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'Alive and Kicking': Old Dogs, New Tricks
September 1, 2013  | By Gabriela Tamariz

From their retirement home in Woodland Hills, California, two old guys named Tony Lawrence and Larry Kelem have created and delivered a meaningful modern-media message: creativity is ageless…

Alive and Kicking follows the two residents in their documentary-style web series, released by the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) on its YouTube channel.

Established in 1921 by such Hollywood heavyweights as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and other artists, MPTF has been a home to actors, agents, producers and many more from Hollywood’s Golden Age onward. The community prides themselves in “taking care of their own.”

Self-described as an adaptable Hollywood writer, Lawrence (top photo, left) is best known for his writing in such TV shows as Marcus Welby M.D.(1969-1976), Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980), and Gunsmoke (1955-1975). He has also co-written several Elvis Presley films, including 1964’s Roustabout.

Kelem (top, right) claims an equally noteworthy career, as a music composer and arranger, agent, and manager for more than 60 years. Sadly, he passed away in December 2012, at the age of 91.

But earlier, when the two show-biz veterans decided to take on the task of writing a musical, it proved to be a reawakening collaboration worth documenting. The duo takes us on a journey as they reminiscence, cooperate, and grow as artists and as senior citizens on Wasserman campus.

“So what if we’re in our 80’s in a retirement community?” said Lawrence. “Why don’t we write a musical?”

The web series allows viewers to track the creative process to which they submit themselves as they write, sing and—inevitably—become impatient and exhausted. It’s a gradual learning experience, and especially rewarding to see Lawrence grow from writing an 18-bar verse to finally completing the musical and watching it come to life in Episode 11: "Grand Finale", with director Doug Wood.

Throughout the series, we sit down with Lawrence and Kelem as they remember their deceased wives and express the grief and recovery process of losing a spouse. Their love and adoration for their wives is romantic and comforting, much like the era from which they come, and which they so admirably represent. Lawrence reminds us there are compensations to growing old: “If you’ve learned, if you’ve gained some wisdom, if life doesn’t hurt you as much as it used to,” Lawrence said. “There are all kinds of benefits.”

He talks openly about his depression, and credits it to all the hours he has spent writing so many stories. But he commendably combats the exhaustion and frustration that is no stranger to the creative process, and he learns to adapt.

“The only deadline we have is dead,” he jokes as he prepares for a table read.

It’s funny, at times, to see the pair regress in their behavior. Like a child not doing his homework, Kelem is forgetful, and Lawrence quickly realizes he can’t collaborate with him in the same room like “normal songwriters.” But they learn to adapt.

The end result is more than just a musical. Tony Lawrence and Larry Kelem dug in deep, trusted their instincts and wrote from the heart. They produced beautiful words and music, and a resounding message from Old Hollywood about love and redemption.

Episode 7: “Oh Larry!"
Episode 3: “Book+Music”
Episode 10: “Casting/Rehearsals”

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