July 4, 2015

This week in TV Guide: July 4, 1964

Hello there everyone, and Happy Fourth of July.  It being the holiday weekend and all, I'm going to do something a little different for today - I don't have a new issue for us to look at, so we're going to go back three years to an issue that I've previously covered.  The difference is that back then, when this feature was fairly new, I didn't go as in-depth as I do now, so we've actually got lots of material to cover.  In addition, since I wasn't doing the program listings at the time, Monday's feature will still be brand new.

Enough with the talk, though.  Let's see some action.

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In case you're curious, when we first visited this issue, the focus was on Perry Mason, and the cover profile of Erle Stanley Gardner.  So let's skip to the president's changing approach to television.

It was Lyndon Johnson's eternal misfortune that he followed John Kennedy into the White House.  As we've seen before, JFK was one of the first politicians to realize how the right candidate could exploit television to his advantage.  LBJ was possibly the best-prepared man to ever become president, save George Washington himself; he was a master of parliamentary procedure, knew how the House and Senate operated, knew how to get things done.  His early record as president shows he was much better than JFK at getting legislation through the Byzantine labyrinth of Congressional procedure and ego. In another era, one before television, he might well have been elected to two terms of his own, and could be thought of today as one of the nation's most successful presidents.

However, Johnson lacked much of what had made Kennedy a success on the tube. Although he was a relatively young man himself, he was not photogenic, the camera did not flatter him, he did not have an easy presence with the audience.  As Vietnam progressed, this would become a real Achilles heel for him.  Robert Goralski, author of this article and NBC's longtime White House correspondent, notes that in Johnson's first presidential press conference, "He is still not wholly comfortable, his answers are sometimes imprecise, and he is often given to answering questions with previously stated homilies."  Goralski's opinion was that Johnson had "just survived," although Johnson's own assessment was that he was "adequate."

Johnson has always depended on the intimate, informal gathering where control of the situation is his, and it is in this environment that you see his charm, his humor, his authority.  So it's no surprise that it's taking him some time to get used to this new routine.  Indeed, only one of four press conferences have been televised life, but he does plan to ramp up his appearances on TV.  In preparation for this, the White House Fish Room is being converted to a television studio, from which the President will be able to address the nation any time he has a major announcement to make.

Perhaps the biggest innovation, though, is an "ingenious device" that Johnson has come to depend on for his formal statements, both at the White House and when he's on the road.  Goralski describes this new technology as consisting of  "pieces of glass, about the size of a sheet of music, [which] are positioned on either side of the lectern.  From the camera-eye view, the glass pieces are invisible.  From Mr. Johnson's point of vantage, however, they act as mirrors, reflecting the text which is printed on scrolls that unroll on the platform below."  Yes - although it's not identified as such, it's the TelePrompTer, and this "ingenious device" will come to change completely the way people appear on television - not just politicians but newsreaders, actors, sportscasters, anyone having to project "sincerity" and make eye contact with the viewers, rather than a sheaf of notes.  Because, as we all know, if you can fake sincerity, you can fake anything.

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It's been a while since we've had a "Sullivan vs. The Palace" matchup, and I was hopeful we were going to see one this week.  Alas, ABC has other ideas, and they've preempted the Palacd for the Olympic Track and Field Trials, taped earlier in the day at Randalls Island in New York.  It's the first round in the process of choosing the Americans who'll be travelling to Tokyo later in the Summer for the Games.

Well, let's take a look at Ed's lineup anyway, since it's one of the few shows that isn't a rerun.  His guests include songstress Kay Stevens; comic Myron Cohen; pop singer Jerry Vale; comics Allen and Rossi; the dance team of Brascia and Tybee; the Neiman Brothers, tumblers; The Four Amigos, vocal and instrumental group; and comic Ronnie Martin.  Too bad for the Palace; this was a good, but hardly unbeatable week.

That's not all for variety shows for the week, though.  The apparently ageless Rudy Vallee, whose major stardom came in the '20s and '30s but never completely went away, is back with a 13-week summer replacement series on CBS.  In the debut episode he welcomes Paul Anka, Rich Little, vocalist Ketty Lester, singers Mitzi Welch and Jerry Holmes, comic Jackie Clark, and dance theme Thealbees.  What an interesting contrast - Vallee, Anka and Little.  Donald O'Connor's 1960 special, also on CBS, is repeated, with Mitzi Gaynor, Andre Previn and comedian Sid Miller.  Meanwhile, ABC's Hootenanny comes to us on location from West Point, with host Jack Linkletter and The Brothers Four, the Second City Troupe, the Bluegrass Dalton Boys, the Brandywine Singers, Anita Sheer, Bob Carey, the Paul Winter Jazz Sextet, and the Serendipity Singers.  In case you're keeping score at home, Hootenanny's rival, NBC's Shindig!, won't be along until September.

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SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE
This week's starlet (because you knew there had to be one) is Donna Higgins, aka Dee Hartford,* described as "a great, big, beautiful model and actress."  Her TV credentials to date are skimpy but growing, thanks to bit parts in The Defenders, Perry Mason and Burke's Law, and a recent appearance in a skit on Hollywood Palace.  She sees herself as the "second woman," someone like Eve Arden, rather than a lead in the Sandra Dee/Tuesday Weld mold.  Probably her bigger claim to fame is that she was married for a time to movie director Howard Hawks, and made her transition from modeling to movies courtesy of Howard Hughes.  Her biggest fame will remain her modeling, however; despite a fair number of TV credits, she'll never become a big, big star.

*Her sister Eden was also a model of some success.

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Some news from the Teletype: Tina Louise has been signed as the seventh castaway to star in CBS' upcoming sitcom Gilligan's Island.  Paul Burke, formerly of Naked City, has been signed as a guest-star on ABC's new Twelve O'Clock High series; he'll wind up as the star when Robert Lansing is sacked after the first season.

Inger Stevens will dream that she's dead in an episode of The Farmer's Daughter this fall - kind of grim, when you consider she committed suicide at age 35 in 1970.  NBC has a documentary, JFK Remembered, planned for November, the first anniversary of his death.  Shirl Conway, star of CBS' The Nurses (who's in next week's TV Guide, although I don't write about her), is on a one-woman campaign to establish medical scholarships in every country where the show is aired.

In For the Record, we hear that NBC's going to try again in its efforts to air the first made-for-TV movie.  Their initial product, The Killers*, was famously determined to be too violent for television, and wound up being released in the theaters.  This time it's The Widow Makers, with John Forsythe, and it does make it to the small screen, aired on October 7 under the name See How They Run.  It says that NBC's plan is to show it first on their Wednesday or Saturday movie show, then to release it to theaters.  I never quite understood that strategy - if you saw it for free, why would you pay for it?  Does it have the kind of scenery or color that screams out for the big screen experience?  And if you weren't interested enough to watch it on TV, what would make you change your mind?

*Which was originally named Johnny North after the man (John Cassavetes) who was the target of the killers.

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A while back I got to see an episode of ABC's 1963-64 psychological drama Breaking Point, which starred Paul Richards and Eduard Franz as psychiatrists.  It was a very good show, I thought, the kind of program that isn't on TV nowadays.  And this week there's a profile of Franz, a man whose profile has defined many of his TV and movie appearances.  He's got this Roman profile that holds him in good stead when it comes to casting noble Indian chiefs, noble Viennese doctors, noble Supreme Court justices - you know.

Franz in a familiar role (left); as Dr. Edward Raymer (right)
He's also a very good actor, and something of an anomaly in Hollywood.  For one thing, he's very secure, with an ego that's among the smallest around.  He's exceedingly calm, so much so that Ethel Barrymore, "who did not particularly like him," insisted on having him in three of her plays.  He appeared in The Great Caruso with Mario Lanza, who was making the transition to movies from the opera stage; "Lanza was so comforted  by the spectacle of a man largely emancipated from torment that he wanted Franz to be in every picture he made."  He's not in therapy, he doesn't go to the tracks or make demands for fancy dressing rooms, and a publicist complains that he's so dull, "After you've told 'em Eddie has a cat who subsists largely on a diet of doughnuts, where do you go from there?"  As a friend points out, "Eddie has that calm, and there isn't anybody, especially among actors, who isn't drawn to it."

Like the show that gave it birth, Ben Casey, the structure of Breaking Point is the young doctor-older mentor, which was fine with Franz as long as it was a good part, and not a subordinate one.  About the role of Dr. Edward Raymer, he says, "I didn't really want to do it, but we have to face the fact that this is the only way an actor makes a good living these days.  And I thought I could make something of it."  Somewhere along the line, though, the network decided to deemphasize Franz in favor of the younger Richards, and at that point Franz reminded him that the show was about two doctors, and demanded his release.  Instead, his profile (that word again!) was raised, to the good of the show.

Breaking Point only lasts one season, but if you watch movies or television shows from the era, you shouldn't have any trouble picking out Eduard Franz, the high-profile supporting actor.

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Finally, a note on one more variety show, Jack Paar's Friday night program, which replaced his beat on Tonight.  This format allowed him to do more in-depth programs, and this week is a repeat of the March 13 program that featured the first public appearance of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy since the death of his brother.  Paar has said that he found out about it only that afternoon; Bobby had called him that it was time for him to finally appear in public, and he'd decided that Paar's show was the place to do it.  It's quite an appearance, and the reaction from the audience serves as a preview of the massive ovation Kennedy will receive at the Democratic Convention in August, when he introduces the tribute film to the late President.  Here's a look at the interview as it originally aired.


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So what do you think?  We certainly had more to look at than what was in the initial review.  Do you like this "second look" at certain issues?  Should we continue to do this every once in a while?

If you're playing with fireworks today, be careful.  If you're doing a picnic, watch out for the ants.  If you're just enjoying a peaceful Saturday, as I will be, make it a good one and come back Monday for the listings!

4 comments:

  1. First, a small correction:

    Look at the listing for Donald O'Connor's show a little closer: it's a Special.
    This had been Garry Moore's timeslot; his show ended some weeks before.
    CBS knew that they'd need several weeks for the political conventions and the Olympics, so they decided to use the time for various specials that had been on their shelf for a while.
    Some were reruns from previous seasons; others (like the O'Connor show) were likely pilots.
    Some of the other shows were vehicles for Esther Williams, Keefe Brasselle, and Rocky & Bullwinkle producer Jay Ward. Honest.

    Oh, by the way:
    Hootenanny was about folksinging; at no time would it be a rival to Shindig, which was a rock-'n'-roll show, and anyway, both these shows were on ABC.
    Shindig's rival was NBC's Hullabaloo, which came along at midseason of '64-'65.

    Not much I can add here; right now I'm half-looking at 1776 on TCM.
    I suppose you're watching it too.
    If so, did you happen to notice Lewis Morris, the New York delegate who always "abstains .... courteously"?
    Particularly, did you recognize the actor playing the part?
    Just askin', is all ...

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  2. As a big fan of the film "1776" I'd always loved that many in the cast would have that tie in with TV characters I'd enjoy watching. You know, Ken Howard (The White Shadow) as Thomas Jefferson, William Daniels * (Dr. Mark Craig) as John Adams and of course Howard Caine (Major Wolfgang Hochstetter) as the always abstaining, courteously, Lewis Morris.

    You mentioned that the Ed Sullivan Show was a new episode. Isn't that unusual for a regular season series, and not a summer replacement, to run a new episode in July?

    * - and I'm sure every TV viewer knows that the writers of "St. Elsewhere" took advantage of the Daniels/1778 tie in on an episode where Dr. Craig and his wife go back to visit Philadelphia. ("It's hot as hell, in Philadelphia!")

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  3. For years and years we watched a doubleheader of "1776" and "The Music Man" on the 4th. Sometimes "Yankee Doodle Dandy" if we had time. We even worked in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in the morning. I just loved Daniels as John Adams and Howard Da Silva as Franklin.

    Unfortunately, and I don't want to get political here (I do that on the other blog), the last few years we just haven't had the heart to watch them. Not the America I remember any more. A couple of years ago we watched the Met Opera doing "Elektra," and this year it was a disturbing Playhouse 90 adaptation of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" with Roddy McDowall. I don't think they did well with the optimistic ending, but it was probably as good as you could get away with back in the day.

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  4. "Hootenanny" was a folk-music show which premiered in April of 1963 (perhaps as a summer replacement), and taped on-location at college campuses, village greens, etc.

    The show enjoyed good ratings for about nine months. But the British Music Invasion struck with full force in early 1964, "Hootenanny""s ratings nosedived (seems everybody preferred the new English rock groups), and the show was cancelled at season's end.

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