December 28, 2013

This week in TV Guide: December 28, 1963

There's something about the cover of this issue I really like. It's colorful and cheerful and fun (the picture at left really doesn't do it justice), and perhaps after the grim last month, it was meant to suggest a bright and hopeful future.

On the cover you see the 17-year-old Patty Duke, Academy Award winner and star of The Patty Duke Show, in which she plays twin cousins Patty and Cathy Lane. This show was a modest success, running for three seasons and producing a memorable theme song. The article itself (written by an unbylined author) wasn't particularly flattering, commenting on Duke's lack of personality; one might say, as Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, that there was no there there. Of course, given what we now know about Duke's horrific childhood - which included bipolar disorder, sexual abuse and financial manipulation by her managers/guardians (who also plied her with alcohol and drugs and kept her a virtual prisoner), it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that she came across as little more than a programmed robot with no independent thoughts of her own.  This really is one of those articles that becomes so much more interesting when you know the rest of the story.

I've commented on this before, but it remains interesting to see the different attitude TV Guide had about it's subjects. Back in the day, TV Guide wasn't merely a shill for the stars' publicity machines; at the same time, the writers often appeared to go out of their way to take shots at those whom they profiled, either outright or through snide insinuation.

Take, for instance, Richard Gehman's piece on Joey Bishop, whose sitcom was entering its third season. Bishop had by that time garnered a reputation as being difficult to work with, a trait which Gehman is eager to analyze. Speaking of the two major influences on Bishop's career - Frank Sinatra and Jack Paar - Gehman comments, "Some of their arrogance - the necessary cockiness of deep insecurity - has rubbed off on him." I'm sure Bishop appreciated the free psychoanalysis. Again, while Gehman may be making an astute observation on Bishop, with comments such as this peppered throughout the article, it appears as if he takes particular pleasure in doing so.

Here's another article on an actress named Katherine Crawford. Only 19, her television career has just started, with appearances on programs such as Kraft Suspense Theatre and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. She's cute enough, and apparently has talent, but her major advantage may be that she's was the daughter of Roy Huggins, creator of The Fugitive, The Invaders, and other TV hits. In the title of the article (also anonymously authored), Crawford proclaims, "I'll be acting till I'm 70." As you can see from her IMDB profile, her last credit was in the series Gemini Man in 1976. Well, she made it to 32, anyway.  Maybe she meant that she'd be acting until she was in the 70s.  And by the way, I don't mean for that comment to be snarky - she had a long resume of work up until then - she's accomplished a lot more than I have, that's for sure - and she could well have gone on to a life more productive and more fulfilling than most of us. It's just that it never ceases to be fascinating how short the lifespan of "the next big thing" can sometimes be.

In that light let's look at ABC's Saturday night broadcast of Hollywood Deb Star Ball 1964, in which we meet "the lovely Deb [for debutante] Stars, slated for future stardom by major Hollywood studios." Well, let's take a look. There's Meredith MacRae, daughter of Gordon and Sheila MacRae, who just happened to be the hosts of the show. She did pretty well for herself.  (And for It's About TV as well, as you can see here and here.)  There's the aforementioned Katherine Crawford. There's Susan Seaforth, who as Susan Seaforth Hayes will become a huge soap opera star. One of her Days of Our Lives co-stars, Brenda Benet, perhaps as well known for being Bill Bixby's ex-wife, is there as well. Linda Evans, star of Dynasty, is one of the Deb Stars, as is Chris Noel (whom was profiled in last week's edition), whose remarkable life led her from a modest Hollywood career to her vocation as a radio host and entertainer stationed in Vietnam for the Armed Forces Network, travelling to locations considered too dangerous for Bob Hope and other celebrities. Claudia Martin, Deano's daughter, was one of the ten starlets, and I think it's safe to say that her bloodlines were her biggest claim to Hollywood fame. And then there were Shelly Ames, Anna Capri and Amadee Chabot, who scored minor successes at best. Why do some careers take off while others flounder? Who knows.

***

For college football fans, this is the week of weeks.  The appetizer is served on Saturday, with Air Force taking on North Carolina in the Gator Bowl (won by North Carolina 35-0), and the companion to last week's North-South Shrine All-Star Game, the East-West Shrine All-Star Game, played in San Francisco.

Roger Staubach was to be on Life's
November 29, 1963 cover.  After JFK's
assassination, the mag scrapped 300,000
already-printed copies.
The real deal is on Wednesday, with the New Year's Day quad-fecta (is that a word?), featuring the de facto de facto showdown for the national championship between Texas and Navy at the Cotton Bowl on CBS. Now, let me explain this peculiar description: in 1963, the final AP and UPI polls, which determined the national champion, were taken at the end of the regular season.  The bowl games were seen as exhibitions, rewards to the players for a good season.  They were held in warm-weather locales where people could go to have fun, and fans could watch a football game as part of a festival that often included a parade, a college basketball tournament, and other events.  So entering New Year's Day, the title race had already been decided.  The de facto national champion was Texas, having finished the season at 10-0.

But there's a twist - their opponent, Navy, is the nation's #2 ranked team, with a record of 9-1 and the Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Roger Staubach.  Exhibition game or not, if Navy defeats Texas there are going to be a lot of people who look on the Midshipmen as the true de facto national champions.  So there you have it.  The game doesn't really count, but it does.  The championship has already been decided, but it hasn't.  Had Navy won, there would have been no little bit of controversy.

And there were a lot of people rooting for Navy.  Keep in mind the context of this game.  The Naval Academy, alma mater of the late President Kennedy, is travelling to the city in which he was assassinated less than six weeks ago.  Emotions are running high - the Middies are taken to the sixth floor of the School Book Depository to see where the assassination happened), and Big D, suddenly the most hated city in the most hated state in America, is desperate to regain its self-esteem, which can only be helped by having its state university win the national title.

In any event, the whole thing is an anti-climax.  Texas wins the game handily, 28-6.

In these times before prime-time football, the Cotton Bowl has to share the spotlight with the Orange (Auburn vs. Nebraska) and Sugar (Alabama vs. Mississippi), all of which were joint opening acts for the Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose (Illinois vs. Washington), which started at 3:45 Central time and ended the college football season. Good games, good times.

Oh, and there's pro football as well.  On Saturday Boston and Buffalo meet in the tiebreaker to decide the AFL's Eastern Division title.  The Patriots win 26-8, which earns them the right to fly to San Diego next week for the AFL Championship, where they'll be demolished 51-10 by the Chargers.

On Sunday morning at 11:45 CT, the Chicago Bears and New York Giants kick off for the NFL title. The early start time is caused by the need to ensure daylight in case the game requires Sudden Death, since Wrigley Field, home of the Bears, has no lights.  The Bears make sure that's no problem, as they defeat the Giants 14-10.*

*Fun fact - this is the last championship for the Bears until 1985, when they defeat the New England Patriots 55-10 in the Super Bowl.  It's the most points scored in a championship game since, well, the Patriots defeat in 1964 - which was the last time the Pats had played for the title.  Needless to say, things have improved since then in New England.

***

Remember Guy Lombardo? He's on hand as usual, on CBS' New Year's Eve special, entertaining with his Royal Canadians, joined by Dorothy Collins and the Willis Sisters.  They're not in their traditional stomping grounds at the Waldorf Astoria, though - for the first time, they're broadcasting from Grand Central Station in New York City, as part of the Bell Ringer Ball for Mental Health.  Channel 4, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, always delayed this show by an hour, so the ball in Times Square would drop at midnight local time.  I wonder how many other markets did this - if you're reading this, Mike Doran, how did Chicago handle it?  And for any other readers, what do you remember from your local stations?

A scene from the King Orange parade in the early 60s
Plenty of New Year's cheer earlier in the night, though - Andy Williams has his last special of the year, welcoming Fred MacMurray and Andy's family.  Up against Andy's NBC special is ABC's coverage of the King Orange Jamboree parade, taped earlier.  According to the Miami News, a half-million lined the parade route.  I always remembered this parade fondly for the lights and color; the next year, the game (and parade) would move to NBC, where the game would join the parade as a prime-time spectacle.  And at 11:30pm, the independent Channel 11 presents the New Year's Watch Service, a  a 2½ hour music spectacle by Souls Harbor Church in Minneapolis, broadcast from the Minneapolis Auditorium.  I remember this show from when it was on Channel 9 later in the 60s and early 70s.

Speaking of parades, if you want 'em on New Year's Day, you've got 'em.  CBS kicks it off at 10am CT with the Cotton Bowl Parade from the State Fair grounds in Dallas (which is where the Cotton Bowl stadium is located), hosted by Chris Schenkel (who'll do the game later in the day) and Pat Summerall.  It only runs 45 minutes, though - I'm assuming it's just highlights.  At 10:45 the network cuts to coverage of the Rose Parade from Pasadena, with Ronald Reagan and Bess Myerson reprising their hosting duties.  They join NBC, whose coverage started 15 minutes earlier, with Arthur Godfrey and Betty White behind the mics. ABC joins in the fun with coverage of the Mummers Parade from Philadelphia, the first time on national TV for the legendary parade.  Although the broadcast runs for 90 minutes, that's only a small segment of the all-day parade, which lasts for most of the day before it's done.

Interesting footnote - although only the Sugar and Rose Bowl games are telecast in color, all of the parades save the Cotton are colorcast.  Even though I watched the Rose parade in black and white for many years, I just can't imagine it today.

***

On Sunday, it's the television premiere on ABC of the documentary "The Making of the President 1960," based on the Pulitzer winner by Theodore H. White. I've seen it; it's a very interesting movie. It was completed prior to Kennedy's death, and is being presented unchanged except for a brief prologue by White.  Although this version, like the book, was the best-known and most successful of White's series, there were actually TV versions of the 1964 and 1968 volumes as well.  None of his 1972 edition, though, which itself ended the series.


Later in the week, on Tuesday morning, author Richard Condon is the guest on Today.  Condon is most famous, of course, for his novel The Manchurian Candidate, written in 1959.  The movie version, which came out in 1962, was rumored to have been withdrawn from circulation following JFK's assassination, though this appears to be an urban legend.  Condon is likely promoting one of the two books he'll have published in 1964 - either An Infinity of Mirrors or Any God Will Do.

Finally, on New Year's night, CBS has a news roundtable called "Years of Crisis," in which CBS correspondents gather to discuss the events of the past year and their probable effect on the future.  In case you were wondering, those events included the assassination of JFK, the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the death of Pope John XXIII and election of Paul VI, the overthrow of the Diem regime in South Vietnam and the escalation of American involvement, the continuing Ecumenical Council in Rome (Vatican II), the "I Have a Dream" speech in the March on Washington, and more.  Yes, 1963 was quite a year, and yes - it will have far-reaching effects on 1964 and beyond.

As I have said often, TV Guide is - or was - one of the prime cultural indicators of the past. For the cultural archaeologist, it's like opening a treasure chest. It reminds us not only of days gone by, the things that were, but, as in the case of the Deb Ball, some of the things - or careers - that never were. And it is nice, isn't it, to sometimes be able to look to the future in blissful ignorance of what we know is to come? A pity that we can't be more optimistic like that all the time, but then, times have changed. And not always for the best.

6 comments:

  1. Look a little closer at that IMDb profile of Katherine Crawford and you'll see that she married Frank Price, an important executive at MCA-Universal TV, in 1965 - and remains married to him to the present day.

    Quite a few of the promising actresses that we grew up watching "back in the day" wound up choosing family over career in this fashion - at least as many who ended up in bits, personal troubles, or worse.

    With regard to TV Guide's somewhat snarky "profiles", that came about in the early '60s, when TVG began using sportswriters (like Gehman, Arnold Hano, Stanley Frank, etc.) to do them.
    The sports desk tended to breed a more cynical outlook than the showbiz beat.
    This atitude spread soon enough, leading to the emergence of such snipers as Edith Efron and particularly Dwight Whitney, TVG's Sultan Of Snark for more than two decades.( I imagine from here on in, you'll be paying closer attention to the bylines; expect a surprise or two as you go through the '60s.)

    New Year's Eve in Chicago:
    As a general rule, the network shows fron New York were carried live, Central time.
    Any local coverage, focused on the corner of State and Lake, went on at about 11:45, clipping that part of whatever network show (Lombardo on CBS, Carson on NBC) was on and delaying same to afterward.
    I'm talking the '60s here; back before, there were some local late variety shows, but they'd all vanished by this time.
    Tonight, at home, I'll check my 'files' and see what Chicago stations did when they still had the time to themselves.
    'Til then ...

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    Replies
    1. Very interesting, Mike. I didn't know that about these writers having been at the sports desk before. You're right; it does explain a lot. I've found Gehman to be quite irritating the more I read of him. On the other hand, I've admired much of what Edith Efron has written, at least in the sense that I've viewed her as more of a serious journalist than a "fan magazine" writer. Love the "Sultan of Snark" description of Whitney!

      Look forward to hearing more about Chicago...

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    2. Having rechecked my 'files' - and being duly surprised to discover that I didn't have very many New Year's Eve issues from the many years involved - I need to make acorrection regarding local Chicago programming for that occasion.
      It seems that for the most part ... there wasn't any.
      During the years we're covering here, the only coverage of any celebration happened during NBC's Tonight, at 11:00 Central time.
      The local CBS station didn't carry Guy Lombardo at all - at least until 1966 (the earliest listing I could find).
      The local stations (excepting NBC-ch5) mainly carried late movies at that hour. I can't recall if any of them actually did a midnight cutaway for some local party; if any of them did, I don't remember seeing such a show. Also, bear in mind that TV stations were still signing off back then, usually around 1:30 or 2:00 am.
      My memories seem to be coming from a slightly later period, when stations started to stay on later (usually with movies; ch9, the independent, kicked up a fuss circa 1970 by scheduling all-night movies on weekends; the smart money was sure that this idea would flop majorly).
      Anyway that's my clarification/excuse.
      Just saw your newer entries; may comment on those shortly.

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  2. The 90 minutes from 11:30 A.M. to 1 P.M. Eastern time (10:30 to Noon Central) on January 1st, 1964 was the first time ever that all three networks simultaneously broadcast color programming.

    I suspect ABC got to carry the Mummers' Parade in color because I believe their Philly station WFIL (now WPVI) broadcast Phillies baseball back then and had a color remote truck to cover the televised home games in color.

    I also suspect that someone (NBC, likely) set-up "pool" coverage in color for the 1964 Rose Parade, allowing not only it, but CBS and (probably) a couple of local Los Angeles stations to all show the parade in color.

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    Replies
    1. Outstanding info on the simultaneous color broadcasting! Can't think of a better occasion to do it. (I recall reading a book about the history of the Rose Parade in which the writers, referring to the first national telecast in the 50s, said that the floats looked lovely in living black-and-white.) That idea about why the Mummers parade would be in color makes a great deal of sense.

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  3. In Dallas, I'd imagine Tom Landry and/or someone on his staff probably went to the Cotton Bowl thinking "We have to get this Staubach guy"; which they would (having to wait five years; though it probably worked out with the Cowboys improving to contender during that period) eventually.

    As for that little note about the Bears' most recent title, I think you might have your "Super Bowls in the Superdome" scores crossed up a bit. The final score for Super Bowl XX was 46-10; which was the most points scored in a Super Bowl until the 55-10 game four years later when the San Francisco 49ers pummeled the Denver Broncos by that score.

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