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Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

One of the great movies of our adolescent years was Bye Bye Birdie, the film version of the successful Broadway musical.

It’s one of the rare instances when the changes Hollywood inevitably brings to Broadway adaptations actually improved the story.

The story was inspired by Elvis Presley’s 1957 induction into the army. The title character’s name was a play on then current rock singer (and future country star) Conway Twitty.

Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde were brought in from the stage show to play essentially the same parts.

There were two big changes.

Read more: Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

The BOO Tube

Local TV Horror Hosts – most of us had ‘em.

In New York and northern Jersey, it was Zacherley (aka John Zacherle). In L.A., it was Vampira. Milwaukee had Dr. Cadaverino and Tampa had Dr. Paul Bearer. They were the “creatures” who brought us monster movies, good and bad, usually on the weekend and ideally late at night.

For Halloween, here’s a look at some of the men and women who brought us Monster-Horror-Shock-Chiller-Nightmare-Theater!

Read more: The BOO Tube

Gilligan to the Rescue!

There were 7 regular cast members of that deathless TV classic Gilligan’s Island; yet during the first season, the show’s catchy theme song only mentioned 5 by name. The Professor and Mary Ann were just lumped together as “the rest.”

When the show was renewed for a second season, Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells asked that their characters’ names be included in the song. At first, the network flatly refused, claiming re-recording the song would be too expensive. Then suddenly, they changed their minds and had the song revised.

What happened?

The show’s star, Bob Denver, had gone to the network and said if the song wasn’t changed, he wanted his name removed from the opening credits. The network panicked and gave in.

The rest of the cast did not find out what Denver had done until 20 years after the show went off the air!

The TV That Time Forgot: How to Marry a Millionaire

How to Marry a Millionaire is a classic Hollywood comedy of the 1950’s.  How many remember that there was a short-lived TV version of the film, one that co-starred a young actress named Barbara Eden?

The How to Marry a Millionaire TV series was one of the first times they made a hit movie into a weekly TV show. Frankly, it’s not remembered today because it was slightly less successful than M*A*S*H.

The movie came out in 1953. It wasn’t until 1957 that National Telefilm Associates (NTA) got around to producing their TV version. While the show was not carried by the three major networks, NTA did manage to sell it to 115 local stations around the country.

Read more: The TV That Time Forgot: How to Marry a Millionaire

The TV That Time Forgot: Boston Blackie (1951-53)

Boston Blackie began life as a jewel thief and safecracker in a series f pulp stories written by Jack Boyle. He reached his greatest fame in a series of mystery movies produced in the 1940s by Columbia Pictures. In the movies, Blackie was now a reformed jewel thief, who nonetheless is always suspected by police inspector Farraday of being the guilty party in the mystery of the moment.

Portrayed on the screen by Chester Morris, Blackie was the engaging, witty rascal, always one step ahead of the police. He was drawn into solving these crimes in order to clear his name and get the cops off his back. A strong undercurrent of comedy ran through the popular series.

The film series (14 in all) led to a concurrent radio series beginning in 1944, initially also starring Morris.

It was inevitable, then, that Boston Blackie would get the call in the early days of TV. However, several changes were made that probably doomed the character to a short run. Blackie’s criminal past was hardly ever mentioned. Exactly what he did for a living was never explained, but he definitely was not a private eye. So, why he spent all his time solving other people’s mysteries was the biggest mystery of all. He wasn’t a cop. He wasn’t getting paid. And he wasn’t suspected by the police. He was just a buttinsky.

Blackie was portrayed by Kent Taylor on the TV series. Lois Collier was cast as Blackie’s ever-present girlfriend, Mary with Frank Orth playing Inspector Farraday as an even bigger blockhead than he was the movies.

Produced by Ziv Television (who also gave us Bat Matterson, Sea Hunt & Highway Patrol among others), the series was only in production for 2 seasons (1951-1952) and was sold directly to local stations through syndication. Despite the low umber of episodes, many stations continued to rerun the series until color really took hold and series with far more episodes made Blackie a thing of the past.

The series is remembered to day only because its lead gave Jimmy Buffet the inspiration for his song “Pencil-Thin Mustache” – an ode to several long-gone shows from TV’s earliest days.
As the series has passed into the public domain, there are several video collections of various episodes available for the home video market.

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