March 19, 2022

This week in TV Guide: March 21, 1959

One of the items that has remained consistent in TV Guide throughout the '50s and '60s is the question of television's effect on children. As you recall, a couple of weeks ago we read an article that suggested television might have a positive role in encouraging children to read. Weighing in on the topic this week is anthropologist Margaret Mead, who ponders the effect of television violence on children.

*Another example of how inconceivable it is that today's TV Guide would have an article by someone of her stature.

Mead raises good points from the very beginning of the article—that not all violence is the same, that the very radio programs now being lauded as alternatives to violent TV were themselves condemned not that long ago as being violent—before drawing some clear differences between "good" and "bad" violence. Take fairy tales, for example. Children already have developed within them some idea of good and evil, of the weak and the strong. "Children even feel better, more like good children, their anger and hate drained safely out of them, after watching stories in which the weak encounter, battle and defeat the strong." "[T]hose who would denature fairy tales," she adds, "[taking] the chase, the shooting and the victory out of Westerns are actually constructing a world with escape without catharsis, without safe fantasy for childish aggression."

  We last heard from Dr. Mead
However, she cautions, this remains true "only when the story on the screen is palpably fiction, fantasy and unreal." Even if they're angry with their parents, even if they see them (in the form of grownups in general) taken down in a television story, they still know that "they cannot do without them, even for a night." Introduce a situation in which "someone who might really be themselves now or in the future, actually kills real human beings who might be their parents or their teachers or their older brothers and sisters [and this] is quite a different matter." She also worries about the effect of such violence on the lonely child, or the child influenced by a too-real depiction of violence that has no guidelines, that doesn't say to the viewer "This is fiction, this isn't and couldn't really be you."

Part of the answer is parental supervision and involvement with what their children watch, in which they can "interject a running commentary, in which the words 'story,' 'just a story,' 'not real' are introduced, and so they can provide what the television program should itself provide." What they need to be protected from are stories in which children are either the victims or the perpetrators of violence. With the lonely child, loneliness can turn into hatred, and the violent show becomes "an incentive and program for possible crime." It seems as if many of these comments—parental involvement, not leaving children alone—are still with us today.

Mead's conclusion is that television has a unique responsibility to protect small children from "the horror and violence of real crime." If it can meet this responsibility, it will continue to provide the exciting stories that children need to experience, and "voluntarily refuse to tempt children's minds over the brink of crime."

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Starting in 1954, Steve Allen helmed his own NBC variety show which, at the beginning, aired opposite that of Ed Sullivan. It didn't run as long as Ed's, of course, but then Allen said his goal was never to conquer Ed, just to coexist with him, which he did for several seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week. 

Sullivan: Ed's guests in this show from Portugal are Maurice Chevalier, Jacquelyn McKeever, the Ames Brothers, Richard Hearne and John Gilpin, and Marilyn Burr.

Allen: Steve's no longer a regular on Sunday, but this 90-minute special features Sammy Davis Jr., actor Sessue Hayakawa, singer Joanne Gilbert and impressionist Frank Gorshin.

Ed's in Portugal for the Carnival, and his acts have an appropriate European flair; Richard Hearne, who according to the always-reliable Wikipedia was "the first performer to be known as a 'television star' and also the first to have his own television series, is famous for playing the bumbling character Mr. Pastry on stage and television in Britain; while Maurice Chevalier needs no introduction (I think; I keep forgetting I'm probably older than most of you). Meanwhile, this Steve Allen special features a guest lineup that's just as special; Sesse Hayakawa was a major star in the silent era, and nabbed a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination as Colonel Saito in The Bridge on the River Kwai. And what do you bet Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Gorshin exchange impressions? This is no impression, though; this week Steve takes the prize.

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It's Holy Week this week, and perhaps the week's most interesting program is also a television first—the first-ever repeat on the Hallmark Hall of Fame (Monday, 8:30 p.m., NBC). It's Marc Connelly's play "The Green Pastures," the story of a Sunday-school teacher presenting her class with stories from the Bible, based on Roark Bradford's collection of stories, Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun. The play, which received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1930, had made history on Broadway with the first all-black cast, and had then been made into a movie in 1936. Its initial live Hall of Fame presentation had been in October, 1957, where it won great acclaim but relatively few viewers, having been broadcast opposite Mike Todd's Madison Square Garden party to celebrate the first anniversary of his movie Around the World in 80 Days.*

*Walter Cronkite, who was "conscripted" into hosting what has been called "one of television's most memorably vulgar events," recalls that memorable night here.

The broadcast won a Peabody award in 1958, and Mildred Freed Alberg, executive producer of Hall of Fame, feels that this Easter week is an appropriate time to offer it again. For Monday's live broadcast, virtually the entire cast from the 1957 staging is back, including William Warfield as De Lawd and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson as Noah (a role he also played in the 1936 movie). Unfortunately, you probably wouldn't see this on TV today, or perhaps anywhere else; even in 1930 it received some criticism for its racial stereotyping, not to mention that both the play and the book on which it was based were written by white men, so it's likely unthinkable that it would be permitted today. And then there's the whole religious thing, of course. You can find the 1936 movie, but surprisingly, you can also see the second half of the 1959 broadcast here.

Earlier on Monday evening, Voice of Firestone (8:00 p.m., ABC) features Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians with their own program of Easter music, hosted by John Daly. And on Good Friday afternoon (1:30 p.m.), NBC presents a special half-hour program featuring two rural French churches conducting the Holy Week liturgy as revised by Pope Pius XII. At the same time on ABC, Loyola (Chicago) professor Francis L. Filas, an expert on and believer in the Shroud of Turin, presents a half-hour documentary on the history of the Shroud of Turin. It's the sixth consecutive year for the show's broadcast.

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By the way, before I forget:

Be sure to get your party platters today!

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Looking at the TV Teletype, we see some previews of coming attractions for the new season, with a very good record of success.

For example, an upcoming 77 Sunset Strip will serve as the pilot for a proposed detective series called Bourbon Street Beat, which does indeed premiere that fall, with Richard Long, Andrew Duggan, Van Williams and Arlene Howe. It lasts just the one season. More successful is James Michener's Adventures in Paradise, which runs for three seasons with Gardner McKay at the helm. There's also a pilot being prepared for ABC, Lincoln Jones, starring James Whitmore. This one has to wait a year, premiering in 1960 as The Law and Mr. Jones, and runs for two seasons. 

From the New York Bureau, Robert Stahl reports that Vic Damone wants to be a Western star on TV, making him television's first adult singing cowboy. Watch out, Gene Autry. Stahl also mentions that, for the fifth consecutive year, NBC has won the contract to broadcast college football this fall. The payment: a cool $2,200,000. For comparison, the three major networks (ABC/ESPN, Fox and CBS; NBC has a separate contract with Notre Dame) paid a total of $1.4 billion to broadcast college football last season.

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Speaking of children and violence, guess who's back: the Three Stooges! I know, it's kind of hard to figure; for me, the Stooges have been a part of pop culture my entire life, but this was not always the case; "for years," the unbylined article says, the Stooges "were in almost total eclipse." Now, however, Screen Gems has released 78* of their old shorts into syndication, and the results can be seen in the numbers: "In Chicago their rating jumped 16 points in three months. In Philadelphia last month they had a 27.8 American Research Bureau rating, in Detroit a 14.8. Latest New York rating is 17.9." They've also made the rounds of shows like Masquerade Party and The Steve Allen Show. "This is rather rough on mothers, but the kids are happy."

*In Television Diary, Dwight Whitney reports that Screen Gems is releasing 40 more, and have been "swamped with offers from toy manufacturers, comic-book publishers and record companies, all wishing to cut themselves in."

The current, and final, lineup of the Stooges includes Joe De Rita as the third Stooge, joining Moe Howard and Larry Fine. They're enjoying their renewed fame, especially since they weren't always such fan favorites. "The kids used to hiss me in the streets," remarks Moe, known then as the "Mean Stooge." "The other day when we finished our act, a little girl came up and kissed me. That wouldn't have happened in the old days." Adds Larry, "The kids paint our faces on eggs and electric light bulbs now. They used to throw things at us." 

Moe perfectly describes their comedy as "sound" comedy. "When I belted Curley with a mallet, you heard a clear, bell-like sound. And when Larry runs a comb through his hair, you hear a crackling sound, like someone had exposed a live wire." Watch a clip of the Stooges performing live sometime; without the sound effects they're still funny, but not nearly as funny. But with 200 total Stooge shorts that continue to play on TV today, we're no longer in any danger of the Three Stooges going into eclipse again. And in these tough times, that's good news.

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We'll take some quick looks at the rest of the week:

Saturday afternoon is the championship game of basketball's National Invitation Tournament, from Madison Square Garden in New York (3:00 p.m., CBS). It's won by St. John's, 76-71 over Bradley, but the curiosity is that the NIT has a national television contract—and the NCAA tournament does not. In fact, it will be well into the '60s before the Final Four becomes a television staple, while the NIT will remain a viable and popular tournament for a number of years more.

At 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, NBC presents one of those "cultural" programs I wrote about last week. It's Kaleidoscope, hosted by Chet Huntley, and this week's episode is "The Big Ear," a look at the increasing use of wiretaps and other eavesdropping equipment by law-enforcement agencies, "raising serious moral and legal issues," and asking the question, "is our classic concept of privacy being undermined by these activities?" Kind of prescient today, don't you think?

On Monday, WFAA, the ABC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth, presents a couple of series that have been relabeled in syndication: the newspaper drama Deadline for Action, formerly known as Wire Service, starring Dane Clark (8:30 p.m.), and Ten-Four, which, as you can probably guess, is better-known as Highway Patrol, with Broderick Crawford (9:30 p.m.). They're taking the place of the network's offerings, This is Music and The Patti Page Oldsmobile Show.

Perry Como's latest special (Tuesday, 7:00 p.m., NBC) comes to us from Broadway, where his guests are all currently starring on the Great White Way: Claudette Colbert ("The Marriage-go-round"), Gertrude Berg and Sir Cedric Hardwicke ("A Majority of One"), Cyril Ritchard ("The Pleasure of His Company"), France Nuyen ("The World of Suzie Wong"), and Juanita Hall ("Flower Drum Song"). 

gives us a variety of choices on a variety of networks: Vera Miles guests on Wagon Train (6:30 p.m., NBC), Roddy McDowell and Victor Jory are the stars of "Night of Betrayal" on The United States Steel Hour (9:00 p.m., CBS), and the Golden Gloves amateur boxing finals, live from Chicago (9:00 p.m., ABC).

On Thursday, it's the premiere of Oldsmobile Music Theater (7:30 p.m., NBC), presenting an original 30-minute story accompanied by favorite songs of the era. It seems like a lot to cram into a half-hour, but I suppose you have to see it for yourself. Tonight, it's "A Nice Place to Hide," starring Jackie Cooper and the singer Genevieve, making her TV dramatic debut. It's hosted by Bill Hayes and Florence Henderson.

Finally, on Friday, Audrey Meadows substitutes for Edward R. Murrow on Person to Person (9:30 p.m., CBS), with this week's interviewees: playwright and director Joshua Logan, and sports columnist Jimmy Cannon.

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One sign of the changing times is that colleges are now offering classes for students seeking careers in television. To date, about 30% of colleges and universities offer majors in TV, but grads have yet to gain traction in the industry. "Many network and advertising-agency executives are graduates of Ivy League schools, few of which offered extensive training in television."

According to this article, though, that may be about to change. At Penn, the Annenberg School of Communications* is about to offer television courses as part of its curriculum. And there's more; New York University is offering a noncredit workshop for students to stage "a typical day in TV," while Northwestern has a six-week symposium on color TV, and the University of Denver's BA in Television includes classes in stage lighting, creative writing, production and direction, and camera work.

* Not coincidentally, Walter Annenberg is the owner of TV Guide.

For those looking to make a move into television, Professor Garnet Garrison, director of broadcasting at Michigan, has these tips when looking for a school. First, make sure the school is strong in liberal arts, as television requires a broad cultural background. Take courses in fields that will help you in television, such as psychology, literature and the arts, sociology, journalism, marketing and advertising. Look for\6ed with the school. Ask if the instructors have had meaningful experience in television. And finally, does the school itself have access to facilities that are comparable to those at television stations.

I don't know how this compares to today's education. I know that growing up, Brown Institute in Minneapolis was a renowned broadcasting school—one that I seriously considered attending myself. A look at their wall of fame shows a lot of people who went on to successful careers in local and national television. But if I had gone there, would I be writing this for you today? Who knows; maybe one of you out there would be writing about me.

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Finally, you'll recall that I once wrote about Bob Hope being "largely forgotten," although he was an enormous star in his time. This week, the cover story is on another largely forgotten TV star: Ann Sothern.

Though she was never a mega-star, Ann Sothern had a more than successful career, starring in two series (Private Secretary and The Ann Sothern Show) which combined ran for eight seasons and earned her three Emmy nominations. She also played the voice of the car in My Mother the Car, which would have been reason enough to love her (for retaining her dignity, if nothing else), and was a frequent guest on shows throughout the '50s and '60s.

At this point in time, Sothern is president of five corporations, spanning everything from television production to sewing to music cataloging, and she continues to juggle these successful businesses with her own acting career. It's a tough job, and leaves her with little time for anything approaching a social life. Says Sothern, "I would like to live elegantly.  Instead, I have to run five businesses."

Her last television role was in 1985; her final movie role in 1987. She has two stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, one for each medium. If that's the kind of career that winds up largely forgotten, I don't think I'd mind being lost to the mists of time myself. TV  


  1. It's hard to fathom Ann Sothern being largely forgotten, but here we are. She turned up in eclectic places ranging from ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR to ALIAS SMITH AND JONES (a good appearance) until she suffered a back injury in a stage accident in the mid-1970s, then her appearances sadly became scarce. A legend on and off-stage, no other way to put it.

  2. For the record, there are 190 Stooges shorts made for Columbia between 1934 (Woman Haters) and 1959 (Sappy Bull Fighters). At the time of the article, Triple Crossed have already been out a month (February 2) and one more (Sappy Bull Fighters) is just about to released the following June (The last batch having been filmed in 1957).


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!