May 14, 2016

This week in TV Guide: May 19, 1962

Today's review comes to you courtesy of a new laptop, and while this shouldn't have anything to do with the content of the following, it's nice to think that a new laptop will lead to a new Golden Age of blogging. Well, a fella can dream, can't he?

The first subject of the first piece on this computer is no stranger to readers, since I've written in the past of my admiration for Naked City and its star, Paul Burke. This is the first starring role in a successful series for Burke, and the first chance for many to learn about this actor, who has fought long and hard to make it in acting. As one friend put it of the man who struggled to support a wife, three children, and eventually an aging father, "His perseverance under brutal burdens was not that of an ordinary man." But then, it's no surprise that a man who says "Acting is more exciting than living" would push through with determination to make it in the business.

It provides insight into this unusual man, the rare star who is both unknown and withdrawn, a man for whom stardom is a private experience. Oh, his co-stars talk of his talent, his willingness to be a team player, but it's mostly a smokescreen cast out by a man who doesn't want people to know much about himself. It's fascinating to read his words about why he understands characters better than he does people. With a character, you can deduce motives, predict behavior, understand values, just by reading the script. It all makes sense. Not so with humans, who often behave illogically, who are "rarely what they say they are." He can be verbose, talking with excitement and intensity, when he is with someone he trusts, but otherwise... Edith Efron makes a perceptive comment at the conclusion of her profile, referring to Burke as a man who simultaneously seeks to conquer the world and retreat from it.

I like Burke a lot in Naked City; he's a smart, dedicated cop who never lets cynicism overwhelm duty, who brings a sense of dignity to a difficult job. His next starring vehicle, Twelve O'Clock High, is not as good; it was a mistake for Quinn Martin to sack Robert Lansing in the starring role, and while Burke is not bad as the new lead, it's really a no-win situation. After that, Burke is seen mostly in guest starring roles, but to see what he's really capable of, you can't do better than Naked City.

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ALL: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
While Paul Burke was driven to success, Marlo Thomas was never raised to be an actress, but she became one anyway.

Danny Thomas' daughter has just finished a season as one of the regulars on The Joey Bishop Show, leaving at season's end to look form something more substantial. "The part left me feeling like a piece of furniture. I expected it to get bigger, but it didn't, and I want to do something else next season." The fact that she was on the Bishop show at all is something of a surprise, considering her dad wanted her to be a schoolteacher instead of an actress. "He always went around the house saying there shouldn't be any women in show business - it was too hard on them." Nevertheless, once he found out her daughter had been bitten by the acting bug, he encouraged her to see Sanford Meisner, head talent coach for 20th Century Fox.

Soon she was studying with Meisner five days a week, and after that came some small parts: Dobie Gillis, 77 Sunset Strip, Triller, Zane Grey Theater. When she received the offer to do Bishop, she was uncertain - the show is produced by her father, and she "didn't want people thinking I had to work on one of my father's shows." However, the producers, Lou Edelman and Sheldon Leonard, convinced her that the part was right for her and she was right for the part, and the rest is history.

I don't know how many people think of Marlo Thomas any more. Most of her visibility comes from the work she does for St. Jude, the charity that Danny Thomas established. But just a few years after this article, she really comes into her own with the starring role in That Girl, the one that will forever take her out of her father's shadow.

***

There's a new craze sweeping the nation, and it's called Password. It's one of those shows that the public has taken to right away, and as this article says, "It is flatly impossible to avoid playing the game along with the contestants while one watches." That, and the willingness of big stars to make fools of themselves, either by providing awful clues or by giving terrible answers, is one of the big reasons for the show's appeal. And even though a home version of the game will be in stores sooner or later, it remains most fun if you play along with the people on the show.

I always liked Password, and it's almost impossible to imagine it without host Allen Ludden (although Tom Kennedy took over after Ludden's stroke and ultimate death in 1981), but I was never particularly a fan of Ludden himself. I always thought he was a big smarmy and smooth, like a used car salesman, and he had this annoying habit of condensation toward contestants when they didn't measure up to what he thought was good game-playing. Now, I'll admit there are times that you like to see a host treat a contestant for what they are - stupid - but these people weren't always that, and I didn't think Ludden was particularly charitable about it. I'd always wondered if it was just me, if I was reading in something that wasn't there, but my feelings were confirmed when I caught an episode of College Bowl a few years ago from the time in which Ludden was the host, before Robert Earle took over, and I found Ludden to be the same way. Oh well. For what it's worth, I was never that big a fan of Betty White either, though I'm sure they were a lovely couple, and that she's still lots of fun to be around. Let's just chalk it up to different strokes for different folks.

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On ABC's Saturday night Fight of the Week, Don Dunphy brings us a heavyweight bout from New York with a fighter you just might have heard about: Cassius Clay. The former Olympic gold medalist, currently ranked by The Ring magazine as the #9 heavyweight in the world with a record of 13 wins and no defeats, takes on unranked Billy Daniels in a ten-round bout, one which Clay wins when the fight is stopped by referee Mark Conn in the seventh round. Did the ref stop it too early? Check out the broadcast and find out.


The win lifts Clay up to 14-0, and continues his march toward the top of the heavyweight ranks. In less than two years - February 1964, to be precise - he'll take on champion Sonny Liston for the heavyweight crown. Despite being a 7-1 underdog, the younger man takes it to the champ, and emerges from the fight with a seventh-round TKO, the heavyweight championship, and the beginning of his place in sports history.

Also on Saturday, CBS presents the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico in Baltimore, where Greek Money scores an upset victory over Ridan. Here's where you can see the race, including the controversial finish.

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The lead female vocalist on The Lawrence Welk Show is known as the "Champagne Lady," and Welk's current Lady, the one I grew up with, is Norma Zimmer. I mention this only because in next week's TV Guide we'll have a look at the previous Champagne Lady, Alice Lon. Tune in then.

***

Tuesday night is Emmy night - the awards show, as we've mentioned before, used to come at the end of the television season in May, rather than the beginning of the subsequent season in the fall - and it's on live on NBC at 10:00pm ET, with three hosts - Johnny Carson in New York, Bob Newhart in Hollywood, and David Brinkley in Washington.

The Emmys have always had a kind of scrambled categorization process, fitting for a medium that has to tread the line between weekly programs, specials, guest star appearances, starring regulars, and different genres of program, not to mention the likelihood of the same shows and stars being nominated year after year. This year's list of shows tells us something about how television has changed - or perhaps, we should say, how viewer's tastes have changed. Take, for instance, the "Program of the Year" category, the one that's supposed to be most equivalent to Best Picture at the Oscars. This is the category that lumps together programs of all different kinds, and the nominees are proof of that: CBS Reports: Biography of a Bookie Joint (CBS); The Judy Garland Show (CBS); The Hallmark Hall of Fame: Victoria Regina (NBC); Vincent Van Gogh: A Self Portrait (NBC); and Bell and Howell Close-Up! Walk in My Shoes (ABC). I'm not sure how high the ratings for those shows are, but it indicates the importance with which the television academy regards "serious" programming. (Victoria Regina, by the way, was the winner.) It's also interesting that one of the nominees for Best Actress is Mary Stuart for the soap opera Search for Tomorrow.

The Dick Powell Show is one of the most nominated programs, up not only for Best Drama but with three nominations for Best Actor (Peter Falk won for one of those episodes, "The Price of Tomatoes"), while Victoria Regina, Naked City and People Need People are also among the multiple nominees. The major winners are The Bob Newhart Show ("Best Humor"), The Defenders (Best Drama), The Garry Moore Show (Best Variety), Julie Harris (Best Actress, for Victoria Regina), E.G. Marshall (Best Series Actor, as opposed to Best Actor in in a single performance), and Shirley Booth (Best Series Actress). If you want to know more, you can see all the nominees and winners here.

***

Elsewhere on the dial this week, you might recall that a month ago I mentioned the 1968 showing of the classic antiwar drama Paths of Glory on ABC, which sponsor Xerox described as resurrecting it from the late show. Well, here it is on Saturday's late show - at 11:15pm on WJAR, Channel 10 in Providence, to be specific. No matter what time it comes on, though, it remains a powerful film. At the same time, as part of a double-feature on Boston's Channel 7, WNAC, it's Mr. Lucky, with Cary Grant and Laraine Day. The TV series, with John Vivyan, was ostensibly a spin-off, but aside from the title and the fact the title character was a gambler, there isn't much resemblance. Vivyan tries to be smooth, like Cary Grant, but Craig Stevens does it much better in Peter Gunn.

According to Stephen Battaglio's biography on David Susskind, one of the works the producer was most proud of was an adaptation of Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, starring Laurence Olivier and George C. Scott. Well, there's an adaptation of The Power and the Glory on this Sunday, just not that one. This stars James Donald and Ronald Long, and although it appears on Susskind's drama anthology The Play of the Week, it's with substantially less star power. Still, it emphasizes a point made in an interesting ad for the program from WGAN, Channel 13 in Portland, ME: "Program Quality is the Trademark of TV Leadership." Also on Sunday, ABC presents the TV premiere of the epic movie Moby Dick, starring Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Orson Welles, Leo Genn and Royal Dano. Too bad they couldn't get any big names.

On Monday, the tacky daytime show Queen for a Day starts a week's run live from the Seattle World's Fair, the event responsible for giving us the Space Needle. It what must have been an entertaining show, The Price is Right (NBC, 8:30pm ET) promises us prizes that "run the gamut from barbecue sets to fur coats." And on The Tonight Show, still awaiting the arrival of Johnny Carson once his ABC contract expires, Jan Murray begins a week as guest host.

Tuesday, Password (8:00pm, CBS) begins three weeks of programs from Hollywood, rather than its regular home of New York. Tonight's guests are Edie Adams and Dennis Weaver. The Dick Powell Show (9:00pm, NBC), which we certainly saw enough of on the Emmy nominations list, presents one of those nominated episodes - "Somebody's Waiting," which earned a Best Actor nomination for its star, Mickey Rooney. It's on up against a fellow nominee, CBS' The Red Skelton Show.

The late movie on WNAC Wednesday is part one of another double feature. It's the 1947 noir classic Crossfire, a Best Picture nominee starring Robert Young as a policeman, Robert Ryan as a suspected murderer, and Robert Mitchum as the suspect's friend. I'd joke that apparently you had to be named Robert to get in that movie, but it's too good to joke about - a terrific thriller. The second half of the movie, Mr. Moto Takes a Chance, stars Peter Lorre as the "diminutive Oriental detective."

Thursday: Mary Astor, memorable in The Maltese Falcon (along with Peter Lorre), is the guest star on Dr. Kildare, Earlier in the day, the original Dr. Kildare - Lew Ayers - is in the 1939 movie Calling Dr. Kildare on WNAC. They had a pretty good movie library, didn't they?

Friday: A hard-hitting episode of The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (8:30pm, NBC) features a rare television appearance by Edward G. Robinson as the last of the big-time mobsters, "Big Jim" Riva. If you were watching it, you might have noticed one of the regulars, Adam West (in his pre-Batman days), and another by Tige Andrews (in his pre-Mod Squad days). Meanwhile, a pre-Mission: Impossible Peter Graves appears in the evocatively-named "Hell Is Empty, All the Devils Are Here*" on Route 66.

*The line comes from The Tempest by Shakespeare, and has lately been used to describe our own times.

A pretty good lineup for an interesting week.

5 comments:

  1. Daytime programming from 6 A.M. until about 5 P.M. on Thursday, May 24th on network stations was pre-empted for coverage of the second U.S. manned orbital space flight, during which astronaut Scotti Carpenter orbited the earth there times.

    The launch was at 8:45 A.M. EDT, but network coverage ran so late because Carpenter landed 200 miles off-target, and the networks stayed on the air 'til he was safely on the recovery ship.

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  2. WNAC was owned by RKO General, and as a result, they had the exclusive TV rights in Boston to the RKO Radio Pictures library.

    WNAC did acquire films from other producers, but for a lot of years in the late 1950's and through the 1960's, many (if not most) of the movies they broadcast began with that rotating globe with a radio tower on the North Pole broadcasting lightning bolts while the animated letters "An RKO Radio Picture" drew themselves out on the screen, flanking the tower.

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    1. If you're my age, you might remember Movietime USA.

      Circa 1956, RKO Radio Pictures, in need of cash to stay in business after Howard Hughes got bored and left the company busted, sold the TV rights to their entire film library to the C&C Super Corp., a Texas-based store chain.
      C&C, in its turn, created the Movietime USA package, which they leased to stations in perpetuity.
      Among the first buyers were the ABC owned-and-operated stations, including channel 7 here in Chicago.
      So it was that I saw so many of the RKO classics, (King Kong, Citizen Kane, the Astaire-Rogers musicals, the John Ford westerns, Wheeler & Woolsey, et al.), all shorn of RKO's beeping tower logo; this was only restored when Ted Turner acquired the library when he was putting TCM together.

      By the way, not that it matters, but Lew Ayres's Dr. Kildare movies were made by MGM - which is also now the property of TCM.

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    2. I shall have to look into WGAN, to see if it was a primary or secondary affiliate of NTA Film Network (Susskind's network, in part, which picked up in some ways where Dumont and the Paramount Television Network left off)...in Portland, I would guess secondary. Though if so, I wonder what they bumped from the primary network feed to run THE PLAY OF THE WEEK...

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    3. Ah, I see I didn't look closely enough at the clearance time: 2:30p, meaning that essentially no CBS programming was likely to have been bumped, and CBS was the primary network for WGAN, as your next post makes clear.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!