Posts Tagged ‘Scatman Crothers’

The Muppet Show Season 6 Pt. 3

May 13, 2021

S06E07 Angela Lansbury

Dame Angela Lansbury was born in Central London in 1925 and luckily for all of us, she decided to move to the United States to escape the Blitz during World War II. She studied theater in New York City before she trekked across country to Hollywood in the early 1940s. As a young woman, she got a deal with MGM and acted in 13 films. She received Oscar nominations for Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray and received a Golden Globe while still in her twenties. She kept working in film but it was theater that finally made her a star when she landed the leading role in Mame. From there she dove into musicals both on stage and on screen and started to become more of a household name. She received even more widespread fame for playing famed crime solver Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. After that ended, she went back to live theater where she is currently still working.

Lansbury would be perfect for the Muppet Show. She had tons of experience working in pretty much any medium and genre. She did stuff for kids like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, darker fare like Gaslight and Sweney Todd, and anything in between. She had already worked with animation and special effects so puppetry would not have been a problem. Her versatility has helped to keep her career fresh. She would have been working on Broadway at that point but having her on would have been great promotion for Sweeney Todd which was big at the time.

Cold Open: As Lansbury is checking in with Pops, Hilda shows up and says that nice ladies have to stick together.

Guest Arc: Lansbury tries to prove she’s not just a nice lady. She shows that she can be mean if she wants to and bullies the Muppets.

“By the Sea” (Sondheim) with Fozzy
“Bosom Buddies” (Jerry Herman) with Miss Piggy
“Little Yellow Bird” (Murphy/Hargreaves) with a little yellow bird puppet

S06E08 Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks is definitely one of the all-time kings of American comedy. He got his start in the 1950s as a comedy writer for Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows, a trial by fire similar to more modern shows like Saturday Night Live. It obviously allowed him to train his comedy and writing chops. He continued to work with Caesar until the 1960s where he got his first celebrity when he and Carl Reiner created the 2000-year-old man routine where Reiner would interview Brooks as he played a man who had been alive for thousands of years. The routine was a hit on The Steve Allen Show. He had a brush with writing for Broadway and then he co-created the hit television show Get Smart. The success of that show helped vault him into a career writing and directing (and sometimes starring in) his own movies. His name became known for parody and satire and goofy yet smart humor. Films like The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and more became huge cult classics and innovated comedy movies.

Brooks would have been a solid choice for The Muppet Show because he never once took himself seriously. As a writer and a guy who came from a live television background, he has always been comfortable with rolling with the punches. Brooks was happy to adlib and goof around with his friends and just about anybody. At this point, he had already worked with several people who were guests on the show in the first five seasons.

Cold Open: Scooter comes to give the warning but stays to try and pitch an idea.

Guest Arc: The Muppets think that Brooks is there as a big shot producer but he is really there as a performer. They keep pitching things to a flabbergasted and confused Brooks.

Guest Acts:
“If You Love Me Baby, Tell Me Loud” (Brooks) with Sweetums and Electric Mayhem
Pitch Meeting: Crazy Harry, Lew Zealand, and Gonzo
“Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst” (Brooks) with Rowlf at the piano

S06E09 Scatman Crothers

The man who would become Scatman Crothers started his musical career when he was still a teenager. He was a self-educated musician and eventually took the moniker of Scatman for the obvious reason that he used a lot of scat singing in his act. He moved from Ohio to Los Angeles and his career picked up. He did USO tours with Bob Hope. Starting n the 1970s, his career as an actor picked up because he had roles in Hello Dolly, The Great White Hope, The Aristocats, The Shining, Silver Streak, and more. He eventually moved into voice acting and became the voice of Hong Kong Phooey and Meadowlark Lemon of the Globetrotters. He guested on tons of popular television shows and gained legend by being everywhere for a while.

He would have been perfect for the Muppet Show because he had nearly bottomless levels of charisma. Energy just seemed to pour out of the Scatman and he had great acting and musical talent. When somebody is a consummate performer, it is easy to imagine them in almost any scenario.

Cold Open: Pops and Scatman are greeting each other enthusiastically when they have a run in with JP Grosse.

Guest Arc: JP Grosse, the owner of the Muppet Theater, shows up wanting to raise ticket prices. Kermit enlists Scatman to show him the errors of his ways.

“Ain’t She Sweet” (Ager/Yellen) With Miss Piggy
“Blue-eyed Sally” With the Electric Mayhem
“The Best Things in Life Are Free” (Gordon McRae) with Kermit

The Aristocats (1970)

April 1, 2019

Except for a single dog when I was little, our family was always a cat family. We got our first cats while we were on a family trip to visit a Great Aunt who we were not particularly close with. I only really remember two trips. During one trip we got a Nintendo Game Boy and on another trip, my two brothers and I each got a kitten. Pretty strange now that I think back on it. I wonder if my parents were even notified ahead of time. Anyway, we were pretty young and we each got a kitten. We were not the most imaginative little kids so we named them Andrew (mine), Blondie, and Baby. Baby stayed with us the longest and was the only cat who left us due to natural causes. We had plenty more cats over the years. Hans, Everest, Velvet, and many more. Sadly, many of them ran away and more than one was hit by a car. We were city kids but we did not have the heart to keep them inside and they lived full lives before they met their untimely demises. Still, we really liked our cats and they loved us in the way cats do.

Anybody who reads this blog or browses my archives should know by now that I love Disney. Pretty much anything they do is up my alley. Even the less good stuff is more enjoyable than the output of other companies. This movie was one that I had missed during my childhood probably because of the way the Disney vault works. For those not aware, the Disney vault was a policy where Disney would only sell copies of their animated movies for a limited time before hiding them away again in order to drive up demand. Thanks to streaming, that policy has now ended. Anyway, I always loved the older animated films because of their use of accessible, commercial jazz and show tunes. Movies like The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, and Oliver and Company were a bit jazzier than the run of the mill Disney Princess film (not that those weren’t great too). When I saw that the Aristocats has more of a swinging jazz soundtrack, I wanted to check it out. It makes sense, this was the last movie with music written by the Sherman Brothers. (More on them tomorrow).

So the first thing I noticed was that they brought Maurice Chevalier out of retirement to sing the opening song during the opening credits. This is something akin to what Disney would do later by having Dr. John sing the opening song to The Princess and the Frog. The movie is full of great, memorable characters. The star of the movie is no doubt Eva Gabor. She and her sister Zsa Zsa had distinct accents that just immediately screams class and sophistication. Her kindness just shines through her voice. Phil Harris plays the alley cat who comes to the rescue. He has such a fun and laid back voice that I could have heard him talk much longer than he did. He is a Disney veteran as he was both Baloo and Little John. The three child actors did well. Their voices and animation made them really come to life as both kittens and children. The other big standout voice is Scatman Crothers who is doing a Louis Armstrong impression. Apparently,. Louis Armstrong was supposed to do the part but was too sick and Crothers filled in. Still, having Phil Harris, Maurice Chevalier, and Scatman Crothers in the same movie is a great musical achievement in itself.

The animation is really beautiful, not only for the time. While the technology back then was leagues behind where we are now, drawing talent never really changes. I had always thought that this movie was just standard fare, similar to the art style of movies like The Rescuers. However, a lot of the art direction looks like Toulouse Lautrec artwork I saw in the Louvre. I definitely saw some nods to earlier animation, though. For example, the cats look similar to Figaro of Pinnochio and Dinah of Alice in Wonderland. However, they do not look like Lucifer from Cinderella so maybe cats can be matched by alignment. An interesting theory. The art is paired up with some great music. As I suspected, there is some great jazz and some great show tunes each showing a different world. The jazz was inspired by greats like Louis Armstrong and Herbie Hancock and it is definitely very playful. The show tunes are more in the style of musicals like the Sound of Music, prim and proper but pleasant.

Overall, I loved this movie. It was a sweet little movie in the classic Disney style. There is just so much positive energy in the movie that it is hard not to smile. However, it is not too saccharine sweet like the Sound of Music. It just felt like a good movie with a pleasant story filled with pleasant characters. The villains are even more comical than cruel. It has so many cute moments and some genuine laughs that it earns. It shows that Disney always had a way about it, a tradition they continue to follow. All of it is tied together with great artwork, good music, and interesting voice actors. Well, except for the racist Chinese caricature.

(Written 3/29/19)


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