July 1, 2023

This week in TV Guide: July 2, 1955

Now, I know what you're thinking: you've seen the cover of this week's issue, and you're waiting for me to make some remark about television going to the dogs. Well, that would be too easy, and as you know, we don't do anything easy around here. 

Instead, we learn that these two canines, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin (Lassie Jr. and Rin Tin Tin IV, for those keeping count), are each earning about $100,000 for their owners. And no wonder: in their first seasons on television, Rin Tin Tin is pulling a rating of 37.6 (a cumulative rating for two shows a week), while Lassie is at 30.3 for it's single broadcast. If you need more evidence of their popularity, look at their fan mail: Lassie gets an average of 2,000 letters a week (the rest of the cast combined get about 3,000 a week), and a recent contest to name one of Rinty's puppies, the show received 700,000 entries.  

These dogs work hard for their money. Rin Tin Tin is often involved in scenes that include Cavalry horses, which means a potentially life-threatening situation every time they film such a scene. Both dogs' trainers get worked up over suggestions that stunt dogs are frequently used. Rudd Weatherwax insists that Lassie appears in 98 percent of the shots, and that his brother is used only when a previous scene has been so strenuous that Lassie needs to rest; likewise, Lee Duncan says Rinty's stand-in is used only "where absolutely necessary," although his voice is often dubbed in—the stand-in "is considered a superior growler and snarler."

Directors say the dogs are easy to work with, and they get less "back talk" than they do from live actors. That's not to say that there are no egos involved, though; according to the author of this unbylined piece, "it took several weeks of delicate negotiations before both camps would agree to let the two dogs pose together" for the cover picture. (During the shoot, the dogs remained calmer than everyone else in the studio.) And nobody's allowed to play with the dogs between takes except for the two boys who act with them, Tommy Rettig with Lassie and Lee Aaker with Rinty; it's important that the dogs and their boys have good chemistry.

Of the two shows, Lassie has probably had the lasting impact, even though Rin Tin Tin remains famous. I always think of the latter's show as falling into the era of the pre-adult Western, whereas Lassie ran for 19 seasons with a variety of co-stars. In their day, though, they each thrilled millions of children, and each of them has their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Edie Adams is, to my way of thinking, either the luckiest woman in the world, or the most put-upon. As you probably know, she's married to one comedian, the incomparable Ernie Kovacs. However, she's currently working with another, the up-and-coming young Jack Paar; for several months she was part of his ensemble cast on CBS's Morning Show, and now she's made the move to Paar's half-hour daily variety show, which debuts Monday at 1:00 p.m. ET, also on CBS. 

Wisely, the former "Miss Television 1950" avoids any direct comparisons between her husband and her employer. They both smoke cigars, as you can see above. And they're both funny. "They think alike. They're both satirists, see humor in commonplace things. I don't know when something is funny. But with Ernie and Jack around, who has to be a comedian? I play it straight." 

In fact, Edie considers herself more a singer than a comedianne. She attended Juillard and studied opera in five languages, and it was as a singer that she "lost miserably" on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. On the other hand, she received nine job offers as a result of her Godfrey appearance, so let that be a lesson to those of you who have a fear of failure. She received critical acclaim for her Broadway performance in 1953's Wonderful Town, and her future includes a Tony Award for Li'l Abner. 

In fact, she quite comes into her own in the years after this article, earning Emmy nominations while working with Ernie, and another for her own show, Here's Edie, which ran in 1963, after Kovacs' death. She'll go on to found two successful businesses of her own, and for 20 years is the commercial face of Murial Cigars. She had been in deep debt after Kovacs's death in 1962 (Kovacs was as free with his finances as he was with his comedy), but by 1989 she was a millionaire. She also rescued many of Kovacs's videotapes at a time when much of television history was being dumped into New York Bay. No matter how you look at it, Edie Adams is quite a star, and that makes us the lucky ones. 

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A moment ago, I mentioned Jack Paar's new show premiering on Monday, and this week appears to be the start of the Summer Season on television, with more than one show deserving some attention.

leads off with a big one: the debut of The Lawrence Welk Show (9:00 p.m., ABC). You might remember I wrote about Welk's enduring popularity last Wednesday; well, this is what got me thinking about it. The Maestro started his show on KTLA in 1951, and tonight marks his national premiere; he'll remain on ABC until 1971, and then in first-run syndication until 1982. At this point the show is known as The Dodge Dancing Party, and the listing in this week's issue promises "60 minutes of music and comedy." Sixty minutes, and 27 years.

Also on Saturday, NBC presents Steve Allen in Movieland! (9:00 p.m.), a 90-minute spectacular featuring movies and stars from Universal-International. Allen himself is in Hollywood to star in The Benny Goodman Story, and Goodman joins the show with drummer Gene Krupa and pianist Teddy Wilson; Tony Curtis, Jeff Chandler, Audie Murphy, and Piper Laurie are among the other stars appearing. So which show would you choose?

Sunday gives you another choice to make: on NBC, the Colgate Variety Hour (8:00 p.m.) stars Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, performing from Lombardo's restaurant in Freeport, Long Island. The hour also features highlights from "Arabian Nights," the Lombardo-produced musical being performed at Jones Beach, New York; and a film clip from We're No Angels, the upcoming movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray. That's opposite Toast of the Town (8:00 p.m., CBS), with the show coming from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Antietam, currently moored in the Hudson River. No big names on tonight's show, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to give the edge to Guy, even though it isn't New Year's Eve.

On Monday, it's the national debut of The Soupy Sales Show (7:00 p.m., ABC). Like Lawrence Welk, Sales started out on local television, in his case, Detroit; like Welk, he's destined for a long and successful career. That's followed at 7:15 by John Daly and the News, ABC's evening news program. Reliable sources (OK, Wikipedia) have this starting in 1953, so my assumption is that this is the local debut. At 8:00 p.m. on NBC, it's another newcomer, as comedian Phil Foster begins his run as summer replacement for Sid Caesar; joining Phil are singer (and future soap opera star) Bill Hayes, actress Barbara Nichols, comedians Cliff Norton and Sid Gould, and tonight's guest star, singr Martha Wright. And to celebrate July 4th, Tonight (11:30 p.m., NBC; coming to you from California, where, as we know, Steve's doing that Benny Goodman movie) does a remote highlighting a fireworks show.

WPTZ, Channel 3 in Philadelphia, boasts "Top Stars in Hollywood's Best" every afternoon at 1:00 p.m., and they're doing a pretty good job on Tuesday, with the noir classic D.O.A., starring Edmond O'Brien as the man who knows he's been poisoned, and only has a few hours to solve his own murder. In primetime, singer Patti Page debuts her twice-weekly 15-minute music program (7:45 p.m., CBS); you can also catch it Thursdays at the same time. 

Wednesday, The United States Steel Hour makes its CBS premiere (10:00 p.m.); for its first couple of seasons, it aired on ABC before switching networks, and it would continue on an alternating basis (with Armstrong Circle Theatre) until 1963, when it became the last of the live dramas from the Golden Age to leave television. Tonight's episode is "The Meanest Man in the World," starring Wally Cox, and my guess is it's a bit more lighthearted than most. And in a preview of the future, young Floyd Patterson, who next year will become Heavyweight Champion of the World, takes on Archie McBride from Madison Square Garden in New York. (10:00 p.m, ABC)

Not a new show, but a new star; I've previously mentioned Star Tonight (Thursday, 9:00 p.m., ABC), a half-hour anthology that features rising young stars in leading roles, paired with more established actors and actresses in supporting roles. As is always the case, some young stars go on to great things, others not so much. Tonight's new star is one of the former, Theodore Bikel, who goes on to a long and successful career as a respected stage and screen actor and folk singer.

Play the home version!
On Friday, it's the return of Pantomime Quiz (8:00 p.m, CBS), one of television's most enduring summer replacement shows, as well as one of the few to air on all four networks—ABC, NBC, CBS, and DuMont. As was the case with Lawrence Welk, Pantomime Quiz got its start on KTLA before moving to national television; its broadcast history deserves a paragraph of its own, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that it was either a great idea for a show (two celebrity teams playing charades), or an example of how desperate networks were for programming:
  • KTLA: November 1947 - June 1949
  • CBS: October 1949 - August 1951
  • NBC: January - March 1952
  • CBS: July - August 1952
  • DuMont: October 1953 - April 1054
  • CBS: July - August 1954
  • ABC: January - March 1955
  • CBS: summers, 1955 - 1957
  • ABC: April - September 1958 (as well as daytime May 1958 - October 1959)
  • CBS: September 1962 - September 1963 (from hereon, known as Stump the Stars)
  • Syndicated: February - September 1964
  • Syndicated: September 1969 - September 1970
That's quite a run, isn't it? For all but four months of the 1962 edition, the host was Mike Stokey, who also produced several television series. Pantomine Quiz was a winner at the first Emmy Awards show, taking the prize for "Most Popular Television Program." If there was an award for shows ping-ponging between networks, I'm sure it would have wone that as well. If you're interested, you can see an episode here.

One more show that deserves mention this week: Five Minutes More, which airs Monday through Friday at 11:25 p.m. on Philadelphia's WCAU, and stars Ed McMahon. I've mentioned many times how, in these early days, local television served as something of a feeder system for the networks, and here's another example; Ed started with WCAU in 1949, appearing as a clown on Big Top, the nephew on the cooking show Aunt Molly’s Den, and host of Cold Cash, Million Dollar Movies, and Five Minutes More, in which he presented commentary. 

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Speaking as we are of Philadelphia, here are the May viewing numbers, as measured by the American Research Bureau (which later became Arbitron):

So, I wondered, keeping in mind how different parts of the country view television differently, how does this compare to the national ratings? I Love Lucy, #4 here, was #1 for the season nationally, followed by The Jackie Gleason Show and Dragnet (neither of which show up in Philadelphia). Other discrepencies: Stage Show (#5 locally / not rated nationally), This Is Your Life (#6 / #12), Person to Person (#7 / not rated), The Jack Benny Program (#8 / #7), Your Hit Parade (#9 / #15), What's My Line? (tied for #10 / not rated), and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (tied for #10 / #18). Other national hits that didn't make the local scene: Disneyland (#6), The George Gobel Show (#8), Ford Theatre (#9), and December Bride (#10). 

Naturally, this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, since we're looking at only one month locally as opposed to the entire season nationally. Still, it's interesting to look at our local market and see what's hot in Philadelphia.

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Monday is Independence Day (as alluded to earlier), and you'd expect to find some appropriate programming in the cradle of independence. Actually, however, much of the holiday red, white and blue airs on Sunday, beginning at 3:00 p.m. on WFIL with Day of Deliverance, a short film by Freedoms Foundation, from Independence Hall; Howard K. Smith narrates. That's followed by American Forum of the Air (3:30 p.m., NBC), with four United States Senators (John Butler, Clifford Case, Hubert Humphrey, and Karl Mundt) debating the question, "Is American Freedom in Danger?"

At 4:00 p.m., CBS's You Are There takes us to "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence," as we see the tense, and seemingly irreconcilable, differences of opinion between the delegates to the Continental Congress. Walter Cronkite hosts. (Personally, if today's media had been covering this, we'd probably still be singing "God Save the King.") And on Let's Take a Trip (5:30 p.m., CBS), host Sonny Fox takes us on a tour of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and other historical items.

On July 4, Voice of Firestone (8:30 p.m., ABC) presents a program of patriotic music including "God Bless America," "America the Beautiful," and a medly by George M. Cohan. WCAU hosts a July 4 party from Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Finally, in a story that may be more of a parable for today, Robert Montgomery Presents (9:30 p.m., NBC), has an episode called "Fourth of July," about a corrupt American politician hoping to rebuild his reputation by moving to a South American country and changing his name. 

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I think I've told this story before, but it's worth repeating: the first time I ever saw It's a Wonderful Life it was nowhere near Christmastime; it was in the middle of the night and I was up waiting to watch an early space shuttle launch. There was a long delay in the countdown, during which Channel 5 put the movie on while everyone was waiting to return to live coverage. (They did, and so the movie was cut off somewhere around the time George loses his hearing.) 

I was reminded of that this week, seeing that WPTZ's Saturday Night Playhouse is showing the Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. (11:30 p.m.) Now, it's true that this version had only been out for a year, so it was probably part of a package of newish English movies that had just been imported for American television. Nonetheless, let's be real: unless you're Hallmark and it's Christmas in July, this just doesn't feel right, does it? TV  


  1. I probably shouldn't do something like this first thing in the AM, but that hasn't stopped me in the past, has it?
    - Soupy Sales's ABC show was the summer replacement for Kukla, Fran & Ollie, which normally shared that half-hour with John Daly's newscast.
    Some while back, I mentioned here that ABC was looking at various personalities to take the Summer slot, so Burr Tillstrom could get a vacation; they were looking at local personalities from their owned stations, one of whom was Win Stracke, who was quite popular on Chicago's Channel 7 with a low-key show involving animals and folk songs.
    Soupy Sales (Milton Supman originally) had made a hit at Detroit's Channel 7 (also an ABC owned station), and apparently his more exuberant show made more of an impression on the network brass, so he got the network nod (although Uncle Win's problems with the blacklist might also have been a factor).
    Anyway, Soupy made a sufficient hit on the network, so that when the Kuklapolitans returned in the fall, ABC gave Lunch with Soupy Sales a Saturday spot on the net,which lasted several seasons - and the rest is history ...

    This is Saturday morning, and I'm not yet fully awake; I may return later, when I'm fully conscious ...

  2. When I see the name Phil Foster in anything, I wonder if he got the job because of what he could do for his employers or because of what not hiring him could do TO his employers!

    1. Mr. Collins:
      Would you care to explain exactly what you're referring to in this comment?
      Since Phil Foster died in 1985, he's not likely to sue ...

    2. Phil Foster was a comedian, but, allegedly, just like Redd Foxx, he supplemented his meager night club income with another line of work which was actually more lucrative and made him especially popular with his co-workers. Even after he hit it big, he continued his side hustle, which explains some temperamental behaviour on the part of some otherwise talented people. There was a horror movie title back in 1992 that described this alternate career.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!