Jessica Fletcher is a...What?!
Yours truly knew Angela Lansbury first as Jessica Fletcher, the genteel, New England novelist who solves mysteries on the TV show "Murder, She Wrote" (1984-1996). She goes about her day being cordial to everyone, even unsuspecting murderers, until finally she brings in the police and wraps up the crime in a calm, soothing voice.
|"Oh, hello! I've just caught a few lobsters for lunch, typed the final draft of what is sure to be another award-winning novel and put an enemy spy behind bars, all while being beautifully dressed. How was your day? "|
However, the first of her films that I saw was The Harvey Girls (1945) in which Ms. Lansbury plays a scantily-clad, Old West dance hall girl who will do anything to keep her man from Judy Garland, even a "cat fight" in a brothel!
|Jessica Fletcher?! Nooo! |
Some Things Should Never Change
Barbara Stanwyck is the beautiful, gutsy, silver-haired matriarch on the TV western "Big Valley" (1965-1969). Then Ball of Fire (1941) came on one day and I saw her as a completely other person - a beautiful, gutsy brunette who makes Gary Cooper sweat. Then, we rented Double Indemnity (1944) and she is the beautiful, gutsy blonde who makes trouble for Fred MacMurray.
The Penguin Has a Heart
I didn't know the name of the actor who plays the criminal called "Penguin" in the live action, comic book show "Batman" (1966-1968). He was just this weird guy in top hat and tails who wants to take over the world.
Catwoman Gets Married
The "Batman" series is a star-studded affair. Catwoman (Julie Newmar) is the feline villain who has the hots for our caped crusader and, like the Penguin, wants to rule the world. Couldn't help but notice the same actress plays innocent, bride-to-be Dorcas in one of my favorite movies of all-time, the backwoods musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).
Finally, there's Lucille Ball. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) The zany redhead who plays a wife desperate to be in show business in "I Love Lucy" (1951-1957) had a movie career before that.
"Technicolor Tessie" is one of her big screen nicknames because her luscious hair, milky skin and ravishing eyes are so arresting in color. You don't really notice any of that in her black and white TV show, which helps the humor.
Best Foot Forward (1943) was one of the first of this star's movies that I screened. In it, Ms. Ball plays an elegant MGM movie star named -What else?- Lucille Ball. This character is a light parody of her public persona. For the humor in this film to work, the pre-"I Love Lucy" audience must have known Ms. Ball for her glamor. It is always slightly strange to see her as the straight man in a comedy instead of the instigator of hilarity.
|Best Foot Forward (1943)|
There is a ton of information about how Ms. Ball transitioned into TV from movies as a family project with her husband Desi Arnaz. I highly recommend Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz because they quote Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osbourne a lot. Osbourne worked with the Desilu Workshop under the supervision of Ms. Ball. The young contract player became a confidante and escort for her now and then when her husband wasn't available.
Those are a few of the movies stars that I first discovered on the small screen.
What about you? What reactions did you have? Was there a significant difference in the characters they play on TV versus the ones they play in movies? Leave a comment below.