July 22, 2017

This week in TV Guide: July 23, 1960

This week the Republican Party is assembled in convention at the International Amphitheater in Chicago, where on Wednesday the delegates will nominate Vice President Richard M. Nixon for President of the United States.

It's a decision that creates rammifications lasting for two decades: because of Nixon's platform deal with New York's liberal Governor Nelson Rockefeller to avoid a floor fight, angry conservative delegates (still a minority in the party in 1960) rally around Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Goldwater withdraws his name, but not before delivering a speech from the rostrum in which he urges conservatives to "grow up," and adds, "If we want to take this party back - and I think we can someday - let's get to work." They do, and four years later Goldwater wins the GOP nomination, before going on to a disastrous election defeat at the hands of LBJ. One of the most famous speeches made in support of Goldwater during the campaign was by Democrat-turned-Republican Ronald Reagan, who would catapault to the forefront of Republican politics as a result, and ride the conservative wave created by Goldwater to the presidency in 1980. Meanwhile Nixon, who will lose the 1960 election to JFK, emerges as an elder statesman in 1966, campaigning for candidates across the country in the off-year elections, and piling up IOUs which will come in handy when he's elected President in 1968 - helped at least in part by the riot of a Democratic convention, held right here in the International Amphitheater. Watergate will be his downfall, leading to the election of Jimmy Carter, whose mishandling of many things (including the Iran hostage crisis) leads to the election of - Ronald Reagan. And now you know the rest of the story.

There are five convention sessions - Monday afternoon and evening, and Tuesday through Thursday evenings - and the networks will be there to cover it all, with Walter Cronkite anchoring for CBS, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley for NBC, and the man on this week's cover, John Daly, for ABC. There's even a wonderful two-page section in TV Guide where you can keep track of the roll call vote as it progresses! And while it's nice - even patriotic - to see all the coverage, which includes Saturday and Sunday specials on the platform debate, convention history, and the main convention speakers, we can already sense the start of the transition from television covering an event to a made-for-television event. Two weeks previous, at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, the convention chair was often left, according to Dan Jenkins, "with the unhappy job of trying to get the delegates to pay a little more attention to the podium and a little less to the publicity." During the eight hours which it took for all the candidates to be nominated, seconded, and have their floor demonstrations, boredom began to set in inside the TV booths; Huntley and Brinkley, writes Jenkins, "found themselves with less and less to talk about." Even CBS's Edward R. Murrow seemed to have run out of ideas; "Students of the Murrow art form know that he smokes in direct ratio to his own feeling of excitement. By late Wednesday night, he was hardly smoking at all." Concludes Jenkins, the output from the three networks "represented a truly staggering amount of tie, effort and money, yet the sum total of the results amounted to very little genuine excitement."

The effect isn't limited to pundits, as the Letters to the Editor show. R.W. Saums of Houston asks, "Is the coverage of the Democratic Convention so urgent that it must monopolize all stations in the southeast Texas area? Viewers in this area still make a choice - the Democratic Convention or nothing." And G.N. Coleman of New Philadelphia, Ohio, looks as the prospect of a second political convention in the span of three weeks and proclaims, "Boy - am I going to the movies!" It's left to Jim Calandrillo of Fair Lawn, N.J. to put in a good word, noting that "Where else is one able to find more excitement, heartbreak and surprise than at a convention? History is being made."

I used to feel that way myself, before political conventions became totally scripted infomercials for the parties - and bad ones at that. In the political biz, drama and excitement are to be avoided at all costs, because they aren't controllable - 1968 and 1972 proved that as far as the Democrats were concerned, with 1964 and 1976 being the flip side of the coin for the GOP. Those conventions were, to one extent or another, marvelous (if occasionally tragic) theater - but terrible politics. In 1960 we can see the beginning of the end of the political convention as real news; it will just take a couple more decades to finish the job.

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As for the loquatious and erstwhile Mr. John Charles Daly, I'll leave it to you to imagine Pat Sajak or Alex Trebek anchoring coverage of a national political convention.* But in 1960, the conventions were more serious, and quiz shows were more decorous, and sponsors were more involved in programming, and so the fact that one man could both host What's My Line? on CBS Sunday evenings and anchor the ABC news Monday through Friday

*On the other hand, considering how lacking in substance the conventions are today, maybe that isn't such a far-fetched idea after all.

With ABC's Quincy Howe at the convention (Wikipedia)
Daly has done it all during a remarkable career that included duty as a war correspondent in Italy during World War II, reporting on the Berlin Airlift, the Nixon-Khrushchev "Kitchen Debate" in Moscow, and conflicts at the United Nationsl; he was also the first radio correspondent to announce both the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he's now the head of ABC news. As anyone who's watched WML knows, Daly has an enviable gift for ad-libbing, and a suave and urbane manner. He has a profound knowledge of news and politics, and he's excited about the upcoming convention, even if nobody else is: "This is going to be a great show. The spotlight of the world is on this show - just the way it was on the Democrats. And once that big spotlight is turned on the speaker's platform, once that hazy cloud of smoke begins to fill the stokyards next door, we'll see the second half of the most exciting show of the year. This is television at its best - transmitting the sound and picture of a real and significant event into homes all over the country." Even if nobody cares.

I've never disguised my admiration for Daly, not only as newsman but for his work on What's My Line? Were you to remake WML today, I'm not even sure who you could get to host it - at least with the smoothness and gentility that John Daly displayed. He's who I want to be when I grow up.

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In sports this week, it's golf's final major of the year, the PGA Championship, telecast live on CBS from the famed Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. The PGA is, as TV Guide puts it, a "medal-play" event, meaning 72-hole stroke play - in other words, like just about every other golf tournament you see. It hadn't always been that way though; through 1957, the PGA was match-play, which can be very exciting during the Ryder Cup, but doesn't necessarily produce the same thrills otherwise. TV hated it, because there was always the posibility that the best players would be eliminated prior to the championship match. And so, with television's influence growing in all sports, the PGA changed to a more "normal" tournament in 1958.* This year, Jay Hebert (pronounced AAY-bear) takes his only major championship, matching the accomplishment of his brother Lionel in 1957. Basebal and wrestling make up most of the rest of the sports week.

*Oddly, the description in the listings preserves much of the match play nomenclature, referring to Saturday's third round as the "semi final" round. 


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This week's starlet is former Miss Long Island Duckling Barbara Nichols, better known as the "Dumb Blonde" in her many appearances on the Jack Benny and Red Skelton programs. Benny, who had worried at first that Barbara was "too young" to play his girlfriend, is a big fan; "I spotted her immediately. I liked her delivery. She's very talented, very interesting, looks good and is just right for my show. A good actress." For her part, she loves working with both Benny and Skelton - "It's like stealing money," she says.

Before moving to television, Nichols got her start playing "hussies" in movies such as Sweet Smell of Succes, but television is where she's made the most impact. And despite her enjoyment at doing comedy, drama is her real love. "I hope pretty soon somebody comes up with a good series for me," she says. Her role models are Claire Trevor and Joan Blondell; she acknowledges that she's somewhat typecast as the Dumb Blonde, "[b]ut so was Jean Harlow - and she wasn't bad." She thinks the Method is useful, "as long as it doesn't turn out carbon copies of Brando," and that too many actresses are "stuck on themselves," whereas her advantage is that she can be sultry and funny at the same time.

Barbara Nichols never does get that big series, although she continues to make frequent appearances on television shows from The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. to Emergency! and The Rookies, with the odd movie thrown in. She dies in 1976 of complications from an old automobile accident, at the age of 47.

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TV Teletype tells us that ABC's forthcoming Churchill Memoirs series, which eventually makes it to the screen as Winston Churchill: The Valient Years. has hired a notable group of writers to pump out the weekly series; although they have the benefit of Sir Winston's own words, they stil need to provide the dramatic continuity. What else do we learn about the future? Well, Bob Cummings is tipped to star in a Twilight Zone episode next season, called "King Nine Will Not Return." The tip is correct; Cummings does star in the episode, and he's terrific. The opening show of NBC's new series Thriller will be "The Twisted Image," starring Leslie Nielsen and George Grizzard; initial reviews will not be positive. George Schaefer has broken with tradition, casting "three young and pretty British girls" to play the witches in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "Hamlet," starring Maurice Evans and Dame Judith Anderson. And Nicholas Georgiade, who plays Rico, one of Eliot Ness' loyal troops on The Untouchables, was accidentally stopped and frisked by a New York cop who could swear he'd seen his face on a wanted poster. Whoops.

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There's not a whole lot going on this week other than the convention, so let's just pick some shows at random and see what's what:

On Saturday, ABC presents John Gunther's documentary series High Road (8:00 p.m. ET) which, this week, takes a look at "Japan: the People" at work, school, and play. Fifteen years after the end of World War II, this must have been something of an exotic look for viewers. Later, the same network's rerun airing of the John Cassavettes "jazz detective" series Johnny Staccato (10:00 p.m.) presents a dependable TV trope: the war vet who escapes from a mental hospital (probably suffering from PTSD) and, convinced his wife's having an affair, intends to kill the other man. Is he just imagining things, or is it true that even a paranoid has some real enemies? Buy the DVD set and find out.

Convention previews are scattered throughout Sunday, but there's still room for Maverick (7:30 p.m., ABC); this week Bart (Jack Kelly) provides protection for the members of a cattle drive and gets paid for his troubles with counterfeit money. On G.E. Theater (9:00 p.m., CBS), David Wayne stars in "Do Not Disturb," written by Groucho Marx' son Arthur

How appropriate is this? All this week on NBC's Today, Burr Tillstrom and his puppets Kukla and Ollie provide a puppet's-eye view of the convention, while to close out Monday evening, Arlene Francis is guest hostess of Tonight; among her guests are the famed "Hoodlum Priest," Fr. Dismas Clark.

On Tuesday, the highlight of the convention is an appearance by President Eisenhower. Networks wil be on hand with all the coverage, from his arrival at O'Hare just after noon all the way to his motorcade to the Sheraton-Blackstone Hotel. His speech at the evening session, following "a musical interlude by the Diplomats, vocal quartet," will, of course, be must-viewing,

Lola Albright, at whom we had such a pleasant look a couple of weeks ago, is the guest on ABC's daytime repeat of Love that Bob! Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. Seems Bob's fallen hard, and who can blame him? (I wonder if Hal Horn's seen that episode?) Meanwhile, at the convention Richard Nixon will receive the nomination of the delegates, and he'll choose as his running mate Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., whom JFK defeated for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Will history repeat itself (kind of)? Come back in November to find out! And if you've had quite enough of this political thing, the midnight movie on KCPO in Cincinnati is appropriate: Port of Hell, starring Dane Clark.

Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. - and this is not a convention commentary - WLW-D in Dayton presents part one of The Human Comedy, written by William Saroyan and staring Mickey Rooney and Frank Morgan. The convention itself closes with the acceptance speeches of Lodge and Nixon, and Joey Bishop follows as guest host on Tonight.

Friday we return to our regular programming, and I'll choose NBC's Moment of Fear (10:00 p.m.), with Inger Stevens and Leslie Nielsen in "Total Recall." No, not the Schwarzenegger story. "First the drugs, then the carbon monoxide fumes - Nancy Derringer has disposed of her husband very neatly, or so she thinks. Calmly she leaves the scene of the crime and goes to her sister's to await the call from the police. The call domes, but the news shatters her complacency: Norman Derringer has survived the murder attempt." Again, why do I get the feeling Columbo's on the other end of that call and the story about Derringer being alive is a bluff?

Finally, to end the week, WKRC, Channel 12, presents the Tracy-Hepburn classic State of the Union, the story of "An airplane manufacturer [who] campaigns for the presidency." Coincidence? I think not.

5 comments:

  1. Wow. Love revisiting these late 50's/early 60s Guides especially.

    To answer your question, I know I've seen all 173 episodes of LOVE THAT BOB at least once; some more recent than others. Lola Albright's Kay Michaels was a recurring character during the first two seasons, appearing 7 times in all. I do have at least one on a DVD from Shokus Video.

    I've also seen that MAVERICK, and it is notable for being the very first TV appearance for Robert Redford. "Iron Hand" originally aired 2/21/60.

    Starlet of the Week Barbara Nichols made 3 LOVE THAT BOB appearances, including a two-parter that kicked off the final season: she replaced Schultzy in the office. She had already landed what turned out to be her only regular role in a series by this time, the Anne Jeffreys/Robert Sterling TOPPER followup LOVE THAT JILL, which only lasted 13 weeks.

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  2. Another example of Carter's mishandling of things: Right after the '76 election, Carter withdrew Amy from her Atlanta public school and enrolled her in a DC public school. It was a disaster, the Secret Service hated it (for obvious reasons) and it made Amy miserable. A few months later he finally relented and hired a tutor for Amy at the White House. Fast forward 12 years, and here comes Bill Clinton having Chelsea in a Little Rock p.s. When it became clear he was the nominee, the Secret Service sat them down and told them what they went through with Amy Carter, then came up with a list of options, and they wisely choose Sidwell Friends, where Chelsea didn't have to have a Secret Service agent within arm's reach at all times.
    I'm sure in '08 they did the same thing again.
    I quibble with you on calling (pro) wrestling a sport. It was ''fake'' long before TV. In recent years it's now pretty much acknowledged that it's all staged - with rare exceptions, such as retirements or IRL tragedies.
    It's why Vince McMahon came up with the term ''sports entertainment'', specifically to avoid state sports commission regulations.

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  3. Round and round she goes ...

    - Surprising to note that nobody mentioned the TV role that Barbara Nichols is probably most remembered for:
    "Twenty-Two", on Twilight Zone - one of the infamous taped episodes.
    Barbara Nichols played a showgirl who'd been hospitalized with a nervous breakdown; she was plagued by a recurring nightmare about the hospital morgue.
    Of all the TV she did, this is practically the only one that gets repeated regularly - but that's another story ...

    - I've got the Johnny Staccato DVD set, but tracking down the episode you cited proved problematic.
    It seems that the ABC station in Cincinnati delayed Staccato to Saturday night (the regular network timeslot would be Sunday night at 10:30); thus my Chicago edition has a different episode listed.
    After some trial and error, I determined that the show you're writing about here was "The Return", on Disc 2 of the set.
    The battle-fatigued Korea vet was played, excellently, by Tom Reese, who most of the readers here would know best as Sergeant Velie from the Jim Hutton/Ellery Queen series of later times.
    The wife who roused Reese's jealousy was Virginia Vincent, who always played mousy types, as she did here (which may have been the point).
    In the same show, as Staccato's rotating cop friend, was Garry Walberg, who twenty years later was filling the same function for Jack Klugman on Quincy.
    This is how i watch Vintage TV: I make connections between old shows and later ones - and as time goes on, that's getting harder and harder to do.

    - Moment Of Fear:
    This being a live show in the Summer of '60, your reference to Columbo is just a trifle off-kilter.
    You see, it was only a bit earlier in the summer that Lt. Columbo made his first-ever appearance on TV, on the Chevy Mystery Show.
    The play was called "Enough Rope", by Levinson & Link; the story was the same as the later play and even later TV-movie "Prescription: Murder".
    And Lt. Columbo was played by the burly and often somewhat nasty Bert Freed.

    Looking at the Moment Of Fear listing, I don't see a cast credit for a cop. There is a doctor, which means the writer might have had more of a head-game show in mind.
    But since it was a live show, it's probably lost, so we'll never know, will we?

    - Burr Tillstrom and the Kuklapolitan Players were based in Chicago, and that's why they were used by NBC in their Republican Convention coverage in their home town.
    I was but a lad of 10 back then, but it still struck me odd to see mayor Dick Daley, a King within the national Democratic Party, having to welcome The Other Guys to his city at the start of the convention.
    Of course, it should be remembered that national politics had not yet become the explosive hot mess that awaited us all in the future ...

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    Replies
    1. They bring money...which has no political affiliation in and of itself

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  4. "King Nine Will Not Return" was the second season premiere of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, based on a real life incident when a World War II bomber was found in the Libyan desert the previous year, with no trace of the crew. I think one of the anthology shows told the tale from the actual perspective.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!