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Mayberry “LKF”

January 19, 2023 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.

 

This winter, the Astound TV Network is debuting The Andy Griffith Show as part of a rotation of some of the best classic television shows of all-time on ATVN’s Classic TV Showcase.

Typically, when a show makes its first-ever appearance on our network I usually delve into my personal library of classic programs and/or do other research to find the early origins and facts about a sitcom’s very beginnings and behind-the-scenes challenges involved in just getting a show on the air.  Often, this reveals lengthy backstories of early versions of programs that sometimes vary quite a bit from what eventually becomes a successful entity.

However, I’m going to do something a little different for this week’s entry.

It’s pretty common knowledge that Griffith guest-starred on The Danny Thomas Show in a skit in which he played a hick sheriff in a fictional North Carolina town and had unconventional techniques in keeping law and order.  (In the skit, Thomas was arrested for speeding).

The response was so positive that Thomas helped create a spinoff series with Griffith in the starring role and the program was an instant success.

However, there are a number of “little known facts” (“LKFs”) about the popular program…and that’s what we will tackle in today’s blog entry.

  1. Andy was NOT the “straight man” that he turned out to be.
    When you watch early episodes of the program, you’ll notice that Andy has most of the funny lines and, in fact, seems like just one of the other somewhat strange characters in the town.  Griffith had revealed in many interviews that after the first few episodes, he felt the show would be stronger if he was the “normal” one and at the center of all the craziness and quirky Mayberry citizens that were all around him.  In turn, he slowly suggested more of the funny bits should go to his supporting characters.
  2. Don Knotts’s Barney Fife was never intended to be a regular character.
    It seems impossible to believe but Barney was only intended to be in the first episode, playing Andy’s cousin who he helps out by giving him a job.  Even after the quick developing chemistry between Griffith and Knotts was apparent after the first episode, only a single-season contract was offered to “Barney” and the original intent was to bring in different deputies throughout the show’s run. (Dick Van Dyke’s brother Jerry was offered the role to replace Knotts but turned it down.)
    Fortunately, this plan was abandoned and Knotts was offered a multi-year contract which lasted until he decided to leave after the fifth season.
  3. Elinor Donahue WAS intended to be a long-serving cast member.
    The popular actress from Father’s Knows Best was the producers’ favorite for being the long-term love interest of Andy.  For creativity sake, they wanted to establish other characters on the show first (mainly Ronny Howard’s Opie and Francis Bavier’s Aunt Bee) before introducing her into the cast.  In the fourth episode Donahue made her debut and they even put her name in the show’s opening sequence (more on that in a moment).
    Unfortunately for Donahue, the delay in bringing her aboard hurt the chemistry that quickly developed amongst the cast.  Elinor revealed in later interviews that jokes originally intended for her wouldn’t “work” as well as they did for other cast members and Griffith would suggest giving her lines to other actors.  Eventually, Donahue asked to be removed from her long-term contract and left the show.
  4. Speaking of the show’s theme song….
    Griffith actually became known for his singing before appearing on TV.  The popular instrumental theme song to his show actually had words written for Andy to sing.  Upon hearing “The Fishing Hole” with co-writer Earle Hagen whistling the melody in the background, the producers felt the non-vocal version was more appropriate to open the show.  However, Andy’s vocal rendition was added to a very popular vinyl record that was released early in the show’s run, which included “The Mayberry March,” “Sourwood Mountain,” “Aunt Bee’s Theme” and other popular songs used on the program.

There are many more “LKFs” about this show, like…

Did you know that is actually NOT Ronny Howard skipping the stone across the pond in the show’s opening sequence?

…but we’ll address that and other trivial bits in a future edition of “The Showplace.”

In the meantime, you can see The Andy Griffith Show, as part of a rotation of some of the best classic television shows of all-time on ATVN’s Classic TV Showcase, Tuesday at 12 noon 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.

The Dick Van Dyke Show – Origins

January 12, 2023 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.

 

Several of its episodes ranked among the greatest comedy episodes of all-time.  In its comparatively short-run among classic television programs, it captured a whopping 15 Emmy Awards.  And it is regularly ranked among the best shows ever to come out of the 1960s.

What show are we talking about?

It’s The Dick Van Dyke Show.

The original premise for this highly successful sitcom was actually based on a failed pilot show starring television comedy writer Carl Reiner.  A key member of the writing dream-team that made up Sid Caeser’s Your Show of Shows (which also included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Selma Diamond, Larry Gelbart and other genius scribes), Reiner created the idea for a show based on his own life.

Part-work based, part-home life…the idea of a story dealing with the hectic lifestyle of balancing a career and young family seemed perfect for an early 1960s audience.

The working title of the show was called “Head of the Family,” with Reiner’s character (then named Robbie Peetree) dealing with a zany staff of television comedy writers and then going home to deal with all the fun that comes with a newly-wed couple raising a young son.

Robbie’s wife, Laura, was played by Barbara Britton in the pilot and his son was played by Gary Morgan.  Robbie’s co-workers were portrayed by Morty Gunty and Sylvia Miles.  Robbie’s boss was played by Alan Sturdy, who, like the early years of The Dick Van Dyke Show, remained either off-screen or his face was not seen by the audience. (Ironically, Reiner took this role in the revamped format, but, after the first three years allowed HIS character to be seen on screen).

By his own admission in many interviews since that time, he said the original pilot had one major flaw:  he cast himself as the lead!

When all three networks passed on his pilot episode (which still exists today on YouTube), Reiner scrambled to rework the show, including spotting new talent for all the lead roles.

For the role of “himself,” he changed the character’s name to Rob Petrie and sought out the versatile actor/singer/dancer, Dick Van Dyke.  Many of Van Dyke’s “real life” interests spilled over into the “new” Rob Petrie character like pantomime, love of cowboys, old time radio show references, his “Stan Laurel” impressions, et al. Van Dyke’s multi-talented skills allowed Reiner to broaden the character to incorporate physical comedy, song-and-dance numbers and many other elements that the original pilot’s “Robbie” would never have attempted.

Rose Marie (“Sally Rogers”) was probably the most popular personality of all the main characters at this particular time.  She had starred in several films in the 1950s and had become a major attraction because of her hilarious Las Vegas stand-up routines.

For the “Buddy Sorrell” character, Reiner tried to liken this character to the real life, smart-mouth (as much as early-1960’s network censors would tolerate) antics of Mel Brooks.  Veteran jokeman Morey Amsterdam quickly bought into that characterization and instantly made the wise-cracking “Buddy” a likable supporting role on the program who always got quick laughs despite not always getting a ton of on-screen time.

For the role of his wife, Reiner remembered a talented young actress who Sid Caesar really liked and auditioned for his own show but passed on her because he felt the audience wouldn’t believe that he could have an on-screen daughter that was so pretty.

While Mary Tyler Moore’s political views were diametrically opposite her television husband in real life, their on-screen chemistry was magical.  Reiner quickly added more “home life” scenes to the pilot (and subsequent episodes) to build on that relationship which, Reiner correctly assumed, audiences would most closely bond with.

The revamped show did receive a ringing endorsement from CBS and was immediately added to the network’s fall schedule.  But the successes of this show’s new look were just beginning.  We’ll have more on the successes of this wildly popular show coming up in a future blog entry here at “The Showplace.”

In the meantime, you can see The Dick Van Dyke Show, as part of a rotation of some of the best classic television shows of all-time on ATVN’s Classic TV Showcase, Tuesdays at 12 noon 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.

Christmas Takeover “Tease” 2022

December 19, 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.

Tyler Brackbill is our newest employee at our ATVN studio. He has been doing a great job directing sports events, handling replay, shooting sports events, editing packages and pretty much everything that has been thrown his way.

One additional responsibility that he has also taken over this past fall is coordinating and “importing” the programming for our “Christmas Takeover” – a special marathon of holiday-only programming that runs from early Christmas Eve morning straight through until the late hours on Christmas night.

I am proud to say that this popular viewing event will be back again here in 2022.  Today, Tyler gives our website readers a “sneak peek” and inside information on his Top 10 list of special, unique holiday programs and movies that he thinks our audience will thoroughly enjoy.

  Here’s Tyler’s top takeover picks…

  1. Sidewalks”
    Back-to-back editions of this popular entertainment show regularly features mainstream celebrities, musicians and up-and-coming performers.  These particular shows will focus on how celebs will spend the holiday season.
  2. “Scrooge”
    A special version of the popular Charles’ Dickens holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol.”
  3. Larry’s Tree: Journey To The White House”
    A look at the incredible journey one large evergreen tree takes in order to become a holiday focus for the First Family of the United States of America.
  4. “The Beverly Hillbillies”
    A mini-marathon of some of the best Christmas-themed episodes of one of CBS’s most-popular and longest running situation comedies.  It stars Buddy Ebson, Irene Dunne, Max Baer and Donna Douglas as the lovable hillbillies who benefitted from their discovery of “Texas Tea.”
  5. Mad Dog and Merrill Midwest Grillin’ 
    The stars of this show are always entertaining while fixing up special, succulent items each episode.  Tune in for a mini-marathon of their holiday-based programs.
  6. Mark Millovets’ Christmas Wonderland 2022
    This popular annual show returns for a special post-COVID edition of the program!
  7. Miracle on 34th Street
    This is the 1959 made-for-television special and not the one produced by 20th Century Fox, although some prefer this version compared to the one released in 1947.  Tune in and see for yourself which you think is better.
  8. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
    No classic television show garnered more success and lasted longer than any other ABC network show before 1972.  The show, featuring the real-life married couple (and their two real-life children and, later, their wives), amassed an amazing collection of Christmas-themed episodes.  Tune in and see them for yourself in a marathon of this family-based sitcom.
  9. A Stetson Mansion Christmas
    A special that features this famous Florida mansion that is decorated beyond-belief with holiday cheer, amazing light displays and glorious Christmas trimmings.
  10. The Littlest Angel
    This not-to-be missed classic film from the ATVN Movie Vault is a MUST-SEE airing on ATVN at 8:30pm on Christmas night.  It features an all-star cast which includes Johnny Walker (“Family Affair”), Fred Gwynne (“My Cousin Vinny,” “Pet Semetary,” “The Munsters”), Tony Randall (“The Odd Couple,” “Mister Peepers”) and more!

 

And as always, the yule log will burn brightly on viewers’ screens (accompanied by holiday music) from 6:30am-10:00am on Christmas morning!

Granted, there are many more special shows and classic films that will be featured this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on ATVN, but you’ll have to check back to our website in a few days to get more information on this year’s “takeover.”

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.

 

Darren McGavin

December 7, 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.

 

Watching A Christmas Story — multiple times — has become a holiday tradition for many television viewers this time of year.  Its popularity has launched several sequels–some with completely different timelines!

One of the original film’s most memorable characters, that of the “Old Man,” was portrayed by one of the most versatile, and sometimes, rather underrated actors in Hollywood history–Darren McGavin.

Born William Lyle Richardson on May 7, 1922 in Spokane, Washington, McGavin left school at age 16 and ran away from home for a brief time before finding work in the theater as a set painter.

When a small acting opportunity became available, McGavin auditioned and won the role, despite having no formal actor training at that time. Shortly thereafter, he moved to New York City and started studying at the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio.

He began appearing in bigger and bigger roles in larger and larger theaters in New York before being cast on Broadway in The Rainmaker (the title role in which he created).  He also appeared in several live theatrical productions on television, including The United States Steel Hour, which had the benefit of great exposure in the later 1950s by coming on immediately after the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz’s I Love Lucy hour-long specials.

McGavin worked radically different roles in movies and television over the next decade, from comedic roles to drama to a rather bizarre appearance in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock PresentsWhile critics regarded McGavin’s performances as some of the best  in Hollywood, Darren said he would never work in TV again and referred to television as “actor’s purgatory,” according to a Paul King article in a 1960-edition of the “Vancouver Sun.

McGavin would change his tune in 1972 by being cast as the titular character on the supernatural-horror TV movie, Kolchak: The Night StalkerThe success of his movie led to a regular anthology series featuring some of the strangest sequences since the classic Twilight Zone show and has continued to be a cult classic to this day.

Among its biggest fans include X-Files creator/writer/producer Chris Carter, who has repeatedly said McGavin’s performance as Kolchak inspired him to get involved in the entertainment industry and spawn several of his projects.  Carter even cast McGavin in two X-Files episodes later in the latter’s career.

Among Darren’s later roles include playing Adam Sandler’s father in Billy Madison and as crooked gambler Gus Sands in the baseball classic film, The NaturalDespite being one of the main characters in the latter film, McGaven was upset that he did not receive top billing.  He refused to do any publicity for the picture and demanded that his name be removed from all of the film’s post-production records.

Darren did return to television a few more times in his career, including garnishing a 1990 Primetime Emmy Award for his recurring role playing the father of the title character in politically-charged comedy series, Murphy Brown.

McGavin died of cardiovascular disease in 2006.  He was 83.

Before you see any of the various A Christmas Story films out there this holiday season, check out McGavin in a much different role, in the biopic movie 43: The Richard Petty Story along with his guest starring roles on classic television shows 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.

Holiday ‘22 Trivia Edition

November 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 ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows, key names in the “Golden Age” of entertainment history and legendary cinematic performances.

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‘Tis the season for having some fun and testing your knowledge of some of the classic videos that we have talked about and highlighted on ATVN recently.

I hope all of you have been enjoying our featured stories on unique facts as well as information on the actors, shows and movies being featured as part of the Astound TV Network’s fall schedule.

Now it’s time to find out how much you’ve learned by taking our Classic Video Showplace “holiday edition” of our quiz. 

See how you do answering the following questions and then check out the correct responses listed below. 

Have fun!

  1. Which legendary performer from the holiday classic The Wizard of Oz, also starred in a film based largely on a parody of another classic program of that era, a few years after “Oz” landed in theaters?
  2. Which broker-turned-actor got a job from Orson Welles and was a main character in the iconic movie Citizen Kane, only after desperately needing work due the infamous Stock Market Crash of 1929?
  3. Speaking of Orson Welles, what infamous holiday broadcast did Welles and his fellow “Mercury Theater” actors create which caused a national panic on Halloween 1938?
  4. What mega-film star of the 1930s and 1940s became one of the first movie stars featured in a successful drama television series in the 1950s?
  5. Which early television child actor is often credited with being the first ever “teen idol?”
  6. Which film is widely regarded as the “best” Abbott and Costello movie? (HINT: it does NOT include their famous “Who’s On First?” routine).
  7. Which radio singing sensation of the 1940s portrayed someone constantly referred to as “that crazy kid” well into his 50s on multiple early television programs as both a regular cast member and a guest star.
  8. Fred MacMurray starred in hundreds of films from the 1930s to the early 1980s, including the classic The Caine Mutiny as well as Disney favorites like The Shaggy Dog and The Absent Minded Professor.  But what is his best known television character’s name?
  9. Speaking of MacMurray, he got his start on a Broadway play that shares the name of what 1980s television short-lived spin-off show that starred John Ritter.  
  10. What future star did Dave Nelson (of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet fame) direct in his film, Cry Baby (hint: this young actor would portray the likes of Ichabod Crane, Willy Wonka and Captain Jack Sparrow in later years)?

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Answers:

  1. Jack Haley (“The Tin Man”)
  2. Everett Sloane
  3. “War of the Words”
  4. Loretta Young
  5. Ricky Nelson
  6. “Africa Screams”
  7. Dennis Day
  8. Steven Douglas (from “My Three Sons”)
  9. “Three’s A Crowd”
  10.  Johnny Depp

You can see all of the above-mentioned actors and many of these classic films and television shows on the ATVN programming lineup.  To see the full listing of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.

Don’t forget to keep checking back to the Showplace for more classic trivia and little-known bits of information about some of the greatest shows and movies of all time.

 

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.

Jack Haley

November 18, 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.

 

Perhaps the most popular movie anywhere that is traditionally shown this time of year is the timeless classic – the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz.

While many people know the story of the film’s leading lady Judy Garland, most don’t realize that her supporting cast members had stellar entertainment careers even before this version of “Oz” made its debut.

One of the biggest stars was the man that played Tin Man and Hickory – an actor who wasn’t even a part of the movie when “Oz” began filming.

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Jack Haley was born August 10, 1897 in Boston, Massachusetts to Canadian-born parents of Irish descent.  Within months of his birth, his father died due to a tragic accident and Jack later lost his brother to tuberculosis.

Haley quickly became a success in vaudeville and began appearing in films with the 1927 flick, Broadway Madness.  Some of his standout performances in the cinema include Poor Little Rich Girl with Shirley Temple, Higher and Higher with Frank Sinatra, and People Are Funny with Rudy Vallee.  

Jack also had a very popular variety radio show in the mid-1930s…one regular cast member on his show was a young, at that time blonde, showgirl, named Lucille Ball.

He also performed as Davey Lane in the Irving Berlin musical Alexander’s Ragtime Band and starred in a 1936 film called Pigskin Parade, in which his supporting cast members consisted of a new, still relatively unknown singer at that time–Judy Garland.

While Garland was not Metro-Goldwyn-Mayers’s first choice to play Dorothy in Oz, Haley wasn’t brought into production until a near fatal accident befell Buddy Ebsen, the man originally pegged to play the Tin Man.

According to features that accompany the DVD release of Wizard Of Oz, Ebsen was rushed to the hospital early in the filming process when his make-up, made of real aluminum powder, became trapped in his lungs and led to a severe bronchial infection that sidelined him for months.

(Ironically, Ray Bolger was initially slated to play the Tin Man but he persuade

d Ebsen to switch roles, claiming that his body was better suited to the more wiry frame of the Scarecrow.)

Haley was brought in to replace Ebsen and made the role his own.  It was reportedly not the most enjoyable experience in Haley’s career. Dancing in his cumbersome costume was a chore, and the aluminum “paste” they used as a replacement makeup on him also caused recurring health issues and damage to his eyes.

Jack would continue working as a live entertainer and appear in films and television appearances for the next several decades.

Haley appeared with “Oz” co-star Ray Bolger as a presenter for the 51st Annual  Academy Award show weeks before his death.  He was 93 when he passed on.

Jack had two sons–one, Jack Jr. became a two-time Emmy Award winner (and producer of the Academy Awards specials). Jack Jr. also married Liza Minelli, the daughter of another former “Oz” star … Judy Garland.

You can see one of Haley’s starring roles in the 1946 film People Are Funny along with his guest starring roles on classic television shows 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.

The Loretta Young Show

November 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.

 

One of the classic television shows “new to ATVN” this fall is one of the first successful drama programs of the medium, The Loretta Young Show.

Building on Loretta’s blockbuster success in films, including her late 1940’s hits like The Farmer’s Daughter and Come To The Stable, NBC decided to try a brand new idea to initiate an anthology dramatic series with Young as the host/star.  (She was nominated for Oscars for both of those films and won for the former movie.  We’ll have more on Young’s lengthy and tremendously successful cinematic accomplishments coming up in a future “Showplace” blog entry).

The initial name for her program was called Letters To Loretta.  The original premise for the show started with Young speaking directly to the audience.  She began the show by reading her “fan mail,” which included a question addressed to her.  In answering the “fan’s” question, it started that episode’s story for the evening.

Not only did this unique start to every episode resonate well with audiences, but Young’s lavish clothing and styles were all-the-rage for audiences, as they would tune in to see what stylish outfits and new hairstyles she would showcase each week.

Young would then often star in most episodes of the program, portraying a different character, only to return at the end of the show – as “herself” –  to “wrap up” the program and wish the audience a good night.

Halfway through the program’s first season, the show’s name was changed to The Loretta Young Show, even though the practice of each program’s letter kickstarting a new storyline lasted through the show’s first five years.

Young used her star power and cinematic influences to entice well-established movie stars onto her show (it was extremely rare for major film stars to guest star on 1950’s television).   Additionally, the show attracted young stars who would go on to become major personalities in their own right.

Just a sample of the featured performers on this program include:  Van Johnson, Ellen Burnstyn, Claude Akins, Eddie Albert, Ethel Merman, Mike Connors, Chuck Connors, Mae Clarke, Jackie Coogan, William Frawley, Dennis Hopper, Charles Bronson and many others!

The program was also well-received by viewers and critics alike (it was ranked as the third-best dramatic TV series in the mid-1950s by “Billboard” magazine), but it also received strong financial support.  The show’s main sponsors were Procter and Gamble and Listerine (both companies still exist today) and the cigarette juggernaut, Phillip Morris, who, during their heyday, also backed other hit shows of the time period like I Love Lucy.

The Loretta Young Show ran successfully for eight years and was always popular in the ratings throughout the show’s run.  However, for its final season, the show was opposite the wildly popular CBS comedy, the original Candid Camera, and Young’s show was beaten soundly in the head-to-head Nielsen share numbers.  Despite finishing with a very respectable amount of viewers, NBC summarily canceled the “Young” after that eighth season wrapped up in 1961.

The show immediately went into syndication and was also popular with 1960’s television viewers.  However, Young ordered that the original introductions and “wrap-ups” be removed because she was afraid that her mid-1950s hair and wardrobe styles would date the show and hurt the re-runs’ success.  Thankfully those original introductions and wrap-arounds, once thought lost, now can be seen with the corresponding drama and the programs shown in their initial entirety on the Astound TV Network this fall.

Be sure to tune in (and set your DVRs) for The Loretta Young Show, Wednesdays at 12:30 pm and Fridays at 1:30 pm, as well as other TV classics 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.

 

Jack Palance

November 2, 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.


This month we look back at the anniversary of the passing of a unique Hollywood icon.


Of all the actors in the latter half of the 20th-century, very few film stars had a more deliberate delivery than the man often featured as a lead villain in many films–Jack Palance.

Jack was born Volodymyr Palahniuk to Ukrainian immigrant parents in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania on February 18, 1919. The son of a coal miner, Volodymyr took up boxing at an early age, but, upon losing an unsanctioned fight before his 18th birthday, he decided that acting on stage would be a “safer” profession.

He then accepted a football scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina but stopped playing after two years because of, according to his obituary, the “commercialization” of the NCAA.  Upon the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted into the United States Army Air Force, using the name “Walter Polanski.”  It was during his training that a report surfaced of a training accident involving “Walter,” where he was severely injured jumping out of a burning plane while on a base in Arizona. Upon his entrance into film acting a few years later, this incident was embellished by Hollywood press agents to claim the actor had his entire face reconstructed from this accident, which brought about his strong cheekbones and unique facial features.

After receiving an honorable discharge after the end of WWII, Polanski then attended Stanford University but left one credit short of graduation to start his acting career in the theater.  To support himself he also worked as a photographer’s model, a waiter, short-order cook, a lifeguard and a soda jerk.

He made his Broadway debut in 1947’s The Big Two, portraying a Russian soldier before being selected as Marlon Brando’s understudy in A Streetcar Named Desire.

It was at this time that his stage name was briefly changed to “Walter Palanski” before the actor himself heard too many people mispronouncing his name, so he later changed it to Walter Jack Palance.

In 1950 he began his film career, mostly playing “mean” characters, by portraying a gangster in Panic In the Streets, and received second billing behind Joan Crawford in just his third film, Sudden Fear, which earned him an Oscar for best supporting actor.

In the very next year he earned another Academy Award nomination for his role as the hired gunslinger in the western, Shane.

Throughout the next 30 years, Palance often worked in various films and television shows outside of America (he starred in three Italian-based films in 1976 alone).  This fact was lost on many United States viewers who lauded Palance’s performance when he “returned” to TV with his 1980’s hit show as the narrator of Ripley’s…Believe It Or Not.

He would also return to more commercially appealing, American-produced movies in the later 1980s with hits like Batman (starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicolson), Young Guns and Tango and Cash.

But perhaps his most beloved character ever came about when Billy Crystal, who was a fan of Palance’s career as a boy, approached him about playing the cantankerous but true cowboy hero, Curly Washburn, in the 1991 smash hit, City Slickers.  

His performance (turned in at the tender age of 76) earned him his second Academy Award.  His nearly forty-year gap between winning Oscars was the longest “drought” in the long running award’s history, until Alan Arkin claimed that distinction in 2006.

The movie (and Palance’s role in particular) was so popular that it spawned a sequel, in which Palance returned, even though his character died near the end of the original.  (He came back as Curly’s twin brother in City Slickers 2).

Jack continued to star in movies and make television guest appearances until 2002.  He died four years later, much like Curly Washburn did, in his sleep.

He was 87.

You can see Palance starring in the Italian-produced blockbuster, The Cop In Blue Jeans, airing 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.

Night of the Living Dead

October 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 ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

As we countdown to the Astound TV Network’s special Halloween Marathon (24 hours of specialty Halloween-based movies and shows, starting at 9am on Monday, October 31st), we focus this week on one of the all-time classic horror films!

There are quite a few classic horror films that provided the genesis to a seemingly endless supply of successful film series, sequels and spin-off ideas.

But one of the biggest “landmark” films of the genre was Night of the Living Dead.

The film’s producer/director/writer/editor George Romero graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and embarked on a career in the film industry in the early 1960s.  His first job was directing and producing industrial films and commercials for television before he decided to venture into horror films.

He teamed up with his friends John Russo and Russell Streinder to form their own production company, The Latent Image, later to be called Imagine Ten, and wanted to capitalize on the flurry of scary films that remained popular during the 1960s.

Originally written as a horror-comedy under the title Monster Flick, the concept was reworked several times by Romero and Russo.  Ultimately, the final concepts involved a young man who runs away from home and discovers rotting human corpses scattered across a meadow that aliens use for food.  “Flesh eaters” and reanimating human corpses were also thrown into the script, with several of these last-minute ideas paving the way for later-produced sequels years later.

The film initially had trouble getting picked up by film studios, with rejections including calling the script “too cornballish.”  

Undaunted, Romero took $6,000 and found ten partners to also invest the same amount to raise money to produce the film independently.

Money was still an issue when it came to shooting the actual film locations and sound stages.  Several shooting sites consisted of condemned buildings scheduled for demotion, cemeteries or structures that needed significant renovations.

Chocolate syrup drizzled over bodies were used for blood and roasted ham and other donated meats were used for body parts and charred flesh.  Most costumes consisted of items found in second-hand stores and others were bought on the cheap from Goodwill.

Also because of budget constraints, Romero had to use cheaper 35mm film to shoot.  Ironically, critics praised the decision to use lower quality video to give the film a “grainy” feel and enhance the scary aspects of the film’s content.

Romero also caught a break casting university professor-turned-actor Duane Jones in the starring role.  Jones found the writing low-brow and the unintelligent dialogue insulting and refused to read the lines as written.  Instead, he rewrote much of the dialogue on his own.

Co-star Judith O’Dea also didn’t like her lines and stated in several interviews that both she and most other cast members actually AD-LIBBED most of the lines throughout the entire shooting of the film!

Another unique aspect of this movie: the film distributors originally would not send the pictures out with the ending they shot and insisted that Romero and his team re-shoot the final sequences.  They stated that moviegovers would not accept the ending as-is and ordered that a “Hollywood” ending be inserted.

Romero refused and the film’s ending stands today as it was originally intended.

To say that the film proved to be a success and has withstood the test of time would be an understatement.  In addition to originally grossing more than $30 million at the box office (on an original budget of $114,000), the film was deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1999.

We will look at more of Duane’s starring performance in this film and his trailblazing legacy in a future blog entry here at the “Showplace.”

In the meantime, be on the lookout for Night of the Living Dead along with other Halloween holiday favorites coming up as part of Monday’s 24-hour “Halloween Takeover” marathon 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.

George C. Scott

October 20, 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 will probably have a chance to see George C. Scott in his iconic role as “Patton” in the film of the same name, traditionally shown around Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Independence Day holidays.

But there is a much different side to Scott’s acting career in his role as Edward Rochester in the classic story told in the 1970 film Jane Eyre, which you can see on ATVN.

The story revolves around Eyre’s character (portrayed by Susanna York, who would go on to play Superman’s birth mother in the 1976 motion picture Superman)–an orphan who is hired to serve as a governess for Rochester–an English manor lord.  The two eventually fall in love and decide to marry, but Rochester houses a dark secret from Eyre.  When Jane discovers this enormous secret…well, no spoilers here–you’ll have to watch the film for yourself!

Scott’s role as Rochester was not unlike many of his performances as strong-willed characters.  For this role he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Lead Actor in an Anthology, Movie or Limited Series.  But Scott’s life was filled with extraordinary accomplishments.

According to David Sheward’s book, “Rage and Glory: The Volatile Life and Career of George C. Scott,” this legendary actor was born on a kitchen table in the small town of Wise, Virginia.  After a four-year stint with the Marine Corps from 1945 to 1949 and a brief venture into journalism, Scott developed the acting bug and quickly ascended to becoming a lead actor on the Broadway stage.

Before the 1950s were over, he captured his first Academy Award in Otto Perminger’s Antonomy of a Murder, which also starred James Stewart, Eve Arden, Lee Remick, Murray Hamelton and Orson Bean.

Scott owned the 1960s, starring in long-running shows on Broadway and classic films like Dr. Strangeglove, or How I Stopped Worrying and Love The Bomb, The Bible: In the Beginning, The Crucible and others.  He was also a highly sought after television guest star, appearing in some of the 1960s most popular shows like Ben Casey, The Virginian, The Naked City, The Road West and frequently appeared on Bob Hope’s celebrity specials.

Scott would also go on to star as iconic characters after 1970, including Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Benito Mussolini in Mussolini: The Untold Story, Fagin in Oliver Twist, The Beast in 1976’s Beauty and the Beast, Sherlock Holmes in They Might Be Giants, the controversial Juror #3 in the 1997 remake of 12 Angry Men, and even returned to his role as Patton in the biopic’s sequel, The Last Days of Patton.

But arguably his two greatest movie contributions came in 1970 when both Patton and Jane Eyre were released.

Be on the lookout for Jane Eyre coming up this Monday at 9am 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 Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 

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