Friday, March 30, 2012

Information Please: The War Bond Tour

In November of 1942, it was publicly reported that Information, Please was going on tour for the War Savings Staff of the Treasury Department. Never seen outside New York except for the movie versions, the program visited cities along the eastern seaboard in an ambitious attempt by its creator and owner, Dan Golenpaul, to raise several million dollars for the war effort. The first stop was Symphony Hall, Boston, on December 4, 1942, where it was hoped that at least $1,500,000 would be realized.

The three regulars, Levant, Adams and Kieran, and their presiding officer Fadiman, participated on the tour, which for starters was limited to one out-of-town appearance a month. According to a press release, a visit to Philadelphia was scheduled in January of 1943 and, if all went well, future visits in Baltimore, Washington, Hartford and perhaps Rochester or Buffalo.

Dan Golenpaul, who was meeting the expenses of the tour, said that tickets would be priced from a $25 Bond for balcony seats to perhaps as high as $50,000 for an aisle chair in Row A. In Boston, the ticket distribution would be handled by the local War Savings Staff. The day before the Friday broadcast, Adams, Kieran and Levant were on hand for a little personal bond selling at strategic points in Boston.

Aside from the regular broadcast, bond buyers would see the usual “warm-up” period of questions before the formal program and, in addition, Adams and Kieran, who were considered “wonderful material for vaudeville” by Golenpaul, would do a little extra business. Levant also addressed himself at the piano. Golenpaul was not inclined to reveal the names of guest experts far enough in advance for local areas to advertise, pending their acceptance of invitations to participate.

Golenpaul’s initial intention of selling $1,500,000 worth in bonds was realized by their second visit. The January 9, 1943 issue of the New York Times reported: “Philadelphia, Jan. 8 – Thirty-four hundred persons who crowded the Academy of Music tonight to hear the Information, Please radio program, now on tour, bought a total of $6,314,123 in war savings bonds. The experts of the show were joined by Representative Will Rogers, Jr. of California, son of the humorist.” Evidently the war bond drive was extremely successful, and Golenpaul extended his tour along the East Coast for the rest of the 1943 calendar year.

For the broadcast of June 28, 1943, Chicago got its first look at Information, Please in action. The 3,500 or so people who filled all but a couple of the seats in the giant Civic Opera House enjoyed the radio experts’ performance to the maximum, and went home feeling that the price of admission—a war bond from $50 to $5,000 in denomination—had been well-spent in more ways than one. The total war bond “take” for this trip was $6,818,107.

Richard K. Bellamy, radio editor of the Milwaukee Journal, was in the audience to get a first look and report on the visual aspect – the part a radio audience could not get at home. “As a radio show this one is very smartly staged,” Bellamy wrote. “Even to the lone feminine aspect, a lovely, anonymous girl with a rose in her hair who sang several snatches to illustrate a song question on the broadcast. First Levant played some Gershwin on the piano with professional skill. Then Kieran arose, strapped on an accordion and slaughtered ‘I’m Just Wild About Harry’ (we think that’s what it was) as cruelly as any tavern player has ever slaughtered it. He grinned from ear to ear all the while, and the crowd loved him. Adams put a pencil in his teeth and knocked off an unidentified melody on that crude instrument with his fingers. Kieran and [Walter] Yust closed the performance with a piano duet, ‘Chopsticks.’ It’s amazing how little it takes to win over 3,500 people. At 9:15 Fadiman started asking some preliminary questions to get the board into the swing of things. He warned the audience: ‘You, the cream of Chicago, will know the answers before these lugs up here on the stage. But please don’t coach them.’ Even during the broadcast Fadiman seemed perfectly relaxed, always waiting, like a cat, for an opening. He seizes openings lightning fast and without any visible effort.”

In Chicago, Golenpaul played the role of director with perfection. He often sat with Fadiman, whispering occasional comments, and once or twice he crossed to the other table and nudged Yust a little closer to the microphone. He had decreed, “No photographers at the broadcast.” Apparently his rule was law because no pictures were taken.

“We did a lot of travelling with Information, Please,” recalled Oscar Levant, “and we were celebrities wherever we went. In Hartford, we dined at the governor’s mansion. Fadiman sometimes wrote the speeches with which the dignitaries welcomed us. In Cleveland, Senator Lausche – the alleged Democrat who was to the right of Goldwater – was the mayor and greeted us. In Toronto, Lester Pearson made a speech, presented us with gifts, and thousands of crack troops paraded in front of us in tribute. It was mighty flattering but I was embarrassed. I didn’t think we rated that.” 

On September 27, 1943, Information, Please originated from the stage of the Mosque Theatre in Newark, New Jersey, with two very special guests: Vice President of the United States Henry A. Wallace and Representative James W. Fulbright of Arkansas. Exactly $277,398,975 in war bonds were sold that evening as a result. $275 million dollars of the total came from a group of local business concerns. V.P. Wallace said that the “common man” was buying 50 percent more bonds in 1943 compared to 1942.

Photo courtesy of Richard Glazier (www.richardglazier.com)

“And he is going to do still better,” he added. “He must do better so as to put our armies into Berlin and Tokyo as soon as possible. He must be better if we are to have a stable peace without inflation.” Asked by reporters after the broadcast what he had meant by his reference to a “partial alliance,” Henry A. Wallace laughed and said, “You’ll have to figure that one out for yourself.” The Vice President, incidentally, was to have appeared as a guest on the quiz program, but he shuddered at the prospect and took no part in it other than to give a brief talk during the opening minutes. Representative Fulbright substituted for him in the question-and-answer period. Clifton Fadiman announced that the war bond total had been contributed by 3,277 people for the broadcast, all of whom bought bonds ranging from $50 to $5,000 to gain audience admission to the broadcast.

For more information about the radio program, visit the Information, Please page on www.MartinGrams.com

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Battle For James Bond

Cinema history might have been very different had the first James Bond film not been Dr. No starring Sean Connery. Thunderball could have been directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Richard Burton as secret agent 007. It sounds preposterous and unbelievable, but it almost happened. 

It began way back in 1958 when maverick Irish producer Kevin McClory collaborated with 007 creator Ian Fleming, and screenwriter Jack Whittingham, on a film script that was eventually entitled, Thunderball. Details of this scenario can be found among the documentary extras on the Thunderball DVD and BluRay releases. Today, this story is commonly known among die-hard fans of the fictional James Bond character. Long story short, the movie never got made and Dr. No became the series opener. Flash forward a few years later: the fourth installment of the Bond franchise was Thunderball, the most expensive Bond film made to date (and would remain the most expensive for more than a decade and a half), and would be the highest grossing movie of the franchise for many years. Even a Christmas TV special helped promote the movie's release and boy, they made a lot of money!

With Fleming and McClory's initial enterprise fizzled out, Fleming ultimately used the screenplay as the basis for the fourth movie, and a new Bond novel, believing he had all the rights to do so. After all, he was the co-author/creator. Feeling betrayed, McClory and Whittingham sued Fleming for plagiarism. The lawsuit went on for a lengthy period of time and McClory legally retained the option to remake Thunderball, resulting in the 1983 Never Say Never Again, notable for the return of Sean Connery to the Bond role after a 12-year absence. (This is why Never Say Never Again is always sold separately and never among the James Bond multi-movie DVD sets -- it really wasn't part of the official series.)

In July of 2007, Tomahawk Press published a book, The Battle for Bond, exploring in further detail the evidence that the screen version of James Bond was not Fleming's creation. The book, if I can be dramatic, was a tale of bitter recriminations, betrayal, multi-million dollar lawsuits and death. McClory, you see, claimed that while Fleming had created the Bond character for the novels years prior, the movie version of James Bond was not the same as that of the books and felt he should be compensated for the "creation" of the screen version. A dispute the courts would have to settle.

“Having read Robert Sellers’ manuscript, The Battle For Bond will undoubtedly become the most important book ever published about the evolution of Ian Fleming’s James Bond from Fifties’ literary sensation to Sixties’ cinematic icon. With many unpublished facts and information drawn firsthand from correspondence between Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory, and the other protagonists involved at the inception of Agent 007 becoming a screen hero, Sellers’ book is a ‘must read’ for anyone who considers themselves either a Bond aficionado or a serious student of the history of cinema.”
GRAHAM RYE, Editor & Publisher, 007 MAGAZINE

The author, Robert Sellers, dug deep into vaults, conducted exclusive interviews with people involved, and put together a documentary approach to a case that fans were already familiar with. But shortly after the book's release, the publishers started receiving threats of litigation from Olswang, the lawyers for the Ian Fleming Will Trust. "Who are they?" you may ask -- a good question and one that the publishers to this day are unable to answer. "It appears that they keep their activities as far from public scrutiny as possible," Bruce Sachs of Tomahawk explained. "Their exact whereabouts is a mystery, too. They only speak through their lawyers."

It seems The Trust took issue with the fact that the author and the publishing company reproduced nine rather innocuous documents -- short scribbled notes, a brief telegram and a date penciled in a diary -- that had been submitted in evidence during the Ian Fleming plagiarism trial. Olswang referred to these very few documents as "a highly valuable portion of Ian Fleming's legacy," and were unaware they even existed until they were published in The Battle for Bond. The publishing company is located in England, where copyright law is a bit different than it is in the U.S. For those who are not aware, any documents submitted in court as evidence go into the public domain, as written in the U.S. Copyright Law. They become "public knowledge" and "public information" and therefore open for anyone to reprint.

Could Olswang have been looking for an excuse to ban this book? They could find nothing to take issue with in this factual and well-balanced account of events, so they went after this minor issue of "possible" copyright infringement. The Trust would, apparently, entertain no outcome to this but the complete banning of the book.

It wasn't long after this was done in March 2008, that the publishing company was immersed in a media storm. They were contacted by newspapers and the BBC for official comment. The internet was buzzing with the news. If the Fleming Trust was trying to suppress the information, then this had gone badly wrong for them. As a consequence of renewed public and media interest, a new edition of the book went to print, a second edition, with the original text unchanged.

As reported in Cinema Retro magazine, "It's hard to fathom what the Fleming estate hoped to gain by these actions. They've taken a low-profile book and given it enormous exposure. Sellers [the author] was not uncovering a scandal; the courtroom case involving Fleming was major news at the time and has been extensively covered in every biography of the author... they have insured that the book will now be highly-sought by readers who might otherwise have never known it existed."


And Cinema Retro is correct. Case histories like this have happened before. Big companies with a lot of money believe they can intimidate the little fellow by threatening a lawsuit, even though the little fellow is in his full right to publish material that is documentary in nature. Is the author reprinting something truly copyrighted, without permission from the author or publisher? That is, of course, all to be determined in court. But facts are facts and whether the author truly did research (which means digging into archives, not copying what they find in other books and on the world wide web) can be determined simply by the material they include in their written thesis.

Personal commentary to clarify the right to publish: Over the years, I have met a number of people who post copyrighted materials on the internet and/or published books, claiming they are legally entitled to do so because U.S. Copyright Law dictates they can. The reasons vary from "everything is in the public domain" to "I'm providing a service to the public." Everyone has a stance on copyright, and believe they know better than the rest. But there is a reason why books and magazine articles are submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office for Federal protection in the first place. And anyone who chooses to post something on the internet needs to be reminded that if it's copyrighted, it's illegal to do so. And if you are not certain if it's copyrighted, don't do it. Just this past year I discovered someone scanning whole pages from one of my books and posting them on their web-site. When I approached them via e-mail and asked them to please cease and desist, they claimed as a U.S. War Veteran they have rights and are entitled to do so. So I did what I had to. I brought it to the attention of the attorneys at their internet service provider, including the Federal Copyright Registration number. Within hours the material was removed. Remarkable.

I'll sum this up briefly in one sentence. Unless someone spent at least four years at a School of Law to learn about Copyrights, they shouldn't try to quote the laws as a means to justify their own actions. As an author myself, I find it distressing that over the past two or three years, the issue of copying material from a published book has gotten worse. I would like to think that this problem will diminish over time... but who is at fault? The person responsible for lifting material out of a book I wrote or the people who choose to support those web-sites?

As for Tomahawk Press, who decided not to give in to the threats from the Fleming Trust... good for you. (They did remove a few passages from Ian Fleming's personal letters, as the threat of litigation had some form of basis, according to U.K. law, for the second edition.) This is just another case where the big companies keep forgetting that the internet (and the fan base) is a powerful tool that can make an impact. As an author myself who wrote more than 20 books about vintage movies, television and old-time radio programs, and has published excerpts from personal letters, contracts and archives (with permission from the copyright holders and only after consulting a paid legal attorney to verify I was within my rights to do so), it's nice to see a publishing company that stands their ground when it comes to legal intimidation. Their second printing is testament to their dedication.

As for the book, The Battle For Bond, which Robert Sellers so wonderfully researched and documented, it comes with my highest recommendation. I did not choose to tell the entire story of McClory vs. Fleming in this blog post simply out of respect: I don't want to give it all away because that would do injustice to the author. But the book deserves your fullest attention by buying a copy and reading this book. It's a wonderful study of how people who work hard and put together a documentary approach on a subject they feel passionate about. And as a Bond fan, it's a great read as well.

Friday, March 16, 2012

HAVE GUN-WILL TRAVEL (Radio, 1959)

John Dehner in an episode of The Rifleman.
“I started out actually by studying art,” recalled John Dehner, the star of radio’s Have Gun-Will Travel. “I was going to be an artist, but actually became an actor and I went to New York from 35 to 40, went through the depression there, as an actor, and did the usual classical starving, and decided the hell with it. If I’m not going to eat for a while, I went to California. And I tried out for Disney in the art department and they hired me. After a year I became an assistant animator. And that gave me a few dollars. We weren’t paid very much. Although we [the animators] were skilled, we were paid $18 dollars a week. But it gave me enough money to eat a bit. I stayed at Disney for a year or little better and went into the Army, and when I came out I didn’t want to be an artist. I wanted to be an actor. So I went into radio.”

John Dehner was born John Forkum in Staten Island, New York, November 23, 1915. He celebrated his 43rd birthday on the premiere of radio’s Have Gun-Will Travel, a role he would today become synonymous to fans of old-time radio broadcasts. As an animator for Walt Disney Studios, Dehner was responsible for drawing the owl sequences for Bambi (1942), the Beethoven sequence in Fantasia (1940), and a number of Pluto, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse cartoons.

Dehner’s radio career began with radio announcing, which soon drifted into radio news and was the news editor for stations KMBC and KFWB. “I left that because I just drifted back into acting,” Dehner recalled in the early 1980s. Dehner tried his hand as a disc jockey, even as a professional pianist. In 1944, he made one of his earliest film appearances as a Norwegian sailor in Hollywood Canteen. On radio, he played (for a short while) the horror host of The Hermit’s Cave, along with countless supporting roles on The Whistler, Gunsmoke, Suspense, Escape and Screen Director’s Playhouse.

As pointed out in a prior blog post, Dehner was not chosen for the role of Paladin because of his portrayal as Jeremy Bryant Kendall on the radio program, Frontier Gentleman, but it is difficult not to compare the two roles since both programs were Westerns over the CBS Radio Network. Comparing the radio program versus the television version is much more fun. On radio, Virginia Gregg became a semi-regular in the role of Missy Wong (not Miss Wong as many people continue to refer). She worked closely with Hey Boy, played by Ben Wright. When Kam Tong, who played Hey Boy on television, left the series for a season to try out a lead of his own detective series, Lisa Lu was hired to play Hey Girl (for the fourth season). By the time Hey Girl came into the picture, the radio series had expired. Could the television producers have remembered the radio program and been inspired to replace Hey Boy with a female counterpart?

“Ben Wright and I did Hey Boy and Missy Wong on the Paladin show,” recalled Virginia Gregg. “I came on and did the role for a couple episodes and then Frank Paris asked me to stay on as a regular. From then on, I came in and did almost every episode. The television Have Gun had a female Missy Wong for a while. I don’t think she had the same name as mine. But I do know that it was Frank and I who started it first!” The reason the names were not the same might have been to avoid an internal legal issue at CBS. The radio program and the television program were totally separate productions.

“Over the years I have had fans give me tapes and recordings of my performances on radio and television and I love them dearly. It’s not because I don’t like hearing my own voice or the costumes I wore, it’s just something I don’t settle down to do. I played one once only to hear a dear friend’s voice, who had passed on shortly after I received a tape, and wanted to reminisce.”

As for Ben Wright, he began his work in radio for the BBC, but never really began an acting career in radio programs until after WWII. Wright played the role of Sherlock Holmes from 1949 to 1950, and was Tulku, a faithful Tibetan servant to The Green Lama in the summer of 1949. Fans of the television version of Have Gun can spot the actor playing a supporting role on a number of episodes. Sadly, Ben Wright passed away on July 2, 1989, two days before his good friend Vic Perrin died, a regular supporting actor on radio’s Have Gun.

After 36 episodes, Norman Macdonnell left the series to pursue other ventures. His attempt to create better radio productions adapted from the television scripts had failed. CBS, hoping to calm Macdonnell’s disappointment of the television series, Gunsmoke, was asked to produce the television version. Charles Marquis Warren has been producing the television series and Macdonnell was pleased to take over the reins when Warren bowed out. His associate producer, Frank Paris, took over the production and direction beginning with episode 37 and remained with the program until the series concluded in 1960. Under Paris’ guidance, original scripts were written for the series -- a vast improvement compared to the earliest productions. As mentioned in a prior blog posting, sound man Ray Kemper wrote a number of original radio scripts. Not to be outdone by his friend, soundman Tom Hanley began submitting scripts. Frank Paris himself contributed a number of adventures, as well as William N. Robson, producer and director of numerous CBS radio programs. Ann Doud was a major contributor of radio scripts for Have Gun. “As a matter of fact, at one time, Ann Doud and I were in the same creative writing class at UCLA. As you probably know, she was the wife of Gil Doud, who was one of the writers on The Voyage of the Scarlet Queen radio series in the 1940s. Ann and I had some nice chats and I found her to be a warm, friendly person. I was very sad to learn of her death in a boating accident.”

“Macdonnell did a lot of directing for CBS and was loved by everyone,” recalled actress Jeanne Bates. “I don’t know of anyone who didn’t like working under him. He worked with the actors. He never demanded takes of specifics. He joked around now and then.”

“Norm was the best director in the business,” recalled actor Dick Beals. “He told each actor what he and the writer wanted, ad he hired actors he knew he could depend on to make the characters believable. If necessary, Norm quietly and gently suggested changes. His every wish was our command.”

“There was great warmth, as it is to many other shows that we did in those days,” recalled John Dehner. “Because every week we had a different story. We had actors we knew well and loved dearly, directors and producers, and it was a tight-knit group and we enjoyed it very much. And it was clean and it provided us with a steady and rather lucrative income.”

During the calendar year of 1959, a number of episodes hit the high mark on Have Gun-Will Travel. Among the notables were “Stardust” (September 20, 1959), “When in Rome” (October 25, 1959), and “Wedding Day” (November 1, 1959).

On January 18, 1959, “Three Bells to Perdido” was dramatized with Don Diamond cast in the role of Pedro. This was an adaptation of the television episode CBS chose as the series premiere (the pilot episode). Diamond was originally intended to double for two roles, the second as George, the desk clerk. For reasons unknown, William Alland played the bit part. A former actor and film producer, Alland was currently taking a hiatus from Hollywood motion pictures (having produced Creature from the Black Lagoon and This Island Earth) and his casting was a unique surprise. “I created a very famous radio program called Doorway to Life,” Allan recalled. “It was on CBS coast-to-coast for almost two years and I won the Peabody Award for this. It broke a lot of pioneer ground in the area of psychology on radio. Peggy Webber was the female lead [on many radio productions], and I’m still in touch with her once in a while. She was a former Mercury Player. She’s a lovely lady; very active in SPERDVAC, the organization that puts on radio plays from the old days. She keeps trying to drag me into the act again, and I don’t want to be involved [laughs]!” Alland was a cast member of the Mercury Theater’s notorious 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast. “Three Bells to Perdido” is also unique because it was recorded from 11:30 p.m. to midnight and while it was the ninth episode of the series, it was one of the first to be recorded.

Other unique castings included Richard Perkins in the role of Andy Dawes in “Sense of Justice” (March 29, 1959). Richard Perkins was a stage name for script writer Kenneth Perkins, who wrote Hawk Larabee, a CBS radio Western from 1946-48, considered one of the finest adult Westerns on network radio. By 1959, radio drama was dwindling and Perkins began experimenting with acting to supplement his ever-shrinking income. He appeared in a total of one Gunsmoke and two Have Gun episodes during this season.
The radio program is still protected under copyright. Except for products like this above, issued by Radio Spirits, most CD and mp3 sets available on the internet are not licensed products. Don't let attractive packaging fool you.
Jeannette Nolan reprised her television role of Ma Warren in “Gunshy” (May 3, 1959). This was the one and only time the same role was played by the same actor for both the radio and the television version. In “Bitter Wine” (June 14, 1959), Dennis Weaver, best known as Chester on television’s Gunsmoke, can be heard during a commercial about Look magazine. June Foray, best known for her vocal talents on such cartoons as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and Bugs Bunny and Sylvester and Tweetie, can be heard in the closing commercial in “Young Gun” (July 12, 1959). Debbie Reynolds promoted Look magazine in a commercial in “Stardust” (September 20, 1959).

“Stopover in Tombstone” (October 11, 1959) revealed a major difference between the Paladin character on radio versus the continuity on television. On the small screen, Paladin never accepted to wear a deputy’s badge, or a sheriff’s badge. There were a number of episodes where a law officer requested Paladin wear a badge or be sworn in as a deputy, but the man in black declined the offers. On the radio program (including this episode), it was not uncommon for Paladin to accept the position. In this episode, Paladin was asked by a law officer to be deputizes, in hopes of legally catching a man on the rune, before vengeful deputies took the law into their own hands.

Olan Soule played the recurring role of the desk clerk in the Have Gun television series. On radio, he played brief supporting roles other than a hotel clerk. In “When in Rome” (October 25, 1959), Soule played the role of “The Professor,” a murderer with a thousand dollar reward on his head.

Lillian Buyeff played the role of Magda Salvar in “Fair Fugitive” (November 15, 1959), working alongside her good friend Virginia Gregg. “I started back in radio in 1944 or 1945. Have Gun was very, very late -- how strange. I do remember Suspense and Gunsmoke on at that time, but radio programs were shrinking. Virginia Gregg was one of my favorite people in the world. She was a marvelous actress, but she was a better human being. She was wonderful. When I was first starting, I didn’t have a car at the time and she would come and pick me up to take me to a rehearsal. That kind of thing. She’s been gone now for quite a few years and I miss her a lot. An amusing thing about Virginia: She was pregnant with her second child and I with my first, at the same time! We were only six weeks apart, and I just had this vision -- I can’t remember what the show was -- but the two of us at the mike at the same time! [laughs] We couldn’t get that close [to the mike]. It was pretty funny.”

“Ginny is probably the woman who I consider my best friend in radio. I adored her,” recalled Larry Dobkin. “As an actress, she was in my view an equal of Jeannette Nolan, who is normally considered the greatest radio actress on the East Coast. I thought Ginny was splendid. I remember early on while the mess of racial integration was still among us, which was frequent in the papers. One Saturday morning for a Gunsmoke rehearsal, Virginia was a little tardy. She had had a rowl with a parking attendant, who happened to be colored. She was full of amazement at herself. She said, “I didn’t know that I was that liberated. I yelled at him just as it he had been white.’ She died too young. Cancer.”

Notes of Interest 
“Stardust” (October 23, 1960) was the same script broadcast on September 20, 1959. They are two separate productions. The cast remained virtually the same except Laurie Gallagher was played by Anne Whitfield in the second version. Norma Jean Nilsson played the role in the 1959 version. Regardless of what web-sites claim, they are different productions and recordings. This is the only episode of the radio program to have the same title and plot.

The broadcast of January 11, 1959 is titled “The Englishman,” adapted from the television episode of the same name. A number of internet web-sites incorrectly claim the title is “British Courage.” The origin of many incorrect titles is because the announcer never gave the titles during the broadcasts. For years, collectors were forced to create their own descriptive titles. Recently, a number of individuals who swear everything listed in the newspapers is 100 percent accurate (and we all know that is not so), turn to the New York Times which, for space limitations, chose to list a description of the episode instead of the actual title, and some people mistake this as the title of the broadcast.

The correct title was verified by consulting the radio scripts at the CBS Radio Archive in New York City, the Thousand Oaks Library in California, scripts registered for copyright at the Library of Congress, and various scripts in private collector hands. In short, I consulted as may as four copies of the same script to verify the spelling of the title (and fictional characters and other details).

The broadcast of June 21, 1959 should be “North Fork,” not “Trouble in North Fork.”

The broadcast of July 12, 1959 should be “Young Gun,” not “Drought.”

The broadcast of July 19, 1959 should be “Deliver the Body,” not “Search for a Suspect.”

The broadcast of October 4, 1959 should be “Contessa Marie Desmoulins,” not “The Contessa.”

“Brother Lost” was broadcast on November 8, 1959, not October 18, 1959. Station logs in the CBS Archives verify that “Brother Lost” was originally intended for broadcast on October 18, but pushed ahead to November 8 instead.

The broadcast of December 20, 1959 should be “Ranse Carnival,” not “Rance Carnival” or “Range Carnival.”

The broadcast of January 31, 1960 should be “The Boss,” not “Bad Bart.”

The broadcast of August 7 and August 14, 1960 should be “Viva” and “Extended Viva,” not “Father O’Toole’s Organ” (parts one and two).
.
On the subject of correct titles, I will not take the time to list all of them due to space restrictions. But where am I finding all these errors? On the internet. What I listed above is only half of the corrections I saw upon quick observation. To cite which web-site is listing all of these inaccuracies would not put the owner of that site in good light, nor would it make me look good doing so. And that’s just one web-site. I don’t have time to check them all and continue to list corrections. In the days it would take for me to do so, I could finish another write-up that would benefit the hobby. Needless to say, there is a one-stop source for a complete and accurate log. 

And I did avoid nit-picking whether the title begins with “The” or “A”, whether “Gun Shy” should be “Gunshy” (it should be the latter). My book, The Have Gun-Will Travel Companion, published in 2000, features all of the correct titles, based on the actual scripts and CBS master recordings. For a sample of the log, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page. What surprises me is how, eleven years after my book was published, mistakes like incorrect script titles are still popping up on web-sites.

This is the second of a three-part feature about the radio program, Have Gun-Will Travel.
Click here to read Part One.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Images of Nancy Carroll

My good friend David Strebe has written his first book. IMAGES OF NANCY CARROLL. Coffee tables are crying out for this compendium. A Hollywood glamor girl who made 39 films between 1927 and 1935. These include delightful little romantic comedies such as Child of Manhattan (1933) and Hot Saturday (1931) with Cary Grant. She played opposite Phillip Holmes and Lionel Barrymore in the poignant and haunting 1932 film, Broken Lullaby (also known as The Man I Killed). That same year, she starred opposite Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in Scarlet Dawn. During her career, she co-starred with George Raft, Frank Morgan and Jack Benny.

By 1935, her popularity started to fade. She was said to be temperamental and difficult to work with. She missed out on great roles that could have helped her career, often because with her red hair, beautiful blue eyes and round face, she was too "cute" to be considered for serious dramatic parts. It was rumored that the screen rights to A Farewell to Arms was bought with her in mind, but at the last minute the title role went to Helen Hayes.

After her screen career was over, she returned to the stage, where she enjoyed success throughout the 1940s. She was very active in entertaining the troops during World War II. In 1950, at the age of 45, she appeared in the early television series, The Aldrich Family.

As David points out, "The image of a young nancy Carroll will remain with us forever through the many vintage photographs that have survived." And David certainly pulled a large number of archival photographs from his personal collection to present a collection of 150 plus photo stills, sheet music, cigarette cards and post cards of Nancy Carroll for his book.

David makes no attempt to out-do Paul Nemcek's 1969 book, The Films of Nancy Carroll, published by Lyle Stuart. Instead, David wants us to act like men and glance over the photographs and treat the actress like eye candy. I cannot blame him. You should see my photo collection of Veronica Lake. Personally, I could build a shrine for the actress.

I first caught a glimpse of Nancy Carroll singing and dancing in the 1930 Paramount revue, Paramount on Parade (1930), when it was screened at the second annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. She ultimately worked for all the major studios, but since most of her films were contracted through Paramount, and we all know how those early flicks are rarely seen except at film festivals, Nancy Carroll has been overlooked by a number of film buffs, and many reading this might question: "Who is Nancy Carroll?" Get a copy of this book and you'll soon know the answer to that question.

I am not saying this is a kick-butt reference guide, which some might expect because of my endorsement. It is clearly a coffee table book with beautiful reproductions of photographs on glossy (not cheap) paper. It's available exclusively from Cover Out (www.CoverOut.com) which has, over the past two months, begun offering hard cover editions of books available in paperback elsewhere (including a few of my books). So check out Cover Out and get your copy today. David is one of those people who deserves recognition, and besides, he's a great guy that makes the world a nicer place. Now if I can convince him to do the same for Veronica Lake...

Randolph Scott and Nancy Carroll in HOT SATURDAY.

Friday, March 2, 2012

TV Shows That Never Came to Be

While browsing back issues of TV GUIDE the other week, seeking trivia info for a few subjects, I came across a number of entries that rose an eyebrow. Always wanting to be the leader in breaking news stories about current and future television productions, TV GUIDE provided a page or two in each issue of news briefs (very brief) giving a glimpse into the future. Regrettably, many of the news briefs never came to be... and those are often of historical amusement. Case in point the samples below:

January 11, 1958
One Man’s Family may return to TV, turning up in its new format as an episode of The Loretta Young Show. If the audition is successful, a new series would probably be produced by Miss Young’s Lewislor Productions.
Note: One Man's Family never did make a triumphant return to television, nor any pilot that I am aware of on The Loretta Young Show.

January 8, 1958
James Mason has been asked to play the lead in a new film TV series based on the movie, The Third Man.

April 12, 1958
Newest quiz format to be offered to sponsors stars Lou Costello in a live show, Spook House Quiz.
Note: Never happened.

May 3, 1958
The Tall Man, another new Western for next season, will star British actor Michael Rennie.
Note: Not sure why Rennie never played the role, but Barry Sullivan had that role for two seasons.

June 14, 1958
NBC already has scheduled Gunn For Hire, starring Craig Stevens, for Mondays next season. He plays Pete Gunn, a private eye.
Note: We all know the series was eventually broadcast under the title Peter Gunn.

 July 19, 1958
Alan Ladd has revived plans to turn his old radio show, Box 13, into a TV series. He would produce but not star.
Notes: This was after Ladd had played the starring role in a filmed television pilot for G.E. Theater a few years prior (available on DVD at www.otrdvd.com).

August 16, 1958
The Witch's Tale, a former long-running radio show, will be turned into a TV series.
Note: Never happened. Would have been nice, though.

August 23, 1958
CBS re-titled its forthcoming Derringer series to Yancy Derringer, to show it’s a man, not a gun.

September 6, 1958
TV producer David Susskind has dropped plans to do Ben Hur. MGM, which already has spent $12,500,000 on a movie version, talked him out of it.

September 13, 1958
Mae West, now 66, will soon star a five-a-week, late-night, quarter-hour show locally, then has plans for a film series, Klondike Lou.
Note: Sadly, it never happened.

September 27, 1958
James Mason, who was all set to star in The Third Man, a new NTA series, is out. The deal fell apart in the negotiations, as we hinted it might last week. NTA rushed a top executive to the coast to try to pick up the pieces but it looks hopeless.
Note: Michael Rennie eventually got the role.

November 22, 1958
Red Skelton wants to get serious on Have Gun-Will Travel. He asked the producer to find a script.
Note: Never happened. But the episode, "The Montebank," would have been perfect for him and I wouldn't be surprised if that was originally written with Skelton in mind.

December 6, 1958
Gary Merrill’s a strong possibility for the lead in the High Noon TV series.

December 13, 1958
The new High Noon series is due to go into production in February.

January 24, 1959
Jack Oakie is considered for the title role in the Fat Man series.

October 31, 1959
Betts Davis’ Wagon Train episode, in which she plays Madame Elizabeth McQueeny, is the audition film for a new hour-long series, Madame's Lace, in which Miss Davis hopes to star next season.

December 26, 1959
This Gun For Hire, the 1942 Alan Ladd feature film, will soon be turned into a television series (without Ladd) by Revue Productions.
Note: Never happened. Not a bad idea coming from Revue.

February 20, 1960
Test film has been completed for the Doctor Kildare series co-starring Lew Ayres and Joe Cronin.
Note: What? No Richard Chamberlain or Raymond Massey? Where is this unaired pilot?

February 27, 1960
A sequel to The Adventures of Superman, titled The Adventures of Superboy, is being planned as a 26-episode series. Producers are searching for a young lead.
Note: I saw the unaired pilot. Glad they didn't make the other 25.

April 2, 1960
The old radio show, It Pays to Be Ignorant, is now being prepared here as a TV series, with Ken Murray a probability as emcee.
Note: There was an attempt in 1949, but no such show by 1960.

April 16, 1960
The Westerner, a new NBC fall series starring Bran Keith, will feature the mongrel star of Walt Disney’s Old Yeller movie. The dog’s name had to be changed for legal reasons; in the series he’s to be called “Brown.”
Note: I never gave a thought of the dog's name, but interesting trivia.

October 15, 1960
Orson Welles may turn up in a London-filmed Peter Gunn episode.
Note: Never happened. Wish it did.

March 11, 1961
A Bonanza episode titled “Silent Thunder” is being prepared for release as a movie.

November 11, 1961
Alan Ladd’s company, Jaguar Productions, is working on a test film script for a mystery-anthology series, Enigma.

November 10, 1962
Alan Ladd signs to star in a new hour series, The Man from the Pentagon, which would be produced by his own Jaguar Productions.
Note: Keep trying, Alan. You might succeed one day...

January 19, 1963
Jackie Cooper will probably take on the Amos Burke role created by Dick Powell in last season’s “Who Killed Julie Greer?” for Four Star’s planned series dealing with a millionaire detective.
Note: He never signed, but for months this was speculated. Gene Barry got the role.

March 9, 1963
CBS’s 29 year old radio show, Let's Pretend, is being turned into a half-hour TV film series by producer E. Charles Straus.
Note: Sadly, it never happened. Captain Kangaroo might have dominated the field.

April 27, 1963
Another title change for next season: ABC’s Please Stand By will air as Beyond Control.
Note: The show they are referring to is The Outer Limits. I have a copy of the Please Stand By pilot.

May 18, 1963
Mae West is negotiating for a comedy cartoon series, Pretty Mae, which would feature her voice behind a cartoon caricature of herself. Her only previous TV appearance have been the 1958 Oscar telecast and a Red Skelton Hour three years ago.