Above is a ten minute mini-doc shot on the set of "Rio Lobo", the 1970 John Wayne/Howard Hawks collaboration. George 'Paper Tiger' Plimpton seems to have done this for a TV show of some sort, as the focus is on how he's been given a small part in a scene and has to learn to both act like a cowboy and get shot to death.

There's quite a bit of footage of Hawks directing Wayne and Wayne directing other actors, a not uncommon occurrence apparently. Hawks stays cool--he and Wayne had already done four other movies together--and frankly looks a little worn out. This was Hawks last film and by far his least successful reputation-wise, with "Mans Favorite Sport" brining up the rear. The final edited scene is pretty slick and its nice to see the care with which Hawks developed the smallest moments in what might have been an ordinary shoot-out in other hands.

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What the hell was Frank Sinatra doing guest-hosting the Tonight Show on some forgotten week in 1977? Was this a common occurrence that somehow eluded me or just a freak occurrence that somehow eluded Sinatra's good judgement? He looks as comfortable behind a desk acting as a host as your cousin who sings at parties when inebriated might look in front of a crowd at Radio City. Things collapse entirely when Don Rickles appears and annihilates whatever order may have previously existed. Since the above clip is only the Rickles segment I have no idea how entertaining the earlier part of the show was, but the guests were George Burns, Angie Dickenson and Carroll O'Conner (who sits nervously through Rickles shtick, looking like a student who hopes the teacher won't call on him). What a nice old convention of the classic talk-show era it was to keep all the guests on the stage as the evening progressed. It speaks to the end of the community spirit in old show-biz land, the dying days of Hollywood as an industry town. You get the feeling that Sinatra might have taken them all out to Dan Tana's after the show. Or at least Angie...

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Above is a hilarious-to-the-point-of-exhaustion appearance by Rodney Dangerfield on Johnny Carson in 1983. More in the talk-show-a-thon which began last week with the tribute to Merv Griffin. We'll be right back...

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Above is an incredibly precious fragment of filmed history, captured at the Times Square Theater in December of 1929. It's a rehearsal of George Gershwin's 'Strike Up The Band', apparently filmed for some sort of newsreel coverage. In it we see Gershwin play the piano, banter with the comedy team of Clark and McCullough (who were in the show, natch) and get a good view of what chorus girls looked like in the 20s. Gershwin's voice and manner is much less formal than in the other recordings we have of him and it's quite haunting to find ourselves in that darkened theater on that long-forgotten winter afternoon shortly after the stock market crashed.

Unfortunately the film is very poorly shot--there are only two angles of the stage, one from up high (from the side) and one from the same side position below. Thus we get practically no view of Gershwin and the comics and way too much view of the flabby girls and their somewhat amateurish (to modern eyes) dance routine. Still, it's an amazing few minutes and its followed by a much better medium shot of Gershwin playing 'Strike Up The Band' on an upright piano. As always when he played his own work, he works the piano hard, plays the song at a tempo a good deal faster than we're used to, and bangs through the thing with a grin of arrogant self-satisfaction that is somehow delightful in spite of himself.
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I know I was stumping for a Merv Griffin image re-hab and I still believe my warm words of support for the TV semi-icon. Nonetheless, Rick Moranis did a wicked funny Merv on SCTV in the early eighties. See above, with special guest stars Yasser Arafat, Loni Anderson, Lou Ferrigno and Liberace. 'We'll be right back...'
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