Tommy Cooper in World War 2

“I got the military cross. Mind you, I got the Navy a bit annoyed as well!” is just one of those classic one liners from the legendary Tommy Cooper,

He was one of my all time favourite comedians, and despite what people may think he actually was a talented magician. But there is so much more to the man.

He was born on the 19th of March 1921, at 19 Llwyn On Street, Trecenydd in Caerphilly, Wales . His father was a Welshman, , was as a recruiting sergeant for the British army, later coal miner . His mother, Gertrude, was English, coming from Crediton in Devon. The Coopers did not own the house but were merely lodging there. Apparently, in those pre-maternity hospital days, Tommy was born at home and the owner of the house acted as the midwife for the birth. To escape from the heavily polluted air of Caerphilly, Tommy’s dad accepted a new job and the family moved to Exeter, Devon, when Cooper was three.

In 1940 he was called up as a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards. He joined Montgomery’s Desert Rats in Egypt.

After a short while, his reconnaissance unit was sent to North Africa working in conjunction with armoured cars and tanks. He then lost his A1 rating after he received a gunshot wound to his left arm. This allowed him to audition, with great success, for the army concert party.

He became the Horse Guards boxing champion, he was so good that he was offered a contract to turn pro.​

While serving, he travelled to Egypt and began to develop his act incorporating the now iconic trademark fez.​
His famous red fez was introduced rather luckily during a NAAFI concert. The concert took place in a Y.M.C.A. in Cairo. Tommy was going to wear his pith helmet but he had somehow mislaid it. Quick as a flash he “borrowed” an Egyptian waiter’s hat instead. during the audition, his trick went wrong. But the panel were in hysterics and said that should be his act.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

His life ended tragically though. On April 15 1984 he died in front of a live television audience.

The comedian was performing on the London Weekend Television show called Live From Her Majesty’s. While on stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Westminster, London, he slumped down and subsequently collapsed.

Initially the host assumed it was part of the act and so did the audience. The audience erupted in laughter assuming it was all part of the joke. After his initial collapse, he slowly fell back onto the stage curtains.

However, the show’s director recognised something was very wrong, and switched to an unplanned break. Tommy was pulled from the curtains and efforts were attempted to revive him backstage. He was pronounced dead at arrival at Westminster Hospital.

But the show continued, and Les Dennis and Dustin Gee were two of the proceeding acts.

Although I did not go into the comedy of Tommy Cooper in this blog. I could not end it without one of his famous gags. “Spoon, Jar, Jar, Spoon”



sources

https://www.entertainmentdaily.co.uk/tv/did-tommy-cooper-die-on-stage-and-how-old-was-he/

https://www.tommy-cooper.com/horse-guards

Dallas-A House Divided

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I think it is safe to say that Dallas was one if not ‘the’ biggest TV show ever to be aired, probably even bigger than “Game of Thrones” and in a way the shows have similarities even though they are set in completely different settings.

I know they tried to revive ‘Dallas’ a few years ago but every knew it wasn’t going to work.

The episode called “A House Divided” which first aired on March 21 1980 will probably mean nothing to most of you, but if I say it’s the one where JR got shot every one will know.

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“A House Divided” served as both an introduction to the now common practice of season-ending cliffhangers and the beginning of an eight-month international media frenzy.[11] International betting offices created a set of odds for the possible suspects: “Dusty Farlow (J. R.’s wife Sue Ellen’s lover, who disappeared after a plane crash) was the 6 to 4 favorite, followed by Vaughn Leland (a banker J. R. swindled) and Kristin Shepard (J. R.’s mistress) at 4 to 1. Sue Ellen herself was a long shot at 25 to 1, as is J.R.’s long- suffering mom, Miss Ellie.

 

“Who Shot J.R.?” entered the national lexicon, becoming a popular T-shirt slogan, and heightening anticipation of the soap’s third season, which was to come in the fall. Much to the dismay of Dallas fans, the premiere was delayed because of a Screen Actors Guild strike. When it finally aired, the episode revealing the shooter became one of television’s most-watched shows, with an audience of 83 million people, and helped put Dallas into greater worldwide circulation.

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++++ Spoiler Alert+++++

I know it is probably overkill to indicate a spoiler alert at this stage but one can never be too careful.

JR was shot by an Irish man who lives on Craggy Island in the Parish of Father Ted.He confessed to the crime by wearing a Tee Shirt admitting he had done it.

JR.

That was a joke of course, but that just indicates the cultural significance of the shooting of JR, literally the whole world spoke about it.

The real perpetrator was Kristin Shepard, JR’s mistress and sister in law, played by Bing Crosby’s daughter

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The shooting of JR wasn’t the only big cliffhanger of course, who could forget Bobby Ewings’s shower scene, a resurrection if there ever was one.

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Cheers- A classic sitcom, but there is more…

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I usually do very heavy historical blogs but every once in a while I do a more lighthearted and quirky ones, more for my own sanity then anything else, this is one of those quirky ones.

Cheers is one of the most popular sitcoms and rightfully so, not only was Cheers very funny the spin off was even funnier and more successful. That spin off , of course is ‘Frasier’

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Before I continue though I need to warn you because this blog is not so much about Cheers or Frasier but more about the theme song of Cheers, “Where everybody knows your name” After you have read this blog you will probably look at Cheers in a different way, but don’t worry it is all good.

At the start of each episode of Cheers we only hear a part of the theme song. The original song lasts for 2.30 minutes, the song was written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo. And the lyrics in the song are hilarious.

Below are the lyrics of the part of the song you don’t hear in the show.

All those night when you’ve got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by it’s tail;
And your third fiance didn’t show;

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee’s dead;
The morning’s looking bright;
And your shrink ran off to Europe,
And didn’t even write;
And your husband wants to be a girl.

 

Another quirky fact Rhea Perlman wasn’t the only member of her family to grace the set of Cheers. Her younger sister, Heide, produced more than two dozen episodes between 1985 and 1986 and wrote several episodes throughout the show’s run. Perlman’s father, Phil, played one of the bar regulars (named Phil).

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Cheers is just one of those shows of which you can say, “They just don’t make them like that anymore”

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Goodbye Martin Crane-RIP John Mahoney

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John Mahoney, the veteran actor best known for his role as Martin Crane in the TV comedy series Frasier, has died in the US at the age of 77. He passed away on Sunday in his adopted hometown of Chicago after a brief hospitalisation.

Born into an Irish family in Blackpool, Lancashire, Mahoney emigrated to the US as a teenager to join his sister.

Mahoney, the seventh of eight children, was born in Blackpool, Lancashire, England on June 20, 1940.The family was evacuated to Blackpool from the Mahoneys’ home city of Manchester, when it was heavily bombed during the Second World War.

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He started school at St Joseph’s College, Blackpool. After the war, the Mahoneys moved back to Manchester. Mahoney grew up in the Withington area of the city and discovered acting at the Stretford Children’s Theatre. His Irish father, Reg, was a bakerwho played classical piano, and his mother, Margaret, was a housewife who loved reading. His parents’ marriage was not happy and they either would not speak to each other or have heated arguments. The family situation, combined with the war, fuelled Mahoney’s interest in acting and he vowed to leave Manchester.

Mahoney moved to the United States as a young man when his older sister, Vera, a war bride living in rural Illinois, agreed to sponsor him. He studied at Quincy University, Illinois, before joining the United States Army to speed up the U.S. citizenship process; he received citizenship in 1959.He lived in Macomb, Illinois, and taught English at Western Illinois University in the early 1970s,before settling in Forest Park, Illinois, and later in Oak Park, Illinois. He served as editor of a medical journal through much of the decade.

The actor only got into the profession in his late 30s after he returned to Manchester and saw Albert Finney and Leo McKern in Uncle Vanya. When he came back to Chicago he took an acting class which was run by David Mamet. The playwright and John Malkovich eventually convinced Mahoney to join the Steppenwolf group alongside the likes of Laurie Metcalf, Joan Allen and Gary Sinise.

 

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The actor played in a great number of movies, stage plays and TV Shows. But he will always be remembered as Martin Crane, retired cop and father of Psychiatrists Niles and Frasier Crane.

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We could not mention Martin Crane without mentioning his 4 legged companion, Eddie.

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For 11 seasons you made us laugh. There has not been one bad episode. Although your lines were always witty . funny and often sarcastic they were also sometimes very touching and profound.

Martin Crane thank you for all the laughs. John Mahoney thanks for being a great actor. let’s hope you can fulfill your dreams wherever you are now.

Rest in Peace.

Ending with one of my favourite scenes.

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The WWII efforts of Laurel and Hardy

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I grew up watching Laurel and Hardy movies, and to this day I still watch them. Where the comedy of some of the other 1920/30s comedians dated, the comedy of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy stayed fresh.

What many people don’t know is that during WWII,Laurel and Hardy did contribute to the WWII efforts.

In 1942 the comic duo starred in a short film commissioned by the  U. S. Department of Agriculture and distributed by the U.S. Forest Service, featuring Laurel and Hardy, with narration read by MGM announcer and producer Pete Smith.

The film was called “The Tree in a Test tube”

The movie was made to raise awareness to  preserve and use domestic wood sparingly to help in the war efforts.

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They were a;so part of the Hollywood Victory caravan a two-week cross-country railroad journey in 1942 that brought together two dozen film stars to raise money for the Army and Navy Relief Society.

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The Hollywood Victory Caravan show was partially inspired by an all-star war bond show at Madison Square Garden on March 10, 1942 which was done for Navy Relief and organized by Walter Winchell. Plans were then made for a nationwide tour by Hollywood stars. The Santa Fe Railroad donated the use of a special train and this had up to fourteen railroad cars which had facilities for rehearsals on board with two portable dance floors, two pianos and ten musicians. Setting off from Los Angeles on April 26, 1942, it traveled to Washington DC where the stars went to a White House Tea Party at the invitation of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on April 30 before opening their musical revue extravaganza that night at 8:30 p.m. at Loew’s Capitol. The total “on stage” troupe for opening night consisted of 75 people.

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They may not have fired guns but with their own theater shows and movies they brought laughter in a very bleak era.

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Elvis in the Army

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In December 1957, while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, rock-and-roll star Elvis Presley receives his draft notice for the United States Army.

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Presley was originally scheduled to be inducted on January 20, 1958. However, due to commitments at Paramount and the filming schedule of his latest film, King Creole, Presley had to personally write to the Memphis Draft Board to request a deferment. He explained to them that Paramount had already spent up to $350,000 on pre-production of the film, and that many jobs were dependent on him being able to complete filming, which was due to begin on January 13. They granted him an extension until the middle of March. When news of the extension broke, angry letters were sent to the Memphis Draft Board complaining about the “special treatment” that Presley was receiving. According to Milton Bowers, head of the draft board and angered by the public outcry, Presley “would have automatically gotten the extension [anyway] if he hadn’t been Elvis Presley the superstar”

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After six months of basic training–including an emergency leave to see his beloved mother, Gladys, before she died in August 1958–Presley sailed to Europe on the USS General Randall. For the next 18 months, he served in Company D, 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Corps in Friedberg, Germany, where he attained the rank of sergeant.

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Entertaining the troops

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The United Service Organizations Inc. (USO) is a nonprofit organization that provides live entertainment, such as comedians and musicians, and other programs to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families. Since 1941, it has worked in partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD), relying heavily on private contributions and on funds, goods, and services from various corporate and individual donors. Although it is congressionally-chartered, it is not a government agency.

During World War II, the USO became the GI’s “home away from home” and began a tradition of entertaining the troops that continues today.

The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes line the pier as they get ready to board a ship and depart New York City for a U.S.O. tour. July 14, 1945

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Comedian Joe Brown cuts it up in his act for soldiers during a U.S.O. show in Italy. 1944.

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USO tours were dangerous. Thirty-seven USO entertainers died during World War II. The most famous entertainer who didn’t make it back was legendary big band leader and then-Army Major Glenn Miller, whose plane disappeared over the English Channel on the way to France.

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Bob Hope USO show, 1944

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Stars of the stage and screen weren’t just entertainers back in the 1940s. They’d also bring you coffee and a donut. At New York City’s famed USO Stage Door Canteen, troops could meet the stars of the day, watch them perform and even be waited on by them. At the USO Hollywood Canteen, some stars worked shifts in the anonymity of the kitchen.

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Was the 2007,Writers Guild of America strike, the best thing ever to happen to TV?

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The WGAE and WGAW labor unions represent film, television, and radio writers working in the United States. All 12,000 screenwriters and TV writers in the guild were part of the strike which started on November 5, 2007, and concluded on February 12, 2008.

I think this was one of the best things ever to happen to TV. It is because of this the market suddenly opened up for TV shows which usually would not be broadcast outside of their point of origin.

Especially the Scandinavian dramas attracted a lot of interest.

It kinda started of with Wallander.

Wallander

Well I said kinda. It wasn’t the original series that first got broadcast but the BBC version starring Kenneth Branagh.

The original Swedish show did follow shortly afterwards though,it was much grittier then the watered down version of the BBC.

Even though this was a well written and compelling show to watch it was nothing compared to what the Danes produced. Forbrydelsen -aka- the Killing.

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The series is set in Copenhagen and revolves around Detective Inspector Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl). Each series follows a murder case day-by-day. Each fifty-minute episode covers twenty-four hours of the investigation(who can’t remember that sweater)

Although it was slow at the start it was still perfectly paced.

Also from Denmark was  the political drama,Borgen.

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I have to admit I actually never got the chance to get to see it.

The show was  created by Adam Price. It tells how Birgitte Nyborg, a politician, becomes the first female Prime Minister of Denmark against all the odds. Borgen is the informal name of Christiansborg Palace and is where the three branches of Danish government reside: the Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Supreme Court.

Then what I consider the crown of Scandinavian dramas,Bron/Broen, or the Bridge in English.

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The Bridge (Danish: Broen; Swedish: Bron) is a Scandinavian crime television series created and written by Hans Rosenfeldt. A joint creative and financed production between Sweden’s Sveriges Television and Denmark’s DR, it has been shown in over 100 countries and unlike the slow start from Forbrydelsen, this one starts with a bang.

A body found on the bridge connecting Denmark to Sweden,on the middle of the border. It sets the scene for a very dark and gritty drama with many unsuspected but realistic twists.

Bron/Broen was first broadcast in 2011 a few years after the strike, but I do think if the strike hadn’t happened none of these shows would have made it out of Scandinavia, and shows like Deutschland 83 would probably only have been shown in Germany(perhaps also the low countries)

When I heard threats of a new Hollywood screenwriters strike I was actually pleased.Because I do believe the 2007 strike was the best thing that happened for TV in decades.

Finishing with the theme song of Bron/Broen.

 

The show must go on.

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In the months following the bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940, the Germans wanted daily life to continue as normal as possible. So entertainment was of great importance. And who better to help with this than the popular twosome of Snip and Snap. For years the comedy reviews of Willy Walden (Snip) and Piet Muyselaar (Snap) had drawn full houses.

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This duo, with their joking around and often playing the ladies Snip and Snap in women’s dresses, helped many people forget about the war.

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But in order to perform artists had to become members of the Kultuurkamer (Chamber of Culture), the organization established in 1941 to regulate the arts in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. Even variety acts like Snip and Snap were required to register.

In 1942 Snip and Snap celebrated their fifth anniversary. The two string marionettes – also named Snip and Snap – depicted on the cover of the show booklet (bottom left) were specially made for Willy Walden and Piet Muyselaar for their anniversary revue Tot uw dienst  (At Your Service).

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A  musician called Jan van Halen was one of the musicians in the later Snip en Snap shows, and legend has it that one of his sons once performed in the show. The son Eddie later formed the Hard Rock band Van Halen, together with his brother Alex.

 

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Marlene Dietrich

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On her birthday it is time to look back at Marlene Dietrich’s WWII efforts.

Marie MagdaleneMarleneDietrich ( 27 December 1901 – 6 May 1992)was a German actress and singer who held both German and American citizenship. Throughout her unusually long career, which spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s, she maintained popularity by continually reinventing herself.

In the 1920s in Berlin, Dietrich acted on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel (1930) brought her international fame and resulted in a contract with Paramount Pictures.

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Dietrich starred in Hollywood films such as Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932), and Desire (1936). She successfully traded on her glamorous persona and “exotic” looks, and became one of the highest-paid actresses of the era. Throughout World War II, she was a high-profile entertainer in the United States.

Dietrich was known to have strong political convictions and the mind to speak them. In interviews, Dietrich stated that she had been approached by representatives of the Nazi Party to return to Germany but had turned them down flat. In the late 1930s, Dietrich created a fund with Billy Wilder and several other Germans to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany.

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In 1937, her entire salary for Knight Without Armor (450,000) was put into escrow to help the refugees. In 1939, she became an American citizen and renounced her German citizenship. In December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to help sell war bonds.

She toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone) and was reported to have sold more war bonds than any other star.

During two extended tours for the USO in 1944 and 1945, she performed for Allied troops in Algeria, Italy, the UK and France, then went into Germany with Generals James M. Gavin and George S. Patton.

 

When asked why she had done this, in spite of the obvious danger of being within a few kilometers of German lines, she replied, “aus Anstand“—”out of decency”.Wilder later remarked that she was at the front lines more than Eisenhower. Her revue, with Danny Thomas as her opening act, included songs from her films, performances on her musical saw (a skill she had originally acquired for stage appearances in Berlin in the 1920s) and a pretend “mindreading” act. Dietrich would inform the audience that she could read minds and ask them to concentrate on whatever came into their minds. Then she would walk over to a soldier and earnestly tell him, “Oh, think of something else. I can’t possibly talk about that!” American church papers reportedly published stories complaining about this part of Dietrich’s act.

In 1944, the Morale Operations Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) initiated the Musak project, musical propaganda broadcasts designed to demoralize enemy soldiers. Dietrich, the only performer who was made aware that her recordings would be for OSS use, recorded a number of songs in German for the project, including “Lili Marleen”, a favorite of soldiers on both sides of the conflict.Major General William J. Donovan, head of the OSS, wrote to Dietrich, “I am personally deeply grateful for your generosity in making these recordings for us.”

 

At the war’s end in Europe, Dietrich reunited with her sister Elisabeth and her sister’s husband and son. They had resided in the German city of Belsen throughout the war years, running a cinema frequented by Nazi officers and officials who oversaw the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Dietrich’s mother remained in Berlin during the war, her husband moved to a ranch in the San Fernando Valley of California. Dietrich vouched on behalf of her sister and her sister’s husband, sheltering them from possible prosecution as Nazi collaborators. Dietrich would later omit the existence of her sister and her sister’s son from all accounts of her life, completely disowning them and claiming to be an only child.

Dietrich received the Medal of Freedom in November 1947. She said this was her proudest accomplishment. She was also awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French government for her wartime work

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