Francis X. Bushman: King of the Movies

100 years ago, Francis X. Bushman was one of the top stars of the movie industry. Today, he is either mostly forgotten or only remembered for his least characteristic role as the villainous Messala in the 1925 version of “Ben-Hur.” On this episode, film historian Lon Davis recalls Bushman’s turbulent film career – which was full of amazing scandals – and his late-life comeback on TV, including appearances on “You Bet Your Life” and “Batman.”

“The Online Movie Show” is produced at the Platinum Wolfe Studios.

The episode can be heard here.

The Bootleg Files: That Certain Feeling

BOOTLEG FILES 577: “That Certain Feeling” (1956 comedy starring Bob Hope, Eva Marie Saint and Pearl Bailey).

LAST SEEN: An unauthorized video dupe is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A possible problem with rights clearance.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

During the early 1950s, a sense of staleness began to permeate Bob Hope’s film output. Movies like “My Favorite Spy,” “Off Limits,” “Here Come the Girls” and “Casanova’s Big Night” were burdened with a mechanical indifference, and even a reteaming with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in “Road to Bali” carried a sense of been-there/done-that. Yes, there were flashes of inspiration here and there, especially when Hope was paired with co-stars that matched his vibrancy – most notably in his instant-classic song-and-dance routine with James Cagney in “The Seven Little Foys.” But, for the most part, the fun was deflating and Hope’s star ranking at the box office was taking a slide.

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The Illinois Parables (2016)

Deborah Stratman’s experimental film considers the wide scope of the American experience through a narrow prism of eleven chapters from Illinois history.

The production considers the eerie near-erasure of the land’s ancient inhabitants – the Cahokia Mounds are shown with scant explanation of their relevance, while Native American culture is viewed in the tacky stagnation of a museum diorama and the expulsion of the Cherokees is encapsulated in a street sign called “Trail of Tears Road.” The rise and fall of outsider communities is also considered in the relatively brief period of the Icarian utopian commune of French immigrants and the rise of Joseph Smith’s nascent Mormon movement (as well as Smith’s death and the burning of the Mormon temple in Nauvoo). Stratman brings in archival footage of the devastating 1925 Tri-State Tornado and stages a re-enactment of the televised re-enactment of the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton by law enforcement.

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Sal Mineo: An Appreciation

By the time he reached 22, Bronx-born Sal Mineo received Academy Award nominations for his extraordinary performances in “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Exodus.” By the time he reached 25, he was virtually unemployable in the film world. Today’s episode traces the rise and fall of this complex actor with Michael Michaud, author of the wonderful book “Sal Mineo: A Biography.”

This episode can be heard here.

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The Bootleg Files: A Day at the Horse Opera

BOOTLEG FILES 576: “A Day at the Horse Opera” (1966 animated short inspired by the Marx Brothers).

LAST SEEN: An unauthorized video dupe is floating around Facebook.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A possible problem with rights clearance.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

On February 14, 1966, the trade publication Broadcasting Magazine carried an advertisement from Filmation Associates for a proposed series titled “The New Marx Brothers Show.” The series was to consist of 156 animated shorts featuring characters inspired by Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx. (Yeah, no love for Zeppo, again!)

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Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw The Future (2016)

One of the most influential figures in post-World War II architecture was the Finnish-born Eero Saarinen, whose neo-futuristic vision created some of the most striking design accomplishments of the 20th century. Peter Rosen’s documentary, which aired on PBS’ American Masters, offers a satisfactory oversight of Saarinen’s career.

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Robot Monster Lives!

Has there ever been a more bizarre creature than Ro-Man, the extraterrestrial robot that looks like a gorilla wearing a diving helmet? On this episode, we learn the story behind the making of “Robot Monster” and the life of its mysterious creator, Phil Tucker, with our guest Anders Runestad, author of the book “I Cannot, Yet I Must.” We also get to discuss Tucker’s work with Lenny Bruce on the equally bizarre “Dance Hall Racket” and the stories behind his lost films “Space Jockey” and “Pachuco.”

The episode can be heard here.

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Pet Fooled (2016)

Kohl Harrington’s documentary takes a harsh look at the questionable ingredients and frequently shabby quality control in today’s pet food industry. The film argues that too many dog and cat owners gets distracted with user-friendly marketing to notice that many of the canned and packaged foods being served to their pets are nutritionally dubious and fail to meet the basic dietary needs despite generous promises of being healthy. Even worse, the lack of care in the processing of these foods resulted in the poisoning deaths of pets and the uncontrollable grief of the owners that felt guilty in feeding their beloved creatures contaminated food. But it appears that no one is keeping an eye on this sector.

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