My 80s TV Crushes: David Addison and Remington Steele

 

 

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The Silver Screenings site is conducting the Reel Infatuation Blogathon this week. Bloggers are tasked with reflecting upon their fictional character crushes- from books or the big or small screen.

Truth be told, my first TV crush (and this is according to a discovery I made in my baby book as scribed in my mother’s own handwriting so it must be true) was Donny Osmond. I assume it was a combination of those gloriously large and straight teeth and I was more “a little bit Rock n’ Roll” than “a little bit country.” And then came along the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mystery Hour. I secretly thought of myself to be Nancy Drew, undoubtedly. And at a time when all the other girls were dreaming of Shaun Cassidy or even his half-brother David, not me. I preferred the clean-cut looks of Parker Stevenson, frankly.

Fast forward to my post-puberty days of the 80s. While Duran Duran was my religion and my cult, my television heart throbs fell on the charming shoulders of Bruce Willis as David Addison, Jr. of “Moonlighting” (1985-1989) and Pierce Brosnan as “Remington Steele”(1982-1987).

My love for classic film was already blossoming back in the 80s and Cary Grant was then and always shall remain my biggest silver screen crush. As for the small screen, it now seems obvious why I was drawn to the Remington Steele and David Addison characters. These two had a lot in common with each other but also with my love of classic film leading men.

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REMINGTON STEELE:

The pilot episode highlighted a female licensed investigator, Ms. Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist). She’s educated, sharp, confident, attractive, ambitious, with a keen attention to detail. But she constantly finds resistance from clients because she’s a woman. So she creates a fictional male boss (“Remington Steele” is a name created from a combination of a typewriter and a football team) and suddenly business starts to roll in.

That is, until her next assignment. When a client hires her for an event with multi-million dollars’ worth of jewels, he insists on meeting Mr. Steele in person for his personal oversee. Ms. Holt isn’t worried though. She plans on a shell game to keep her fictional boss always somewhere else while still providing top-notch security. How could anything go wrong?

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Things go awry when a rather dapper man named Ben (Pierce Brosnan) shows up saying he’s in an official capacity as a South African diplomat to ensure the jewels rightful return to their country of smuggled origin. But when Laura’s team, always-suspicious Murphy and eager-to-please Ms. Fox, dig deeper into his true identity, they find he’s not who he seems. They find 5 passports with different names. All are fictional characters from Humphrey Bogart films. Before you know it, he’s been found out to be a jewel thief and con man…a perfect set-up for his even sexier role in THE THOMAS CROWNE AFFAIR remake (1999), taken Remington Steele’s identity, solved a murder and charmed Ms. Holt. By the end of the pilot, he’s decided to take on the Steele identity and the PI gig on a permanent basis. But do we ever discover his real name?

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David Addison in MOONLIGHTING:

In the pilot, we are introduced to Madelyn “Maddie” Hayes (Cybil Shepherd) who is a self-made woman of independent success and distinction as a former model. Still beautiful, intelligent and confident, she wakes up one day broke. Her investment manager ran off with all her liquid assets leaving her with only with a handful of businesses designed to lose money on the books.  The City of Angels detective agency is one of them, with David Addison (Bruce Willis), private eye, at the helm.

Bruce Willis American actor as 'David Addison' Cybill Shepherd American Actress as 'Maddie Hayes' Stars of the award-winning television series "Moonlighting"

Addison is energetic, fast-talking, witty, playful, and completely persistent. Maddie attempts to fire him and shut down the business but with David’s pushy persuasions and with a murder case that literally falls into their laps, Maddie ultimately changes her mind. As an homage to the ‘Blue Moon Shampoo girl’ of Maddie’s cover girl days, Addison decides to change their business name to the Blue Moon Detective Agency. Before then, the two bicker and screwball their way through an investigation. When a man falls dead in front of Maddie and onto the floor, revealing a knife in his back, David dryly jokes, “that’s gotta hurt falling on your nose like that.” The wit and onscreen chemistry sizzles, even if it didn’t exist behind the scenes.

What these two shows also shared was the insertion of quirky characters like Doris Roberts as Mildred Krebs in “Remington Steele” and Allyce Beasley as the speedy-rhyming Agnes DiPesto in “Moonlighting”. Plus, an impressive list of actors that star and/or cameo. Do you recall Eva Marie Saint, Imogene Coca, James Karen, John Goodman, Sterling Holloway (as a narrator) and Ray Charles have all appeared in “Moonlighting”?

Then there’s the writing. After a few seasons, head writer Glenn Gordon Caron left “Remington Steele” to begin writing for “Moonlighting.” No wonder the similarities are obvious.

“Moonlighting” offered higher production value and was the most expensive show aired at that time at $1.6 million per episode. Replete with all the glossy style of 80s fashions, nods to classic film was also worked into every scene with David and Maddie. In attempt to copy the rapid-fire exchanges of over-talking like Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940), cast members and producers were asked to watch that film in addition to BRINGING UP BABY (1938) to capture the tone and dynamics of those hilarious screwball couples. Cybil Shepherd was often shot in diffused camera lens to repeat the soft, glowing look of the leading ladies of the 1940s. Not to mention it was just a flattering aesthetic.

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Besides both series being centered on detective duos, the leading men borderline as con men and cads in their charming and frequently mischievous ways. The women are bright, assertive and more fearless than what a majority of women were/are portrayed as in film. That’s what makes these couples so intriguing and the tension more delectable.

Remington and David would not be near as irresistible if it wasn’t for Laura and Maddie to challenge them. In the pilot episode of Remington Steele, Brosnan’s character Steele says, “I’m a man who enjoys impossible challenges,” as he smiles flirtatiously at Laura. Later as they chase the bad guy in an airport cart, Steele is driving as Holt is grabbing the wheel from behind, steering simultaneously. “I take it you wanted to drive,” he coyly smiles.

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And that’s why David and Maddie, and Remington and Laura, just like Walter and Hildy in HIS GIRL FRIDAY along with several other classic examples work. The power struggles for these couples are so appealing because the women are not yielding, subservient, dizzy dames. These ladies are equally strong, attractive, intelligent women who challenge these deliciously charming men. And when you turn up that heat with such fiery exchanges… well, no wonder my younger self was hooked.

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Both Pierce Brosnan and Bruce Willis went on to even more successful careers. But it was these roles and the portrayal of these characters that led them there. Brosnan was courted to be the next James Bond back in 85/86 but a surprise resurgence in the show (thanks to the Bond buzz) created a renewal of one more season and caused him to lose out to Timothy Dalton. Years later, Chris Columbus who worked with him on MRS. DOUBTFIRE (1993) urged Brosnan to give it a go again, which eventually landed him the part as 007.

Bruce Willis received great success as John McClane in DIE HARD (1988) while still filming “Moonlighting,” which kicked off a long career of iconic action and sci-fi films. His success, the behind-the-scenes conflicts, including huge challenges by continuous filming delays all added up to kill the show.

Looking back, the sets seem hokey by today’s standards and these shows certainly do not have the same staying power as the classic films they aspired. But these memorable characters of Remington Steele and David Addison, Jr. permanently etched these actors forever on the American cinematic map and will always have a warm, fuzzy spot in my heart, too.


This was my contribution to the Reel Infatuation Blogathon, hosted by Silver Screenings and Font & Frock, taking place June 13-17th. Explore all the reel crushes from each day!

 

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Abbott and Costello Meet the Universal Monsters

Modern horror has gone through various subgenre influences from vampires, zombies, Japanese horror, slasher blood-and-gore, to ‘documentary style camera work’ (think Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity), with a slew of sequels plus parodies and a host of others. Those are okay, I guess. But what really does it for me are the Universal horror films or any classic horror comedy. The best of these were the Universal Horror films featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

The Frighteningly Funny Five:

ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET the KILLER (1949)

ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET the INVISIBLE MAN (1951)

ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL and MR. HYDE (1953)

ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY (1955)

Note a pattern? With the success of its horror films that starred actors like Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, Universal seized an opportunity to take this up a notch by adding the very popular comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello into the mix.

What makes good old-fashioned spookiness even better? When it’s funny too. What’s so comforting about watching Abbott and Costello bumble their ways through scary scenes is how relatable they are. Whether we are part rational cynic or part silly fraidy-cat, we love to watch these guys take on the icons of classic horror, perhaps just as we would.

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ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

Bud and Lou are baggage handlers transporting horror museum cargo that is very little wax and a lot more real than either could ever imagine. Bela Lugosi reprises his most famous role as Dracula, with Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolfman and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster. (With Vincent Price as the voice of the Invisible Man.)

Take a peek at this scene where Lou frightens the monster in a funny turn of tables…

There’s a surprising amount of action in this film compared to the pace of the original Universal horrors, when you mix all these characters in a scene. At every turn, Lou finds himself in the midst of a frightful and fiendish triangle. Bud finally comes around to believe him…

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ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET the KILLER (1949)

After the huge success of “…MEET FRANKENSTEIN” Abbott and Costello, under the direction of their pal Charles T. Barton a second time, agreed to continue with this popular formula. This time, Boris Karloff made famous by his Universal Pictures roles as Frankenstein’s monster and The Mummy, joined in on the fun as Swami Talpur. Lou Costello is Freddie Phillips, a hotel bungling bellboy accused of murder. While the Swami tries to coerce Freddie into a confession, others such as Bud Abbott as Casey Edwards, Mikel Conrad as Sargeant Stone, and James Flavin as Inspector Wellman attempt to sort it all out.

Swami: “Perhaps you should choose the manner of your death. How would you like to die?”

Freddie: “Old age.”

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ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET the INVISIBLE MAN (1951)

Now into the 1950s with their third installment, with a new director of Charles Lamont, this film didn’t quite pack the star power punch as the first two. While the concept of turning invisible was a fun premise that is rife with comedic opportunities, the convoluted plot (it’s a boxing movie, it’s also a murder mystery and they just happen to stumble scross a recipe for invisibility) and lack of partnering with any big names (although you will likely recognize character actors like William Frawley and Nancy Guild) likely didn’t help matters. But in the end, the irony of Bud and Lou as inept private eyes is enough to keep you in stitches.

Abbott-Costello-Abbott-and-Costello-Meet-Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde

ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL and MR. HYDE (1953)

The fellas are at it again as “Slim” and “Tubby”, with direction by Charles Lamont again, and Boris Karloff returns to join the whacky horror party… again. Karloff makes for a great tranformative Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The guys find themselves in familiar territory on the run through a house of horrors and across rooftops in chase.

Check out this fan trailer, which has been updated with contemporary music:

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ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY (1955)

Bud and Lou return for a fifth time, with Charles Lamont in the director’s chair a third time. A mummy theme, an Egyptian cult and medallion, along with Marie Windsor as the commanding femme fatale in charge, this last of the ‘Abbott and Costello Meet…Universal horrors’ packs a campy punch. The gags and bits turn up at every corner with a lot of play on the ‘mummy’ theme.

Bud Abbott aka Peter Patterson: “I overheard Doctor Zoomer say he needed a couple of men to accompany his mummy back to the States.”

Lou Costello aka Freddie Franklin: “Is she afraid to travel by herself?” 

Bud Abbott aka Peter Patterson: “She? No, Lou. This mummy is a he. What’s wrong with that? Some mummies are men, some mummies are women.” 

Lou Costello aka Freddie Franklin: “Such a strange country.”

Bud Abbott aka Peter Patterson: “What’s strange about it Lou?”

Lou Costello aka Freddie Franklin: “Your mummy, your mummy. Wasn’t she a woman?” 

Bud Abbott aka Peter Patterson: “I never had a mummy.” 

Lou Costello aka Freddie Franklin: “What did your Father do? Win you in a crap game?”

Here’s a sampling, with the official trailer…

Some say these films of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meeting the Universal monsters are hokey and became progressively campier with each installment. But for me and millions of others, the ‘campiness’ mixed in with the hilarious lines and gags of this funny duo, along with the homage to those Universal horrors, make for beloved classics to enjoy, time and time again.

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*This article was my contribution to The Universal Blogathon, hosted by SILVER SCENES. Explore the full roster for all the talented and creative contributors.

BILLY WILDER Blogathon

This is all about Billy Wilder. The great.

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Beginning his screenwriting career in 1929 Germany, Wilder would make a definitive mark on Hollywood from behind the camera, both by way of his his pen and later as a premier director. Films written by or directed by Billy Wilder continue to spark debate and adoration to this day thanks to his sharp wit and memorable imagery. Wilder directed only 27 films yet stands among an elite group of seven directors who have won Best Picture, Director and Screenplay Oscars.

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These may be mere numbers contrived from opinion, but they are nonetheless impressive: Five Billy Wilder films are listed on the American Film Institute’s (AFI) list of 100 Funniest Movies of all time: Some Like It Hot (1959) is listed at #1, The Apartment (1960) at #20, The Seven Year Itch (1955) at #51, Ninotchka (1939) at #52 and Ball of Fire (1941) at #92. Four Wilder films are on the AFI list of 100 Greatest Movies of all time: Sunset Blvd. (1950) at #16, Some Like It Hot (1959) at #22, Double Indemnity (1944) at #29 and The Apartment (1960) at #80. And perhaps most astonishing – when one considers his mere 27 films – is the fact that Wilder directed fourteen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances.

Now, putting all stats and numbers aside, what makes Billy Wilder one of the greatest directors who ever lived is not reflected on a list nor is it illustrated by his numerous awards, but rather by his enduringly entertaining filmography. A Wilder film grabs the viewer from the opening shot and always leaves a lasting impression because a Wilder ending is always memorable.

For all of those reasons and because we’re ‘girls gone Wilder’, Aurora of Once Upon A Screen and I -Kellee (@Irishjayhawk66) of Outspoken & Freckled- are beside ourselves with excitement to announce The Billy Wilder Blogathon. This will be a one-day event to celebrate this master’s work on what would have been the 108th anniversary of his birth on June 22. And we hope you are willing and able to join the celebration.

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Entries can be anything Wilder related – commentaries on his films or television work, created by his pen or from his place behind the camera. You choose, blog and post and we’ll be sure to enjoy it.

And now the usual drill…

Participants:

Let us know which Billy Wilder film or TV program you’d like to dedicate a post to. Choose from any he wrote, directed or produced.
Post your entry by June 22 so we can properly promote it in celebration of his birthday.
Be sure to include the title of your blog, twitter tag, etc. or any information that would assist us in identifying your page and facilitate communication.
Please post one of the event banners on your site and in your entry to help us promote the Wilder love.
Have fun! It’s sure to be a Wilder time!
“Some pictures play wonderfully to a room of eight people. I don’t go for that. I go for the masses. I go for the end effect.”

… this intro post was lovingly written by co-host Aurora

Participating Blogs Thus Far…

Once Upon a Screen – The Major and the Minor

Shadows and Satin – Ace in the Hole

Screenkicker! – The Apartment

Wide Screen World – Sunset Blvd.

Make Mine Criterion! – Kiss Me, Stupid

30 Years On – The Lost Weekend

Critica Retro – Irma La Deuce

Cinema Dilettante – A Foreign Affair

The Vintage Cameo – Witness for the Prosecution

Tales of the Easily Distracted – One, Two, Three

Cindy Bruchman – Double Indemnity

Girls Do Film – Ninotchka

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear – Five Graves to Cairo

Vintage Girl – Some Like it Hot

Outspoken & Freckled – Stalag 17

Classic Becky’s Brain Food – The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Twenty Four Frames – Ball of Fire

The Great Katharine Hepburn – The Front Page

Spoilers – “Billy Wilder Speaks” and other interviews

Mildred’s Fatburgers – The Fortune Cookie

Pre-Code.com – Fedora

Joel’s Classic Film Passion – Ocean’s 11

A Shroud of Thoughts – Sabrina

Barry – Avanti!

[This] Girl Friday – Midnight

Stars and Letters – Jane Wyman letter to Billy Wilder

The Movie Rat – Emil and the Detectives (’31 and ’35)

So that means there’s so many great choices still left to pick, such as…

CASINO ROYALE (1967), LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (1957), THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955), THE EMPEROR WALTZ (1948), BUDDY BUDDY (1981), THE BISHOP’S WIFE (1947), A SONG IS BORN (1948), HOLD BACK THE DAWN (1941), ARISE MY LOVE (1940), RHYTHM ON THE RIVER (1940), THAT CERTAIN AGE (1938), BLUEBEARD’S EIGHTH WIFE (1938), CHAMPAGNE WALTZ (1937), PEOPLE ON SUNDAY (1930), DEATH MILLS (documentary, 1945), THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (1957), MAUVAISE GRAINE (1934), KIDNAPPED (acting role, 1938)….plus more!

Following is the complete gallery of banners for this event. All were conceived, designed and delivered by Kellee…

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some like it small

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