October 12, 2013

This week in TV Guide: October 3, 1959

Lee Marvin is, according to this week's cover, "TV's Angry Man," but he sounds more like a character from a Paul Auster or Don DeLillo novel, or maybe Ernest Hemingway.

I can't really call Bob Johnson's article an interview or a profile, because aside from the first and last paragraphs, there's no evidence that Marvin actually answered any questions.  Instead, he conducted a very entertaining two-page stream-of-consciousness monologue.

The article begins with Marvin (and, presumably, Johnson) leaving the set for the lunch break.  "'It's moving,' he said, stomping and muttering through smaller billows of the claylike material he was brushing out of his crew cut with both hands.  'If it's moving, baby, I say grab it. Look at this filthy mess.  Let's go.'"

The topic is, naturally, M Squad, which Marvin starred in for three seasons. I promise you, these are actual quotes from the article, not taken out of context.

"Who knows?  You tell me.  It's a cop series, what else?  The guy's a cop.  Who wants the truth? It's like an artist.  He's got this painting.  He says, 'But don't you see, it's yah-foo-lah-lah-lah.  You notice how that yellow shines?

"I dunno, it's moving.  Lieutenant Ballinger - who knows - he's a cop.  You tell me.  We took Chicago.  It was all that was left.  I know Chicago cops.  Rough.  They have to be.   The whole city would explode.  It's like a bomb, Chicago.  I know.  Look at the setup."

After talking about Chicago police politics, he continues.

"We shoot locations, twice a year.  No permit, no co-operation.  They don't want any part of us.  We're going next week again.  Shoot and run.  It finally came down to: 'Okay, any public building, but nothing else, no stopping traffic.'  I stay back, out of sight.  Hat pulled down.  Director says okay, walks through what I do, says, 'Like that, Lee.'  I do it, we shoot it and blow.  Kids come along, see the crowd, it's always the same thing in Chicago.  Right away, 'Who got killed?'  That's what a crowd means to most Chicago kids.

"One time we're up on a roof.  On the edge over the sidewalk.  Me and this actor, struggling over a gun.  I thought I'd hoke it up a little.  We can't carry sound equipment, have to move too fast.  Dub it later.  I saw these two gals walking along.  Right under us.  I yelled, 'Gimme that gun, I'll kill you!'  They looked up, yah, hoo, whu, hmm?  Two men on a roof, killing each other.  And these girls went right on.  They didn't even break stride.

i"Lieutenant Friday, Dragnet, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Lineup.  What's their problem?  No problem. It's routine.  It's static.  But not Chicago. They stop it before it happens.  They have to.

"Chicago'd go like a bomb, the whole place.  I know.  I spent a year there, going to secretarial school.  After the war, out of the Marines, wacked up, shot near the spine, whoo lah, hero.  I couldn't do anything.  Nothing.  I didn't know ho.  High school, no training.  Navy ROTC school in New Jersey, 14 years old and they pulled rank on me.  This old admiral, 61, still in uniform, and a kid 14 years old.  I cut out and sold my uniform.

"Yeah, typing, shorthand, I didn't know.  And then back to New York, digging ditches.  Septic tanks.  A guy digging ditches or a plumber wiping a joint, you know?  It solves problems.  Says, 'Dig this hole, so wide, so long, so deep,' you dig it.  That's it.  You climb out and say, 'Boy, I don't know what it was,  and loo-foo-fah-foo, but I solved it today.'  Good therapy for my back.  Plumber in New York, fixed pipe up in Woodstock.  They were doing a play, who knows?  Said why didn't I give it a try.  So?  I tried it.  One line, walk on, walk off, deep voice, big shoulders, and back the next night.  And so on.

"It's like M Squad.  The M doesn't stand for anything.  It's any dirty job.  Let's face it, we're the Storm Troops.  A lone cop, Chicago, what else?  M Squad.  I liked The Loop.  That's what somebody wanted to call it.  I wanted to do a lot of things.  I talk to myself, driving along, who doesn't?  You come out of a conference, you sit there at a stop light, say, 'Yeah, fah-loo-dee-doo, BUT, you say."

There's more to the article, but you get the idea.  It's easily one of the most entertaining pieces I've ever read in TV Guide, and you wonder if Bob Johnson had to do anything other than take notes.  My wife thought he must have pieced together the article from answers to various questions, but I'm not so sure.  After starting Marvin off, Johnson doesn't return again until the final paragraphs, when the two men return to the set, ("Three steak sandwiches later.")  Marvin talking all the way.  As they part, he says, "If it's moving, baby, grab it."

***

The World Series continues this week, though we don't know quite when or where.  If the Milwaukee Braves won the National League pennant, Saturday's Game 4 will begin at 12:45 pm CT, and will be in black-and-white.  If the pennant went to either the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants (and how strange those names must have seemed), the first pitch will be at 2:30 pm, and the game will be colorcast.  All we know for sure at this point is that the opposition will be the American League champion Chicago White Sox, playing in their first World Series since the Black Sox days.  The Series continues Sunday (if necessary; same time choices), before returning to the Windy City* for the final two games (noon, in color).  

*I wonder if they saw Lee Marvin while they were there?

In fact, there was no game on Saturday - the Dodgers and Braves finished in a tie for first place, and the resulting three-game playoff (won by the Dodgers two games to none) delayed the start of the Series to Thursday.  The Dodgers and Sox split the two games in Chicago, before the Dodgers won two out of three in Los Angeles and closed out the Series with a 9-3 victory in Game Six in Chicago.

If you had your heart set on sports on Saturday, you'd have to make due with NBC's telecast of California at Texas in the college Game of the Week, or the NFL Saturday Night tilt on ABC between the Colts and Bears from Baltimore (with a live starting time of 10:30 pm ET, if the TV Guide is to be believed).

***

Let's pick a random night of programming to look at.  Sunday night, for example. Lots of series premieres this week.  After Lassie, CBS presents the debut of Dennis the Menace, based on the popular comic strip, starring Jay North as Dennis.  The comic strip itself is something of an acquired taste, which I had only intermittently, and the sitcom lacked that much charm, although it survived for four years.  Dennis is followed by Ed Sullivan, who's got an all-star lineup: Danny Thomas, live from Chicago*, while joining Ed in New York are singers Eartha Kitt, Julius LaRosa and Jane Morgan, comedian Joe E. Lewis, European novelty act Trio Rayros, and the winners of New York's Harvest Moon Ball.

*Where he was probably watching the World Series with Lee Marvin.

At 8, General Electric Theater presents a provocative title: "Hitler's Secret," starring Robert Loggia as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, now in its fifth season, and the return of Jack Benny, maintaining his every-other-week schedule (his alternating partner this year is George Gobel).  The night concludes with the venerable What's My Line? with guest panelist Mort Sahl.
No, not that secret!
Hitler, and hosted by Ronald Reagan.  What was Hitler's secret?  As far as I can tell, it was that President Paul von Hindenberg (Raymond Massey, more famous for playing Abraham Lincoln) had second thoughts on his deathbed about Hitler succeeding him, which I suppose makes it more Hindenberg's secret than Hitler's, since we all know how that turned out.  "Hitler" is followed at 8:30 by

NBC's schedule begins with Darrin McGavin and Burt Reynolds in Riverboat; a mark of how difficult McGavin could be to work with was Reynolds' later comment that McGavin would be in for a disappointment on the first Easter Sunday after his death.  Opposite Sullivan at 7 is Sunday Showcase presents part two of "What Makes Sammy Run?", Budd Schulberg's bitter look at the dirt under Hollywood's surface, starring Larry Blyden, John Forsythe and Barbara Rush.  It's not a great story, but it is very good, and was later made into a Broadway musical starring Steve Lawrence*.  Oddly enough, it's never been made into an actual big-screen movie; perhaps it cuts too close to the bone.

*And co-starring Sally Ann Howes, who also features in the premiere of Bell Telephone Hour Friday night on NBC.

At 8, Dinah Shore returns for another season of her musical variety series, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show. Here's Dinah urging us all to "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet" as if her life depended on it.


Oh, by the way, Dinah's guests are singer-dancer Gwen Verdon, comedian Carl Reiner, and heavyweight boxing champion Ingemar Johansson.

Following Dinah is another episode of The Loretta Young Show, the popular anthology series.  I've always liked Loretta Young, but I have to admit, having seen several episodes of this series, that it doesn't do much for me.  I can't remember now if it was the writing, the acting, the story, or a combination of the three. Whatever, it just goes to show that not every popular show from the 50s is a classic.  Interestingly enough, the network goes dark after that, returning control of the airwaves to local stations.*

*Sorry for the Outer Limits lingo there; must have been because Joseph Stefano, the series' original producer, was the writer of that "Hitler's Secret" episode.

That leaves ABC, which leads off with Colt .45, the story of Christopher Colt (Wayde Preston), creator of the Colt .45.  Makes sense, I guess.  Then it's their own ace in the hole, the Western classic Maverick, this week starring Jack Kelly.  The Western motif continues at 7:30 with The Lawman, starring John Russell and Peter Brown.  It's not one of the most famous TV Westerns, but it was good enough to run for four seasons and 156 episodes.  And after that it's the debut of yet another oater, The Rebel, starring Nick Adams as Johnny Yuma, "a young Southern veteran of the Civil War," and the premiere of The Alaskans, which isn't quite a Western but is set in Alaska during the gold rush of the 1890s, and stars Roger Moore, who'd later go on to share lead duties on Maverick.  The Westerns, and the evening's programming, end with the world's oldest teenager, Dick Clark, in yet another of his network programs, Dick Clark's World of Talent.  All in all, far from the worst night of television one could imagine.

No comments

Post a Comment

And now for something completely different.