December 30, 2017

This week in TV Guide: December 31, 1960

There's something bracing about the start of a new year. Why else do we say, "Out with the old year, in with the new"? It's the promise of something fresh, exciting, hopeful. So it is with television. Welcome to 1961!

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.

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Stanley and Albert were the cartoon spokesmen for Grain Belt beer.
The day's football action is is fascinating for a number of reasons. There's a big build-up to them, as you can see by the teaser on the front cover, and yet they're literally exhibition games, the national title having already been determined. In 1961 both the Assocated Press and United Press International, the two main wire service polls, as well as most other organizations, continued the long-standing (if somewhat controversial) policy of naming the national champion after the regular season but before the bowl games, which were seen primarily as rewards for having had a successful year.* The busines of the season, therefore, has been concluded for over a month; your 1960 National Champions, with a record of 8-1, are the Minnesota Gophers. The Gophers would go on to lose the Rose Bowl to Washington, 17-7; having the champs lose in their bowl game was not all that uncommon either (it happened again to Michigan State in 1966), by the end of the decade the rule had been changed. After an unprecedented return trip to the Rose Bowl the following year (see here for the details), the Gophers haven't been back since.

*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.

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Before we continue, another football note, non-college related but historic. On New Year's Day at 2:30 p.m., ABC broadcasts the inaugural American Football League championship game, It features two teams who were dominant in the early years of the old AFL, but are barely on the fringes of today's playoff relevance: the Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). Between them, the two teams would win three of the ten championship games the league would stage, and seven of the ten title games would include at least one of the two teams. The Oilers came out on top in this game, 23-16; they would win the rematch the following season as well, before the Chargers came out on top in 1963, beating Boston in the title game. Neither team has won a title game since.

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 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.

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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."

On Sunday, NBC Opera Theater presents "Deseret" by Leonard Kastle, the story a love triangle involving , an Army captain, and a young woman who isn't at all sure she wants to be the Mormon leader's 25th wife. The producer of that telecast, Warren Steibel, was better known as the producer of William F. Buckley's Firing Line. When in the late '60s Steibel was given $150,000 by a friend in order to make a movie, he turned to his friend Kastle for ideas.  Together, they came up with 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.

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Interesting article looking at the failure of two series, Dan Raven and The Westerner, and the circumstances leading to the cancellation of each. For Dan Raven, an NBC police series starring Skip Homeier, Dan Barton and Quinn Redeker and set on the Sunset Strip, it was a matter of circumstances: the series was preempted twice in six weeks, once by the second Kennedy-Nixon debate and once for a documentary on Our American Heritage, the show was axed. Says Homeier, "We never had a chance!" It also didn't help that the show was scheduled in the so-called "kiddie hour" (6:30 p.m. CT).

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. TV  

12 comments:

  1. Dorothy Provine was lovely. She was dating Dwayne Hickman at the time, I believe, at the height of DOBIE GILLIS' popularity. One of her best film roles was near the end of her career, in WHO'S MINDING THE MINT?.

    THE WESTERNER had quite a bit in common with 1967's HONDO; the premise of a man and his dog, more "adult" stories than most westerns, a killer time slot at 8:30 PM ET on Fridays, and a short run but ultimately a solid cult following.

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  2. A TV Guide I've got, and already I can add thing or two (or more):

    - Nanette Fabray's Westinghouse Playhouse (aka Yes, Yes, Nanette is, in fact a docudrama:
    The show was created for Fabray by her husband, screenwriter Ranald MacDougall.
    When they married, a few years before, MacDougall was the divorced father of a couple of teenagers (they change things on TV, you know ...).

    - Since you didn't mention it, I wonder if you're aware that Terry Moore (the former Helen Koford) was born and raised a Mormon?
    Such upbringing might go some ways to explain her possible feelings about multiple marriage (which the LDS Church had long since abandoned, but that's another story ...)
    Side note: Since I've got the Checkmate DVD set, I think I'll look at that episode.
    Something to do on a lazy Saturday...

    - Friday has a plethora of interesting choices:

    On ABC, 77 Sunset Strip is showing "The Hamlet Caper", although TVG doesn't mention in the listing that the co-writer of this show is actor Everett Sloane (who doesn't appear on-camera here).

    Later that same evening on CBS, there's the classic Twilight Zone, "Dust". That's the one about the grubby peddler who interferes with a hanging in a poor Southwestern town.
    ... while on NBC, Michael Shayne has an episode called "Man With A Cane", about a wealthy gangster who wants to raise his social standing.
    Since these two shows are listed side-by-side, you might want to check out the write-ups - purely for fun, of course ...

    There's quite a bit more this week, but frankly you wasted so much space on all that boring football/parade junk ...
    ... anyway, let's see what you've got on Monday.

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  3. Wikipedia said that the sale of Ruth to the Yankees to financed No, No Nanette is a myth, since it's wasn't produced until 1925. But, that Ruth sale did resaulted in the play the musical is based on, called "My Lady Friends". You can about this here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_the_Bambino

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  4. Follow-up:

    While skimming the issue in question, I happened upon the listing for Sunday's Candid Camera.
    Mention is made of "John L.C. Sivoney", played by comedian Frankie Fontaine.
    This show was two years before Fontaine joined Jackie Gleason's American Scene Magazine in the fall of '62.
    Fontaine's "punchy" character had always been named "John L.C. Sivoney", for many years in vaudeville, nightclubs, radio and TV.
    It was Gleason who redubbed the character "Crazy Guggenham", and added him to the "Joe the Bartender" spots (before that, these had been solo monologs by Gleason).
    Just so you know ...

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  5. More classic examples of the polls concluding before the bowl games, the 1970 season. In 1970, the UPI champion was crowned before the bowls, and the AP poll was after the bowls. The UPI chose Texas, which would lose the Cotton Bowl. Nebraska beat LSU in the Orange Bowl and was crowned the AP champion. I think it was around 1975 when the UPI also chose their champion after the bowls. In 1974, the UPI chose Oklahoma, a team on NCAA probation and could not play in a bowl, their national champion.

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    1. Only the AP chose Oklahoma. Southern Cal was chosen in 1974 by the AFCA Poll since they imposed the "Oklahoma Rule" that year -- teams that are prohibited from television appearances, postseason play, or a lose 17 (FBS) scholarships (20% of the limit, 85) because of NCAA or conference sanctions are ineligible for the AFCA poll.

      The AFCA Poll is conducted by AFCA member coaches, and at the time was sponsored by United Press International, but is now a Gannett sponsored poll.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Editing my previous post for more accuracy, Ben Alexander's career included a radio game program similar to Queen For A Day called Heart's Desire in the late 40s. The show About Faces was a reworking of a prime time 50s game called Place The Face. An episode is available on You Tube for those interested.

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    2. The one I know is out there has Tom Kennedy subbing for Alexander.

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  7. I don't think THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW would appreciate your comment...

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  8. Just One More:

    About Faces wasn't a "game show" as such.

    The template may have been Art Linkletter's House Party: Ben Alexander would introduce people in the audience who'd done various things, or were "secret celebrities" (people who were known for things without being "public figures", such as authors, songwriters, behind-the-scenes people, and the like), or just about anything and everything.
    Ben Alexander had a long career in all phases of showbiz, and knew almost everybody; this was one reason that Ernie Kovacs used him on Take A Good Look, because he usually had a better shot at knowing who the guest was sight unseen.
    Tom Kennedy (brother of Jack Narz) was Alexander's announcer/sidekick, on camera more than off; he was the designated pinch-hitter whenever Alexander was unable to do the show. His own career as a gamemaster sprang directly from About Faces (well, he had done host duty a few times before, but Faces gave him on-camera cred).

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  9. Weren't NBC's "NBC Opera" telecasts in the 1950s and 1960s sponsored by Texaco gasoline?

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!