Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I remember being somewhat shocked to see this PSA on early morning television in the mid-seventies! I realized it was new but...ran for years and it took me a few of them to realize that Adam West wasn't under that cowl. It was Dick Gautier!
Monday, September 26, 2011
AMOS BURKE, SECRET AGENT
Amos Burke (played by Gene Barry) was a Los Angeles chief of detectives who was also a millionaire with a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce, a mansion, and a high-wheeling lifestyle. After the first two years of Burke's Law, the series underwent a change including the name of the program. This seven-disc box set contains all 17 hour-long episodes of the third and final season, now referred to as AMOS BURKE, SECRET AGENT. $35.00
CIRCUS BOY: THE COMPLETE SERIES
This ten-disc box set contains all 49 TV episodes of the classic fifties TV series. Join Corky and the rest of the gang in the weekly circus adventures including man-eating lions, knife-throwing killers, the clown that made counterfeit money and much more. It’s Corky to save the day! $50.00
This nine-disc box set contains more than 40 half-hour episodes from 1953 to 1955. Sophisticated but stuffy Cosmo Topper (Leo G. Carroll) is the vice president of a bank, married to a sweet (but rather clueless) Henrietta (Lee Patrick). They live in a Los Angeles house and Topper is able to see two ghosts (Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys), who died after being swept away by an avalanche. He is the only person who can see them, and the comic hijinks keep on coming! $45.00
THE TRAVELS OF JAMIE McPHEETERS
All 26 episodes on this six disc box set, starring a very young Kurt Russell and co-starring Charles Bronson and (yes) The Osmonds. This short-lived Tv series was about a wagon train headed to California to find gold and all the problems they ran into along the way. The guest stars will surprise you -- even a young Robert Redford makes an appearance. $30.00
TATE: THE COMPLETE SERIES
This short-run television series was telecast from June to September 1960. David McClean plays the role of Tate, a one-armed gunfighter who roamed the west, trying to avoid trouble. The guest list is impressive. Robert Redford, Martin Landau, Julie Adams, James Coburn, Leonard Nimoy and more! All 13 television episodes on this three-disc set. $20.00
Remember--we get a percentage of all orders made through this link. Thanks!
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Still sick but if I weren't and I was financially in a better position, I'd be off to this today! If you aren't sick and you are in abetter financial position then what are YOU waiting for? Go! Have fun and report back in the comments! Click the ad at the bottom of the page for more details!
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
I'll be honest with you, we rarely get out of the house anymore and we haven't been to a comic book convention since the 2009 Mid-Ohio Con. A while back when we had some money, though, I picked us up three tickets to the 2nd Annual Cincinnati Comic Expo. So in spite of various aches and pains--and the fact that the always amazingly crowded Cincinnati Oktoberfest was only a couple of blocks away, we headed out. We found a parking place about four blocks north of the Convention Center that would prevent our having to deal with the street festival (and its closed off streets) in any way.As you can see by this shot taken before we left, I was wearing my new Booksteve shirt (with my GEEK'S JOURNAL 1976 pic on the back!). The minute we walked into the show, Archie writer Craig Boldman yelled out "Booksteve!" and Rene said the shirt had paid for itself then and there. Had a nice talk with Craig about the ARCHIE volume I worked on.
We wandered around some more and then went to see the Steranko panel which son Bookdave said was the highlight for him...and not just because David Spurlock remembered his name from earlier and name-checked him from the dais. That's fellow blogger and Facebook pal Matt Tauber in the front row in the only pic I snapped at the show. I didn't recognize him 'til after the fact and missed meeting him and a couple of other FB friends who were there.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Premiering on CBS in 1957, LEAVE IT TO BEAVER didn’t really seem like anything special at the time. It was created by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher who had previously written for the long-popular AMOS ‘N’ ANDY show on radio and TV and would later go on to create THE MUNSTERS. At the time that BEAVER arrived, it seemed to be just another sitcom about a family. The difference was that this one, unlike say FATHER KNOWS BEST or MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY, was told mostly from the perspective of the kids, the two brothers. As fifties comedy series go, it was also a little more realistic and even serious in its own way.
Never the huge ratings earner one might think, it was only over time and endless reruns that LEAVE IT TO BEAVER came to represent the iconic, idealized fifties suburban American family. Character actor Hugh Beaumont was perfectly cast as the stern but understanding father and Barbara Billingsley equally so as the concerned, loving mother. Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver was young Jerry Mathers (who had already worked with Hitchcock) and Tony Dow was the older son, Wally Cleaver. The series came to an end in 1963 after six seasons of gently funny episodes that have become familiar to whole new generations ever since.
As I was born in 1959, LEAVE IT TO BEAVER was probably my very first favorite sitcom and I recall watching it literally all my life. Even after it finished its original primetime run, it was on TV in the afternoons for years and then later in syndication. Today’s fans, of course, are still discovering BEAVER via DVD.
Recently, thanks to Martin Grams and in anticipation of his appearance at next weekend’s MID-ATLANTIC NOSTALGIA CONVENTION, I had the opportunity to speak via email with Tony Dow who played Beaver’s older but not always wiser brother, Wally.
Tony’s mother had actually been in show business many years prior to her son’s success. “My mom was one of the first stunt women in Hollywood and the ‘It’ girl, Clara Bow’s, double. She didn’t plan on a career in movies. When she was 17 or 18 years old she got a job at Mack Sennett’s studio as a ‘Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty’ which lead to minor parts in ‘Keystone Cops’ movies and stunts, etc. She met my dad when she was in her early twenties and gave up her career, if you could call it that.”
While one might think that his mother's involvement in the business had spurred his own interests in show biz, that was not really the case. In fact, Tony had been involved in swimming and diving and was associated with the Junior Olympics. “My mom,” he says, “was in her forties when I came along and long over her quick venture into the movie business.
I suppose like any mother, when the opportunity came along she was happy and proud at the chance for her son to work on TV.”
“It changed the dynamic of our family,” he continued. “She had to accompany me to the studio every day and put in what amounted to a ten or eleven hour day. It was probably tough on my dad also to have a son making money and taking his wife away. I was never aware of any issues. I had a great childhood and spent many good times with both mom and dad.”
Tony got the roll of Wally after a casting call to replace the actor who had been in the original pilot (which has recently been seen on TV Land). “The pilot for the show was made in 1956 and sold to CBS on the contingency the father and son would be re-cast. The producers had already seen 5000 or so kids and when Harry Ackerman, who signed on to be the executive producer of the show, suggested me, they called me in. He was the executive producer on another pilot I had
just completed that did not sell. I sort of rode in on the tail end of the process. Jerry and Barbara had done the pilot and were signed on. I believe Hugh was already cast and I was the last piece of the puzzle.”
I asked Tony why he decided to pursue acting rather than his diving. “It wasn’t exactly a decision to pursue one over the other,” he replied. “I continued diving for a couple of years after the show started but I had no idea the show would be as successful as it was or how time consuming it would be.” Looking back on it now with hindsight he adds that if he hadn’t won the role on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, “I don’t think I would have gotten into the entertainment business. I was a swimmer and diver and probably would have continued on with that and knowing what I do now, I might have gone into designing or architecture or ??? Maybe coaching a sport, who knows?”
But he did get the role and as he grew into a teenager, Tony Dow found himself appearing on the covers of teen magazines and eventually Corn Flakes boxes! I asked him if he even liked Corn Flakes. “ Sure... didn’t every kid? (The) teen magazines were OK although most of the articles were pretty dumb. The cereal box was a bit embarrassing.”
After one season on CBS, the series moved to ABC.
Jerry Mathers stated in his autobiography that the move was because the sponsor was offered a better situation for the show. Tony says, “Don’t know. I was twelve or thirteen and not privy to that type of information. Because back then the shows were funded by a sponsor, in our case Remington typewriters, Ralston Purina dog food, and others, maybe they got a better deal and a better time slot at ABC.”
By the time LEAVE IT TO BEAVER ended its original nighttime run, Tony Dow was graduating high school in real life. He moved on to guest roles on other series but I asked him if he kept in touch with any of the BEAVER co-stars. “Barbara and my wife, Lauren, and I have always stayed in touch. As a matter of fact, she and I did a theater show in K.C. where she played my mom in COME BLOW YOUR HORN. Jerry and I had been touring the country doing dinner theater for a couple of years. A number of years before that, Hugh was directing a play out here where the male lead quit and he called me to fill in.”
Not long after the series ended, Tony appeared in several episodes of MR NOVAK, an early example of the kind of “relevant” TV that we saw so much of in the 1970’s. The title character was a high school teacher. On one memorable episode, students engaged in a mock UN conference as a class exercise only to have it become as controversial as the real life Cold War. “I did three episodes of MR NOVAK and I believe that was the one in which Johnny Crawford and I debated some international conflict. I always enjoyed working on the show with Jim Franciscus.” Tony played the US representative and THE RIFLEMAN’s Johnny Crawford was the Soviet ambassador. Tony went into the National Guard soon afterwards. “I was already hit with being stereotyped but always planned to continue acting, hoping to direct and/or produce sometime in the future. I continued my education in those areas.”
One of the funniest films of the seventies was KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and Tony’s cameo made me yell, “Hey, that’s really Wally!” in the crowded theater. Assuming they tried to get Jerry, too, I asked him what happened? “Jerry was supposed to also be in the movie but his wife at the time didn’t think he should do an X rated film. The first I heard about was when I showed up for work and John Landis told me one of the writer/producers was going to fill in. I think it was Jerry Zucker who did a great ‘Beaver.’” The same producers went on to do AIRPLANE so I guess it’s safe to assume that, with Barbara Billingsley so famously in that, they were LEAVE IT TO BEAVER fans. “I guess so. Quite a number of successful comedy writers were brought up watching the show.”
One of his most enjoyable later performances was in a fun 1983 TV movie entitled HIGH SCHOOL, USA. The movie starred Michael J. Fox but featured many nostalgic former teen stars, mostly as faculty members. Dwayne Hickman, Angela Cartwright, David Nelson, Bob Denver and Barry Livingston were just a few. LEAVE IT TO BEAVER veterans Tony Dow, Frank (Lumpy Rutherford) Bank and Ken (Eddie Haskell) Osmond all appeared. I questioned how many of these folks Tony had actually known prior to this picture. “Actually, kid actors from the fifties and sixties are sort of a fraternity and we all do know each other. I can’t recall who all was in that show but I do remember having a great experience acting with Michael J. Fox whom I had met for the first time.”
As Tony mentioned earlier, he had long wanted to get into directing. I thought I had read where he started out doing commercials. “No. Although subsequently I have done a number of commercials, promos and PSA’s. Nothing anybody would remember. I studied directing and read many books on the subject. When we started THE NEW LEAVE IT TO BEAVER I was scheduled to do another HIGH SCHOOL USA and during the negotiations I was set to direct shows in the second season. That didn’t happen because Jerry also wanted to direct. Finally, I wrote a show, DRIVER’S ED, that I got to direct. I did seven or eight more episodes and when the show was over I was able to start directing on shows that were produced by people I knew."
Even as he was getting to do what he had long wanted to do, Tony Dow had been dealing with clinical depression for quite awhile before it was even diagnosed as such. “That’s the problem with depression,” he points out. “It was and is still vilified as a weakness. Eventually it became too painful to deal with on my own so I saw a Doc who gave me some insight into the illness. Back then the side effects of the medications were very unpleasant. Today’s choices are vastly improved and are saving many peoples lives.” Tony chose to become an advocate for others dealing with depression and manic depression.
“I saw and understood the issue which was still being swept under the rug. I did a couple of videos explaining my experiences and educating people about the illness and the simple solutions available. I was also able to address a Senate sub-committee on mental illness for the Institute of Mental Health... quite an experience.”
By the 1980’s, LEAVE IT TO BEAVER had been raised to its status as a classic of early television. In keeping with the trend, there was a reunion movie featuring most of the original cast. In this case, the film led to a long-running revival series called STILL THE BEAVER as well, beginning in 1983 and running for 102 episodes. I inquired if it was like going home again or if things had changed so much by then that it was all new. “Both. We had spent so many years together and more recently sharing theater experiences that everyone just fell right back into it. On the other hand, television twenty years later required different programming. Attention spans shortened and the need for more edgy material increased. Jokes, jokes and more jokes, usually unfunny, became the name of the game.”
Although happy to revisit Wally, Mr. Dow continued expanding his horizons by getting involved in doing special visual effects. As unlikely as it sounds at first, Tony Dow was in charge of those for the 1996 DOCTOR WHO TV movie featuring the sole on-screen appearance of the eighth Doctor. “The producer had a friend who was just setting up a new visual effects house and said he could do the show for $250,000. I was the effects producer and doubted he could pull it off and told the producers of my concern. We started shooting in Vancouver without an effects supervisor and the producer’s friend shortly thereafter dropped out. I had been retained in L.A. because the shots were going to be executed here. In a panic they called me up to Vancouver to revise the effects budget. I told them that as written we would need to spend $500,000+ for 150 or so shots. They only wanted to spend $250,000 so I gave them the option of doing 50 shots the standard way with producer approval at every stage or do 85 shots without any supervision other than me. They chose to do the 85 shots.”
With DOCTOR WHO, and later doing SPFX and directing BABYLON 5, gaining him even more geek cred, one might presume Tony Dow to be a sci-fi fan but that’s not the case. “Nope... very little sci-fi experience until I wrote, uncredited, and produced, it’s not my fault, movie ‘remake’ of the 50’s classic IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE for the Sci-Fi Channel. Being involved in the visual effects made me, at the time, one of the few TV directors not bamboozled by the effects companies.
More recently, Tony’s passion has been his sculpting as seen in the video here.
“I’ve been painting and sculpting since my late teens. I had always planned to pursue sculpting seriously after I retired. I had a friend who was a successful sculptor who encouraged me to have my pieces cast in bronze, which I do frequently now.”
Next weekend’s MID-ATLANTIC NOSTALGIA CONVENTION will only be the third show of its type that Tony Dow has attended as a guest but he looks forward to meeting LEAVE IT TO BEAVER fans so if you’re in the area, come on out. “I feel very proud and lucky to have been involved with such a wonderful show that affected so many lives.”
Martin Grams’ 6th Annual MID-ATLANTIC NOSTALGIA CONVENTION begins on Thursday, September 22nd and, along with Tony Dow, will also feature Patty Duke, Karen Valentine, Davy Jones, Michael Constantine and more. Click here for all the details.
Special thanks to Tony Dow, Lauren Dow and Martin Grams. I think I’m going to go watch a LEAVE IT TO BEAVER episode now.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Today is the late Anne Francis’s birthday! What better day then for me to post my review of author Laura Wagner’s new book, ANNE FRANCIS?
The usual disclaimer: the author is one of my Facebook friends but I had nothing whatsoever to do with this book and, my loss I’m sure, we don’t even know each other that well.
I have been a fan of Ms. Francis since the days of HONEY WEST or, in my case, the Saturday afternoon reruns of HONEY WEST that popped up frequently on local TV stations in the late sixties and early seventies. Thus it was that I was already quite familiar with the actress when she started turning up with some frequency in TV movies and episodic television when I was a teenager. What I didn’t know about Anne Francis, however, could fill a book: this one, for example.
Early on, Ms. Wagner laments that all the average person seems to think of when they think of the late actress is her somewhat iconic role in the classic 1956 sci-fi movie FORBIDDEN PLANET. I was surprised to read that but recent renewed interest in HONEY WEST due to TV showings, DVD’s and a new comic book series have surely added that character back to Anne’s memory.
Still…there was much more. Did you know, for instance, that Anne Francis started out as a child star? I didn’t. Do you remember her when you think of such classics as BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK or THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE? I don’t. In fact, Anne’s career, which wisely takes precedence in the telling here, is in itself the story of a smart, beautiful, versatile and
impressive actress that Hollywood just never seemed to figure out how to properly handle.
Tiny roles in big films like FUNNY GIRL, bigger roles in films comparatively no one saw. That was her career for years, with her most satisfying work being on television. It’s interesting to note that the one time they got it right--with Anne as the iconic, independent, liberated, quirky and charismatic HONEY WEST--they canceled the role after but a single season, allegedly because they could import Mrs. Peel for less money. Sigh.
But Anne was rarely idle and became a constant TV presence in network series like BANACEK, WONDER WOMAN (the episode with Christa Helm), FANTASY ISLAND and HAWAII 5-0, all the way up to NASH BRIDGES, CONAN, HOME IMPROVEMENT and WITHOUT A TRACE.
The actress’s personal life is presented throughout the book in a matter-of-fact way without rumors or gossip. Unlike some stars, Anne didn’t define herself through her acting but through her family. There really just weren’t any scandals. She seems to have had a fairly normal life. But then, in the main, ANNE FRANCIS goes on to do just the opposite, in fact helping the reader to define this fascinating actress by her career.
A large portion of the book deals with her film and TV appearances, each listing giving just enough info to make it interesting and enough behind-the-scenes glimpses to satisfy those who like that sort of thing…and I do.
A wealth of marvelous stills and photos fill out Laura Wagner’s ANNE FRANCIS, in the end a most enjoyable read about a lovely woman I now feel I know a little better than I did before.