Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1960)



The longest-running live-action sitcom, which began on ABC in television's early days and continued into the mid-1960s, was by and large the work of one man--Ozzie Nelson. Called a dictatorial workaholic in a 1995 documentary, Nelson directed and co-wrote most episodes and picked out everything from room furnishings to clothing worn by the actors. But in so doing he created an insular world that may have depicted mundane "adventures" of the average middle-class American family but also created a surreal landscape in which his sons sometimes had trouble distinguishing between reality and fiction. No wonder: when both David and Ricky married, their real-life wives became characters on the TV show. Relatives like Ozzie's brother Don became part of the crew, and Don's wife had a recurring role as a legal secretary. Several actors with recurring roles often had little to no other film credits to their name, meaning that their careers were defined, by and large, by Ozzie and Harriet. The music was written by a member of Ozzie's band, and Ricky's highly successful musical career was launched and promoted as a regular part of the series. Comparisons to the more recent film The Truman Show about a man who doesn't realize at first that his everyday life is a carefully orchestrated and highly popular TV show are not a stretch. The Nelson boys grew up in America's living rooms from 1952 until 1966. Their careers afterward paled in comparison to what they were during the series' 14-year span.

Other family-based sitcoms of the era, such as Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver, are seen as quaint today because the characters never seem to face anything but trivial adversity, and parents are constantly doling out sage advice that provided a "lesson" each week, as if the purpose of these shows was to provide a sermon in proper living. But Ozzie and Harriet is a trifle different. As others have noted, the family patriarch character played by Ozzie has no discernible profession. He hangs around the house much of the day, dispensing advice that is often not heeded or sometimes followed with ill effects, such as in "Dave and the Schoolteacher" (May 4, 1960) where his advice to Dave nearly sabotages a relationship by causing the son to assume a girl in whom he is interested is only using him for chores. Occasionally Ozzie rides the bus downtown to have lunch with a friend like Joe Randolph or goes to play golf, but he never talks about any work, except to advise Dave in "The Circus" (January 27, 1960) that some jobs require you to do unpleasant things. It's ironic that Ozzie is portrayed as such a slacker when his real life was consumed by the work required to put on a weekly television series.

He also generally doesn't get along with his so-called "friends." In "A Lawnmower for Ozzie" (December 7, 1960), Randolph comes over before leaving on a trip to borrow a few items that prove to thwart Ozzie's attempt to mow his lawn after Randolph has gone. Ozzie is irritable with Randolph during the entire visit, practically curses him for locking his garage with Ozzie's own padlock, then feels bad when he finally breaks into the garage to retrieve his lawnmower and believes that the brand new lawnmower with the bow on top sitting in Randolph's garage is for him. He also gets peeved at neighbor Doc Williams, whose power mower he is hoping to borrow, when Williams admonishes him not to hit any rocks and to be sure and clean it afterward since his yard is full of crabgrass. In "No News for Harriet" (June 8, 1960), Harriet complains that Ozzie never tells her anything about what he's been up to, while Randolph confesses to Ozzie that he embellishes or makes up stories to keep his wife Clara entertained. Ozzie is against any form of misrepresentation but Randolph gets the upper hand when he tells Clara that Ozzie had ice cream with a famous antiques author and Clara, in turn, persuades that ladies club to which she and Harriet belong to invite the author to speak at their next luncheon, using Ozzie's name as a way of introduction. Ozzie also is annoyed by his friend Darby in "The Circus" when Darby asks Ozzie to use two of his four circus tickets to take Darby and his wife instead of Ricky and Dave, who was the one who scored the tickets in the first place. And in "Dave's Almost In-Laws" (November 23, 1960) Ozzie takes an immediate dislike to Harry Wilson, father of a girl Dave has been seeing, when the two don't see eye-to-eye on modern architecture, last night's fight, or the movie currently showing at the Bijou. But Ozzie rarely confronts these characters head-on, usually insisting that he isn't mad when he obviously is at least agitated and reserving his harshest criticism of these men for Harriet's ears only. While Ozzie's soft-serve approach to his dislikes keeps everything non-confrontational, it also gives the show with a sense of dis-ease.

The behavior of model sons Dave and Ricky is also slightly unsettling, not because they engage in anything immoral or even disrespectful. They are always polite and charming but have a distinct problem with communicating or displaying anything resembling a backbone. In "The Circus," Dave is asked by his boss, attorney Mr. Dobson, to serve a summons to a Roberto Cantini, but when Dave discovers that Mr. Cantini is the father of his new friend Tony and that they and their family are trapeze artists and run the circus that just came to town, he chickens out until he has a nightmare about causing Mr. Cantini to fall off the trapeze. However, he is bailed out from the unpleasant chore when Mr. Dobson sees him at the circus the next day before he has delivered the summons and decides to serve the summons himself, which turns out to be only an invitation to dinner. In "His Brother's Girl" (October 19, 1960) Ricky asks Dave to take Jane, the girl he has been seeing, to the movies since he just found out about a big exam the next day. Dave has found himself more and more attracted to Jane but doesn't have the gumption to tell him, and apparently the affection is mutual. Things progress to Jane kissing Dave and he asking her to the dance since Ricky hasn't already asked her. Still, he never tells Ricky what has developed yet is bailed out when Ricky shows up at the dance with another girl in whom he thought Dave was interested. 

Ricky takes his turn in failing to communicate in "A Sweater for Rick" (November 9, 1960) when his girlfriend Joyce decides to secretly knit him a sweater. He assumes that her lack of availability means she is no longer interested in him, and, rather than asking her, he starts dating another girl, Mary Carter. When Harriet, who has been helping Joyce with the knitting, sees that Rick is straying, she tells him about Joyce's present for him. Feeling guilty, he goes over to Mary's house to break things off with her, but when she also presents him with a sweater, he chickens out and accepts it, agreeing separately with both girls to wear their sweaters at school on Monday and having to switch between the two sweaters based on which girl he sees during the day. However, rather than having to confess his duplicity, he is let off the hook when Mary comes to tell him that she is getting back together with her basketball-playing former boyfriend, meaning that he can return to Joyce without having to explain anything. He avoids another awkward explanation in "Rick Counts the Ballots" (December 28, 1960) when, as head of the prom queen election committee, he lets slip to his girlfriend Terry that she was won the election, then finds out from his friend and fellow committee member Wally that they missed a ballot box from the chemistry building, meaning that Terry's slim 7-vote lead might be in jeopardy. But rather than telling her he had been premature in declaring the winner, especially when she leaks the "news" to her sorority sisters, he waits for the counting of the last ballot box and he escapes embarrassment when she retains the crown by a single vote. So the strange message the show seems to reinforce is that failure to communicate can cause a variety of problems, but there are never any consequences suffered as a result. The Nelsons apparently value not ruffling feathers over honesty, a code you won't find endorsed by shows like Father Knows Best.

Another curious family value is that the boys have a different girlfriend nearly every week. Rather than showing the development of a romantic relationship over time, the show treats their relationships with women as disposable at this point in their lives. As mentioned above, Ricky quickly jettisons Joyce in "A Sweater for Rick" just because she is busy and won't go record shopping or to a movie on a couple of occasions. In "Girl in the Emporium" (December 14, 1960), he and Wally take jobs at a department store to pursue a pretty salesgirl. But once she reveals that she is going on vacation for a few weeks and will be replaced by her equally attractive sister, the boys immediately forget her and take up with her sibling. The irony here is that Ricky Nelson was a notorious womanizer, once claiming to have had sex with thousands of women. He called his marriage to Kris Harmon a shotgun wedding because she was three months pregnant and did not include her in the short list of women he really loved in an interview shortly before his death. Ozzie Nelson may have been able to micromanage every detail of what went out on the air, but he couldn't control what went on behind the scenes in his model American family.

The music for the 1960 episodes is credited to Basil "Buzz" Adlam, who was born in Chelmsford, UK and educated in Canadian schools. He played saxophone in Ozzie Nelson's band, as well as for Phil Harris and provided arrangements for and conducted the Horace Heidt orchestra. His soundtrack credits are largely for the 152 episodes he worked on for Ozzie and Harriet, though he did provide orchestration for a few films in the 1940s, a few episodes of The Mr. Magoo Show in 1960, and a few episodes of Space Angel in the mid-1960s. He was also producer and musical director for the U.S. Treasury's Guest Star radio series. He passed away on November 9, 1974 in Beverly Hills at the age of 69.

There have been a plethora of DVD releases of selected episodes from this series but no complete season or series releases at this date. However, Sam Nelson, Ricky's youngest son has begun an effort to bring complete seasons to market. In 2011 he launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $10,000 but wound up netting over three times that amount. As of September 2014, his latest update on this site says that restoration has just begun, though only contributors to the project have access to the full message. One would assume that he would begin with the first season and work forward from there, but no timetable has been released delineating when any releases will actually make it to market. In the meantime, Shout! Factory has released two 4-disc collections spanning the show's 14-year history. One is titled The Best of Ozzie and Harriet and the other is The Best of Ricky and Dave. They have also released a single disc of Christmas episodes. Mill Creek has released a 12-disc collection called The Essential Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet containing 100 episodes, again spanning the show's entire history. The video quality on this set is far inferior to that on the Shout! Factory releases, but it does include the original commercials. Alpha Video has also released over 20 single-disc DVDs, each containing four episodes, and these  are taken from the show's earlier seasons. Video quality on other Alpha releases is usually acceptable to poor. A few episodes are also available on archive.org, though video quality for the online episodes tends to be poor.

The Actors

Ozzie Nelson

Oswald George Nelson was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and played football in high school and at Rutgers University. After Rutgers he attended Rutgers Newark School of Law but did not pursue a legal career afterward because he took up a musical career after earning money playing saxophone in school and then starting his own band. The band played at various hotels and casinos along the East Coast until he manufactured his big break in 1930 by stuffing the ballot box in a contest for most popular band run by the New York Daily Mirror. Nelson knew that newspaper carriers got credit for unsold papers by merely returning the front page from unsold copies, so he and his bandmates gathered up the remaining unsold papers and filled out the ballots to beat out Paul Whiteman and his orchestra in winning the contest. From then on he was a regular in recording for the Brunswick, Vocalion, Victor, and Bluebird record labels, scoring hits in 1934 for "Over Somebody Else's Shoulder" and 1935 for "And Then Some," which went all the way to #1. He hired Harriet Hilliard as the band's female vocalist in 1932, often performing duets with her, and the couple married in 1935. In the 1940s Nelson had his band appear in several films and shorts such as Sweetheart of the Campus, Strictly in the Groove, and Honeymoon Lodge. He and his band also became regulars on Red Skelton's radio program, which eventually led to his own show in 1944, the initial incarnation of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Though he was always portrayed as an easy-going character on his television series, other sources, particularly a 1998 documentary for the A&E cable channel and historian David Halberstam, have said that in real life Nelson was a controlling, dictatorial workaholic who prevented his sons from attending college in order to keep the TV series going. Son David Nelson disputed the documentary's depiction of his father, saying that while Ozzie was hard-working he wasn't a slave driver: "My father went to great pains to see that Rick and I had as normal an upbringing as possible." In 1973 he attempted to bring back Ozzie and Harriet with Harriet and he renting out the boys' rooms to a pair of young college girls on Ozzie's Girls, but the series was not picked up by a network, subjecting it to syndication roulette and lasting only a single season. That year he also published his autobiography Ozzie. Some sources say that about this time he revealed that he was a lifelong atheist, though others say this is merely a rumor. In his later years he suffered a series of malignant tumors and eventually died of liver cancer at the age of 69 on June 3, 1975.

 Harriet Hilliard Nelson

Born Peggy Louise Snyder in Des Moines, Iowa, Harriet Nelson was the daughter of stock theater performers and made her first appearance on stage by age 3 and debuted on Broadway while still a teenager. The fire to Ozzie Nelson's ice, she took up smoking at age 13, dropped out of high school to join the Corps de Ballet, and had her first marriage to abusive comedian Roy Sedley annulled in 1933, a year after joining her future husband Ozzie's band as the lead female vocalist. A friend of Ginger Rogers, she was signed to an RKO movie contract, appearing alongside her friend Rogers and Fred Astaire in Follow the Fleet and continuing to appear in one or two films a year until her family's radio program began in 1944, at which time she stuck to being Ozzie Nelson's wife on stage as well as at home.

After their TV series ended, Harriet made rare appearances with Ozzie on shows such as Night Gallery, Love American Style, and Bridget Loves Bernie. After his death in 1975, she moved to their beach home in Laguna Beach and led a somewhat reclusive life, though she did appear in a few TV movies and occasional guest spots on shows like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Happy Days, and The Father Dowling Mysteries, on which her grand-daughter Tracy Nelson had a starring role. She died from congestive heart failure at the age of 85 on October 2, 1994.

 

 

David Nelson

David Oswald Nelson was born in Manhattan in 1936; the Nelsons moved to California when he was 5. At age 12 he and Ricky took over playing themselves on the radio version of Ozzie and Harriet. From then until the TV series ended in 1966, his career was largely defined by his role on the show. He did, however, find time to attend USC, where he was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, and besides the pseudo TV pilot Here Come the Nelsons, he starred in a few feature films in the late 1950s, most notably Peyton Place, The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker, and The Big Circus, a film that got him interested in the trapeze and led to his performing with a troupe called the Flying Viennas. This interest was worked into the show in the 1960 episode "The Circus" in which both Dave and Ricky perform on the trapeze in a dream sequence.

In 1961 he married former Playboy Playmate and actress June Blair, who then became a regular member of the cast, having played a few different characters before the marriage. Toward the end of the show's run, David developed an interest in directing and directed four episodes in 1963-64. After the series ended, he directed a few episodes of OK, Crackerby! as well as single episodes of Ozzie's Girls, Adam-12, and Goodnight, Beantown. He also directed a few feature films, including Childish Things with Linda Evans and Don Murray, Last Plane Out with Jan-Michael Vincent, and Rare Breed with George Kennedy and Forrest Tucker. His marriage to Blair ended in divorce in 1975 and he remarried that same year to Yvonne Huston, to whom he remained married until his death from colon cancer in 2011. Of all the Nelsons he was the most candid in expressing the confusion over distinguishing between the real and fictional Nelsons. In a 1971 interview with Esquire magazine he said, “For your sanity you had to keep that clear,” he said. “Rick and I had to distinguish between our father and the director telling us what to do. If we got the lines crossed, that’s where the arguments started, and I would end up putting my fist through a wall behind the set, because I was that angry.”

Ricky Nelson

Eric Hilliard Nelson was born in Teaneck, New Jersey, though the family soon settled in Tenafly. Six months later, Ozzie, Harriet, and David moved to Hollywood where the parents became regulars on Red Skelton's radio show. Baby Ricky was left in the care of his paternal grandmother until 1942. As a child he was shy, introverted, and suffered from asthma. At age 8 he joined brother David in replacing the professional actors who had been playing the boys on their parents' hit radio show. While attending Hollywood High School, Ricky became involved with a greaser gang called the Rooks after being shunned by the club most of his friends belonged to, the more conservative Elksters. Ricky was arrested twice for delinquent activities with the Rooks and barely avoided a third arrest when he punched a police officer but was rescued by the intervention of Ozzie. His parents eventually had to banish his delinquent friends from his life and their home to prevent him from getting into further trouble. He became interested in music when a girl he liked said that she loved Elvis Presley, so he immediately told her that he was a recording artist as well and then had his father with his musical connections set up a recording date in which he cut Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'" and performed it on Ozzie and Harriet as well as Perry Como's TV show. The song reached #4 on the charts, and the B-side, "A Teenager's Romance," reached #2. Soon thereafter Ozzie got him a 5-year contract with Imperial Records, which led to a string of hit singles and albums and performances of his songs on the family's TV show. He also had a couple of notable film roles in The Wackiest Ship in the Army with Jack Lemmon and in Rio Bravo with John Wayne and Dean Martin. In 1963 he signed a new 20-year contract with Decca Records and married Kris Harmon, daughter of football legend Tom Harmon and older sister of actor Mark Harmon. However, his musical career began to wane, and the marriage, which produced four children--actress Tracy Nelson, musicians Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, and musician/actor Sam Nelson, ended in a bitter, very public 5-year divorce that dragged on until 1982.

Meanwhile,  Ricky's music career continued to flag until he was booed from the stage at Madison Square garden for not dressing like he did in his hit years and performing his old songs. The humiliating experience ironically led to a comeback and his biggest hit in years, "Garden Party," in 1972. His divorce from Kris Harmon also made public his rampant drug use and incessant infidelity. But his later musical career was said to be an inspiration for the burgeoning country rock scene made famous by artists such as Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. It all came to a tragic end in May 1985 when a privately leased jet taking him to a show in Dallas caught fire and crashed in DeKalb, Texas, killing all on board except the two pilots. Nelson's will left his entire estate to his children, cutting out Kris Harmon and the woman he was living with and who died with him in the crash, Helen Blair. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Skip Young

Born in San Francisco as Ronald Bix Plumstead, Young served in the Navy during the Korean War and made his first appearance on film in an uncredited role in the Elvis Presley 1957 vehicle Loving You. Like many of the regular actors on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Young's filmography is brief outside of the long-running series on which he appeared 92 times beginning in 1956. While still appearing on Ozzie and Harriet he made single appearances on One Step Beyond, Father Knows Best, and My Three Sons. After the series ended he had single appearances on Green Acres, Adam-12, Starsky and Hutch, and his final appearance on a 1989 episode of Growing Pains. He also found occasional feature film work in fare such as Earth vs. the Spider, A Cold Wind in August with Lola Albright, WUSA, and Lobster Man From Mars. In 1973 he moved to Apple Valley in California, where he hosted a talk radio program and participated in community events such as judging beauty contests. He was found dead at his home on March 17, 1993 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 63. Diabetes was also said to be a contributing factor in his death.

Lyle Talbot

 He was born Lysle Hollywood Henderson in Pittsburgh, PA, the son of Mississippi River boat performers. At age 17 he began performing himself as a magician's assistant, working his way up to magician in traveling tent shows. From there he moved into repertory theatre and founded his own troupe in Nashville. He was spotted by a Hollywood agent at a performance in Houston and invited to screen test for then brand new talking pictures. His screen test was approved by studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck and director William Wellman, and he began appearing in a variety of roles beginning in 1931. He was soon playing alongside the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in 1932's Love Is a Racket, with Bette Davis, Joan Blondell, and a young Humphrey Bogart in Three on a Match later that same year, and again with Davis and Spencer Tracy in 20,000 Years in Sing Sing. By the following year he was the leading man opposite Loretta Young in She Had to Say Yes and Ginger Rogers in A Shriek in the Night. But when he became one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild, and the only founder then under contract to a major studio, Warner Brothers allowed his contract to expire and he would no longer be cast in leading roles after that. He still found a lucrative career as a character actor and appeared in some 150 films during his career. He was also the first actor to portray Commissioner Gordon in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin and the first to play Lex Luthor in Atom Man vs. Superman in 1950. That year he also made his first foray into television, playing The Brain in a 5-part installment on Dick Tracy. Talbot once boasted that he never turned down a role, and this included appearances in three Ed Wood, Jr. films--Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait, and, arguably the worst movie ever made, Plan 9 From Outer Space. He also found regular work on a variety of TV shows throughout the 1950s, from westerns to crime dramas to science fiction series, including 6 appearances as Baylor on Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. In the later 1950s he began showing a knack for comedy with repeat performances on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, 6 turns on December Bride, and a recurring role as Bob Cummings' friend Paul Fonda on The Bob Cummings Show.

But his most enduring role was as Ozzie's Nelson's irritating friend Joe Randolph starting in 1956 until the series' end. After Ozzie and Harriet he continued working into the late 1980s, appearing on shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies, Dragnet, Green Acres, Here's Lucy, Adam-12, The Dukes of Hazzard, St. Elsewhere, Charlie's Angels, and Newhart. He married five times, the last to Margaret "Paula" Epple lasted from 1948 until her death in 1989. They had four children, including son Stephen who played Beaver's friend Gilbert on Leave It to Beaver and later become a producer of documentaries, son David, founder and editor of salon.com and author of a recent book about the Kennedy assassinations titled Brothers, and daughter Margaret, currently writing for The New Yorker magazine. Lyle Talbot died of congestive heart failure at his San Francisco home on March 2, 1996 at the age of 94.

Mary Jane Croft

Croft was born in Muncie, Indiana, where she began her performing career in local theatre. After moving to Cincinnati, she worked in local theatre there before finding work as a voice actress on radio station WLW, which, in turn, led to a long and prolific career in radio on shows such as The Mel Blanc Show, Suspense, Blondie, The Great Gildersleeve, Our Miss Brooks, and Lucille Ball's My Favorite Husband. These last two programs helped launch her career in television, as she reprised her role as Eve Arden's adversary Daisy Enright on the TV version of Our Miss Brooks and appeared on I Love Lucy in a couple of guest spots in 1954 and 1956 before being cast as Lucy's Connecticut neighbor Betty Ramsey in the show's final season. She then provided the voice for Jackie Cooper's basset hound Cleo on The People's Choice from 1955-58, and after a couple of guest spots on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, settled in as Joe Randolph's wife Clara beginning in 1956 and continuing for the duration of the series.

But while still working on Ozzie and Harriet she teamed up with Lucille Ball again on The Lucy Show, first playing Audrey Simmons in 8 episodes from 1962-64 and then becoming Mary Jane Lewis (her real married name as she was then the wife of Lucy producer Elliott Lewis) for the remainder of the series, replacing Vivian Vance as Lucy's best friend when Vance left the series. When Ball launched her third TV series, Here's Lucy, in 1969, Croft returned as Mary Jane Lewis, appearing 21 times during the show's 5-year run. Her last appearance on film was in Ball's 1977 TV movie Lucy Calls the President. She died of natural causes 22 years later on August 24, 1999 at the age of 83.

Constance Harper

Constance Garland Harper was born in Los Angeles in 1930. Other than a single appearance on The Donna Reed Show in 1962 and a short titled Sonic Boom in 1974, her entire acting career consisted of her 62 appearances on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, most often as secretary Connie Edwards in the law office where David worked. Her entry into acting was no doubt helped by being married to Ozzie Nelson's brother Don, who co-wrote exactly half of the show's 436 scripts. Little else is known about Harper. She is apparently still living.

 

 Jack Wagner

Jack Bernard Wagner was born to French parents in 1925 and by age 4 was dubbing French into  American movies for foreign release. Wagner played the soda jerk Jack and many clerks, announcers, and other minor characters in 92 episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet during the show's entire 14-year span. He had a few uncredited roles in feature films for MGM while still a teenager, but then found work as a radio announcer for KNX in Los Angeles. Starting in 1955 he began working for Disneyland doing special announcements and narrating Christmas parades until becoming a full-time announcer for Disney in 1970. He eventually became known as The Voice of Disneyland and added voicework for Walt Disney World Resort, as well as producing music used at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland. Vocal cord surgery in 1991 effectively ended his career as a Disney announcer. His acting career beyond Ozzie and Harriet included the role of Alfred on The Ann Sothern Show from 1958-60 as well as occasional appearances on shows such as Sea Hunt, Dragnet, and Bat Masterson. He died June 16, 1995 at the age of 69.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 8, Episode 15, "The Circus": Francis de Sales (shown on the right, played Lt. Bill Weigand on Mr. & Mrs. North, Ralph Dobson on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Sheriff Maddox on Two Faces West, and Rusty Lincoln on Days of Our Lives) plays Dave's boss Mr. Dobson. Nick Dennis (starred in A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden, and Kiss Me Deadly and played Nick Kanavaras on Ben Casey and Constantine on Kojak) plays trapeze patriarch Roberto Cantini. Karl Kindberg (Dink in later episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) plays his son Tony. 


Season 8, Episode 21, "Dave Goofs Off": Joe Flynn (shown on the left, starred in Lover Come Back, The Love Bug, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and played Frank on The Joey Bishop Show, Capt. Wallace B. Binghamton on McHale's Navy, and Herbert T. Kenworth on The Tim Conway Show) plays Dave's other boss Mr. Kelley. 



 

 Season 8, Episode 27, " Dave and the Schoolteacher": Madge Blake (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Real McCoys) plays Dave's former teacher Mrs. Hastings. Paula Winslowe (Martha Conklin on Our Miss Brooks) plays Dave's former teacher Mrs. Stevens. Cynthia Chenault (Carol Potter on The Tom Ewell Show) plays Dave's former classmate Carol Wilson. Stanley Livingston (see the biography section for the 1960 post on My Three Sons) plays Wilson's pupil Stanley Livingston.

Season 8, Episode 31, "No News for Harriet": Paula Winslowe (see "Dave and the Schoolteacher" above) plays women's club president Mrs. Peabody. Vera Marshe (Vera Franklin on Meet Corliss Archer) plays another women's club member. Sally Hughes (Sally Darby many times on Ozzie and Harriet) plays another women's club member. Constance Harper (see the biography section above) plays another women's club member.
Season 9, Episode 4, "His Brother's Girl": June Blair (later married Dave Nelson and played his wife June in later seasons on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) plays Ricky's date Jane. Pat McCaffrie (Chuck Forrest on Bachelor Father)  plays a movie theatre manager's brother-in-law. 

Season 9, Episode 7, "A Sweater for Rick": Roberta Shore (Laura Rogan on Walt Disney Presents: Annette, Henrietta Gogerty on The Bob Cummings Show, and Betsy Garth on The Virginian) plays Ricky's girlfriend Joyce. Linda Evans (shown on the left, played Audra Barkley on The Big Valley, Marty Shaw on Hunter, and Krystle Carrington on Dynasty)plays Ricky's replacement girlfriend Mary Carter. Sharyn Hillyer (Wanda on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) plays Carol, a girl who knitted a tie for Ricky. 

Season 9, Episode 9, "Dave's Almost In-Laws": John Hubbard (starred in One Million, B.C., The Mummy's Tomb, and What's Buzzin', Cousin? and played Mr. Brown on The Mickey Rooney Show, Col. U. Charles Barker on Don't Call Me Charlie, and Ted Gaynor on Family Affair) plays Dave's girlfriend's father Harry Wilson. 

Season 9, Episode 10, "Dave Hires a Secretary": Joe Flynn (see "Dave Goofs Off" above) returns as Mr. Kelley. Lori Saunders (shown on the right, played Bobbie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and The Beverly Hillbillies and Betsy on Dusty's Trail) plays Rick's girlfriend Susan. June Blair (see "His Brother's Girl" above) plays Susan's friend Cathy Carson. 

Season 9, Episode 11, "A Lawnmower for Ozzie": Frank Cady (Sam Drucker on The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction) plays Ozzie's neighbor Doc Williams. Billy Hummert (Cornell Clayton on Margie) plays a curious boy named Billy. Barry Livingston (Ernie Douglas on My Three Sons and Murray "Moose" Kerner on Sons and Daughters) plays his friend Barry.

Season 9, Episode 12, "Girl in the Emporium": Judi Meredith (shown on the left, played Bonnie Sue McAfee on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and The George Burns Show, Monique Devereaux on Hotel de Paree, and Betty Cramer on Ben Casey) plays attractive salesgirl Terry. Lori Saunders (see "Dave Hires a Secretary" above) plays her sister Mary Jane. 

Season 9, Episode 14, "Rick Counts the Ballots": Linda Bennett (popular singer who recorded for RCA and Mercury) plays Rick's girlfriend Terry Johnson.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Shotgun Slade (1960)



Shotgun Slade was a show that tried to take elements from a number of already popular shows and combine them into a single series, presumably with the hope of creating a kind of "greatest hits" version of a television show. At the time of its debut, westerns and detective crime dramas were all the rage, so the title character was a cowboy detective in the old west, based in Denver, Colorado. He carried business cards like the popular Paladin of Have Gun -- Will Travel but without the catchy tag line. He also carried a distinctive weapon, like Luke McCain of The Rifleman and Josh Randall of Wanted: Dead or Alive, a shotgun whose top barrel was that of a .32 rifle and whose bottom barrel was that of a 12-gauge shotgun. And the show had a jazzy score like crime dramas Peter Gunn and M Squad. Its strapping title character, played by Scott Brady, was also a cross between the formidable Chuck Connors and the flirtatious Richard Boone. But somehow all these winning features didn't add up to a big hit. The show ran for two seasons and never cracked the top 30 in the ratings.

Part of that failure can be attributed to being a syndicated program that was aired only by stations willing to pay the syndication fee and at whatever time the station chose to run it. In fact, when exactly the program aired is still something of a mystery. Though some episodes from calendar year 1960 have assigned dates according to whoever entered them at imdb.com, others have no date except the year of copyright. And a review of TV Guides from that year provides some apparently conflicting information. For example, imdb.com lists "Lost Gold," episode 38 from Season 1, as having aired on July 5, 1960, but the April 30 Western New England edition of TV Guide shows the following episode, "The Smell of Money," as having aired on May 3, a full two months earlier. It's possible that stations were able to air shows out of order, and it's very likely that they re-ran episodes months after their original showing. Either way, it's probably impossible to nail down a specific first air date for each episode, particularly since some editions of TV Guide list only the show name and not the episode being aired. Of course, other syndicated shows, most notably Sea Hunt, could find success with a haphazard air schedule, but Slade was also hampered by its derivative content.

The show's copy-cat features, however, were merely an attempt to draw in fans of the other shows they were borrowed from because they could be jettisoned for episodes at a time if they didn't fit into that week's narrative. Slade himself, though a detective by trade, would sometimes be hired for other work, such as in "The Spanish Box" where he is hired to transport a gift box to a Lodestone banker and only after the box is switched for one that turns out to be a booby-trap that kills the banker does Slade have to use his detective skills to save his own skin. In "Backtrack" he is hired to transport an embezzler to trial before getting bushwhacked and having to recapture the criminal and his stolen money that has been lifted by a band of train robbers. And he also is not always very good at his job. Again in "The Spanish Box" he fails to notice a man switch identical carpet bags with him after getting off a stagecoach. At the time of the switch, Slade is blithely looking down the road in the opposite direction instead of keeping his eye trained on the bag he is being paid to deliver. His eye for the ladies can also get him into trouble, such as when he is lured to the hotel room of a female stage performer, allowing her accomplice to steal a valuable Stradivarius that he has been hired to protect. These foibles make Slade a more human character, but they hardly inspire confidence in his abilities as a professional.

But what ultimately doomed the series was that the writing and plots just weren't different enough from the other shows being emulated to make Shotgun Slade stand out above the crowd. And with the disadvantages of irregular air times and lack of network backing, the show just couldn't stand up to the competition and folded after two seasons.

The jazz-western theme music and the scores for individual episodes were composed and arranged by Gerald Fried, whose biography can be found in the 1960 post for Riverboat. In an extensive 2-hour 2003 interview that can be viewed at emmtvlegends.org, Fried relates that the idea for a jazz-western score came about as a joke during a cocktail party attended by Fried and Revue Studios producer Jennings Lang. After someone tossed out the idea as a joke, Jennings latched onto it and Fried was given the task of bringing it to life. Coincidentally, Jack Marshall employed a similar approach the same year on his score for The Deputy. Fried's closing theme for Shotgun Slade was given a vocal treatment by Lang's wife, singer Monica Lewis at the end of the episode she starred in, "A Flower for Jenny." This vocal version was pressed on 45 rpm wax but released only as a "complimentary" promo, not for sale, on Bristol Records (Lewis' character in the episode is named Monica Bristol).

Like several other syndicated programs of the era, the DVD releases for Shotgun Slade are somewhat chaotic. There are essentially 15 episodes, all from the spring of 1960, available on various DVD releases by Echo Bridge (which offers all 15 in a 2-disc set), Timeless Media Group, and Alpha Video. There is also one episode from Season 2 available at this time on youtube.com. The print quality of these unremastered episodes is a bit rough.

 

 

 

 

 The Actors

Scott Brady

Born Gerard Kenneth Tierney in Brooklyn, NY, Brady was the son of the chief of New York's aqueduct police force. Brady, called Jerry by his family, grew up in Westchester County, NY and lettered in football, basketball, and track while in high school but dropped out to join the Navy during World War II. He worked as a naval aviation mechanic and earned a heavyweight boxing medal before being discharged in 1946. He moved to Los Angeles where his older brother Lawrence had found success in acting (another brother Edward also became an actor for a while before leaving the profession to become a building contractor). He found work as a lumberjack and taxi driver before being spotted by producer Hal Wallis and given a screen test, which did not go well. Given this setback, he enrolled in the Bliss-Hayden acting school, where he took vocal lessons to rid himself of his thick Brooklyn accent. By 1948 he began getting roles in lesser films like In This Corner before moving up to better fare such as He Walked by Night later that same year. Steady work continued through the 1950s, alternating between heavies and heroes in crime dramas and westerns such as The Model and the Marriage Broker, The Bloodhounds of Broadway, and the cult classic Johnny Guitar. In the mid-1950s he also began appearing in television drama anthologies such as The Ford Television Theatre, Lux Video Theatre, and Schlitz Playhouse before landing the title role in Shotgun Slade in 1959.

After Shotgun Slade's two-year run ended, he continued to work steadily throughout the 1960s and 1970s both in guest spots on TV and in feature films. In the biggest mistake of his life, he turned down the role of Archie Bunker for All in the Family but later appeared in four episodes on the program as the character Joe Foley. In 1973 he scored a recurring role as Vinnie on Police Story, which ran for four years, as well as five appearances on The Rockford Files and significant roles in the films The China Syndrome and Gremlins. Once linked to actresses Dorothy Malone and Gwen Verdon, Brady finally married non-actress Mary Tirony at age 43 in 1967. In 1957 he and roommate/publicist Desmond Slattery were arrested on a narcotics charge when police found a single marijuana butt in their apartment after Brady brought back two women he had met in Hollywood, one of whom turned out to be a police informant. Brady maintained that the arrest was a sting and the charges were later dropped. But in 1963 he was barred from betting on horse races in New York for his association with known bookmakers. In 1981 he collapsed from what was determined to be pulmonary fibrosis and thereafter had to use an oxygen tank. He died four years later at the age of 60 on April 16, 1985.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 1, Episode 23, "The Deadly Key": Vito Scotti (shown on the left, played Jose on The Deputy, Capt. Gaspar Fomento on The Flying Nun, Gino on To Rome With Love, and Mr. Velasquez on Barefoot in the Park) plays fortune hunter Bernard Rejon. Mort Mills (Marshal Frank Tallman on Man Without a Gun, Sgt. Ben Landro on Perry Mason, and Sheriff Fred Madden on The Big Valley) plays adversary Ben Wesley. Ann Robinson (Queen Juliandra on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and Helen Watkins on Fury) plays Wesley's boss Miss Baxter.
Season 1, Episode 25, "Donna Juanita": Ray Montgomery (Prof. Howard Ogden on Ramar of the Jungle) plays general store owner Ed Raff. Carlos Romero (Rico Rodriguez on Wichita Town, Romero Serrano on Zorro, and Carlo Agretti on Falcon Crest) plays Donna Juanita's right-hand man Mario Gallegos. Howard Caine (Schaab on The Californians and Maj. Wolfgang Hochstetter on Hogan's Heroes) plays syndicate shareholder Pedro.
Season 1, Episode 26, "The Spanish Box": George Kennedy (shown on the right, starred in Charade, The Sons of Katie Elder, The Dirty Dozen, Cool Hand Luke, and The Naked Gun and played MP Sgt. Kennedy on The Phil Silvers Show, Father Samuel Cavanuagh on Sarge, Bumper Morgan on The Blue Knight, and Carter McKay on Dallas) plays bar-room brawler Tex. Donald Murphy (Ben Cabot on The Loretta Young Show) plays mine-stealer Hal Bates. Michael Hinn (Luke Cummings on Boots and Saddles) plays Lodestone Sheriff Fred Hadley.
Season 1, Episode 27, "The Golden Tunnel": Mary Webster (Rachel Verinder on The Moonstone, Jill Reed on Emergency-Ward 10, Anna on Circus, and Sarah Onedin on The Onedin Line) plays gold baron's wife Cora Davis. Dean Harens (SAC Bryan Durant on The F.B.I.) plays her husband's nephew Jim Palmer. Richard Bull (Thatcher on Nichols and Neels Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) plays an unnamed doctor.
Season 1, Episode 28, "A Flower for Jenny": Dianne Foster (starred in Night Passage, The Last Hurrah, and The Deep Six) plays diva singer Jenny Dupre. Robert McQueeney (Conley Wright on The Gallant Men) plays her accompanist Eddie Howard. Monica Lewis (shown on the left, popular singer who starred in Excuse My Dust, Affair With a Stranger, and The D.I.) plays Deadwood dance-hall singer Monica Bristol. Steve Darrell (Sheriff Hal Humphrey on Tales of Wells Fargo) plays the Deadwood marshal.
Season 1, Episode 29, "The Fabulous Fiddle": Ludwig Stossel (appeared in Casablanca, Kings Row, and Pride of the Yankees and played Peter Van Dyne on Ramar of the Jungle and Anton Kovac on Man With a Camera) plays concert violinist Professor Maximillian. Paul Picerni (Agent Lee Hobson on The Untouchables) plays his manager Quinn.
Season 1, Episode 30, "Crossed Guns": King Calder (Lt. Gray on Martin Kane) plays Grover's Bend Marshal Prescott. Sue Ane Langdon (shown on the right, played Kitty Marsh on Bachelor Father, Lillian Nuvo on Arnie, Rosie on Grandpa Goes to Washington, and Darlene on When the Whistle Blows) plays his daughter Lydia. Francis X. Bushman (starred in Romeo and Juliet (1916), Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Dick Tracy (1937), Sabrina, and The Phantom Planet) plays newspaper publisher Eckhart.
Season 1, Episode 31, "Sudden Death": Jeanne Cooper (Grace Douglas on Bracken's World and Katherine Chancellor Murphy on The Young and the Restless) plays casino hostess Sally Claymore. Robert Bray (Simon Kane on Stagecoach West and Corey Stuart on Lassie) plays her boyfriend Henry Timmons. Beverly Tyler (starred in The Fireball, The Cimarron Kid, and Voodoo Island) plays fellow hostess Peaches. Alan Dexter (Frank Ferguson on Days of Our Lives) plays casino croupier Wilson. Victor Sen Yung (Cousin Charlie Fong on Bachelor Father and Hop Sing on Bonanza) plays Chinese artist Willy Sing.
Season 1, Episode 32, "Ring of Death": Richard Crane (Rocky Jones on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger Dick Preston on Commando Cody, Sky Marshal of the Universe, and Lt. Gene Plehn on Surfside 6) plays trail boss Joe Keith. Bethel Leslie (appeared in 15 episodes of The Richard Boone Show and played Claudia Conner on All My Children and Ethel Crawford on One Life to Live) plays his fiance Kate Heinie. H.M. Wynant (Frosty on Batman and Ed Chapman on Dallas) plays Kate's real boyfriend Len Sterling. Richard Hale (starred in Abilene Town, Kim, San Antone, Red Garters, and To Kill a Mockingbird) plays Len's father Pike. Denver Pyle (shown on the left, played Ben Thompson on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Grandpa Tarleton on Tammy, Briscoe Darling on The Andy Griffith Show, Buck Webb on The Doris Day Show, Mad Jack on The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, and Uncle Jesse on The Dukes of Hazzard) plays local lawman Marshal Berry.
Season 1, Episode 33, "Backtrack": King Donovan (Roger Baker on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and Harvey Helm on The Bob Cummings Show) plays embezzler Jason Baxter. Connie Hines (Carol Post on Mister Ed) plays train robber Katy Conroy. Wesley Lau (Lt. Andy Anderson on Perry Mason and Master Sgt. Jiggs on The Time Tunnel) plays train robber Jeb.
Season 1, Episode 35, "Killer's Brand": Ruta Lee (shown on the right, appeared in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, and Witness for the Prosecution and played Rona on 1st and Ten: The Championship and Pauline Spencer on Coming of Age) plays ranch owner Lily Cody. Dean Fredericks (Kaseem in Jungle Jim, Komawi in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Lt. Col. Steve Canyon in Steve Canyon) plays her suitor Vance. Robert Anderson (Park Street, Jr. on The Court of Last Resort and Aeneas MacLinahan on Wichita Town) plays rival rancher Steve Willis. Orville Sherman (Mr. Feeney on Buckskin, Wib Smith on Gunsmoke, and Tupper on Daniel Boone) plays former employee Harry Potter. Stafford Repp (Chief O'Hara on Batman) plays the local marshal.
Season 1, Episode 36, "A Flower on Boot Hill": Willie Roerick (Richard Gavin on Another World and Henry Chamberlain on Guiding Light) plays widower Dr. John Brighton. Kathie Browne (Angie Dow on Hondo and was Darren McGavin's second wife) plays Susan Bennett, daughter of the general store owner. Sherman Sanders (appeared as a square dance caller in 17 feature films and an episode of The Andy Griffith Show) plays hotel clerk Sam. Paul Langton (Leslie Harrington on Peyton Place) plays an escaped bank robber.
Season 1, Episode 37, "The Charcoal Bullet": Frank Ferguson (shown on the left, played Gus Broeberg on My Friend Flicka, Eli Carson on Peyton Place, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction) plays the Spring Oak sheriff. Robert F. Simon (Dave Tabak on Saints and Sinners, Gen. Alfred Terry on Custer, Frank Stephens on Bewitched, Uncle Everett McPherson on Nancy, Capt. Rudy Olsen on The Streets of San Francisco, and J. Jonah Jameson on The Amazing Spiderman) plays bank president Bob Baston. Ned Glass (MSgt. Andy Pendleton on The Phil Silvers Show, Sol Cooper on Julia, and Uncle Moe Plotnick on Bridget Loves Bernie) plays barfly artist Eli Gates. Michael Fox (Coroner George McLeod on Burke's Law, Amos Fedders on Falcon Crest, Saul Feinberg on The Bold and the Beautiful, and appeared 25 times as autopsy surgeons and various other medical witnesses on Perry Mason) plays physician Dr. Miller.
Season 1, Episode 38, "Lost Gold": Bing Russell (Deputy Clem Foster on Bonanza) plays undercover agent Marshal Benton. Alan Hale, Jr. (Biff Baker on Biff Baker U.S.A., Casey Jones on Casey Jones, Sculley on The Texan, and The Skipper on Gilligan's Island) plays Gold Run Sheriff Sloan. Ted de Corsia (Police Chief Hagedorn on Steve Canyon) plays Gold Run Mining boss Ben Douglas. Carleton Young (starred in Dick Tracy (1937), The Brigand, Thunderhead - Son of Flicka, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and played Harry Steeger on The Court of Last Resort) plays undercover investigator Ward. Stacy Keach, Sr. (Carlson on Get Smart) plays mining company employee Hartley.
Season 1, Episode 39, "The Smell of Money": Robert H. Harris (shown on the right, played Jake Goldberg on Molly and Raymond Schindler on The Court of Last Resort) plays Willow Ridge banker Samuel Matson. John Stephenson (Roger Crutcher on The People's Choice, was the narrator on Dragnet 1967, and did the voices for Mr. Slate on The Flintstones, Fancy-Fancy on Top Cat, Dr. Benton C. Quest on Jonny Quest and Luke and Blubber Bear on Wacky Races, to name but a few) plays general store owner Charlie Cummings. Stuart Randall (Sheriff Art Sampson on Cimarron City, Al Livermore on Lassie, and Sheriff Mort Corey on Laramie) plays Willow Ridge Sheriff Walters.
Season 2, Episode 10, "The Laughing Widow": Allison Hayes (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Bat Masterson) plays supposed widow Lorna Parker. H.M. Wynant (see "Ring of Death" above) plays her companion Chris. Paul Baxley (stunt coordinator on Riverboat, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, T.H.E. Cat, Wonder Woman, and The Dukes of Hazzard) plays their gunman Paul. Ron Hayes (see the biography section for the 1960 post on BatMasterson) plays Pinewood deputy Bob McMiller. Robert J. Wilke (appeared in Best of the Badmen, High Noon, The Far Country, and Night Passage and played Capt. Mendoza on Zorro) plays Pinewood resident Brannagan.