Monday, December 07, 2009

This week in Television History: December 2009 PART II

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte Broadcast LIVE every other Monday at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio. The program will then be repeated Tuesday thru Sunday at the same time (10pm ET, 7pm PT) on Shokus Radio for the next two weeks, and then will be posted on line at our archives page at

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

December 7, 1990
Actress Joan Bennett dies at the age of 80.

Bennett came from a family of actors: Her parents acted on the stage, and her two sisters became screen actresses. Born in 1910 in Palisades, New Jersey, Bennett attended boarding schools in Connecticut and France. Married at age 16, she had a child the following year and then divorced at age 18. She made her stage debut the same year and soon began appearing in movies. In 1929, she landed her first starring role, in the film Bulldog Drummond. She went on to star in many well-known films, including Little Women (1933).
In 1940, Bennett married producer Walter Wanger and began landing her most important roles, including Man Hunt (1941), The Woman in the Window (1944), and The Secret Behind the Door (1948), all directed by Fritz Lang. Her marriage was troubled, however: In 1952, Wanger was convicted of shooting Bennett's agent in a jealous rage and served several months in jail. Still, the couple stayed married until 1962.
Bennett continued making films, including Father of the Bride, in which she starred as the mother of a young bride played by Elizabeth Taylor. In the 1960s and '70s, Bennett focused on stage plays, and from 1966 to 1971 she starred in the daytime serial Dark Shadows. She appeared in her last film, an Italian horror movie called Suspiria, in 1977.

December 8, 1964
William Bendix dies.
Bendix played Riley on the radio series The Life of Riley from 1941 to 1951. Meanwhile, the show debuted on television in 1949. At first, young comedian Jackie Gleason played Chester on TV, but Bendix resumed the role in 1953 and kept it until the show was canceled in 1958.

December 8, 1980
John Lennon, is murdered by a deranged fan in front of his New York apartment building.

Lennon was born in 1940 in Liverpool, England. As a boy, Lennon lived with his aunt after his father left the family. Lennon attended Quarry Bank High School, from which he derived the name for his first band, the Quarrymen, formed in 1955. In 1956, he met Paul McCartney, who joined the band, and the two began writing songs together. George Harrison joined the band in 1957, and the three played together under several different names and with varying members until 1960, when they adopted the name the Beatles.
The band toured German beerhouses in 1961 and debuted later that year at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where they gave more than 300 performances during the next two years. Drummer Ringo Starr joined the group in 1962. The group scored several U.K. hits in 1963, launching the "Beatlemania" tidal wave that hit the United States in 1964. In a little more than 10 years, the group transformed rock and roll, scoring 20 No. 1 hits on the Billboard pop charts, more than any group in history. The group's records spent a total of 59 weeks topping the charts between 1964 and 1970.
Lennon divorced his first wife, Cynthia Lennon, the mother of his son Julian, and married artist Yoko Ono in 1969. With Ono, he released the album Two Virgins in 1968. He became more involved in liberal political causes and pursued projects with Ono. In 1970, McCartney announced that the Beatles had broken up. Lennon released his first solo album, Imagine, in 1971, and it rose to No. 1 on the charts. During the next few years, he released projects with Ono as well as his own solo albums, including chart-topper Walls and Bridges (1974). He gave his last public performance in 1974 and released his last solo album, Rock 'n' Roll, the following year. In 1975, Lennon and Ono had a son, Sean, and in 1980 the couple released their album Double Fantasy, which topped the charts and included the No. 1 single "(Just Like) Starting Over."

December 9, 1965
A Charlie Brown Christmas is the first of many
prime-time animated TV specials based upon the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz aired for the first time.

It was produced and directed by former Warner Bros. and UPA animator Bill Meléndez, who also supplied the voice for the character of Snoopy. Initially sponsored by Coca-Cola, the special aired on CBS from its debut in 1965 through 2000, and has aired on ABC since 2001. For many years it aired only annually, but is now telecast at least twice during the Christmas season. The special has been honored with both an Emmy and Peabody award.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is also one of CBS's most successful specials, airing annually more times on that network than even MGM's classic motion picture The Wizard of Oz. Oz was shown thirty-one times on CBS, but not consecutively; between 1968 and 1976, NBC aired the 1939 film.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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