This is the Halloween broadcast of Kukla, Fran & Ollie I mentioned the other day that aired 74 years ago tonight, on October 31, 1949.
It follows up on the episode a few nights earlier, when Beulah Witch was preparing for her fellow alums and teachers from Witch Normal college coming to town for a Halloween convention – but a small crisis comes up that she has to avert. As things develop, the other Kuklapolitans excitedly prepare for trick-or-treating, and sing a bunch of songs along the way – my favorite being Beulah Witch’s rendition of “That Old Black Magic.”
The episode also shows off Burr Tillstrom’s artistry well – though it’s subtle because he does it with such ease.
The first is the opening of the show when music director Jack Fascianato plays the KF&O theme “Here We Are Again,” and he’s joined by two Kuklapolitans accompanying him on toy pianos. It’s amusing and generally just plunking on the keys, except if you listen closely he actually is getting some of the theme music correct. (And made all the better because one of the two is my fave, the lunatic Cecil Bill.) And the other comes later in the episode when Kukla, Fran and Ollie sing a trio – with Tillstrom going back and forth with the two voices. As I said, it’s comes across with such natural ease, but it’s no small trick singing a duet with yourself.
By the way, I noticed a bit of information posted with this video. Over 700 episodes of the show were transferred to digital thanks to funding from the Burr Tillstrom Copyright Trust and fans of the show – as well as, most interestingly, the Jane Henson Foundation. As I’ve written in the past, Jim Henson always said that Burr Tillstrom and Kukla, Fran and Ollie were one of his big inspirations to get into puppetry and ultimately create The Muppets. And his wife’s helping to fund this clearly supports that. Special thanks were given, as well, to the Chicago History Museum for its invaluable help in the process.
And now – trick or treat!
It's Halloween, so we turn these pages over to the day. Those waiting for the next edition of the Elisberg International Film Festival will just have to wait an extra day. Some things have priority.
I told this story six years ago (almost to the day, but definitely to the occasion), but it bears repeating. My favorite Halloween memory came about 20 years ago. And it involved a Staples office supply store. No, really.
In the late afternoon, I parked in the lot of my local West L.A. Staples and headed towards the building. And coming outside at that moment was Ray Bradbury.
Now, mind you, that alone would have been good enough. I've always loved Ray Bradbury's writing, and the first book of his I'd read was his classic Something Wicked This Way Comes, which centers around Halloween. But then, so did many of his works. He wrote a collection of stories, The October Country. One of his creepy stories is "The October Game". He wrote a short novel, The Halloween Tree. And much more.
Side note: years after I read the book, Disney Studios made a movie out of Something Wicked This Way Comes. A friend at the studio got me a copy of the screenplay and poster, both personally signed to me by Ray Bradbury. Which I still have. So, the author, book, and the connection to Halloween has long been strong with me.
And then there was Ray Bradbury. On Halloween.
I tend not to go up to celebrities. And Ray Bradbury was clearly not in the best of health, helped by a caregiver. But...this was Ray Bradbury. And it was Halloween, for goodness sake. You don't ignore that and expect to have any self-respect. It would almost like avoiding Santa on Christmas. Sure, Ray Bradbury busy because he's the patron saint of the holiday, but he more than almost anyone in the world is celebrating the day to its fullest. And wants the day celebrated to the fullest.
So, I walked over, simply said how much I enjoyed his writing and expected to leave it at that. But he was charming, and engaged me in conversation, helped in part by him finding out that I grew up near where he did, in Waukegan, Illinois. (Glencoe, where I'm from, is about 25 miles directly south.) I don't recall a great many specifics about the conversation, though I do remember his saying how Halloween was his favorite holiday. (Gee, no kidding!)
Which is why it came as a thrill -- and is my favorite Halloween memory -- when, as we parted, Ray Bradbury wished me, "Happy Halloween."
We continue with the Third Elisberg Industries Film Festival with our presentation of the original 1960 cast production of Camelot. And tonight, we come to the turning point of the show, through Scenes 9-11 of Act 1.
For the first two scenes, we have the live onstage-audio and script only – but filled in with wonderful production photos and even some silent film footage of the stage action – as Arthur, sensing Guinevere’s growing interest in Lancelot, tells her and Pellinore that he knows he must knight Lancelot for his actions, bringing a man believed dead back to life. Left alone, Guinevere realizes that she’s falling in love with Lance and she sings “Before I Gaze at You Again,” as Lancelot enters and the two must deal with their growing affection. This leads to the Processional before the knighting ceremony. And then, once again, video from the Ed Sullivan Show is intercut in for the entire knighting ceremony, a scene that culminates in Arthur’s tormented “Proposition” soliloquy of how as a man or King he must address what to do about the two people closest to him who he loves but are betraying him – which ends the First Act.
We're going to take a bit of a respite this morning from Trump and politics, and instead head over to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. And if you missed it, the Main Story was about chocolate. Which is far easier to digest.
That said, it's a serious story and takes a U-turn when it delves into cocoa bean farming. It's very interesting and problematic, though given the general subject, there's a lot of room -- a lot -- for humor.
From the archives. The guest this week is Rodger Reynolds from Ashland, Virginia. I got the hidden song almost immediately, and it's one of the least-hidden songs that Bruce Adolphe has done, so I suspect most people will get it. I have a feeling that the reason it's so poorly hidden is because it overlaps not a composer style, but an existing piece of music. Alas, as absolutely familiar and recognizable as that music is...I just couldn't name the composer whose style it was.
The guest on this week’s Al Franken podcast is Middle East scholar Aaron David Miller. He and Al discuss the Israel-Hamas War.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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