Category Archives: Film / Tv / Theater Review

Robert Hessen (1936-2024), RIP

I have learned that my friend and colleague, Robert Hessen, died on April 15, 2024, at the age of 87. The Bronx-born economic and business historian earned his B.A. from Queens College, his M.A. from Harvard, and his Ph.D. from Columbia.

In the early 1960s, he was drawn to Ayn Rand’s work and became a contributor to both The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist. Some of those essays were republished as part of Rand’s book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Upon Rand’s death in March 1982, Bob told the New York Times that Rand’s “moral defense” of capitalism “had an electrifying effect on people who had never heard capitalism defended in other than technological terms.” Rand “made it clear that a free society is also a productive society, but what matters is individual freedom.” For this reason, Bob maintained that “Rand has had and will have an enduring influence on people in numerous fields.”

Author of Steel Titan: The Life of Charles M. Schwab and In Defense of the Corporation, Bob spent years at the Hoover Institution and at Stanford University and in the 1980s, he was a featured commentator on Free to Choose, Milton Friedman’s PBS series.

I had my first personal exchanges with Bob when he joined the Board of Advisors of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS), commencing with the second of our 23 volumes, in the Fall of 2000. I never had the pleasure of meeting him in-person, but our correspondence and phone conversations over the years were always warm and informative. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a gentle soul. He was intensely supportive of the critical, interdisciplinary work we were publishing in JARS. Our last phone call, in the spring of 2023, was memorable not only for its length but for the extent to which he encouraged me in all my future endeavors, as JARS was winding down after 2+ decades of publication.

The Hoover Institution posted additional information in a memorial notice:

“Bob is survived by his wife of almost 29 years, Karin Bricker, who was with him at his passing. Bob’s first marriage, to the late Beatrice Minkus Hessen, lasted 26 years until her death in 1989 and produced two devoted children, Laurie and John, who survive him. Bob was a loving stepfather to Devi Bricker and the late David Bricker, and the beloved grandfather of five. He was a profoundly kind, decent and thoughtful man, a lover of books, music and movies, a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend. He passed at Stanford Hospital following a period of illness. The family is planning a memorial celebration for later this year.”

For me, Bob will always be remembered as a source of inspiration, and I will miss him very much. My deepest condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.

Additional comments and condolences can be found on my Facebook page.

Also see a lovely tribute to Bob by Reena Kapoor.

Bravo, John Sterling!

I’m convinced that John Sterling, long-time radio announcer for the New York Yankees, has pinstripes running through his veins. He called 5,420 regular season Yankee games and another 211 postseason games. Retiring, effective immediately, he’ll be recognized in a pregame ceremony this Saturday before the Yanks host the Tampa Rays at The Stadium. I’ll miss his iconic calls and warm sense of humor.

For an extra special treat, check out Sterling’s hilarious (and creative) home run calls …

The Henry Mancini Centennial / Song of the Day #2115

One hundred years ago on this date, the great composer, conductor, and arranger Henry Mancini was born. Winner of four Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, twenty Grammy Awards, and a posthumous Lifetime Grammy Achievement Award, Mancini composed some of the most memorable scores and cinematic songs of the twentieth century—from his Peter Gunn TV theme and his iconic “Pink Panther” theme to his Oscar-winning scores for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Victor/Victoria,” from songs such as “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses” to “Charade” and “Two for the Road.” Countless Mancini songs have made their impact on “My Favorite Songs” list over the years. Today, Turner Classic Movies is running a 24-hour tribute to Mancini that began at 6 am (ET) with “Carol for Another Christmas” (a 1964 TV flick, which features one of my favorite Christmas themes) and will end with “Wait Until Dark” (a 1967 thriller with the Oscar-nominated Audrey Hepburn).

In honor of Mancini the Magnificent, this musical montage …

Song of the Day: A Tribute to Henry Mancini (Medley) [YouTube link], music by Henry Mancini, arranged by Calvin Custer, features the Florida Lakes Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Konstantin Dimitrov. The medley includes “Baby Elephant Walk” (from the 1962 film “Hatari!”), “Charade” (1963), “The Pink Panther” (1963), “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962), and the Peter Gunn Theme (from the 1959-1961 television series). On the one hundredth anniversary of his birth, we celebrate Mancini’s wonderful musical legacy.

Sassy 100 – Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme

This is a postscript to my Medium essay, “Sassy 100: Celebrating the Sarah Vaughan Centennial“!

Today, March 27, 2024, to mark the actual date of the Sassy Centennial, an audio recording of Sarah Vaughan’s appearance with Mel Torme on The Merv Griffin Show, which aired on Metromedia Channel 5 in NYC (circa 1976-77), has been posted to my YouTube channel. Merv Griffin’s musical director, Mort Lindsey, leads the band. The only track that has been seen in video format on YouTube is the song “Oh, Lady Be Good!” I recorded this from my TV when it originally aired. The montage presents the songs performed on that show in their entirety for the first time:

  1. Someone to Watch Over Me – Sarah Vaughan (solo)
  2. Porgy and Bess Medley – Mel Torme (solo)
  3. Oh, Lady Be Good! – Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme (duet)
  4. I Got Rhythm – Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme (duet); an impromptu and fun jam session!

Sassy 100: Celebrating the Sarah Vaughan Centennial

Next Wednesday, on March 27, 2024, we mark the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of legendary jazz vocalist, Sarah Vaughan. My article in tribute to the Sarah Vaughan Centennial makes its debut on Medium today: “Sassy 100: Celebrating the Sarah Vaughan Centennial.”

Just as important, today is the debut on my YouTube channel of the full audio recording of Vaughan’s 1974 concert appearance, “In Performance at Wolf Trap,” which has not been heard or seen in its entirety in nearly fifty years. My Medium article discusses the concert, but Notablog readers can see the video montage I created here:

Song of the Day #2114

Song of the Day: Go Away Little Girl, words and music by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, was a #1 hit in 1963 for Steve Lawrence, who died today at the age of 88. He and his wife, Eydie Gorme (who died in 2013), made a terrific singing pair. One of the most memorable performances of this song was Lawrence’s delivery of it on the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon in the 1960s. Singing to a little girl—who took the lyrics seriously and began to cry—Lawrence embraced her and assured her that he wanted her “to stay”. By the time the song ended, she was all smiles. It was one of the most poignant moments I’ve ever seen on television. RIP, Steve Lawrence. Check out Lawrence’s rendition of this song [YouTube link].

Song of the Day #2113

Song of the Day: Lady and the Tramp (“What a Dog / He’s a Tramp”) features the words and music of Oliver Wallace and Peggy Lee, who sings this classic song from the 1955 Disney animated film. It is also heard in the 2019 live action Disney reboot, where it is sung by Janel Monae. Check out Lee’s original and Monae’s rendition [YouTube link]. I started my 20th Annual Film Music February Festival with a Disney classic, and “Leap” to the end on another Disney note. Till next year …

Song of the Day #2112

Song of the Day: Back to the Future (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Alan Silvestri, features themes from the Robert Zemeckis-directed 1985 film, starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. The film spawned a franchise of movie sequels, short films, television series, a video game, and a stage musical, and it is Silvestri’s wonderful music that can be heard thoughout those media.

Song of the Day #2111

Song of the Day: Kings Row (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, is derived from one of the signature film scores from this cinematic musical giant. The acclaimed 1942 melodrama is famous for having given us Ronald Reagan‘s line, “Where’s the rest of me?“, which became the title of his 1965 autobiography. Korngold’s notable score influenced the John Williams-penned opening theme to “Star Wars”.

Song of the Day #2110

Song of the Day: Man Hunt (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link] was composed by Alfred Newman for this 1941 Fritz Lang-directed war thriller, one of his four explicitly anti-Nazi films (the others being “Ministry of Fear“, “Hangmen Also Die!“, and “Cloak and Dagger“). The film stars Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, and Roddy McDowell in his first Hollywood role (at the age of 13). David Buttolph has been credited with having assisted Newman in the dazzling number of films that he scored in 1941. And this suspenseful film is one of them. Over his lifetime, Newman scored over 200 motion pictures.