Sunday, September 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Julie!

Seventy-seven years ago today, October 1st 1935, a baby girl arrived in the maternity hospital at Walton-on-Thames. As Barbara and Ted Wells gazed upon their beautiful little girl, they would have been quite shocked to know just how far from their small village little Julia would travel one day, and how many millions of people she would touch.

As I began this blog on The Julie Andrews Hour, it seemed to me that Julie Andrews’ career was so well-known; it would be redundant to write about it. However, I realize that while many people know her for some of her roles, not everyone knows about her early years.  In any case, there could be no more perfect time to write about Ms. Andrews' career than the occasion of her birthday.

Julia Wells, as she was officially named by her parents, spent her early years as a fairly normal child. She had a brother, Johnny, two years younger than her, and they spent their time playing and doing the things that children do. In addition, little Julie attended dance classes, conducted by her Aunt Joan.

There were things in Julie’s young life were not ordinary or easy for a child to deal with. During her childhood, she experienced the hardships and fears of wartime. In addition, her mother, who was a pianist, often left home to play for the soldiers. She was five, when she learned that her mother had deserted her father to live with a singer named Ted Andrews.

When Julie was seven, Ted Andrews began to give her singing lessons. Around this same time, a doctor discovered that she had a larynx that was almost completely developed. At the age of nine and a half she began studying voice with a well-known opera singer, Madam Lilian Stiles-Allen.

The war ended in 1945. Shortly after that Julie turned ten. By now her singing had developed, and she joined her mother and step-father onstage for the first time as “Julie Andrews.”

During The Julie Andrews Hour series, I remember being somewhat baffled to hear Julie speak of herself as a child singer in terms that seemed rather demeaning to me. It was during the show that I first learned of her rare ability as a child and of her many performances, both onstage and on the radio. One of her performances at that time was part of the Command Performance for King George V and his family, the eldest child being Princess Elizabeth, the present Queen of England. Seeing a photo of young Julie, I thought she was a beautiful and adorable child. I knew that her ability as a child was quite remarkable.

As Julie Andrews grew from child to teenager, she expanded her work, appearing in pantomimes and playing roles. At the age of eighteen, she was chosen to play the lead, Polly Benedict, in The Boyfriend, a musical which had played England and was slated to open in the United States on Broadway. In her wonderful biography, Home, Ms. Andrews writes of how she balked on the idea of going to America. There were problems at home and she felt she didn’t want to be away that long, but as fate would have it, she did go and her life was forever changed.

Following her success in The Boy Friend, Julie was cast in the new musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, My Fair Lady, opposite stage veteran Rex Harrison. Julie did not have an easy time. Not only was the role of Eliza Doolittle demanding, but the energy and ability to bring a character across the footlights, especially on Broadway, was a huge task. Thanks to the show’s director, Moss Hart, and his work with Julie over a 48 hour period, a brilliant new musical actress was born. With the opening of My Fair Lady, Julie Andrews became a true star. People could not get enough of her. During the next few years, she appeared on television numerous times and recorded many fine albums.

My Fair Lady was followed by another Lerner and Lowe show, Camelot, which starred Richard Burton as King Arthur and newcomer Robert Goulet as Sir Lancelot. Following this Broadway show, Julie Andrews entered the world of film, beginning with Mary Poppins, followed by The Americanization of Emily and, then, The Sound of Music. Her life and the film world would never be the same.

As a singer and performer, Julie Andrews was able to do what few had. Julie was a singer with a classical background and a five octave range, but her tone and manner in singing never pigeon-holed her as a classical singer alone. During those early days, her voice was considered to be one of the most remarkable in the business. It dazzled and people could not get enough. But along with Julie’s dazzling range and pure tones, there was another aspect to her singing. Listen to “How Are Things in Glocca Mora?” or “I’m Old Fashioned.” Her voice moves beautifully with the music and, in some songs, (as with the two above), her phrasing and intonation is quite unique. It is absolutely fresh. Even today, no one has recorded anything quite like it, or in this writer’s humble opinion, quite as lovely.

In 1972, entering her third month of work on The Julie Andrews Hour, Julie, celebrated her thirty-seventh birthday. Although she looked and seemed so young then, she was well-aware of the passage of time. When she took on the show, she told her husband, Blake Edwards, that she should “do it now” while she was still able.

In the years between her first film, Mary Poppins, and The Julie Andrews Hour, Julie’s life had gone through many changes. She had married her childhood sweetheart, Tony Walton, given birth to a beautiful little girl, Emma Kate, and then had gone through a divorce. The divorce seemed quite shocking at the time, even scandalous for this young, beautiful and seemingly perfect star.

In the years following The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews made a number of musical films. With each film, the producer of that film had great hopes the work would match the success of The Sound of Music. None did.

Following two dramas: Torn Curtain and Hawaii in 1966, Julie filmed Thoroughly Modern Millie” the following year. The theme song for that film was a huge success, and played repeatedly on popular radio stations. The film, itself, was the biggest success Universal Pictures had had to that point.

Julie’s next film, “Star!” about the life of Gertrude Lawrence was filled with music and grand costumes. Its theme song was also a huge hit, and played repeatedly on the radio and at nearly every big awards show. The film, however, was not popular. Julie had attempted to expand her work in playing Gertrude Lawrence, but even though films were changing to be “reality” oriented, it appears that people didn’t want to see her troubled, angry or anyway but happy.

In 1969, Julie went to work on a new film, Darling Lili, which was directed by the man who would soon become her husband, Blake Edwards. The score was by Henry Mancini. Everyone involved was sure that this film had the markings of greatness and would be a success. In fact, at this time there are those who consider Darling Lili one of Edwards’ best films, but at the time critics and audiences were not enthusiastic.

After all these films--which I’m sure had many viewers—reviews and box office receipts –all compared to The Sound of Music, left reviewers and studios referring to the new films as “flops.”

After this, Julie took a three year break. She had not planned on a break of that length, but meanwhile she was busy. She had a new husband and two new children: Blake’s daughter, Jenny, and his son, Geoffrey, as well as her own daughter, Emma, to care for. Whatever she felt about her career, she was happy being a mother and wife.

There was one more aspect of Julie Andrews that came into play during this time period; she wrote her first children’s book, “Mandy.” In the documentary, Julie, Blake Edwards thoughtfully asks his wife about the new book she is working on, asking how working on a television show will affect her ability to continue with her writing. Clearly, he is aware that her writing means a great deal to her. As of this date, Julie has written approximately 41 books - both with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton and by herself.

Since The Julie Andrews Hour, Julie has appeared in many, many films, on television, on Broadway and off, as well as in concerts around the world. Her catalog of work is truly amazing.

Here’s to Julie - wishing her a very happy birthday and many more years, doing the work she loves. She has added a great deal to all our lives.

For more information on Julie Andrews' life, read her marvelous book, Home. She is writing part 2 now.


Coming next - Episode 4 with Guest Don Rickles and co-stars Rich Little and Alice Ghostley.

If you would like to see The Julie Andrews Hour released on DVD, along with possible music CDs, including a duets CD with Julie Andrews and her guests, please send a respectful e-mail to requesting this to:  dan.gopal@itv.com

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Episode Three - Julie with Ken Berry and Jack Cassidy


Forty years ago, September 27, 1972….

Dressed as Carol Burnett’s char lady, carrying a mop and pail, Julie Andrews walks onstage, begins to mop the floor, and then seats herself on the bucket. So begins the third episode of The Julie Andrews Hour. This entrance, of course, was a nod to Julie’s good friend, Carol Burnett.

The opening scene changes as eight male dancers arrive, telling Julie that what she’s doing has “been done.” “That’s Been Done” is an intricate musical sketch of interwoven clips showing Julie, her dancers, historic clips, and comedy bits by Rich Little, who plays everyone from Jack Benny, Johnny Cash and Johnny Carson to Walter Brennan.

The guest stars for Episode Three are actor/song and dance man Ken Berry and Broadway musical actor, Jack Cassidy, who it is said was nominated for as many Tony Awards as anyone in history. The show is a fun and beautiful tribute to the musicals of the 1930s. Watching the show once again today brought a smile to my face. It seems even more wonderful now than it did in 1972.

“It was a beautiful, elegant show,” Ken Berry said recently when speaking of The Julie Andrews Hour. “Julie was a sweetheart to work with.”

Berry was invited to be on the show, partly because of his association with Julie’s good friend, Carol Burnett, whose show he appeared on frequently.

During the first half of the show, Julie and Ken pay tribute to the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers films of the 1930s with a compendium sketch of their films. As Ken Berry says on the show, “Fred meets Ginger, Fred goes away, Fred comes back, Fred looses Ginger, Fred gets Ginger back, and Fred and Ginger get married and dance happily every after.”

Once Julie and Ken step onto the set of their 1930s story, it’s beautiful music, wonderful dancing, gorgeous costumes and fun, fun, fun! As Ken Berry walks across the floor with that Fred Astaire saunter that no one else has duplicated, we are taken by his ability and charm. He and Julie dance beautifully together. The sketch is pure joy. When I commented to Mr. Berry recently on what a wonderful song and dance man he was, he told me some interesting stories about his life.

Born on November 3rd, 1933 in Moline, Illinois, Berry knew by the time he was twelve years old that he wanted to be a dancer. Those years of his youth were the time of the movie musical. He spent a lot of time watching Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly on the big screen.

After Berry won a local talent contest at the age of fifteen, big band leader Horace Heidt, who had sponsored the contest, asked him to join his traveling ensemble, The Horace Heidt Youth Opportunity Program. For fifteen months, Berry traveled with the group, singing and dancing on the post-WWII Air force Bases in Europe and for the general public across the U.S.

After high school, Ken Berry joined the Army. But a short time after he joined, his sergeant announced a talent contest. Ken won the contest and as a result was sent to New York City to appear on Arlene Francis’ television show, Soldier Parade. Returning to the Service, Berry, who was under the supervision of Lt. Leonard Nimoy, spent a good deal of his time touring army bases and entertaining the troops. Just before he left the Army, he appeared on The Ed Sullivan, ultimately, winning a studio contract with Universal Studios. Like many things in life, however, the turn of events in Ken Berry’s life did not work out exactly as he had planned.

From the very beginning, Mr. Berry told me, he had never doubted that one day he would be working at a major movie studio making musicals. In 1956, he was working at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas with Abbott and Costello, opening the show with song and dance sketches. One day he stood  looking into a mirror in his hotel room, wondering what had happened. For years he had been compared to Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. He should have had a contract by now. Then, it hit him. “I realized that my dream to be in motion picture musicals wasn’t going to happen. They would be gone. That thought had just never occurred to me before...” That was a tough moment for him, and he realized he would have to make other plans.

Although Berry would eventually become best known for his work on F-Troop and Mayberry RFD, over the years, whenever he could, he continued to work as a dancer, which he did in The Ken Murray Blackouts show in Las Vegas, and The Billy Barnes Review. It was while working in the latter that Carol Burnett first saw him. She convinced the producers of The Gary Moore Show, where she was working, to bring Ken Berry onto her show as a guest.

Carol Burnett would always be a great supporter of Ken Berry. While The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1976) was on the air, Ken was one of her most frequent guests, appearing on the show at least once a year. Although television didn’t pay much during the early years, Ken was grateful that at least he was able to make a living with it.

While Ken Berry was the all American guy, “a gentleman,” as choreographer Tony Charmoli says of him, Jack Cassidy was full of “pranks.” “He had no fear” said Berry, in describing how Cassidy went straight ahead with his performance on the show. “Julie liked him.”

In the second half of the show, Jack Cassidy appears as a very flamboyant Florenz Ziegfeld, the legendary showman of the “Great White Way,” before Broadway was Broadway. Julie plays an aspiring performer, and Alice Ghostly appears as the tragic, yet comic widow of a magician. Rich Little also appears as a young George Burns (as well as Jack Benny), trying to get hired by Ziegfeld.

In the sketch, it’s quite obvious (at least to me) that Cassidy is making up some of his lines, or rather, going over the top, and Julie is having a time, trying to keep from laughing. Cassidy’s over the top approach and Julie’s laughter makes the show all that much more fun.

Jack Cassidy was born in Richmond Hill, New York on March 5, 1927. He had a very successful career on Broadway, winning Best Featured Actor for the musical, She Loves Me in 1964. His catalog of work on television and film is tremendous.

Jack Cassidy married Shirley Jones in 1956. In 1972, Shirley and Jack’s son by his first wife, David Cassidy, were working together on the very popular television series, The Partridge Family. Jack and Shirley had three sons together.

Julie Andrews’ musical numbers with Jack Cassidy are classic. Cassidy, with his Broadway energy, style, and over the top characterization make for a great show.

During the taping of this show, the cast and crew of The Julie Andrews Hour were working long hours (as director Bill Davis mentioned in my blog two weeks ago). On Friday night, when the show was taped, Ken Berry recalls being hard at work in the studio at two or three the morning. Everyone was exhausted, ready to drop, and looked it, but “Julie looked as fresh as she had when she started that morning,” Ken Berry told me. He wondered how she did it.

Meanwhile, Ken wasn’t feeling all that well. He’d caught a bug or something and was wondering how he was going to get through the next hours of taping. While he and Julie were talking, he mentioned this to her.
“Have you ever taken chewable protein?” she asked.
He had not. Julie excused herself and went back to her dressing room, which was quite a ways away and came back with some pills, which she gave to him. He chewed them and “they worked like a miracle.” As a result, he was able to complete the shoot without a problem. Later, he was able to get some of these pills on his own and says they improved his health greatly. Berry was very moved by Julie’s thoughtfulness and kindness to him.

Working with Julie was a great experience, he said. “She was so beautiful. I will never forget working with her.”

Ken Berry and Julie Andrews in a musical number from
the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers tribute.
l. to r. Jerry Trent, Walter Stratton, Wayne Dugger,
Gary Menteer, Ken Berry, Julie, Kate Kahn, Sally Mason,
Jude Von Wormer (courtesy Jerry Trent)


At the conclusion of the show, Julie, Ken and Jack sing a medley of old songs tied together by the more modern, “Just an Old Fashioned Love Song.” It is a medley that has many elements and styles; it swings, harmonizes, and is sentimental. The three performers really throw themselves into it. It's a wonderful performance to watch and to listen to. This medley would make a great addition to an album of Julie Andrews Hour songs.

There are many elements to this show I have not mentioned here, including three beautiful solos by Julie (I adore Tulip Time where Julie is dressed as a Dutch girl and she and the chorus dance in wooden shoes). There is also a great sketch with Alice Ghostly playing a housewife in curlers, who fantasizes about Humphrey Bogart, (played by Rich Little) as her ideal man.

Jack Cassidy would appear on two more Julie Andrews Hour shows. Ken Berry was invited back, but at the time they wanted him, he was not available. “I had a contract and I just couldn’t get out of it,” he said regretfully.

Many thanks to Ken Berry for sharing his personal memories of The Julie Andrews Hour. I hope I have done justice to his stories.

For more information, please see the following:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Cassidy

ALL PHOTOS HERE FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

If you would like to see The Julie Andrews Hour put out on DVD, along with  a Duets CD of Julie and her guests (and maybe others as well), please send a respectful e-mail to requesting this to:     dan.gopal@itv.com

Coming next – Happy Birthday, Julie!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tony Charmoli and The Tony Charmoli Dancers

Note: Since this interview several years ago, Tony Charmoli has written his autobiography. It is called "Stars In My Eyes" and is available through your local book store or Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/Stars-My-Eyes-Tony-Charmoli/dp/099085566X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459263204&sr=8-1&keywords=Stars+In+My+Eyes


***

When Tony Charmoli first received the call from Nick Vanoff about working on The Julie Andrews Hour, he was expecting to be offered the job of director. Tony first met Nick and his wife, Felisa, back in New York more than twenty years earlier when they were all attending dance class at the Charles Weidman studio. “When you work in the business,” he told me, “it becomes a very small world.”

Tony began dancing when he was just a tiny tot in Duluth, Minnesota. He was born in Duluth on June 11, 1921, one year, minus a day, before another future famous Minnesota native. At one of his first performances, he met her--Frances Gumm, who, a few years later, would be known by the world as Judy Garland.

After three years in the Armed Services, Tony moved to New York to study dance. He appeared in numerous Broadway shows, and, in 1949, took his first job as choreo-grapher for the television show, Stop the Music. From there, he went on to choreo-graph dances on the very popular, Your Hit Parade. His work on this show in 1955 won him his first Emmy.

During the early days of television, they were filming dance numbers in the same way audiences would view them in the theater, straight on. Tony Charmoli realized that dance numbers need to be choreographed and filmed in a different way, which he did, changing television entertainment and making dance much more accessible for audiences at home.

Once he moved to Hollywood, Tony Charmoli’s talents were in constant demand. During the late 1950s and 1960s’ he worked with some of the greatest stars in show business, including Danny Kaye and Mitzi Gaynor.

When Charmoli worked with Cyd Charisse, she suggested that he not only choreograph her show, but take over as director. “You’re already doing it all anyway,” she told him. Tony enjoyed directing, and from this point on continued to work as a director.

The night Nick and Felisa Vanoff invited him over to talk about working on The Julie Andrews Hour, Tony made his position clear; he wasn’t interested in just being a choreographer. But his old friends “begged” him to come onboard and join the creative team. Nick told him, “If anything happens, you’ll be able to take over.’ Finally, Tony agreed. Many years later, he commented that Bill Davis never took a day off for the entire run of The Julie Andrews Hour. “Even when he was so sick he was practically dying, he wouldn’t stop working.”

Tony Charmoli’s work with Julie on The Julie Andrews Hour was not the first time he had worked with her. Back in 1965 he’d been hired as choreographer for The Julie Andrews Show, a special with Gene Kelly. Like many shows Tony worked on, this special involved doing something he was good at--taking two very different performers, with different strengths and choreographing dances in a way that brought out each performer’s best qualities. Tony liked doing this and those he worked with felt they were in good hands.

After agreeing to take the job of choreographer for The Julie Andrews Hour, Tony met with Nick and Julie to discuss the show. It was agreed that Julie would have a group of eight chorus boys to dance with on the series. With Charmoli’s vast experience in theater and television, he knew many people and was able to assemble a fine group of dancers. On special occasions, a number of girls were added to the ensemble.

In the meantime, Nick Vanoff had hired Dick Williams (brother of Andy Williams and formerly a member of the Williams Brothers), to direct a group of eight singers, who would pre-record back-up vocals for Julie and her guest stars; the singers would never appear on camera. Yet, despite The Dick Williams Singers, Mr. Charmoli insisted that his dancers sing as well; all of the dancers had to be good singers. He wanted his dancers to be like a Broadway chorus, able to sing, dance and act. This, no doubt, added to the quality of the show. During the next eight months, The Tony Charmoli Dancers often appeared in scenes such as the Noel Coward Tribute and Don Rickles’ sketch, where they portrayed people from various times in history. The dancers were able to do just about anything required of them, and do it well.

Although I posted this photo on the last blog, I did not
have the names of the dancers.  L. to R. Joe Kyle,
Jerry Trent, Garrett Lewis, Julie, Gary Menteer,
Tom Anthony and Walter Stratton.
(Courtesy Jerry Trent)

                                                   ***

A few months ago, I mentioned to guest star Ken Berry that I had only discovered the identity of Julie's eight male dancers because she had introduced each one by name on the last show. Mr. Berry commented on how kind this was of Julie, saying:

“Dancers work so hard. They don’t get paid that much or get a lot of recognition and their careers don’t last that long. It was really so nice of her to recognize them in that way.”

Each of The Tony Charmoli Dancers has had a fascinating theatrical/dance history. Here, in the order Julie introduced them, is a little about each dancer:

Joe Kyle - Tony Charmoli believes that he first choreographed Joe in an act for Carol Lawrence. If Joe Kyle the dancer is the same person as Joe Kyle the actor, he is listed as appearing in several television shows and the film, Frazier the Lion. If anyone has further information on Joe Kyle, please contact me.

Jerry Trent has had the longest dance career of any of The Tony Charmoli Dancers. Most recently, he appeared on Dancing with the Stars for a special dance performance.

Jerry was born and raised in Illinois. He began dance lessons at the age of seven. In the early 1960s, he moved the Hollywood. After a few smaller jobs, he was hired to work on The Dean Martin Show. In 1969, Jerry worked on two films: Sweet Charity, starring Shirley MacLaine and Hello Dolly, which starred, of course, Barbra Streisand. Gary Menteer worked on this film as well.

After Julie Andrew’s show ended, Jerry worked as a dancer in the film, Mame, starring Lucille Ball, and in Funny Lady, starring Streisand. More information on Jerry later.


Wayne Dugger – I have no information on Wayne. If anyone knew him, or has any information on his career, please contact me.


Walter Stratton began his Broadway career in 1961, when he appeared as part of the ensemble in the musical Milk and Honey. In 1965, he worked as a  dancer in the Broadway musical Do I Hear a Waltz?  Eventually, Walter moved out to Hollywood where in 1969 he appeared in the film Sweet Charity.


Gary Crab - Tony Charmoli believes he first hired Gary to work in an act with Lisa Kirk. If anyone has further information on Gary Crab, please contact me.


Gary Menteer began dancing at the age of four in Houston, Texas. For the most part, he studied tap dancing. By the age of fifteen, he had moved to New York where he was hired to work in Broadway’s Music Man with Robert Preston. The job did not last long.

At that time, Lucille Ball was starting a workshop at her Hollywood Desilu Studios. The purpose was to gather young, talented performers and train them right there at the studio. Gary was brought into the program with eight other kids. Unfortunately for him, this opportunity did not last long either. Shortly after he entered the program, there was a television strike. Gary Menteer’s contract with Desilu was terminated abruptly.

In the following years, Gary found a lot of work, not only in television but in film. He appeared in many great musical films. Here are a few: The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Funny Lady, Bye, Bye Birdie, Finian’s Rainbow, Inside Daisy Clover and Mary Poppins. Gary worked with Julie Andrews for the first time in this film, playing a chimney sweep in the musical number, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”

Gary first met Tony Charmoli while working on The Judy Garland Show at CBS. Tony was working on The Danny Kaye Show across the way, and when Judy’s show ended, Tony hired Gary to work on The Danny Kaye Show. When Danny’s show ended, Gary moved on to The Dean Martin Show where he met quite a few people with whom he would later  work with on Julie’s show.


Tom Anthony – I have no information on Tom. If anyone has any information on him, or knows of his whereabouts, please contact me.


Garrett Lewis was not only the tallest of the dancers (6’3”), he was probably the performer with the most extensive theatrical background, and met Julie Andrews long before any of the other dancers did.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Garrett moved to New York City in the mid-1950s. Although he wrote in his high school year book, “I want to design movie sets,” by the time he moved to New York, he was clearly a good dancer and performing was his career for many years.

In the late 1950s, Hanya Holm, choreographer of My Fair Lady wanted him for the touring company of the show. She brought him backstage in New York and introduced him to the young Julie Andrews. From there, Garrett went out to Los Angeles and worked as a dancer in the show there.

By the mid-1960s, Garrett Lewis was playing Cornelius Hackl in first touring company of Hello Dolly starring Carol Channing. When injured Carlton Carpenter, in London, fell into the orchestra pit, breaking his pelvis, David Merrick sent Garrett to London to play Cornelius opposite Mary Martin. Although he was only supposed remain in the show  only a few weeks, Mary Martin liked him and insisted he stay for the rest of the run. He remained in the London with the show for a year, closing opposite Dora Bryan.

In 1967, Julie Andrews was filming a movie about the life of Gertrude Lawrence. The film would eventually be titled Star! Garrett Lewis won the role of Jack Buchanan, Gertrude’s manager. It was a speaking role which lasted through a good portion of the film’s first half. He also sang in the film and can be heard on the Star! album singing, “N’ Everything.”

In 1972, when Tony Charmoli called Garrett to ask him about working on The Julie Andrews Hour as one of the dancers, he told Garrett that Julie had asked for him. When I spoke to Garrett, he seemed uncertain about whether this was true or not. Still, because Julie had worked with him a good deal prior to this time, and also possibly because of his size, Garrett was the one who did all the special lifts and tricks with Julie.

                                                   ***

It is important to mention Dick Beard, Tony Charmoli’s Assistant Choreographer. Of all the dancers who worked on The Julie Andrews Hour, Dick Beard probably had the most fascinating dance history.

Born Richard Park Beard, in Florida in 1925, he began his career in ballet, training with some of the greatest dancers of his time, including Balanchine, Vladimiroff, and Anna Pavlova’s student, Muriel Stuart. When Beard appeared with Ballet International in 1944, he was rehearsed and trained by Bronislava Nijinska, Leonide Massine (who appeared in the film, The Red Shoes), Mme. Vera Fokina and Boris Romanoff. For those not knowledge-able in the history of ballet, these dancers are all legendary for their work.

Early on, Dick Beard became a member of the American Ballet Theater,  working under the direction of the English choreographer, Antony Tudor. Tudor created many roles for Beard, including the Bridegroom in Undertow. While working under Antony Tudor, Dick Beard partnered Dame Alicia Markova in Romeo and Juliet and Facsimile, a ballet by Jerome Robbins.

Following his career at ABT, Beard went to the New York City Ballet company where he worked with Balanchine. He also worked on the very popular Your Show of Shows, starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. Eventually, Beard formed a dance trio which appeared in hotels and clubs throughout the U.S. and in Paris.

Tony Charmoli had worked with Dick in New York. When Dick moved out to California, he worked with Tony again. As Tony explained to me, he partnered with Dick in working out various dance routines. Tony would take Julie’s part in order to see if the dance was working before trying it out on Julie.


***

Note: In an effort to keep most of this in the present – 1972-1973, I have not included all the credits on these wonderful people. I will follow-up on this information later.

Many thanks to Tony Charmoli, Jerry Trent, Gary Menteer and Garrett Lewis for their help with this chapter in the story of The Julie Andrews Hour and the artists who helped make it the show it was. 

If you would like to see The Julie Andrews Hour put out on DVD, along with  a Duets CD of Julie and her guests (and maybe others as well), please send a respectful e-mail to requesting this to:     dan.gopal@itv.com

Meanwhile, we are coming up on the anniversary of a great show! Coming this week, Episode No. 3 with Jack Cassidy and Ken Berry! Be sure to check in because Ken Berry has kindly given me some information about his time working on this show.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Episode Two - Guests Carl Reiner and Cass Elliot

      After the grand premiere of The Julie Andrews Hour, everyone associated with the show, worked hard to keep it at a high level of excellence.
The guest stars for the second show were Carl Reiner and Cass Elliot, along with Julie's regular co-star, Alice Ghostley.  
Here is a little bit about  these wonderful stars.
Comedian Carl Reiner was born March 20, 1922 in the Bronx, New York. As he states on the show, his parents were Jewish immigrants; his father came from Romania and his mother from Austria. When he was sixteen, Carl’s older brother, Charlie, told him about a free dramatic workshop that he’d seen advertised in the New York Daily News. Carl said that news changed the entire direction of his career and his life. Reiner appeared in many theatrical shows, including musicals on Broadway. In 1950, he worked on Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows, performing skits on the air with Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. In 1960, beginning on The Steve Allen Show, Reiner and Brooks formed a comedy duo which appeared both on television and stage.
Around this same time Carl Reiner developed a television plot which eventually became The Dick Van Dyke Show, making stars of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. Carl is the father of Rob Reiner, who became well-known around this time for his acting role as “Meathead” on All in the Family.
Cass Elliot was born Ellen Naomi Cohen in Baltimore, Maryland on September 19, 1941. Serious interest in performing began during her senior year of high school when she appeared in a summer stock performance of The Boyfriend, the very same musical that brought Julie Andrews to America and Broadway. Although in 1962 Cass tried for the role of Miss Marmelstein on Broadway, she lost out to another unknown, Barbra Streisand.
After working in a folk trio and as a solo act, in 1965 Cass Elliot joined The Mamas and The Papas with John Phillips, Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty. I remember the summer of 1967 when everyone was playing “California Dreamin.’” Other songs recorded by the group include, Monday, Monday and Dedicated to the One I Love.
In 1968, Cass Elliot left The Mamas and The Papas for a solo career, recording songs that sold many albums including: Make Your Own Kind of Music, New World Coming and Dream a Little Dream, among others. Although her weight had sometimes been an issue with her obtaining work, Cass Elliot was a tremendously talented performer in every way, and a warm human being. Evidence of this shows on The Julie Andrews Hour, Episode 2. Once would not automatically think of Julie Andrews and Cass Elliot singing together, but their voices blend beautifully.

Alice Ghostley was born Alice Margaret Ghostley in Eve, Missouri on August 14, 1924. She was raised in Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma until she made the decision to pursue a career in the theater. Moving to New York, Alice’s first appearance on Broadway was in “The New Faces of 1952,” a show which contained many future stars, including Eartha Kitt.

In 1957, Alice had been cast as “Joy” one of the ugly step-stepsisters a new musical, made for television. The show was “Cinderella,” starring Julie Andrews. Kay Ballard played the other sister. In every episode of The Julie Andrews Hour where Alice and Julie appear together, it is obvious that they enjoy working together and play off each other well.

                                                   *******
The second episode of The Julie Andrews Hour began with a party atmosphere as Julie sang “On a Wonderful Night Like Tonight,” followed by “It’s Today” from the musical Mame, during which she introduced her guests. 
One of the funniest moments in the show was a segment where  the four stars lined up on stage, reading from reading famous lines of “the Silver Screen” from scripts. Julie, Carl Reiner, Alice Ghostley and Cass Elliot are unexpectedly hilariously funny with these lines, so much so that they crack each other up. Director Bill Davis wisely did not cut out the bloopers.
In the next scene, Julie Andrews sings “This is My Beloved wearing a lovely white gown, surrounded by trees, dripping with jewels and/or crystals. The music and the photography are dazzling.
Promo for the second show, the Rat Tap number with
Julie's eight fellas:

Another highlight of this flawless show is the tap number, “Rap Tap” performed by Julie and her eight fellas. Her tap dancing is impressive. It’s a nice break in the midst of all the comedy and music.
When one thinks of singers, one hardly pictures Julie Andrews and Cass Elliot in a duet, but the two singers make beautiful music together as they launch into a medley that begins with “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” 
Another funny sketch appears in the show, one that is timeless and classic titled, “All About the Wheels.” In it, Julie and her guests tell the story of a roller derby queen and a sweet, but cut-throat fan. Carl Reiner plays a reported known as “Alison Slime,” with an accent that sounds like an spot-on imitation of James Mason. Cass Elliot is Tiny. Julie is “Helen Wheels” (or Hell on Wheels) the young, seemingly innocent girl who has come to meet her idol played by Alice Ghostley. This sketch is the roller derby version of "All About Eve."
During the "Getting to Know You" segment, during which everyone sitts around, drinking tea and sharing stories. we learned some very interesting things about Carl Reiner, At one point, Julie, wearing a little girls' dress, recreates a song she sang as a child soprano. Carl Reiner gives us a taste of his singing as an Irish tenor, and Cass Elliot goes back to the time of Benny Goodman and sings some of Helen O’Connell’s hits. This is really great stuff and proves what an artist Cass Elliot was.

If you would like to see The Julie Andrews Hour put out on DVD, along with  a Duets CD of Julie and her guests (and maybe others as well), please send a respectful e-mail to requesting this to:     dan.gopal@itv.com

NEXT BLOGChoreographer Tony Charmoli and Julie’s Eight Guys (The Dancers)
To learn more about these guests, please visit the sites listed below: