June 22, 2019

This week in TV Guide: June 20, 1964

There's enough in Richard Gehman's article on "The Negro in Television" that we could probably spend an entire week writing about it. The relationship between black entertainers and television is a complex one; on the one hand, shows like Ed Sullivan's have always provided a stage for black entertainers to display their talent; likewise, many consider this season to be the first in which black actors are appearing in dramatic shows as "human beings, working in the same jobs and coping with the same human situations that face whites—by presenting them not as mummers but as people." And it's projected that more and more will be on the screen in such acting roles in the season to come. As Herbert Hill, the national labor secretary for the NAACP, says, "Progress is being made."

Speaking with network representatives, Gehman repeats their assertions that there is no discrimination in television; they provide lists of programs that have had regular representation by Negro actors; they stress that they are working in studios in accounting, machine, and transportation departments, or as musicians and composers, actors and extras. And yet, it's difficult to demonstrate the progress. The networks all claim they don't keep records, the studios say their files "don't indicate which employees are Negro." One activist responds that, "They know damned well there are less than 10 percent. . . the Negroes constitute 10 percent of our population, but get a much lower percentage of the jobs."

One thing that strikes me in this article—something that's not just a remnant of the '60s, but is very real today, is a sense of fear when it comes to talking about race. "The roots of fear are very, very deep in the prejudiced," says Gehman, "but they are just as deep in those who are the victims." Blacks fear being labeled as troublemakers if they speak out, making their job searches even more difficult; "nearly every white actor" is hesitant to say anything because of their eagerness to please those in power. Many activists, both black and white, wish that those who have been successful, people like Nat King Cole and Sidney Poitier, would be more outspoken. Cole's NBC variety program was unable to stay on the air, despite support from stars who worked for scale, because of a lack of sponsors; says the network did it's best, but as for the ad agencies, he adds that "most of the agency men are afraid of the dark."

George Norford, perhaps the highest-ranking black man working at any network, is an editor in NBC's broadcast standards department, and worked with New York State's Commission for Human Rights on exploring more opportunities for blacks on television. Norford urges broadcasters to utilize blacks in television. "We try to convince them that at stake are not only jobs for Negroes, but the reflection of our society as it is. The exclusion of this group in a representation of American life amounts to a distortion in the eyes of the world, for more and more American television shows are being sold abroad." He doesn't see malice as much as a lack of thought. When producers asked for 40 or 50 extras for a crowd scene, the Extras Guild would send over white actors unless specifically asked otherwise. "They just hadn't thought much about Negroes." When producers of Westerns say that it would be "unrealistic" to put black actors in their dramas, Norford points out that many Negroes moved from the South to the West after the Emancipation Proclamation; enough that "it wouldn't be incompatible with reality to show them working as blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters and so on."

This image of Harry Belafonte and Dinah Shore
performing together could have gotten a show
taken off the air in the South.
Overall, Gehman's article points out the need for reform, acknowledging that it's a scandal that there is no series starring a black, while maintaining a cautious optimism about the future. There may be a fair amount of naivety about it all; since this is only part one of a two-part article, Gehman doesn't get into the potential resistance of Southern viewers to an increased presence by blacks on television. As I was researching my TV Guide presentation for the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention last year, I ran across some Letters to the Editor responding to Gehman's article that point out in a most illuminating way the obstacles to increasing the presence of blacks on television. An anonymous letter, appearing in the July 4, 1964 issue, said that “When a Negro entertainer appears on our screen we immediately switch stations. We are not against Negroes who can act, but are against putting them on as models and singers.” In the same issue, an unnamed individual from St. Augustine, Florida wrote, “The people in the South do not like Negroes on TV. If Negroes start getting on all those TV shows, there are going to be a lot of shows dropped. The Defenders, for example, is a show not many people watch in the South.”

There were letters applauding the networks for expanding the black presence on TV as well, but these letters demonstrate—if you needed any proof—that the route to equality for blacks on television is a long one indeed, as is always the case any time one is dealing with ignorance.

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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: An extended portion of tonight's show is devoted to judging the 50 contestants competing for the title of National College Queen, and the crowning of the winner. Also scheduled: Sally Ann Howes; comics Allen and Rossi; rock 'n' roller Bobby Vinton; and Harve Presnel, co-star of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Palace: Host Donald O'Connor performs with the Louis DaPron dancers and the singing Wellingtons. Also: soprano Mary Costa; comic Don Knotts; singer-pianist Buddy Greco; comedians Jakc Colvin and Yvonne Wilder; juggler Francis Brunn; and the Pompoff Thedy musical clowns.

Alice Ruby, a sophomore at Bennington College in Vermont, wins the National College Queen pageant; I'm sure she was a worthy winner, but I'm always a little hopeful that events like this have a winner who winds up being a household name, a big star of some kind. Oh well. According to TV.com, Trini Lopez and John Byner are also guests with Ed, as well as the new U.S. Open golf champion—but more about that below. Still, Palace has a great entertainer in Donald O'Connor. . . I don't know. I guess I'll have to call it a Push. Your thoughts, of course, may differ.

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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. 

The last time we looked at Cleveland Amory's column, it was his season-ending piece where he reviews letters from his readers. Such is the case again here this week, and in an extra-long column that runs onto the next page, we find that his readers have a lot to say.

Amory reports that the two columns which generated the most mail were his negative reviews of What's My Line? and Queen for a Day. and in both cases the mail ran strongly in his favor. Readers also liked his positive reviews of programs like Mr. Novak, The Fugitive, The Farmer's Daughter, and Combat! They most definitely did not like his attack on Petticoat Junction; one letter warned Cleve to "stay outa the hills if you 'spect to live long," while another said that his hit piece "was a pitiful example of what is becoming common today—the bad review."

And then there are the letters voicing outrage at shows cancelled by the networks: The Richard Boone Show, East Side/West Side, and generating the most of all, Breaking Point. Amory takes a moment here to quote a letter from Jeannette Dumais of St. Anne, Illinois, who speaks for a lot of readers, and Cleve as well: "Why, in heaven's name, I demand to know, are persons who are a little particular in their taste discriminated against by the TV networks?. . . I rebel against the average and below-average majority forcing out TV programs which might make them think a little. . . Don't the networks and/or the sponsors have any pride in their work?" Mrs. Dumais, Amory adds, is 27—hardly what you'd call an old crank. And while there are more good shows out there than she gives the networks credit for, it's also true that "if the networks and the sponsors don't have enough pride in their work, perhaps others will." He was right then and he'd be right now; there are both good and bad shows on TV, although more bad ones and not as many good ones as we'd like. In many cases, we're still waiting for someone to show that pride in programming that Amory foresaw.

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This week's sports highlight is the 64th United States Open Golf Championship (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC). For the final time, the final 36 holes are played on Saturday—18 holes in the morning, another 18 in the afternoon—and the United States Golf Association couldn't have chosen a more fateful location than the blast furnace of Congressional Country Club, in Bethesda, Maryland. At 7,053 yards, it's the longest course ever to host the Open, and on "Open Saturday" the grueling challenge is compounded by high humidity and temperatures that are over 100° by the start of the final round. (It was measured at 112° by the cup on one green.)

Ken Venturi, once one of golf's biggest names before his game cratered to the point where he had to beg invitations to tournaments, is surprisingly in contention as the third round starts, and although he struggles in the heat, he shoots a brilliant 66 to move within two shots of the lead. However, Venturi had literally staggered in, his whole body shaking from what might have been heat stroke. With ashen face and glazed eyes, he went to lie down on a bed in a private room while a member of the club who was also a doctor gave him salt tablets and water. His fellow pros watched him closely, worrying about his health.

After the 50 minute break, it was time for the final round. The doctor warns him that going out in that inferno again could kill him, but when a man is at rock bottom, what does it matter? The crowd cheering him on, Venturi makes his agonizing way around the course, remaining steady as the other contenders begin to fade. By the turn, he's taken the lead, and slowly begins to pull away. The doctor is with him, feeding him salt tablets and glasses of iced tea, and as he walks the fairways he wraps his neck in towels dipped in ice water. His 10-foot par putt on 18 gives him a four-shot victory, and, remarkably, the second-lowest score in Open history; as the crowd cheers, he drops his putter and raises his arms wearily in triumph, the picture that makes the cover of Sports Illustrated the next week. "My God," he says, "I've won the Open."

Ken Venturi goes on to a long and successful career as an announcer with CBS. It's true that his fine career never reaches the heights he seemed destined for as a young golfer, but his memorable Open victory—although he remembers virtually nothing about that final round—remains one of the most famous and most dramatic Opens in the tournament's long history, and his victory one of the most popular.

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Let's take a quick spin around the rest of the programming, where some quality programs await.

Saturday's Late Show movie on WCBS (11:20 p.m.) is I Married a Woman, and back in 1964 there would have been nothing ironic about that title. George Gobel is the idea man at an add agency, and Diana Dors, who at the time of this airing was Mrs. Richard Dawson, most certainly must be the woman.

The Sunday matinee movie on WNHC in Hartford is 12 Angry Men (5:00 p.m.), a very good movie with an exceptional cast; I've always thought that Henry Fonda, as the pivotal juror during the tense jury deliberations, is the movie's weak link. Not that Fonda isn't good in it—he is, just as he is in almost everything. It's just that he's a little too good, a little too noble, even down to his light-colored suit. For my money, the better choice is Bob Cummings' hesitant, beseeching performance in the original Studio One production from 1954.

On Monday, Breaking Point, the program so liked by Cleveland Amory's letter-writers, presents "And If Thy Hand Offends Thee," a very good episode with James Daly as a man whose cramped hand may have a psychosomatic link to his World War II experiences—what we today would probably consider PTSD. (10:00 p.m., ABC) I've really enjoyed the episodes of Breaking Point that I've been fortunate enough to see; I just wish there had been more of them. It deserved a second season.

That very same Henry Fonda is the host of Henry Fonda and the Family, a comedy revue from 1962 that's being rerun on CBS Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. It's billed as a spoof of "all those statistics compiled about the American family," with Dick Van Dyke, Cara Williams, Dan Blocker, Carol Lynley, Michael J. Pollard, Paul Lynde, Verna Felton, and Flip Mark. Three more guest stars and it could have been a remake of 12 Angry Men. (12 Dissatisfied People?)

Every Wednesday this summer, WPIX airs "The Special of the Week," encore presentations of specials that you might have missed the first time around. First up is "Wild is Love," a variety hour hosted by Nat King Cole, including songs from Cole's new album. (8:30 p.m.) Sounds like a pleasant way to spend the evening, doesn't it?

WPIX follows this up on Thursday with a Naked City repeat of "The King of Venus Will Take Care of You" (9:00 p.m., ABC), a typically excellent episode that stars Jack Warden in an exceptionally nuanced performance as a criminal on the run, with Mike McGreevey as the young boy (the titular "King of Venus") who forms a complicated relationship with the fugitive.

On Friday, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre presents an adaptation of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's landmark novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (8:30 p.m., CBS) starring Jason Robards, Jr. as the prisoner in a Soviet gulag. Later, The Jack Paar Program (10:00 p.m., NBC) has what must have been a very lively program, with Shelley Berman, Oscar Levant, and singer Linda Bennett. Oscar "discusses the Levant neuroses and comments on celebrities," and I would love to have seen that. TV  

6 comments:

  1. Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! An issue I've got!

    Some things I noticed off the top (and I had a chance to look up):

    - I Married A Woman was made in 1956 - three years before Diana Dors married Dickie Dawson (as he was then known in England).
    In '56, Miss Dors was still on her first husband (who will remain nameless here to protect the not-so-innocent); this particular picture is mainly remembered today as (a) part of a failed attempt to make a movie star out of George Gobel; (b) ending with an unexpected cameo appearance by a major star (not very usual in movies of that time); (c) one of the final releases of RKO Radio Pictures, which shut up shop not long afterward.
    The above is a digest version of several far more complicated stories (sorry about that).

    - I believe I may have mentioned in a long-ago comment that Breaking Point fell victim to network/studio office politics this season:
    Bing Crosby Productions, which produced both this series and Ben Casey, got into a kerfuffle with ABC over their moving Casey to Wednesdays, opposite The Beverly Hillbillies and Dick Van Dyke, which blew a hole in the Casey ratings.
    ABC gave the Crosby company a choice: they could keep the Monday night hour (partly for a good lead-out for Der Bingle's fall sitcom), but they had to choose between Casey and Breaking Point. Casey, with three year's seniority, won out, and there you are.

    - From the Wonderful World Of Misprints:
    On The Hollywood Palace, that comedy team was Jack Colvin and his then-wife Yvonne Wilder.
    Several years after this, Jack Colvin gained second-string "fame" as the skeevy tabloid reporter who spent several years chasing The Incredible Hulk - but that's another story …

    - You might want to go to Classic Movie And TV Café, and check out an interview with Michael McGreevey, who in his adulthood became a well-known TV screenwriter (just so you know).

    I decided to stick to things you covered here for now; later on, I might do a day-to-day of my own on the week (and since I actually saw a lot of these shows, it might prove interesting …).

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    Replies
    1. Glad to please, Mike! You're right that Dickie was not Diana's husband when the movie was made, which was why I was glad to find they were married when it was shown on TV. (New York television premiere, by the way!)

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    2. I remember Mike McGreevey mostly from his Disney live action movie performances, mainly as Richard Schuyler, dimwitted friend to Kurt Russell's Dexter Riley in 3 movies set at the fictional Medfield College. I remember seeing him interviewed in A&E's Biography of Russell.

      This issue featured the last of many TVG cover articles about Donna Reed during the run of her self-named sitcom. This time the article title calls her "Sweet, Sincere & Solvent".

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  2. I agree, Fonda is the weakest link in the movie, you expect him to have a halo around his head at the end. The character actors steal the movie, at least half of these guys went on to do at least one episode of The Fugitive each.

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    1. Good point about the cast, Randy - the fact that, even though Fonda is the weakest link, the movie is still so memorable speaks to how good those actors were.

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  3. As promised/threatened, here's a day-by-day of this week (Chicago edition, Central Daylight Time):

    SATURDAY:
    - NBC's movie is The Left Hand Of God, from 1955.
    Humphrey Bogart is an adventurer in newly Red China, trying to stay one jump ahead of the Commies on one hand, and a Old Chinese war lord on the other; to effect this, Bogie poses as a Catholic priest, which gets a touch complicated when he meets missionary doctor Gene Tierney …
    OH, I forgot to mention that the war lord is Lee J. Cobb, in the expected bad makeup, but sounding remarkably like Juror #3 …
    The movie is shorter than usual, so NBC fills out the time slot with Cesar Romero chatting up Cobb on the set of The Virginian (this happened a lot on NBC's movie nights).

    SUNDAY:
    - From the DVD Wall: Arrest And Trial has a goodish episode with Nick Adams as a compulsive gambler who's looting the company till in order to support two girlfriends.
    The girlfriends are Joyce Bulifant (then still in young-and-ditzy mode) and Kamala Devi (in real life the then-incumbent Mrs. Chuck Connors). Complications ensue, especially when the story moves to Las Vegas, which was far from the splashy venue we'd know today.

    - The DuPont Show Of The Week is near the end of its NBC run; tonight they've got a full-out farce, "The Missing Bank of Rupert X. Humperdink", with John McGiver as a profligate banker trying to track down a stash of cash he'd squirreled away in a backwater bank, under an assumed name.
    Written by Robert Van Scoyk (who usually did mysteries), this is loaded with multiple crazy complications; I was 13 when I watched it, and frankly I laughed a lot (how 68-year-old me would see it today - well, I'd have to be able to actually see it, wouldn't I?).

    MONDAY:
    - Deep into Rerun Season.
    The only one I've been able to see for myself is on YouTube:
    Sing Along With Mitch, which rarely used guest stars, made an exception for Milton Berle, who basically took over the show.
    This was one of the occasional bones NBC threw Uncle Miltie's way (so he wouldn't try to get out of that 30-year contract from long ago).
    One problem was that Mitch Miller didn't use a studio audience; if you watch the show, you'll notice that Berle keeps holding for reactions that never come, which doubtless frustrated him.

    TUESDAY:
    - On McHale's Navy, Tim Conway is assigned to train Navy nurses; one of them is Joyce Bulifant, op cit.
    - Next on ABC, The Greatest Show On Earth brings on Cornel Wilde as a big-game guy who brings over a bunch of beasts from Africa, and then wants to take them back.
    Ingenue Of The Week is Ellen McRae, who was not yet married to Mr. Burstyn.

    WEDNESDAY:
    - On The Virginian, Clu Gulager (several years before he became a regular) has a guest role as a deaf-mute ranch hand.
    Meanwhile, on The Farmer's Daughter, Bill Windom's brother visits, and turns out to be Roger Smith, recently demobbed from 77Sunset Strip. You can likely fill in the rest …


    THURSDAY:
    - Lately, the H&I channel is running Rawhide in early mornings.
    I happened to see "Incident Of The Clown" not long ago; it's a guest star vehicle for Eddie Bracken, playing a circus clown turned linguistic scholar, who wants to study the Native American languages. The indigenous tribes aren't so wild about the idea, but Bracken is able to employ the skills of his former trade to bridge the gaps.
    - Still on topic: Perry Mason has "The Case Of The Clumsy Clown", wherein the title character is accused of murdering the mean old circus boss.
    A rival clown is one of the suspects; this is Ken Curtis, not long before Festus.
    - Kraft Suspense Theatre is repeating "The End Of The World, Baby!", not long after the passing of Peter Lorre, who had one of final major roles here.

    Just ran into the 4096 Brick Wall.
    More later, maybe …

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!