Sunday, October 25, 2009

Creature Features




Growing up in the early 1960’s, Friday Nights meant Shock Theatre at 11:30 at night on our local TV station (WTVT-13) , a late night treat I was allowed to partake in from about the age of 8 onward.

Most of the films were the old Universal Horror movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s.    Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman . . . 


Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night

May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms

And the autumn moon is bright. 


But I digress . . .

Saturday afternoons, on another local station, we got newer, more sci-fi related fare, on something called Terminus Theatre.   Movies with Marshall Thompson or John Agar, or sometimes if we were lucky, Kenneth Toby!


So I was exposed to all of the classics growing up.


Many of these films, in retrospect, were pretty bad.  Not that they aren’t still enjoyable, but they often were low budget affairs, thrown together for the Drive-in market.   Rubber monsters and wooden actors.


I confess, about once a year, I spend an afternoon reveling in their badness.  I draw the line with the badly dubbed Japanese monster movies.  Even as a kid, they never grabbed me.


Some, however, are genuine classics of the genre. 


And so, with Halloween just a week away, I present a handful of some the `better’ (a purely subjective choice on my part) horror movies available from the Internet Archive.  





House on Haunted Hill - William Castle
Frederick Loren has invited five strangers to a party of a lifetime. He is offering each of them $10,000 if they can stay the night in a house.


A classic that is derivative of Agatha Christie’s 10 Little Indians, but who cares?   You’ve got Vinnie Price doing what he does best, scaring the dickens out of the audience, and a cast that includes Richard Long and Elisha Cook jr.

IMDB has it with 6.8 stars, and I quite agree.




Horror Express - Bernard Gordon
An English anthropologist (Christopher Lee) has discovered a frozen monster in the frozen wastes of Manchuria which he believes may be the Missing Link. He brings the creature back to Europe aboard a trans-Siberian express, but during the trip the monster thaws out and starts to butcher the passengers one by one.


Shakes on a Train.  Anytime you can put Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in a Film together, you can pretty much count on it being worth the time to watch it.   Look for Telly Savalas as Captain Kazan.  This train-bound horror film garners a  respectable 6.4 on the IMDB ratings.





The Last Man on Earth - Samuel Z. Arkoff
Based on the chilling Richard Matheson science fiction Classic "I am Legend" This classic features Vincent Price as scientist Robert Morgan in a post apocalyptic nightmare world. The world has been consumed by a ravenous plague that has transformed humanity into a race of bloodthirsty vampires. Only Morgan proves immune, and becomes the solitary vampire slayer.


They keep remaking this movie  (The Omega Man, I Am Legend) but this Spaghetti Horror film arguably remains the best version.  This is the widescreen version. This 1964 classic tops the ratings heap with a 6.9 on its IMDB Page.






The Little Shop of Horrors - Roger Corman
Seymour is picked on by everybody in his life until he discovers a strange plant that makes him a media sensation. Only the plant has unusual dietary needs--human blood. You can find out more about this movie on its IMDB page. You can download an avi of the movie here.

King of the low-budget horror genre, legend has it that Roger Corman filmed this gem in just 2 days.  It has since inspired a broadway musical and a movie remake, and dozens of parodies.


This classic horror/comedy gets a decent 6.2 on its IMDB page.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

R.I.P. Soupy Sales





Soupy Sales (January 8, 1926 – October 22, 2009) – born Milton Supman died on Thursday at the age of 83.  `Soupy’ was a shortened version of his childhood nickname, `Soup bone’, and he used it first as a DJ and then later in television.

Sales earned a masters in journalism from Marshall College, but worked on the side in nightclubs as a singer, dancer, and comedian.


During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Sales worked on locally produced TV shows for stations out of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit.   Everything from teen dance shows, to a late night TV variety format.


In 1953, the Soupy Sales Show (aka Lunch with Soupy Sales and before that 12 O'Clock Comics) was broadcast locally in Detroit by WXYZ-TV, and was picked up by the ABC network in 1959 for national syndication.


In 1960 the show moved to Los Angeles, but the show was dropped by ABC in 1961.   It ran locally, and was picked up again by the network as a late night replacement for Steve Allen in 1962.  That run didn’t last very long, either.

In 1964, Sales moved to New York, where his kids show was broadcast on WNEW-TV.  Screen Gems licensed 260 episodes for syndication, and it is this show that is best remembered today.


The show was a combination of slapstick, comic skits, and appearances by guest stars . . . including Fess Parker, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, and the Shangri La’s.  While most thought of it as a `kids show’, much of the humor was directed at a more adult audience.


Below is a clip with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.


Some of the puppets used in the show included:

  • White Fang, "The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA,"
  • Black Tooth, "The Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA",
  • Pookie the Lion
  • Hippy the Hippo


The show is famous for two `incidents’, both of which have become part of the legend of early TV.


On New Year’s Day, 1965 – peeved at having to work on a holiday – Sales ended his show with  an appeal to kids to tiptoe into their  parents' bedrooms and remove those "funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents" from their pants and pocketbooks. "Put them in an envelope and mail them to me," Soupy told the children. "And I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico!"


But hey, listen to Soupy tell the story.




The second incident involved an `unseen guest’ at the door (a recurring bit) that unexpectedly turned out to be topless stripper.  The show was filmed late at night – without an audience – and so practical jokes like this were common.  


Soupy shares the story – and the film clip that didn’t get aired – on the Bob Costas show.




And last, but not least, a full episode of the Soupy Sales show from 1965 on the Internet Archive.



The Soupy Sales Show
An episode from 1965.


While Sales reached the height of his popularity in the mid-1960s, he was a regular contestant on several game shows in the years that followed, including What’s My Line, The Match Game, and Hollywood Squares.

He also had a mid-morning radio show on WNBC (AM)  during the 1980s.   He was famously `relieved’ from duty in the middle of a show after ranting about the failure of the station to renew his contract.


Sales died this week after a long illness, at the age of 83.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Three Radio Chillers For Halloween




Although the movies of the 1930s brought horror to mainstream America, with such classics as Dracula, Frankenstein, and King Kong . . . it was the fertile ground of radio drama that produced the most (and arguably some of the best) horror entertainment.


So pervasive were horror and suspense programs on the radio during the 1930s and 1940s, that the outcry of clergy and teachers often reached a fevered pitch. The sordid and gruesome radio fare, from shows like The Inner Sanctum and Lights Out, they feared was going to be the ruination of the country’s youth. 


That, and swing music by Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.


I’ve select 3 of my favorite horror/suspense OTR episodes, that will hopefully spur many of you on to explore the thousands of others that have been preserved and archived on the internet.   


Unlike the movies, or TV, these episodes require your attention and mental participation.  The use of your imagination to fill in the horrifying blanks.   


So turn the lights down low, gather your family around the computer, and enjoy . . .



Three Skeleton Key


Tired of the everyday routine? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all?

We offer you... Escape!      (cue dramatic music)

Escape. Designed to free you from the four walls of today for a half hour of high adventure.


With that famous opening (often intoned by William Conrad) one of the best anthology series of the late 1940’s and early 1950s brought us tales of  ESCAPE!   


Admittedly, this is one of my favorite series (you find another offering follows).   


ESCAPE! was the little, low-budget show that could. 


A summer replacement for the long-running SUSPENSE! - which attracted big name stars - Escape is well remembered for doing a lot with very little.

Nearly all of the episodes from its 7 year run are available for free download, including from.  (Internet Archive)  (Real Player Episodes)


The episode Three Skeleton Key stars Vincent Price in a radio adaptation of the George G. Toudouze 1937 short story which is available online to read.


Three Skeleton Key is the first, March 1950 production of this story.  It would end up being produced twice more by Suspense!, but this first one is considered to be the best.

Rats, Vincent Price, and an old light house . . . and almost no hope of ESCAPE!



Shipment of Mute Fate

Many of the radio scripts from ESCAPE! would end up being re-produced on ESCAPE! or SUSPENSE! a number of times, often with different casts. 


A Shipment of Mute Fate was produced at least 4 times, but I’ve always been partial to the first run-through, starring a young Jack Webb in 1947  (see You Really Don’t Know Jack). 


Escape! had a thing for snakes, and in this case, the story revolves around a South American Bushmaster – perhaps the deadliest snake in the world – loose aboard a small passenger ship. 

`Mute Fate’ comes from the Latin name for the snake, Lachesis Muta, which refers to the silent rattle the snake possesses.  No warning for the careless trespasser onto the snake’s territory.


Aside from the suspenseful plot, and surprise ending, this is an opportunity to hear Jack Webb before he adopted his mono-toned Sgt. Friday persona.



The Thing on the Fourble Board


Jumping now to  Wyllis Cooper’s Quiet, Please, we get one of the most highly regarded horror scripts ever produced for radio. 


Cooper, who had created Lights Out years earlier created Quiet, Please with Ernest E. Chappell, who had previously been a radio announcer. 


He turned out, however, to be a terrific radio actor and used  silence, and the dreaded `dead air’ to great effect.


It is said that Cooper’s scripts, read by anyone else, would have run only about 11 or 12 minutes.   But the pauses that Chappell built in stretched them out to nearly 30 minutes.


You’ll find more than 100 episodes available at


In The Thing on the Fourble Board, we hear the story of a roughneck, working the oil fields, who discovers something remarkable up on the fourble board of his oil derrick.  



If you like these, there are hundreds of other episodes from these two series, plus thousands more from Suspense, Lights Out, The Mysterious Traveler, Inner Sanctum, The Hermits Cave, and many, many more.


Some, today, would be considered camp, or even silly.  A few, like The Hermits Cave, were admittedly over-the-top.


But before we’d been jaded by CGI movies, and had seen a thousand rip offs of these early plots on TV, these shows were very chilling indeed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Night America Trembled



With Halloween rapidly approaching, this is the time of year we look at some of sci-fi and horror offerings of radio, early TV, and the movies.  None is more famous than the infamous `War of The Worlds’ broadcast of Halloween night, 1938. 


Although this Orson Welles broadcast was the subject of one of my earlier blogs, written back in 2008,  I’ve an interesting addendum for classic TV fans. 


A Studio One presentation called `The Night America Trembled’.


But first, a brief revisiting of the original radio broadcast.


Among Halloween radio broadcasts, there is none better remembered than the Mercury Theatre's  War of the Worlds,  broadcast on Oct 30st, 1938.  My parents were listening that Sunday night, and having tuned in from the beginning, knew this was a dramatic presentation. 


Anyone who listened to the first 2 minutes of the show heard the introduction by producer and star Orson Welles.   But the next disclaimer wouldn’t come until 40 minutes into the show.



Orson Welles

Orson  Welles


The Mercury theatre – while a critical success – was considered a a bit of a `highbrow’ show, and had far fewer listeners than their competitor on NBC, the popular Chase and Sanborn Hour with Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy.  


So the truth is, most of the country wasn’t even listening that night.


Those that did tune in late, however, found that their local CBS station was broadcasting a program of `dance music by Ramon Raquello’ and his orchestra instead of the Mercury Theatre.


Within moments, however, there would be a simulated `news flash', indicating that astronomers had detected explosions of `hydrogen gas' on the planet Mars.


With increasing frequency (far too fast, but hey, it was only an hour show), more news flashes would break into the `music program'.


First, with an interview with an `astronomer' named  Richard Pearson (quite obviously voiced by Orson Welles), who discounts any concerns over Mars being inhabited.


Within seconds, however, there are reports of seismic activity in New Jersey, and the next 30 minutes are a series of flash news reports covering the landing of a space craft in Grovers Mill, New Jersey, and its subsequent attack on the people there.


Soon New York City is under attack by "five great machines" wading across the Hudson River.  


Now, the story goes that more than a million people believed this radio broadcast to be real.     I doubt that.   


There were disclaimers during the shows intermission, a full disclamer in the first two minutes, and quite frankly it has the `sound and feel' of a radio drama.   


Anyone alarmed by this broadcast  would certainly have checked other stations to see if they, too, were carrying the`news'.   The next day, there was a great to-do make over the broadcast, and recriminations against Welles and his radio troop. 



While the `panic' caused by this show was probably exaggerated, some people did apparently take it to be real.   In any event, legend or fact, it is a piece of history now. 


Listen to the most famous Halloween radio broadcast of them all.

1938-10-30 War of the Worlds


Twenty years after that famous broadcast, Studio One  opened their 10th season with a dramatic re-enactment of that broadcast, and the reaction of America.   


Narrated by the most famous newsman of the era, Edward R. Murrow, this was a prestigious presentation that captures the mood of the nation in those nervous years just prior to World War II.


You’ll spot a lot of young, not-yet-quite famous actors in the cast including Ed Asner, John Astin, Vincent Gardenia, James CoburnWarren Oates and Warren Beatty.  The `stars’ of this production, however, are Ed Murrow and Alexander Scourby.





The Night America Trembled
Studio One 10x01 The Night America Trembled


This was the film debut of both John Astin and James Coburn, both destined to stardom in the decade to come. 


As you watch, remember that this was live television, with no chances for re-takes, no post-production editing.  This was acting (and directing) without a net.   And something that few TV shows dare to attempt today.


The days of live drama were nearly at an end by 1958, with video tape and film soon to replace the `stage bound’ production so common during Televisions first decade.  


The original radio show, followed by the TV re-enactment, would make a fine (and educational) evenings’ double feature in the days ahead.  

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thirteen Hours In The Life Of Riley






Last January I wrote a blog about Jackie Gleason called The Great One, a small part of which concerned his early one-year-stint as Chester A. Riley on the first TV incarnation of The Life of Riley.

At that time, the Internet Archive only had two episodes with Gleason, but in recent days some kind soul has uploaded 2 dozen episodes from 1949 and 1950.


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.  Stander was a fixture in radio and early TV, but is probably best remembered as Max, the loyal chauffer/Butler on the TV show Hart to Hart in the 1980s.


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 problem 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.


And Gleason at 33, was arguably a bit young for the part.


They grayed his temples, but Gloria Winters, who played his daughter `Bab's’, was only 15 years his junior while Rosemary DeCamp who played his wife Peg was six years older.


The show was a modest hit though, and was well received by critics.  Gleason, however, felt he could do bigger things, and decided to move on.


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.


Rosemary DeCamp and Gloria Winters would go onto greater fame later in the 1950’s, with DeCamp co-starring in The Bob Cummings Show (see Cummings Attractions) and Winters as Penny in Sky King (see From Out Of The Clear Blue Of The Western Sky Comes . . .)


The `situations’ in these comedies were all typical of the 1950’s and 1960’s.   Forgotten birthdays, misunderstandings, or get-rich-quick schemes doomed to failure.   Strictly family fare, safe for Grandma to watch, and always with a heartwarming ending.


For nostalgic reasons alone, however, this glimpse at the early work of Gleason, DeCamp, and Winters should be worth the price of admission (free, after all).




Jackie Gleason in The Life Of Riley Aired 10-04-49 ep01


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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Calling Dick Tracy





Born out of the gangland violence that was a hallmark of the early 1930s,  square-jawed, honest, and intelligent comic strip detective Dick Tracy first appeared on October 4th, 1931 in the Detroit Mirror.


Created by a 30 year-old cartoonist, Chester Gould, Tracy brought big city corruption and street violence – and modern police procedures – to the daily comic strips. 


His villains were larger than life, of course.  Prune Face, Flattop, Cueball, and B.O. Plenty to name a few. And in the 1960s the strip took on a strong Sci-Fi flavor, much to the dismay of many Tracy Fans. 


But during the 1930’s, 1940’s and much of the 1950’s  Dick Tracy was all but synonymous with procedural Police work, deduction, and exciting shootouts. 


By the time the 1960s had rolled around, some of the more right-wing views sported by Gould began to fall out of favor, as did some of the tactics of his hard-nosed creation. 


Attempts to `modernize’ Tracy by giving him longer hair and a moustache – and a `hippy’ partner Groovy Grove – fell flat, as his older audience didn’t like the new look, and younger readers were turned off by Tracy’s conservative themes.


But roll back the clock 30 years, and Tracy was very popular and a huge part of American culture.


In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s Dick Tracy made it to the Silver Screen by way of 4 serials produced by Republic Pictures and starring Ralph Byrd.  These serials had Tracy portrayed as an FBI agent, or G-Man based in California, rather than a police detective in a mid western city.


Dick Tracy (1937) is a 15-part serial and is available to watch on Retrovision.TV.    These serials are Saturday Matinee fare, and feature impossible cliff hangers and improbable escapes – but are good fun nonetheless.


By the mid-1940’s, some four years after the last serial was produced, 4 feature films were released.   RKO Radio Pictures released Dick Tracy (aka Dick Tracy, Detective) in 1945 which was followed by Dick Tracy vs. Cueball in 1946, both starring Morgan Conway as Tracy.

Both are available for download from the Internet Archive 


Dick Tracy Detective
Dick must stop the mysterious killings of various people with no obvious connection.



Dick Tracy vs Cueball - Gordon M. Douglas
After a Diamond Merchant is murdered aboard a ocean liner. Dick Tracy begins the hunt for the infamous Cueball.

Ralph Byrd would return in 1947 to reprise the role he created in the serials, with two films Dick Tracy's Dilemma and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome.



Dick Tracy's Dilemma
Dick Tracy battles the fiendish "Claw" in one of his most difficult cases.



Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome
Dick Tracy goes up against a villain who robs banks using a nerve gas.



Four years later Ralph Byrd would bring the role of Tracy to the small screen, with a short-lived TV series that ended, sadly, with Byrd’s premature death.   Some people attribute the grueling production schedule for that series as contributing to Byrd’s demise.


Retrovision.TV has five episodes of this series available for viewing.


Dick Tracy, for all of its fanciful villains and improbable plots, brought early glimpses of police procedures to the American public, with an emphasis on evidence collection, and the work done in the crime lab.   


The movies (and particularly the serials) were strictly `B’ fare, but they remain interesting time capsules, harkening back to the film noirish view of the 1940’s.   


The movies run a little over an hour, and require very little commitment from the viewer, except . . . perhaps . . .  the popping of some popcorn and the suspension of disbelief.

If only for 65 minutes or so.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Niagara Falls




Earlier today a conversation with my Sister and Dad (85) gave me an idea of what to blog about today . . . a classic vaudeville routine best known as “Slowly I Turned “ or sometimes “Niagara Falls”.


They asked me if I remembered the routine, and I said yes, and gave them a little of the history of it.  At least as much as I could remember.  That, of course, prompted me to come back to my computer and do a bit more research.


You probably remember the routine, but you may recall it as being done by either Lucille Ball in 1952Abbott & Costello in 1944 (or again in 1952), or by the Three Stooges also in 1944


It has been parodied since then, on shows like Moonlighting and M.A.S.H. as well.


For those of us of a certain age, it is a part of our collective memory.  Say `Slowly I turned . .. ‘, and most people my age will know immediately what it refers to.  It revives a faint taste of a form of entertainment that pretty much vanished more than 70 years ago.



Image from the Library of Congress



Vaudeville, from the 1880’s until the early 1930s, was a thriving form of entertainment in the United States and Canada.   It consisted of a series of unrelated variety acts that toured the country, and would be part of a larger `bill’ in theatres. 


Singers, dancers, acrobats, clowns, jugglers, freak shows, magicians, animal acts . . . you name it, and vaudeville had it.


Many of the early TV variety shows were in reality little more than vaudeville theatre brought to the airwaves.  Some of the early TV stars . . .Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Frank Fontaine . . . started in Vaudeville Theatre or it’s somewhat less respectable cousin, Burlesque.


Vaudeville . . . at least `polite’ Vaudeville, was presented to mixed company, and without serving liquor.  Burlesque was a courser bill of fare, often featuring scantily clad young ladies, or strippers . . . along with baggy pants comedians and other acts.


But Abbott and Lou Costello were both Burlesque performers, long before they teamed up in 1935. The Three Stooges started out as a Vaudeville act with Ted Healy.   Morey Amsterdam started in Vaudeville in 1922, and moved up to working in a Speakeasy run by Al Capone.


If you scratched any middle-aged TV performer in the early 1950’s, you’d just about always find a Vaudevillian underneath.  Just some of the names from Vaudeville and Burlesque included:



Sophie Tucker

Eddie Cantor

George M. Cohan

Jack Benny

Eddie Foy

Red Buttons

Buster Keaton

Burns & Allen

WC Fields

Will Rogers

The Marx Brothers

Bob Hope


Vaudeville began dying off in the 1920s, with the growing popularity of silent movies.   For a time, theatres incorporated both.   You’d get live performances, and a movie for your 25 cents.  


But eventually, particularly after sound was perfected, live acts were dropped from the bill in favor of less expensive (and more dependable) film. 


Many vaudevillians moved into movies and radio, and some into Television. But there was a problem.  


A Vaudeville act . . . be it a comedian, animal act, or a magician . . . could do the same act 6 shows a day, 6 days a week, for 20 years and never run out of audiences.   One appearance on a big TV show, and a carefully honed and cultivated act would be seen by 20 million viewers, pretty much `burning it’ forever.


You could be the greatest acrobat in the world, but after appearing on Jackie Gleason or Ed Sullivan once, the producer would come out and exclaim . . .”Wow! That was great!   What else can you do?”


One of the reasons Abbott & Costello’s fortunes are said to have waned in the 1950s was because they were unwilling to `trust’ new routines, and relied on the tried and true bits they’d used for years successfully in Vaudeville. 


After more than a dozen feature films, and a TV series, they’d gone to the well too often with the same material.  Newer comedy teams, like Martin & Lewis, captured the attention of America largely because they updated their material over time.


Which brings us to `Slowly I turned”, which is perhaps one of the most copied Vaudeville routines of all.  


The skit goes something like this:


A disheveled man corners a stranger and tells him a tale of betrayal by his wife or girlfriend, and his best friend. She ran off with the rogue and he spends years trailing them from town to town, finally catching up with them in Niagara Falls.


He describes how he approached, and then throttled the man (step by step . . . slowly I turned), acting out the attack on the helpless stranger.  Every time the listener to the story says the magic words, "Niagara Falls," the teller attacks him again.


The origins are in dispute, with three different comedians claiming to have created the routine.  Joey Faye claimed authorship, as did Harry Steppe, and Samuel Goldman.


In any event, here are three versions of this venerable routine. 





Friday, October 2, 2009

As Graceful As A Gisele

One of the loveliest and most popular exports from Canada during the 1950’s was songstress and violinist Gisele MacKenzie.

While probably best remembered for her years on Your Hit Parade (See my first MOMPD blog 'Twas Rock & Roll That Killed Your Hit Parade), Gisele also appeared on her own TV show in the late 1950s, and was a staple on radio and TV variety shows of the 1950s and the early 1960s.

Although possessed of a pure, nearly crystalline voice, Gisele rarely scored on the top 40 charts. Her single  Hard To Get (1955), which ranked at  #31 for that year, was her biggest hit.

I remember her best playing the violin with her mentor, and friend Jack Benny.  Gisele and Jack were both accomplished violinists (Jack only pretended to be awful), and the chemistry between them was a joy to behold.

So, for a Friday afternoon quickie, I present a couple  of clips of Gisele and Jack, doing what they did best.  Delighting audiences with their playing, and comedic timing.

(Double Click To View on Youtube)

(The running gag on this episode was Jack’s purchase of cheap Hong Kong suits . . .which explains why it comes apart on him at the end).

And one more . . .  from Your Hit Parade (circa 1954) with Gisele showing us her vocal talents.

We lost Gisele in 2003, at the age of 76. 

She was, and always will be, something very special from the early days of television.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hollywood Palace 1966




For my second installment of shows from The Hollywood Palace, we look at offerings from 1966.   For those who missed the first go-round, in August I brought you Hollywood Palace 1965.


These variety shows are a unique snapshot of where are hearts and our minds were during the pivotal 60’s.    Musically, the top 5 singles of the year were:


1  Frank Sinatra     Strangers in the Night

2  Nancy Sinatra    These Boots Are Made for Walkin'

3  The Beatles       Yellow Submarine

4  The Beach Boys  Good Vibrations

5  The Beatles       Paperback Writer


While the psychedelic 60’s hadn’t quite made it to mainstream America, the first hints of real change were beginning to show up, with new bands like The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream coming onto the scene.  


Still, crooners like Sinatra, and Como, and Al Martino managed to carve out hit records.  And less radical rock groups, like The Lovin Spoonful, Herman’s Hermits, and The Hollies dominated the Top 40 market.  Other big hits of 1966 included:


"The Sound of Silence"     - Simon & Garfunkel

"We Can Work It Out"       - The Beatles

"I Got You (I Feel Good)"  - James Brown

"Turn! Turn! Turn!"         - The Byrds

"Let's Hang On!"               - The Four Seasons

"Secret Agent Man"           - Johnny Rivers
"Hanky Panky"                  - Tommy James and the Shondells

"Lil' Red Riding Hood"       - Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

"Born Free"                       - Roger Williams


An eclectic collection, to be sure.   But it was still possible for `crossover hits’, between country and rock, R&B, and pop in the mid-60’s.    


At the Academy Awards, The Sound of Music won Best Picture, Lee Marvin copped the Best Actor award for his role in Cat Ballou, and Julie Christie won for Darling.   The Best Screenplay and Best Original Score went to Dr. Zhivago, and the The Sandpiper  won best Original song with  The Shadow of Your Smile.


A big change - Networks shifted to nearly all color programming in 1966, although much of the country was still watching on older B&W sets.  


On TV, The Monkees debuted in the fall of 1966, as did the first episode of Star Trek (The Man Trap), and Mission Impossible would begin a 7 year run. 


Batman had burst onto the scene at the start of the year, and influenced (and not necessarily in a good way) many other TV shows that suddenly decided that they had to be `camp’ to be popular.


1966 would be the last year for Rawhide (1959), Shindig (1964), The Addams Family (1964), Ben Casey (1961), Mister Ed (1961), and The Donna Reed Show (1958).  


It was also the year that we lost Walt Disney, Ed Wynn, Gertrude Berg, and William Frawley.


That year Lyndon Johnson was President, the Vietnam War was bogging down but the tide of public opinion hadn’t turned against it yet, and Russians manages to crash land a robot space probe on Venus. 


A B-52 bomber collides with another plane over Spain, dropping three 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs near the town of Palomares, and 1 into the sea. Sniper Charles Whitman kills 13 people and wounds 31 from atop the University of Texas at Austin and Richard Speck murders 8 student nurses in their Chicago dormitory.


It was a turbulent, sometimes difficult time for America.  With race riots in some cities, a growing counter-culture movement, and an ever widening generation gap. 


It is against this backdrop that the following 4 variety shows were aired.   The clothes may look a little funny 40+ years later, and the music a bit dated, but this is how we saw the world around us through the magic of TV.




Hollywood Palace - February 12, 1966

Host: Song & Dance man Donald O'Connor who proves from the opening number he can still dance, followed by Chinese acrobats The See Hee group.


Roger Williams plays the Flight of the Bumblebee followed by Bach’s Minuet in G Major (Which was also a big Rock hit in the 60’s).  The Three Bragazis (European Clown/acrobat act) are followed by Shecky Greene doing standup comedy.   Jane Morgan does an Al Jolson Medley, and Paul Anka sings a medley of his songs.




Hollywood Palace - April 02, 1966

Host  Martha Raye (host) sings "Lover" & "Little Girl Blue" while British rock Duo  Chad and Jeremy  sing "Distant Shores". Sgt. Barry Sadler, who had a huge hit with - "The Ballad of the Green Berets" also sings “The 'A' Team".  MGM musical dancer Ann Miller does a routine to  "Slap That Bass".

George Carlin performs long before he let his hair grow long, and Steve Rossi sings "The Impossible Dream" and he and Marty Allen perform a lion tamer comedy routine.  


(Marty, now in his 80s, still performs!).



Hollywood Palace - May 7, 1966

Hosted by Judy Garland who sings- "What the World Needs Now Is Love" & "By Myself Alone" and does a duet with Van Johnson - "Mr. and Mrs. Clown".

Johnny Rivers, who had a big hit that year with "Secret Agent Man" does that and "The Snake". Jack Carter does standup, and Columbian acrobats round out the hour.




Hollywood Palace - September 17, 1966

Hosted by the show’s producer: Bing Crosby (who hosted 31 times in the 7 year run), this was the fall opener for the 1966-67 season.

For the teenagers they had  The Mamas & the Papas "Dancing in the Street".  Bing Crosby  gave us  "Strike Up the Band"  and George Burns sang  "Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil" --Bing and George do - "You're Nobody till Somebody Loves You".

Also Lola Falana , Jane Marsh (soprano) - "Mi chiamano Mimi" (aria from Puccini's "La Boheme"), a French comic magician, and the Rhodins (aerialists).




Perhaps the most interesting thing about these shows is that they represent an amalgam, of the old Hollywood stars of the 1940’s and 1950’s along with the new and up and coming acts of the 1960’s.


In any event, if you were there, and old enough to remember 1966, these are 4 terrific time capsules.   If you are too young to remember them, they give you a great opportunity to see America’s taste in entertainment from nearly 45 years ago.