Stay Tuned & Happy New Year
Tony & Donna Figueroa
Show No. 118
First hour: Herbie J Pilato, founder of The Classic TV Preservation Society, producer of The 100 Greatest TV Characters, and author of Bewitched Forever, The Bionic Book: The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman Reconstructed and other books on television, presents his Top 10 List of The Greatest Sitcoms of All Time. Also in this hour: Tony Figueroa and Donna Allen mark the birthday of Steven Spielberg by remembering some of his contributions to television, including Amazing Stories, the TV movie Duel, the "Eyes" segment of the Night Gallery pilot, and the premiere episode of Columbo.
By 18, the lanky, 6-foot-4 teenager was winning parts in Hollywood, mainly playing country bumpkins because of his thick Texas drawl. In 1945, he was heard on radio's Quiz Kids. He portrayed Magnus Proudfoot on radio's Gunsmoke and also appeared in other radio programs, including Fibber McGee and Molly, The Fred Allen Show, The Halls of Ivy, Our Miss Brooks, Suspense, William Shakespeare--A Portrait in Sound, The Zero Hour, The Burns and Allen Show, Father Knows Best, The Jack Benny Show, The Red Skelton Show, Wagon Train, Rawhide and Gunsmoke.
On film, one of his earliest appearances was in The Red Badge of Courage. He appeared in the feature film, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Sparks (a variation on Stingray's "Phones"). One of his more unusual voices was that of a Klingon judge for the movie, Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. He appeared in Gods and Generals (2003) as John Janney, and he recently starred in Spiritual Warriors (2007). He appeared in the 1987 baseball film Long Gone as Cletis Ramey.
On television, he made many guest appearances and also provided the voices of "Phones" and "X-2-0" in Gerry Anderson's Stingray. During the late 1940s through the 1960s, he was mostly known for his portrayal of a slow-talking, blankfaced hicks (as in The Munsters episode, "All-Star Munster" as Moose Mallory). In the Get Smart episode The Little Black Book, he displayed a crisp German accent as the Maestro. In "Runaway Robot," a 1953 episode of "The Adventures of Superman," Easton played Marvin. On The Beverly Hillbillies he played one of the hill people in the episode titled Luke's Boy.
Fearful of being typecast as the slow-witted deputy or hillbilly cousin, he decided to work on different accents to broaden his opportunities. He discovered he had a facility for mimicking regional speech patterns.
Mr. Easton taught Forest Whitaker the African inflections of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and Ben Kingsley the gruff tones of a New York mobster. He helped Arnold Schwarzenegger turn his Austrian accent into Russian English and Liam Neeson's Irish brogue into a Kentucky drawl. He once coached Heston from a bathtub in Munich, helping the actor pronounce his lines like a Scot.
In 1961, after marrying June Grimstead, he moved with her to her native England and began studying phonetics at University College in London. He had absorbed a number of European accents by the time he returned to Hollywood three years later. Fellow actors, impressed by his new ability, asked him to teach them. Before long, he had a side business as an accent tutor that quickly grew into his main occupation.
He learned over the years to adapt to his clients' different learning styles. He found some actors, such as Robin Williams, had strong auditory ability and could pick up accents by listening and repeating.
Others were more visual and needed to work with phonetic scripts. "He found a way to spell things," said Whitaker, who called Easton an artist who understood the vibration and power of words. "We established our own language."
Still others were more physically inclined, such as Patrick Swayze, who had been trained in dance. For that type of student, Easton told the Chicago Tribune in 1992, "I talk to them about the difference in mouth position, what happens with the vocal cords, how it makes the voice more or less nasal."
He expanded his repertoire during his foreign travels, absorbing the speech rhythms of local cabdrivers, shopkeepers and hotel guests. He often enlisted his wife in his studies, motioning her to continue chatting up an unsuspecting subject while he took notes.
His wife died in 2005 after 44 years of marriage. He is survived by his daughter and a granddaughter.
As a dialect coach, he also worked with non-celebrities, such as the New York lawyer who was losing cases in California because juries, hearing his nasal, rapid speech, judged him slick and impatient. After he learned to speak more slowly and improve his tonal quality, he started winning cases, according to Easton.
To Quote, Robert Easton "I'm a great believer in the principle that there's no wastage in the universe. So when I work with somebody who is foreign who's trying to lose their accent, I can always give their old dialect to somebody else."
Good Night Professor Easton
Show No. 117
First hour: With the holidays soon upon us, Ed recommends a few recently released books, DVDs and other items that would make great gift ideas for film and TV aficionados. Also in this hour: Phil Gries with Part 3 of our tribute to TV talk show pioneer Joe Franklin, including clips from a rarely discussed documentary produced by Franklin in 1962 on the life of Al Jolson. Plus: Tony Figueroa remembers the death of Walt Disney, the premiere of Dragnet and other events that happened This Week in TV History.
Show No. 116
First hour: Actor and comedian Sid Veda, who plays Chad on the popular "Ranjit and Chad" commercials for mobile phone service provider Metro PCS, talks to Ed, Tony Figueroa and Donna Allen about some of his early influences as a comedian, as well as his work on the NBC comedy series Outsourced. Also in this hour: This Week in TV History celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Dick Van Dyke Show on television. Plus: Phil Gries with Part 2 of our tribute to TV talk show pioneer Joe Franklin, including clips from Joe's conversations with Jim Backus and Myrna Loy.