Friday, October 19, 2007

Junior Frolics and Associates Part 2 of 96,451

Welcome to Part 2 of 12,316

The performances of Gail Davis [later TV's 'Annie Oakley',] Dale Evans [with Roy Rogers,] and Gale Storm [movies before 'My Little Margie') were invigorating, surprising, and pleasant to watch. Gail Davis was a real sharpshooter, but her TV gunshots still missed hitting body parts and sending modern gore flying everwhere. Dale could ride Buttermilk, shoot and sing with the best of them, and she didn't have to get beat up like Tonto. And Gale Storm was just a favorite of mine in whatever was showing. She and Jean Arthur have a special place in my heart.

The old west of TV and the movies never showed ugly women as the heroine, did they?

Movies from the 1950s were generally not shown on television in the 1950s, exceptions being some Disney efforts. We got see such classics as: 'Miracle of the Bells [Fred MacMurray];' 'Our Town [William Holden];' 'Three Husbands [Emlyn Williams];' 'Lost Continent [Caesar Romerl];' 'Fabulous Dorseys [Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey];' and 'Private Affairs of Bel Ami [George Sanders].

And of course, we were inundated with Westerns, as noted above: 'Buffalo Bill Rides Again [Richard Arlen];' 'Frontier Pony Express [Roy Rogers]; 'Border Feud [Lash Larue]; 'Ramrod [Joel McCrae];' 'Texas Trail [Hopalong Cassidy];' 'Sunset in Wyoming [Gene Autry];' 'Man of Action [Tim McCoy];' 'Lucky Boot [Big Boy Williams];' and 'The Longhorn [Wild Bill Elliott.]

The great older mysteries with Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, Brian Donlevy, Carole Landis, June Storey, Dennis O'Keefe, Sidney Toler, Richard Travis, John Abbot, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmie Cagney, Basil Rathbone [or Rasil Bathbone as I always remembered him], and Boston Blackie were regular fare. These performances were usually chilling, dark and eerie to us kids. But we watched them avidly. Since most of these older films were in black and white, our TV set didn't lose anything in the translation. And who imagined 'letterbox' in those days? ---other than another name for the mailbox. The movies were shown to fit the screens. We had to settle for the policies of 'edited for content' and 'edited for length' as well. The stations never noted those policies on the screen, but we thought they existed. I didn't know for sure until cable arrived in my adulthood. Then I saw the deleted scenes, many of which answered my questions about what was going on. Television executives who cut and censor movies should be chastised, drawn and quartered, and otherwise inconvenienced. Using outmoded 'moral rights', they gave good movies non-understandable plots. As a kid, I wasn't stupid, just a victim of edited versions of movies. In many cases---okay in most cases---all right in every case---we didn't know what we missed because we hadn't seen the originals in the movie theaters.

Gene Autry sang 'Back in the Saddle' to us. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans offered 'Happy Trails'---written by Dale. All 1950s shows and movies had the humor of all TV shows of the time, especially at the end of an episode or the film. We had to know that there was a happy ending and everything and all the regulars were a-okay. There was no joking or singing, however, in 'Death Valley Days' with the Old Ranger, Ronald Reagan, and others narrating. It was a solid Western story source, and I enjoyed it. It ran from about 1952 to 1972. The Old Ranger---Stanley Andrews---was by far the best host for the fascinating show. He looked like he was from the old west. 'Who'd a thunk it,' that Ronald Reagan would reach political heights in later years.

As a kid, though, I rarely watched Damon Runyon Theater, G E Theater, Loretta Young, Studio 57, Voice of Firestone, Studio One, Rheingold Theatre, Matinee Theater, Calvacade Theater, and the like. These shows presented quality adult drama, but I wasn't in the mood.

In the modern Western vein [besides Roy Rogers, Pat Brady and Nellybelle] was 'Sky King' [1951-1954], where the hero was often seen galloping around in his airplane as opposed to the western standard of a unique horse [biggest; fastest; most colorful; white; best trained; etc.] Kirby Grant [Sky King] flew the 'Songbird' [a Cessna] with his niece, Gloria Winters [Penny,] and nephew, Ron Hagerthy [Clipper.] “…Out of the clear blue of the western sky…” But, I could take it or leave it. There wasn't much excitement in a 'cowboy' searching for rustlers and 'badmen' from an airplane. It all seemed rather unfair to a certain extent.

Richard Boone always impressed me as Paladin in 'Have Gun Will Travel' (1957-63.) “…A knight without armor in a savage land…” from the show's “Ballad of Paladin.” Paladin was the old west's Robin Hood and White Knight rolled into one. And he always seemed to know who the bad guys were and ultimately won the day. The solicitous 'Hey Boy' of Kam Tong and, for one year, the 'Hey Girl' of Lisa Lu, started most episodes, as Paladin was given a message or telegram. [Paladin carried a gun, so I wonder why he was permitted existence in San Francisco?] These two Chinese characters occasionally inspired the stories when their lives or actions interested Paladin and precipitated the plot. And, like so many others, I've often wondered: Did Paladin play chess? and Was Paladin's first name really 'Wire?'

We had other good choices to watch on TV: 'The Jack Benny Show' with Jack, Mary Livingston, Don Wilson and the exceptional Eddie Anderson' as 'Rochester' was a favorite. Jack's guests varied, but some were there regularly, like Dennis Day [no relation to Doris; Dennis was brother to Ann Blythe] and Mel Blanc [ol' Bugs Bunny himself], who was especially funny as a train conductor. 'Burns and Allen' was always a treat with George, ditsy Gracie, Harry [an accountant,] the exasperated, but ever optimistic Blanche, and Harry Von Zell as the poor, underappreciated [and rather naive] announcer. George's asides to the audience are classics. Especially when he went up in his home office and brought us up to speed on the machinations of the plot still to play out. Even though I don't smoke cigars [or anything else] like George did, I may start. After all, he saw his 100th birthday.

Next Installment is Part 3 of 101,523

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