June 15, 2024

This week in TV Guide: June 16, 1962




It's been quite a few years now since the concept of "six degrees of separation"* was coined, the idea being that everyone in the world could be connected to everyone else by no more than six degrees. The same could be said, I suppose, for articles in TV Guide. To test this theory, let's take a look at this week's issue and see if we can bring it all the way from 1962 to today in six steps or less.

*Or "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," if you prefer.

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1.  Right doctor, wrong role: Westinghouse Presents was an occasional series of dramas sponsored by the electronics giant, previous sponsor of Studio One. On Wednesday evening Westinghouse Presents features Margaret Leighton in "The First Day" (9:00 p.m. CT, CBS), the story of a woman returning to her former life after having been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. Leighton's husband in the play is played by Ralph Bellamy, who the next year would star as Dr. Richard Starke in NBC's psychiatric drama The Eleventh Hour. I would presume that everything turns out all right for Leighton but, if not, perhaps she could make an appointment with Dr. Starke.

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2. Speaking of which: The Eleventh Hour was a spin-off from NBC's enormously successful doctor show Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlain as the young intern James Kildare, with Raymond Massey as his mentor, the veteran Dr. Leonard Gillespie. The two men share the cover of this week's issue, with the feature article focusing on Massey, whose signature role prior to Kildare was Abraham Lincoln, whom he portrayed several times on stage, screen and television. (There's a wonderful story at the always-reliable Wikipedia of how a fellow actor joked that Massey wouldn't be satisfied with his Lincoln impersonation until someone assassinated him.)

Massey won plaudits for his portrayal of Gillespie, a much more nuanced and less caricaturish performance than those rendered in the movies by Lionel Barrymore. He was a distinguished actor, with two stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame (one for movies, one for television), and Dwight Whitney's article highlights some colorful aspects of his life: an uncle was a bishop, his older brother was Governor General of Canada, and the Massey family owned the Massey-Harris Harvester Company, which we would recognize today as the manufacturing giant Massey Ferguson. His first Broadway role came courtesy of Noel Coward and Norman Bel Geddes (mid-century design icon and father of Dallas' Barbara Bel Geddes), and his movie career started with an offer from Sir Gerald du Maurier, father of the famed novelist Daphne.*

*Who, as far as I could tell, never wrote a work adapted into a movie in which Massey appeared.

Massey was a dignified actor who always invested his roles with a sense of gravitas. Sadly, there aren't too many of those around anymore.

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3. Since you mentioned it:  In addition to his several portrayals of Lincoln, Raymond Massey also played the abolitionist John Brown in a pair of movies—Santa Fe Trail and Seven Angry Men—and onstage in a dramatic reading of Stephen Vincent Benét's Pulitizer Prize-winning poem John Brown's Body. And it's that very story, John Brown's Body, that CBS has on Thursday night at 7:30, preempting the police drama Brenner. This one doesn't star Massey, but it does feature Richard Boone as the Narrator, with Douglas Campbell as John Brown. In a couple of seasons, Boone will star on NBC in The Richard Boone Show, an anthology series with a rotating repertory cast. Despite critical praise, it only runs one season before being canceled, replaced by The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Boone finds out about it not from the network, but from the trade papers.

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4. Her stock is rising: Actress Diana Millay, as it happens, appeared in both The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Eleventh Hour. But that is all in the future; today, in addition to being one of the hardest-working actresses in New York (with nearly 100 live shows to her credit), the 23-year-old is also making her mark as a day trader in the stock market. While most actresses are concerned with their reviews, Millay can be seen pouring over Forbes and The Wall Street Journal between takes. Later she'll find more success in commercial real estate and fine art.

This article is typical of so many that have run in TV Guide over the years, and you might wonder if anything ever happened with Millay or if she faded to obscurity like many a starlet from previous profiles. But in this case, Diana Millay did all right for herself, assuring lasting fame as Laura Collins in Dark Shadows. No word on how much of a killing she made in the market.

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     Paul Anka and friend.
5. Did someone say "young star"?
Any discussion of talented young performers has to include Paul Anka. At the time of this writing Anka is still 20—three years younger than Diana Millay—but in that time he's accomplished, well, let the statistics speak for themselves. At 15 he signed a contract with Don Costa at ABC/Paramount, and had his first hit: "Diana," which sold 8,500,000 copies. He followed that up with "Lonely Boy" and "Puppy Love," each of which were million-sellers. He's appeared as an actor in movies, most recently in the war drama The Longest Day, for which he also wrote the theme. According to the famed musical writing team of Comden and Green, "it is not too early to mention Paul Anka in the same breath with musical immortals." He's accessible, appearing constantly on variety shows: Sullivan, Como, Shore. He's a mean Password player. He makes well over a million dollars a year.

And he isn't even old enough to vote or drink.

The unbylined article portrays Anka as a driven businessman. He has little time for personal relationships, other than those that are part of the business. He has little time for girls, even though the broken romance is a staple of his songs. He's insecure; "I care about being liked. I want everybody to like me," he tells his interviewer. He's angered by those who resent his early success, and those who ridicule rock music in general.

What's particularly interesting about this article is that although Anka is already established as a major star in records, television and movies, his biggest hits are still ahead of him: "My Way," the Sinatra hit for which he wrote the English lyrics; "She's a Lady," the Tom Jones hit, and "Johnny's Theme," the Johnny in question being Johnny Carson. Among others. Not a bad career, hmm?

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6. What's old is new again: Paul Anka was payed a royalty every time the theme for The Tonight Show was played—over 1,400,000 times by one estimate. Every night Johnny's monologue began with that theme, and ended with Johnny's golf swing. And that brings us to the present day, and the highlight of the sporting week.

Palmer and Nicklaus: the changing of the guard
The U.S. Open golf championship, or the National Open as it was frequently called back in the day, is, then as now, this weekend's Big Sporting Event. Then, as now, it's being shown on NBC. But whereas this weekend's tournament runs for four days, concluding on Sunday, in 1962 the tournament is scheduled for three days, concluding on "Open Saturday" with a 36-hole marathon. And while a tie in this year's tournament will be decided by a two-hole playoff after the final round concludes, the national championship of 1962 ended in a tie that was decided by an 18-hole playoff the following day. 

Golf's reigning superstar, Arnold Palmer, is the hometown hero (from nearby Latrobe), and having shared the lead after the second and third rounds, everything seems to point to his second Open championship. However, at the end of 72 holes Palmer finds himself tied with a rising star: the 22-year-old Jack Nicklaus, who had been the low amateur at the last two Opens. The two meet in a playoff on Sunday, in front of a raucously pro-Palmer crowd. Jack leads Arnold by four shots after six holes and goes on to a three-shot victory. It's the start of the Nicklaus dynasty: his first professional win, and the first of his 18 major professional championships. Palmer, who had won the Masters earlier in the year and will add the British Open in July, takes his third Masters in 1964, but after that never wins another major title.

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And there you have it: from Margaret Leighton in "The First Day" to the U.S. Open in the present day, all in six steps. Not bad, hmm?

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If you wanted to, you could probably go from the female news reporters of 1962 to the news stars of today in six degrees or less. But it was tough being a pioneer in television news back then, and if you don't believe me, ask the women who are out there breaking the barrier, women like Lisa Howard. She's scored major interviews with the likes of Nikita Khruschev and Fidel Castro, she's covered political conventions and news stories, and yet, Time describes her as "blonde, curvy . . . a package guaranteed to lure males," who used her "looks" to "further her career." 

And then there's Nancy Hanschman Dickerson of CBS, whose two-year career in Washington has been marked by "scoop interviews with tough politicians." According to one male journalist, though, "She uses her very feminine appeal to get politicians to open up and talk." (Oddly enough, TV Guide itself describes Dickerson as "a sleek, equally curvy brunette.") Now, it's true that unless your name happens to be Mike Wallace, being charming and delightful certainly helps when it comes to getting newsmakers to open up; equally, Fox News is living proof that journalistic ability is not a be-all and end-all when it comes to making a splash on television. Nevertheless, Howard and Dickerson, along with NBC's UN correspondent Pauline Frederick, have demonstrated that while being attractive and personable might help one get a break, you're not going to be able to stay there unless you've got the ability to handle hard news. 

L-R: Lisa Howard, Nancy Dickerson, Pauline Frederick
Howard, who prior to working in news spent time as a soap opera actress on The Edge of Night and As the World Turns, has been involved in politics for five years, as well as writing articles for The Economist. and says that her scoops have come "not because I'm pretty—it's because I'm determined, aggressive." She points to a recent interview with New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller: "I found out where he was going to be—at a luncheon at the Commodore Hotel. I showed up with the camera in front of the hotel. He fled. I took the camera up to the luncheon and plugged it in front of the elevators to catch him on the way out. He went down the back stairs. I rushed to the next elevator stop, set up my cameras in his path. I threw him an important question. He couldn't refuse to answer so I got an interview. I heard someone behind me say, 'Dammit, she's done it again.' Now, that's not because I'm a woman. It's because I was unrelenting." 

Dickerson (whose son John is today a correspondent for CBS) relates the prejudice female journalists have to live with on a daily basis. "Do you realize that the National Press Club doesn't discriminate against public relations people, against lobbyists, against Negroes, but does discriminate against women? When guests like Nehru, Churchill, Khrushchev speak at the National Press Club, we women reporters can go sit in the balcony—but we cannot be luncheon guests." She chuckles that, because men make it so hard for women to get in the business, those women who do succeed are "really very good at their work. I suspect they are far better than most of the men. That's how it always is with persecuted minorities."

Frederick, who's been in the business longer and is, of the three, the least glamorous (she's praised as one who "covers the news like a man") recalls that in her early days, she was constantly sent to cover "women's stories." "I finally asked my boss why. He said, 'We're afraid that if people hear a woman discussing anything as serious as the UN, they won't listen. A woman's voice doesn't carry authority." She snorts at the memory: "I'm pretty sure his wife's voice carried authority!" She complains that the network is trying to turn her into a glamor girl as well; "At NBC they said I should change my hair style, take off my glasses, change the type of clothes I wear. . . I don't want to be appreciated for glamor. I want to be appreciated for my work." She sighs. "Apparently people look at a woman first and listen second. When a man is on the air, they listen first. I suppose I react that way myself."

And yet women continue to make inroads; Anne Morrissy, a "girl reporter" for ABC's American Newsstand, will cover the Vietnam War for ABC, while Phyllis Hepp is currently filing reports from Africa as a stringer for NBC. One can only conclude that, whether male reports like it or not, whether networks like it or not, "glamor in TV news is here to stay." 

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Notes from the Teletype and more:  In the works for the coming season: The Patty Duke Show, Lee Marvin's Lawbreakers, and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. All of them made it to the small screen, and all of them make it to DVD. . . Future Oscar winner Marvin stars this week in "The Richest Man in Bogota," based on the sci-fi story by H.G. Wells, on the DuPont Show of the Week (Sunday, 9:00 p.m., NBC) . . . NBC announces that 68% of its prime-time programs for the 1962-63 season will be in color, compared with 57% this season and 41% a year ago. NBC remains the dominant player in the color television market, which proves that being owned by RCA pays dividends . . .The 1962 TV Guide Awards will air next week on NBC, headlined by Judy Holliday, Art Carney and Dave Garroway. . .Premiering this week on CBS daytime: To Tell The Truth, which adds the daytime component to its long-running nighttime run, now in its sixth season (Monday through Friday, 2:30 p.m.). The prime-time version will run until 1967, daytime ends a year later. Additionally, longtime soaps The Brighter Day (10:30 a.m.) and The Secret Storm (3:00 p.m.) expand from 15 minutes to a half-hour, leaving only The Guiding Light and Search For Tomorrow in the old radio-era length. Both will finally go to 30 minutes in 1968, bumping—To Tell The Truth.

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By the way, if you really do want to play this game with Kevin Bacon, then step 6 is as follows: Paul Anka was in Mad Dog Time with Diane Lane, who was in My Dog Skip with Kevin Bacon. See how easy it is? TV  

2 comments:

  1. Me (working as a video editor in advertising). Fifteen years ago or so the agency I worked for wants to use a celebrity voice over (VO) for a new business pitch. I edit my video and then the audio file of the celebrity VO is sent to me to place in my cut. As I am sticking Kevin Bacon's voice into the video I think: "This six degrees of Kevin Bacon thing is sort of hitting close to home."

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for writing! Drive safely!