March 5, 2016

This week in TV Guide: March 9, 1957

Two thoughts about Pat Boone: in 1962 he'll star in the remake of State Fair, which wasn't very good to begin with, and pales in comparison to the original, but it does give one a very good panorama of the State Fair of Texas. When we moved here three years ago, I was thrilled to find Fair Park much the same as it was in the movie, with Big Tex there to greet us.

And although I've never been a particular fan of Boone, a few years ago I saw a PBS documentary about his television show, and I was mightily impressed. He was only 23 when The Pat Boone Chevy Show started in 1957 on ABC, not only the youngest person ever to host a network variety show, but undoubtedly younger than most of his guests. He was still a student at Columbia when it started. Yet for all that, the clips from the series show a very mature, poised young man, totally at ease in front of the camera, completely comfortable with his famous guests. As I say, particularly when you compare him to today's celebrities, he cuts a very impressive figure.

It comes as no surprise when you read this week's issue, in which Boone's business savvy is apparent. He's already turned down three series offers, two because they were sponsored by tobacco companies, one because the sponsor was a brewery. Boone, of course, neither smokes or drinks, and he's sensitive to the influence he might have on his young viewers, so it's no surprise that his ABC contract, which will pay him $1 million over five years, gives him approval over sponsors.

He's also sensitive to the debt he owes Arthur Godfrey, on whose show he's been a regular since 1955. So deep is his loyalty to the Old Redhead that he refused guests spots with Steve Allen and Perry Como because the shows would air on networks other than Godfrey's CBS. Even though he wasn't under contract to either Godfrey or CBS, "why should I go on another network and maybe help that show to draw a bigger rating than CBS?" It takes ABC's offer of his own show to pull Boone away from CBS, and though Godfrey publicly praises it, in private he urges Boone to wait, saying he won't be ready for his own show for "another five or six years." With respect, I think Arthur Godfrey was wrong on that one.

◊ ◊ ◊

There's a charming profile of the charming French soprano Lily Pons, star of the Metropolitan Opera, and a recent guest on Perry Como's program. "Before a con-zairt, I stay in bed all day. I do not even speak upon the telephone. But for The Perry Como Show I re-harse all week. Eet was a miracle that I am in marvelous voice."

The Met has never really seen a soprano quite like Lily Pons before. The typical sopranos are, in the words of the article, "elephants." Miss Pons, on the other hand, stands 5 feet, ½ inch tall and weighs a mere 109 pounds. " 'I was the first,' she said, indicating a portion of her anatomy sometimes called a midriff, 'to appear from 'ere to 'ere - all nek-keed!" Despite her fame, Lily has no desire to go into television full-time - "Eev I do TV, I can do only TV; no opera, no con-zairt. One cannot do TV and be on hanything else" - but if she did, she envisions a version of Your Hit Parade only with classical music.

It's a pity Lily Pons isn't better remembered today. Even among opera buffs, her fame has faded as the Met has moved away from the repertoire that showed off her high coloratura. But if she had perhaps been born a few years later, when she could have made even more use of television, she might have become as famous as Roberta Peters, the all-time recordholder for appearances with Ed Sullivan. She did the Sullivan show, though, many times, as well as her appearances on The Perry Como Show, Your Show of Shows, The Jimmy Durante Show, Person to Person, What's My Line? and This Is Your Life. There are also the memories of her famed performances at the Met as Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, and here's a clip of her performing another of her standards, "The Bell Song" from Delibes' Lakme.

◊ ◊ ◊

One of the hallmarks of the Golden Age is the drama anthology. They were one of the prestige offerings on early television, attracting many actors and actresses who would go on to great fame in movies and television, names like Charlton Heston, James Dean, Elizabeth Montgomery, Charles Bronson and Lee Remick, and the shows spawned directors from John Frankenheimer and Franklin Schaffner to George Roy Hill and Sidney Lumet.

You'll also notice a lot of big names in the shows, though: those, like Robert Montgomery, who've retreated from the big screen and now work in production or hosting, with only occasional forays into acting; or those whose box office presence has faded over time; or those still at the top of their game who've been lured to television by the promise of an exceptional script or, more often, a nice payday and exposure for their next big-screen presentation.

By 1957, the glory days of the live anthology program are themselves beginning to fade; the advent of video tape and the consequent ability to improve the technical quality of the production has contributed to a shift away from live programming in many cases. There's also a feeling among some sponsors that consistent star appeal - having the same leads in the program every week - are more effective vehicles at attracting viewers - and, therefore, selling the sponsor's product. Nonetheless, as you see below, there are still plenty of them on the air. You'll also notice that in many cases, the sponsor's name is part of the title - either obviously, as in the case of Kraft Television Theatre, or more obliquely (meaning that it's not part of the title shown in TV Guide), as with Westinghouse Studio One. Either way, let's see what was on this week, among shows both prominent and little-known.

Saturday's lineup is dominated by sitcoms and variety shows, so we'll kickoff our look at anthologies on Sunday with CBS' long-running G.E. Theater, featuring one of those big names we talked about, Oscar winner Bette Davis, starring as a jilted novelist plotting revenge on the publisher who rejected her book in "With Malice Toward One." That's followed by the droll Alfred Hitchcock Presents, with Casablanca's Captain Louis Renault, Claude Rains, in "The Cream of the Jest."* Finally, The Loretta Young Show (NBC) has Vivica Lindfors (whom we'll see again later in the week) and Herbert Marshall, but not Loretta herself, in "Louise," the story of a woman trying to outrun her memories of World War II. There's also ABC's Omnibus, which isn't strictly speaking a drama anthology but occasionally dips into the genre, as it does tonight with "The Trial of Captain Kidd," starring Victor Jory.

*Fun fact: The Nazi target in Casablanca, freedom fighter Victor Laszlo (the one who escapes with Ingrid Bergman) is played by Paul Henreid, who directed many episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents - not, alas, this one.

Monday night features two of those prestige dramas - Robert Montgomery Presents, on NBC, has "Last Train to Kildevil," a domestic drama starring Martha Scott and David White, while CBS' legendary Studio One  offers the Abby Mann*-written drama "A Child Is Waiting," starring Mary Fickett and Pat Hingle. And I don't know - should we count NBC's Voice of Firestone, which is, after all, a musical anthology? It started on radio in 1928 and survived on television until 1963. I say we count it - tenor Brian Sullivan is tonight's guest.

*Fun fact: Abby Mann won an Oscar for the screenplay to Judgment at Nuremberg, and was the creator of the cop drama Kojak.

A trio of programs finish off Tuesday night, starting with NBC's The Jane Wyman Show. The Oscar winner and former wife of G.E. Theater host Ronald Reagan stars in as well as hosts "The Pendulum," which also features Bat Masterson star Gene Barry. That's followed by The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, which ran for only one season despite attracting stars such as Paul Newman, Ralph Bellamy and Kim Hunter. Tonight, Richard Kiley, June Lockhart and Larry Gates are in "The Story of a Crime." Finally, there's ABC's Du Pont Theatre, which began on radio in 1935 as "Cavalcade of America." Tonight's story is "One Day at a Time," the story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, with James Daly as Bill W.

The U.S. Steel Hour, which alternates Wednesday nights on CBS with Armstrong Circle Theatre, has an unusual presentation: a dramatic fantasy with musical narration. It's "The Bottle Imp," based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson, with Farley Granger, Geoffrey Holder and Susan Oliver. Meanwhile, NBC has the venerable (11 seasons) Kraft Television Theatre, one of the first and oldest anthologies*, has the seafaring mystery "Collision!" with Peter Falk as part of the cast. ABC adds the eight-season program Ford Television Theater, which this week stars Linda Darnell in "Fate Travels East."

*Perhaps its most famous presentation was Rod Serling's "Patterns," which catapulted Serling to fame.

Thursday's Lux Video Theatre (NBC) goes one step further, presenting a full-blown operetta by the king of operettas, Victor Herbert. The star is singer and regular host Gordon MacRae, husband of Sheila, father of Meredith. It's good, but the prestige show on Thursdays is CBS' long-running Playhouse 90, although tonight's episode, a dramatization of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Last Tycoon," is not one of those that's most fondly remembered by classic TV fans. It stars a woefully miscast Jack Palance as Fitzgerald's protagonist Monroe Stahr, and features turns from Keenan Wynn, Peter Lorre, Viveca Lindfors and Lee Remick.

On Friday Schlitz Playhouse (CBS), another of the half-hour dramas of the genre, gives us Oscar-winner Ray Milland directing and starring in "The Girl in the Grass." It's preceded on CBS by Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater, with another Oscar winner, Dean Jagger, starring along with John Derek* in the revenge tale "There Were Four."

*Fun Fact: John Derek is, at the time, married to future Bond girl Ursula Andress. He'll go on to marry Bo Derek and Linda Evans, though not at the same time.

And that's not even all of them. There are other series, such as West Point, The Joseph Cotten Show, Navy Log and Studio 57 (sponsored by Heinz, of course), and shows that function as virtual anthologies because of their concentration on the characters played by guest stars - Gunsmoke, for example, especially in its later years. Not all of them were hits, nor were the prestige shows always good. They were, however, an essential part of early television. Contemporary shows such as True Detective put a spin on the old formula by using an entire season, rather than one episode, to tell the story, then changing the cast entirely for the next season. It would, though, be nice if the public were attracted to prestige dramas once again.

◊ ◊ ◊

We've seen these before, but it's worth a reminder how much something like the telephone has changed. We think it's remarkable enough that we can carry them around in our pockets (or even on our wrists), how we can access the internet on them, take pictures with them, use them as a calculator, even pay our bills if we have the right app. But in 1957, something we take for granted - something as simple as a long distance call - was complicated. It was expensive, and therefore not only saved for special occasions, but one also had to give a great deal of thought to when the call was placed. As this ad points out, if you can wait until after 6:00pm or make the call on Sunday, you're going to save. A call from Fort Worth to New Orleans costs only 95 cents for the first three minutes, and each additional minute is only 25 cents. What a deal! Today, we don't even give it another thought - not only do most cell plans have free long distance, depending on our data plan we can just Face Time someone, and not only talk to them, but see them at the same time. Not unlike Dick Tracy's two-way wrist radio, eh?

◊ ◊ ◊

Finally, we haven't done any recipe sharing lately, but for those occasions when you've invited friends over to watch the latest spectacular on that new-fangled technology*, these "calorie-counted desserts top off an evening of television." You could also be like the family in the new header, sampling mom's new recipes after having dined off of the TV trays set up in the living room.

*It's helpful to recall that in January of 1958, 13% of American households still lacked even one television.  In June of 1955, less than two years before this issue of TV Guide was published, that figure was 33%.

Let's take a look at the two pictured at right: the first being strawberries glacé in caramel rings, weighing in (sic) at approximately 400 calories per serving.

Our next recipe is for tiger parfait, approximately 275 calories per serving.

My suggestion: try this out tonight by inviting some friends over to watch a movie from your DVD collection. Serve these to them for dessert, and let us know how things turn out! TV  


  1. Here, there, and anywhere:

    - Abby Mann wrote "The Marcus-Nelson Murders", based on a real-life New York City case, in which Telly Savalas starred as the investigating cop, Lt. Kojack (as it was spelled in the film).
    This was not intended as a pilot, even of the backdoor variety; when the film drew big numbers, CBS cranked up the series machine, with a reluctant Abby Mann on board, ostensibly to run things, script-wise.
    This didn't last long; Abby Mann was the first - but far from the last - to run aground on Telly Savalas's Olympian ego.
    Mann got to keep his "Created By" credit (and the royalties that went with it), but it wasn't a credit he bragged about.
    By the way, the name went through three different spellings before CBS settled on Kojak; one of Telly's many demands was that the character be Greek, and so the spelling had to at least look like an Ellis Island cutdown of a Greek original.

    - I wonder if you noticed that this Monday's Twenty-One is the third appearance of Vivienne Nearing - the one where she defeated Charles Van Doren.
    The Chicago edition of TVG began its program pages with Chicago Dateline, which normally concentrated on local TV news and personalities (editions in other cities at this time were similarly localized).
    This week, however, CD was given over to a brief profile of Mrs. Nearing.
    Interesting piece - but I ask you to remember that this issue was on the stands the week before she ousted Van Doren as Twenty-One champion.
    What an incredible coincidence ...

    By any chance, was this piece in the local issue you're working on?
    Just askin', is all...

    - For those keeping score, John Derek's marriages were (in order) to Ursula Andress, Linda Evans, and Mary Catherine Collins (aka Bo).
    I believe the breakup with Andress was around the time she made her guest appearance on Fractured Flickers - but that was probably a coincidence ...

    The U.S. Steel Hour's presentation of "The Bottle Imp" is interesting, because its cast includes Thayer David as the bottle's owner.
    Many cable stations are running the original Rocky in the wake of Sylvester Stallone's award runs. Thayer David had one of his last roles as the flashy fight promoter; he died before the second movie started filming, or else he'd likely have repeated the role.
    As it stands, Thayer David is remembered these days for the dozen different parts he played on Dark Shadows, and less so for playing Nero Wolfe in a pilot for ABC that didn't get on the air until nearly two years after his death.

    'Til Wednesday, then ...

    1. How can an actor be cast in a dozen different roles on a single show and no one calling attention to it? It's not like Jack Webb's informal repertory company of performers who appeared multiple times in a single season of DRAGNET, for example--especially on a daytime drama, where actors coming and going are a constant.

    2. Mr. Duca:

      Apparently, you're at least one or two generations younger than I am.
      It's not that "nobody was calling attention" to Thayer David's ubiquity on Dark Shadows; indeed, that was one of the things that DS fans loved about the show.
      Over the series's run, just about everybody on DS doubled, tripled, and even fourpled up, and the fans loved it.
      This was a carryover from all our TV watching, where we'd see actors making annual appearances on certain prime time shows - good guy one season, heavy the next - that was part of the fun of TV back then.
      But the continuity dweebs took over, and idiotic "rules" set in, and there went a lot of the fun.

  2. Huge numbers of us have perused the astounding measurements concerning the impacts of TV savagery on our youngsters. What's more, we may remain in one of two camps: Television is only a response to society - a projection of the way life is. On the other hand TV is affecting and empowering the ruthlessness in this world.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!