January 13, 2024

This week in TV Guide: January 11, 1958




There's a part of me that views the headline on this week's cover—"What Time Has Done to Shirley Temple"—in the same light as one of those clickbait headings you see on the sidebar of just about every website around. (Not this one, of course!) It implies ravages of some sort or other, the kind of thing that you'd expect if the headline had asked What Time Has Done to Judy Garland.

But in fact what the last twenty years have done to Shirley Temple is to change her from an adorable curly-haired moppet who just happened to be one of the biggest movie stars in the world and was known as America's Sweetheart, to a beautiful and charming young woman of 29, wife of executive Charles Black and devoted mother of three, and, thanks to her parents putting her money in trust funds, "if she isn't a millionaire in her own right, she's close enough to it to be called one." We should all be so lucky to have time do that to us, and perhaps it has for you, but don't include me in that company.

And so thus contented, Shirley had made no moves to return to the business, despite repeated offers, until Bill Phillipson came long. He's the executive producer for Henry Jaffe Enterprises, and approached her with an idea for an hour-long series of fairy tales, which she would narrate and in which she would occasionally star. "I'm a pushover for fairy tales," she explained. "I've long felt there is a need for more shows that would appeal to the entire family, and certainly this series was designed with just that kind of family appeal in mind. So here I am." 

And here is Shirley Temple's Storybook, which debuts on Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. (ET) on NBC with a live broadcast, in color, of "Beauty and the Beast," starring Claire Bloom as Beauty, Charlton Heston as The Beast, and a supporting cast including E.G. Marshall, June Lockhart, and Barbara Baxley. It confirms Shirley's determination for her series to be "something better than just another batch of children's shows." "They must have quality," she says, and several of them will be in color. "I still can't understand why they don't do them all in color," she says with a touch of the famous Shirley Temple pout. 


Shirley Temple's Storybook
airs on an occasional basis throughout 1958, and then returns as a weekly series in 1960-61; in all, 41 episodes are produced, and many of them are available on YouTube—although, alas, not "Beauty and the Beast." It's a warm family show, with none of the postmodern cynicism that one might see were such a series revived today. And, of course, any episode that gives us a chance to see Shirley acting is a treat. 

So what, if we were to flip ahead another twenty years, would time have done to Shirley Temple Black? Well, by any measure, she has to have had one of the most successful post-acting careers of any child star, including service on the boards of several major corporations (including the Walt Disney Company; what would she think of Disney today?), a lifelong involvement in politics (including an unsuccessful run for Congress), and a diplomatic career that featured serving as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, membership on the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, and becoming the first female U.S. Chief of Protocol. 

Throughout it all, she is a shining symbol of the greatness that was Hollywood, lending her name to a famous drink (ginger ale and a splash of grenadine) and her image to a famous doll owned by millions of little girls (including my mother-in-law), and remains a much-loved figure until her death in 2014. If time was good to Shirley Temple, it seems that she was pretty good in return. 

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There's a story behind every story. These are just some of them.

The ad says, "If you like the PERRY MASON show, you'll love DICK AND THE DUCHESS, at 8:30 on the same station." The day is Saturday, the network is CBS, and the series is one of the first to be filmed in the United Kingdom for broadcast in America. Dick and the Duchess stars Patrick O'Neal as an insurance investigator, and Hazel Court as his wife, a duchess by birth, who always seems to get involved in his investigations. Years later, sound editor Robert Winter discussed the show's use of a laugh track; the challenge in writing for audiences in two different nations, Winter explained, was determining  "what was or was not funny to a British audience, as well as the important criteria for an American audience for whom it was principally made." Under such circumstances, the laugh track was used to prompt laughter among viewers, especially in situations where the humor (or humour, if you prefer) might not be as obvious. The show runs for 26 episodes, which apparently disproves the adage in the ad, seeing as how Perry Mason still has eight seasons to run.

Sunday
's highlight is half-sporting event, half-entertainment special. Billed as Bing Crosby and His Friends, it's the final round of one of golf's glamor tournaments, the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, also known as the Crosby Clambake, from one of America's greatest golf courses, Pebble Beach in California (5:30 p.m., CBS). It's the first time the tournament has been broadcast nationally, and as an indication of the event's hybrid status, the emcee is John Daly—no, not the golfer John Daly, the newsman and What's My Line? host John Daly. Bing and his wife Kathryn are hosts, and in addition to coverage of the tournament's final two holes, the broadcast includes highlights of the previous three days, plus songs and sketches from some of Bing's show business buddies, including Bob Hope and Phil Harris. Oh, and let's not forget the golf; Billy Casper takes the first of his two Crosby titles, defeating Dave Marr by four shots and winning $4,000 in the process.

On Monday, it's the debut of the daytime serial Kitty Foyle (2:30 p.m, NBC), which surely must have one of the more distinguished pedigrees of any soap opera. It begins with the 1939 best-seller by Christopher Morley, which tells the story of a white-collar girl who falls in love with a young socialite, and includes such touchy subjects as out-of-wedlock pregnancy and abortion. This was adapted into a 1940 movie (toning down some of the book's racier parts), which won a Best Actress Oscar for Ginger Rogers (and created a fashion trend called the "Kitty Foyle Dress"), and then a 1942-44 radio serialization created by soap opera giant Irna Phillips. In was inevitable that it would eventually make it to television, which it does here, becoming NBC's first half-hour soap. Strangely enough, the TV version of Kitty Foyle doesn't do too well; soap opera historian Ron Lackmann speculates that "perhaps the story was too familiar, or perhaps once the basic story was told, there was nothing else to say about Kitty and her problems." The series ends after only five months. 

Omnibus, usually seen on Sunday afternoon, makes a rare prime-time appearance on Tuesday (8:00 p.m., NBC) in a musical variety hour, "The Suburban Review," with Alistair Cooke welcoming veteran comic Bert Lahr, musical comedy star Pat Stanley, and the young comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May; the show's theme contrasts the suburban life of the 1920s with today's contemporary Suburbia. Lahr, of course, was famous for The Wizard of Oz, as well as his long career in burlesque and vaudeville; meanwhile, Stanley won a Tony for Goldilocks, and co-starred in The Pajama Game. Nichols and May, however, were less-well known nationally, although they were popular in the Village and at New York's famed Blue Angel, and they'd made their television debut with Steve Allen just the previous month. However, the audience for Omnibus is in the tens of millions, and they are given 15 unedited minutes to perform; by Tuesday, Nichols and May are famous. You can see those skits here and here.

Wednesday on Kraft Theatre (9:00 p.m, NBC), Walter Matthau, Nancy Walker, Robert Middleton, Barton MacLane, and Nancy Gates star in "The Code of the Corner," a gritty story of crime on the city streets, written by Jack Klugman. Yes, that Jack Klugman! It's one of two scripts he wrote for Kraft Theatre, the other being "Big Break." Klugman was already an established actor at this point in his career; 12 Angry Men had come out the previous year, so this isn't a case of an actor turning to writing while waiting for his own big break, so to speak. I never knew this before; I guess the old saying is right that you learn something new every day. (Well, of course it's right, otherwise it wouldn't be an old saying—it would be a forgotten saying, which is something completely different.) At any rate, you can watch Klugman talking about acting and writing for Kraft Theatre in this interview for the Television Academy.

On Thursday, it's the premiere of a new adventure series: Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson, ex-Navy frogman turned undersea investigator (7:00 p.m., WHEN in Syracuse). Sea Hunt was created by Ivan Tors; he was unable to sell the series to any of the three networks (Oops!), and so wound up entering into a deal with Ziv Television Productions. According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, "The show attracted half of the viewing audience in 50 major cities and averaged 59 percent of audiences in New York City." The show will run for four successful seasons and 155 episodes, which I suspect any network would have been pleased with. Bridges himself was a natural athlete who took to scuba immediately, and wound up doing all but the most dangerous stunts himself.

Later on Thursday, we have another big-name lineup. This time, it's Playhouse 90 (9:30 p.m., CBS), and the story "The 80 Yard Run," starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, with Darryl Hickman and Robert Simon. It's the story of a former football hero who lost his fortune during the Depression and now faces the prospect of his wife, who works at a fashion magazine, succeeding where he fails. (Can you say A Star is Born?) The teleplay is by David Shaw, based on the 1941 short story by his brother, best-selling author Irwin Shaw, which was published in Esquire. If you're curious, you can read that short story here, and an in-depth analysis of the story's meaning here. I wonder if Playhouse 90 tried to give the story a happy ending?

Friday
night, it's the final holiday special of the Christmas season: Bob Hope's USO tour of the Pacific (8:00 p.m., NBC). Bob's troupe includes Jayne Mansfield, singers Erin O'Brien and Carol Jarvis, Hope regular Jerry Colonna, columnist Hedda Hopper, dancer Arthur Duncan, and Jayne's fiancée, former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay (who is no actor, according to TV Guide's Frank DeBlois, who accompanied the crew). The tour covered ten days and 16,000 miles, and included stops in Hawaii, Wake Island, Okinawa, Korea, Tokyo, and Guam. The show rolled into Korea on Christmas Eve, where Hope gave four shows that night, then two more in sub-freezing weather on Christmas Day—just 500 yards from the North Korean border—where 10,000 troops waited four hours in the snow to see him. You can see a clip from it here.

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Frank DeBlois is a busy man; not only did he accompany Bob Hope on his tour of the Pacific, he's also taking a look at how the first half of the television season has measured up. More of us are watching TV than ever before, with 41,200,000 homes having at least one television—that's a three percent increase over last year. 

DeBlois reports on some surprises: ABC's Maverick outpointed CBS's Ed Sullivan Show several times during the season while "something called The Real McCoys" bested both Climax! and Dragnet. (Hint to Frank: The Real McCoys, which debuted in 1957, will run for six successful seasons before leaving the airwaves in 1963, only to spend several more years in reruns during the daytime.) Frank Sinatra's return to television, with his eponymous drama/variety show, showed "less than spectacular success." Gunsmoke, now in its third season, appears headed for the number one spot in the ratings. 

In fact, Westerns scored strongly in the first half of the season, despite complaints from critics that there were too many of them on television. In addition to Gunsmoke and Maverick, Wyatt Earp, Cheyenne, Zorro, and Wagon Train were big winners. Singers had it rough; besides Sinatra, shows hosted by Polly Bergen and Gisele MacKenzie (who graces the cover this week) "consistently wooed mediocrity," and even stars such as Dinah Shore, Pat Boone, and Eddie Fisher had their troubles. As far as specials, The Edsel Show, with Sinatra and Bing Crosby, the General Motors anniversary program, NBC's presentation of the opera Dialogues of the Carmelites, and The Prince and the Pauper, being notable successes. 

Comedians seem to be coming back, with Danny Thomas and Jack Paar scoring strongly, along with Bob Hope, Red Skelton, and Jack Benny. Hallmark Hall of Fame continues to be consistently good (as opposed to today's version), and Playhouse 90 appears to be overcoming a weak start. The Eve Arden Show and Leave It to Beaver are among the better sitcoms, while DeBlois finds McCoys and Dick and the Duchess to be middling. CBS lead the way with some fine documentary series, including The Twentieth Century and The Seven Lively Arts, while NBC offered Omnibus and Project 20, and ABC made its mark with Mike Wallace's dominating interviews. 

The point, DeBlois says, is that there's this feeling that television is starting to turn away from "the tired old worn-out formats and cliches" of last year; there's a feeling of revolt, of something new. And it's good to have it back.

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Boris Karloff is going through something of a career renaissance, with Frankenstein now thrilling a second generation of Americans through its regular showings on television. The character of Frankenstein's monster is the role with which he's most identified; he revived the character in two sequels, and after than embarked on a series of "mad scientist" movies, which tend to overwhelm the great body of work he's done throughout his career, first in movies and then on television, where he's appeared in "practically every live dramatic show and filmed anthology series that has ever gone on the air." But, unlike some stars who resent the typecasting that can result from such a famous creation, Karloff has nothing but affection for the monster.

"It's a lovely film, a great film, and I'm devoted to the monster," he tells Joe Morhaim. "He's the best friend I ever had. He changed the course of my entire life." It may be natural that he'd feel that way about the role that made him a star, but he has a deeper point he wants to make. "That monster is one of the most sympathetic characters ever created in the world of English letters," he says. "He was a big, lumbering, awkward, inarticulate figure, completely childlike and helpless in spite of his enormous strength. He became savage only when he was frightened and he was frightened only by the ignorance and fear of human beings." 

He believes the world has missed the point of Marry Shelley's story, and quarrels with those who classify Frankenstein as just another horror film. "'Horror' connotes revulsion, disgust, recoil. The object is not to turn your stomach—but merely to make your hair stand on end," he says with some passion. "As a matter of fact, I believe the Frankenstein-type story fills a deep-seated human need. One finds it rooted in the folk literature of every race, even in nursery rhymes and fairy tales." He also doesn't believe children are harmed by such stories. "Young people have much more intelligence than we give them credit for. They have the ability to sort things out and put them in their proper relationships." The fan mail he receives from children, asking for a picture of himself as he is, bears out that "they knew it wasn't true, and they knew I knew it wasn't true. As a rule, they expressed a great compassion for the monster." 

It's true that monster movies can be overcooked, he agrees. "Any story can be done in good or bad taste. The important thing is that the story be interesting and that it is done well." He acknowledges that the two Frankenstein sequels left something to be desired; by the third, the monster had been reduced to "a comic prop." But even though other Frankenstein movies have continued to be made, with other actors in the role, people know who the real monster is. "They would get the pay checks and I would get the fan mail," he says, and you almost wonder if the mail isn't more important to him than the checks. He is an educated, gracious, and charming man, respected and admired by his friends and colleagues, and continues to work steadily, even appearing recently on The Dinah Shore Show. He says he'll not do the monster again; "They would change his character today, and I couldn't bear that. I have too much respect for the old boy." And to think, he's got more than a decade to go, and one of his most famous roles—the voice of The Grinch—ahead of him.

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I've been on a lot about stories this week, and it's true that there's a lot of storytelling to be had besides what you see on the screen. We'll finish with the story of Jeanne Carmen, the professional golfer who would be an actress.

She can, according to this brief profile, "hit a golf ball a country mile against the wind or literally off your teeth," and she's been known to parlay her trick shot artistry into several thousand dollars a day, but now she says those days are done. She's no newcomer to the entertainment world; as far back as 1948, she appeared in the chorus line of the aforementioned Bert Lahr's Burlesque, and was in great demand as a model. More recently, she's appeared in the movies (Too Much Too Soon and Born Reckless), and done shows with Bob Hope and George Gobel. As a matter of fact, that picture has the whole story. Just not the most interesting parts.

In addition to her career as a trick-shot artist and Hollywood actress (she even appeared in a Three Stooges short, playing Joe Besser's girlfriend), Jeanne was an "intimate" friend of mobster "Handsome Johnny" Roselli, one-time confederate of Al Capone, who recruited fellow mobsters Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante Jr. in the CIA attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro, and was thought to have been involved in the assassination of JFK as well. Through Roselli, she became acquainted with Frank Sinatra, who she would see on-and-off over the next few years. (She was also reported to have been involved with Clark Gable and Elvis Presley.) Later, she became a close friend and confidant of Marilyn Monroe; after Monroe's "suicide" (a verdict that Jeanne found dubious), she was warned by Roselli to leave town for her own safety, and lived a quiet and peaceful life thereafter with her third husband, raising three children and never mentioning her past life; she died in December, 2007. She's probably the only person who's been profiled both by The Golf Channel and the E! True Hollywood Story. If you head over to the website dedicated to her life, you can see pictures of her with everyone from Elvis to Donald Trump, and why doesn't that surprise me? And these are just the highlights.

It's quite a remarkable story—but then, so have most of the stories we've read this week. And, when you think about it, almost everyone's life is a remarkable story in one way or another. I may not have had a tenth of the adventures that Jeanne Carmen experienced, and I'm actually glad about that. We may have moved around the country a few times, but at least it hasn't been because someone warned us our lives might be in danger. And I'll be the same is true for you as well. Who knows? Maybe the most exciting lives are better read about than lived. TV  

1 comment:

  1. Pluto is now showing re-runs of Sea Hunt and though it's been well over 50 years since I saw an episode I find them still very entertaining. Bridges voice over narration really worked well.

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