Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Tales Of Tomorrow







Last October I wrote a blog entitled  Tales Of Tomorrow, which carried with it 4 episodes from the radio anthology series, which ran on the ABC radio network in 1953, and a half dozen episodes from the television series, which ran from 1951 to 1953.


The 4 radio shows were:


Jan 15, 1953  Thu    3  "Betelgeuse Bridge"

Mar 12, 1953  Thu   11  "Martians Never Die"  

Mar 19, 1953  Thu   12  "The Girls From Earth"

Mar 26, 1953  Thu   13  "The Old Die Rich"  

And the 6 television episodes were:
Tales of Tomorrow #16: Frankenstein
Tales of Tomorrow - Past Tense (Karloff)
Tales of Tomorrow #15: The Dune Roller
Tales of Tomorrow #9: The Crystal Egg 
'Tales of Tomorrow' - The little black bag (1952)
Tales of Tomorrow - The Window


Since that time the Internet Archive has added nearly two dozen new episodes to their collection, and all are available to watch or download.

These shows were performed live (no retakes), and recorded using the kinescope technology.   While produced on a shoestring budget, stage bound, and with virtually no special effects . . . these shows are remarkably well written and acted.

Many aspiring stars would work on shows such as these, picking up a couple of hundred dollars, and adding an acting credit to their resume.  Sure . . .it wasn't the legitimate theatre . . .but it beat washing dishes while you waited for your big break.

And besides, there were actually some people who regarded the fledgling television industry as being more than just a fad, a flash in the pan.


Young actors like Darren McGavin,  Paul Newman, Leslie Nielson, and Lola Albright got a chance to work along side veterans like Boris Karloff, Gene Raymond, and Thomas Mitchell.




Here, a very young Leslie Nielson confronts an equally youthful Brian Keith (billed as Robert Keith, jr.).


Many of the stories are thinly veiled cold-war stories, brimming with paranoia, and in some the propaganda is noticeably heavy-handed.   This was a nervous era for the world.   World War II had ended, but the world was hardly at peace.

The Soviet Union, an ally during the war, had become a feared enemy, as was the doctrine of communism.    The arms race was heating up, and we lived under the threat of atomic warfare.  

Hollywood, spooked by the McCarthy hearings in Washington D.C., and reeling from the black listing that was going on, sought political cover by producing these thinly disguised propaganda pieces.

None of which should seriously detract from your enjoyment of these shows, as long as you accept that they come from a very different time and place.

These shows also contain the original commercials. 

In the 1950's, shows were quite often sponsored by a single company (or rotated sponsorship).   Some of these nearly 60-year-old commercials, particularly the ones for Kreisler Watch bands, are as entertaining as the show.


Age Of Peril

Flight Overdue 

Sneak Attack

The Dark Angel

The Invader

The Search For The Flying Saucer

Verdict from Space

Test Flight

Ahead of His Time

Red Dust

Time to Go

Plague from Space

The Duplicates

The Golden Ingot

Appointment on Mars

The Childrens Room

World of Water

Tales of Tomorrow - Ice from Space 

Tales of Tomorrow - A Child is Crying

'Tales of Tomorrow' - Blunder (1951)

'Tales of Tomorrow' Miraculous serum (1952) 

'Tales of Tomorrow' - What you need (1952)

'Tales of Tomorrow' - All the time in the world (1952)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Great One

"Anyone who knew Jackie Gleason in the 1940s," wrote CBS historian Robert Metz, "would tell you The Fat Man would never make it. His pals at Lindy's watched him spend money as fast as he soaked up the booze." - Wikipedia

Luckily, Jackie Gleason proved them all wrong.

But it took nearly a decade of work, in Hollywood and on Broadway, before he would finally become a success in show business.


Early on, Gleason worked as a contract player at Warner Brothers. He appeared in a handful of movies, often uncredited. His salary in 1941 at Warners was reportedly $250 a week.

In the mid-1940's Gleason would find more work, and success, on the Broadway stage and in night clubs. His big break came in the Broadway show Follow The Girls (1944).

Al Hirschfeld Promotional Caricature

Gleason would largely disappear from the national spotlight until late in the decade, working in night clubs, honing his comedic skills. All of that would change in 1949, when at the age of 33, Gleason landed the role of Chester A. Riley in television's Life of Riley.

The original Life of Riley, barely remembered today, was a summer replacement radio show on the CBS network, which had no real connection to the shows that would follow.

It starred Lionel Stander as J. Riley Farnsworth.

The Life of Riley as most people remember it, began in 1944 on the radio, and starred William Bendix. It would air first on the ABC network, but move to NBC in 1945. Proctor and Gamble (Prell Shampoo) and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer were its sponsors.

When the fledgling Dumont network decided to air Riley as situation comedy, a situation developed.

Bendix was prevented from accepting the role due to contractual conflicts with his movie studio.

Dumont needed a new Riley, and they went with the little known comedian Gleason.

The show wasn't a particularly good showcase for Gleason's talent, and worse, most of the country was still without television. The Dumont network, which operated on a shoestring budget, had very few broadcast outlets as well.

Gleason's run would last only one year.

(Bendix would head the cast of a revived version of The Life of Riley - the one most of us remember - on NBC starting in 1953, and running for 5 years).

Starring with Gleason were Rosemary DeCamp, Gloria Winters, Lanny Rees, Sid Tomack as Gillis, and John Brown as morbid undertaker and friend Digby (Digger) O'Dell.

We've a pair of rare early kinescope of Gleason as Riley, available on the Internet Archive. Certainly not Gleason's finest half-hour, but nostalgic, historic, and pleasant enough viewing.

click to play movie


Life Of Riley EP--Tonsils

French Professor
Life of Riley EP French_Professor

Gleason left the Life of Riley, feeling he could do bigger and better things. He would get another break in 1950 when Jerry Lester (I know, most people are saying "Jerry who?") abruptly quit his job hosting DuMont's Cavalcade of Stars show after only 4 months.

DuMont, desperate, offered Jackie Gleason a six-week contract.

Gleason would bringing many vaudevillian performers from New York to the show, along with dancing girls, raucous standup comedy, and comedic sketches and vignettes.

He was a huge hit. An overnight sensation, after a mere decade of performing.

Cavalcade of Stars quickly became DuMont's most popular show. Gleason would create many of his signature characters for this show, including Reginald Van Gleason III, Joe the Bartender, The Poor Soul, and the most famous of all . . . Ralph Kramden.

The Honeymooners would be Gleason's most enduring creation.

Few people today remember who played the original Alice Kramden - Pert Kelton - who left the show after being blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Younger audiences may remember her as Shirley Jones' mother in the movie, The Music Man.

Her absence was explained as due to `her health'.

We've an early sample of the Honeymooners with Pert Kelton as Alice, circa 1951. Art Carney and Joyce Randolph complete the cast. These shows were louder and harsher than the later ones with Audrey Meadows.

Honeymooners - JAckie Gleason

Jackie Gleason & Pert Kelton

This honeymooner's clip runs only about 9 minutes. Most of these shows are lost forever, as very few kinescopes were saved.

click to play movie

Jackie Gleason on "Cavalcade of Stars"

Jackie Gleason on the popular 50's TV series "Cavalcade of Stars", doing a sketch called "The Honeymooners", which was later turned into a sitcom. "Cavalcade of Stars" started in 1949 and quickly became one of the most popular shows on The DuMont Television Network.

Jackie Gleason would be enticed away from the struggling DuMont nework by CBS, offered a far bigger paycheck, and creative control in 1952. He would bring Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, Joyce Randolph, and the June Taylor dancers with him.

A footnote to history. Larry Storch (F Troop) was selected to carry on for DuMont after Gleason left the show. Gleason was a hard act to follow, and the show folded a few months later.

We've a brief clip from The Jackie Gleason Show, circa 1953, with a very young Frankie Avalon showing up The Great One.

Gleason, and his long-time sidekick Art Carney, would take a stab at a dramatic portrayal in Studio One's The Laugh Maker in 1953. Studio One was one of several quality anthology series featuring original screenplays performed live.

click to play movieclick to play movie

click to play movieclick to play movie

The Laugh Maker
Studio One ep05x34 The Laugh Maker Jackie Gleason & Art Carney Star

A genuine departure for Gleason and Carney, but one that was well received by critics and the public alike.

By 1955 the Honeymooner's was such a popular segment on his variety show, Gleason suspended the regular format, and filmed the classic 39 episodes of the Honeymooners that would run in syndication for decades.

He would revive the variety format in 1956, but his show would end in 1957. He briefly appeared in a half-hour variety show, co-hosted by Buddy Hackett, in 1958.

It didn't last long.

In 1961, Gleason would return with an ill-conceived game show called You're In The Picture. It featured a celebrity panel that included Pat Harrington, Jr., Pat Carroll, Jan Sterling, and Arthur Treacher.

The opening show was so bad (how bad was it?). Gleason apologized for the entire second show. The format was abandoned, and Gleason fulfilled the rest of his contract doing a short-lived interview show.

Gleason would return to television, and begin a 8 year run, in 1962 with The American Scene Magazine variety show which aired from New York City the first two years, then moved to Miami Beach in 1964.

Back again would be The Honeymooners, Joe the Bartender, along with series regulars like Art Carney, and Sue Ann Langdon (playing Alice!), and Frank Fontaine as Crazy Guggenheim.

Perky 26 year-old Sue Ann Langdon, two decades years younger than Gleason, was an odd choice to play the long suffering Alice.

Quite honestly, she was too attractive, and too `perky' for the role.

Luckily, she was a versatile performer, and was given other duties during her stint on the show. She would go on to be an often cast performer on television, probably best remembered for the series Arnie with Herschel Bernardi and for a role on General Hospital.

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"Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine" - Max Liebman

"Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine" (1962) Original Air Date: 29 September 1962 (Season 1, Episode 1) Directed by Seymour Robbie Writing credits Jerry Bresler writer Coleman Jaacoby writer Terry Ryan writer Saul Turteltaub writer Produced by Max Liebman .... coordinating producer Cast (Episode Credited cast) Art Carney ... Ed Norton Wayne Newton Series Cast Jackie Gleason ... Himself - Host Frank Fontaine .....

The opening comedy sketch, a parody of The Untouchables, was pretty lame . . . although it gave leggy Sue Ann Langdon a nice part to play.

Things improve with the Joe the Bartender Sketch (Frank Fontaine doesn't sing in this one . . .a pity). The big highlight comes about halfway through the show.

The first national appearance by an unknown act.

The Newton Brothers.

As in Wayne Newton. Age 20, playing the Banjo and singing up a storm. This is television magic. Worth the price of admission on its own.

There is simply no other way to describe it.

This appearance, on September 29th, 1962 would propel Wayne Newton into stardom. Gleason would have Newton return a dozen times over the next two years. Lucille Ball, Bobby Darin, Danny Thomas, George Burns, and Jack Benny would all support this young singer's rise to stardom.

The show ends with a Honeymooner's sketch, and after a slow start, it too becomes a laugh riot. Alice and Trixie aren't given much to do in this episode, but it is classic Norton and Kramden.

The later Gleason shows are, as far as I know, not public domain. Hopefully some more of his earlier work will be made available.

Gleason would see his career expand into dramatic roles in the Movies, earning an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Minnesota Fats in The Hustler, and acclaim playing the boxing manager in Rod Serling's Requiem For A Heavyweight.

Gleason died in 1987, in the end suffering from liver and colon cancer. He was a heavy smoker, consuming as many as six packs a day. He was 71 years old.

Thankfully, as long as we have his films, his legacy lives on.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Things Go Better With Eddie Fisher







In the early 1950's, before Bill Haley and Elvis Presley shook up the pop music scene, crooners still ruled the airwaves.   Parents had Frank Sinatra , Der Bingle (Crosby), and Perry Como . . . but for teenagers, the hot singer of the early 1950's was Eddie Fisher.


Born in 1928,  Eddie would be `discovered' by the irrepressible Eddie Cantor, singing at at Borscht Belt resort called Grossinger's, in 1949.  Cantor would be instrumental in helping the 20 year-old's career along.


Fisher's career was interrupted, however, by military service.  In 1951 he was drafted, and was forced to put his career on hold for a couple of years.    Here is Eddie Cantor's Farewell to Fisher on the Colgate Comedy Hour.



Fisher would continue to sing, however.  After basic training, he spent a year in Korea, then became the official soloist for the United States Army Band and a member in the United States Army Band Chorus.


After his discharge 1953, Fisher was tagged by NBC to host his own show, called  Coke Time with Eddie Fisher.   The show ran 15 minutes (not unusual in the 1950's) and aired on Wednesday and Friday nights after NBC's nightly news (also a 15 minute show).


Amazingly, TV network news shows would not go to the 30 minute format until the early 1960's.


Many of Eddie's shows, which ran until 1957, featured guest stars. But he would occasionally be the only performer.  The house band was Axel Stordahl and His Orchestra, who is probably best remembered for his work with Sinatra in the 1940's and early 1950's.


Coca Cola was the wholesome sponsor of the show, and was featured prominently throughout the show.


Before Rock & Roll derailed his career, Fisher would have seventeen songs in the Top 10 on the music charts, and thirty-five top forty singles.  


By the early 1950's, demand for Fisher's style of singing has waned, but not gone away.  Sinatra, Jerry Vale, Andy Williams, and a handful of others continued to work. 


A high profile divorce from first wife Debbie Reynolds in 1959, followed by his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor (1959-64) made Fisher a constant feature of the movie magazines and scandal sheets, but did little to encourage record labels to hire him. 


RCA dropped him in 1960.   After that he recorded for his own label (Ramrod) and for DOT records.  RCA would release 3 albums of his work in the mid-to-late 1960's.


Fisher would have a another bona fide hit in 1965 with Sunrise, Sunset, and a moderately successful album the following year called Games that Lovers Play


But after that, his days as a chart topper were over.  


We've 3 episodes of Coke Time With Eddie Fisher available.  Perhaps more will become available with time.



Coke Time with Eddie Fisher (Classic TV)
An episode of the classic 50's musical TV series "Coke Time with Eddie Fisher", complete with original commercials. The show ran from 1953 to 1957 and features Eddie Fisher singing popular hits of the day. Info from Wikipedia: Coke Time with Eddie Fisher was a musical variety television series starring singer Eddie Fisher which was broadcast by NBC on Wednesday nights in early prime time from 1953 to 1957...

Episode of the Classic 50's TV series "Coke Time"
(This episode features Diahann Carroll). And yes, It also features commercials for Coca-Cola! (As with most live TV shows of the 50's, The copyright was not renewed).

'Coke Time' from 1955 (Classic TV)
Complete Episode of "Coke Time" from 1955, with a winter theme. Originally aired 20 January 1955.




A few more clips from Fisher's heyday are available on Youtube, including:



You Gotta Have  Heart.




Ain't She Sweet



Almost Like Being In Love


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stars On The Ascendant




I don't normally highlight a single episode of a TV series, but this one is special, and so it deserves a showcase all of its own.




May 29th, 1962.


I was 8 years and 1 month old. 


John Kennedy was President, the Cuban Missile Crisis was still five months away,  and John Glenn had only very recently been the first man to orbit the earth aboard the Friendship 7 -  a little more than 90 days before.


Variety shows, very popular in the 1950's,  were still a staple of Television back then. 


Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason, Perry Como,  Andy Williams.  .  .  there was hardly a night of the week where at least one network didn't run a variety show.


CBS, on Tuesday nights, had 3 in a row. Red Skelton at 8:30, followed by Jack Benny at 9:30. 


At 10 pm was the Garry Moore Show.






Today, you mention Garry Moore, and most people remember him as the host of To Tell The Truth, or I've Got A Secret . . . but he was also the host of several very successful variety shows throughout the 1950's and into the 1960's.  



The line up of talent presented every week on network television back then staggers the imagination.  


Everyone in Hollywood, it seemed, could do more than one thing. 


Singers could act, comedians could sing, nearly everybody could dance a little . . . it was actually a requirement to have talent back then. 


Many performers had a background in Vaudeville or Burlesque. The talent pool was both wide and deep. 


Even on-air personalities and hosts, like Garry Moore and Durwood Kirby, managed to be `entertaining', even though they could hardly be called singers or dancers.



Moore began his radio career as an announcer on WBAL radio out of Baltimore, in 1937.   He would eventually parlayed that job into a joint radio show with Jimmy Durante, which ran from 1943 until 1947.  Moore would play the straight man to funny man Durante. 






After that show ended, Moore was offered a show of his own, and in 1949 The Garry Moore Show premiered on CBS radio.  During the late 1940's, Moore also appeared as a panelist on several television shows, and in 1950, was given his own 30 minute early-evening talk/variety show.


During the summers of 1951 and 1952, Moore was also tapped to host the summer replacement show for Arthur Godfrey and his Friends.  On June 19th, 1952, Moore was also engaged to host the panel show, I've Got A Secret - which he would host until 1964.


Moore's variety show was moved to a daytime slot, and expanded to an hour, where it would run until 1958.  


In the fall of 1958,  Moore and his long time friend Durwood Kirby would bring the Garry Moore Show back to Prime Time on Tuesday evenings, where it would stay until 1964.


The Garry Moore Show would bring fame to a number of performers, including Alan King, Jonathon Winters, and Dorothy Loudon.


No bigger star emerged from that show, however, than Carol Burnett.



And that brings us back to May, 1962.


And on this particular night, just one week after the Garry Moore Show won an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Show, and Carol Burnett had won the  Emmy for "Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series"  the guests would be:



Robert Goulet

Barbra Streisand

Marty Allen and Steve Rossi






Robert Goulet was already a star, having been cast as Sir Lancelot in Lerner and Loewe's hit Broadway musical Camelot in 1960.   His appearances on variety shows, like Ed Sullivan and Garry Moore, would bolster his fame even further.




There is little doubt, that at this point in time, Goulet was the `big' guest star of the evening.   And he delivers a couple of great songs.



But it is the almost unknown 19 year-old, named Barbra (billed as Barbara, however) who would steal this particular show.





Aside from a handful of appearances on the Jack Paar Show, she'd had very little national television exposure.  This would be her first big national prime time appearance.


And it would be the first time she ever sang what would become a signature song for her,  "Happy Days Are Here Again".


It was, as they say, a defining `moment'.   Something very special.  A clear sign that big things lay ahead for this incredible performer.  


Her `overnight' success came after several tough years of performing in small New York night clubs, and after 9 months in the small, but star making role of Miss Marmelstein in the Broadway musical "I can get it for you wholesale".


Barbra would be nominated for a Tony award for her performance in that Broadway show, quite an accomplishment for one only 19 years of age, but would lose out to Broadway veteran Phyllis Newman in Subways are for Sleeping



Also in this show you'll see Marty Allen and Steve Rossi doing several classic routines (one is repeated twice due to a video error),  some terrific production numbers, a very impressive set decoration featuring a scaled down Eiffel Tower, and a tribute to the Emmy winning cast and crew at the finale.


If that seems like a lot to fit into an hour show, it is.  The remarkable thing is, they did this sort of thing every week. 




Sit back, and enjoy.




The Garry Moore Show - Garry Moore
Episode from May 29th, 1962.







The other `star' on the ascendant from that show was series regular Carol Burnett.  



She had `star quality' written all over her, and by 1962 the audience, and CBS knew it. 






After four years as a regular on the Garry Moore Show, she would leave later in the year, and begin a series of critically acclaimed television specials, starting with  Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, co-starring her friend Julie Andrews. 


That show would also win an Emmy, for Outstanding Musical


Other specials, and guest shots on shows like The Twilight Zone, and Gomer Pyle would follow.   CBS tried to work her into a sit-com, but she held out for a variety show, fearing she'd be type cast in a dead-end comedy show.


In 1967, Burnett would  begin an 11 year run in what is generally considered to be the best variety television show ever made - The Carol Burnett Show.


In a future blog, I'll provide links to some of her early work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Two Richard Diamonds






One of the best remembered detective shows of the late 1940's and 1950's was Richard Diamond, and it came in two very distinct incarnations.


The first time around, Richard Diamond was a popular radio series, starting in 1949, staring chorus-boy-crooner-turned-tough-guy  Dick Powell.


Up until 1944, Powell had been known as a boyish crooner, appearing in such films as 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, and  Flirtation Walk. 



Approaching 40, Powell realized his days playing young romantic leads were coming to an end, and that he needed to reinvent himself.  Warner Brothers, however, wasn't convinced.


Powell lobbied to play the lead in Double Indemnity, but that role went to Fred MacMurray instead. 


MacMurray, another Hollywood `nice guy', managed to change his image overnight, playing the role of a first class heel in Double Indemnity.   That, reportedly, gave Powell even more impetus to change his image.


In 1944, Powell was cast as gumshoe Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, a film noir classic.  Overnight, Powell had managed to change the direction of his career.  More `tough guy' roles were offered, and Powell said goodbye to his days as a cherubic faced singer.


Powell starred in Cornered, Johnny O'Clock, and Cry Danger solidly establishing his credentials as a dramatic actor.  He would also appear in lighter fare, such as Susan Slept Here and The Reformer and the Redhead, but he didn't sing in those.


He became Richard Diamond on the radio in 1949.  This 30 minute show was less hard-boiled than most other detective shows, with breezy, often witty dialog. 


Small wonder, the series was created and written by none other than Blake Edwards, who would go on to create Peter Gunn and the Pink Panther movies.


The show often featured `in jokes', with Diamond lampooning the Detective genre, mentioning other radio detectives, like Sam Spade, or confessing he was particularly fond of Hollywood actress June Allyson (Dick Powell's real wife).


Diamond, like most radio detectives, had a `friend' on the police force - in this case Homicide Detective Walt Levinson (usually played by Ed Begley).  Often, Powell would end the show with a brief song, sung to his radio series girl friend Helen Asher.


Richard Diamond switch networks, moving from NBC to ABC in 1951.  Reruns were heard on CBS in 1953.    We are lucky enough to have a great many of these shows preserved, and available to download.


You can either download full CD's of episodes from the first link, or individual episodes from the second link.  Either way, I think you'll find these shows are a delight.




Richard Diamond, Private Detective - Old Time Radio Researchers Group
RICHARD DIAMOND, PRIVATE DETECTIVE In 1945, Dick Powell portrayed Phillip Marlowe in the movie "Murder My Sweet" based on Raymond Chandler's novel "Farewell My Lovely". This was a radical departure in character for Mr. Powell from a Hollywood song and dance man to a hard-boiled detective.


Richard Diamond, Private Detective - Single Episodes - Old Time Radio Researchers Group
RICHARD DIAMOND, PRIVATE DETECTIVE In 1945, Dick Powell portrayed Phillip Marlowe in the movie "Murder My Sweet" based on Raymond Chandler's novel "Farewell My Lovely". This was a radical departure in character for Mr. Powell from a Hollywood song and dance man to a hard-boiled detective.



Powell would go on to direct a number of movies and television shows during the 1950's, and would form Four Star Television  and Four Star Films along with David Niven, Ida Lupino, and Charles Boyer.





Their company would produce such familiar shows as The Rifleman, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Trackdown, Dick Powell's Zane Grey TheaterThe Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, Stagecoach West, The Dick Powell Show, Burke's Law, The Rogues and The Big Valley.



The second incarnation of Richard Diamond would come in 1957, with a young contract player named David Janssen taking the role.


The show was produced by . . . you guessed it . . . Dick Powell and Four Star Television.






Darker, and more hard boiled than the radio version, TV's Richard Diamond was a detective in the film noir tradition.  This detective didn't serenade his girl friend at the close of each show, and the wisecracks are less prevalent.


He did have a secretary, named Sam, who we only saw from the waist down displaying a shapely pair of legs, and we heard her sultry voice.   The owner of these glamorous  gam's was a secret, and generated a good deal of `buzz', until Mary Tyler Moore let it slip that she was `Sam'.   


After that, the producers found another pair of legs for the show.


The show started out in New York, but moved to L.A. in the second season. 


Janssen would go on to even greater stardom as Richard Kimble, The Fugitive in the late 1960's, and as Harry O, another detective in the 1980's.


In all, 77 Black & White episodes were produced of Richard Diamond.  I've linked to a half dozen of them below, available on GUBA.  But if you follow THIS LINK, you'll find more than 60 episodes available.


Fair warning.  I've no idea how long these links will be good.  Get them while you can.





richard diamond - 1x02 custody.avi


richard diamond - 1x06 the chess player.avi


richard diamond - 1x05 hit & run.avi


richard diamond - 1x09 the torch carriers.avi


richard diamond - 1x07 the big score.avi


richard diamond - 2x01 the space society.avi

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Colgate Comedy Hour With Abbott & Costello





During the 1940's there was probably no more successful comedy team than Abbott & Costello.  


They burst on the scene in in 1940 playing supporting roles in the Universal picture, One Night In The Tropics, literally stealing the movie from the leads Allan Jones, Robert Cummings, and Nancy Kelly.






Of course, both Abbott and Costello had been working for years in show business before finding success.  They both worked in Burlesque, and were paired in 1935, at the urging of friends, and began working the Burlesque circuit honing a number of classic routines.


Before their movie debut, they had worked in radio, on the Kate Smith Hour, but their similar sounding voices made it difficult for the audience to tell who was saying what.   Costello solved that problem by affecting a childish high-pitched voice, which enabled them to stay on the radio for two years.


After the success of One Night In The Tropics, Universal signed the team to a long term contract, and they quickly put out a series of very successful comedies, starting with Buck Privates (1941).


Over the next dozen years A&C would have one of the most popular radio shows of the 1940's, appear in three dozen  movies, and move into television as well.


In 1951 Abbott and Costello became one of the rotating hosts for the Colgate Comedy Hour, which ran from 1950 to 1955.    Other hosts included Eddie Cantor and  Martin & Lewis.

These were live shows, captured via Kinescope, nearly 60 years ago.  While sometimes the sketches ran a little long, and some of the routines were pretty familiar, even then - these remain classic examples of early television comedy.


Today we've got two episodes of the Colgate Comedy Hour, both hosted by A&C, for your viewing pleasure.


This first episode, with a Latin-American theme, has a riotous magic routine by A&C, an entertaining musical interlude with Connie  Haines, Beryl Davis, Rhonda Fleming, and Jane Russell singing old-time hymns, and a 6 year old playing the Poet & Peasant Overture on the xylophone!





This first video runs the full hour, and includes the original commercials.   The quality is actually pretty good.




This next one runs only 41 minutes, and so isn't the complete show. Additionally, this kinescope from January of 1951 isn't quite as good of quality.   This is the first hosting of the show by A&C.


Guest stars include singer Evelyn Knight.  A pity the entire show isn't available.






A&C were reportedly terrified to try new material, and basically built their career on variations of tried and true burlesque routines.   It was this reluctance that probably led to their decline in popularity.


By the early 1950's, with the Abbott & Costello show on TV, the Colgate Comedy appearances, and two new movies each year - they were running out of material.  Whereas a comedy team could work for years in Burlesque with one or two bits, television appearances `burned' material at an astonishing rate.


And besides, there was a new hot comedy team - Martin & Lewis - that had captured America's attention.


In 1956, the IRS went after the team for back taxes, forcing them to sell their homes, their assets, and even the rights to their films.


In 1957, 22 years after first working together in Burlesque, they dissolved their partnership. 


An era had ended.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Going `One Step Beyond'




"What you are about to see is a matter of human record. Explain it: we cannot. Disprove it: we cannot. We simply invite you to explore with us the amazing world of the Unknown ... to take that One Step ... Beyond."


Actually, the name of the show was Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, and it, like The Twilight Zone, is a well remembered page from late 1950's television history.



Unlike the Twilight Zone, which was basically a fantasy . . . all of the episodes of One Step Beyond were supposedly based on `actual events'.


At least, that was how things were represented.    Of course, this was long before came along, and one man's `facts' are often another man's exaggeration. 


Still . . .  the episodes were well done, often chillingly so.  


The stories dealt with the supernatural. The unexplainable.  Psychic visions, ESP, curses, witches . . . you name it.


In one infamous episode from 1961, `your host' John Newland travels to Mexico to experiment  with `sacred mushrooms', which reportedly would give the user `ESP and Clairvoyant powers'.


Most of the episodes, however, were 30-minute docu-dramas, featuring a great many up and coming actors and actresses, along with some well established ones. 


Star watchers will catch performances by the likes of Christopher Lee, Cloris Leachman, Mike Conners, William Shatner, Charles Bronson, Robert Blake,  Louise Fletcher, Patrick O'Neal, Robert Loggia, Suzanne Pleshette, Pernell Roberts, Patrick Macnee, Edward Binns, Jack Lord, Ross Martin, Donald Pleasence, Elizabeth Montgomery, and even Warren Beatty.


The series ran for three years, from 1959 through 1961, and 96 episodes were filmed.    In the 1980's the owner of the show allowed the copyright to lapse, and now many of the episodes are in the public domain.


John Newland, the host of the series, signed with Warner Brothers after World War II, but was cast only in minor roles.   He appeared in Nora Prentiss (Uncredited, 1947) and Gentleman's Agreement ( again, uncredited, 1947). 


After that, he appeared on live television in shows like Studio One, Kraft Television Theatre, and Tales of Tomorrow and numerous episodes of Robert Montgomery Presents between 1952-57.

He became host, and director, of One Step Beyond in 1959. 


After OSB ended, Newland continued directing television shows, including episodes from Naked City, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Star Trek, Harry O, and Police Woman.    


He attempted a revival of One Step Beyond in 1978, but it only ran for one season.   Newland passed away in 2000, from a stroke.  He was 86.


The Internet Archive has more than 50 episodes of OSB available for viewing, or download.   I've listed about 20 of them, but you can follow the link at the bottom to see their entire selection.  It is possible that more episodes will be added over time. 




[movies] Where Are They?

[movies] One Step Beyond : The Riddle

[movies] Night of April 14th 

[movies] The Dark Room
The Dream
The Dead Part of the House
The Vision
The Devil's Laughter
The Return of Mitchell Campion
The Secret
The Aerialist
The Captain's Guests

[movies] Front Runner
Ordeal on Locust Street
The Inheritance
The Open Window



Additional episodes can be found using this search LINK.