Sunday, September 16, 2018

Let's Celebrate! :)

Hello Everyone!

As we celebrate the 91st anniversary of Jack Kelly's birth today, let's look back 40 years to another celebration:

I'm sure we've all seen this photo. It's sometimes identified as being from When the West Was Fun, the reunion of TV western stars which originally aired in 1979. However, this gallery of greats (L-R Hugh O'Brian, Chuck Connors, Clint Walker, John Wayne, David Carradine, Clayton Moore, Michael Ansara and JK) was actually gathered for the ABC television network's celebration of its 25th anniversary in 1978.
Here's a photo you may not have seen before. It's the same group in more contemporary garb:
The caption on the reverse of the photo reads: "The Old West lives again when eight great Western stars join the party on 'ABC's Silver Anniversary Celebration', a four-hour gala, airing on the ABC Television Network, Sunday, Feb. 5 (7:00-11:00 pm ET). The classic Westerners from ABC's past and present are (foreground, 1. to r.) Hugh O'Brian, Chuck Connors, John Wayne, Clayton Moore, (background, l. to r.) Clint Walker, David Carradine, Michael Ansara and Jack Kelly."
I found a remarkable clip with "the Duke" from the ABC anniversary special which features scenes from the network's most popular westerns and ends by showing how the preceding photos came to be:

And, here are a couple of close-ups of our birthday boy:

Happy Birthday, JK!

"And don't forget your carrot cake!" :)


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Maverick in the Queen City - Pt. III


JK and Broderick Crawford trying to decipher the plot of "Shadow of a Man" ;)

As promised, here's a humorous look at Jack Kelly's Kraft Mystery Theater episode "Shadow of a Man", penned by Cincinnati Post TV columnist Mary Wood and published on 6/20/1963:

"Kraft Mystery Theater returned to its old summer hour on NBC-TV last night, and, as far as I'm concerned, it certainly lived up to its title. Why poor Ed Begley was left up a creek without a paddle for insuring bridges and viaducts is still a mystery to me.

Is there an insurance man in the house who can explain it?

Until they sprang the bridges and viaducts on me, I had the plot fairly well in hand. It went like this: Handsome Jack Kelly, a former Brother Maverick, rode into a small southern town and started asking questions about the town's leading and most popular citizen, Ed Begley, a successful insurance man. In order to meet lovable old Ed, Jack cozied up to his beautiful daughter, Beverley Owen.

Tain't long before Handsome Jack, who is really an insurance investigator, fell into his own cozy trap. He was smitten with Beverley's charms, which were profuse.

So far, I'm with them--wholeheartedly.

Now comes Brod Crawford, a hard-bitten insurance investigator who is convinced that lovable Ed has absconded with $75,000 of the insurance company's dough. Insurance companies, I'm led to believe, take a dim view of such goings on, no matter how lovable the culprit nor how fine his motives.

Well, it finally was revealed that poor Ed was being blackmailed by his accountant. That I could understand because the accountant had a very shifty eye.

But they completely lost me right after the third commercial, the one for the sandwich loaf made with layers of egg salad, watercress, ham salad and iced with cream cheese. Then you slice it down. Yummy!

Oh yes. They lost me when that hard-nosed Brod found that poor Ed had been insuring bridges and viaducts because he couldn't get insurance on himself. Then poor Ed shot the blackmailing accountant on a lonely road and wounded himself. He lived long enough to run his car over one of those well-insured viaducts and that was that.

Beverley bid a sad farewell to Handsome Jack at the funeral and he rode off with hard-nosed Brod. So much for that promising romance.

But the bridges and the viaducts were never explained to my satisfaction, and I'm beginning not to care anymore."

If you care to watch "Shadow of a Man", here's a link to it.

Please stay tuned for more about Jack Kelly in TDS. :)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A Maverick in the Queen City - Pt.II :)


Jack Kelly revisited Cincinnati in June 1963 while gearing up to star in the musical Can-Can in Dayton, OH.

JK was a guest on the legendary Ruth Lyons' talk show on June 26, 1963. He also gave an insightful interview to the television editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Although the onscreen Maverick may not have been the best poker player offscreen, Maverick was still supporting JK with hefty percentage/rerun residual payments. He also had the "side hustle" down pat long before it became a buzz phrase:

 "Maverick's Poor At Cards
by James Devane

As TV's Bart Maverick, Jack Kelly earned his living at the card table. In real life he says he may be the world's 'lousiest' player.

'When we have friends at our house for a poker party, my wife has to bail me out,' he admits. 'She's the card shark of the family.'

At the moment, Mr. Kelly is in Dayton preparing for a singing role in Can Can, which begins a week's run in the city's air-conditioned Memorial Hall on July 2. His pretty wife, a former actress known as May Wynn who has reverted to her real name of Donna Lee, is with him.

'Since we have no children, we do everything together,' Jack says. 'We fly, fish, golf and travel. The only thing we don't do together is sleep late. When we married seven years ago I got my wife to agree to give up her career. So now she stays in bed and I go to work.'

As you probably know, Mr. Kelly's Maverick came to an end more than a year ago, but it's still contributing to his support. With 176 films [B27--? Aren't there only 124 Maverick episodes?] rerunning around the country Jack made approximately $20,000 from the series last year due to a percentage deal plus residual rights.

With this income added to money from summer stock appearances and the used-airplane business he and his wife manage in California, he's been able to wait for the right new TV vehicle to come along.

 He thinks he's found it in 'Double Indemnity', a proposed series about insurance investigators. You may have seen the pilot [B27--Titled 'Shadow of a Man'], which ran experimentally on last week's Kraft Mystery Theater. Broderick Crawford co-starred with Jack in the film.

Kelly admits the pilot's story was poor. 'But the story isn't the important thing in selling a series,' he explains. 'A sponsor wants to know if a series has characters the public will like. They keep viewers dialing in. Sponsors seem to believe the characters Brod and I played have what it takes. I feel pretty confident we'll be on regularly during the 1964-'65 season.'

Jack says making Maverick was a lot of fun. 'We got our work done so we'd have time for gags,' he recalls. 'We had hose fights and Jim Garner, who played Bret, liked to loosen my saddle when I wasn't looking. I'd climb on and down the saddle and me would come in a heap.'

Mr. Kelly would eventually like to go into the hotel and restaurant business. As for acting, he feels he's already a great success from one point of view. 'When I started in movies I was known as Nancy Kelly's brother', he relates, 'but now as my talented sister jokes, she often has to introduce herself as my relation.'"

Of course, Double Indemnity never became a series, although years later JK played a baddie in Banacek, which starred George Peppard as, yep, an insurance investigator.

Please stay tuned for a comical column about "Shadow of a Man" in TDS! :)   

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Maverick in the Queen City :)


A wonderful book recently joined the Kellection. Titled The Trouble Is Not In Your Set, it examines early television history in general and the TV scene in Cincinnati, OH, in particular. What makes it especially interesting is this fantastic photo of Jack Kelly--and Jack Kelly:

The caption reads "JACK KELLY AND JACK KELLY! -  The one on the left played James Garner's brother in the western TV series Maverick. Bret and Bart! And the one on the right is the former WCPO producer-director who drew a bead on TV shows for WCPO including the Maverick series..."

The photo isn't dated, but the feather on JK's hat is a clue as to when it was taken. This October 1958 story from the Cincinnati Post explains the significance of the feather and shows JK wearing the same vest:

"Brother Bart Maverick--Jack Kelly--rode into town on one of those new-fangled airplanes last night, with a red feather on his Western hat and his beautiful wife, actress May Wynn, on his arm," the article begins.

"The red feather was in honor of the United Appeal fund drive which Kelly is in town to boost and Mrs. Kelly was there because she always goes along on her husband's personal appearance tours..."

JK also visited the Convalescent Hospital for Children, a United Appeal agency, during his stop in Cincinnati:

The United Appeal is generally known as the United Way today. And, the Terrace Hilton, where JK is shown dealing a "winning hand" is still in existence, but just barely. Once one of Cincinnati's poshest hotels, the Terrace is now a long-derelict structure whose future--like its famed Gourmet Room Restaurant--is up in the air.

And, if you recall from a previous TDS post, Maverick aired on WCPO until 1961, when station WKRC became the ABC affiliate in Cincinnati.

Finally, The Trouble Is Not in Your Set was authored by Mary Ann Kelly. No relation to JK, though, whose mother was named Ann Mary Kelly!

Stay tuned for more about JK and the Queen City, coming soon in TDS!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Retiring Mr. Redford :)


Robert Redford recently announced that he's retiring from acting. It turns out his first television role was a small part ("Jimmy Coleman") in the "Iron Hand" episode of Maverick opposite Jack Kelly in 1960. MeTV took note of this and posted an interesting article on their website:

Redford's first big scene came while sitting around the campfire during a cattle drive with Bart Maverick:

Of course, Redford later went onto big screen stardom in films such as The Sting which was apparently partially inspired by the Maverick episode "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres". 

Please stay tuned for more about JK in TDS! :)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Freedom and JK - Pt. IV


Wrapping up our look at Jack Kelly in Freedom and You, here's another fabulous candid photo from Mike Road's personal collection which was snapped in April 1962 during the making of the film:

MR, Andrew Duggan, JK and Don Johnson (not the actor, but the WB studio barber, according to MR's note on the back of the photo) all appear to be pointing the finger of doom at a lovely lady who is identified as "Margene" the WB make-up department secretary.

And, here's a 1962 photo from an Illinois newspaper showing JK and Robert Conrad with actor/musician Breland Rice, who portrayed one of the machinists working alongside "Jerry Donovan":  

For some reason, Wikipedia and some other sources insist that Freedom and You was made in 1957 but not released until 1962. However, the dates on the preceding photos, plus the 1960's cars clearly visible in the film, prove this wasn't the case.  

Now, here are a couple of rare wardrobe test photos of JK (this one reminds me of his wardrobe tests from Cult of the Cobra):

This is one of my favorite pics of JK (no, he didn't grow an extra leg, that's a crew member partially visible behind him ;>):

A close-up:

Some trivia about Freedom and You:

  • Carol Nicholson and Ronnie Dapo also portrayed JK's children (Patricia and Tommy Callahan) in the 1961 feature film A Fever in the Blood. Dapo also appeared with JK in the Kraft Suspense Theater episode "Four Into Zero".
  • Freedom and You (Armed Forces Information Film #120) was produced "Under the Personal Supervision" of Jack L. Warner. The "Conelrad" website quotes the film's writer, Vincent Forte: "Jack Warner was very gung-ho in that area (anti-Communism). He wanted the message spelled out in very blunt terms. He wanted us to hit ‘em over the head with it." And, indeed, they did.

  • The original target audience for Freedom and You was members of the US military. It was later shown (both in its original format and as Red Nightmare) throughout the 1960s in schools, churches and other civic settings. For instance, a search of newspaper archives reveals that in February 1966, students at Haven High School in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, who didn't have to make up mid-term tests had the choice of going to study hall or watching Freedom and You (the newspaper article doesn't reveal how many students chose to watch the film).
  • Although Freedom and You was still being shown without irony on military bases and in women's clubs in the early 1970s, by that time it was (especially in its Red Nightmare format) also being screened as "camp" entertainment on college campuses.  A 1970 newspaper story reported that government productions such as Freedom and You appealed to college kids because the films were available free of charge, usually with no waiting list, and had high production values.
  • Also in the early 1970's, scenes from Freedom and You appeared in a controversial CBS News documentary titled The Selling of the Pentagon, which sought to expose the Pentagon's multi-million dollar pro-military propaganda machine. 
  • In 1987, Red Nightmare was released by Rhino Home Video under the title The Commies Are Coming! The Commies Are Coming! Linda Alexander reported in her biography of Jack Kelly that JK was mortified when his daughter, Nicole, told him she had viewed this version of the movie in a college film studies class. JK answered that he thought the original film had been "buried" and that he only appeared in it because he was contractually bound by Warner Bros. to do so.
  • However, that wasn't the end of the bizarre afterlife of this film. In 2014, the movie Inherent Vice starring Joaquin Phoenix featured a character named "Burke Stodger", a staunchly anti-Communist actor whose propaganda films are continuously screened for inmates of a mysterious asylum. Instead of having a contemporary actor portray the character, scenes of JK in Freedom and You were edited into Inherent Vice to represent Burke Stodger and his films. JK is even listed in the credits as Stodger! (This may be the first time a long-deceased actor played two completely different characters at the same time in one film?!)
While Freedom and You a.k.a. Red Nightmare a.k.a. The Commies Are Coming! The Commies Are Coming! is certainly no cinematic masterpiece, it doesn't deserve to be dismissed as complete schlock. It's a product of its time. Of course, no one seriously believed that skipping a PTA meeting would lead to Communist domination of the US. But, in the real world the Cold War was underway. The discovery of Soviet-made nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962 led to the tense stand-off now known as the Cuban Missile Crisis

In its heavy-handed way, Freedom and You reminds us that the real enemy, even today, is complacency. Complacency and taking things for granted can kill relationships, families, careers and dreams. It can also kill, literally. I work in an industry where some jobs are inherently dangerous. One second of complacency can lead to disaster. In fact, two lives were tragically lost on the job recently because the victims apparently neglected to ensure that safety precautions were in place before starting to work.

Well, here is Freedom and You:

And, Red Nightmare:

    And, a bonus video with scenes set to "Twilight Zone" by Golden Earring:

    Although its merits as education or even entertainment are debatable, the fact remains that Freedom and You is a must-see for Jack Kelly fans. As "Jerry Donovan" JK goes from being an average guy content to flow along with the status quo to someone who comes to realize what's really important in his life and how much he's taken it for granted. And, he looks great doing it. ;)

Please stay tuned--you never know what's coming up next in TDS (but I promise it won't be as long as this post! :>)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Freedom and JK - Pt. III

Part III of "Freedom and JK"...

Jerry is put on trial by the State after being arrested at the museum:

The prosecutor (Mike Road) reads off the charges against Jerry: "Subversion, deviationism, and treason". He offers Jerry a chance to confess his crimes, but Jerry asks where the proof is that he committed any crimes at all. The prosecutor answers that it's up to Jerry to prove his innocence.

Jerry asks how he can prove his innocence if he doesn't know what he's accused of: "'Subversion' against whom? 'Deviationism' from what? 'Treason' against what government?"

The prosecutor states that Jerry was given the opportunity to confess and should now be sentenced. Jerry protests that the State is falsely accusing him of crimes while it committed actual crimes such as breaking into his home without a warrant, taking Linda away, desecrating a house of worship and turning his family against him.

He begs Helen to back him up. But, the prosecutor produces a document signed by Helen stating that Jerry tried to turn their children against the Communist State. He asks her if the statement is true:

She answers "Yes":

The prosecutor has signed accusations from other witnesses, including Bill Martin, and they each confirm that their statements are also true:

The prosecutor says that the evidence against Jerry is overwhelming and that he should be sentenced immediately. Jerry demands to read the witness statements and to speak in his own defense.

The judge (Andrew Duggan) orders him to return to the box.

He tells Jerry there's no need to examine the witness statements, because he stands condemned by his own words. The judge calls Jerry "a dangerous enemy to the proletariat, who must be treated as such, as an ugly remnant of a diseased bourgeois class, who must be eradicated before the contagion can spread". He sentences Jerry to be shot at a time and place to be decided:

Before Jerry is removed from the courtroom, he delivers an impassioned speech against Communism, saying that although the State uses big words like "proletariat", there's one word they're afraid of: freedom.

Jerry is chained to a chair by Communist soldiers. His executioner is the same officer (Peter Breck) he saw speaking in the street. The executioner offers him one last chance to confess his "crimes". Jerry refuses, but tells him that one day people will finally realize that "Communism" is just another word for "slavery":

As he utters these final words, the executioner fires a shot:

Luckily, Jack Webb shows up again and assures us that the bullet won't reach Jerry:

Jerry really wakes up to discover that it was all just a Red nightmare:

And Helen is Helen again:

Sally and Jimmy are back to being their playful selves:

And, Linda and Bill have decided to postpone their marriage until after Bill finishes his hitch in the service:

Everything's back to normal:

Except this time, as Jack Webb concludes, "Jerry knows now so he'll never forget it--responsibilities are a privilege...freedom has a price, and its price is vigilance..."

JW then launches into a patriotic salute to the US and its armed forces, which, like the end credits, was filmed in color. Too bad the rest of the film wasn't:

Well, that's the end of Freedom and You...but please stay tuned because there's more of "Freedom and JK" coming up in TDS! :)

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Freedom and JK - Pt. II

Continuing with our look at Jack Kelly in Freedom and You:

The last straw for Jerry comes when Helen announces that their two younger children are going away to a state school. He confronts his wife about choosing to send the kids away, but his youngest daughter Sally (Carol Nicholson) informs Jerry that the idea to attend the school was actually hers and Jimmy's. She explains they were told that family life doesn't encourage the collective character which the Party desires in its young people.  

Jerry is further taken aback as Jimmy accuses him of not teaching the children more about "the Party line" and instead indulging in "deviationism and bourgeois sentimentalism", which means he must be reported to the authorities:

Jerry can take no more. He says the Donovans are going to be a family again and, as a start, the children are going to Sunday School to learn the truth. He physically drags them there. But once they arrive the children tell him that there is no more Sunday School, because the church has been converted into a museum exhibiting Soviet inventions:

Jerry insists that someone has made a mistake. Inside the museum, he finds the "Russian" inventions on display include the telephone. Jerry angrily points out to the curator that the phone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, an American.

Jerry destroys the deceitful display and the curator summons the authorities to arrest him:

Next time in TDS: Is it the end of Jerry's nightmare--or Jerry himself?! Please stay tuned for Part III of "Freedom and JK"!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Freedom and JK :)


One of Jack Kelly's most famous--or most infamous--movies is the 1962 anti-Communist educational film Freedom and You.

It's usually referred to as Red Nightmare, but that's actually a condensed version of Freedom and You:

The complete film gives a lot more background and insight into the characters. (And has a lot more scenes of JK!) Some things which are alluded to in Red Nightmare (such as the union meetings and the Cub Scout banquet) are explained in more detail in Freedom and You.

Jack Webb (who was the film's co-producer as well as its narrator) intros the film by showing scenes depicting a supposed Soviet replica of a US city set up to train Communists to infiltrate America.

Then, JK enters the picture as "Jerry Donovan", an average Joe who lives with his wife, three kids and a dog in a typical American town.

Jerry cheerfully works as a machinist on a lathe he's nicknamed "Bertha":

Pete (Robert Conrad), a co-worker, jokes with him about the upcoming bowling league championship:

 Pete also asks Jerry if he's attending the important union meeting that night. Nope, Jerry tells him, because the in-laws will be in town:

A manager, Mr. Evans (William Reynolds), also urges Jerry to attend the union meeting, but he still declines:

After a hard week's work, Jerry just wants to relax. But, his wife Helen (Jeanne Cooper) bugs him about the union, PTA and Naval Reserve meetings he's weaseled out of recently. And, it turns out his in-laws weren't coming until next week, which Jerry knew perfectly well:

Plus, much to Jerry's consternation, his teenage daughter Linda (Pat Woodell) and her college-aged beau, Bill Martin (Peter Brown), suddenly announce that they intend to marry as soon as possible (earlier scenes revealed that Bill has been drafted):

Then, Jerry goes fishing the next day and forgets to take his little boy Jimmy (Ronnie Dapo) to the father and son Cub Scouts banquet--again. (They were no-shows the year before, too.) The poor kid ends up crying in his room.

And finally, Jerry is ordered to report for two weeks' active Naval Reserve duty, which will jeopardize his bowling league's chance to win the championship.

After all this, Jerry is beat and decides to hit the hay. Maybe he'll feel better in the morning.

Or, maybe Jack Webb will show up in his front yard and wish a "Red Nightmare" upon him for being such a complacent shirker:

Jerry wakes up to discover that the "Commies" aren't just coming, they're already here. At the drugstore where he's stopped for coffee, Jerry is puzzled because, as Webb says, "Freedom has suddenly vanished":

Jerry tries to call Helen from a pay phone, but the operator informs him he needs a permit from "The Commissar" to make a personal call:

Then, a siren sounds. Jerry goes out into the street where a Communist officer (Peter Breck) exhorts his fellow "comrades" to "purge the minds of reactionary Americans" so they will "welcome the "enlightened Soviet system" and "conform without resistance to the dictatorship of the proletariat".   

Jerry returns home, relieved to find his family having dinner. But, the children are unusually quiet and Helen's demeanor is chilly. She tersely informs Jerry that he's slated to address the PTA about how the new Communist life benefits children, because he was on the debate team in high school. Helen chastises him for not revealing this fact to the Party officials.

Then, Bill Martin--now a Communist soldier--bursts into the house and announces that Linda has volunteered to join a farm collective to free herself from "the lingering bourgeois influence of family life".

Jerry protests, but is helpless to stop Linda from leaving. Comrade Martin warns Jerry that his "deviations and remarks" against the Party will be reported to the proper authorities.

Things aren't any better at work. Jerry greets his co-workers as usual but is answered with stony silence, because he and his fellow machinists are now expected to fulfill a daily quota:

Jerry finds he can't do his job because "Bertha" is broken. However, he gets no sympathy from Pete, who advises Jerry to fix the lathe immediately and work anyway (even during his lunch hour), because Comrade Commissar isn't interested in excuses:

Will Jerry's "red nightmare" ever end? Please stay tuned for Part II to find out...and stick around to see rare candid photos of JK on the set of Freedom and You coming up soon! :)