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Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Film Buff: Crazy Music

You know those actors who you see in films from time to time, and you say, "'Hey, isn't that the guy who was in . . ." or something to that effect? Well, that's the sign of a good character actor. He may not be a matinee idol, and you may not even know his name, but you probably recognize him. The professor in the Shaggy D.A. sure looks a lot like Wrongway Feldman from the old Gilligan's Island TV Series.
Sometimes the same thing happens when you're watching an animated film and you notice that, say, Captain Hook in Peter Pan sounds a bit like Snidely Whiplash from the "Dudley Do-Right" episodes of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
In both cases the face and the voice belonged to the late actor Hans Conried whose birthday it is today. He had an amazing voice talent. He had flawless diction and the ability to roll a growl into his voice that could boom into a roar. Most of the time he showed up as the comic heavy in movies and television, and his vocal power - which he had honed many years working in radio - was of great use in animated features.
In today's Friday Film Buff selection, Conried played the maniacally evil piano teacher (yes, piano teacher) of a young boy trapped in a nightmarish world that appears to have been dreamed up by Dr. Seuss himself.
In fact, it was.
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T is the only movie that Dr. Seuss ever scripted. He also devised the story and wrote the lyrics for the musical numbers.

Perhaps the reason that Dr. Seuss never worked on another live-action film is that this one tanked at the box office. People actually walked out after the first five minutes. However, modern audiences have re-discovered this film and compare it favorably to the more recent live-action adaptations of Seuss's works. This film was truly ahead of its time in 1953, and I think it deserves your attention today.

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