Thursday, December 20, 2018

Leave It to Beaver (1961)

As mentioned in our post for the 1960 episodes of Leave It to Beaver, the show demonstrated a remarkable true-to-life depiction of children's perspective on growing up because series co-creator Joe Connelly carried around a notebook to capture what his own sons were going through. And while the series has more recently come in for criticism for dealing with seemingly trivial inconveniences rather than more serious problems such as drug use, teenage pregnancy, or juvenile delinquency, Connelly and partner Bob Mosher were spot on in portraying the root causes of many of these symptoms--peer pressure and the fear of embarrassment. The episodes airing in 1961 still touched on the parenting lessons of Ward and June Cleaver but began to focus more attention on Wally and Beaver's attempts to mature. Part of this shift was forced by actor Jerry Mathers' very noticeable drop in his voice at the beginning of Season 5, when he is a 12-year-old 6th grader. But the topic of maturation had already become a staple of stories in the latter half of Season 4.

Beaver begins to sense that things are changing for him in "Beaver's Old Buddy" (February 4, 1961) when he is excited at the prospect of having an old friend of his, Jackie Waters, spend the night at his house so that the two can relive all the fun things they used to do together, like swinging on a tire swing and hunting for pollywogs. But once Jackie arrives and he and Beaver have a chance to do all of their old favorites, they find that they aren't as fun as they used to be. And even Ward and June's attempts to find other activities that they will enjoy together don't work out so that Jackie winds up calling his parents to come pick him up early. Ward tries to explain to Beaver that this is all part of growing up, but Beaver later tells Wally the lesson he has learned is not to build up his hopes only to have them dashed. Instead, he says he plans to expect nothing special so that he won't be let down.

In "Junior Fire Chief" (May 20, 1961) Beaver gets to try out being an authority when he is elected class fire chief and is authorized to hand out citations to anyone he finds violating fire safety standards, but the ascension to power quickly goes to his head, and he is overzealous in handing out citations to his family and neighbors, irritating everyone. June tells Ward he should have a talk with Beaver about going overboard, but Ward counters that Beaver needs to learn for himself, which he does, but not in the way Ward imagines. Instead, he has a discussion with Gus the Fireman, who says he never handed out as many citations in his entire career as Beaver has given out in 1 week, and that he has always found it more effective to be nice to people and explain to them politely what they should do about fire safety rather than coming down hard on them. Beaver takes Gus' words to heart, tears up his citations, and is later commended by Miss Landers for learning such a valuable lesson when he is asked to give a report to his class at the end of the week.

However, Beaver is still susceptible to peer pressure, particularly from his friend Gilbert Bates, who grows more like Eddie Haskell in continuing to goad Beaver into foolish decisions, particularly in "The School Picture" (April 22, 1961) when he dares Beaver to make a goofy face when their school picture is being taken, leading Beaver to believe that Gilbert would also do it. But after the picture is taken with Beaver looking ridiculous, Gilbert tells him he didn't make a face because doing so would be stupid. In "Kite Day" (June 10, 1961) Gilbert badgers Beaver into taking his just-completed kite that he had worked on with Ward for a test run even though Ward had told him not to fly it until the glue had set. Of course, the kite crashes and splinters into a million pieces, prompting Gilbert to tell Beaver that his father is going to kill him before running off to leave him to face the problem alone. And in "In the Soup" (May 6, 1961), it's Whitey who calls Beaver chicken after daring him to climb a billboard with a steaming bowl of soup at the top to see if the bowl has real soup or not, resulting in Beaver falling into the bowl and having to be rescued by a fireman while the whole neighborhood watches. So while Beaver is trying on new levels of responsibility in "Junior Fire Chief" and "Beaver Goes Into Business" (June 3, 1961), in which he tries cutting lawns with Gilbert, he still hasn't learned how to be his own person and brush off peer pressure from "friends" like Gilbert and Whitey.

Nor is the older Wally totally immune from being set up, as shown in "Wally's Track Meet" (January 28, 1961). He winds up getting kicked off the track team for violating the coach's no horseplay rule after retaliating against Eddie and Lumpy who throw wet towels at him in the locker room just before the coach walks in. But most of his dilemmas revolve around girls, such as in "Teacher's Daughter" (January 7, 1961) in which he is spending considerable time with Julie Foster, whose father is his English teacher. Eddie considers this a smart move in getting a better grade, but Mr. Foster tells him his dating situation will have no effect on his grade. Yet strangely Ward advises him not to go steady with Julie because he may miss out on meeting someone who would be better suited for him and will deprive her of perhaps meeting a better match, too. And yet at no time is there any evidence that Wally and Julie are not suited to each other. In "Mother's Helper" (March 4, 1961) Wally's grades begin to suffer because he spends his afternoons after school helping June's teenage hired helper Margie Manners instead of doing his homework, a problem that June quickly rectifies by replacing the daughter with the mother to help with her chores. And in "Wally's Dream Girl" (April 15, 1961) June helps burst Wally's infatuation with the new girl in school, Ginny Townsend, by inviting Ginny on a family picnic, where Wally sees that Ginny is allergic to chicken and sunshine, as well as being so worried about her weight that she won't eat a hard-boiled egg. Yet he also shows his growing maturity in "Substitute Father" (June 24, 1961) when Ward tells him to fill his shoes while he is away on a business trip, and he has to have a parent-teacher conference with Beaver and Miss Landers after she catches Beaver yelling profanity at a bully who tripped him. Though Miss Landers is at first skeptical about Wally filling in, figuring that Beaver is just trying to get out of telling his real parents what he has done, Wally and Beaver manage to convince her that Wally has a history of steering Beaver's behavior in the right direction and correcting him when he goes astray. They finally let June know how Wally handled the situation without ever telling her exactly what Beaver said, so that she tells Ward on the phone that he should bring back something special for Wally as a sign of taking such a significant step in becoming an adult.

But the most surprising indication of coming maturation, if also the most brief, is from Eddie Haskell in "Eddie Spends the Night" (March 25, 1961) in which he cajoles Wally into asking his parents if Eddie can spend the night at the Cleaver's while not mentioning that his real motive is to avoid to spending the night alone at his own home with his parents out of town. After Eddie angers Wally by cheating at chess and then storms home, Ward gets a call from Eddie's father saying how much he appreciates the Cleavers taking Eddie in since he is uncomfortable being home alone. Ward is then obligated to go with Wally to Eddie's house to bring him back, though Eddie pretends that he isn't frightened and that his parents are actually home. Beaver lets Eddie know in a one-on-one conversation in the Cleaver's kitchen that he knows the real story and admits that he has the same fear, which prompts Eddie to admit that he puts on a show of fake confidence but deep down inside knows that he isn't fooling himself. But his vulnerability is short-lived because in the very next episode, "Beaver's Report Card" (April 1, 1961), he is back to his old tricks in changing a grade on Beaver's report card from a D- to a B+ just to get Beaver in trouble. And he gives Beaver bad advice in "Beaver Goes Into Business" by telling him he should mow people's lawns without checking with them first and then hold out his hand demanding payment, only to have Beaver and Gilbert ruin a man's well-manicured lawn that he had paid a professional gardener to maintain. However, in "Beaver's Doll Buggy" (June 17,1961) Eddie reveals that he is always pulling pranks on others because of a traumatic childhood experience in which his mother sent him to kindergarten one day with a home permanent that resulted in ridicule from his classmates. He explains that this incident prompted him to try to always get the jump on others and make them feel bad before they have the chance to do it to him. It's certainly not a mature approach to life or one that will make one very successful or well-liked, but it's one that rings true to life--victims of abusive or traumatic events tend to develop defense mechanisms to avoid being vulnerable again.

Season 3 kicks off not only with Beaver's suddenly deeper voice but a new introductory credit sequence that replaces Ward and June sending the boys off to school with a new sequence in which she brings out a tray of ice tea for Ward and the boys who are doing yard work. The first episode of the new season, Wally Goes Steady" (September 24, 1961), then dives right into the family's angst over Wally perhaps growing up too fast when Ward hears locker room chatter from Wally's girlfriend's father that they may soon be in-laws, given how much time their children are spending together. When Wally is then invited to dinner with girlfriend Evelyn's married sister and her husband, who are only three years older than Wally and Evelyn, June in particular is worried that Wally will get a glimpse of marital bliss and want to take the plunge himself, though the actual outcome is exactly the opposite--Wally sees the newlyweds arguing, unable to keep up with their finances without help from Evelyn's parents, and Wally's counterpart in the couple reminiscing about his earlier carefree life. Wally later tells June that as long as you're having a good time, there is no reason to get involved with marriage.

Beaver then takes his turn at wanting to be more grown-up in "No Time for Babysitters" (October 7, 1961) when he resists having to have a babysitter when his parents go out for the evening and Wally is also gone on a date. To make matters worse, Gilbert and Richard don't believe it when he tells them that he is going to spend the evening alone, so they come over just to see his babysitter and tease him, only they are foiled because Beaver's babysitter understands how he feels after going through something similar when she was younger and helps Beaver out by hiding so that Gilbert and Richard can't find her. Beaver also wants to appear more grown-up in "Beaver's Ice Skates" (December 2, 1961) when he decides to buy some new ice skates after seeing a sale ad in the newspaper but doesn't want June to go with him when he buys them. However, an unscrupulous salesman ends up selling him a pair that are far too big when he discovers they are out of Beaver's size, and rather than admit to his parents that he has been duped, he hides out in the library for a week while his parents think he is at the ice rink just to avoid the embarrassment of hearing them tell him about his error. However, when they finally do learn the truth and Ward lectures him that he should only take responsibility when he is ready to hold it, Wally counters with the question how can he know whether he is ready to hold it if he never takes it? Ward has to admit that it is a dilemma, one that gives many a parent gray hair. This is yet another example of how Leave It to Beaver was anything but a series of pat, black-and-white lessons. At other times, such as the aforementioned "Junior Fire Chief," Ward recognizes that in order for Beaver to grow he will have to sometimes experience failure, but in "Beaver's Ice Skates," Wally has to remind Ward of this essential lesson.

Other episode titles in Season 5 seem to suggest more dramatic growth experiences than they deliver--"Wally's Car" (October 14, 1961), "Beaver Takes a Drive" (November 18, 1961), and "Beaver's First Date" (December 30, 1961)--but they show that more adult-oriented opportunities are coming. Despite their growing familiarity with adult issues, Wally and Beaver in particular continue having a hard time imagining their parents ever being as young as they are, or of themselves ever being in a position that their parents are currently. In "Wally's Chauffeur" (December 23, 1961) Beaver says he can't imagine Ward ever being small enough to be have to be told to take a bath. In "Beaver Takes a Drive" Beaver thinks that Ward had it easier as a boy because there were fewer ways to get into trouble, even though Ward explained to him earlier that they, too, had automobiles in his day. And in "No Time for Babysitters" Beaver tells Wally that he is going to let his kids do whatever they want instead of feeling like he has to protect them, that is, until Wally asks if he is going to let his kids hang from a rickety bridge 200 feet in the air. Though he wants to be treated like an adult, until it results in dealing with a thorny problem, Beaver has a hard time seeing himself as ever being anything other than what he is at the present.

For Wally, his greatest fear is public humiliation, a fear he shares with Beaver. In "Wally's Big Date" (November 25, 1961) Eddie Haskell tricks Wally into switching the girls from another school they are assigned to take to a dance when Eddie at first gets stuck with a girl who is very tall. When Wally meets her at the malt shop to discuss details about their date and then notices when she gets up out of her booth and leaves to meet her mother that she is a good head taller than he is, he is thrown into a panic and is most concerned that the other boys at the dance will laugh at him. Ward forces him to go anyway, making him consider how his date would feel if he were to cancel on her, and Wally is surprised when she shows up appearing no taller than he is simply by not teasing her hair up and wearing flats instead of heels. But he faces the same predicament in "Wally's Chauffeur" when Ward forbids him from riding up to a dance at the lake in Lumpy's car with two other couples because of Lumpy's poor driving record. When his date Evelyn, who already has her driver's license while Wally has yet to get his, shows up driving her father's car, Wally at first refuses to come downstairs because he knows that he will be teased mercilessly for being driven to the dance by a girl. And this time he is correct as Lumpy makes a point of ribbing him as soon as he sees Evelyn drive up to the dance hall. Of course, Wally gets the last laugh when a traffic cop gives Lumpy a ticket for parking in a red zone and all the kids who had ridden up with Lumpy ask if they can ride back with Evelyn. Though things turn out fine in both situations, one has the feeling that it will take a few more incidents such as these for Wally to grow thick enough skin not to worry about how he will look in front of the other guys if he is forced to do something unconventional. The allure of fitting in exerts a strong pull well into adulthood, a point in the future beyond the scope of this series.

The Actors

For the biographies of Barbara Billingsley, Hugh Beaumont, Tony Dow, Jerry Mathers, Ken Osmond, Frank Bank, Stanley Fafara, and Sue Randall, see the 1960 post on Leave It to Beaver.

Stephen Talbot

Stephen Henderson Talbot, born February 28, 1949, was the son of veteran actor Lyle Talbot (profiled in the biography section of the 1960 post on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) who years later said that he begged his parents to let him get into acting. He began appearing in guest spots on a variety of programs in 1959 including Lawman, Sugarfoot, and Wanted Dead or Alive. That year he would also make the first of 57 appearances as Beaver's friend Gilbert Bates (though he was actually Gilbert Gates in his first appearance) over the remainder of the series. His lone feature film appearance came in the 1960 teen drama Because They're Young, and his last acting credit came the same year that Leave It to Beaver ended in 1963. 

After graduating from Harvard High School in North Hollywood in 1966, he attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut and began making films against the Vietnam War. After graduating in 1970, he went to work for the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, first as an assistant to the university president and eventually as a lecturer in the American Studies program. In the 1980s he worked as a staff reporter and producer for PBS television affiliate KQED in San Francisco where he produced local documentaries as well as national documentaries that aired on PBS. His first such documentary Broken Arrow: Can a Nuclear Weapons Accident Happen Here? won him a Peabody Award in 1980, and he won a second Peabody two years later for a biography of crime fiction writer Dashiell Hammett. Beginning in 1992 he began producing documentaries for the PBS series Frontline and won a DuPont Award for his coverage of the 1992 U.S. Presidential election The Best Campaign Money Can Buy. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks he was tapped to be the series editor for a new series called Frontline World in the hopes of raising awareness about other countries. He produced 94 episodes for the series running through 2010. He has continued writing and producing documentaries up to the present day, producing The Kansas Experiment for Independent Lens and writing Moscone: A Legacy of Change about slain San Francisco mayor George Moscone both in 2018. He currently lives in San Francisco with his wife Pippa Gordon.

Karen Sue Trent

Born March 14, 1948, Karen Sue Trent made her film debut in the pro-nudist feature Garden of Eden playing the young daughter of a woman who unknowingly spends the night in a nudist camp after her car breaks down nearby. The film was the subject of a lawsuit whose verdict ruled that nudity on film was not inherently obscene. After appearing on Broadway in a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author in 1955, she made her television debut in an episode of Matinee Theater in 1957. After single appearances on Death Valley Days, Shirley Temple's Storybook, and Wagon Train in 1958-59, she was cast as Beaver antagonist Penny Woods in 1960 and appeared in the role 13 times between 1960-62. The following year she appeared in an episode of The Rifleman and reportedly was injured filming a scene in which her character was trapped in quicksand, which prompted her to quit her acting career. Her whereabouts and occupations since then have not been documented.

Richard Correll

Richard Thomas Correll was born in Los Angeles on May 14, 1948, the son of Charles J. Correll, who played Andy Brown on the long-running radio comedy Amos 'n' Andy. Correll's father was also a gag writer for silent comedy star Harold Lloyd near the end of Lloyd's career, a connection that would serve the younger Correll well: as a teenager he began helping Lloyd organize and preserve his extensive film library and would go on to be a significant contributor to the 1991 documentary about Lloyd The Third Genius. Today he is credited as the chief archivist by The Lloyd Trust. Jerry Mathers has named Correll as his best friend growing up, as indicated on Mathers' web site. Correll broke into TV acting on a 1955 episode of The Bob Cummings Show but didn't really gather steam until 1960, when he not only made the first of 31 appearances as Beaver's friend Richard Rickover but also had guest spots on The Betty Hutton Show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and Make Room for Daddy. Concurrent with his Leave It to Beaver appearances, he also appeared on National Velvet, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Hazel, and Lassie, which was the only TV show he appeared on after Leave It to Beaver was canceled. In 1973 in the film Showdown he played Dean Martin's character as a boy, but other than reprising Richard Rickover for Beaver reunion movies and the 1983-85 series reboot, Correll moved into TV producing, writing, and directing after attending film school at USC.

In the early 1980s he began writing for series such as Happy Days and moved into producing shows such as Valerie and Full House by 1987. In the 1990s he produced many more TV programs including 86 episodes of Family Matters, 50 episodes of Step by Step, and 14 episodes of Two of a Kind. After producing 8 episodes of The Jamie Foxx Show in 1999-2000, he moved into children's programming on channels such as the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon and produced multiple episodes of The Amanda Show starring Amanda Bynes, So Little Time starring the Olsen Twins, All That, That's So Raven, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody before going on to create the Miley Cyrus series Hannah Montana. But in 2010 he sued Disney for unfair termination and failure to pay him creative royalties for the show. Since then he has continued producing a number of TV series, including some for Disney, as well as Are We There Yet?, See Dad Run, Jessie, Bunk'd, and the Full House reboot Fuller House.

Cheryl Holdridge

Born Cheryl Lynn Phelps in New Orleans on June 20, 1944, she was adopted by her step-father in 1953 after her mother had relocated to Burbank, California three years prior. Her birth father has never been identified. She took dance lessons from an early age and made her show business debut at age 9 while performing in a New York City Ballet performance of The Nutcracker in Los Angeles. After an uncredited appearance in the feature film Carousel  in 1956, she auditioned for and was selected for the original troupe of Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club beginning in 1956 and appeared in two of the program's serials Boys of the Western Sea and Annette in 1958. In 1959 she made the first of four appearances on Bachelor Father, the last 3 as Lila Meredith, and made her first of two appearances on Leave It to Beaver as Gloria Cusick. Beginning in 1961, she appeared 6 more times on the program as Wally's friend Julie Foster. 

During her years on Leave It to Beaver she also appeared on a number of other TV programs, such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, My Three Sons, Dennis the Menace, The Donna Reed Show, and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. In 1964, the year after Beaver was canceled, she continued getting guest spots on shows such as Bewitched, Wagon Train, and The Dick Van Dyke Show, but she retired from acting when she married race car driver Lance Reventlow, the lone child of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton. After Reventlow died in a plane crash in 1972, she married car rental owner Jim Skarda but returned to acting briefly to reprise her role as Julie Foster on two episodes of The New Leave It to Beaver in 1985 and 1987. She divorced Skarda in 1988 and married California political operative Manning J. Post in 1994, at which time she became active in philanthropic concerns such as serving on the council of the Children's Burn Foundation and supporting environmental causes. She made one last acting appearance in the feature film The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas  in 2000 and died from lung cancer on January 6, 2009 at the age of 64.

Pamela Baird

Born Pamela Beaird in Bexar County, Texas on April 6, 1945, she broke into acting playing Hildy Broberg on the TV series My Friend Flicka, on which she would appear 12 times from 1955-56. She appeared twice in 1956 on The Mickey Mouse Club as a singer, the first of these when she won the Talent Round-Up segment on the November 2 episode and then returned to sing again on the December 24 episode. She also appeared in a number of other drama anthology series and one-off guest spots on shows such as Our Miss Brooks, Fury, and The Adventures of Jim Bowie over the next two years before appearing 4 times as Nancy on Bachelor Father in 1958. That was the same year she made the first of her 6 appearances as Wally's love interest Mary Ellen Rogers on Leave It to Beaver. During this time she performed in the vocal trio The Holly-Tones with her two cousins Deanna and Joyce Beaird and also released a single as a solo artist "My Second Date" on Dynasty Records in 1960. 

Her last appearance on Beaver came in 1961 after which she appeared on only a half dozen shows between 1962-64 including Make Room for Daddy, Perry Mason, and two appearances on Mr. Novak. After graduating from Covina High School in 1963, Pamela left the acting profession a year later and attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, from which she graduated in 1968. In 1973 she married Robert H. Hensley, who had performed as a singer under the name Jericho Brown and as an actor under the name Bob Henry. Hensley had left the entertainment business for Christian ministry in 1970, and the couple settled in the Arlington, Texas area and had five children. She pursued a Masters Degree in Education at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas and graduated with a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from Liberty University in 2015. Her husband passed away in 2016 at the age of 80.

Burt Mustin

Born in Pittsburgh on February 8, 1884, Burton Hill Mustin didn't take up acting until age 67. His father was a stockbroker, and Mustin graduated from Pennsylvania Military College in 1903 with a degree in civil engineering and experience as the school's goalie on its hockey team. After giving engineering a try, he gave it up and became an automobile salesman, first for Oakland, then Franklin, and finally for Lincoln and Mercury up until World War II, at which point he worked for the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. Besides appearing in local productions of a Gilbert & Sullivan troupe and The Pittsburgh Opera, in 1921 Mustin became the announcer for a variety program on Pittsburgh's KDKA radio station. That same year he was one of the original founders of Pittsburgh's Lions Club. He also was a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society and traveled to San Francisco in 1925 to take part in a quartet competition. But his acting career didn't get started until he retired and moved with his wife to Tucson, Arizona where director William Wyler saw him in a theater production of Detective Story and told him to look him up if he wanted to pursue a film career. As a result, Mustin was cast in the film version of Detective Story in 1951 and from there had a long and prolific career. He made his television debut the same year in an episode of The Adventures of Kit Carson , and while his feature film credits outnumbered his TV guest appearances over the next several years, he made 5 appearances on Our Miss Brooks between 1952-55 before landing his first recurring role as Foley on The Great Gildersleeve in 1955-56. This was followed by a stint as Mr. Finley on Date With the Angels in 1957-58 and the first of 14 appearances as Gus the Fireman on Leave It to Beaver in 1957, continuing in the role until 1962.

Concurrent with his appearances on Beaver, he was cast as Jud Fletcher on The Andy Griffith Show, making 9 appearances as this character through 1966 as well as playing a few other characters during that span. He also continued getting guest spots on a number of other TV series including The Texan, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Dr. Kildare, and The Twilight Zone. At this point his TV work far outpaced his feature film roles, but he did appear in the Don Knotts comedies The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, and The Shakiest Gun in the West. In 1971 he was cast opposite Queenie Smith as part of an elderly couple in the sketch comedy series The Funny Side, which lasted less than 6 months, but he continued to find work on shows such as Love, American Style and Adam-12 before playing Justin Quigley on 4 episodes of All in the Family between 1973-76. In 1976 he also appeared 3 times on Phyllis as the suitor of Phyllis' cranky grandmother-in-law Mother Dexter. He passed away the next year on January 28, 1977 at the age of 92.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 4, Episode 15, "Teacher's Daughter": Ross Elliott (shown on the left, played Freddie the director on The Jack Benny Program and Sheriff Abbott on The Virginian) plays Wally's English teacher Mr. Foster.
Season 4, Episode 18, "Wally's Track Meet": John Close (Lt. John Jameson on Big Town) plays Wally's track coach Mr. Henderson. Richard Deacon (see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Dick Van Dyke Show) plays Lumpy's father Fred Rutherford.
Season 4, Episode 19, "Beaver's Old Buddy": Gary Hunley (Mickey on Sky King) plays Beaver's old friend Jackie Waters.
Season 4, Episode 20, "Beaver's Tonsils": John Gallaudet (Chamberlain on Mayor of the Town, Judge Penner on Perry Mason, and Bob Anderson on My Three Sons) plays physician Dr. Kirby.
Season 4, Episode 21, "The Big Fish Count": Jennie Lynn (Jennie Baker on Love and Marriage) plays little girl Sally Ann Maddox.
Season 4, Episode 23, "Mother's Helper": Candy Moore (shown on the right, played Angie on The Donna Reed Show, Chris Carmichael on The Lucy Show, and hosted The Dream Girl of 1967) plays June's helper Margie Manners.
Season 4, Episode 24, "The Dramatic Club": Katherine Warren (appeared in The Lady Pays Off, The Glenn Miller Story, and The Caine Mutiny) plays math teacher Mrs. Prescott.

Season 4, Episode 25, "Wally and Dudley": Jimmy Hawkins (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Donna Reed Show) plays Wally's new classmate Dudley McMillan. Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson on Lost in Space)  plays Eddie Haskell's girlfriend Christine Staples.
Season 4, Episode 28, "Mistaken Identity": Alan Hewitt (starred in That Touch of Mink, Days of Wine and Roses, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and played Det. Bill Brennan on My Favorite Martian) plays police Lt. Barnes. Marvin Bryan (Lt. Bacon on Yancy Derringer) plays police Officer Medford.
Season 4, Episode 29, "Wally's Dream Girl": Linda Bennett (appeared in The Big Heat, Creature With the Atom Brain, and Queen Bee and was a recording artist whose credits include one of the worst Christmas singles of all time, "An Old Fashioned Christmas (Daddy's Home)") plays Wally's crush Ginny Townsend.
Season 4, Episode 30, "The School Picture": Gage Clarke (see the biography section for the 1961 post on Gunsmoke) plays school photographer Mr. Baxter. Doris Packer (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) plays school principal Mrs. Rayburn.
Season 4, Episode 31, "Beaver's Rat": Richard Deacon (shown on the far right, see "Wally's Track Meet" above) returns as Fred Rutherford. Veronica Cartwright (shown on the near right, starred in The Birds, The Children's Hour, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Alien, The Right Stuff, and The Witches of Eastwick and played Jemima Boone on Daniel Boone, Molly Hark on Tanner '88, A.D.A. Margaret Flanagan on L.A. Law, Cassandra Spender on The X-Files, Valerie Shenkman on Invasion, and Bun Waverly on Eastwick) plays his daughter Violet.
Season 4, Episode 32, "In the Soup": Harry Holcombe (appeared in The Fortune Cookie, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Foxy Brown, Escape to Witch Mountain, and Empire of the Ants and played Frank Gardner on Search for Tomorrow, Doc Benson on My Mother the Car, Mr. Kendricks on Barefoot in the Park, and Dr. J.P. Martin on Bonanza) plays Whitey's father Frank Whitney.
Season 4, Episode 33, "Community Chest": Lee Meriwether (shown on the left, starred in Batman: The Movie, Angel in My Pocket, and The Undefeated and played Anne Reynolds on The Young Marrieds, Nurse Bonnie Tynes on Dr. Kildare, Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel, Tracey on Mission: Impossible, Lee Sawyer on The New Andy Griffith Show, Betty Jones on Barnaby Jones, Lily Munster on The Munsters Today, Ruth Martin on All My Children, and Birdie Spencer on Project: Phoenix) plays a young woman donating to the community chest.
Season 4, Episode 36, "Beaver Goes Into Business": Amzie Strickland (Mrs. Phillips on The Bill Dana Show and Julia Mobey on Carter Country) plays a woman whose lawn Beaver mows. William Stevens (Officer Jerry Walters on Adam-12) plays a man upset after Beaver cuts his lawn.
Season 4, Episode 37, "Kite Day": Jason Robards, Sr. (father of Jason Robards, Jr.) plays judge Mr. Henderson.
Season 4, Episode 38, "Beaver's Doll Buggy": Jean Vanderpyl (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Flintstones) plays Penny Woods' mother Mrs. Woods. Jennie Lynn (see "The Big Fish Count" above) plays little girl Patty Ann Maddox.

Season 5, Episode 1, "Wally Goes Steady": Pat McCaffrie (Chuck Forrest on Bachelor Father and Dr. Edgar Harris on Outlaws) plays Ward's athletic club acquaintance Bill Boothby. Mary Mitchel (appeared in Twist Around the Clock, Panic in Year Zero, A Swingin' Summer, and Dementia 13) plays his daughter Evelyn. Ryan O'Neal (shown on the far left, starred in Love Story, What's Up, Doc?, Barry Lyndon, Paper Moon, A Bridge Too Far, and The Main Event and played Tal Garrett on Empire, Rodney Harrington on Peyton Place, Bobby Tannen on Good Sports, Robert Roberts, Jr. on Bull, Jerry Fox on Miss Match, and Max Keenen on Bones) plays his son-in-law Tom Henderson.
Season 5, Episode 2, "No Time for Babysitters": Barbara Parkins (shown on the right, starred in Valley of the Dolls, The Mephisto Waltz, and Puppet on a Chain and played Betty Anderson Harrington on Peyton Place) plays Beaver's babysitter Judy Walker.
Season 5, Episode 3, "Wally's Car": Ralph Sanford (Mayor Jim Kelley on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays junkman Mr. Garvey.
Season 5, Episode 5, "Beaver's Cat Problem": Grace Wallis Huddle (mother of Sue Ane Langdon) plays cat owner Mrs. Prentiss.
Season 5, Episode 6, "Wally's Weekend Job": Tim Graham (Homer Ede on National Velvet) plays drugstore owner Mr. Gibson. Bill Baldwin (the narrator on Harbor Command and Bat Masterson and the announcer on The Bob Cummings Show) plays Mary Ellen Rogers' father Mr. Rogers.
Season 5, Episode 7, "Beaver Takes a Drive": Maurice Manson (shown on the left, played Frederick Timberlake on Dennis the Menace, Josh Egan on Hazel, and Hank Pinkham on General Hospital) plays traffic court Judge Morton. Gail Bonney (Goodwife Martin on Space Patrol and Madeline Schweitzer on December Bride) plays his clerk. Stuffy Singer (Donnie Henderson on Beulah and Alexander Bumstead on Blondie) plays Wally's friend Steve.
Season 5, Episode 8, "Wally's Big Date": Judee Morton (appeared in Zotz! and The Slime People and played Dr. Smithson on General Hospital) plays Wally's original dance date Marjorie Muller. Laraine Stephens (Susan Wentworth on O.K. Crackerby!, Diane Waring on Brackens World, and Claire Kronski on Matt Helm) plays Wally's new date Gail Preston.
Season 5, Episode 9, "Beaver's Ice Skates.": Stanley Clements (Stanislaus "Duke" Coveleskie in 6 Bowery Boys feature films) plays a shoe salesman.
Season 5, Episode 10, "Weekend Invitation": David Kent (later played Bill Scott on Leave It to Beaver) plays Wally's new classmate Scott. Richard Deacon (see "Wally's Track Meet" above) returns as Fred Rutherford.
Season 5, Episode 12, "Wally's Chauffeur": Mary Mitchel (see " Wally Goes Steady " above) returns as Wally's girlfriend Evelyn Boothby. James Seay (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays her father. Mark Allen (Matt Kissel on The Travels of Jamie McPheeters and Sam Evans on Dark Shadows) plays a policeman.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Rocky and His Friends / The Bullwinkle Show (1961)

Calendar year 1961 would prove a momentous one for the animated moose and squirrel cartoon as NBC, in an attempt to cash in on the sudden popularity of cartoons aimed at both adults and children due to the success of The Flintstones, renamed the program The Bullwinkle Show for its third season and moved it to prime-time on Sunday evenings in the fall of 1961.

But first a look back at the remaining Season 2 episodes of Rocky and His Friends, which aired on Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning. There were four Rocky and Bullwinkle story arcs remaining in Season 2, beginning with "Rue Brittania," which ran for 8 installments, or four episodes. This story arc shows little of the cultural satire for which the Bullwinkle series is best known, as Bullwinkle is believed to be the inheritor of a large British fortune due to a mark on the bottom of his foot, and the nephews of the late Earl of Crankcase try to kill him so that they can collect the inheritance instead. There is the horror-film staple of having the will stipulate that Bullwinkle must spend a week in Abominable Manor, with the nephews, after failing to have him killed even with the help of Boris and Natasha, then try to have him set foot outside of the mansion to be disqualified, but this also fails. The only cultural reference in the entire arc is when Boris poses as Dr. Kildarovitch to perform an operation on Bullwinkle from which he is not supposed to recover. Two of the Mr. Know-It-All shorts that air in the midst of this story arc offer more satire. In one such short, Bullwinkle shows how to buy a used car, with Boris acting as the used car salesman, always directing the customer to the model he wants to sell rather than the one the customer wants to buy, and with the customer always ending up with a defective model so that the salesman can talk him into buying yet another model. In the other short, Mr. Know-It-All shows how to be an archaeologist and travels to Egypt to explore the pyramids only to discover that Boris has commercialized the historical treasures by turning them into an amusement park. 

Crass commercialism was a favorite target of Jay Ward and Bill Scott and would continue to be exposed in future episodes, such as the next story arc "Buried Treasure" in which a newspaper editor tries to rescue flagging sales of his paper by holding a buried treasure contest. The buried treasure is $1 million in worthless Confederate money and the grand prize is a nearly worthless 1910 Stearns-Wright automobile, but by placing clues about the treasure's location in each day's edition of the newspaper, publisher Colonel McCornpone is able to spur sales of his paper while also turning the town into a field of pot holes where readers have dug to try to find the buried money. The distraction from the contest also makes it easy for Boris and his gang to dig a tunnel into the bank and empty the vault. After a series of misadventures in which Rocky and Bullwinkle get, then lose, then recapture the stolen real money, they also discover the hidden Confederate money, thereby winning the contest but are unable to drive their new automobile on the streets because there are too many pot holes, so Rocky resorts to creating a faux landscape to roll past Bullwinkle seated at the wheel of their car, up on blocks, so that he can simulate the enjoyment of driving his grand prize. Ward and Scott satirize not only the unintended side effects of shameless promotional stunts but also suggest the prizes offered aren't really worth anything.

"The Last Angry Moose," which ran for only 4 installments over 2 episodes, satirizes Hollywood and celebrity culture as Bullwinkle becomes convinced that he has the makings of a great actor when he mistakenly thinks that women are fainting over his acting talent when they are actually frightened by mice who have escaped from the pet store conveniently located in the movie theater lobby. Bullwinkle then takes his life savings in his mattress and travels to Hollywood where Boris and Natasha try every trick in the book to separate him from his money, first by offering to sell him worthless movie souvenirs. Then Boris impersonates a talent scout who takes 10% of Bullwinkle's money as his standard fee and hands him over to an acting coach, also Boris in disguise, who teaches him a "method" called The System in which Bullwinkle must slouch, mumble, and wear torn clothing, an obvious poke at then-popular method actors such as Marlon Brando and the late James Dean. The acting coach then sends Bullwinkle to famous director Alfred Hitchhike who casts him in "The Last Angry Moose," but Bullwinkle's acting is so bad it turns the drama into a comedy that is a huge hit and prompts a gossip columnist based on Louella Parsons to proclaim Bullwinkle a star. Despite making a fortune from his hit movie Bullwinkle retires and returns to Frostbite Falls because he thinks it a waste to spend so much time and effort making a movie only to have people laugh at it. Though they manage to lampoon nearly every link in the Hollywood chain of self-promotion, Ward & Scott's disparagement of method actors and overinflated egos is hardly novel for the era--many other satirists were making the same point at the time.

The final story arc of Season 2 is "The Wailing Whale," a spin on Melville's Moby Dick in which the giant ship-eating whale is named Maybe Dick, and a criticism of both comic books and immoral capitalism. The story begins with Bullwinkle telling Rocky that the comic book story he has just read about the giant whale Maybe Dick is thrilling, but Rocky tells him it's just a made up story, only it turns out that there really is a Maybe Dick who eats large ocean vessels and thereby sends the entire shipping and cruise ship industries into a tailspin. Enter shipping mogul Pericles Parnassus, clearly based on real-life shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who actually owned a whaling business based in Peru from 1950-56 which he was forced to sell after an expose showed that his whaling ships were killing mostly infant whales rather than adults. This sort of ruthless pursuit of profit is depicted in the Parnassus character, who confabs with his shipping colleagues and comes up with a promotional stunt to save their business--hold a contest offering a free boat and fishing equipment for anyone willing to go capture Maybe Dick. No one but Bullwinkle would think that they could capture a whale that large with a fishing rod, but Parnassus has also stuffed the boat's cargo hold with dynamite, fully expecting that Maybe Dick will swallow the boat, which will then explode and kill Maybe Dick, and, of course, whoever is helming the boat, meaning Rocky and Bullwinkle. But once aboard the ship, the heroes discover another person at the controls, Capt. "Wrong Way" Peachfuzz, whose knack for doing the exact opposite of what he should actually do saves them and sends the dynamite-laden ship back to port to blow up Parnassus and his cronies. 

At two points during this part of the story, Ward & Scott take aim at their bread and butter, the TV industry, first by having one of the shipping executives so despondent at the decline of his business that he considers another career as a TV producer. When one of his colleagues says, "I thought we all agreed to commit suicide," the first shipping executive replies, "It amounts to the same thing." And when news reaches TV audiences around the world that Rocky and Bullwinkle have disappeared after being swallowed by Maybe Dick, audiences around the world are upset, but an American TV viewer says "So what?' but then cries uncontrollably when he hears that the Giants lost again. The story then takes a turn away from its original premise once Rocky and Bullwinkle, along with Peachfuzz, are swallowed by Maybe Dick. They run into Boris and Natasha, trying to commandeer all the booty from the ships Maybe Dick has swallowed, and after they exit the giant fish they discover an underwater community called Submerbia, but neither of these plot excursions offer the biting satire of the story's initial narrative.

Equally sarcastic are several of the "Bullwinkle's Corner" shorts included between the main story arcs, which focus again on promotional stunts. In one Bullwinkle's fan club does not have enough members to field a softball team, so he turns to a promoter, Boris as publicity agent Moranski, to raise his membership. Moranski has Bullwinkle perform a number of physically painful stunts but the subsequent write-ups in the newspaper always mention Moranski and not Bullwinkle, leading to a huge growth in memberhips for the Moranski fan club, not Bullwinkle's. In another short Boris objects to a clause in the Bullwinkle fan club oath that requires members to pledge to be trustworthy and exhibit other noble traits. Boris says this goes against his principles, so he forms his own fan club and runs a series of TV ads recruiting members by offering them an outlet for their unsavory personality traits. The fan club's membership grows quickly, but Natasha wonders if they can trust such sketchy characters. Boris tells her not to worry because they are just "our kind of people," a rationale that should be familiar in certain contemporary political circles.

When it debuted in prime-time on September 24, 1961, The Bullwinkle Show opened to fairly positive reviews from the newspaper critics across the country and even into Canada, though an introductory Bullwinkle puppet sketch by Bill Scott was jettisoned when it raised complaints for telling children to do things like remove the control knob from their TV set so that it would always be set to the channel on which the program appeared or emptying their parents' wallets and sending the money to Bullwinkle (these puppet segments are not included in the DVD release). Even TV Guide's hard-to-please critic Gilbert Seldes remarked in the December 30, 1961 issue that of all the cartoons then flooding the airwaves Bullwinkle appeared to be "of the sturdier contestants. It has one advantage: Each of the shows I've seen has been divided into two or three short takes, so that the grim job of being funny on a single topic over a long stretch of time is avoided." But while the critics may have approved, the viewing public, particularly the family unit, refused to give up its long-standing devotion to Lassie, which was airing in the same time slot.

Season 3 had four total story arcs over 33 episodes, with two of those story arcs appearing in episodes that aired in 1961. While some sources, such as, list the first episodes for Season 3 as "The Three Mooseketeers" story arc, Keith Scott's book The Moose That Roared and 1961 issues of TV Guide show that "Missouri Mish Mash" was the first story arc to air, beginning on September 24, and it was followed by "Lazy Jay Ranch," which ran into February 1962. "Missouri Mish Mash" is one of the longer story arcs with 26 installments over 13 episodes and is notable for introducing the character of Fearless Leader, Boris and Natasha's boss in the mythical country of Pottsylvania. Though I have yet to find any record of Ward & Scott being asked to tone down the anti-Soviet message of having the arch-villain Boris and his sidekick Natasha sport obviously Russian stereotypical names and accents, June Foray commented in an interview included on the Season 2 DVD release that when she was assigned to do the voice of Natasha, she was told to do a continental European accent rather than one strictly identifiable as Russian because they did not want to offend their Cold War antagonist. Foray's remark suggests she was given this instruction from the very start, but the addition of the obviously Nazi-derived Fearless Leader can be seen as an attempt to lessen the show's anti-Soviet bias because now a Nazi is calling the shots, and everyone agrees that Nazis are bad, right?

"Missouri Mish Mash" is also notable because it caused another controversy with a then-popular TV star, Durward Kirby, then appearing on The Garry Moore Show and Candid Camera. The story arc has Bullwinkle hoodwinked into traveling to Peaceful Valley, Missouri to attend a moose convention when he is actually being recruited to find the elusive Kirward Derby, a hat that makes its wearer the smartest person on earth and an obvious plum for someone hoping to rule the world, like Fearless Leader. As Keith Scott notes in his book, Kirby was not amused by the play on his name and had his lawyers issue a Cease and Desist letter, but Ward & company knew that the challenge would not hold up legally and actually encouraged Kirby to sue, figuring that there was no such things as bad publicity, particularly for a program that was being beaten in the ratings by Lassie. Eventually Kirby and his team dropped the request. 

Though much of the story arc is spent on Rocky and Bullwinkle getting swept up in a long-running Peaceful Valley feud between the Hatfuls and the Floys and then the pursuit of, theft of, and recapture of the Kirward Derby, which we eventually learn belongs to the moon men Cloyd and Gidney, the last few installments also take a few shots at Washington as Rocky figures that the easiest way to get there--to turn over the derby to government officials--is to run for Congress. He is successful because he promises  the Hatfuls and the Floys the same thing--to rid their town of their rivals, a shot at politicians who will contradict themselves and say whatever it takes to get themselves elected. Once Rocky arrives at his new office in D.C. a passerby remarks to his friend that you don't see a squirrel in Congress every day, while the friend remarks that it was bound to happen with all the nuts already in office. 

The next story arc, "Lazy Jay Ranch," which debuted on December 24, 1961, began by poking fun at the current craze for TV westerns, which Bullwinkle is so smitten by that he winds up shooting his television set (perhaps this is where Elvis Presley got the idea) in trying to outdraw his television hero and is forced to resort to that most boring of past-times, reading. But of course his reading material consists of pulp magazines and an occasional newspaper where he notices an ad for a ranch for sale in Wyoming at the bargain basement price of $28. Soon he and Rocky are on their way out west but discover when they finally make it to the ranch that the only livestock being raised there are worms. They soon run into Boris and Natasha, who believe the ranch is laced with rocks containing precious gems, and Bullwinkle gets a chance to shout the Rawhide slogan "Head 'em up, move 'em out" while driving the worms to a fishing village where he and Rocky hope to sell them as bait. However, though the plot then veers in several zany directions, it consists of the typical failed attempts by Boris to ruin or kill Bullwinkle and Rocky and culminates with an attempted bank robbery. The story also has some continuity issues when Bullwinkle and Rocky are driving an armored car across the bottom of a lake. Not realizing that he is driving on the lake bed completely submerged, Bullwinkle at first feels stuffy and is about to crack the window in "The Bush Pusher" (February 4, 1962), but when the story is picked up in the next installment, "Underwater Trap" (February 11, 1962), he supposedly sees a left turn sign and plans to roll down the window to signal. Likewise, in this installment they are carrying a sack full of money they made from selling bait at the fishing village, but in the next installment the money is in a box when Rocky is shot out of the cannon mounted on the armored car's turret. These small mistakes don't really compromise the story as a whole, but it still isn't one of the best plots in the series, relying too often on overused situations. 

However, the Mr. Know-It-All segment about being an effective member of the Peace Corps, included in the DVD episode with "Buzzard Bait," mercilessly ridicules advanced nations' attempts to help the disadvantaged. Bullwinkle tries to placate the natives with trinkets only to discover that they have very advanced machinery that deems the trinkets worthless. He then attempts to make improvements to their machine but only ruins it. And finally, when he tries to work hand in hand with the native, Boris, he discovers that they are making a rocket so that the native can send him back to his own country. In short, Americans' attempts to improve the lives of third-world countries are not appreciated and frequently make things worse.

Another Mr. Know-It-All segment targets the hit-making record industry, a foil often spoofed by musical artists themselves. Bullwinkle's attempts to make his recording a hit fail because he cannot win over famous DJ Disc Dawson, played by Boris, of course. Even his "Payola Kit" consisting of a dog that listens to a gramophone backfires when Dawson sics the dog on Bullwinkle. Though radio DJs figure less prominently in determining what becomes a hit today, there still is a rigged system that often elevates mediocre music to the top by sheer brute force.

It's remarkable that Bullwinkle and Rocky remained on the air for five seasons given how subversive much of the content was, but there is no mistaking that their legacy paved the way for contemporary shows such as The Simpsons and South Park that enjoy the freedom to mock anything and everything.  

The music for the 1961 episodes Rocky and Friends and The Bullwinkle Show is credited to Fred Steiner, who was profiled in the 1961 post for Perry Mason.

The DVD releases for Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show are obviously syndicated versions bearing a copyright date of 1997. At one point when the series went into syndication it was whittled down to a 15-minute show. The episodes on the DVDs each run about 22.5 minutes rather than the typical 25 minutes for shows of that era. Also, an examination of 1961 TV Guide listings shows that many shows contain both a Peabody segment and a Dudley Do-Right segment in the same show, whereas the DVD versions only contain one or the other. Furthermore, the intermediate shorts--Fractured Fairy Tales or Aesop & Son, Peabody, and Dudley Do-Right do not match the ones on the DVDs. So it appears that at some point the Bullwinkle and Rocky installments were stripped of their original intermediate shorts and then recombined in a different order for the DVD release.

The Actors

For the biographies of Bill Scott, June Foray, Paul Frees, Daws Butler, Walter Tetley, Hans Conried, William Conrad, Edward Everett Horton, and Charlie Ruggles, see the 1960 post on Rocky and His Friends.