Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sugarfoot (1960)



Sugarfoot, which debuted in 1957, was part of the second wave of Warner Brothers westerns along with Maverick after the initial success on Cheyenne, which first aired in 1955. Like Maverick, its protagonist Tom Brewster is not your conventional hero in his attempt to avoid violence by using his wits rather than his gun. He is an easterner who initially moves to Oklahoma and then wanders about the west while attempting to get a law degree through a correspondence school, and we see him in several episodes checking with postmasters or hotel clerks when he rides into town to see if he has any letters from the school with his latest assignment. And while as a law student he is a firm believer in the rule of law rather than blind vengeance or other emotion-fueled mob justice, less than half the episodes have a legal-based plot. His nickname "Sugarfoot" indicates how much of a neophyte he is in the ways of the west, meaning that he is a step below a tenderfoot. He emphasizes this milquetoast characterization by frequently saddling up to the bar and ordering sarsaparilla rather than hard liquor, but despite his country bumpkin demeanor, he is observant and crafty, much like a prototype of Sheriff Andy Taylor of The Andy Griffith Show. And yet despite his lack of experience, he is a master with a sixgun.

The pilot for the show was based on a 1954 Warner Brothers feature The Boy From Oklahoma starring Will Rogers, Jr. as a nonviolent sheriff named Tom Brewster who snared criminals with lasso tricks, much like his father. Will Hutchins has observed that the producers of Sugarfoot chose him for the lead because he reminded them of Rogers, Sr., and he has also, like James Garner, documented Warners' skin-flint approach to television by recycling scripts between all their shows and films, shooting all the episodes on sound stages and back lots rather than on location, splicing in stock footage from their movie archive, and forcing actors under contract to make numerous public appearances with no reimbursement. There are even instances on Sugarfoot where Hutchins' stunt double doesn't even have the same hair color, making the substitution painfully obvious.
Yet despite these shortcuts, the series was popular enough to run for 4 seasons, though it did so in rotation with Cheyenne and eventually Bronco so that there were never more than 20 episodes produced per season (the final season had only 9). It ranked in the top 30 in ratings its first two seasons.

Despite his interest in the law and eventually becoming a lawyer, Tom Brewster is a nomad, like Cheyenne Bodie, often with no apparent reason for why he travels where he does. Occasionally an old friend will seek his help, as in the episode "Wolf-Pack" (February 2, 1960) in which he is summoned by letter to help his friend Lee Morris, working as a ranch hand at the Bar B ranch, which has suffered a number of wolf attacks. In fact, Morris is killed by such an attack the night before Brewster arrives, and he is left to unravel the mystery of why the attacks keep happening. As with many of the show's episodes, another greedy landowner is trying to take over the property via nefarious methods. In "Funeral at Forty Mile" (May 24, 1960) he is summoned by an uncle to help his cousin Sheriff Luke Condon as campaign manager for his run for county sheriff, only Luke has a skeleton in the closet when he failed to protect a wrongfully accused man from being railroaded into a hanging to cover up a murder by the town's mayor.

As with many other westerns of the era, the subject of racial prejudice and the white man's injustice to Native Americans receive surprisingly progressive treatment. In "The Highbinder" (January 19, 1960) Brewster comes to the aid of Chinese American Yup Toy, who receives rude treatment from a racist hotel clerk. In "The Shadow Catcher" (September 26, 1960) he teams up with Sioux brave Spotted Wolf after the latter's family is massacred by a greedy renegade army lieutenant who is intent on mining the Black Hills for gold when the territory has already been granted to the Sioux for their reservation. In "Welcome Enemy" (December 26, 1960) Brewster is recruited by his friend army Captain McHenry to escort Sioux chief Red Wing and his daughter White Fawn to an important secret meeting in Chicago with President Ulysses S. Grant. In this episode Brewster not only treats the Native Americans as equals, he exchanges a few kisses with White Fawn when she falls in love with him, while spurning the attention of a blonde rival daughter of an army general. 

This last episode also suggests that in its final season, the Sugarfoot producers felt the need to make the show more appealing by adding love interests for Brewster and inserting historical figures into the plots. In the preceding episode, "Man From Medora" (November 21, 1960), Brewster entertains the flirtations of a ranch owner's daughter after teaming up with a pre-presidential Teddy Roosevelt. By contrast, in Season 3 Brewster is more likely to play matchmaker, as he does for poor Scottish rancher Simon March and wealthy landowner Rachel Barnes in "The Captive Locomotive" (June 7, 1960) or for his cousin Luke Condon and caretaker Julie Frazer in the aforementioned "Funeral at Forty Mile."

However, after more than two seasons of studying the law Brewster finally gets a chance to apply it towards the end of Season 3 and in the first half of Season 4. In "Vinegarroon" March 15, 1960, he makes a visit to legendary Judge Roy Bean and impresses the unorthodox judge so much that he is appointed interim judge when Bean takes a flyer to Austin, Texas to catch his dreamgirl Lillie Langtry in performance. In "A Noose for Nora" (October 24, 1960) he gets to try his first case as a defense attorney for accused killer Nora Sutton when the only other lawyer in town besides the prosecutor has come down sick. Not surprisingly, Brewster wins the case and gets Nora a suspended sentence. His own TV series would not fare as well, however, lasting only another 7 episodes before being put out to pasture.

The theme song for Sugarfoot was composed by Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, who was profiled in the 1960 post for Maverick. Heindorf was born in Havershaw, New York and grew up in Mechanicville, where he played piano at the State Theatre while a teenager in high school. He moved to New York City in 1928 and became friends with composer Arthur Lange. The next year he and Lange moved to Hollywood and Heindorf found work with MGM, his first picture being The Hollywood Revue of 1929. Three years later he moved to Warner Brothers, where he remained for the duration of his career, becoming in 1948. He was nominated for 18 Oscars and won three--for the scores for Yankee Doodle Dandy, This Is the Army, and The Music Man. He also worked on Judy Garland's A Star Is Born, A Streetcar Named Desire, No Time for Sergeants, and Damn Yankees. He retired from Warner in 1965 and lived in Los Angeles until his death at age 71 on February 3, 1980.

Austrian-born Maximillian Raoul Steiner has been called "the father of film music" for his pioneering role in composing scores in support of action on the screen rather than vague mood music. He was a child prodigy who conducted his first operetta at age 12 and composed his first at 15. His grandfather was a famous theater manager, his father an impresario and producer, and his mother a dancer. His godfather was Richard Strauss, as a boy he studied piano under Johannes Brahms and later studied conducting under Gustav Mahler. Due to the success of his first operetta, The Beautiful Greek Girl, he received offers to conduct in other countries, eventually landing in London in 1906, where he remained until 1914 when he left for New York after being interred as an enemy alien during World War I. For the next 15 years he worked in a number of capacities in conducting, arranging, and composing for Broadway shows, including those written by George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Vincent Youmans. Harry Tierney was so impressed by Steiner's work on his production of Rio Rita that he recommended RKO hire him, and Steiner moved to Hollywood in 1929 to begin his ground-breaking, prolific career scoring for feature films.At RKO Steiner first worked with producer David O. Selznick on The Symphony of Six Million. While at RKO Steiner also composed the score for King Kong, which is believed to have saved the movie and contributed greatly to its popularity, and he scored John Ford's The Informer. In 1937 he moved to Warner Brothers, where he remained for the rest of his career, though he was periodically loaned out for other Selznick productions, most notably Gone With the Wind in 1939. Steiner was nominated for 24 Oscars and won 3, for The Informer, Now Voyager, and Since You Went Away. He also composed the scores for Casablanca, A Summer Place, Flying Down to Rio, Jezebel, Dark Victory, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Little Women, Sergeant York, Arsenic and Old Lace, Mildred Pierce, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, White Heat, The Caine Mutiny, and The Searchers.He died of congestive heart failure on December 28, 1971 at the age of 83 and was inducted posthumously into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995.

All four seasons have been released on DVD by Warner Archive.

The Actors

Will Hutchins

Marhsall Lowell Hutchason was born in Los Angeles in 1930 and had his first appearance on film as a child extra in the W.C. Fields feature Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, which just happened to be filming in his neighborhood. After graduating from Pomona College with a degree in Greek drama, he joined the Army during the Korean War and worked as a cryptographer stationed in Paris, France, decoding message for General Montgomery, though he claims that he spent a good deal of time at cafes on the Champs Elysees sipping cage au laits. After two years in the Army, he returned to civilian life and worked as a mailman until deciding to enter film studies at UCLA. In 1956 while working one night on a film editing project for a class, he was persuaded by a friend to go to tryouts for a live drama anthology series called Matinee Theatre and wound up being cast in the lead by producer Albert McCleery. McCleery then called him back for additional episodes and had him bleach his hair blond for one part in which he played the son of actor Gene Raymond. He was there spotted by a Warner Brothers talent scout and signed to a contract. The following year he was cast as the lead in Sugarfoot and by 1958 was also appearing in feature films such as Lafayette Escadrille and No Time for Sergeants. Besides appearing in his own series, Hutchins made appearances as Tom Brewster on other Warners' westerns Maverick, Cheyenne, and Bronco as well as playing occasional other parts on Warners' series 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside 6, and The Roaring '20's. His last work for Warners came in the 1962 feature Merrill's Marauders.

Once cut loose from Warners, Hutchins struggled to find work and tried to pay the bills with work on the stage. However, he landed another TV series playing Woody Banner on Hey, Landlord, which last only a single season from 1966-67. During this time he also appeared in a pair of Elvis Presley films Spinout and Clambake as well as the Jack Nicholson western The Shooting. In 1968 he was cast as Dagwood Bumstead in yet another TV series based on the comic strip Blondie, but this also last only a single season. Work in the 1970s was sparse and demeaning, and Hutchins ended up in pictures like Slumber Party '57 and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington. With his acting career basically over in 1980 he moved to Australia and joined the circus as Patches the Clown. When he returned to the States, he went to work for NBC as a warehouse worker for 12 years before finally semi-retiring to Long Island with his second wife Barbara Torres in 1995. (He was married to Carol Burnett's sister Chrissie from 1965 to 1969.) He still makes appearances at fan festivals and writes a nearly monthly post for the western-themed web site Western Clippings.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 3, Episode 9, "Journey to Provision": 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 crooked sheriff Len Gogerty. Malcolm Atterbury (starred in I Was a Teenage Werewolf, The Birds, and The Learning Tree and played John Bixby on Wagon Train and Grandfather Aldon on Apple's Way) plays postmaster Abel Crotty. Donald May (shown on the left, played Charles C. Thompson on West Point, Pat Garrison on The Roaring '20's, Grant Wheeler on Texas, Adam Drake, Sr. on The Edge of Night, Raymond Speer on As the World Turns, and Earl Foster on All My Children) plays newspaper publisher Jim Brenan. Ian Wolfe (starred in The Barretts of Wimpole Street, The Magnificent Yankee, and Seven brides for Seven Brothers and played Hirsch the Butler on WKRP in Cincinnati and Wizard Traquil on Wizards and Warriors) plays busybody Horgan. John McCann (Aereth on Flamingo Road) plays Gogerty's deputy Sam. Doodles Weaver (narrated Spike Jones' horse-racing songs and hosted A Day With Doodles) plays informant Simon Miller.
Season 3, Episode 10, "The Highbinder": Don Haggerty (Jeffrey Jones on The Files of Jeffrey Jones, Eddie Drake on The Cases of Eddie Drake, Sheriff Dan Elder on State Trooper, and Marsh Murdock on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays syndicate muscle Ben Reilly. James Hong (shown on the right, played Barry Chan on The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, Frank Chen on Jigsaw John, and Doctor Chen Ling on Dynasty) plays his compadre The Hatchet Man. Victor Buono (appeared in Robin and the 7 Hoods, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and The Silencers and played King Tut on Batman and Dr. Schubert on Man From Atlantis) plays a San Francisco bartender. Lester Fletcher (Mr. Divine on Down to Earth) plays a hotel clerk. Larry J. Blake (the unnamed jailer on Yancy Derringer and Tom Parnell on Saints and Sinners) plays police Officer O'Brien.
Season 3, Episode 11, "Wolf-Pack": Richard Coogan (Marshal Matthew Wayne on The Californians) plays trapper Judd Mallory. Richard Garland (Clay Horton on Lassie) plays physician Dr. Martin Rain. Kenneth MacDonald (played the judge 32 times on Perry Mason, played Col. Parker on Colt .45, and appeared in several Three Stooges shorts) plays land agent Mr. Smith. Tom London (starred in Six-Shootin' Sheriff, Song of the Buckaroo, and Riders in the Sky) plays ranch-hand Gil Wander. Phil Tully (the bartender on The Deputy) plays ranch-hand Tex Andrews.
Season 3, Episode 12, "Fernando": Harry Bellaver (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Naked City) plays boxing promoter Corky McCoy. Tim Graham (Homer Ede on National Velvet) plays bath-house owner Paddy Grogan. Gary Vinson (Chris Higbee on The Roaring '20's, George Christopher on McHale's Navy, and Sheriff Harold Skiles on Pistols 'n' Petticoats) plays his nephew Joey Grogan. Nicky Blair (Charlie de Angelo on Saints and Sinners) plays delinquent Cople.
Season 3, Episode 13, "Blackwater Swamp": James Coburn (starred in The Magnificent Seven, Charade, Our Man Flint, and In Like Flint and who played Jeff Durain on Klondike and Gregg Miles on Acapulco) plays landowner Rome Morgan. Kevin Hagen (John Colton on Yancy Derringer, Inspector Dobbs Kobick on Land of the Giants, and Dr. Hiram Baker on Little House on the Prairie) plays his sidekick Sam Fields. George Wallace (starred in Radar Men From the Moon, Destry, and Forbidden Planet and played Judge Milton Cole on Hill Street Blues and Grandpa Hank Hammersmith on Sons and Daughters) plays landowner John Crain. Kasey Rogers (Julie Anderson on Peyton Place and Louise Tate on Bewitched) plays his wife Myra. Robert Colbert (Dr. Doug Phillips on The Time Tunnel) plays his son Ben. Robert Warwick (starred in Alias Jimmy Valentine, The Supreme Sacrifice, The Heart of a Hero, and Against All Flags) plays Ben's grandfather Spotted Horse. William Tannen (Deputy Hal Norton on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays railroad agent Jim Asbury. Chuck Essegian (shown on the right, professional baseball player with the Los Angeles Dodgers) plays his assistant Bob Fanning. Terry Frost (Sgt. Moore/Morse/Morris on Highway Patrol) lays the local sheriff.
Season 3, Episode 14, "Return to Boothill": Gary Vinson (see "Fernando" above) plays accused stage robber Jack Guild. Diane McBain (Daphne Dutton on Surfside 6 and Pinky Pinkston on Batman) plays his sister Joan. Alan Hewitt (starred in That Touch of Mink, Days of Wine and Roses, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and who played Det. Bill Brennan on My Favorite Martian) plays Alder Gulch mayor and sheriff Henry Plummer. Ralph Manza (shown on the left, played Al Bonacorsi on The D.A.'s Man, Jay Drury on Banacek, Ambulance Aide Stanke on A.E.S. Hudson, Padre Guardiano on Mama Malone, and Bud on Newhart) plays bartender Glen Hause. Chubby Johnson (Concho on Temple Houston) plays stage driver Hank.
Season 3, Episode 15, "Vinegarroon": Frank Ferguson (Gus Broeberg on My Friend Flicka, Eli Carson on Peyton Place, and Dr. Barton Stuart on Petticoat Junction) plays Judge Roy Bean. Richard Devon (Jody Barker on Yancy Derringer) plays his deputy Steve Wyatt. Don C. Harvey (Collins on Rawhide) plays his deputy Doc.
Season 3, Episode 16, "The Corsican": Paul Picerni (shown on the right, played Agent Lee Hobson on The Untouchables) plays Corsican immigrant Gianpaolo Fregoso. Mala Powers (starred in Cyrano de Bergerac, Rose of Cimarron, and Tammy and the Bachelor and played Rebecca Boone on Walt Disney's Daniel Boone and Mona on Hazel) plays wagon traveler Roberta Shipman. Jacques Aubuchon (starred in The Silver Chalice, The Big Boodle, and The Love God? and played Urulu on McHale's Navy) plays trading-post owner Joubert.
Season 3, Episode 17, "Blue Bonnet Stray": Janet De Gore (Marsha Spear on The Law and Mr. Jones and Louise Howard on The Real McCoys) plays traveling mother Mary Kirk. Alan Baxter (appeared in Saboteur, Close-Up, and Paint Your Wagon) plays her brother-in-law Vance O'Connell. Douglas Kennedy (shown on the left, starred in Adventures of Don Juan, I Was an American Spy, and Jack McCall, Desperado and played Marshal Steve Donovan on Steve Donovan, Western Marshal and Sheriff Fred Madden on The Big Valley) plays Salt Wells Sheriff Williams. Harry Harvey (Sheriff Tom Blodgett on The Roy Rogers Show and Mayor George Dixon on Man Without a Gun) plays a train station agent. Phil Tully (see "Wolf-Pack" above) plays a livery stable owner.
Season 3, Episode 18, "The Long Dry": Robert Armstrong (starred in King Kong, The Son of Kong, Framed, Dive Bomber, Blood on the Sun, and Mighty Joe Young and played Sheriff Andy Anderson on State Trooper) plays ranch owner Bill Carmody. Rayford Barnes (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays his ranch hand Salinas. John McCann (see "Journey to Provision" above) plays ranch hand Mark Baylor. Arch Johnson (starred in Somebody Up There Likes Me, G.I. Blues, and The Cheyenne Social Club and played Cmdr. Wivenhoe on Camp Runamuck) plays cattle rancher Turner Evans. C. Lindsey Workman (Dr. Jim Higgins on The Donna Reed Show and Rev. Adams on Here Come the Brides) plays a storekeeper.
Season 3, Episode 19, "Funeral at Forty Mile": Louise Fletcher (shown on the right, starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Exorcist II, and The Cheap Detective and who played Kai Winn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) plays caretaker Julie Frazer. Kent Taylor (Murietta on Zorro and Capt. Jim Flagg on The Rough Rider) plays Forty Mile Mayor Hank Farragut. John Qualen (starred in The Three Musketeers(1935), His Girl Friday, The Grapes of Wrath, Angels Over Broadway, Casablanca, Anatomy of a Murder, and A Patch of Blue) plays storekeeper Jen Jensen. George Kennedy (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 blacksmith Ross Kuhn. Donald May (see "Journey to Provision" above) plays Sheriff Luke Condon. Percy Helton (Homer Cratchit on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays undertaker Doc Lever.
Season 3, Episode 20, "The Captive Locomotive": Rex Reason (starred in This Island Earth, Lady Godiva of Coventry, and The Creature Walks Among Us and played Adam MacLean on Man Without a Gun and Scott Norris on The Roaring '20's) plays Scottish rancher Simon March. Bobby Goodwins (son of director Leslie Goodwins) plays his son Bobby. Steve Goodwins (other son of director Leslie Goodwins) plays his son Steve. Jeanne Cooper (Grace Douglas on Bracken's World and Katherine Chancellor Murphy on The Young and the Restless) plays wealthy landowner Rachel Barnes. Horace McMahon (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Naked City) plays railroad agent Cornelius Cameron. Charles Maxwell (Special Agent Joe Carey on I Led 3 Lives and was the voice of the radio announcer on Gilligan's Island) plays his henchman Bromfield. Kenneth MacDonald (see "Wolf-Pack" above) plays the town mayor. Dan Sheridan (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Lawman) plays Marshal Garrison. Phil Tully (see "Wolf-Pack" above) plays railroad engineer O'Brien.
Season 4, Episode 1, "The Shadow Catcher": Peter Breck (Clay Culhane on Black Saddle, Doc Holliday on later seasons of Maverick, and Nick Barkley on The Big Valley) plays army Lt. John Stickney. Jon Lormer (Harry Tate on Lawman, various autopsy surgeons and medical examiners in 12 episodes of Perry Mason, and Judge Irwin A. Chester on Peyton Place) plays Indian agent Paul Loring. Dean Fredericks (Kaseem in Jungle Jim, Komawi in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Lt. Col. Steve Canyon in Steve Canyon) plays Sioux brave Spotted Wolf. Jason Robards, Sr. (father of Jason Robards) plays his chief Red Tomahawk. Don Haggerty (see "The Highbinder" above) plays Stickney colleague Sam Booker. Slim Pickens (starred in The Story of Will Rogers, Dr. Strangelove, Blazing Saddles, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, and The Howling and played Slim on Outlaws, Slim Walker on The Wide Country, California Joe Milner on Custer, and Sgt. Beauregard Wiley on B.J. & the Bear) plays stage driver Mark.
Season 4, Episode 2, "A Noose for Nora": Madlyn Rhue (shown on the right, played Marjorie Grant on Bracken's World, Angela Schwartz on Fame, and Hilary Mason/Madison on Executive Suite) plays murder defendant Nora Sutton. Ronnie Dapo (Flip Rose on Room for One More and Andy on The New Phil Silvers Show) plays her son Grant. Robert Colbert (see "Blackwater Swamp" above) plays murder victim son Clark Henderson. Tristram Coffin (Lt. Doyle on The Files of Jeffrey Jones and Capt. Tom Rynning on 26 Men) plays prosecuting attorney Mr. Fennell. Vic Perrin (the narrator on Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, was the control voice on The Outer Limits, and did voicework on Jonny Quest, Star Trek, Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, and Mission:Impossible!) plays Henderson employee Bill Smallwood. William Fawcett (Clayton on Duffy's Tavern, Marshal George Higgins on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, and Pete Wilkey on Fury) plays Henderson land swindle victim John Buck.
Season 4, Episode 3, "Man From Medora": Peter Breck (shown on the left, see "The Shadow Catcher" above) plays aspiring rancher Theodore Roosevelt. Byron Keith (Lt. Gilmore on 77 Sunset Strip and Mayor Linseed on Batman) plays newspaper reporter Joe Barton. Jean Blake Fleming (Phyllis Collier on The Case of the Dangerous Robin) plays rancher's daughter Millie Larson. John Milford (see the biography section for the 1960 post on Lawman) plays ranch foreman Jed Carter. Mickey Simpson (Boley on Captain David Grief) plays bully Jake Sloane.
Season 4, Episode 4, "Welcome Enemy": Glenn Strange (played Frankenstein's monster in House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and played Sam Noonan on Gunsmoke) plays Sioux chief Red Wing. Suzanne Lloyd (Raquel Toledano on Zorro) plays his daughter White Fawn. Bruce Gordon (Commander Matson on Behind Closed Doors, Frank Nitti on The Untouchables, and Gus Chernak on Peyton Place) plays wealthy landowner Elias Stone. Grady Sutton (Ben Toomey on Lawman and Sturgis on The Phyllis Diller Show) plays a hotel clerk. Terence De Marney (Case Thomas on Johnny Ringo and Counsellor Doone on Lorna Doone) plays a train conductor. Harry Harvey (see "Blue Bonnet Stray" above) plays the Deadwood postmaster.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Betty Hutton Show (1960)



The Betty Hutton Show was a last-ditch effort by one of the most popular movie stars of the early 1950s to revive a career she had herself torpedoed and then continued to sabotage by a combination of poor choices, arrogant attitude, and substance abuse. Though the show was co-produced by Desilu Productions, Hutton had to put up her own money to actually get the show made. The basic premise of the show is set up in the pilot "Goldie Crosses the Tracks," which aired October 1, 1959. Goldie Appleby is a down-to-earth manicurist and former showgirl living with two roommates, Lorna and Rosemary. Like Hutton, Goldie is no intellectual and lacks social refinement, but she has common sense and isn't afraid to take the bull by the horns, a trait that impresses one of her regular clients, Mr. Strickland, a wealthy widower businessman with three children Nicky, Pat, and Roy. When Strickland has trouble managing his entitled children, Goldie makes some suggestions on how to be firm with them, which he appreciates and follows. He is so impressed that he later makes her the sole executor of his estate after conferring with family lawyer Howard Seaton. Then he suddenly and inexplicably dies in his office, and Goldie learns from Seaton that she has been made executor and controller of his estate and is to live with the three children at his lavish mansion. The pilot then mines the usual ironic humor when low-brow meets high-brow, with Goldie showing up in a garish outfit and showing a complete lack of manners, which instantly turns off the two elder children, Nicky and Pat. But the youngest, Roy, immediately accepts her, and in subsequent episodes Goldie is able to win over the other two children as well. Still, the show continues to mine its singular comic refrain of the gullible and unsophisticated Goldie trying to fit in and match wits with wilier adversaries and then ultimately prevailing. 

In "Love Comes to Goldie" (January 7, 1960) she decides to cut off Strickland's do-nothing relatives from their regular allowances, only to be smitten by the charms of one of them, Sebastian Strickland, who is chosen by the other relatives to woo and marry Goldie to regain control of the estate. She remains under his spell up until the point of his proposal, when she serendipitously discovers an unflattering portrait he had sketched of her that reveals what he truly thinks of her. Likewise, in "Gullible Goldie" (March 31, 1960) she is hoodwinked by a couple of con artists who are pretending to be running a home for orphans and even raises $20,000 for them until Seaton does a background check into their criminal history, allowing Goldie to confront them and force them to open and run a real orphanage in order to receive the money. Only this time the ending of the story is left a bit ambiguous as the couple agrees to her terms but then give a kind of wink at the camera before the credits roll. 

While the theme of the uneducated rube taking the more sophisticated to school has been employed to good effect in many films and TV series, including Hutton's contemporary The Andy Griffith Show and later series such as The Beverly Hillbillies and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., it fails horribly on The Betty Hutton Show because of a lack of good scripts and poor direction. The plots of the above-mentioned episodes and the others reviewed for this post are completely formulaic--there are no surprises, every supposed twist is telegraphed miles ahead. But even worse is the way the lines and characters are played--actors stare into space or mug to the camera while delivering their lines rather than interacting with each other, further exaggerating the artificiality of the narrative. This style of acting presentation may have worked in the kind of musical comedies that made Hutton a star in the 1940s and '50s, but by 1960 audiences favored a more naturalistic approach seen in shows such as The Andy Griffith Show

And the stories on Betty Hutton are ripe with sentimentality: in "Roy Runs Away" (January 21, 1960), Goldie punishes Roy for getting into a fight at school by withholding three weeks' allowance. Taking the advice of his friend Steve, Roy threatens to run away, which upsets Goldie until the family butler Hollister assures her that Roy is bluffing. When Goldie refuses to bend to Roy's threat, he is forced to carry it out, eventually taking a taxi to a hotel and trying to register for a room. He finally gives up and tries to return home but sees Goldie gathering his belongings in the front room after agreeing with his Aunt Louise that perhaps Roy doesn't like Goldie and would be better off with his aunt in Boston. Roy then believes that Goldie doesn't like him. When Roy breaks down in tears to Aunt Louise and Goldie overhears his confession, the two suddenly realizes it was all a big misunderstanding and lock each other in a tearful embrace. Such tear-jerking narratives were obviously popular at the time, since several other shows used them as well, but they weren't enough to save The Betty Hutton Show from an early demise after only 30 episodes, since the show had little else going for it and had a tough time-slot competitor in The Donna Reed Show, then airing on ABC. 

But regardless of which shows it was stacked up against, it's unlikely The Betty Hutton Show would have lasted any longer than it did, done in by a combination of unoriginal scripts, bad acting direction, and a star who had peaked almost a decade earlier. Hutton would have only a few more TV appearances before being driven to Las Vegas and then the beneficence of a Rhode Island Catholic priest, as detailed in her biography below. Her quick exit from the 1960 TV landscape was perhaps another example of the changing times, a rejection of styles and stars from the old days that also swept away shows featuring Ann Sothern, Tom Ewell, and Barbara Stanwyck by the spring of 1961.

 
The theme and several episode scores for The Betty Hutton Show were composed by Jerry Fielding, born Joshua Itzhak Feldman in Pittsburgh. He played clarinet in his school band and was offered a scholarship to attend the Carnegie Institute for Instrumentalists but was forced to withdraw due to ill health. Once recovered, he landed a spot in the house band for the Stanley Theater under the tutelage of Max Adkins, known as a developer of prodigious talent that included the likes of Henry Mancini, Billy Strayhorn, and Neal Hefti. Fielding finally left Pittsburgh with the Alvino Rey band and never returned. From there he landed arranging jobs with many of the big band superstars, including Tommy Dorsey, Les Brown, Charlie Barnet, and Jimmie Lunceford. Eventually he moved to the west coast when he was hired by Kay Kyser for his radio program, which led to work on other radio shows as well. He was forced to change his name to Fielding when he was hired for The Jack Paar Program because Feldman was considered too Jewish. In 1948 he replaced fellow Pittsburgher Billy May on Groucho Marx's radio version of You Bet Your Life and remained with the program when it made the move to television in 1951. He also had his own all-music program The Jerry Fielding Show in 1952 but soon thereafter was blacklisted after refusing to name fellow members of the Hollywood Writers Mobilization organization when brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Through the remainder of the 1950s his only work in Hollywood was a handful of episodes of the William Bendix comedy The Life of Riley until he was hired for The Betty Hutton Show. He made do during these lean years by playing in Las Vegas and recording several now collectible record albums. The blacklist on Fielding was finally lifted in 1961 and he returned to prolific TV work on Peter Loves Mary and The Tom Ewell Show. In 1962 he was given his first feature film scoring assignments, most memorably for Otto Preminger's Advise and Consent. From that point forward until his death in 1980, he worked steadily, writing the scores for well-known TV shows such as McHale's Navy, Hogan's Heroes, and The Bionic Woman, as well as the memorable Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles." His work on feature films began to really take off in the late 1960s, beginning with Sam Peckinpaugh's The Wild Bunch, for which he received an Oscar nomination. In the 1970s he would receive Oscar nominations for his work on Straw Dogs and The Outlaw Josey Wales, and in 1980 he received an Emmy for his work on High Midnight. He died at age 57 from congestive heart failure on February 17, 1980 while working in Toronto on the film Funeral Home.

Presently only four episodes of The Betty Hutton Show (one from 1959, the other three from 1960) have been released on a single DVD by Alpha Video. These four and a few more are currently also available on youtube.com. The video quality for all of these episodes is poor.

The Actors

Betty Hutton

Elizabeth June Thornburg was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, the daughter of a railroad worker and his wife. Betty's father abandoned the family when she was only 2 and committed suicide 16 years later. Her mother supported the family by selling bootleg liquor at a speakeasy during Prohibition. It was there that Betty and her older sister June began their singing careers to entertain customers. June would go on to become the female vocalist for the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1938 to 1942. Always on the run from the law, Betty and her family eventually relocated to Detroit, where her mother found work in an auto assembly factory. Determined to break into show business, Betty moved to New York at age 15 but was told she would never make it and returned home, where she was discovered by orchestra leader Vincent Lopez a year later singing in a nightclub. She was able to work her role as a singer into appearances in a few of musical shorts from 1938-1940, which brought her to the attention of Broadway producer and co-founder of Capitol Records Buddy DeSylva. DeSylva cast her in his production Two for the Show and then as the second female lead in Panama Hattie beneath Ethel Merman, whom, according to Hutton's autobiography, insisted on cutting some of Hutton's songs from the production. DeSylva consoled Hutton by taking her with him when he took over production at Paramount Studios, casting her in The Fleet's In and Star Spangled Rhythm in 1942. From there her star rose rapidly in films like The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, The Perils of Pauline, and her best-remembered role in the lead of Annie Get Your Gun. But despite being named Best Actress in a 1950 reader's poll for Photoplay magazine and being ranked the top box office attraction by Variety two years later, Hutton developed a reputation as being difficult to work with, and in 1952 while working on The Greatest Show on Earth she began taking Dexamil to deal with the stress of making the movie, her weight, and the failure of her first marriage to camera maker Ted Briskin. Later that year, after making Somebody Loves Me and marrying choreographer Charles O'Curran, Hutton walked out of her contract with Paramount when they refused to let O'Curran direct her next film, essentially ending her film career. She had an opportunity to revive it when offered the part of Ado Annie for the film version of Oklahoma, but she turned it down for NBC's 1954 nationally broadcast color production, Satins and Spurs, developed specifically for her but which proved to be a flop. She appeared in only one more film, Spring Reunion, in 1957 before Desilu offered her a chance at her own TV show, which lasted only 30 episodes, ending in 1960.

That same year she married for the fourth and final time to jazz trumpeter Pete Candoli, but the marriage lasted only two years, though the couple had a daughter Carolyn. She had a few TV guest spots in the 1960s on The Greatest Show on Earth, Burke's Law, and Gunsmoke and had signed a new contract with Paramount for two westerns in 1967 but was fired before either was produced. She had occasional appearances in Las Vegas, filled in for Carol Burnett and Alice Ghostley in a couple of Broadway productions, then wound up in Rhode Island in the 1970s, where she was allowed to live in a Catholic rectory by Father Peter Maguire. Despite never finishing the 9th grade, Hutton returned to school and eventually earned a Master's Degree from Salve Regina University and taught acting at Boston-based Emerson College. According to Carl Bruno, who with Michael Mayer "finished" Hutton's autobiography when she gave up on it, Maguire at times found Hutton too much to handle and would send her to California to live with Bruno and his partner Lutheran minister Gene Arnaiz. From 1974 till 1996 Hutton would be shuttled back and forth between Rhode Island and California. In 1999 she finally settled in Palm Springs, California, where she lived until her death from colon cancer at the age of 86 on March 11, 2007.

Gigi Perreau

Ghislaine Elizabeth Marie Perreau-Saussine was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of a French father and American mother. She broke into acting at the age of 2 when her mother brought her along to an audition for her older brother, Peter Miles, for the film Madame Curie. When director Mervyn LeRoy learned that she could speak both French and English at such a young age, he cast her as Greer Garson's daughter. She was thereafter signed to MGM and eventually moved over to Universal, appearing in several movies per year throughout the 1940s and '50s, such as God Is My Co-Pilot, Green Dolphin Street, My Foolish Heart, Bonzo Goes to College, and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Her work in television began in the early '50s, first on drama anthologies and then on series such as Mayor of the Town, The Donna Reed Show, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Her role as Pat Strickland on The Betty Hutton Show was her first regular TV role, but a year after the show ended she landed another recurring spot as secretary Kathy Richards on Follow the Sun, which also lasted a single season. Still, she found plenty of work guest starring on shows such as Perry Mason, Rawhide, The Rifleman, and Lassie, with her last role coming in a 1974 episode of Adam-12. These days she teaches acting at Immaculate Heart High School, is Vice-President of the Drama Teachers Association of Southern California, and serves on the boards of both The Donna Reed Foundation and the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. She says she is also working on an autobiography but won't be able to finish it until she is no longer working full time.

Peter Miles

Gerald Richard Perreau-Saussine, older brother of Gigi Perreau, was born in Tokyo but grew up in Los Angeles. As mentioned in his sister's biography above, Miles tried out for a part in the 1943 film Madame Curie at the age of 5 but was not chosen for the part. His film debut would come a year later playing Humphrey Bogart's son in Passage to Marseille. Like his sister, he was signed to MGM and had a steady career through the 1940s and into the 1950s in such films as Family Honeymoon, The Red Pony, Roseanna McCoy, and Quo Vadis, sometimes billed as Gerald Perreau in his early years.TV appearances followed, starting in the mid-1950s on shows such as Father Knows Best, Dragnet, Perry Mason, and Maverick before being cast as Nicky Strickland on The Betty Hutton Show. But once the show ended he gave up his acting career to pursue a career in writing. Two of his novels were made into movies--They Saved Hitler's Brain and That Cold Day in the Park, which was directed by Robert Altman. He and his sister ran a successful art gallery in Los Angeles, and he authored several catalogs of work by Japanese wood block artists. He also taught school and served as the President of the Burbank Teachers Association. He died from cancer at the age of 64 on August 3, 2002.

Dennis Olivieri

Virtually no biographical information is available for Dennis Joel Olivieri, not even a birth date. His first credited role, as Dennis Joel, was playing Roy Strickland on The Betty Hutton Show. In 1960 he also appeared in the Disney feature film Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks With a Circus, an episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, as well as episodes of The Deputy and The DuPont Show With June Allyson. After The Betty Hutton Show ended, he continued to get a few guest spots on TV shows for the duration of the 1960s, including Bachelor Father, Leave It to Beaver, and Family Affair.  In 1968 he released a music album titled Come to the Party on the tiny VMC label and produced by Tandyn Almer, who wrote the Association's first hit "Along Comes Mary." In 1969 he scored a regular role as Stanley Gabriel on the Aaron Spelling college-age kids starting over on an island series The New People, which lasted only one season. He continued working sporadically through the 1970s with occasional appearances on TV shows such as Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law and Love Story as well as off-beat feature films such as The Naked Ape, The Centerfold Girls, and the rock opera Phantom of the Paradise. His last credit was the 1980 camp musical Forbidden Zone, which also included Danny Elfman playing Satan.

Tom Conway

Thomas Charles Sanders was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of a wealthy rope-maker, though his family was forced to flee back to England during the Russian Revolution. After completing college, Conway moved to Northern Rhodesia and worked in the mining and ranching businesses until he became frustrated by his lack of success and returned to England to work as an engineer in a carburetor factory and selling safety glass. He was encouraged to join a small theatre repertory group and eventually joined the Manchester Repertory Company and found work on BBC radio. His brother, actor George Sanders, persuaded him to come to Hollywood, though to avoid confusion between them, Conway was forced to change his last name. He became a contract player for MGM, appearing in such films as Tarzan's Secret Treasure, Mr. and Mrs. North, and Mrs. Miniver before getting his big break thanks to his brother. George Sanders had grown tired of playing The Falcon for RKO and thus had it arranged in The Falcon's Brother to have his character killed off by Nazis and the torch handed off to his brother playing the character Tom Lawrence. Conway continued in the role for another 10 films while also appearing in horror movies such as Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, and The Seventh Victim. In the 1950s he continued appearing in B-grade features like Bride of the Gorilla, Tarzan and the She-Devil, The She-Creature, and Voodoo Woman, but he also was cast in the title role as TV detective Mark Saber, which ran from 1951-53. In the late 1950s he began picking up guest spots on TV shows such as Rawhide, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Cheyenne before landing his role as lawyer Howard Seaton on The Betty Hutton Show. After a few more roles, voicework on 101 Dalmations, and appearances on Have Gun -- Will Travel and Perry Mason, Conway's alcoholism and a degenerative eye condition ruined his career. His second wife Queenie Leonard divorced him in 1963 and his brother broke off contact with him over his drinking. In 1965 he was discovered living in a flophouse and 2 years later after former sister-in-law Zsa Zsa Gabor gave him $200 to tip his nurses in the hospital, he checked out and took the money but expired at his girlfriend's house the next day due to cirrhosis of the liver at age 62 on April 22, 1967. Ironically, though Conway was forced to change his given name when he first landed in Hollywood to avoid confusion with his brother, his adopted name forced comedian Tim Conway to change his first name when he was getting started in show business.

Gavin Muir

Born in Chicago, Gavin Muir was educated in England, which helped him affect the British accent that made him perfectly suited for various villainous roles as well as the butler Hollister on The Betty Hutton Show. He began his acting career in regional theater but by 1920 had moved to Broadway and had his first role there in 1922's Enter Madame. Thereafter he had a prolific stage career at least through 1933, though he continued appearing in productions until 1939. After a brief uncredited appearance in a 1932 short, his Hollywood career began in earnest in 1936, most notably in John Ford's Mary of Scotland. He found steady work throughout the remainder of the 1930s and the 1940s, mostly in exploitation fare such as Charlie Chan at the Race Track, Hitler's Children, The Son of Dr. Jekyll, and several Sherlock Holmes features. In the early 1950s he began getting TV roles on series such as Dangerous Assignment, Biff Baker, U.S.A., and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His stint on The Betty Hutton Show was his lone regular TV role and came at the end of his career. Afterward he appeared only in the eerie Dennis Hopper mermaid feature Night Tide and one episode of The Rogues in 1965. He died on May 24, 1972 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the age of 71.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 1, Episode 14, "Love Comes to Goldie": Maxwell Reed (shown on the right, appeared in Night Beat, Shadow of Fear, and Helen of Troy and played Capt. David Grief on Captain David Grief) plays Strickland family deadbeat Sebastian Strickland. 



Season 1, Episode 16, "Roy Runs Away": Norma Varden (shown on the left, appeared in National Velvet, Strangers on a Train, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Witness for the Prosecution, and Doctor Doolittle and played Harriet Johnson on Hazel) plays Strickland relative Aunt Louise. Don Grady (Robbie Douglas on My Three Sons) plays Roy's antagonist Joey Simpson. Darryl Richard (Smitty on The Donna Reed Show) plays Roy's friend Steve.
Season 1, Episode 18, "Goldie and the Tycoon": Mary Anderson (appeared in Gone With the Wind, The Song of Bernadette, and Lifeboat and played Catherine Harrington on Peyton Place) plays Strickland Enterprises chairman Miss Kingston.
Season 1, Episode 23, "The Seaton Story": Joyce Jameson (appeared in The Apartment, Tales of Terror, and The Comedy of Terrors) plays showgirl Beverly Bell. Antony Carbone (appeared in A Bucket of Blood, Last Woman on Earth, The Pit and the Pendulum, and Creature From the Haunted Sea) plays her boyfriend Al. Natalie Masters (Wilma Clemson on Date With the Angels and Mrs. Bergen on My Three Sons) plays Seaton's secretary.
Season 1, Episode 26, "Gullible Goldie": Robert Emhardt (shown on the right, played Sgt. Vinton on The Kids From C.A.P.E.R.) plays con artist Mr. Bleeker. Ellen Corby (shown on the left, played Henrietta Porter on Trackdown and Esther Walton on The Waltons) plays his wife.