Tag Archives: vintage 1950s TV

Memory Lane: ‘Million Dollar Movie’

“If you missed any part of Attack of the Crab Monsters, or wish to see it again, the next showing will be tomorrow at 7:30 p.m….”

Are you kidding? I’m 11 years old, yer durn tootin’ I wish to see more crab monsters!

That was Million Dollar Movie on Channel 9, WOR-TV, New York, from 1955 through 1966. This was how the local stations held their ground against the major networks. Channel 11 had the Yankees; Channel 5 had Sandy Becker; and Channel 9 had Million Dollar Movie. In fact, Million Dollar Movie worked so well, a lot of local networks around the country imitated it.

Twice a day, for a week, they’d show the same movie. That was the week’s feature film. Next week would be a different one. Since RKO owned both Channel 9 and most of the movies being shown, Million Dollar Movie cost peanuts to produce.

King Kong! Gunga Din! Forbidden Planet! Oh, there musta been hundreds of ’em! Of course I didn’t watch musicals or kissing movies, and most of the detective movies went over my head. But then The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms would come along, or Frankenstein 1970, and I’d be in my element, reveling in sheer cinematic artistry. And my friends and I would play “King Kong” all week, outdoors, with our toy dinosaurs.

We didn’t have cable TV, we didn’t have Youtube, or any of those online streaming video packages (I don’t even know if I’m saying that right); but somehow there seemed to be more movies that you wanted to see, and more theaters in which to see them, than there are now. And none of the films were based on comic books. Who needs comic books when you’ve got Queen of Outer Space with Eric Fleming and Zsa Zsa Gabor? (For some reason I’ll never understand, my mother really took to that one.)

Anyway, you’d turn on the TV, you’d hear that “Tara’s Theme” from Gone With the Wind, and you’d know it was time for Million Dollar Movie! It may seem a poor thing, by today’s standards; but it made us kids feel rich.


A Cryptic Message from Beyond

See the source image

Among the more mystifying messages broadcast on black-and-white TV during my childhood was this: “Don’t stir without Noilly Prat.”

What in the world could it mean? There was this guy all dressed in black, with a cape, advancing on this lady. What was he going to do to her? What was he? I was too young to have any knowledge of vampires, but I think I would’ve agreed that this was one.

What kind of a name was “Noilly Prat”? Was it a person or a place? Probably it was the name of the man in black. And then there was something about “Vermouth.” We had Vermont Maid Maple Syrup with our pancakes. Could there be a similarity?

I used to shudder when I saw this ad. To this day, I get the willies whenever any man, dressed all in black, with a cape, and you never see his face, suddenly rises up before me and silently drifts toward me. It quite puts me off.


A Blast from the Past

Sorry! But I couldn’t resist this blast from the past (lots of blasts, actually)–former National League first baseman Chuck Connors as The Rifleman, a classic TV Western from way back when. I wonder what would happen if you showed this on a college campus today.

Two questions for trivia buffs:

How many shots does the rifleman get off in just this brief intro?

And what was Chuck Connors’ real name?

(P.S.–His lifetime batting average was only .238, so quitting his day job wasn’t a problem for him.)


Memory Lane: Howdy Doody

See the source image

Buffalo Bob, Howdy Doody, and Flub-a-Dub

You were sort of supposed to watch this show, back when I was a boy–Howdy Doody, one of the monuments of kid TV in America. So I watched it sometimes, but it never quite caught on with me.

To me, Clarabell the Clown looked big and threatening (“You better laugh, boy, or you and me gonna have a problem!”), Howdy himself was kind of goofy, and Flub-a-Dub–well, what was Flub-a-Dub supposed to be, anyhow?

One day in 1957 (I think), the family of one of the kids in my class became the first family in the neighborhood to have a color TV. They invited the whole class over to see Howdy Doody on color TV. I remember it well: everything was a sort of seasick green. Color TV didn’t work all that well, back then. The people on my grandma’s color TV were purple.

I don’t know why, but the green-tinted characters in a green-tinted atmosphere remain my most vivid memory of Howdy Doody. That, and trying to figure out what Flub-a-Dub was supposed to be.


‘TV Heroes: Robin Hood’ (2017)

Image result for images of richard greene as robin hood

“Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen…”

How many of you used to sing that? How many of you are old enough to remember The Adventures of Robin Hood on TV? I’m here to tell you it was very big in the Bronze Age.

https://leeduigon.com/2017/01/28/tv-heroes-robin-hood/

I don’t watch TV anymore, I don’t know if there are any shows like this. It’s mostly superheroes and animation, right? Have kids today even heard of Robin Hood?

Great theme song, though…


Memory Lane: ‘Jocko’s Rocket Ship’

See the source image

Do any of you remember this–Jocko’s Rocket Ship, a TV show from 1958?

Douglas “Jocko” Henderson was one of the first African-American disc jockeys to make it big in radio, first in Philadelphia and then in New York, and for one season he was on TV. Jocko’s Rocket Ship came on after school, on Channel 13, New York, which some years later became our long-time PBS channel. Jocko was competition for American Bandstand.

At nine years old I had no interest whatsoever in rock ‘n’ roll–indeed, I never did get interested in it–but I couldn’t get enough of rocket ships. Sometimes you even saw Jocko in a space suit. So I was looking for outer space and alien planets and bug-eyed monsters, and all I got was crummy rock ‘n’ roll. Then I found out I was the only kid in my class who’d ever even heard of this show: my friend Marvin flatly refused to believe in its existence.

“Jocko” Henderson died in 2000. I’ll bet it’s been a good 50 years or more since I’ve thought of his show.


‘More Memory Lane: “Fury”‘ (2016)

See the source image

This is the toy that served me when I played “Fury”

A 1950s American middle-class childhood–I wouldn’t trade it for gold.

Fury was a long-running TV show about an orphan boy, a horse nobody wanted, and the healing power of love.

https://leeduigon.com/2016/08/22/more-memory-lane-fury/

If you showed up in Hollywood with a script like this today, they’d think you’d lost your mind. Or they’d buy it and then find some way to make it dirty.

But for those of us who knew and loved this show, way back when, the memories are sweet.


Memory Lane: ‘Jungle Jim’

Ah, the days of innocence! Complete with Indian elephant wandering around Africa.

Remember Jungle Jim, starring Johnny Weissmuller? Tarzan with clothes on. Half an hour of pure TV pleasure, back in the 1950s. Man, I couldn’t get enough of those African adventure shows. Jungle Jim, Ramar of the Jungle, Sheena Queen of the Jungle (starring the irrepressible Irish McCalla: I think she went on to become an artist of some note)–I loved ’em all. And the kids in those shows never had to go to school! So much better than just answering nuisance robo-calls–which hadn’t been invented yet. But you can bet Jungle Jim never got one.

Where was I? Oh, yeah…

No African jungle adventure show would have been complete without the cry of the Australian kookaburra in the background.

Hear that? Sound familiar?

Welcome to the Fifties TV jungle!


Memory Lane: ‘Captain Gallant’

 

There must be some of you out there who remember this vintage 1955 TV show, Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion. This theme music has been lodged in my memory ever since I was six years old.

See the source image

Captain Gallant starred Olympic swimmer Buster Crabbe, famous for his roles as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, with a stint as Tarzan, too–his was a name to conjure with, back then. His real-life son, Cullen “Cuffy” Crabbe, co-starred with him in this show. What they were supposed to be doing, stationing a little kid at a Foreign Legion post which was always getting attacked by the Arabs, is difficult to imagine. But if I remember rightly, the same motif was used in Rin Tin Tin, a memory which I’ll get to on another day. I guess it was done to keep children in the audience.

Buster Crabbe! What a big name he was, once upon a time!

I wonder if I can fit him into my Bell Mountain movie.


Memory Lane: ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’

Walt Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club debuted on TV in 1955 and was a mega-hit by 1956, airing on weekday afternoons. Remember?

I was only six or seven years old when I started watching this, and now I don’t know how I ever managed to sit through it. Really, all I wanted was the cartoons! Especially Donald Duck, or Goofy. If they played them at all, they played them near the end of the show so you had to watch all the singing and dancing. Those sequences seem just as long to me today as they seemed back then.

I wanted one of those Mouseketeer hats, but never got one–just a set of plastic slip-on Mickey Mouse ears. Why in the world did I watch this show? Beats me! Was it because mine was the first TV generation, and we all watched TV because that’s what you did? And whatever they put on the screen, you watched? Say it ain’t so, Joe.

I’ll never get back the time I spent watching this festival of nothing.

 


%d bloggers like this: