What could be funnier than men having to discuss bras and panties, right? Ah, the much more innocent 1950’s came to an end at movie theaters with this extremely popular WWII-themed sex comedy.
Operation Petticoat was made at Universal Pictures in 1959, apparently because Navy veteran Tony Curtis really wanted to co-star in a submarine movie with his idol, Cary Grant.
In one of those ironic little twists, Curtis’ other big picture for 1959 was Some Like It Hot, which also involved women’s underwear (this time, him wearing it) and Curtis performing a hilarious impression of Cary Grant as part of that film’s plot.
The film was directed by Blake Edwards, who would go on to much greater fame with the Pink Panther series and so many more movies. Paul King, Joseph Stone, Stanley Shapiro, and Maurice Richlin wrote the script, incorporating many actual incidents from World War II (including the accidental torpedoing of a bus and women military members needing to be evacuated by submarine). Looking at this lightweight bit of fluff today it’s hard to see how their screenplay was nominated for an Oscar, but it was.
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.
Mousketeer Roll Call: Darlene Gillespie
The story of Darlene Gillespie is not one that would lend itself to a Disney movie.
She was the daughter of a Canadian song and dance team. In 1943, her parents relocated to the Los Angeles area when Darlene was just two and began grooming her for a career in show business. By 1955, she was already an accomplished singer and dancer. She passed her audition for The Mickey Mouse Club and became one of the core cast members who stayed with the show during its entire first run.
What we at home never knew is that she was involved in an intense backstage rivalry with Annette Funicello. Dueling sets of stage parents put their friends and relatives up to flooding the Disney studio with fan mail for each of the respective girls. While Darlene did get to star in one of the Mousketeer serials (“Corky & White Shadow”) and play a major part in the second “Spin & Marty” serial, as the show progressed (along with Annette’s bustline), it became obvious who was the top Mousketeer.
Gillespie did cut a couple of albums for Disney, just like Funicello, but they didn’t receive the push from Disney’s marketing arm that Annette got.
When The Mouse Club ceased production, Disney kept Annette under contract, but Darlene had to go her own way. Her acting career quickly fizzled. Over the years, she made a few stabs at re-launching a singing career, but nothing really came of those.
Darlene worked for many years as a nurse and, in fact, greatly assisted her fellow Mousketeer Karen Pendleton when Karen had the car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Sadly, her last bit of notoriety came in 1998 when she was arrested in a securities fraud scheme that she cooked up with her husband. Darlene was sentenced to two years in prison, but wound up only doing 3 months. In 2005, she and her husband were back in court on charges of fraud. Those charges were eventually dropped. The husband who landed her in the slammer passed away in 2008.
Darlene is still with us, living in relative anonymity having finally reached a financial settlement with the Disney Company after a years-long battle over royalties she claimed she was owed for her work on that TV show. Sadly, that protracted legal battle led to an estrangement with the rest of the surviving Mousketeers.
Imagine a TV series where Miss Hathaway from Beverly Hillbillies, Alice from The Brady Bunch and Dobie Gillis all hung out together. There was such a series in the 1950’s, originally called The Bob Cummings Show, but better remembered due to the name it adopted for its far longer tenure in syndication, Love That Bob!
Bob Cummings starred as Bob Collins (continuing the long-standing but frankly puzzling sit-com tradition where the lead actor uses their real first name but a fictitious last name).
Cummings played a glamour photographer who was always surrounded by stunningly gorgeous models, many of whom he loved and left. Back then, he was a rakish playboy. Today, we’d call him commitment-phobic. Bob’s character was also interested in aviation.
In real life, photography and flying private planes were two of Cummings’ major interests. We suspect dating beautiful women was also an interest as he was married five times.
Think there are some bad reality TV shows on the air now?
Back in the summer of 1950, Toni Home Permanents (remember those?) actually sponsored a 15-minute prime time show that featured twins with the audience having to guess which one had had her hair styled professionally and which had used Toni’s home hair care products. In other words.
The only reason anyone should remember this show is its host – a young guy named Jack Lemmon!
Ah, how soon we forget!
Gambit was an A-list caper film that starred Michael Caine as the thief and Shirley MacLaine as his initially unwitting accomplice.
Caine is out to steal a priceless statue from the world’s richest man (Herbet Lom). MacLaine bears an uncanny resemblance to Lom’s dead wife, whom he adored. (Hey, if she looked like Shirley Maclaine, what’s not to adore?)
The film’s main gimmick is that we first see the caper play out flawlessly. In the film’s first of several twists, we then find out what we’ve been seeing is merely the way Caine has described his plan to his partner, an art forger (John Abbott).
We were born too late to experience the great Universal horror films in first run theaters. Instead, we watched them on our local TV station’s “Shock-Horror-Monster-Chiller-Nightmare Theater.” You remember. Those late night weekend shows where the TV weather guy dressed up as a vampire or mad scientist and showed all those great Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi movies that had scared our parents.
In fact, those old black & white monster movies created such a sensation on TV that British movie studio, Hammer Films, made a tidy sum remaking endless variations of “Frankenstein,” “Dracula” and “The Mummy” so we’d have some color horror to see at the drive-in ourselves.
But one of their films featured a totally original monster and is still tremendous fun to watch today, The Gorgon from 1964.
Many of the classic movie comedy teams from Laurel & Hardy to The Three Stooges scampered across the TV screens of our youth, but only one actually appeared in a brand-new, made-for-TV series. That was Abbott and Costello.
Actually, to say the series featured brand new material is a bit misleading. What The Abbott and Costello Show accomplished is something far more significant. It preserved for future generations a portion of American theatrical history that might have been lost to the ages without them.
Yes, it really happened! Bill Murray has portrayed a Marvel super-hero. The year was 1975 and Marvel was trying to expand from Saturday morning TV into the world of radio. So they spent $47,000 on a Fantastic Four radio series.
Murray was a struggling comic who had migrated from Chicago to New York. He was already working on The National Lampoon Radio Show, but picked up extra work when he was cast as Johnny Storm a.k.a. The Human Torch!
The shows were all adaptations of the very early issue of the Fantastic Four comic books of the early 1960’s. They were narrated by none other than Stan Lee himself. They are the cheese fest you would expect with all of Lee’s breathless, over-the-top prose and Murray faithfully shouting the Torch’s catchphrase “Flame on!” in every episode.
Sadly, the series lasted only 13 episodes and earned a paltry $22,000.
Oh, John Belushi was up for the part of the Thing, but was turned down.
A year later, Murray replaced Chevy Chase on the second season of NBC’s Saturday Night (it wouldn’t become Saturday Night Live until near the end of the second season). And the rest is show biz history!
This is the film that started it all!
Teen exploitation movies! A nationwide craze for surfing! The slang phrase “Big Kahuna!” Sandra Dee’s brief career as a movie star!
Before Gidget, there had been movies aimed at teenagers, but they were mainly bad horror and science fiction films whose stars were still adults. Gidget was the first movie for the Baby Boomers to make the kids and their personal lifestyle the focus.
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