January 2, 2013
Wagon Train continues to serve as my go-to comfort food whenever I have the sniffles and don’t feel up to watching something that might be, y’know, good. Over the holidays, I plowed through a middle chunk of the third season, which yielded such mild discoveries / pleasures as a twenty-five year old Louise Fletcher (as Estella in ”The Tom Tuckett Story,” a credited adaptation of Great Expectations!) and Elisha Cook, Jr., as a dangerous trail weasel named Cadge Waldo (in “The Tracy Sadler Story”). If you’re going to name a character “Cadge Waldo,” you pretty much have to get Elisha Cook to play him. Leonard Nimoy as a drunken Indian and Susan Oliver, loudly proclaiming that her name is Margaret Hamilton (which is hilarious if you know your character actresses), as a spoiled teenager in “The Maggie Hamilton Story.” “Look at that beautiful rabbit!” Susan exclaims dimly, and Flint (Robert Horton) blows it away for dinner.
Minor pleasures amid hazy naps.
The way Revue Productions did its screen credits around this time (1959-1960) was procrustean. Most shows had one or two end credit cards for the guest stars, and if everyone fit, they got screen credit; if not, they didn’t. A Wagon Train episode with few guest stars had room in the credits for all of them, including bit players and even stuntmen. In an episode with a large cast, however, actors with major secondary roles might get left out. If a top-lining guest star required extra-large type or single card billing, that would further serve to crowd out some of the supporting actors. Nobody really cared whether the actors received credit or not - which leaves fussy historians, fifty-odd years later, waiting for each set of end titles with fingers crossed.
The 1959 Christmas episode, “The St. Nicholas Story,” sees the train’s Santa Claus arrow-speared by unfriendly Indians. Missing children from both sides find each other on the plains and frolic together, thus brokering an uneasy truce. And Ward Bond saves Christmas. Somehow, it’s less nauseating than it sounds, but amidst the chaos the actress playing the Indian boy’s mother went uncredited:
“The Lita Foladaire Story” is a rare off-campus episode for trailmaster Major Adams, who solves a frontier-town murder mystery with the help of sidekicks Bill Hawks and Charlie Wooster. Too many suspects for the end credits; left out are the sheriff (top, on the right with Ward Bond) and one “Jason Arnold,” attorney at law, who pops in briefly to deliver a bit of exposition (bottom, also on the right with Bond; shall we say that director Jerry Hopper’s sense of composition was, er, consistent):
Then in “The Christine Elliott Story,” the title character (Phyllis Thaxter) shepherds a dozen mischievous boys onto the wagon train once her father drops dead and his orphanage closes. This one is about as nauseating as it sounds. Oddly, while seven of the twelve child actors receive screen credit, the elderly fellow playing Thaxter’s father, “John Russell,” does not, even though he has a lengthy deathbed scene:
So can anyone ID these uncredited Wagon Trainers? As it happens, all three of these episodes are on Youtube in their entirety. For “The St. Nicholas Story,” see 26:50; for “The Lita Foladaire Story,” see 01:45 and 30:00; for “The Christine Elliott Story,” see 02:50. But don’t watch Wagon Train on Youtube for pleasure; these copies are way too compressed. Spring for the DVDs.)
P.S. Bonus screed against the IMDb et. al.: Look around the internet and you’ll see the titles of many Wagon Train episodes, most of which incorporate the names of the primary guest characters, misspelled on many data aggregation sites. As the screen grab below makes clear, it’s Elliott with two T’s, and yet it’s spelled as “Elliot” on IMDb.com, tvguide.com, starz.com, tvrage.com, tviv.org, zap2it.com, and even most of the Youtube accounts that have posted the video illegally. “The Vittorio Botticelli Story,” also from the third season, is often garbled as “The Vittorio Bottecelli Story.” Yet another reason why I still transcribe the credits of most vintage TV episodes that I watch, even though the internet has made some of that work (but not every detail of it) redundant.
September 30, 2012
Time for more crowd-sourcing while I attend to other matters. This one’s a long shot, but let’s give it a try.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the live Studio One broadcast “The Traveling Lady.” Like many live TV shows, this one has no end credits. When a live show ran long, the credits were, naturally, the first thing to be clipped for time. (Conversely, if you see a kinescope where the credit roll drags on for four minutes, you know that something went wrong and the cast and crew were frantically stretching to fill the time slot.) This represents a huge historical loss, since few contemporary reviews or archived press releases seem to preserve any of the missing data.
So, for “The Traveling Lady,” we have only the opening credits, which are stingy. They dole out writer (Horton Foote), producer (Herbert Brodkin), director (Robert Mulligan), and only five actors: Kim Stanley, Steven Hill, Robert Loggia, Doreen Lang, and “special guest star” Mildred Dunnock. No technical crew, and no supporting cast.
Left out were a few actors with sizable roles. The most recognizable of which, the kindly-looking gentleman above, played the town judge in the first scene. That’s Fred Stewart, a New York-based stage actor probably best remembered as Natalie Wood’s father in Splendor in the Grass (1961).
Also omitted are the child actor who played Stanley’s daughter – a large and very professional performance (children on live television: a disaster waiting to happen!) – and the two town busybodies pictured below. “Miss Tillman” is on the left (the mother of Lang’s character), and “Sitter Mavis” on the right (the daughter of Dunnock’s character). (You can tell from the characters’ names the extent to which Foote was under the influence of Tennessee Williams at this stage!)
The Internet Movie Database identifies one Wendy Hillier (no, not Wendy Hiller!) as the child, “Margaret Rose,” and one Ann Hennessey as “Sitter Mavis.” Hennessey has a number of Broadway and Off-Broadway credits up through the mid-sixties, and then seems to disappear. I can’t find any biographical information about her, nor an obituary or even a photo or film clip that would confirm that this is her in “The Traveling Lady.”
As for “Miss Tillman,” the IMDb doesn’t have a guess as to her identity. The role was played on Broadway, in 1954, by Kathleen Comegys, an actress who had small roles in a number of live TV shows from this period, and in Arthur Penn’s The Miracle Worker (1962). Even though the Studio One broadcast of “The Traveling Lady” did not carry over any of the rest of the Broadway cast, there is a resemblance, and I wonder if this might be her.
Can anyone out there confirm or refute any of these guesses? (And yes, I’m characterizing the IMDb info as guesswork until I know the source.)
February 24, 2012
Last week I wrote about the first and second seasons of McCloud. On the whole the McCloud cast credits are close to complete. But there are a few notable exceptions: Teri Garr turns up without screen credit for a cute scene in “The Stage Is All the World,” and an unbilled John Finnegan – a favorite of John Cassavetes, and a recurring foil for Peter Falk on Columbo – can be glimpsed as a landlord in “Give My Regrets to Broadway.”
The image above comes from my favorite McCloud episode so far, “Top of the World, Ma!” The idea of the scene is that Bo Svenson’s character is such a rube he doesn’t know about tipping, and when the bellhop asserts himself, things get sort of heated.
Clearly, the actor playing the bellhop was chosen for his size, so there would be a visual contrast between him and the hulking Svenson. Unfortunately, the poor guy was so small that they didn’t notice him when they typed up the end credits.
Anyone recognize this fellow? Here’s another angle. Give the guy a name, at least, if not a tip!
June 28, 2011
Or, more accurately, Who Is That Gal?
A reader and avid fan of The Fugitive has submitted a guest post in this category. He’s identified all of the other uncredited supporting players in the series’ pilot, including such familiar actors as Harry Townes, Dabbs Greer, Barney Phillips, Abigail Shelton, and Donald Losby. (Whoever made up the end titles that week must’ve been in a stingy mood.)
But one actress, who appears very briefly in “Fear in a Desert City” as Losby’s baby sitter, remains elusive. Here she is. Anyone recognize her?
Also, it has occurred to me that this topic would work a lot better if I were to embed clips rather than simply post screen grabs. I think some of your guesses could get closer if the actors’ voices were audible. However, that’s going to require me to figure out a couple of new pieces of software first, so for now….
May 13, 2011
While we’re on the subject of Peyton Place, perhaps it’s time to bring back an occasional feature of this blog. That’s right, it’s time again for “Who Are Those Guys?” in which you, the reader, help put a name to the faces of some of television’s many uncredited small-part actors.
Peyton Place presents a particularly thorny knot of unidentified bit players. Because the show’s regular cast was so large, guest stars were almost always out of luck when it came time to make up an episode’s end titles.
Among the familiar faces who passed through Peyton Place without screen credit are Milton Selzer, Dabbs Greer, Virginia Gregg, Myron Healey, Hari Rhodes, Don Collier, Jack Dodson, Bert Remsen, Greg Morris, Virginia Vincent, Don Hanmer, John Zaremba, Byron Morrow, Curt Conway, Gilbert Green, Maxine Stuart, Peter Hobbs, Bartlett Robinson, Paul Newlan, Amzie Strickland, Irene Tedrow, Val Avery, John Lasell, George Chandler, Eleanor Audley, Bill Zuckert, James Anderson, Charles Irving, Alberta Nelson, S. John Launer, Hugh Sanders, Meg Wyllie, Naomi Stevens, Ed Peck, William Sargent, William Wintersole, Rusty Lane, Owen Bush, Paul Sorensen, Walter Mathews, Ed Prentiss, Steven Marlo, Melinda Plowman, Nichelle Nichols, and a young Richard Dreyfuss.
Some of these unfortunate actors made multiple appearances without ever breaking into the credit roll. Jim Boles and then Star Trek’s James Doohan were semi-regulars for a while, playing successive chauffeurs to town patriarch Martin Peyton. Russ Meyer chum Stuart Lancaster – the leering old man from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! – popped up now and then over the years as Jerry, the printer, in Elliot Carson’s newspaper office.
All of the actors mentioned above are folks I spotted while watching the show. But there are many more that I couldn’t identify. Let’s take a look at just two.
During episodes 52 through 55, Norman Harrington (Christopher Connelly) gets beaten up by a couple of teenaged punks in a storyline that eventually gets him a girlfriend (Patricia Morrow as Rita Jacks). One of the two toughs is played by an uncredited Mickey Dolenz, a year before he became one of The Monkees. Does anyone recognize the other punk (below, left, with Dolenz)?
During episodes 77 through 80, Betty’s high school pal Janet Sinclair enters the maternity ward of the Peyton Hospital. The unmarried Betty (Barbara Parkins) has just found out that she’s pregnant with Rodney’s (Ryan O’Neal) child, so the point of the Janet Sinclair arc is basically to rub salt in her wounds. Janet is played by Bonnie Beecher (unbilled, naturally, and pictured below), an ingenue who appeared on The Twilight Zone and Star Trek before leaving acting to marry Wavy Gravy.
However, I can’t figure out who plays Janet’s husband Bob in two brief scenes. Here he is, between O’Neal and Parkins:
Submit your answers in the comments!
September 20, 2010
Okay, let’s make this a regular feature.
Does anybody recognize these two uncredited character actors? The frame grabs are from “Big Jake,” a 1961 episode of The Barbara Stanwyck Show (and an unsold pilot for a semi-comedic cop show starring Andy Devine).
Paul Bryar is on the right. Who’s the fellow on the left?
And how about this guy?
As always, leave me the answers in the comments!
September 5, 2010
Okay, experts, identify these character actors for me:
That’s Gene Lyons on the right. Who’s the guy on the left?
And another familiar-looking unbilled actor from “Man in a Chariot,” the second-season premiere of The Fugitive (which omitted a lot of bit players from its credits throughout its whole four-year run). There are other uncredited actors in this episode, but these are the two whose names are right on the tip of my tongue.
This kind of thing drives me crazy. Help a Fugitive fan out!
UPDATED: Paul Lukather (top) and Alan Dexter (bottom). Thanks, everyone!