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).
In television’s early days, the hands-down, most popular, can’t miss genre was Westerns. Especially when it came to kids’ programs.
One of the many lies that TV peddled so easily in those more innocent days was that the American West was somehow virtually unchanged from its post-Civil War heyday. Sure, there might be telephones and here and there a jeep to help with the ranching, but people still preferred to ride horses and settled their disputes with a good ol’ six-shooter.
One Western that bucked that trend was Sky King, who not only didn’t ride a horse; he didn’t even ride in a car. No sir. Sky King help keep law and order along that still untamed frontier in an airplane! Not just any airplane – but in the legendary Songbird!
Right off, how fortunate was it that his parents thought to name him Schuyler (a.k.a. “Sky”) and that his last name was King? I mean, talk about wacky coincidences!
Pam and Jerry North were a very happily married couple who kept tripping over dead bodies. Jerry was a publisher of mystery novels (natch) and his slightly off-kilter wife was usually the one who solved the cases they kept stumbling across.
Mr. & Mrs. North had a long, successful career in books, stage and the radio. Unfortunately, the TV version wasn’t all that successful, running only two seasons. But thanks to reruns, it is remembered by many Baby Boomers.
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.
Video Village was one of the first game shows to debut after the infamous quiz show scandals. Up until its debut, most quiz shows fell into one of two categories. 1.) A contestant tried to stump a panel of D-list celebrities (I mean, did anyone ever know what Arlene Francis was “famous” for?) 2.) Two contestants answered questions or solved puzzles while in isolation booths or standing right next to the game show host.
Video Village’s concept was as simple as it was different. It was a board game transferred to TV. The contestants were the living game pieces. They had friends or family members (almost always a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend) who spun the dice.
The Rat Pack (started by Humphrey Bogart and inherited by Frank Sinatra after Bogey’s death) made two movies in the sixties. Neither were great shakes as movies go, but the first one, Ocean’s 11, is a wonderful time machine back to a place and time that no longer exist.
Released in 1960, Ocean’s 11 can be seen as the 1950’s last hurrah. In just a few short years, the British invasion in music and fashion would change everything. Film historians think the film was conceived as way to give Frank, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and the rest something to do with their days while they were headlining at the Sands resort at night.
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.
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.
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!
If you love gangsters movies and haven’t seen this film, stop what you’re doing and buy, rent, stream or in any way possible see this movie!
If you saw the Oscar-nominated Trumbo (2015) and are curious about the films Douglas Trumbo wrote while blacklisted, see this movie!
Gun Crazy may be the greatest film most people have never heard of!
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