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The TV That Time Forgot: The Nat "King" Cole Show

In November, 1956, NBC became the first network to build a variety show around a black headliner when they debuted The Nat “King” Cole Show.

Nat "King" Cole was already an extremely popular singer, with 17 Top 10 hits. His show was well-received an attracted big name talent like Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald as guests. Yet, by December of 1957 the show was gone!

Why?

It wasn’t lack of ratings. Nat “King” Cole competed well. The problem was advertising. The New York agencies were afraid to place their sponsors on a show headlined by an African-American. They feared negative reaction to their clients’ products in the South. The show was only able to attract sponsors at the local level, like Reingold Beer in the New York area.

For a short time, Cole and his guests all agreed to work for AFTRA scale, the equivalent of minimum wage for TV performers. But after a year, Cole became disillusioned and quit, telling reporters, “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.”

NBC kept trying, bringing Bill Cosby in to co-star in the hit spy series Ispy beginning in 1965. Three years later they would launch Julia, a sit-com that starred Diahann Carroll.

But it wasn’t until 1970 that the network was finally able to create a variety show starring a black entertainer that could attract national sponsors. That was The Flip Wilson Show.

The TV That Time Forgot: Maverick

When you mention the TV series Maverick to any Baby Boomer, the first name they are likely to mention is James Garner. Yet, here’s a fun fact. Garner starred in less than half of the Maverick episodes filmed!

The Maverick TV series was very popular, running from the fall of 1957 through the summer of 1962 or 5 full seasons. But Garner left the show after Season 3 and even then, he shared the first 3 seasons with actor Jack Kelly, who played brother, Bart Maverick to Garner’s Brett.

Read more: The TV That Time Forgot: Maverick

Where the Boys Are (1960)

The granddaddy (or is that grandmommy) of all Spring Break films is Where the Boys Are! Released in December of 1960, this was an “A” picture for MGM, shot in Technicolor and CinemaScope.

The movie’s advertising billed it as “The HILARIOUS Inside Story of Those Rip-Roaring Spring Vacations!” Let’s look at the plot. We have a date rape (laughing yet?), a girl wandering out into traffic and getting hit by a car (a chuckle maybe?) and the film’s two leads going their separate ways at the end of the picture (side-splitting, right?).

Actually, this baby is pretty damn melodramatic. What few laughs there are belong to Frank Gorshin as a very nearsighted musician committed to “dialectic jazz.”

The film’s title allegedly came from a remark a college girl made when a reporter asked her why she came to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break. The plot was based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout.

Read more: Where the Boys Are (1960)

Back-to-Back to the Future

As these photos prove, the make-up team on Back to the Future got things pretty close when it came to aging their stars (except Lea Thompson is far prettier than they made her appear).

Thomas Wilson and Crispin Glover are pretty darn close.

We'd have a Pepsi Free in their honor (if we could find one).

Okay, now here's an even more recent photo of Michael J. Fox, Thomas Wilson, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson.

 

7 Facts You Never Knew About "White Christmas"

Before A Christmas Story, before the Grinch and Charlie Brown, most Baby Boomers’ holiday tradition was watching the movie White Christmas, the 1954 musical starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. We saw it so often, we probably knew almost every line by heart.

But here are a few things you probably didn’t know about the movie:

1. The Danny Kaye part was intended for Fred Astaire. The movie began as a quasi-remake of Holiday Inn, the black & white film that first teamed Bing Crosby and Astaire and the movie debut of the Irving Berlin song, “White Christmas.” But Astaire had announced his retirement (it wouldn’t stick) and turned the part down. It was then offered to Donald O’Connor, who accepted. Then he became ill and had to bow out. So, Kaye was the producers' third choice.

2. The musical number “Sisters” wasn’t in the original script. Crosby and Kaye were horsing around with the girls’ costume on the set. It cracked up director Michael Curtiz so much that he had the number worked up and included in the film.

3. Try and see Vera Ellen’s neck. Throughout the film, Vera is always wearing a turtleneck, scarf or other covering around her neck. No one knows why. Some theorize that there was some flaw in her neck that she was covering up. Others think it was Vera Ellen’s attempt to create a trademark look for herself.

4. While Rosemary Clooney plays Vera Ellen’s older sister, she was actually 7 years younger than her co-star. Also, Bing Crosby was a bit older than Dean Jagger, who plays “the old general” in the film. By the way, Bing was nearly twice Clooney’s age (51 to her 26!).

5. If you look closely, you’ll see future West Side Story star George Chakiris as a chorus boy in the production numbers.

6. The photo of “Benny the Dog-Faced Boy” who was brother to Rosemary & Vera is a photo of a grown-up Alfalfa Switzer of Little Rascals fame.

7. Bob Fosse worked on the film as an uncredited choreographer. It was early in the legendary dancer/choreographer/director’s career and Vera Ellen brought him on to choreograph her numbers, but without screen credit.

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