April 14, 2018

This week in TV Guide: April 14, 1962

This week's issue presents us with a glimpse at two of the "young breed" actors making waves and setting hearts aflutter on the small screen.

The cover story is on George Maharis, one-half of the duo roaming the highways on CBS's Route 66, one of the more existential programs on TV. The profile, by TV Guide's favorite journalist-psychoanalyst Richard Gehman, is pretty much what you'd expect; he starts out by gently mocking Maharis as one of what he calls "The Method Creatures," along with Marlon Brandow, Paul Newman, Ben Gazzara "and several other mumbling types." Maharis is a man with a voracious appetite for life - his friend Inger Stevens compares him to a coiled spring - and relies on instinct for most of his acting chops. "I never learn lines," he tells Gehman, "somewhere along the line I make a connection, I come to something I feel, and then I put my finger on it, and that's it."

Maharis says he lacks discipline as an actor; Gehman says that isn't all he lacks, and goes on to ridicule some of his other abilities ("When Maharis gets angry before the TV cameras, he resembles a young monkey eating a lobster."), but this makes no difference to his many female fans, women being what they are, you know. He is now one of America's "foremost symbols of sex in the raw," but as for that rebellious streak promised in the title? Maharis, as he himself admits, "is fundamentally insecure. He is a nonconformist not simply because he hates organized society; he is one because he feels he has to protect himself."

What the article doesn't address, and can't because Maharis has yet to leave the show, is how underrated he and his character, Buz Murdock, were to the success of Route 66. The show's premise, for any of you unfamiliar with it, is a deceptively simple one: Buz and his friend, Tod Stiles (Martin Milner), travel the roads of America in a Chevy Corvette willed to Tod by his father after his death. The contrast between the two couldn't be more clear: Tod, college-educated and born to money; Buz, an orphan from the wrong side of the streets. Through the run of the series these two go from odd job to odd job, looking for adventure and romance along the way while they wait to run into the one true thing that will cause either of them to settle down and leave the road. At first, I found Tod the more persuasive of the two: quieter, more reasonable, less of - well, a rebel. But as time went on, Buz began to assert his own appeal. Without question, Maharis was a dynamic, charismatic actor, and while his temper often caused him to jump in where angels fear to tread, over the course of the series he also begins to display a healthy cynicism that provided a welcome contrast to Tod's youthful idealism and desire to change the world. They both had their flaws, but the street smarts of Buz began to outweigh the book smarts of Tod - and those smarts also begin to rub off on Tod as well, (judging by the number of fights he gets into after Buz leaves), unless that's just a case of lazy writing.

Milner (L) and Maharis
When Maharis leaves Route 66 during the show's third season, supposedly because of poor health (including a bout of hepatitis that's mentioned elsewhere in this issue) but possibly because of a dispute with the producers, his role in the co-pilot's seat is taken by Glenn Corbett, a fine actor himself but with a character that plays much too much like Tod's. Lacking the dynamic Buz/Tod contrast, the series flounders on for another season-and-a-half before calling it a day, in the process becoming one of the first television series to produce a final episode bringing everything to a close.

The fact is, Route 66 badly needed Maharis, no matter how much trouble he might have been, and it badly needed Buz Murdock. Had Linc Case (Corbett's character) displayed similar traits to Buz, Maharis' absence might not have been so pronounced; as it is, the viewer is often left wishing there was someone around - anyone - to knock some sense into Tod's head, to tell him that it is time for them to cut their losses and get out of town fast.

Because of this, anyone who watches Route 66 is, by the end of the series, almost compelled to become a fan of Maharis'; it truly is a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. Maharis was never able to replicate the fame that he achieved through Route 66, but his performance in an iconic series is still more than most working actors will ever accomplish. Had he continued on through the remainder of the show's run, however long that might have been, Route 66 would have been a far superior show than it is. In contrasting his character to that of Martin Milner, one finds out just how essential he was to the show. Remove Tod, and you remove the premise. Remove Buz, on the other hand, and you remove the heart, the passion of the show. Of the two, I think that is the quality most difficult to replicate.

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The other dynamic, difficult star in question is Vincent Edwards, the dark, brooding anti-hero of ABC's medical drama Ben Casey. While Edwards is a prime attraction for many of the same reasons as Maharis, his penchant for disrupting the set is fast becoming a legend, according to Henry Harding's "For the Record" feature. He's demanding a substantial raise (from $1,750 to $7,500 per episode, which would amount to nearly $60,000 a shot today), plus 25% ownership in the show, and a $300,000 loan from Bing Crosby Productions to finance his own production company. The series creator, James Moser, doesn't think this is out of line; "After all, an actor is like a ballplayer, and only has so many years." When you depend on your virile good looks, that is.

Prophetic?
He's also making a reputation as one of the most difficult stars now working on TV. According to one cast member, "he shows up late, explodes on the set and has created dissension among the crew." The producers defer to him because of "the unusual pressures under which Edwards must live," starring in a show in which he's in 80% of the scenes. Producer Matthew Rapf says he's "no worse" than any other actor he's worked with, although "I wish he'd come to me with his problems instead of going to the crew and other members of the company." And while Edwards is a bona fide star, Rapf is not afraid to discuss recasting the role if necessary. "It will hurt us. But we believe the show is strong enough to carry on without him."

Edwards predicts a new deal will work out, and that he'll soon be back "listening impatiently while kindly old Dr. Zorba reads lines," and part of that is true. Edwards does come back, but Sam Jaffe, the veteran actor and consummate pro who played Zorba, would eventually leave, unable to put up any longer with Edwards' lack of professionalism and gambling addiction. Mark Rydell, one of the show's directors, would later talk about Edwards' gambling problem: "He used to come to the set with 20 or 30 thousand dollars in packets and he would say, ‘You gotta get me out by 11, I’m going to the track. So I might have 10 scenes with him in various places with other people, and suddenly I would have to go and do all of his coverage in those scenes so that he could leave.” His addiction was so obvious, though, that Edwards remained popular with most of the cast and crew, who felt pity for him more than anger. He died in 1996, his life, says Stephen Bowie, "a shambles."

The series ends in 1966, and although he'll make another try at a medical series with Matt Lincoln (as well as a failed pilot to reboot Casey), Vince Edwards will never again approach the heights he reached as Ben Casey.

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Ah, I love running across items like this: a look at 10-year-old Richard Thomas, future star of The Waltons, but right now appearing in the children's adventure show 1, 2, 3, Go! in which he travels on a flying carpet with Today veteran Jack Lescoulie on adventures "from Alaska to Cape Canaveral; from California to the Virgin Islands; from New London, Conn., to London, England."

Thomas is described as "A quiet, well-mannered lad with blond hair and brown eyes," along with a self-assurance unusual to the normal 10-year-old but the kind of thing you'd expect from someone who's been acting on television and Broadway since he was seven. He's paid between $20,000 and $25,000 a year for 1, 2, 3, Go!, which is a lot more than my allowance was when I was 10. So far he's played basketball with the Boston Celtics ("I learned to dribble behind my back"), visited the atomic sub Nautilus, and did a stint as a New York City fireman. Lescoulie admires him as a professional; producer Jack Kuney, when asked if they ever call him Dick instead of Richard, replies, "No, not very often. To me, this is not a boy named Dick. It's always Richard. But he's all boy. [John-Boy?] He's always willing to go firs,t he's never afraid to attempt anything."

It won't be the last time Richard Thomas appears in the pages of TV Guide.

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The most interesting thing about Saturday isn't what's on TV, but this ad for what's in the theater. It's an original ad for the brand-new movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, playing at the Lyric and Riviera theaters in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, respectively. Neither one is around anymore; the Lyric was torn down in the early 70s, replaced by a twin screen theater that now serves as a dance club, while the Riviera bit the dust in the late 70s. Interesting how Lee Marvin gets so much attention in this ad - you can tell it was made for TV Guide, can't you? (In case you can't read what's written in the box next to Marvin's picture, and I had to get out a magnifying glass, it reads, "Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance, the coldest killer of them all!" Ah, the movie before it became a legend.

The National Association of Broadcasters met in Chicago for their annual convention last week, at which there was yet more sparring between Leroy Collins, head of the NAB, and Newton Minow, chairman of the FCC. I'm sure this will be the subject of intense discussion Saturday night on Irv Kupcinet's At Random (11:30 p.m., WTCN), which includes not Collins and Minow, but Desi Arnaz, Rhonda Fleming, NAB board chair Clair McCollough, and Leonard Reinsch, Radio-TV adviser to the Democratic National Committee. A wonder that 90 minutes would be big enough to hold it all.

Sunday is Passover, and Metropolitan Opera tenor Jan Peerce is one of the guests on CBS's Passover special Open Door (9:00 a.m.), while at noon Eternal Light (KSTP) presents Morton Wishengrad's fantasy "The Tender Grass," with Broadway star Marian Seldes and veteran actor Sam Wanamaker. In the role of Elijah is Martin Brooks, who played Dr. Rudy Wells in the Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman series. It's also Palm Sunday, and Hallmark Hall of Fame (5:00 p.m., NBC) repeats last year's color special "Give Us Barabbas!", starring James Daly as the infamous criminal, Kim Hunter as Mara, and Dennis King as Pilate. Later in the evening (7:30 p.m., to be precise), NBC presents a Project 20 special "He Is Risen," a sequel to the network's acclaimed Christmas special "The Coming of Christ," with Alexander Scourby narrating while the "stills-in-action" technique shows great works of art by El Greco, Velazquez, Rembrandt, and others.

On Monday, Malachy McCourt, the younger brother of author Frank McCourt and an author in his own right as well as actor, plays a reprobate cousin of Cha Cha on Surfside 6 (8:00 p.m., ABC), but I think I'd favor Jonathan Winters' appearance on I've Got a Secret (9:30 p.m, CBS), with Merv Griffin sitting in for vacationing Bill Cullen as one of the panelists.

Tuesday night starts off with The New Breed (7:30 p.m., ABC), this week dealing with teen marriage, featuring Peter Fonda, described as "following in the acting tradition of his father Henry Fonda." At 8:00 p.m., NBC's Rainbow of Stars makes use of the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, with Dick Button and the U.S. Olympic skating stars joining Robert Goulet, Nancy Walker, Al Hirt, Carol Lawrence, and of course The Rockettes. Then, Pulitzer-winner Tad Mosel's play "That's Where the Town's Going!" rounds out the evening on Westinghouse Presents (9:00 p.m., CBS), with Kim Stanley, Jason Robards, Patricia Neal and Buddy Ebsen.

Dr. Reuben K. Youngdahl, who appears weekday mornings on WCCO, hosts a primetime special Wednesday, The World and Its People, (6:30 p.m.) talking about Israel's fight for independence. He includes slides and films which, I suspect, he may have taken himself. At 7:30 p.m. on NBC, Perry Como welcomes Jane Morgan, Kukla and Ollie (with Burr Tillstrom), and the St. Monica Children's Choir to his Kraft Music Hall Easter show. Then, the infamous Keefe Brasselle is one of the stars of "The Go-Between" on The U.S. Steel Hour. (9:00 p.m., CBS)

Thursday is devoted to guest stars: Cliff Robertson on The Outlaws (6:30 p.m., NBC), Jayne Mansfield on Tell it to Groucho (8:00 p.m., CBS), and David Niven and DeForest Kelley on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre (8:30 p.m., CBS), while Joey Bishop is the guest host this week on The Tonight Show (10:30 p.m., NBC) while the network waits for the arrival of Johnny Carson; the show comes from Hollywood this week, with Woody Herman's orchestra as the house band.

On Good Friday, WCCO carries The Stations of the Cross from St. Olaf (8:30 p.m.), taped earlier today. You'll remember me mentioning this last week when WCCO carried it for Good Friday 1960. Also at 8:30 (NBC), Dinah Shore presents highlights taken from two shows filmed in Europe last year; her guests include Charles Boyer, Ingemar Johansson (probably while he was heavyweight champion), and members of the Royal Danish Ballet.

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Ah, there's a lot more we could look at this week, including an article on how librarians report that television has helped encourage Americans to read. Of course they do - they read TV Guide! TV  

8 comments:

  1. There's so much in this issue (Chicago edition, of course) that I think I'll start with something that isn't in it:

    - That ad for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which I'm guessing opened in Chicago a week or so earlier.
    It's a big country ...

    - Irv Kupcinet's talk show, At Random, originated at WBBM-channel 2, the CBS station in Chicago.
    The show ran late Saturday/early Sunday, starting after midnight, after ch2's late movie.
    At Random was a live show with no time limit - some nights it might go as long as three hours. So what you were getting in Minneapolis was edited down from what went out in Chicago a week or so before.

    - Monday: 87th Precinct, whose producers were expecting a renewal (which didn't happen), has "New Man In The Precinct", which introduces Fred Beir as Cotton Hawes, who'd been established in Ed McBain's novels by this time.
    Best laid plans ...

    Tuesday: In that New Breed show about teen marriage, the young bride is played by Patty McCormack, then transitioning to adult roles. I'd really like to see this one - and so would my friend Max Allan Collins, who years later would direct Patty McCormack in two pretty good little direct-to-DVD thrillers, Mommy and Mommy's Day.
    But that's another story ...
    And later that same evening:
    Alcoa Premiere (Fred Astaire's anthology) has a pilot called "All My Clients Are Innocent", about a flashy lawyer who goes easy on the protocol.
    This is also one I'd like to see: had it sold, Barry Morse would not have been available for The Fugitive a year later.
    That's the way it goes ...

    Wednesday: Naked City has "Take Off Your Hat When The Funeral Passes", in which Lee J. Cobb plays a suspected robber who escapes a prison sentence by turning in his brother-in-law.
    If you know anything about Cobb's experiences with HUAC, and its subsequent effect on his professional and personal life - well, the subtext just shouts out at you, doesn't it?

    Lotsa other stuff, but I think I'll just throw in that feature in the color section about actress Joan Patrick.
    It seems that the big color picture of Miss Patrick ... isn't Miss Patrick.
    It's another ingenue from the same period, Christine White by name.
    A couple of weeks later, TV Guide received letter from both actresses, calling amused attention to the gaffe (Christine White and Joan Patrick were friends in real life; I suspect this may have been a double-team on their parts).
    Anyway, TV Guide made the correction, and everyone enjoyed a hearty chuckle ...

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  2. Another neat show premiered this week when Disney presented "Disneyland After Dark" Sunday, Apr. 15 at 6:30 PM, right before "He Is Risen" (which preempted CAR 54 that week). The whole show, preceded by the NBC Peacock, is available here on YouTube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYoR9tz7tSs

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  3. Glenn Corbett was one of the most bland, boring actors in television history. It's less accurate to say that he "starred" in Route 66 and more accurate to say that the camera was pointed in his direction.

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  4. Just back from spending most of this miserable day at the Old DVD Wall, looking up ancient shows that are listed in this week's Guide (Chicago edition).

    ... but before that, there are a few loose ends to tie off:

    - Remember a few weeks back, when you wondered if the Chicago Tribune "really needed the money"?
    Turns out - they do.
    Tribune Media - or to be more accurate Tribune Online Content (TRONC for short) - is in the process of changing ts ownership structure for the umpteenth time in recent years, according to a story in the Sun-Times (figures, doesn't it?) over the weekend.
    Don't ask me to explain any of this; I've read the story five times already and I can't figure it out.
    Two things I'm getting (sort of) from this:
    - For the first time in its history, the Trib newsroom staff has voted to unionize.
    (Sound of the Earth moving.)
    - In the not-too-distant future, the Trib will move its offices and facilities out of the Tribune Tower; the new headquarters will be in the Prudential Plaza across the river.
    Since the Sun-Times vacated their old quarters years ago (yielding to a skyscraper built by and bearing the name of some New Yorker whose name escapes me at the moment), you should be hearing the remains of Siskel and Ebert doing a similar rumble (except that as memory serves, both those gentlemen were cremated ...).
    - Oh, and by the way, this has nothing to do with the prospective sale of Tribune Broadcasting (which was split off from the paper some years back) to Sinclair, which as far as I know is still pending with the FCC (or whoever does that stuff nowadays).

    I'll stop this one, and begin another about the DVD Adventure down below (just in case you've still got that oedipusrexing character limit).

    To Be Continued -

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  5. The Grate DVD Adventure Begins!:

    - Monday:
    - My bootleg DVD of Surfside 6 is really crappy, but it was a kick to see a young(ish) Malachy McCourt, who'd just started his sort-of TV career as a frequent guest on Jack Paar's Tonight show.
    Back then McCourt had bright red hair and matching beard; I'm guessing that the brass at Warner Bros thought he might be an interesting character face for its TV shows , but apparently cooler heads prevailed ...
    The episode, "Irish Pride", is a bit above the average WB 'tec show; McCourt has a couple of funny scenes with Hal "Gildersleeve" Peary as a bureaucrat that make me want to see at least a cleaned-up version.
    For the record, Malachy McCourt's latest book, a memoir of sorts titled Death Need Not Be Fatal, is currently available.

    - Above I mentioned that 87th Precinct introduced Fred Beir as Detective Cotton Hawes, who'd been added to Ed McBain's books a few years before.
    The episode is based on the McBain novel Killer's Choice, in which one of the 87th detectives is killed, and Hawes winds up taking his place.
    But here's the funny thing:
    In the novel, the detective who gets killed is Roger Havilland, who's played in the series by Greg Walcott.
    But in the episode, it's a hitherto unseen officer who gets the gate - sort of an 87th "red shirt"; Havilland/Walcott stays for the whole show.
    I'm guessing that had 87th Precinct made it to Season 2, Hawes would have become a regular, but this begs the question: who would leave - or would anyone leave?
    By the way, Cotton Hawes is married; his wife is seen briefly in a restaurant scene - played by Joan Patrick, op cit. (Geez, I love to do that).

    - Thriller has two half-hour stories, jointly titled "The Lethal Ladies"; both stories star Howard Morris and Rosemary Murphy in very contrasting roles - and Ida Lupino directs both stories, thereby giving the joint title more significance.

    - Wednesday
    - Checkmate has a show set in and around San Francisco's Chinatown, in which a professor hires Sebastian Cabot & Co. to find out who's blackmailing his wife, who's played by Nobu McCarthy.
    The main suspect is played by James Hong, who has friends on this site (in that context, may I say that I still think of him as ace pilot Bing Wong from The In-Laws (the Falk/Arkin version - you know, the good one).
    In any event, the whole story plays out as not-what-it-seems ...
    Pretty good little whodunit.

    Thursday:
    - The Law And Mr. Jones returns with new episodes, after ABC cancelled it the previous season.
    James Whitmore is as good as ever; the problem is that this should be an hour-long show - you just can't do courtroom drama in 30 minutes.
    Still worth watching, though ...

    Friday:
    - Target: The Corruptors takes on a probate racket.
    Seems that some judges can assign estates where there's no designated executor to an administrator, who in his turn can dispose of the properties for a sizable profit, which is split between the judge and "partners", with the heirs cut out. Nasty business, so Stephen McNally brings his outrage to bear ...
    In this episode, Macdonald Carey is the Bad Judge, and Robert Middleton is the Bad Administrator - and guess which one gets a conscience and spills to McNally? (Hint: not so fast, there ...)

    - Meanwhile, Twilight Zone has "The Trade-Ins", about the old couple considers getting younger bodies to replace the ailing originals.
    You may have heard the story of how Joseph Schildkraut's real-life wife passed on midway through the filming; the producers were going to postpone the shoot, but Schildkraut insisted that they not do that.
    That's what classical actors did then, and Joseph Schildkraut was classical.

    Did I miss anything?

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    Replies
    1. Yes...'The Lethal Ladies" has a prologue where a nurse takes out a doctor with a remarkable resemblance to Vince Edwards
      (BEN CASEY had clobbered THRILLER in the ratings)

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  6. I don't know if the Rockefeller Center skating rink was still open in early-to-mid April of 1962; I suspect the special airing from there was taped a few weeks earlier (when the rink was more likely to have been in place).

    I wonder if camera cables for the first-generation RCA TK-41 color cameras were strung through the RCA Building and connected to the control-room of one of their studios so NBC could have taken three or four color cameras out of one of their studios at 30 Rock, plugged them into the camera cables, and thus, didn't have to use a mobile unit.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!