Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Brian Ufberg, Film Editor

Film editor and NEPA native Brian Ufberg (right), with fellow film editor Mick Austley and Brian's agent Julie at a concert on Santa Montica Pier, August 1990. Photo by Bill C.

Film editor Brian Ufberg was born and raised in Edwardsville, PA and attended Wyoming Seminary.

Brian's first film as an apprentice film editor was the 1987 dramedy Nobody's Fool, starring Rosanna Arquette, Eric Roberts and Oscar winner Louise Fletcher. In an earlier scene in the film, Brian's full name is mentioned as a radio reporter.

In 1990, Brian was the assistant editor on the critically acclaimed film The Grifters, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Anjelica Houston, John Cusack (whom Brian said was very critical of his own performance in the film), and Annette Bening. On The Grifters, Ufberg worked closely with both director Frears and editor Mick Austley (pictured above with Ufberg); the three would work together again on 2002's Hero, starring Dustin Hoffman (who was present with Ufberg in the editing room) and Geena Davis. Brian and Mick also worked together on Neil Jordan's 2004 hit Interview With The Vampire, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

Ufberg's other film credits on his impressive resume include Twelve Monkeys, X-Men, 21 Grams, Good Night & Good Luck, and the 2006 remake of The Pink Panther.

Ufberg's next film is the upcoming Zodiac, directed by David Fincher (Se7en, Panic Room). Zodiac is based on the Robert Graysmith books about the real life notorious Zodiac, a serial killer who terrorized San Francisco with a string of seemingly random murders during the 1960s and 1970s. Zodiac, which stars Jake Gyllenhall, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards and Robert Downey, Jr., is scheduled for release on March 2, 2007.

Several films edited by Brian Ufberg, including Nobody's Fool, Good Night & Good Luck, Interview With The Vampire, X-Men, and The Grifters, are available to borrow on VHS and DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Actor Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight on the NBC Emmy-winning sitcom The Office (set in Scranton, PA), will make an appearance at Scranton's Mall at Steamtown on Sunday, December 17th from 1 PM - 3 PM in Center Court.

For more information, visit the Mall at Steamtown's Special Events page.

UPDATE DEC 18TH: An article appeared in today's Citizens' Voice detailing Wilson's visit to Scranton; over 1,000 people showed up. To read the article, click here. To see a VIDEO CLIP of his visit, click here. Also, check out the Office article "The Paper Chase" from the December 11, 2006 issue of The New Yorker.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Robert May, Film Producer

Though technically not from Wilkes-Barre or Scranton, film producer Robert May was born and raised in Dallas, PA in Luzerne County.

May produced the 2003 critically acclaimed and award winning independent film The Station Agent, starring Academy Award nominees Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April, High Art, HBO's Six Feet Under), and Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Halloween H20); the film also stars Bobby Cannavale (The Bone Collector, Shall We Dance?). May attended a screening of the film at Cinemark in Moosic, followed by a Q&A with the audience.

May also co-produced the 2003 Academy Award winning documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.

The War Tapes, also produced by Robert May, had its national premiere screening in Wilkes-Barre, PA on July 14, 2006 at the recently opened RC Movies 14. May was in attendance and held a Q&A with the audience after the screening.

In 2006 May also produced Bonneville, a drama will a stellar cast including Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, and Christine Baranski (Chicago).

Two of Robert May's films, The Station Agent and The Fog of War, are available to borrow on DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Ellen DeGeneres Show, November 27, 2006

It's always interesting when you're watching a talk show and a guest or audience member happens to mention that he/she is from Scranton, PA.

Today's Ellen DeGeneres Show, dubbed "the celebrity look-a-like show," featured videos of viewers who resembled several Hollywood stars. Audience members were asked to guess which celebrity these videotaped viewers looked like. One videotaped female audience member said she hailed from Scranton, PA and stated that people have told her she looks like Michael J. Fox.

An interesing reference, isn't it?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Santo Loquasto (1944 - )

Photo courtesy of AP Photo Archive

Being a huge fan of the films of Woody Allen and having seen Julia Roberts's Broadway debut in Three Days of Rain this past summer (which included truly remarkable sets), you can imagine my astonishment that the person responsible for the look of these (and numerous other) productions was born and raised in Wilkes-Barre, PA. His name is Santo Loquasto.

Santo Loquasto was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on July 26, 1944. He recieved a B.A. in English Literature from King's College in Wilkes-Barre. He also designed sets and costumes for Showcase Theatre in Wilkes-Barre (now located in Exeter, PA). He earned his Masters of Fine Arts degree from Yale Drama School in 1969.

Soquasto began his professional career as a set designer on Broadway in 1972; ironically, one of the first shows he worked on was the original Broadway production of That Championship Season, written and directed by Scranton native Jason Miller.

For more than 30 years, Loquasto has worked on numerous Broadway productions doing both set and costume design for shows including 1989's Grand Hotel (for which he won the 1990 Tony Award), Neil Simon's 1991 play Lost in Yonkers, 1999's Fosse (Tony Winner for Best Musical) and 2002's Movin' Out (based on the songs of Billy Joel). In 2006, Loquasto was the set designer for the Broadway play Three Days of Rain, which marked the stage debut of Julia Roberts. In addition to his 1990 Tony Award for Grand Hotel, Loquasto also received Tony Awards in 1989 (Best Scenic Designer for Cafe Crown) and 1977 (Best Costume Designer for The Cherry Orchard).

Most of Loquasto's film work as a production designer has been with legendary directory Woody Allen. His work with Allen (a collaboration that includes 21 films) began with 1987's Radio Days and also includes Crimes & Misdemeanors, Shadows & Fog, Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite and Sweet & Lowdown. Loquasto's last film with Woody Allen was 2004's Melinda & Melinda.

His other films include Big, directed by Penny Marshall and starring Tom Hanks, Desperately Seeking Susan starring Madonna, Falling in Love with Robert de Niro and Meryl Streep, She-Devil with Meryl Streep and Roseanne, Bright Lights Big City with Michael J. Fox, and 1981's The Fan with Lauren Bacall.

Loquasto also worked in film as a costume designer for such films as Desperately Seeking Susan, three films by Woody Allen (Stardust Memories, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, and Zelig), and the 2001 television adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical Fosse.

On June 10th, 2006, Loquasto returned to his hometown of Wilkes-Barre to receive the Governor's Awards for the Arts award.

Loquasto will also be featured in the 2007 documentary World Beyond Wiseguys: Italian Americans & the Movies.

The Lackawanna County Library System has several copies (on both VHS and DVD) of films that include production design by Loquasto including Big, Desperately Seeking Susan, and many of his films with Woody Allen. In addition, the collection includes a VHS of the Tony-winning musical Fosse.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Green Acres (1965), Season 1, Episode 14

Don McKeon emailed me with the following:

"There is an episode of Green Acres entitled 'What Happened in Scranton?' which aired in the 1965-66 season of the hit comedy. Whatever happened (we never find out) involved Oliver's mother."

Green Acres is the classic 60s sitcom (also a spinoff of Petticoat Junction) that starred Eddie Albert as Oliver Douglas, a New York attorney who decides to become a farmer in the bizarre town of Hooterville, much to the dismay of his metropolitan wife Lisa (the late, great Eva Gabor).

On December 22, 1965, during its premiere season on CBS, an episode of Green Acres titled "What Happened in Scranton?" aired for the first time. In the episode, Lisa discovers to her horror that Hooterville has no beauty parlor, so she takes it upon herself to set up one of her own. Not surprisingly, Lisa is a success beautifying the wives of the local farmers. But her business proves to have an negative effect on the community when the wives refuse to do any of their customary chores, for fear of ruining their glamorous new hair-dos.

I've never seen the "What Happened in Scranton?" episode of Green Acres, so I have no idea if Scranton is mentioned anywhere in the episode aside from the title. If anyone has seen it and could give me more information, please email me at refdept@albright.org

Green Acres: The Complete First Season (featuring the episode "What Happened in Scranton?") is available on DVD through the Lackawanna County Library System; click here to place a hold.

Much thanks again to Don McKeon for this reference.

UPDATE 11-16-06

"I can help you sort out a mystery . . . somewhat . . .

I just happened to see the “What Happened in Scrantonepisode of “Green Acres the other night. The episode involves Mrs. Douglas trying to start a Beauty Parlor in Hooterville. She asks her New York mother-in-law (also “Mrs. Douglas,” of course) for help in obtaining a hairdresser; mother-in-law happens to know a hairdresser who can be (in essence) blackmailed into doing things by mentioning to him the word “Scranton,”
which presumably reminds him of some dark deed which he does not want brought up (the significance of Scranton is never further explained).

Much thanks to Brent C. Dickerson for this update. And, if you get a chance, check out his two excellent websites:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bob Roberts (1992)

In 1992, Tim Robbins wrote, directed and starred in the political mockumentary Bob Roberts. This satirical film tells the story of fictional Senatorial campaign of Bob Roberts, an corrupt and arch-conservative folk singer-turned-politician running a crooked campaign for Pennsylvania Senator, while an independent muck-raking reporter is trying to stop him.

Bob Roberts features performances and cameos from tons of celebrities (Susan Sarandon, James Spader, John Cusack, Peter Gallagher, author Gore Vidal) and many future stars (David Strathairn from Good Night and Good Luck, Jack Black, Jeremy Piven).

In an early scene in the film, WAPW's Action News reporter Carol Cruise (Pamela Reed) is broadcasting a story about the Roberts political campaign:

Carol Cruise
Senatorial opponent Bob Roberts is creating quite a sensation in his Pennsylvania election tour, playing to sold-out audiences from Scranton to Pittsburgh.

The word Scranton appears on the screen as the location of the report as reporter Rose Pondell (future Oscar winner Helen Hunt) covers the story. She ends her report with:

Rose Pondell
With the Roberts campaign in Scranton, this is Rose Pondell, WAPW Action News.

Bob Roberts was shot in Pittsburgh and, to my knowledge, had no location shoots in Scranton, PA.

Bob Roberts is available on DVD and VHS from libraries throughout the Lackawanna County Library System. Click on the link of your preferred format to place a hold.

Thanks to Evelyn Gibbons for this reference.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

George White's 1935 Scandals (1935)

Don McKeon, who has given us many Scranton references in entertainment in our blog, recently emailed us again:

"I came across another surprise mention of Scranton, PA mentioned in a very old film called George White's 1935 Scandals. It is a story about a producer who sees a song and dance couple in Georgia and brings them to New York. Near the end of the film, an agent gets a call from a man who needs an actor for a show he is putting on in Scranton, PA. I love coming across these unexpected references. Thanks for the great work."

And thank you, Don, for the great email.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Charles MacArthur, Author and Playwright (1895-1956)

My sincerest thanks to DMS, the curator of the James MacArthur
(son of playwright Charles MacArthur) website, for their
generous permission to use the above photo
in our blog. The URL for the site ishttp://www.jamesmacarthur.com/javaindex.html.

In the early days of Broadway in the 1920s and 1930s, no name shined brighter on the marquee than Charles Macarthur, whose classic plays such as The Front Page and Twentieth Century are still being revived on the Great White Way. Aside from having a great influence on the modern theatre, Charles MacArthur was born and spent his early life in Scranton, PA.

Charles Gordon MacArthur was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on Nov 5, 1895. He was the second youngest of seven children born to a local evangelist. After working as a journalist in Chicago and serving in the Armed Forces, Macarthur moved to New York City to seek fame and fortune as a playwright. His first play, LuLu Belle (co-written with Edward Sheldon), was produced on Broadway in 1926, and his second play, Salvation (co-written with Sidney Howard in 1928), opened in 1928.

In 1929 , he teamed with Ben Hecht to write The Front Page, the story of a top Chicago newspaper reporter who decides to move to New York and marry an heiress, much to the dismay of his editor, who will stop at nothing to retain his ace reporter. The play was a huge hit, playing on Broadway for over a year and cementing MacArthur's status as one of America's finest playwrights.

In 1932, MacArthur once again teamed with Ben Hecht to write the play Twentieth Century, the story of a once-successful Broadway director determined to revive his career with the help of a now-famous Hollywood actress whom he discovered; It played for over a year on Broadway when revived in 1952 and starred the legendary Jose Ferrer and Gloria Swanson (it was most recently revived on Broadway in 2004 starring Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche). The classic 1934 film version of Twentieth Century starred John Barrymore and Carole Lombard.

Like many successful Broadway playwrights, MacArthur heard the call of Hollywood and began a successful career writing and adapting screenplays for motion pictures.

MacArthur's screenplays include 1938's Angels With Dirty Faces, and 1939's Wuthering Heights (with Ben Hecht) and Gunga Din.

The Front Page was filmed no less than seven times throughout the years--the first in 1931, directed by Lewis Milestone and starring Pat O'Brien and Adolphe Menjou.

Perhaps the most famous and most widely seen version of The Front Page was filmed in 1940 under the title His Girl Friday, directed by Howard Hawks (interestingly, Hawks went on to direct the 1948 film A Song is Born, whose orchestrator was none other than another Scranton native, Sonny Burke). His Girl Friday starred Cary Grant, Rosiland Russell, and Ralph Bellamy. The film changed the gender of one of the main characters to female, but the story remained generally the same--a gutsy female newspaper journalist works for her ex-husband, who seems determined to undermine her upcoming remarriage to another man by tempting her with covering the hottest news story of the year. The film version was a critical and commercial hit.

The curator of the Official James MacArthur website (which includes an awesome tribute to his father) also told me that "His Girl Friday was adapted by playwright John Guare (Six Degrees of Separation) and made its debut at London's National Theatre in June 2004, with Zoe Wanamaker as Hildy. In July 2005, it had a two-week run at The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, starring real-life husband and wife Angela Bassett (as Hildy) and Courtney Vance (as Walter)."

In addition, Windy City, a new musical version of The Front Page, is currently playing a limited engagement in Philadelphia.

The Front Page was also filmed in 1945, 1948 and 1948 as teleplays in the infancy of television. 1974 also saw a new theatrical version of The Front Page, directed by the legendary Billy Wilder and starring Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Vincent Gardenia, and Susan Sarandon (in one of her first major roles). In 1988, the setting was removed from a newspaper office to the fictional cable news television network SNN for the comedy (and one of my favorite movies from the 80s) Switching Channels, starring Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds, and the late Christopher Reeve.

MacArthur was nominated for three Academy Awards throughout his Hollywood career and won the Oscar in 1936 (shared with Ben Hecht) for Best Writing Original Story for The Scoundrel, a film which he also shared directing credit with Hecht. His other nominations were for 1934's Rasputin and the Empress (which is the only film to star the three Barrymores--John, Lionel, and Ethel), and for 1939's Wuthering Heights (which he shared, again, with Ben Hecht).

Charles MacArthur was married to the legendary stage and screen actress Helen Hayes from 1928 until his untimely death in 1956. His son, James MacArthur, became an actor in his own right, most famously for starring as Dan Williams in the classic 1960s show Hawaii Five-O.

Also on an interesting note, MacArthur's frequent writing partner Ben Hecht co-wrote the screenplay for the 1948 classic The Miracle of the Bells, which features frequent references to Wilkes-Barre and Nanticoke, PA.

The Lackawanna County Library System is currently circulating several film adaptations of MacArthur's plays/screenplays on VHS and DVD---including Wuthering Heights, Gunga Din, His Girl Friday, and both the 1974 and the 1931 first film adaptation of The Front Page. In addition, the text of the original 1928 play The Front Page is available in three collections of plays in our collection:

John Gassner's Twenty-Five Best Plays of the Modern American Theatre
812.5082 GASSNER
Bennett Cerf's Sixteen Most Famous Plays
812.08 CERF
The Best Plays of 1928-29 and the Yearbook of the Drama in America
812.08 BEST

Charles MacArthur is featured as a character (played by Matthew Broderick) in the 1995 Alan Rudolph film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, a film about the life, friends and loves of author Dorothy Parker. The film is available to borrow on VHS from the Lackawanna County Library System.

My sincere thanks to the curator of the official James MacArthur website, which also includes a great tribute to his father, Charles MacArthur. In addition, I would also like to thank the site curator for generously granting me permission to use the awesome photo of Mr. MacArthur in our blog.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sonny Burke, Songwriter (1914-1980)

Songwriter and Scranton native Ned Washington has a lot in common with songwriter Sonny Burke. Like Washington (who composed songs for Pinocchio), Burke wrote several songs for a popular Disney film--Lady and the Tramp. Also like Washington, Burke wrote several songs that became standards in American music (Black Coffee, Midnight Sun). Finally, like Washington, Burke was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Reginald "Sonny" Burke was born in Scranton, PA on March 22, 1914. After attending University of Detroit and Duke University, Burke arranged for dance orchestras (including Tommy Dorsey), and was artists-and-repertoire director for Decca Records for fourteen years and Reprise Records for three years, and he founded his own company, Daybreak Records. Burke was responsible for many of Frank Sinatra's albums, and he was also bandleader for recordings of leading singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé.

Sonny Burke is probably best known for writing the songs in Disney's 1995 animated classic Lady and the Tramp, including Bella Notte (the "spaghetti-and-meatballs- sharing" song), He's A Tramp (performed in the film by Peggy Lee), the Siamese Cat Song, Peace on Earth, and La La Lu.

Lady and the Tramp wasn't Burke's only experience working in Hollywood films. He also worked on films such as 1948's A Song is Born (orchestrator), 1969's The Wild Bunch (music supervisor), and 1970's There Was A Crooked Man... (music supervisor) and Rabbit Run (musical director).

Burke's other compostions include Black Coffee, Midnight Sun, They Were Doin' the Mambo, You're A Lucky Fellow Mr. Smith, The Dixie Mambo (from 1955's Ain't Misbehavin') and I Guess I'll Dress Up For the Blues.

Reginald "Sonny" Burke passed away on May 31, 1980 in Los Angeles.

The DVD and VHS of Disney's Lady and the Tramp, as well as the CD soundtrack featuring some of Burke's most famous compositions, are available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mike Hill, Research Assistant to Author David McCullough (1776), Has A Local Connection

Norma Reese, one of my favorite patrons (and a true princess of local history), recently told me of a connection between Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough (who will be speaking in Scranton as part of the Library Lecture Series in September) and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Norma told me that the father of McCullough's research assistant Mike Hill was born in Honesdale, PA.

In addition to working with McCullough, Mr. Hill has also co-produced the PBS series The Civil War in 1990, as well as served as the coordinating producer of the PBS series Baseball. Click here to read more about Mike Hill.

Much thanks again to Norma for this reference.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann (1969)

In 1966, Jacqueline Susann shocked the publishing world when her novel Valley of the Dolls, an expose on Hollywood starlets and their experiences with fame, men and "dolls" (sleeping pills), became a #1 mega blockbuster sensation and one of the bestselling novels of all time (it was also made into a 1967 Hollywood film that became a campy cult classic).

In 1969, Susann followed up Valley of the Dolls with her second bestseller, The Love Machine, which includes a brief reference to Scranton. Set in the world of television broadcasting, The Love Machine centers around Robin Stone, a smart and sexy television executive who's climbing the corporate ladder and breaking the hearts of many women along the way.

More than halfway through the book on page 325, Robin is wandering around the streets of New York City and is approached by a prostitute.

"She smiled too. 'Fifty bucks and I got a room.'
'I got a better offer down the street.'
She shrugged. 'Elsie's breaking in a new one. She's turned only three tricks since she got here. And from what I hear, she still belongs back with the coal miners in Scranton.' "

The Love Machine was another bestseller for Susann. She published one final bestselling novel, Once is Not Enough, before her untimely death from breast cancer in 1974. Another novel, Delores, was published posthumously.

Jacqueline Susann was the first novelist to have three consecutive #1 bestsellers.

Jacqueline Susann's The Love Machine (as well as her other novels Valley of the Dolls - and Rae Lawrence's 2002 sequel Shadow of the Dolls - Once is Not Enough, and Delores) is available to borrow from libraries throughout the Lackawanna County Library System.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

City of Light by Lauren Belfer (1999)

The utterly awesome Sameera Redkar from the Ousterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre, PA recently sent us the following email:

"I thought you would like to know that in the book City of Light, by Lauren Befler, there is a reference to Scranton, PA and Mr. John J. Albright. You can check the reference on page # 27."

I've read the book City of Light about a year ago upon recommendation of my colleague (the lucious Lenore), and it truly is a book you can't put down--full of mystery, suspense, history and scandal.

Set in the spring of 1901, as preparations for the Pan-American Exposition would seem to promise Buffalo, New York, a permanent place in the world, Lauren Belfer's book is narrated by the never-married headmistress of a fashionable girls' school. At 36, Louisa Barrett does her best to free her charges from their societal shackles. What Louisa is most concerned about, however, is her 9-year-old goddaughter, Grace Sinclair, who has grown increasingly unstable since her mother's sudden death. Meanwhile, Grace's father is heading up Buffalo's hydroelectric power plans with dangerous zeal--much to the chagrin of local conservationists who oppose any exploitation of Niagara Falls. Will Tom's intensity, which smacks of fanaticism, extend so far as murder?

Scranton, Pennsylvania is mentioned in connection with John J. Albright, for whom the Albright Memorial Library was named. In addition, there is a dinner party scene in the book in which John J. Albright and Frederick Law Olmstead (the landscape architect of the Albright Memorial Library gardens, as well as Central Park in New York City) interact with each other.

Three copies of City of Light by Lauren Belfer are circulating throughout the Lackawanna County Library System.

To read more about Albright's and Olmstead's roles in the history of Albright Memorial Library, click here.

To read an interview with Lauren Belfer about City of Light, click here.

Much thanks again to Sameera Redkar for this reference. Also a Great Big Thank You to Lenore from Circulation for recommending the book to me.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

William Kotzwinkle, Author (1943- )

Evelyn Gibbons recently told me popular children's author and novelist William Kotzwinkle was born in Scranton, PA.

William Kotzwinkle was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 22, 1943. A prolific author and screenplay writer, Kotzwinkle began his career writing popular sci-fi novels such as The Firemen and Elephant Boy, which gave him a huge following. He first gained national attention with his 1982 novelization of Steven Spielberg's blockbuster film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; the novelization was so successful that Kotzwinke wrote a sequel titled E.T. The Book of the Green Planet in 1985.

Kotzwinkle has recently discovered new-found success from the younger set as as the co-author (with Glenn Murray) of the popular Walter, the Farting Dog bestselling picture book series.

Kotzwinkle's film credits include the story for 1988's A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, and his novel Jack In The Box was self-adapted into the screenplay for the 1990 comedy Book of Love.

Presently, Kotzwinkle lives on an island off the Maine coast with his wife, author Elizabeth Gundy, who also co-authored Walter, The Farting Dog Goes On A Cruise with her husband.

The Lackawanna County Library System has 36 items authored by Kotzwinkle circulating throughout the county--including Fata Morgana, E.T. The Book of the Green Planet, books in the Walter, The Farting Dog series, and several of his sci-fi novels.

Click here to read a 1996 interview with Kotzwinkle about his then-published book The Bear Went Over the Mountain, the story of a bear who journeys to New York City to return a screenplay he finds in the woods, leading to his immediate celebrity.

Much thanks to Evelyn Gibbons for this reference.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill Live (1997)

Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill Live is a documentary (including live performance footage) of Morissette's 1995-1996 tour to support her mega-bestselling CD Jagged Little Pill.

One scene in the documentary shows her band (sans Alanis) rehearsing for a concert at the Marts Center at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA on December 5, 1995.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sweet Charity (1966 musical, 1969 film)

The fantabulous Sarah Reid (who also gave us the Scranton reference in the movie musical Finian's Rainbow) found another Scranton reference in another classic musical--Sweet Charity.

Sweet Charity tells the story of Charity Hope Valentine, a lovelorn New York City dance hall hostess who dreams of having an old-fashioned romance--despite the fact that she repeatedly falls for Mr. Wrong. The musical is responsible for such classics as Big Spender, If They Could See Me Now, There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This, Where Am I Going, and I'm A Brass Band.

Music was written by Cy Coleman (Wildcat with Lucille Ball, The Will Rogers Follies, The Life), and lyrics by Dorothy Fields (Annie Get Your Gun, Ain't Misbehavin'). The book of the musical (based on the film Nights of Cabiria by Federico Fellini) was written by Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys, Barefoot in the Park).

The Scranton reference appears in the beginning of Act II. Charity's latest beau Oscar invites her to go to church with him. She accepts and soon learns that Oscar's church is a little unusual, where their leader Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck preaches mostly of welfare and drug resolutions. Daddy Johann breaks out into a song titled Rhythm of Life, which includes the following lyrics:

Daddy, spread the gospel in Milwaukee,
Took his walkie talkie to Rocky Ridge,
Blew his way to Canton, then to Scranton,
'Til he landed under the Manhattan Bridge.

You can read the complete lyrics to Rhythm of Life by clicking here.

The original Broadway musical debuted in January 1966 and starred Gwen Verdon in the title role; it played for over 600 performances at the Palace Theater. The show was revived on Broadway in 1987 with Debbie Allen and Bebe Neuwirth. Ironically, the 2005 Broadway revival of Sweet Charity, starring Christina Applegate, was directed by none other than Scranton native Walter Bobbie.

A film version starring Shirley Maclaine and directed by Bob Fosse (Broadway's Chicago in 1975 and the films Cabaret and All That Jazz) was released in 1969. Sammy Davis Jr. performs Rhythm of Life in the film.

The DVD of the film version of Sweet Charity is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System. Click here to place a hold; if you'd like to reserve the CD soundtrack of the original Broadway cast recording, click here.

Much thanks again to Miss Sarah for another great Scranton musical reference.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The X-Files (1993-2002)

I received an email from Rob McIlvried this week, and he told me that he recalls several references to Scranton in an episode of the hit sci-fi series The X-Files.

The X-Files, which ran for 9 seasons from 1993 to 2002 on FOX (and continues to live on in reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel) stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny as two FBI agents, Fox Mulder (the believer) and Dana Scully (the skeptic) as they investigate the strange and unexplained while hidden forces work to impede their efforts.

The Scranton references occur in the first of a two-part episode in the second season titled Colony that originally aired on February 10th, 1994. In Colony, a newspaper ad placed to locate a certain doctor sets off the murder of several people with the same face. When Scully and Mulder locate another look-alike, they work to find him before the killer does. The episode also marks the first appearance of Agent Mulder's mother and father.

Both verbal references to Scranton are made by Agent Mulder (Duchovny). Scranton also appears as the setting of two scenes in Colony.

Following a scene set in the Woman's Care Family Services and Clinic in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mulder and Scully have the following exchange at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.:

MULDER: I found these in my e-mail this morning... three obituaries.

SCULLY: Sent by whom?

MULDER: Nobody I know but obviously somebody who knows me.

(He clicks on a few keys and the text box expands on the monitor.)


MULDER: The deceased are Doctor Landon Prince of Scranton, Pennsylvania...

(He expands another box.)

Doctor Dale Gayhart of New York City...

(He brings up the third obituary.)

...and Doctor Harvey Buchanon of Tea Neck, New Jersey. All worked in abortion clinics. They died in separate arson fires.

Following the next brief scene set in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mulder and Scully continue their investigation at the Globe and Mail in Binghamton, NY, where the city of Scranton is once again mentioned in the following dialogue:

(Mulder looks at a map. He goes over to it, Scully following.)

MULDER: If somebody really wanted to set us up, would they give us this little to go on? There's something bigger here, Scully. I'd be willing to bet there are more of these guys out there.

SCULLY: More victims?

MULDER: Unless we get to them first. The deaths follow a pattern... New Jersey, New York, Scranton...

The full script of the X-Files episode Colony can be ready online by clicking here.

Rob McIlvried also told me the show made several references to other areas of Northeastern Pennsylvania throughout its nine-season run.

Much thanks again to the clever eyes and ears of Rob McIlvried for this reference.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Judy McLane, Broadway Actress

If you're in New York City and attend a performance of the hit musical Mamma Mia! (based on the songs of ABBA) at the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre, you'll be seeing a native from the Scranton area performing the role of Tania.

Broadway actress Judy McLane was born in Olyphant, PA, though she proudly states in interviews that she was "raised near Scranton, Pennsylvania."

Coincidentally, Mamma Mia! is not McLane's first Broadway experience with a show written by ABBA founders Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus - in 1988, she understudied the role of Florence in their short-lived Broadway production of Chess.

An article about McLane's neighbors visiting the actress backstage after a performance of Mamma Mia! in New York City ("My, My, Backstage At the Show, Again") was published in the Namedropper section of the Scranton Times on Friday, June 30, 2006 (page C2) . You can read the full article online at the Scranton Times website by clicking here.

If you can't get to New York to see Mamma Mia! on Broadway, the official tour will be returning to the Scranton Cultural Center from October 24th through the 29th.

Thank again to endless fountain Judi K. for another great reference.

The Office Nominated For 5 Emmys

The hit NBC show The Office, which takes places at the ficticious Dunder-Mifflin paper distribution company in Scranton, PA (and has included several local references throughout its two seasons) has been nominated for 5 Emmy Awards, including Best Comedy Series and Best Actor in a Comedy for star Steve Carell.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rebecca Anderson, Extra in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)

While working as a crew member on the H.M.S. Bounty (a restored ship constructed for the 1962 classic Mutiny on the Bounty), Scranton native Rebecca Anderson was offered the chance to work as an extra in the recently released, record-setting blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley.

Scranton Times staff writer Josh McCauliffe recently wrote an article ("City Native Gets Part, Look Behind Scenes") about Anderson; it appeared in the Friday, July 7th, 2006 Lifestyles section of the Scranton Times. The article is also avaiable online from the Scranton Times website under the title "Local Woman in 'Pirates'".

In addition, webmaster James Minor wrote an article that mentions Rebecca Anderson on his website; the article is titled Discovering the H.M.S. Bounty that appeared on July 17, 2005.

Much thanks to Judi K. for the reference.

Also a great big THANK YOU to Scranton Times librarian Brian Fulton for locating the online article for me.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Finian's Rainbow (1968)

The divine Sarah Reid (or Miss Sarah, as she is known to the younger set) from the Lackawanna County Children's Library, recently told me of a film musical titled Finian's Rainbow whose lyrics literally ask Scranton, Pennsylvanians to beget (to sire, procreate or produce, especially as an effect or outgrowth).

Finian's Rainbow began as a Broadway show that opened in January 1948 and played for nearly 2 years and over 720 performances. Lyrics were written by E.Y. Harburg (1939's The Wizard of Oz) and Fred Saidy (Star-Spangled Rhythm), and the score was written by Burton Lane (On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever, Cafe Society).

The film stars the legendary Fred Astaire (Top Hat, Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn) and songstress Petula Clark (the #1 hit single Downtown); it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now).

Both the musical and the 1968 film version of Finian's Rainbow tell the story of mysterious Irishman, Finian, and his beautiful daughter Sharon, who arrive one day in a small Southern town of sharecroppers. The town has its own dreamer who thinks that he might be able to put the town on the map by crossing mint with tobacco so that it'll come mentholated. Fianian's journeyed to the town because he's captured a leprechaun's crock of gold and plans to plant it in the ground so it'll grow faster; but Og the leprechaun arrives, bent on retrieving his gold. Meanwhile, the bigoted Judge Hawkins is upset with the tobacco growers because they're not segregated, and plans on taking their land away. And when Sharon yells, "I wish to God you were black so you could know how it feels..." while standing right over the pot of gold, all hell breaks loose as wishes come true.

Near the end of the film, Senator Billboard Rawkins and the Passion Pilgrim Gospellers break out into a song titled The Beget. Scranton is mentioned in the lyric section below:

The Lats and Lithuanians, begat.
Scranton Pennsylvanians, begat.
Strictly vegetarians, begat.
And honorary Aryans, begat.
Startin from Genesis, they begat.
Heroes and menaces, begat.
Fat filibusterers, begat.

To read the complete lyrics to The Beget, as well as the full score of Finian's Rainbow, click here.

The DVD and VHS of Finian's Rainbow are available to borrow from The Lackawanna County Library System; to place a hold, click here. The CD soundtrack of the 1960 Broadway revival of Finian's Rainbow is also available to borrow--a hold can be placed by clicking here.

For more information about the original Broadway musical, visit The Internet Broadway Database.

For more information on the 1968 film version, visit The Internet Movie Database.

Much thanks again to the exquisite Miss Sarah for this reference.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Lauren Weisberger (1977- )

Did you know that the author of the bestselling book The Devil Wears Prada (now a major motion picture starring Meryl Streep), the ultimate tale of the boss from hell, was born and raised in Scranton, PA?

Lauren Weisberger was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on March 28, 1977. She lived in Scranton for 11 years before moving to Allentown, PA. She graduated from Cornell University with a BA in English in 1999 and spend some time to travel allover the world. Upon her return to the US, she worked as an Assistant to Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Magazine, Anna Wintour.

Her experiences at Vogue inspired Weisberger to write her first novel, The Devil Wears Prada, the story of recent college grad and aspiring writer Andrea Sachs. Though she dreams of writing for The New Yorker, circumstance leads Andrea to a one-year tenure working as an assistant to Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief of Runway Magazine. One year soon feels like twenty to Andrea as she, in short, spends the year listening to Miranda says "Jump!" and is forced to answer "Off which bridge?" to Miranda's incredible and outrageous demands.

In April 2003, at the age of 26, Weisberger's first novel, The Devil Wears Prada, became an immediate bestseller. Her second novel, Everyone Worth Knowing, was published in October 2005 and was also a bestseller. She is working on her third novel.

In July 2006, a film version of The Devil Wears Prada was released to great reviews and big box office. The film stars Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly and Anne Hathaway as Andrea Sachs.

Both of Weisberger's novels, The Devil Wears Prada and Everyone Worth Knowing, (including audio book versions) are available to borrow from Albright Memorial Library, as well as from other libraries throughout the Lackawanna County Library System.

Much thanks to Judi K. for this reference.

Photos of Lauren Weisberger and book jacket courtesy of press page on Miss Weisberger's official web site.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Walter Bobbie (1945- )

Do you remember that hilarious scene in the 1996 comedy The First Wives Club when Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton are rapidly descending outside an upscale Manhattan apartment building on a window washing platform? Do you also remember when it suddenly stopped and a couple making out in bed told Elise Elloitt (Goldie Hawn) "You look great!!!!!"? Well, not only was that actor born in Scranton, PA, but he has also had a prolific and Tony-winning career as a Broadway actor, writer and director--most notably for directing the long-running Broadway revival of Chicago. He is Walter Bobbie.

Walter Bobbie was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 18, 1945.

His TV acting credits include episodes of Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, Law & Order, and the ABC soap operas Loving and One Life To Live, on which he plays the recurring role of William Davis Dawes. His film appearances include Stephen King's Thinner, Shakedown and, of course, his brief-but-memorable appearance in The First Wives Club.

Bobbie's major successes came on Broadway--first as an actor in the original Broadway production of Grease and the revivals of Guys and Dolls and Anything Goes. He conceived and directed the 1993 Broadway musical A Grand Night For Singing. In 1998, he adapted and directed the musical Footloose, based on the 1984 film.

Perhaps Bobbie's most famous achievement is directing the 1996 Broadway revivial of Chicago, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Director. Chicago is currently the longest-running revival of a musical in Broadway history, and it continues to play to sell-out crowds on The Great White Way.

He also directed the 2005 Broadway revivial of Sweet Charity, starring Christina Applegate (which features Scranton in the one the lyrics of the classic songbook).

Bobbie is currently preparing to direct the musical adaptation of the novel/movie High Fidelity, which is set to open on Broadway in November/December 2006.

The First Wives Club is available to borrow on VHS from Albright Memorial Library and other libraries throughout the Lackawanna County Library System.

For more information on Mr. Bobbie's Broadway career, visit The Internet Broadway Database.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

The razor-sharp-eared Don McKeon told me of a brief mention of Scranton in the 1954 musical comedy There's No Business Like Show Business.

Titled after the classic Irving Berlin song, There's No Business Like Show Business tells the story of travelling vaudevillians The Five Donahues, headed by parents Molly (Ethel Merman) and Terry Donahue (Dan Dailey) and featuring their three children. When their son Tim (Donald O'Connor) meets hat check girl Vicky (Marilyn Monroe), the family act begins to fall apart.

Early on in the film, Molly and Terry are at a train station with their young children discussing whether or not life on the road is good for a family. Suddenly, over the loudspeaker comes:


The Westerner on Track 2. All aboard for Scranton...


That's our train.

There's No Business Like Show Business is available to borrow on both DVD and VHS for the Lackawanna County Library System. Click here to place a hold on the DVD; if you'd rather the VHS, click here.

Thanks again to Don McKeon for another great reference.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Citizen Kane (1941)

While working on the entry for A Letter To Three Wives earlier this week, the Head of Reference Evelyn Gibbons asked me, "Did you know that Citizen Kane was inspired by a bike stolen from the front of Osterhout Library?" My first thought was, "How can this possibly be true?" So she told me to the call the Reference Department at Osterhout Free Library to confirm this and, sure enough, they faxed me an article that proved this, indeed, was a fact (not that I didn't believe Evelyn, of course, but this reference is truly remarkable). But can you believe that Citizen Kane, considered by many to be the greatest American film ever made, was inspired by a true incident in Wilkes-Barre, PA?

The Oscar-winning screenplay for Citizen Kane was written by Herman Mankiewicz, brother of Joseph L. Mankiewicz--Joseph often worked the city of Wilkes-Barre (his birthplace and hometown) into his scripts, two of which (All About Eve and A Letter To Three Wives) won back-to-back Oscars for Best Screenplay in 1949 and 1950. Although Joseph's brother Herman was born in New York City in 1897, he lived in Wilkes-Barre for nine years as a boy.

The article, "Listen Up, Cinema Sleuths: Rosebud Was Really A Bike" by Times Leader Staff Writer Joe Butkiewicz, was originally published on May 1, 1991. In the article, Butkiewicz referenced a biography of Herman Mankiewicz by Richard Merryman titled, Mank: The Wit, World and Life of Herman Mankiewicz.

According to the article and the biography, Herman received a bicycle for Christmas at the age of 10. One day, Herman went to the local public library (the name of the library is not mentioned, but the assumption is the library was the Osterhout in Wilkes-Barre) and parked his bicycle outside--when he left the library some time later, "Rosebud"was missing and presumed stolen. As punishment, Herman's parents never replaced his lost/stolen bicycle, instead telling him the incident was his own fault.

Co-written by, directed by, and starring Orson Welles, Citizen Kane tells the story of the death of publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane and the ensuing search by news reporters to discover the meaning of his final utterance--"Rosebud."


In the film, "Rosebud" was the name of the sled Kane had as a young boy and represented the happiest time of his life--his childhood.

In real life, "Rosebud" was the nickname of the bike Herman Mankiewicz had as a young boy that his parents refused to replace when it was stolen from the front of a public library in Wilkes-Barre, PA. In turn, this incident of childhood loss inspired a masterpiece that will live on for generations.


A copy of the Times Leader article "Listen Up, Cinema Sleuths: Rosebud Was Really A Bike" by Joe Butkiewicz is available in the "Movies" Local History Vertical File in the Reference Department.

Citizen Kane is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System on both DVD and VHS. Click on the corresponding format you'd like to place a hold.

My deepest thanks to both Evelyn Gibbons and the Reference Staff at the Osterhout Free Library for this reference.

A Letter To Three Wives (1949)

My wonderful brother J.R. told me some time ago of a reference to the city of Wilkes-Barre in the 1949 Academy Award-winning film A Letter To Three Wives, written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Mankiewicz, who was born in Wilkes-Barre, also wrote the screenplay to All About Eve, which also included a reference to Wilkes-Barre in the dialogue (All About Eve was also the inaugural entry in this blog). Coincidentally, both A Letter To Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950) won back-to-back Oscars for Best Screenplay (as well as Best Director) for Mankiewicz, the only such occurrence in the history of the Academy Awards. This distinction gives Wilkes-Barre, PA an ultra-rare (though unnoted until now) historic footnote in the history of cinema—city references included in two screenplays by the same author that won two consecutive Oscars.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA on February 11, 1909. He began his career in film as a translator of intertitles for Paramount in Berlin. Upon returning to Hollywood, he worked as both a screenwriter and producer throughout the thirties and forties; he also produced several films starring Joan Crawford (including 1942's Reunion in France, which features several references to Wilkes-Barre). After directing his first film Backfire in 1946, Mankiewicz went on to direct such classics as The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Now Way Out, Guys and Dolls, Cleopatra and, of course, All About Eve—which still holds the record of the most Academy Award nominations (14) in film history (tied with Titanic).

A Letter to Three Wives stars Jeanne Crain (State Fair, Cheaper By The Dozen), Linda Darnell (Mankiewicz’s No Way Out, Unfaithfully Yours) and Ann Sothern (Lady in the Lark, The Whales of August) as three friends in an affluent neighborhood. As they are boarding a ship to chaperone a school trip, a mailman delivers a letter addressed to the three of them from their friend (and town floozy) Addie Ross. Addie writes that she is leaving town for good and taking one of their husbands as a momento—neglecting to reveal exactly whose husband she stole. Though they display a brave front and a nonchalant attitude, each of the three women spends the day reminiscing about the ups and downs of her marriage -- wondering if hers is the husband who has flown the coop.

The Wilkes-Barre reference occurs during the flashback of “wife” Rita Phipps (played by Ann Sothern), a writer for radio shows. As she is having dinner with her possibly straying husband George (Kirk Douglas) and her radio show’s sponsors, a commercial for a breath mint begins playing during the radio show “Confessions of Brenda Brown.”


Euclid Street. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. What a thrill it was to hear my little girl say, “Mother, it’s much fun to have you read to us, now that you use Baby’s Breath.”

On the audio commentary on the DVD of A Letter To Three Wives (at 48:00), Joseph Mankiewicz's son Christopher explains that his father "never missed a chance in any screenplay that he wrote to pay homage to his city of birth and get it in the script."

A Letter to Three Wives is available for loan on DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System. To place a hold on the DVD, click here; to reserve the VHS, click here.

Much thanks again to my fantastic brother J.R. for this reference. Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 05, 2006

New York, New York (1977)

The ever-sharp RY recently told me about a brief visual reference to the city of Scranton in the 1977 film New York, New York.

Directed by Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Aviator), New York, New York stars Liza Minnelli (Cabaret, Arthur) and Scorsese regular Robert de Niro (Goodfellas, The Deer Hunter, Meet The Parents).

The film has been described as Scorsese’s musical tribute to his hometown. The day WWII ends, selfish and smooth-talking saxophonist Jimmy (de Niro) meets lounge singer Francine (Minnelli). From that moment on, their relationship grows into love as they struggle with their careers and aim for the top in the era of Big Band.

An extended section of the film shows Jimmy and Francine touring with a big band by bus throughout the country, punctuated by signs of towns they played and musical performances. One of the signs the bus passes reads “SCRANTON, 741 FT.”

The DVD of New York, New York can be borrowed through the Lackawanna County Library System; to place a hold, click here.

Much thanks again to RY for this reference.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Michael Schoeffling (1960- )

Any child of the 80s (like me) is most likely endeared to the films of John Hughes, whose films (including The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful) have served as sort-of a coming-of-age rite of passage for teens in that decade. His directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, featured a native of Wilkes-Barre as the epitomical dream date, Jake Ryan.

Sixteen Candles tells the story of Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) whose parents, caught up in preparations of the wedding of their other daughter, completely forget about her 16th birthday. Visting relatives, an exchange student by the name of Long Duck Dong, and an obsessive geek don't make Samantha's forgotten birthday any better. The sole hope she clings to is her crush on high school senior (and birthday dream date) Jake Ryan, played by Wilkes-Barre native Michael Schoeffling.

Born in Wilkes-Barre on December 10, 1960 and raised in New Jersey, Michael Schoeffling studied acting at Temple University and the Lee Strassberg Institute, and he also became a model whose photographs were featured in magazines such as GQ.

Schoeffling's first major film role was as the "dreamy" Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles. His later film credits include Vision Quest (with Matthew Modine and Madonna), Sylvester (with Melissa Gilbert), Merchant Ivory's underrated comedy Slaves of New York (a look at the 1980s New York art scene, with Bernadette Peters), Longtime Companion (one of the first films to directly address the AIDS crisis) and Mermaids (with Cher and Winona Ryder). Schoeffling last appeared on screen in Walt Disney's Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken in 1991.

A Google! search for his name results in a list of several websites that pose the question, "Whatever happened to Michael Schoeffling or "Jake Ryan?".

After taking a permanent break from acting in the early 1990s, Michael Schoeffling opened (and still operates) a handcrafted furniture store in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where he presently lives quietly and out of the limelight with his family.

Sixteen Candles and Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken are all available to borrow on VHS from the Lackawanna County Library System.

You can watch the movie trailer for Sixteen Candles by clicking here.