Tag: William Daniels

Hidden Netflix Gems – Ladybug Ladybug

Frank Perry’s Ladybug Ladybug feels dated in many ways, and not just because it is in black & white; it is a quintessential Cold War paranoia movie, from the era of Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the only film of its era to make the threat of nuclear annihilation the subject of comedy. While those films are revered to this day, Ladybug Ladybug has fallen unfairly by the wayside, though its unique approach and hypnotic style are definitely worthy of viewing by a modern audience.

Written by Perry’s wife and frequent collaborator, Eleanor Perry, from a story by Lois Dickert, Ladybug Ladybug‘s title comes from the children’s rhyme, “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home / Your house is on fire and your children are gone.” Based on a real incident, the film examines the course of events following a nuclear attack alarm at a small town elementary school. The alarm is a “code yellow,” which translates to “nuclear attack imminent within an hour.” After some panicked deliberation, the school’s principal, Mr. Calkins (William Daniels), decides to heed the alarm and send the children home. After this, the film follows one particular group of children as they are escorted home along a country road by a teacher, Mrs. Andrews (Nancy Marchand, best known as Tony’s vindictive mother, Livia, on The Sopranos).

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Choose your American creation myth

Every year about this time, my thoughts turn to a movie that is actually not very well made. Director Peter H. Hunt apparently had no clue how to turn “1776” from a Broadway musical into a movie back in 1972, but I still love the thing. An incredibly sharp, if still very theatrical, script by original writer Peter Stone (1974’s “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3”) and really fun performances seal the deal, even if the director can’t. Besides, if the Founding Fathers were great, how much greater would they be singing and dancing their way to freedom from English tyranny? It’s like the “John Adams” miniseries only funnier and with a quasi-18th century beat. Are you with me? Are you??? Well, take a look, anyway.

If you live in the Los Angeles area and this seems like your thing, it just so happens that the American Cinematheque is screening the restored version of the film tonight at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, with director Hunt in attendance (don’t tell him what I said). However, if it’s not your thing — and I understand that may be the case — perhaps you’d prefer a more, er, manly retelling of how our nation came to be.

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