Wednesday, May 30, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Maxwell Smart

Name: Maxwell Smart, aka Agent 86

Portrayed by: Don Adams

TV series: Get Smart (1965-70)

Occupation: Secret agent for CONTROL.

Early Life: Born in Washington, DC, in 1930. Had a brother. Served in the Army during the Korean War. Failed the torture class three times in spy school, but still apparently graduated.

Family and Friends: He eventually married his partner, Agent 99; they had twins, whose names were never revealed. Max's boss is The Chief (first name Thaddeus), who became bald within a few weeks of Max becoming a CONTROL agent. Max's friends included fellow agent Larabee, Agent 13 (who hides in furniture, trash cans, mail boxes, etc.), Agent 44, and Hymie the robot.

Awards:  Won "Spy of the Year" in 1965 and 1966.Voted one of the "Ten Best Dressed Spies."

Nemesis: Siegfried, the Vice President of Public Relations and Terrorism for KAOS.

Useful Skills:  Karate expert; fluent in several languages.

Classic quotes:  "Missed it by that much!"  "Would you believe (fill in the blank)?"  "The old (fill in the blank) trick."  "And loving it!"

Classic episodes: "A Spy for a Spy" (first appearance of Siegfried); "The King Lives" (a Prisoner of Zenda spoof with Don Adams doing a great Ronald Colman impersonation); and "The Impossible Mission" (a spoof of Mission: Impossible...and Max proposes to 99).

Monday, May 28, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Paladin

Name: Paladin (technically a nickname, as explained in the episode "Genesis"; the character's real name is never revealed)

Portrayed by: Richard Boone

TV series: Have Gun--Will Travel (1957-63)

Occupation: A "knight without armor" according to the theme song; technically, a gunfighter for hire.

Lifestyle: When not working, he resides in high style in the Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. When on a job, it's often life on the dusty trail. Well-educated, a West Point graduate and former Army officer.

Family and Friends: Hey Boy, the hotel bellhop (replaced by Hey Girl for one season); Dr. Phyllis Thackeray (June Lockhart), who appears in two episodes and shares a mutual attraction with Paladin.

Trademarks: Business card advertising "Have gun--will travel;" chess knight emblem on his gun holster; dresses in all black when working; quotes famous literary works.

Classic quote: (On the knight used in chess)  "It's an attack piece, the most versatile on the board. It can move eight different ways, over barriers, and always unexpected."

Classic episodes: "The Return of Dr. Thackeray" (Paladin flirts some more with June Lockhart's character); "The Ballad of Oscar Wilde" (Paladin comes to the aid of the visiting playwright); "The Great Mojave Chase" (a camel comes in handy).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Thunderhead--Son of Flicka

Roddy McDowall.
In the 1940s, the biggest producer of children-and-animal films was MGM--not Disney. The studio knew it had a winning formula when the 1943 adaptation of Eric Knight's children classic, Lassie Come Home, blossomed into a boxoffice hit. An added bonus was that the biggest human star in Lassie was young Roddy McDowall, who had garnered fine reviews for a supporting role in How Green Was My Valley. With no large salaries to pay and low production costs (thanks to a lot of outdoor scenes), the studio had to be cheerfully counting its profits.

A Flicka suncatcher.
While MGM launched a Lassie series built around its canine star, Twentieth Century-Fox cast the likable McDowall in My Friend Flicka (1943), another boy-and-animal movie based on a bestseller. Adapted from Mary O'Hara's novel, Flicka told the story of ten-year-old Ken McLaughlin (McDowell), who lives on a Wyoming ranch with his parents and older brother. Ken, who struggles to gain acceptance in his father's eyes, convinces his parents to let him raise a colt. He picks a spirited sorrel filly that he names Flicka (Swedish for "girl"). With mustang in her bloodline, Flicka has a wild streak that almost results in her death--but Ken nurses her back to health. He and Flicka form a strong bond and Ken's father begins to recognize his son's inner strength.

When My Friend Flicka repeated Lassie Come Home's success, Fox rushed out a Flicka sequel the following year. Thunderhead--Son of Flicka again headlined McDowall, who was becoming a dependable young star. It opens with Ken, who is now 12, learning that Flicka is pregnant. It turns out that Ken paired up Flicka with Appalachia, an expensive race horse owned by a neighbor. Fortunately, when the neighbor finds out, he doesn't file a lawsuit against the McLaughlins. In fact, he lets Ken keep the spunky white colt, which is named Goblin.

Goblin grows into a stubborn horse that tries even Ken's patience. Meanwhile, a wild mustang known as The Albino, makes off with a couple of the McLaughlin mares. That doesn't sit well with Banner, the head horse of the McLaughlin herd. A showdown looms between Banner and The Albino, but where does Goblin--whom Ken's Mom had decided to rename Thunderhead--fit into the horsey hierarchy?

Thunderhead--Son of Flicka is a pretty-looking--but sloppy--sequel, a far cry from its quality predecessor. After bringing back most of Flicka's cast, Thunderhead gives them nothing to do. Heck, even Flicka pretty much disappears from the proceedings after Goblin is born. Despite McDowall's efforts, Ken is less likable this time around--spending the family's hard-earned money on a horse racing scheme and, as mentioned earlier, using Appalachia for free. Preston Foster and Rita Johnson, as Ken's parents, are saddled with inane dialogue ("Ken, be careful"). James Bell, as a ranch hand, comes off best (though I identify him so closely with The Leopard Man that it was hard to trust his character). 

That leaves Goblin--I mean, Thunderhead--to carry the film. He certainly is a handsome stallion and, once he figures out his destiny, shows surprising maturity. In fact, despite the film's flaws, I somehow found its ultimate resolution to be oddly satisfying. That doesn't justify the 70 minutes that led up to it, but at least it's a consolation prize.

MGM finished off Mary O'Hara Flicka trilogy with 1948's Green Grass of Wyoming, which replaced the entire cast from Thunderhead. Peggy Cummins stars as the protagonist, with Charles Coburn as her grandfather and Burl Ives as Gus. Thunderhead, now head of the wild mustang herd, plays a major role in this installment, too. Charles Clarke earned an Academy Award nomination for his cinematography in Green Grass of Wyoming.

The Flicka novels have remained popular over the years. A My Friend Flicka TV series appeared in 1956 and lasted a season. Tim McGraw starred in a 2006 film, simply called Flicka, which was loosely based on O'Hara's novel.

This review is part of the Classic Movie Horseathon hosted by My Love of Old Hollywood. Click here to view the full schedule of equine film reviews.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: McGill

Name: McGill (no first name; "Mac" to acquaintances)

Portrayed by: Richard Bradford

TV series: Man in a Suitcase (1967-68)

Occupation: Freelance troubleshooter; former U.S. intelligence agent framed as a traitor to protect a mole.

Lifestyle: Travels throughout Europe and Africa; lives out of a suitcase!

Family and Friends: A few former girlfriends, but pretty much a loner.

Trademarks: Premature gray hair; smokes too much; gets beaten up a lot.

Classic quote: (When a woman asks if he's an American)  "No, ma'am. I'm a Texan."

Classic episodes: "Man from the Dead" (provides backstory on why he was framed); "Find the Lady" (a valuable painting stolen during World War II suddenly reappears).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Emma Peel

Name: Mrs. Emma Knight Peel

Portrayed by: Diana Rigg

TV series: The Avengers (the two Mrs. Peel seasons covered 1965-68)

Occupation: Amateur spy who worked with John Steed, a professional.

Lifestyle: Lived in an apartment. Drove a Lotus Elan convertible. When dressing for action, she favored catsuits--leather ones in her first year and then colorful cloth ones made of a stretch fabric. These jumpsuits became known as Emmapeelers.

Family and Friends: Husband Peter Peel was a test pilot, who went missing for two years when his plane crashed in the Amazon. Daughter of Sir John Knight. Steed is her best friend as well as professional partner.

Trademarks: Auburn hair; playful smile.

Useful Skills:  Martial arts experts; excellent fencer; drives very fast!

Classic quote: (In her farewell to Steed) "Always keep your bowler hat on in times of trouble...and beware diabolical masterminds."

Classic episodes: "The Gravediggers" (Emma gets tied to train tracks!); "Who's Who?" (Emma and Steed...there's more to it!); and "A Touch of Brimstone" (Emma wore an outfit that caused the episode to be banned in the U.S.).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Richard Kimble

Name: Dr. Richard Kimble

Portrayed by: David Janssen

TV series: The Fugitive

Occupation: Pediatrician before getting arrested for his wife's murder.

Lifestyle: Since he was constantly trying to evade police Lieutenant Philip Gerard, Kimble rarely stayed in one place for long. His occupations included: truck driver; farm laborer; bartender; chauffeur; construction worker; fisherman, masseuse, bellhop, and carnival worker.

Family and Friends: Father was Dr. John Kimble, who had a heart attack and retired to a home in the country. Had a strained relationship with his brother Ray, but was very close to his sister Donna Taft (who appeared in five episodes). Deceased wife was Helen Kimble; her sister Terry was in love with Richard. Kimble developed feelings for several women during his years on the run. In the final episode, "The Judgment," he appeared to have found true love with Jean Carlisle (Diane Baker).

Trademark: Quick, slight smile with only one side of the mouth turned up.

Adversaries:  Stafford, Indiana detective detective Philip Gerard (who appeared in 37 episodes) and Fred Johnson (10 episodes), the one-armed man who murdered Helen Kimble. Interestingly, Kimble had encounters with both Gerard's wife (the two-part "Landscape With Running Figures") and son Phil Jr. ("Nemesis").

Useful Skills:  He was a physician!

Classic quote: "I didn't kill my wife."

Classic episodes: "Landscape with Running Figures"; "The 2130" (a computer is used to track Kimble); and "Corner of Hell" (Kimble saves Gerard from moonshiners).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Eddie Haskell

Name: Edward Clark Haskell

Portrayed by: Ken Osmond

TV series: Leave It to Beaver (1957-63); The New Leave It to Beaver (aka Still the Beaver) (1984-85; 1986-89)

Occupation: Teenage troublemaker; held various jobs as a teen (e.g., worked at a car garage and pet store). He became a building contractor as an adult.

Family and Friends: Best friends were Wally Cleaver and Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford. His parents were George and Agnes, though his father's name has sparked a minor controversy. Eddie called himself Edward Clark Haskell, Jr. in one episode--implying Dad's name was Edward. In another episode, Eddie referred to his father as Frank. In The New Leave It to Beaver, the grown-up Eddie's sons were Freddie and Bomber (played by Ken Osmond's real-life kids). As a child, Eddie had a dog named Wolf. Eddie's girlfriends included Christine Staples (played by Marta Kristen from Lost in Space), Caroline Schuster (who actually thought Eddie was a creep), and Cindy Andrews (Eddie punched Wally for "seeing" Cindy--Wally was actually serving as a model for a sweater that Cindy was making for Eddie).

Trademarks: Called everyone "Sam." Played mean tricks on Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (e.g., changed his D- in math to a B+).

Classic quotes: "That's a lovely dress you're wearing, Mrs. Cleaver" and "Look, Sam, if you can make the other guy feel like a goon first, then you don't feel like so much of a goon."

Classic episodes: "Eddie Quits School" (after getting into trouble at school, Eddie quits and goes to work at a garage--a surprising look at Eddie's vulnerability); "Eddie Spends the Night" (at the Cleavers!); and "Eddie's Double-Cross" (the Caroline Schuster episode).

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Festus Haggen

Name: Festus Haggen

Portrayed by: Ken Curtis

TV series: Gunsmoke (the Festus years were 1964-75).

Occupation: Trapper; deputy marshal.

Early Life: The Haggens were "hill folk." Festus came to Dodge City after his twin brother, Fergus, was left for dead by his outlaw uncle. Festus didn't trust the city folk at first--and vice versa. Eventually, he warmed up to the local residents and sometimes served as Marshal Dillon's deputy.

Family and Friends: Brother Fergus and Uncle Black Jack (the aforementioned outlaw). Doc Stone became Festus' best friend and they often enjoyed friendly arguments over beers at the Long Branch Saloon. Other friends included Quint Asper, the blacksmith, and Festus's mule Ruth.

Useful Skills:  Playing cards; trapping; tossing horseshoes.

Trademarks: His eye squint.

Classic quote: "Golly bill!" and "That's just proof right there that us Haggens knows a heap more about some things than folks gives us credit for."

Classic episodes: "Us Haggens" (chronicles his arrival in Dodge City); "Wishbone" (Festus helps Doc, who is bitten by a snake); "Island in the Desert" (Festus is shot in the desert and found by a hermit played by Strother Martin)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Mr. Spock

Name: Spock (his full Vulcan name is unpronounceable)

Portrayed by: Leonard Nimoy

TV series: Star Trek (1966-69); later appeared in various TV series and films.

Occupation: Science Officer and First Officer, U.S.S. Enterprise. In later films and series, he became a Captain and, after retirement, an Ambassador for the Federation.

Family and Friends: Born in 2230 on Shi'Kahr to Sarek, a Vulcan ambassador, and Amanda Grayson, a human. He and his father did not speak for 18 years after Spock joined Starfleet. His older half-brother Sybok was ostracized from Vulcan for rejecting logic and later died battling an evil alien entity. Spock was betrothed to T'Pring from childhood, but they did not marry. He fell in love in the episodes "All Our Yesterdays" and "This Side of Paradise" as a result of, respectively, time travel and alien spores.Spock's best friends are James T. Kirk and Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

Talents: Can join telepathically with other lifeforms using the Vulcan mind-meld. Skilled hand-to-hand fighter who can employ the Vulcan nerve-pinch.

Trademarks: Being logical. Pointy ears. Raising one brow in puzzlement.

Classic quotes: "Fascinating."  "Live long and prosper."  "It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want."  "Your illogical approach to chess does have its advantages on occasion, Captain."

Classic episodes: "Amok Time" (Spock returns to Vulcan to wed); "A Piece of the Action" (Spock as a gangster); "The Galileo Seven."

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Lucy Ricardo

Name: Lucy McGillicuddy Ricardo

Portrayed by: Lucille Ball

TV series: I Love Lucy (1951-57); The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show (1957-60)

Occupation: Homemaker; aspiring singer, dancer, and actress.

Lifestyle: Lived in an apartment at 623 East 68th Street in New York City with her husband Ricky. They temporarily relocated to Hollywood in 1954-55 while Ricky starred in a film about Don Juan; toured Europe in 1955-56. In December 1956, the Ricardo Family moved to Westport, Connecticut.

Family and Friends: Lucy and Ricky's son, nicknamed Little Ricky, was born in 1953. The Ricardos were best friends with their landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz. In Connecticut, they also became friends with Betty and Ralph Ramsey.

Trademarks:  Trying to weasel her way into one of Ricky's shows.

Classic Quote:  (In an effort in get rid of 700 pounds of frozen beef, Lucy and Ethel sell it for 79 cents a pound. A customer asks how they can sell meat so cheap)  "I'm glad you asked that. We rope, we brand, we butcher. We do everything but eat it for you."

Classic episodes: "Lucy Does a Commercial" (yes, it's the Vitameatavegamin episode!); "Lucy Is Enceinte" (Ricky learns that Lucy is pregnant); "Lucy Goes to Scotland" (in a dream sequence, Lucy is rescued from a dragon by Scotty McTavish McDougal McCardo--that'd be Ricky); "Lucy's Italian Movie" (the grape-stomping episode); "L.A., at Last" (Lucy meets William Holden).

Friday, May 11, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Barnabas Collins

Name: Barnabas Collins

Portrayed by: Jonathan Frid

TV series: Dark Shadows (1967-71; Barnabas didn't appear in the 1966 episodes)

Occupation: Independently wealthy vampire, though he claimed to be a businessman.

Lifestyle: Slept in a coffin by day, sucked blood by night--when not pursuing Maggie Evans and, later, Victoria Winters. Lived in the Old House on the Collinwood estate in Collinsport, Maine. His reluctant manservant was Willie Loomis.

How He Became a Vampire: Unsure that his beloved Josette returned his affections, Barnabas had a one-night tryst with her maid Angelique. He later spurned Angelique, who used witchcraft to bring unhappiness to Barnabas and Josette. When he found out what Angelique did, Barnabas shot her--but not before she cursed him to an existence as one of the undead.

Family and Friends: He was born in 1760 to Joshua and Naomi Collins. Had a younger sister, Sarah, who died of pneumonia; her ghost later roamed Collinwood. Was close to his Uncle Jeremiah and Aunt Abigail. Had many cousins! In the contemporary storyline, he developed a close relationship with Dr. Julia Hoffman (though he didn't reciprocate her romantic feelings).

Trademarks: A cane with a silver wolf's head; a black onyx signet ring; fangs.

Useful Skills:  The usual vampire things.

Classic quote: "I didn't say she was dead. I said I killed her."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Barney Collier

Name: Barnard "Barney" Collier

Portrayed by: Greg Morris

TV series: Mission Impossible (1966-73)

Occupation: Member of the Impossible Missions Force, the team's resident electronics expert, forger, and all-purpose handyman; also owner of Collier Electronics.

Lifestyle: Travels throughout the world; permanent residence unknown. Single, but has a son named Grant.

Family and Friends: Co-workers Jim Phelps and Willie Armitage are his most enduring friends. Brother Larry, a newspaper publisher, died in a season 5 episode. His son Grant eventually joined the IMF for the TV series' 1988-90 revival.

Trademarks: His slide ruler--he's holding it in his portfolio photo.

Hidden Talent: He was the Sixth Fleet boxing champ when he was in the Navy; the IMF puts his boxing skills to use in the two-part season 3 episode "The Contenders."

Classic episodes: "Death Squad" (Barney falls in love while on vacation--but ends up in prison marked for execution); "The Money Machine" (Barney hides inside a big box and makes it look like Jim can feed paper into one end of the "machine" and get printed currency out of the other end).

Monday, May 7, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Barney Fife

Name: Bernard "Barney" Fife

Portrayed by: Don Knotts

TV series: The Andy Griffith Show (the Barney years were 1960-64)

Occupation: Deputy Sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina; later took a detective job in Raleigh. Worked briefly as a dog catcher and vacuum cleaner salesman.

Early Life:  Graduated from Mayberry Union High School with friend Andy Taylor. He served in the Army during World War II, running the Post Exchange library on Staten Island, NY.

Lifestyle: Lived in Mrs. Mendelbright's Boarding House. When not on duty, wore a fedora and a "salt and pepper suit" (Andy thought it made Barney look like Adolpe Menjou).

Family and Friends: Best friend is Sheriff Andy Taylor. (According to the first episode, Andy and Barney are cousins, but subsequent episodes seem to dispute that relationship.) Barney was the best man at Andy's wedding and godfather to Opie. Barney dated Hilda Mae and then Juanita Beasley, a waitress at the Junction Cafe and later the Bluebird Diner. Thelma Lou became his long-time girlfriend and they eventually married (but not during the run of The Andy Griffith Show). Barney had a cousin named Virgil (Michael J. Pollard). Barney's mother appeared only in the second episode.

Non-talents: So inept with his firearm that Andy only gave him one bullet--for emergencies. Liked to sing, but sounded dreadful (once replaced by Gomer in a choir).

Trademarks: Called Andy "Ange."

Classic quotes:  "This is big. Big, big, big. Really big."  "I had my eye on you right from the start, mister!"  "Beats all, Andy. Just beats all!"  "Nip it in the bud!"

Classic episodes: "Andy Saves Barney's Morale" (left in charge of the sheriff's department, Barney arrests almost everyone); "Barney and the Cave Rescue" (heroic Barney saves Andy and Helen after a cave landslide); and "The Haunted House" (a prelude to the Don Knotts movie The Ghost and Mr. Chicken).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Granny

Name: Daisy Mae "Granny" Moses

Portrayed by: Irene Ryan

TV series: The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71)

Occupation: Matriarch of the Clampett household.

Residences:  Granny claimed to have been from Tennessee. However, prior to Jed finding oil while hunting, the Clampett Clan lived in Bug Tussle (which may have been in Arkansas or Missouri). Once the OK Oil Company made Jed a millionaire, the family moved to the mansion in Beverly Hills.

Family and Friends: Her deceased daughter was Rose Ellen. Jed Clampett is her son-in-law; Elly May is her granddaughter; Jethro is her grand-nephew and Jethrine is her grand-niece. Granny's friend Pearl Bodine is Jed's cousin and Jethro and Jethrine's mother. Got all that?

Famous Delectable Dishes and Potions: Possum & grits; pickled hog jowls (yum!); Granny's "roomatiz" medicine and spring tonic.

Talents:  Granny was noted for her vittles, predicting the weather, and her talents as a physician. She sometimes referred to herself as Dr. Granny, M.D.--the initials standing for "mountain doctor."

Classic quotes: (to Jethro) "And how do we do that, Mr. Sixth Grade Graduate?"

Classic episodes: "Jed Gets the Misery" (Jed feign illness so Granny can tend to "doctoring"); "The Giant Jackrabbit" (Granny thinks an escaped kangaroo is a super-sized jackrabbit); "The Possum Day Parade" (Granny campaigns against Mrs. Drysdale for the Possum Queen title).

Thursday, May 3, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Number Six

Name: Unknown (he was not John Drake)

Portrayed by: Patrick McGoohan

TV series: The Prisoner (1967-68)

Occupation: Former espionage agent whose reasons for his resignation remained unknown.

Lifestyle: Held captive in The Village, site of a quaint Orwellian society where all residents were assigned numbers and kept under constant surveillance. The Village was ruled by Number Two, although the individuals with that title were replaced frequently due to Number Six's escape attempts and refusal to divulge his secrets. Wore a black suit with white trim on the lapels and a dark shirt.

Family and Friends: None. Actually, old acquaintances popped up in a couple of episodes like "Arrival" and "Dance of the Dead." But it would be a stretch to say that Number Six had any trusted confidants.

Nemesis:  The various Number Two's. There was also a giant white balloon known as Rover that prevented Village residents from departing.

Trademarks:  Trying to escape; defying authority.

Classic Quotes:  "I am not a number. I am a free man!" and "Be seeing you" (a farewell phrase).

Classic episodes: "The Chimes of Big Ben" (Number Six appears to have escaped); "A. B. and C" (Number Six's dreams are manipulated); and "Living in Harmony" (Number Six in the Old West; CBS refused to show this controversial episode when the series was originally broadcast in the U.S.).