"A Bell for Adano," starring John Forsythe and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by John Hersey, opens the 17th season of NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame on Saturday.* "Adano" had previously been made into a 1944 Broadway play starring Fredric March, a 1945 movie with John Hodiak, and a TV play in 1956 with Barry Sullivan. Forsythe plays Major Victor Joppolo, the American military governor of the Sicilian town of Adano in the wake of D-Day, whose job is to win over the suspicious townspeople.
*I've groused often enough about the decline in HOF, so I won't bring that up again.
Monday night Frank Sinatra stars in his third special for NBC, this one featuring guest stars Ella Fitzgerald and composer-guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim, whom you might know from his classic "The Girl from Ipanema." Like all of Sinatra's specials from this era, it's a terrific one - no stupid comedy bits, no hokey chatter between guests, just 60 minutes of music. Plenty of clips from this one online, and here are two: first Frank and Ella with a medley, then a piece with Jobim.
The warm-up to Frank's special, also on NBC Monday, features Ed Ames hosting the 31st edition of the Ice Follies, an annual television presentation. Ames, who is currently co-starring on the network's Daniel Boone, started out as part of the Ames Brothers and has a wonderful voice, which he proves as he sings two of his biggest hits, "Try to Remember" and "My Cup Runneth Over."
In case you're noticing a trend here, you're right. NBC also strikes on Wednesday night with a musical adaptation of Shaw's "Androcles and the Lion," with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers from a book by Peter Hart, and featuring an all-star cast including Noel Coward as Casear, the aforementioned Ed Ames, Inga Swenson, and the recently deceased Geoffrey Holder as the Lion.
I'm stepping out of order for just a moment, because later on Wednesday, ABC enters the fray with a Stage '67 remake of the classic Dial M for Murder, starring Lawrence Harvey as the murderous husband (played in the movie by Ray Milland), Diane Cilento as the adulterous wife (Grace Kelly), Hugh O'Brian as the boyfriend (Robert Cummings), Cyril Cusack as the dogged inspector (John Williams), and Nigel Davenport as the hitman (Anthony Dawson). It's part of David Susskind's series of movies made into teleplays, but given that the original was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, I don't think we can expect the remake to surpass it.
Next on the list is Carol Channing's variety special on Thursday, also on ABC. It's called "Carol Channing and 101 Men," and although they don't list all 101 in the Close-Up, they do include Walter Matthau, Eddy Arnold, the singing group The Association, and the Air Force Academy Chorale. Carol, who in an article by Dwight Whitney talks about her devastation at being passed over in favor of Barbra Streisand* for the screen version of Hello Dolly, sings her standard, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."
*Word is Streisand beat her out by a nose. Or maybe it was a beak.
On Friday, NBC wraps up a staggering week of specials with a tour of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, hosted by Robert Culp (star, of course, of NBC's I Spy). The fabulous artwork in the tour includes works by Picasso, Rembrandt, da Vinci and Homer. It's a unique opportunity for millions of Americans who don't have the chance to travel to the Nation's Capital to see the exhibits in person.
During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..
Palace: Co-hosts Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme introduce comics Tim Conway and Corbett Monica, dances Szony and Claire, and the Mascotts, German head-balancing act.
Sullivan: Ed's scheduled guests include singers Johnny Mathis, Lana Cantrell, and the Turtles; and comedians Shelly Berman, Joan Rivers, Stu Gilliam and Richard Hearne.
Well, we haven't been able to do one of these for quite awhile. Unfortunately, given the spectacular nature of the rest of the week, neither of these are knockout shows - steady and decent entertainment but nothing special, as it were. Always liked Steve and Eydie, and Tim Conway is generally very funny (although he's funnier when he's with Harvey Korman). On the other hand, Johnny Mathis is smooth, Shelly Berman can be quite funny, and Joan Rivers is, well, Joan Rivers. But the Turtles aren't the Animals, are they? Tough call here, but I'll go with Palace, just barely.
Believe it or not, even with all those specials, there's more to this week!
On Saturday, CBS presents the 6th Annual Miss Teenage America pageant, hosted by Jimmy Durante and telecast live from the Music Hall at Fair Park right here in Dallas. The pageant ran annually from 1960 through 1978, and irregularly after that until the late 1990s. None of the winners of the pageant ever went on to great fame and fortune, but some of the runners-up did - Cybill Shepherd, Karen Valentine and Paula Zahn were among those who had fairly successful careers afterward.
Sunday's NFL on CBS action sees two teams headed for the playoffs, as the Cleveland Browns take on the Green Bay Packers in Milwaukee. Not much of a game, though - the Pack routs Cleveland 55-7 en route to yet another Super Bowl championship. Over at the AFL on NBC, it's doubleheader week, with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs visiting the Boston Patriots in game one, followed by the Miami Dolphins versus the Chargers in San Diego, joined in progress.
On Wednesday night, NBC follows up its Androcles and the Lion special with "Stage Door Johnny," a musical revue on the Kraft Music Hall. It's what press releases might refer to as "an affectionate tribute to the Roaring Twenties," with Tony Randall, Cab Calloway, Michele Lee and others. It sounds like a pleasant, but otherwise undistinguished, program. No special recipes tonight, as is so often the case when Kraft sponsors a program, but as we get closer to Christmas you can bet that there will be all kinds of ideas for your holiday entertaining.
On Monday night there's this ad for the 10:30 movie on KMSP, Channel 9.* It's Trapeze, starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, with Gina Lollobrigida as the woman who comes between them. Now, I've never seen this movie, so I can't say whether or not it's any good. I feel as if I've seen it though, because I've got at least two, maybe three, issues of TV Guide that have ads for it. It must have been a very popular movie on the station's rotation. Once, just after I'd run across another ad for it (and none of these ads were identical, mind you), I was surfing around seeing what was on TV, and I stopped on TCM. What was it showing? Of course. Trapeze. To this day I don't know why I didn't stop and watch it.
*Which Channel 9 used in order to push the Joey Bishop Show to 12:30 a.m. on Monday through Thursday. They didn't broadcast his Friday show until Sunday at 11:00 p.m. No wonder his ratings weren't very good.
By the way, on the right is a Trapeze caricature by Hirschfeld. It has nothing to do with this issue, but since we've been talking about Hirschfeld lately, I thought it was worth including.
You young people out there may have a hard time believing this, but there was a time when, if your television set stopped working, you called a repairman who would come out and try to fix it. Now, from reading various issues of TV Guide through the years, it's clear that TV repairmen have a reputation something akin to that of used car salesmen. According to the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, 65 percent of servicemen were cheats, and the average overcharge was somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 percent. Neil Hickey's article this week's on "Set repair frauds" offers some tips on how to foil those crooked repairmen, who are charged with everything from making needless repairs to overcharging for parts and labor.
- Ask neighbors for recommendations, and check those recommendations out with the Better Business Bureau.
- Inquire ahead of time about rates and guarantees.
- Get an estimate before your set is taken to the shop - or at least before they start working on it.
- Make sure your bill is itemized, with a complete list of the parts that were replaced.
- Ask the repairman to give you the bad parts.
They're not foolproof, but they might help you keep from getting bilked by that crooked repair guy.
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The Gulf of Tonkin was a pivotal moment in the prosecution of the Vietnam War, representing the moment in 1964 when the United States made a complete and total commitment to the conflict, and giving President Johnson a broad range of military authority without the requirement of a formal declaration of war. Presidential actions in the past and current conflicts in the Middle East owe much to this particular event. Without getting into a broad political discussion, there seems to be something of a consensus today that the actual conflict in the Gulf of Tonkin was a result of confusion rather than an attack by the North Vietnamese. Did Johnson know this at the time? Did he use the alleged attack as a pretext for greater involvement in the war? Not for me to say, but think of how history might have been different otherwise.
We shouldn't end on a down note like that, so let's take a look at a rather remarkable letter to the editor. It's from Mrs. Elizabeth Beasley of Tampa, Florida, who writes criticizing those Western shows which portray women "with long hair hanging down their backs." The pioneer woman was a hard worker, Mrs. Beasley points out, and asks "Can you picture her cooking, baking bread, washing clothes, scrubbing floors, milking, churning butter, and yes, making soap, not to mention sewing . . . all this with hair hanging over her shoulders?"
Mrs. Beasley should know about all this because, as she points out, she was born in 1889. Her mother was that pioneer woman, and Mrs. Beasley herself lived through the times portrayed in the Westerns of the late '60s. Mrs. Elizabeth Beasley is probably 78 as of this writing, and if she lives for a couple more years she'll be part of that generation that lived to hear about the Wright Brothers' first flight, and to see Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon. When Elizabeth Beasley was born, Grover Cleveland was President of the United States. The Wall Street Journal was published for the first time. It was the year Confederate President Jefferson Davis died, and the Civil War itself had ended just 24 years before (to put that in perspective, that would be 1990 to those of us today).
Elizabeth Beasley's mother may well have been born while Abraham Lincoln was president. Her grandmother lived at the same time as veterans of the Revolution. And yet she's writing in to a magazine about television, telling them about how Westerns - period pieces - get things wrong, and she knows because she was there. Perhaps I'm making too much of it all, but as I say - remarkable.