Tuesday, 6 December 2016
Van Williams was born on February 27 1934 in Fort Worth, Texas. His family owned a cattle ranch and he grew up working the ranch. Curiously, despite being an actual cowboy, he was never cast in many Westerns. He studied animal husbandry and business at Texas Christian University. His television debut came in 1954 where he played Exton's servant in a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of King Richard III.
He later moved to Hawaii where he worked as a driving instructor. It was there in 1957 that he was discovered by producer Mike Todd. Mr. Todd encouraged him to move to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. He guest starred in an episode of General Electric Theatre before being signed by Warner Bros. His first work at Warner Bros. was a guest appearance in the Western Lawman. This was followed by a guest appearance on Colt .45. He was then cast as one of the leads, Ken Madison, in the short-lived detective Bourbon Street Beat, one of the many clones of 77 Sunset Strip that Warner Bros. made. He made his film debut in an uncredited role in Tall Story (1960).
After Bourbon Street Beat was cancelled, Van Williams reprised his role as Ken Madison in the new detective series Surfside 6 (yet another clone of 77 Sunset Strip). The series ran for two seasons. He also guest starred on such shows as Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip (once as Ken Madison), The Gallant Men, Hawaiian Eye, and Temple Houston. In 1964 he played the one of the leads in the series The Tycoon. He also appeared in the theatrical short "Red Nightmare" and the feature film The Caretakers (1963).
Immediately prior to being cast in The Green Hornet, Van Williams guest starred on The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Beverly Hillbillies. He also provided the voice of the President in the feature film Batman (1966). It was in 1966 that The Green Hornet debuted. It starred Van Williams as the title character and Bruce Lee as his valet Kato. Unlike its sister show, Batman, The Green Hornet was played entirely straight. While the series received low ratings in its initial network run, it developed a cult following. It would prove to be one of the few single season shows to have a fairly good run as a syndicated rerun. As The Green Hornet, Van Williams made a "Batclimb" cameo and later guest starred on a two-part Batman episode alongside Bruce Lee as Kato. He also appeared on The Milton Berle Show as The Green Hornet. Van Williams closed out the Sixties with guest appearances on The Big Valley; Mannix; Love, American Style; and Nanny and the Professor.
In the Seventies Van Williams guest starred on Ironside, Mission: Impossible; Apple's Way, Gunsmoke, The Manhunter, The Streets of San Francisco, Tales of the Unexpected, Barnaby Jones, Mrs. Columbo, and The Rockford Files. He appeared in the mini-series How the West Was Won and Centennial. He starred in the short-lived show Westwind and had a recurring role on The Red Hand Gang. Afterwards Mr. Williams more or less retired from acting. His final appearance was in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993), on which he played a director on The Green Hornet.
Following Van Williams's acting career he served as a reserve deputy sheriff at the Malibu station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and a volunteer fire fighter.
Dark haired and handsome, Van Williams seemed born to play heroic roles. There should be little wonder that he played a succession of such roles from the Fifties to the Seventies. He was well suited to playing a detective like Ken Madison or a superhero like The Green Hornet. That is not to say that Mr. Williams could not play more complex characters. In the Cheyenne episode 'Vengeance is Mine" he played a friend of Cheyenne Bodie who was determined to take revenge on those who had wronged him. In the 77 Sunset Strip episode "The Tarnished Idol" he played an outright villain--one half of a brother and sister team of grifters. Van Williams made a great hero, so much so that for many he will always be The Green Hornet, but he was quite capable of playing other roles s well.
Monday, 5 December 2016
|Agnes Moorehead and her 1953 |
Golden Mike Award
Agnes Moorehead's radio career began before she was even famous, while she still called St. Louis her home. In the Twenties she was a singer on radio station KMOX. in St. Louis. She moved to New York City in the early Thirties. Her first major role on radio came in 1935 when she was cast as Min Gump on The Gumps, a radio show based on the popular comic strip of the same name. It was not long afterwards that she became part of the repertory company of the classic radio show March of Time. It was through March of Time that Agnes Moorehead met a young actor named Orson Welles. When Orson Welles and John Hoseman formed the Mercury Theatre in 1937, Agnes Moorehead became a part of it.
The year 1937 would prove significant for Agnes Moorhead beyond the formation of the Mercury Theatre. It was on September 26 1937 that the radio drama The Shadow debuted. Orson Welles played the title character for its first year. Agnes Moorehead played Margo Lane, The Shadow's female associate who knew his secret identity. She played the role until 1940. In 1937 she also appeared in a radio play based on Alice Through the Looking Glass that aired on Columbia Workshop.
As part of the Mercury Theatre, Agnes Moorehead would quite naturally appear on The Mercury Theatre on the Air. CBS asked Orson Welles for a summer show that would last thirteen weeks. Debuting on July 11 1938, it was initially titled First Person Singular. It was only after a few months that it was renamed The Mercury Theatre on the Air. Agnes Moorehead appeared in many of the radio plays on The Mercury Theatre on the Air, including Dracula and Treasure Island. In 1939, when The Mercury Theatre on the Air became The Campbell Playhouse, Agnes Moorehead continued to appear on the show. She appeared in such radio plays on The Campbell Playhouse as Our Town, The Count of Monte Cristo, Liliom, and Vanity Fair.
Nineteen forty saw Agnes Moorehead appearing regularly on Cavalcade of America. On the show she appeared on such productions as "Susan B. Anthony", "Wild Bill Hickock", "The Farmer Takes a Wife", and "Will Rogers". She continued to appear on Cavalcade of America into 1941. The Forties would be an active time for Agnes Moorehead. In 1941 she briefly played Maggie on the short-lived show Bringing Up Father, based on the famous comic strip of the same name. That same year she guest starred on Jungle Jim. From 1942 to 1949 she played Marilly, the housekeeper of the unnamed mayor (played by Lionel Barrymore) on the show Mayor of the Town.
While Agnes Moorehead was one of the stars of the gentle comedy Mayor of the Town, it would be for the mystery and suspense genre that she would become best known in radio. She was a frequent guest star on the legendary radio show Suspense, appearing in such episodes as "Sorry, Wrong Number", "Post Mortem", "The Screaming Woman", and "The Evil of Adelaide Winters". She also appeared on many other mystery/suspense programmes. She appeared in an adaptation of The Lodger on Mystery in the Air in 1947. She also appeared on several episodes of Inner Sanctum Mysteries.
Agnes Moorehead continued to appear on radio throughout the Fifties, even as television was taking its toll on the medium's popularity. She continued to appear on Suspense and Inner Sanctum Mysteries, as well as such shows as Hallmark Hall of Fame, Anthology, NBC Radio Theatre, and Beyond Our Ken. Her last appearance on Suspense was fittingly enough another adaptation of "Sorry, Wrong Number" in 1960.
With the growing popularity of television in the Fifties, the days of Old Time Radio were numbered. Of the networks CBS held out the longest. It aired its last radio dramas for some time on September 30 1962. Fittingly enough, Suspense was the final radio show aired for quite a while, preceded by Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.
Radio drama would not remain dead in the United States, however, as it saw a revival in the Seventies. On January 6 1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theatre debuted. The show was created by legendary radio producer Himan Brown. Fittingly enough, the very first episode starred the Queen of Radio Suspense, Agnes Moorehead. It was "The Old Ones Are Hard to Kill". Miss Moorehead starred in another episode, "The Ring of Truth", a few weeks later, on January 26 1974. Sadly, it would be her last appearance on radio. Agnes Moorehead died only a few months later, on April 30 1974.
Agnes Moorehead had a remarkably long career in radio, spanning from 1926 to 1974. Through the years she played a number of great roles on the medium and worked with some of the best actors in radio. Over the years she worked with such legends as Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, Ida Lupino, Lionel Barrymore, and many others. While Agnes Moorehead's radio career has been largely forgotten by all but Old Time Radio fans, there is every reason it should be better known.
Sunday, 4 December 2016
Andrew Sachs was born in Berlin on April 7 1930. Being Jewish, his family fled Germany for Britain in 1938 and moved to Kilburn, London. Mr. Sachs made his film debut in a bit part in Hue and Cry in 1947 and appeared in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby that same year. In the Fifties he appeared on radio shows, including Fredrick Bradnum's Private Dreams and Public Nightmares. He appeared in repertory theatre and made his debut on the West End in 1958 in Simple Spymen. He made his television debut in an episode of BBC Sunday-Night Theatre in 1958. He also appeared in an episode of Dial 999. He appeared in the film The Night We Dropped a Clanger (1959).
In the Sixties Andrew Sachs was one of the stars of the TV programme The Six Proud Walkers and also starred on Mr. Toby's Christmas. He guest starred on such shows as BBC Night-Play, The Saint, Espionage, Intrigue, Hugh and I Spy, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and Callan. He appeared in the film Nothing Barred (1961). He provided the voice of Andreco in the English language version of Astérix le Gaulois (1967).
It was in 1975 that Andrew Sachs first played Manual on Fawlty Towers. He remained with the show for both of its two series and in 1980 was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Light Entertainment Performance for the role. In the Seventies he also starred on The History of Mr. Polly on television. He guest starred on The Sound of Laughter, The Basil Brush Show, Send in the Girls, Crown Court, Rising Damp, and Lovely Couple. He appeared in the films Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973), Romance with a Double Bass (1974), Frightmare (1974), House of Mortal Sin (1976), Are You Being Served? (1977), What's Up Nurse! (1978), and Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978).
In the Eighties Mr. Sachs starred on the TV programmes Dead Ernest, It'll All Be Over in Half an Hour, and There Comes a Time. He guest starred on Artists and Models and Bergerac. He appeared in the films History of the World: Part I (1981) and Consuming Passions (1988). He reprised the voice of Ardeco in the English language version of Astérix et le coup du menhir (1989).
In the Nineties Andrew Sachs starred on the TV programme Every Silver Lining and had a recurring role on Jack of Hearts. He guest starred on Woof!, The Gingerbread Man, The Mushroom Picker, Minder, Horizon, and Silent Witness. He appeared in the films The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1993), Taxandria (1994), and Dead Clean (1998). He provided voices for the films Lesson Faust (1994), and The Forgotten Toys (1995).
In the Naughts he appeared in the films Nirgendwo in Afrika (2001), Cheeky (2003), Benjamin's Struggle (2005), and The 10th Man (2006). He starred on the TV series Coronation Street. He guest starred on Silent Witness, Doctors, Holby City, The Bill, Casualty, and Going Postal. In the Teens he appeared in the films Run for Your Wife (2012), Quartet (2012), and Breaking the Bank (2014). He provided the voice of the Mantel Clock in Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016). He guest starred on EastEnders and appeared in the mini-series Spies of Warsaw.
I rather suspect Andrew Sachs will always be remembered as Manuel on Fawlty Towers. It was arguably the role of a life time. Manuel was clumsy and rather bumbling, and yet he always retained a positive outlook, even as he worked for the detestable Basil Fawlty. Of course, Andrew Sachs's performance as Manuel is one of the best examples of his sheer talent as an actor. I rather suspect many viewers did not realise the actor playing the Spanish waiter was actually German in birth. The fact is that Andrew Sachs was a master of accents and could play a wide variety of roles. Over the years he played Frenchmen, Russians, Scotsmen, Germans, and characters of many other nationalities. He played Walter Wagner, Hercule Poirot, and Albert Einstein. There should be little wonder that he did a good deal of voice work for animated films and TV shows, as he could make his voice do nearly anything. Andrew Sachs was an enormous talent, and Manuel was only one remarkable role out of many he played in his career.
Saturday, 3 December 2016
Valerie Gaunt was born in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire on July 9 1932. She attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and graduated in 1951. Her acting career would be brief. She made her television debut in 1956 in an episode of Dixon of Dock Green. That same year she appeared in an episode of ITV Television Playhouse. In 1957 she made her film debut in The Curse of Frankenstein. She played Victor Frankenstein's ill-fated maid Justine. In 1958 she appeared in Dracula, playing a Bride of Dracula who bites Jonathan Harker. Afterwards she married and retired from acting.
While Valerie Gaunt's career was exceedingly short, she will be always be remembered for her appearances in The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula. She did well as Justine, the maid whose dalliance with Victor Frankenstein proves to be her undoing. Her brief role in Dracula also earned her a place in film history. She is the first vampire in a Hammer film to bear her fangs. While her career may have been brief, she will be always be remembered by Hammer fans.
Friday, 2 December 2016
Grant Tinker was born on January 11 1926 in Stamford, Connecticut. During World War II he served in the United States Army Air Corps. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Dartmouth in 1949. Afterwards he became an executive trainee in NBC's radio operations department. He left in 1954 to work in advertising, first at McCann-Erickson and then at Benton & Bowles. It while he was at Benton & Bowles that he helped develop The Dick Van Dyke Show for Procter & Gamble Co.
In 1961 Grant Tinker joined NBC as its vice president in charge of West Coast programming. There he developed such shows as Dr. Kildare, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and I Spy. In the late Sixties he left NBC for Universal and then 20th Century Fox. It was in 1969 that he founded MTM Enterprises with his wife of the time, actress Mary Tyler Moore.
MTM Enterprises would prove to be one of the most successful television companies of all time. Its first series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, prove to be a smash hit. It would be followed by such successes as The Bob Newhart Show, Lou Grant, WKRP in Cincinnati. Hill Street Blues, Remington Steele, St. Elsewhere, and Newhart. In 1981 Grant Tinker and Mary Tyler Moore divorced, and Mr. Tinker left MTM Enterprises to become chairman and CEO of NBC.
When Grant Tinker rejoined NBC it was the lowest rated network on television. Grant Tinker approached programming on NBC with the philosophy of "First be best; then be first." He nurtured the creative talent on shows, giving them room to do their work and protecting them from studio executives who might want to meddle with their shows. Grant Tinker's programming philosophy worked out and turned NBC around. While Mr. Tinker was chairman and CEO of NBC, the network's annual profits went from $48 million to $500 million. Several classic, hit shows made their debut on NBC during his tenure there, including Hill Street Blues,Cheers, Night Court, St. Elsewhere, and The Golden Girls.
After General Electric bought out RCA, NBC's parent company, in 1986, Grant Tinker left the network. He founded GTG Entertainment with media conglomerate Gannet. Unfortunately GTG Entertainment was not successful and folded in 1990.
Grant Tinker was remarkable in that he is one of the few network executives of whom one hears producers and writers speak fondly. Both Steve Bochco, creator of Hill Street Blues, and Gary Golderberg, creator of Family Ties, acknowledged how Mr. Tinker nurtured creators. Grant Tinker's approach certainly paid off, as NBC went from being the lowest rated network at the time to the highest rated network. Of course, Grant Tinker had earlier put his philosophy to work at MTM, where he created an environment that resulted in a whole slough of quality, hit shows. Grant Tinker was blessed with an eye for talent, the ability to nurture that talent, as well as an instinct for quality shows that audiences would actually watch.
Thursday, 1 December 2016
|Al Brodax's cameo in Yellow Submarine|
Al Brodax was born on February 14 1926 in Manhattan, New York. He spent his early years in Washington Heights, Manhattan. His family later moved to Brooklyn, where he attended Midwood High School. In 1943 he enlisted in the United States Army, where he served as a medic. During the Battle of the Bulge he was wounded. He earned a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and a Combat Medical Badge.
Following the war he enrolled at the University of Wisocnsin, where he majored in literature. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1948. He started work at the William Morris Agency in the mailroom and eventually moved into programme development at the agency. He worked on such shows as Your Show of Shows and Omnibus. In 1958 he helped produce a Broadway adaptation of the book Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. It was in 1960 that he joined Kings Features Syndicate as the head of its new motion picture and television development department. Among his first projects was the development of 200 new "Popeye the Sailor" shorts for television from 1960 to 1962. Paramount's contract to produce "Popeye" cartoons had ended in 1957.
At Kings Feature Syndicate Mr. Brodax oversaw the production of an unsold, live action pilot based on the comic strip character The Phantom in 1961. In 1963 he oversaw the production of animated shorts for television based on the King Features Syndicate comic strips "Beetle Bailey", "Krazy Kat", and "Snuffy Smith and Barney Google".
It was in 1964 that events would lead to one of his better known works. In 1964, with Beatlemania sweeping the United States, a cartoon based on The Beatles seemed like a surefire hit to King Features Syndicate. Al Brodax got the rights to do a Beatles cartoon and then set about getting financing from toy giant A. C. Gilbert Company with little more than a rough outline of the show and some preliminary artwork. It was A. C. Gilbert Company that sold ABC on the idea of a Beatles animated series. The Beatles proved extremely successful and ran from 1965 to 1969 on ABC.
In 1965 Al Brodax produced an unsold pilot titled Hello Dere, starring Marty Allen. In 1966 he served as the executive producer on the Saturday morning cartoon Cool McCool (created by "Batman" co-creator Bob Kane). It would be The Beatles cartoon that would lead to Mr. Brodax's most famous work. Al Brodax, proposed producing an animated feature based on The Beatles' songs, suggesting to the band's manager Brian Epstein that the film could satisfy The Beatles' agreement with United Artists for a third film after A Hard Days Night and Help!. Once he had the rights to do the film, Al Brodax hired TVC London to produce the feature itself. Yellow Submarine was directed by George Dunning of TVC London and Jack Stokes of TVC London served as its animation director. The production of the film would be tumultuous, with Al Brodax at heads with George Dunning and John Coates (among others) at times, but ultimately what emerged was a film today regarded a classic in animation.
In 1968 Al Brodax served as executive producer of the ill-fated, live action sitcom Blondie. Afterwards Mr. Brodax left King Features Syndicate for ABC. There he served as production suprevisor on such ABC children's shows as Make a Wish and Animals, Animals, Animals. He also served as supervisor on the 1972 television movie Between Time and Timbuktu. He later produced the 1980 animated special Sunshine Porcupine for HBO. He later served as a consultant for Marvel Comics and Computer Graphics Laboratories.
Things did not always go smoothly between Al Brodax and the rest of the team on Yellow Submarine, and his 2004 memoir Up Periscope Yellow: The Making of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine would be a source of some controversy, but ultimately it must be admitted that the movie could not have been made without him. After all, it was Mr. Brodax who initially came up with the idea of an animated Beatles film and it was he who secured permission from the band to do so. Quite simply, without Al Brodax, Yellow Submarine might never have happened.
Of course, Al Brodax did much more than serve as producer on Yellow Submarine. He also produced the many King Features Syndicate animated shorts featuring Beetle Bailey, Krazy Kat, and so on, as well as The Beatles Saturday morning cartoon and Cool McCool. Without Al Brodax weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings would have looked very different for many children in the Sixties.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Fritz Weaver was born on January 19 1936 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of Chicago, where he majored in physics, and then served in the Civilian Public Service during World War II. Following the war he moved to New York City where he studied acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio. He made his debut Off Broadway in The Way of the World at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 1954.
Fritz Weaver made his debut on Broadway in The Chalk Garden in 1956. In the Fifties he also appeared on Broadway in Protective Custody, Miss Lonelyhearts, The Family Reunion, The Power and the Glory, The Great God Brown, Peer Gynt, Henry IV, Part I, and Henry IV, Part II. He made his television debut in 1957 in the Studio One episode "The Playwright and the Stars". He guest starred on the shows The DuPont Show of the Month, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Omnibus, Playhouse 90, CBS Repertoire Workshop, The Twilight Zone, and Festival.
In the Sixties Mr. Weaver guest starred on such shows as Way Out, The Twilight Zone, The Asphalt Jungle, The New Breed, Dr. Kildare, The Defenders, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Rogues, Rawhide, The Fugitive, Combat, Gunsmoke, The Invaders, The Felony Squad, The Name of the Game, The Big Valley, and Ironside. He appeared in the films Fail-Safe (1964), The Maltese Bippy (1969), and A Walk in the Spring Rain (1970). He appeared on Broadway in A Shot in the Dark, All American, Lorenzo, The White House, Baker Street, and Child's Play. He won a Tony Award for his role as Jerome Malley in Child's Play.
In the Seventies Fritz Weaver guest starred on such shows as Dan August, The Storefront Lawyers, Night Gallery, Mission: Impossible, Medical Centre, Room 222, The Mod Squad, The Snoop Sisters, Mannix, Kung Fu, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, Wonder Woman, Hawaii Five-O, and Magnum P.I. He starred in the mini-series Holocaust and The Martian Chronicles. He appeared in the films The Day of the Dolphin (1973), Marathon Man (1976), Black Sunday (1977), Demon Seed (1977), The Big Fix (1978), and Nightkill (1980). On Broadway he appeared in Absurd Person Singular and The Price.
In the Eighties Mr. Weaver guest starred on such shows as Quincy M.E.; Falcon Crest; Tales of the Unexpected; The Love Boat; The Twilight Zone; Tales From the Darkside; Murder, She Wrote; Hallmark Hall of Fame; Monsters; and Matlock. He appeared in the films Jaws of Satan (1981); Creepshow (1982); and Power (1986). He appeared on Broadway in Angels Fall and Love Letters.
In the Nineties Fritz Weaver guest starred on such shows as All My Children, Hallmark Hall of Fame, L. A. Law, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The X-Files, Fraiser, and Law & Order. He appeared in such television movies as Ironclads (1991 and Citizen Cohn (1992). He appeared in the film The Thomas Crown Affair (1999). He appeared on Broadway in The Crucible and Ring Round the Moon.
In the Teens he appeared in the films Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (2013), We'll Never Have Paris (2014), and The Cobbler (2014). His last appearance was in The Congressman, set for release this year.
While Fritz Weaver was never a household name, there would seem to be little doubt that he was one of the greatest actors of his time. He was nominated for Tony Awards four times and won two of those times. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award for his role in Holocaust.
There should be little wonder that Mr. Weaver should be recognised for his work, as he played a wide variety of roles in his long career. In Fail-Safe he played the overzealous and unstable Colonel Cascio. In Holocaust he played nearly the polar opposite of Colonel Cascio--the respected Dr. Josef Weiss, a Jewish surgeon who attempts to save his fellow Jews in the face of Nazism. He gave two remarkable performances on the original Twilight Zone. In "Third from the Sun" he played Will Sturka, a scientist seeking to save his family on the brink of nuclear war. In "The Obsolete Man" he played The Chancellor, a strict but somewhat hypocritical official in a totalitarian estate. Through the years Fritz Weaver played a wide variety of roles, from military officers to professors to medical doctors to law enforcemet officers to politicians. What is more he played all of them well.
It is most likely due to his talent that Fritz Weaver had such a long and prolific career. He made his first appearance on Broadway in 1956. His last credit was this year. He never really retired. The simple fact is that Fritz Weaver was always in demand throughout his career. Because he could play nearly any part given him, he was able to work as long as he wished. Not every actor is so talented.