February 24, 2016

What about the rest of the week?

When last we looked in on the TV Guide from February 23, 1957, we were looking at the Friday night listings. Before that, we returned to the world of quiz shows and their celebrities: the winner who was really a loser, the loser who sounded more like a winner, and the emcee who became the most feared newsman of his time. But, as I said on Saturday, there was a lot more to the week than that, so let's take a few minutes and see what was on the rest of the week.

One of the most praised drama series of the early '60s was CBS' legal series The Defenders, starring E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed as the father-and-son legal team involved in defending controversial, often unpopular social issues. On CBS Monday night we see the genesis of the series, part one of the two-part Studio One drama "The Defender," with Ralph Bellamy and William Shatner assuming the roles of the defenders (here called the Pearsons), Martin Balsam as the tough prosecuting attorney, and a very young Steve McQueen as the defendant in what looks to be an open-and-shut murder case. Reginald Rose, one of the most gifted writers from the Golden Age, is the author. It's a pity that this show has never had a DVD release.

We've already looked at Tuesday with our quiz show piece from Saturday, so let's skip to Wednesday. I know that it wasn't until 1963 that CBS and NBC expanded their evening news programs from 15 minutes to a half hour, but I have to admit I never gave a lot of thought to what went into the other 15 minutes in that time block. Oftentimes we see local stations such as WCCO schedule their own news program into the spare time, but it also makes a perfect place for a network to put a 15 minute music show. That's what NBC does, with tonight's premiere of The Xavier Cugat Show (6:30 CT), which features his fourth wife, singer Abbe Lane, performing hit tunes with Cugat's orchestra. The show airs twice-weekly - Friday is the other night, while the quiz show You Should Know fills the spot on Monday, Jonathan Winters hosts his variety show on Tuesday, and Dinah Shore appears on Thursday. Today, Xavier Cugat is best-known for his fifth and final wife - Charo.

A couple of socially relevant dramas make up Thursday night's offerings. On CBS' Climax, Richard Boone stars in "Don't Ever Come Back," the story of townspeople trying to come to terms with the fact that a man once convicted of murder, one they all thought was guilty, is returning a free man after 18 years in prison - now that someone else has confessed to the crime. That's followed by Playhouse 90 and "The Blackwell Story," the Blackwell in question being Elizabeth Blackwell (Joanne Dru), who in 1849 became America's first woman doctor. It seems as if the townspeople had a problem with her as well, although they're certainly not the same townspeople, and it's likely not the same town either.

An article in an upcoming TV Guide (you'll read about it in April, I believe) asks why so many big-screen stars fail to fill up the small screen. One of those could well be Gene Kelly, who was larger-than-life in movie musicals (although still not as good as Fred Astaire), but never really succeeded in a TV series of his own. This Friday he makes his television dramatic debut in "The Life You Save," an episode of Schlitz Playhouse on CBS. And while the description sounds as if it would qualify as a light drama ("Tom T. Triplet is an engaging one-armed tramp*, a man who has been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things..."), it is still a headline occasion when a movie star of Kelly's status makes a television appearance.

*He wasn't so engaging when he traveled to Stafford, Indiana and murdered Helen Kimble, apparently.

This week's starlet is Barbara Lawrence, who's played a bushel of characters on television lately, although she prefers movies because they give her more exposure with producers. At the time of this feature she's married to former baseball player Johnny Murphy, the second of her three marriages. She'll wind up playing in 70 television shows, including four turns on Perry Mason, and I'm guessing her best-known movie role was Gertie* in Oklahoma. As her 2013 obituary put it, "She was usually cast as the leading lady’s best friend or — if there was a man involved — worst enemy."

*As proof that there's no such thing as coincidence, Gertie is also the name of Perry Mason's receptionist.

Although her star looks bright in this issue, she never really has that one movie that makes her name, that one shot at a TV series that catapults her to fame. Instead, she retires from acting in the early '60s, becoming a novelist and real estate agent.


Finally, this week's review features a cartoon character that most of you will recognize, even if you're not aware of it. The review is of CBS' animated series The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show, based on the children's story by Dr. Seuss, which tells the story of a child who can't speak, but can only make sound effects. There were four McBoing-Boing cartoons made for theaters, one of which was nominated for an Oscar for best animated short, before the series debuted in 1956. The review is a very favorable one, praising not only the cartoon's ground-breaking modernistic animation, but the stories, "most of which point a moral in amusing but nonetheless significant terms."

Gerald on his own show(left), with Mr. Magoo (right)
However, even if you've never seen the McBoing-Boing Show, even if you've never viewed any of the theater shorts, you've probably seen Gerald McBoing-Boing, for he plays the role of Tiny Tim in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. It's no surprise, since Magoo was made by UPA, the same production company as McBoing-Boing. And, as you might recall, the framing device for the Magoo Christmas Carol was a stage play, with Magoo literally playing Scrooge. None of the other "actors" playing the Dickens characters are identified, although they are clearly shown taking bows at the curtain call. But there can be no doubt that the little boy playing Tim is Gerald, even though he now has the faculty of speech. As far as that discrepancy goes, though, you can take your choice: either Gerald's learned how to speak, or there's another little boy out there who not only acts but looks exactly like Gerald.

My suspicion is that the same people who think the two animated characters are one and the same also think that Number 6 is John Drake.

1 comment:

  1. The 1957 "Studio One" presentation of "The Defender" was released on DVD a couple of years back.

    You can even view it with the original commercials!


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