Entertainment and Show Business

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The Golden Era of Cigarette Ads

October 22, 2017

When Sir Walter Raleigh helped to popularize tobacco during the 16th century, he probably had no idea that he would be responsible for one of the largest and most profitable advertising campaigns in the history of Madison Avenue. Campaigns that would see a single product go from lifestyle enhancement to a pariah of the medical community within a matter of years.

Give Me Your Young at Heart

Before their negative association with health, cigarettes were marketed to successful young men and women as a way to relax and get more out of life.  Advertisements were filled with virile, athletic men and women prancing around tennis courts in snow-white shorts exclaiming,

“WHAT A DAY… what a game… what a cigarette! Why is Lucky so much a part of moments like this?”

Like any other product that clamored for the consumer’s attention, the multi-million dollar tobacco industry embarked on a constantly evolving campaign to come up with original reasons why smokers should buy their brand of cigarettes over the others: read more

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You Can’t Teach an Old Flea New Tricks

April 20, 2017

If you’ve ever tried breaking into show business, you know how hard it can be. There are countless auditions, disappointments and the relentless competition from other actors. Maybe you should try it as a flea!

The Birth of the Entertainment Industry

Records of the earliest flea circuses date back to 14th Century Asia, but they didn’t hit their apex in popularity until the 16th Century in Great Britain. While there are over 2500 species of fleas, Louis Bertolotto found only the females of the Pulex Irritans species worthy of a place in his line-up: “…I have found the males to be utterly worthless, excessively mulish and altogether disinclined to work.” Hmmm… some things never change.

In the beginning, finding fleas to audition for parts in his show was relatively easy – largely due to poor hygienic standards and the number of mangy dogs running free in the streets of London. But, as people began to bathe regularly, circus owners had to pay as much as half a crown per flea. Considering that the average life span of a flea was only several days to weeks, this represented a very poor return on their investment. One circus owner who toured Europe with his traveling show depended on his wife to send him new shipments of entertainers in envelopes through the mail. That worked well until Postmasters began vigorously hand stamping all letters and parcels. read more

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Foley Secrets

April 20, 2017

The scene in the Hollywood movie is a leather-jacketed hero who scuffles with a bad guy, walks through the snow and then guns his motorcycle engine before zooming off into the night. But, what really happened was the actor’s double punched a roasted chicken with a rubber kitchen glove and squeezed two balloons together while walking on a sandbox filled with cornstarch. That’s showbiz…

Things Are Not What They Seem

For most of us, the sounds of a movie are as entertaining as the visual experiences. But, unbeknownst to most viewers, the lion share of sounds and special effects are not captured at the time of filming. Instead, they’re either recorded in the studio by highly imaginative technicians called “Foley Artists” or pulled from a library of pre-recorded sound bites that are stored on computers until the sound is mixed for the movie.

The term Foley Artist began as early as 1927 when Al Jolson’s movie, “The Jazz Singer” became the first “talkie.” In those days, the dialogue of the actors superseded virtually all other sound or music recorded for the film. It wasn’t until the early 1950s that movie studios discovered they could enhance the overall quality of the movie goer’s experience by adding specialized sounds that were purposely stripped away during filming in favor of an actor’s spoken lines. read more

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Breaking Beav

December 16, 2016

“Hi, dear. How was your day?”

“Oh, Ward. Sheriff Williams raided the house again this afternoon.”

“That makes the third time this month. What happened?”

“You know. The same old thing. The Wilson’s complained about Theodore’s meth lab again. Apparently the fumes coming out of his and Wally’s bedroom floated over the backyard fence and killed their cat. They’re threatening to move out of the neighborhood and Julia told me if it happens again she’s dropping out of the PTA bake sale.”

“I’ll go upstairs and have a talk with the Beaver. Maybe I can convince him to go back to his paper route.”


“Beaver, what’s this I hear about you killing the Wilson’s cat with the fumes from your methamphetamine? I thought we agreed that you’d make your crank in the basement.”

“Gee whiz, dad. The Beav didn’t mean to hurt the Wilson’s cat or nothin’,” said Wally. “It was an accident. I agreed to help him if he brought all his stuff up here while I was doin’ my homework. After a while the fumes got so bad we couldn’t breathe, so I put a fan in the window to clear out our bedroom.” read more

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The Wilhelm Scream

December 7, 2016

In the early days of the film industry, it was hard to find a good scream. Before the invention of sound bites, directors who needed a blood-curdling shriek from actors often got rather paltry sounding yelps. That is, until Private Wilhelm entered the scene.

In the 1951 war classic Distant Drums, a soldier is dragged under water by an alligator as he wades through a treacherous Florida swamp. After the filming was completed, sound engineers recorded a series of screams that were added during post-production. Two years later, in The Charge at Feather River, a soldier named Private Wilhelm (played by Ralph Brooke) takes an arrow in the leg. Similar to modern sound engineering processes, the Distant Drums scream was resurrected from a vault and added to Wilhelm’s impalement scene.

What became known as the Wilhelm Scream is actually thought to be the handiwork of a popular television and screen actor named Sheb Wooley. He and other actors from Distant Drums were asked to contribute various sound bites to the film. Wooley later went on to play in classics such as High Noon with Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales and the hit television series Rawhide. But it was Wooley’s contribution to radio, the hit song Purple People Eater that ultimately overshadowed his success as the originator of the Wilhelm Scream. read more

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