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People Are Funny

June 30, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on the Astound TV Network with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

 

There are many examples in film and television history where life imitates art.

But there are many fewer times when art imitates another art form.

Such is the unique case in the 1946 classic movie, People Are Funny.

The film was based on the popularity of the radio show of the same name (and would later spawn a TV show) and starred venerable vaudevillian and film star Jack Haley, best known for his dual role as Hickory Twicker/the Tin Man from The Wizard Of Oz.

People Are Funny — the radio show — was created by John Guedel and ran from 1942 to 1960 in which contestants were asked to carry out stunts in order to prove that…dare I say, “people are funny.” Many of these stunts lasted weeks, months, or even years. But contestants who were successful received prizes. For example, in 1945, the host announced that $1,000 would go to the first person to find one of 12 plastic balls floating off California. Two years later, an Ennylageban Island native claimed the prize.

Riding the momentum of the radio success, Paramount Pictures came up with a fictional storyline, using the real radio program and show’s producer:

John Guedel (played by actor Phillip Reed) is panicked and dumbfounded when his popular radio show Humbug is immediately taken off the air for making fun of the legal profession. Given a deadline to produce a replacement, Gudel contacts his writer/girlfriend Corey Sullivan to help him but Corey has another client, Leroy Brinker, seeking a radio show for himself. The two come across a radio show put on in a small town called People Are Funny that mixes bizarre challenges for contestants with musical entertainment. Corey gets the show’s producer, Pinky Wilson, to bring his show to Mr. Guedel.

One of the fictional schemes in the movie was when a young singer agrees to partake in the program, showing off his vocal cords but also agreeing to play the game show–while answering questions in a stockade.  He’s sucked into the deal by being promised a date with a real “honey,” only instead of a young girl he’s met with the sticky stuff made from bees.

The film had no shortage of big names for the time period.  In addition to Haley playing the role of Pinky Wilson, the movie also starred one-time pop idol turned mainstream actor/musician Rudy Vallee in the role of Ormsby Jamison.

Ozzie Nelson, riding the success of his own popular radio show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, played the role of Leroy Brinker.

The role of the Master of Ceremonies for the fictional “People Are Funny?” … none other than the REAL host of the radio show, Art Linkletter, who starred in the radio edition from 1943 until the program’s end in the early 1960s.  He also later anchored the television version of the show, which was very popular in the mid-1950s and won a pair of Emmy Awards.

Linkletter, among many notable programs he would go on to host, also had a short stint as host of the “Tonight Show,” filling in between the sudden and unexpected departure by host Jack Parr and when Johnny Carson was contractually able to take over the role.

You can see People Are Funny — the movie — on ATVN this Friday evening at 8pm.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on the Astound TV Network, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Jane Wyatt

June 23, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Before you check out the star-studded cast in the film, Katherine, on ATVN over the next week, you may be interested in the fascinating background about one of the movie’s central characters–that of Katherine’s mother–played by Jane Wyatt.

Jane Waddington Wyatt was born on August 12, 1910 in the unique village of Franklin Lakes, New JerseyFranklin Lakes was formed by an act of the New Jersey Legislature from portions of Franklin Township, based on the results of a referendum and was named for William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin.  

At a young (undisclosed) age, she moved to attend Miss Chaplin’s School in New York City and starred in the roles of Joan of Arc and Shylock.  She attended Barnard College for two years before leaving to join the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for six months and took on a variety of roles.

Wyatt then auditioned for and won an understudy role in the Broadway play, Trade Winds.  When her turn came to perform, she received terrific reviews and earned a motion picture contract from Universal Studios.

For nearly 15 years, she made a name for herself starring alongside some of Hollywood’s best known actors of the era, including Frank Capra‘s Lost Horizon with Ronald Coleman, Gentleman’s Agreement with Gregory Peck, Task Force with Gary Cooper, None But The Lonely with Cary Grant, and with Randolph Scott in the western drama, Canadian Pacific.

Wyatt’s film career came to a screeching halt in the early 1950s when she was blackballed for criticizing Senator Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communism investigation campaigns.

She went back to New York City and performed once again on the stage until television came calling.

Wyatt won the role as Robert Young’s on-screen wife in the popular family comedy, Father Knows Best – winning three Emmy Awards in consecutive years for Outstanding Lead Actress in a TV comedy in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

She then made a number of guest appearances on shows throughout the 1960s, including Wagon Train, Going My Way, Here Comes The Brides, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Love, American Style.

But her best-remembered television appearance was as the human mother of the alien character, Mr. Spock, on Star Trek.

Wyatt would go on performing on television shows and films sporadically in the 1970s and early 1980s–her most memorable roles were as Emily Alman in Katherine, Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary, in 1978’s The Nativity and a recurring role in the medical drama, St. Elsewhere.

Her final acting gig was a return to playing Spock’s mother in the 1986 motion picture, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Wyatt was quoted as saying that she received more fan mail from those two appearances on the original “Star Trek” show/film series than any other acting performance she had throughout her career.

Wyatt suffered a stroke in 1995 and never acted again.

She died peacefully in her home on October 20, 2006 at the tender age of 96.

Be on the lookout for Jane Wyatt’s standout performance in the 1975 film, Katherine, coming up on the ATVN Movie Vault, this Saturday at 9:30 pm on ATVN.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on the Astound TV Network, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 

The Life of William Bendix

June 16, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation. 

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

William Bendix, who would go on to star in radio, television and films, had an auspicious start to his working career.

He would be fired as a bat boy for the New York Yankees baseball team.

The reason?  He obeyed orders from Babe Ruth during the height of his popularity to go out and buy him hot dogs and sodas right before a game — which was against team rules.

Twenty years later, Bendix starred in the The Babe Ruth Story motion picture, portraying the titular character.

*********

Bendix was born in Manhattan, the only child of Oscar and Hilda (Carnell) Bendix. Named William after his paternal German grandfather, his uncle was composer, conductor, and violinist Max Bendix.  He would work odd jobs through the Great Depression, until deciding at the age of 30 to try his hand at acting.

After six years, he starred in his first feature film, The Glass Key, and in other film noir flicks. He had success largely playing rough but kind-hearted gangsters, soldiers or “blue-collar” type roles.  From 1942 until his death in 1964, Bendix was featured in 66 movies.  His greatest individual accomplishment in films was earning an Academy Award nomination for his role as a soldier in the 1942 war classic, Wake Island.

But in addition to his success on the big screen, Bendix became a national treasure throughout the 40s and 50s by portraying the fictional Chester A. Riley in the hit radio and later television series, The Life of Riley.

Originally a radio treatment to be a vehicle for Groucho Marx in a show called, “The Flotsam Family,” series creator Irving Brecher saw Riley in a film in which he played a taxi cab driver with a heavy Brooklyn accent.  According to the book “Raised on Radio,” Brecher went back and rewrote the premise of his show, basing the lead character on a “meat-and-potatoes” man of the house with comical frailties, casting Bendix in the lead.

The result was a Top 20 show through the latter half of the 1940s, in a period that also featured other radio show giants hosted by legends like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Milton Berle, Red Skelton, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and many others.  Bendix also starred in the film version of the show in 1949 — the movie grossing $1.6 million at the box office.

The comedic plotlines centered around Riley himself — a gullible and clumsy but big-hearted man. Although operating with the best of intentions, Riley had the inclination of turning slight misunderstandings and slightly troubling situations into near-disasters.  He also had the uncanny ability to successfully play off of unique characters like his neighbor Waldo Binny, “Digger” O’Dell (“the friendly undertaker”), his co-worker and best friend, Gillis, and other colorful personalities.

To give yourself a treat, find copies of “Riley’s” radio shows involving his traditional Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day holidays episodes and also an episode entitled, “A Spicy Book.”

His trademark lines uttered on the show were some of the most popular catch-phrases of the decade.

Because of his movie contract, Bendix was not available when the series transitioned to television.  After an initial failed attempt with “The Great One” (Jackie Gleason) in the title role, Bendix reclaimed the role of Riley in 1953.  The show quickly shot up in the Nielson’s ratings (reaching as high as #16 in its first season), followed by five more years as a hit show, perennially winning its time slot.

William continued acting in movies and guest-starring on television until he was cast to star in a brand new sitcom in 1964 but CBS removed him from the project because of a rumor of ill-health.  This action severely curtailed Bendix’s job opportunities in the industry.  Bendix sued the network, claiming that he was in great health, and won the lawsuit, but the damage was done for the remainder of his career.  He later died of pneumonia at the age of 58.

In his obituary in The New York Times, Bendix was quoted as saying, “I’ve had a long, varied, pleasant, eventful career. I don’t hate anybody and I don’t have any bitter thoughts. I started out without any advantages, but I’ve been lucky and successful and I’ve had fun.”

You can see William Bendix in one of his most prominent film roles–that of Nick, the Saloon Owner, in the film, The Time of Your Life, in the “RCN Movie Vault” this Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on ATVN.  (This movie was made in 1948, at the height of his popularity on radio.)

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ATVN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 

Buster Keaton’s Early Career

June 10, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

You can’t look at early cinema without studying the great contributions by comedian/producer/director/screenwriter Buster Keaton.

Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton has been credited with inspiring fellow legendary directors and comedians from Orson Welles to Mel Brooks to Johnny Knoxville.

He started in the entertainment business at the age of six, working with his parents doing physical comedy and vaudeville acts and road shows.  Some of his most popular acts were getting thrown by his father, who pretended to be angry with him. (Buster and his family toured with renowned illusionist Harry Houdini for years.)

Unbeknownst to the audience, a suitcase handle was sewn into Buster’s clothing making it easy for his father to reach in and throw his child who had become very proficient at landing on his feet and avoiding injury doing what seemed like extreme physical acts.

According to busterkeaton.com, his act was advertised as “The Roughest Act That Was Ever in the History of the Stage”.  Decades later, Keaton said that he was never hurt by his father and that the falls and physical comedy were a matter of proper technical execution. In 1914, Keaton told the Detroit News: “The secret is in landing limp and breaking the fall with a foot or a hand. It’s a knack. I started so young that landing right is second nature with me. Several times I’d have been killed if I hadn’t been able to land like a cat. Imitators of our act don’t last long, because they can’t stand the treatment.”

It was also as a child that he learned that if he smiled during his physical comedy routines, he didn’t get as many laughs from the audience.  Thus, he quickly developed the ability to not show any expression on his face during his routine–an action that later earned him the nickname “the great stone face.”

Originally skeptical of the new medium that was film, Keaton quickly adapted his highly entertaining physical humor to the big screen and became one of the greatest early comedians in the cinemas.

After great success in films as an actor and comedian between 1917 to 1920, Keaton quickly formed his own production company, allowed him to produce and direct his own films and create unparalleled physical comedic scenes throughout the rest of the 1920s.

Among his great physical highlights caught on film include Keaton sitting on top of a collapsing two-story building and escaping unharmed – as if he was on a surfboard riding a wave and dismounting like he was on a beach.

His 1926 classic, The General, combined tremendous feats of physical comedy with Keaton’s love of trains, including an epic locomotive chase.  Initially, it was not considered a financial success.  In addition to going way over budget, many people couldn’t stand watching so many death-defying physical acts (done, of course, without the benefits of any CGI).  However, the film is regarded by many as one of the greatest comedy films of all time.

The myth that Keaton couldn’t make a successful transition to talkies was just that — a myth.  Unlike , who disliked talking pictures vehemently, Keaton did immediately jump in to the new innovations and starred in a number of successful, early sound pictures for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  It was his growing discontent of working with MGM, his overwhelming work schedule, an ugly divorce and an increasing dependency on alcohol that drove him out of the film industry for several years.

But Keaton’s film career and legendary work was far from over. We will look at more of Buster’s great legacy in a future blog entry here at the “Showplace.

In the meantime, you can see Buster Keaton in one of his early talkies, Parlor, Bedroom and Bath on Thursday, June 16, at 9:00 am on ATVN.

 

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on the Astound TV Network, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

House on Haunted Hill

May 26, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on Astound TV Network with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

It may be a cliche, but it also can be very true…

You can’t top an original.

So is the case for the original version of the supernatural horror film classic, House on Haunted Hill.

The 1959 motion picture starring Vincent Price, Richard Long and Carol Ohmart sends shivers down viewers’ spines in the first few seconds of the film (even before the conclusion of the opening credits and not a single visual picture appears on the screen.)

The characters immediately break the “fourth wall” by looking and speaking directly to the audience and details are given about their background and announce that evening’s activities.

The movie’s premise is that Frank and Annabelle Loren (Price and Ohmart) are a twisted married couple who invite five people to a rented establishment for a “haunted house” party, offering their guests $10,000 if they can stay the entire night.

All five guests who attended the party were complete strangers to each other (or were they?) and agreed to the deal.  All the attendees are from different backgrounds and were each chosen for different reasons.  At midnight, the doors were locked.  With the windows barred and no working radios or telephones available, the twists continue to evolve as Frank accuses Annabelle of trying to kill him to inherit his money and…

Well, you’ll have to watch it to experience all the turns, thrills and chills for yourselves!

The movie was based on a story of the same name by Shirley Jackson that came out a year before the film was released and was a huge success–grossing over $2.5 million at the box office and was made on an estimated budget of $200,000.

Price, of course, was already well-known as an icon in the horror industry at the time of “House’s” release after years of successful work in both radio and motion pictures.  His starring role in this film continued a steady stream of 1950s box office hits, coming after The House of Wax, The Fly and The Return of the Fly.

Price’s co-star, Richard Long, would go on to become a household face in the 1960s as the star of the popular television western, The Big Valley.

The film’s director, William Castle, was a big fan of the original novel and didn’t stray far from the book’s premise.  According to an article published on Halloween 2014 in “Architect” magazine, Castle selected one of the eerie, yet historic Gothic houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright to film the exterior shots of the movie.  Interior scenes were filmed on sound stages built to replicate Victorian styles of the late 1800s.

Castle also did a remarkable job of utilizing the key elements of black-and-white film by featuring long shadows across many scenes, and built suspense by strategically delaying character’s faces as they slowly appear in scenes due to lack of light.

Castle himself was a big fan of legendary scaremaster Alfred Hitchcock and tried to recreate many traditional dramatic elements used by the Master of Suspense.  Ironically, Hitchcock reportedly loved Castle’s horror classic and his decision to use black-and-white filmmaking.  Hitch used the exact same color process in his very next film, Psycho.

The lasting success of “House” is indicated by a 90% fresh rating on the popular film review site “Rotten Tomatoes”, and has spawned several subsequent movies following the original’s premise.

You can see the 1959 version of House on Haunted Hill, starring Vincent Price, airing Friday, June 2, at 9:30 pm, on the Astound TV Network.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

George Kennedy

May 12, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

One of the great aspects of the classic film, Charade, is its all-star cast.  Cary Grant, Audrey Heburn, James Coburn…the list goes on.

But people may be surprised to know that one of its biggest stars–and arguably the  movie’s most sinister villain, George Kennedy, was actually appearing in one of his earliest movie roles!

Kennedy was born on February 18, 1925, in New York City, into a show business family. He made his stage debut at the tender age of two — in a touring company’s production of Bringing Up Father.  Aside from a few television appearances, it would be nearly 35 years until George made it onto the Silver Screen.

Enlisting in the United States Army at the age of 17 during World War II, Geroge served 16 years, reaching the rank of captain. Kennedy served in the infantry under George S. Patton, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and he earned two Bronze Stars. Kennedy re-enlisted after the war and was discharged in the late 1950s due to a back injury.

After a recurring role on television’s Phil Silvers Show, Kennedy made his film debut in 1961’s The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, followed quickly by more prominent roles in the western, Lonely Are The Brave (starring Kirk Douglas), the romance/mystery/comedy, Charade, and a thriller, Strait-Jacket (with Joan Crawford).

A few years later, George appeared in the classic Cool Hand Luke and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role while also receiving a nomination for the corresponding Golden Globe.

Before the 1960s were out, Kennedy had appeared in 27 films before the end of 1969, including classics like Shenandoah, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, Bandolero, The Boston Strangler and the film version of McHale’s Navy.

But George’s success would continue early in 1970.

Kennedy would star in three films that year, none bigger than one of 1970’s summer blockbusters (and there were several), AirportThe star-studded air-disaster drama would be Universal Pictures’ biggest commercial success to date and earn ten Oscar nominations. Kennedy won a Golden Globe as a supporting actor portraying the character, Joe Patroni.

Airport would spawn a new generation of “disaster films,” including three other sequels.  Kennedy was the only actor to appear in each new installment of the film series.

George would continue to star in a wide variety of genres for the next several decades.  In 1988, he would introduce himself to a new generation of moviegoers by handling the role of Captain Ed Hocken — sidekick to Leslie Neilsen’s legendary turn as Lieutenant Frank Drebin, in The Naked Gun film series.

The first installment is regarded as one of the greatest comedy films of all-time and is even listed on The New York Times’ top 100 movies ever (Kennedy’s movies have several entries on this list).  George would continue to work in various film and television projects until the 2014 film, The Gambler.

At the time of his death in 2016, Kennedy was the oldest living actor to win an Oscar.  Coincidentally, he died the day of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony. 

You can see George Kennedy in classic films, including Charade, airing this Saturday at 8pm on ATVN.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ATVN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

The “Good” Hope

May 5, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on the Astound Broadband TV Network with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

You can make a serious argument that Bob Hope was the most famous entertainer in the world in the 20th century.

Very few people, if anyone, will ever accumulate more awards, honorary degrees and other accolades from as many countries while starring in more shows, movies and special programs and hosting as many galas, events and award shows than Hope.

One could also argue that very few public figures have had a more polarizing effect from fans and followers worldwide.

Today we shall examine the optimistic view and share some of the many positives in the legendary career of one Leslie Townes Hope.

While many regard him as one of the greatest Americans ever, it’s ironic that he was not born in the USA.

Originally a product of Eltham, London (now the Royal Borough of Greenwich), Hope’s family (which included seven boys in all) immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio when Bob was eight years old.  By the age of 12, he earned pocket money singing, dancing and performing comedy on the street.

Hope spent a brief amount of time as a boxer, a butcher’s assistant, a lineman and a tree surgeon, among other odd jobs.  While some rumors indicate his boxing career gave him his now famous odd-sized nose, he actually had his face smashed while clearing trees, which forced him to have reconstructive surgery on his face.

Hope initially decided to become a dancer–Fatty Arbuckle gave Bob one of his first big breaks.  While having success in vaudeville, he failed his first screen test for a French film company in 1930.

Undaunted, Bob continued to develop his now patented rapid-fire comedic delivery on the radio, on the stage and then, eventually, in pictures.  His big break came in 1938’s The Big Broadcast, in which Hope’s comedy not only stood out amongst the star-studded cast, but he first sang the song that would become his trademark, “Thanks for the Memories” (which also won an Academy Award as Best Original Song).

His star power now established in films, Hope would continue to build his legacy in all forms of media, but became particularly entrenched in the fabric of America with his tireless work performing for the military in World War II.

Between 1941 and 1991, Hope made 57 tours for the United Service Organizations, entertaining active duty American military personnel around the world. In 1997, Congress passed a bill that made Hope an honorary veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Hope became internationally famous for his highly successful projects in virtually every media avenue possible for an entertainer…and then some.

We could probably spend several blog entries just talking about the many other great things that Leslie Townes Hope did for America and for the world.

But there is another side to Hope – a side that is much darker – one we will explore in two weeks here at “The Showplace.”

In the meantime, you can see Hope starring in films like My Favorite Brunette, this Monday at 2:30pm, along with his scene-stealing guest starring appearance in various classic television situation comedies on Astound Broadband TV Network.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion

April 27, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

In 1950’s television, program ideas were still very fresh and–except for radio shows that transitioned to TV–there were many “new” origins for programming in the early days of the medium.

One of these original ideas in the 1950s was Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion.

The show was based on using real-life stories of the French Foreign Legion and was filmed on location on often dangerous deserts of Morocco.  The producers would actually work with the members of the French Ministers of National Defense and commanding generals in the French Army.  They would also interview Legionnaires in Zagora, Rabat, Marrakesh, Taroudant and Agadir to come up with realistic story material–a technique later used by producers on shows like M*A*S*H.

The extreme long takes of scenes highlighted by the vastness of the wide open deserts for many of its episodes allowed audiences a chance to experience a realistic view of “traveling along” with the Legionnaires, although several real-life incidents forced the production company to eventually change filming locations to more safe locales in Italy during the show’s run.

To further hype the show, the producers brought in ultra-popular film star Buster Crabbe, who was a hero to many young people in the 1930s and 1940s as the titular character in some of the previous decades’ popular movie serials, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Tarzan.

Crabbe has just finished a successful run hosting his own program, The Buster Crabbe Show, which against the backdrop of a ranch foreman’s bunkhouse featured Crabbe engaging his viewers with games, stories, craft-making, hobbies, informational segments, and interviews with guest performers and personalities.

Crabbe was also an international hero with medal victories in the 1928 and 1932 Olympic games.

Joining Crabbe in the cast was longtime western star John Forrest “Fuzzy” Knight, who was largely responsible for the “lighter” moments on the show.

Knight’s first major picture role was with Hollywood icon Mae West.  He went on to be  a very popular western film star himself from 1928 through the mid-1940s, appearing in over a hundred films.

According to the book, “The Hall of Fame of Western Film Stars,” Knight was named one of the Top 10 Money-Making Western Stars in 1940 and appeared in as many as 10 films in a single year.  His film role offers were beginning to dwindle in the mid-1950s, but his appearance on this show reintroduced him to a brand new audience.  Knight would go on to appear in movies and television shows through 1967, when he retired from show business. 

Rounding out the “Foreign Legion” cast was a newcomer – Buster’s own son – Cullen “Cuffy” Crabbe, who made his acting debut on the program.   

The show produced 65 new episodes and was very popular in syndication for years.  Due to its popularity, three of its episodes were edited together into a full-length motion picture entitled Desert Outpost, which was distributed and released in Europe.

Be sure to watch or set your DVRs for Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, airing for the first time ever on ATVN this spring.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Beneath The 12-Mile Reef

April 21, 2022 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Pick any era and you will have a great technological invention.

In 1953, CinemaScope burst onto the scene with, at the time, the greatest visual images ever produced on any video screen.

Beneath The 12-Mile Reef was one of the first movies using this innovation. The plot was loosely based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” but shot in and around a seafaring town –  with picturesque views for CinemaScope to use and enhance the beauty of the images.

Academy Award-winning Robert Webb took over the reins as director.  For a big box office draw, up-and-coming star Robert Wagner was teamed with established film star Terry Moore for the leads.

Wagner’s star power would later grow with starring roles in “It Takes a Thief” and “Hart to Hart“. He also would be involved in the scandal regarding Natalie Wood‘s death a few years later.  For younger audiences, Wagner would go on to play Austin Powers‘s “Number Two” and had the recurring role of Teddy on the hit TV show, “Two and a Half Men.”

Moore, meanwhile, already was a part of hits in numerous successful films in the 1940s and had just been dubbed “Hollywood Sexiest Tomboy” in an early July, 1953 edition of “Life” magazine.  Moore had her own sea-related scandal a few years later regarding a debated marriage to Howard Hughes while aboard his yacht.

With two big stars on board, a top-notch director, a solid supporting cast (anchored by Gilbert Rowland and Gloria Gordon) and the breathtaking scenery filmed completely in CinemaScope, it was targeted to be one of the biggest films of the year.

The initial reviews for “Reef” were mixed. Viewers loved the picturesque views and storyline but critics blamed Webb’s lack of direction as to the cause of an alleged lackadaisical performance by Wagner. Movie reviewers were further critical of the director, saying that he didn’t use enough exterior shots, especially below sea level, to take full advantage of the new technology.

Still, the film has grossed over $7 million in movie rentals over the last several years alone (it cost just $1.5 million to shoot.)

It is also an historical flick, being just the third film ever shot in what would be the most popular visual movie innovation of the 1950s. Check it out and see what a vast improvement it was over films produced before 1953 – you’ll notice a big difference.

Beneath the 12-Mile Reef will be featured in the ATVN Movie Vault this Saturday, at 9:30 p.m.

To see the full listing of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Jackie Robinson Day

April 15, 2022 By Artie Freeman Leave a Comment

In this week’s edition of “The Showplace,” guest blogger Artie Freeman focuses on the man whose courage and inspiration sparked a day now named in his honor – Jackie Robinson.

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Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919. He’s most famous for breaking baseball’s color line, which excluded Black players from Major League Baseball. MLB had relegated Black players to the Negro leagues since the 1880s.

In 1950 Jackie Robinson portrayed himself in the biopic, The Jackie Robinson Story. The film focused on Robinson’s journey breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.  This film was particularly difficult for Robinson; for starters he wasn’t an actor.  Even for the most experienced actor the most difficult role to play is yourself. In addition, Jackie also had to relive the abuse and bigotry he experienced from teammates, opposing teams, and fans to film this movie. This film is not a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s historically significant and more importantly, we have it in our movie vault for you to enjoy!

In 1942, Robinson was drafted and assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit in Fort Riley, Kansas. Having the requisite qualifications, Robinson and several other Black soldiers applied for admission to an Officer Candidate School, the (OCS).  The Army’s initial guidelines for OCS were supposedly race neutral. However, very few Black applicants were admitted into OCS. As a result, the applications of Robinson and his colleagues were delayed for several months.  Joe Louis, the heavyweight boxing champion, was stationed at Fort Riley at the time. When Lewis heard about this, he protested these actions and the men were accepted into OCS. That act of defiance led to a friendship between Robinson and Louis, two men who dominated their sports.  

Robinson started playing first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. When the Dodgers signed Robinson, he was not the best Black player from the Negro League.  He was, however, the best Black player who wouldn’t retaliate when confronted by bigotry and racial attacks. Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Dodgers who spearheaded this project, made it clear that Robinson must never retaliate.

During his 10-year MLB career, Robinson won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947. He was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons and won the National League MVP Award in 1949, becoming the first Black player to be honored. Robinson played in six World Series and took home the championship in 1955.

In 1956 at the age of 37, he retired from baseball to become the first Black Vice-President of a corporation; he worked at Chock Full o’Nuts.

In 1962, Jackie Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility, becoming the first Black man to receive that honor.

In 1964, he co-founded the Freedom National Bank, a Black-owned bank in Harlem, New York.

In 1965 Robinson became the first Black MLB television analyst. 

Ruby Dee (Robinson’s co-star in The Jackie Robinson Story) and her husband, Ossie Davis, were friends with Jackie and Rachel Robinson. They were also friends of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Dee spoke at both of their funerals. 

Jackie Robinson became friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. However, during that period, he was at odds with Malcolm X. They had a very public feud due to their differing philosophies regarding the civil rights movement. Their feud simmered when Malcom X started to feel less hatred towards all white people. When he was assassinated, Jackie was truly saddened by his death.  They both had the same destination, racial equality – they just couldn’t agree on the path.

Jackie Robinson died on October 24, 1972 at the young age of 53 of a heart attack.  Although I say the young age of 53, Robinson looked like a man in his late 70s, having a full head of grey hair since his early 40s.  The years of enduring racial abuse both physically and emotionally had taken their toll on him. 

In 1997, MLB retired his uniform #42 across all major league teams; he was the first professional athlete in any sport to be so honored. MLB also adopted a new annual tradition, “Jackie Robinson Day”, which began on April 15, 2004. Each year on this date every MLB player across the league wears the #42.

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Artie Freeman provides great introductions to many of the classic movies airing weekly on ATVN’s “Movie Vault” and also hosts “Take 5” interviews featuring unique people and community leaders in our viewing area.  Be on the lookout for more of Artie’s insights on this legendary figure, the next time The Jackie Robinson Story airs on ATVN.

Also, be sure to check out our new spring programming lineup on ATVN that will kick off this Sunday.  We will be bringing back some popular classic shows to our lineup, plus featuring nostalgic films and TV programs that are new to our network that we think you all will enjoy!

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

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