Tag Archives: George Jessel

Classic Hollywood #28 – Norma Talmadge

Norma Talmadge

portraits Norma Talmadge on set

Norma Talmadge, was one of the biggest stars of the silent film era. She was born on May 26, 1894 in Jersey City, NJ, and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Norma had two sisters, Constance Talmadge, also a major star, who was in 83 films and Natalie Talmadge who appeared in nine films.

Norma appeared in over 200 silent pictures, most of which are now considered lost films. In 1916, Norma married film producer Joseph Schenck who became head of United Artists and would go on to become the chairman of 20th Century Fox.

As with many of the silent stars, Norma’s career ended with the advent of sound. By 1928 her career had already stalled to one film per year. There was talk in 1928 of reissuing her favorite film Smilin’ Through (1922), but Norma was staunch in her refusal to re-release it. Norma said, “I thought it was a lovely picture and the fans liked it. Why reissue it? I would rather people only had the peasant memory of it.” This attitude was similar to the screen’s biggest star Mary Pickford, who had said she would never allow any of her films to be released again.

Norma made two sound films, New York Nights (1929) and Du Barry, Woman of Passion (1930). The Du Barry film was widely panned by critics and public alike. Norma then waited for the right script for her next movie. She said she was “favoring playing a comic role.” She never appeared in another film.

Instead, Norma Talmadge travelled the world and invested wisely in real estate, becoming very wealthy.

Legend has it that Norma Talmadge has the distinction of being the first to leave her handprints, footprints and signature at the would famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The apocryphal story Continue reading

A Comedian Unlike Any Other

The Man Who Pushed Johnny Carson, Charlie Callas Dies at 83

For many people under a certain age (probably 40), the passing of Charlie Callas on January 27, 2011, will be met with indifference or “who was he?” But for anyone who had seen Callas interviewed on his numerous appearances on the late night talk shows or seen his cameos in movies, it marks the end of one the last true eccentrics in Hollywood.

Charlie Callas was bizarre.

He could do strange things with his voice and get laughs out of things that were not necessarily funny. It was Callas himself that was funny and there was that underlying danger that an appearance by Callas on a show could go in an unintended direction at any second.  That unpredictability would nearly end his show business career when he shoved Johnny Carson during a 1982 Tonight Show appearance and in front of the studio audience Carson subsequently banned him from ever appearing on the show again.

Charlie Callas will always be remembered for one of the strangest performances in Mel Brooks’ send-up of Alfred Hitchcock films, 1976’s High Anxiety. Callas plays a man who has been committed to an asylum because he thinks he is a cocker spaniel.  It is 1 minute and 40 seconds of sheer silliness.

Here is the link to Charlie Callas in High Anxiety:

http://youtu.be/_WEVmVKUk7s?t=4m32s

(UPDATE – 2013 High Anxiety clip- all copies removed from youtube)

A staple of 1970’s TV, The Dean Martin Roasts, where celebrities were insulted and joked about mercilessly by other Hollywood celebrities, Callas has comedian Don Rickles and the rest of the attendees laughing hard as he delivers Don Rickles’ eulogy.

The appearance may not be as funny to today’s audience as Callas is doing an impression of George Jessel, who made a living it seemed at delivering eulogies of many of the entertainment world’s luminaries from the 1920’s right until Jessel’s own demise in 1981.