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Category Archives: Classic TV

Dick Van Dyke – Eight Decades of Entertaining

Dick Van Dyke in a scene from Sgt. Bilko television series in 1957.

Dick Van Dyke was born as Richard Wayne Van Dyke on December 13, 1925 in West Plains, Missouri. Van Dyke had considered becoming a minister at one time, but decided to become an entertainer, after appearing on stage in a high school play.

His first job was as a disc jockey on a local radio station in Danville, Illinois. He later traveled across the country as part of a comedy act, till he was hired by WDSU TV in New Orleans as an entertainer. That job led to a job with the CBS network on their morning program. He anchored the program, which also featured Walter Cronkite as his newsman.

Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera in Bye Bye Birdie.

His big break came when he appeared in the Broadway play Bye Bye Birdie playing the part of Albert Peterson and won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor.

Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke.

Then in 1961 he was hired to portray Rob Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show which ran from 1961 to 1966 and 158 episodes were filmed. The show was on the brink of cancellation, before it caught on with television viewers. Then five years later he starred in the New Dick Van Dyke Show which ran for 72 episodes from 1971-1974.

It was about this time, that Van Dyke publicly announced he had been an alcoholic for 25 years.

1988 would see Van Dyke appear in his third show, with his name in the title, when he appeared in the Van Dyke Show, that only lasted for 10 episodes.

Dick Van Dyke portraying Doctor Mark Sloan on Diagnosis:Murder

His next starring role in a television series was when he portrayed Dr. Mark Sloan, in Diagnosis Murder. It would run for 180 episodes, which was even more episodes, than the original Dick Van Dyke Show had run.

Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

He was best-known for his movies Bye Birdie (1963), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1964) and Mary Poppins (1968). He has appeared in three of the Night of the Museum movies.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb movie, in which Van Dyke appears was recently completed this year and another movie Life is Boring is in post-production at the time of this writing. He also appeared in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which was released in October of 2014 by the Walt Disney Pictures.

Van Dyke is now in his eighth decade of entertaining.

Dick Van Dyke and Arlene Silver don’t seem to be concerned about their 46 year age difference.

Dick Van Dyke was married to Marjorie Willett from 1948-1984, then lived with Michelle Triola from 1976 till her death in 2009. Van Dyke reportedly paid Triola $600,000, which was the amount she had sued actor Lee Marvin for in a palimony suit, but the court ruled against her. That ended Van Dyke’s marriage to Marjorie Willett, when she learned about his payment to Triola. Van Dyke has been married to Arlene Silver for the last two years. She is 46 years younger than Van Dyke and is about 44 years old now, while he will be 89 in December.

Imdb.com has some very interesting trivia about Dick Van Dyke. These are just a few of them since there 106 in all.

Van Dyke turned down a chance to host Price is Right. If he had taken the job he may never have become an actor, when considering, that game show host for the most part stay game show hosts.

He and his first wife Margie were so poor after their wedding, that they lived in their car for a while.

Was a heavy smoker for 50 years before quitting. He used to smoke 60 cigarettes a day.

Was 36 when he appeared in his first movie.

Received a lemon cake at Christmas for 16 years from actor Charles Bronson.

Producer Sheldon Leonard gave Van Dyke the lead role, in the Dick Van Dyke Show, after seeing him in stage production of Bye Bye Birdie.

For more trivia and quotes from Van Dyke:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001813/bio?ref_=nm_dyk_qt_sm#quotes

 

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Harry Morgan: From December Bride To M*A*SH

Fichier:Harry Morgan Spring Byington December Bride 1958.JPG

Harry Morgan dancing with Spring Byington in an episode of December Bride.

 

Harry Morgan was born Harry Bratsberg on April 10,1915 in Detroit, Michigan. He would later change his last name to Morgan and using Henry as his first name. There was another Henry Morgan at the time heard on radio and seen on television, so he changed his first name back to Harry.

He was a little man, that stood only 5 foot six inches. He made his first appearance in the movies in To the Shores of Tripoli in 1942 at the age of 27.

His first regular television role was in December Bride, in which he was seen in 155 episodes from 1954-1959. He portrayed Pete Porter in the series, who lived next to neighbor Lily Ruskin (portrayed by Spring Byington). His wife was never seen, but was referred to often.

Harry Morgan and Cara Williams in Pete and Gladys

 

He was seen in a spinoff from December Bride with the wife, that was never seen on December Bride. The new show was named Pete and Gladys and he portrayed his Pete Porter character from December Bride and Cara Williams was seen as Gladys Porter. The show ran from 1960-1962, with Morgan being 47 when the show ended. 72 episodes of the show were seen, before it was taken off the air.

His father Henry Bratsberg was a native of Norway while his mother Hannah was a native of Sweden.

Harry Morgan and Jack Webb in a scene from Dragnet.

Morgan would appear as a free-lance actor in movies and television, till when he acted with Jack Webb in Dragnet, as he portrayed Officer Bill Gannon, who was the partner of Jack Webb’s character Joe Friday. He portrayed Officer Bill Gannon as early as 1953 in the original black and white version of Dragnet. He also appeared as Officer Bill Gannon in the color version of Dragnet in 1966. He appeared in 99 episodes.

He would then appear in many different television shows and movies, including eight appearances in the television show Hec Ramsey and four episodes of Gunsmoke.

Morgan joined the cast of M*A*S*H in 1974 in its fourth season and portrayed Colonel Sherman T. Potter in 180 episodes. He also acted in the short-lived series After Mash that was seen from 1983-1984. He also portrayed Colonel Potter in this series in 29 episodes.

He then acted in movies, TV movies and various television series, until he retired in 1999 after 47 years of acting.

Harry Morgan in his later years.

 

Harry Morgan died in his sleep on December 7, 2011, in Los Angeles, California.

He died two and a half years ago, but his memory will live on for years, who have been fans of his work on December Bride, Pete and Gladys, Dragnet and M*A*S*H.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Character Actors of the Past: Gale Gordon

 

 

 

Gale Gordon 1906-1995

 

Gale Gordon was February 20, 1906 in New York City, New York as Charles T. Aldrich Jr. He changed his stage name to Gale Gordon, at some point in his career, but never legally changed his name, so he was still Charles T. Aldrich Jr. at the time of his death.

Prolific Radio Actor

Gordon was one of the most prolific radio actors having acted in 1,352 radio programs according to radiogoldindex.com. He was first heard on radio in 1932 and was heard on radio into the 1970’s.

His first regular role on a radio series was when he was heard on Tarzan and the Apes from 1932-1933.

He would begin portraying Flash Gordon on radio on May 4, 1935 and would also be heard on several other radio programs.

The following list of radio shows he was in during a short period of time shows how much in demand he was as a radio actor:

MAY 24, 1948 – CAVALCADE OF AMERICA

MAY 25, 1948 – FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY

MAY 26, 1948 – THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE

MAY 27, 1948 – MAXWELL COFFEE HOUSE TIME

MAY 28, 1948 – OLD GOLD TIME

MAY 29, 1948 – MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (Movie re-enacted for radio)

JUNE 1, 1948 – FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY

Gordon had one day off in an eight day stretch.

1948 would also be the year, that he began being heard on Our Miss Brooks, in which he portrayed the principal Osgood Conklin.

He would also be heard on My Favorite Husband, which also starred Lucille Ball.

Movie Career

Gordon made his first credited movie appearance in 1942 in Here We Go Again. He appeared in the movie version of Our Miss Brooks in 1956.

His movie career flourished in the years from 1958-1961 with seven movie appearances.

He would make his last movie appearance in The ‘Burbs in 1989, after a 21 year absence from the big screen, after he appeared in Speedway.

Television Career

Gale Gordon focused on regular roles on television shows, for the most part during his career.

It is no surprise, that one of his first appearances on television was Lucille Ball’s I Love Lucy in 1952. Ironically, he was offered the role of Fred Mertz on the show, but was already in line to play Osgood Conklin on Our Miss Brooks.

He also appeared in 130 episodes of the television version of Our Miss Brooks, which ran from 1952-1956. I don’t recall this show being in reruns the last few years on any network.

One of his better known roles was as John Wilson in Dennis the Menace, in which he portrayed John Wilson in 44 episodes, after the death of Joseph Kearns, who had played George Wilson.

His association with Lucille Ball was renewed when he appeared in 109 episodes of The Lucy Show from 1963-1968 and then appeared in 109 episodes of Here’s Lucy from 1968-1974.

Lucille Ball would try once more to capture her magic on the small screen, in 1986 with Life of Lucy show that lasted only 13 episodes. This was the last regular role for Gordon on television.

We will never forget Gordon portraying Mr. Theodore Mooney on The Lucy Show. He would become exasperated with the actions of Lucy, which led to many funny situations.

There was no doubt about the respect that Lucille Ball had for Gordon. He appeared in every radio or television series, in which Ball appeared since 1940.

He would make his last television appearance on the New Lassie series in 1991.

Gordon traveled 160 miles one way to appear in the different television series with Ball, which shows the appreciation he had for her help, in obtaining those roles for him.

Addenda

Gale Gordon was married to Virginia Curley from 1937-1995, until the time of her death. She died about a month before Gordon died in the same facility.

He died of lung cancer on June 30,1995 at the age of 89 in Escondido, California.

Among his honors are his enshrinement in the Radio Hall of Fame and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his radio acting. That seems strange that he wasn’t awarded a star for his work in television.

Summary

Gale Gordon was a perfect foil for Lucille Ball’s comedy and made Here’s Lucy and The Lucy Shows classics, that will endure for many years to come.

His portrayal of blustery Theodore Mooney the bank president will never be forgotten, by those who saw those shows back  then or in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bobby Rydell Performing Again After Liver, Kidney Transplant

Bobby Rydell

Bobby Rydell was born Robert Louis Ridarelli on April 26, 1942 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He will be 72 years old tomorrow.

It doesn’t seem possible that 55 years have passed, since he had his first hit song, with the release of Kissin’ Time in 1959.

Before that he had won a talent contest and became a member of the cast of Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club. Whiteman had difficult pronouncing his last name Ridarelli, so changed his last name to Rydell.

He joined the Rocco and the Saints band at the age of 16 and the band also had a soon to be famous trumpet player in Frankie Avalon.

First Million Selling Single

We Got Love, which was his first million selling album peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Wild One was his next million selling single and it reached #2 on the charts and it was released in 1960. My personal favorite Bobby Rydell song Volare was also released in 1960 and went to #4 on the charts. Sway also did well for Rydell in 1960 going to #14 on the charts. Swingin’ School also reached the charts in 1960 and peaked at #5.

Sadly, Rydell only had one more Top Ten hit, when he released Forget Him in 1963, which peaked at #4 on the music charts.

His last new song to make the Billboard Hot 100 charts was Diana, which barely made it onto the charts at #98 in 1965.

It has been 49 years, since he had a song that made the Billboard Hot 100.

More recent photo of Bobby Rydell

Failing Health

He had to cancel a 2012 tour to Australian because of health problems. Rydell would have his liver and kidneys replaced in a double organ transplant. The transplant took place at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in July of 2012.

After recovering for six months Rydell performed in a three night engagement in Las Vegas.

With the health problems behind him Rydell has been very active. He has appeared in international concerts, which included a 2014 tour in Australia. He also has appeared as part of a stage act, with fellow Philadelphian rock and rollers Fabian and Frankie Avalon.

Interesting Trivia From IMDB.com

Rydell High School in Grease was named after Rydell.

He was married to his first wife Camille Quattrone Ridarelli from 1968-2003 until the time of her death. He remarried in 2009 to Linda Hoffman.

Started playing drums at the age of six.

The city of Philadelphia named Bobby Rydell Boulevard after him.

He was a victim of the British invasion, as his recording career was never the same after the Beatles hit American shores.

Has Remained Active

Bobby Rydell has remained active after his recording career more or less ended, by hitting the night club circuit and appearing in concert. However, he did appear in the movie Bye Bye Birdie in 1963, at the height of his popularity.

He has appeared in Time-Life infomercial for Malt Shop Memories.

It was sad that his recording career fizzled out at the age of 23, but he was too talented and too young to walk away from the music scene.

When he turns 72 tomorrow he can reflect on a long career in music and has been a fine representative for the city of Philadelphia.

Dick Clark played a part in the success of Bobby Rydell, by having him appear on American Bandstand.

He may have not had the long recording career, of some recording artists, but that has only made his fans treasure, more than ever, those years in the 60’s, when he was making memories for all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mickey Rooney Dies After 92 Years In Show Business

 


Mickey Rooney 1920-2014

Mickey Rooney has died at the age of 93 in his North Hollywood home with his family present, at the time of his death.

He was born Ninian Joseph Yule Jr. on September 23, 1920 in Brookyln, New York City, New York. He died on April 6, 2014 in North Hollywood, California.

Rooney was only 17 months when he made his first appearance on stage, with the vaudeville act of his father and mother in 1922. His death ends what probably is the longest career of any entertainer.

His first movie appearance was in the 1926 movie short Not To Be Trusted  the last year of the  silent movies , before talking movies started in 1927. Rooney who would only grow to be 5 foot two inches high never let his height slow him down. on his road to stardom.

His next role was as Mickey McGuire in a series of movie shorts, in which he appeared from 1927-1934.

Then he began to appear in the Andy Hardy movies in 1937, with his appearance in You’re Only Young Once. That would be followed by 13 more Andy Hardy movies, with the last one Love Laughs At Andy Hardy being released in 1944.

26 years after his first movie appearance Rooney would appear on television, for the first time on Celanese Theater in the Saturday’s Children episode.

Later in 1954 Rooney would star in the Mickey Rooney Show in all 33 episodes. He alternated in movie and television. He made his last appearance in a TV movie the Empire State Building Murders in 2008. He was appearing in Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde movie at the time of his death. He had two other movies in pre-production also, so was very busy at his advanced age.

Mickey Rooney was married eight times, with the first marriage being to Ava Gardner in 1942. He married his last wife Jan Chamberlin, in 1978 and they were still married 36 years later at the time of his death. Wikipedia lists his marriages below:

Children 9
Parents Joseph Yule,
Nellie W. (née Carter)
Awards Juvenile Academy Award, Academy Honorary Award, Emmy, 2 Golden Globes
Website
mickeyrooney.com

It is amazing that Rooney has been in show business from 1922 till 2014. He has appeared in movies, in ten consecutive decades.

Just some of the trivia about Rooney at imdb.com:

His parents divorced in 1923 when he was 3 years old.

Was considered for role of Archie Bunker on All In The Family.

He was married longer to his last wife Jan Chamberlin longer, than his other seven wives combined.

Only silent movie actor to still be acting in the 21st century.

During World War II he served 22 months in the U.S. Army, five of them with the Third Army of Gen. George S. Patton. Rooney attained the rank of Sergeant, and won a Bronze Star, among other decorations.

Rooney did not have any kind words for Ernest Borgnine: [on his feud with Ernest Borgnine] All the Oscars in the world can’t buy him dignity, class and talent. I don’t know why he is famous and why he is a star. Talk about a lucky jerk

 

America lost another icon yesterday who has entertained in vaudeville, stage, movies and television. He has left behind a rich legacy of work since his first film in 1926.

Turner Classic Movie cable network is probably at work right now, with a tribute to Mickey Rooney, who epitomizes the golden days of Hollywood. TCM showed many Esther Williams movies, after she passed away and I am positive they will pay tribute to Mickey Rooney by showing many of his Andy Hardy movies and other movies he starred in.

This New York Times obituary gives even more details of the life of Mickey Rooney:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/arts/mickey-rooney-master-of-putting-on-a-show-dies-at-93.html?_r=0

 

 

 

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Neville Brand: From Decorated World II Hero To Portraying Al Capone in The Untouchables

 

Lawrence Neville Brand was born on August 13, 1920 in Griswold, Iowa. He enlisted with the U.S. Army on March 5, 1941. He was sent to the European Theater in December of 1944 and arrived there on December 16, 1944. He was a much decorated World War II hero as outlined in this article, which gives more details of his accomplishments in World War II:

http://jodavidsmeyer.com/combat/military/neville_brand.html

Brand has been credited as the fourth most decorated soldier in World War II, but that claim has never been proven.
His first credited movie role was in 1950, when he appeared in D.O.A. He would be seen on television and in movies often from 1950-1958. One of his best known roles would come, when he portrayed Al Capone in The Untouchables
in the “Big Train” two parter.

Brand starred in Laredo from 1965-1967, when he portrayed Reese Bennett. He would appear in many westerns mostly, but also appeared in TV movies, free-lanced as an actor in other television series and acted in movies till 1985, which would be his last appearance on either television or movies. His last movie was Evils of the Night.

He was an avid reader and had a huge book collection of over 30,000 books,  in his Malibu home, but a fire destroyed most of his book collection, along with other mementoes in 1978.

He died at the age of 71 from emphysema on April 16, 1992 in Sacramento, California. His ashes were stored in a vessel shaped like a book that showed the years that he lived.

The world lost not only a great actor, but more importantly a World War II hero, when Neville Brand died but his memory will go on due to the the many television shows and movies he appeared in during his lifetime.

 

 

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Stringbean: Murdered After Grand Ole Opry Appearance In 1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

David “Stringbean” Akeman was born July 4, 1916 in Annville, Kentucky and died in Ridgetop, Tennessee on November 10, 1973.  His friend and co-star of Hee Haw Grandpa Jones found him and Stringbean’s wife Estelle murdered the next morning. Stringbean had been shot and killed inside the house, while his wife was found dead outside.

Stringbean acquired his nickname when the star of a show he was in introduced him as Stringbean and he has been known as Stringbean ever since.

He made a homemade banjo as a child out of a shoebox and thread. Then later he would barter two chickens, for a real banjo and then really began to learn how to play the banjo in the old style.

The Depression would cause Stringbean to find work, with the Civilian Conservation Corps and he built roads and planted trees, as part of that work.

 

Signs With Bill Monroe’s Band

Bill Monroe signed Stringbean as one of the Bluegrass Boys. Monroe had discovered Stringbean when he was playing semi-pro baseball. Earl Scruggs would later replace Stringbean as the banjo picker in the Bluegrass Boys band.

He married Estelle Stanfill in 1945.

Even though he had been playing music and singing since the 1930’s he didn’t record his first album till the 1960’s.

 

Started Sagging Britches Fad

Stringbean might have been an inspiration for the sagging britches fad, as can be seen in the photo on the right. The only difference was that Springbean wouldn’t wear that outfit once he stepped off the stage. That outlandish outfit by itself was enough to draw laughs from the audience.

He never did learn to drive a car so his wife Estelle did all the driving. Grandpa Jones had to clean his guns for him, since he didn’t know how.

 

First Television Appearance

His first television appearance was when he appeared on the Porter Wagoner Show in 1963 and was on another show in 1970. He made one appearance on the Johnny Cash Show in 1971. His big break came when he started appearing on Hee Haw and would be seen in 92 episodes from 1969-1974. The 1974 shows had been filmed previously, before his tragic death in November of 1973.

There were rumors that Stringbean didn’t believe in keeping his money in banks, since he grew up in depressions and saw how many had lost their life savings, when the banks failed. He was known to flash his cash around and apparently John and Marvin Brown, who were 23 year old cousins decided to try finding that money, while Stringbean and his wife were at the Opry.

 

Stringbean Surprised Burglars

Apparently, they didn’t time it right and the Akemans returned from the Opry, on the night of November 10, 1973, before they thought they would or perhaps they were laying in wait for them, so they could rob them of more cash and both Stringbean and his wife Estelle were shot by the intruders. Ironically, they found only $250 and also stole only a chain saw and some firearms. Stringbean probably drew his gun, but was shot before he could shoot the intruders. By shooting him they didn’t have a chance to question Akeman, about where the money was being hid.

They didn’t notice the $3,000 in his overalls pocket or the $20,000 hidden in a chimney. The $20,000 wouldn’t be found till 23 years later. The money had deteriorated so badly, that it was unusable.

Grandpa Jones would find Stringbean’s wife outside and he found Stringbean also dead inside the house. Stringbean was only 57 at the time of his death. Archie Campbell another co-star, from Hee Haw said that he never heard Stringbean say an unkind word about anyone.

To make things worse for Grandpa Jones the tabloids insinuated that Jones had been having an affair with Stringbean’s wife.

 

Murderers Sentenced To 198 Years

John and Marvin Brown, who committed the murders of Stringbean and his wife were each sentenced to 198 years in prison. Marvin Brown died in Brushy State Prison in Petros, Tennessee in 2003, which was 30 years after the murders. John Brown has served 41 years of his sentence. He applied for parole in 2011 and won’t be able to apply again till 2017.

This is what John Brown had to say about the murders: He has a devoted wife who had married him shortly before he was arrested, and she says, “John says that he hopes David and Estelle are in heaven, looking on his life and saying that something good did come of this.”

 

Senseless Tragedy

Country music fans have lost an icon in Stringbean. He grew up dirt poor during the Depression and had to struggle to make it in the world of country music. Then when he finally makes the big money he can’t help but show it off. He had come a long way from having nothing in the 30’s to living comfortably in the 70’s, but his life came to a tragic halt on November 10, 1973. He died at 57 which is young for country music performers, who sometime perform into their 80’s like the great Ray Price who recently died.

City Confidential television show filmed an episode in 2003 about the murders of Stringbean and his wife.

The world of country music lost one of its biggest stars on November 10, 1973, but his memory will live on for years to come among fans of country music.

 

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