Saturday, October 14, 2023

Tony Martinez: More Than Pepino

Today Tony Martinez is best known for playing farmhand Pepino on The Real McCoys, but his career went well beyond that sitcom. He was also a talented musician, who played five instruments. He not only played clubs in New York City, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, but he also released singles and albums. As to his acting career, he appeared in classic movies and guest starred on classic TV shows.

Tony Martinez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on January 27 1920. It was in 1942 that he moved to New York City. There he studied music at Julliard. He was the bassist for pianist Noro Morales's band, while at the same time being educated in music by Juan Tizol, a trombonist in Duke Ellington's orchestra. It was about this time, in 1943, that he met the legendary Tito Puente at the Stork Club.

It was in 1945 that Tony Martinez moved from New York City to Hollywood. There he became a conguero with the Dezi Arnaz Orchestra. By the early Fifties Tony Martinez would go out on his own. As the leader of the Tony Martinez Quintet, he released several singles, starting with "Hollywood Mambo" in 1954. The Tony Martinez Quintet would continue releasing singles throughout much of the Fifties. In 1959 Tony Martino released the album The Many Sides of Pepino (as mentioned above, Pepino was his character on The Real McCoys). As Tony Martino & his Orchestra, he released the single "The Black Sheep" and in 1960 an album with Eddie Cano & Jack Costanzo, Dancing on the Sunset Strip.

Of course, today Tony Martinez is best known as an actor, and even trained at the Pasadena Playhouse. He made his film debut in a bit part as a bellboy in Angel on the Amazon in 1948. In 1950 he appeared in the film Barricade and the Mexican film El ciclón del Caribe. It was the year 1952 that would see the most significant role of his career so far. He played Go-Go, a friend of the protagonist Tommy in the movie The Ring (1952). The Ring is significant in being one of the first movies centred on Chicanos and one of the first to portray the racism they faced in 1950s Los Angeles. It also featured Rita Moreno in her first lead role.

Tony Martinez would follow The Ring with an uncredited appearance in Second Chance (1953) and the role of Vicente in the Western The Naked Dawn (1955). He also made guest appearances on the TV shows The Colgate Comedy Hour and The Lone Wolf. It was in 1956 that he made his most significant appearance in a film besides The Ring, although it was primarily as a musician. He appeared as himself in the rock 'n' roll musical Rock Around the Clock (1956). There Tony Martinez and His Band performing several songs, including "Mambo Capri," "Solo Y Triste," and "Bacalao Con Papa." If a band performing mambo appearing in a rock 'n' roll musical sounds odd, keep in mind that from the late Forties into the early Fifties there was a mambo craze in the United States, and as late as 1956 mambo was still seen as a rival to rock 'n' roll. Not only did this craze provide a boost to Tony Martinez's career, but also the careers of  Machito, Noro Morales, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and others.

Following Rock Around the Clock, Tony Martinez appeared in an uncredited role as a filling station attendant in You Can't Run Away from It (1956). Tony Martinez and his band were playing at a club on the Sunset Strip when he was noticed by television producers Irving and Norman Pincus. It was then that he was cast as Mexican farmhand Pepino Garcia on the sitcom The Real McCoys. Pepino was something of a stereotype, and he even took the surname "McCoy" when he became a United States citizen. Even so, Pepino was one of the few Latino characters on American television in the Fifties, perhaps the only others of any significance being Ricky on I Love Lucy and later Hey Soos on Rawhide. Tony Martinez would get a chance to perform two songs on The Real McCoys. In the October 27 1960 episode "Pepino McCoy" he performed the songs "Cuanto La Gusta" and "Pepino." Both songs had been included on Tony Martinez's 1959 album, The Many Sides of Pepino. While

Tony Martinez's acting career slowed after The Real McCoys, and consisted of guest appearances on television shows. He guest starred on the shows The Man From U.N.C.L.E., F Troop, My Favorite Martian, Accidental Family, and Storefront Lawyers.  In 1967 he joined the national company of the play The Man from La Mancha. He would go onto play Sancho Panza in over 2,245 performances of the play, including on Broadway. In the Seventies he would write music for a few Mexican movies. He was also the executive director of Artists Variety Co. in Puerto Rico, a government sponsored program to help people break into entertainment. In the early Eighties he served as executive director of the Institute of Motion Pictures, the government film commission in Puerto Rico.

Tony Martinez died on September 16 2002 at the age of 82.

While Pepino on The Real McCoys was something of a stereotype, as mentioned above, he was one of the few Latino characters on American television in the Fifties and hence something of a pioneering character. Beyond playing Pepino on The Real McCoys, Tony Martinez also had a role in The Ring, a groundbreaking film in that it focused on Chicanos. As a musician he had a successful career that included performing at many clubs, releasing several records, appearing in the movie Rock Around the Clock, and writing music for Mexican films. Chances are good Tony Martinez will always be best remembered as Pepino, but he did so much more.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Godspeed Mark Goddard

Mark Goddard, who starred in the TV shows Johnny Ringo. The Detectives, and Lost in Space, among other shows, died on October 10 2023 at the age of 87. The cause was pulmonary fibrosis.

Mark Goddard was born Charles Harvey Goddard in Lowell, Massachusetts on July 24 1936. He grew up in Scituate, Massachusetts on the coast. He attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, but left school in his junior year to pursue acting. He went to New York City and studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It was in 1959 that he moved to Hollywood. He made his television debut in The Joan Crawford Show: Woman on the Run that same year. He also guest starred on an episode of The Rifleman. In September 1959 he began playing the regular role of Cully, the deputy of the title character on the short-lived Western Johnny Ringo. In 1960 he guest starred The DuPont Show with June Allyson, The Chevy Mystery Show, The Rebel, and Zane Grey Theatre. It was in the fall of 1960 that he began playing Sgt. Chris Ballard on The Detectives. He remained with the show until it ended its run in 1962.

In the Sixties Mark Goddard continued to appear on The Detectives. He played a supporting role on the short-lived sitcom Many Happy Returns, playing opposite Elinor Donahue. It was in 1965 that he began playing Major Don West, the pilot of the Jupiter II, on the sci-fi show Lost in Space. He remained with the show until it ended in 1968. In the Sixties he also guest starred on the shows Fair Exchange, The Rifleman, Vacation Playhouse, Burke's Law, The Bill Dana Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Channing, The Virginian, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, The Fugitive, The Mod Squad, and Adam-12. He appeared in the movies The Monkey's Uncle (1965), A Rage to Live (1965), and The Love-Ins (1967).

In the Seventies he appeared on Broadway in The Act. He guest starred on the shows Barnaby Jones, The Wide World of Mystery, Switch, Petrocelli, The Streets of San Francisco, Quincy M.E., Dog and Cat, The Next Step Beyond, Benson, and B.J. and the Bear. He appeared in the movies Play It Again, Sam (1972), Blue Sunshine (1977), and Roller Boogie (1979).

In the Eighties Mark Goddard had recurring roles on the soap operas One Life to Live, The Doctors, and General Hospital. He guest starred on the shows The Fall Guy, The Master, and Jake and the Fatman. He appeared in the movie Strange Invaders (1983). In later years he had a cameo in Lost in Space (1998), the movie based on the classic show, Overnight Sensation (2001), and Soupernatural (2010). His last appearance was as Don West in a "table read," Lost in Space: The Epilogue, included on the Blu-Ray release of the show in 2015.

It is safe to say that Mark Goddard will probably be best remembered as Major Don West, the somewhat quick-tempered pilot of the Jupiter II on Lost in Space. While he may always be best remembered for Lost in Space, Mark Goddard starred on multiple TV shows. He was the youthful Detective Sgt. Chris Ballard on The Detectives and Johnny Ringo's young deputy Cully on Johnny Ringo. He also appeared in the short-lived sitcom Many Happy Returns and several soap operas. Beyond that, he also made several guest appearances. He played bug repellent salesman Jim Gardner in the Beverly Hillbillies episode "The Critter Doctor." In the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Potted Planter," he played a role as far from  Sgt. Ballard, and Don West as one could get, that of Roy Mooney, a young man paid to compromise a married woman. In the Fugitive episode "Fun and Games and Party Favors" he played a young pool cleaners that the daughter of his wealthy employers was in love with. Mark Goddard played a wide variety of roles beyond those he played regularly in television shows, and he did all of them well.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

The Late Great Phyllis Coates

Phyllis Coates, who played Alice McDoakes in the popular "Joe McDoakes" theatrical shorts and played Lois Lane in the first season of the classic TV show Adventures of Superman, died today at the age of 96.

Phyllis Coates was born Gypsie Ann Evarts Stell on January 15 1927 in Wichita Falls, Texas. She came to Hollywood when she was still a teenager. She was discovered by vaudevillian Ken Murray in a restaurant at Hollywood and Vine. For ten months she appeared as a comedienne and dancer in Ken Murray's show Blackouts. She was later a showgirl in at the Earl Carroll Theatre. In 1946 she toured with production of Anything Goes put on by the USO.

Miss Coates made her television debut in 1946 in the soap opera Faraway Hill, using the stage name Ann Stell. She signed with Warner Bros. and made her film debut in the "Joe McDoakes" theatrical short ""So You Want to Be in Politics" in 1958 She played Alice, the wife of Joe McDoakes (played by George O'Hanlon). From 1948 to 1954 she played Alice in over 25 more Joe McDoakes shorts. She made her feature film debut in an uncredited role in Smart Girls Don't Talk (1948). In the late Forties she appeared in the films A Kiss in the Dark (1949), Look for the Silver Lining (1949), The House Across the Street (1949), My Foolish Heart (1949), My Blue Heaven (1950), Blues Busters (1950), and Outlaws of Texas (1950). She guest starred on the TV shows Your Show Time and The Cisco Kid. From the late Forties into the early Fifties, Phyllis Coates was also a popular pin-up girl.

It was in the 1951 feature film Superman and the Mole Men that Phyllis Coates first played Lois Lane. It was the first feature film based on Superman, or any other DC Comics character. The movie served as a trial for the TV series Adventures of Superman, which debuted in 1952. Phyllis Coates reprised her role as Lois Lane in the first season of the show. Phyllis Coates did not return to Adventures of Superman for its second season as she had signed onto a pilot for a prospective television series with Jack Carson and Allen Jenkins. Noel Neill, who had played Lois Lane in the serials starring Kirk Alyn as Superman, then took over the role of Lois Lane on Adventures of Superman.

On television in the Fifties she was also a regular on the short-lived TV shows The Duke and This is Alice. She guest starred on the shows The Cisco Kid; Racket Squad; The Range Rider; The Files of Jeffrey Jones; Craig Kennedy, Criminologist; Ramar of the Jungle; I'm the Law; The Red Skelton Show; Your Jeweller's Showcase; The Abbott & Costello Show; Terry and the Pirates; Summer Theatre; Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson; Public Defender; Professional Father; Topper; Cavalcade of America; The Millionaire; The Lone Ranger; Willy; Stage 7; Science Fiction Theatre; Lassie; The Great Gildersleeve; Frontier; The Fisher Family; TV Readers Digest; Navy Log; Four Star Playhouse; It's a Great Life; Chevron Hall of Stars; Crossroads; Disneyland; Leave It to Beaver; The Sheriff of Cochise; General Electric Theatre; Richard Diamond, Private Detective; Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse; Black Saddle; Lux Playhouse; Hennesey; The DuPont Show with June Allyson; Hawaiian Eye; The Best of the Post; Wells Fargo; Rawhide; The Untouchables; Perry Mason; Gunsmoke; Iand Death Valley Days.

In 1956 Phyllis Coates returned to the role of Alice in the "Joe McDoakes" shorts, appearing the last few shorts in the series. In the Fifties she appeared in the movies Valentino (1951), Man from Sonora (1951), Canyon Raiders (1951), Nevada Badmen (1951), Oklahoma Justice (1951), The Longhorn (1951), Stage to Blue River (1951), The Gunman (1952), Fargo (1952), Canyon Ambush (1952), Flat Top (1952), Wyoming Roundup (1952), Invasion, U.S.A. (1952), The Maverick (1952), Scorching Fury (1952), Jungle Drums of Africa (1953), Marshal of Cedar Rock (1953), She's Back on Broadway (1953), Perils of the Jungle (1953), Topeka (1953), Here Comes the Girls (1953), El Paso Stampede (1953), Gunfighters of the Northwest (1954), Panther Girl of the Congo(1955), Girls in Prison (1956), I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), Blood Arrow (1958), Cattle Empire (1958), and The Incredible Petrified World (1959).

In the Sixties Miss Coates guest starred on the shows Gunslinger, Tales of Wells Fargo, Rawhide, The Untouchables, Perry Mason, The Virginian, The Patty Duke Show, Gunsmoke, Death Valley Days, Slatterly's People; and Summer Fun (1966). She appeared in the movie The Baby Maker (1970).

Following her marriage to Dr. Howard Press in 1962, Phyllis Coates went into semi-retirement. After they divorced in 1986, she appeared in the 1989 TV movie Kiss Shot and the 1991 TV movie Mrs. Lambert Remembers Love. She appeared in the films Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn (1989) and Hollywood: The Movie (1996). She guest starred on the shows Midnight Caller and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. She also guest starred in the 1994 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman episode "The House of Luthor," playing Ellen Lane, the mother of Lois Lane.

Phyllis Coates spent much of her time in B-movies and on television, but she was a remarkable actress nonetheless. On Adventures of Superman she played Lois Lane as a determined reporter, who was always out to scoop Clark Kent with regards to stories. As Alice in the "Joe McDoakes" shorts, she was Joe's intelligent, competent, and attractive wife who always got the better of him. In the cult classic I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, she played Margaret, Professor Frankenstein's secretary, who realizes that what her boss is doing isn't exactly ethical. In the Tales of Wells Fargo episode "Alias Jim Hardie," Phyllis Coates played a role quite different from Alice and Lois. She played Pat Denton, a clerk who tries to help an outlaw impersonating Wells Fargo agent Jim Hardie rob a Wells Fargo office. In the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde," she played a character even further from Alice and Lois. She played Norma Carter, a woman who not only committed murder, but plotted to sell the murder victim's son to someone else. Phyllis Coates may always be remembered as Lois Lane, but she played a wide variety of roles in her career, many of them quite different from any other role she played.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The 15th TCM Classic Film Festival Dates Set

The dates for the 15th TCM Classic Film Festival have been set. Next year's festival will take place from April 18 to April 21 2024 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel has served as the headquarter of the film festival since the very beginning, which is fitting given its place in the history of Hollywood. It was the site of the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. Among the hotel's guests have been such stars as Charlie Chaplin, Montgomery Clift, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Mary Martin, and many others. Marilyn Monroe lived at the hotel for two years early in her career.

The theme of the 15th TCM Classic Film Festival is "Most Wanted: Crime and Justice in Film."

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The 65th Anniversary of 77 Sunset Strip

It was 65 years ago today that the detective television series 77 Sunset Strip debuted on ABC. The show originally centred on Stuart Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), a former secret agent for the OSS during World War II and foreign languages professor, and attorney Jeff Spencer (Roger Smith), who operate a detective agency out of fashionable offices in Suites 101 and 102 at 77 Sunset Strip. Suzanne Fabray (Jacqueline Beer), a French switchboard operator for the Sunset Answering Service, handled many of Bailey & Spencer's calls and sometimes got involved in cases. Kookie (Edd Byrnes) was a parking attendant at Dino's Lodge (Dean Martin's real-life lounge). He also became involved in cases and was later made a detective in the agency. Racetrack tout Roscoe (Louis Quinn) often hung out at the Bailey & Spencer offices and sometimes even did some work for the detectives. The contact at the Los Angeles Police Department on which they most frequently relied was Lieutenant Roy Gilmore (Byron Keith).

The origins of 77 Sunset Strip go back to the 1946 novel The Double Take by Roy Huggins, who would go onto create such shows as Maverick, The Fugitive, and The Rockford Files. The Double Take differed a bit from 77 Sunset Strip. For one thing, in Double Take Stuart Bailey has no partner. For another thing, Stu Bailey in The Double Take is not nearly as sophisticated, nor as hip, as Stu Bailey on 77 Sunset Strip. The Double Take would be adapted with a script by Roy Huggins himself as the 1948 film I Love Trouble, starring Franchot Tone as Stuart Bailey. Roy Huggins wrote no more novels featuring Stuart Bailey, although the detective did appear in the short stories "Now You See It" (1946), "Appointment with Fear" (1946), and "Death and the Skylark" (1952).

By the Fifties Roy Huggins was a producer for Warner Bros. While there he served as producer on the shows Cheyenne (the first hour-long Western) and Conflict. He created and produced the classic Western TV series Maverick and created the Western Colt .45. Given Warner Bros.' Western TV shows had proven successful, it occurred to him that an hour-long detective show could also prove successful. Roy Huggins then drew upon his novel The Double Take and his Stuart Bailey short stories to create 77 Sunset Strip.

It was William T. Orr, then head of Warner Bros. Television, who suggested to Roy Huggins that they could expand the initial story that Roy Huggins had written for 77 Sunset Strip and expand it into a ninety-minute movie in case they could not sell it as a television series. Marion Hargrove, who was writing the script for the initial 77 Sunset Strip episode, "Girl on the Run," then expanded the script for a ninety-minute movie also titled Girl on the Run. The movie was shot in ten days and, according to Roy Huggins in an Archive of American Television interview, was shown for a week at a theatre in the Caribbean. Warner Bros. Television then showed Girl on the Run to ABC, who picked up 77 Sunset Strip as a series. Unfortunately, the production of the theatrical film Girl on the Run allowed Warner Bros. to claim 77 Sunset  Strip was based on the movie and as a result cheat Roy Huggins out of both a creator credit and his royalties. This despite the fact that it was inspired by Roy Huggins's novel The Double Take and the Stuart Bailey short stories, and used a story by him that had been adapted by writer Marion Hargrove as a screenplay.

Girl on the Run would be shown as the first episode of 77 Sunset Strip, even though it differed somewhat from the regular series. Of the show's regular characters, only Stuart Bailey (played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) and Suzanne (played by Jacqueline Beer) appear in the movie. Edd Byrnes does appear in the film, but he plays a very different character from Kookie. Instead he played a violent killer named Kenneth Smiley who is constantly combing his hair. Edd Byrnes made such an impression on younger viewers that ABC wanted Mr. Byrnes added to the cast of regulars on 77 Sunset Strip. He was then added to the cast as Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III .

Roy Huggins had originally intended for 77 Sunset Strip to be a grim and gritty detective show, close in spirit to his novel The Double Take. The 23rd episode of the show's first season would see 77 Sunset Strip gradually take on a lighter tone. That episode, "The Pasadena Caper," also marked the first of several episodes in which the word "caper" was used in the title. Originally very much in the tradition of hard-boiled detective stories, 77 Sunset Strip developed an often self-deprecating sense of humour.

It was also during the first season that Kookie grew in popularity, proving to be the show's breakout character. As time passed, Kookie played a larger and larger role on the show. Actor Edd Byrnes realized the importance of the popularity of Kookie to 77 Sunset Strip, and during the second season Kookie was absent from 16 episodes as he held out for money money and a bigger role on the show. He eventually returned to the show later in the second season.

77 Sunset Strip proved to be a hit for ABC, particularly with younger views. Dell and later Gold Key produced several issues of a 77 Sunset Strip comic book. Bell, Lowell Toy Mfg. produced a 77 Sunset Strip board game. The three short stories featuring Stuart Bailey were compiled into a novel by Roy Huggins and published under the title 77 Sunset Strip as a paperback by Dell. Perhaps the most famous bit of promotion for 77 Sunset Strip was the novelty song "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)" by Edward Byrnes and Connie Stevens. Released in March 1959, it reached no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. As to Connie Stevens, she was no stranger to Warner Bros. detective shows. She ultimately made four guest appearances on 77 Sunset Strip and played photographer Cricket Blake on Hawaiian Eye.

The success of 77 Sunset Strip would lead to the show essentially being "cloned" by Warner Bros. as yet other detective shows that were set in exotic locales; featured young, handsome detectives; and an attractive female regular. The 1959-1960 season saw the debut of Hawaiian Eye (set in Honolulu) and Bourbon Street Beat (set in New Orleans). The 1960-1961 season saw the debut of Surfside 6, set in Miami Beach. Many times scripts for 77 Sunset Strip episodes would be rewritten for these various shows. Like Warner Bros.' Western shows before them, 77 Sunset Strip and its clones were set in a shared universe, so that characters from one show might appear on episodes of another show. For example, two of Connie Stevens's guest appearances on 77 Sunset Strip were as Cricket Blake on Hawaiian Eye. It is also possible that the shared universe of the Warner Bros. detective shows was the same as the shared universe of the Warner Bros. Westerns. In the Maverick episode "Hadley's Hunters" Bart Maverick (Jack Kelly) encounters a stable hand played by Edd Byrnes at a stable called "77 Sunset Strip." While the stable hand could not possibly be Kookie (not unless he had found the fountain of youth), he could well be Kookie's grandfather or great grandfather.

77 Sunset Strip would see some cast changes throughout its run. Richard Long had played detective Rex Randolph on the TV show Bourbon Street Beat. When that show was cancelled, Richard Long joined the cast of 77 Sunset Strip, moving into Suite 104 at 77 Sunset Strip as part of Stuart Bailey and Jeff Spencer's detective agency for the show's third season. Rex Randolph would be gone by the fourth season of 77 Sunset Strip, and Kookie was finally promoted to a full-fledged detective, taking over Suite 104. Robert Logan was cast as the new parking attendant, J. R. Hale.

If anything, 77 Sunset Strip  proved to be even more popular in its second season. It ranked no. 6 in the Nielsen ratings for the year. For its third season it ranked no. 13 in the Nielsen ratings for the season. By its fourth season it had dropped to no. 30 for the year. The fifth season would see 77 Sunset Strip no longer ranking in the top thirty in the Nielsens for the year. It was with the show's ratings declining that 77 Sunset Strip was entirely revamped. Jack Webb was brought in as executive producer and William Conrad was brought in as a producer and director. An even greater change is that the entire cast, except for Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Stuart Bailey, was dismissed. Furthermore, no explanation was given for the absence of Jeff Spencer, Kookie, and the other regular characters. For all extents and purposes, Stuart Bailey was a different character. His past with the OSS was never mentioned and he was an overall more dour character.  Stuart Bailey's office was different as well, even though the address was still "77 Sunset Strip." Even the tone of the show was now darker. For all extents and purposes, 77 Sunset Strip was now an entirely different show in which the lead character had the same name and was still played by the same actor.

Long-time fans of 77 Sunset Strip apparently did not appreciate the changes to the show. Ratings for 77 Sunset Strip dropped and the show ended its run in February 7 1964 after only twenty episodes. While 77 Sunset Strip was gone, it was hardly forgotten. It proved successful as a syndicated rerun. It would later air on TV Land  and MeTV. There had been an plaque in the sidewalk at 8524 Sunset Boulevard, between La Cienega Boulevard and Alta Loma Road, in honour of the show (I don't know if it is still there or not).  Prior to the launch of The WB, there was a proposed revival of 77 Sunset Strip that would air on the new network. A 25 minute presentation film was even shot for the spring 1995 upfronts, but nothing ever came of it.

77 Sunset Strip would be a historic show. Years before Law & Order, CSI, NCIS, and Chicago Fire/Chicago PD/Chicago Med, it pioneered the concept of shows and spinoffs set in the same reality. Along with Richard Diamond, Private Detective and Peter Gunn, it sparked a cycle towards detective show on American television that would last into the early Sixties. Perhaps most importantly, along with Cheyenne and Maverick, it was one of the early successes for Warner Bros. Television, which would go onto produce such shows as F Troop, The Streets of San Francisco, Night Court, and ER.

Monday, October 9, 2023

The 70th Anniversary of the TV Show Topper

Topper and the Kerbys
It was seventy years ago today, on October 9 1953, that the TV sitcom Topper debuted on CBS. Topper was based on Thorne Smith's 1925 novel of the same name and its sequel Topper Takes a Trip (1932), as well as the movies inspired by the novels: Topper (1937), Topper Takes a Trip (1938), and Topper Returns (1941). Topper starred Leo G. Carroll as uptight banker Cosmo Topper, who finds himself haunted by two ghosts, the fun-loving wife and husband Marion and George Kerby (played by real life husband and wife Anne Jeffreys and Robert Sterling). In the TV series there was an additional ghost  that was not in the novel or the movies, a St. Bernard named Neil. Like the novels and the movies before them, episodes of the TV show featured the Kerbys trying to liven up the somewhat stuffy Topper's life.

did very well in the ratings, ranking no. 24 for the year in the Nielsen ratings for its second season. Despite this, it ended its run after only two seasons because CBS could not find a sponsor for the show after Camel cigarettes had dropped out. While it only lasted two seasons, it would do well as a rerun in syndication. Much of this may have been because Topper was the first fantasy sitcom, and so was unique for its era. As such it would have an impact, even if it was not felt right away. After the success of My Favorite Martian in 1963, American airwaves would be filled with sitcoms about an ordinary human being living with such unusual characters as a witch, a robot, an angel, a car that was the reincarnation of his mother, a genie, and so on. If it had not been for the initial success of Topper and its subsequent success as a syndicated rerun, we might not have My Favorite Martian, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and the many other fantasy sitcoms that have aired ever since.

In 2014 I wrote a detailed post on the history of Topper, so I won't repeat myself here. You can read my original post on the TV series Topper here.