Friday, November 25, 2016

F TROOP Fridays: "O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly" (1965)









F TROOP Fridays: Number 13










F TROOP: "O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly" (1965 ABC-TV/Warner Brothers) Season One, Episode One: Original Air Date December 7, 1965.  Starring Forrest Tucker as Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke, Larry Storch as Corporal Randolph Agarn, Ken Berry as Captain Wilton Parmenter, Melody Patterson as Wrangler Jane, Frank deKova as Chief Wild Eagle, Benny Baker as Pete, James Hampton as Bugler Dobbs.  Guest Star Lee Meriwether as Lily O'Reilly.  Directed by Les Goodwins.  Written by Arthur Julian.


On a sunny day in Fort Courage, Sergeant O'Rourke and Corporal Agarn are hard at work inside their saloon with bartender Pete.  No, the thriving cornerstone business of O'Rourke Enterprises isn't open for the day just yet--before they can, there's whiskey that still needs to be watered down. 


The slightest noise from outside makes good old Pete nervous, with some good reason: "Nobody knows you own this saloon!  Everybody thinks I own it!"  Corporal Agarn reassures the public face of the Fort Courage Saloon that they're doing nothing wrong--just "puttin' the chaser in the bottle!"  Easy to get away with, when your business is unchallenged for a hot and thirsty 109-mile radius.  Oh, and that ruckus outside?   The noon stage from Dodge City just arrived with pretty young newcomer Lily O'Reilly.



Agarn's reaction to her is fair representative of every other lovesick horndog Fort Courage male, but the more reserved O'Rourke proves to be as sharp an operator outside the saloon as in it, immediately catchin' on that she's a "daughter of the old sod".  Aye, but shrewd Miss O'Reilly pegs him as a "chip off the old blarney stone".  A promisin' beginnin', mind ya, but there's soon troublin' signs....


Lily plans to give the town a second female entrepreneur to go with general store proprietor Wrangler Jane.  And a rather progressive one, since she plans to open up a competing saloon to share that 109 mile radius with O'Rourke's.  That is, until she learns that a soldier on active duty is her competitor: a revelation that has her taking over the Sarge's lease with nary a struggle.   With 99 years (and an option for 99 more) secured, O'Reilly begins making successful changes, while seething O'Rourke watches helplessly as his business contacts and partners desert him one by one for the enchanting "new management" his saloon is under.


For the second week in a row after Honest Injun, well established O'Rourke Enterprises faces a challenge to the old master's throne.   For all of the Sarge's business sense, Ms. O'Reilly can match him in that category.  It's Lily's feminine wiles that give her a leg up, allowing her to simply blast through every roadblock the Sergeant can throw out: a lease, a liquor permit from the military governor (watch out, Jane!)...

How soon do you want that permit?
..and even O'Rourke's heretofore iron-clad agreement with the area's only whiskey producer.  No one can look into her smilin' Irish eyes and say no.

Ninety-nine years, with an option for ninety-nine more!
The last of five installments helmed by comedy veteran Leslie Goodwins (the MEXICAN SPITFIRE series, countless Leon Errol RKO shorts), O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly moves merrily along while you're watching it.  By this time only two years from retiring (he died in 1969), Goodwins remains a maestro of visual gags, milking props (a cookie jar, the Captain's portrait of General Grant) for all they're worth and getting just enough mileage out of the distraction created by Lily.  Goodwins also knows when to quit, ending that recurring slapstick gag (featuring men falling off roofs and into water troughs) early in the second act.  One quibble, though: the director should have allowed this show-stopping visual to be the closer:


The underlying subtext in O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly: complacency created by O'Rourke's monopoly left him vulnerable to a hostile takeover.  After being served whiskey that is watered down and subpar (with "just a touch of moccasin"), the Sarge's customers wildly approve of the new owner's changes, creating a nine hour wait for entrance.  (To be fair, it's only "six to get to the bar" once you're in.)  A lesson is learned once everything is back to normal: for the grand re-opening, O'Rourke declares that they will "serve whiskey in our whiskey'"!


1955's Miss America, Meriwether is solid casting for the eye-pleasing business rival who causes even the Vice President of O'Rourke Enterprises to consider shifting loyalty ("I was a spy, Sarge!" he insists).  Speaking of Agarn, Larry Storch gets his usual chance to shine here, reprising his drunk act from CAR 54 in an effort to keep Fort Courage a "one sin town" and providing the outpost's new Temperance League with its tambourine as well as the urgency that drives this installment to its climax.


Said finale is the biggest flaw with O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly.  The donnybrook inadvertently started by preachy Agarn is "the Battle of Bull Run all over again", resulting in the demolition of the saloon and Lily O'Reilly's abrupt decision to go back to Dodge.


But it's a more awkward journey back to the status quo than usual.  Lily O'Reilly has every man in town wrapped around her finger (sans O'Rourke, that is), so why shouldn't she just move her saloon back to its original, unharmed building across the street?  The Sergeant is in no position to stop her, since she still has plenty of blackmail material to hang over his head.  (Strangely she only mentions his saloon ownership while on active duty, bypassing the much more serious infraction: a business partnership with the Hekawis!).  When she shows a romantic interest in her rival in the end--and that does make sense, as he's the only man who challenges her--she still seems to give up her budding empire way too easily. 


Wrangler Jane has only a cameo--strangely, no fireworks from Wilton's lovesick reaction to the new gal in town.  Crazy Cat and Trooper Vanderbilt are both missing from O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly, but Benny Baker makes the second of his five appearances as bartender/frontman Pete. 


THINGS WE LEARNED:

Clem Witherspoon is Fort Courage's never-seen man to see for building permit, and the first of many to disappoint the town's most prominent businessman.

There isn't a rattlesnake within fifty miles of the Fort--according to O'Rourke, it's because the clever creatures know there's a saloon there.

This segment must have taken place after 1874, when Bringing in the Sheaves was written.

Dobbs is pretty hopeless on the bugle, but he's as competent as Don Brewer on drums.   He would later prove to be a talented flutist in What Are You Doing After the Massacre? and That's Show Biz.  Enough to make you think the army should consider a switch from brass instrument to woodwind, just this once.


NUMBER OF TIMES O'ROURKE COULD HAVE BEEN TRIED FOR TREASON:

Once. As mentioned above, Lily O'Reilly certainly could have hung that business agreement with Wild Eagle over his head had she wanted to.  She must have really taken a shine to the Sarge.  Maybe she heard the rumors....

WARNER BROTHERS' RECYCLING, PART 1,570:

The ever-cheap studio found a way to re-use the barroom brawl footage from DODGE CITY (1939) yet again.  While the fit isn't seamless, it works better here than in A Fort's Best Friend is Not a Mother.


PC, OR NOT PC?

One string of comments to offend everyone, with Wild Eagle giving us the most sexist words of all--before he's face to face with Lily O'Reilly--that is.  The Chief laughs off warnings with the cringe-worthy declaration that "squaw is squaw"!  She quickly renders him speechless, so we get no words of wisdom from the wise one this time.


BOTTOM LINE:

I probably overrated this one a little bit initially: the ending is way too pat and some comic potential goes unrealized.  That said, I don't want to knock it down too far.  Until that shakier-than-usual journey back to Fort Courage's existing state of affairs, O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly provides plenty of great laughs and one of the titular Sergeant's most formidable foes.  It's too bad Meriwether never reprised her role: Lily O'Reilly could have been to F TROOP what Samantha Crawford was to MAVERICK.  (***1/2 out of four) 


Monday, October 10, 2016

Television Review: HONDO: "Hondo and the Mad Dog" (1967)









"Your lives are meaningless compared to HONDO!"






HONDO: "Hondo and the Mad Dog"  (1967 ABC-TV/MGM/Batjac Productions) Episode 8; Original Air Date: October 27, 1967.  Starring Ralph Taeger as Hondo Lane, Noah Beery Jr. as Buffalo Baker, Kathie Browne as Angie Dow, Gary Clarke as Captain Richards, Buddy Foster as Johnny Dow.  Guest Stars James MacArthur as Corporal Barton, Royal Dano as Liebel, Ben Wright as Dr. Paul, William Benedict as Willie, James Beck as Sergeant Highton, Michael Harris as Mills.  Written by Nathaniel Tanchuck.  Directed by Arthur H. Nadel.


Series Overview for HONDO: TV's Unlikeliest Cult Hit at this link   


Perpetual poker loser Corporal Barton is out on patrol with Mills, who is a frequent beneficiary of his fellow non-com's ineptitude at the tables.  The two soldiers are hunting for rabid animals amid reports of a hydrophobia outbreak.   After Mills rebuffs Barton's request for a loan, the Corporal commits robbery and murder, not knowing his crime is being witnessed by Hondo Lane's dog Sam.  After realizing he's being watched, Barton tries to eliminate Sam but fails to do so before Hondo's best friend escapes and rejoins the scout. 


Back at Fort Lowell, Mills' horse turns up without him and Barton informs Captain Richards that he suspects his partner deserted.  Meanwhile, leery Fort Lowell residents give Sam a wide berth in the aftermath of the hydrophobia scare, and tensions intensify once Sam makes a growling lunge at his would-be killer in the cantina.  Corporal Barton slyly suggests that Lane's dog has gone mad, and then Johnny Dow is bitten by a white wolf that is driven away by Sam--with Hondo as the only witness.  With no human corroboration of Lane's version--that the child was bitten by a white wolf--outcry increases to destroy the canine, led by Barton and stern, dog-hating Liebel.  Sam is quarantined with Hondo given 20 hours to find the wolf before his pal will be destroyed.


The independence that comes from "belonging to nobody but himself" and hunting his own dinner turns from asset to liability in the wake of a rabies scare.  Innocent Sam is shunned by Fort Lowell's populace on nothing more than rumors, then pursued by a bloodthirsty lynch mob on admittedly compelling, but circumstantial evidence.  Lane, Buffalo and little Johnny Dow remain loyal, while neutral Captain Richards resists any lawlessness, but man's best friend is otherwise surrounded by enemies in Hondo and the Mad Dog.


Fortunately for our dynamic duo, the much more enlightened Dr. Paul is at Fort Lowell to assist with the hydrophobia scare.  Back from studies overseas with Pasteur, the Doctor is available to treat Johnny Dow--and to see Hondo's reasoning, namely that infection would have Sam biting "anyone and everyone" instead of a select few.   His credibility buys Hondo a little time to find the white wolf, but not much--and even the good Doctor thinks that Hondo may be after a "phantom".


As a rule, genre takes on frontier justice are pretty grim affairs (witness the later Hondo and the Hanging Town) even a novel one such as this.  But writer Nat Tanchuck (well-suited for animal-centric westerns, with numerous episodes of FURY and MY FRIEND FLICKA behind him) provides a fair amount of levity.   Barton's laughably bad "system" (standing pat on middle pairs in a draw game!) makes the source of his "losing streak" obvious and Hondo gets to deliver several deadpanned zingers at stone-faced Liebel (well played by the always sonorous Royal Dano).


Director Arthur H. Nadel established his western bonafides with multiple episodes of THE RIFLEMAN to his credit, and went on to helm a couple of two part LASSIEs.  He handles the challenge of staging more extended animal sequences than usual for the series, with Sam, the guest wolf, and even a chicken figuring prominently into the plot. 


Despite its short run, two of the seventeen HONDO segments featured a main storyline exploring the bond between the titular character and his faithful canine, with Hondo and the Mad Dog being the less sentimental of the Sam-centric episodes.  Hondo might disavow ownership of Sam, but Lane's loyalty to his best friend is never under question.  Lane proves it again here, standing alone between Sam and the throng "foaming at the mouth" to destroy the dog.  (Given his zest for the duty, it's questionable that the "mad" pooch Liebel shot earlier was sick at all.)   


In fact, Hondo and Sam both come through in the clutch, rescuing each other by the time all is said and done, with extra kudos due the latter in my opinion.  Despite an entire town turning against him and wanting him destroyed, Sam bravely saves Johnny from a wolf and Lane from a killer who gets the drop on our human hero.  Does Sam's heroism get him any special consideration afterward?  Nope!  Ever the tough love advocate, Hondo goes off to have a steak dinner while sending Sam out to hunt yet another jackrabbit for his.


Uh, Hondo, you are aware that since the wolf didn't have hydrophobia, there might still be an infected animal out there, aren't you? 


JUST A LITTLE AHEAD OF HIS TIME:

Dr. Paul mentions having had the opportunity to study rabies under Louis Pasteur, and specifically taking part in his successful discovery of a vaccine for humans.  However, HONDO is set five years after the Civil War (1870), some fifteen years before Pasteur's successful treatment of young Joseph Meister for the disease.

It ain't advisable to threaten Sam....
....as Liebel finds out.

HOW MANY CANS OF WHOOPASS?

Self-righteous Liebel gets himself decked for making one too many threats to destroy Sam.  Later, Hondo needs a timely assist from his canine pal to subdue the guilty Corporal later.  Sam actually does more scrapping than his human in Hondo and the Mad Dog, running off the wolf before Johnny is harmed further and tangling with Barton twice before the climactic showdown.


IS THE CANTINA STILL STANDING?

Lane stepped outside to do all his fightin' this time.  The only indoor skirmish was Sam's angry reaction to the man who attempted to stab him in the desert, and no furniture was harmed in the production of this television episode.


A DOG'S LIFE:

Hey, this one is all about Sam, what more can I say?


THE BOTTOM LINE:

An episode centered around Sam seems like a sure thing, and the extra time with our four legged friend is always welcome.  While a statement against vigilante justice isn't unusual, this one is made in a unique fashion, with a surprsingly healthy dose of humor considering the subject matter.  Not as emotionally resonant as Hondo and the Gladiators, but arguably better executed.   (***1/2 out of four)

HONDO airs every Sunday morning at 7:30 A.M. Eastern Time on getTV, and throughout the month of October getTV is airing a four episode HONDO marathon every Wednesday night starting at 8 P.M. Eastern.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Bob Traps a Wolf" (1957)



LOVE THAT BOB (a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW): "Bob Traps a Wolf" (Original Air Date: 1/3/57) Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary DeCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Charmaine "Schultzy" Schultz, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Lyle Talbot as Paul Fonda, Angie Dickinson as Cynthia.  Written by Paul Henning, Shirl Gordon and Phil Shuken.  Directed by Norman Tokar. 

Series overview of LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW at this link. 

Margaret has cooked beef stroganoff for dinner, but Playboy Bob already has something cookin' with model Cynthia, who has invited the perennial free bird to fly by her nest after the day's work is done.  Since Margaret is tired of putting dinners in the fridge (there's fourteen in there by her current count) Bob decides to play matchmaker for his sister and Paul Fonda, who matchmaker Bob suddenly deems a perfect brother-in-law despite his constant references to him as a "wolf.  It's to no avail: Bob only succeeds in offending Margaret, who feels like she's "on the auction block".  


Sister Margaret gets her revenge by implying to Cynthia that she is actually Bob's wife--and tending to multiple "little Bobs", including young Elvis.  With Cynthia slipping away, Bob doubles down on his attempts to marry his sister off, enlisting nephew Chuck with some financial enticement.  Margaret counterplots once her brother's back is turned, outbidding "Uncle Bob" for Chuck's services and enlisting Schultzy and Paul the Wolf as assistant blockers set to foil the bachelor photographer's latest conquest attempt.


One nagging question arises when watching Bob Traps a Wolf: why doesn't Bob just invite Cynthia over for dinner at his sister's house?  After all, Cynthia admits she's not much of a cook, and Bob could impress her with a nice, home-cooked meal and then drive his model back to her apartment for a nightcap.  It'd be a lot cheaper than taking her out to eat, and Margaret would certainly be placated: she'd enjoy the company and having her cooking eaten for a change.  In the process, Bob could also destroy any notion Cynthia has that he's a married man.  What's the downside?



Well, if you're an inveterate BOB viewer, you already know the answer--that would mean the possibility of the model getting chummy with Bob's sister--and subsequently becoming privy to his dating habits on other nights!  Man, staying foot loose and fancy free is so much work....


There was always a subtext of marital infidelity to LOVE THAT BOB: circumstances constantly forced Collins to hide his romantic escapades from Margaret, with the bachelor rarely able to take his dates to the home he shared with his sister and nephew.   Reinforcing this feeling, Bob often had to literally sneak out the back door (in the kitchen) to avoid "getting caught" by Margaret, who usually acted more like a wife than an older sister.  During prime time in the Eisenhower Era, this setup was as close as Henning and Cummings could get to a "philandering manual". Still, it was fascinating--sometimes amazing--to see just how far they could go within the boundaries of the era and medium.


In Bob Traps a Wolf, however, this subtext creeps closer to being text than ever before. Margaret all but masquerades as Bob's wife to Cynthia in person, and more blatantly does so over the phone.  As a result, she has Bob's latest target resisting his charms: Cynthia doesn't want to be a home wrecker.  With her trio of supporting players, Ms. MacDonald's act is very convincing--enough so that Bob's romantic intentions are (off-screen) violently foiled.  We only see the aftermath:


So Bob Collins carouses for 14 straight evenings (that we know of, anyway), tries to add another new conquest in front of us, glad-handingly tries to manipulate his friends and family, and ends up getting his much-deserved comeuppance in the form of romantic failure and having his throne usurped at home.  Right?  Wrong--not on ever-subversive LOVE THAT BOB!  The tables turn multiple times in Bob Traps a Wolf, but in the end, it's the real wolf--Bob--who has the trump card, courtesy of his private plane.  When the bluff is called, Margaret, Fonda and Schultzy walk away foiled while playboy Bob Collins wins again. 

Angie Dickinson as Cynthia
Twenty-five year old Angie Dickinson provides the vavavoom factor this time, making the first of two series appearances (1958's Bob and Automation is hilarious, btw).  Interestingly, she only appears in the opening scene at Collins' studio--we visit her apartment twice later, but we're kept outside the front door both times.   The same can't be said for Bob, and damned if we can't keep rooting for the stinker.  The edgiest character of the Fifties?  For sure, his batting average was higher than Bilko's--after all, this show wasn't originally titled YOU'LL NEVER GET LAID, now, was it?


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

In this segment, Hell, who wasn't?  Even the usually hero-worshipping Chuck was an obstacle by episode's end, albeit a paid one.


DID BOB SCORE?

As mentioned above, Bob re-enters Cynthia's apartment on the second try, singing "A Romantic Guy" (the rarely heard lyrics to the show's theme song) while closing the door on us.  I'd say his chances were well over 50% with the future Pepper Anderson at that point.


Bob lays it on a little too thick at times, and his antagonists fail to convince (Margaret and Paul don't even kiss when engaged, for example).  The minor flaws are far from fatal.  Bob Traps a Wolf is arguably the best installment of director Norman Tokar's brief run, giving us a structural surprise (complete with false ending) along with the then-novel twist of letting devilish Bob have the last laugh.  Some belly laughs pop out amidst the twists and turns, and Lyle Talbot's Fonda is always a proper foil.  Add in Angie Dickinson's presence as Bob's date of the week and a typically solid script from Henning, Gordon and Shuken, and this one is almost as big a winner as its protagonist.  (*** out of four)

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Horn Section Salutes: Leslie H. Martinson (1915-2016)

Labor Day Weekend brought sad news to all classic television fans with the report that prolific director Leslie H. Martinson passed away on Saturday, September 3 at the age of 101.


Boston-born Martinson actually started out as a newspaper columnist for his hometown Boston Evening Transcript, but migrated to the West Coast in 1936, starting out in MGM's mail room.  From this inauspicious Hollywood beginning he worked his way up through the ranks, becoming a script supervisor for such classics as THE YEARLING (1946) and EASTER PARADE (1948) and eventually ending up in the director's chair for the first of many, many times on a 1952 episode of COWBOY G-MEN. 

Mickey Rooney in THE ATOMIC KID (1954)

While Martinson ended up helming a number of features, starting with the 1954 Mickey Rooney starrer THE ATOMIC KID, it was on television that he made his greatest impact.  In a career that spanned four decades, "Les" lent his steady hand to everything from MANNIX and CHEYENNE to THE MISADVENTURES OF SHERIFF LOBO and HEY, MULLIGAN!  But here at The Horn Section, Leslie H. Martinson is revered as the most prolific MAVERICK director of them all.

Martinson directed a whopping 18 of the 124 MAVERICK episodes; runnerup Douglas Heyes was responsible for 13, with Richard L. Bare (who also made it to age 101 before he passed away last year) and Arthur Lubin guiding 11 apiece.  No disrespect to the others, but for my money, I'd also pick Martinson as the greatest MAVERICK director of them all: for starters, he handled both Gun-Shy and Shady Deal at Sunny Acres--arguably the top two MAVERICKs among the series' most ardent fans.


For the former, Martinson delivered a pitch-perfect parody of GUNSMOKE from a marvelous Marion Hargrove script, breezily lampooning everything from its iconic opening credits "shootout" to Marshal Dillon's weekly contemplations at Boot Hill.  Fifty-seven years later, it is still the gold standard for television parody in any genre, rarely even approached, much less equaled.


Shady Deal at Sunny Acres was perhaps the quintessential Bret/Bart teaming.  It was co-written by Heyes, who usually directed his own teleplays, but Martinson handled this timeless "sting" flawlessly: it remains as fresh and funny today as it was in 1958.

Garner and Moore in The Rivals

Martinson was the go-to guy for the often wonderfully warped teleplays of Marion Hargrove, also helming the memorable The Rivals (the only MAVERICK to feature Garner, Kelly and Roger Moore) and The Belcastle Brand (James Garner's favorite segment).   The top MAVERICK according to A.C. Nielsen Co.?  Martinson brought that one home as well: The Saga of Waco Williams scored a 35.3 rating and 51 share in February 1959.

While most of the creative minds that drove MAVERICK into the top 10 left along with Huggins in 1959 (most notably Heyes and Hargrove), Leslie H. Martinson continued to guide installments during the Coles Trapnell era: The Ghost Soldiers, A Tale of Three Cities and the memorably wild Hadley's Hunters were among the director's later efforts.  Triple Indemnity, Martinson's final episode, introduced Peter Breck's Doc Holliday as a recurring foil for Bart Maverick.  It would be the series' last successful attempt to do so: Breck ended up appearing five times during the final season.

Meriwether as Catwoman

With the success of Martinson's television work, it is perhaps fitting that the feature he is best remembered for is the 1966 big-screen version of television's BATMAN.  In addition to the challenge of stretching a thirty minute series to feature length, Martinson had to film with a new Catwoman as Lee Meriwether took over for unavailable icon Julie Newmar.  (Nothing against Ms. Meriwether, but it was a thankless task for any other actress in 1966.)  Martinson was more than up to the tasks: given his deft handling of Batman's bomb disposal and the rehydration fiasco at the U.N., it's a real shame that he only handled two episodes of the actual series (and none after the first season).

Just can't get rid of that damn bomb!

I could go on, but you could sum it up by simply saying that on television, he did it all and he did it well--I'd say he even made something of his final assignment, SMALL WONDER, which is no small feat.  R.I.P. Mr. Martinson.  More of Leslie H. Martinson's sublime work for MAVERICK to come on future installments of MAVERICK Mondays, and more reviews of all kinds to follow here at The Horn Section


Thursday, August 11, 2016

F TROOP Fridays: TV GUIDE, August 13-19, 1966

Once again lifting what is a regular feature by Mitchell Hadley at his excellent blog It's About TV, I'm going to take another excursion into his territory for this week's edition of F Troop Fridays with a look back at another classic issue of TV Guide.



It was 50 years ago Saturday that the great Larry Storch became the second star of F TROOP to make the cover of the venerable U.S. television weekly (with co-star Melody Patterson). 

F Troop was riding high at the end of its first season, the first ABC show to survive the time slot on Tuesdays at 9 PM ET opposite CBS' seemingly invincible Red Skelton Show since The Rifleman accomplished the feat in 1961.  Michael Fessier Jr. profiled the man producer Hy Averback called "our gravy comedian" for The World of Larry Storch.



Fessier caught up with Storch and the rest of the F Troop cast during filming of the second season opener, The Singing Mountie. Fessier notes that the comedian seems to have it made at age 43: "a berth on a hit series, an $85,000 dream house, a lovely and devoted wife". 

Forrest Tucker, profiled by the magazine the previous December, has the memorable quote about his lifelong friend and co-star: "Larry lives in a world belonging to Larry Storch; when you get lucky he lets you in."  Fessier goes back to Storch's show-biz beginnings as a boy impressionist in New York, noted for his ability to do character actors of his youth like Guy Kibbee and Charles Grapewin; later, Storch could approximate radio star Frank Morgan so well that he often did the show for Morgan while the star was nowhere near the studio!


The year 1960 is listed as a "career nadir" for Storch, with a stalled career and a problem with alcohol--something that Tucker would also battle with years later.  (It was a rare year without imdb credits for Larry, save for WHO WAS THAT LADY? which was shot in 1959.)  Enter Norma Booth, credited with "shaping him up", taking over management of his career, and marrying Larry in 1961. 

L to R: Larry Storch, Melody Patterson and Norma Storch in 2003

(Incidentally, there's no mention of Norma Storch's bi-racial daughter June Cross in the article, no doubt a sad sign of the turbulent era.  Ms. Cross told her story in the 1996 Frontline documentary Secret Daughter, which she later turned into a book.)

There is, however, an interview with another lifelong Storch friend, Tony Curtis, then still riding high in Hollywood and a co-star with his old Navy friend in four features, including the prior year's THE GREAT RACE and the aforementioned WHO WAS THAT LADY?, mentioned in the article. 

Storch in THE GREAT RACE (1965) as Texas Jack

The second feature article is Edith Efron's TV Game Shows: America's Great Spectator Sport.  Just eight years after the infamous quiz show scandals, all appears to be forgiven, with 32 hours of programming weekly, mostly during daytime.  Predictably, Efron laments the failure of more "intellectual" programs like The Young Set in daytime and 1963-64's East Side/West Side in prime time.  Her article, featuring comments by mainstays like Match Game's Gene Rayburn, Allen Ludden of Password and producer Mark Goodson, isn't a flattering one, but fifty years later, it's safe to say that the venerable game show still isn't going anywhere anytime soon.


Picture feature They're In the Air--As Well as On It profiles the numerous prime time stars who own and fly their own airplanes.  Robert Lansing of Twelve O'Clock High and Lansing's successor, Paul Burke, both fly, as does Daniel Boone icon Fess Parker.  James Franciscus, late of Mr. Novak, owns a $35,000 twin engine Piper. 


This isn't a "males only" club, we learn that Peyton Place star Susan Oliver is a licensed pilot who sees flying as "a nebulous escape from this world we live in".  The four page feature has one glaring exclusion: Bob Cummings, whose flying was featured prominently in three of his series.  A flight instructor offscreen, Cummings' acrimonious departure from My Living Doll in 1965 ended his long run as a prime time sitcom star. 


At 29, singer Nancy Wilson is already a Grammy winning chart topper away from the tube and a frequent variety guest on it, and Singing Fashions features her in four outfits designed by Chuck Howard for those appearances. 


Of course, I have to give Nancy Wilson an extra picture. 



You're welcome.



Another nice surprise is in store on page 36: two pages on Professor Jerry McNeely, who teaches TV writing at the University of Wisconsin and is also Moonlighting for Fun and Profit.  In this case, "those who can't do, teach" is obliterated: McNeely is a decade into his run as one of TV's busiest writers.  His career started in 1956, the same year he joined UW's faculty.  Ten years later, TV Guide is crowning him "television's numero uno writer in Madison, Wisconsin and a radius of a thousand miles in any direction therein".   

Professor Jerry McNeely with students in 1987
A high-minded intellectual writing for "a maligned TV wasteland" (the writer's words, not mine or McNeely's, and this article isn't credited)?  McNeely admits that he yearns for "more challenging" opportunities, but takes the ones TV has to offer and does the best he can.  From my vantage point, ya did quite well, Teach!  McNeely's work for The Twilight Zone, The Eleventh Hour, and Mr. Novak is mentioned, as is the fact that he contributed more scripts to Dr. Kildare (in its final weeks on the air) than any other solo writer. 

McNeely resigned from UW in 1975 to write fulltime and kept selling teleplays, including the TV movies SOMETHING FOR JOEY and FIGHTING BACK: THE STORY OF ROCKY BLEIER.  His career was cut short by a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in the 1990's: he died in 2014.

THE LISTINGS

It's mid-August, so the listings are full of reruns, sports.....and the premiere of a highly acclaimed documentary from a legendary screenwriter and his Emmy-winning brother:

Both The Ed Sullivan Show and Hollywood Palace air this week, so let's follow the example set by It's About TV and compare lineups:

Hollywood Palace: Victor Borge is your host, with comic professor Irwin Corey (who, incidentally, just turned 102 on July 29th!), choreographer-dancer Peter Genarro, the Kim Sisters and the Kim Brothers, and Irish trapeze artist Gale Shawn.


Ed Sullivan: as you can see above, Ed welcomes Jimmy Durante, comic Myron Cohen, Petulia Clark, contortionist Gitta Morelly, Franco Corelli, Dorothy Kirsten, and the Animals (featuring, of course, Eric Burdon).

While Professor Corey is legendary, so was the great Myron Cohen, who appeared on Sullivan's show 34 times.  Doesn't make him Wayne and Shuster, but obviously, Ed liked him.  (Cohen died in 1986 at age 83.)  I probably would take Borge over Durante, but it's close there too.  It isn't so close elsewhere IMO: Sullivan wins with a considerable overall edge in star power. 


A fitting rerun for a week that featured Larry Storch on the cover, as El Diablo gets an encore on Tuesday's F Troop.  The first of three episodes to give him multiple roles, with five show-stopping Storches this time out--two of them female roles.  I haven't gotten around to reviewing this installment yet; nice to get the reminder that I still have 54 F Troop Fridays to go.


Just in case you were thinking that summer was all reruns: earlier on Tuesday the 16th, at 7:30 ET, NBC aired The Angry Voices of Watts, with A FACE IN THE CROWD writer Budd Schulberg narrating and his brother Stuart producing.  Budd had established the subject of the documentary, the Watts Writers' Workshop, in the wake of the August 1965 Watts Riots.  Jimmy Sherman and Sonora McKellar were among the poets presenting their work.

 A legacy still celebrated, four decades later

A short time after The Angry Voices of Watts aired, contributor Harry E. Dolan Jr. sold a teleplay for NBC's fall premiere, The Hero.  This initial sale kick-started Dolan's career as a TV writer; his original drama Losers Weepers (starring a young Yaphet Kotto and also produced by Stuart Schulberg) soon followed in Febuary 1967.  Dolan kept writing and selling scripts until his untimely death in 1981; his later credits included multiple teleplays for Diahann Carroll's hit Julia.  Johnie Scott also benefited from prime time exposure: his article My Home Is In Watts made the October 1966 issue of Harper's magazine.



There's plenty of sports amidst the reruns, with major league baseball teams gearing up for the stretch run and plenty of exhibition football from both the NFL and the AFL.  Friday night finds Johnny Unitas' Colts (coached by Don Shula) battling Charley Johnson's Cardinals.

TV TELETYPE:

Goodson-Todman Productions reportedly has six shows pending with NBC for 1967-68, but it doesn't appear that any of them eventually made the prime time schedule.  The only one listed is Uncle Helen, starring My Favorite Martian star Ray Walston.

With The Dick Van Dyke Show ending its run, Morey Amsterdam is guesting on a Daktari in the fall.  The episode, The Chimp Who Cried Wolf, aired on December 27th.  We can safely assume that DON'T WORRY, WE'LL THINK OF A TITLE hadn't done much for his big screen prospects.


Unsold pilot The Two of Us airs August 29th on CBS.  Billy Mumy and Barry Livingston (My Three Sons) star.  Pat Crowley is also listed in the cast; I would assume that this was filmed long before 1966, since Crowley was starring in Please Don't Eat the Daisies for NBC from 1965-67.


Milton Berle is lining up the guest stars for his comeback series for ABC in the fall.  A closer inspection reveals the star studded lineup is heavy with Uncle Miltie's fellow ABC stars: Phyllis Diller (The Pruitts of Southampton), Adam West (Batman), David Janssen (The Fugitive) and Van Williams (The Green Hornet).

Finally, it wouldn't be a 1966 magazine without a cigarette ad!


And, Nancy Wilson, one more time:


This wraps up the F Troop trilogy of cover articles, but it won't be our last retro TV Guide review.  Pinky swear.  There's plenty of non-cover profiles of series stars (Melody Patterson, Edward Everett Horton) left to explore, and other TV Guide cover articles for our other ongoing classic TV episode guides here at the Section. 

'Til next time, do remember that you can get your vintage TV Guide fix weekly (every Saturday, as a matter of fact) at It's About TV.