February 19, 2022

This week in TV Guide: February 24, 1962

Troy Donahue, this week's cover boy, is nothing if not an accidental star, at least in name. His real name is Merle Johnson, and the way he came to be Troy Donahue is more interesting than many other aspects of his life. His agent, Henry Wilson, had the name "Troy" left over when one of his clients, Jimmy Ercolani, decided to keep his own first name while taking Wilson's suggestion for a new last name—he became James Darren. The name "Donahue" came from another Wilson client, Timothy Durgin, who had his first name changed to Rory, and chose "Calhoun" over "Donahue." So just think—we could be talking about Troy Calhoun here.

Anyway, Troy Donahue is Hollywood's current glamour boy, coming off the movie A Summer Place, which made him a household heartthrob, and currently starring in ABC's detective series Surfside 6. So what kind of guy is Troy? One of his movie costars, Suzanne Pleshette, was prepared to dislike him based on the publicity, but instead found him to be "a very unusual boy—gracious and considerate." I guess so, because the two of them were married in January 1964. Of course, they divorced in less than nine months.

There's some thought that Donahue is letting the fame get to his head; he's more demanding than he used to be, more outspoken, urging colleagues to mention in interviews how lousy their director was. He's late to the set and often comes unprepared, blowing his lines more times than anyone would like to admit. He's not an actor yet, but he's still learning.

And though he's got a very well-known name, and has a fairly long career, Troy Donahue never really does achieve the fame that seems to be his for the taking. He never achieves the long-running television series that, at the time, substitutes for movie stardom, he never has the defining role that makes him a genuine star, never gets the Oscar nomination that sometimes comes to the pretty boy that turns into an actor. He's never anything other than Troy Donahue—which is still a lot more than a lot of us ever achieve.

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After a career of ups and downs, Judy Garland is on top again. Her recent concert tours have been critical and popular successes, particularly her Carnegie Hall concert in April of 1961, which many have called "the greatest night in show business history," and resulted in a gold album and a Grammy for Album of the Year. She's been nominated for an Academy Award for her supporting role in Judgment at Nuremberg. And now she's returning to television for the first time in six years, with a deal in place for a new round of specials with CBS.

Her first, this Sunday (8:00 p.m. CT, CBS), is treated as a television event, and it isn't hurt by the appearance of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as co-stars, and that it's produced and directed by Norman Jewison. The show's a smash—as you might expect with that kind of star power; it's also nominated for four Emmys—and it results in a deal for Garland to return in a weekly series, with Jewison later coming in as executive producer. The show only runs for one rocky season, and Garland returns to the stage and her final sad years. For Norman Jewison, though, the future is much brighter. Although his experience with the Garland show is hardly what one would call a success (as the second of the show's three executive producers, he only works on eight episodes), Tony Curtis suggests he start directing movies, which he does, amassing a brilliant portfolio that includes The Cincinnati Kid; The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming; The Thomas Crown Affair; Fiddler on the Roof, and his best-known movie, the Oscar-winning Best Picture In the Heat of the Night.

So this special is the start of a great career for Jewison. A pity that it wasn't able to turn things around for Judy Garland as well.

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Garland's Sunday special is not the only interesting programming on tap that day. In fact, Sunday might be the best TV day this week. 

In the sports world, CBS Sports Spectacular has the 1961 Formula One United States Grand Prix (1:30 p.m.), taped last October 8 at Watkins Glen, New York. That was fairly common back in the day, networks covering Formula One races weeks or even months after the fact. If race fans were really lucky, they might get to see the race only a week or two later on Wide World of Sports. (I'll admit, though, four months is a bit extreme.) Speaking of which, the U.S. Grand Prix was notable in that 1961 was the year that Phil Hill became the first and, to date, only American-born Formula 1 World Champion. Having the final Grand Prix of the year on his home turf should have been a tremendous personal as well as professional moment for him—but it wasn't. Hill had clinched the world title in the previous race, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, when his Ferrari teammate and rival, Wolfgang von Trips, was killed in a horrible accident that also claimed the lives of 15 spectators. Out of respect for Trips, Ferrari withdrew all of their cars from the U.S. Grand Prix, including Hill. Instead of racing for the championship of his country, Hill got a drive around the circuit in a convertible. Phil Hill was a great champion (among other achievements, he won the 24 Hours of LeMans three times), and he deserved better than that. 

Meanwhile, NBC Opera Theatre is back with Italo Montemezzi's rarely performed The Love of Three Kings (2:00 p.m.), starring Phyllis Curtin and Giorgio Tozzi. (No video, but you can hear the audio of that broadcast here.) ABC's Issues and Answers (3:00 p.m.) features a face more familiar to viewers of CBS: Edward R. Murrow, appearing in his role as Director of the U.S. Information Agency, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Voice of America. And speaking of the Tiffany Network, Ed Sullivan comes to us tonight live from Miami Beach (7:00 p.m., CBS), with guests Lloyd Bridges; the singing and dancing Crosby Brothers; opera singer Patrice Munsel; comedian Jan Murray; singer Damita Jo; the Gimma Brothers, acrobats; and Brascia and Tybee, dance team.

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A look at the Teletype this week gives us a snapshot of the times. First, we see that Merv Griffin and Hugh Downs are two of the guest hosts who'll be filling in on Tonight during the interregnum between the departure of Jack Paar in March and the debut of Johnny Carson when his ABC contract expires in October. ABC's reporting a flood of requests for interviews with Carson, but they're pretending not to know whether they want to talk about Carson's upcoming gig with NBC, or his current ABC show Who Do You Trust? Yes, I'm sure everyone wanted to talk about that. Paar himself is gearing up for his once-a-week prime time show on NBC, to debut in the fall.

ABC's got a World War II drama in development, Combat, which would star Rick Jason, Vic Morrow and Shecky Greene. Unlike so many of the pilots we read about in this section, Combat not only debuts on ABC in the fall of 1962, it becomes one of the most successful war dramas on television, running for five seasons before leaving in 1967. Shecky Greene only lasts for the first season, but Rick Jason and Vic Morrow alternate as episode leads throughout the show's run.

Speaking of the war, Peter Brown, one of the stars of ABC's Lawman series, is said to be testing f or the role of JFK in the upcoming big screen adaptation of PT 109, the story of Kennedy's wartime exploits in the Pacific. The movie will indeed come out in June of the following year, while Kennedy is still alive and in office, but with Cliff Robertson in the starring role.

Finally, in April, Burt Lancaster is scheduled to host At This Very Moment, a "Cancer Control Month" special on ABC. I didn't know this, but April is still Cancer Control Month by presidential proclamation. I've mentioned how, prior to the telethon years, Jerry Lewis used to host a one-hour Muscular Dystrophy special, and this seems to have been the same type of show. I checked it out on IMDB and the guest list is impressive, so much so that I wonder how they all fit into an hour-long show: Harry Belafonte, Richard Chamberlain, Bobby Darin, Jimmy Durante, Connie Francis, Greer Garson, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Rock Hudson—well, you get the picture. The cast is listed in alphabetical order, so I've only gotten about halfway through. The special includes taped remarks by President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson, and an archival message from Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Let's see what the rest of the week's highlights are.

Saturday:  Boxing is still prime-time box office, and ABC's got a good one this week: the lightweight championship fight between Joe Brown and Carlos Ortiz from Las Vegas (9:00 p.m.). Or at least that's what's in TV Guide, but for whatever reason—an injury, probably—the fight doesn't come off until April, when Ortiz ends Brown's five-year reign as champion. Since this was a special rather than a regularly-scheduled broadcast, I'm not sure what ABC wound up showing.

: The Breck Golden Showcase (9:00 p.m., CBS) presents "Saturday's Children," a play written by Maxwell Anderson and produced by Leland Hayward,* and starring Ralph Bellamy, Cliff Robertson, Inger Stevens, and Lee Grant.► At the same time, an NBC White Paper takes an inside look at "Red China," which would seem to be a relevant topic today.

*In addition to being a very successful Hollywood and Broadway producer (including South Pacific and The Sound of Music), Leland Hayward was also co-founder of Southwest Airlines, and father of actress Brooke Hayward.

Monday: According to the Teletype, the police drama 87th Precinct (9:00 p.m., NBC) has been renewed for another season; unfortunately, because it was unable to find a sponsor, that second season never came off. Too bad; the series, based on Ed McBain's series of hard-hitting 87th Precinct police procedurals, was very good, with a strong cast that included Robert Lansing, Ron Harper, Gregory Walcott and Norman Fell (and occasional appearances by Gena Rowlands as Lansing's deaf-mute wife).

Tuesday: Bob Hope's on with his third special of the season (8:00 p.m., NBC), and he has an interesting collection of guest stars: Jack Paar, the current (for now) host of Tonight: Steve Allen, the original host of Tonight, Joan Collins, who's co-starring with Bing and Bob this year in The Road to Hong Kong and looks painfully young; singer Joanie Sommers; and comedians Robert Strauss and Sid Melton. Sid's one of the co-stars on Danny Thomas' show, and coincidentally there happens to be an article on Thomas in this week's issue. On the other hand, you can watch the show that precedes Bob, The World of Sophia Loren.

Wednesday: Kraft Music Hall gives Perry Como the night off for Music Hall Goes West (8:00 p.m., NBC), hosted by country singer Rex Allen, with Jaye P. Morgan, the Sons of the Pioneers, Carl Ballentine (as the Great Ballentine), and Vic Schoen and his orchestra. Music Hall would have a recurring association with country music, hosting the Country Music Association Awards and devoting several shows to country, hosted by Eddy Arnold. At 9:00 p.m., Armstrong Circle Theater (CBS) has a docudrama on "Teen-Aged Junkies," a problem that's apparently going to be with us as long as drugs are. Or, if these two shows are too exciting for you, KTCA debuts a new series at 6:00 p.m., Aspects of Supervision.

: I've written before about how circuses are a dying breed, but that isn't the case back in 1962, when WTCN presents coverage of the opening night of the Zuhrah Shrine Circus (9:00 p.m.), taped earlier in the evening. This was a big deal when I was growing up; there were always special matinee performances for schoolchildren (the area around the Minneapolis Auditorium always looked like a used school bus lot), and it was a rare opportunity for me to see the grand Auditorium and Convention Center. Unlike Ringling Bros., though, the Zuhrah Shrine Circus continues in Minneapolis to this day, and I think that's a good thing.

Friday:  The best night of the work week is here, and it's a great night for music, with the Bell Telephone Hour presenting an hour of the songs of Irving Berlin (8:30 p.m, NBC). If that's not your cup of tea, there's a fine episode of Route 66 with guest star Ed Asner (7:30 p.m., CBS), a suspenseful episode of The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (7:30 p.m., NBC), and an exciting episode of 77 Sunset Strip (8:00 p.m., ABC). Of course, you could always try out the return of KTCA's Efficient Reading at 6:30 p.m.

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Finally, while we've yet to welcome Cleveland Amory to the scene, the very able Gilbert Seldes is on hand to provide us with a review of ABC's hit medical series, Ben Casey. And Mr. Seldes proves himself able indeed as he describes, "on my honor," the following cases that came up in a single one-hour episode of Casey (and I quote):
  1. A woman who has been coming to the clinic for years with imaginary ailments.
  2. A tough kid, supposed to have swallowed a razor blade.
  3. A rather dear old man whose family is trying to get rid of him, alleging failing memory.
  4. A woman who, so far as I could gather, was sick.
  5. A dipsomaniac.
  6. A man who got an ice pick accidentally in his heart but survived two hours on the city's transit system.
  7. A girl in a state of shock—mute.
  8. A victim of a gang war.
Remember, this all happened in 60 minutes. But, says Seldes, "the individual fragments were sharp and effective," the cases were all presented to viewers in moments, and there was interaction between the characters, As for the elements that tied the story together—well, that's another story: there were "three lectures on medical ethics, two at least on race relations, and assorted lofty epigrams on life, society and fate." And lines such as, "These hands are for healing, not for violence," and "It's the verge of midnight—it could be the verge of a new life." They're only missing exclamation points to make it complete.

Maybe the story isn't very true to life. Most certainly the dialog from the doctors and nurses isn't. But the episode was exciting, which I suppose is what's important. And a tip to the writers: if the characters "shortened their sentences and spoke like human beings we could have three more episodes as good as the eight we got—in an hour!" TV  

1 comment:

  1. Not much to add from 2015, but the Seldes review caught my notice ...

    Without the issue from that week, or a DVD of the Casey episode to check against, I went humbly to IMDb.
    This episode, "Imagine A Long, Bright Corridor", from January 15, 1962, had Dr. Casey in charge of the night shift in the Main Admitting Room - which means that there would be a lot of cases coming in that Ben and the staff would have to deal with in a short space of time.
    How "realistic" would that be? In 1962 prime-time TV, probably not very, but I have a sister who was a nurse for many years, and I have her word that hospital admitting rooms can get pretty hectic at any time of the day (or night), So There Too.

    All Best to Mrs. Hadley.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!