CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Suspense

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.

“Be prepared for an episode that will keep you in…suspense!”

This was the opening line to one of the greatest radio dramas of all-time, along with one of the earliest successful shows on television.

The radio version of Suspense was a perennial ratings favorite for nearly 20 years. In fact, it was one of the very last original programs to survive well beyond radio’s “Golden Age” until it was finally cancelled in 1962.

The television version of the program launched in 1949 incorporating many similarly written episodes from radio, which “borrowed” ideas from literary greats Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens and others.

As the name suggests, the program would always present many twists and turns, building tension throughout each episode to a thrilling and dramatic climax. While not always straying into the bizarre world of a show like The Twilight Zone, each episode’s spine-tingling finales were surprisingly fresh throughout the show’s entire run.

Each show featured different guest stars, who always seemed to get caught up in a web of mystery and did a great job of quickly allowing its audience to identify with them to bring viewers into the potential dangers.

Adding to the excitement of these programs was that the shows were originally broadcast live–meaning no retakes and anything could happen!

Another reason to revisit this early TV classic? You’d be surprised how many future television “regulars” and cinematic stars made early career appearances on this television program. In fact, it’s hard to go more than one or two episodes without seeing a recognizable face. Among them include:

Cloris Leachman (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis, Young Frankenstein)
Lloyd Bridges (High Noon, Airplane, Hot Shots)
Bela Lugosi (Dracula, The Raven)
Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, How The Grinch Stole Christmas)
Conrad Janis (Mork and Mindy, The Buddy Holly Story, The Cable Guy)
Brian Keith (Family Affair, The Parent Trap)
Robert Emhardt (The Andy Griffith Show)
Royal Dano (Twin Peaks, Bonanza, Gunsmoke)
Richard H. Harris (Peyton Place, Valley of the Dolls)
Academy Award Winning Eileen Heckart (The First Wives Club, Lou Grant)

…and others.

For most seasons, the program was run under the watchful eyes of Richard Mulligan. Mulligan would later win an Emmy for directing The Moon and the Sixpence, in which Lawrence Olivier made his TV debut. Later, he would go on to direct film classics To Kill A Mockingbird, Fear Strikes Out and The Others as well as 1991’s The Man In The Moon, which launched the career of Reese Witherspoon.

Tune in for Suspense, every Wednesday at 12 noon and Fridays at 1 pm on RCN-TV. You may also want to DVR episodes and binge-watch your favorites leading up to RCN’s annual Halloween Marathon (check back to our website soon for more details on this great annual tradition!)

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

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.

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Desi Arnaz

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.

In celebration and appreciation of Hispanic Heritage Month, we here at the Showplace are honoring the tremendous achievements and accomplishments of trailblazing entertainers of Latin origin.
This week…Desi Arnaz.
To most people, he’s known as the straight man and real-life (as well as the fictional) first wife of I Love Lucy’s Lucille Ball.
However, Desi Arnaz is one of the most innovative television pioneers in the industry and created techniques that are still used to this day.
Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III was born in Santiago, Cuba in 1917 — the son of the town’s mayor and grandson of the popular Bacardi Rum Company.
Forced from his home due to civil unrest, Desi worked numerous jobs in Florida before forming his own band and getting a major boost from established Hispanic bandleader Xavier Cugat.
According to his autobiography entitled, “A Book,” Arnaz claims to have sparked the line-dancing craze in America, out of desperation when his late-arriving band proved to be less than capable to perform at a famous nightclub in Miami.
Arnaz’s popularity would grow as a bandleader around the country–performing in person and on the radio until he started getting roles in films. While occasionally landing a role in a major picture, most of his movies, by his own admission, were so poorly produced and then received, that he referred to them in his autobiography as “D films.”
However, it was on the set of the film, Too Many Girls, where he met, and subsequently married, Ball. He also began studying film techniques and, without any formal training, used his on the job learning when CBS pitched a television show idea to his wife.
Determined to spend more time with her husband, Ball insisted that Desi star and produce the show himself. While CBS and the show’s sponsor, Phillip Morris, balked at Arnaz playing Lucy’s on-screen husband (claiming now one would believe they were married), the couple toured across the country performing acts which proved that United States citizens would “buy in” to the comedy created by the real-life married duo.
Because of various production issues, Arnaz soon realized that the best possible way of shooting the “Lucy” show would be to record the program on film and to use three cameras, later editing together the best shots. This revolutionary idea paved the way for programs–previously recorded live on one or, at most, two cameras–to be preserved and later rebroadcast again. Thus, syndication was born!
These techniques also allowed mistakes by camera to be deleted and gave directors time to pick and choose the best shots instead of having to pick one on the fly.
Despite this practice later being used by nearly every situation comedy to this day, CBS also rejected this technical theory as ridiculous and implausible. So convinced that it would work, Desi and Lucy sent out to prove this theory by forming their own production company, called “Desilu Productions”, and making these shooting techniques a reality.
Arnaz’s brilliant business savvy and behind-the-scenes work ideas continued to grow Desilu and produced many successful early television series. In addition to I Love Lucy, Arnaz oversaw the productions of The Untouchables, The Ann Sothern Show, Our Miss Brooks, Westinghouse Playhouse, The Lucy Show and many others.
At its popularity’s peak, Desilu (the name derived from a combination of “Desi” and “Lucy) was the second most successful TV production company in the world.
Three years after Lucy divorced Desi, Arnaz slowly began to cut back on his television work, selling his half of Desilu to his now ex-wife. His contributions to the industry should not be overlooked. One could argue that his ideas and the tenacity he showed to prove that his theories would work changed the landscape of television forever.
You can see The Lucy Show, which Arnaz helped create and develop and on which he as executive producer, on RCN TV. To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.
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.

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Jose Ferrer

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.

In celebration and appreciation of Hispanic Heritage Month, we here at the Showplace are honoring the tremendous achievements and accomplishments of trailblazing entertainers of Latin origin.

This week…Jose Ferrer.

José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on January, 8, 1912. In 1924, his family moved to New York and he was raised at a Swiss boarding school before earning his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Princeton University.

While attending graduate school for Romance Languages at Columbia University in the mid-1930s, Ferrer began performing in stage productions in Long Island. Over the next ten years, Ferrer not only starred in a number of increasingly larger stage productions–ultimately appearing on Broadwayin the early 1940s–but also began producing and directing.

Three of his most notable stage roles include the title role in the critically acclaimed Charlie’s Aunt, Iago in the Broadway production of Othello, and taking over the starring role from Danny Kaye in Let’s Face It!

Ferrer earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his first-ever film role playing opposite Ingrid Bergman in the 1948 epic, Joan of Arc. Ferrer continued to star in (and often direct) a number of successful films, radio plays and stage productions for several years.

Ferrer’s biggest film contribution came playing the titular character in 1950’s Cyrano de Burgerac directed by Stanley Kramer. Ferrer had won a Tony Award by playing the same character on Broadway and won the Oscar playing Cyrano on the big screen. In doing so, Ferrer became the first Hispanic to win a Best Actor Academy Award.

Ferrer continued to star in and direct high profile films and plays for the next several years. Highlights include the original Moulin Rouge, Miss Sadie Thompson (along with Rita Hayworth), Anything Can Happen and The Caine Mutiny, co-starring with Humphrey Bogart and Van Johnson.

Between 1952-53, Ferrer also directed the highly successful Stalag 17 along with directing fellow legends Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in The Fourposter. Those two plays earned over 1100 performances!

1953 was also the year Ferrer married Rosemary Clooney (just before she reached stardom with White Christmas)–the first of two times the pair were married.

Ferrer made his film directorial debut in 1955’s The Strike and added screenwriting to his resume with The Great Man a year later.

He continued to act, direct, produce and write plays and films throughout the rest of his life. In 1991, he was cast in a Broadway play, Conversations with My Father, but withdrew due to poor health. He passed on a few months later.

Ferrer’s contributions to American theatre were recognized in 1981, when he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. In 1985, he became the first actor ever to receive the newly created National Medal of Arts.

Posthumously, the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA) renamed its Tespis Award to the HOLA José Ferrer Tespis Award. The United States Postal Service issued a stamp in Ferrer’s honor in its Distinguished Americans series.

Be on the lockout for Jose Ferrer in the groundbreaking, award-winning title role film version of Cyrano de Burgerac on RCN TV. To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

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.

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Michael Landon’s Later Years

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 we took a look at the early highs and lows in the life of classic TV star Michael Landon, who broke on to the entertainment scene with his breakout performance in “Bonanza.” This week, we will take a look at his “second act.”

After failing with the first series entrusted to him by the NBC Network, Michael Landon was approached to be the writer and director for an unusual new program–one that was based on a series of books revolving around a little girl growing up in the midwest in the 1870s.

Landon read the show’s synopsis and agreed to take the role, but with one provision…he would also portray the lead male/father character on the show. NBC initially wasn’t convinced the program would ever make it to air.

The television network’s initiative to limit or cancel virtually all “rural” programming in the early 1970s backfired. While some new programs like All In The Family, Good Times, Maude, The Jeffersons and a few others had great success, NBC and CBS came under critical fire for their decisions to cancel other popular programming based on their belief that people no longer wanted to see non-urban based shows. But with Landon agreeing to take responsibility for this new project, NBC relented and green-lighted the project.

Little House on the Prairie launched in 1973 as a two-hour movie and was an immediate hit, finishing 13th overall in the Nielsen ratings in its first year, and climbed as high as seventh overall a few years later.

When the show’s featured actress, Melissa Gilbert, lost her own father early during the show’s production, Gilbert said Landon stepped in and provided a much-needed patriarchal figure in her life–both personally and professionally.

Landon would go on to create, write and direct three additional shows — Highway To Heaven, (a Top 30 ratings show its first three seasons), the two-time Emmy nominated Where Pigeons Go To Die and the less popular Father Murphy in the 1980s, a vehicle for athlete-turned-actor Merlin Olsen, which ran for two full seasons.

Landon remained loyal throughout his projects, frequently using the same production people on all of his shows. Additionally for “Highway,“ he not only brought attention to previously discussed medical issues people were facing but also brought real-life cancer patients and disabled people to the set. His decision to work with disabled people led him to hire a couple of adults with disabilities to write episodes for him.

Tragedy struck again in 1991. CBS green-lighted a new Landon show called, Us, but before it got into full production, Michael was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April. He called a press conference revealing his condition was terminal and answered all the media’s questions. However, various media outlets and tabloid “journalists” printed outrageous stories about Michael, his wife and his family and his ordeal.

Landon succumbed to the cancer less than three months after the diagnosis. He was 54.

During his life and also posthumously, he was honored with various awards, from touching on his skills as a producer, writer, director and actor to his contributions to youth, people in need and the entertainment industry.

Keep checking back to The Showplace for interesting stories and unique accomplishments in the early years of the television and movie industries. To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

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.

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Michael Landon’s Early Years

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.

Michael Landon was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz on October 31, 1936 in Forest Hills, a neighborhood of Queens, New York.

He was placed under a tremendous amount of stress as a youth. His mother suffered from deep emotional problems and frequently attempted suicide, with Michael as the lone person there to try to save her. Because of the stress, Landon had issues with excessive vomiting and bedwetting. According to an unauthorized biography, Michael Landon: His Triumph and Tragedy, his mother would often hand the stained sheets outside on their front porch, and Michael would have to run home to try to remove them before his friends would see it.

Landon excelled at track and field, earning a college athletic scholarship before a torn shoulder ended his experience at the University of Southern California. He turned his attention towards acting and worked at a gas station to pay his bills. While working there, he came across a talent agent. He decided to change his name and found his nom de plume in the phone book.

1957 was a big year for Landon. After getting a job as an off-screen voice actor, he quickly received offers to be the lead on both a television show (Telephone Time: The Mystery of Casper Hauser), and a film, I Was A Teenage Werewolf. In the same year, he recorded singles that were issued because of Landon’s success in the movie. More of his songs were released a few years later as part of a Bonanza soundtrack.

Michael was kept busy the next two years appearing in various films and TV guest spots. In 1959 at the age of 22, he landed the role of Little Joe Cartwright as part of an ensemble cast on the long-running western Bonanza.

The show and Landon’s popularity gained momentum throughout the 1960s. The program finished several years rated as the number one television show in the Nielsen Ratings, and Landon wrote and directed a number of episodes during its run.

In 1972, he penned what was planned as a two-part episode that would see his longtime television brother, Hoss, played by the gregarious Dan Blocker. However, Blocker died unexpectedly just weeks before the new season was set to start filming.

Bonanza never recovered from the loss of its popular cast member, and the program’s ratings slowly declined throughout its final season. Upon its cancellation, Landon was asked to write and direct an ambitious new romantic anthology series, Love Story for NBC.

However, that show never found an audience. At 37, the one time heartthrob who hada near 20-year run of successes in films, television and in song, found himself out of work.

But a man by the name of Ed Friendly had an idea, and wanted Landon to play a major role in it.

We’ll examine the second half of Michael’s career–one filled with more triumphs…and tragedies…next week, here at The Showplace.

In the meantime, tune in for Michael Landon’s breakout role on Bonanza this Sunday at 9:00 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.

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.

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE:  My Little Margie

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.

My Little Margie was a quality sit-com that sometimes gets lost amongst the bigger “names” in 1950s television.  But it’s also a show that has seen new life over the decades in syndication.

The show centers around a widowed father and his adventures with his 21-year old daughter, Margie, in their New York City apartment.

The show starred Gale Storm in the title role.  Storm was featured in a number of successful film vehicles, including the holiday classic, It Happened On 5th Avenue, the western Stampede, the romantic-comedy G.I. Honeymoon and the film noir The Underworld StoryGale was also a hit on several radio programs during the 1940s.

Charles Ferrell starred as her father.  Ferrell appeared in various films from the 1920s through the 1940s, including 7th Heaven, The Man Who Came Back, Street Angel, The Plumber and the PrincessHe would also guest star in several popular episodes of The Jack Benny Show during “Margie’s” run.

The program began as a 1952 summer replacement for I Love Lucy and had similar characteristics.  

First, Storm copied Lucille Ball’s popular “Spider” expression and sound effect by making a strange noise when she got into trouble.  Also, Gertrude Hoffmann co-starred as Margie’s next door neighbor.  She possessed more than a striking resemblance to Vivian Vance’s “Ethel” character, and would frequently be Storm’s foil and sidekick on her various hijinks that often went awry.

My Little Margie was able to sustain its initial success by taking over the I Love Lucy timeslot and posted consistent ratings despite time slot changes.  The program also withstood not one, but TWO network changes…from CBS to NBC, and then back again to the Columbia Broadcasting System.

In fact, the show actually gained in popularity throughout its initial four-year run, reaching the 29th position in its second last year.  The final season saw its’ viewership climb all the way up to the sixth most-watched episodic program on TV, according to the 1956 final Nielsen Ratings.  

Strangely, CBS decided to cancel this show at its zenith, although the network quickly presented a new program, The Gale Storm Show, and used a different format. That new show would go on for another four years and produce 143 episodes until it changed networks and then was cancelled one year later by ABC.

Storm was one of the early television stars to participate in conventions featuring “old time TV” personalities and would frequently appear at events to sign autographs, do “Q & A-s” with fans and speak at convention centers about her days as “Margie.”

She was also a frequent guest star on television shows from 1960 through the later 1980s…her last major television appearance was on Murder, She Wrote.

Tune in or set your DVRs to see My Little Margie every Sunday at 2pm and Wednesday mornings at 10:30am 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 Mickey Rooney Show

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.

A television show that probably should have been more successful than it turned out to be is not a rare occurrence in the entertainment industry.

A prime, early, example of this was The Mickey Rooney Show (also known as Hey Mulligan).

Mickey Rooney agreed to star in a mid-1950s NBC sitcom as a studio page for a fictional TV company who aspires to one day become a big movie star.

In addition to having a major film star like Rooney play the lead, the creator and executive producer of the program was future legend, Blake Edwards.  Edwards would go on to produce major film successes in the 1960s and 1970s with Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Victor/Victoria, The Days of Wine and Roses and the Pink Panther film series.

The show also had a surprisingly good (for a TV comedy) soundtrack that was produced by then unknown Van Alexander, who was an arranger for Capitol Records.  He was hand-picked for the assignment by Rooney’s co-producer Maurice Duke.  Alexander would go on to score major motion pictures, including future films for Rooney himself.

Mickey, in real life, had already been a huge star in movies for almost two decades and scored hits in the early 1940s with his iconic “Andy Hardy” movie roles.  He was also frequently in the news for his rumored, off-screen relationship with Judy Garland and other stars of the era.  The decision to cast him as an “early 20ies, up and coming” performer was a little hard to swallow for American audiences, who already had become very familiar with him as an established actor.

The chance to accept him in this role was further hampered by his age (he was 35 for the show’s first season). Rooney’s reputation had also taken a bit of a hit before the program started production because of his high profile, not-so-smooth divorce proceedings that had taken place with no less than three major actresses.  Rooney had moved on and was married to “wife #4” by the time this show premiered.

NBC also didn’t do the Rooney cast and crew any favorites with scheduling.  The network placed the show on the dreaded Saturday night lineup and pitted him opposite the popular CBS variety-comedy vehicle, The Jackie Gleason ShowRooney’s reputation took a further hit before his show even debuted when his agent went to the media to say some disparaging things about the iconic Gleason, in an effort to promote Mickey’s show.

Rooney tried to quickly correct the PR blunder.  According to David Tucker’s Lost Laughs of the 50s and 60s Television, Mickey was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to knock off anybody.  All I want to do is put on a nice, funny show that people will like.”

The publicity stunt backfired and Rooney soon fired his agent but the damage was done.  His television show was cancelled after just 34 episodes.

Still, it’s a program that is quite underrated and has some really funny moments.  Also, many members of its production staff went on to have lengthy and successful careers in Hollywood. 

Without all the negative publicity that surrounded the show when it first aired, it certainly deserves a second look and a new evaluation based on its own merits, including quality acting and solid production values.

Tune in or set your DVRs to see the 1950s-style comedy, The Mickey Rooney Show, Tuesday evenings at 8pm and Wednesday mornings at 10 am 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: “Space Patrol”

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, legendary cinematic performances, key names and intriguing storylines from the “Golden Age” of entertainment history.

One of the key attributes to have a long-lasting television series is demographics.  The more demographic groups a show “hits” (or appeals to), the larger the audience and, often, the longer running the success.

Such was the case in the early 1950s with the science-fiction drama, Space Patrol.

The show appealed to both kids and adults with its themes and its storylines became a popular morning staple on ABC television–one of the first successful shows on America’s “third network” (ABC’s overall ratings were well behind rivals CBS and NBC in the early years in television history).

Some other advantages “Patrol” had over other, similar shows during this era include…

The show’s creator, William Moser, was a World War II Naval Aviator and tried as much as possible to make the flying sequences look and feel as genuine as the technology of the day would allow.
The studio stage they were given was one of the largest ones in the world. While other shows had noticeably cramped space and many locations easily spotted as being reused within the same episode, “Patrol” had an abundance of room to perform both acting scenes and “special effects.” This became even more critical to the show’s success when the program transitioned to a live, 30-minute program.

While money in television production was extremely scarce in the early 1950s, the early success of the show allowed for greater earnings potential and the budget was allowed
to dramatically increase by “Patrol’s” second season, allowing for higher quality performers, sets, props and costuming.

Marketing was also a key element of the program. Corporate sponsor Chex Cereal would often include special Patrol motifs on its packaging boxes. Not only were there “Space Patrol Clubs” built in and around the television show, but they were elements that made it one of the first “interactive” TV programs. They frequently asked for mail-in suggestions for the show to make the audience feel like they were directly participating in the show’s production. Later, contests were created with special prize giveaways, further enhancing the connection viewers had with the show.

One of the narrators of Space Patrol might sound familiar to more modern day audiences. Jack Narz was the show’s first narrator and went on to be an announcer for many popular games shows in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s and also hosted shows himself, like Concentration, Now You See It, Beat the Clock and Video Village.

Another interesting aspect of the program: the actors themselves would “step out” of their roles during the show and pitch the main sponsor’s product during the half hour. These entertaining commercial spots are saved and presented in their entirety during our airings of these episodes on RCN TV.

Tune in or set your DVRs to see Space Patrol on Sundays at 12 noon and Friday mornings at 10am 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: Paulette Goddard

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, key names in the “Golden Age” of entertainment history and legendary cinematic performances. 

Paulette Goddard is remembered by many as the third wife of cinematic legend Charlie Chaplin.

But it would be a mistake to dismiss her acting career and contributions to filmmaking throughout her life, both before and after Chaplin entered her “picture.”

Born in Queens, New York, the future actress was born Marion Levy. Or Marion Paula Levy. Or Pauline Marion Levy or Marion Goddard Levy — depending on what source you use.

Another of the many disputed claims of Paula’s life includes her birth year. According to biographer Julie Gilbert, she was born in 1910 while various legal documents and passports listed her birth year as either 1905, 1908, 1910 or 1914. In an interview in “Life” magazine years later, she clearly states she was born in 1915.

Contrary to some opinions, Goddard appeared in pictures well before she ever met Charlie Chaplin.

She appeared in two films in 1929 before MGM signed her to her first film contract, appearing in six movies within the first 18 months before a conflict with producers slowed her working opportunities.  While under contract she began dating Chaplin, who starred her in his 1936 classic, Modern Times.

The pair was married that same year and Chaplin reportedly had planned other films featuring his wife, but by this time in his career, the Little Tramp’s method of producing films had slowed to the point where several years went by between his pictures.  Fearing the lack of acting appearances would hurt her career, Goddard signed her next contract with David O. Selznick, who immediately cast her in three films in 1938 and early 1939, including an all-female cast in 1939’s The Women.

Another hotly debated topic about Paula’s life is her potential role as “Scarlett” in the 1939 Academy award-winning film, Gone with the Wind.

Some sources say producers preferred her to Vivien Leigh, the actress who eventually won the role.  Others said that she would have needed “acting training” in order to be seriously considered for that role.  Still another outlet said Goddard was a finalist for the role with Leigh listed as being a “dark horse.”

In the 1992 cinematic biopic, Chaplin, Paulette (as played by Diane Lane) says that she passed the first round of auditions but laughed it off as it was clear the producers wanted Katherine Hepburn for the role.  The film, Chaplin, was largely based on accurate accounts from both Chaplin’s primary biographer and from Chaplin himself. However, it is clear that, in some instances, dramatic license was used.

She appeared in various films throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, including Chaplin’s The Great DictatorShe also appeared with many elite Hollywood actors like Fred Astaire, Lawrence Oliver, Bob Hope, Fred MacMurray, John Wayne, James Stewart, Olivia de Havilland, Charles Boyer and Burgess Meredith, whom she later married following her divorce from Chaplin.  Goddard received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress in 1943’s So Proudly We Hail.

She also formed her own production company with John Steinbeck, Monterey Pictures. After marrying her fourth husband, Erich Remarque, in 1957, she moved to Switzerland…the same country Chaplin had moved to following his exile from the United States four years before… and, in fact, lived within a few miles of her former husband’s estate.

She only appeared in a handful of films the rest of her life and passed away from heart failure on April 23, 1990.  Her obituary listed her age at 79 at the time of her death.

Tune in or set your DVRs to see one of Paulette Goddard’s best reviewed roles in Second Chorus, airing this Monday at 1:00 p.m. and next Thursday at 9:00 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: David Niven’s Later Years

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, we looked at early life and performances of the talented David Niven…today, a look at the second half of his career.

After having nearly a perfect run of film roles as a leading man for two years, David Niven left Hollywood to serve in the British Army fighting for the Allies in World War II .

Unlike many “A list” actors, Niven didn’t struggle to find quality leading roles in pictures immediately upon his return.

One of his first films was the traditional holiday classic, The Bishop’s Wife.  Initially he was cast as Dudley, the angel, but co-star Cary Grant decided he would be better suited to play that role…Niven obliged and was given the role of “The Bishop.”

He also found success by performing in radio productions throughout the decade, appearing in both dramatic and comedic roles on the nation’s top rated shows like the Lux Radio Theatre, Kraft Music Hall and the Screen Guild Players.

David closed out the 1940s by starring in other, more mediocre films like Magnificent Doll with Ginger Rogers, The Other Love, co-starring Barbara Stanwyck, and The Perfect Marriage with Loretta Young. Niven appeared in several other films that failed miserably at the box office and, in low spirits, left Hollywood to return to England.

It would be almost a decade before Niven had consistent success again in America, with hits like 55 Days at Peking (with Charlton Heston), Please Don’t Eat The Daisies (with Doris Day), The Pink Panther (starring Peter Sellers) and his Academy Award-winning performance in Separate Tables (he was hosting the Oscar’s ceremony that year and remains the only person ever to win a “Best Actor” award the same year he hosted the show).

James Bond novelist Ian Fleming had Niven in mind when he penned his novels and wanted him to star as the titular character when 007 was about to make his big screen debut, but Niven declined the role.  Ironically, Niven would play Bond in the 1967 parody of the Bond film series, entitled Casino Royale.

David would continue in starring and supporting roles through the 1970s and into the early 1980s–his last major part was in Better Late Than Never with Art Carney and Maggie Smith (Nevin’s role was offered to fellow movie icon William Holden, who refused the role due to a salary issue).

While contemplating retirement, Niven was persuaded to recreate his sinister character, Sir Charles Lytton, in the controversial Trail Of The Pink Panther and its sequel, Curse of the Pink Panther. Both films were shot concurrently under the watchful eye of original “Panther” director Blake Edwards.

The British actor came back to be part of these films that were supposedly made as a tribute to Peter Sellers, who had passed away in 1980. “Trail” used clips of Sellers from earlier movies and scenes that had previously ended up deleted from earlier films.  The Sellers’ estate would later take exception to the use of the late actor in the film and sued (and won its case against) United Artists for using Sellers’ likeness without permission.

Unbeknownst to Edwards, Niven was suffering from ALS.  It became evident early in the production that Niven was in poor health as they could barely hear the actor say his lines.  When the dailies revealed that all of Niven’s audio was completely unusable, legendary impressionist Rich Little was brought in to overdub all of David’s lines while they were still shooting the films.

Niven did not know this was taking place and only learned that his lines were overdubbed when he read a report in a newspaper after production had wrapped.  He vowed never to work with a movie production company again.

After refusing medical attention, Niven passed away on July 29, 1983. He was 73.

Be on the lookout for classic films featuring David Niven on RCN-TV.  To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.