Saturday, 26 November 2016

Florence Henderson R.I.P.

Singer and actress Florence Henderson died on November 24 2016 at the age of 82. The cause was heart failure. She was a veteran of the TV shows Today and The Brady Bunch.

Florence Henderson was born on February 14 1934 in Dale, Indiana. She was the youngest of ten children, born to a tobacco sharecropper. Her mother taught her to sing at age 2. Her family being poor, she started working when she was only 8 years old, babysitting and cleaning houses. She would sometimes sing in order to get groceries. She attended  St. Francis Academy in Owensboro, Kentucky. After graduating she moved to New York City and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

She made her debut on Broadway in Wish You Were Here in 1952. In the Fifties she also appeared on Broadway in Oklahoma! and Fanny. She made her television debut as part of the cast of Oklahoma in 1954 on the special General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein. In the Fifties she appeared on such shows as The Big Record, The Patti Page Oldsmobile Show, Oldsmobile Music Theatre, The Voice of Firestone, The Bing Crosby Show, and I've Got a Secret. She guest starred on The U.S. Steel Hour. She was a regular on The Jack Paar Tonight Show.

In the Sixties she guest starred on I Spy. She appeared in such shows as The Gary Moore Show, The Dean Martin Show, Hollywood Palace, To Tell the Truth, and The Ed Sullivan Show. She was the host of The Bell Telephone Hour and a regular and The Today Show and The Jack Paar Programme. It was in 1969 that she was cast as Carol Brady on the highly successful sitcom The Brady Bunch. She appeared on Broadway in The Girl Who Came to Supper.

In the Seventies she continued to appear on The Brady Bunch. She also appeared in the spinoff The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. She guest starred on Medical Centre, 3 Girls 3, Good Heavens, and The Love Boat. She appeared in the film Song of Norway (1970).

In the Eighties Miss Henderson guest starred on such shows as Hart to Hart, Police Squad!, Alice, Fantasy Island, Glitter, Day By Day, and Murder, She Wrote.  She reprised her role as Carol Brady on The Brady Brides and The Bradys. In the Nineties she appeared in the films Shakes the Clown (1991), Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994), The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), and For Goodness Sake II (1996). She guest starred on such shows as  Roseanne, Dave's World, Ellen, Hercules, Ally McBeal, and King of Queens.

In the Naughts she appeared in such films as Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003), For Heaven's Sake (2008), The Christmas Bunny (2010), and Venus & Vegas (2010). In the Teens she guest starred on such shows as The Cleveland Show, Happily Divorced, 30 Rock, Trophy Wife, Sofia the First, K.C. Undercover, and The Eleventh. She appeared in the film Fifty Shades of Black (2016).

As many of you know, I was never a fan of The Brady Bunch, not even as a lad. That having been said, I always have liked Florence Henderson. What many forget is that she was a wonderful singer. She had a simply incredible voice. Had she been born in an earlier era, I rather suspect she would have been a star of Hollywood musicals. Florence Hendrson was also bright and gifted a wickedly twisted sense of humour. I loved seeing her on talk shows and game shows, as I swear she could make me laugh more than many professional comedians. Miss Henderson's sense of humour came in use in the many sitcoms on which she guest starred, not to mention the comedy films in which she appeared. She was a very talented lady, and one who was always guaranteed to bring smiles to people's faces.


Friday, 25 November 2016

Godspeed John Carson

John Carson, who starred in the Sixties TV series The Troubleshooters, guest starred on such shows as The Avengers, Adam Adamant Lives!, The Saint, and Department S, and appeared in such films as The Plague of Zombies (1966) and Kronos (1974), died on November 5 2016 at the age of 89.

John Carson was born on February 28 1927 in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). His parents were British subjects. His father worked on various  tea and rubber plantations. Mr. Carson was educated in Australia. He returned to the United Kingdom to fulfil his national service as an artillery officer in an anti-aircraft unit in 1944-45. Afterwards he worked as a pianist's page turner at Covent Garden, and he studied law at Queen’s College in Oxford. He then moved to New Zealand where he performed in amateur theatre. Before long he got professional work in radio shows. He joined the New Zealand Players.

John Carson returned to the United Kingdom in the Fifties. He had made his film debut in Teheran in 1946. He made his television debut episodes of Boston Blackie in 1952. In the Fifties he appeared in such films as Quentin Durward (1955), Ramsbottom Rides Again (1956), Intent to Kill (1958), and The Lady Is a Square (1959).  He starred in the TV series Emergency-Ward 10 in 1959. He guest starred on such shows as Sword of Freedom, Ivanhoe, William Tell, The Invisible Man, Armchair Theatre, BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Formula for Danger, and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

In the Sixties John Carson starred in the mini-series Oliver Twist. He starred on the shows It's Dark Outside, Hereward the Wake, The Troubleshooters, and Dombey and Son. He guest starred on such shows as The Pursuers, Out of This World, Man of the World, Suspense, Ghost Squad, First Night, Maigret, The Protectors, The Avengers, Court Martial, The Baron, Public Eye, Adam Adamant Lives!, The Saint, Man in a Suitcase, The Champions, and Department S. He appeared in the films Seven Keys (1961), Locker 69 (1962), Guns of Darkness (1962), Master Spy (1963), Accidental Death (1963), The Set Up (1963), Smokescreen (1964), Act of Murder (1964), The Night Caller (1965), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970), and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970).

In the Seventies Mr. Carson starred in the mini-series Emma and Kidnapped. He guest starred on such shows as Paul Temple, Out of the Unknown, Love Story, The Adventures of Black Beauty, Thriller, Dixon of Dock Green, The New Avengers, Raffles, The Famous Five, The Professionals, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, Tales of the Unexpected, and Hammer House of Horror. He appeared in the films Male Bait (1971) and Kronos (1974).

In the Eighties John Carson starred in the programmes Frost in May and Shaka Zulu. He guest starred on Sunday Night Thriller, Cribb, King's Royal, Doctor Who, and Screen One. He appeared in the films Skating on Thin Uys (1985), An African Dream (1987), City of Blood (1987), Tenth of a Second (1987), Survivor (1987), Diamonds High (1988), and Schweitzer (1990).

In the Nineties he appeared in such films as My Daughter's Keeper (1991), The Sheltering Desert (1991), Operation Delta Force 3: Clear Target (1998), and I Dreamed of Africa (2000). He appeared on the mini-series Death in the Family and Rhodes. He guest starred on the shows Maigret, The Adventures of Sinbad, and CI5: The New Professionals. In the Naughts and Teens he guest starred on Agatha Christie's Poirot, Doctors, Silent Witness, and Midsomer Murders. He appeared in the films Build (2004), Courts mais GAY: Tome 11 (2006), The Deal (2008), and Picture Perfect (2013). His last appearance was in the straight to video documentary Amicus: Vault of Horrors.

John Carson had an aristocratic mien that allowed him to play a wide variety of characters, from nobility to eccentrics to outright villains. What is more, he had the talent to play nearly anything. While he rarely played the lead character, his characters were often much more interesting than any given lead. He certainly played more than his share of bad guys. In The Plague of the Zombies he was the corrupt Squire Clive Hamilton, who had picked up a very unique skill set after living in Haiti for several years. In The Avengers episode "Dial a Deadly Number" he played the rather sinister back room boy Fitch, who is obsessed with clocks and murder. Of course, Mr. Carson played his share of good guys as well. In Kronos he played the good hearted and slightly eccentric, but ill-fated Dr. Marcus. Often the characters he played were neither good nor evil, but somewhere in between. In Taste the Blood of Dracula he played an English gentleman looking for cheap thrills. Unfortunately he crosses Dracula in the process. John Carson was an extremely talented actor who could play a wide variety of roles. What is more, he never gave a bad performance, regardless of the material.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Happy Thanksgiving 2016

Let's face it. 2016 has not been the best of years. Even so, I have to say that I still have much for which to be thankful: I am alive; I have a home; I have family who love me; and I have many dear friends. In the end, I think that may be more than many people have.

Regardless, it is a tradition here at A Shroud of Thoughts to post classic Hollywood pinups on major holidays. Thanksgiving is no different. Without further ado, here are this year's pinups!

First up is the lovely Ann Blyth with a Thanksgiving greeting.

Adele Jergens apparently prefers walking turkeys to feeding them!

And Vera-Ellen apparently prefers to feed her turkey to eating him!

Peggy Shannon has bagged her turkey!

Gale Robbins has put her turkey to work!

And, finally, Ann Miller is carving a turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Michael Gough's Best Roles

It was 100 years ago today that English actor Michael Gough was born in  Kuala Lumpur, Federated Malay States (now Malaysia). Today Michael Gough is probably best known for playing Bruce Wayne's faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth in the "Batman" movies of the Nineties. While Alfred may be his biggest claim to fame these days, Mr. Gough was a prolific actor who played a large number of diverse roles. Not only did he appear in Hammer Films and horror movies from other companies, but he was also a fixture on British television in the Sixties, Seventies, an Eighties. In fact, many of Michael Gough's roles were closer to the supervillains Batman often faced than they were Alfred Pennyworth.

This was certainly true of what may well be the two most famous roles Michael Gough played on television. It was on The Avengers episode "The Cybernauts" that he played Dr. Armstrong, inventor of the nearly indestructible robots of the title. Dr. Armstrong was a wheelchair-bound former ministry scientist and current chairman of United Automation. Having developed the Cybernauts, he puts them to use killing off business rivals and pretty much anyone else who stands in his way. As played by Michael Gough, Dr. Armstrong is among the best villains ever faced by John Steed and his partner of the moment (in this case, the exquisite Emma Peel). Dr. Armstrong who believes, in his own words, "We human beings are fallible, temperamental, and so often unreliable. The machine, however, is obedient and invariably more competent." As cold hearted as any of his machines, Dr. Armstrong was completely a technocrat who preferred automation to human interactions. "The Cybernauts" would prove popular enough to produce a sequel, "Return of the Cybernauts", in which the villain was also played by a Hammer alumnus: Peter Cushing.

Michael Gough's other famous television role was that of the Celestial Toymaker in the Doctor Who serial of the same name. Sadly, every episode of "The Celestial Toymaker" save for the last, "The Final Test", is missing. Fortunately audio of the serial recorded by fans has survived. From the surviving audio and the remaining episode it is clear that the Celestial Toymaker numbers among Michael Gough's best roles. The Celestial Toymaker is a powerful alien with nearly godlike powers who uses lesser beings as his playthings. To this end, he renders The Doctor invisible and then forces The Doctor and his companions to engage in various games before he will return them to the TARDIS (which, for simplicity's sake, can be described as The Doctor's time machine and spaceship). The Celestial Toymaker is at once arrogant and childish--he is never happy when he loses a game. Of course, it is probably very rare that the Celestial Toymaker ever loses, as he always rigs the games in his favour.

Michael Gough appeared on much more than television shows. He made a good many films as well. As mentioned earlier, he was a veteran of Hammer Films. It was in Hammer's Dracula (1958) that he played Arthur Holmwood, the wealthy socialite who ultimately assists Van Helsing in stopping Dracula. In Hammer's Phantom of the Opera (1962), Mr. Gough played  Lord Ambrose D'Arcy, a pompous aristocrat and patron of the opera. Although not a villain on the level of Dr. Armstrong or the Celestial Toymaker, D'Arcy is still a far cry from Alfred Pennyworth or Arthur Holmwood. He is self-important, lecherous, and wholly dishonest. In fact, he is so thoroughly unlikeable that I suspect most viewers are rooting for the Phantom to give him his comeuppance!

Michael Gough also appeared in horror films beyond those produced by Hammer Films. In fact, his part in Anglo-Amalgamated's Horrors of the Black Museum. In the film Mr. Gough plays crime writer Edmond Bancroft. Seeking inspiration for his stories, he launches a series of grisly murders that draw upon Scotland Yard's Black Museum (a collection of crime artefacts) for inspiration. As villains go, Bancroft is among the most sinister ever played by Michael Gough. He is a writer so preoccupied with his writing that he is willing to kill for it. What is more, he owns his own, private black museum filled with weapons and instruments of torture. Michael Gough plays the role with plenty of relish, so much so that even Vincent Price could not have done better (in fact, producer Herman Cohen had wanted Mr. Price for the role, but Anglo-Amalgamated wanted a British actor).

Even in horror movies Michael Gough did not always play villains. In the portmanteau film Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) he appeared in the segment "Disembodied Hand". Mr. Gough played the tragic painter Eric Landor who finds himself humiliated by art critic Franklyn Marsh (played by Christopher Lee). Of course, Marsh gets his comeuppance in the end.

With his aristocratic bearing, it should come as no surprise that Michael Gough was often cast as nobles. This was true of one of his earliest and best film roles, that of the Duke of Buckingham in The Sword and the Rose. The Duke of Buckingham has his heart set on marrying Mary Tudor, to the point that he is willing to kill to insure that he does. Mr. Gough's Duke of Buckingham is aristocratic, scheming, and entirely villainous. Of course, not all of the English gentlemen played by Michael Gough were villains. He played David Livingstone in BBC's 1971 mini-series The Search for the Nile and Anthony Eden in the television movie Suez.

Michael Gough was remarkable as Alfred Pennyworth in the "Batman" movies of the Nineties. In fact, aside from Alan Napier he may have been the best Alfred ever. That having been said, in a long career that spanned over sixty years he played many more roles, some of which were very different from the faithful doctor. He was an actor of such talent that he could elevate even the worst of films. While some of the films in which Mr. Gough appeared were not necessarily good, he always gave a great performance.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Patricia Savage: Doc Savage's Cousin and Early Superheroine

Doc and Pat on the cover of
Doc Savage no. 19, September 1934
In the history of the heroic pulps (the science fiction and fantasy pulp magazines were a different matter), for the most part women fell into two categories. They were either damsels in distress to be rescued or femmes fatales out to corrupt or destroy the hero. There were two exceptions to this rule. One exception could be found in the pages of The Spider. Nita Van Sloan differed from most women in heroic pulps not only in that she and the love of her life, Richard Wentworth (AKA The Spider), were openly affectionate, but in that she took an active part in his adventures. She could wield a gun as well as any man and even donned The Spider's robes when the need arose. The other exception appeared in the pages of Doc Savage. That exception was none other than Doc's own cousin, Patricia "Pat Savage."

Patricia "Pat" Savage first appeared in the novel Brand of the Werewolf, published in Doc Savage January 1934. Given that the latest issue of Doc Savage generally hit the newsstands on the third Friday of the month, it would be safe to say that Doc Savage January 1934 went on sale on December 22 1933.

Not only was Pat Savage the only woman to appear in more than three Doc Savage adventures, but she appears in 37 of them in total. That is nearly one fifth of all the adventures of the Man of Bronze. If Pat was popular with the readers of Doc Savage, there should be little wonder. Pat was unique in the heroic pulps. She was a beautiful woman possessed of an incredible figure and enough feminine wiles to talk most men into anything. At the same time, however, she was no wallflower when it came to adventures. She was an expert marksman, preferring her powerful, antique single action revolver to more modern weapons. She could scrap as well, if not better, than any man, skilled in boxing, fencing, and later jujitsu. Pat's talents extended well beyond fighting. She spoke more than one language (including Mayan). She knew Morse code. She could fly a plane. And, as she often claimed (most notably in I Died Yesterday), she had the family compulsion toward seeking adventure, which she shared with Doc (although the Man of Bronze would be loath to admit it). In many respects she was as much a superwoman as Doc was a superman.

Pat's first appearance in Brand of the Werewolf is, as might be expected, a dramatic one. In the novel Doc and the Fabulous Five  travel to British Columbia on vacation to meet his uncle, Alex Savage, and his cousin, Patricia Savage (the Fabulous Five are Doc's assistants: Monk Mayfair, a chemist; Ham Brooks, a lawyer; Renny Renwick, a construction engineer; Long Tom Roberts, an electrical engineer, and Johnny Littlejohn, an archaeologist and geologist). Unfortunately, they do not get to enjoy their vacation. While still aboard the train, attempts are made upon their lives. And when they arrive at Alex Savage's cabin in the Canadian woodlands, they find that he has been murdered. When Pat first appears, then, she is ready for combat. She is wearing a grey shirt, breeches, and boots. She wears both a cartridge belt and a holster containing her favoured weapon--the single action revolver handed down in her family from the days of the Old West. Even though Pat is dressed in very unfeminine fashion, her charms are still blatantly obvious. She has "a wealth of bronze hair" that resembles Doc's own mane. She also has an incredible face and figure--"Her features were as perfect as though a magazine cover artist had designed them." On seeing her Monk remarks that she could be Doc's sister. He is also convinced that she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. For once Ham agrees with Monk on the extreme beauty of Pat Savage.

For the most part in the novels, Pat's appearance would remain largely consistent. Spook Hole again mentions that her hair is "...of a remarkable bronze hue." Pat's bronze hair is mentioned again in such novels as The Awful Dynasty and others. Patricia is undoubtedly proud of her bronze locks. When a man in The Black Spot describes her as "red-headed" she grows very angry. That having been said, it seems that she might have dyed it a few times. In He Could Stop the World her hair is described as golden blonde, while in Death is a Round Black Spot it is described as a bronzish blonde. While Pat's hair color may have varied from time to time, the colour of her eyes would not. While they are not described in Brand of the Werewolf, Fantastic Island initially describes Pat's eyes as blue, although it only a few pages later that it states that she has golden eyes like Doc. Throughout the novels they would remain golden. The novel Weird Valley states that she has "the family characteristic"--golden eyes. Throughout the novels Pat's face and figure also remains consistent. In Spook Hole she is described as "tall and exquisitely beautiful." The Laugh of Death reveals her exact height to be five foot, seven inches. This would have been tall for a woman at the time.

Pat is often said to be Doc's cousin, although the exact relationship is not always consistent in the novels. In Brand of the Werewolf, Doc describes Pat's father, Alex, as an uncle he has never met. Later, in Violent Night Pat claims that she is Doc's third or fourth cousin. She also said that she was born in Canada. That she was born in Canada may be ascertained by the fact that she lives there in Brand of the Werewolf, as well as her reference to a grandfather who fought Indians in the Northwest of Canada in I Died Yesterday. As to Pat's exact familial relationship to Doc, given the fact that Doc describes her father as his uncle, it is certain that Doc and Pat are first cousins. Indeed, in Violent Night it seems most likely that Pat was bluffing when she claimed she and Doc were only distantly related. A woman remarks that she looks like Doc's sister. Regardless, in Brand of the Werewolf and other novels she is described as Doc's only living relative, while in The Time Terror it is states that she is "one of Doc's few living kin."

Although Doc and Pat are first cousins, their relationship can be described as that of a big brother to a little sister. Like most little sisters, Pat wants to tag along for all the fun her big brother is going to have. And like most big brothers, Doc doesn't want little sister tagging along. It is clear that to some degree Doc trusts Pat. In The Spook Hole it appears that she has a key to Doc's 86th floor headquarters, although by the time of The Fiery Menace it appears it has been taken away (she has to pick Monk's pocket and steal his key simply to get into the 86th floor). She has access to Doc's unlisted, private number, which she uses on occasion (perhaps most notably in I Died Yesterday, the one adventure narrated by her). To a degree the Man of Bronze has even come to expect his cousin to be a part of his adventures. In Murder Mirage it is revealed that he keeps spare clothes for her on his dirigible. In Murder Mirage Patricia Savage is even charged with delivering Doc's gold from the country of Hidalgo to New York. Doc has also given her the frequencies with which he contacts his aides on short wave radio. In The Mental Monster Doc requires her expertise and tries contacting her through the short wave radio, to no avail. And while Doc often does his best to discourage Pat from taking part in their adventures, he sometimes has need to call her for help. Doc asks for her help in Death in Silver, The Annihilist, The Feathered Octopus, and several other novels. Of course, once her help is no longer needed, Doc would just as soon Pat go home.

Indeed, from her first appearance in Brand of the Werewolf to her final appearance in I Died Yesterday, a bone of contention between Doc and Pat is her involvement in his adventures. Often Pat will go to great lengths to muscle her way onto a case. In The Yellow Cloud Pat sneaks into the Hildago Trading Company warehouse and locks the exit from the pneumatic tube that goes to the eighty sixth floor headquarters. As result, when Doc and his aides arrive they are effectively trapped. Pat will only unlock the exit if she's allowed to help in the search for the missing Renny. Not only does Pat want to be involved in Doc's adventures, but she very much wants to be a regular part of his group. The best example of this may be in He Could Stop the World, in which Pat makes it clear that she would give up her lucrative beauty salon if only Doc would make her a member of his team. Not only did Doc constantly refuse to make her a member of the group, but he also tried to keep her off cases or, if she was on a case, dismiss her from it as swiftly as possible. In Fear Cay, when Pat visits Doc and the Fabulous Five, the Man of Bronze plans to drop her off before starting on the case. He only lets Pat tag along at Monk's insistence. In Spook Hole, after she had finished impersonating Nancy Law's voice for Doc, he summarily dismisses her from the case, which results in Pat leaving in a huff.

While Doc is constantly discouraging Pat from taking part in their adventures, it is clear that he has genuine affection for her. When Pat visits in Fear Cay, he is genuinely happy to see her. For her part, Pat warmly shakes Doc's hand (unlike most female relatives, she is not about to hug the Man of Bronze). And like a little sister and big brother, the two do tease each other. In both Death in Silver and The Annihilist, when Doc asks for her help, she teasingly asks, "...Who's trying to kill you now?" For Doc's part, he is constantly bringing up the exorbitant prices she charges at her beauty salon. In I Died Yesterday he tells her to return to "...that refined piracy you call a beauty salon."

While the two do tease each other, the teasing is of the sort rooted in deep, familial affection. When Pat is captured in Fear Cay, Doc offers up a $25,000 reward (not a small fortune in those days) for information leading to her whereabouts. When Doc visits Pat's beauty salon for the first time, she insists on giving him the grand tour, as if she needed her cousin to be proud of her. For her part, Pat often brags of her cousin's career of fighting crime. And the admiration is to some degree mutual for the cousins. In Spook Hole Doc confesses that Pat is "handy to have around." If Doc doesn't want Pat involved in most of their adventures, let alone a standing member of his team, it could be because he does not want to lose her as he did his father and his Uncle Alex.

While Doc and Pat seem to have a warm, familial relationship such as that of a brother and sister, her relationships with the Fabulous Five tend to vary. That they are all fond of her there can be no doubt. Indeed, in The Spotted Men it is revealed that it was the Fabulous Five who taught Pat how to fly. That having been said, while they are all of fond of her, their relationships with her differ a great deal. For his part, Renny seems to regard Pat as the troublesome kid sister. In some of the novels Renny is even sterner with Pat about being involved with their adventures than Doc ever was. In The Feathered Octopus not only does Renny tell her to go back to "the mud packs and rowing machines and electric vibrators (in reference to her beauty salon)," but knocks her out with an anaesthetic gas when she refuses to leave. in Devil on the Moon, when Pat falls for a stratagem of the villain, Renny tells her that maybe now she will understand why Doc doesn't want women around on his cases. While Renny does not want Pat accompanying on the cases, it is clear that the two are friends. In The Man Who Fell Up, it is Renny who notes that Pat could sleep through the end of the world. And as mentioned in previously, in The Yellow Cloud Pat insists on joining in the search for Renny.

Renny sometimes treats Pat as a pest, as does the group's misogynist, Long Tom. When Pat shows up in Waves of Death, Long Tom signals this by gesturing in such a way as to indicate such catastrophes as the earth exploding. It is clear, however, that Long Tom did not regard Patricia Savage as a kid sister. It seems that the misogynist of the Fabulous Five was actually in love with her. In The Awful Dynasty Long Tom outright has a panic attack when he thinks something might have happened to the "lovely Pat." While Renny seems to treat Pat as the pesky little sister and Long Tom seems to be in love with her, Johnny falls somewhere in between. It is clear he likes Pat, but he is never so stern with her as Renny is (even though he does object to her coming along on their adventures).

It can be fairly certain that Monk was in love with Pat. He seems to have fallen in love with most pretty women he met, and in Brand of the Werewolf he comments that Patricia Savage is the prettiest girl he has ever seen. According to The Man Who Fell Up, it was Monk who taught Pat how to speak Mayan. In Fear Cay it is Monk who persuades Doc to take her along with them. In Hex when Pat finds June Knight in Monk's arms, Monk actually becomes flustered and tries to explain the situation to her. This is unusual behavior for a incessant womanizer, unless it is considered that Monk's feelings for Pat might have been more than platonic. While Monk may well have been in love with her, he was not below pulling pranks on her. In The Yellow Cloud it is told how Monk had once handed over a package to Pat and told her to go to the mountains and to guard the package with her life. Pat stayed there for a week, after which she suspected something. She opened the package to find it only contained the picture of a goat! It is difficult to say if Pat loved Monk back, but she was clearly very close to him. In The Man Who Fell Up it is Pat who names Monk's new chemical, which seeks out movement and warmth, "Compound Monk." Her reasoning is that both the chemical and Monk like to chase "...hot numbers." In Terror Takes 7 Pat throws a snowball at a man in an ugly green suit, thinking it was Monk.

While it seems likely that Monk is in love with Pat, it is not quite so clear in the case of Ham. Like Monk Ham was a resolute skirt chaser. Unlike Monk, however, he does not fall in love quite so easily. That having been said, it seems obvious in Brand of the Werewolf that Ham is taken with Patricia Savage. He even breaks his long standing policy of disagreeing with Monk by agreeing with him that Pat is a knockout. As time wore on it seems that Ham could have been taken with more than Pat's appearance. In The Men Who Smiled No More Ham refuses to swear in front of Pat even though he is extremely angry at Monk. Given that Pat has been in every sort of society from the Canadian wilderness to New York City's 400, it is doubtful any sort of language could have surprised or offended her, but it shows that Ham does not want to even risk the possibility of doing so. While it is possible that Ham simply respects Pat more than most women, it is also possible that he does harbour some strong feelings for her. At any rate, like Monk, Ham has no resistance to Pat whatsoever. She can always talk the two of them into letting her tag along on cases.

It would be hardly surprising if all of the Fabulous Five were not in love with Patricia Savage on some level. Not only is she incredibly beautiful, but she is also a woman of many skills. In Brand of the Werewolf it is quickly established that she is an excellent marksman. It is also revealed that she is a skilled boxer and accomplished at fencing. In The Yellow Cloud it is revealed that Pat also knows jujitsu, most likely taught to her by the female jujitsu artists she employs at her boutique. In Fear Cay she proves that she has considerable talent as an actress. Movie star Maureen Darling comments that she would make a good movie star, as she is not only incredibly beautiful, but "...a hell of a good actress." It is this talent that Doc asks Pat to use occasionally in the course of their adventures. In Murder Mirage Doc has Pat pose as Lady Sathyra Fotheran, which she does successfully. In Devil in the Moon she works in disguise. In Spook Hole Pat successfully imitates Nancy Law's voice.

In addition to her skills at combat and drama, Pat was also an aviator, as mentioned above. And like her cousin, Pat does seem to have some facility with languages and codes. In The Fantastic Island (published in 1935) Doc actually speaks to Pat in Mayan, although it is later in The Man Who Fell Up (published in 1942) that it is revealed that Pat only recently learned Mayan. When Doc asks how she learned it, she tells him that she "...talked Monk into teaching it to me." Regardless of when Pat learned Mayan, she appears to have some skill in it. In Hell Below she uses a flashlight to signal in Morse code, not in English, but in Mayan! In The Yellow Cloud it is revealed that Pat has learned sign language, while The Invisible Box Murders reveals that she can read lips. Of course, there are perhaps some skills Doc would probably rather Pat not have. She is apparently a skilled pickpocket. In The Fiery Menace Pat picks Monk's pocket to get his key to the 86th floor headquarters (apparently her own having been taken away from her). In The Time Terror when Doc locks Pat in the library, she simply picks the lock to get out.

In the course of her adventures with Doc and the Fabulous Five, Pat had ample opportunity to use a variety of weapons and even gadgets. Even so, her favourite weapon was still her single action revolver. She was wearing it when she first appeared in Brand of the Werewolf and is still using it towards the end of the run of Doc Savage. The powerful revolver is quite apparently a Colt Single Action Army, better known as the Colt Peacemaker, although it has had some modifications over the years. In fact, it had apparently been modified between Brand of the Werewolf and Fear Cay. In Fear Cay it has neither a sight nor a trigger, but a fanning spur has been welded to its hammer. In The Annihilist it is mentioned that Doc had designed mercy bullets (the non-lethal anaesthetic bullets used in all of Doc's guns) for the handgun, although one would think even a mercy bullet from the powerful .45 would still kill its intended victim! In The Terror in the Navy, when Pat points the weapon at some of the villains, it is mentioned that its barrel is so big that any of them could easily stick their little finger down it. The gun figures prominently in the novel Violent Night. There it is said to weigh more than four pounds and has a large ivory grip. It is also said to have been made before Jesse James's days, although this is simply not possible. Colt introduced the single action revolver in 1873. Not counting his activities during the War Between States, Jesse James was active as early as 1867. Of course, this is discounting the possibility that Doc's skill in designing firearms runs in the family and Pat's grandfather or great grandfather invented the single action revolver before Colt Manufacturing Company did.

While Pat favours her trusty six shooter, she does use other weapons as well. In The Annihilist she carries one of Doc's supermachine pistols in her purse, while in Spook Hole she threatens the villains Braske and Ropes with one. Pat also uses her cousin's gadgets on occasion. Along with the supermachine gun, in The Annihilist it is mentioned that Pat also has a tear gas gun disguised as a fountain pen in her purse. In Death in Silver it is revealed that the mouthpiece on Pat's phone is so equipped as to spray tear gas when she activates it. In Murder Mirage, while posing as Lady Sathyra Fotheran, Pat is equipped with a chemical mixture in one of the heels of her shoes that, when rubbed against something, will explode with a blinding flash of light. Unfortunately, Pat does not have time to remove her shoes before she is kidnapped, and must rub her shoes together to activate the chemical. While the resulting noise and flash of light cause the driver of the car she in which she is being held to wreck, allowing Pat to get away, it also makes it so Pat can hardly walk for a time. Regardless of Pat's experience in Murder Mirage, she still enjoys using gadgets. In fact, it is revealed in I Died Yesterday that she has a small museum of Doc's various gadgets, obtained with the help of Monk. She even has a room next to her office filled with them. In the course of I Died Yesterday, which could practically be considered Pat's only solo adventure (although she is assisted by Monk), she used everything from the glass balls filled with anesthetic gas to smoke bombs.

Like Doc, Pat had her fair share of vehicles. In The Fiery Menace it is mentioned that she owns a dark coupe named Clarence, two cars called Tarzan and Adolph Hitler, and a truck called Churchill. As revealed in Poison Island, she also owns her own three masted schooner named Patricia. It with this schooner that Patricia Savage is going to deliver Doc's gold from Hidalgo to New York City.

To own a schooner, it can be assumed that Pat Savage is fairly wealthy. Indeed, by her third adventure, Death in Silver, she has used the money from her father's estate to set up her own, high priced boutique on Park Avenue in New York called the Park Avenue Beautician. The Park Avenue Beautician is very sumptuous establishment, complete with uniformed doormen. Its waiting room is furnished in chromium, enamel, and expensive rugs. Her staff is made up of some of the most beautiful women in New York City. The Park Avenue Beautician even has its own gymnasium. Patricia's clients belong to New York's high society, many of who undergo the Special Egyptian Clay Pack Facial, which Pat herself developed. By the time of The Yellow Cloud Pat has changed the name of her beauty salon to Patricia Incorporated. And, if anything else, it is even more sumptuous. She has even employed a plastic surgeon, Florenso, whose office is on the seventh floor. Of course, for his office to be on the seventh floor, the boutique must occupy at least seven floors--pretty impressive even for a high priced establishment.

Beyond running her boutique and getting involved in Doc's adventures, Pat has had one other job over the years. In Violent Night Pat had been working as a war correspondent in London, but lost her credentials when she blew up because she would not be permitted to go to the front.

Pat's final appearance in Doc Savage would be in its January 1948 issue, in the novel I Died Yesterday. One of the novels which Lester Dent wrote in first person, this one is narrated by Pat herself. It can quite aptly be considered Pat's only solo adventure in the pulps. It is Pat who first becomes involved in the case and Doc is off stage for much of the adventure, leaving the majority of the action to her and Monk. Interestingly enough, while the appearance of gadgets had diminished since World War II, in I Died Yesterday they appear very frequently, Pat utilizing them at every turn.

Of course, the demise of the Doc Savage's pulp magazine did not mean that Pat would disappear as well. She would appear in Marvel Comics' adaptations of Death in Silver (Marvel Comics' Doc Savage no. 3, February 1973) and Brand of the Werewolf (Marvel Comics' Doc Savage no. 7, October 1973 and Marvel Comics' Doc Savage no. 8. November 1973). She would also appear in Millennium Comics' original mini-seires The Monarch of Armageddon (November 1991 to May 1992). Millenium would even publish a one shot Pat Savage comic book (October 1992) in which Pat crosses paths with the Mob.

Today it is quite probably that Patricia "Pat" Savage is the most famous woman to emerge from the heroic pulps. And there can be little doubt of the reasons why. She was in many ways the perfect, female counterpart to her cousin. Pat was spectacularly beautiful, yet very much her own woman. She could fight as well as any man, deadly with her six shooter and skilled in boxing, fencing, and jujitsu. She could fly a plane, pick locks, pick pockets, speak Mayan and German (although she was not very good at the latter), knew Morse code, and was a very convincing actress. She also had an undying love of adventure, which she shared with her cousin (even if Doc would never admit it). Over the course of her adventures Pat emerges as a fully realised character, perhaps more fully realised than any female character from the pulps save Nita Van Sloan from The Spider. This could very well be the reason she still has more than her fair share of fans to this day.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Three Classic Sitcoms Killed by Marriage

In real life marriages are a cause for happiness. And while a good number of those marriages end in divorce, many people will stay married for the rest of their lives. While marriage is often a happy event in real life, for some television shows it was the beginning of the end. There are at least three classic sitcoms from the Sixties whose cancellations came shortly after their lead characters married. The episodes in which they got married may have gotten high ratings (many people love weddings), but after that it was all downhill.

The first of these sitcoms to face cancellation after their lead characters' marriage was the now almost forgotten comedy The Farmer's Daughter. The Farmer's Daughter  was very loosely based on the 1947 Loretta Young film of the same name. It aired on ABC from September 20 1963 to April 22 1966. It centred on  Katrin "Katy" Holstrum (played by Swedish born Inger Stevens), the product of a Swedish American farming family from Minnesota. Katy went to work as the housekeeper for Congressman Glen Morley (played by William Windom).  Congressman Morley lived with his mother Agatha Morley (played by Cathleen Nesbitt). Quite unlike the movie, Congressman Morley was a widower with two young sons, 14 year old Steve (played  Mickey Sholdar) and 8 year old Danny (played by  Rory O'Brien).  Many of the show's plots were based on the conflict between Katy's down to earth, rural common sense and Washington, big city culture.

The Farmer's Daughter received moderate ratings at best, although it did receive some recognition at the Emmy Awards in its first season. Inger Stevens was nominated for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead). The show also received nominations for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy and Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy or Variety.

The Farmer's Daughter received respectable ratings in its second season, enough to warrant the show's renewal. Unfortunately, it would see its ratings drop in its third season. Its slip in the ratings would seem to be due to two factors. The first was a shift in time slot. The Farmer's Daughter aired on Friday in its first two seasons. For its third season The Farmer's Daughter was moved to Monday night. While none of its competition during the entirety of its run was necessarily very strong, it is possible that the move in time slots could have hurt the show's ratings.

The second factor that may have led to the cancellation of The Farmer's Daughter was the marriage of Katy and Congressman Morley. In the last episode of the second season Katy and Congressman Morley became engaged. They were married during the third season in the show's November 5 1965 episode, "To Have and to Hold". Any hopes that the marriage might have helped the show's ratings would quickly be squashed, as The Farmer's Daughter continued to drop in the ratings. ABC ultimately cancelled the sitcom in its third season. Given ABC moved The Farmer's Daughter from Friday night to Monday night, it is difficult to say definitively that it was the marriage of Katy and Congressman Morley that ultimately killed the show. That having been said, it certainly did not help.

The second sitcom of the Sixties that might have dropped in the ratings due to the marriage of its two lead characters was the classic spy spoof Get Smart. Get Smart aired on NBC from September 18 1965 to  September 12 1969, and then on CBS from September 26 1969 to September 11 1970. The show centred on Maxwell Smart (played by Don Adams), a bumbling secret agent for CONTROL. His partner was the beautiful and intelligent Agent 99 (played by Barbara Felton), who for whatever reason was in love with Max. The two of them reported to the head of CONTROL, simply known as "the Chief (played by Edward Platt)".

Debuting at the height of the spy craze, Get Smart proved to be one of the biggest hits of the 1965-1966 season. Its catchphrases soon entered into American popular culture, so it was not unusual to hear individuals quoting such lines as "Sorry about that, Chief," "Would you believe..," "Missed it by that much," "the old (fill in the blank) trick", and "I asked you not to tell me that."

Get Smart also performed very well with critics. The show was also nominated for four different Emmys for the 1965-1966 season: Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series (for Don Adams); Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy (for Paul Bogart's direction of the episode "Diplomat's Daughter"); and Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy (for Mel Brooks and Buck Henry's writing on "Mr. Big"). It received more Emmy nominations and even wins every single season except its last.

Get Smart slipped slightly in the ratings in its second season, dropping to no. 22 for the year. Unfortunately for its third season it dropped even further in the ratings. For the the 1967-1968 season it did not even rank in the top thirty shows for the year. Much of the reason for Get Smart's ratings may have been due to new competition from popular family comedy My Three Sons, which CBS had moved opposite Get Smart at the start of the 1967-1968 season. That having been said, a large part in Get Smart's falling ratings may have been the fact that the spy craze that led to its creation seems to have ended in 1967. That year several spy movies (including Billion Dollar Brain, Casino Royale, Fathom, and The President's Analyst) bombed at the box office. On television the various spy dramas were also faring poorly in the ratings. Even the days of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the show that had brought the spy craze to television, were numbered. It would then perhaps have been surprising had ratings for Get Smart not dropped.

Unfortunately NBC's solution to the declining ratings of Get Smart was to demand that the show's creative team have Max and 99 get married. The two got engaged in the first episode of the fourth season, "The Impossible Mission". It was in the episode "With Love and Twitches", aired during the November sweeps month, that Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 married. The wedding episode provided Get Smart with a slight boost in the ratings. Unfortunately the ratings plummeted almost immediately and NBC ultimately cancelled Get Smart at the end of the fourth season.

Get Smart received a reprieve when it was picked up by CBS for a fifth season. Unfortunately the show would never recover in the ratings. Much of this may have been due to some major changes on the show. Nearly every secondary character on the show was dropped except for The Chief's assistant Larabee. Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 had twins (born during the November sweeps period), although the twins swiftly fell by the wayside. Ultimately CBS cancelled the show at the end of the season.

There can be little doubt that Get Smart fell in the ratings during the third season due to a combination of new competition in the form of My Three Sons and the end of the spy craze. That its ratings continued to fall in the fourth season most likely seems to be due to the marriage of Max and 99. Quite simply, it entirely changed the dynamic of the show. Much of the humour of the show derived from the beautiful, glamorous, and intelligent 99 being wholly smitten by the bumbling Maxwell Smart, who treats her as nothing more than a fellow agent. To have the two of them get engaged and married then changed Get Smart a good deal, perhaps enough that long-time viewers lost interest in the show. While the marriage of Max and 99 probably played a large role in the show's ultimate demise, it was to a large degree historic. 99 may well have been the first female character on TV to keep her job after getting married!

The third sitcom to fall victim to the marriage of its lead characters could in some ways be considered a sibling of Get Smart. I Dream of Jeannie debuted right before Get Smart on NBC on September 18 1965. I Dream of Jeannie centred on astronaut Captain Tony Nelson (played by Larry Hagman), who while stranded on an island finds a bottle containing a 2000 year old genie. Despite her age the genie, named Jeannie (played by Barbara Eden), looks and behaves like a twentysomething woman. And despite the fact that Tony immediately frees Jeannie from serving him, the lovestruck Jeannie insists on returning with Tony to his home in Cocoa Beach, Florida. It aired from September 18 1965 to May 26 1970.

Unlike Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie was not a ratings smash. And unlike Get Smart, the only Emmy Award for which it was nominated was the Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy award for creator Sidney Sheldon. That having been said, it received very respectable ratings for its first four seasons. In fact, in its fourth season it received the highest Neilsen ratings that it ever had. It ranked no. 26 for the year. This was particularly impressive given it was scheduled against Gunsmoke on CBS, then the no. 6 show for the year.

Despite the fact that I Dream of Jeannie performed the best it ever had in its fourth season, NBC moved the show from Monday night to Tuesday night. Worse yet, Mort Werner, then NBC's  senior vice president for programming and talent, expressed the network's desire for Jeannie and Tony to get married. There was a very strong implication that the show might not be picked up for a fifth season if they did not. The show's creator, Sidney Sheldon, strongly opposed the idea, believing a marriage between Tony and Jeannie would destroy any sexual tension between them. What is more, in the second season episode "The Birds and Bees Bit" it was made clear that if a genie gets married to a mortal, then he or she loses his or her powers. Not only was Sidney Sheldon opposed to the idea of Jeannie marrying Tony, but so was the cast. The cast even went so far as to call Mort Werner to express their disapproval. Unfortunately, Mr. Werner stood firm on his insistence that Jeannie and Tony would be married.

It was in the fifth season episode "Guess Who's Going to Be a Bride?: Part 2" (which aired on October 7 1969) that Tony proposed to Jeannie and Jeannie accepted. It was in the December 2 1969 episode, "The Wedding", that the two were married. Unfortunately, just as Sidney Sheldon and the cast believed it would, I Dream of Jeannie plummeted in the ratings. NBC cancelled it at the end of the season.

It might be debatable if marriage was the primary factor in the drops in ratings for both The Farmer's Daughter and Get Smart, although it seems likely it was a factor in the demise of both shows. That having been said, in the case of I Dream of Jeannie it is almost certain that it was Jeannie and Tony's marriage that killed the show. While it is true that I Dream of Jeannie had changed time slots that season, it must be pointed out that I Dream of Jeannie changed time slots every season it was on the air. What its more, its final season would see it in a less competitive time slot than it had in some of its previous seasons. While it was opposite no. 23 ranked The Mod Squad on ABC, it was opposite the low rated Western Lancer on CBS. Given I Dream of Jeannie had faced Gunsmoke the previous season and actually got its highest ratings ever, it seems as if it should have performed well in its new time slot.

Indeed, those involved with the show firmly place the blame for its demise on  Jeannie and Tony's marriage. In his autobiography The Other Side of Me Sidney Sheldon wrote that "...with their marriage the relationship had changed and much of the fun went out of the show." In her book Jeannie Out of the Bottle (co-written with Wendy Leigh), Barbara Eden wrote that, "Today we would say that when Jeannie and Tony got married, the show 'jumped the shark.'" In an interview with the Today show, Miss Eden said flatly, "It ruined the show." Even Mort Werner, the man who instigated the marriage, had to admit afterwards that it was a mistake to get them married.

Following The Farmer's Daughter, Get Smart, and I Dream of Jeannie it is difficult to find many other shows that might have been killed by the marriage of their lead characters. Part of this is probably due to changing trends in television sitcoms. In the late Sixties sitcoms like Get Smart and I Dream of Jeannie gave way to family comedies like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. The early Seventies would see a new trend in situation comedies--socially relevant sitcoms such as All in the Family and Maude. By the time television returned to romantic comedies it seems possible that the networks had learned their lesson when it came to marrying off their lead characters. In other words, Sam and Diane never married on Cheers.

That having been said, since the Sixties there is one comedy on which the lead characters got married. The Nanny centred on a "flashy girl from Flushing", Fran Fine (played by Fran Drescher), who is hired by wealthy, British, Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield (played by Charles Shaughnessy). Much of the comedy on the show stemmed from the sexual tension between the attractive, if lower class Fran Fine and the upper class Max Sheffield. It was at the end of the fifth season that Fran and Mr. Sheffield married. Much of the sixth season then dealt with their marriage. Much like The Farmer's Daughter, Get Smart, and I Dream of Jeannie, ratings for The Nanny dropped after the marriage. That having been said, it can't quite be counted as a show that whose demise came about because of its lead characters getting married. Quite simply, the producers decided to end the series, rather than CBS deciding to cancel it. Even so, the drop in ratings The Nanny experienced after its two lead characters got married demonstrates the very real possibility that marrying off lead characters on a sitcom might not be wise if one wants to continue receiving good ratings.

In the case of The Farmer's Daughter and Get Smart there were other factors that could have also led to their cancellations. That having been said, it seems quite likely that the marriage of the two shows' lead characters was a contributing factor in their demise, particularly in the case of the once popular Get Smart. In the case of I Dream of Jeannie it would seem that Jeannie and Tony's marriage was the primary reason for the show's declining ratings and ultimate cancellation. The question is why did the marriages of these shows' lead characters have such a negative effect on their ratings?

The answer to that comes down to sexual tension.  Each of these shows relied heavily upon sexual tension between their two leads for much of their comedy. At its heart The Farmer's Daughter was a romantic comedy centred on the relationship between Katy and Congressman Morley. While Get Smart was primarily a spy spoof, much of its comedy stemmed from the relationship (or lack thereof) between Max and 99. I Dream of Jeannie was a fantastic comedy, but much of its humour stemmed from the sexual tension between Jeannie and Tony. The moment each of these pairs of characters got married, any sexual tension that existed between them disappeared. Indeed, as noted above, Sidney Sheldon believed this to be true of I Dream of Jeannie and thought that it took all the fun out of the show. Both star Barbara Eden and former NBC executive Mort Werner also thought the marriage was what ultimately killed I Dream of Jeannie.

In the end the marriages between lead characters that took place on The Farmer's Daugther, Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, and even The Nanny should perhaps serve as cautionary tales for producers and network executives. If you have a show built around the sexual tension between two single, lead characters and you want to maintain our ratings, by no means ever have them get married, unless perhaps it is in the final episode of the show. To do otherwise could mean seemingly inevitable declining ratings.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

A Short Pictorial Tribute to Evelyn Keyes on Her 100th Birthday

It was 100 years ago today, on November 20 1916, that Evelyn Keyes was born. Today she is best known for playing the eldest of Scarlett O'Hara's younger sisters, Suellen, in Gone With the Wind (1939).  While she would not go onto the sort of career Vivien Leigh or even necessarily Ann Rutherford (who played the youngest O'Hara girl, Carreen), Evelyn Keyes would go onto play other, more notable roles.

Evelyn Keyes and Ann Rutherford in a photo from Gone With the Wind
Rita Johnson, Robert Montgomery, and Evelyn Keyes in a photo from Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
Glenn Ford and Evelyn Keyes in a photo from The Desperadoes (1943)
Barbara Eden wasn't the first beautiful genie! Evelyn played one in A Thousand and One Nights (1945).
Evelyn Keyes from The Jolson Story (1946)
Evelyn Keyes in The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)
Evelyn Keyes in Hell's Half Acre (1954)