Friday, January 31, 2020

The Lost Gloria Swanson Movies

Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson, a favorite of director Cecil B. DeMille during the silent era, became an actress as a result of being in the right place at the right time. When her aunt took her to visit Essanay Studios in 1913, the soon-to-be actress was captivated by the new technology and the costumes and makeup and lights and everything that went into dramatic acting. She was quickly hired as an extra and rose up the ranks when Mack Sennett hired her for a series of short films. Comedy was not her style and the actress went to work for Triangle Studios in 1917. Her serious dramas there garnished the attention of Cecil B. DeMille, who cast her in Don't Change Your Husband (1919), complimenting the format DeMille wanted to expose in every one of his pictures -- the glories of sin and the comeuppance of adultry, coveting and greed.

By 1920, Gloria Swanson had been on the cover of every major movie magazine and became a box office star. Famous Players-Lasky (which later became Paramount Pictures), treated their salary contract players like cattle and steered Swanson into movies without DeMille's name and the director was left to find a new leading lady for his pictures. The rational thinking of the studios was to separate two commercial properties and double their box office returns.... and it worked. By 1926, she was making $6,500 a week (over $3.5 million a year by today's standards). She took a financial and career risk by turning down a $1 million salary from the studio to form her own production company, with Joseph Kennedy.

Kino on Video DVD Release
In 1928, she starred in Sadie Thompson, the first film version of Somerset Maugham's classic story "Miss Thompson," which established her status as a screen legend. The movie featured the creative talents of Gloria Swanson, Lionel Barrymore, Raoul Walsh, art director William Cameron Menzies and cameramen George Barnes and Oliver Marsh, at the height of their careers. Swanson and Barnes were nominated for Oscars, in what was the first year of the Academy Awards. Sadie Thompson proved to be a landmark of the silent era and is considered required viewing for people studying silent movies. Perhaps, its greatest achievement was the film's uncompromising translation of Maugham's controversial story of a San Francisco prostitute and a South Pacific reformer. She plays the title role who prowls the South Seas seducing U.S. Marines until she runs afoul of a religious hypocrite (Lionel Barrymore) who claims he wants to save her soul but cannot resist her body. Swanson correctly maintained that the film's silence was its greatest asset, for the churches and Hays office could not censor what they couldn't hear.

Why Change Your Wife? (1920)
The tragedy of Sadie Thompson is that, for many decades, the last scenes were missing from the sole existing print. A lack of film preservation over the decades (often described by many as the studio's lack of concern when weighed against the budget required to maintain their film archive) is the reason why we do not have the opportunity to view the closing chapter of the story. In 1987, Kino International funding a restoration of the final minutes, carefully recreated, using the original script, the Swanson's personal collection of stills, film footage where appropriate, and an orchestral score commissioned for the completed film.

Neglected and forgotten over the years, Sadie Thompsonhas emerged as an important triumph in the silent era, and Swanson's greatest performance ever.... or you can debate against her gutsy comeback in Sunset Boulevard (1950). She made a successful transition to sound in 1929 but the failure of Music in the Air (1934) left a bad taste in her mouth. Swanson left Hollywood for semi-retirement. In 1949, writer-director Billy Wilder offered her a comeback role as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, now considered one of the 100 greatest movies ever made and a major influence for film noir. She received critical acclaim, an Oscar nomination and chose to return to the stage instead of the silver screen. Taking a page from numerous silent stars who chose other forms of generating an annual salary, she hosted her own afternoon radio talk show and created her own fashion line (Gowns by Gloria).

Male and Female (1919)
This latter part of her career comes as no surprise. During the height of her career, Swanson was a trend setter and is credited as having become the first fashion influence. After all, movies helped define popular culture from the clothing we wore to the music we sang. Supposedly she paid as much as $10,000 for her elegant stockings. Swanson was evidently a woman of material means. In 1917, she went on strike to get mack Sennett to raise her salary. He got her to return to work by buying her a $100 green suit trimmed with squirrel fur. In 1919, during the filming of Male and Female, Swanson lay down next to a lion, which placed a paw on her back. When the actress, shaken from the experience, demanded the next day off to recover, DeMille placated her by allowing her to pick anything she wanted from a large cache of jewels. She selected a gold mesh bag and immediately said she felt much better.

Movie poster of a "lost" movie.
For trivia fans, Sunset Boulevard (1950) offers an added benefit for her fans. It features a scene from her unfinished epic, Queen Kelly (1928). Now considered one of the most audacious in-jokes in the history of American movies is the scene when Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) shows Joe Gillis (William Holden) a silent film being projected by her onetime director-husband and now butler, Max von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim). But the film they are watching, as few viewers then or now would realize, is Queen Kelly, a 1929 production starring Swanson and actually directed by von Stroheim. The director was, of course, never Swanson's paramour any more than Swanson was a real life Norma Desmond. But this movie was the last to be released with von Stroheim's name on the credits as director.

Gloria Swanson on NBC Radio.
In 1928, after years of struggles within the studio system, Erich von Stroheim found the opportunity to create his crowning achievement: a storybook romance of intoxicating beauty, counterbalanced with a frightfully grim tale of moral corruption. Gloria Swanson played the role of an innocent convent girl who fell under the spell of a handsome prince (Walter Byron) on the eve of his marriage to a diabolical queen (Seena Owen). Queen Kelly might have been one of von Stroheim's greatest films had actress/producer Swanson not halted it in mid-production. She disapproved of his extravagant methods and strange story ideas. Though the European scenes were full of innuendo, and featured a philandering prince and a sex-crazed queen, the scenes set in Africa were grim and, Swanson felt, distasteful. In later interviews, Swanson had claimed that she had been misled by the script which referred to her character arriving in, and taking over, a dance hall; looking at the rushes, it was obvious the 'dance hall' was actually a brothel.

Poster Art for a "lost" movie.
Stroheim was fired from the film and the African storyline scrapped. Swanson and Kennedy still wanted to salvage the European material, as it had been so costly and time-consuming, and had potential market value. An alternate ending was, however, shot on November 24, 1931. In this ending, directed by Swanson and photographed by Gregg Toland, Prince Wolfram is shown visiting the palace. A nun leads him to the chapel, where Kelly's body lies in state. This has been called the 'Swanson Ending'. The film was not theatrically released in the United States, but it was shown in Europe and South America with the 'Swanson ending' tacked on. This was due to a clause in Stroheim's contract. By some accounts, Von Stroheim suggested the clip be used for Sunset Boulevard  for its heavy irony. This was the first time viewers in the US got to see any footage of the infamous collaboration. (In the 1960s, it was shown on television with the Swanson ending, along with a taped introduction and conclusion in which Swanson talked about the history of the project.)

Poster Art for a "lost" movie.
Thankfully, by 1985, Kino on Video acquired the rights to the movie and restored two versions: one that uses still photos and subtitles in an attempt to wrap up the storyline, and the other the European "suicide ending"  version. The DVD release contains bother versions of the movie, alternate endings and bonus features.

Sadly, amidst the restorations of Queen Kelly (1929) and Sadie Thompson (1928), a number of Gloria Swanson's movies are considered "lost" and not known to exist. Film archives the world over have been cataloged and consulted. The Library of Congress, UCLA, the George Eastman House and many others have verified the movies below are "lost" and are today sought after by anyone with deep pockets and an ambition to restore the film. The list below constitutes (as of December 2012) the films starring or co-starring Gloria Swanson which we may never see again. 

The Official List of "Lost" Films
  • Society for Sale (1918)
  • Her Decision (1918)
  • Station Content (1918)
  • You Can't Believe Everything (1918)
  • Everywoman's Husband (1918)
  • The Secret Code (1918)
  • Wife or Country (1918)
  • The Great Moment (1921)
  • Under the Lash (1921)
  • Don't Tell Everything (1921)
  • Her Gilded Cage (1922)
  • The Impossible Mrs. Bellew (1922)
  • My American Wife (1922)
  • Prodigal Daughters (1923)
  • Bluebeard's 8th Wife (1923)
  • Hollywood (1923) (she makes a cameo appearance in this film)
  • A Society Scandal (1924)
  • Her Love Story (1924)
  • Wages of Virtue (1924)
  • Madame Sans-GĂȘne (1925)
  • The Coast of Folly (1925)
  • The Untamed Lady (1926)
Gloria Swanson in Zaza (1923).
Among the highlights of historical nature are Madame Sans-GĂȘne (1925), produced in France as Swanson was on extended vacation there. She soon became involved with Henri de la Falaise, hired by Paramount to be her translator, and who later became her third husband.

The movie Hollywood (1923), tells the story of a young unknown (Hope Drown) who comes to Hollywood to become an actress, and brings her grandfather (Luke Cosgrave). At the end of the first day, she has not found work, but her grandfather has. The movie is known for having cameos from more than 30 celebrities from Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Charles Chaplin, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, Pola Negri, Mary Pickford, Zasu Pitts, Will Rogers and Gloria Swanson, among others.

Certain scenes in Prodigal Daughters (1923) were shot in Swanson's own palatial Hollywood mansion. A young unknown Mervyn LeRoy, later a famous director, appears unbilled as a newsboy. (He later directed Swanson in her early talkie Tonight or Never.)

Friday, January 24, 2020


Despite those modern misconceptions, The Lone Ranger radio program was never recorded on a regular basis until 1938. While the program premiered in 1933, the radio program was heard locally and known at that time -- like all radio programs originating out of Detroit -- a throw-away medium. Moments after the radio broadcast concluded, the scripts were tossed into a box in the corner of the studio and the actors vacated to make room for the next program, news commentary or singer. Thankfully, producer George W. Trendle saved two sets of radio scripts. Author Fran Striker saved a copy of each radio script himself. While we have no extant recordings to hear a more primitive rendition of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, more blood-thirsty than the renditions we would come to know by 1938, the radio scripts exist.

I am pleased to report that almost every radio script pre-1938 has been reviewed, digitized, catalogued and documented for a future publication now in the hands of proof readers for a late 2020 or early 2021 publication. An accumulation of three decades of research, THE LONE RANGER: THE EARLY YEARS, 1933-1937 will document everything about the masked vigilante and fill in a gap that was sorely needed. While many books have been published, documenting The Lone Ranger program, none have fully documented those early (and almost unknown) years. More importantly, the book will also debunk myths and misconceptions, clarify conflicting information found on the Internet, and correct all the errors from prior publications. Scans of archival documents will back up the facts.

While we have to wait a few months for publication, here is a sample from the episode guide cut and pasted from the manuscript. Yes, here are a few "lost" adventures. (Note that the radio broadcasts never had script titles back in 1934.) Enjoy!

Episode #200, Broadcast May 11, 1934
Plot: In the Mogollon Mesa region of Arizona was the home of Ira Hawks and his wife, Carrie, who while arguing about whether or not to move to a place that was more civilized, an outlaw named Scar Winslow had snuck into the bedroom of their six-year-old daughter, Babe, with intent to kidnap. Ira sought help from men in town to ride in search of the kidnapper. Later, a half-breed showed up at the Hawks homestead to tell Ira that he knew the location of Scar’s hideout, and in exchange for $5,000, he would lead Ira and his friend, Gord Manning, to the hideout in one of the many tunnels of the Alamo Cave. A disguised Lone Ranger, observing the events, rode out to his camp to meet Tonto and discuss a plan. Ira, meanwhile, placed the ransom money into a block of wood. After the half-breed received the package of cash, the masked man posed as an outlaw and secretly trailed the half-breed to the cave entrance. From a distance the Lone Ranger shot at a rock, creating a diversion long enough to warrant Tonto shooting his silver-tipped arrow into the block of wood. The half-breed, believing the masked man was an outlaw, escorted the stranger inside to meet Scar Winslow in the hopes a man shrewd enough to follow him should become a member of the gang. Ira was dumb enough to pay the ransom, Scar laughs, before plotting how to get rid of Babe. When Scar noticed the arrow stuck in the package of money, he questioned momentarily until The Lone Ranger explained that the string attached, not the arrow itself, would lead the posse members to Scar’s whereabouts through the maze of tunnels. Sure enough, Manning led men into the hideout, the outlaws were captured, and Babe was rescued. With the reward for the outlaw capture, Manning bought Ira’s business. Ira and Carrie now had enough money to move back to the city. The Lone Ranger rode to the Hawks homestead to return Babe’s doll that was left behind in the cave. Ira offered the reward money to The Lone Ranger for saving his daughter, but the masked man suggested putting the money away until Babe was all grown up.

Episode #201, Broadcast May 14, 1934
Plot: For weeks Potters Corners had been under a reign of merciless terror of banditry and murder by a group of outlaws. One night in his office, aged Sheriff Cal Bixby confessed to his deputies that he has all but given up; there were no clues to the outlaws’ identities. A stranger walked in to the office, disguised, and volunteered to be a deputy. The lawmen suspected he was one of the outlaws and attempted to capture him. An arrow flew through the window and smashed the oil lamp, giving the stranger an escape route. It was Tonto who shot a silver-tipped arrow and it was The Lone Ranger who fled the scene. Under the care of the vigilantes was Mrs. Sellers, whose husband was killed by the hooded outlaws, and it was she who recognized the voice of one of the outlaws named “Half Breed” Vancia. Gambler Cephus Snodgrass, meanwhile, ordered Vancia to find and kill Mrs. Sellers. After Cephus was elected as the new sheriff, and the heat died down, he would divide the stolen loot among the gang members. One by one, The Lone Ranger caught six of the outlaws and held them captive in his camp. Then he left the men’s horses straying and scattered some of their personal articles and equipment to be found by the Sheriff. After an unsuccessful search for the missing men the Sheriff returned to his office where he was met by Tonto. Tonto identified himself with a silver-tipped arrow and urged the Sheriff to follow him. Cephus, however, accused Tonto of belonging to the outlaw gang. The Lone Ranger rode Silver into the sheriff’s office, momentarily putting shock and surprise to all within while he captured Cephus and rode away. In his camp, the masked man posed as an outlaw telling Cephus he had killed those six men in his gang. The masked man then threatened the gambler with torture (a hot branding iron) if he did not confess to the crimes and reveal the location of the stolen loot. Out of fear, the crooked gambler confessed to the crimes and where the loot could be found. The sheriff and his posse, who were hidden within earshot of the camp, overheard the confession and jumped in to arrest Cephus and the outlaws. Sheriff Cal Bixby offered The Lone Ranger a job as his deputy but the masked man and his Indian companion rode away into the sunset.

Episode #202, Broadcast May 16, 1934
Plot: Madge Davis rode into the Lone Ranger’s camp one night, explaining how the outlaws who murdered her father were chasing her and required assistance to get to Sheriff Perkins in the town of Sand Mine. Tonto rode off to the Davis house to investigate while Madge rode with The Lone Ranger to town, together on top of the great horse Silver. The outlaws, however, set logs on the trail to trap them but the heroes escaped ambush when Silver leapt over the logs. At the sheriff’s house, Madge was surprised to recognize him as the killer of her father. Because Madge went east to school when she was very young, she did not remember Perkins as her father’s former mining partner. Her father gave all of his money to the sheriff for safe keeping, legally entitled to the money if Madge was dead. Just as the crooked lawman was going to murder Madge, The Lone Ranger burst in and tied him up. “I’m sorry that I can’t shoot you, in the same way that you planned to kill this girl,” the masked man told the sheriff. When Perkins claimed there was no proof that he killed his old partner, or tried to kill Madge, the masked man revealed a witness – the Davis’ dog. After they left the sheriff, Madge told The Lone Ranger that her father did not have a dog. The masked man agreed and explained the dog her father did not have will trap the sheriff. While Madge remained in town to inform the deputy sheriff, Dick, that his employer was responsible for the murder of her father, Tonto was back at the Davis ranch setting up a booby trap. Sheriff Perkins was set free of his bonds when his henchman showed up. Fuming, the men race out to kill the dog, unaware Tonto rigged a clothes bundle shaped like a dog on top of a spring. Believing the bundle was the dog, the sheriff pulls his gun and shoots. The dynamite inside the bundle exploded, killing the crooked lawman. With justice served, Madge becomes wealthy and Dick is made the Sheriff. As Dick proposed marriage to Madge, The Lone Ranger informed Tonto that it was their time to ride off and leave the lovebirds.

Notes: In The Lone Ranger camp at night, the great horse Silver stomped the ground to warn of an approaching horse.

Episode #203, Broadcast May 18, 1934
Plot: At the starting point of the perilous route, the entire town assembled to see the start of the stagecoach run that was to make history – and tempt every dishonest stagecoach robber within fifty miles. Ten tried and true men, grim and determined in expression with rifles polished and ammunition belts filled, were inside and on top of the sturdiest stage that could be had. The Lone Ranger and Tonto knew that such a stage would not meet with bullets, but with strategy. Strategizing Jimcrack Pass as the best place for the stage to drop over the ravine and wreck, the masked man and Indian raced out in advance to Honest Dave Bush’s place which overlooked the ravine. After masquerading as Dave, The Lone Ranger found himself caught off guard by Wolf Larson, Oriskany’s chief lieutenant. Joe Griskany and his gang of outlaws were going to make a play for a quarter of a million dollars in gold bullion being transported by stage. Threatening to shoot to kill, Wolf ordered the fake Dave to use the skill of handling blasts, which he was known to possess, to help overtake the stage. The Lone Ranger placed the charges, drilling into rock, the entire time Oriskany maintained observation. Moments after the stage passeed through, the charges were set off and the blast sent rock across the road – exactly where Oriskany and Wolf hid and the same place The Lone Ranger warned them not to hide, killing the crooks. Honest Dave Bush was puzzled when he received the $10,000 reward money, unaware of why he was given credit for a task he never did, but accepted the money nonetheless as it was sorely needed for his sick child.

Episode #204, Broadcast May 21, 1934
Plot: Dolores Sequilla and her sister Felicia rode across the border to meet Sheriff Jeff Mulvay of Eagle Pass, claiming their father was captured, their ranch taken over, cattle killed and wine consumed by a notorious gang of bandits consisting of sixty plus outlaws. Under the cover of darkness, The Lone Ranger and Tonto rode across the Rio Grande, guided by the beautiful women, to find their aged father hiding in a tunnel beneath the house. After rescuing the old man, The Lone Ranger left Tonto behind with instructions while the masked man rode for the headquarters of the nearest Mexican army post, trusting that his story would be believed, in the hopes for vengeance against the Sequillas. The Mexican army would not assist but on the trail back, the masked man met Pancho Villa, wanted by the law. After discovering his satisfaction of justice was not too different from The Lone Ranger’s, Pancho Villa calls on his vigilante gang to join the fight. What the law would not abide, he and his men would. Despite the great odds, the outlaws were attacked by the small band of Villa’s men, and they had no chance for victory from the start. The men of Pancho Villa were everywhere; their shooting was deadly accurate. Each man shot with both hands; each man had guns blazing into the midst of those that robbed old Senor Sequilla. The end was certain for the bandits. Pancho Villa, who was accused of thieving was now realized a hero.

Notes: The announcer closed the broadcast with the following narration: “It is interesting to note, that the young outlaw of the hills of Mexico was destined to great things before he died. As The Lone Ranger prophesied, there came the day when Villa led great numbers of men under the flag of Mexico. Perhaps in later years his name will long be mentioned as the Robin Hood of Mexico, but while Robin Hood roamed Sherwood Forest in England, and while Mexico’s downtrodden people had Pancho Villa, none will never know the name of the hero of our own great gold coast, because his name would also be mysterious as the place from which he came, as his face, and the place to where he went. He is known only as The Lone Ranger.”

Episode #205, Broadcast May 23, 1934
Plot: Solomon Greentree, leading a wagon train of heavy prairie schooners, was a determined man. On many occasions riders came from the prairie wagons behind him, to ask how much longer was the army post that would provide food, water and rest. The men and women felt they were misguided, having misplaced their confidence, in choosing Solomon as their leader. The Lone Ranger and Tonto, observing from above yonder, realized that a tribe of Sioux Indians could mean disaster for the wagon train, riding down to meet Solomon and offer guidance towards the correct trail. When evidence suggested an attack, The Lone Ranger asked for two of courage and found Jack and Jinny willing to mark their face with charcoal and red clay to create the appearance of smallpox. For several moments, while the Sioux warriors drew their circle smaller and closer to the hardy men of the wagon train, The Lone Ranger approached the leader of the savages with the “smallpox victims.” The Indians fled in fright, giving the wagon train open passage to the army fort that Solomon correctly predicted was within reach by nightfall.

Notes: The plot and much of the dialogue was recycled from a Covered Wagon Days radio script, including the announcer’s closing comment that “Tonight’s adventure of The Lone Ranger is a true one. It has been brought to us by one of the descendants of the leader of the expedition we followed tonight.” 

Unaware that it was the advertising agency who wrote the commercial copy, Fran Striker suggested on the last page of this Lone Ranger script that the closing commercial be tied in with the hardships of baking bread, to help assist with Silvercup’s commercials.

Friday, January 17, 2020


Radio historian Stewart Wright passed away in November 2019, but it was not until this past month that we learned the sad news. A cartographer and geographic researcher by profession, who lived in Colorado, Stewart dedicated the majority of his retirement (24-7) devoted to researching old-time radio. “Stewart was one of the most diligent OTR historians and researchers of our era,” Jack French recalled. “He generously shared his data and research in articles in various OTR publications. He was a member of several clubs, including MWOTRC, SPERDVAC and the now-defunct OTR Club of Colorado. Stewart was a long-time resident of Colorado and had a vast collection of OTR printed materials, computer archives and audio copies.”

Stewart Wright was researching old-time radio programs for more than two decades and he published in findings in all forms. For SPERDVAC’s Radiogram, the first ever broadcast log for 21st PrecinctA Date with JudyHello AmericansThe Lineup and Rocky Jordan, to name a few. He published in spiral bound format extensive documentation on radio’s Gunsmokeand Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and contributed greatly to Radio Rides the Range (2014, McFarland Publishing).

Front Row: Roger Hohenbrink, Andrew Steinberg, Stewart Wright, Ryan Ellett
Back Row: Archie Hunter, Jim Beshires, and someone identified as Phlipper376

Jim Cox recounted a story about Stewart’s dedication to preserving the arts, which best sums up the contribution he left behind. “It was my happy discovery that Stewart looked out for his fellow man and if one had a need he was ‘all in’ wherever he could contribute. I know he helped me on many an article and in my digging for some of my published books. I could never have anticipated what he did for me the summer I spent a few weeks at the University of Wyoming in Laramie nevertheless. It was around the turn of the century and I had told Stew I was researching Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons in view of a book. I had learned that all of the Keen scripts were housed in Laramie. Strictly on his own, without my saying more, Stew responded that he was maybe within 4 hours or so of Laramie, residing in a Denver suburb, and he had the time and interest to devote to helping me in some practical way with my mission… We were not allowed to remove anything in those collections from the vast facility provided but the archivists designated two copy machines to us and daily, for eight or nine hours per day, Stewart and I ran those machines photocopying reams and reams of material that would be a boon to me once I had it shipped back to Louisville. Stew never complained once but used the time he was there to assist me in every way he possibly could. What he did for me at Laramie is an example of his ‘giving nature’ and I’m aware that I was just one OTR enthusiast who benefited from Stew’s unselfish service throughout his life.”

“All of us have suffered a loss in the passing of this diligent researcher whose work was respected and widely appreciated, and who used his talents to assist his fellow man,” Jim Cox summed aptly. “When people like Stew depart, they are never replaced. Those of us who knew him are better off because we did.”

Friday, January 10, 2020

From Captain Penny to Superhost

The story of Cleveland's children's television programs has been fondly recounted in a new book by Mike and Janice Olszewski, tales from the golden age of television from the 1950s through the 1970s. Every major city across the country had their own children's program and local show host. (For me, it was Baltimore's Captain Chesapeake.) Sadly, very little has been documented about the show hosts of Cleveland, Ohio... until now. Despite their low-budget productions, those programs formed lasting bonds with generations of Northeast Ohio kids. 

Gene Carroll created Cleveland's first kids' show, Uncle Jake's House, in 1947 with a menagerie of animals and child stars -- including Clarence the cat and Phillip the parrot. Captain Penny (played by Ron Penfound) introduced children to the Three Stooges -- annoying parents and TV critics alike. Linn Sheldon wanted to be known as a serious actor but became such a hit as an elf named Barnaby that he could never shake the character. Woodrow the Woodsman lived in a fantasy forest -- but when Clay Conroy lost his Woodrow wig, the story made real newspaper headlines.

I was amused to see Joe E. Ross in a policeman's uniform (ala Car 54, Where Are You?) stopping by the studio to promote his new television program, Mickey Mouse making a guest appearance on another program, and a superb spread of the vintage cartoons being screened on another program. The photos are fantastic.

There are so many stories about local children's program hosts in this book, one chapter devoted to a different host, that I suspect Mike and Janice could have done a second volume. The stories are incredible and it was apparent almost from the beginning that the actors made it up as they went along. Even if you are not well versed in the children's television hosts of Cleveland, Ohio, this book is a delight to read simply because we all had a children's host and can easily relate. 

Mike Olszewski is a veteran Cleveland radio and television personality and the curator and archivist for the Ohio Broadcast Archive and Museum. He also teaches media and communications classes at Cleveland State University, Kent State University, The University of Akron and Notre Dame College. Janice, his wife, has more than three decades' experience in the travel and tourism industry. Her photography has been published in Filmfax, Outre and other national magazines. I can think of no better people to have put together this loving tribute to children's television hosts of Cleveland.

You can grab a copy of the book at

Friday, January 3, 2020

Jonny Quest BluRay Review

It is no secret that one of my two favorite animated cartoons is Jonny Quest, televised over ABC from 1964-1965. Short lived and lasting a mere 26 half-hour episodes, the series has remained in syndication for decades, along with multiple revivals. The classic series, with superb art and style, along with the music of Hoyt Curtin, provides us with action, excitement and the best of blood n' thunder.

In the 1950s, Cambria Studios, Inc., produced an animated cartoon series titled Captain Fathom which extended to a live action unsold television pilot with Don Megowan and Kenneth Tobey. With primitive vox pop style animation similar to Clutch Cargo, the company filed a lawsuit against Hanna-Barbera in January of 1965 on charges of "plagiarism, misappropriation of trade secrets, inducing breach of contract and false advertising." The suit claimed substantial parts and portions of Clutch Cargo and the pilot film, Captain Fathom, was stolen for the Jonny Quest program. Cambria felt their original techniques and know-how in the use of illustration of comic strip art in production of animated films, and that Hanna Barbera induced former Cambria employees to reveal this confidential information in breach of employment contracts, was enough to file what today we refer to as a "nuisance suit." Naturally, the lawsuit was not valid but such tid-bits make fascinating reading for fans of Jonny Quest. And it seems not a year goes by that something new about the television series comes to the forefront.

A few months ago Warner Bros. Studios released Jonny Quest on BluRay. The program had been released on DVD (twice) but fans who knew the program by heart -- courtesy of television reruns -- noticed a number of imperfections. For one, the original end credits for almost every episode was copied from the episode, "Pursuit of the Po-Ho." Series creator Doug Wildey was not credited on that episode which meant he was not credited on most of the episodes on the DVD releases. In the episode "Pursuit of the Po-Ho," Race Bannon's insults of "heathen monkeys" and "ignorant savages" when rising from the water, covered in berry juice, had been deleted. Jonny's references to "Orientals" in another episode was removed. More than likely the edits were a result of whitewashing the past for a more politically correct environment. 

There were other minor concerns from purists but the DVDs contained superior picture and sound to ensure fans were happy. Even casual fans of the program never noticed the minor edits and revisions. With the new BluRay release available, purists can rejoice. After careful review of the first disc alone I am pleased to report that the uncut, unedited versions are now available as we prayed for. The original closing credits are intact for each episode, the racial slurs were not deleted, both versions of the opening credits are intact, and extensive restoration was made to ensure better picture and sound. The tags and bumpers for commercial sponsors remain intact. The original telecast aspect ratio was maintained. 

Yes, there is a disclaimer on the back of the packaging reminding people of the politically incorrect phrases used in some episodes. No, there are few bonus extras beyond what was included in the DVD release. But with improved and superior picture and sound, this is at good as it will ever get. Even if you have the DVD release, treat yourself by ordering the BluRay today.