Monday, April 30, 2018

Wake Up and Read! (Pt. II)

Happy Monday!

Continuing with the "Wake Up and Read!" theme, here's a review of Shooting Stars of the Small Screen by Douglas Brode.

This book is subtitled "Encyclopedia of TV Western Actors, 1946-Present" ("Present" being 2009, when it was published). And, that's exactly what it is, an encyclopedia-style conpendium of actors who were regulars or had recurring roles in TV western series. James Garner and Jack Kelly both have entries (JG rates a photo; JK does not).

In fact, most of the bios don't include photos of their subjects. And, some of the entries are curiously skimpy. For example, Eric Fleming, the star of Rawhide, gets a shorter bio than Paul Brinegar, who played the supporting role of "Wishbone".

Brode also seems rather condescending in some of the entries. He dismisses David Canary of Bonanza as "essentially a one-note actor". (And yet somehow Canary won five daytime Emmy awards for playing a dual role.) In the entry for Gina Gillespie, the young actress who co-starred opposite JK in the "The Deadliest Kid in the West" episode of Laredo, Brode notes that she is the younger sister of former "Mouseketeer" Darlene Gillespie. Brode concludes the entry by writing that Gina "left showbiz and became a lawyer, unlike her sister, who left show business, became a criminal and went to jail." The latter might be true, but I think he could have worded it a little less flippantly.

Brode, a teacher at Syracuse University, also makes some erroneous statements which could have easily been fact-checked and corrected before publication. For example, he writes that actor Brandon De Wilde died in a "bizarre camping accident". Nope: De Wilde died after a not-so-bizarre vehicle accident when the camper he was driving slammed into a truck in the rain.

Brode also claims that singing cowboy Eddie Dean was the older brother of singer/sausage magnate Jimmy Dean. Wrong again. Eddie Dean (whose real name was Edgar Dean Glosup) did have a brother named Jimmy. However, he was not the country crooner who was born Jimmy Ray Dean in 1928 and had a hit record with "Big Bad John" in 1961. (Since the book was published by the University of Texas Press, it's surprising they didn't catch this jarring error involving two native Texans.)

The biggest problem with Shooting Stars of the Small Screen is that it was published nearly a decade ago. The information it contains is static. Some of the actors profiled in the book have since died. Actors who are still living have accumulated additional western credits. Frequently updated sites such as the Internet Movie Database are now available online and can provide much more current and complete information.

Also, any serious fan of most of these stars (such as JK) is going to know a lot of the stuff written in the book already.

But, it's an okay little book to keep handy when watching westerns on channels like MeTV and Heroes & Icons. Anyway, I bought it mainly for the cover:

Please stay tuned for more rootin' tootin' fun in TDS! :)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Wake Up and Read! :)


Some vintage magazines and a book featuring Jack Kelly recently joined the Kellection.

In one of those magazines, I found this brilliant ad:

1959 ad promoting "National Library Week" (more here)

So, let's do just that: wake up and read about JK! :)

First up, here's a short but sweet write-up about Mr. K from a column in a 1960 newspaper TV magazine:

"STAR CALLING: Things are restless at the Warner [Bros.] corral again. Clint 'Cheyenne' Walker is threatening another walkout. Jim 'Maverick' Garner is still holding out even though 10 of the new season's shows are already completed. Ty ['Bronco'] Hardin has suddenly but so sincerely got religion he is giving Bible readings on the set between scenes.

Only Jack 'Bart Maverick' Kelly is content. He has a new contract. He's bought himself a stylish new house in the most expensive section of Sunset Boulevard, where he's pushing out walls, installing a swimming pool and right now living surrounded by packing boxes. Donna, his wife, who as a movie starlet called herself May Wynn, does all the cooking and housework since no maid would submit to the clutter everywhere and eating off a two-foot coffee table while seated on old camel cushions, which so far are the Kellys' only chairs.

'Clint Walker can really live in the wilds,' Jack told me. 'He likes it. The last time he walked out on the studio, he took his family with him and they were really free people, not dependent on the comforts like most of the rest of us are for happiness. Wayde Preston, if he really quits, could make a fine living flying. Ef Zimbalist is talented in a dozen ways, but me, I'm just an actor. It's all I've ever wanted to be--a good actor, preferably in light comedy.

'Oh, I know. I work those impossible TV hours, usually seven A.M. to seven P.M. I never can go away because even over the weekends I'm studying scripts. I spend whatever free time I have at home, when I'm not making like an amateur chef, or watching TV--studying performances. I'm the kind of goof who cried at Father Knows Best, and all the time behind everything else I'm thinking about how I can be a better light comedian.

'That's why I miss Jim Garner being out of the series. We work together like a right and left hand. The first time we ever met we had to make a [screen] test together. We weren't even introduced. I asked him why he was standing up so tall, trying to top me, and Jim took it from there.

'It's been like that with us ever since. I think the best Mavericks have been the ones in which we were together. All Jim and I have to do in a scene is turn and look at one another and we know just what to do to make it funnier. If I had anything to do with it, which unfortunately I don't, Jim would be back tomorrow.'"

Please stay tuned and read more about JK in TDS! :)