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The Nelson Kids

September 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 the Astound TV Network with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

 

In an earlier blog entry we examined the lead characters in the popular, long-running 1950s and early 60s television family sitcom, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet program.

But the Nelson children had an interesting history as well!

Ozzie Nelson was an orchestra leader who sometimes teamed with Harriet (born Peggy Lou Snyder) for events before both were asked to appear at the same time on a national radio show called “The Baker’s Broadcast” in the early 1930s.  One of the initial hosts of the show was Robert Ripley (remember “Ripley’s ‘Believe It or Not?“)

Ozzie and Harriet married in 1935 and decided, as opposed to continuing to work independently, they would see more of each other by working the same gigs.  After appearing on some of the top radio programs in the 1940s, included “The Red Skelton Show,” “The Fred Allen Show” and “Suspense,” which led to their own radio vehicle.

When Skelton was drafted in 1944, Ozzy was left to create his own family situation comedy on Red’s program, giving him valuable experience he would need a couple years later to develop his own television show.  It was there that Nelson “created” a pair of boys for his radio family.

Contrary to popular belief, Ozzie and Harriet did NOT use their real sons at the start of the program.  Instead they auditioned many established child actors for the part, hoping to keep their real children out of show business–at least initially.

Using the names of his real-life children, Ozzie hired Henry Blair to play the role of “Ricky.”  The role of “David” was shared by Joel Davis and then later Tommy Bernard for the first five seasons of their radio program.

Itching to get into show business, the “real” Ricky and David persuaded their parents to let them take over “their” roles during the fifth season of the radio program in 1949.

When the show made the jump to television in October 1952, the entire family was on board.

By 1957, Ricky had become one of the most sought after heartthrobs on television–it is widely believed that the first use of the term “teen idol” was used for him.  During the show’s run, they frequently featured Ricky’s singing talents and he launched a very successful singing career, placing 53 songs on Billboards “Top 100” charts during his career.

David, meanwhile, preferred to hone his acting skills and accepted more dramatic roles in films, starting with the 1959’s thriller, The Big CircusHe also showed an interest in directing, manning several later episodes of “Ozzie and Harriet” and eventually directed motion pictures.

Many of the “kids” real-life stories were used as the basis of “The Adventures…”  episodes’ plots.  As both Ricky and David got older and married (Kristin Harmon and June Blair, respectively), their wives then joined the cast as well.

In all, the series would go on for a record-setting 14-year sojourn on television alone and all four family members would become household names–which didn’t exactly sit well with Rick (who tried to shed his childhood persona by dropping the “y” from his first name).

As time wore on, Rick looked to move past his wholesome image of the “Ozzie and Harriet” days and be taken seriously as a  rock-and-roll performer of later 1960s and 1970s style music, but many fans of the television show wanted to hear his hits made famous during the 1950s program.

One one occasion at Madison Square Garden, when Rick insisted on playing more modern music, “oldies” fans booed him off the stage.  The humiliating experience inspired Rick to write the song “Garden Party,” which ended up being his final hit song, placing 6th on the pop charts.

Rick died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1985.  He was just 45.

David continued to act and direct films until making his last appearance in the 1990 film, Cry Baby.  He was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion picture industry in 1996.  In 2011, David died at the age of 74 from colon cancer.

You can revisit the Nelson children in their early years in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which airs weekly on Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m and Wednesday mornings at 9am 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.

Jack & Mary

September 1, 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.

 

The radio and television editions of The Jack Benny Program ran almost without interruption from 1932 to 1965.  There are a number of classic episodes that received high ratings and a lot of individual “Benny” shows that are regarded as some of the top programs in the early history of television.

But only a few are as memorable and poignant as the television episode, “Jack Dreams He’s Married to Mary” (which will be shown on ATVN this Sunday at 12 noon).

First, a little history about this famous real-life married couple.

Jack was first introduced to a teenage Sadie Marks (his wife’s original real-life name) before Benny even thought about a career in radio, much less TV which wasn’t even invented yet.

There were not exactly fireworks during their first meeting at Marks’ family dinner.  While touring in vaudeville, Jack was invited to dinner by a fellow Jewish man who had two daughters (at that time, not all eating venues were “Jewish friendly” during special holidays).  Benny admitted in his biography, Sunday Nights at 7, that at that time, he was interested in Sadie’s older sister, Babe (someone who would become the butt of Jack’s jokes throughout his series and would guest star frequently to “return the favor”).

A few years later, Jack’s and Sadie’s paths would cross again although Benny initially didn’t even recognize the “adult Sadie,” and quickly asked his then-future wife on a date.  Jack would visit Sadie at her job for the May Company (another source for jokes throughout Benny’s show) and Sadie would later accompany Jack to watch him perform his own radio show live.

Shortly after the program started, Jack’s regular female sidekick “ghosted” him by not showing up for his live show and so Sadie filled in, using the on-air name, Mary Livingstone.  Even when the regular actress returned, Benny and his writing staff agreed that Sadie was the better “Mary” and preferred the on-air chemistry between the two.

Even though the couple was now married in real life, it was deemed more “entertaining” that the two stay single on the program, which allowed for more comedic situations regarding the troubles of dating, a unique rotation of girlfriends and Benny’s quirky life as an eligible bachelor.  They also thought it would be more original to stay away from the typical married couple routine that was already employed by other show business real-life couples at that time (most notably, their best friends, George Burns and Gracie Allen).  Plus, the contact back-and-forth, boss/employee, verbal shots Jack and Mary took towards each other seemed to work better on-air. 

That faux “bitter” relationship between the two continued for nearly all of the 33-year history of the program.

Except for this one episode.

In this particular show, which initially aired in 1954 (by this time Sadie had officially had her legal name changed to “Mary Livingstone”), Jack “imagines” what life would be like if he was, indeed, married to his longtime assistant, Mary.  Without revealing many of the spoilers for your viewing pleasure, this episode does include a number of tongue-in-check references to his “alternate” life, in addition to real-life references throughout the program, which even included a guest appearance by their real-life adopted daughter, Joan.

Once the dream sequence was over, Jack and Mary returned to their more “normal” relationship, with Jack poorly paying Mary, and his “assistant” returning the favor with some sharp-tongue digs at Benny’s shortcomings.

The real relationship between Jack and Mary was quite different.

There is a YouTube clip from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which paints a much different picture of their marriage.  Mary tells the story of a single red rose that she received shortly after her husband’s death in 1972.  For a while there was no note and she didn’t know who was sending it to her.

When she tracked down the delivery man she eventually discovered that in Benny’s will, he set up a trust that Mary would receive a red rose every day for the rest of her life, as a reminder of the undying love Jack had for her.

Mary survived Jack’s death until June 30, 1983 when she was 83…and a rose came to her doorstep every day for those 11 years.

Tune in and set your DVRs for this classic episode of The Jack Benny Program this Sunday at 12 noon on the Astound TV Network.  You can also see the Benny program weekly on ATVN on Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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

Fred MacMurray

August 24, 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.

It’s funny how time–and television–can change people’s lasting impressions!

For many generations, Fred MacMurray is known simply as the calm, wise dad who solved most of his constantly growing family’s problems for 12 years on the long-running TV sitcom, My Three Sons.

But MacMurray actually had a very long and successful career as a businessman, a talented musician and singer, in addition to both playing leading men and supporting characters in motion pictures, inhabiting a variety of different personas through his various films…and next week would have been his 114th birthday!

Born Frederick Martin MacMurray on August 30, 1908 in Kankakee, Illinois, Fred came from a family whose father taught music and his aunt was a vaudeville performer. He attended Carroll College in Wisconsin but did not graduate. Instead, he played saxophone in numerous bands in the late 1920s.

MacMurray actually started in show business as a singer, recording several singles in 1930 and 1931.

He also appeared on Broadway with a role in Three’s A Crowd in the early 1930s before signing a movie contract with Paramount Pictures in 1934.

Fred was quickly paired with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, normally playing “nice guys” in musicals, melodramas and light-hearted comedies. Some of his earliest co-stars included Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard, Katherine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert and Barbara Stanwyck. His fellow male acting co-stars included Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, Bob Hope, Van Johnson and Jose Ferrer.

By the turn of the 1940s decade, MacMurray had become one of the highest paid actors in the entertainment industry. In fact, his 1943 annual salary of $430,000 not only made him the HIGHEST paid actor in Hollywood, but he was the fourth highest paid person in the United States.

The fewer roles he got in which he portrayed a “not so nice a guy” brought him even bigger fame and better critical reviews.

After starring in darker films like The Apartment, Borderline, The Caine Mutiny and the film noir classic, Double Indemnity, MacMurray was one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood.

But instead of continuing to star in major motion pictures, he took a different course of action.

He became a businessman.

MacMurray bought large areas of land and invested in cattle ranches and agricultural communities…all sustaining his claim as one of the top four richest men in America for many years.

He remained a popular figure with occasional guest-starring appearances on a few 1950s television shows, including I Love Lucy and Cimarron City.

Those successful appearances paved the way for his own TV show in 1960, but it did not come without MacMurray’s star power ensuring some major benefits for himself.

In order for Fred to concentrate on his business enterprises (and his golf game), his contract insisted that all his scenes for the entire season be shot first and must be completed within a two-month timespan.

While “….Sons” became a perennial favorite for audiences throughout the decade and into the early 1970s, MacMurray did shoot a few more films resonating favorably with audiences, like The Shaggy Dog, The Happiest Millionaire, The Absent Minded Professor and, its sequel, The Son of Flubber.

Fred was diagnosed with throat cancer in the 1970s, which he thought he recovered from, only to have it return in 1987. He also suffered a stroke and battled leukemia for over a decade before he succumbed to pneumonia on November 5, 1991.

Upon his passing, his large agricultural estate was sold to winemaker Gallo, who issued wines marked with the “MacMurray Ranch” label that people can still buy to this day.

Be on the lookout to watch MacMurray’s various television and movie work like the 1950’s flick, Borderline, seen frequently on the Astound TV Network. To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly television 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.

“Bonanza” Origins

August 17, 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.

 

Hopefully you have been watching episodes of the legendary show Bonanza on ATVN, along with reading some of our earlier blog entries focusing on the show’s legacy and a few unique stories on two of its larger than life actors – Michael Landon (“Little Joe”) and Dan Blocker (“Hoss” Cartwright).

However, many people don’t know that many of the first-season episodes of this program are rarely seen…but YOU can see these unique shows this month on the Astound TV Network!

Bonanza, despite what turned out to be a very long run of successes, did not have the easiest time getting–and then staying–on the air.  This seems hard to believe, in retrospect, as it eventually became one of the most successful television programs in the 1960s and arguably the most beloved western show of all time.

First of all, the executive producers (Dan Dartort and Mark Roberts) of Bonanza faced a crowded field of shows with similar themes to pitch to network television studios.  Remember, in 1959, there were only three options.  CBS (first in the ratings the previous year with a very strong returning programming lineup), NBC and ABC all had plenty of options for new western shows.  Among the new shows with western backgrounds looking for a television home at this time included: Rawhide, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Man and the Challenge, Bandwagon, and Tales of the Riverbank … all were produced pilots that spring.

There was also pressure for networks to add other new shows like The Untouchables (produced by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who CBS wanted to keep happy to have them continue churning out I Love Lucy hour-long “specials”) along with soon to be favorites Dennis The Menace, Hawaiian Eye and Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone.

Once signed by NBC for the first season, Bonanza quickly saw resistance from network executives for its writing style.  It was different from other like-westerns for its storylines that focused more on the characters and how they related to each other and relied less on the typical “life on the range” stories and other usual dramatic themes of the old west.  Another concern was that–at the time of the show’s debut–none of the four central stars were well-established actors in Hollywood, and the network worried people wouldn’t “feel” for the characters.

Furthermore, Bonanza was atypical from other shows in that the early episodes dealt with issues like racism, bigotry and anti-semitism.

Other knocks against the new show included financial concerns.

It was one of the few shows broadcast in color (which more than tripled its expense compared to its black-and-white counterparts).  Plus, adding in the cost of renting horses for the show and the initial decision to choose the shooting locations in the expensive Riverside Country, California helped to make it one of the most expensive westerns of the time period.

NBC didn’t help matters with its scheduling.  Initially, Bonanza aired on Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. opposite popular Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show on ABC, and, on CBS, a perennial Top-10 Favorite, Perry Mason.  While first year ratings for Bonanza were not poor, it still finished far behind CBS’s Saturday night lineup and NBC seriously considered canceling the show after just that first season.

Rumor has it that NBC kept the show because its corporate parent, Radio Corporation of America (RCA), used the show to spur sales of RCA-manufactured color television sets (RCA was also the primary sponsor of the series during its first two seasons).

After the first season, the shooting location was moved to the more fiscally responsible state of Nevada, which still allowed for grand, lavish landscapes that wowed the early 1960s TV-watchers who had the luxury of colorized viewing.

A year later, NBC moved Bonanza to a much more popular time slot  (replacing The Dinah Shore Chevy Show on Sundays at 9:00 pm). The new time slot saw Bonanza soar in the ratings and eventually reached number one by 1964.

The show held on to the honor of being television’s top-rated regular program until 1967 when it was seriously challenged by the socially provocative and, for its time, controversial variety show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, on CBS.   But by then, the show was already an established ratings “bonanza” (pardon the pun) and would still have success for several more years…and the rest of the show’s success is history.  It ultimately became one of the top 50 television shows of all time (according to a 2002 “TV Guide” special edition).

Be sure to tune in or set your DVRs to catch the rarely shown, first season episodes in the Bonanza show history – part of this summer’s sizzling ATVN programming lineup.  Bonanza airs every Sunday morning at 9pm.

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.

“Dickie” Jones

August 11, 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 things about revisiting classic television programs is rediscovering people now primarily known for “other” roles.

Take, for example, Dick Jones–co-star of The Range Rider–one of the nostalgic shows which debuted on the Astound TV Network as part of our new summer programming schedule.  You may not remember the name, but we can pretty much guarantee that you have seen or heard his work.

Born Richard Percy Jones on February 27, 1927 in a small Texas town, “Dickie” (as he was called through his early years) literally grew up performing in rodeos and western shows, which helped prepare him for some of his biggest career performances as an actor.  His mother also encouraged him to take speech lessons and utilize his unique voice.

His family moved to Hollywood to allow him an opportunity to get a career in films.

Fans of 1930s and early 1940 films will remember him for his roles as Jimmy Stewart’s page in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, as “Killer” Parkins in the late 1930s Nancy Drew films, and as a frequent guest star on the popular Our Gang (The Little Rascals) shorts.  He was also a regular performer as Artimer “Artie” Peters in the popular B-western films starring Hopalong Cassidy.

Jones scored his most famous and well-known role at the age of 11 as the voice of the titular character in the original version of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio.  At the time of its release, it was initially considered a box-office bomb.  Filmed on a budget of $2.6 million, it has since gone on to become a classic–earning well over $160 million – and has since become one of the most beloved cartoon films of all-time.

“Dickie” then put his career on hold to fight for the Allies in World War II.

Upon his return to the states, he shortened his first name to “Dick” and once again became a familiar face to 1950’s audiences in a variety of western-themed programs, including classics like The Gene Autry Show, Annie Oakley, The Lone Ranger, The Blue Angels, Buffalo Bill Jr., Wagon Train, The Gray Ghost, The Night Rider and Pony ExpressHe also starred in the full-length film, Requiem Of A Gunfighter.

But his longest and most visible on-camera starring role was on The Range Rider, in which he co-starred with Jock Mahoney.  Although both actors were roughly the same age, Mahoney’s 6-foot-5 frame made it look like Jones’ character, Dick West, was that of a much younger, smaller sidekick. (Jones’ height was estimated to be about 5’4″ at this time).

The show attempted to feature leading characters who had a reputation for honesty and emphasizing fairness for ALL peoples, including Native Americans–which wasn’t often the case for westerns filmed in early 1950s’ television.

In a crowded field of similar genre-driven shows, “Rider” was a standout performer in the ratings and earned a full three-year first release run before going into syndication.       

The quality of the episodes never waned.  Even today, the episodes during the program’s final season are among the highest rated shows by viewers on the IMDB website.  In fact, its third-last show ever produced, titled, “Two-Fisted Justice”, is rated one of the program’s all-time best episodes.

The Range Rider show itself also provided a number of early television appearances for stars who went on to have success in the entertainment field, including Bob Woodward, Denver Pyle, William Fawcett and others.

Be sure to watch and set your DVRs for The Range Rider, airing for the first time ever on ATVN this summer, every Friday morning at 9:30am.

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.

 

Ghosts on the Loose

August 4, 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.

 

If you want a little scary movie-going experience mixed with a lot of comedy, you need look no further than the 1943 tongue-in-cheek spooktacular, Ghosts on the Loose.

The film features an eclectic mix of movie stars from the 1940s.

The East Side Kids was popular with many “tweens” in this area who would regularly flock to the theaters on Saturday afternoons during this decade to see the entertaining group of youngsters work their way in and out of quirky adventures.  The Kids, who came from the poor side of the tracks, starred in 21 films between 1940 and 1946 and “Ghosts” premiered at the height of the young actors’ popularity.

To play the villain, Co-Producer Jack Dietz made the wise decision to get perennial scaremaster Bela Lugosi for the part.  Lugosi made such a perfect antagonist while fitting in nicely with the light-heartedness of the film, that he reunited with the East Side Kids for several other movies over the next few years.

For the role of Betty the bride, the producers also struck gold by asking Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer if they could “borrow” an actress and received a then-unknown actress by the name of Ava Gardner.  Gardner, (The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Night of the Iguana) of course, would go on to star in dozens of films over the next several decades and received multiple Academy Award nominations throughout her career.

Originally called Ghosts in the Night, the production got off to a rocky start as days before shooting Dietz was convicted of tax evasion.  Co-Producer Sam Katzman, who was the regular producer for all of the “East Side Kids” movies, took over the full reins of the project and immediately changed the film’s title.

The movie starts off with one of its funniest bits as the “Kids” are preparing for a wedding.  Among the early film hijinx includes the gang trying, but humorously failing, to rehearse the often used “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” while also taking other “unique” approaches to have traditional wedding elements ready for the big day.

The film dips into more serious territories as the group tries to fix up what they believe will be the happy couple’s new home–not realizing it’s a “haunted” house that is actually occupied by Nazi propagandists.  

Lots of light-hearted moments ensue as the “Ghosts” (aka the Nazis) try to scare the kids out of the house, only to have the youngsters repel every effort to be scared away and eventually to teach their adversaries a lesson. (The “Ghost in the Mirror” skit is my personal favorite!)

While not one of the highest-grossing films overall in 1943, it did mark one of the biggest highlights during the “Kids’” popular run in films and is a frequent favorite during the month of October for film fanatics anxious to experience some Holloween-based storylines while enjoying good humor and not getting overly spooked!.

Be on the lookout for Ghosts On The Loose on ATVN this Friday at 9:30pm (or set your DVR, if you’re afraid to watch it later in the evening). 

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.

Summer ‘22 Trivia Edition

July 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, key names in the “Golden Age” of entertainment history and legendary cinematic performances.

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I hope all of you are having a wonderful summer and have enjoyed reading background insights and little known information about our classic programs and watching them on the Astound TV Network!

Now it’s time to test your knowledge by taking our Classic Video Showplace “summer 2022” edition of our quiz. 

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

Have fun!

  1. Which former professional sports star played himself in a motion picture based on his own courageous journey to break baseball’s color barrier?
  2. Name the actress who played the lead in television’s first successful female-driven comedy program? (Hint: The answer is not Lucille Ball)
  3. What former US Olympic gold medalist starred in the show featuring real life stories based on the French Foreign Legion?
  4. What innovative technique created in 1953 was used to enhance visual images for motion pictures and was utilized in films like The 12 Mile Reef ?
  5. Which early television Western was one of the first programs to treat Native Americans fairly and equally when distributing justice?
  6. What country was the “All-American Comedian” Bob Hope born in?
  7. Ernest Borgnine burst on the scene with his Academy Award-winning portrayal of the titular character in 1955’s Oscar for Best Picture, Marty.  On what show was his final television appearance? 
  8. Veteran actor George Kennedy served under what legendary war hero, who’s life was later made into a 1970 Academy Award winning motion picture and was portrayed in the film by Academy Award Winner, George C. Scott?
  9. Speaking of Scott, which of his co-stars in 1959’s Anatomy of a Murder flew bombing raids missions during the last two years of World War II? (This pilot/actor also won an Academy Award).
  10. What is the unofficial term used to describe a hit show, taking a drastic change in plot lines just to create a ratings grabber – only to have the ploy backfire and lead to the eventual cancellation of the program?

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Answers:

  • Jackie Robinson
  • Gracie Allen (The Burns and Allen Show premiered a full year PRIOR to I Love Lucy)
  • Buster Crabbe
  • CinemaScope
  • The Range Rider
  • England
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Patton
  • James Stewart 
  • “Jumping the Shark”

You can see all of the above-mentioned actors and many of these classic films and television shows during this summer’s programming lineup on the Astound TV Network.  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.

Dennis Day

July 14, 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.

The return of The Jack Benny Program to the ATVN lineup also includes the reappearance of one of television’s most beloved entertainers of the 1940s and 1950s.

Dennis Day was born Owen Patrick Eugene McNulty to Irish immigrants in The Bronx, New York on May 21, 1916.

After graduating from Manhattanville College, Day entered and won a national competition orchestrated by bandleader Larry Clinton.  Shortly thereafter, he recorded his first single, “Goodnight, My Beautiful.”

At the same time, singer Kenny Baker had decided to leave The Jack Benny Radio Show–which was the number-one ranked comedy program at that time.  (Baker would resurface one year later on the radio show of Benny’s on-air nemesis, Fred Allen.)

Day was one of hundreds of tenors who auditioned, featuring singers from all around the world.  What got Dennis the job?

According to the book, Sunday Nights at Seven, Day was so nervous when they called his name to audition, that his immediate response was to blurt out, “Yes, please.” Benny and his writers were caught off guard by the unusual response (one they incorrectly thought was an attempt to interject some humor into the role) and gave the 23-year old the job.

Unbeknownst to Benny and the writing staff, Day was also a great mimic and voice actor who would fill in for legendary voice man Mel Blanc when he missed time due to a serious car accident.  Day would also impersonate other legendary film actors and famous people of the time in both the radio and television versions of the program (one of his best mimics was that of Winston Churchill on the TV episode guest-starring Raymond Burr).

Day not only made a smooth transition to the cast of the nation’s most popular program, but his own fame spawned his very own radio show which ran for several seasons.  Day would later host his own television show at the same time that Benny’s show ran.  There would be frequent jokes on the latter’s program that the young tenor has “two shows to Benny’s one.”

Day’s youthful appearance was also utilized frequently as the target of many jokes–his naive approach often frustrated Benny, culminating with the host yelling for “that crazy kid” to get off his show.

In fact, Day’s attempts at a television show actually preceded Benny’s. A Day In The Life of Dennis Day tried to transition his radio show to television, but the pilot was never picked up.

A second pilot, The Dennis Day Show, in which he hosted a variety program, also failed to get momentum on the CBS Network.

In 1952, a third attempt, The RCA Victor Show (later renamed The Dennis Day Show), succeeded on NBC and ran for three seasons.  Unlike his first attempt, the newer version had Day portraying a more mature character without the naivete he exhibited on the CBS show.

Even so, Day continued to appear on the Benny show posing as “that crazy kid” even through its final year in 1965, when Dennis was nearly 50 years old.

Day would continue singing and making appearances on popular television comedy and variety programs off-and-on over the next decade.

Day’s last two major on-air appearances were as voice animations for two popular annual cartoons.  In 1976, he was the voice of “The Preacher” in the Rankin-Bass production, Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, and again worked with them in 1978, when he voiced Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in The Stingiest Man in Town, which was their animated version of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Carol.

On June 22, 1978, Day died from ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was surrounded by his wife of 40 years, Peggy Almquist, and his 10 children.

Be sure to set your DVRs and watch Dennis’s original role on The Jack Benny Program on the Astound TV Network’s programming lineup, every Wednesday at 12 noon.  Also, you can binge-watch a number of great early “Benny” episodes as part of a mini-marathon this Monday starting 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 Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

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.

 

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