and is a template for future films such as Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds. The film is also interesting in that we get to see big stars in their earliest roles. Finally, it introduced the song "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets to the mainstream, helping the rise of rock'n'roll.

The movie is readily available on DVD and streaming services, so it's easy to track down.

There's the bell--don't be late for class!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

August's Underappreciated Music: "In Memoriam" Songs

Hello all. The Labor Day weekend is upon us, and unofficially brings Summer 2014 to a close. I hope your summer was a fun and restful one.

For this month's Underappreciated Music, I decided to go with a theme. I recently came across a couple of songs I cateogrize as "In Memoriam" songs, songs which pay tribute to someone who has passed, particularly a celebrity. The following songs are just a few that represent the concept well.

The first song I feature this month is the one that got me thinking about this theme, the 1972 Righteous Brothers hit "Rock and Roll Heaven." In a sad irony, member Bobby Hatfield is himself no longer with us.

The most beautiful example of this type of song I've ever heard is a dedication to John Lennon, Elton John's "Empty Garden." Arguably Bernie Taupin's best work.

Lennon's Beatles bandmate George Harrison wrote and recorded his own tribute to Lennon, "All Those Years Ago."

Ringo Starr would in turn dedicate a song to Harrison upon his death, the wistful "Never Without You."

Next to the deaths of John Lennon and Buddy Holly, no singer's passing affected audiences like that of Elvis Presley. Here is a tribute to the King, a #1 song from Alannah Myles, "Black Velvet."

Finally, a smooth way to complete this collection is this song, a tribute to both Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, the sweet, soulful "Nightshift."

Everyone please have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend! Next week, we go Back to School!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Soldier in the Rain

Tuesday's Overlooked Film this week is the 1963 comedy/drama Soldier in the Rain.

Soldier in the Rain stars Steve McQueen as a young Army sergeant, naive and wholesome, who forms an unlikely friendship with his master sergeant played by Jackie Gleason (a favorite of mine), a schemer who seems McQueen's opposite. However, over the course of the film, the two characters develop an unusual bond: McQueen admires Gleason's resourcefulness, and Gleason admires McQueen's innocence and can-do attitude. They help each other out in various ways throughout the film, until the last favor done for the other leads to tragedy.

Like the characters they portray, McQueen and Gleason seem an odd pairing, but seeing them work so well together will convince you of the characters' friendship. The film costars Tuesday Weld, was based on a book by William Goldman, and was produced and coadapted by Blake Edwards.

Unfortunately, the film is difficult to find on video. It was only briefly available on VHS and has been available on DVD only through Warner Archive's site.

Here is a brief clip of the film that demonstrates the conniving sergeant's honest love for his country. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked: Robin Williams, 1951-2014

There's a lot I could say, but everyone else is saying much the same thing, so for now, I'll just leave these here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked TV-Movie: Hallmark Hall of Fame, "Aunt Mary"

Tuesday's Overlooked this week is the heartwarming 1979 TV-movie Aunt Mary.

Aunt Mary, a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation from 1979, is based on a true story and stars Jean Stapleton as Mary, a crutch-using single woman who befriends a group of tough young boys and does her best to teach them discipline, teamwork, and morals by organizing them into a baseball team. Her friends, including veteran character actors Martin Balsam, Dolph Sweet, and Harold Gould, think she's wasting time on these young punks, but in typical Hallmark fashion, she proves the naysayers wrong. When Mary faces aversity later in the film, the boys come to her rescue.

The film is based on the true story of Mary Dobkin, who organized youngsters in her town into the "Dobkin Dynamiters" baseball team in the Baltimore area in the 1940s. I saw this film only once on late night TV in the early 80s, and I came across it haphazardly. I was so compelled by it I couldn't turn it off, even though I was very tired. I've never seen it since, but I've never forgotten it.

Unfortunately, it's never been released on home video as far as I can tell, nor is it available on any video streaming services. Here, however, is a minutes long montage of a few scenes from the film.

Enjoy! For more overlooked treasures, please visit friend Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom. Thanks!


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