August 23, 2014

This week in TV Guide: August 23, 1958

It's one last look back at the '50s before we plunge ahead into the '70s and '80s over the next few weeks, so let's enjoy the ride while we can.

I've mentioned in the past how different television was in this era.  Fewer stations, of course, but more divided affiliates (particularly ABC, who was lucky to fit programming where they could), and far less uniformity in the times that shows were aired.  It's fun, though, at least for this week, because of the number of programs spotlighted in the as-yet unnamed "Close Up."

Mr. Waverly - don't!  For those of us that are a certain age, Leo G. Carroll is best-known as Mr. (Alexander) Waverly on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  Other classic TV fans will remember him as Cosmo Topper in the series of the same name, spun off from the movie.  But in Monday's Studio One presentation "Bellingham" on CBS, he plays a quite different role - that of a killer.  "You wouldn't suspect that Bellingham is anything but what he appears to be - a conscientious and sensitive master in an English boarding school.  Actually he also leads another life entirely.  He hates evil political leaders, and belongs to a group determined to eliminate them by assassination."  As far as I know, that group isn't called T.H.R.U.S.H.  This actually sounds like a pretty interesting episode - unfortunately, we probably have to travel to the UCLA Film and Television Archive to see it.

SOURCE ON ALL: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION

Here's your hat, what's your hurry?  On Wednesday, CBS' U.S. Steel Hour, which is always labeled "Drama," presents what is clearly a comedy, "Be My Guest."  Starring Larry Blyden, the plot concerns Harvey and Jeannie Kent, who invite a couple to stay in their Connecticut estate guest house while they look for a new place to live.  Hijinks naturally ensue when that couple, Stewart and Mary Potter, take over the Kent's guest house, car, telephone and friends.  Ominously, the description concludes with Kent leaving home "to develop a suitable scheme" to get rid of them.  Comedy or not, I could easily see this on Alfred Hitchcock, taking a much darker turn than it likely took here.  Again, your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not it all ends in tears.


Elliot Ness was right!  On Friday, NBC presents a documentary on the Mafia entitled "Paper Saints."  Frank McGee narrates the half-hour program, which looks at the roots of the Mafia in Italy, follows their establishment in the United States, and explores the connection between the mob and organized crime.  Despite my joke there at the beginning, the show actually predates The Untouchables by over a year, although many of the mobsters mentioned in this documentary will find themselves later "portrayed" in the series.


As I say, they aren't called Close Ups yet, but TV Guide clearly wants to call attention to them as among the best shows of the week.  They may well have been right.

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Besides the Close Ups, there are some fun ads for shows on the air this week.  Let's take a look at some of them.

This first one is a reminder to parents that nothing prepares a youngster for success more than an after-school job delivering TV Guides.  I remember paper boys, milkmen, even the Fuller Brush man - but I don't recall anyone ever delivering our TV Guide except the mailman.  Has anyone ever met one?


This ad for next week's issue promises tips on how to write Westerns for television.  It's probably supposed to be funny (and may or may not have been successful).  But on the other hand, who knows?  TV's filled with them right now.  Maybe they're really begging for more writers to help them out?


For example: even this Listerine ad references a Western, The Restless Gun, starring John Payne - who eventually found life on the range unsatisfying, went to law school, and eventually defended Kris Kringle.  (Good  for a mouthwash company to sponsor a Western, though - after kissing your horse, how would your breath smell?


Cedric Adams was a legend in the Twin Cities - a newscaster for WCCO radio and television, newspaper columnist for the Minneapolis Star, friend of Arthur Godfrey, guest of Edward R. Murrow.  As you can see by this ad, he hosted other shows besides the news, though.  Another thing we've lost from television today - the local movie host. I suspect that this half-hour drama was probably a refugee from an anthology series of the past.  Hah!  Just checked, and I was right - a syndicated ZIV series called Target.


***

One of the shows we run across frequently in the daytime listings of this era is House Party.  Actually, it's Art Linkletter's House Party.  The show ran on radio from 1945 to 1967, and on television from 1952 to 1969.

I've written in the past on my admiration for Art Linkletter - a good man, vital until nearly the end, one of the true pioneers of television.  House Party is probably his best-known program, and the feature "Kids Say the Darndest Things" was probably the best-known part of the program.  That feature lead to two book collections of the quotable children, both of which were illustrated by Charles M. Schulz.

I didn't know that tidbit about Schulz, which makes all the more interesting the Friday episode of the show, in which Schulz is Art's guest.  At that point in time I think Schulz is the well-known author and artist of "Peanuts," but the strip itself is not yet the American institution, nor Schulz the icon he will become.  In 1958 Peanuts is only eight years old, and Schulz has yet to pass into cultural immortality.

Incidentally, if you want a flavor of Art Linkletter, check out this very funny parody of Linkletter's popular "People Are Funny" routine, courtesy of Bugs Bunny.

  

***

Some notes from the teletype:  NBC touts its new detective series Peter Gunn as an adult mystery.  Is it because it airs after 7pm?  I don't think so; besides being somewhat violent, as I mentioned in my story about Gunn a few months ago Pete and his girl Edie enjoy a refreshingly grown up relationship between two adults who love each other without resorting to sappiness.

A sign of how television was in the '50s: Bob Cummings' show has been saved because its sponsor has re-uped for another year.  Back in the day, it was sponsorship dollars - and not ratings - that drove the renewal of series.  Many a series with decent ratings failed to return because they couldn't secure sponsorship.

One more Western note - Patricia Medina has been cast as the "love interest" for Richard Boone's Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel, "appearing every third or fourth week."  Frankly, this sounds like an awful idea - Paladin is a smooth, suave and cultured man, but he's also a gunman who's on the road a lot.  He's good with the ladies and has a soft spot for them, but he's also got a certain cold-bloodedness to him, and there's a big difference between being cultured and being housebroken.  Evidently others agreed, because this didn't take - the series runs until 1963, but after this season there's no further word of Patricia.  She still had a successful career, though - and besides, she was married to Joseph Cotton.

And a few quick notes from programming - Monday marks the debut of a new NBC game show, Concentration.  It stars Hugh Downs, sidekick to Jack Paar and Arlene Francis, future host of the Today show, and still alive and kicking.  The show will run, with Ed McMahon and Bob Clayton later serving as hosts, until 1973.   Speaking of Today, Dave Garroway is on vacation this week, his place taken by a man soon to pass from television fame to infamy: Charles Van Doren.  And Monday night's Frontier Justice on CBS co-stars Dean Jagger and John Derek.  Jagger, of course, won an Oscar for Twelve O'Clock High and was memorable in White Christmas.  John Derek didn't have nearly as big a career, but his taste in wives was impeccable.

***

Finally, in this week's installment of the Next Big Thing, we get introduced to Judi Meredith.  According to Wikipedia, she started out as a professional figure skater and survived a broken back before being permanently sidelined due to a broken kneecap.
the always-reliable

This article touts her recurring appearances in Burns and Allen, which in turn has led to shots on Studio One, M Squad, Have Gun, Will Travel, The Restless Gun and Cimarron City.  (Those Westerns again!)  Aside from that, it appears that she did TV work through the '60s and early '70s, but was pretty much out of the business by 1973.  She just died earlier this year, at the still-young age of 77.

It's a nice picture, don't you think?   I'm surprised she didn't have a bigger career.  She cuts an attractive figure - not as attractive, though, as my friend Judi, the only other person I've ever met who spells her first name that way.  I know she reads the blog - I wonder if that statement will get a response from her?  At least we'll find out how carefully she reads this.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks, Mitchell. Another unique installment of this series.

    Re: Art Linkletter, here are three public domain episode of People Are Funny, free to stream:
    http://www.reruncentury.com/series/pd/?s=1326

    Bob Poulsen

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  2. A funny thing happened ...

    Last night/this morning (1 am CDT), I put a comment here with all kids of fun stuff in it -
    - but for reasons unknown and unknowable, said comment got redirected to the Ed Nelson thread down below, where I found it just now.
    Huge relief for me, as I hated the idea of having to retype the whole thing from memory.
    I fix the full blame for this on this oedipusrexing computer of mine, which has developed quirks and crotchets of its own that make it marginally dependable at best.
    If there's anything you can do at your end to straighten this out, I'd appreciate it hugely.
    Meanwhile, I'm on my own Emmy countdown - mainly to the Memorial reel, to see how many of my long-forgotten favorites made the cut (I'll bet the Academy types were tearing out their hair trying to remember if Sir Richard Attenborough had done any US-TV ... )

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  3. Guess you haven't gone back to the Nelson thread for the comment that was supposed to go here - at least, not yet, anyway.

    Oh well ...
    Here are a few notes:

    - The writer of that U.S. Steel Hour was John Whedon, a prominent comedy writer of that period. His son Tom Whedon, followed him into the business, becoming one of the founding writers of Sesame Street.

    - Frontier Justice was an early example of "repurposing".
    These were reruns of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater, with new intros spoken by Lew Ayres (at least this year; another summer, Melvyn Douglas did the gig).
    Four Star, Dick Powell's company, never threw anything away.
    In later years, Four Star threw together all the old Zane Greys with several of their shorter-running Western series, into a syndication package called The Westerners, with all-new intros by a grizzled Keenan Wynn. It ran for years, at all hours of the day and night, and (I believe) is still available for such use in the present day (MeTV please note).

    - Judi Meredith's career ender was her marriage to TV director Gary Nelson, which lasted to the end of her life. This happened a lot more than you might expect.

    - I think I might have mentioned this before, but if any of you out there still think that the movie Quiz Show is any kind of accurate portrayal of The Scandal - wrongo.
    Charles Van Doren's run on Twenty-One ended in early 1957 - a year before this issue.
    The Scandal broke in 1959 - a year after this issue.

    - Final nit-pick:
    Joseph Cotten.
    With an 'e'.
    I find it hard to believe that after all these years, people still make this mistake.
    Back in the '60s, when Mr. Cotten was doing commercials for Bufferin, I remember Steve Allen (of all people) making a really dumb joke about the cotton in Bufferin bottles being Joseph Cotton; it was a live show (That Was The Week That Was, believe it or don't), and you could tell that the lameness of the gag even embarrassed Allen.
    Even now, as I'm typing this, the spell-check on this confuser of mine keeps 'correcting' Cotten to Cotton. Aaarrrgghhh.
    Isn't technology wonderful?
    *Yes, it isn't.*

    More to come on the Monday night thread!

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    Replies
    1. Great stuff as always, Mike. I really appreciate your context on these. Haven't had a chance to review some of the other comments, as I'm on vacation right now - I'll be back to in-depth reading on Saturday! :)

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    2. Mitchell here. As Mike mentions in the above comment, some further content that he had to offer mistakenly got put on another post. I'm including it here - Mike, your comments as always add so much to the blog!

      Looking through the listings for that week:

      - You have to be a major movie buff to remember that before he started doing TV series, Leo G. Carroll most often played villains: tricky barristers, shifty uncles, master spies, and the like.
      The Topper series pretty much changed all that, so this Studio One was probably a welcome change for him.
      Side note: it was a couple of years later that Leo G. Carroll got the Barry Fitzgerald role in the Going My Way series, with Gene Kelly in the Crosby role. That stirred up a bit of a fuss at the time - there was no more British actor around than Carroll.
      But then someone looked it up and found that Leo Grattan Carroll, though born in England, was as Irish and Catholic as you could want (born in 1892, he was named for the then-incumbent Pope and an MP who favored home rule for Ireland).

      - Also on the anthology beat:
      On Friday night, Schlitz Playhouse has Edmond O'Brien in "The Town That Slept with The Lights On", about a search for a serial killer.
      Of particular note: Edmond O'Brien directed this show, which was written for him by his brother Liam.
      The brothers O'Brien did quite a bit of work together over the years, on big screen and small, including their own syndie series, Johnny Midnight.

      - Meanwhile, on Thursday, Playhouse 90 is repeating "No Time At All", one of a handful of shows that P90 made on film.
      As it happens, I've got this one on a (bootleg) DVD, complete with the original commercials - and are there ever a lot of them.
      The show itself concerns an airliner that loses its lights and communication while coming in for a landing - but we never go inside the plane.
      The story is about the people on the ground - airport personnel, families and friends of the passengers, and such like - and how they deal with the crisis.
      It's based on a novel by Charles Einstein - of which, by incredible coincidence, I've got a copy (when I collect, I don't kid around).
      But the really interesting part of all this is the cast, which you can read for yourself in the Guide listing -and they left a few out (you can find the opening of this one on YouTube if you look for it).

      - Local note:
      On Sunday afternoon, Channel 5 ran "Pier 23", an ultra-low budget detective flick from 1951.
      Its interest stems from the fact that it's an hour-long movie with two separate stories (you know, like two episodes of a TV series stuck together) and yet it was made for theatrical release - followed by two more in the same format.
      Once again (Coincidence Time!), I've got all three of these Kinema Klassix in my DVD wall here; They're worth at least a look-see, mainly for their rough, tough, manly leading man - Hugh Beaumont.

      There's loads of other stuff here, but it's 1 AM (CDT), so I'll stand down for the nonce.

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  4. For the sake of accuracy in Mike Doran's post--the quiz scandal had rumblings in 1957 and started coming to a head in 1958, following Ed Hilgemier visit to the D.A. with a notebook containing answers used by contestant Marie Winn on that Friday morning's "Dotto" broadcast. Both CBS and NBC met that evening with sponsor Colgate-Palmolive, and decided to ax the show immediately. New York newspapers now jumped on board, and decided "Twenty-One" contestant Herb Stempel might just be telling the truth. That publicity caused other contestants to come forward, including several "Twenty-One" contestants, (which is why "Concentration" made its debut on this night in 1958, as a fast replacement for, "Twenty-One", once news of the riggings made headlines), causing a New York Grand Jury to call show producers and staff to testify. Congress did not start investigating until 1959. BTW: Jack Barry hosted the first few episodes of "Concentration", until NBC decided he was toxic, bought the show from Barry and Enright, and substituted Monty Hall as host.

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    Replies
    1. CORRECTION: Monty Hall took over as host of "Twenty-One" for the final few episodes after the scandal became big news. My information has "Concentration" in day time this week, and in primetime, airing from October 30 to November 20, 1958, as a replacement for, "Twenty-One". NBC pulled the plug on "Concentration" after just four prime-time episodes, with Barry still hosting, but likely determining he was now prime-time poison, and better to cut losses and kill off the show. Hugh Downs hosted the daytime version, and a subsequent prime-time version which ran for seven months in 1961. My bad.

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And now for something completely different.