Believe it or not, it's CBS's daytime The Verdict Is Yours, which uses actual lawyers to contest its cases, actual judges to hear them, actors as the defendants and the witnesses, and members of the studio audience as the jury. And everyone gets so wrapped up in the cases, according to producer Eugene Burr (no relation to Raymond, unfortunately - wouldn't that make a great story?), they often forget it's just a show. One actor "on trial" waited for hours for his "jury" to come in before finally going home. At 3:00 a.m., Burr received a phone call from him. "I haven't been able to sleep a wink all night," he said to Burr. "What was the verdict?"
The show has no script; the actors improvise from an outline, and they're expected to stick to whatever story they come up with when it's time to set the lawyers loose on them. The actors resent the lawyers trying to make them look bad. The lawyers themselves have to occasionally be separated by the "bailiff," actor Mandel Kramer. "It's rough enough to lose a case in a real court," one says, "but I'll be doggoned if I'll do it in front of 4,000,000 people."* Actresses have broken down hysterically while on the stand, but so far nobody's taken a swing at anyone.
*And I'll be doggoned if the lawyer in question actually used the word "doggoned."
Be that as it may, The Verdict Is Yours was on CBS from 1957 to 1962, thrilling people every step of the way. We've fallen a long way from that to Judge Judy, haven't we?
Starting in 1954, Steve Allen helmed his own NBC variety show which, at the beginning, aired opposite that of Ed Sullivan. It didn't run as long as Ed's, of course, but then Allen said his goal was never to conquer Ed, but to coexist with him, which he did for four seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week.
Sullivan: Ed's guests for his fourth salute to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), are the McGuire Sisters; musical comedy star Alfred Drake; singers Chris Connor, Jill Corey and Rose Hardaway; old-time vaudevillian Blossom Seeley; operatic soprano Roberta Peters; the Ames Brothers; and dancer Carol Haney.
Allen: Steve's guests are actor Charlton Heston, opera star Risë Stevens and singer Jerry Vale, with regulars Don Knotts, Louis Nye, Pat Harrington Jr., Gabe Dell and Bill Dana.
Rarely do we get a powerhouse week like this. Sullivan and Allen are both loaded: each has a star from the Metropolitan Opera, each with star singers. Ed has the McGuire Sisters and the Ames Brothers; Steve counters with Charlton Heston, fresh off his Academy Award for Ben-Hur last week. Usually we get this result with subpar weeks, but this week it's because there are too many stars to choose from. The verdict: Push.
Saturday and Sunday afternoons CBS presents live coverage of the concluding holes at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta. It's not what we've come to expect nowadays, with 18-hole coverage; back in 1960, only the last four holes have cameras on them, so there's a good chance the tournament might already be wrapped up by the time TV joins in the fun. (It's a wonder that tournament golf ever took off on television with that kind of coverage.) Ah, but what a tournament CBS gets this year! Despite that limited coverage, viewers don't miss a thing as they see Arnold Palmer birdie the last two holes to defeat Ken Venturi by a stroke, with Jim McKay calling the action. It's Arnie's second Masters victory, and his second major championship; he'll go on to win the U.S. Open in June, and then finish in second at the British Open in July. As for Ken Venturi, he'll win the 1964 U.S. Open for his only major, and then go on to a long and successful career as an analyst for CBS, including the Masters. I still miss hearing him at Augusta.
Ralph Nelson, who directed "Requiem," is the producer, director and writer of "The Man in the Funny Suit," which recreates what happened. Ed and Keenan Wynn play themselves, as do Nelson, Red Skelton, Rod Serling (who wrote "Requiem"), Maxie Rosenbloom, announcer Dick Joy, and others. The listing refers to it as a "documentary drama," eventually shortened to "docudramas." Studio One had done something like this back in 1957 when "The Night America Trembled" told the story of Orson Welles' radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, but I like the idea of creating a "Making Of" television drama about a television show that the network itself had broadcast.
Here's the restored live broadcast of "Requiem for a Heavyweight," followed by the broadcast of "The Man in the Funny Suit."
It's another week of big programs, and we're here to run through them from beginning to end.
While Saturday's highlights are devoted to sports, Sunday has a little something for everyone, beginning with a number of Palm Sunday services and specials in the morning and early afternoon. At 1:00 p.m., NBC Opera Company presents Mozart's "Don Giovanni," in a live color broadcast starring two of the greats of the opera stage, Cesare Siepi and Leontyne Price. At 5:30 p.m., NBC returns with Hallmark Hall of Fame's production of "The Cradle Song," which the last time it was produced on Hallmark was called "One of the most beautiful and deeply stirring programs television has ever offered" by The New York Times. The all-star cast includes Helen Hayes, Judith Anderson, Siobhan McKenna, Charles Bickford, and Zohra Lampert. The evening winds up with Loretta Young's Easter show (9:00 p.m., NBC), a full-hour drama (her show usually ran 30 minutes) filmed entirely on location at Lourdes, France.
Plenty of stars on hand Monday, starting with Jim Backus as Danny Thomas's old college chum (8:00 p.m., CBS), followed by Ernie Kovacs in "Author at Work" on Goodyear Theater (8:30 p.m., NBC), while at the same time on ABC the luminous Diane Baker is up for adventures with Gardner McKay in Adventures in Paradise. Ivan Dixon stars in The Twilight Zone, which KDAL shows at 10:15 p.m., and WTCN's late-night movie at 10:20 p.m., "The Clock," stars Judy Garland, Robert Walker and James Gleason. Not a bad night, I have to say.
More stars on Tuesday, James Stewart, George Gobel and Lois Smith star in "Cindy's Fella," a western version of Cinderella, on Ford Startime. (NBC, 7:30 p.m.) Then, Audrey Meadows guests with Red Skelton at 8:30 p.m. on CBS, while at the same time on NBC, The Arthur Murray Party welcomes Eva Gabor, June Havoc, David Wayne, and Bert Lahr. Finally, opera star Patrice Munsel and Alan King are the guests on The Garry Moore Show. (9:00 p.m., CBS)
Wednesday gives us another edition of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concert from Carnegie Hall. The topic: "unusual instruments of the past, present and future." Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall (8:00 p.m., NBC) has Perry's traditional Easter show, with the Lennon Sisters, Dorothy Collins, Johnny Puleo, and Bill Baird and his marionettes.
Bette Davis makes an infrequent television appearance on Thursday on NBC's Producer's Choice. (7:30 p.m.) She plays a woman on vacation in Hong Kong with her husband Frank (Forrest Tucker). He takes a phone call and disappears; one night she returns to her room and confronts a stranger - who "looks like Frank, is wearing his clothes and carrying his identification." Meanwhile, on Revlon Revue (9:00 p.m., CBS), Peggy Lee is the star of a show featuring an otherwise all-male cast, including Mel Tormé, the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Newport Youth Band, and a college glee club.
Finally, some viewer feedback regarding the TV Guide Awards, as read in Letters to the Editor. Mrs. W. Arthur Ford of Hollidayburg, Pennsylvania, says that TV Guide "deserves a round of applause for the suburb handling of the Guide awards," and an anonymous writer from Hollywood adds that "The Emmy and Oscar programs may well take a leaf out of your book for a perfect production." On the other hand, Jacqueline T. Mangan of Huntington Park, California called the show "a cliché-ridden fiasco," and another anonymous correspondent, from Abington, Pennsylvania, bluntly says "I think most of these awards were fixed." Most, not all? C'mon, don't pull any punches. And on another topic, P.K. Radcliff, after watching the G.E. Theater production "Do Not Disturb," asks the question, "Don't we have enough rude, mouthy children running around without devoting an entire half hour to making our youngsters into professional sassboxes?" Mr. (or Mrs.) Radcliff may not be among the living 58 years later; if they are, however, I wonder what they think of today?