Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #8 by Greg Dziawer

Greg delves further into The Frank Leahy Legend.

I'm not sure why I've recently become fascinated with The Frank Leahy Legend (1975). One of Ed Wood's final unproduced screenplays, to be sure, it has until now remained largely unseen and unread. Having recently obtained a copy, I'm blown away by how clearly Ed's voice screams through otherwise perfunctory and canned dramatics of this sports biopic. The very survival of the screenplay is astounding. Last week, W. Paul Apel and I performed an autopsy on this remarkable script.

This week, I turn my attention to the book on which the screenplay is based: Bernard J. Williams' unauthorized 1974 biography of Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy. I recently purchased a deluxe, slipcovered edition of The Frank Leahy Legend and was amazed by what I found. The book corresponds so closely to the script as to be a true source document. In this episode of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, I delve into that source. Here are (mostly) some thoughts on the source of the screenplay.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Might as Well Face It, You're Allergic to Love"

Henry Winkler and Ron Howard on Happy Days.

What do you think of when you picture Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler)? Even if you've only seen a few episodes of Happy Days, you probably know the basic facts about this iconic TV character. He wears a leather jacket. He rides a motorcycle. He's cool. He's an ace mechanic, able to fix anything on wheels. And he dates every attractive, unattached lady in Milwaukee.

One common way of generating stories for television shows is to identify a character's most essential traits and then take one or more of them away for a week to see what would happen. For instance, I remember hearing a writer for The Simpsons say that the episode "Duffless" -- in which Homer has to give up drinking for a month -- was inspired by simply erasing the omnipresent beer can in Homer's hand from a drawing. It's a simple equation: Homer minus beer equals conflict. In 1993, the same exact year as "Duffless," Beavis and Butt-head did an episode called "No Laughing" in which the title characters have to curtail their trademark inane chuckling for an entire school day. (It's torture; they barely make it.)

Happy Days, too, delighted in taking Fonzie's essential traits away from him. His motorcycle was destroyed in "The Motorcycle." Officer Kirk (Ed Peck) forbade him from wearing his leather jacket in "A.K.A. The Fonz." He worried he was losing his cool in "Fearless Fonzarelli." He temporarily lost his mechanic job in "Fonzie the Salesman." A Season 6 episode called "The Fonz is Allergic to Girls," however, threatened to deprive him of the one thing he can't live without. A celibate Fonzie? Say it ain't so!

Does this make for a good or even great episode? Find out when we review "The Fonz is Allergic to Girls" in the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #7 by Greg Dziawer and W. Paul Apel

Knute Rockne (left) hands the sacred Notre Dame football program over to Frank Leahy.

The cover to Ed's script.
This week on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, it was my privilege to speak to Wood superfan W. Paul Apel, whom I met through a private Facebook group. Our topic of conversation was the newly-unearthed screenplay The Frank Leahy Legend, a sports biopic originally written by Ed in the mid-1970s but never actually produced. As you'll soon see from the video, this unusual document provided a lot of fodder for speculation and discussion. Even in a career as varied as Ed Wood's, this script stands out.

As a prelude to the two-hour-plus podcast, however, Paul himself shares his thoughts:
Perhaps one of the most confounding entries on Ed Wood’s resumé is the mysterious unproduced screenplay The Frank Leahy Legend, written for the equally mysterious Scotty Williams Entertainment, and based on a book by the same name by Bernard J. Williams.

Up until now, no Ed Wood experts have read the screenplay or reviewed it, let alone published their findings, but that’s not where the mystery ends. How did Wood, an underdog who wore his quirks on his (angora) sleeve, end up writing about macho, win-at-all-costs Notre Dame coach and Knute Rockne protégé Frank Leahy?

We may never know. However, Greg Diawer and I finally secured a copy of the lost Wood screenplay and thoroughly dissected, reviewed and discussed it here. Now, Woodologists everywhere will finally get a glimpse into this once obscure line on Wood’s resumé and find out if Wood’s irrepressible personality and unique style make it into Leahy’s life story – or if this is ultimately a work for hire, devoid of Woodian weirdness.

Thanks, Paul. And now, on with the show.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "An Episode You Can't Refuse"

Al Molinaro on Happy Days.

Happy Days is theoretically about the 1950s and early '60s, but the show's writers couldn't help but occasionally reference the popular culture of the 1970s. The Season 3 two-parter "Fearless Fonzarelli," for example, was clearly inspired by the motorcycle-jumping stunts of daredevil Evel Knievel. The "Hollywood" three-parter from Season 5, in which Fonzie (Henry Winkler) infamously water skis over a shark, probably wouldn't have happened without the success of Jaws (1975). Later that same season, the episode "My Favorite Orkan" cashed in on the popularity of Star Wars (1977). The next season, the episode "The Evil Eye" featured an exorcism seemingly derived from William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973).

Then there's the episode we're reviewing on These Days Are Ours this week: "The Claw Meets the Fonz" aka "The Godfonzer." That alternate title should tell you exactly which pop culture juggernaut Happy Days is referencing. Thanks largely to Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 mob epic The Godfather and its 1974 sequel -- both of which won Oscars for Best Picture and dominated the box office -- America was mafia-crazy back then. It's only natural that Happy Days should do its own take on organized crime. The plot of "The Godfonzer" has jovial gangster Dutch Holloway (Phillip Pine) trying to buy Arnold's away from Al Delvecchio (Al Molinaro) and turn the beloved hamburger stand into a "bookie joint." Al is reluctant to say the least, but Dutch's secret weapon is The Claw (Arthur Batanides), a thug with a claw hand!

Does all this make for a good episode? Listen to our latest show and find out for yourself!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #6 by Greg Dziawer and Joe Blevins

Apparently, the public was demanding a sequel to Watts... The Difference. And Ed Wood gave 'em one!

Edward D. Wood, Jr. rarely had the opportunity to produce official follow-ups to his films, books, and stories, but we do have a few memorable sequels in the Wood canon. His kinky 1963 novel Killer in Drag, for instance, eventually spawned Death of a Transvestite (aka Let Me Die in Drag) in 1967. Wood's long-unreleased movie Night of the Ghouls (1959) works as a companion piece to his earlier epic Bride of the Monster (1955). Eddie must have also been fond of his short story "Captain Fellatio Hornblower" from 1971, since he brought the title character back for a second adventure two years later.

This week, we're examining another of Eddie's literary sequels: Watts... After (1967). This remarkable novel furthers the story of Rocky Alley, a Black actor who works his way up from poverty to stardom in Los Angeles in the turbulent 1960s. We first met Rocky in Watts... The Difference (1966), a book that attempted to capitalize on the racially-motivated Watts uprising. By the time of Watts... After, Rocky is now a famous TV Western star and is getting serious about his relationship with his white, angora-loving girlfriend, Angie. But some shady characters from Rocky's past resurface and threaten to destroy it all.

The front and back covers of the novel.

Teeming with political and social commentary, Watts... After is one of Ed's more orthodox narratives as well as one of his more atypically positive works. We hope you will enjoy this thorough and wide-ranging breakdown of the novel. As you'll soon see, our conversation branches off in a number of directions. Yes, spoilers abound.

Although this book is over half a century old, Watts... After remains surprisingly relevant today. In addition to the topics mentioned in this video, the characters Rocky and Angie face similar issues as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they prepare to bring an interracial child into the world. All the more reason to explore this somewhat overlooked Ed Wood creation.

NOTE: All previous installments of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast can be found here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "You Can't Curse on Happy Days"

Mary Rose Betten and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

Was I a huge Happy Days fan as a kid? You'd probably think so, since I have cohosted a Happy Days podcast since 2018. I certainly remember watching the last few seasons of both it and Laverne & Shirley when they originally aired in the early '80s. Mostly, however, I became familiar with the show through syndication. Reruns of the sitcom would air under the title Happy Days Again on a local TV station every afternoon from Monday to Friday. I consumed The Brady Bunch and Three's Company in the same way. (I guess those coveted midday timeslots are now occupied by the likes of The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family.)

Most of Happy Days is a big blur to me now. I remember the basics -- Richie, Fonzie, Arnold's, etc. -- but I'd forgotten many of the specific episodes. Certain installments of the series, however, have very much stayed with me, particularly the most wild and gimmicky stories. A great example is "The Evil Eye" from  Halloween1978. This one is nuts. Gullible restaurateur Al Delvecchio (Al Molinaro) is convinced an old hag (Mary Rose Betten) has placed a curse on him and can control his right arm. Eventually, Richie (Ron Howard) decides to stage an exorcism and enlists his friends Potsie (Anson Williams) and Ralph (Don Most) to assist hm. As you might guess, this all builds up to a showdown between the witch and Fonzie (Henry Winkler).

This episode is memorable, sure, but is it actually any good? Listen to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast and find out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 116: The Harl Foltz Files

Let's figure out who Harl Foltz was.

Is Ed Wood's Jail Bait (1954) a particularly well-lit movie? Eh, by the standards of low-budget 1950s crime movies, it's roughly adequate. Having screened many B-grade flicks over my lifetime, I can definitely say I've seen much worse than this. For the most part, the viewer can actually discern what's happening onscreen. That alone puts Jail Bait ahead of many other independent features of the era. I can't honestly say that the lighting enhances the viewing experience in any noticeable way, however, apart from a few suitably moody shots.

Steve Reeves and Dolores Fuller in Jail Bait. Notice the lighting.

What I can say is that Jail Bait is the first of Ed Wood's movies to give a specific onscreen credit for lighting. In this case, the lighting is attributed to a man named Harl Foltz with no other known film or TV credits. Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992) doesn't mention him at all. So who was this fellow? I thought I'd use the historical records to construct a timeline of Mr. Foltz's life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Ralph Malph: Fear Eats the Soul"

Don Most and Leon Askin on Happy Days.

Imagine living your life totally without fear. Do you think it would turn out well or not? You wouldn't fear death, disease, poverty, pain, heights, wild animals, rejection, public speaking, loneliness, darkness, etc. It sounds promising at first. You'd finally be free of the heaviest shackles mankind has ever known. Think back to Louis Mackey's monologue in the film Waking Life (2001):
What are these barriers that keep people from reaching anywhere near their real potential? The answer to that can be found in another question and that's this: Which is the most universal human characteristic -- fear or laziness?
Is that what happens to most of us? We don't realize our full potential because we're either too scared or too lazy? Possibly. Maybe, without fear, we would be elevated to the next level of human evolution and make advancements in everything from art to technology to medicine. Or maybe fear is the only thing keeping us in check, and without it, we'd all just become insensitive jerks who end up harming and even killing ourselves and others for no good reason. Fear might be the only thing that's been keeping us alive all these centuries.

These issues are at the heart of "Fearless Malph," a very memorable episode from Happy Days' sixth season in 1978. The bizarre plot has cowardly Ralph Malph (Don Most) being hypnotized by a mad scientist (Hogans Heroes baddie Leon Askin) and becoming completely fearless as a result. Since Ralph is defined by his cowardice, what happens when that trait is taken away? Does he evolve into something better or does it just turn him into a jerk?

Find out by listening to the latest episode of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.