Happy 124th Birthday, Donald MacBride!

A familiar face to old-movie buffs, snaggle-toothed character actor Donald MacBride was born 124 years ago today in Brooklyn, New York. He began his career in his teens as a singer, making several records in 1907 before moving on to vaudeville and eventually Broadway, motion pictures and television.

MacBride appeared in more than 30 short subjects from 1914 to 1916, the year he made his first feature-length picture. All totaled, he appeared in more 140 motion pictures, frequently played cops, police detectives and hotel detectives—sometimes playing it straight and plenty tough, but often, in comedies such as the Marx Brothers vehicle Room Service (1938), The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939), My Favorite Wife (1940) and Topper Returns (1941), his authority figures were frazzled, frustrated and confused. His last movie appearance was in The Seven Year Itch (1955).

MacBride made his television debut with a recurring role on My Friend Irma in 1952. He would continue working on the small screen until his death, appearing on such programs as My Little Margie, The Ray Milland Show, The Jimmy Durante Show and The Ford Television Theatre.

MacBride, a veteran who saw active duty overseas during World War I, died in 1957. He was survived by his wife, Esther, whom he marred in 1930.

Happy birthday, Donald MacBride, wherever you may be!

Character actor Donald MacBride

Spend New Year’s Eve with the Marxes & the Charleses

What are you doing New Year’s Eve? We’re not referencing the classic song of that name (a favorite of ours, by the way); we’re asking the question. Because Turner Classic Movies has arranged a day of programming that, for our money, negates any need to even think of joining the inebriated hordes who’ll be out on the town, paying too much to have too little fun. Stay home instead, and enjoy the Marx Brothers all day and Nick and Nora Charles (and Asta, too) all night!

The Marx Brothers‘ first—and finest—seven pictures will air (slightly out of order, which is a bit of a head-scratcher) beginning at 8:15 a.m. ET, followed by all six Thin Man movies (which are being shown in proper order) beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

It’s nearly 23 hours of programming, so you’ll want to get plenty of rest tonight.

New Year's Eve -- Duck Soup and After the Thin Man posters

Happy 105th Birthday, Lillian Roth!

Lillian RothIn 1974, big news was made when prolonged legal wrangling over the rights to the Marx Brothers‘ second movie, Animal Crackers (1930), was finally resolved and the movie was released for public screenings for the first time for the first time in many years.

Imagine that: A “new” Marx Brothers movie (new in the fact that no one had been able to view it, in a theatre or on television, for so long—and of course, there were no VHS tapes yet, much less DVDs or Blu-Rays).

It was our junior year in high school, and we were working part-time evenings and weekends at the Northpark Cinema 4 in Oklahoma City. Already very devoted to all things Marx Brothers, we were thrilled when Animal Crackers was booked there. The movie settled in for an inexplicably long run (our memory might be playing tricks on us, but we recall it being there for a month or more), and we spent many an hour on those slow weekend afternoons soaking up the Marxian magic when we should have been out front taking tickets and sweeping up spilled popcorn. (To this day, we have the dialogue from that picture all but memorized.)

But it wasn’t just Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo who held our attention. The winsome Ms. Lillian Roth, who played the ingĂ©nue in Animal Crackers and whose 105th birthday it is today, hooked us but good with her flirtatious ways and deep-dish dimples.

We’ve had a crush on her ever since, and we trust that, after watching the following clips, you will, too. Happy birthday, lovely Lillian Roth, wherever you may be.

This post first saw the light of day on 12/13/2012.