November 10, 2018

This week in TV Guide: November 14, 1964

We had high hopes that "The Man Women Love to Hate" would be someone we recognized, someone notorious, the kind of villain that television can be so good at creating and perpetuating. Imagine our disappointment, then, to find out that the hated man in question is nothing more than a local television personality and newspaper columnist, "Count Marco," although it must be said that, in the great tradition of wrestling heavies, for example, Count Marco comes by his hated status honestly. What more can one say about a man whose rise to prominence has come from referring to women as "slobs, pigs and cattle."

The Count hosts his own half-hour morning show, five days a week, on WGO in San Francisco and KABC in Los Angeles. It's a live show; viewers can call in with questions for Marco and.or his guests. What gets to people (mostly women, given that the show airs at 8:30 a.m.), I'd guess, is the self-assuredness with which Marco handles himself. "If I say it, it must be so," is one of his catchphrases, and he's often heard telling women that they should be shining their husbands' shoes. "For some reason this represents slavery to women," he says when asked about the ire his statement raises. Of course, there have always been chauvinists on television, and they often generate ratings because of their very outrageousness, but it's also a sign of the times when an unidentified woman says, in response to the Count's antics, "Sure he's right, but we hate him for drumming it into us."

We also learn, from the Count, that "fat dames look lousy" in slacks, that women who appear in public with rollers in their hair* "should be arrested and held without bail," and that divorce "is always the fault of the ex-wife." Wince-inducing to our modern ears, and although I'm always cautioning people to read statements not based on today's mores but on those of the time, even then these weren't exactly universal sentiments.

*You youngsters can Google that if you're not sure what that means.

In the midst of Robert De Roos' article, we learn that the Count (real name: Marco Spinelli) is not from Italy, but Pittsburgh; that he is "scared stiff" most of the time, especially when women chase and attack him on the streets, that he was once married but is now a widower, and that one of his latest products is a "fanny paddle" so one can slap women on the fanny. He's also planning a "Pig of the Month" contest, "in which a picture of a woman in slacks, taken from the rear, will be displayed each day. Viewers will then vote for Pig of the Month. She will be awarded a ham. If she identifies herself."

The tone of the article is light, breezy, making it obvious that this is all in good fun even if the author doesn't necessarily approve of the Count's antics (De Roos keeps himself fairly objective). As Carl Nolte put it in that obituary I linked to above, "It was all a put-on, of course. Women occasionally stopped Mr. Spinelli in the street and slapped his face. Impostors turned up at restaurants and bars around town. Time magazine called him "a voice from the sewer." But people talked about Count Marco, and that was the point."

Today, of course, this kind of show could never happen. No station would dare show it, no company would dare sponsor it, nobody would dare admit they watched it. The Count himself would probably have been murdered by someone, or at least accosted in a far more violent manner than being hit by a purse. It's likely for the best. But the world is so much more serious now, isn't it?

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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..

Sullivan: Sammy Davis Jr. headlines the show, performing numbers from his Broadway musical "Golden Boy." Other guests are comedians Jackie Vernon and Charlie Drake; singer Kaye Stevens; ventriloquist Jay Nemeth; Peter and Gordon, British vocal-instrumental duo; the Hoganas acrobatic trio; Xavier and his Marionettes; Kessler Twins, singer-dancers; and Brizio the Clown.

Palace:  Host Victor Borge welcomes Alice Faye (Mrs. Phil Harris) in one of her infrequent appearances on TV. Also on the bill are pop singer Nancy Wilson, the Swingle Sisters, French vocal group; Japanese comic Pat Morita; the tap-dancing Nicholas Brothers; bicyclist Rih Aruso; and De Mille, a 15-year-old high-wire performer

This is a terrific week on both counts. You know I'm going to give bonus points for Sammy Davis Jr., who would have gotten a fair amount of time doing songs from Golden Boy, one of the grittiest musicals Broadway had ever seen to that time, and a project written especially for Davis. With Jackie Vernon and Kaye Stevens, that makes for a pretty potent show. On the other hand, look at The Palace—Borge, who's always hilarious, plus Alice Faye (who's very funny in the OTR show she co-starred in with Phil Harris), Pat Morita long before Happy Days and The Karate Kid, and Nancy Wilson. The big winner is the viewer, since these shows aren't on at the same time. The verdict: Push.

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.Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's weekly reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the series of the era. 

Slattery's People, the subject of Cleveland Amory's admiration this week, is that rarity, a series about a heroic state legislator fighting for the underdog. I remember it as a project similar to a  proposed series called The Power that would have starred Raymond Burr and probably caused Perry Mason to hang it up a year or so earlier. Burr called it the best pilot he'd ever read, but apparently there's only a limited space available for stories about heroic legislators, and so Slattery's People it was.

Amory has nothing but praise for this series—"we have yet to see a bad [episode]," he says—and, if it served no other purpose, it put to an end "Dick" Crenna, whom viewers remembered from Our Miss Brooks and The Real McCoys, and replaced him with "Richard" Crenna, an actor of gravity and skill; it would be this Crenna that would prevail in a career that would last until 2003. In an era when shows like The Defenders and East Side/West Side, we shouldn't be surprised that television would take a chance on a topic like this. Even now, notes Amory, the show is suffering from tepid ratings;
'Slattery's people have been too few," quite possibly because of the show's chief virtue, "its uncompromising unconformity." The scripts are first-rate, the performances are excellent, and the issues are real.

Were it not for these old issues of TV Guide, and my predilection for leaving through Brooks' and Marsh's TV directories, I might never have heard of Slattery's People; I don't recall it going into widespread syndication, although you can correct me if you remember it happening. There are a handful of episodes on YouTube (albeit of varying video quality), but I suspect this show just isn't what people would want to see on DVD; after all, look what happened to The Defenders. In addition the way people feel about politics nowadays, I'm not even sure The West Wing could make it. Plus, a political drama will invariably require choosing sides, which means you risk alienating half your audience, since we apparently can't agree on anything anymore. I suppose that's too bad, although one always runs the risk of sending a message when a bit of entertainment is all that's called for. The Beverly Hillbillies turned out to be much more to people's liking, and to CBS's as well, which is probably why the Hillbillies ran for nine seasons and Slattery's People only for one. But isn't it a shame that we didn't, and don't, live in a TV world where there's room for both?

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On Saturday, Notre Dame clashes with Michigan State in the Game of the Week (NBC, 12:15 p.m CT), a precursor to their 1966 Game of the Century. This season, it's #1 Notre Dame driving toward the national championship in legendary coach Ara Parseghian's first season, led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte. The Fighting Irish defeat the Spartans 34-7, and next week they'll get by Iowa 28-0, but the following week, in the final game of the season against USC in Los Angeles, they give up a 17-0 halftime lead and lose in heartbreaking fashion, 21-17. It's against this backdrop that people will have to judge Parseghian's decision to accept that 10-10 tie with Michigan State in 1966. Later that night (CBS, 7:30 p.m.), it's a rerun of "Once upon a Mattress," the off-Broadway musical that made a star of Carol Burnett, that's a sign of things to come.

Come Sunday, and it's an interesting episode of Profiles in Courage (NBC, 3:00 p.m.), the television adaptation of John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer-Prize winning book. This afternoon, the profile is of Mary McDowell, a Brooklyn Latin teacher who in 1917 refuses to sign a loyalty pledge—as a Quaker, she does not believe in violence of any kind, and believes that "her pupils do not rely on her for instruction in patriotism." Considering the hyperpoliticized nature of education today, where even math questions are infused with ideology—well, as I said, it's interesting. In the evening, ABC's Sunday Night Movie presents Birdman of Alcatraz with Burt Lancaster, the moving—if mostly fictional—account of Robert Stroud, the famous bird-raising prisoner.

On Monday, Andy Williams has an all-musical episode (8:00 p.m., NBC), with Shirley Booth, Johnny Mathis, and Morgana King. Later, on the aforementioned Slattery's People (CBS, 9:00 p.m.), Slattery is recruited by the town fathers of Williamton to help get rid of a scientist (Paul Burke) who insists on accepting research projects instead of manufacturing contracts, thus endangering the continuing operation of his plant—the town's only industry. I'm not quite sure how this connects to the state legislature, but I'm sure we'll find out. And Ben Casey (9:00 p.m., ABC) focuses on Dr. Hoffman (Harry Landers) this week, and how his attitude changes to one of disgust after having worked with a great surgeon.

Tuesday, NBC presents a tour of the Louvre, the great French museum, hosted by the great French actor Charles Boyer (9:00 p.m.). It's the first time American television cameras have ever been let into the museum; of course, one of the stops will be the Mona Lisa. (You can see the entire program here in an excellent recordingif you're interested.) At 10:30 p.m., the same time, WKBT, the LaCrosse, Wisconsin CBS affiliate that fits in a good amount of ABC programming (the area doesn't yet have an ABC affiliate) carries last week's Hollywood Palace, which if anything has even more stars than this week's—Bette Davis and Olivia de Haviland do "The Twilight Shore," a dramatic reading; Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks do one of their 2,000-Year-Old-Man sketches; plus singer Monique Van Vooren and the U.S. Olympic gold medal winners.

This coming Sunday, November 22, will be the first anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and while all the networks have memorial programs planned, CBS gets a head start on Wednesday with "The Burden and the Glory of John F. Kennedy" (6:30 p.m.), a look back at the not-quite three years of the JFK administration. At 7:30 p.m. on Channel 11, it's a rare midweek broadcast of Canadian Football, with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats taking on the Ottawa Rough Riders in the first game of the two-game total-points Eastern Conference final. Ottawa wins Game 1 30-13, but Hamilton will come back to take the second game 26-8, winning the series 39-38. At 8:30 p.m., CBS has The Cara Williams Show, Cara Williams being the subject of this week's cover. From Leslie Raddatz's article we learn that Cara is tough, has a temper, was once married to John Drew Barrymore, and through it all has managed to maintain her feminine qualities, the ones that served her well in her previous series, Pete and Gladys, and that the network hopes will serve her well in this one as well. They've given her a great timeslot, between Dick Van Dyke and Danny Kaye. Despite this, The Cara Williams Show is one season and out.

Robert Goulet stars Thursday night (CBS, 9:00 p.m.) in a variety hour that combines elements of a backstage documentary, showing Goulet doing an interview, rehearsing, taping a spot for Ed Sullivan's show, and visiting a college campus and a nightclub. His guests include Leslie Caron and Terry-Thomas; Wonder how this experimental kind of show played out? Here's a clip:


One of the things I've noticed in going through these old TV Guides is how, for a man who never starred in a weekly series of his own, Bob Hope was on TV a lot. This Friday (NBC, 7:30 p.m.) it's one of his own comedy specials (airing in place of his Chrysler Theatre anthology) with a typical Hope lineup of babes, hunks, and stars: Stella Stevens and Annette Funicello; Richard Chamberlain and Trini Lopez; and Donald O'Connor. At 8:00 p.m. on ABC, Tony Franciosa stars in Valentine's Day, a single-season sitcom co-starring Jack Soo; he's also the subject of an Arnold Hano profile in which he gives credit to his wife Judy for helping him move away from his volatile, hard-to-work-with reputation of the past. The couple would divorce three years later. He'd credit a later wife for helping him to settle down. And his reputation on studio lots would remain just as bad. TV  

3 comments:

  1. Slattery's People actually got renewed for a second season, which alas only lasted ten episodes. I watched this series when it was out and was a big fan. I've watched the You-Tube episodes (and the quality is pretty bad), I think the episodes I've seen have held up well. A similar show was done a few years later on NBC with the much ballyhooed The Senator with Hal Holbrook. IMHO this show has not aged well, pretty embarrassing actually.

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  2. Finally - an issue I have (after all this time)!

    - The most interesting person in this week is one you never even mentioned: James T. Aubrey, then-president of CBS.
    This is a bit complicated, so try and stay the course.

    Start with Cara Williams on the cover.
    Her sitcom was one of the three shows from Richelieu Productions, which CBS bought without pilots.
    Richelieu was the company owned by Keefe Brasselle - in semi-secret partnership with Aubrey (you weren't supposed to do that in those days).
    The two other shows were The Reporter, about Harry Guardino as a newspaper guy (created by novelist Jerome Weidman), and The Baileys Of Balboa, a comedy vehicle for Paul Ford, as a down-market cruise captain.

    Brasselle's sweetheart deal with Aubrey met with disapproval from CBS's top man, William Paley - especially when he learned about Brasselle's connection with one of New York's Five Families (If You Know What I Mean).
    Other producers felt that the Aubrey/Brasselle partnership was keeping their shows off CBS's air - when it wasn't affecting scheduling at the net.
    For example: Slattery's People was bought from Bing Crosby Productions, and then was slotted on Monday night against Ben Casey on ABC - also a Bing Crosby Production, and with a three-year head start in the ratings to boot.
    This was a parallel situation to Baileys of Balboa vs. the somewhat similar Gilligan's Island, a non-Brasselle show that Aubrey was known to hate.
    This kind of rival-baiting was always part of the Aubrey playbook.
    CBS put upwith it for a while, but once Brasselle's mob ties became known, Paley sent all the Richelieu shows to the Cornfield - followed by Aubrey himself.
    This was a factor in keeping Slattery's People alive - at least for a while. (They needed something to replace The Reporter on Friday night …)
    The whole story is way more complex than my little precis makes it; the details can be found elsewhere if you'd care to look.

    - Some while back, I might have mentioned that I've got a "c2cDVD" set of Profiles In Courage - all 26 episodes.
    "Mary S. McDowell", the second episode to air - this morning, I went to the DVD Wall and took it down to watch.
    I think I may safely infer that you've never seen this show.
    Mary S. McDowell wasn't simply a Quaker Pacifist. What got her in trouble with the Brooklyn School Board was her refusal to go along with anti-German attitudes in her home city - which could occasionally escalate into something really ugly.
    Given the highly volatile sentiments that are so much in the news these days, I wonder what would happen if this 54-year-old show were to be seen today.
    … and I think that's as far as I can safely take this here; you'd really have to see the show.

    Later on, I'll go back to The DVD Wall to look at some more stuff from this issue (and I've got a lot to choose from this time).

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  3. 1 am Monday morning:

    Here's the week in question in Chicago:
    SATURDAY the 14th:
    - My 14-year-old self got his first look at Warner Oland as Charlie Chan in CC At The Circus, from 1936, part of the Saturday showcase on Channel 9.
    What impressed me even at that early age was the real camaraderie between Oland and Keye Luke as #1 Son Lee.

    Lee: "it's like you always say, Pop - if you want to understand men, study women."
    Charlie: "Did Pop say that?"
    Lee: "Oh yeah …"

    I guess you had to be there …

    - The Outer Limits, circling the Saturday night drain on ABC, has "I, Robot", based on an old pulp SF series by Otto Binder.
    Adam Link is a robot accused of killing its creator; this is a courtroom drama, made so by producers Ben Brady and Seeleg Lester and writer Robert C. Dennis, who all worked together on Perry Mason not long before.

    SUNDAY the 15th:
    Profiles In Courage, op cit., which features Albert Salmi as the anti-German antagonist.
    Incredible Coincidence Dept.:
    This weekend, after looking at that episode, I happened, purely by accident, to pull two other shows from the Old DVD Wall:
    - A mid-run episode of Petrocelli, with Salmi as the friendly cowboy investigator.
    - The next-in-line episode of Future Cop (Hi Dan Budnik!), in which Salmi plays a crooked Navy CPO who's co-heavy with Harry Guardino.
    Totally unintentional on my part; I don't plan these things, they just happen … honest.

    TUESDAY the 17th:
    - Combat! has "Fly Away Home", with Neville Brand as a Signal Corps sergeant who keeps pigeons (same week that ABC is running Birdman Of Alcatraz, with Brand as the sympathetic prison guard - but that's probably just coincidence …)
    - Later that same evening, The Fugitive has " Escape Into Black", the obligatory amnesia episode; in this one, social worker Betty Garrett (long before she became Laverne & Shirley's landlady) gets to briefly meet and talk to the One-Armed Man (the first time he spoke on camera).

    WEDNESDAY the 18th:
    - NBC's movie is "The Hanged Man", the second of its new string of made-for-TV movies; it's a remake of a '47 Universal noir called Ride The Pink Horse.

    THURSDAY the 19th:
    - Maurice Evans makes his first appearance as Samantha's father on Bewitched.
    This got a lot of publicity as Evans's first-ever guest shot on a regular episodic series - something that he more than made up for in succeeding years.
    - Kraft Suspense Theatre has "The Jack Is High" a heist caper with Henry Jones as a Professor who plans the Perfect Robbery, and Pat O'Brien as the Law. Ultimately, the law that prevails is Murphy's …

    FRIDAY the 20th:
    - Channel 9 here in Chicago has two local movies:
    "A Hatful Of Rain" was an acclaimed film about drug addiction, based on a Broadway play by Michael V. Gazzo (Hi Again Dan Budnik - it's the same guy who played the crooked fight manager on Future Cop!)
    But earlier that evening, Frazier Thomas's Family Classics is running Irwin Allen's "The Big Circus", a whodunit set in (surprise!) a big circus!
    So my week begins and ends with circus whodunits!

    Don't you just love symmetry?

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!