December 9, 2023

This week in TV Guide: December 11, 1965

This week's cover story is on Forrest Tucker, and whether or not you agree with our friend Hal Horn that he's "the greatest actor who ever lived" (I knew you'd like that, Hal!), there's no doubting that, at 6'5", he fills the larger-than-life persona of the character he plays on F Troop, Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke. The comparison is appropriate, as Leslie Raddatz points out, for Tuck is a flamboyant holdover from pre-Method, pre-Mumble days, dressed in dark glasses, a blue blazer with club monogram, gray slacks, and a pale blue shirt open to the neck to reveal a yellow ascot. As his mentor Jimmy Lake taught him, "If you're going to be an actor, look like an actor."  

But despite the flamboyant appearance, he's basically "a modest man who is surprised and grateful for the good things that have come his way." He's made over 90 movies, mostly Westerns, and a 1950s TV series, Crunch and Des, with Sandy Kenyon. His big break came when he was cast as Beauregard Burnside in the highest grossing movie of 1958, Auntie Mame. From there, he was cast as Professor Harold Hill in the national touring production of The Music Man; over a five-year period, he played the role over 2,000 times. "[F]or the first time I had a role I became identified with. That’s important for an actor. Now I think the same thing is going to happen with F Troop. There aren't many actors that had a chance to make it twice."

When he's not on the F Troop set, he's likely to be found on the golf course, behind the wheel of a cart "decorated with the names of friends, the legend 'Tuck loves Marilyn' [his wife], flags of the United States and the Explorers Club, two small flower boxes filled with artificial pansies, brass carriage lamps, a saber, two bugles and two saddle bags. In the trunk is a completely stocked bar with an ice chest." Flamboyant, remember. 

That story about golf leads to a more profound story, one that I think tells a great deal about Forrest Tucker. He was in Stockton, California for a pro-am tournament, and while standing in line for tickets to a Gene Krupa concert, he met a little girl on crutches, suffering from a bone disease. She told him that her boyfriend was studying medicine and that after he became a doctor, he would operate on her. Later, he saw her in the balcony at the concert; she explained that she was up there because she couldn't dance and didn't want to make her friends feel uncomfortable. Tucker lifted her up and danced around the floor with her. The next day he had a car pick her up and bring her to the golf course, where a wheelchair took her around so she could follow him. "I didn't pay any attention to my game. Every time I made a shot I’d go over and talk to her and make sure she was in a shady spot." It wasn't until he'd sunk his last putt on 18 that he found out he'd shot a 63.

"For 11 or 12 years, that little girl and I exchanged Christmas cards. Then one day I got a letter from her saying that her boy friend was a doctor; he had operated on her legs, and she had thrown away her crutches. She’s married now and has a couple of kids." As he finishes the story, tears roll down from under his glasses and drop on the sleeve of his blazer. So, as it turns out, behind the stardom and the flamboyance, Forrest Tucker is just a big softy. Probably just like Sgt. O'Rourke, which is why he plays it so well.

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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: Ed's scheduled guests include comic
Alan King; trumpeter Al Hirt; the Swingle Singers, who adapt jazz styles to classical music; singers Barbara McNair and Wayne Newton; the Gomberts, a clown troupe which specializes in balancing and juggling; and the Bratislova Slovakian Folkloric Company, a Czech dance group.

Palace: Hostess Caterina Valente presents Bill Cosby of I Spy, who does a monolog about buying a new car; Bill Dana as Flamenco dancer José Jimenez; Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, instrumental group; magician Channing Pollock; the Black Theatre of Prague, pantomimists; Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfa; and the Fredonias, German tumblers.

Pretty fair comparison this week. Alan King and Bill Dana are both very funny, Al Hirt and Herb Alpert are both terrific trumpet players, and the Bratislova Solovakian Folkloric Company and the Black Theatre of Prague are both great Czechoslovakian acts. However, I've never been a big fan of Bill Cosby, so based on the strength of Barbara McNair and Wayne Newton, I'm going to have to give the edge here to Sullivan, who hits all the right notes.

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Well, if you want Christmas programs, you've come to the right place. starting on Saturday as The King Family presents the first of three Yuletide-themed shows (8:00 p.m. PT, ABC) with "Jolly Old St. Nicolas," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and "Holiday of Love"; that's followed at 8:30 p.m. by The Lawrence Welk Show, and while the maestro's actual Christmas episode isn't for a week or two yet, there's plenty of seasonal sounds tonight, including "Winter Wonderland," "Silver Bells," and "Frosty the Snowman." Then, on Sunday afternoon, it's an hour of Christmas cartoons featuring "The yuletide adventures of Hoppity Hooper, Commander McBragg and Dudley Doright." I don't think I've ever seen that collection. (4:00 p.m., ABC)

Sunday evening's highlight is NBC's 15th annual presentation of Gian Carlo Menotti's opera Amahl and the Night Visitors on the Hallmark Hall of Fame. (6:30 p.m.) It will be the third year using the new, videotaped production that debuted in 1963—much to Menotti's dismay. The production featured a new cast, set, and staging, and was done while Menotti was out of the country; when the rights to the opera revert to him following the 1966 broadcast, he'll withdraw permission from NBC to air the program. It will remain off the air until the 1970s, until it returns in yet another new production, this time supervised by Menotti.

Monday sees Andy Williams and his traditional family Christmas show (9:00 p.m., NBC), featuring the Williams brothers, Andy's parents, his wife Claudine Longet, children Noelle and Christian, and the Osmond Brothers. These shows are always a delight, and this one is no exception, as you can see in this clip. Tuesday night it's singer Jo Stafford's turn, with her special from England (7:30 p.m., KXTV in Sacramento), featuring the Westminster Abbey Choir, the George Mitchell Singers, the Corona Stage School Children's Chorus, the Lionel Blair Dancers, and comedian Harry Secombe.

Bob Hope takes the reins on Wednesday (9:00 p.m., Wednesday), and it's not only his annual Christmas show, it's also Bob's first colorcast. Guests are Bing Crosby, Janet Leigh, Nancy Wilson, and Jack Benny, and the show includes a funny bit where Bing tries to get rid of a visiting Bob so he can sell the Crosby home—as you can see here. (Bob's USO show entertaining the troops will air early in January.) And while Thursday's an off night, Friday more than makes up for it, starting with a rerun of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (7:30 p.m., NBC), followed by Mitch Miller's Christmas show (8:30 p.m., NBC), first shown in 1961, with Leslie Uggams, Diana Trask, and William Ventura. And in local news, KCRA in Sacramento presents an abridged performance of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker (8:30 p.m.), performed by the San Francisco Ballet Company and Orchestra. I'm a little disappointed nobody's showing Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, but it only came out last year; maybe it's a little too early.

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There's some other fun stuff on TV this week, starting on Saturday, with the Get Smart episode "Aboard the Orient Express" (8:30 p.m. PT, NBC), best known for the cameo appearance by Tonight Show host Johnny Carson as the train's "Special Guest Conductor." (You can see it here.) It's the first of two guest appearances on the show by Carson; he's also in the 1968 episode "The King Lives?" in an unbilled cameo. (An earlier episode also joked that KAOS master of disguise Alexei Sebastian impersonated Carson for two weeks on Tonight before he was found out.)

Sunday's NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears (10:45 a.m., CBS) is an important game in the standings, as the penultimate week of the season sees the Bears still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, but it'll be remembered for more than its impact on the standings, as Bears rookie running back Gale Sayers turns in one of the greatest all-around performances of all time. Playing on a wet, muddy field, with darkness closing in on Wrigley Field, Sayers rushes for 113 yards, gains 89 yards receiving, and adds 134 return yards, capped by 85-yard punt return for a touchdown, in Chicago's 61-20 victory. His 336 total yards gained is the third-highest in league history at the time, and his six touchdowns ties an NFL record, one which still stands. No wonder people, to this day, swear they've never seen anyone like the Kansas Comet. You can see it all here.

Steve Lawrence's short-lived variety series comes to an end on Monday (10:00 p.m., CBS), and appropriately enough he's joined by his wife, Eydie Gormé, for a two-person show. It seems about right; Steve and Eydie were a very popular duo for many years, and Steve was almost a semi-regular on Carol Burnett's show, but he always struck me as a guest star more than someone who could carry an entire hour (even with Charles Nelson Reilly as his sidekick). 

On Tuesday, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic return with the second of this season's Young People's Concerts (7:30 p.m., CBS), illustrating how an orchestra performs a piece in the way that its composer wanted it played. I suppose a show like this would be considered too advanced for young people to follow today, but I enjoyed them. Later, a CBS News Special (10:00 p.m.) asks a question we'll all be asking soon enough: "Where We Stand in Vietnam." Included in the special is the result of a public-opinion survey that aims, according to CBS News president Fred Friendly, "to learn, as definitely as possible, exactly what the American public believes about war and peace in Vietnam." If you're looking for something strictly entertaining, go with one of the all-time greats, All About Eve (9:00 p.m., KCRA in Sacramento), with Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Marilyn Monroe, Gary Merrill, and Thelma Ritter. 

Wednesday's big event is the much-delayed launch of Gemini VI, originally scheduled for Sunday morning (although the TV Guide has it launching on Monday), but postponed when the Titan II booster engines shut down just over a second after igniting. (You can see how the drama unfolded here.) Television coverage was scheduled to begin at 4:00 a.m. Sunday on NBC, with ABC and CBS starting at 5:00 a.m.; since Wednesday's launch occurs about 90 minutes earlier than the Sunday attempt, I'd assume coverage was adjusted accordingly. Later in the day, the networks will return to report on the first-of-its-kind rendezvous between Gemini VI and Gemini VII, which had launched on December 4. 

The film adaptation of John le Carré's dark spy drama The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, starring Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, and Oskar Werner, opens in the United States today, and, with that perhaps in mind, David Susskind's Open End discusses "The Deadly Game of Spying: Some Real Live Spies." (Thursday 9:00 p.m., KVIE in Sacramento) Included in the guest list are Peter Tompkins, author of A Spy in Rome. It's not quite as gritty, perhaps, but Gilligan's Island (8:00 p.m., CBS) deals with life and death as well, as Gilligan is given 24 hours to live after the Skipper thinks his little buddy was bitten by a deadly insect. Since this is not the last show of the series, I'm guessing it's a false diagnosis.

Amidst a plethora of Christmas programs, Friday's best bet is probably the great anti-war movie Paths of Glory (midnight, KSTV in Sacramento), with Kirk Douglas outstanding as a French colonel ordered to lead his men into a suicidal attack by an ambitious but incompetent general. This movie will become more significant as the 1960s continue.

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Next year's fall season is starting to take shape, according to the Teletype, with a number of pilots maneuvering for places on the schedule. Let's take a look at some of them.

"A 20th Century-Fox pilot, Men Against Evil, features Howard Duff, Jeanne Crain and Ben Alexander. It's about policemen and their private and professional lives." It makes it to the schedule, under the title The Felony Squad. Likewise, "ABC's Saga of Western Man series is doing a program called "The First Christmas." It's now filming in Israel and Jordan but won't be seen until the Yule season of '66." It does, under the title "Christ is Born." "Roger Miller, whose song "King of the Road" made him one of the Nation's top singers, will do an hour special for NBC Jan. 19. It could be a pilot for a Miller series." It is, although it will be off the air in little more than a year. "Jack Webb, recently signed by Universal Studios, will produce, direct and star in a two-hour special based on his old Dragnet show. It may again become a series." It does, for four seasons.

On the other hand, "Andy Griffith has decided to stay with CBS another year, his seventh. It'll probably be his last." It isn't; The Andy Griffith Show runs for an eighth season before morphing into Mayberry R.F.D., and two of Griffith's later failures, The Headmaster and The New Andy Griffith Show, air on CBS as well. "Allan Sherman is writing the theme song for Sid Caesar's The Mouse That Roared, a pilot being shot by Screen Gems." And a pilot is where it ends, although you can see it for yourself here

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MST3K alert: The She-Creature (1956) A psychic researcher investigates a performer who uses hypnosis on his female assistant. Chester Morris, Marla English, Tom Conway. (Friday, 3:30 p.m., KSBW in Salinas.) An afternoon timeslot is way too early for this one, which ought to have a midnight showing. Not that there's anything objectionable about it, except perhaps for the acting of the putative hero, Lance Fuller. Chester Morris is better known as good guy Boston Blackie, and does just fine here. Tom Conway (brother of George Sanders) is fine as well, but it's perhaps a mark of how far his career had fallen by this time that the actor, who once starred in the Falcon movie series, is in this stinker. TV  


  1. My favorite issue of TV Guide ever! Imagine that. :-)

    Happy to look and learn that HOLLYWOOD PALACE host Caterina Valente is still with us and turns 93 next month.

    SHE-CREATURE leading lady Marla English was 21 at the time of the flick and retired from films less than a year later after the married. Happily the marriage lasted until she passed in 2012. I remember her as Marie, one of the recurring models on LOVE THAT BOB.

    Tucker was known as one of Hollywood's best golfers. He played the Bing Crosby pro am annually and was even written partly out of an F TROOP ("Play, Gypsy, Play") as part of his contract to play it in 1966. He also handed Sam Snead a rare defeat on Snead's CELEBRITY GOLF syndicated series in 1961.

  2. Forrest Tucker played the victim in a first season Columbo. His brief appearance in that episode made me wonder why they never brought him back to play a killer matching wits with Columbo. It would have made a great watch.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!