This week the big production is the TV revival of Peter Pan, with Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard reprising their famed roles from the last TV airing five years ago. (It was also done in 1955.) Those previous shows were live, but this one is not only on tape, but in color, and it’s this version that has been broadcast ever since. I recorded it off TV some time in 1989 or 90, the last time it was on broadcast TV (in a somewhat edited version, to make more room for commercials, don’t you know)* and it’s that version you see below.
*This version is available on DVD as well. The 1955 and 56 productions have not been commercially released, but are available on the grey market. Far be it from me to say where you can find it **cough-cough-iOffer-cough** but take my word for it, it’s out there.
A companion article discusses how for the last four weeks Mary Martin has been commuting between Broadway, where she does eight performances a week of The Sound of Music, the Helen Hayes Theater, which NBC has rented for Peter Pan rehearsals, and the NBC studios in Brooklyn, where most of the program is taped. The network is hoping to make an annual Christmas presentation of Peter Pan, which Martin enthusiastically endorses. She was reluctant at first to take on yet another televised staging – “Not while playing ‘The Sound of Music,’ which by itself is a full-time job.” But the public demand has been so great – “So many children have grown up since we did it last” – that Martin was unable to resist. “When NBC came along and said it had a sponsor and a time and everything else all set, I just couldn’t say no. Now I’m glad I didn’t,” she says. “I seem to get more energy from it than I had when I was just doing eight ‘Sound of Music’ performances a week.”
Sports shorts: NBC’s Saturday afternoon NBA game features the New York Knickerbockers and the Syracuse Nationals from Syracuse*. The Knicks are in the second of a seven-season playoff drought, which isn’t easy when three of the four teams in each conference make the playoffs. The Nats, who make the playoffs despite finishing three games under .500 (but still 17 games ahead of the Knicks), are in their third-from-last season in Syracuse, after which they flee the small-market city for Philadelphia, where they become the 76ers.
*I was going to add that I was sure it was a fine game, but now I check the records and see that the Nats won, 130-113. Not sure how exciting that turned out to be.
On ABC, it’s the final regular-season college football game, as Duke (still on the fumes of being a significant factor in college football) travels to Los Angeles to take on UCLA. It is in fact a good season for the Blue Devils; although they drop this game to the Bruins 27-6, they finish at 7-3, good enough for a Cotton Bowl invitation (a 7-6 victory over Arkansas) and a #10 national ranking. UCLA’s also pretty good, as they wind up with a 7-2-1 record, though thanks to the conference’s Rose Bowl-only policy, they stay home for the post season. It’s all academic anyway, as Minnesota wins the national championship in a vote conducted (as was the custom then) prior to the bowl games.
Saturday night, ABC also has Gene Fullmer defending his middleweight crown against Sugar Ray Robinson from Los Angeles. Fullmer, who is fighting Robinson for the third time (out of four), retains the title in a 15-round draw.
I haven’t forgotten about pro football! There’s a real hodge-podge on Sunday; as the NFL has yet to sing an exclusive national television agreement, teams have made their own deals with the networks. Therefore, CBS presents the Packers and Bears from Chicago, while NBC has the Lions and Colts in Baltimore. Meanwhile, the AFL continues its inaugural season with a match between the Houston Oilers and Dallas Texans (the future Kansas City Chiefs) from the Cotton Bowl. The Oilers lose to their rivals 24-0, but they’ll go on to become the AFL’s first champions, defeating the Los Angeles (nee San Diego) Chargers 24-16 on New Year’s Day.
It’s also rumored that the Academy Awards may be vacating its longtime home at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in favor of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. While the news leaves “the industry’s sentimentalists up in arms,” the move takes place anyway. Within the decade it moves again, to the more glamorous Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.
And in New York, ABC announces plans for a January 29 debut of its new Sunday afternoon series, The American Professor, “designed to improve the public’s understanding of the teacher’s role in our society.” Notwithstanding how televised sports have come to dominate weekends since then, it’s still hard to imagine a national network making a weekly series out of that kind of concept, no?
Cindy Adams has another article this week, this time on the life of the television gag writer. It’s centered in the office of Goodman Ace, one of the best of TV’s early humor writers, who’d made his name (and much of his success) in radio. He’s joined by his cohorts, Selma Diamond (the best-known female writer, who many of you might recognize from being in front of the camera on Night Court), Jay Burton, who’s written jokes for many of Hollywood’s best, and a couple of Canadian comics, Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth. Their output will be seen on camera in an upcoming Perry Como show.
The scene, as presented by Adams, doesn’t look all that different from what one sees later on the Dick Van Dyke show: Ace working from behind the desk, Diamond sprawled in a chair, and the other three in various stages of repose on the couch. They’re in the midst of trying to come up with something for Perry and his guest star, Jack Paar. The jokes are, put mildly, terrible. (“Tomorrow Shirley Temple’s doing ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ but because she’s running a little late it’ll only be ‘Snow White and the Five Dwarfs.’”)
The group plows through scenario after scenario, none of them catching fire. Finally, there’s a gag about Paar interviewing a woman with a Southern accent who’s making her first trip to New York. She’s seen Grant’s Tomb, the Battery, the Statue of Liberty. Paar asks her where she’s from. “Brooklyn,” she says. From a distance of over 50 years, I have to admit that the joke doesn’t do much for me, but it sets them off, and they come up with a series of jokes featuring Brooklyn as the punch line.
The article seems to me pointless, although perhaps we’ve become too sophisticated for this kind of schlock. What’s perhaps more interesting is, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt had many credits, including Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra, but it was as producers that they achieved their biggest fame. The show they created? Hee Haw.
Christmas always seems to bring out the best in food, and My-T-Fine pudding reminds us that it’s never too early to start preparing for those holiday parties with the little touch that makes things extra-special. Sadly, the term “go gay for the holiday” would have a completely different meaning nowadays.
Watches make excellent gifts - would you argue with Tab Hunter?
How about another recipe? With the holidays upon us, it’s never too early to start preparing the menu for those parties with your friends, and what could be better than some Festive Glazed Ham?
Heat a canned, cooked, boneless ham of appropriate size according to directions. When almost completely heated, pour over it one jar of melted cherry preserves – or cherry jelly – blended with ¼ cup of brandy. Baste several times. Serve hot or chilled with smooth curried mustard cream.
Curried Mustard Cream ½ tsp. curry powder 1 tsp. prepared mustard 1 cup whipped cream Salt and pepper
Mix mustard, curry powder, salt and pepper. Add to whipped cream, stirring until well-blended. Hollowed-out lemons make attractive serving cups.
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