Tag: Harve Presnell

“When the Boys Meet the Girls”

I was looking for some material on the ol’ YouTube on the late Harve Presnell for my more retro-minded other blog home. I didn’t find much, but I did find this trailer for a film that was for one of Presnell’s few shots at movie stardom, a long forgotten attempt at what Hollywood journos and suits like to call a “four quadrant” film, in that it tries to appeal to both genders and all age groups. So, we get a film with hitmaker Connie Francis, Broadway baritone Harve Presnell, lots of Gershwin tunes, but also rocker’s Herman’s Hermits and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, but also Louis Armstrong, the man who practically invented jazz. Oh, and Liberace, too. Check it out.

The movie was “When the Boys Meet the Girls” and it appears it didn’t exactly make a mint for MGM. This was the age when clueless grown-ups thought they could remake an old musical property (the twice-before filmed Gershwin Broadway hit, “Girl Crazy”) and bring people of all ages together in a theater simply by mixing elements appealing to grown-ups and teens of the time. What they didn’t seem to realize was that there was an increasingly acrimonious cultural war raging in the country between young people increasingly hostile to “old people’s music” and “old people” who had never stopped being hostile to rock and roll. About a year or two later they’d be calling it “the generation gap.”

The ironic thing is that, in this “High School Musical” era, the youth of today happily listen to music from all eras — including the pre-rock days — and the angry youth of the past are, of course, now “old people” themselves. In the era of “High School Musical,” as doofy as this trailer might look (though, of course, I kind of dig it…kind of), an approach like this could actually work commercially. Expect a fourth “Girl Crazy” remake shortly.

RIP Karl Malden (updated)

Like all character actors, Karl Malden never got quite the same level of attention as costars like Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Steve McQueen, Anthony Perkins, Montgomery Clift, Michael Caine, and George C. Scott. Even the seventies TV series he starred in, “The Streets of San Francisco” found him being overshadowed in the eyes of the teenybopper set by his young punk of a male ingenue costar, Michael Douglas. That was largely because Malden was the kind of performer who understood that acting is a team sport. His best scenes were like great duets with near perfect communication between him and his scene partners. The exception were American Express travelers’ checks; those, he wiped off the screen.

Karl Malden died today at age 97, having been more or less fully retired since appearing in a 2000 episode of “The West Wing.” While he was never precisely an A-lister, he was a go-to actor for secondary leads, president of the Motion Picture Academy, and as far as I can tell a universally respected figure among actors and everyone else associated with the movie industry. He was also married to the same woman for seventy years, a rare enough Holllywood achievement to merit it’s own special Oscar. Not a bad life.

Below the fold is a video tribute I found that, from the misspellings, I gather may come from Serbia. (Malden, whose real name was Mladen Sekulovich, was the son of a Serbian father and a Czechoslovak mother.) The image quality could be better and some of the clips are a little too brief, but it does give you an excellent overview of his truly diverse film career, which included work with some of the greatest Hollywood directors including Elia Kazan, John Frankenheimer, and Alfred Hitchcock. It also includes some interesting moments from two oddball spy films, “Murderer’s Row,” which I haven’t seen, and the underrated “Billion Dollar Brain,” which included some pretty amazing scenes between Malden and Michael Caine as his old spy buddy, Harry Palmer, as well as Françoise Dorléac as his treacherous spy girlfriend (though he’s pretty tricky himself).

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