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).
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!
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.
In the early days of TV, most major Hollywood studios saw it as “the enemy,” the force that was driving down attendance at movie theaters.
In those days, only Universal (which frankly could use the money), Walt Disney (who knew how to use TV to promote his movies and new theme park) and Warner Brothers really embraced the new medium.
Warner Brothers specialized in churning out 60-minure Westerns and private eye shows for ABC-TV. They began with the Western Cheyenne. When that clicked, others soon followed. One of the first was Sugarfoot, starring Will Hutchins.
Is there a Baby Boomer male who didn’t have a crush on Hayley Mills back in the early 60’s?
If there was, he probably never saw her in her magnum opus, The Parent Trap.
The film trades on the extremely popular, but probably psychologically unhealthy fantasy of a lot of divorced kids that they can somehow get their parents back together again.
In this case, the too dumb for their own good ‘rents are played by Brian Keith (who owns every young girl’s fantasy of a California horse ranch) and Maureen O’Hara (who inhabits no one’s fantasy of a stuffy Boston home, relieved only by Charlie Ruggles as a grandfather with a permanent twinkle in his eye).
In The Parent Trap, their kids are both Hayley Mills (or Hayley and her body double, Susan Henning) as twins who were separated at birth by their idiot parents.
The kids of 1960's television went all out for Father's Day as you can see from their imaginative gifts!
Now, how many of them can you name?
ANSWER: Top Row L to R - Billy Mumy, Barry Livingston, Ron Howard / Middle Row L to R - Anissa Jones, Stanley Livingston, Johnny Whitaker / Bottom Row - Clint Howard
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