Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dave Madden R.I.P.

Dave Madden, best known for playing the Partridges' manager Reuben Kincaid on The Partridge Family, died on 16 January 2014 at the age of 82. The causes were congestive heart failure and kidney failure.

Dave Madden was born on 17 December 1931 in Sarnia, Ontario. His early years were spent in  Port Huron, Michigan. Following his father's death he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was about 8 years old at the time. He attended  Indiana State Teachers College for one semester before dropping out to enlist in the United States Air Force. Following his service in the Air Force, Mr. Madden attended the University of Miami from which he graduated with a degree in communications in 1959.

Dave Madden began his entertainment career as a nightclub comic. He made his television debut in that capacity on The Merv Griffin Show in 1962. He made four appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and also appeared on The Hollywood Palace and The Joey Bishop Show. He made his acting debut as a regular on the short lived sitcom Camp Runamuck in 1965. He was a regular on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and guest starred on Bewitched. It was in 1970 that The Partridge Family debuted. Dave Madden played the Partridges' grumpy manager Reuben Kinkaid, who was always at odds with middle son Danny Partridge (played by Danny Bonaduce). The show ran for four years.

Starting in 1978 he joined the cast of Alice, playing Earl Hicks, a regular customer at Mel's Diner. He stayed with the show until it went off the air in 1985. In the Seventies he also guest starred on such shows as Love, American Style; Happy Days; Starsky and Hutch; Barney Miller; The Love Boat; Flying High; and Fantasy Island. He appeared in the television reunion movie More Wild Wild West. He provided the voice of Ram in the animated adaptation of Charlotte's Web (1973) and appeared in the film Eat My Dust (1976). 

In the Eighties he guest starred on The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, Still the Beaver, and Life with Lucy. In the Nineties he did the opening narration for the show Herman's Head. He guest starred on the shows The Ben Stiller Show, Married with Children, Boy Meets World, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He also did many commercial voiceovers later in his career.

There can be little doubt that Dave Madden had a gift for creating memorable sitcom characters. According to the credits, at least, Shirley Jones and David Cassidy were supposed to be the stars of The Partridge Family. In truth, however, one has to suspect that the majority of viewers tuned into the show each week to see the verbal sparring between Dave Madden as Reuben Kinkaid and Danny Bonaduce as Danny Partridge. Arguably it was this that made the show. He was also memorable as Earl Hicks on Alice. Earl was a basketball coach and also a bit of a know it all, even offering legal advice to Mel in one episode. Although he was not one of the stars of the show, Dave Madden definitely played one of the show's most memorable characters. Few actors are fortunate enough to be a regular on one hit show. Such was Dave Madden's talent that he was a regular on two shows and guest starred on many others.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Godspeed Roger Lloyd-Pack

Roger Lloyd-Pack, known for his roles in such shows as Only Fools and Horses and The Vicar of Dibley, died on 15 January 2014 from pancreatic cancer.

Roger Lloyd-Pack was born in Islington, London on 9 February 1944. His father was actor Charles Lloyd Pack, who appeared in several Hammer films (Dracula and Quatermass 2 among them) and TV shows from The Avengers to Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). He attended a preparatory school called St. David's and then Bedales School in Hampshire. It was while he was at Bedales that he became interested in acting. He trained in acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

He made his television debut in 1965 in a bit part in The Avengers episode "The Town of No Return". In the Sixties he also appeared on the television programmes Virgin of the Secret Service, Crime Buster, and Roads to Freedom.. He made his film debut in an uncredited bit part in Secret Ceremony (1968). In the Sixties he also appeared in the films The Magus (1968), Hamlet (1969), The Go-Between (1970), and Figures in a Landscape (1970).

In the Seventies Roger Lloyd-Pack was a regular on the television shows Spyder's Web and Life of Shakespeare. He guest starred on such shows as Jason King, Special Branch, The Protectors, Crown Court, Dixon of Dock Green, and The Professionals. He appeared in such as films Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Fright (1971). The Man Who Couldn't Get Enough (1974), Meetings with Remarkable Men (1979), Cuba (1979), and Bloody Kids (1979).

It was in the Eighties that he was cast in the role of  Trigger on the long running show Only Fools and Horses. He played the role until its final series in 2003, appearing in nearly every episode.  He was a also regular on the TV shows Miracles Take Longer, Moving, and Byker Grove. He guest starred on such shows as Private Schulz, I Thought You'd Gone, Summer Season, Inspector Morse, Ten Great Writers of the Modern World, and Mr. Bean. He appeared in the films as Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), Meat (1990), and The Misadventures of Mr. Wilt (1990).

In the Nineties he was a regular on the shows The Vicar of Dibley, The Gravy Train Goes East and Health and Efficiency He appeared in television adaptations of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling and Oliver Twist. He guest starred on such shows as Zorro, The Chief, Boon, and Lovejoy. He appeared in the films American Friends (1991), The Object of Beauty (1991), The Trial (1993), Princess Caraboo (1994), Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994), The Young Poisoner's Handbook (1995), Van Gogh's Ear (1997), and Preaching to the Perverted (1997).

In the Naughts Mr. Lloyd-Pack was the star of The Old Guys and had a recurring role on The Bill. He guest starred on the shows Murder Rooms: Mysteries of the Real Sherlock Holmes, Born and Bred, Where the Heart Is, Doc Martin, Agatha Christie's Poirot, Doctor Who, The Catherine Tate Show, and Survivors. He appeared in such films as Vanity Fair (2004), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), The Living and the Dead (2006), The Good Men of Leicester (2010), and Made in Dagenham (2010).

In the Teens he had a recurring role on the TV show The Borgias. He guest starred on the TV shows Hustle and Inspector George Gently. He appeared in the films Rough & Ready I (2011), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), In Love with Alma Cogan (2011), and 47 Orchard Street (2012). He appeared as farmer Owen Newitt of The Vicar of Dibley one last time for Comic Relief last year.

Roger Lloyd-Pack was a remarkable actor. While he was quite good in dramas, I think it can safely be said that he had a special gift when it came to comedy. Both his timing and his delivery were impeccable. What is more, he did not simply play one type of character when it came to comedy. The three characters for which he is best known are very different from each other. Tom on The Old Guys was a relic of the Sixties who couldn't accept he had grown old. Owen Newitt on The Vicar of Dibley was a coarse, dirty, and at times barbaric farmer (it would be hard seeing Tom gassing badgers--Owen brags about it). Trigger on Only Fools and Horses was a dim witted road sweeper who was generally considered the village idiot. Mr Lloyd-Pack was great in all three roles, each of which was very different from the other.

Of course, he was also a great dramatic actor. He did impressive turns in guest appearances on such shows as Poirot, Inspector Morse, and Doctor Who (where he played the villain in the two part episode "Rise of the Cybermen"/"The Age of Steel"). He was also a veteran of the stage, who appeared in productions of Shakespeare plays among other things. Mr. Lloyd-Pack was an incredible actor. While he may be best known as Trigger, he played so many other  memorable characters over the  years and played all of them well.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Late Great Russell Johnson

Russell Johnson, best known for playing The Professor on the classic American sitcom Gilligan's Island, died today at the age of 89. The cause was kidney failure.

Russell Johnson was born on 10 November 1924 near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. After his father died when he was ten Mr. Johnson's mother sent him and his brothers to the Girard College, a private boarding school for orphaned children, in Philadelphia. During World War II he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force as an aviation cadet. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and served as both a bombardier and a navigator aboard B-24 bombers. Wounded when his B-24 was shot down over Zamboanga City, Philippines, he was awarded the Purple Heart. He also received the Air Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, and the World War II Victory Medal. On 22 November 1945 he was honourably discharged with the rank of first lieutenant.

Following World War II Russell Johnson attended the Actors’ Laboratory in Los Angeles, California. He made his television debut in 1950 in an episode of Fireside Theatre. In the Fifties he was a regular on the Western TV series Black Saddle, playing Marshall Gib Scott. He also guest starred on such shows as Adventures of SupermanKing's Row, The Lone Ranger, Climax, Medic, Circus Boy, Lux Video Theatre, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Lawman, and Riverboat. He made his film debut in For Men Only (1952). During the decade he appeared in such films as Loan Shark (1952), Rancho Notorious (1952), Seminole (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Black Tuesday (1954), This Island Earth (1955), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Rock All Night (1957), and Courage of Black Beauty (1957).

In 1963 Russell Johnson was cast in the role of The Professor (whose given name was Roy Hinkley) on Gilligan's Island. The show was a hit and was still getting good ratings when it was cancelled after three years to make room for Gunsmoke (which had just been saved from the axe by CBS chairman William Paley himself). It went onto to be one of the most phenomenally successful syndicated reruns of all time. In the Sixties he also guest starred on such shows as  ThrillerThe Twilight Zone, The Deputy, The Detectives, Route 66, Tales of Wells Fargo, Ben Casey, Wagon TrainRawhide77 Sunset Strip, The Big Valley, and Lassie. He appeared in the films A Distant Trumpet (1964), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and Cry for Poor Wally (1969).

In the Seventies Mr. Johnson was a semi-regular on Owen Marshall, Counsellor at Law. He provided the voice of The Professor on the Saturday morning cartoon The New Adventures of Gilligan. He also reprised the role of The Professor in the reunion movies Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978) and The Castaways on Gilligan's Island (1979). He guest starred on such shows as Marcus Welby M.D., Ironside, Gunsmoke, Hawkins, Cannon, McMillan and Wife, Police Story, Wonder Woman, and Lou Grant. He appeared in the films The Man from Independence (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975), and The Great Skycopter Rescue (1980).

In the Eighties he provided the voice of The Professor for the Saturday morning cartoon Gilligan's Planet and reprised the role for the reunion movie The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981). He guest starred on such shows as Bosom Buddies, The Jeffersons, Buffalo Bill, Dallas, MacGyver, Fame, Newhart, ALF (on which he reprised his role as The Professor), Knot's Landing, and My Two Dads. He appeared in the films Off the Wall (1983) and Blue Movies (1988).

In the Nineties he guest starred on Roseanne (reprising his role as The Professor) and Meego (again reprising his role as The Professor). He provided the voice of General Cho for the video game Hellbender.

There can be no doubt that Russell Johnson is best known for his role as The Professor on Gilligan's Island. And I think most fans of classic television would agree that he was very good in the role. Among castaways for whom intelligence (or at least common sense) was often at a premium, The Professor was the one who was always smart. Indeed, I think in many respects The Professor was an important character in television history. Not only was he intelligent, but he was also reasonably handsome. In an era when scientifically inclined, intelligent characters were often very old men or extremely nerdy, The Professor demonstrated that a character could be both intelligent and good looking. This might not seem important now, but it was probably an important thing for many intelligent little boys who grew up watching the show to know.

Of course, Russell Johnson's career was much more than The Professor. Indeed, he was a very prolific actor on television and played in a variety of roles. He appeared frequently on the Western television shows so prevalent in the Sixties, often in roles as unlike The Professor as possible. He could be very convincing as both outlaws or lawmen. In the Fifties Mr. Johnson also appeared frequently in films. There he could also be found in roles that were very different from The Professor. Indeed, in one of his earliest roles, in the film Loan Shark (1952), he played a vicious heavy named Charlie Thompson. In the film Back at the Front he played a smuggler. Not only did Russell Johnson play a wide variety of roles, but he also appeared in a number of different genres. During his film career he appeared in everything from films noirs to Westerns to science fiction films. And while he may be best known for his work in Western TV shows outside of Gilligan's Island, he appeared on television shows as varied as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Route 66. Although Russell Johnson is best known as The Professor on Gilligan's Island, his career consisted of so much more. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Holy Digital Video Disk, Batman! The Classic Sixties Series Finally Comes to DVD

Earlier today comedian and talk show host Conan O'Brien leaked the news that fans of the Sixties TV show Batman have been waiting to hear for years. Quite simply, Warner Brothers Home Entertainment will be releasing the complete series on DVD later this year. Mr. O'Brien's tweet was later confirmed as true by both Warner Brothers Home Entertainment and DC Comics. In some respects the timing of the DVD's release could not be more fitting, as 2014 will mark the 75th anniversary of the Caped Crusader.

For many it must have seemed as if Batman would never reach DVD. Quite simply, the show has been at the centre of a legal struggle between 20th Century Fox (who produced the show) and Warner Brothers (whose parent company, Time Warner, owns DC Comics and hence the character of Batman) for years. The Sixties series Batman came about in 1965 when the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) approached 20th Century Fox about producing a TV programme based on the comic book character Batman (who was owned by National Periodical Publications, now known as DC Comics). 20th Century Fox then turned to producer William Dozier and his company Greenway Productions to actually produce the show. Batman debuted on 12 January 1966 and became an outright fad. The fad eventually burned itself out, but not before the show had run two and a half seasons with a total of 120 episodes.

In 1967, while Batman was still on the air, National Periodical Publications was bought by Kinney National Company. It was in 1969 that Kinney National Company bought Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. It was in 1971 that Kinney National Company divested itself of its assets unrelated to entertainment and renamed itself Warner Communications. The end result was that Warner Communications now owned National Periodical Publications (who officially renamed itself DC Comics in 1977 after decades of being known informally by that name), as well as all of its characters. Of course, in 1990 Warner Communications would merge with Time Inc. to become Time Warner.

Given the fact that Batman was produced by both 20th Century Fox and William Dozier's Greenway Productions for ABC, the rights for the television show were probably complicated to begin with. The fact that the characters portrayed on the show were owned by yet another entity (DC Comics, which is owned by Time Warner) would only complicate matters even more. It should be no surprise that a struggle over rights would then ensue between the companies who own the actual footage for the TV show and the company who owns the characters.

Of course, given the apparent entanglements for rights over the TV series, it must seem odd that the 1966 feature film spun off from the show has long been out on DVD. It was first released on DVD in 2001 and then released on Blu-Ray and re-released on DVD in  2008. It seems possible that the rights issues regarding the film were more easily resolved than those pertaining to the TV series. Indeed, at the very least ABC would have no rights to the feature film, reducing the number of companies involved to three (20th Century Fox, Greenway Productions, and Time-Warner).

Regardless of why Batman has been kept off DVD for so long, today's news is very good for fans of Sixties television. The television series has maintained a large following over the years and, even after several more serious movies featuring the character, it remains one of the most popular interpretations of the Caped Crusader. Now if only The Beatles cartoon would only be released on DVD....

Monday, January 13, 2014

Frank Marth R.I.P.

Frank Marth, a veteran television character actor who appeared on shows from The Honeymooners to The A-Team, died on 12 January 2014 at the age of 91.

Frank Marth was born on 29 July 1922 in New York City. He made his television debut in 1949 in an episode of the TV series Mama. It was in 1951 that he first worked with comedian Jackie Gleason, the two of them appearing on the TV programme Cavalcade of Stars. Mr. Marth would go onto play various roles in both "The Honeymooners" segments of The Jackie Gleason Show and the sitcom based on them, The Honeymooners. In the Fifties Mr. Marth also appeared on such shows as The Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Man Against Crime, Suspense, Inner Sanctum, Dragnet, The Alcoa Hour, Studio One, The Phil Silvers Show, and Decoy. He appeared in the film Fright (1956).

In the Sixties Mr. Marth appeared in the films Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Love with the Proper Stranger (1963), Madame X (1966), Madigan (1968), Pendulum (1969), The Lost Man (1969),  and Marooned (1969). He regularly appeared on The Jackie Gleason Show. He appeared on such shows as Naked City, Car 54, Where Are You?, The Nurses, Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Patty Duke Show, Arrest and Trial, The Great Adventure, The Defenders, My Favourite Martian, Mr. Novak, Slattery's People, Perry Mason, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Combat!, The Fugitive, Daktari, The Green Hornet, Garrison's Gorillas, The Wild Wild West, Run for Your Life, The Big Valley, The Virginian, Hogan's Heroes, Hawaii Five-O, Here's Lucy, Bonanza, and Mission: Impossible.

In the Seventies Mr. Marth appeared on such shows as Marcus Welby, M.D., Owen Marshall--Counsellor at Law, The F.B.I., Mod Squad, Mannix, Ironside, Hawkins, Shaft, The Rookies, Gunsmoke, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, M*A*S*H, Cannon, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones, Lou Grant, and The Incredible Hulk.He appeared in the film Telefon.

In the Eighties Frank Marth appeared on several episodes of the soap opera The Young and the Restless. He also a regular on The Dirty Dozen: The Series. He appeared on such shows as Trapper John, M.D., Vega$, Dallas, Simon & Simon, The Fall Guy, Airwolf,  and The A-Team. He last appeared on screen in the film Loving Deadly.

Frank Marth spent most of his career playing police officers and detectives. From The Honeymooners to The F. B.I. to Cannon, Mr. Marth played a variety of cops. Even on Westerns such as The Big Valley he was often cast as a sheriff or marshal. There can be no argument that he was not good at playing officers of law. That having been said, he was actually a very versatile actor who could play nearly any role handed him. He played several military officers over the years, in everything from The Wild Wild West to M*A*S*H. He also played a medical doctor on more than one occasion. And while Frank Marth played wide array of cops, he often played roles that were on the other side of the law. Indeed, in The Honeymooners episode "Trapped" he played a bank robber. Frank Marth was one of television's great character actors. And while he played many authority figures, he was capable of playing much more.