CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Petticoat Junction” Origins

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

One of the most impressive facts about the long-running comedy series The Beverly Hillbillies (which you can also see on RCN TV) in 1960s television was the success of its spin-offs. 

None did better than its original off-spring, “Petticoat Junction.”

The show was somewhat revolutionary for its time in that it featured a single, widowed mother raising three kids on her own.

Veteran radio and television character actress Bea Benaderet, after three decades of small roles and guest-starring on some of the most classic programs of all time, finally got her first chance at a leading role. (She actually played the role that would later become Ethel Mertz on the TV version of the program.  After handling the role of Lucille Ball’s neighbor/side-kick on radio, I Love Lucy Executive Producer Jess Oppenheimer spotted Vivian Vance in a play and chose her to play Ethel on television over Benaderet.)

Benaderet’s character on “”Junction,” Kate Bradley, operated a palatial but not overly ostentatious, Victorian-style hotel called the “Shady Rest.”

She was the anchor of a creative collection of zany characters that made up the fictional town, Hooterville, the show’s main setting.

Similar to its mother-ship, also created by Paul Henning, Petticoat Junction rarely crossed the line into controversial topics. 

Instead, plot lines relied on feel good situations and familiar family issues with Benaderet often solving the problems of her daughters and their neighbors.  

One of the highlights of the cast was their live-in (and often lazy) Uncle Joe.  Despite the title song’s indication that he’s “movin’ rather slow,” Edgar Buchanan became one of the most popular sit-com figures of the early/mid-1960s television landscape.

Another popular pairing of characters were the train conductors, Floyd Smoot and Charlie Pratt, played by Rufe Davis and Smiley Burnette.

In addition to being the local gossipers, which often ignited several plot lines, they operated Hooterville’s train, “The Cannonball.” The 1890s steam-driven train linked together all the town’s inhabitants and businesses in the extreme rural setting, along with the residence of their nearest link to the rest of civilization – a small town called Pixley.

Burnette wasn’t the only actor smiling after the first several seasons of the program.  The comedy show with it’s quirky characters and simplistic way of life connected with its audience.  Teamed with the already successful Jack Benny Program on Tuesday nights, Petticoat Junction became one of the most successful comedies on television for the first several years of its run.

However, the cast and crew were in for more twists and turns than anyone ever found on the Cannonball’s train tracks over the next few years.  Tragically, the end of the 1960s not only started a decline in popularity for the “Junction” but some of the show’s most beloved characters met a dubious fate.

We’ll have more on the rise and fall of Petticoat Junction next week here at the Showplace.

In the meantime, check out these popular episodes on Wednesday mornings at 11:30 on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Road To Bali”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Last week here at the “Showplace” we talked about the history and running elements of the famous Road To… movie series featuring Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope.

As promised this week, we’ll take a look at the Road To Bali (airing on RCN-TV) which was memorable for many reasons.

For beginners, it was the first of the movie series to be shot in color.

While previous films fired zingers at, and/or made references to, prominent contemporary stars of the day, this was the first of the series to feature cameos from other actors.  Among the special appearances in this film include Humphrey Bogart, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Jane Russell and Bing’s brother, Bob Crosby, who was a prominent band leader and was featured in two of the nation’s most popular radio shows at the time of the film’s production and release.

Bali held a significant layoff between its release and its predecessor, Road To Rio, due to salary arguments and production issues. The film was initially shot in 1950 for a same year release but took nearly two years to make it to the silver screen.  The only other time there had been more than a one year span between movies was between Road To Morocco and Road To Utopia, which was delayed due to World War II issues and the fact that Crosby was also making two other movies (Going My Way and The Bells of St Mary’s) that both would earn him Academy Award nominations (winning the Oscar for the former film.)

Fans of the series would probably agree that the screenplay – normally not one of the strengths to this film series anyway – was even more ridiculous than any of the earlier films in the series, complete with a volcano god initiating a mass eruption, Jane Russell popping out of a tiny basket because of Hope’s flute playing and, for a few seconds, Crosby’s and Hope’s characters (George and Harold) being married to themselves, instead of either one of them “getting the girl” as normally happens in these films.

As discussed last week, there were the usual continuing gags in this film, including Hope breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience.  Contrary to its predecessors, however, the movie ends with Hope asking the audience a question and leading to an open-ended, somewhat unresolved finale.

The constant rewriting of scenes, with Hope and Crosby continuing to try to outdo each other, started to strain the relationship between the three leading stars.  Lamour, in particular, was growing tired of the often lengthy takes while the male leads would jockey for control of the punchlines, along with an erratic work schedule and lengthy delays caused by the two male stars’ desire to sneak away for a round of golf between scenes. The off-color jokes by Hope, usually directed at her, also caused animosity on the set, according to famed biographer Arthur Marx.  This friction also made for the last time that Lamour would be the leading lady in the Road To… movies.

While Bali still was well received and did moderately well at the box office, it marked the first time that one of the ‘Road To…” pictures did not outgross its predecessor.  It’s opening weekend – released on Christmas Day – debuted in the fourth position at the box office and held a decent run in theaters.  Hope was very critical of Paramount spending far less in advertising for this film – more than half of the amount that he had expected them to commit to the project.

This production also sparked a series of conflicts between Crosby, Hope, Lamour and Paramount Pictures…and this popular movie franchise, along with the relationships between all of its stars, would never quite be the same again.

But that’s a story for another movie … and for a future “Showplace” blog entry.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Road to…” History

The views expressed in this blog arethose of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Coming up next week on RCN TV, we will present one of the famous “Road to…” movies that were extremely popular in the 1940s and early 1950s.

But to better enjoy these humorous films set in picturesque locales, it’s important to understand the history and continuing characteristics of these films, along with their enduring legacies.

In the late 1930s it was hard to find two more popular international entertainers than Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.  Both had popular radio shows, had starred in their own films multiple times and were raking in major cash with live performances and topping the nation’s record sales (Crosby had a decade of top singles and Hope had just released the song “Thanks for the Memory,” which won an Oscar for Best Original Song and would later become his personal theme song).

It would seem like a no-brainer today to pair these two legends, along with up-and-coming starlet Dorothy Lamour, for a series of films that would take them around the world and allow both Crosby a vehicle to sing and for Hope to tell jokes.

Unfortunately for Paramount Pictures it took several OTHER combinations of performers to reject the idea before the studio decided on Crosby and Hope.

The plot of these films–usually secondary to the vehicle they provided the leading stars–always involves Crosby and Hope in a hair-brained scheme or “get rich quick” idea which  goes awry and leads to grand adventures in exotic locations.

The films were packed with timely zingers and references to other prominent, contemporary actors, movies and even jokes at Paramount’s expense.

While there’s some debate as far as how much of the movies were scripted and what lines were improvised, it seems certain according to most Crosby and Hope biographies that a large amount of rewrites were done on each screenplay–even as they were filming the scenes themselves.

Other continuing occurrences with the films include Hope breaking the fourth wall and telling jokes directly to the audience.  Hope would usually have a nickname that would often contradict itself from film to film.  Crosby would be featured with a monologue on some aspect of everyday life combined with crooning at least one song that would become a hit single.  Lamour would be featured in dazzling wardrobes and single-handedly made the word “sarong” a household name in the Forties.  Lastly, a version of the “patty cake” game with slight alterations in each movie would help get the starring duo out of a tough jam.

The initial film, Road To Singapore, was a smashing success with critics and at the box office when released in early 1940.  The first five films would continually outgross its predecessor and were produced with very little conflict.  The outbreak of World War II hurt some intended filming locations and later films’ contract disputes between Crosby and Hope were the two notable exceptions.  Money issues in the early 1950s also caused a bit of a rift between the two stars–one that eventually worked itself out and saw the pair teaming up for several other projects.

In our next entry here at the “Showplace,” we will have more on the Road to Bali which you can see in the “RCN Movie Vault” next week on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

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CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Made For Each Other”

 For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation. 

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

 

 The film, Made For Each Other, was not the most successful film in 1939.

Competing with the likes of The Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind, and other classics, it was not a surprise when this film did not make a ton of money upon its release.

However, it is significant and deserves a viewing for many reasons.

Carole Lombard is probably one of the most underrated stars of the 20th century.

In her short life she was one of the top dramatic actresses in the first few years of “talkies” and, in the 1930s, was one of the most successful comedic actresses of the time period.

In 1939, the year Made For Each Other was produced, Lombard was the highest paid female actress and the entire industry.

Ironically, at the height of her comedic fame she decided that she would be taking more seriously as an actress if she returned to dramatic roles, as she did in this film.

It looked like this career decision would turn out to be the right one as critics lauded Lombard’s performance.  Sadly, it turned out to be her last great dramatic role.

Despite her death at the tender age of 33, Lombard had one of the most diverse and interesting careers in the “Golden Era” of Hollywood. The year 1939 was a pivotal time for Carol — both as an actress as well as for herself personally and for the nation.  We’ll be focusing more on her great work as an actress and as a humanitarian in a future blog entry here at the “Showplace.”

Stewart, meanwhile, was just beginning to mark his legacy and, in this film, was still developing his famous on-screen persona that would make him the third most popular male movie star of all time.

One of Stewart’s biggest traits was his slow, drawn-out delivery – almost as if he is truly reflecting on his lines before he says them. Alfred Hitchcock used this skill to perfection in his thriller films starring Stewart as the actor’s deliberate stutter often caused tension and anxiety at key moments.  Stewart’s “stammering” is something that is barely noticeable in his earliest works.

In Scott Eyman’s “Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart,” Jimmy points out that in his early film roles he was all “hands and feet.”

Knowing these facts, it’s very interesting to see his on-screen performance in “Made” and to watch these traits as the actor says his lines and maneuvers his way around the set.

Stewart had just starred in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You and would also be performing in the classics Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Destiny Rides Again later this same year.

It’s fascinating to go back and watch both of these iconic actors’ performances in this film, knowing what was to come down the road for both of them.

You can see Made For Each Other starring Carol Lombard and Jimmy Stewart this Monday at 2:30 p.m. on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website. 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Algiers”

 For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation. 

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

The 1938 film, Algiers, has the double distinction of not only being a successful movie upon its release but also in spawning several other projects and catchphrases that have survived to this day.

The film grossed over $150,000, which was not only a high mark for the time period, but also more than doubled its net gain after total production costs.

Charles Boyer played the lead, Pepe Le Moko, which was also the title name of the original novel and a French-produced film that was made prior to Algiers.

According to TCM.com, Boyer was not fond of this movie for two big reasons.

First of all, both producer Walter Wanger and director John Cromwell made a conscious decision in trying to mirror the French film to their English-speaking version, complete with using the same music score and set designs.

Furthermore, they insisted that Boyer copy the style of Jean Gabin, the original actor who portrayed the lead in the initial French version, and refused to let Boyer stray far from the original intention for his character.

Boyer was critical of the lack of creativity during the production process but grew to hate this role even more as he became known for the line that would follow him for the rest of his career: “Come with me to zee Casbah.”

As the popularity for that line grew, Boyer felt demeaned as an actor as the line was repetitively and increasingly lampooned in the years that followed.

According to several sources, Boyer’s ‘Pepe Le Moko’ character led to the creation of the popular Looney Tunes’ star, Pepe Le Pew, modeled after Charles’ delivery.  Looney Tunes specifically parodied Algiers in an episode entitled, “The Cat’s Bah,” 15 years after the film’s release.

Ironically, much like “Play it again, Sam,” that is still linked with Humphrey Bogart to this day, Boyer didn’t actually say the “Casbah” line himself.

The movie also marked the first major role for Hedy Lamarr, who embarked on a 28-year movie career, starring in 30 films.

According to “Film History: An International Journal” by David Pierce, the screenwriters of Casablanca cited Algiers as the inspiration for their film with the original intention of starring Lamarr in the now legendary role of Ilsa Lund. In 1942 Lamarr was contracted to MGM, who would not release her from her contract, so Ingrid Bergman ended up getting the female lead and Casablanca went on to make cinematic history.

Do you think Hedy Lamarr could have done a better job than Bergman as Ilsa Lund?  Do you think Boyer’s performance really sparked the inspiration for Pepe Le Pew?  You can speculate for yourself after watching Algiers this Monday, September 7, at 2:30 p.m. on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website. 

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: The Fabulous Dorseys

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.  Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

One of the great things about the internet is that young people can rediscover things from previous eras and stumble across genres they might never get to experience otherwise.  Glenn Miller, Henry James, Count Basie and other stars of old standards from the big band era are now readily available to audiences on XM/Sirius Radio’s Junction; and other outlets as more and more young people are finding these golden classics for the first time.

Heck, there was even a report of a local football team using a polka song as its theme music last fall.

But no look into the music of the 1930s and & 40s would be complete without a serious discussion about Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. Their accomplishments, creations and personal feud are all prominently featured in the 1946 film, “The Fabulous Dorseys.”  Part documentary, part fiction and a surprising number of well-performed comedic lines make up this very entertaining film about two of the swing time era’s greatest legends.

The film spans the time from the boys’s upbringing in a small Pennsylvania town to their dominance around the world with their various musical masterpieces.

Jimmy Dorsey, primarily known for his work on the clarinet, was one of the major songwriters and big band leaders in the 1920s through the ‘40s. Probably his best remembered songs were “Pennies from Heaven” with fellow legends Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong and performing the original 1930 recording of “Georgia on My Mind”; Trombonist Tommy, known as the “Sentimental Gentleman of Swing”, is best remembered for tunes like “Song of India”, “Opus One”, “The Sunnyside of the Street”; and “I’ll Never Smile Again.”

And this film had no shortage of successful musical performances, complete with some of the best old standards like “Getting Sentimental Over You,” and the aforementioned “I’ll Never Smile Again”.  The film also had smaller roles and cameos from other stars from the Big Band Era, including Paul Whitman, Bob Eberly, Helen O’Connell and famed pianist Art Tatum.

Sadly, nearly all of these former music greats have long since been forgotten. But through this film, their names live on.  Tragically, both brothers died before their 57th birthdays within 10 years of the release of this movie.

The film was directed by Alfred E. Green (The Jackie Robinson Story  & The Jolson Story) who successfully directed many performers-turned-actors playing themselves in films and, by this time, was well-known for bringing out an entertainer’s personality traits while not overplaying the star’s acting abilities and keeping their comedic lines within the context of the film.

You don’t have to be fans of old standards to enjoy this well-produced partial biopic that makes for a very entertaining story even without any previous knowledge of the Dorseys’ great history.

Tune in and dance along to this great look at the Big Band Era. “The Fabulous Dorseys” next airs on Tuesday, September 1 st , at 9 a.m. on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Dragnet”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

One of the great treasures of the Golden Era of Television was its theme songs. In the 1950s, four or five notes were all you needed to hear to know exactly what was coming on.  While many themes may still ring a bell today, very few are as recognizable nearly 70 years after it debuted, than the opening for “Dragnet.”

It was the brainchild of Jack Webb, who was extremely underrated for his creativity for the show when television was still in its infancy.

Webb originated the rapid-fire paces, with terse dialogue exchanges, ultra-fast cuts and extreme close-ups to enhance actors’ reactions and emotions.

Webb was also the featured star for its entire run through the 1950s and 60s, playing the role of Joe Friday. He was also responsible for later spinning off several other shows that had successful runs of their own, including “Adam-12” and “Emergency.”

After its opening introduction revealing the backstory, each episode begins with Friday and his partner investigating crimes, almost in a documentary-style approach and usually resulting in the uncovering of the criminals. A quick epilogue gives the results of what happened to the perpetrators and sometimes the victims after the crime was solved. Nearly every show was based on real life cases but, as the narrator includes in every show, “the names were changed to protect the innocent.”

The show’s introduction and catch phrases used throughout the program connected instantly with viewers, and was often copied – both to reconstruct serious police dramas for other shows as well as for parodies (one of the most famous was done on the “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” featuring Webb himself.)

“Dragnet” also has its place in television history as it is one of a very small handful of shows to be cancelled by NBC, only to be brought back seven years later by the very same network.  Aside from being broadcast in color, the initial show’s return was similar to the ‘50s style in terms of its criminal case load.

However, with the changing landscape of the late sixties, the show quickly evolved into new storylines, many embracing the current culture, with more colorful characters (Joe Friday interrogating hippies was always a hoot) and attempted to tackle topical issues of the times.  The newer edition of the show also softened some of the original’s techniques but still featured faster-paced dialogue exchanges and occasionally closer than normal close-ups.

Over the years, Sargent Friday had several sidekicks accompanying him on his 30-minute per week police adventures, but one of the most popular was Harry Morgan, who later became Colonel Potter on another legendary TV hit, M*A*S*H.

There’s many more fascinating details about this radio and television staple of the 1950s and ‘60s – which we will uncover in future blog entries.  In the meantime, you can see “Dragnet” for yourself every Wednesday at 2 p.m. on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website. 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Jackie Robinson Story”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
 

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

For as great a baseball player and tremendous all-around athlete as he was, Jackie Robinson more than held his own on the silver screen portraying himself in the classic film, “The Jackie Robinson Story

Robinson became the first African-American to break the color barrier by playing professional baseball as a second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

The movie, filmed and released during the peak of his baseball career in 1950, outlined his life and focused on his struggles against racial prejudices and social injustices he faced to first play…and then excel…as a major league baseball player.

The racism Robinson endured started well before his professional playing days.  After graduating from college he was denied an opportunity to be a baseball coach, before he was even offered his first pro baseball contract. The film also connects with his education, home life and his tour of duty fighting for the United States Army in World War II.

Some of the best moments of this film are the inspirational messages he receives throughout his life, from various sources and from people of different races and economic levels.  One of the best speeches comes from Robinson himself when he delivers a message to the House of Representatives reflecting on his struggles for equality.  He also humbly addresses the inequalities of baseball, eloquently telling of its incredible prejudices and of the malicious acts he had to endure – even initially from within his own clubhouse.

The courage and class that Jackie shows throughout all these ordeals made the emotional impact of the scenes even more real and palatable for viewers to get a sense of what he went through.  The impact of these scenes hits home even more when you realize that it was Robinson himself reliving (and acting through) these real life events.

In 2006, the film was recognized by the American Film Institute’s top 100 films in the “100 Cheers” category.

“The Jackie Robinson Story” also features equally emotional and courageous scenes from Ruby Dee, playing the role of Jackie’s wife, Rae, along with stellar performances by Louise Beavers (portraying Jackie’s mother) and veteran character actor Minor Watson, who signed Robinson to his professional baseball contract.

Alfred E. Green, who was no stranger to great biopic films, also did a credible job mixing in realistic baseball scenes while also framing and highlighting the key personal moments and private conversations in the movie that were so integral in the retelling of Jackie’s journey.

Years later, the movie “42” took a more modern view of Robinson’s tremendous accomplishments and epic struggles.  Although that, too, is a great film, both baseball supporters and non-athletic fans alike really must see the original version of Robinson’s life story, featuring the man who transcended sports in multiple ways, complete with his brilliant acting performance in his own film. 

You can see “The Jackie Robinson Story” this Thursday, August 13, at 9 am on RCN-TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Classic Concert in the Park by Catherine Neelon

Enjoy this guest blog from Catherine Neelon of the RCN TV production team. Chris Michael will be back next week. 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

September 17, 1908. West Park. Allentown, PA.

It must have been a glorious late-summer evening.

Though the park’s founder, General Harry C. Trexler, avoided the limelight and did not attend this opening night, plenty of eager music-loving residents from all across the city crowded around the newly minted bandshell to see the Allentown Band in concert. In the weeks and years that followed, many of the other Allentown-area community bands would also come to West Park to perform for the public in the warm summer air.

♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫            ♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫            ♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫

For several years, starting in the mid-to-late 1990s, RCN (and earlier incarnations of its TV studio) worked with the City of Allentown and the members of American Federation of Musicians Local 45 to share many of these summertime concerts with its subscribers – many of whom might not otherwise get to experience them. In this way, the program “Concert in the Park” was born.

I remember working as part of the TV crew on our “Concert in the Park” days – arriving hours ahead of time to set up cameras and lights and microphones and cables under the leafy canopy provided by West Park’s many majestic trees. I can’t recall a time that we weren’t the first ones to arrive for the concert – but, guaranteed, as the shadows grew and the park lights started to glow, the people would start to trickle in. Some took advantage of the wooden benches right up front, while others brought their fold-up chairs and settled further back from the stage. Though the faces would change, and the crowd size might vary from night to night, there was always great music and it always had a grateful audience.

♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫            ♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫            ♪♫   ♪♫   ♪♫

Then came 2020 and the threat of COVID-19.

All of the anticipation, all of the preparation was no proof against the pandemic, and Allentown’s summer concert season at West Park had to be cancelled.

However, the members of AFM Local 45, who make up the rosters of the local community bands, still wanted to share their music with the Lehigh Valley – and to remind us all that their bands are still here and will play again once this crisis has passed. To this end, representatives contacted RCN-TV to see if we would be interested in re-televising some of our “Concert in the Park” programs from the past.

And in this way, “Classic Concert in the Park” was born. Starting in the beginning of August, over the course of several weeks, RCN-TV will be spotlighting a specially selected performance by each of six community bands.

  • Tuesday, August 4 (repeat Sat., Aug. 8) – Pioneer Band of Allentown concert from July 3, 2007, with former conductor Jay Durner.
  • Tuesday, August 11 (repeat Sat., Aug. 15) – Macungie Band concert from August 7, 2010, with conductor Mike Moran. (This concert was actually held at Macungie Memorial Park for Das Awkscht Fescht.)
  • Tuesday, August 18 (repeat Sat., Aug. 22) – Marine Band of Allentown concert from June 9, 2004 with the late Ray Becker as conductor.
  • Tuesday, September 8 (repeat Wed., Sept. 9) – Royalaires concert from July 19, 2003 with the late Richard Hinkle (my HS band director!) conducting.
  • And just shy of West Park’s 112th anniversary, on Tuesday, September 15 (repeat Wed., 16) – Allentown Band concert from July 2, 2010 with long-time conductor Ron Demkee.

All concert airings begin 7:00pm on RCN-TV. Enjoy and stay safe!

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Robert Livingston & The Three Mesquiteers”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Robert Livingston (born Robert Edward Randall) may not be a household name today when you think of classic motion pictures but he carved out a star-studded career for himself in some of cinemas’ most iconic roles and popular film series in the 1930s and 1940s.

Billed in these films as Bob Livingston, he was one of the original members of “The Three Mesquiteers” and starred in a whopping 27 movies as “Stony Brook,” starting with the first movie in 1936.

The films would focus on a trio of friends/cowboys–true to each other a la Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers.” They would participate in various “western-themed” adventures–always triumphant in the end. Their name was a combination of the “musketeers” and mesquite, a popular plant found in the western part of the United States.

In 1938’s “Outlaws of Sonora,” the trio’s loyalty is put to the test as a villain, who looks similar to one of the heroes, goes on a crime wave and it’s up to the Mesquiteers to discover the truth, vindicate their friend and stop the bad guys.

In “Hit The Saddle” (which featured a very young Rita Hayworth, nine years before her turn as “Gilda”), the protagonists seek vengeance for the wrongful death of a young boy’s father but a love interest adds complexity to their battle for justice. 

Most of their movies followed similar plot lines, with the cowboys pitted against criminals and outlaws from the old west.  However, after the United States entered World War II, the Mesquiteers would also fight Nazis in a few of their adventures.

The films were very popular throughout the series’ run that lasted until 1943.  The Motion Picture Herald records that these films were consistently ranked in the top 10 westerns of each year, even after Livingston left the franchise.

Livingston’s last role as Stony Brook was in the 1941 movie “Saddlemates,” but he also starred as the titular character in other famous western characters like Don Diego / Zorro and “The Lone Ranger,” before, during and after his run with “The Three Mesquite” film series.

In all, the Quincy, Illinois native would appear in 136 total movies in a career that began as a silent film actor in 1921. Livingston would end up appearing in over half of the 51 “Mesquiteers” films.

His final acting role was in the 1975 comedy “Blazing Stewardesses” — a film that made references to and tried to build on the success of Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” that came out the year prior.  The original intent of the “Stewardesses” picture was to pay homage to the “B Film Westerns” that Livingston had made so popular in the 1930s and ’40s.

You can see a marathon of films (including all the ones listed in today’s blog) starring Livingston’s Stony Brooks character, starting with 1938’s “The Purple Vigilantes” on Monday, August 3rd starting at 9 a.m. on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.