Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Video Clips

So I guess it was the other day, when I heard that Fess Parker had passed away, that I had the idea of doing some sort of YouTube video tribute to him. It was an idea that quickly morphed – because just about everyone else was doing just that – into an idea of doing a YouTube based post every weekend. The idea would be to find several TV related videos and posting them on Friday night-Saturday morning. These videos might be related to some news item, like casting for a new version of the Rockford Files, the death of a TV icon like Fess Parker, or just anything that tickled my fancy (or fancied my tickle – no, that doesn't work in this situation). Maybe this won't last long, or maybe it will – let's give it a try.

First up of course is Fess Parker, who passed away on March 18th at age 85. Parker was born in San Angelo Texas, and after brief service in the Marines in World War II (he wanted to be a pilot but at 6' 6" he was too tall to fit into a cockpit or even serve as an aviation gunner in a bomber) he graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in History, and moved to California to get a Masters in theatre History at USC. He soon found himself too busy because of acting jobs. Initially under contract at Warner Brothers he was nominated for an Emmy in 1954 as "Outstanding New Personality" – he lost to "Lonesome" George Gobel. In December 1954 he debuted in the role that would shape his later career – Davy Crockett. Some people classify Davy Crockett as the first TV miniseries. In three episodes the series told the story (or a highlighted version) of the frontiersman, politician and soldier who died at the Alamo. The series was so popular that it is said to have revitalized part of the fur industry – there was a sudden need for racoon fur for coonskin caps. It also spawn two follow-up episodes – set before the Alamo or even Crockett's time in Congress – in which he was involved with legendary keel boat skipper Mike Fink. Parker was soon under contract with Disney, but the contract restricted the parts available to Parker – he was typecast in roles like Boone in movies for Disney while the studio refused to loan him out for roles outside that persona. Thus he missed parts in films like The Searchers with John Wayne and Bus Stop with Marilyn Monroe. So first up we have the complete version of the Davy Crockett theme song. Unfortunately there are no clips of the show on YouTube but this clip includes the complete Davy Crockett Theme (more complete in fact than I can remember it being!).

In 1962 he appeared in the TV version of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington on ABC. The show isn't notable for much, but it did feature the final TV appearance of Harpo Marx. It lasted one full season but it did clear the way for Parker to do the other part for which he was famous, Daniel Boone which ran from 1965-1970. The series is a highly fictionalized version of the life of the legendary frontiersman who pioneered the settlement of Kentucky. The show was hardly historically accurate but as a kid in the 1960s I found it great fun. It was Parker's last hit. After Daniel Boone ended he turned down the role of Marshal Sam McCloud which went to Dennis Weaver he did a short lived sitcom called The Fess Parker Show for CBS before leaving acting to run a well respected vineyard, the Fess Parker Family Winery and Vineyards. Here's the theme from the first season of Daniel Boone with both the opening and end credits.

Casting continues for the new version of The Rockford Files, with Beau Bridges being cast as "Rocky" Rockford (originally played by the great character actor Noah Beery Jr.), Jim Rockford's father. He joins Dermot Mulroney in his first major TV role as Jim Rockford (the role immortalized by James Garner), and Alan Tudyk (best known for playing Wash on Firefly) as Jim's police contact Dennis Becker. Among the parts yet to be cast are the roles of Angel, Jim's slightly less than legitimate former cellmate, Beth Davenport, Jim's lawyer and occasional romantic interest, and Lt. Doug Chapman, Becker's boss who was constantly getting on Dennis's case for helping Rockford...and then taking credit for any arrests that resulted from the work that Dennis and Jim had done. This is being done as a pilot for NBC and while I'm not particularly enthusiastic about the idea of remaking this absolute classic of a show, I have to admit that the casting looks extremely good. Here's the original Rockford Files Theme. I was hoping to find one of the opening segments with the answering machine but any of those that were posted appear to have been taken down at the "request" of NBC. This is a pretty good version of the theme though.

Finally, Nikki Finke reports that there is going to be a big screen remake of 77 Sunset Strip coming from Warner Brothers. Normally the very idea of these things leaves me cold, and for the most part this one does the same. Of interest is that the studio, which produced the original series, will be giving it a period feel. This will presumably include references to the Dodger moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles (which happened at the end of the 1957 baseball season) and period movie stars. The series, based on several books written by Roy Huggins during the 1940s (and legally stolen from Huggins by Jack Warner who screened the pilot as a feature film in the Caribbean to "establish" that the series derived from a theatrical feature not Huggins's books), featured two former secret agents working as private detectives and "assisted" by hipster speaking Gerald Lloyd Kookson III, better known as "Kookie", who worked as a parking valet at the night club next to their offices – it was a real night club, Dino's, owned by Dean Martin. The original show starred Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Stu Bailey, Roger Smith as his partner Jeff Spencer, and Edd Byrnes as Kookie. Here's the intro to the series.

And here is a clip from the show in which Stu and Kookie "talk." Funny, I vaguely remember the series from my youth, but I don't recall Kookie smoking. The cars and his ever present comb I do remember.

Let's see what next week brings.


Toby O'B said...

I like the new feature, Brent, and I hope it runs a long time. At the very least, it'll keep you in the game!

Ookla the Mok said...

You can get all or nearly all the Rockfords with the openings on Hulu and through IMDB. Sweet opening. Thanks!