February 29, 2020

This week in TV Guide: March 2, 1974

It isn't easy making the transition from movie star to television star. Robert Montgomery did it, as both producer and occasional star of Robert Montgomery Presents. Robert Taylor did it, going from being one of the biggest of movie stars to The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. Shirley Booth won a Best Actress Oscar before Hazel, and Walter Brennan won three Oscars before embarking on a long and successful career in television. I'm sure you can think of other examples from the day.

But it's not for everyone. Yul Brynner found that it was easier to play the King of Siam on Broadway and in the movies than it was on the small screen. Henry Fonda's TV career wasn't exactly Primrose Lane, and Bing Crosby was far more successful with his TV specials than with The Bing Crosby Show. Glenn Ford had some success, with Cade's County running for two seasons, but it helped that he already had a reputation as a western star.

And this brings us to Jimmy Stewart.

Stewart is currently starring in Hawkins, part of CBS's Tuesday Night Movies wheel series*, in which he plays small-town attorney Billy Jim Hawkins, a character not unlike Paul Biegler, the small-town attorney Stewart played so well in Anatomy of a Murder. Only eight episodes of Hawkins are made; according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, Stewart asked out of the series after one season, despite it being a critical success, believing that "the quality of scripts and directors in television could not continuously measure up to the level to which he was accustomed with theatrical films." It seems appropriate, therefore, that the entirety of Maurice Zolotow's article consists of Stewart, on the set of Hawkins, reminiscing about his Hollywood movie career.

*Hawkins alternated with various TV-movies, as well as Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree. What is it we were saying about stars trying to make the transition from movies to television?

The headline is pure Stewart: "Wal, in the Old Days, Y'See..." Sounds like it came straight from the Carson show, doesn't it? By this time, Stewart is the veteran of 74 movies in a career that stretches over 40 years, and you can tell he takes great pleasure in recalling the stars at MGM: Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, William Powell, Greer Garson—and, yes, Robert Montgomery and Robert Taylor. Stewart acted with them all; one of his fondest memories is when he had to kiss Jean Harlow in Wife vs. Secretary (1936). Did I say he "had" to kiss her? We should all be forced to do such things: "He reports that Jean Harlow really kissed when she kissed. She did not believe in make-believe. She kissed him to the depths of his soul. It remains one of his most shattering sensory experiences."

Ronald Coleman, William Powell and Myrna Loy thrilled him when he saw them in the commissary. He destroyed a new car—the brakes failed while it was parked—trying to impress Olivia de Havilland on a date. He also went out with Ginger Rogers, Jeannette MacDonald, Alice Faye, Hedy Lamarr, Eleanor Powell and Lana Turner before he married Gloria in 1949. He speaks highly of his time at MGM; "Don't believe those cliches about Metro being a factory." He remembers the magic of making movies—"They were magicians. They could build anything, stage anything, they could turn this sound stage into the Sahara Desert or the North Pole or fight the battle of the Spanish Armada—nothing." The memories of a remarkable life—souvenirs, Zolotow calls them—flow from Stewart; as Zolotow says in conclusion, "often, while he is filming Hawkins, he will bring one out and share it with those around him."

Hawkins was not Stewart's first try at a television series; in 1971 he starred in The Jimmy Stewart Show, as a small-town college professor. (See any similarities at work here?) The Jimmy Stewart Show (the only time Stewart ever allowed himself to be billed as "Jimmy" on screen, rather than "James") only ran for one season before being cancelled; after the end of Hawkins, Stewart will return to television only as a guest on talk or variety shows, but never again as the star of a series.

And perhaps that's it after all, the reason Jimmy Stewart never made it big on television: it was too small for him.

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On weeks when we can, we'll match up two of the biggest rock shows of the '70s, NBC's The Midnight Special and the syndicated Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, and see who's better, who's best.

Kirshner: The Steve Miller Band and the Raspberries are the guests. Songs include "Living in the U.S.A.," "Space Cowboy," "Mar Lou," "Gangster of Love," "Come On in My Kitchen," "Seasons," "The Joker" (Steve Miller).

Special: Gladys Knight and the Pips host, with Curtis Mayfield, Richie Havens, rock artist Jobriath, singer-composer Jim Weatherly, and rock groups Spooky Tooth and Les Variations.

This is another week where I don't have to think too much about the choices. Curtis Mayfield and Richie Havens work, but I can't say that I was ever a big fan of Gladys and the Pips—well, I could, but I'd be lying, and I don't want to encourage that. The rest of the lineup is just too not-to-my-taste. Not that I'm over the hill on Steve Miller either, but at least you know what you're getting: a lot of hits. Stick with Kirshner this week.

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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. 

Sometimes you have to search to find out what Cleveland Amory thinks about a series, but other times it's right there in the first paragraph. This is one of those times.

The show in question is Dirty Sally, a comedy-drama Western starring Jeanette Nolan and Dack Rambo. And here is that opening paragraph in its entirety, for you to judge: "We've warned you before about watching shows that start with a song, but somehow you always forget. From now on just try to remember the three ills of mankind—wine, women and song. And the song that starts this one will really make you ill, man. It goes: 'She nursed him and she cursed him / And she taught him right from wrong / . . . She was a grandma to the lad / He was the son she never had.' There are more lines, but we've punished you enough. You can stop cringing."

Nolan, as Sally, is the woman in the song, nursing and cursing Rambo, whom she nursed back to health in a two-part episode of Gunsmoke a couple of years ago; I guess Doc Adams must have been busy at the time. Anyway, a spinoff was inevitable, since CBS claimed the story received more mail than any other episode in Gunsmoke's history. but Cleve isn't falling for it. "Our theory is that they received the mail, but did not open it." He also quotes the CBS press release describing Dirty Sally as a "half-hour family Western," and ads that the network "sure was right about the 'half' part, because if we ever saw half a show, this is it. It's so thin, you can lose weight just watching it." Dirty Sally premiered in January, as a replacement for the cancelled Calucci's Dept.; Amory describes the change as "not just a step down—it's a full flight." He doesn't particularly like the storylines, nor the characters, though he feels that Miss Nolan is getting "everything there is out of her lines," and Rambo does his best with what is "at best half a part."

I don't want you to be left with the idea that Amory doesn't like anything about the show, though; there's Worthless, the mule who is the only other regular. She's terrific, and Amory has the perfect solution: "Let's pick one episode where she has a big part, and start writing letters."

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Before there was the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979-80, there was the Pueblo.

On January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo, a naval ship engaged in intelligence work, was attacked and seized by North Korea, and its crew of 82 (one was killed during the attack) taken prisoner. The United States claimed the ship was in international waters and the attack unprovoked, while North Korea countered that the ship had breached the DMZ several times and was in North Korean waters at the time it was seized.

For 11 months the men of the Pueblo were abused and tortured. The commander, Lloyd Bucher, was put through a mock firing squad and other psychological tortures; later, he was told by his captors that if he didn’t confess to the North Korean accusations, his men would be brought before him and executed. Bucher finally agreed to write out and deliver a confession, but inserted a pun into his confession that the North Koreans failed to catch, saying that “We paean the DPRK [North Korea]. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung," pronouncing the word paean as pee on. Eventually, after the United States admitted to spying and promised that no such efforts would occur in the future (a confession which the U.S. government said was made only to obtain the release of the crew), the men were released. Bucher and his crew were eventually brought before a Navy Court of Inquiry, which recommended that Bucher and his intelligence offer be court-martialed for surrendering without a fight, and failing to destroy all classified documents; the recommendation was dismissed by Secretary of the Navy John Chaffee, who said of the men that “They have suffered enough.”

Wednesday at 8:30 p.m, ABC Theatre presents an encore of Pueblo, a dramatization of the events starring Hal Holbrook as Commander Bucher. Shot on videotape (not only giving the presentation the feel of a play but also creating a claustrophobic atmosphere), the drama presents Bucher testifying before Naval officers and congressmen, explaining the choices he faced and defending the decisions he made, both onboard the Pueblo and before his captors, intercutting scenes of his testimony with his experiences in the Korean prison. You can see the complete drama here.

The drama received widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for seven Emmys, winning five. Holbrook pulled off the rare accomplishment of winning two Emmys for the same performance, one for Best Actor in a Drama, and the other, a “Super Emmy” for Actor of the Year in a special (defeating miniseries winner William Holden in The Blue Knight).

Super Emmys only existed for one year; until and unless the Academy brings the category back, we'll never see anyone win two Emmys for the same performance again. 

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I've pointed out many times—it probably seems to you like many, many times—that Saturday was not always the night that nobody watched television. CBS, for instance, has it's murderer's row lineup tonight, with All in the Family (8:00 p.m. ET), M*A*S*H (8:30 p.m.), Mary Tyler Moore (9:00 p.m.), and The Bob Newhart Show (9:30 p.m.), while ABC offers The Partridge Family (8:00 pacc.m.) before the ABC Suspense Movie, and NBC's special presentation of The Green Berets (8:00 p.m.). But what I find most interesting about this Saturday is a real programming oddity: the Grammys. Now, I can't imagine scheduling a major awards show live on a Saturday night nowadays, but here it is on CBS at 10:00 p.m., from the Hollywood Palladium, hosted by Andy Williams. This year's nominees for Album of the Year are "Behind Closed Doors" (Charlie Rich), "The Divine Miss M" (Bette Midler), "Innervisions" (Stevie Wonder), "Killing Me Softly" (Roberta Flack), and "There Goes Rhymin' Simon" (Paul Simon). And the winner is: Stevie Wonder! The Record of the Year and Song of the Year both go to Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song," and the Best New Artist is Bette Midler (beating out Marie Osmond, Barry White, Maureen McGovern, and Eumir Deodato. I wonder how far over the scheduled 90 minutes (!) the broadcast runs?

As for the rest of the week, Johnny Cash is the guest killer on a memorable Columbo (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., NBC), as a country music legend who murders his wife (Ida Lupino). The relationship between Columbo and Cash's character is a fun one; at the end you can see a mutual respect between the Lieutenant and a man he knows is too honest to be able to live with the guilt of his crime.

A screenshot from the original broadcast of Heidi
Wednesday features a repeat of Heidi (8:00 p.m., NBC), starring Julie Andrews' stepdaughter Jennifer Edwards in the title role, along with Maximillian Schell, Sir Michael Redgrave and Jean Simmons. The movie was first broadcast in 1968; I can't imagine why the listings don't make any mention of its memorable debut. For all that, it makes more sense to me than ABC's Wednesday Movie of the Week, The Stranger Who Looks Like Me (8:30 p.m.), starring Meredith Baxter, Beau Bridges, and Baxter's mother, Hazel's Whitney Blake. Here's what I don't get about this—the listing talks about "two adopted youths' frustrating search for their natural parents," yet the headline in the ad proclaims, "A powerful story of a woman's search." So what the hell happened to the other adopted youth? Somebody's not giving us the straight story here. If none of these appeal to you, check out The Merv Griffin Show (8:30 p.m., WKBS), as Merv hosts the 53rd annual Photoplay Awards.

On Thursday, Buck Owens hosts Music Country U.S.A. (10:00 p.m., NBC), with a veritable who's who of country stars: Jerry Reed, Jim Ed Brown, Mac Davis, Red Simpson, Ray Stevens, Red Steagall, Charlie Rich, Lynn Anderson, Tom T. Hall, Donna Fargo, Tommy Overstreet, Barbara Fairchild, Johnny Paycheck, Doug Kershaw, and Pat Daisy. Dionne Warwicke also appears, doing a duet of "Lonesome Me" with Buck. If you aren't too worn out to stay up late, catch Lucille Ball sitting down for 90 minutes with Dick Cavett as Dick's sole guest (11:30 p.m., ABC).

Friday's the night for variety specials, starting with Raquel Welch's "one-woman show" (9:00 p.m., CBS) in which the star sings, dances, and spoofs her own movie work. That's followed by Glen Campbell's The Musical West (10:00 p.m., NBC), and this most certainly is not a "one-man show," not with a guest lineup of Burl Ives, Michele Lee, and John Wayne. And Meredith Baxter makes a second appearance of the week on ABC's late-night The Invasion of Carl Enders (11:30 p.m.); this time, she plays "a girl possessed by the spirit of a woman believed to have been murdered." I wonder if she was adopted?

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Certainly, you know by now that I've been a fan of the manned space program since I was a child, so it's no surprise that I'd notice a couple of space-related items in this week's issue.

First, the recent splashdown of Skylab 4 has brought to an end the current era of U.S. manned flight, not to be resumed until the space shuttle comes along. It's also the occasion for ABC's science editor Jules Bergman to do some reminiscing of his own (Jimmy Stewart isn't the only one) on his years as a NASA insider. Says Bergman, "[I]t's now possible to tell some of the stories that couldn't be told before Or didn't get told for one reason or another." For example, two days before Wally Schirra's 1962 launch in Sigma 7, the astronaut almost killed himself in a waterskiing accident when his skis stuck in the mud, flinging him into the trees. Scott Carpenter, the next American into space, overshot the landing spot by 250 miles, causing the networks to wonder whether or not he'd survived. There were rumors that Carpenter had been enjoying a farewell party late into the night before; Flight Director Chris Kraft vowed Carpenter would never fly again, and he never did. Alan Shepard and Gordon Cooper, in a dress rehearsal for the first Mercury flight, teamed up to prank onlookers, with Cooper looking up at the Redstone rocket, started yelling, "I won't go! I won't go!" and attempted to break away from the two technicians accompanying him. Bergman himself was almost killed by a flying head from a dummy that had been flung out of a Vertical Accelerator at several hundred miles an hour.

Most impressive, perhaps, is Bergman's memory of Frank Borman, commander of Apollo 8, the first flight to orbit the moon. Bergman had spent six months trying to learn everything he could about the mission; "Borman's loyalty was such that he'd given me the unlisted number of his phone in the crew quarters in case I needed any last-minute questions answered." And, in fact, Bergman did have a question, on the eve of the flight. He called and left a message with one of the support crewmen; a few minutes later, Borman called back. "Hi! What's up?" I've always admired Frank Borman, and that just increases it. A real mensch.

And then there's the TV-movie premiere of Houston, We've Got a Problem on ABC Suspense Movie (Saturday, 8:30 p.m.), telling the story of Apollo 13 by focusing on the flight controllers in Houston, starring Ed Nelson as NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz. According to Jim Lovell, the commander of the flight, you shouldn't waste your time with this one: "NASA did a disservice to the flight crew and ground personnel connected with Apollo 13 by co-operating fully with this film," Lovell writes in a letter to NASA chief James Fletcher that was quoted in last week's TV Guide. "I resent the mixing of fact and fiction. If NASA wanted exposure of this nature, the story should have been based on a fictitious space flight." (The movie couldn't even get the title right; the actual quote from Lovell, after the explosion on Apollo 13, was "Houston, we've had a problem.") Herman Sanders, the movie's executive producer, replies with a remarkable candor that reflects how dense network suits can be. "We could never have gotten a straight documentary on the network," he says, "So what we did was take the basic facts and add fictional drama on top. How would you keep people in suspense, otherwise, when they all know the outcome of the story already?" I dunno; ask Ron Howard, maybe? TV  

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