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Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States

My name is Pat and I live in Florida. My skin will never be smooth again and my hair will never see color. I enjoy collecting autographs and playing in Paint Shop Pro.,along with reading and writing. Sometimes, I enjoy myself by doing volunteer "work" helping celebrities at autograph shows. I love animals and at one time I did volunteer work for Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Serial Movies & Television in the 1950s

The photo below is most likely quite close to what the tv looked like that my mother got for us back in the 1950's.

Since I was born in 1944 I would be about 8 yrs old before I can say I remember television. There were only 7 channels back then...( 2,4,5,7,9,11,13) which meant it didn't take long to find out what was on at any given time!

By the time we got our first television, they were already doing a number of kid shows during the daytime hours, such as Howdy Doody and Kukla, Fran and Ollie. But mostly what I remember when I was very young was that even with those few channels there were loads and loads of movies on!

We had shows such as: The Early Show (I even remember the theme music to this one! It was The Syncopated Clock. I'd find and put the sound in here but then you'd hate me because it would stick in your head for days! It's already in my head and I haven't even heard it ! ARGH!) , The Late Show, The Late Late Show, The Million Dollar Movie, etc.. all movies! And all with few interruptions, but that's a whole other topic.

I guess what made me read the recent books on Laurel and Hardy...

...and the Marx Brothers...

.. is because they made many movies and they showed them all the time on television. It was hard after a while not to feel like you knew these people.

But Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers weren't the only ones that put out so many movies. Now, I can't list them all, but certain ones come to mind fairly quickly, that I remember and loved...

The First being the series of Charlie Chan... The bulk of this series was played by Warner Oland, but for whatever reasons I seemed to like the later "Charlie Chan" played by Sidney Toler.

In 1938, fate took a hand when Warner Oland, the Swedish actor who had portrayed Honolulu-based police detective Charlie Chan in 16 movies for Fox, passed away. Toler was selected by the studio to succeed him in the role, and he immediately began receiving the largest amount of mail he had ever gotten in connection with his screen career, from fans of the Chan movies offering him encouragement and advice, which mostly consisted of urgings to mimic Oland was much as possible. Instead, with the support of the director, he went back to the six Chan novels written by Biggers (who had died in 1933) and reconstructed the character based on what he took out of those pages. Toler, who stood six feet and was a solid 190 pounds, created the illusion of being smaller and heavier in the role. The first two of his Chan movies, Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938) and Charlie Chan in Reno (1939), proved so popular at the box office that Toler was signed to a long-term contract in August of 1939. Toler brought a good deal of warmth and wry humor to the role of the police detective, and had excellent interaction with Victor Sen Yung, who played the detective's number-two son, Jimmy.

Then there were the W C Fields movies. One would think a week wouldn't go by without a W C Fields movie.

By age thirteen he was a skilled pool player and juggler. It was then, at an amusement park in Norristown PA, that he was first hired as an entertainer. There he developed the technique of pretending to lose the things he was juggling. In 1893 he was employed as a juggler at Fortescue's Pier, Atlantic City. When business was slow he pretended to drown in the ocean (management thought his fake rescue would draw customers). By nineteen he was billed as "The Distinguished Comedian" and began opening bank accounts in every city he played. At age twenty-three he opened at the Palace in London and played with Sarah Bernhardt at Buckingham Palace. He starred at the Folies-Bergere (young Charles Chaplin and Maurice Chevalier were on the program).

He was in each of the Ziegfeld Follies from 1915 through 1921. He played for a year in the highly praised musical "Poppy" which opened in New York in 1923. In 1925
D.W. Griffith made a movie of the play, renamed Sally of the Sawdust (1925), starring Fields. Pool Sharks (1915), Fields' first movie, was made when he was thirty-six. He settled into a mansion near Burbank, California and made most of his thirty-seven movies for Paramount. He appeared in mostly spontaneous dialogs on Charlie McCarthy's radio shows. In 1939 he switched to Universal where he made films written mainly by and for himself.

A huge favorite of mine back then (and even now when they pop up on TCM) were the Andy Hardy movies starring Mickey Rooney, and often Judy Garland.

With parents who were actors, it comes as no surprise that the young Joe Yule Jr. made his debut on the stage at the age of only 15 months. He became part of the family act. He became well known for a series of some 50 silent comedies between 1927 and 1933 in which he played Mickey McGuire, a comic-strip character. In 1934 he was signed to MGM. At Mrs. Lawlor's School for Professional Children he first met Judy Garland , whom he would play against in several movies in the future, including some of the 15 "Andy Hardy" films. He gave a memorable performance as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). With movies like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939) and National Velvet (1944) he reached the peak of his career during WWII. He was drafted during the war, and when he returned to Hollywood his fame and box-office draw had significantly decreased. Just like other child stars, he found it difficult to get a break as an adult actor. After Summer Holiday (1948) his career went downhill and the 1950s for him became a string of not-so-successful movies. He got his own TV show, "The Mickey Rooney Show" (1954) and toured nightclubs and theatres again in the 1960s. In 1983, following 60 years as an actor, he received the "Lifetime Achievement" Oscar."

Still another favorite that was a whole series of movies was The Thin Man, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.

However, he was not happy with the type of roles he was playing at Paramount, so in 1931 he switched to Warner Bros. He would again be disappointed with his roles and would make his last appearance as Philo Vance in The Kennel Murder Case (1933). In 1934 Powell went to MGM, where he would be teamed with Myrna Loy in Manhattan Melodrama (1934). While Philo made Powell a star, another detective, Nick Charles, made him famous. He would receive an Academy Award nomination for The Thin Man (1934) and star in the Best Picture winner for 1936, The Great Ziegfeld (1936). Powell could play any role with authority, whether in a comedy, thriller or drama. He would receive his second Academy Award Nomination for My Man Godfrey (1936). He was on top of the world until 1937. His first picture with Jean Harlow was Reckless (1935) and they clicked offscreen as well as onscreen, and shortly became engaged. While he was filming Double Wedding (1937) on one MGM sound stage, Harlow became ill on another and finally went to the hospital, where she died. Her death greatly upset both Powell and Myrna Loy and he would be off the movie for six weeks to deal with his sorrow. After that he would travel and did not make another MGM film for a year. He would do four sequels to "The Thin Man", with the last one being made in 1947. He would also receive his third Academy Award nomination for his work in Life with Father (1947). After that, his screen appearances became fewer and his last role was in 1955. He had come a long way from playing the villain in 1922.

An actor who popped up and always stayed with me was Charles Ruggles. This man was so darn "cute" and there's no other word to describe him! The dimples alone always made me smile!

Charlie Ruggles was born in 1886. Starting in 1915, he appeared in a half-dozen silent pictures. After movies turned to sound, Charles "Charlie" Ruggles became one of the most popular comedy and characters of the 1930's and 1940's. Usually playing a henpecked husband or a genial character, he appeared in about 80 movies. In one of his best roles, he played frontiersman Egbert Floud in 1935's "Ruggles of Red Gap".

In the late 40s he moved to the new medium of television, staring in "The Ruggles" (1949-1952) and "The World of Mr. Sweeney" (1954). In 1959 he won a Tony Award for "The Pleasure Of His Company". The competing nominees were George C. Scott, Walter Matthau, Robert Morse, and George Grizzard.

The 1960's saw him much in demand for comedies such as Walt Disney pictures and television series. Shows he appeared on included The Munsters, Wagon Train, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Burke's Law, Bonanza, and The Beverly Hillbillies. In 1970 Charlie Ruggles died at the age of 84

Of course there were many children stars too... probably the biggest and the one with more movies than anyone would be Shirley Temple. I don't think three was a single movie that didn't play a hundred times when I was young. Easily, I can see her dancing up and down the steps with Step'n'fetchit!

Shirley Temple was easily the most popular and famous child star of all time. She got her start in the movies at the age of three and soon progressed to super stardom. Shirley could do it all: act, sing and dance and all at the age of five! Fans loved her as she was bright, bouncy and cheerful in her films and they ultimately bought millions of dollars worth of products that had her likeness on them. Dolls, phonograph records, mugs, hats, dresses, whatever it was, if it had her picture on there they bought it. Shirley was the box-office champion for three straight years, 1936-37-38, beating out such great grown up stars as Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Robert Taylor, Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford. By 1939, her popularity declined. Although she starred in some very good movies like Since You Went Away (1944) and the The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), her career was nearing its end. Later, she served as an ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. It was once guessed that she had more than 50 golden curls on her head.

And finally, (because this has gone on far too long) There was "The Little Rascals", who became "Our Gang". A number of these kids grew up and stayed in the industry. ( like Jackie Cooper)

One of the little girls I was to meet much later in my life. Dorothy DeBorba. She played "Echo" in the Little Rascals. She's the one with the long banana curls...

(Our Gang in 1930: "School's Out" picture with Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Dorothy DeBorba, Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins, Jackie Cooper, Pete the Pup, Norman "Chubby" Chaney, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Mary Ann Jackson, and Donald Haines. )

Her mother was singer/dancer/actress Lillian DeBorba. Her father was a drummer with the Paul Whiteman band.

Here's a photo I took of Dorothy when I lived in California.. Here she being hugged by Frank Stallone. Thankfully, Dorothy is still with us.

Of course this was all, way back when the studios all but owned the actors. They paid them fairly well, if you consider what hard working laborers got back then, but nothing at all if you compared them to today's actors. And the studios worked their actors. They learned their craft the hard way, but doing it frequently. Everyone of these people made hundreds of movies. They may not have starred in every one of them, but you can bet the studios got their money's worth out of each of them.

There seems to be a bunch of new movies out each year that I love but..... there's just something fascinating about watching these actors from the 20's and 30s and 40s that keeps me coming back to their movies.


Blogger Nicola said...

The only one you mention that I haven't seen is Charlie Chan (though I have seen some later colour version I think).

I grew up in the '70s and these movies were still being played on TV regularly. My Dad (who is a huge movie buff and 1 year older than you) and I used to spend the weekend watching b/w movies almost all day sometimes. The only one you missed that I think should be mentioned alongside Laurel and Hardy and The Marx Brothers is The Three Stooges.

I prefer Laurel and Hardy over the other two, probably because they didn't rely on slapstick quite as much.

I loved the The Thin Man and just Myrna Loy is particular. And bestill my heart, I was in love with Andy Hardy.

10:17 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

nicola: it's funny that i was making this post when you commented on the other post..
Your dad had good taste.. or.. he just loved movies like I did. Since I was your dads age I was in love with the "old men" (though they were even way older than me!) Like Lewis Stone who played Andy Hardy's father. And like Charlie Ruggles that I pictred here. But I think when I was young I had a "father fixation" since I didn't know my father... there were many older actors I dreamed would love to have me as a daughter back then lol.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

I grew up in the '60s and '70s and remember the movies on television. It seems like there was more to watch with only 6 or possibly 7 channels than there is now with 100+. Sadly the movies were replaced with Infomercials, bah!

11:40 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Leslie: oh how right you are!

11:45 AM  
Blogger Nicola said...

Pat, I almost said "And who wouldn't want a father like Judge Hardy" but thought I'd gone on long enough for one comment. haha

Yes, my dad is one of the biggest movie lovers around.

12:02 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

nicola: LOL now, that's funny!!

12:04 PM  

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