From Gidget to Mary Todd Lincoln: The Highly Respected Career of Sally Field

When you mention the name of Sally Field, different generations of women remember her for different roles.  That is because she has continued to find quality movies and television shows to add to her resume. Beginning her career in 1965, 52 years later she is still appearing in respected films.  The woman who started out as Gidget, a typical teenager has become Mary Todd Lincoln. Let’s take a look at her long and admired work.

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Sally Margaret Field was born in 1946 in California.  Her mother was actress Margaret Field. Margaret is a descendent of a passenger on the Mayflower and William Bradford, governor.  Her parents divorced in 1950 and her mother then married stuntman Jock Mahoney. Sally graduated from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys where she was a cheerleader. Her classmates included Michael Milken and Cindy Williams.

Her first acting job was the role of Frances Elizabeth Lawrence, or Gidget, as she was nick-named in the 1965 series. Field was perfectly matched as the all-American girl Gidget; she lived with her widowed father, a college professor (Don Porter). Her older sister Anne was married, and she and her husband John felt compelled to watch over Gidget. Gidget spent most of her time surfing and hanging out with her best friend Larue played by Lynette Winter. The show was based on the book and Sandra Dee movies which were very popular, but the series was cancelled after only 32 episodes due to low ratings.

In 1967, she accepted the role of Sister Bertrille on The Flying Nun. The show featured a nun who was assigned to a convent in Puerto Rico. Her coronets and small size allowed the trade winds there to lift her up, and she was able to fly. This series was also based on novel, The Fifteenth Pelican by Tere Rios.

She also appeared in her first movie in 1967 – opposite of Kirk Douglas in The Way West.

Sally has been married twice, first to Steven Craig from 1968 to 1975.  The couple had two sons, Peter and Eli. Following that marriage, Sally was involved in a long relationship with Burt Reynolds.  In his book which came out in 2015 he said that she was the love of his life and definitely the one that got away.  Sally then married Alan Greisman from 1984-1993 and they had one son, Samuel.

 

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Field appeared in several television series in the 1970s and finally received a role as The Girl with Something Extra in 1973.  For 22 episodes, she starred with John Davidson as her husband who realizes on his wedding night that his wife has ESP. Hopefully she was able to alert him that the show would be cancelled before the end of the season so he could start looking for a new job.

 

After this tv series flopped, Field became a serious movie actress.  She appeared in many critically acclaimed movies during her career, including Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Norma Rae (1979), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), Places in the Heart (1984), Steel Magnolias (1989), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Forest Gump (1994), Legally Blonde 2 (2003), and, most recently, Lincoln (2012).

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In the late 1990s, Field added to her resume, directing several shows including the tv film The Christmas Tree in 1996, one episode of From the Earth to the Moon in 1998, and the feature film Beautiful in 2000.

 

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In 2000, Field returned to television with a recurring role on ER between 2000 and 2006. She played Abby Lockhart’s mother, Maggie, who has bipolar disorder. She won an Emmy for the role in 2001. She starred in The Court in 2002 which only lasted for six episodes.

In 2005, Sally was diagnosed with osteoporosis. She created the Rally with Sally for Bone Health campaign which encouraged early diagnosis of the condition using bone-density scans.

 

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Her last television role was matriarch Nora Walker in Brothers & Sisters which was on the air from 2006 until 2011. Originally the role of Nora was played by Betty Buckley. The producers decided the character would take a different direction and offered the part to Field. She also won an Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for this show in 2007.
In 2014 Sally received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located front of the Hollywood Wax Museum.

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2017 found Field in a Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie. She was nominated for a Tony award for best actress in a play for the performance.

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In addition to her Emmys listed above, Sally won an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or movie for Sybil in 1977. She won Academy Awards for best actress in Norma Rae and Places in the Heart. Her acting performances have been nominated for awards 57 times.

Sally Field is a well-respected and award-winning actress who has continued to find projects as she ages which is not always easy for women in film. At 70, Field appears much younger and energetic than other women her age.  She has continued to fight for causes she is passionate about. Her acting portfolio has definitely been a career to be proud of.

 

 

Why I Love My Three Sons and My 3 Sons

 

Happy Birthday to me! Since it is my birthday today, I decided my gift to myself was to write about my favorite television show, My Three Sons.  The show was on the air from 1960-1972, for a total of 382 episodes. It debuted on ABC, and in 1965 it moved to CBS. The show was based on a widower, Steve Douglas, who is an aeronautical engineer trying to raise three boys after his wife’s death.  Her father, Bub, moves in to take over the housekeeping duties.

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Although Don Fedderson often gets credit for developing My Three Sons, the show was created by George Tibbles and produced by Don Fedderson Productions. When the series moved to CBS in 1965, the latter network assumed full production responsibilities (in association with Fedderson Productions) until the end of the series in 1972. CBS now holds the series’ copyright.

George Tibbles wrote for a variety of shows and penned the Woody Woodpecker Song, recorded by Kay Kyser. Some of the episodes he wrote for My Three Sons include “Chip Off the Old Block” (1960), “Bob in the Ointment” (1960), “Countdown” (1960), “Birds and Bees” (1961), “Tramp the Hero” (1961), “Mike in Charge” (1961), “Bud Gets a Job” (1962), “Stage Door Bub” (1964), “Charley and the Kid” (1965), “Brother Ernie” (1965), “Moving Day” (1967), “Robbie Loves Katie” (1967), “Inspection of the Groom” (1967), “The Great Pregnancy” (1968), and “Instant Co-Worker” (1969).

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Peter Tewksbury directed the first season. These early episodes held to no specific generic type, so that any episode from one week to the next might be either comedic or dramatic. Tewksbury’s episodes are also unusual for their use of cross-talk (a way of having the voices of off-screen characters heard in the background of the soundtrack, just under the voices of the main characters). Using this clever directorial twist, Tewksbury realistically portrayed the chaotic, fast-paced, and ever-changing sequence of events that was the daily routine of living in the Douglas household.

An example of Tewksbury’s use of cross-talk is the fourth episode, “Countdown,” which chronicles the Douglas family’s attempts to wake up, prepare for the day, have breakfast, and get out of the house by a common, agreed-upon time, all carefully synchronized to a televised rocket launch countdown – to comical and often ironic effect. Once the entire family was ready, they realized it was not a week-day and they had been running around like crazy for nothing. Tewksbury returned to directing feature films after concluding the season because the producers could not handle his perfectionist attitude, which was costing thousands of dollars in lost time and reshoots.

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The succeeding director, Richard Whorf, took over the reins for one season and was in turn followed by former actor-turned-director Gene Reynolds from 1962 to 1964. James V. Kern, an experienced Hollywood television director who had previously helmed the “Hollywood” and “Europe” episodes of I Love Lucy, continued in this role for two years until his untimely death in late 1966. Director James Sheldon was also contracted to finish episodes that had been partly completed by Kern to complete that season. Fred De Cordova was the show’s longest and most consistent director of the series (108 episodes) until he left in 1971 to produce The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Earl Bellamy rounded out the series as director of the show’s final year.

When the show was first created, potential writers were told to emphasize the following elements: originality, simplicity, honesty, legitimacy, natural comedy, seriousness of premise, scope and character development.

I love the first episode – it not only established the family relationships, but set the direction the comedy would take. This was a family who might tease each other unmercifully but also knew they could always count on each other no matter what the situation was. The family members were far from perfect but they were realistic.

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One of the most memorable parts of the show was the theme song. Lawrence Welk’s version of the instrumental theme song, written by Frank De Vol, peaked at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961.

In 1960, Fred MacMurray was one of the most respected and highest-paid actors in Hollywood.  It was almost inconceivable that he would star in a television show. The role was originally offered to Eddie Albert who turned down not only this role, but Wilbur Post on Mr. Ed as well. MacMurray took on the role when he was guaranteed that he would only have to spend 65 days a year filming the show. What was referred to as the MacMurray Method was 65 days of consecutive taping with the rest of the cast having to film around these scenes later. He was also given a 50% ownership in Don Fedderson Productions.

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MacMurray was a very down-to-earth guy.  His grandfather immigrated from Scotland.  He was born in Illinois in 1908 and grew up in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. He worked in a canning factory and for an American Legion band, went to Carroll College, and earned money playing in a band there. After his first wife, Lillian Lamont died, he married June Haver, a former actress who left a convent to marry him.  They adopted twin daughters. They had a 200-acre ranch on the Russian River and his interests included his workshop, building picture frames, painting water colors, golfing, watching some television, and cooking. Hedda Hopper’s description of him was, “He’s as down to earth as applesauce or the boy next door.”

When Barry Livingston was asked about him, he said, “He was basically a guy from the Midwest, Midwest sensibilities, and even though he was super, super wealthy, just really had modest taste and just really wanted to be accepted as your average Joe.  I mean, he drove a Pontiac station wagon that happened to be our sponsor. . . his wife would pack a brown-paper-bag lunch.”

Steve Douglas was known for his cardigan sweaters. Steve was always ready with guidance, gentle words, and loving wisdom.

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William Frawley, best known as Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy, accepted the role of Bub. He was an expert on barbershop quartets. In 1958, he made an album, “Bill Frawley Sings the Old Ones.” He was 68 in 1961 and had spent 28 years in Hollywood, 46 as a performer.  He grew up in Burlington, IA where his father sold real estate.  At 21 he landed a job in a musical chorus in Chicago. He married in 1916, divorcing Louise in 1927 and never married again. In 1933, he moved to Hollywood with a long-term Paramount contract. His old friends include Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Gallaudet.

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Timothy Considine played Mike, the oldest son on the show. He was a former child actor and young adult actor of the late 1950s and early 1960s. He later became a writer, photographer, and automotive historian. Considine’s most noted acting roles were in the 1955–1957 Disney TV serials Spin and Marty (he played Spin) and The Hardy Boys (he played older brother Frank opposite Tommy Kirk as Joe), both of which appeared in 15-minute segments on the Mickey Mouse Club; and in the Disney motion picture The Shaggy Dog. Considine is an automobile historian, photographer, and writer who specializes in motor sports. He is the author of The Photographic Dictionary of Soccer, The Language of Sport, and American Grand Prix Racing: A Century of Drivers and Cars. He has also filled in for the late William Safire as writer of the “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine.

Tim Considine quit the show after arguing with Don Fedderson.

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Don Grady, who played middle son Robbie and was the brother of actress Lani O’Grady, got 8 times the fan-mail the other boys did, mostly from young girls. Grady was born Don Louis Agrati in San Diego, California, the son of Mary B. (née Castellino), a talent agent, and Lou Anthony Agrati, a sausage maker. He grew up in Lafayette, California before being signed by Walt Disney and leaving the area. He graduated from Burbank High School in 1962.

Grady appeared on 20 different tv series before 1972, including two episodes of Love American Style. During production of My Three Sons, Grady appeared with his own band The Greefs on the series, writing two original songs for the show.

After My Three Sons ended in 1972, Grady pursued a musical career. His works included music for the Blake Edwards comedy film Switch, the theme song for The Phil Donahue Show and for EFX, a Las Vegas multimedia stage show which starred Michael Crawford, David Cassidy, Tommy Tune, and Rick Springfield. As a stage performer, he starred in the national tour of Pippin and had roles in Godspell and Damn Yankees.

He passed away in 2012 from cancer.

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Stanley Livingston took on the role of Chip (Richard), originally the youngest son. He was named for the scientist Stanley Livingston. His parents moved from Baltimore to LA to open a furniture store. He was one of the kids riding trikes and fire engines on “You Asked for It.” In 1957, he was recommended as a double for Jon Provost on Lassie by Mrs. Loven, who taught him to swim. Tina Hill was his first agent, and Lois Auer was his first drama coach. He and Barry were neighbor kids on Ozzie and Harriet.

By age 11, he earned $20,000 a year. He shared that, “The food on My Three Sons is lousy. The prop man cooks it. The eggs are sticky and the potatoes are lumpy.  It’s so bad we try to get eating scenes on the first take.”

John Stevens was a production/coordinator in 1961. In TV Guide in 1962, he was quoted, “Because of the way we shoot around MacMurray, filming My Three Sons is a jigsaw puzzle for an adult. We once shot all the scenes in the upstairs hall and bedroom from 21 scripts, one after the other. In one, Stanley would have to be happy over something in a comedy, and five minutes later, said in a melodrama. I never once saw him rattled, confused or upset.”

In 1965, the fourth season, Frawley retired due to poor health, dying a year later. Wm Demarest, Bub’s brother, the boys’ uncle and a former sailor took his place. To explain Considine’s absence, Mike married his long-time girlfriend and accepted a job as a college professor. Ernie entered the family and was officially adopted.

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William Demarest started in show business at age 9. He was involved with vaudeville, Broadway, movies (150) and television. In 1899, he and his brothers were musicians. He played the cello, wearing velvet suits, Rubinstein played the piano, and George the violin. He was born in St. Paul in February 1892 and then moved to New Jersey where his parents separated. Later in life he went to LA and entered the army during WWI, eventually becoming a sergeant. In 1927, he was a Warner’s New Comedy Find. In his first picture, Finger Prints, a silent, he was a gangster. He appeared in 24 movies in two years. He appeared in The Jazz Singer and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Jolson Story. In 1930, he headlined a bill with an orchestra, the CA Collegians who had a sax player named Fred MacMurray. In 1933, he went back to Hollywood and stayed. He was a talent agent before appearing in Preston Sturges’ The Great McGinty and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. He can’t remember how many movies he did, but his 100th was Pardon My Past with MacMurray. They were also in Hands Across the Table. His retirement plans were to move to a home he and his wife Lucille had on the 12th fairway at Canyon Country Club in Palm Springs.

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Barry Livingston debuted on the show as Chip’s friend Ernie, an orphan. Barry began his career as a child actor in the late 1950s. He considers his film debut a role he won as one of the sons of Paul Newman in the film Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! (1958) with his older brother Stanley who by this time was already working as a child actor. He was let go from the film when he was told that he needed to get glasses to successfully correct his astigmatism. His first professional onscreen appearance was in a small, uncredited role in the 1961 film The Errand Boy, followed by roles in The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, on The Dick Van Dyke Show and (as “Arnold Mooney,” son of banker Theodore J. Mooney portrayed by Gale Gordon) on The Lucy Show. In 1965, he joined the cast of the ABC sitcom My Three Sons as next door neighbor Ernie Thompson.

His older brother, Stanley Livingston, was already a series regular as Chip Douglas. Livingston joined the cast permanently (his character was adopted into the family, keeping the show’s title intact) and remained with the series until its end in 1972.

After the series run of My Three Sons ended in 1972, Livingston continued his acting career with 142 acting credits.  Most recently he appeared as a jury member in Trial and Error.

In October 2011, Barry Livingston released his anecdote-filled autobiography, The Importance of Being Ernie (Citadel Press) — detailing his career from My Three Sons to Mad Men and beyond.

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To boost ratings, the family moved to Hollywood, CA in 1967. The family’s home in California was previously featured as the farm in Gene Autry’s 1940 musical Melody Ranch. Located on the Republic Pictures backlot, the barn was given a suburban facade in the 1950s. It wasn’t that far from Gilligan’s lagoon, which was also on the lot.

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Robbie meets his future wife in California, and they eventually marry and have triplets. The triplets posed some issues.  They had to find two sets of twins so three could be on camera and one on reserve.  They had to be born between June 17 and 24, have light hair, blue eyes, and be California residents.  They could only be on the set for 2 hours a day, in front of the camera only 20 min and each exposure could not last more than 30 seconds due to the bright lights.

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Tina Cole played Katie but she was not a rookie on the show. She previously appeared on three other episodes as three different characters before taking the role of Katie Miller Douglas. She was also a member of the Four King Cousins, a subgroup of the King Family Singers. In 1963 she played the minor (uncredited) role of Ruth Stewart in Palm Springs Weekend, a spring break party film set in Palm Springs, California. After leaving television, Cole was the director of the Sacramento Children’s Theatre. She was an acting coach at the John Robert Powers acting schools in Roseville and Elk Grove, California and in 2013 returned to on screen acting. She has several movies coming out in 2017.

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In 1970, another change occurred in the family. Steve goes to school to talk with the substitute teacher about Ernie.  After being gone hours, with Ernie extremely worried, Steve comes home only to realize they never even brought up Ernie’s behavior and they had another date scheduled. They ended up marrying, and Barbara’s daughter Dodie moves into the house.

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Beverly Garland had a long acting resume when she accepted the part of Barbara. Her hobbies were flower beading and crewel work. She starred in her first show Decoy in 1958 in New York where she played a tough police woman. Born Beverly Fessenden in Santa Cruz, CA in 1930, she was an only child. She took violin lessons. At 18 she married Bob Campbell, 20 in Vegas. They divorced 4 months later. She worked odd jobs, summer stock, and commercials. She married Richard Garland but they divorced in 1953. In that same year, she won an Emmy for Medic. She appeared in a variety of shows – Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Dr. Kildare, and The Farmer’s Daughter. She married Fillmore Pajeau Crank, a widower with two kids in 1960, and the couple had two more children.

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Dodie was played by Dawn Lyn, the real-life sister of 80s pop idol Leif Garrett. Dawn Lyn made her acting debut at the age of four. She was the original Prudence in the pilot for Nanny and the Professor. By the time the pilot sold, Dawn had been released from her contract and cast as Dodie in My Three Sons. The Nanny producers sued unsuccessfully to get her back. She worked steadily to financially support her family until her mid-teens. She says at that time her petite stature began to work against her.

Dawn decided to branch out of acting and has done many things over the years, including owning a boutique on Pier 39 in San Francisco. Though she has not actively pursued acting, she has not totally closed the door on the idea either.

Later in the season, Chip elopes with his girlfriend Polly Williams.

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In 1964, Ronne Troup, who played Polly, was working as a television background extra appearing (uncredited) in some fourth season black-and-white episodes of My Three Sons in classroom scenes featuring co-star Don Grady. She also worked as an uncredited extra in classroom scenes on Gidget. She appeared, uncredited, as a teen party guest in the Bob Hope film I’ll Take Sweden in 1965. In 1966, she made her film debut as part of the all-girl ensemble in Columbia Films’ The Trouble with Angels, where she is prominent in the graduation scene. In December 1966 (at age 21), she was cast as Sister Bertrille and had begun filming the pilot for Columbia/Screen Gems’ The Flying Nun when she was dropped after the studio’s first choice Sally Field finally agreed to accept the role.

In 1968, she played the role of Leslie Hayden in Danger Island, the cliffhanger serial that was featured on the Banana Splits Adventure Hour children’s program on Saturday mornings.

She appeared on Family Affair in 1970 in the episode “Desert Isle: Manhattan Style.” She was subsequently offered the role of Polly Williams Douglas, wife of Chip Douglas on My Three Sons, a role she played for two years (1970–72). In the Season 4 episode of The Partridge Family entitled “Hate Thy Neighbor” (1973), she appeared as Donna Stevens, the daughter of the new family who move in next door to the Partridges.

She continued acting through the 1990s.

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I have always felt that My Three Sons doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It consistently focused on character development. Problems do occur in the Douglas household – the boys fight and call each other names.  Real problems come up. The show ran for 12 seasons. The issues were the ones we all faced growing up – not often major but important to young people.

The show survived cast and location changes without sacrificing quality. Bub left and Charley came on board. Mike got married and moved away so Ernie took his place. The family moved from New York to California.  Robbie met Katie, went to college, and had a family of his own. Chip married and moved out of the house. Steve eventually remarried also, gaining a daughter.

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I grew up with the Douglas family and appreciated what I learned from the show.  Many critics of the show complain about it, along with many of the 1960s sitcoms, being too warm and fuzzy. I do understand that some kids in the 1960s and 1970s were exposed to awful home situations with abuse or addiction, but that was not reality for most kids.  I too experienced living with alcoholism and the strain it caused on my parents’ marriage, but most of the issues I had to deal with were the same ones as the kids on the show:  why the boy I liked didn’t know I existed, that I told a white lie to get out of doing something I didn’t want to do, or that a friend had said something to hurt my feelings.  That was reality for me and my siblings.

The characters were fully developed and became friends and people we chose to spend time with every week. This show was on when I was born and continued on the air until I was in 7th grade – that covers a lot of nurturing lessons during those needy years. The writers did a lot of fun quirks I don’t see on other shows.  On one show I remember, Charley playing Solitaire and almost every time someone walked in the room, they pointed out a move.  It was not addressed, but continued to happen just like in real life.  In one episode, Ernie was trying to do something in the background; I forget what the actual detail was, but he was struggling to accomplish it as the other characters interacted.  His issue was never referred to; it was just there. I also appreciate in this era of shows where it isn’t unusual to spend thousands and thousands of dollars each episode on costumes, My Three Sons was more realistic.  The cast got a wardrobe for the season.  You would see them wearing the same clothing over and over just like we did.

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After I grew up, the show continued to resonate with me, although I later identified more with Katie and Robbie and later with Steve. Steve Douglas was always a father figure in my life. On our first date, Dan and I went back to my place and watched My Three Sons which TV Land aired later at night. When I became pregnant with our first child, I gave him a Steve Douglas cardigan to announce the event. I began to collect My Three Sons memorabilia, including a radio that sat in the Douglas kitchen, even though we only had two boys.  Nine years after our first son was born, we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant, and I did end up with three sons.  Our youngest was named Seth, for a variety of reasons:  Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve, but also because Seth Bryant was the founder of Bryant Park where the Douglas boys grew up. My Three Sons will always have a special place in my heart, and it’s one of the shows I can watch episodes over and over and find something new each time.

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Elinor Donahue Through the Decades

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Elinor Donahue always displays a warmth and comes across as a genuinely nice person. Her first sitcom became her most famous role.  She played Betty in the iconic Father Knows Best. Although none of her later sitcoms reached the same popularity, she has had a long and full career.

She was born in April of 1937 in Tacoma, Washington. She began tap dancing at 16 months old. As a toddler, she did some acting and received a contract with Universal at the ripe old age of 5. From 1955-1961 she was married to Robert Smith. She was married her second husband, Harry Ackerman, from 1962-1991. Ackerman was a producer for shows including Leave It to Beaver, Gidget, and Bewitched.  She married her third husband Louis Genevrino in 1992.

Donahue appeared in 18 movies between 1942 and 1952 including Tea for Two with Doris Day and My Blue Heaven. She made the transition to television in 1952 appearing in 8 shows in the 1950s. One of the shows I remember her in although I only saw it in reruns was one of my favorite shows, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. She was typically cast as the girl-next-door type. Her most famous role came in 1954 when she was cast in a new sitcom, Father Knows Best.

Father Knows Best – 1954-1960

This was one of the typical family shows of the 1950s. The Andersons lived in Springfield with three children: Betty, called Princess (Elinor Donahue), James Jr., or Bud (Billy Gray) and Kathy, usually called  Kitten (Lauren Chapin). The show debuted in the fall of 1954 on CBS. The show was cancelled in 1955 and the public was furious. Letters came pouring in, so it was reinstated. NBC took over the next year until 1958 when it went back to CBS.  In 1960, Robert Young decided he was done. These were warm and inviting parents, providing guidance and object lessons galore. Critics panned it later because it was not reality.  We have reality shows today, and please, give me fiction. We did learn life lessons on the show – following through on promises, working for what you want, being yourself, and taking responsibility for your mistakes.

Shortly after Father Knows Best left the airwaves, Donahue accepted the role of Elly Walker in The Andy Griffith Show.

The Andy Griffith Show – 1960-1961

Most of us are very familiar with The Andy Griffith Show and many of the characters who inhabit Mayberry:  Widower Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) and his son Opie (Ron Howard) live with Andy’s Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) who takes care of them;  Barney (Don Knotts) is the inept deputy but also Andy’s best friend;  Helen Crump (Anita Corsaut), the school teacher and Andy’s girlfriend later in the series; Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn), Barney’s girl; Otis Campbell (Hal Smith), town drunk but nice guy; Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), who runs the gas station; and his cousin Goober Pyle (George Lindsey). Andy had several romances early in the show.  He dated the county nurse Mary Simpson (played by several actresses), spent a limited amount of time with Daphne (Jean Carson) who had a crush on him; and in the first two seasons, he was sweet on Ellie Walker (Donahue), who ran the local drug store. Ellie cared about Andy, but she always stood up for herself and women’s rights.  Andy and Ellie never had the chemistry they were hoping for but they respected each other and like each other. Elinor raved about the cast and her opportunity to be on the show. She said Andy was in charge and expected quality but was fair and a nice man. She described Ron Howard as the best child actor she ever worked with.  She liked Frances Bavier and got along well with her.  She had a huge respect for Don Knott’s comedic ability. She is still friends with Betty Lynn.

She appeared on a variety of shows in the mid-1960s including 77 Sunset Strip, Dr. Kildare, The Virginian, Dennis the MenaceStar Trek, and The Flying Nun. She tried her luck with one other sitcom in the 1960s.

Many Happy Returns – 1964-1965

This sitcom was also about a widower.  Walter Burnley (John McGiver) ran the Complaint Department at a LA department store. The show also featured his daughter (Donahue) and a coworker Lynn Hall (Elena Verdugo). His boss (Jerome Cowan) did not want him to take in any returns, so he had to resolve complaints without making his boss mad. Apparently Burnley couldn’t solve the complaints that came in from viewers because the show was cancelled after 24 episodes.

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Father Knows Best came out with two television movies in 1977: The Father Knows Best Reunion and Father Knows Best – Home for Christmas, and Elinor was in both. While still showing up in random shows during the 1970s such as The Rookies, Police Woman, and Diff’rent Strokes, Donahue found time to appear in two 70s shows on a regular basis.

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The Odd Couple – 1972-1975

Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple came to Friday nights in 1970. Felix Unger (Tony Randall) and Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman), two divorced men who are complete opposites but best friends, try to live together without killing each other. The show had a great supporting cast including Donohue as Miriam Welby from 1972-1974, Felix’s girlfriend.

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Mulligan’s Stew – 1977

This show from 1977 starred Elinor Donahue as Jane Mulligan.   She and her husband Michael (Lawrence Pressman) are trying to raise three kids on his teacher’s salary when they suddenly add four orphaned nieces and nephews to their family. One of the kids was played by Suzanne Crough, Tracy from The Partridge Family, one of the few shows she was in. The series only lasted for seven episodes.

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The 1980s found Donahue still working regularly.  She was in Barnaby Jones, Mork & Mindy, One Day at a Time, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Newhart, and Golden Girls. One sitcom in the 1980s captured her attention about Beans Baxter.

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The New Adventures of Beans Baxter – 1987

Here is the plot for this one: Beans Baxter’s (Jonathan Ward) father who he thought was a mailman disappears one day.  Teenage Bean discovers that his dad worked for a secret government agency.  He is then drawn into becoming a spy for the government. The show features his adventures as he tries to find the enemy agents who are holding his father hostage while his mother played by Donahue is completely oblivious that anything strange is happening. Viewers also didn’t realize anything was happening because the show was cancelled after 17 episodes.

Entering her 60s, Elinor joined the cast of three sitcoms in the 1990s. She also made several movies including Pretty Woman in 1990 and The Princess Diaries 2 in 2004.

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Get a Life – 1990-1992

Shows don’t get much weirder than this one. Comedian Chris Elliot plays a 30-year-old paperboy Chris Peterson who lives with wacky parents (Donahue and Bob Elliott, Chris’s real father).  Some of the strange things that happen during the 36 episodes include eating a space alien, beheadings, and a robot paperboy. In this bizarre series, Chris actually dies in a third of the episodes. During the run of the show, he died from old age, tonsillitis, a stab wound, a gunshot wound, was strangled, got run over by a car, choked on his cereal, was crushed by a giant boulder, and actually exploded.

 

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Eek!stravaganza – 1992-1993

Donahue plays “The Mom” in this animated show about Eek, a purple cat who always finds himself in dangerous situations. The series was on the air for five seasons.

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman – 1993-1997

During the six years the show was on the air, Donahue reprised her role as Rebecca Quinn ten times. The show followed the ups and downs experienced by a female doctor practicing in a wild western town.

Interestingly, Donahue appeared in three different soap operas toward the end of her career: Santa Barbara, Days of Our Lives, and The Young and the Restless.  Elinor also appeared on a variety of documentaries and award shows. She was in the Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour. In 1998, she wrote her memoirs titled, In the Kitchen with Elinor Donahue. The book included about 150 of her favorite recipes. Elinor’s career has been long and she appeared in many shows and movies over the years. She hasn’t appeared in a movie or television show since 2010, although she did do some theater.  In September of 2015, she appeared in one of my favorite plays, “Harvey” in North Carolina.

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Donahue’s career reminds me of many of the actors we have gotten to know in this blog including William Christopher, Betty White, Ken Berry, and Shelly Fabares.  These actors and actresses all appear to be very nice, talented people who have careers they should be proud of.  In a day when bad decisions and selfish actions are splattered across our television screens and newspapers, perhaps one of the best compliments we can give someone is that they had a long and fulfilling career and didn’t step all over other people to achieve it.

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When a rainy day shows up this summer, take a moment to watch some of Elinor’s sitcom episodes. Thank you Elinor Donahue for the entertainment and memories you gave us.

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But Wait, There’s More, 25% Improved, As Seen on TV, For a Limited Time (And We’re Not Kidding About Limited)!!!

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You would think that shows about advertising would be well done and long lasting.  After all, you want to appeal to an advertiser to pay for the show, right?  Apparently, advertising sitcoms are a hard sell. Let’s look at the shows that featured advertising executives.

Pride of the Family – 1953

Paul Hartman and Fay Wray star as Albie and Catherine Morrison.  Albie is the advertising head of a small newspaper. They have two children: Ann played by Natalie Wood and Albie Jr. played by Bobby Hyatt. Like so many of the family sitcoms, Albie has bad ideas at work and is totally clueless when trying to tackle “handyman” problems at home.  The show was cancelled after a year.

Nine out of ten doctors recommend this one (to put you to sleep!)

Bewitched – 1964

Darrin Stephens works for McMahon and Tate.  We never see Howard McMahon, the chairman of the board, but president Larry Tate (David White) is always threatening to fire Darrin. At least 20 of the episodes feature advertising as the main plot. In one show, Darrin is convinced that Samantha helped him land a big account when he was having creative issues.  In another episode, Samantha comes up with a good idea on her own, and Darrin accuses her of using witchcraft.

Many kids in the 1980s who went into advertising credit Bewitched for its portrayal of the advertising business world as their inspiration. Often, clients would be invited to the Stephens’ home for dinner along with the Tates, and something strange at the house would have to be concealed from the guests.

Many of McMahon and Tate’s clients sold perfume and cologne.  Some of the other memorable clients include Mother Flanagan’s Irish Stew, Gibbons Dog Burgers, Bobbins Buttery Bonbons Candy Co, and Whirl-a-Way Washing Machines. Bewitched was on for 8 seasons; as I have mentioned before in my blogs, had it quit after 6 seasons, it would have been a better show overall.

But wait, there’s more.  You also get Uncle Arthur’s wit and Endora’s sarcasm included absolutely free.

The Don Rickles Show – 1972

Don Robinson (Rickles) was an advertising executive in New York. He was constantly fighting the red tape, delays, and other problems caused in fast-paced urban corporations. The cast included his wife Barbara (Louise Sorel), daughter Janie (Erin Moran, pre-Happy Days), and neighbors the Benedicts (Robert Hogan and Joyce Van Patten). For a fast-paced show, it had a slow start and was cancelled after 7 episodes.

This truly was available for a limited time only.

The Sandy Duncan Show – 1971

Sandy worked for Quinn (Tom Bosley) & Cohen (Alfie Wise). Her neighbors were also her closest friends. Kay Fox (Marian Mercer) and Alex Lembeck (M. Emmet Walsh). Alex was a police officer and took it upon himself to make sure this single girl living alone was safe.  After three months, he didn’t have to worry because the show was finished.

This show was so new and improved that they changed almost everything about  it after season one. In 1972 it got a new title, new cast members, an additional producer, different writers, and updated filming techniques.  Other than that, it was the same show!

Bosom Buddies – 1980

Henry (Peter Scolari) and Kip (Tom Hanks) were advertising designers who needed a place to live.  The one place they did find was condemned and demolished in the middle of the night when they were sleeping there. Their friend Amy, also the receptionist at their firm, got them an apartment in her building.  The only catch was that she lived in a woman’s only building, so they had to become Hildegard and Buffy at home.

Of course, they wanted to date several of the women they lived with. Kip falls in love with Sonny, played by Donna Dixon.  She dated “Kip,” but was friends with “Buffy,” whom she thought was Kip’s sister. Amy had a crush on Henry and kept their secret.  The guys also had to deal with their difficult boss, Ruth Dunbar (Taylor Holland).

The network cancelled the show after the first year. Viewers started a writing campaign to save the show, so the network relented and gave it a second season.  The guys reveal their identity early in season 2 to the rest of their co-tenants.

The network cancelled it for good after the second year. Scolari and Hanks were not unlucky in their careers afterward. Scolari would go on to star in Newhart and Hanks became a huge movie star.

With this series, you got two for the price of one – two great comedians!

The Crazy Ones – 2013

Created by David E. Kelley, this show starred Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar. It was based on the true-life experiences of John R. Montgomery at the Leo Burnett ad agency in Chicago. This was the first show to star Williams since Mork & Mindy and it was the last show he did before his death.

Montgomery’s name is changed to Simon Roberts who lived hard but could sell anything to anyone. He brings his daughter Sydney (Gellar) into the firm. She has romantic feelings for coworker Andrew (Hamish Linklater) but doesn’t want to ruin their friendship.  He reciprocates the romantic feelings but respects her decision.

Two other coworkers are part of the cast.  Zach Cropper (James Wolk) is a copywriter.  He is a shallow playboy, but his good looks attract customers even though he is useless in copywriting. Lauren Slotsky (Amanda Setton) is Simon’s assistant.  She comes across as ditsy but is smarter than she appears.

The show had a huge audience for the debut, but it received mixed reviews and was cancelled after 22 episodes because of low ratings.

Watch this show and never have bad breath again.  Ok, that’s not true, but isn’t that the point of some ads?

Advertising seems like it could be a perfect sitcom theme.  You could feature different companies and issues every week, but apparently advertisers don’t have much of a sense of humor, or maybe they think they are much funnier than these shows portrayed them. I was truly amazed at the lack of shows about advertising and even more surprised that Bewitched was the only show about advertising to last very long on the air.

 

What’s the Name of That Disney Show Again?

Walt Disney was an innovative person, always checking out the newest technology.  That curiosity led him to explore television in 1950. He developed a Christmas special, featuring Edgar Bergen and Mortimer Snerd, giving television viewers a tour of the Disney studios. It was successful and was repeated in 1951.

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In the early 1950s Walt came up with his idea for an amusement park, designing what would soon be Disneyland. The park was easier to design than to finance. Walt had a brilliant idea that he could work with a television network and they could both profit from the plan.

Roy Disney was sent to New York to meet with the three major networks to discuss an hour-long show. Part of the deal would be to have the network contribute financing to Disneyland.

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CBS expressed little interest in the idea. NBC seemed to want the package but final negotiations kept falling through. When Roy visited ABC, they were definitely interested. The deal they worked out was that Disney would provide a one-hour show every week, and in return, ABC would invest $500,000 in Disneyland and guarantee loans up to $4,500,000. The agreement was announced in April 1954 with the shows to begin airing in October. Disneyland was set to open in the summer of 1955.

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The first show was the Disneyland Story, which described the attractions that would be included in the park. At this time, there was little trust between movies and television.  Producers and theaters had threatened to boycott any studios that supplied television networks with shows, so Disney was taking a risk in working with the network. The first show drew amazing ratings.

The shows were quite different in their format.  Airing on Wednesdays, the December 8 show was called Operation Undersea, a documentary about the filming of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  During the first season, the studio aired Alice in Wonderland, Seal Island, So Dear to My Heart, Treasure Island, Wind in the Willows, and Nature’s Half Acre, as well as short cartoons. One of the most unusual shows was Man in Space, a look at the space exploration that was taking place.

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Walt would introduce each show himself. He established a rule immediately that he would only endorse a sponsor’s product if he truly believed in it and used it.  One of the sponsors he promoted was Eastman Kodak because he owned their cameras and liked the quality.

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As part of that first season, Disney Studios decided to air Davy Crockett starring Fess Parker and co-starring Buddy Ebsen. It took Crockett from the frontier to Congress to the Alamo. A theme song, the “Ballad of Davy Crockett” hit number one on Hit Parade for 13 weeks and sold 10 million records. (I remember singing this song in one of our Spring Concerts in grade school about 1969.) Fess Parker became a big star, and the show re-energized Ebsen’s career.

Disney decided to market coonskin hats.  After much searching, they made a deal with Welded Plastics who took a risk to manufacture them. They were so popular the wholesale price skyrocketed from $.50/dozen to $5/dozen and more than 10 million were sold. It sparked a national craze, and kids began begging for Davy Crockett costumes, coloring books, rifles, lunch buckets and other toys. Walt ensured that each item was authentic to the time period and high quality. Going against what executives thought was a backward idea, Disney combined the three Crockett episodes into one movie and released it in national theaters and, what was considered to be a flop, made over $2,500,000.

In the second season, the studio aired Dumbo as their first show, and it was the highest rated show on television up to that time. In October of 1955, the Mickey Mouse Club debuted.

In 1957, NBC, losing ratings, scheduled Wagon Train against Disney; Wagon Train was the most expensive series on television to produce.  It knocked Disney off the number one spot. To counteract the move, Walt showed up at a network meeting in full cowboy gear, with plans to add westerns to the Disney schedule. The character of Zorro was introduced that season.

During these years, some of the most popular shows included The Making of Lady and the Tramp, the Use of the Multi-Dimensional Camera in Shooting Bambi, and Silly Symphonies.

In 1960 after six successful seasons with ABC and with Disneyland showing profitable numbers, ABC asked Disney to buy its interest in Disneyland back. Disney agreed and since ABC made the first move to divest itself, Walt felt he could now negotiate with NBC which was the only network using color.  Walt filmed many of his shows in color even though they were being shown in black and white.

The new show, now called Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, made its debut on September 24, 1961. The first show introduced a new character, Ludwig von Drake. He explained the process of how shows made the transition from silent to sound and from black and white to color. My favorite character who emceed shows was Jiminy Cricket.

Walt Disney passed away in 1966, and no one felt qualified to step into his shoes to introduce shows, so the introduction was deleted from the scripts.

His spirit is part of all the shows that were produced and continue to be produced today, adhering to his strict standards that has formed the reputation Disney has acquired for quality products.

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One of the highest rated shows occurred in 1976 when the Parent Trap was shown on television for the first time.

The shows continued to air on NBC until 1981 when NBC cancelled the show due to low ratings.

CBS picked up the show and moved it to Saturdays. In 1983 the Disney channel began and it seemed to compete with the other networks.  The show always had lower ratings than Murder She Wrote and Sixty Minutes. In 1987 CBS cancelled the contract. In 1988, NBC renewed its association with the show, airing several Muppet specials. Ratings did not rise, so Disney moved the show to its Disney Channel. During the late 1980s, ironically, Disney purchased ABC. After the purchase, Disney put its show back on Sunday nights where it spent 25 of its 29 seasons.

If you and your siblings argue about the title of the show, you are all probably right.  The show began as Walt Disney’s Disneyland (1954-1958) and then changed to Walt Disney Presents (1958-1961), Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-69), The Wonderful World of Disney (1969-1979), Disney’s Wonderful World (1979-1981), Walt Disney (1981-1983), Disney’s Sunday Movie (1986-1988), The Magical World of Disney (1988-1990), and finally the Wonderful World of Disney (1991-1997).  Good luck keeping all them straight.

Versions of the show have been broadcast in Argentina and Brazil. The show has won eight Emmys and was nominated an additional eleven times. The show had an amazing longevity.  It was on ABC for the first seven years, on NBC for seasons 8-27, and on CBS for 28 and 29 before moving back to ABC for a total of 649 episodes. The show is fondly remembered by generations of kids who watched the show with their families.

Now the studio has its own channel and has introduced a variety of new stars and programs 24/7. I don’t think Walt would be too surprised; it’s the role he charted for his studios — to continue to explore new technology and change with the times, while making quality programs. He left a legacy to be proud of.

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July is the Perfect Time for Berry Picking

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Ken Berry was born in Moline, IL in 1933. After watching a group perform when he was 13, he decided he wanted to be a dancer. He loved Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly movies, especially Easter Parade, Royal Wedding, and On the Town. At 16, he traveled with the Horace Heidt Youth Opportunity Program, performing in small towns for 15 months.

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He went into the army at Fort Bragg and was in the artillery. He was then moved to an entertainment division under Leonard Nimoy. During his second year, he won the All-Army Talent competition which allowed him to appear on Ed Sullivan in 1948. Nimoy encouraged him to move to Los Angeles where he made some connections for Berry. Both 20th Century Fox and Universal offered him jobs and he accepted the Universal contract.  In 1956, he opened for Abbott and Costello for their stage act. In 1957, Berry enrolled in Falcon Studios to study acting. He worked at the Cabaret Theater, making $11 per week. The same year he won Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Show.

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In 1958, he received an opportunity to join the Billy Barnes Revue. While in the Billy Barnes Revue, Berry met Jackie Joseph, and they married in 1960. His work in the BBR led to several lucrative connections. Lucille Ball saw him and offered him a job with Desilu Studios for $50 per week. Carol Burnett also watched a performance and had him on her variety show. (In 1972, she would offer him the co-starring role with her in Once Upon a Mattress, a television movie.)

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The first Desilu show he had a regular role on was the Ann Sothern Show. On the air from 1958-1961, Ann played Katy O’Connor who worked at a New York hotel. Originally, Mr. Macauley (Ernest Truex) was her boss, but he was berated by his controlling wife (Reta Shaw). Katy’s best friend from her previous show Private Secretary, which aired from 1953-1957, was Ann Tyrrell as Vi.  In this show, her name is Olive. The format wasn’t working, so Mr. Macauley the hotel owner, was transferred to Calcutta and James Devrey (Don Porter also from Private Secretary) took over.  Ratings improved, and the show was renewed for another season. During this season, Louis Nye was introduced as a funny dentist in the hotel who dates and marries Olive, and Berry played bellboy Woody Hamilton, replacing Jack Mullaney.  Most of the episodes revolve around the staff and guests of the hotel. As in Private Secretary, there is a lingering romance between Mr. Devrey and Katy throughout the run of the show. The ratings fell drastically in 1961 after the show was moved to Thursdays, and the network cancelled it.

In 1961, Berry obtained a job with Dr. Kildare, appearing in 25 episodes as Dr. John Kapish. Richard Chamberlin starred in the series about a doctor working in an urban hospital under his mentor Dr. Leonard Gillespie (Raymond Massey). In the third season, Dr. Kildare was promoted to resident and the series centered on his patients. The show aired until 1966, but Berry left the show in 1964. This was one of the shows that paved the way for Marcus Welby, MD and the medical dramas today including ER and Gray’s Anatomy.

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He also appeared on several shows in the early 1960s: The Jim Backus Show, Hennesey, Ensign O’Toole, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hazel, and No Time for Sergeants, among others.

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In 1965, he was offered the lead in F-Troop. The show was set during the Civil War.  Berry played Will Parmenter.  At a critical moment during the Battle of Appomattox, Will gets credit for the defeat.  He is a private and was sent to get his commanding officer’s laundry. He was sneezing continuously, but the men thought he was saying “Charge,” so they did.  They won a decisive battle, and Will was promoted for his quick decision-making skills and bravery. He was then promoted to Fort Courage.

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The cast had a crazy bunch of characters. The NCOs at the fort, Sergeant O’Rourke (Forrest Tucker) and Corporal Agarn (Larry Storch) are always scheming to raise money. The Hekawis tribe, with Chief Wild Eagle (Frank de Kova) worked on shady business deals with them. Although the officers manipulate Will, they are also protective of him. Melody Patterson plays Jane Thrift, Will’s girlfriend, who is always pressuring him to propose. The show relied on a lot of puns, slapstick, and running gags.

When F-Troop was cancelled two years later, Berry headlined the cast of Mayberry RFD as widower Sam Jones because Andy Griffith was leaving the show. Since Andy and Helen had married and moved away, Aunt Bee became Sam’s housekeeper. Sam and his son were introduced in Griffith’s final season when Sam is elected to the town council. Arlene Golonka plays Millie, Sam’s love interest. The show was rated as high as 4th and only as low as 15th, so it continued to pull in good ratings, but in 1971, the show was cancelled in the general “rural house cleaning” that the network performed getting rid of any shows such as Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, etc.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, he was on 14 shows including The Danny Thomas Show, The Lucy Show, Love American Style, The Brady Bunch, and The Love Boat.

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The network developed a show Ken Berry WOW, a variety show that lasted five episodes that Berry was not wowed with. In 1973, Sherwood Schwartz wrote a pilot for a Brady Bunch spinoff called Kelly’s Kids. The concept of the show was that Berry adopts three boys, one white, one African American, and one Asian. No network showed an interest in the show.

One of the most unusual jobs he had occurred in 1976.  An album called “Ken Berry RFD,” where he sang, backed by a full orchestra, was released. He and Joseph divorced that same year. Joseph later remarried and continued to have a long and full career.  She appeared on a variety of sitcoms including Designing Women, Full House, Newhart, Love American Style, Petticoat Junction, That Girl, Hogan’s Heroes, McHale’s Navy, F-Troop, and the Andy Griffith Show. She also had a productive movie career, including Gremlins, The Cheyenne Social Club, With Six You Get Eggroll, Who’s Minding the Mint, and Little Shop of Horrors.

Taking a break from television, Ken went on the road, performing in stock shows around the country.  He also played Caesar’s Palace between Andy Griffith and Jerry Van Dyke.

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He returned to television to join the cast of Mama’s Family with Vickie Lawrence. The show derived from a skit on the Carol Burnett Show which led to a TV movie called Eunice. It featured the Harper family and their neighbors and friends. The matriarch is Thelma Harper (Lawrence) who speaks her mind freely. She is hot tempered and sarcastic, but she loves her family as she berates them. And they typically deserve a berating. They move back in with her and are happy to have her clean and cook for them as well.

For the first season and part of the second, the show was on NBC. Thelma lives with her spinster sister Fran (Rue McClanahan) who is a journalist. After Thelma’s daughter-in-law leaves her family, they move in with Thelma. Her son Vint began a relationship with Thelma’s next-door neighbor Naomi Oates (Dorothy Lyman). Her children from the Burnett sketch, Ellen (Betty White) and Eunice (Burnett), along with hubby Ed (Harvey Korman) are seen during this time.

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The show was cancelled after two years and went into syndication.  The reruns were so popular, 100 new episodes were ordered. A new set had to be constructed and some cast adjustments were made as well. Lawrence, Berry and Lyman were the only original characters on this new version. Since White and McClanahan were now starring on The Golden Girls, and Burnette and Korman chose not to return, a new character was created. Mitchel (Allan Kayser) was Eunice’s son who was always getting into trouble. Another addition was Beverly Archer who played Iola Boylen, Thelma’s neighbor and best friend.

Once Mama’s Family was cancelled the second time, Berry traveled around the country, appearing in “The Music Man”, “Gene Kelly’s Salute to Broadway”, and “I Do I Do” with Loretta Swit. He also went back to television for brief appearances on several shows including CHiPs, Fantasy Island, Gimme a Break, Small Wonder, Golden Girls, The New Batman, and Maggie Winters.

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Berry also appeared in six movies including Two for Seesaw (1962), The Lively Set (1964), Hello Down There (1969), Herbie Rides Again (1974), Guardian of the Wilderness (1976), and The Cat from Outer Space (1978).

Guardian of the Wilderness was based on the life of Galen Clark who convinced Abraham Lincoln to make Yosemite Park the first public land grant. It covers a series of unusual adventures Clark had as he battled lumber companies to save wilderness land.  One of my favorite quintessential 1960s movies was Hello Down There.  Tony Randall and Janet Leigh star.  Randall is an architect who creates an underwater home.  To prove a family could live there, he cajoles his family to moving there for the summer.  His kids are in a band so they force him to take the entire band or no one.  Charlotte Rae is their housekeeper. Berry plays a rare role for him as the bad guy.

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Early in his career, Ken appeared in a variety of commercials. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, he was the spokesman for Kinney Shoes.

He appeared in two game shows, Hollywood Squares and Tattletales.  He also starred as himself on a variety of shows including Art Linkletter, Joey Bishop, Leslie Uggams, Jim Nabors, Julie Andrews, Sonny and Cher, Dean Martin, Laugh In, and Mike Douglas.

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Berry retired in 1999. Berry loves cars and was an avid motorcyclist and camper.

Although Berry was never in a hugely successful series, he had a long and full career that any actor would be proud of.  Hopefully his well-deserved retirement has been fun and full of memories.

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The Friendship and Careers of Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis

Fred Gwynne was born in New York in July of 1926 and died in Maryland in 1993.  Al Lewis was born in New York in April of 1923 and passed away in New York in February of 2006. At first glance, they don’t seem to have a lot in common, but a closer look reveals why they enjoyed a long friendship.

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Fred Gwynne grew up in New York and had a very wealthy and advantaged upbringing.  He was a radioman in the Navy during World War II.  When the war was over, Gwynne entered Harvard, studying drawing and dramatics. He became a member of their Hasty Pudding Club, being involved with many theatrical productions. Gwynne graduated in 1951 and went on to work for a Shakespeare repertory company. He was a talented man with a variety of interests and earned his living from several careers.  He was a copywriter, a musician, a book illustrator, and a commercial artist.

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In 1952, he made his Broadway debut, acting with Helen Hayes in “Mrs. McThing.” The play ran for 320 performances.  In 1953, he performed in his second Broadway play, “The Frogs of Spring” which had a much shorter run.  In 1954, he had a small role in On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando.

He also began appearing on television in the 1950s, and most of his roles were on dramas such as Kraft Theater or DuPont Show of the Week.

The one exception was The Phil Silvers Show where he appeared in 1955 and 1956. The producer of this show, Nat Hiken, went on to create a similar show called Car 54 Where Are You? about New York policemen.  He cast Gwynne as one of the leads, Francis Muldoon. The show ran for two seasons and when it was cancelled, Gwynne went back to his theatrical dramas.

In 1964, the creators of Leave It to Beaver, decided on a different concept for a show called The Munsters.  Fred was cast as the lead role.  While this show also ran two years, the part of Herman Munster was much harder to overcome than Francis Muldoon had been.  Gwynne struggled to find new roles, and when he was unsuccessful, he went back to Broadway.  He did make one pilot during these years for a show called Guess What I Did Today, but no network picked it up. His favorite Broadway performance was Big Daddy in 1974 when he starred in “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.”

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During the 1980s, his cinema career picked up and he ended up with 15 movies to his credit from 1979-1992. Included in this list are The Cotton Club, The Secret of My Success, Fatal Attraction, Ironweed, Pet Sematary, and My Cousin Vinny.

His book writing and illustrating also continued.  His first book, The Best in Show, was published in 1958.  The King Who Rained came out in 1970, and Simon and Schuster published A Chocolate Moose for Dinner in 1976 and A Little Pigeon Toad in 1988.

Throughout most of his career, Gwynne lived a quiet life far from Hollywood. He was married to his first wife Roxy from 1952-1980 and his second wife from 1981 until his death from pancreatic cancer in 1993.

Al Lewis

Al Lewis claimed he was born in 1910 and was a circus performer in the 1920s.  He also said he went to Columbia and graduated with a PhD in child psychology.  After he passed away, his son confirmed that he was born in 1923, and Columbia had no record of him attending school with his given name or his stage name.  His son thought he made himself older to get the role of Grandpa in The Munsters because in real life Yvonne DeCarlo was a year older than he was.

Some of his other jobs included a salesman,  hot dog vendor for the Brooklyn Dodgers, waiter, pool room owner, and store detective.  He was a good basketball player in high school and apparently worked as a basketball scout at some time in his early life. A friend convinced him to join an actor’s workshop in 1949 and that led to a career in vaudeville. In the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared in a variety of TV shows including US Steel Hour, Route 66, Lost in Space, and Gomer Pyle.  He too was cast in the Phil Silvers Show which later resulted in his role of Patrolman Leo Schnauzer in Car 54 Where Are You?

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In 1964, he too was offered a role in The Munsters. In 1966 when the show went off the air, he continued making television appearances and starred in cinema movies.  During the 1970s and 1980s, he appeared on Night Gallery, Green Acres, Love American Style, Here’s Lucy, Taxi, and Best of the West.  His career featured 22 films including They Shoot Horses Don’t They, Boatniks, Used Cars, Married to the Mob, and a remake of Car 54 Where Are You?

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Like Gwynne, he was married twice:  to Marge from 1956-1977 and to Karen from 1984 until his death from heart complications in 2006. Lewis also published several children’s books during his acting career.

Midway through his career he opened an Italian restaurant, Grandpa’s Bella Gente, which Gwynne designed the logo for. He also got into radio and was featured on Howard Stern’s Show often.

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It is surprising that both of these stars were in two sitcoms which both lasted only two years. Let’s take a look at the shows that made them household names.

Car 54 Where Are You?

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This sitcom, set in the 53rd precinct in Brooklyn was an early Barney Miller. Gwynne played Francis Muldoon.  His partner, Gunther Toody, was his exact opposite.  While Muldoon was a bachelor, an intellectual, calm and quiet, Toody was married, naïve, excitable, and talkative. In one show, when the precinct is debating splitting up the two men, Muldoon says “I guess most of the men are smarter than Gunther and less trouble than Gunther, but  . . . well, I’m so used to Gunther.  When he chatters away, the days just fly by.  I’d just be lost without Gunther.” Gunther concurs, “You mean ride around with someone next to me that’s not Muldoon? Francis is a quiet man. He doesn’t say a word. He just sits there all day thinking. It’s very comforting for a man like me to know there’s someone next to him doing the thinking for both of us.” Of course, they split them up only to partner them up again because no one else could take the silence or constant chatter.

Al Lewis played Officer Leo Schnauzer, appearing in every episode.

Policemen were split on their view of the show.  Some took offense and felt they were portrayed in a negative light, while others enjoyed it and identified with some of the comedic elements. It was filmed in The Bronx at Biograph Studio.  There was a large sign out front identifying it as the 53rd precinct till a woman came in pleading to save her from her abusive husband and the sign was quickly taken down.

Originally titled Snow Whites, the show aired at 8:30 eastern time Sunday nights between The Wide World of Disney and Bonanza.  The only clue I could find for the original name was that the show was sponsored by Proctor and Gamble who made several detergents for clothing. It was filmed in black and white, but the police cars were red and white so they would show up better on black and white film. The show also starred Beatrice Pons, Charlotte Rae, Nipsey Russell, Alice Ghostley, and Larry Storch.

Perhaps what the show is best remembered for was its catchy theme song.  Anyone who viewed an episode or two can probably remember the fun lyrics:

There’s a hold up in the Bronx, Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.

There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights.

There’s a scout troop short a child; Kruschev’s due at Idlewild . . .

Car 54, where are you?

 

The Munsters

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In 1964, the creators of Leave It to Beaver decided to feature another “wholesome” family who just happens to live at 1313 Mockingbird Lane in Mockingbird Heights. The family consists of Grandpa who is always experimenting in his lab; Herman who is the funeral director at Gateman, Goodbury, and Graves; his wife Lilly, a vampire; their son Eddie who is a werewolf; and their beautiful black-sheep Marilyn.  Marilyn was beautiful but they viewed her as odd looking and she seemed to get a lot of dates but when she brings them home, they never ask her out again. The family also owns two pets – Spot, a prehistoric animal Grandpa rescued and Igor, a bat.  They lived a somewhat normal life but drank bat milk and cooked in a cauldron. On the hour, a cuckoo clock chimed and a raven, voiced by Mel Blanc, appeared and said “Nevermore.”

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All the actors had to endure a two-hour make-up session, but Gwynne had the worst time because he had to wear 40-50 pounds of padding.  One day he lost 10 pounds filming under the lights.  They gave him gallons of lemonade between takes and later rigged a way to blow cool air on him underneath the material.

The entire family could have been played by different actors.  John Carradine was offered the role of Herman. The pilot featured Joan Marshall as the wife and instead of Lilly, her name was Phoebe. Marilyn was played by Beverly Owens for 13 episodes and then Pat Priest took over for the rest of the show’s run. Eddie was first offered to Bill Mumy, Will Robinson from Lost in Space, and Grandpa to Bert Lahr from The Wizard of Oz.

After the show was cancelled, the Munster mobile often traveled to memorabilia shows.  There was also a Dragula built with purple silk upholstery and chrome pipes for the exhaust. Although the show was only on the air for two years, there were a lot of collectibles such as board games, lunch boxes, paper dolls, and coloring books.

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In 2001, the McKee family of Waxahachie, Texas was such a huge fan of the show that the family built their 5000+ square foot house to exactly resemble the Munsters’ home including the crooked weather vane and grand staircase that lifted up to feed Spot.

Both Gwynne and Lewis were born in New York.  They both appeared on the show Brenner early in their careers. Both were tapped from their roles in The Phil Silvers Show to play roles on Car 54 Where Are You? They both went on to star in The Munsters.  Neither of them ever had another series.  They both chose to live on the east coast. They both wrote children’s books.  They were each married twice and married to their second spouse for the rest of their lives. They both had a lot of success in the movies as well as television. They were both men with fascinating careers before they ever entered acting.  I learned a lot about these interesting friends.  Happy Birthday to Fred Gwynne would have been 91.

In Memory of Adam West

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Adam West was born William West Anderson on September 19, 1928 in Walla Walla, Washington.  He just passed away this summer on June 9. His father farmed and his mother gave up her career as an opera singer and concert pianist.  Like all kids, he had a collection of comic books including Batman. When his parents divorced, he moved to Seattle with his mother. He attended Whitman College in Washington and graduated with a BS in literature. He was drafted into the Army and became an announcer on the American Forces Network television.

After his service career, he became a milkman until he moved to Hawaii to pursue a career in television. In 1959, he took on his stage name of Adam West and moved to Hollywood with his wife and children. He quickly became an actor and appeared in 33 television shows, including 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, Hawaiian Eye, Tales of West Fargo, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Petticoat Junction, and Bewitched.

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In 1966, William Dozier, producer for a new show about Batman decided to cast West over Lyle Waggoner after seeing him as a James Bond-type character in a Nestle Quik commercial. DC Comics described Batman as 6’2” and that was West’s height.

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When the series ended, he and Burt Ward found themselves typecast as Batman and Robin.  He did a series of appearances about the Batman character while pursuing a movie career. He ended his career with 49 movies to his credit.

He appeared in 78 television shows after Batman ended including The Big Valley, Emergency, Alice, Police Woman, Laverne and Shirley, The Love Boat, Hart to Hart, Murphy Brown, Diagnosis Murder, News Radio, Drew Carey, King of Queens, and 30 Rock.

After 1990, he apparently embraced his Batman character and appeared on numerous television shows as himself or Batman. When asked about this, he said, “I think it evolved. I learned a long time ago that because people love Batman, I should too. I learned that I shouldn’t resent it even though it prevented me from getting other roles. I really had to become fond of Batman in order to deal with it. I embraced it.”

In 1957, he and his first wife Billie divorced.  He married  dancer Frisbie Dawson in 1957 and divorced in 1962. In 1970, he married Marcelle, and they were together until his death.  He had two children with each of his wives and two stepchildren.

In 1994, he wrote an autobiography Back to the Batcave. In 2012, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

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West loved outdoor activities and had a lot of hobbies including fishing, sailing, hiking, skiing, golfing, riding motorcycles, swimming, surfing, dancing, traveling, as well as spending time with his family, listening to classic rock, reading, and watching movies.

West died after a short battle with leukemia at age 88. The next week, LA shined the bat signal on city hall to honor him.

While West certainly had a full and varied career despite his typecasting from Batman, I would like to spend some time looking at the series that gave him his fame. Typically, I am not really into super heroes, but I loved this show when I was younger and still get a kick out of watching the campy comedy. I can still hear the narrator saying, “Same bat time, same bat channel.” The show was canceled not only because of low ratings but also because the special effects and lighting had tremendous costs.  When ABC dropped it, they tried to find another network to take it over.  They had no offers, so they dismantled the set. Two weeks later, NBC offered to pick up the show, but decided it was too expensive to start from scratch.

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In the 1960s, Ed Graham Productions received the rights to the comic strip Batman and intended to produce an adventure show similar to Superman or The Lone Ranger. ABC was thinking about a prime time show so DC Comics bought back the rights and sold them to 20th Century Fox. 20th Century gave it to William Dozier to produce.  Dozier had never read comic books and felt that the show should take a campy, pop-art approach. The show was originally an hour-long series, but with only half-hour time slots available, it was changed to a bi-weekly half-hour show.

The concept of the show was that millionaire Bruce Wayne and his ward Dick Grayson lead a double life in Gotham City.  When they move a shelf in their library and slide down the bat pole to the bat cave, they become Batman and Robin.  Only their butler Alfred is aware of their real identity. Police Commissioner Gordon calls them on the batphone, often referring to them as the dynamic duo. They usually hop in their bat mobile and speed to city hall to learn what villain is up to no good in their city.

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Adam West took the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne and Burt Ward was Robin/Dick Grayson. Other cast members included Alan Napier as Alfred the Butler, Neil Hamilton as Commissioner Gordon, Stafford Repp as Chief O’Hara, Madge Blake as Aunt Harriet, and Yvonne Craig as Batgirl.

My favorite villians included Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt as Cat Woman, in love with Batman but not willing to give up her criminal life; Burgess Meredith as Penguin always carrying an umbrella; Frank Gorshin as The Riddler leaving riddles for clues; Vincent Price as Egghead a bald-headed genius who loves eggs; Cesar Romero as the Joker who leaves jokes for clues; and Victor Buono as King Tut when evil and Professor William McElroy as his non-evil personality.

The show aired twice a week on back-to-back nights. The first episode would set up the situation and end with the dynamic duo in some dangerous situation. Batman and Robin would get their assignment from the Commissioner and then, using a series of clues, try to figure out who the villain is and then how to defeat them. At some point, there was always a fistfight with the villain’s entourage at which time the villain typically escaped. During the fight, words would pop up on the screen like POW, BAM, ZONK, BOOM. Then the crime fighters would go to look for them at which point the dangerous and perhaps deadly situation occurred and the next episode would summarize what happened on the previous episode before defeating the bad guys for good. They often used inventions like shark repellant bat spray to aid them in their search.

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In Season 3, Bat Girl was added to the cast. The ratings were starting to fall so Dozier wanted to bring in a girl character to attract female viewers. Her real identity was Barbara Gordon, the Commissioner’s daughter.  The Commissioner never seemed to realize she was familiar to him. Because of low ratings, the show also became a once a week series in the third season.  Eartha Kitt took over the Catwoman role since Newmar was filming a movie at the time. Madge Blake’s health was failing, and her role was limited to two appearances during the last season.

The show was cancelled before the next season but it has continued to be popular in reruns. In 1966, an album was released “Batman: The Exclusive Original Soundtrack Album.” It included music by Nelson Riddle, dialogue excerpts from several of the characters in the show, as well as the Batman theme song, Batusi A Go Go, and several other tunes.

A lot of collectibles were produced during the run of the show including trading cards, Batmobile kits, coloring books, lunch boxes, board games, and View-Master reels. In 2013, Mattel designed an action figure line based on the tv characters, and several Hot Wheels/Matchbox cars have been produced. The Batmobile from the show was auctioned in 2013, selling for $4.2 million.  The huge profits from the car as well as the line of action figures prove the continuing interest in and success of this show now 50 years old.

Here are some fun facts I found about the series:

A total of 352 “Holy” words were used by Robin from “Holy Agility” to “Holy Zorro”.

Cesar Romero’s Joker laugh was created almost by accident. Shortly after being cast, Romero met with producers to discuss his role on his series. While waiting to meet with them, Romero happened to see conceptual art of Joker’s costuming. Romero felt the pictures almost looked absurd, and as a result spontaneously broke out into a playfully loud and almost manic laughter. A producer overhearing it responded by telling Romero “That’s it, that’s your Joker’s laugh!”

Burgess Meredith had not smoked in 20 years when he was cast as the Penguin. He came up with the Penguin’s distinctive squawking sound because the cigarettes were irritating his throat. Like his trademark “quack”, the Penguin’s waddling was largely a result of improvisation by Burgess Meredith, as he found it difficult to stand and walk straight while wearing the rubber padded fat suit that was part of his costuming.

Before going on the air, this show received the worst audience test scores in the history of ABC. It only went on the air because so much money had already been invested in it.

This was one of the “in” shows to appear on if you were a big name in Hollywood during the 1960s, and many top names guested on the show, including many who didn’t do much TV otherwise. Those performers who weren’t cast as guest villains could frequently be seen popping their heads out of windows to exchange a few words with Batman and Robin when the latter would be climbing up a building wall. Frank Sinatra, Natalie Wood, and Cary Grant were all fans of the show, and wanted to be on it, but the producers were never able to come up with the right roles for any of them. During the run of the series, this show crossed over with The Green Hornet (1966).

The “Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City” is a reverse image of St. Louis, right down to Forest Park, Fairground Park, Tower Grove Park, Lafayette Park, and Horseshoe Lake on the Illinois side, as well as the other river and road networks.

Each main villain had their own theme music.

In the first season, Burt Ward (Robin) was paid $350 per week.

Yvonne Craig has stated that she briefly did have a stunt double, but did most of her stunts herself. She actually operated the Batgirl Cycle herself as well. She was an accomplished biker at the time, and actually owned a bike.

Adam West (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Burt Ward (Dick Grayson / Robin) and  Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon) are the only actors to appear in all 120 episodes of the series.

Suzanne Pleshette was one of the original choices to play Catwoman before Julie Newmar landed the role.

The show aired from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968 on ABC for 120 episodes. It was one of few TV series to be seen on 2 different nights a week: 7:30 Wednesdays and Thursdays. It remained there for a season and a half (Jan. 1966-Aug. 1967) until it was moved back once a week (Thursdays 7:30) for its final season. The episodes were generally two-parters: Wednesday’s episode was a cliffhanger, resolved in Thursday’s episode. The 1966-1967 season had 2 3-parter episodes (“The Zodiac Crimes/The Joker’s Hard Times/The Penguin Declines”[ep. #2.37-9, 1/11-12 & 18/1967] and “Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend/Penguin Sets a Trend/Penguin’s Disastrous End”[ep. #2.42-4, 1/26/, 2/1 & 2/1967]) which left cliffhangers that would be solved the following week. When the series was reduced to (mostly) one part episodes during season three, the cliffhanger death traps and threats were still used, but greatly scaled back and occurring at the middle commercial break.

The three primary cast members of The Addams Family each made appearances on Batman. Carolyn Jones played the villainess Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, and John Astin played the Riddler during the second season. Additionally, Ted Cassidy had a window cameo, appearing in his part as Lurch from The Addams Family. Interestingly, Cassidy’s cameo took place in a story involving the Penguin, with whom Jones’ character Marsha teamed up in one of the three-part stories.

In episode 7, Alfred refers to Robin as Mr. Ward, and not Mr. Grayson.

While Superheroes and the movies and television shows they appear in seem to cycle up and down throughout the decades, the popularity of the Batman television show has never wavered.  The fact that Mattel would create action figures based on the original stars almost 50 years after the show debuted says a lot about the fans and the place the show holds in their hearts.

Thank you Adam West for creating such a memorable and well-loved character.  Rest in peace.

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Fools (and TV Executives) Rush in Where Angels Fear to Tread

Angels are beings sent by God to reveal truth, offer protection, and guide Christians.  Apparently, television angels have a different mission. Their message is that shows about angels have low ratings, little creativity, and fly off the air quickly. Looking at the shows I researched for this week’s blog, only 1 of 8 lasted more than 33 episodes.  Eliminating that one from the line up leaves the shows’ average episodes at 17 each.  I’m not sure why these shows didn’t do better.  Some of them feature well-known celebrities. I will admit before I researched this topic, I not only had never watched any of these shows, I don’t remember ever hearing about any of them before. Angels seem to fare better in movies: The Bishop’s Wife, Heaven Can Wait, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, I Married an Angel, It’s a Wonderful Life, Michael, and The Preacher’s Wife. Let’s look at these sitcoms about angels.

Angel – 1961 (33 episodes)

Ok, admittedly this show is about an “Angel” just not an “angelic being.” French born Angel Smith (Annie Farge) is married to John Smith, an architect (Marshall Thompson) in New York City. She tries to cope with her new country and married life. Her bad grasp of the English language causes her a lot of problems. While the show did point out some of the craziness of our English language like when she tries to learn to pronounce words bough, dough, cough, and through and none of them sound the same.  However, it does get a bit tiresome after a while.

She was a French Lucille Ball. The couple even had best friends played by Doris Singleton and Don Keefer who functioned as Fred and Ethel. No surprise because this show was produced by Jessie Oppenheimer. I have mentioned in previous blogs that Oppenheimer had various shows but all with the same formula.

The show opened with a cute animation sequence of Angel walking around the Eiffel Tower and over to the Statue of Liberty.  I think their living room is the same set as The Dick Van Dyke Show which started in 1961, about the same time this one was cancelled.

Eventually Farge went back to France to pursue acting there. I would have not watched this show when it was originally on, because it was on at the same time as Bachelor Father and My Three Sons.

 

Smothers Brothers Show – 1965 (32 episodes)

Created by Aaron Spelling, (Family, Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Dynasty, and Beverly Hills 90210), it was also known as My Brother the Angel. Often confused with The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, this show has Tommy drowned at sea. He returns to LA as an apprentice angel and lives in his brother Dick’s bachelor pad. His brother is an up and coming executive with a publishing firm. Tommy is supposed to help people in trouble.  He is inept and Dick often has to help him complete his assignments, so he can become a full-fledged angel. One of my favorite things about 60s movies and tv shows were the beginning animation segments.  On this show, the brothers have a dialogue about what the mission is, and then their animation sequence kicks in. This was the last CBS sitcom filmed entirely in black and white. This show was not cancelled per se.  The brothers decided to switch over to the variety format that they would become known for.

Good Heavens – 1975 (13 episodes)

Carl Reiner plays an angel dressed in a business suit. He would come to earth weekly to grant one wish. One episode featured real-life couple Rob Reiner and Penny Marshall; he was a sporting goods salesman who wanted to be a pro ball player. In other shows a woman who was trying to decide between two boyfriends got a new one combining the best traits of both, and in another show, an unsuccessful author got everyone to publish his book.

It was cancelled after only 3 months. Considering it was only on for 13 episodes, it did not lack stars.  A sampling of guest stars include Sid Caesar, Susan Dey, Sandy Duncan, Nancy Dussault, Dick Gautier, Florence Henderson, Dean Jones, Alex Karras, Sue Ane Langdon, Julie Newmar, Loretta Swit, Brenda Vaccaro, and Fred Willard.

 

Out of the Blue – 1979 (12 episodes)

Stand-up comedian Jimmy Brogan plays Random, an angel dispatched to earth to live with a busy Chicago woman Marion Richards (Dixie Carter). She is raising a bunch of nieces and nephews after their parents were killed in a plane crash, including sports lover Chris, 16 (Clark Brandon), TV/movie addict Laura, 13 (Olivia Barash), tomboy Stacey, 10 (Tammy Lauren), and 8-year old twins Jason (Jason Keller) and Shane (Shane Keller). Gladys (Hannah Dean) was their housekeeper. Eileen Heckart played Random’s guardian angel, Boss Angel.

Random moves in as a boarder, and only the kids know he is really an angel. Random loved the Cubs, told jokes, and played the guitar. He had powers to move things and people around. In the premier episode, Robin Williams, as Mork, had a role.

By the 70s, the cute animation openings were over and some of the worst theme songs ever were aired in this decade.  This one could probably compete in that category with its ensemble singing “Out of the Blue” showing all the characters.

The biggest controversy about this show is whether it was a cross-over or a spin-off, and even if that is agreed upon, then you have to decide which show gets the credit.  Apparently, Random was on an episode of Happy Days where Chachi lost his soul, and Random helps him get it back.  The catch was the show was filmed earlier but did not air until after the first episode of Out of the Blue aired.  On the pilot of Out of the Blue, Robin Williams appeared as Mork, but he wasn’t in the entire show, so it could be a spin-off of Mork and Mindy.  Then, you have to consider that Mork and Mindy was a spinoff of Happy Days.  Confused yet?  Me too.

The Gary Coleman Show – 1982 (13 episodes)

This one was an animated show based on the character Gary played the the movie, The Kid with the Broken Halo.  He is angel Andy LeBeau who is allowed to come to earth to talk to other kids about their problems. It aired Saturday mornings and each 30-minute show had two 15-minute segments.

 

Down to Earth – 1984 (106 episodes)

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This show, which lasted three years, was set in 1925.  Ethel MacDoogan (Carol Mansell) was run over by a trolley. She’s a flapper waiting in heaven for a chance to help a family and earn her wings. Ethel died in 1925 and had to wait 60 years for a family to help.  (Apparently there is a lot of red tape waiting for us in heaven too.) The Preston family is where she is sent. So, now she is on earth but her mind set is still stuck in 1925, and the new inventions and cultural changes are hard for her to adapt to.

The Preston family is played by Steven Johnson, David Kaufman (who dropped out of UCLA to take the role), Kyle Richards, Randy Josselyn, and later Dick Sargent. If you don’t remember this one, it might be because it only aired on TBS. Mr. Preston is a realtor, and his wife has passed away.  His son Jay Jay is the one who prayed for Ethel, and he is the only one who knows she is an angel. Her heavenly bosses are also watching her and criticizing her failures.  Eventually she accomplishes her mission, but loves the Prestons so much she makes an agreement to stay with them and help her heavenly bosses with other earthly missions nearby.

During the show’s run, Steven Johnson left the show and was replaced by Dick Sargent.  Ironically, Dick Sargent replaced Dick York on Bewitched also. If 70s theme songs were bad, the 80s featured songs that insulted your ears.  This one ranks right up there with All in the Family for me.

I’m not sure if David Kaufman ever regretted dropping out of school or ever finished his degree, but he did go on to a long and successful career, as did Carol Mansell.

 

Heavens to Betsy – 1994 (1 episode)

One of the shortest shows ever, this one-episode feature starred Dolly Parton. She played a arrogant diva who died and was trying to earn her wings to get into heaven. This was the first show to be produced by Disney for television. Originally, it was supposed to debut in the fall of 1994, but the executives delayed the airing, wanting better punch lines.  Then it was set to be a mid-season replacement for 1995, but that never materialized either. Some of the script from this pilot made it into a 1996 Dolly Parton TV movie with Roddy McDowell, Unlikely Angel.

Teen Angel – 1997 (17 episodes)

Ok, believe it or not, the synopsis of this one is “after eating a six-month-old hamburger, Marty DePolo (Mike Damus) dies and God’s cousin, Rod, appoints him to be his best friend’s guardian angel.” Steve Beauchamp finds an old burger under his bed and dares his best friend Steve to eat it. After Marty dies, he comes back to earth as Steve’s guardian angel. Maureen McCormick played Steve’s mother but left part way through the series. (Considering the entire show only had 17 episodes, she apparently didn’t stick around too long). Marty talked to the TV audience like George Burns does in the Burns and Allen Show.

The show was part of the TGIF line up ABC had Friday nights.  Sabrina the Teenage Witch returned in 1997, and Teen Angel along with You Wish joined the schedule.  Teen Angel lasted 30% longer than You Wish which only aired 12 episodes.

Included in the cast was Conchata Ferrell as Aunt Pam, Ron Glass as Rod, and Jerry Van Dyke as Steve’s grandpa. It only lasted one year.

If you are an aspiring script writer out there, a television show about an angel is destined to be successful sooner or later.  I would watch a comedy about an angel coming to earth, but I don’t think I would watch any of these shows about an angel coming to earth.  What’s the cliche they always say: ninth time is the charm. I’ll be waiting.

 

Just What the Doctor Ordered: The Career of Bernie Kopell

Throughout the past year, I have been researching actors and actresses who have had long-standing careers.  We continue that trend this week looking at the career of Bernie Kopell. Kopell is best known for his role as Dr. Adam Bricker on The Love Boat; ironically, he has played a doctor in 13 series, a coroner in 2, and an apothecary in 1. Kopell’s career is still going strong this year.  Let’s look at his varied and full career.

Bernie Kopell, his real name, was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY in 1933 He told People magazine in an interview that when he was 13, he was drawn to acting because “It was a tremendous opportunity not to be me.” He graduated from New York University in 1955, majoring in Dramatic Art.

From 1955-1957, Kopell was in the U.S. Navy and served on the USS Iowa. Part of the time, the boat was stationed at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.  Bernie was a librarian and made the comment that “I don’t like to talk about my heroism, but what the hell; I was a librarian.  I kept America safe from overdue books.” When his Navy service was fulfilled, Kopell moved to Los Angeles.  He worked several odd jobs including vacuum salesman and cab driver.  One night he talked about his wish to be an actor to a passenger, Dick Einfeld who was producing The Oregon Trail starring Fred MacMurray.  Einfeld gave him a small part as President Polk’s Secretary.

Bernie was marred to Celia Whitney, an actress, but they divorced in 1962. He married another actress, Yoland Veloz in 1974; this marriage also ended in divorce in 1995. At age 64 in 1997, he married for a third time—this time to Catrina Honadle and had a son Adam in 1998 and a son Joshua in 2003.

During his career, Kopell has been in 96 different television series, 10 made-for-tv movies, and 18 feature movies.

His first television role was in Whispering Smith in 1961. During the 1960s, he appeared in many of the most popular shows including McHale’s Navy, Jack Benny, Petticoat Junction, Ben Casey, Green Acres, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Flying Nun.

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From 1966-1969 he appeared as Siegfried, a KAOS agent in Get Smart.  (He would also have a cameo role the movie version of Get Smart in 2008). At the same time, he played on Get Smart, he played Jerry Bauman, Don’s coworker who marries Ann’s neighbor Ruthie on That Girl from 1966-1971.

Throughout the 1970s, he continued appearing in series including Love American Style, The Odd Couple, The Bob Newhart Show, The Doris Day Show, MacMillan and Wife, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Kojak.

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He starred in two different series during this time. He was in Needles and Pins where he played a salesman and in When Things Were Rotten as Alan-a-Dale. This show was about Robin Hood and his men.

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On Bewitched, he appeared on nine episodes playing a variety of characters including an apothecary and a hippy.

He only appeared in a handful of shows during the 1980s.  Most of this decade was devoted to his role of Dr. Adam Bricker on The Love Boat.  The show was on the air from 1977-1987, and Kopell appeared on all 250 episodes. The show was seen in 98 countries around the world.  During an interview, Bernie was asked about his life working on the show.  He shared the following memories:

Oh yeah, it was exhausting. Such exhausting work on Love Boat.  In fact, to be for real, my frame of reference for acting was this: Okay, I do The Doris Day Show, and it’d be three or four days on a Hollywood soundstage. Then you come out, and you’re in Hollywood, and that’s lovely and fine. On The Love Boat, you’re on a ship. It goes out beyond the 12-mile limit. You’re going out into the world of London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, Athens, Cairo, Tel Aviv, The People’s Republic of China, Japan. It was such a treat. And I’d been in the Navy. So, in the Navy, I was the lowest of the low. I was just a seaman apprentice. I remember being late one day coming in from Istanbul, and I had to spend the whole next day scrubbing out bread pans. That was less fun than being treated royally on The Love Boat.

Pacific Princess, Island Princess . . . all of these beautiful, sleek, luxurious ships. Some days, you didn’t even have to work. My background was this:  I drove a taxi in L.A. I tried to sell Kirby vacuums in L.A. It was quite a while before I got going. And I’m just thinking about his professor I had at NYU. He would smoke Berings and Coronas, these marvelous cigars, and every once in a while, he would smoke a stink-a-roo. I said, “Professor, why are you smoking that awful cigar?” And he said, “For the balance. So, you know the difference between a stink-a-roo and a really good cigar.” I’m not advocating anybody start smoking cigars, but it’s a life lesson. You can’t eat filet mignon every day, because it gets to be meaningless after a while. You have a cheap hamburger every once in a while just to get the difference.

Anyway, so much for that. It was heaven. It was absolutely heaven, and they pay your more money every year. It went on for 10 years, and I got away with murder. My character could say to any woman he found attractive, “Take your clothes off, I’ll be right in.” I got to have love scenes with some of the most beautiful ladies. Jill St. John, Juliet Prowse. . . lovely, lovely people.  We had stars.  We had Academy Award winners. Ray Milland, Eva Marie Saint, Ernie Borgnine, Shelly Winters. . . I mean on and on and on. And Greer Garson; I was so awed. Of course, with my age, I saw Mrs. Miniver and I saw that Forsythe Woman with Greer Garson, this gorgeous red-headed lady in a green velvet gown. I approache her, and I said, “Excuse me, Miss Garson?’ and she said, “Yes, dear, what would you like?” and I said, “Why are you doing this?” And she laughed and she said, “I thought it would be a lovely way to say hello to old friends.” And, of course, it was, and it was a great privilege to have her.  We had Ethel Merman, we had Cab Calloway, we had Dick Shawn.

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Bernie was also credited as a writer for four Love Boat episodes.  In addition to The Love Boat, he played Dr. Adam Bricker on Charlie’s Angels, Martin, and The Love Boat: The Next Wave.

Kopell continued his television and movie work during the 1990s and the 2000s. He was featured in Diagnosis Murder, Beverly Hills 90210, Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Monk, Arrested Development, and Raising Hope. He continues his active career, appearing in several shows in 2017 including Hawaii Five-O and Superstore.  He has also been in several movies the past three years.

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Bernie has also appeared in his share of game shows (Hollywood Squares, Pyramid, Tattletales, and Family Feud), talk shows (Mike Douglas, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and Letterman), award shows, and documentaries (The Love Boat for Entertainment Tonight, Bewitched for E’s biography of Elizabeth Montgomery, and The Love Boat and That Girl for A&E specials).

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On Letterman, he was in the audience when David did his Top Ten List.  One of the entries poked fun at Dr. Bricker on The Love Boat, and when the camera cut to Kopell, he stormed out of the theater.  He was then shown being reseated only to have another entry make fun of him again, when he raised his fists and stormed out again.

Kopell has also been involved in theater the past few decades.  He starred in Neil Simon’s Rumors and played in Viagara Falls in Toronto for two years before making is New York Off-Broadway debut. He also hosted a show on the Travel Channel, Railway Adventures Across Europe.

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He participates in a lot of celebrity tennis tournaments for charities all over the world.  He has also hosted his own tennis and golf tournaments in Florida for the Alzheimer’s Association. He also swims regularly.

Happy Birthday Bernie Kopell!