February 10, 2018

This week in TV Guide: February 13, 1960

Iread the other day that NBC was planning on 176 hours of coverage of the Winter Olympics this month. That's just on the over-the-air broadcast; including cable and streaming, NBC/Universal will have more than 2,400 hours. They say that's the most ever for a Winter Olympics - it's hard to see how there could be any more to show.

Contrast that with the 15 hours that CBS is scheduled to bring viewers when the 1960 Winter Olympics kick off from Squaw Valley, California on Thursday, February 18. Walter Cronkite anchors the coverage, which begins with a half-hour of highlights from the Opening Ceremonies, staged by Walt Disney and Art Linkletter. Vice President Richard Nixon will officially open the Games, partly because he's from California and partly because by tradition, no American president has ever opened the Olympics. (A situation that continues until Ronald Reagan in 1984.)

This marks the first time America has hosted the Winter Olympics since 1932, when they were held at Lake Placid, New York. Just how Squaw Valley came to be the host city is quite a story; you might say that the organizers sold the International Olympic Committee a bill of goods, convincing them that a puny, virtually undeveloped ski resort - it had only one ski lift - was capable of handling an international sporting event the magnitude of the Olympics. Virtually everything was built from scratch, in less than four years, at a cost of $80,000,000. It paid off, though; the intimate setting (you could walk to almost everything) and the snow-covered mountains (it helped that the Opening Ceremonies were delayed for an hour by a blizzard), plus the Disney touch, made the Games a success.

This is also the first time that the Olympics have been televised in the United States, although they've been shown previously in Europe (where every Winter Games save the Lake Placid edition had been held). In fact, according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, the television coverage actually played a role in one of the events; "During the games, officials asked Tony Verna, one of the members of the production staff, if it could use its videotape equipment to determine whether or not a slalom skier missed a gate. Verna then returned to CBS headquarters in New York City and developed the first instant replay system, which debuted at the Army–Navy football game in 1963." For its 15 hours of coverage, CBS paid a half-million dollars. By contrast, NBC is paying about $12 billion for the rights to the Summer and Winter games through 2032.

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On the cover this week we have the stars of Blake Edwards' Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky. You could say that Edwards is the one who's lucky, with two hit series already under his belt, and a potential third on the way - but you can read more about that one farther down the line. Gunn and Lucky have many similarities: they both feature smooth, dark-haired leading men compared to Cary Grant (Craig Stevens and John Vivyan), with attractive girlfriends (Lola Albright and Pippa Scott), and a jazzy texture supported by the music of Henry Mancini. At the moment Lucky is the luckier of the two series, with a rating of 25.7 compared with 20.3 for Gunn.

John Vivyan (left) and Ross Martin
Mr. Lucky airs on Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. CT on CBS, but in a strange turn of events it's about to get very unlucky. The premise of the show, very loosely based on the movie of the same name starring - surprise! - Cary Grant, is that of a smooth operator running a gambling establishment on a boat that's moored offshore, just out of the reach of the authorities. And according to this week's Television Diary feature, that's what's causing the trouble, according to sponsor Lever Bros. Despite the show's success in the ratings, "the powers-that-be sent down orders that the celebrated television character. . .would henceforth have to be respectabilized." Overnight, it seemed, Lucky converted his gambling establishment into a swanky restaurant. "By thaking the bite out of the character, it was running a very real risk of transforming one of the season's big hits into a big flop, to say nothing of fumigating the air so thoroughly that even soap suds might seem astrigent after that."

It's true - having seen Mr. Lucky, there's a noticeable drop in quality once the change in premise takes place. The show's easy charm disappears, the plots become routine, and Ross Martin, Lucky's show-stealing partner/sidekick, is totally wasted as a maître d'. I quit watching it after the changeover, but the show's ratings remained high enough that it should have been renewed. (It finished in the top 25 for the season.) It wasn't, though - Lever Bros. dropped its sponsorship completely (so why bother with the change in format?), and the network was unable to find a replacement. Lacking a sponsor, the network dropped the series. It cost John Vivyan a movie role opposite Ingrid Bergman; he'd turned down the role thinking (reasonably so) that Lucky would be renewed.*

*Vivyan always felt the show had been cancelled as a favor to Jack Benny; its replacement on Saturday nights, Checkmate, was produced by Benny's JaMco Productions.


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In the "Local...and Timely" section, the headline "Local Boy Makes Good" updates us on Robert Vaughn, who was born in New York City but grew up in Minneapolis with his grandparents and graduated from North High School in 1950. After a year at the University of Minnesota, he headed for Hollywood, and after a few small roles in TV and movies is now ready to headline his own series, Boston Terrier, by the aforementioned Blake Edwards.*

*The Boston Terrier never did make it as a weekly series, but appeared twice on Dick Powell Theater, with Vaughn in the lead role.

Of course, for Robert Vaughn the best is yet to come. He'll get an Oscar nomination for The Philadelphians (left), a movie he did in 1959, and in the mid-60s he'll co-star in the series that brought him lasting fame, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I remember him from 1972 or so, hosting a local telethon in the Twin Cities to support clean water. (Buster Crabbe, and Don Herbert, Mr. Wizard, were two of the other national stars appearing.) As I've written before, I was never a big fan of Vaughn's, although I liked him a lot in U.N.C.L.E., and as a proud Minnesotan I've always been proud to claim him as one of us.

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No "Sullivan vs. Allen" this week; Steverino is preempted on Sunday by what is, for my money, the TV highlight of the week: NBC's live color presentation of Steven Vincent Benet's classic "The Devil and Daniel Webster." (7:00 p.m.) Edward G. Robinson, in a rare television appearance, stars as Webster, while David Wayne is Old Scratch, and Tim O'Connor the poor soul who sold his in return for "seven years of glittering fortune." It's replayed in 1962; too bad it's not out on DVD today.

Were it not for the above, the show of the week might have been Frank Sinatra's special on Monday (8:30 p.m., ABC). The theme is "Here's to the Ladies," as the Chairman "offers a valentine to the female sex in general and introduces some women he particularly admires." Among the stars are Lena Horne, Mary Costa, Juliet Prowse, Barbara Heller - and Eleanor Roosevelt. Quite an interesting mix, don't you think? Mrs. Roosevelt "talks with Frank about the hopes of the world and recites the lyrics of the song 'High Hopes.;"


Another of the week's rare color presentations is on Tuesday, when Joan Fontaine, John Ireland and Agnes Moorehead star in "Closed Set" on Startime. (7:30 p.m., NBC) Meantime, at 8:00 on CBS, it's Tightrope!, starring the pre-Mannix "Michael" Connors as an undercover police officer whose real identity is never divulged during the run of the show; he's referred to occasionally as "Nick" but otherwise simply assumes whichever undercover role he has for that case. I've seen a few episodes; it's a pretty good show. Of course, Connors was good in almost everything he was in.

Robert Vaughn (there's that name again!) pops up in CBS's Men Into Space at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. He plays one of two geochemists conducting a search for radioactivity on the moon.  "McCauley [star William Lundigan] finds that one of his men is more interested in outdoing his colelague than in making the mission a success." The listing doesn't say which of the two men it is - really, it doesn't have to, does it? After that it's The Millionaire at 8:00, with a pre-Bewitched Dick York using his new fortune to try and find out why his fiancée broke off their engagement. And if you'd rather have some tunes, you might want to check out Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall with José Ferrer, Patrice Munsel, Señor Wences and Frank D. Rone. (8:00, NBC)

Once a month, DuPont (""Better Things for Better Living...Through Chemistry") sponsors The Show of the Month on CBS, preempting regularly scheduled programming. This Thursday, Show of the Month (8:30 p.m.) presents Edith Wharton's grim story "Ethan Frome," with an outstanding cast including Julie Harris as Mattie Silver and Sterling Hayden in the title role. I think I'd rather have watched The Ford Show (NBC, same time), with Ernie's guest Peter Palmer (try saying that five times fast), currently starring as Li'l Abner.

Just what is this ad for Huckleberry Hound supposed to mean? Adults Only?? The only thing blue in one of these cartoons is Huck hinmself. It's possible, I suppose, that "Adults Only" didn't have the stigma then that it does now, but people still knew what it meant. At any rate, I think that Huck is for kids at least as much as he is for adults, don't you?  That's not the only thing on Friday; at 7:30 p.m., NBC's Project 20 presents "Not So Long Ago," a look at America in the period 1945-50, narrated by Bob Hope. Those five years included the return of the troops from Japan, the development of atomic energy, the baby boom and growth of the suburbs, the investigations into Communist influence in Hollywood, the Hiss-Chambers case, the victory of Harry Truman, the Korean War - and more. At 8:00 p.m., CBS's Desilu Playhouse presents "Thurder in the Night," a mystery set in North Africa and starring Desi Arnaz himself, with Rod Taylor and Akim Tamiroff.  And at 10:30 on WCCO, it's CBS's 15-minute recap of the Olympics, featuring pairs' figure skating. That's it for today's Olympic coverage, by the way; if you can't tell the story in 15 minutes, it's not worth telling.

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This week's starlet is Susan Cummings, currently appearing in the sydicated Western Union Pacific with Jeff Morrow and Judson Pratt. We don't learn a whole lot about Susan in this brief article: we know she can handle dialects, since she was born in Germany; she wears her hair long because producers seldom have wigs made well enough to fit or be the right color; and although she's only 29, she's already been married and divorced twice. (Her third husband will die in 1975; her fourth will outlive her.) Her resume following Union Pacific is thin; a few guest shots in TV, and some movie roles. Her most famous role - well, it's more like a line, delivered in a famous episode of an equally famous television series, when she yells to Lloyd Bochner, "It's a cookbook!" Can you name it?

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I confess that our loyal reader Mike Doran has me stumped, as in truth he often does. Writing about yesterday's "Around the Dial," he mentions something to look for in the New York edition of TV Teletype. I've looked and I've looked, and I've surfed through mysteryfile.com in search of clues (or, as Ellery Queen might put it, "clews"), and I've come up with nothing. I have confidence, though, that in today's comments section he'll clear it up for me.

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And finally, John Barba of Hamden, Connecticut, has this TV business down pat. In his letter to the editor, he relates to us a "hot tip" on this week's Perry Mason episode.

There is going to be a murder. Lieutenant Tragg is going to pick up an innocent person. The person will be defended by Perry Mason. Ah, who is this? Why it's the famous district attorney, Hamilton Burger. He has only lost 150 cases. But, this case might be different. Who is the murderer? Will Perry win? Is the defendant guilty? Paul Drake or Della Street enters and slyly gives some inside information to Perry. He recalls a past witness, who turns out to be the murderer. The score for Burger is 151.

I couldn't have described it better myself.  TV  

11 comments:

  1. I guess I gotta take care of this right out of the gate:

    You can't be all that stumped, since you caught the 'Ellery Queen' reference in the item about ABC's prospective Author, Author pilot tape; i.e., the presence therein of Manfred Lee, who was half of EQ.
    Anyhoo, here's the story, which is mainly a backstory:
    Circa 1939, Manny Lee and his cousin/collaborator Fred Dannay helped create a sort-of panel game called Author! Author!, for the Mutual Radio network.
    The host was S.J. Perelman, the regular panelists would be "Mr. Ellery" and "Mr. Queen", and two other panel spots would be filled by well-known authors of the day.
    As to the 'game', here's how it worked:
    Perelman introduced a playlet showing a odd or paradoxical situation, such as this:
    A man walks into a jewelry store and ask to see watches.
    The clerk shows him the samples, and the customer picks out a watch which carries a price tag of $500.
    The customer then says that he'll buy the watch for one dollar.
    The manager comes out, the clerk explains what's going on - and the manager says "Sell the $500 watch for one dollar."
    The playlet stops, and the panelists have to come up with a logical explanation for what just happened.
    S.J. Perelman then set up the rules, limiting what the panelists could come up with for explanations: out-and-out trickery was ruled out - the explanation had to be logical and credible.
    Each of the author-panelists had to come up with his own version of what was happening, and ultimately they would all get into an argument over who was right and who was wrong, and like that there.
    Author! Author! ran on Mutual Radio for about six months, but was unable to attract a sponsor, and thus went off.
    But the Queens - and in particular Fred Dannay - never forgot about it.
    Every now and then, Dannay would wistfully mention it in his essays in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, always wondering why it hadn't caught on.
    So anyway, fast-forward to 1960, and the item in TV Teletype, mentioning that an "audition tape" has been made for ABC ofAuthor! Author!, with the participation of S.J. Perelman and Manny Lee (who to the best of my knowledge never made any on-camera TV appearances)(correction welcomed), and my curiosity went into warp-drive ...
    ... and that's when I started sending inquiries to Mystery*File, and in particular to Mike Nevins, who has always been the leading expert on all things EQ, to see if they could add anything to this one paragraph from a 40+ year-old TV Guide - no luck.
    The ultimate, of course, would be that "audition tape", assuming that somebody at ABC thought to keep (steal) a copy, but this was the period when the nets essentially never kept anything.
    But there should have been a paper trail, to show that the Author! Author! pilot at least got made, and maybe a transcript survived, or something ... anything ...
    "... it might have been ..."

    So that's that story, such as it is.
    Because the wether here in Chicago is so lousy, I'll probably spend the rest of the weekend at the Old DVD Wall; quite a few of this week's shows are here for me to choose from.
    I might start with this week's Perry Mason.
    The title speaks to me:
    "The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde".
    I wonder why, exactly ...

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  2. To answered the Susan Cummings question, yes, it's the Legendary Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man", which aired two years after her profile.

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  3. If they have bobsledders on the cover instead of Blake Edwards' shows, it's would sell more copies (Except, bobsled wasn't in that year's Olympics, anyway)!!!

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  4. Quick update:

    Steve Allen wasn't preempted this week.
    The Steve Allen Plymouth Show aired in its usual time slot for this season: Monday night at 9:00, Central time.
    Steverino moved his operation to the West Coast for what proved to be his final season on NBC.
    AS it happens, on this particular Monday night, Steve & Co. went back to NYC for a one-night stand. His guests were Henry Fonda, Tony Bennett, and Art Farmer's jazz quartet.
    Tom Poston, who'd stayed in New York for stage commitments while the rest of the team went West, rejoined the old gang for this visit.

    As for The Devil And Daniel Webster, that was part of NBC's Sunday Showcase, which was basically just one special after another airing in the Sunday at 7:00 hour.

    More later (can't wait, can you?) ...

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  5. As promised/threatened, I went to the Old DVD Wall in search of whatever shows I might find in this week's TV Guide.

    Not the order I watched them in, but a day-by-day progression (so you can follow along):
    -SATURDAY (2/13/60):
    -Perry Mason:"TCOT Black-Eyed Blonde", a rerun from the first season. Very complicated, as most early Masons were, with child custody, impostoring, stolen jewels, blackmail, people who look a lot alike - but interestingly, this one doesn't end in the courtroom (they were mixing it up even back then).
    - Mr. Lucky: "The Last Laugh", with Frank Gorshin as a comic who's trying to get out of a mob contract so he can work at Lucky's club/boat.

    SUNDAY (2/14/60):
    - The Rebel: "Noblesse Oblige", in which Johnny Yuma visits his old Confederate CO in Misissippi, where the family owns the town; he doesn't like what he finds (one of the family members is Robert Vaughn, who really did get around back then).
    - Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "The Day Of the Bullet", from a classic Stanley Ellin short story, a flashback about how a young boy went wrong in his life (Jack Seabrook hasn't covered this one yet).

    MONDAY(2/15/60):
    -Bourbon Street Beat: "Melody In Diamonds", the inevitable Mardi Gras show, about a jewel theft at a ball; better-than-average, with a multiple twist finish.
    -Peter Gunn: "The Hunt", with Gunn pursued by a hired hit man, who's played by Blake Edwards's producing partner Gordon Oliver (he's the guy with wavy white hair in the group shot at the inside article).
    -Man With A Camera: "The Killer", a year-old rerun, with a hired killer after Charles Bronson; Lawrence Dobkin (in his gap year from narrating Naked City) is an unsympathetic cop.

    TUESDAY (2/16/60):
    -Tightrope!: "The Long Odds", with Mike Connors checking out a crooked health club/gambling scam; big fight scene with Mike Mazurki showing off his old wrestling moves.
    -M Squad: "Burglar's Nightmare", in which a foul-up explosion kills one of the burglars; the other two try again, using the widow of the third as hostage (one burglar is Robert Armstrong from King Kong; the widow is Connie Hines, just before Mister Ed).
    - Alcoa Presents, aka One Step Beyond: "The Lovers", with a poltergeist messing up the potential romance between a shy retired postman and a pretty waitress (this episode is a comedy).

    I didn't have anything for Wednesday.

    THURSDAY (2/18/60):
    -Johnny Staccato: "An Act Of Terror", the old saw about the warped ventriloquist that you've seen so many times before; not a goer.
    -The Untouchables: "The Big Squeeze", with Dan O'Herlihy as a sophisticated bank robber who helps Ness persuade Congress to make interstate bank robbery a federal offense; one of the least violent Untouchables episodes you've ever seen.
    -Take A Good Look: Usual chaos from Ernie Kovacs; once again, Ben Alexander is always right ...
    -The Lawless Years: "No Fare", with James Gregory as real-life NYC cop Barney Ruditsky nailing a crooked cop (on a far lower budget than Bob Stack had on Untouchables).

    FRIDAY (2/19/60):
    -Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse: "Thunder In The Night", which I don't think was a "backdoor pilot", because one of the name stars gets killed off midway through the show. But Desi Arnaz makes a good sub-Bogart, and George Macready matches him as the boss heavy - not bad at all.
    - Twilight Zone: "Elegy" - that's the one where the astronauts land on a planet full of frozen people, and old Cecil Kellaway settles their hash.

    The weekend weather here was really lousy ...

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  6. I am a Robert Vaughn fan. Did you know that while he was filming UNCLE, he earned a PhD in communications from the University of Southern California? That is an awesome accomplishment.

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  7. The over 2,400 hours NBC is carrying of this year's (2018) Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea includes broadcast, cable, and streaming, and includes start-to-finish coverage of every event online as well as extensive broadcast and cable TV coverage.

    It should also be noted that the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley only lasted eleven days, and had far fewer events than this year's games.

    In 1960, there was no snowboarding, freestyle skiing, luge, short-track speed skating, curling, women's hockey or women's ski jumping. Additionally, there was no bobsledding because Squaw Valley refused to build a bobsled-luge course. Failing to build a bobsled/luge course at Squaw Valley may
    have hurt Americans in both sports for years to come.

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    1. If they had bobsledding before, couldn't the IOC have ordered them to build a run?

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    2. I don't know, but I guess the IOC didn't pressure Squaw Valley into building a bobsled/luge run. In any event, there was no bobsledding in 1960, and the introduction of luge was delayed until 1964.

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  8. I do remember seeing a late MR. LUCKY episode on Me-TV which had Jack Nicholson as a klutzy waiter who ends up being henchman to a crook played by Richard Chamberlain. Both men were in their early 20s at the time. Chamberlain was a bit more than a year away from playing Dr. Kildare on tv.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!