We are sad to report the passing of two performers who will be very familiar to baby boomers.
Actor Warren Berlinger passed away this past week at 83. He was one of those comic character actors whose name you might not know, but you’d recognize his face anywhere. His stage, TV and movie career stretched across eight decades, starting with his Broadway debut at age 9 in the original cast of “Annie Get Your Gun” in 1947. His friendly, chubby face, regular guy personality and knack for comedy made him a mainstay of sketch and anthology shows such as “Love American Style” and “The Love Boat,” and sitcoms stretching from “The Goldbergs” in 1956 through “That Girl,” “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “Too Close For Comfort,” “Friends” and right up to his last role in Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie.”
It’s also been reported that Abby Dalton died on November 23rd in Los Angeles at 88, following a long illness. While she appeared in many roles, Dalton was best known for playing Julia Cumson on “Falcon Crest” in the 1980s, for her four-year stint as the lower center square on “Hollywood Squares,” and for her 1961 Emmy nomination for Jackie Cooper’s military series, “Hennesey.” She actually starred on that show at the same time she was on the sitcom “The Joey Bishop Show” as Bishop’s wife.
She was in such high demand because of her unusual combination of talents, being both a first-rate comic actress and a gorgeous sex symbol who started out as a model. Men who were young and impressionable in 1957 will surely remember her from Roger Corman’s weirdly-titled B-movie, “The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent,” while younger readers might remember that from “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
Both Warren Berlinger and Abby Dalton contributed so much to the entertainment world over the past half century that will be enjoyed for many years to come.
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I would also like to point your attention to a couple of things that I think “Huckabee” newsletter readers will appreciate, if you are as alarmed as I am by the left’s recent push to censor, label and edit movies, TV shows and recordings from bygone eras that don’t adhere to the latest PC standards. I’m a pop culture historian, and like you, I am intelligent enough to watch a movie from many decades ago and see a joke, character or story point that wouldn’t pass muster today without it affecting my personal beliefs.
We can all recognize that these artistic works are a product of their times, just as our ancestors were products of their times but still deserve respect. I assume people will someday look back on the dismal “woke” desecrations of “Star Wars” and “Ghostbusters” and say, “What were they thinking?” But I don’t even want those to be buried; I want them preserved as a warning to future generations never to do that again.
The first thing I want to share is from a YouTuber I enjoy known as “The Critical Drinker” (he does all his videos in the persona of a drunken Scotsman, so a warning about the language). He has many videos that hilariously rip the woke virtue-signaling that’s ruining today’s movies and TV shows, but this is a serious commentary that came out during the BLM boom, when “Gone With The Wind” was taken off of TV. It’s an intelligent and impassioned argument against the “cancel culture” burying, editing and altering older movies to make them “safe” for today’s audiences. It’s called “Why The Past Matters.”
Second, there’s a movie out now called “Mank,” about the great screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz’s work on the script for “Citizen Kane.”
I’m a “Kane” nut, so I enjoyed it, but it’s probably too depressing and inside for most casual moviegoers. Still, there’s a line that resonates widely today and needs to be heard by everyone. MGM head Louis B. Mayer tells this to a new writer:
“This is a business where the buyer gets nothing for his money but a memory. What he bought still belongs to the man who sold it. That’s the real magic of the movies.”
That’s also what’s so dangerous about “cancel culture” as it pertains to altering or censoring older creative works. In an era when so many people rely on streaming for content, and the content owners are so politicized and easily frightened by the Twitter mobs, our cultural past is not safe.
People ask me why my house is filled with books, LPs, CDs, DVDs, film reels, tapes, 45s and hard drives full of files. Because if you don’t own it in a hard copy format, you don’t own it at all. It can be taken away or altered at any time whenever the rights owner decides you shouldn’t see it in its original form. Personally, if I don’t own it, I don’t trust anyone else to preserve it. I don't want my personal memories of these works to be the only thing about them that survives.
And if one of my DVD’s of Disney’s “Song of the South” breaks, no problem. I have two.