Tag Archives: entertainment

I Was a Teenaged Mark Russell Fan

As a nerdy teen, I used to love PBS. Well, I still do, but there are more options now, aren’t there? I enjoyed Brideshead Revisited and I, Claudius and many nature specials, and as a geek with a burgeoning interest in politics – and American politics being of far more interest than Canadian politics to most Canadians (not to mention the world) – I used to enjoy the Mark Russell political comedy/musical shows. If you don’t know who Russell was, he was a satirist who used musical parodies and a piano to mock politicians and headlines. He was very talented and astute and a fun performer, but if you watch this (or look up some other of his clips online) you will really get a sense of how genteel he was and how innocent his commentary could be. I do not mean that as a bad thing – I wish we could dial so much of our nastiness and bite back, and return to this kind of discourse. It’s easy to mock, and many have mocked him (I seem to recall SNL took a rather funny shot at him some years back) and that is fair enough. Still, when I read that he had passed, I felt rather nostalgic for this relative naivete and kindness. (Canuck readers: do we/did we have a Canadian equivalent to this gentleman? I think not.)

By the way, I was such a diehard PBS-watcher as a kid and teen that one night, during one of the public broadcaster’s pleading, desperate fundraising drives, I felt compelled to help. I was watching with my brother, who felt equally moved by their plight. Together, we took my dad’s credit card (he was likely sleeping/passed out) and phoned in quite a pledge. Yes, there was hell to pay, but we did get a tote bag.

Doris Day at 100

Doris Day would have been 100 today. In tribute, here is the column I wrote about her after her death. The initial draft was more about how the Boomers made her sort of a strawman/scapegoat for everything they hate (as they did with John Wayne), but this was too complicated/shocking an idea, apparently, so after some back-and-forth with the very nice and professional editor, I changed it. I so wanted to write about her. Ah well. (The comments are a hoot, btw. People have too much free time.)


It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so I want to take a moment to recommend to my dear readers the exceptional Kenneth Branagh film Belfast. I am of Irish (Protestant) background on my father’s side and so much of this movie resonated with me: a boy’s memories of what most of us would see as something terrible – so much violence – but for a nine-year-old it was a place and time he did not want to leave. And the music! What a joy. Van Morrison’s stirring rendition of Carrickfergus is part of the soundtrack – yes, I know Van is a bit off, but there is no denying this talent.

Mort Sahl

Mort Sahl died, and, apart from his contributions and life, there is something else noteworthy about his passing: an extraordinary piece of writing about him. It is rare that I say, about the New York Times, “Wow, what excellent journalism,” but I will say it about this obituary. Do read it. I’ll admit to getting tremendously sentimental when I watch clips of Sahl, as my parents were certainly big fans. He was that era’s sophisticate – without being condescending – and he revolutionized comedy – without ever being vulgar. There is a terrific clip of Sahl embedded in the linked-above piece. Watch it and ask yourself who the 2021 equivalent of this man is: I can’t think of anyone. What a shame.

Olivia de Havilland

Rest in peace, a fine actress and, apparently, a politically astute one. Good for her.

I loved her in so many fiIms including – trigger warning – Gone With the Wind, a story about the dangers of romanticizing people, ideologies and the past (most of which, the movie tells us, were never what we thought). I loved her with Errol Flynn – what a pair! I have a fond childhood memory of watching The Adventures of Robin Hood. Probably my favourite de Havilland film, though, is The Heiress. Every woman should watch this. The last scene is extraordinary and I have tried to find it on YouTube, to no avail. I did, however, find this – a Carol Burnett Show satire, which captures the original hilariously!