Sunday, February 18, 2024

Dennis the Menace (1962)


In our previous post on the 1961 episodes of Dennis the Menace, we recounted that by the series' second season, the show had come to focus most on the character of Dennis' next-door neighbor George Wilson and the seemingly endless predicaments into which he became ensnared, sometimes by his own doing and sometimes due to some misunderstanding by Dennis. Though Dennis is sometimes the catalyst for these quagmires, he is still a secondary character to Wilson, who had become the real star of the show and the main reason for its success in making the top 30 in the ratings in its first three seasons. This successful formula continued through most of Season 3, with Wilson getting into all sorts of humiliating situations that usually required help from Dennis or his parents and ending with one of Wilson's patented catchphrases, "Great Scott!" or "Good grief!" The 1962 episodes continued to milk this cash cow, beginning with "Through Thick and Thin" (January 7, 1962) in which Wilson is worried that nemesis newspaper editor Mr. Krinkie is going to try to embarrass him when he profiles Wilson in his Important People column. When Dennis learns that Wilson used to be a flagpole sitter in his youth, Wilson has to make a deal to wear a lion costume in Dennis' upcoming Boy Scout Circus performance to keep Dennis from telling Krinkie about his past. Naturally, Wilson's lion costume head falls off mid-performance, and one of Krinkie's photographers gets a shot of the mishap, seeming to doom Wilson to humiliation in the next day's edition of the newspaper, that is, until Dennis tells Wilson that Krinkie himself played half of a giraffe in the same Circus, forcing Krinkie to make a deal with Wilson that neither would reveal the other's embarrassing role.

And Wilson continues to embroil himself in predicaments while seeking prestige, such as in "Calling All Bird Lovers" (January 14, 1962) in which he wants to be selected delegate to the state bird-lovers convention, so he agrees to host a bird-call performance by temperamental Hester Hutton at his home. Dennis almost sabotages the performance by repeating to her face an insult Wilson had used about Hutton, but he eventually saves Wilson's reputation by telling bird-lover society President Mr. Pindyck about Wilson's tireless pursuit of capturing a photo of a rare bird. In "Junior Pathfinders Ride Again" (April 8, 1962) Wilson hopes to be admitted into the prestigious Pioneers Club, and when his first attempt to impress club President Mr. Judd fails because his distant uncle turns out to have been a terrible surveyor rather than an important settler, Wilson then has to agree to help Dennis with his Pathfinder club's presentation on Indian culture by volunteering to demonstrate how to start a fire with only sticks and stones, even though he has no knowledge of how to do so. He bungles the assignment by getting his cousin, who is a chemist, to treat the sticks with flammable chemicals, only to have the whole demonstration literally go up in smoke. But Dennis once again bails him out by giving Wilson some arrowheads he has collected which turn out to be historically significant in proving a new theory about Indian migration, so impressing Judd that he invites Wilson to join the Pioneers Club after all.

Even on the rare occasion when he tries to do something nice for somebody else, Wilson manages to bungle the situation. In "Mr. Wilson's Housekeeper" (March 11, 1962), he decides to hire a housekeeper to give Martha more free time, even though she doesn't really want it. But the woman he hires for the job, Flora Davis, is an absolute dictator and will not even allow Wilson to spread out his stamp collection on his own coffee table. When Wilson's own schemes to sabotage Mrs. Davis fail, he is rescued by Dennis after learning from the milkman that Davis is deathly afraid of mice, and Dennis just happens to have a pet mouse at home for a school project, which he dumps in Davis' lap, sending her out the front door never to return. When Wilson, at Martha's suggestion, of course, offers to help Dennis with another school project documenting their town's history with the aid of his new video camera in "Dennis' Documentary Film" (March 25, 1962), Wilson ends up offending the town mayor, banker, and Sgt. Mooney with poorly edited shots and mixed-up narration cue cards (courtesy of Dennis) that appear to ridicule their subjects, resulting in Mooney enforcing a $60 fine against Wilson for jaywalking.

However, two episodes from Season 3 in retrospect seem to foreshadow Joseph Kearns' impending death and wound up being aired just before and after he passed away after suffering a stroke on February 17, 1962. In "Where There's a Will" (February 11, 1962), Wilson decides to amend his will to leave Dennis a gold watch he had admired, telling his attorney that it is in thanks for Dennis not bothering him as much recently. Dennis tries returning the favor by visiting lawyer Mr. Phillips to draw up a will leaving Wilson all of his possessions, such as his baseball cards, roller skates, etc. After changing his will, Wilson complains of feeling old and decrepit despite his doctor assuring Martha that he is in perfect health. And in the episode immediately following, "Mr. Wilson's Uncle" (February 18, 1962), Wilson gets a visit from Uncle Ned Matthews (played by Edward Everett Horton), who has converted from an old rocking-chair sloth to a physical fitness enthusiast. He assesses that George is out of shape and puts him on a rigorous exercise routine, along with Henry Mitchell. Of course, George devises a way to get out of it eventually by using some trick barbells made out of balsa wood to fool Ned into thinking he is much stronger than he really is. When Dennis spoils the ruse, Ned is amused, but then sentences George to an even earlier wake-up time for the next day's exercises.

When Kearns died in February, there were 10 more episodes that he filmed in the can, which allowed the series to run until May 6 with "The Man Next Door" before having to replace him. The next episode that aired featured Los Angeles Dodgers star pitcher Sandy Koufax in "Dennis and the Dodger" (May 13, 1962). It appears as though this episode was planned for Kearns but was then adapted for Willard Waterman's  grocer Otis Quigley (strangely, before this episode he was always Marvin Quigley) because his behavior and the jam he gets into have all the earmarks of George Wilson. First, he volunteers to coach Dennis' baseball team rather than allowing his chief grocery competitor to do it and thereby siphon off some of his business, even though he doesn't know the first thing about baseball or even who Sandy Koufax is. He complicates the problem when he goes to see the mayor to seek funding for baseball uniforms by agreeing to head up the welcoming committee for Koufax, who is coming to town to visit his aunt, and winds up offending both Koufax and his aunt. But of course he tries to hide his foul-up from the mayor, rather than admitting his incompetence, only to be bailed out by Dennis and his father, who persuades Koufax to groove him an easy pitch so that he will look like he knows how to hit in front of Dennis' friends. Wilson's absence is explained in this episode by Martha, who tells Quigley at his store that her husband is about to go on a trip back east. In later episodes, his extended stay is explained as having to settle a relative's estate.

The next episode to fill Kearns' absence brings back his Uncle Ned, again played by Horton, who comes to visit Martha in George's absence in "Dennis' Lovesick Friend" (May 20, 1962). Uncle Ned gets to play the Wilson role in this installment, deciding to enter a flower-growing contest that George typically enters, which causes him to butt heads with the competitive Mrs. Hawkins. The episode also resurrects Dennis being tormented by Margaret always trying to get him to play house as her husband. In this case, she learns that he has abused one of her dolls by tying it to a Fourth of July rocket and upon threat of telling his mother gets him to promise to play house with her, until he finds a dodge when he learns Uncle Ned needs help with the flower planting after throwing out his back. While he manages to avoid playing house with Margaret all day, that evening he is dismayed to learn that his parents have invited her over to spend the evening with him, to which he delivers a modified version of George Wilson's usual catchphrase, "Good gravy!"

By the third episode after Kearns' death, the producers had secured the services of veteran actor Gale Gordon, who is introduced as George Wilson's brother John, and his arrival in town is because he is a traveling magazine writer currently working on a piece about crossing the country by train. Even though John Wilson is married, he winds up staying with Martha for 6 episodes before she is dispatched and replaced by John's wife Eloise at the beginning of Season 4. It's clear that at first the producers planned to just insert Gordon into the same kind of plots previously developed for Kearns, even giving him a modified catchphrase of "Great Caesar's ghost!" (which admittedly is bizarre and not the least bit funny). They have him tangling with Mrs. Elkins in "John Wilson Wins a Chicken" (June 3, 1962) and "Dennis and the Witch Doctor" (July 1, 1962), trying to compete with arrogant Charles Brady in "Community Picnic" (June 24, 1962), and get admitted to a prestigious country club in "The Club Initiation" (June 17, 1962). They even have him collect valuable coins in "John Wilson Wins a Chicken." But it's clear that Gordon does not have Kearns' comic gifts. Though he would spend most of the rest of his career as the comic foil for Lucille Ball on her various TV shows, Gordon's brand of slapstick puffery appears extremely dated and corny today.

But it is also clear the producers for Dennis the Menace recognized his shortcomings because even though they retained him for a fourth season of the series, they eventually stopped trying to have him so closely mimic Kearns' characteristics. And they tried to goose interest and ratings by adding exotic locations and characters rather than sticking to the simpler, homey plots that had worked so well with Kearns. Season 4 begins with Dennis befriending "The Chinese Girl" (September 30, 1962) who is staying with the Wilsons while their father is out of town on business. John Wilson's roaming reporter occupation explains how he came to meet her father in Hong Kong. Wilson is reduced to a background role in this episode as most of the focus in on Dennis learning about Sen Yuen's culture and Margaret's jealousy over what she considers a rival for her eventual marriage to Dennis. More foreign culture is featured in "Dennis in Gypsyland" (November 4, 1962), though this time the goal is to put Wilson in a ridiculous version of gypsy dress to go undercover in a gypsy camp on the outskirts of town for a magazine story. This episode plays more like a Lucille Ball slapstick with Wilson mistakenly offering to break bread with the gypsy patriarch's daughter, which is considered a marriage proposal. A similar slapstick approach is tried in "Dennis and the Hermit" (December 30, 1962) when Wilson persuades Henry Mitchell to don a terribly fake cow costume in order to eavesdrop on a man who doesn't trust him but whom he believes to be the last surviving Civil War veteran, which he believes would make a great magazine article. It's a sure sign that a program is desperate when it results to broad slapstick in order to get laughs and ratings.

The producers also tried having the Mitchells and Wilsons take a trip to San Diego for two episodes to generate more interest. The first of these, "San Diego Safari" (November 18, 1962), features a chimpanzee that Wilson has arranged to bring back to their town for their zoo, and much of the episode revolves around hiding the chimp from the allergic manager of the motel where they are staying. If the sit-com The Hathaways couldn't succeed by featuring the antics of chimpanzees living with humans, Dennis the Menace couldn't expect to fare any better. In the next episode, "Dennis at Boot Camp" (November 25, 1962), the Mitchells and Wilsons are still in San Diego, but there is no mention about what happened to the chimp. Instead, the entire show revolves around Dennis and Wilson winding up on the San Diego Navy base and having to try to sneak out without getting into trouble. It's about as funny as it sounds, which is to say, it's not.

Having failed to make the show work by playing to Gale Gordon's "strengths" or by injecting exotic characters and locations to spur interest, at least the producers hit the mark by bringing back one of the show's best supporting characters, husband-seeker Esther Cathcart, played by Mary Wickes. She appears in two early Season 4 episodes, "You Go Your Way" (October 7, 1962) and "Jane Butterfield Says" (December 23, 1962), both of which provide her with a rival, the equally desperate spinster Lucy Tarbell, played by the future Mrs. Kravitz of Bewitched, Alice Pearce. These episodes are clearly the best of the post-Kearns episodes as Wickes and Pearce are perfect in their roles. Dennis and Wilson are mere by-standers for most of the real action in these episodes, but unfortunately were the entire series based on the competing spinsters, it would probably lose its punch, but it still might be better than anything that Gale Gordon had to offer. The character of Margaret, a kind of mini-Cathcart, is put to good use in the aforementioned "The Chinese Girl," "The Little Judge" (October 21, 1962) in which she plays Wilson's prissy defense attorney in a kind of child spoof on Perry Mason, and in "Poor Mr. Wilson" (October 28, 1962) in which she performs a hula dance during a benefit show Dennis hosts to try to raise money for what he believes is an impoverished Mr. Wilson. She also shows up in "Wilson's Second Childhood" (December 16, 1962) when she threatens to hang around Dennis all day unless he plays with her new jump rope. Fortunately for Dennis, Wilson has been assigned to hang out with him all day for a magazine article showing today's youth from their own perspective, so Dennis is able to force Wilson to do the jump-roping since as the new guy he is low man on the totem pole. Though she is also somewhat single-minded like Esther Cathcart, Margaret's character had the potential for further development and was a missed opportunity for better stories rather than the ones focused on John Wilson.

It's clear that viewers agreed that Gale Gordon was an unsuitable replacement for Joseph Kearns because the series fell from 17th place in the Nielsen ratings for 1961-62 to out of the top 30 in 1962-63, resulting in the show's cancellation after Season 4. It probably wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway, with Jay North approaching puberty and thus unsuited to play a small boy, but there were other sit-coms that made the transition with their child actors growing into adulthood--The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and My Three Sons. However, those series also had adult actors and characters who could carry their weight.




The Actors

For the biographies of Jay North, Joseph Kearns, Gloria Henry, Herbert Anderson, Sylvia Field, Billy Booth, and Jeannie Russell, see the 1960 post for Dennis the Menace. For the biographies of Mary Wickes, Willard Waterman, Irene Tedrow, George Cisar, and Elizabeth Harrower, see the 1961 post for Dennis the Menace.

Gale Gordon

The son of British actress Gloria Gordon and vaudevillian quick-change artist Charles Thomas Aldrich, Gale Gordon was born Charles Thomas Aldrich, Jr. on February 20, 1906 in New York City. His childhood was spent moving back and forth between England and the United States, depending on where his parents were working, but his trademark acting talent--his voice--was the result of a birth defect: his mother noticed that he had a cleft palate at 15 months. Three months later he underwent two painful surgeries, according to an August 4, 1962 TV Guide cover story, and only through the tenacity of his London throat surgeon did he emerge with his powerful and articulate voice. That talent was nurtured at age 17 when he served as actor Richard Bennett's dresser and pupil. Bennett, according to Gordon, taught him how to project his voice on the stage and gave him a small part in a 1923 theatrical production of The Dancers. Gordon joined his mother in Los Angeles two years later (his parents had divorced in 1919), and in 1926 Gordon made his first appearance on Los Angeles radio station KFWB singing and playing the ukelele for free. He then moved to KHJ for $2.50 per week. From there, he moved into a long and prolific radio acting career initially in dramas such as Tarzan, Gangbusters, Lux Radio Theatre, and the first actor in the title role of Flash Gordon in 1935. In 1937 while working on the radio version of Death Valley Days, he met the actress Virginia Curley, and the two married on December 27 of that year, a marriage that would last until both their deaths some 58 years later. Gordon got his first experience playing radio comedy in a 1939 episode of The Joe E. Brown Show and first worked with future collaborator Lucille Ball on Jack Haley's The Wonder Show in 1938-39, but it would be another two years before he got his real break when he had a guest spot on Fibber Magee and Molly as Otis Cadwallader, Molly's stuffy ex-boyfriend (a role he would reprise in the feature film Here We Go Again released in 1942). As a result of that appearance, he was given a recurring role on the program as Wistful Vista Mayor La Trivia, the role for which he developed his famous "slow burn" technique of growing irritation that results in an explosion of rage. Gordon stayed with the program for 12 years (interrupted by his service in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II) but long before that began branching out into additional roles on other programs, including the Sherlock Holmes knock-off The Casebook of Gregory Hood for which he played the title role in 1946-47 and most notably as tyrannical school principal Osgood Conklin, playing opposite Eve Arden, in Our Miss Brooks beginning in 1948. That same year he reunited with Lucille Ball in the radio comedy My Favorite Husband, playing the role of banker Rudolph Atterbury; the show which was a precursor to I Love Lucy. In 1950 Gordon co-starred with Bea Benaderet (who also played his wife on My Favorite Husband) in Granby's Green Acres, which would later provide the inspiration for the 1960s TV series Green Acres. When Lucille Ball moved to television in 1951, she wanted Gordon for the role of Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy, but he felt too committed to his role on Our Miss Brooks in addition to his other radio roles, so he declined and the part went to William Frawley. He did, however, play Ricky Ricardo's boss Alvin Littlefield, owner of the Tropicana Club in a pair of 1952 episodes. When Our Miss Brooks made the transition to TV in 1952, Gordon continued in his role as Osgood Conklin for which he would receive an Emmy nomination in 1955, and the man he would replace on Dennis the Menace, Joseph Kearns, had a smaller recurring role as Superintendent Stone. Our Miss Brooks ran for 4 seasons and 130 episodes, as well as spawning a 1956 feature film of the same name, in which Gordon also appeared, after which Gordon was cast as co-star on the comedy The Box Brothers opposite Bob Sweeney as a pair of brothers running a San Francisco photography studio. It lasted only one season, but in 1958 he found another recurring role as Bascomb Bleacher on the Joan Caulfield sit-com Sally. This series also lasted but one season, so Gordon turned to primarily feature films over the next three years, including Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!, Don't Give Up the Ship, The 30 Foot Bride From Candy Rock, Visit to a Small Planet, All in a Night's Work, Dondi, and All Hands on Deck, as well as an occasional turn as Danny Thomas' landlord on The Danny Thomas Show. Ball was able to scoop Gordon up during this time for a supporting role as Uncle Paul Porter on the Desilu-produced December Bride spin-off Pete and Gladys during 1960-62, but when she went about casting her next sit-com, The Lucy Show in 1962, Gordon had already been signed to fill the Joseph Kearns vacancy on Dennis the Menace.

The unexpected death of Kearns in February 1962, forced the Dennis the Menace producers to quickly grab Gordon and cast him a George Wilson's brother John for the remainder of the 1961-62 season, but during the final 6 episodes filmed to finish out Season 3, they liked what they got from Gordon and signed him to play John Wilson for the entirety of the show's fourth and final season. When Dennis the Menace was finally cancelled in 1963, Ball wasted no time in securing Gordon to play bank president and Lucy's boss Theodore J. Mooney, which he would play through the remainder of the show's duration, earning two more Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy in 1967 and 1968. When Ball launched her next vehicle, Here's Lucy, that same fall, Gordon came along playing a similar character, Harry Carter, Lucy's brother-in-law and boss. He received his fourth and final Emmy nomination for this role in 1971. Gordon is said to have just about retired from acting when that show ended in 1974, though he did appear in the Lucy TV movie Lucy Calls the President in 1977 and a pilot for a monastery-based sit-com, Bungle Abbey, in 1981, which was not picked up. Ball gave sit-coms one more try in 1986 with Life With Lucy, and Gordon came along for the ride playing her business partner Curtis McGibbon, but the ride was a short one, as the series was canceled after 13 episodes. Gordon would appear in one more feature film (The 'Burbs, 1989), reprise the Theodore J. Mooney character for an episode of the 1991 comedy Honey, I'm Home, and appear in one episode of The New Lassie  that same year before truly calling it quits. Though he had a hugely successful and prolific acting career on radio, television, and in movies for over half a century, acting was only one of his talents. He published two successful books in the 1940s, Nursery Rhymes for Hollywood Babies and Leaves From the Story Trees, built his own house and swimming pool on his 150-acre ranch in remote Borrego Springs, California as well as building all the furniture in that house, became the first successful commercial grower of carob on his farm, and served as president of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce. Only weeks after his wife Virginia passed away, Gordon himself also died from lung cancer at the age of 89 on June 30, 1995.

Sara Seegar

Sarah Wall Seegar was born July 1, 1914 in Greentown, IN, the youngest of five sisters born to educators Frank and Carrie (nee Wall) Seegar. Older sister Dorothy was a theatre actor and opera singer, and sister Miriam acted on the stage and in movies during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Father Frank gave up his teaching career and opened a hardware store to make more money to support his daughters' acting ambitions, though he would die in 1921 when Sara was only 7. When Miriam was recruited by producer Albert H. Woods to replace Sylvia Sidney in the London West End production of Crime in 1928, Mother Carrie and Sara followed her to England and lived with her at the Park Lane Hotel. While in Europe, Sara attended school both in London and Paris, France. In 1929, the Seegars moved to Hollywood, where Sara graduated from Hollywood High and acted in various theatrical productions. After graduating from Los Angeles Junior College with a degree in drama, Sara then returned to London to launch her theatre career, beginning with a 1935 production of Three Men on a Horse. While in London, she also made her feature film debut in The Last Curtain in 1937 and appeared in three more features but then moved back home when World War II broke out. By 1940 she was acting on Broadway where she met future husband Ezra Stone when they were both in the cast of a production of Horse Fever. They were married two years later. Since Stone played the title character Henry Aldrich on the radio comedy The Aldrich Family, Sara wound up appearing on the program as well for 6 years while she also continued acting in Broadway and Off-Broadway theatrical productions such as Vickie, At War With the Army (directed by Stone), and School for Scandal. In 1954 she made her television debut appearing on single episodes of Studio One, Suspense, and I Married Joan, but it wasn't until the early 1960s that she began to get regular guest spots on series such as Perry Mason, The Andy Griffith Show, The Real McCoys, and The Donna Reed Show. In 1962 she appeared in The Music Man as Maud Dunlop, one of the Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little ladies in River City. Later that year she was cast as Eloise Wilson for what would prove to be the final season of Dennis the Menace.

Her television work was more sparse after that series was canceled in 1963, though she and Stone were very active in community affairs in their hometown of Newton, Pennsylvania. She helped found the Newton Friends School, and she was a trustee of the David Library of the American Revolution, while Stone was president of the board. Beginning in 1964, she made 10 appearances on Bewitched, always playing a different character each time. She had four appearances as Mrs. Christopher on the 1966-67 sit-com Occasional Wife as well as single appearances on a few other programs such as Insight, The Patty Duke Show, Slattery's People, and The Cara Williams Show all in 1965-67. But in 1967 she began training young actors through the American College Theater Festival, the Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts, and the music and theater department of the U.S. Army. Other than her Bewitched work, she did not return to television until the 1971 TV movie Gideon, followed by 1972 appearances on Marcus Welby, M.D., The Jimmy Stewart Show, The Rookies, and The Brady Bunch. After another gap of 3 years, she had a spate of late 1970s guest spots on Mobile One, Kojak, The Jeffersons, and The White Shadow being her last film credit in 1979. However, she continued appearing in theatrical productions in her home community of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and in 1983 she and Stone produced and performed in Sweet Land, based on the history of Newton in celebration of the town's 300-year anniversary. Their daughter Francine Stone recalled after their deaths that they also frequently hosted a number of actors and celebrities at their Newton home, including Burl Ives, Debbie Reynolds, Red Buttons, Martha Raye, Jackie Cooper, and Dennis the Menace co-star Gale Gordon. Sara suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage on August 12, 1990, dying at the age of 76. Stone passed away four years later.

Robert John Pittman

Robert John Pittman was born January 20, 1956 in Los Angeles, the son of scriptwriter and director Montgomery Pittman and screenwriter Maurita Pittman, the mother of actress Sherry Jackson from a previous marriage. Montgomery Pittman was under contract to Warner Brothers TV department and wrote prolifically for most of their westerns, as well as the detective series 77 Sunset Strip, on which his 4-year-old son Robert John made his film debut in 1960. Later that year Robert John made the first of 32 appearances on Dennis the Menace in an uncredited part. He would appear twice more as other characters before making his first appearance as Dennis' friend Seymour at the end of Season 2 in 1961. Montgomery Pittman died from cancer on June 26, 1962 when Robert John was only 6 years old. Robert John continued playing Seymour on Dennis the Menace through the series' finale in spring 1963. Besides a failed TV pilot directed by his father and starring his half-sister Sherry Jackson that was aired in 1963, after his father's death, he appeared in only one more TV series, a single guest spot on the Imogene Coca comedy Grindl, in 1964. Eighteen years later he had a small part in the 1982 feature film Remembrance in which he was billed just as Robert Pittman. He is said to have died in Maui, Hawaii at age 34 sometime in 1990, though a person named Rufus claims to have met Robert John in Hollywood when they were both in their 20s and still acting and that Pittman had assumed another name for his personal life, whom Rufus does not divulge, and that the address he had then was still active and receiving mail addressed to him. Rufus does not believe that Pittman actually died in 1990, and other online posters on claim there is no Social Security record of death for a Robert John Pittman. But other online posters who have written to and gotten responses from Sherry Jackson and Jeannie Russell (who played Margaret on Dennis the Menace) say both actors confirmed that Pittman is indeed deceased.

Charles Seel

Born in the Bronx on April 29, 1897, his entertainment career began working as a handyman for Biograph Studios on New York.  According to the blog, he then worked in vaudeville with his wife Jeanne whom he married in 1922, began working in radio in 1929, and moved to Hollywood in 1937. He began getting uncredited parts in feature films in 1938, beginning with Comet Over Broadway. Though he did not receive a credited feature film role until 1949's Not Wanted, he worked extensively on radio dramas throughout the 1940s, most notably on Lux Radio Theatre, on which he appeared at least 9 times in 1945 alone, as well as programs such as Mrs. Parkington, OSS, Four Star Playhouse, and The Six Shooter. He made his television debut in 1952 on an episode of Hopalong Cassidy and by the mid-1950s was getting regular work on series such as Medic, Highway Patrol, and Dragnet. In 1957-58 he had a semi-recurring role as Otis the bartender on the first season of Tombstone Territory, but that lasted for only 5 episodes. Still, he had steady work on a number of series throughout the late 1950s and an occasional uncredited feature film role. He played Dr. Zach Miller three times on The Deputy in its first season, appeared 5 times in various roles on The Loretta Young Show, and had multiple appearances on Wichita Town, Wagon Train, and 77 Sunset Strip, to name but a few. In 1960 he made the first of 9 appearances as newspaper editor (and George Wilson antagonist) Mr. Krinkie on Dennis the Menace, popping up occasionally over the show's 4-year run.

During Dennis and after it was canceled, Seel found steady work until landing his first substantial recurring role as Tom Pride, father of series star Barry Sullivan, on the 1966 western The Road West, which lasted only a single season. His wife Jeanne had died in 1964, but he continued acting into the mid-1970s, appearing multiple times on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Guns of Will Sonnett, Bonanza, and The Virginian. He appeared 20 times on Gunsmoke in a number of roles, though most often as telegrapher Barney beginning in Season 10 with the last coming in the series' penultimate Season 19 in 1974. His last credit was in an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. in 1976, after which he retired. He died four years later at the age of 82 on April 19, 1980.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 3, Episode 14, "Through Thick and Thin": Hal Bokar (appeared in Rat Fink, The Legend of Earl Durand, Across the Great Divide, and Lady in White) plays photographer Mr. Millard. Mark Rodney (son of jazz trumpeter Red Rodney, half of the folk-rock duo Batdorf and Rodney) plays a boy in the back half of a giraffe costume.

Season 3, Episode 15, "Calling All Bird Lovers": Parley Baer (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) plays Bird Lovers Society president Mr. Pindyck. Estelle Winwood (starred in Quality Street, This Happy Feeling, The Notorious Landlady, and Dead Ringer and played Aunt Hilda on Batman) plays bird-call performer Hester Hutton. Sherwood Price (Gen. Jeb Stuart on The Gray Ghost) plays jazz musician Winthrop. Joe Conley (Ike Godsey on The Waltons) plays jazz musician Nelson. Olive Dunbar (Mrs. Pfeiffer on My Three Sons, Heather Ruth Jensen on My World and Welcome To It, and Bertha Bottomly on Big John, Little John) plays reception attendee Mrs. Creaper.

Season 3, Episode 17, "Dennis Has a Fling": Tudor Owen (shown on the right, played Joe Ainsley on Mayor of the Town and First Mate Elihu Snow on Captain David Grief) plays repair shop owner Angus MacTavish. Grigor Murdoch (Pipe Major of the Toronto Scottish Regiment) plays bagpipe player Mr. Campbell. Susan Jones (Miss Scotland 1961) plays Miss Scotland. Emory Parnell (Hawkins on The Life of Riley and Hank the bartender on Lawman) plays postman O'Reilly.

Season 3, Episode 18, "Frog Jumping Contest": Alan Hewitt (shown on the left, 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 veterinarian Dr. Alfred Johnson. Eddie Marr (appeared in The Glass Key, Rhapsody in Blue, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and How to Make a Monster) plays the contest announcer.

Season 3, Episode 19, "Where There's a Will": Ray Teal (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1961 post on Bonanza) plays attorney Mr. Phillips. Meg Brown (wife of actor Dick Wilson, aka, Mr. Whipple of the Charmin toilet paper commercials) plays his secretary Miss Woods. Hardie Albright (appeared in This Sporting Age, The Song of Songs, White Heat, The Scarlet Letter, The Pride of the Yankees, and Angel on My Shoulder) plays Mr. Wilson's doctor.

Season 3, Episode 20, "Mr. Wilson's Uncle": Edward Everett Horton (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Rocky and His Friends) plays Mr. Wilson's uncle Ned Matthews.

Season 3, Episode 21, "A Quiet Evening": John Astin (appeared in That Touch of Mink, The Wheeler Dealers, Move Over, Darling, Viva Max, and Freaky Friday and played Harry Dickens on I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, Gomez Addams on The Addams Family, Rudy Pruitt on The Phyllis Diller Show, Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Sherman on Operation Petticoat, Ed LaSalle on Mary, Buddy Ryan on Night Court, Radford on Eerie, Indiana, and Prof. Albert Wickwire on The Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr.) plays a policeman. John Newton (Bill Paley on Search for Tomorrow and Judge Eric Caffey on Law & Order) plays a police detective. Charles Fredericks (shown on the right, played Pete Albright on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays a police desk sergeant. Kirk Alyn (played Superman in Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman and Blackhawk in Blackhawk: Fearless Champion of Freedom) plays the Mitchells' dinner host Mr. Martin.

Season 3, Episode 22, "Private Eye": Roy Wright (Shipwreck Callahan on The Islanders) plays Mr. Wilson's friend Fred Adams. William "Billy" Benedict (played Trouble in 4 Little Tough Guys features, Skinny in 5 East Side Kids features, and Whitey in 23 Bowery Boys features) plays a pickpocket. Emile Meyer (shown on the left, starred in Shane, Drums Across the River, Blackboard Jungle, Sweet Smell of Success, and Paths of Glory and played Gen. Zachary Moran on Bat Masterson) plays a police desk Sgt. Bagby. Bob Hastings (Lt. Elroy Carpenter on McHale's Navy, Tommy Kelsey on All in the Family, and Capt. Burt Ramsey on General Hospital) plays rookie police patrolman Officer Watts.

Season 3, Episode 23, "Mr. Wilson's Housekeeper": Jean Stapleton (shown on the right, starred in Damn Yankees, Bells Are Ringing, and Up the Down Staircase and played Edith Bunker on All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place and Jasmine Sweibel on Bagdad Cafe) plays the Wilsons' new housekeeper Flora Davis. Richard Collier (Harry Price on Many Happy Returns) plays milkman Mr. Grigsby.

Season 3, Episode 24, "A Dog's Life": Bob Hastings (shown on the left, see "Private Eye" above) plays a motorcycle policeman. Ivan Bonar (Chase Murdock on General Hospital, Dean Hopkins on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Judge Gelson, Judge Arthur Fenton, and Judge Clarence Foster on Days of Our Lives, and Henderson Palmer on The Colbys) plays a police patrolman.

Season 3, Episode 25, "Dennis' Documentary Film": Charles Watts (shown on the right, played Judge Harvey Blandon on Bachelor Father) plays the town Mayor Billings. Charles Alvin Bell (Harold Trask on Days of Our Lives) plays banker John Watterson. Hal Hopper (Cpl. Clarke on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and composed theme music for Circus Boy, 26 Men, Colt .45, and Bearcats!) plays film developer Mr. Clark.

Season 3, Episode 26, "Horseless Carriage Club": Laurence Haddon (shown on the left, played Ed McCullough on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, the foreign editor on Lou Grant, Dr. Mitch Ackerman on Knots Landing, and Franklin Horner on Dallas) plays George Wilson antagonist Charles Brady.

Season 3, Episode 27, "Junior Pathfinders Ride Again": Lloyd Corrigan (shown on the right, starred in A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob, Hitler's Children, Captive Wild Woman, The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, and Son of Paleface and played Papa Dodger on Willy, Wally Dipple on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Ned Buntline on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Uncle Charlie on Happy, and Professor McKillup on Hank) plays Pioneer Club president Mr. Judd. Lillian Culver (played Barney Fife's mother in one episode of The Andy Griffith Show) plays chapter secretary Mrs. Schooner. Roy Engel (Doc Martin on Bonanza, the police chief on My Favorite Martian, and President Ulysses S. Grant on The Wild, Wild West) plays Fire Chief Dooley. Frederic Downs (Quentin Andrews on First Love and Hank Wilson on Days of Our Lives) plays George Wilson's cousin Fillmore Wilson.

Season 3, Episode 28, "The Treasure Chest": Maurice Manson (Josh Egan on Hazel and Hank Pinkham on General Hospital) plays bird lover Frederick Timberlake. Chubby Johnson (shown on the left, played Concho on Temple Houston) plays salvage man Buzz. Johnny Lee (Calhoun on The Amos 'n Andy Show) plays a locksmith. Paul Barselou (played various bartenders in 9 episodes of Bewitched) plays a TV repair man. Charles Alvin Bell (see "Dennis' Documentary Film" above) returns as banker John Watterson.

Season 3, Episode 29, "Wilson Goes to the Dentist": Arthur Malet (shown on the right, appeared in Mary Poppins, In the Heat of the Night, and Heaven Can Wait and played Carl on Casablanca, Bobby on Easy Street, Nigel Peabody on Days of Our Lives, and Ryan on Dallas) plays dentist Dr. Cecil Caldwell and his twin brother Dr. Carl Caldwell.

Season 3, Episode 30, "The Man Next Door": Molly Dodd (shown on the left, played Miss Scott on Hazel) plays next-door neighbor Lillian Sweetzer. Hal Hopper (see "Dennis' Documentary Film" above) plays Mr. Sweetzer's business associate Lou.

Season 3, Episode 31, "Dennis and the Dodger": Sandy Koufax (shown on the right, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers) plays himself. Hope Sansberry (Mrs. Nell Hall on The Phil Silvers Show) plays his Aunt Harriet. Florence MacMichael (Phyllis Pearson on My Three Sons and Winnie Kirkwood on Mister Ed) plays Quigley's wife Dolly. Lyle Talbot (see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) plays the town mayor.

Season 3, Episode 32, "Dennis' Lovesick Friend": Edward Everett Horton (see "Mr. Wilson's Uncle" above) returns as George Wilson's uncle Ned Matthews. Cheryl Holdridge (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1961 post on Leave It to Beaver) plays Dennis' friend's girlfriend Helen Franklin. Lucille Wall (Lucille Weeks on General Hospital) plays flower contest competitor Mrs. Hawkins.

Season 3, Episode 33, "John Wilson's Cushion": Elvia Allman (shown on the right, played Aunt Vera on I Married Joan, Jane on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Cora Dithers on Blondie, Mrs. Montague on The Bob Cummings Show, Elverna Bradshaw on The Beverly Hillbillies, and Selma Plout on Petticoat Junction) plays literary circle chairwoman Isobel Tolliver. Templeton Fox (mother of musician Bob Welch) plays a grocery customer.

Season 3, Episode 34, "John Wilson Wins a Chicken": Justin Smith (shown on the left, appeared in The Jazz Singer, Wild on the Beach, and The Candidate) plays coin collector Mr. Hanson.

Season 3, Episode 35, "The Bully": Mickey Sholdar (Steve Morley on The Farmer's Daughter) plays Dennis' antagonist Gifford Kelly. Richard Reeves (shown on the right, played Mr. Murphy on Date With the Angels) plays his father.

Season 3, Episode 36, "The Club Initiation": Frank Cady (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) plays John Wilson's golfing friend Dr. Fred Ferguson. Anne Bellamy (Aunt Polly on The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Celeste Dalton on Days of Our Lives) plays Alice's friend Mrs. Hooper.

Season 3, Episode 37, "Community Picnic": Charles Lane (shown on the right, appeared in The Milky Way, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Lady Is Willing, The Music Man, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and The Gnome-Mobile and played Mr. Fosdick on Dear Phoebe, Homer Bedloe on Petticoat Junction, Foster Phinney on The Beverly Hillbillies, Dale Busch on Karen, and Judge Anthony Petrillo on Soap) plays druggist Mr. Finch. Laurence Haddon (see "Horseless Carriage Club" above) returns as braggart Jack Brady. Russ McCubbin (stunt double for Clint Walker on Cheyenne) plays Brady's community day athletic partner Tiny Hawkins.

Season 3, Episode 38, "Dennis and the Witch Doctor": Adrienne Marden (shown on the left, played Mary Breckenridge on The Waltons) plays Mrs. Elkins' friend Mary Trimble. James Maloney (Jim on 21 Beacon Street) plays general store owner Mr. Smalley.

Season 4, Episode 1, "The Chinese Girl": Arthur Wong (appeared in Confessions of an Opium Eater, The Candidate, and The Apple Dumpling Gang) plays Hong Kong businessman Mr. Yuen. Cherylene Lee (shown on the right, appeared in Donovan's Reef and A Letter to Nancy and voiced Susie and Mimi Chan on The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan) plays his daughter Sen Yuen. Hoke Howell (played Ben Perkins/Jenkins on Here Come the Brides) plays an ice cream shop clerk.

Season 4, Episode 2, "You Go Your Way": Alice Pearce (shown on the left, appeared in On the Town, The Opposite Sex, Dear Heart, Kiss Me, Stupid, and The Glass Bottom Boat and played Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched) plays Miss Cathcart's rival Lucy Tarbell. Helen Kleeb (Miss Claridge on Harrigan and Son, Miss Tandy on Room 222, and Mamie Baldwin on The Waltons) plays dress-shop owner Mrs. Drum. Viola Harris (wife of actor Robert H. Harris, appeared in High School Hellcats, Whiffs, Deconstructing Harry, and Sex and the City 2 and played Selma Hanen on One Life to Live) plays beautician Katherine Prescott.

Season 4, Episode 3, "Dennis and the Circular Circumstances": Lucille Wall (see "Dennis' Lovesick Friend" above) plays a homeowner who finds Mrs. Elkins' circulars in the trash.

Season 4, Episode 4, "The Little Judge": Arthur Peterson (shown on the right, played The Major on Soap) plays court Judge McConnell.

Season 4, Episode 5, "Poor Mr. Wilson": Joe Devlin (shown on the far left, played Sam Catchem on Dick Tracy) plays a man standing in a charity meal line. Doodles Weaver (shown on the nearleft, narrated Spike Jones' horse-racing songs and hosted A Day With Doodles) plays another man in the same line.

Season 4, Episode 6, "Dennis in Gypsyland": Nestor Paiva (Theo Gonzales on Zorro) plays gypsy camp patriarch Papa Gamali. David Fresco (shown on the right, played Albert Wysong on Murder One) plays his sidekick Pietro. Hugh Sanders (appeared in That's My Boy, The Pride of St. Louis, The Winning Team, and The Wild One) plays Sgt. Mooney's police chief.

Season 4, Episode 7, "The New Principal": Leslie Barrett (shown on the left, played the Judge on Dark Shadows) plays Dennis' school's new principal Albert J. Spivey.

Season 4, Episode 8, "San Diego Safari": Forrest Lewis (shown on the right, played Mr. Peavey on The Great Gildersleeve) plays motel manager Mr. Wiggins. Arthur Peterson (see "The Little Judge" above) plays San Diego zookeeper Mr. Gordon. Bob Hastings (see "Private Eye" above) plays a zoo guide.

Season 4, Episode 9, "Dennis at Bootcamp": Roy Roberts (shown on the left, played Capt. Simon P. Huxley on The Gale Storm Show, Admiral Rogers on McHale's Navy, John Cushing on The Beverly Hillbillies, Mr. Cheever on The Lucy Show, Frank Stephens on Bewitched, Norman Curtis on Petticoat Junction, and Mr. Botkin/Bodkin on Gunsmoke) plays Navy base commander Capt. Stone. Robert Dornan (Bob Fowler on 12 O'Clock High) plays Stone's adjutant Lt. Alden. Allan Hunt (Stuart Riley on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Richard Clayton on General Hospital) plays John Wilson's nephew Ted Wilson. John Cliff (Flattop on Dick Tracy) plays his Navy commander Chief Bundy. Harry Swoger (Harry the bartender on The Big Valley) plays the Navy base mess cook.

Season 4, Episode 10, "Henry's New Job": Henry Norell (shown on the right, played Henry Slocum on Oh! Those Bells) plays Henry's boss James C. Trask. Roland Winters (played Charlie Chan in 6 feature films, appeared in Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, Follow the Sun, Cash McCall, and Blue Hawaii, and played J.R. Boone, Sr. in Meet Millie and Leonard J. Costello on My Brother the Angel) plays rival engineering firm president Gabe Bromley. Anne Bellamy (see "The Club Initiation" above) plays Trask's secretary Grace Burnett.

Season 4, Episode 11, "Wilson's Second Childhood": Kurt Russell (shown second from left, starred in Follow Me, Boys!, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Barefoot Executive, Escape From New York, Silkwood, Big Trouble in Little China, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and played Jamie McPheeters on The Travels of Jamie McPheeters, Bo Larsen on The New Land, Morgan Beaudine on The Quest, and Lee Shaw on Monarch: Legacy of Monsters) plays Dennis' friend Kevin.

Season 4, Episode 12, "Jane Butterfield Says": Alice Pearce (see "You Go Your Way" above) returns as husband-seeker Lucy Tarbell. Stafford Repp (shown on the right, played Lt. Ralph Raines on The Thin Man, Brink on The New Phil Silvers Show, and Chief O'Hara on Batman) plays Sgt. Mooney's boss Police Chief Doyle.

Season 4, Episode 13, "Dennis and the Hermit": Edgar Buchanan (shown on the left, played Uncle Joe Carson on The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction, Red Connors on Hopalong Cassidy, Judge Roy Bean on Judge Roy Bean, Doc Burrage on The Rifleman, and J.J. Jackson on Cade's County) plays hermit Mr. Meekin.