Tag Archives: vintage 1950s TV

Cartoons Didn’t Get Better

Just so you can better appreciate what Max Fleischer was able to do with cartoons in the 1920s, here’s “Clutch Cargo,” which debuted in 1959. They made the lips to move with a process called “syncro vox”–but nothing else moved. More like suspended animation than animation.


Memory Lane: Castro Convertibles

When I was a little boy, there was this little tiny girl on TV who busily converted a sofa into a bed: the famous Castro Convertible commercials.

The woman in this video was that little girl, Bernadette Castro, whose father invented that famous piece of furniture. I wish the video had the old Castro jingle: “Who was the first to conquer space? Castro Convertibles!” The best I could do was this much newer ad which shows the antique commercial in the inset.

We had a convertible sofa in our house, but never converted it into a bed. I was always tempted to try–I mean, if a little girl could do it, I could do it, too. But I never dared to do it, for fear I wouldn’t be able to put it back together again.

Let me see if I can find that jingle for you.

Ah, here it is–complete with Dan Ingram’s radio sales pitch.


Bonus Video: Clint Eastwood Sings

Before he was a movie star, Clint Eastwood co-starred in Rawhide, a classic TV Western, vintage 1960 and thereabouts. The song he sings here, Beyond the Sun Over the Mountain, was auxiliary theme music for the show–and I always thought it was a mighty fine song. I only just found out it was composed by Russell Garcia, whose music soundtrack for The Time Machine (1960) is some of the most haunting movie music ever written.

You might want to try this one as a lullaby. I’ll bet it’ll work.

P.S.–The two guys assisting Eastwood in the scene were among the best character actors ever–Buddy Ebsen (Beverly Hillbillies) and Paul Brinegar. Now that was television!


Sanity Break: Jimmy Durante

Just to show that the human race is capable of better things than the state of our colleges and our politics might indicate, here’s Jimmy Durante on Steve Allen’s TV show, vintage 1960. Don’t ask me to sum up what the two of them are doing, besides treating us to a wholesome breath of sanity.

For those of you who are too young to have caught Durante’s act (to say nothing of Steve Allen’s: he was pretty sharp, too)–well, here it is, and better late than never.

Inka-Dinka-Doo, by the way, was one of Jimmy’s signature songs, and a great hit in its time. Nuff said.


TV Heroes: ‘Robin Hood’

Wow, this takes me back a good distance down Memory Lane!

The Adventures of Robin Hood ran from 1955-1959, and I tried never to miss an episode. It starred Richard Greene, not well-remembered now, but quite a big star in his day. How big? In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Greene got top billing over Basil Rathbone. That’s big!

How many times have I whistled this theme song since the show went off the air? How many times did my friends and I play Robin Hood?

Of course, kids have been playing Robin Hood for centuries. Before there was TV, my Aunt Joan and her twin sister, Florence, decided to play Robin Hood on a rainy day. In their game, Robin had to rescue Maid Marian, who was locked up in the Sheriff of Nottingham’s jail. They used a bed frame for that. Unfortunately, after Maid Marian poked her head through the metal struts to call for help, she couldn’t pull it back out again. Grandpa had to bring his tools and take the bed apart. I wish I could’ve seen the look on his face when he discovered what his two youngest daughters had gotten up to.

Enjoy the clips, and feel free to play a little Robin Hood yourselves when no one’s looking. Just be careful with the bed.


Memory Lane:Heroes

Hey, remember these–heroes? Like the Lone Ranger. Show me the kid from the 1950s who never shouted “Hi-yo, Silver!” Every week, the Lone Ranger and Tonto smacked down the bad guys. And they never got their clothes dirty, doing it.

When America junked the whole idea of heroes like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, America did herself a bad turn. Yeah, sure, they were fictional. Of course they were! It’s a thing called “ideals.” We used to have ideals.

We really ought to bring ’em back.


‘Tales of the Vikings’

Couldn’t resist this! Tales of the Vikings was one of my super-favorite shows when I was ten years old, especially in the summertime, when there was still enough light outside to let you and your friends play “Vikings” while  inspired by this rousing theme song. True, we didn’t have any ships, not even an unused rowboat in the neighborhood. But a garbage can led make a fine shield, and there were always sticks for swords.

I suppose it wasn’t the best idea ever, to make heroes out of men whose occupation was robbing and looting other people’s villages. They have another name for that now, and only the Democrat Party praises those who do it.

And no, none of us ever put his eye out with a stick.


Just for Fun: Sandy Becker’s Christmas Carol

This blast from the past comes from I don’t know what year, exactly–late 1950s, early 60s. Nor do I know if the puppet play ever actually came off. Anyway, here’s Clive Clive introducing the star of Sandy Becker’s Christmas carol, the inimitable Geba Geba.

Sandy not only performed these puppets; he created and hand-crafted them himself. This was kids’ TV way back when, and it was wonderful. Becker had a wild imagination, and you never knew what he was going to come up with next.

Geba Geba as Scrooge–if only I could’ve seen it!


Memory Lane: Sky King

Remember this TV classic? Sky King, starring Kirby Grant, was one of the earliest TV Western hits, running from 1951-1954. They brought it back in syndication in 1959, which was when I saw it.

Sky King was billed as “America’s favorite flying cowboy.” Was there a lot of competition for that title? Anyhow, it was great fun, watching him chase down the bad guys in his airplane.

Ignore the earnest young woman trying to pass herself off as Peter Pan. Hey, a job is a job, right?


Memory Lane: Sandy Becker

Growing up in the New York media market in the 1950s and 60s, you just can’t imagine it without Sandy Becker on TV. Which he was, from 1955 through 1968, mostly on WNEW.

This guy was a volcano of talent: nobody like him, anymore, to entertain little kids and young teens. Original puppets? Sandy not only performed them; he made them. Far-out characters? Sandy played them: Norton Nork, Hambone, the Big Professor, and the inscrutable Dr. Gesundheit. He also did cartoons.

Much of his show was live, and, alas, little of it was recorded. Much of it was ad-libbed. And you also heard a lot of Bert Kaempfert music: the theme for his daytime show, heard in this video, was That Happy Feeling. When he was on at night, it was Afrikaan Beat.

Kids’ TV in this era was overrun with talent. Along with Sandy, we had the immortal Soupy Sales and the incredible Chuck McCann, who gained national recognition by winning an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter… and his “Hi, guy! One shot and I’m good for the whole day!” deodorant commercials. Remember those? The protagonist was an ordinary gtuy who had to share a medicine cabinet with McCann’s weird character. But I digress.

Well, I can’t hear any of Bert Kaempfert’s music without thinking of Sandy Becker–gone, but lovingly remembered by probably millions of people who were kids then.

Let me see if I can get you just a tiny Hambone clip or something…


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