Once again, Bob Hope does the honors as emcee for the broadcast, which NBC carries at 9:30 p.m. (CT) live from the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. There's a 30-minute pre-awards show beforehand, with Tony Randall, Betsy Palmer and Edith Head at the famed Brown Derby restaurant to interview luminaries dining prior to heading for the show. The Oscarcast only runs an hour and 40 minutes, which means that Jack Paar isn't even preempted - it just starts a little later. When all's said and done, Ben-Hur is the big winner, taking home a then-record 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Charlton Heston, Best Supporting Actor for Hugh Griffith, Best Director for William Wyler, and a host of other awards.
And what are those "Oscar Headaches" referred to on this week's cover? The biggest one is ending the show on time. (Even at 1:40, this year's show actually clocks in ten minutes over budget.) It rubs both ways, though; memories of last year's debacle are still fresh, when through a horrible miscalculation the show actually ended 20 minutes early, leaving host Jerry Lewis to vamp in a desperate attempt to fill the time until NBC mercifully pulled the plug. Neither Lewis nor last year's producer, Jerry Wald, will be returning this year; their schedules just didn't permit it, they said.
One big change that Freed is planning to introduce: in the past, the show has been staged for the audience in the theater, but this time, "we are going to stage it for the TV audience." There are, after all, 60 million or so tuning in, and that's a little bigger than the 2,500 at the Pantages. Fortunately, no such accommodations were necessary for the 2018 Oscars; they managed to bore everybody.
Tennessee Ernie Ford makes an interesting observation about the kinds of specials we've frequently seen in the pages of TV Guide, even if we haven't talked about them a great deal. They're called "two-man" specials, with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, or Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, or Perry Como and Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, or Bing Crosby. They're super-casual, laid back, with a couple of rocking chairs as a set. Even if you haven't read about one of these lately, I'm sure you know what I mean.
The point is that Ernie, a man who's been on television about as much as anyone since the medium began, isn't sure this is the right approach to take. "Television's still in its infancy, as far as entertaining a live audience is concerned. There is a lack of knowledge on how to entertain in the home. A great huge blare and 10 top names and about 50 dancers leapin' across the stage don't do it. But neither do two rockin' chairs." Later, he adds, "You just can't have too far-out ideas of what entertains int he American living room. You gotta sorta make 'em feel - well, that they don't have to put on their best duds just 'cause you're occupying the living room."
This gets back around to what Ernie considers the secret to his success. "I've got the kind of personality people don't mind havin' around. I don't shove anything down their throats. People get kinda used to thinkin', "Well, tonight's the night ol' Ernie will be here." He carries this philosophy over to the way he does commercials, which he considers a privilege rather than a chore. "I always do the middle commercial myself and it's real Ernie. And I consider it a great compliment that what I say they believe. It's a big responsibility."
As proof of the importance of knowing the audience, Ford points to the most popular segment of his show, the hymns he sings. The TV folks were against it, he recalls. "They told me I couldn't sing hymns because it 'brings people down.' That's ridiculous. I don't think the good Lord cares for a bunch of deadheads. I mean, you don't have to put on sackcloth and sit in a pile of ashes to sing a hymn. Some of the most beautiful music is in hymns. Well, sir, I won, and now the hymns are the biggest think we have on the show."
Certainly Tennessee Ernie Ford seems to have figured out this television thing, don't you think?
Some interesting programs on this week, as always.
Saturday, NBC presents the first of back-to-back games in the NBA finals, as the Boston Celtics take on the St. Louis Hawks for the championship. Boston takes Saturday's Game 3 102-86, but the Hawks rebound the next day to win 106-96. Eventually, the series goes seven games, with the Celtics winning their second consecutive title, and third in the past four years. And yes, this year the NBA regular season won't even be done by April 2.
There's not much on Monday, it being Oscar Night and all; by the way, the Oscars preempt Steve Allen this week, which is why we don't have a "Sullivan vs. Allen" feature for you. At any rate, if you're looking for something, there's The Kate Smith Show on CBS at 6:30 p.m., followed by Rory Calhoun in The Texan at 7:00, Father Knows Best at 7:30, The Danny Thomas Show at 8:00, The Ann Sothern Show at 8:30 (with future Medical Center co-star James Daly as private detective Johnny Danger), Jackie Cooper's Hennesey at 9:00, and The June Allyson Show at 9:30. Imagine this - an entire evening of half-hour shows. You wouldn't see that today.
Tuesday's Ford Startime (7:30 p.m., NBC) presents a puzzling mystery in "Incident at a Corner." "Someone wants an elderly crossing guard fired, and a vicious note to school officials does the trick. When members of his family search for the note's anonymous author, they run into unexpected opposition." Paul Hartman, Vera Miles and George Peppard star, but what likely makes this worth watching - and what suggests that not all is as it seems - is that it's directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with a script by mystery writer Charlotte Armstrong adapted from her own book
I like the sound of this show on Thursday night (9:00 p.m., CBS) - it's Night Clubs, New York, starring Bob and Ray as two "big spenders" touring New York night spots, including performances by Peggy Lee and Felicia Sanders, and Spanish dancer Jose Greco. Mike Wallace narrates their adventures, broadcast live.
Friday brings a reminder that if you only remember Art Carney from The Honeymooners, you're overlooking the fact that he was a fine, fine dramatic actor. In another of his occasional live specials for NBC, "Victory" (7:30 p.m.), Carney plays Axel Heist, a man living in isolation on an East Indian island, who meets an female entertainer (Lois Smith) during one of his trips to the mainland and asks her to return to the island with him. It's adapted from the novel by Joseph Conrad, and costars Eric Portman, Oscar Homolka and a very young Richard Harris.
How different things used to be: in this week's Letters to the Editor, Mrs. Thomas Hudson of Tacoma, Washington, wants everyone to know that "Bob Hope has lost a fan! I, for one, am disgusted and not amused by his frequent quips about a man of such stature, character and high principles as President Eisenhower. He is entitled to sound like a Democrat, but he should make his point at the polls instead of on TV." (Jimmy Kimmel, are you listening?) Aside from the fact that Hope poked fun at all the presidents (not to mention that Bob and Dolores Hope donated the land that the Eisenhower Medical Center was built on), I don't think that Hope was ever less than respectful when critiquing the presidents. And, as long as it's done in that spirit, do we really want to live in a country in which you can't make fun of its leaders? I don't think so.