Welcome to New Year's Day, 1961.
The first thing you'll notice is that it seems as if we're celebrating New Year's Day on January 2. That's because the first day of this new year falls on a Sunday, and whenever that happens the parades and football are moved to Monday.* There are no local or network programs to ring in 1961, at least not in Minneapolis-St. Paul, unless one counts the live Soul's Harbor broadcast that begins at 11:00 p.m. on KMSP and continues well past midnight.
*It has nothing to do with the NFL, as some might think; the "Never on Sunday" policy began with the parade and dates all the way back to 1893. It has only happened 19 times, the most recent of which was this year.
Nor are there many seasonal programs on Sunday. The Apollo Club presents an hour of music at 5:00 p.m. on KSTP, and that's billed as a New Year's Day concert. Later, at 9:30 p.m. on WTCN, Kitty Carlisle hosts a New Year's Night half-hour of music featuring "seven young performers from the 'Class of '61'." They are folk singer Casey Anderson, pop-singer Marilyn Cooper, actress Sandy Dennis, dancer-singer Pat Finley, operatic baritone Roald Reitan, soprano Benita Valente, and ballet dander Edward Villella. I suppose the names that most jump out from that list, at least for me, are those of Sandy Dennis and Edward Villella, but all of them had what I'd consider to be successful careers.
Ah, but come Monday, the festivities start, beginning at 10:30 a.m. with coverage of the Rose Parade on both NBC and ABC. NBC, the pioneer in color broadcasting, makes much of the fact that they're the only network to colorcast the parade*; imagine what it must have been like to watch all those beautiful floats pass by in black-and-white. Yet that's the way it was throughout the '50s and much of the '60s, of course; we didn't get our first color set until 1971. (And don't forget to send in your order for those lifelike plastic roses.)
*Although a note in the TV Guide says that the first 15 minutes of the program are in black-and-white only. A studio show, perhaps?
Meanwhile, over on ABC, the parade announcers are Bob Cummings and Bess Myerson. The former Miss America was a sophisticated beauty, and a staple on game shows such as I've Got a Secret. Bess Myerson alone might have been enough to make up for ABC's black-and-white coverage.
|Stanley and Albert were the cartoon spokesmen for Grain Belt beer.|
*As a matter of fact, it was not uncommon for schools to choose which game to play in based not on the opponent, but on the location; many young men from the Midwest and East had never been to such exotic places as New Orleans and Miami. In addition, several conferences had "no-repeat" clauses that prevented teams from making consecutive trips to a bowl; hardly helpful if you're trying to win the championship. Melvin Durslag mentions in a separate article that half of the schools in the Big 10 are against postseason competition.
And that leads to perhaps the most noticable thing about this year's games, especially if you've followed college football for a number of years. The Orange Bowl (11:45 a.m., CBS) pits Navy against undefeated Missouri; the Midshipmen boast Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino in their backfield, and another Heisman winner, Roger Staubach, would take them to the Cotton Bowl in 1964, after which they ceased to be part of the New Year's bowl scene. The Sugar Bowl (12:45 p.m., NBC) features Rice and Mississippi; for Rice it was their sixth and final major bowl appearnce to date; they've only played in six bowl games of any kind since then. The Cotton Bowl (2:30 p.m., CBS) has Duke and Arkansas; Duke was once a football powerhouse, and in the last few seasons has become more than respectable; nonetheless, it would be until 2013 that they would be a ranked team at the end of the season again.
There were only nine bowl games in total played in 1960-61, and the college all-star games are held before New Year's Day, to showcase all the talent from teams that didn't make it to bowl games. The Blue-Gray and East-West Shrine games both take place on Saturday, as well as the Gator Bowl (1:00 p.m, CBS), with Baylor and Florida.
This week's starlet is Dorothy Provine, and she's already proved herself in the business, having graduated from local appearances to numerous guest shots on television to leading roles in The Alaskans and Warner Brothers' The Roaring 20's, which is the theme of this week's cover story.
Almost everyone who works with her adores her, says writer Dan Jenkins. Howie Horwitz, producer of the Warner hit 77 Sunset Strip, says that "That girl has everything it takes to be a star. She has a quality about her. She is unique. And she works. I'm very, very proud of her." Her first agent says that "Dorothy really isn't a beauty by the usual Hollywood standards. What she has is beneath the surface - drive, entergy, a compelling personality," Besides acting, she also sings and dances, befitting her 20's role as Pinky Pinkham.
Part of the humor from the article comes from the "embellishment" of Provine's CV - everything from having replaced Gretchen Wyler and Martha Wright in road show productions to taking classes in nuclear physics at the University of Washington. Provine herself readily admits to the confusion when presented with it - "I've ben through all this before," she says carefully and a little tensely. "Lots of things are printed about me that just aren't true, some by people I've never even met." She says she doesn't particularly care about the lies, "but I do care aobut what it does to my parents," especially when articles refer to her as a "sex-pot," which she firmly denies.
Dorothy Provine's career runs through 1968, when she marries film and television director Robert Day, a marriage that lasts until Provine's death in 2010. After her marriage, she retires from acting except for occational guest appearances. However, anyone who's seen her on television is likely not to forget her.
Here's a curiosity: Saturday's episode of The Honeymooners on KMSP (6:30 p.m.) is entitled "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Only problem: it's airing on New Year's Eve. I'm sure there's an explanation for that, but I'd like to hear it. Elsewhere, on Checkmate (CBS, 7:30 p.m., theme by John Williams), Terry Moore guests as an heiress who's the target of a murder plot. Do you remember Moore's claim that she was married to Howard Hughes in 1949 and never divorced, despite five subsequent marriages? "I didn't care whether I was a bigamist or not, frankly. I mean, my desire to have children was that strong."
The Honeymoon Killers, based on the story of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, known as the Lonely Hearts Killers. So far, so good. Kastle wrote the scrpit. The director that Steibel hired, a a newcomer named Martin Scorsese, didn't work out so well - Steibel accused him of taking an entire afternoon to film a beer can, and fired him. Eventually, unlikely as it may seem, Kastle ended up directing the picture, his only work as a movie director. Even more unlikely, the movie wound up a cult classic, and far better known than "Deseret."
If you're not in the mood for the football festival on Monday, check out the game show About Faces 1:00 p.m., ABC), hosted by Ben Alexander - you'd more likely remember him as Frank Smith, the partner to Jack Webb's Joe Friday on the classic Dragnet. Never pictured him as a game show emcee, but I've since seen him as a panelist on Ernie Kovacs' Take a Good Look, and it makes more sense. Monday night at 9:30 p.m., CBS has June Allyson's anthology drama; on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., the same network has her husband's series, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre.
On Tuesday, The Fulton Sheen Program (KMSP, 7:30 p.m.) discusses "The Divine Sense of Humor," something we could stand to be reminded of more often. Wednesday features a local item of interest at 12:30 p.m.; it's the inauguration of Minnesota Governor-Elect Elmer L. Andersen, shown on WCCO, KMSP, and WTCN. At 9:00 p.m. on CBS, it's Armstrong Circle Theater, the every-other-week series that presents what we'd think of today as docudramas focusing on contemporary events. Tonight, it's "Black-Market Babies," starring Barbara Barrie.
Friday's highlight is probably Route 66 (7:30 p.m., CBS), with Lee Marvin and Whitney Blake as guest stars. Opposite that is the debut of Westinghouse Playhouse (also known as Yes, Yes Nanette*), starring Nanette Fabray and Wendell Corey. Corey's a widowed screenwriter (no divorcees allowed yet!) who marries Fabray, a Broadway star, to take care of his two children. Of course.
*A pun on the Broadway musical No, No Nanette, the play that producer and Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee allegedly financed by selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.
As for The Westerner, starring Brian Keith, which followed Dan Raven on Friday nights, it was only scheduled as a stopgap in that time slot until Westinghouse Playhouse was ready to run on January 6, and after that it would have to find another timeslot - if the ratings warranted it. They didn't. The series was critically acclaimed (no wonder since the producer was Sam Peckinpah), and it was scheduled against the new season's only certifiable hit, ABC's The Flintstones. Peckinpah's assessment is depressingly bleak: "The show is evidentelly too adult. Advertisers are afraid of it. Those are the determining factors."
You can say it again, Sam.