May 27, 2023

This week in TV Guide: May 29, 1965

Let's give top billing this week to one of the most under-appreciated actors in television, Dick York. As Edith Efron points out in the story's intro, there's a pile of press clippings in an executive office of Screen Gems. It has to do with one of the studio's new hits, Bewitched, a show "that has a good part of the Nation in a tizzy," and the pile of clippings weighs about 10 pounds, "And the subject of every article is the witch herself—with a few kind words about her witch mother. The advertising-man husband is almost never mentioned."

The "witch" is, of course, Elizabeth Montgomery, and her mother is Agnes Moorehead. York's friends and colleagues are indignant about his press invisibility; producer Danny Arnold calls the critics "shallow" and points out that without York for Montgomery to bounce her character off of, "nobody would care. He supplies the motive for everything she does." Adds Moorehead, "Dick plays a very important part. Ignoring Dick isn’t constructive criticism. It’s absurd." And Montgomery says that "anyone who watches him work appreciates his talent."

York is philosophical about it all. "The two witches," he says, "are by far more spectacular than I am. I’m just a human being. And I’m identified by the critics as being just like themselves. I, too, am watching the witch from the sidelines." He then adds, in a disconcerting prophesy, "{T]the only way to tell if it’s me or not is to kill me off in one show, give the witch another husband and see if I’m missed."

York's entire career has been, as Efron puts it, "steady if nonamazing." He's worked in theater, radio, and television, and has worked with the best, including Elia Kazan and Stanley Kramer, all of whom agree that he is a very good actor. But York is without the passion that drives so many in the profession; "I don't work because I love it," he allows. "In our household, work is something Daddy sdoes to provide us with things we need for our physical comforts." His great passion is his wife Joan and their five children, about whom he talks endlessly. He writes short stories, he paints, he sculpts, he studies religion. And, although the article makes no mention of it, he's in almost constant pain as a result of the back injury that will eventually force him to leave the show.

Dick York describes himself as "a man who's looking for something. He's still looking for a self." Even today, when considering his signature role of Darrin Stephens, he's often identified as "Darrin #1." And that's too bad, because not only is a fine actor, he also sounds like a fine man.

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup.

Sullivan: Scheduled guests: musical-comedy star Anthony Newley, who will sing numbers from his Broadway musical "The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd"; comedian Bert Lahr doing his "Woodman, Spare That Tree" routine; singers Connie Frances and Wayne Newton; comic Jackie Vernon; the comedy team of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara; monologist Morty Gunty; the De Mille aerialists; and comedian Pat Henning. .  

Palace: Hostess Kate Smith welcomes satirist Mort Sahl; singer Trini Lopez; silent comic Ben Blue; the Juan Carlos Copes dance troupe from Argentina; harmonica-player Stan Fisher; Desmond and Marks, English comedy dancers; and the Karlini and Jupiter dog act. 

A couple of good lineups on tap this week; it's hard to go wrong with Kate Smith, especially when she's singing "God Bless America" (which she will), and Mort Sahl probably has as much to satirize as he ever does. I think it comes in second, though; Anthony Newley has several hits in "Roar of the Greasepaint," including "Who Can I Turn To?" and Bert Lahr's "Woodman" route is a classic. (Here it is from an early episode of Omnibus.) The rest of the lineup isn't bad either, so on that basis Sullivan wins the 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 shows of the era. 

Weep not, Hollywood Palace fans, for though you may not have won this week's battle with Sullivan, you have won Cleveland Amory's vote. "We admire Ed Sullivan for doing his show live, but the fact is ABC’s Palace, on tape, seems more alive." It also doesn't hurt that a few times a year, you're going to get Bing Crosby as the host. "To say that Bing is the best somehow seems not enough. At singing, acting, or just being himself, name your best—and Bing is better."

Cleve speaks highly of all the hosts, in fact, a long and distinguished list that includes Burl Ives, Pat Boone, Eddie Fisher, Victor Borge, Robert Goulet, and Debbie Reynolds—and, "you won't believe this," even Debbie was good. He particularly liked the show we looked at a few weeks ago, in which Louis Armstrong was honored for 50 years in show business; in particular, the closing "Old Man Time," which Satchmo sang with Jimmy Durante, was wonderful. Bette Davis was another standout, both in performing (a song-soliloquy) and in introducoing guests like dancer Barrie Chase and Nerveless Nocks, the amazing high-pole act. ("This is one time, with no net, when we thoroughly appreciated the fact the show's on tape—they couldn’t have fallen.")

The show's first anniversary celebration—hosted by Bing, of course—was "one of the fastest-moving, most pleasant variety hours we have seen all season," Amory recalls. And, in one of the great compliments any critic can pay any performer, he recounts the old jokes and tireless cliches that Crosby trots out in a vaudeville spoof with Frank McHugh and Beverly Garland. ("I have a dog named Ginger." "Does Ginger bark?" "No, Ginger snaps.") "Somehow," Cleve notes, "when Bing does it, it’s not only different, it’s great." It could be said for The Hollywood Palace as well; the lyrics to an old song go, "Until you’ve played the Palace, you haven't played the top," and when Cleveland Amory says that about you, then you know it's true.

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Big doing in the manned space program this week, as Gemini IV—the second two-man American capsule—is scheduled to launch this Thursday, with James McDivitt and Edward White the astronauts. Gemini IV is important for a number of reasons: not only will this be the longest American flight, at four days, it will include the first American spacewalk, with White scheduled to take the 20-minute walk during the first day. 

Coverage begins Tuesday night when Chet Huntley and David Brinkley preempt the drama anthology Cloak of Mystery (a series of reruns from G.E. Theater and Alcoa Presents) to preview the mission, including interviews with crew members and key NASA personnel. (9:00 p.m. PT) Similar reports air on Wednesday, anchored by Walter Cronkite (8:00 p.m., CBS) and Jules Bergman (ABC Scope, 10:30 p.m.) Launch day coverage begins at 4:00 a.m. Pacific time, with Chet and David (NBC), Cronkite and Mike Wallace (CBS), and Bergman (ABC); the coverage continues until 9:00 or 9:30 a.m., with updates continuing throughout the day; ABC plans one-minute evening bulletins on the hour, NBC with similar updates prior to every show, and CBS with a five-minute report at 9:25 p.m. All three networks have 15-minute reports scheduled at 11:15 p.m. The same schedule is planned for Friday evening, and presumably continue throughout the weekend, until splashdown Monday morning. 

The Gemini IV mission proves to be a complete success. Not only is it a crucial next step in the lunar program, it matches Soviet achievements, sending the Russkies a message that the U.S. is in it to win it.

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It's a rare occasion when Lawrence Welk takes a week off from his own show, but he's absent from Saturday's broadcast (8:30 p.m., ABC). The reason: he's back in his home state of North Dakota, receiving an honorary degree from North Dakota State; I'm sure Myren Floren can man the show just fine in the maestro's absence. The Music Makers pay tribute with "My North Dakota Home," which I confess I'm not familiar with despite having spent a half-century living next door to it.

Sunday afternoon, CBS airs the American debut of Martin's Lie (4:00 p.m.), the one-act opera by Gian-Carlo Menotti about a young boy who must choose between telling the truth and saving a man's life. It was originally scheduled for a primetime debut in January, but was pushed back to today. The director is Kirk Browning, who worked with NBC Opera Company for many years prior; it's also the first collaboration between the network and Menotti, who broke up with NBC acromoniously after the final production of Amahl and the Night Visitors

Back in the 1960s, before the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that created so many three-day weekends, Memorial Day was May 30. That falls on Sunday in 1965, so everything's been moved to Monday, including National Golf Day, the day when the U.S. Open champion plays the PGA champion for $10,000. More important, the winning score sets the target for amateur golfers across the country, who have had two weeks to submit their best handicap score in competition with today’s winner. (In 1964, 4,751 amateurs received PGA certificates by beating Jack Nicklaus’s 67.) Live coverage from the Laurel Valley Country Club in Ligonier, PA begins at 2:00 p.m. on NBC; PGA champ Bobby Nichols will edge U.S. Open titelist Ken Venturi by one stroke, shooting a two-over-par 73. Just for the fun of it, I Googled "National Golf Day" to see if it's still around. It is, but it's a little different now: it's a day for leading organizations and industry leaders to educate (i.e. lobby) Congressional members on golf's impact.

The movie highlight of the week is the Spencer Tracy classic Bad Day at Black Rock (Wednesday, 9:00 p.m., NBC), with an outstanding supporting cast including Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, and Lee Marvin. It's perhaps my favorite Tracy movie; if the title leads you to expect a Western, you'll be in for a surprise.

Rounding out the rest, the great Ethel Merman makes a rare dramatic non-singing appearance in the Kraft Suspense Theatre presentation "Twixt the Cup and the Lip" (Thursday, 10:00 p.m., NBC), the story of a timid man (Larry Blyden) who schemes for revenge after being fired from his job; the Merm plays the owner of the boarding house in which he lives.

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We've talked before about cross-promotions where the stars of a show on one network appear as guests of a show on another network. One of the more unusual examples happens this week on The Match Game (Tuesday through Friday, 2:30 p.m., NBC), where the celebrity guests this week are baseball's Joe Garagiola and Whitey Ford. Garagiola works for NBC as a co-host on Today, while Ford is in the final seasons of his great career as a pitcher for the New York Yankees—and that technically makes him an employee of the Yankees' owner, CBS. The network purchased the perennial champions (14 of the last 16 American League pennants) last year, and as Melvin Durslag reports, it's been anything but smooth going. The presumption has been that CBS purchased the Yankees in an effort to control baseball on television; right now, the Yanks are one of only two teams exempt from ABC's national baseball contract due to previous commitments (the Philadelphia Phillies are the other); William MacPhail, Yankees VP, says the network hasn't yet decided if they'll join the TV package next year. He also denies CBS had anything to do with the firing of manager Yogi Berra and long-time announcer Mel Allen; those decisions were made "before we bought the club." And the team is under threat from their crosstown rivals, the hapless New York Mets, who outdrew the Yankees by 400,000 fans last year; the network is still assessing how to compete with the Mets.

CBS's ownership of the Yankees falls far short of expectations. The team fails to win the pennant in 1965, and the next year finishes the season in last place for the first time since the sinking of the Titanic. Their greatest stars, including Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, and Ford, either retire or are traded away. Perhaps most embarrassing is the World Series victory for the Amazin' Mets in 1969. While the seeds of the next great Yankees teams are planted through shrewd drafts and trades, and the team makes a deal with the city to remodel Yankee Stadium, CBS sells the team to a group led by George Steinbrenner in 1973*, saying that the network had concluded "that perhaps it was not as viable for the network to own the Yankees as for some people." 

*They bought the team for $11.2 million, sold it for $10 million. Not one of the network's better deals.

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The young (19) Liza Minnelli is this week's fashion plate, and as you can see, even though we haven't reached peak-60s style yet, the color palate is definitely changing. Layouts like this are as good an indication of cultural trends as anything in TV Guide.

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MST3K alert
 Killers From Space. (1942) Flying over a bomb-test area, a scientist notices a strange light. Peter Graves, Barbara Bestar, James Seay. (Saturday, 6:00 p.m., KSWB, Salinas) Another presentation on MST3K's sister, Rifftrax. Peter Graves was in a lot of movies like this back in his pre-Mission: Impossible days. The description means nothing without mention of the bug-eyed monsters, though (created from cut-in-half ping-pong balls). And don't forget that Peter Graves graduated from the University of Minnesota. . . TV  

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