The former child star, now all of 30 years old, is the host and occasional star of Shirley Temple's Storybook, airing on NBC. She'd retired twice from acting, most recently at 21, having made 33 movies and more than $3,000,000. Since then she's been Mrs. Charles Alden Black, married with three children, but she's never really been that far from the public eye. Dolls, storybooks, and TV repeats of her movies have ensured that Shirley Temple will always be an American icon. She relates a story of how her mailman, "a darling old man about 70, said to me, 'Mrs. Black, does Shirley Temple live here?' And I said, 'Why yes, I used to be Shirley Temple.' 'Oh, my!' he cackled. 'You used to be my favoriet movie star - when I was a little boy!'"
Shirley Temple Black has led probably one of the most successful lives of any former child star. Although Storybook ended after two years, she continued to make television appearances, then became involved in politics (she'd always had an interest in current events), ran unsuccessfully for Congress, served as a representative to the United Nations, and was appointed U.S. ambassador to Ghana and later Czechoslovakia. She survived breast cancer and was one of the first celebrities to speak openly about it. And the name Shirley Temple is still - and will continue to be - magic.
Last week we took a look at the matchup between Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen, the two variety show titans of the time. Well, we've got another matchup this week; let's see who comes out on top this time.
Sullivan: Ed's guests include singers Lillian Roth, Teresa Brewer, Denise Darcel and Ed Townsend; the Everly Brothers, vocal group; musical-comedy star Helen Gallagher; dancers Carol Haney and Peter Gennaro.
Allen: Steve's guests are singer Jane Powell, comedian Phil Harris, the comedy team of Igor and H., and jazz pianists Count Basie, Teddy Wilson and Joe Buskin.
Well, that was a Staples moment. Let me Count the ways Steverino wins!
I may have commented on this in the past, but it's worth mentioning again, how striking it is that there are virtually no sporting events shown on Sunday afternoon. What there is, is bowling - Bowlerama on Channels 3 and 4; Championship Bowling on Channel 6. It makes sense, of course; the NHL and NBA are over (and they wouldn't have had dominant TV coverage anyway), baseball games are few and far between (especially since the Twin Cities didn't yet have the Twins), and golf wasn't anywhere near being a weekly presence on the tube.
|Tim Tam, the red horse, circled.|
*Tim Tam was favored to win the Belmont and the Triple Crown, but he suffered broken sesamoids in the home stretch and finished second. The vets were able to save him, and he lived until 1982.
Boxing, though not the thrice-weekly television event it once was, still ran regularly on network television, and ABC's Wednesday Night Fights presented a good one: the lightweight title bout between champ Joe Brown of New Orleans and challenger Ralph Dupas, also of New Orleans - fought, naturally, in Houston, Texas.* Brown would retain his title, knocking Dupas down three times in the eighth round before the referee stops the fight.
*Actually, there's a good reason for that - Brown was black, Dupas white. Because of the anti-integration laws in Louisiana at the time (which I've alluded to here), the fight had to take place in more enlightened Texas.
Here's another of those programs you're not likely to see on network TV today: Billy Graham in a regular weekly series. The evangelist's New York crusade (which ran for 16 weeks) had been a weekly event on ABC in the summer of 1957, and the network is now showing broadcasts of his San Francisco crusade, at 9pm CT each Saturday night. Graham has, of course, long been a staple of syndicated TV, with his crusades and specials running for decades, and this show wouldn't have been that unusual at the time - after all, Bishop Fulton Sheen's Life Is Worth Living had gone off of ABC just the previous year, and CBS maintained religious programming on Sunday mornings well into the 70s, but a network series actively proselytizing the faith today? Unthinkable.
I got to see Billy Graham in person once, in the mid-90s when his crusade was in Minneapolis at the Metrodome. He was old and frail even then, but as soon as he stepped to the podium and stood behind that microphone, it was as if time stood still - his voice was strong and decisive, and the familiar cadences rang out as they always had. It was quite a sight to see.
NBC continues to dominate the color airwaves. Color television is still a rarity, with only 350,000 color sets in use in 1958, but there's no question that color is the future of the medium, and NBC - whose parent company, RCA, just happens to make those color sets - makes sure there's enough programming to intrigue potential buyers. There are so few color shows being broadcast, TV Guide has a special section listing them all, and with one exception (Red Skelton), they all belong to the peacock network: Perry Como, Your Hit Parade, My Friend Flicka, Steve Allen, Dinah Shore, Matinee Theater, The Price Is Right, George Gobel, Kraft Theater, and Rosemary Clooney. NBC will hold this lead well into the 60s.
At the top of each page this week - a reminder of our discussion last week.
This week's cover also asks the burning question: What's Happened to Liberace? Until last month, the onetime TV regular hadn't appeared on live television since October, 1957, and he only made that appearance because he had a new album to plug.* So what gives? "I am purposely staying off TV," he says. "I've been a victim of overexposure. I feel a demand for me must be re-created, and to re-create it I must be missed."
*That, and his planned two-week engagement in Havana, Cuba had to be canceled due to the revolution.
If Liberace seems to be displaying a big of an ego with that comment, it's kind of easy to understand. Although his movie Sincerely Yours was a bomb, ("That was only natural," he says. "No performer could maintain the white heat I generated."), his agent, Seymour Heller, reminds us he's still pulling down between $500,000 and $750,000 during this "slump." In addition, his syndicated music program still appears in 99 cities throughout the country, meaning he's never really been off television at all. And he's praised by those who work with him as a consummate professional. No wonder he once said, in one of entertainment's more famous quotes, "I cried all the way to the bank."