July 16, 2022

This week in TV Guide: July 16, 1955

When last we visited the Olympic Club in San Francisco, Jack Fleck was in the process of executing a shocking upset victory over Ben Hogan at the U.S. Open Golf Championship—only NBC, as you'll recall, signed off before the final round concluded, proclaiming Hogan the probable winner, and in the process missing Fleck's tying birdie on 18. Having declined the option to cover the playoff the following day, the network also failed to bring us Fleck's improbable victory. 

This didn't escape the notice of Merrill Panitt, who chose to use the broadcast as an example of the pros and cons of "subscription television"—what today we'd call pay-per-view, and which Panitt calls "Tollvision." Suppose, Panitt mused, the Open had been carried on such an arrangement: "We'd have seen all of the tournament, there would have been no commercials at crucial times, and we'd have really seen Fleck win, instead of being cut off in the middle of the thing." 

On the other hand—and there always is another hand—Panitt looks at another major sporting event held a few days later, the light-heavyweight championship bout between champion Archie Moore and challenger Bobo Olson, which lasted a mere three rounds (less than 10 minutes) before Moore left Olson sprawled on the canvas. What, Panitt wondered, if that had been on pay TV? "Three rounds of the championship and four rounds of a couple of guys named 'Joe' is all we'd have had for our money. Tollvision? No, thanks."

Meanwhile, in the New York Teletype, Bob Stahl has his mind on "pay-as-you-see TV" as well, with news that NBC plans to televise the American premieres of two recent British movies before they hit American movie theaters: The Constant Husband, with Rex Harrison, had its world premiere in London on April 21 and is planned to debut on the network October 9; and Sir Laurence Olivier's Richard III, which is scheduled for a January 1 broadcast.* Says the network's program chief Richard Pinkham, "Here's what we can offer viewers for free. Let's see the pay-TV crowd top this."

*Richard III had its world premiere on December 13; its American TV debut, on Sunday afternoon, March 11, 1956 (the same date it opens in American theaters, a first), is credited with having "done more to popularise [sic] Shakespeare than any other single work."

In retrospect, we can take a couple of things from these two stories. First, we see how early the development of pay-TV comes in the history of the medium. Less than five years since it's become a popular form of entertainment in America (the first home pay-per-view system had been developed by Zenith in 1951), with many homes still without a set, and already they're trying to figure out how to make a buck.  

Speaking of which is the second lesson, one we should all know by now. When it comes to pay-per-view, whether sports or movies or anything else, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

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The must-see event of the week is unquestionably Sunday's tour of Walt Disney's brand-new theme park Disneyland, which is unveiled to television viewers in a live 90-minute spectacular co-hosted by Art Linkletter, with appearances by Danny Thomas, Irene Dunne, Fess Parker, and Buddy Ebsen (and an unlisted appearance by Ronald Reagan). (5:30 p.m. CT, ABC) According to Neal Gabler, a television audience estimated at 70 million (in a country of 165 million) tuned in to see the show.* One would have to say ABC's investment in the construction of Disneyland paid off.

Side note: I wonder if that was the largest audience ever to see a show on ABC up to that time?

As is so often the case, the story behind the scenes is at least as interesting as the main event. This article from the History Channel tells about the various glitches, some small and some not-so-small, that plagued the park's opening, and The Atlantic notes that "the 17th, a Sunday, was intended to be an 'international press preview,' limited to selected invitees who could ride the attractions, witness the parades, and take part in the televised dedication of the park. However, many counterfeit invitations were distributed, and more than 20,000 eager guests showed up, overwhelming many areas of the 160-acre park." The official opening took place on Monday, and within a few weeks, Disney reported that more than a million people had already visited.

There are some wonderful pictures at that Atlantic article, but if you want to see the actual show, you can watch it here

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I don't know if you still see local festivals on national television, but when Dave Garroway hosted Today, one of the things I think he was committed to was taking the show on the road to give viewers a slice of what live is like in these Unted States. And this Monday (5:00 a.m., NBC), even though Dave is on vacation, Today is in Minneapolis to cover the Aquatennial festival. Jack Lescoulie and J. Fred Muggs appear at Theodore Wirth Park, with highlights of Saturday's Grande Day parade, an interview with Minnesota governor Orville Freeman, an appearance by the Navy's Blue Angels precision flying team, and more.

And that's not all; CBS's The Big Payoff quiz show will be broadcasting from Minneapolis all week (1:00 p.m.), with hometown boy Randy Merriman (who got his start at KSTP, and will return to the Twin Cities in 1958 with WCCO radio) and Bess Myerson. They're also on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m., choosing the five "Payoff Princesses*" that will model various items on the show during the week.  As far as local coverage goes, both KSTP and KEYD have live coverage of the parade (9:00 a.m.). There's also the Torchlight parade on Wednesday night, but the technology isn't there for live nighttime coverage yet; it will be on TV in the 1960s, though.

*Also referred to as the "Curvy Quintet."

I've written about the Aquatennial before; celebrities like Bob Hope, Arthur Godfrey, Colonel Sanders, and even Isaac Hayes (!) used to appear in the parade, and it served as the backdrop for an episode of Route 66 in its final season. Today, however, things are different. The festival has been cut from nine days to four, the Grande Day parade is no longer, nor is the milk carton boat race (don't ask), and this year the block party has been cancelled. The Torchlight parade isn't on commercial television (it might be on public access), and it's been reduced in length from 40 blocks to just over a mile. Frankly, considering the combat zone that downtown Minneapolis has been the last couple of years, I'd be afraid to go down there at night, parade or not. The Aquatennial is a mere shadow of what it once was, but then, so is the Twin Cities. Unfortunately, neither one is likely to change.

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It was a special night indeed when Marilyn Monroe made a rare television appearance April 8 on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person. You can see the video of that interview here, but what made it an even more special night, according to TV Guide, was what happened after the show. 

As you can tell from the video, the premise of Person to Person is that Murrow, sitting in an easy chair in his studio, interviews his subject via a remote hookup in their home; the Monroe interview took place in the Connecticut home of Monroe's associate Milton Greene. When the red light blinked off for the last time, the crew asked if it might be possible to take some pictures for their own collection. So, for the next two hours, Marilyn assumed "a succession of beguiling poses" and told them to click away.

While the article features some of the pictures taken by various crew members, I rather like this photo from Bobby Ellerbee's Eyes of a Generation site, which shows Marilyn and the entire crew. I really don't know how good an actress she was, but she looks as if she's enjoying the effect she has on them, doesn't she?

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Some quick hits from the rest of the week:

On Saturday, And Here's the Show (8:00 p.m., NBC), billed as an "off-beat variety show," features "veteran humorist" Ransom Sherman, paired up with an "upcoming comedian" named Jonathan Winters. I had to look up who Ransom Sherman was; I didn't have to do the same with Jonathan Winters.

Toast of the Town (Sunday, 6:00 p.m., CBS), which we all know and love as The Ed Sullivan Show, has Ethel Merman subbing for the vacationing Ed; in addition to some songs from the Merm, her guests are Russell Nype (her partner from Call Me Madam); operatic singer Gloria Lane, who starred on Broadway in Gian-CarIo Menotti's The Saint of Bleecker Street; "Prof. Backwards," Jimmy Edmondson; the Peiro Brothers, jugglers; and the Rhythmettes, a precision-dance group.

One of the reasons given for the decline of boxing on prime-time network television (there were once as many as four fights a week) is that oversaturation eventually led to inferior fighters being pushed into the spotlight. This Monday's Boxing from St. Nicholas Arena     (7:00 p.m., DuMont) might be an example: a fight between two unranked welterweights, Milo Savage (record: 34 wins, 30 losses, 8 draws) and Sammy Walker (36 wins, 34 losses, 4 draws). I've always enjoyed boxing, but this is a hard, hard sell.

Here's Claude Dauphin with Burgess Meredith (L)   
and Philip Bourneuf (R) in
A Salute to France   
Erle Stanley Gardner wrote more than just Perry Mason books. Ellery Queen wrote stories that didn't feature a character named Ellery Queen, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about characters other than Sherlock Holmes. One of those stories, "How the Brigadier Won His Medal," starring Claude Dauphin, is tonight's story on Koda Request Performance (Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., NBC). If this encourages anyone to broaden their reading horizons by checking out this story, then I've done my job.

The award for most convoluted description of the week goes to Wednesday's I've Got a Secret (7:30 p.m., CBS), which goes as follows: "Henry Morgan is off on vacation and Jayne Meadows and Faye Emerson have returned from the West Coast. Bill Cullen is still on hand, but not for long. He'll be off the show next week when Henry returns." It may not be important, but it amused me.

Thursday's Ford Theatre (7:30 p.m., NBC) stars Donna Reed in "Portrait of Lydia." When you talk classic television and Donna Reed, your first thought is The Donna Reed Show, but. of course, she'd already proven her dramatic chops on the big screen, winning hearts in It's a Wonderful Life and an Academy Award for From Here to Eternity, and she'd go on to do a season on Dallas, so we shouldn't be surprised.

Speaking of actors and Oscars, Oscar-winner Dean Jagger is on Playhouse of Stars (Friday, 7:00 p.m., CBS). I always liked Dean Jagger, whether in 12 O'clock High (the movie for which he won his Oscar), White Christmas, or Mr. Novak. Whether he was opposite Gregory Peck, Bing Crosby, or James Franciscus, he always seemed to steal the scene. And speaking of boxing, we've got a better fight on NBC's Cavalcade of Sports (8:00 p.m.), with the great Sugar Ray Robinson continuing his comeback, this time against #2 ranked Rocky Castellani. Sugar Ray wins a decision over Castellain; he'll regain the middleweight title by the end of the year.

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Finally, we sometimes forget that many famous brands started out as names of actual people, and the aforementioned Walt Disney is a prime example of that. Here's another one, perhaps less well-known as a name than a brand: "Channel 4's Arle Haeberle introduces gastronomic guru, Duncan Hines, to her Around the Town audience July 22."

There are more recent logos, but the one at the right is the one that I remember best. And there may be more famous names that became famous brands, but this one was pretty delicious. TV  


  1. I only know of Ransom Sherman because he was mentioned in 'Brooks and Marsh'.

  2. Belatedly:
    Ransom Sherman was an old friend of George Gobel's from his Chicago radio and club days.
    They shared a similar style of low-key humor, which led Gobel to use him quite a bit on his TV show; that's how he got the summer gig.
    And Here's The Show was a Gobel catch phrase: Lonesome George would begin his show with a somewhat meandering anecdote that would get many laughs, finishing up like so:
    "So there you are ...
    ... and here I am ...
    ... and here's the show ..."
    As for Ransom Sherman, he got quite a bit of work as a character actor; many remember him from an I Love Lucy episode in which he was leader of "The Friends Of The Friendless."

    1. I know Ransom Sherman appears in a lot of OTR programs; I'll have to listen to some one of these days.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!