John Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln

The things you find on the internet. John Drinkwater’s play, written in 1918, about Abraham Lincoln, which was broadcast on May 26, 1952 as an episode of the CBS Studio One anthology series. Robert Pastene has the title role. James Dean, yet undiscovered, has a walk on role as a soldier pardoned by Lincoln,

Published in: on June 13, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on John Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln  
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Gunsmoke Intro

Something for the weekend,  Gunsmoke intros.  One of my favorite shows as a boy, the High Noon duels seem to reflect the angry mood of the nation right now.  Let us hope the better angels of our natures assert themselves before the next four years compete with 1861-1865 in turbulence.

Published in: on November 14, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Davy Crockett Takes a Stand

I voted against this Indian bill, and my conscience yet tells me that I gave a good honest vote, and one that I believe will not make me ashamed in the day of judgment.

David “Davy” Crockett

Fess Parker as Davy Crockett speaking against the Indian Removal Act of 1830 in the Walt Disney bio of Crockett made in the fifties.  Crockett lost his seat in Congress in 1831 due to his stand.  He ran for election in 1833 and regained his seat, only to be defeated in 1835 at which point he rode off to Texas and immortality, telling his erstwhile constituents that they could go to Hell while he would go to Texas.

Myths clustered around Crockett during his life, as he became one of the first of the media-driven celebrities.  However, there was a core of greatness about the man as the above video clip celebrates.

Published in: on September 27, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Davy Crockett Takes a Stand  
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Brilliant Scene: What Do They Pay You?

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.

John Stuart Mill

 

From Dragnet (1954).  The wage cited by Jack Webb would be the equivalent today of about 16.00 bucks an hour.  Honest cops, then and now, don’t get rich.  The average pay of a cop ranges from 38-53k around the nation, often in urban centers with high costs of living.  Those of us who prize money and safety higher than they do go into other professions.  I am glad that there are still good men and women who decide the relatively low pay and potential danger is worth it.  I confess that in today’s atmosphere if I were a cop I would probably be looking for an exit.

Published in: on September 10, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Brilliant Scene: What Do They Pay You?  
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Johnny Yuma Was a Rebel

 

Something for the weekend.  Johnny Cash singing The Rebel, the theme song of Johnny Yuma, a Western television series, 1959-1961 and followed the exploits of Johnny Yuma, well played by the doomed Nick Adams, a young Confederate veteran in the postwar American southwest.  This was one of a number of Civil War themed television shows as the nation observed the centennial of the War Between the States.  The show received high ratings and deserved them, being a cut above the horde of Westerns that were a staple of television at that time.  It was cancelled due to rising concerns of violence on TV by the usual suspects.

Here is one of the best of the episodes:

 

Published in: on February 29, 2020 at 3:45 am  Comments Off on Johnny Yuma Was a Rebel  
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Lieutenant Tragg

Recently my bride and I have been watching season one, first aired in 1956, of the Perry Mason television series.  It has been decades since I last watched the show, although I watched it endlessly growing up in the Sixties, when it was a staple in re-runs.  When the show first aired, I didn’t get to see it until the last few seasons, the show coming on after my bedtime.  I do recall the haunting Perry Mason theme music as some of my earliest childhood memories.  As far as I am concerned the episodes are new now, as over the past half century since I was last watching them they have faded from my memory.

I will have other posts about the show, since it is fascinating for any number of reasons, but in this post I wanted to focus on the character of Lieutenant Arthur Tragg.  Portrayed by veteran actor Ray Collins, Tragg is the main nemesis of Mason in the episodes I have watched thus far, not District Attorney Hamilton Burger.  The courtroom sequences usually occurred in the last quarter of the show, and before that it would be Tragg and Mason engaging in verbal duels as the police conducted their homicide investigation and Mason scampered to get the evidence to establish the innocence of his client, they were always innocent, and uncover the real murderer, who would usually confess in court.  (Ah, if both only were typical of real criminal cases!)

Tragg is portrayed as tough, but fair.  In verbal prowess he is the equal of Mason.  The two men obviously respect each other, as a worthy adversary is always, at least in memory, someone to be appreciated.  Sadly largely forgotten today, Collins was an actor of preternatural ability and I look forward to his appearances in each of the episodes.  The video above is the screen test of actor William Hopper, who tried out for the role of Mason before being cast as Mason’s private investigator Paul Drake.  Hopper was one of the first of the Navy frog men, the precursors of the Seals of today, during World War II, and he will be the subject of another post.  The video clip gives a good taste of the electricity when Tragg was on screen.

Ray Collins gave a bravura performance as Tragg, even more bravura due to the fact that during the filming his health was giving way and his memory fading.  He had to be replaced in October 1963 after the filming of “The Case of the Capering Camera”.  In retirement he watched the show each week, and his name was kept in the opening credits.  He passed away at age 75 on July 11, 1965.

Published in: on November 5, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lieutenant Tragg  
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The Swamp Fox

“[a]s for this damned old fox, the Devil himself could not catch him.”

British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton after fruitlessly pursuing Marion twenty-five miles through swamps.

Something for the weekend.  The Swamp Fox theme song from the Disney television series, 1959-1961. very loosely based on the exploits of Francis Marion in the American Revolution.  The most successful partisan in American history, Francis Marion and his colleagues Thomas Sumter and Andrew Pickens, led bands of irregulars in South Carolina after the British took Charleston in 1780.  The diminutive Marion kept his men under tight control, and launched constant raids on the British. When regular Continental forces re-appeared in South Carolina, Marion gave invaluable assistance in the liberation of his home state.   Marion and General Nathaniel Greene, commander of the Continental troops in South Carolina frequently clashed as two strong willed men have a tendency to do, but he paid Marion this handsome tribute in a letter on April 24, 1781:

 

When I consider how much you have done and suffered, and under what disadvantage you have maintained your ground, I am at a loss which to admire most, your courage and fortitude, or your address and management…History affords no instance wherein an officer has kept possession of a Country under so many disadvantages as you have; surrounded on every side with a superior force…To fight the enemy bravely with a prospect of victory is nothing; but to fight with intrepidty under the constant impression of a defeat, and inspire irregular troops to do it, is a talent peculiar to yourself.

 

Published in: on August 17, 2019 at 10:08 am  Comments Off on The Swamp Fox  
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Charles Van Doren Dies

Charles Van Doren of quiz show infamy has passed away at age 93.  It now seems almost quaint, but most Americans were genuinely shocked back in the Fifties to learn that many of the quiz shows they were watching on television were fixed, and that Charles Van Doren, scion of a family of intellectuals, who had achieved fame and fortune by his appearances on the show Twenty-One, had gone along with the cheating which had allowed him to win.  Van Doren initially vigorously denied cheating, but sang a different song when the evidence became overwhelming.  When he appeared before a Congressional committee he was contrite:

I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception. The fact that I, too, was very much deceived cannot keep me from being the principal victim of that deception, because I was its principal symbol. There may be a kind of justice in that. I don’t know. I do know, and I can say it proudly to this committee, that since Friday, October 16, when I finally came to a full understanding of what I had done and of what I must do, I have taken a number of steps toward trying to make up for it. I have a long way to go. I have deceived my friends, and I had millions of them. Whatever their feeling for me now, my affection for them is stronger today than ever before. I am making this statement because of them. I hope my being here will serve them well and lastingly.

I asked (co-producer Albert Freedman) to let me go on (Twenty-One) honestly, without receiving help. He said that was impossible. He told me that I would not have a chance to defeat Stempel because he was too knowledgeable. He also told me that the show was merely entertainment and that giving help to quiz contests was a common practice and merely a part of show business. This of course was not true, but perhaps I wanted to believe him. He also stressed the fact that by appearing on a nationally televised program I would be doing a great service to the intellectual life, to teachers and to education in general, by increasing public respect for the work of the mind through my performances. In fact, I think I have done a disservice to all of them. I deeply regret this, since I believe nothing is of more vital importance to our civilization than education.

Van Doren received accolades from some for finally coming clean.  However, Congressman Steven Derounian (R.NY) was having none of it:

“Mr. Van Doren, I am happy that you made the statement, but I cannot agree with most of my colleagues who commended you for telling the truth, because I don’t think an adult of your intelligence ought to be commended for telling the truth.”

Being fast on one’s feet intellectually, and the glibness that usually accompanies that ability, tend to be vastly overrated in our society.  Simple honesty, that base foundation for all the virtues, vastly underrated.

Published in: on April 16, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Charles Van Doren Dies  
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Salvador Dali on What’s My Line

From January 27, 1957.  A truly surreal episode from the Golden Age of Television.  Painter Salvador Dali on What’s My Line.  Immensely funny, and a tribute to how a popular game show in the Fifties expected the audience to know who a famous painter was.  I can’t imagine any television show today being able to make such an assumption.

Published in: on January 2, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Salvador Dali on What’s My Line  
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Captain Z-RO and Christopher Columbus

 

The things you find on the internet!  From 1955 the first episode of the Captain Z-RO show featuring the time traveling explorer going back to 1492 and the discovery of the New World by Columbus.  Obvious low production values, but it holds up well compared to the appalling drek that mostly makes up TV fare today.

Published in: on October 11, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Captain Z-RO and Christopher Columbus  
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