May 13, 2023

This week in TV Guide: May 15, 1953

I have a question for those of you out there reading this. (If you're not reading this, then never mind.) How do you all feel about TV Guides from the 1950s? Do you have any interest in them, or do you prefer issues from the '60s, '70s, and '80s? Do the stars and the shows resonate with you, or is it too far back for you to have any connection with them? The reason I ask is because we don't get a lot of feedback on these early issues, and it would be helpful for me to know if they just don't float your boat. I've got an issue from 1955 scheduled for next week, so it'll probably be too late for me to make any changes to that one, but it will guide me going forward. In the meantime, I'll try to concentrate on anything that looks interesting.

And to that point, I know there are a lot of Ozzie and Harriet fans out there, so we'll take a look at this week's cover story on Ricky and David Nelson. It's a short article (only a page long) and mostly about Ricky, but it tells us something about how things used to work back then. Each boy makes $1,600 per week—$1,100 for the television series and $500 for the radio series (which ran from 1954 to 1954). The boys don't get to enjoy much of that money, though; 12-year-old Ricky, for instance, gets an allowance of $1.50 per week. He also gets reminders from mom, dad, and big brother to keep from getting a big head—"Don't be a child actor," they remind him. 

It's hard to deny his star power, though. At a recent church dance, it was Ricky, not older brother David, who got the dances with all the girls, even though he was four years younger than the youngest of them. (He told them he was older—13.) He also has a sharp eye for clothes, having recently ordered a Tattersall vest just like Ozzie's; the elder Nelson toled the salesman that "from now on you check with me before you charge anything." He used to go to a public school, but because of the many absences required by the show, he now has a private tutor. He's also an athlete, fast and agile. 

Harriet calls Ricky "intelligent and understand of adults," and adds that he's straightforward and not a troublemaker. The principal of the school he used to attend calls him "a very free soul." And that does lead me to wonder about his sad adult life, which ended at age 45. It's hard to believe that any child star has a "normal" childhood, but even with that, was this free soul ever really allowed to be a real teenager? Did Harriet, who had "certain expectations" for his career, allow him to find his own life? But all this in the future, of course.

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Speaking of "boys," Mark Goodson and Bill Todman are a bit too old to have that label applied to them in a literal way, but there's no doubt they're the "Golden Boys" of television right now, with seven primetime programs airing across the three network—and all of them based around the question mark.

It all started for the duo with a radio quiz show, Winner Take All (and they currently have two shows going on radio), but their major success comes from television. Six of the seven Goodson-Todman shows are quiz shows: What's My Line?, The Name's the Same, It's News to Me, I've Got a Secret, Two For the Money, and Beat the Clock. (The seventh show, The Web, is a mystery series; the question involves "whodunit.") Their success is based on a simple formula that they apply to each show: first, spontaneous humor. The "unwritten ending" that's inherent in a quiz show means that "all the humor that occurs is spontaneous," Todman says. "That's why if I tell you a certain ad lib that Herb Shriner or Groucho Marx made to a contestant, it isn't nearly as funny as if you'd heard it first hand." It's also important to have a well-balanced panel of celebrities. "The idea is to get people who are well known," says Todman. "But we don't want their specialized knowledge on our show. We just want them to be themselves."

That became a problem with comedy writer Hal Block, one of the first permanent panelists on What's My Line? "Hal never was able to live with the idea of being a celebrity," according to Todman. "When he started on the show he had no trouble at all. Bujt after a little publicity. . ." And while newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen has her critics, "we haven't had many complaints about her," Todman says. "She's a good deductive reasoner and is loaded with feminine intuition." The crown jewel is, of course, John Daly, moderator of both What's My Line? and It's News to Me (while continuing as a news reporter and executive), and one of the most urbane men ever to appear on American television. (He has "an apparently endless and effortless charm.") Goodson says "He rules a panel with a velvet whip," and he will be the one constant in WML?'s 17½ year run.

For people today, What's My Line? and I've Got a Secret are probably the two best-known of the early Goodson-Todman stable, and thanks to GSN (and now Buzzr), people can still see the charm and wit of these shows, and how they reflect the days of early television.

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Sporting event of the week: well, that would have to be the world heavyweight boxing championship fight on Friday (9:00 p.m. CT, NBC), pitting heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano against Jersey Joe Walcott, the former champion, live from Chicago Stadium. The two men first met last September, when Marciano, then the challenger, scored one of the greatest knockout blows in boxing history to take the title from Walcott. According to TV Guide's sports editor, the great sportswriter Red Smith, the key to this week's bout is Marciano's nose; it had been broken by his sparring partner while in training, forcing the fight to be rescheduled from its original April 10 date. The injury was the talk of the sporting world, or, as Smith puts it, "the greatest gush of literature created about anybody's beezer since Rostand wrote 'Cyrano de Bergerac.' "

Walcott, the crafty veteran, will be trying to take advantage of that injury in this, Marciano's first title defense, and everyone expects the same kind of brawl that marked their first fight, when Walcott battered and bloodied Marciano through 12 rounds, only to see the Rock flatten Walcott in the 13th round. But with anticipation running high, anyone who stepped out for a beer and was late getting back to his seat is going to be in for a disappointment when, a little over two minutes into the first round, Marciano launches a right uppercut that sends Walcott sprawling on his back. Walcott takes the count sitting, apparently unhurt, until the referee counts him out, and then protests what he says is a fast count. Did Jersey Joe throw this, his last fight, or was it simply a case of being mentally unprepared to face Marciano a half-year ago? To this day, you can make arguments either way. What is known for sure is that Marciano retains his title en route to being hailed as one of the great champions of all time; and that as far as this fight goes, the anticipation far outweighs the reality.

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Let's take a look at some of the other non-quiz-show, non-sports shows worth tuning into this week.

The era of Saturday morning cartoons is a relatively narrow one; they're a thing of the past today, and they hadn't yet been introduced in the days of this issue. So what did kids watch on Saturday mornings? Well, for one thing, broadcasting didn't even start until 9:00 a.m., when WBKB came on the air. But count on live-action kids's shows, Westerns and space adventures; WBKB has Rogue of the Rio Grande on at 9:00 a.m. and Space Patrol on at 10:00 a.m., while WBBM offers the circus show Big Top at 11:00 a.m. Similar programming continues well into the afternoon.

You know how often I talk about how "the more things change, the more they stay the same"? Here's an example for you, on Sunday afternoon's American Forum of the Air. (1:30 p.m., NBC) The topic: "What Should Be the U.S. Immigration Policy?" Surprisingly, the debate is between two Democrats; surprising because nowadays it's almost impossible to get two people from the same party to have differing opinions.

Here's something of interest: Grace Kelly, two years away from winning an Oscar for Best Actress and three years before becoming Princess Grace of Monaco, appears in the Hollywood Screen Test presentation "Right Hand Man." (Monday, 6:30 p.m., ABC) Fun fact: Hollywood Screen Test, which sought to give exposure to relatively unknown actors by teaming them up with established stage and screen actors, was the first regularly broadcast television series by ABC. Also on Monday, CBS's Studio One (9:00 p.m.) presents "The Laugh Maker," with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. Gleason plays a version of himself, a nightclub and television comedian who turns out to be anything but the lovable character his fans know, while Carney is the reporter sent to do a feature story on him. Gleason and Carney had already been working together since 1950; this is a chance to see them both in a different light. 

There's nothing special on Tuesday, although I'm always amused that the daytime program listings include descriptions for soap operas. For instance, on The Guiding Light (11:45 a.m., CBS), "Mrs. Grant visits Kathy in the hospital & upsets her." That's too bad for Kathy; hope the nurse throws Mrs Grant out! But on Search For Tomorrow (11:00 a.m., CBS), "Pearl March reveals a secret." Shouldn't that be on The Secret Storm?

On Wednesday, Ralph Bellamy stars as private detective Mike Barnett in Man Against Crime (8:30 p.m., CBS). Bellamy talks with TV Guide's reporter about the differences between his show and other crime stories on TV; for one thing, he and the police have a cordial relationship. "When something omes up that is within the jurisdiction of the police, he calls them in. He thinks they all have at least average I.Q.'s and quite a few of them are intelligent." He also never carries a gun, relying instead on the self-defense techniques used by operatives in the underground and behind the Iron Curtain. 

Bellamy's route to Man Against Crime, which started in 1949 and will run until 1954, has been interesting, to say the least. His movie career became stymied when he was typecast as the "naive boyfriend" who always loses the girl to the glamorous star; instead, he returned to the Broadway stage, where he appeareed in a string of hits: Tomorrow the World, State of the Union, and Detective Story (which ran for two years). He says he's not sure what the future holds; he'd like to go back to roles about people, rather than cops and robbers, and he might even write a play sometime. And though he's successfully shaken his movie typecasting, some of his greatest successes are still ahead: a Tony Award for Sunrise at Campobello, the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt's triumph against polio, which he reprised in the film version; four terms as president of Actors' Equity; an appearance on Studio One with William Shatner in "The Defender" (which eventually became a series with E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed); two more turns as FDR in The Winds of War and War and Remembrance; the Eddie Murphy movie Trading Places; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild; an Honorary Academy Award; and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He worked steadily until his death in 1991.

Thursday evening—well, every weekday evening, for that matter—NBC presents the Camel News Caravan, presented by John Cameron Swayze (6:45 p.m.), and that is this week's "Program of the Week." News Caravan, which debuted five years ago, was "network TV's first attempt to usurp the role of pictorial reporting preveiously held by the newsreels." Although the network originally used Fox Movietone camermen for their film footage, they were soon able to set up their own staff of cameramen, who've won critical plaudits. In the time since then, the program has gone on to use instant switching between cities to cover news in the making, was the first to use jets to fly in films from places where live pickups were uavailable, and has become "a skillful-roundup nightly of world news events." Today the program is, according to Bob Stahl's review, "a polished product, a combination of live and film coverage," complete with switches to Washington correspondents for the latest news.

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Finally, even when we're looking at issues of the past, we always have an eye on potential stars of the future, so we'll end with this look at "the blondes, brunettes and redheads" with hopes for the future, and see if any of them made it.

The most successful is probably Judy Tyler, who plays Princess Summerfall Winterspring on Howdy Doody. (We read her, uh, interesting story here.) She's one of "the hundreds wo besiege the production offices and haunt the model agencies," and beat out more than 200 girls who auditioned for Howdy Doody. (I'm sure she worked hard to get that job.) The stauesque blonde Siri—no, not the computer voice, although it is an interesting coincidence—has "a comic gift for doing strange things to the English language," and admits "I know I have no talent as an actress. My dream is to work steadly as straight-woman with comedians—like Dagmar." Georgia Landeau "never passes up a job," whether modeling, doing commercials, or performing a walk-on. Shirley Cotler wants to be "top commerial talent" and makes $170 a week performing in the chorus at the Copacabana nightclub. Linda Lombard, discovered on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, does go on to make several movies, in mostly uncredited roles.

None of these young women made the big time, but they all had talent, and all knew what they wanted to do. Several of them succeeded in getting roles, and while they may not have been big ones, they at least gave it their best shot, and one hopes they were able to achieve some satisfaction from that. Not every issue provides us with a big revelation of a future star, but like these women, we don't stop trying. TV  


  1. Myself, I love the TV guides from all decades, 1950s to 1980s. I read every week, just don't comment each time.

    Of those future starlets:
    Georgia Landeau apparently had an interesting ride. She married in 1954 (Sandy Wolf), got divorced from him in Mexico less than a year later, and apparently started a modeling agency of her own that she had to sell most of in 1959. She did quite a bit of live TV, but apparently little that survives. I couldn't find an entry or any info on her after the 1950s.

    Siri's last name was Blomberg, in articles I was able to locate. f

    Shirley Cotler was also the birth name of actress Shirley Parker who had a handful of appearances in the mid 1960s. Might be the same person; Parker was born in 1934 FWIW.

    1. Great info, Hal, and thanks for the 1950s feedback!

    2. You're welcome -- and one thing I will add is that I welcome the 1950's issues perhaps more than any other decade in one regard: they'll send me researching for more information the most often, since it is the most challenging decade to research (while doing the Love That Bob episode guide, I often have to dig deep on some of the more obscure 'models' from the show).

  2. I like visits to the 1950s once in awhile (or twice in a row at times). Since I wasn't around for the 1950s and have no memory of them, I prefer 1960s issues (and some 1970s issues) to 1950s issues, but they're mostly better than 1980s issues and entirely better than anything later.

    The O&H radio show was broadcast 1944 (not 1954) to 1954. GUNSMOKE also had simulaneous radio & tv versions, w/ William Conrad continuing as Matt Dillon until the radio show's end in 1961, but as most of us know James Arness had the part for 20 years on tv.

    I like seeing the color pictures of the G/T game show panels. The original network versions of WML? and IGaS don't exist in color (or on tape) at all now, but TTTT has some existing network color shows up until its end in 1968. I've had a few friends & coworkers who could've been contestants on THE NAME'S THE SAME.

    I imagine "Trading Places" did a lot to help Ralph Bellamy's career (as if it ever had any problems). I remember among his last appearances was an appearance on LA LAW as an attorney who was being sued for malpractice. The poor man was pretty senile by then, and he couldn't remember the name of the attorney against him in the lawsuit (who said over & over "My name is Victor Sifuentes").

    1. Thanks, Jon - your thoughts on the merits of various decades of TV Guide are quite similar to my own.

  3. I was a child of the 60s so I am more familiar with the shows of the 60s and 70s, but I enjoy reading about the anthology shows and the sporting events of the 50s. I usually learn something new with each issue. I see no reason for any significant change.

  4. I too am a child of the sixties. However, I do enjoy reading about the shows, and the stars of the '50's. Many of my favorite old shows are from that period of time. The eighties shows I couldn't care less about.

  5. To Whoever Finds This:
    My confuser went haywire on May 3, right after I posted the Jerry Springer comment.
    That's ten days ago; I have no idea how or why your site came available to me today, so I'm taking what I hope is an advantage.
    Should you find this post, please contact me at :
    (708) 636-8477
    That's a landline phone; if you call, please do it on Sunday afternoon after 12 Noon (CST) or on Monday morning after 9AM (CST).
    The Geek Squad won't be coming to my place until sometime Wednesday (I don't have an ETA), so the above is your only way (for now, anyway) to contact me.
    Mike Doran.

    1. One-day later follow-up:
      I wrote yesterday's "comment"(?) in a state of partial panic; being offline for a week will do that to an old coot like me.
      I must now ask you not to phone me at home on Sunday or Monday.
      Too much is happening (or not happening, or something), and I'd like to have a crack at figuring it out myself after the Geek Squad guy starightens it all out.
      By the bye, I never did get your Indiana address, so that makes you the lucky one ...
      'Til we meet again ...

    2. On the former, I'm glad things aren't as serious as they first sounded.
      On the latter, that has been rectified.
      Looking forward to having you back online!

  6. Mrs. Grant was the mother of Dick who was husband at that moment to the afflicted Kathy. Dick was played by the future long-time host of "Inside the Actors Studio" James Lipton.

    James Lipton spent over four decades involved in soap operas behind the microphone, in front of the camera and behind the typewriter. He even wrote the theme song of one for which he was also the head writer:

    1. Nice details! Yes, Lipton himself wrote a very interesting article in defense of soaps, in which he discusses some of his experiences.

  7. I grew up in the early 70s, but syndicated TV still carried a lot of material from the 50s back then, so I grew up on it all (and of course, home video did the rest over the decades). You can't understand TV without understanding that first explosive decade. Don't stop covering the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Mitchell (ok...the 80s, too).


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!