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.
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.
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.
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.