Monday, February 14, 2011

This week in Television History: February 2011 Part III

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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.

February 15, 1960
"Danny Meets Andy Griffith" was telecast on The Danny Thomas Show.

In the episode, Griffith played fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina, who arrests Thomas for running a stop sign. Future players in The Andy Griffith Show, Frances Bavier and Ron Howard, appeared in the episode as townspeople, Henrietta Perkins, and Sheriff Taylor's son, Opie.

February 16, 1950
What's My Line debuts on TV

TV game show What's My Line debuts on this day in 1950. The show, produced by game show magnates Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, became the longest-running prime-time game show in the history of television. It ran for 18 years. A radio version launched in 1952 but was cancelled in 1953.

February 20, 1972
Radio personality and newspaper columnist Walter Winchell dies at the age of 74.

Winchell's influential gossip and news show, Walter Winchell's Jergens Journal, ran for 18 years.
Winchell started as a vaudeville performer, working with an array of future stars, including Eddie Cantor and George Jessel. He began writing about Broadway in 1922 for the Vaudeville News and in 1929 began writing a syndicated column for the New York Daily Mirror, which ran for three decades. But dishing on socialites became his claim to fame when he began his radio news show in 1930. His fast-paced show was packed with short news and gossip items-his rapid-fire radio prattle was clocked at 215 words a minute. Millions of people tuned into his witty and extremely popular Sunday evening show, which he introduced with, "Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press!"
A gossip columnist when few others existed, Winchell ruined more than a few careers with reports that some maintained were sensationalistic, reckless, and actually untrue. His show popularized catchphrases like "blessed event" and "scram," and peers admired his penchant for finding fresh ways to report on Hollywood's elite. Winchell starred as himself in several films, including Love and Hisses in 1937 and Daisy Kenyon in 1947.
What some called captivating reporting was labeled yellow journalism by others. His career declined in the 1950s. Like so many other radio stars, Winchell's career lost its sparkle when Americans' allegiance turned to television. Meanwhile, he made an unpopular decision to back Senator Joseph McCarthy's "Red Scare," publicly accusing a number of Hollywood stars of being communists. In the 1960s, the New York Daily Mirror closed and his column ended. One of his last major jobs was narrating The Untouchables, a popular television drama series, from 1959 to 1963. When he died penniless in 1972, it was reported that just one person-his daughter-showed up at his funeral.

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

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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