Issue: 10.02
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Hi Gang, and greetings from Hollywood!

Shalom, Gang!

Sorry about last month, but oy such tsores around here. I can usually shake the flu in a few days. But this year I deferred to my doctor, and my kids and gave in to having a flu shot. Well, that was last September 28th, and I’m just now getting over the flu. Soon as I’m up to it, I’m going to go over to the doctor’s office, and give him a good patsh to the punim!

So, what did I do while I was convalescing? You guessed it…I watched movies! My son manages a Video store, so I get them for free! And one thing I did have time to ponder was how the movies have changed. Not for the better, or worse necessarily, just…changed.

Now, I don’t have to tell you, I’m a purist. I don’t see any reason for remakes. There will only be one Moses, (Charleton Heston,) so where’s the good in the subsequent retellings? I’m sure that as Moses was leading our people out of Thebes, he was thinking, “Okay, so we’re free…now what would Chuck Heston do?” Remakes are usually a pointless, unsuccessful ego trip on the part of a director who thinks, “I can do it better!” and seldom does.

But a few years ago, Disney, and Touchstone, did a remake for television of Meredith Wilson’s classic “The Music Man”. Well, since the original is my all-time favorite musical, I had my son schlep it home. Oddly enough, I loved it! And yet, it was…I don't know… lacking something? Determined to understand my mixed feelings, I had John schlep home the original as well, and I lay in bed watching first one, then the other, and back, and forth, for two days. And, I think I finally got to the bottom of it.

Now, the original starred Shirley Jones, Robert Preston, Buddy Hackett, Pert Kelton, Paul Ford and Hermione Gingold. You may ask, “What do all these people have in common?” Well, in a word…STAGE! Buddy Hackett was a stand-up comic. Kelton, and Gingold, started out in the Music Halls of London, Britain’s answer to the old Borscht Circuit, in the USA. Paul Ford was a Vaudevillian, and Jones, and Preston, cut their teeth on Broadway. All these genre require of an actor is to take themselves to an audience as much as four hundred feet away. Their vocal intonations, and movements, have to be exaggerated, or they’ll look like the mannequins in Macy’s windows to the folks in the nosebleed seats!

In the remake, almost all the principals were trained in front of a camera where even the slightest flinch of an eyebrow is recorded for posterity. These people are trained to do the exact opposite of the players in the original. I compared Matthew Broderick’s performance as Professor Harold Hill to his portrayal of Leo Bloom in the 2005 hit ‘The Producers’. In this one he shone like a new, tax-free Krugerand. Yet, as Harold Hill he came across as pinched, and unsure of himself. I believe the reason was that in the latter, he had done it on the stage, and simply brought that performance to the screen. Had he played Bloom the way he did Hill, Nathan Lane could have done quite nicely with Charlie McCarthy on his knee.

Of course, a lot is lost in the remake because it wasn’t shot in Cinemax or Technicolor, and in comparison it seems small, and inadequate. In the original, the closing scene alone employed over five hundred extras, and a marching band, (actually three,) of one hundred and fifty. The era in which these movies were made carries a lot of pertinence as well. The remake was played by modern women whose interpretations of the roles were those of post-feminist America, and therefore lacked the ‘feel’ brought to the original by actresses who remembered not being able to vote.

The question is, had the original been made twenty years later, would it still be as classical as it is? Probably not. On the other hand, if the remake had been made in 1962, would it have been the instant hit it was? As one of the traveling salesmen in the movie said, “Not on your previous existence!” In those days, musicals were an escape, something you went to see to give your spirits a lift. Bottom line, the small screen can’t make things larger-than-life the way the big screen can. ‘Big Screen’ isn’t just a medium; it’s a state of mind. If you make a movie where everyone is thinking small screen, you get what you paid for.

For what it was, (and was intended to be,) the remake of “The Music Man” was good. I enjoyed it. But if I want to feel the overwhelming thrill that can only come from a ‘bigger is better’ production, give me the original. I love Matthew Broderick, but truth be told, he’s no Bob Preston!

Meanwhile, director Tim Burton is busy at work trying to, once again, free Barnabas Collins from his coffin. Seems he’s finally gotten the green light, from Warner Brothers, to begin his remake of the 1960s cult hit “Dark Shadows” with Johnny Depp as the tragic vampire. No other casting has been done, but my little birdies tell me the script is in the works, and will finally reveal how Barnabas became a vampire in the first place. P.S., as of this writing, Jonathan Frid (The original and best Barnabas,) is eighty-four years old, one of only four actors from the series still living. For all you Dark Shadows fans, the others are David Selby, (Quentin Collins,) Nancy Barret, (Carolyn Collins Stoddard,) and David Henesy, (David Collins.) Normally, I would be up in arms over another contemporary bastardization of a classic, but since we’re talking Tim Burton, I’ll keep my gezunte mouth shut till I see it. Meanwhile, I’ll keep you posted!

Till next month, Gang!

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