February 21, 2015

This week in TV Guide: February 24, 1962

Troy Donahue, this week's cover boy, is nothing if not an accidental star, at least in name.  His real name is Merle Johnson, and the way he came to be Troy Donahue is more interesting than many other aspects of his life.  His agent, Henry Wilson, had the name "Troy" left over when one of his clients, Jimmy Ercolani, decided to keep his own first name while taking Wilson's suggestion for a new last name - he became James Darren.   The name "Donahue" came from another Wilson client, Timothy Durgin, who had his first name changed to Rory, and chose "Calhoun" over "Donahue."  So just think - we could be talking about Troy Calhoun here.

Anyway, Troy Donahue is Hollywood's current glamour boy, coming off the movie A Summer Place, which made him a household heartthrob, and currently starring in ABC's detective series Surfside 6.  So what kind of guy is Troy?   One of his movie costars, Suzanne **sigh** Pleshette, was prepared to dislike him based on the publicity, but instead found him to be "a very unusual boy - gracious and considerate."  I guess so, because the two of them were married in January 1964.  Of course, they divorced in less than nine months.

There's some thought that Donahue is letting the fame get to his head - he's more demanding than he used to be, more outspoken, urging colleagues to mention in interviews how lousy their director was. He's late to the set and often comes unprepared, blowing his lines more times than anyone would like to admit.  He's not an actor yet, but he's still learning.

And though he's got a very well-known name, and has a fairly long career, Troy Donahue never really does achieve the fame that seems to be his for the taking.  He never achieves the long-running television series that, at the time, substitutes for movie stardom, he never has the defining role that makes him a genuine star, never gets the Oscar nomination that sometimes comes to the pretty boy that turns into an actor.  He's never anything other than Troy Donahue - which is still a lot more than a lot of us ever achieve.

***

After a career of ups and downs, Judy Garland is on top again.  Her recent concert tours have been critical and popular successes, particularly her Carnegie Hall concert in April of 1961, which many have called "the greatest night in show business history," and resulted in a gold album and a Grammy for Album of the Year.  She's been nominated for an Academy Award for her supporting role in Judgment at Nuremberg.  And now she's returning to television for the first time in six years, with a deal in place for a new round of specials with CBS.

Her first, scheduled for Sunday, February 25, is treated as a television event, and it isn't hurt by the appearance of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as co-stars, and it's produced and directed by Norman Jewison.  The show's a smash - as you might expect with that kind of star power - and it results in a deal for Garland to return in a weekly series, with Jewison later coming in to direct.  The show only runs for one rocky season, and Garland returns to the stage and her final sad years.  For Norman Jewison, though, the future is much brighter.  Tony Curtis suggests Jewison start directing movies, which he does, amassing a brilliant portfolio that includes The Cincinnati Kid, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, The Thomas Crown Affair, Fiddler on the Roof, and his best-known movie, the Oscar-winning Best Picture In the Heat of the Night.

So this special is the start of a great career for Jewison.  A pity that it wasn't able to turn things around for Judy Garland as well.


***

Garland's Sunday special is not the only interesting programming on tap that day.  In fact, Sunday might be the best TV day this week.  NBC Opera Theatre is back with Montemezzi's The Love of Three Kings, featuring the great American bass Giorgio Tozzi.  Now, it's kind of rare to see dueling operas on television, but we have it here - Boston's ABC affiliate, WNAC, counters with Tchiakovsky's classic Eugene Onegin, with a Russian cast full of vowels.

Meanwhile, CBS Sports Spectacular has the 1961 Formula One United States Grand Prix, which was taped October 8 at Watkins Glen, New York.  That was fairly common back in the,day, networks covering Formula One races weeks or even months after the fact.  If race fans were really lucky, they might get to see the race only a week or two later on Wide World of Sports.  I'll admit, though, four months is a bit extreme,.

Edward R. Murrow is one of the legendary names in television news, with his CBS series See It Now and Person to Person, along with his landmark documentaries, becoming part of television history.  Which is why it's so strange at first glance to see him on ABC this afternoon, as the guest on Issues and Answers.  He's appearing on the show in his role as Director of the U.S. Information Agency, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Voice of America.

***

A look at the Teletype this week gives us a snapshot of the times.  First, we see that Merv Griffin and Hugh Downs are two of the guest hosts who will be filling in on Tonight during the interregnum between the departure of Jack Paar in March and the debut of Johnny Carson when his ABC contract expires in October.  ABC's reporting a flood of requests for interviews with Carson, but they're pretending not to know whether they want to talk about Carson's upcoming gig with NBC, or his current ABC show Who Do You Trust?  Yes, I'm sure everyone wanted to talk about that.  Paar himself is gearing up for his once-a-week prime time show on NBC, to debut in the fall.

ABC's got a World War II drama in development, Combat, which would star Rick Jason, Vic Morrow and Shecky Greene.  Unlike so many of the pilots we read about in this section, Combat not only debuts on ABC in the fall of 1962, it becomes one of the most successful war dramas on television, running for five seasons before leaving in 1967.  Shecky Greene only lasts for the first season, but Rick Jason and Vic Morrow alternate as episode leads throughout the show's run.

Speaking of the war, Peter Brown, one of the stars of ABC's Lawman series, is said to be testing for the role of JFK in the upcoming big screen adaptation of PT109, the story of Kennedy's wartime exploits in the Pacific.  The movie will come out in June of the following year, while Kennedy is still alive and in office, but when it does it won't have Brown, but Cliff Robertson, in the starring role.

Finally, in April, Burt Lancaster is scheduled to host At This Very Moment, a "Cancer Control Month" special on ABC.  I didn't know this, but April is still Cancer Control Month by presidential proclamation.  I've mentioned how, prior to the telethon years, Jerry Lewis used to host a one-hour Muscular Dystrophy special, and this seems to have been the same type of show.  I checked it out on IMDB and the guest list is impressive, so much so that I wonder how they all fit into an hour-long show: Harry Belafonte, Richard Chamberlain, Bobby Darin, Jimmy Durante, Connie Francis, Greer Garson, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Rock Hudson - well, you get the picture.  The cast's in alphabetical order, so I've only gotten about halfway through.  The special includes taped remarks by President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson, and an archival message from Eleanor Roosevelt.

***

Monday's trip through the TV listings will cover Wednesday, February 28 - let's see what the rest of the week's highlights are.

Saturday:  Boxing is still prime-time box office, and ABC's got a good one this week: the lightweight championship fight between Joe Brown and Carlos Ortiz from Las Vegas.  Or at least that's what's in TV Guide, but for whatever reason - an injury, probably - the fight doesn't come off until April, when Ortiz ends Brown's five-year reign as champion.  Since this was a special rather than a regularly-scheduled broadcast, I'm not sure what ABC wound up broadcasting.

Sunday: In addition to the programs I listed earlier, Ed Sullivan wraps up his series of shows from Miami Beach, with guests Lloyd Bridges, the Crosby brothers, opera star Patrice Munsel, comedian Jan Murray, singer Damita Jo, acrobats the Gimma Brothers, and the dance team of Brascia and Tybee.

Monday: NBC's 87th Precinct airs at 9:00pm ET.  According to the Teletype, the show's been renewed for another season, but because it was unable to find a sponsor, that second season never came off.  Too bad; the series, based on the novels of Ed McBain, was very good, with a strong cast including Robert Lansing, Ron Harper, Gregory Walcott and Norman Fell.  In fact, the only weak episodes were the ones with Gena Rowlands as Lansing's deaf-mute wife.  Too much personal information there, but the other stories were hard-hitting police drama.

Tuesday: Bob Hope's on with his third NBC special of the season, and he has an interesting collection of guest stars: Jack Paar, the current (for now) host of Tonight: Steve Allen, the original host of Tonight, Joan Collins, who's co-starring with Bing and Bob this year in The Road to Hong Kong and looks painfully young (and **sigh**-able); singer Joanie Sommers, whom I don't remember - but my wife does, and she didn't like her voice; and comedians Robert Strauss and Sid Melton.  Sid's one of the co-stars on Danny Thomas' show, and coincidentally there happens to be an article on Thomas in this week's issue.  On the other hand, you can watch the show that precedes Bob, The World of Sophia Loren.  Speaking of **sigh**...

And speaking of late-night shows, did you know that Mike Wallace once had one?  Imagine him competing with Jack Paar and Johnny Carson.  It was called PM, and ran on the Westinghouse-owned stations in 1961 and 1962, falling in-between The Mike Wallace Interviews and Biography in Wallace's career.  It actually was two shows in one - PM East, based in New York and hosted by Wallace, which ran for an hour; and PM West, with San Francisco Chronicle television critic Terrence O'Flaherty.  It would have been interesting to see how this would have gone had it been able to reach a broader audience - it wasn't seen at all in the South and Southwest.

Thursday: Boston's WBZ preempts NBC's The New Bob Cummings Show at 7:30 to show syndicated reruns of You Bet Your Life, packaged as the Best of Groucho.  Groucho's not nearly as funny as he is in the Marx Brothers movies, which I've really come to appreciate over the years, but he can still bring it as the host of a game show.  If you haven't seen You Bet Your Life, by the way, it's one of the shows you can check out at the Movie and Music Network, and you can find out how to subscribe - at a special rate - here.

Friday:  The best night of the work week is here, and it's a great night for music, with WGBH carrying a concert by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony, and the Bell Telephone Hour presenting an hour of the songs of Irving Berlin.  If that's not your cup of tea, there's a fine episode of Route 66 with guest star Ed Asner on CBS, a suspenseful episode of The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor on NBC, and an intriguing episode of the syndicated The Third Man, which recasts Harry Lime (Orson Welles in the movie, Michael Rennie in the series) as a good guy.  I can't recall if it was supposed to take place before Lime had turned bad, or if it was kind of an alt-Lime who'd reformed, but in the movie Lime was anything but good.  Oddly enough, this series is actually pretty good, and I really like the way Rennie plays the role.  But then, he's that way in a lot of roles.

1 comment:

  1. Which means your comment mechanism destroyed another perfectly good comment that I now have to do over again ...
    First off: did you happen to notice a feature in the color section, on pages 10-11?
    I'll just let you stew over that one -
    - and then check the listing for Shari Lewis's Saturday morning show -
    - and then make sure you've got the right station for those Best Of Groucho repeats (if it's the NBC station, the preempted show is Outlaws; Bob Cummings's show was on CBS).
    - and apropos of that, the Cummings show that week was the last one; it gave way to Oh Those Bells! with the Wiere Brothers, which had been on CBS's shelf for almost two years.

    From my DVD wall:
    - 87th Precinct had an episode in which Meyer Meyer (Norman Fell) was having chest pains and shortness of breath, and was trying to hide this from his fellow detectives while working his case.
    This was based not on an Ed McBain story, but on one by Donald E. Westlake, about a cop named Abe Levine. Westlake and Evan Hunter were friends, so they had no problem with subbing Meyer for Levine (had 87th been renewed, there were several more Levine stories that could have been similarly "repurposed").

    - Frontier Circus, or Wagon Train with sawdust, starred Chill Wills, John Derek and Richard Jaeckel, with MCA guest stars. This week it was Elizabeth Montgomery as a battered wife who shot her hubby and fled to the circus. Hubby got better and went after her, but Cousin Chill & Co. saved the day. Not bad as these things go; the director did well for himself later on - Sydney Pollack.

    - Checkmate, but I guess you'll be covering that one tomorrow.

    Other Odds & Ends:

    My Chicago edition doesn't have a logline or cast list for Friday's Twilight Zone.
    Does your Boston edition have a similar lack?
    My research yielded the "missing episode"; I'll answer tomorrow if you need it.

    Finally:
    Sunday night, ABC's Bus Stop had an episode whose plot bore a striking resemblance to a ten-year-old movie called Too Late For Tears, based on an early novel by Roy Huggins - who as it happens, was Bus Stop's showrunner.
    Coincidence?
    Not if you're familiar with Roy Huggins's career in Hollywood; he was a pioneer in "recycling" his own work in all available media.

    OK, now to see if this one will go through (and I'll be Goddamned if I have to do this a third time) ...

    ReplyDelete

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