Friday, April 19, 2019
When Raymond Burr died in 1993, he was eulogized around the world as the star of "Perry Mason" and "Ironside." But the obituaries were notable for what they didn't say as much as for what they did say. None of them mentioned that Burr was gay -- he had been closeted all his life. And most of them mentioned commonly-accepted facts about Burr -- that he was twice widowed, that he lost a son to leukemia and that he fought in World War II. None of that was true, but it was part of the complicated biography Burr had built for himself.
Friday, April 5, 2019
In 1948, Ed Sullivan began hosting a weekly variety series on CBS-TV. His background as a newspaper columnist served him well — he had an unerring instinct for what people wanted to see, and he used his unique power to become an influential American gatekeeper for most of the 1950s and ’60s. We take a look a Sullivan’s influence, including “blessing” Elvis Presley and the Beatles by praising them on the air and reassuring anxious parents of teenagers. We also review his feuds with the likes of Steve Allen, Jackie Mason and Buddy Holly.
Friday, March 29, 2019
David Inman and his brother Steve take another trip down memory lane to recall the toys they played with as kids, from G.I. Joes fully equipped for nuclear war to electric football games, which were basically vibrating pieces of sheet metal. There are also special guest appearances by Hot Wheels, Mr. Kelly's Car Wash, Major Matt Mason and Zero M spy toys.
Friday, March 22, 2019
In 1952, Republican Dwight Eisenhower squared off against Democrat Adlai Stevenson in the presidential election. Eisenhower, who had been commander of allied forces in Europe during World War II, was enormously popular but not much of a public speaker. So a combination of talents from America’s largest advertising agencies, including the man upon whom the “Mad Men” character Don Draper was roughly based, convinced Eisenhower and his advisers that the best way to reach American voters was the same way they received selling propositions about what soap to use, what car to drive, what cigarette to smoke — by a TV commercial. Eisenhower reluctantly agreed — and political campaigns were changed forever.
The Spot: The Rise of Political Advertising on Television, by Edwin Diamond and Stephen Bates
“This Is How Presidential Campaign Ads First Got on TV,” time.com, August 30, 2016
“Political Advertising,” adage.com, September 15, 2003
“Eisenhower, an Unlikely Pioneer of TV Ads,” Michael Beschloss, The New York Times, October 30, 2015
“8 of Adlai Stevenson’s Awful 1952 TV Campaign Ads,” Chris Higgins, mentalfloss.com, February 20, 2012
Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television, by Erik Barnouw
Friday, March 15, 2019
After a thirty-year Hollywood career, James Cagney made what he thought would be his final film in 1961 -- a comedy directed by Billy Wilder called "One Two Three." Cagney then retired, spending his time between two farms he owned -- one on Martha's Vineyard and one in upstate New York. But Cagney got tired of being retired, and in 1980 his friend, director Milos Forman, talked Cagney into taking a small but significant role in Forman's film adaptation of the bestselling novel "Ragtime." Further encouraged by his family and lifelong friend Pat O'Brien, Cagney went on to play the lead role in a 1984 TV movie called "Terrible Joe Moran." By that point Cagney had been weakened by several strokes and was in a wheelchair, but he powered through, inspired by O'Brien's words of encouragement: "Do it, Cagney. It's medicine."
"Cagney, 82, Is Embarrassed Anew at Being a 'Star'," Chris Chase, The New York Times, November 17, 1981
"Peter Gallagher," theavclub.com, June 14, 2011
"TV Review: 'Terrible Joe Moran' Starring James Cagney," John J. O'Connor, The New York Times, March 27, 1984
"Faraway Fella: 'Cagney,' a Biography by John McCabe," David Thomson, The Los Angeles Times, January 4, 1998
Art Carney: A Biography, by Michael Seth Starr
Cagney, by John McCabe
"Cagney Felt at Home in Dutchess," Larry Hughes, Poughkeepsie Journal, June 18, 2015
"James Cagney: Looking Backward," Timothy White, Rolling Stone, February 18, 1982
"James Cagney's Condition Provokes Controversy," Sylvia Lawler, The Morning Call, March 25, 1984
Director Joseph Sargent on James Cagney, emmytvlegends.org
"Profile in Courage: Nobody Ever Said Cagney Wasn't a Fighter," Rod Townley, TV Guide, March 24, 1984
Friday, March 8, 2019
One man was one of the most iconoclastic and controversial actors of the 20th century -- the other was the voice of Underdog on a Saturday morning cartoon show. But once they met on an Illinois schoolyard, nine-year-olds Marlon Brando and Wally Cox became lifelong friends -- and even lovers, according to some accounts. We look at each man's career and their private, intense connection -- one that endured even after Cox's death in 1973.
Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me, by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey
Brando Unzipped, by Darwin Porter
My Life as a Small Boy, by Wally Cox
Brando's Smile: His Life, Thought and Work, by Susan L. Mizruchi
"When the Wild One Met the Mild One," Robert W. Welkos, The Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2004
"Wally Cox, TV's Mister Peepers, Dies at 48," The New York Times, February 16, 1973
Friday, March 1, 2019
In the immortal tradition of cave people banging on rocks and skulls and strolling troubadours of the Middle Ages, there is also the TV theme song. We take a look at the state of the theme in 1966, which featured songs with one-word lyrics ("Batman") and pop hits ("Secret Agent") as well as songs that did a lot of heavy lifting to explain the often-outlandish concept of the show ("My Mother the Car," "It's About Time"). We also feature a quick salute to one of the masters of the sitcom theme song who was well represented in 1966 -- composer Vic Mizzy.