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From Brave Eagle to the Beatles — Yesterday’s TV

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: February 04, 2010

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OLD TV programmes have a wonderful habit of evoking recollections of growing up, and this week Alan Keeling has provided us with a veritable feast of shows that must surely prick the memories of most of us ...

“Brave Eagle starts the ball rolling in this week’s selection, the first television series to feature an American Indian as the lead character, in a Western story with a difference.

It was set during the early settlement days of the old frontier and tells the story of the uneasy relationship between the indigenous Red Indians and the white settlers and the hardships faced by the American Indians as they struggled to defend and safeguard their homeland.

“Keith Larson played “Brave Eagle”, a young Cheyenne chief, with co-stars Keena Nomleena as his foster son Keena, Kim Winoma as Morning Star, a Sioux maiden who joined the tribe, and not forgetting veteran comic Bert Wheeler who played a ‘halfbreed’ called Smokey Joe.

This ground breaking Western series was filmed at the Iverson Ranch at Los Angeles, produced in 1955/56 by Roy Rogers’ Frontier Productions, and in total 26 half-hour black and white episodes were made. ATV in the Midlands purchased the series for broadcast in the autumn of 1956, and it was screened in a weekday children’s slot around 5.30 in the evening.

“The Dick Van Dyke Show was one of the most popular sit-coms to ever make the trans-Atlantic crossing. It was one of a number of domestic “Hi Honey I’m Home” shows that sprang up in the early 1960s, but must be the one everyone remembers.

“Filmed at Desilu Studios in black and white and produced by Calvada Productions, it ran for an impressive 158 shows from 1961 to 1965.

Dick Van Dyke, in his days before Mary Poppins, was the star of the show and he played Robert Petrie, head writer for, yes you’ve guessed it, a TV sitcom called “The Alan Brady Show.” His wife was the memorable Mary Tyler Moore who played Laura Petrie, and their son Richie was played by Larry Matthews. Regular visitors to Petrie’s home during the series were Buddy Sorrell and Sally Rogers, co-writers on the show who helped with the scripts, played by Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie respectively.

“Initially two pilot shows were made, one in 1960 called “Head of the Family”, and another the following year entitled “The Sick Boy and the Sitter”, which starred Stacy Keach. Guest actors who appeared on the Dick Van Dyke Show included Benny Rubin, Jerry Van Dyke (Dick’s brother), Dabbs Greer, Robert Vaughn and Don Rickles. For some strange reason, when the BBC screened the show in 1963 for the first time, the first 17 episodes were not shown.

Attorneys “Can anyone remember “Court Martial”, which was made and screened in the mid ‘60s? Set in London during the Second World War it told the stories of Captain David Young (Bradford Dillman) and Major Frank Whitaker (Peter Graves), who were attorneys attached to the Judge Advocate General’s office. They investigated crime all over Europe leading to countless court martials.

Filmed in monochrome at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, the 26 hour long episodes that were made were a co-production of ITC and Roncon Fims (USA) Ltd., all made during 1964/65.

“Additional regular characters in the series included Sergeant MacCaskey played by Australian actor Kenneth J. Warren, and a secretary called Wendy played by Diane Clare. The pilot episode was called “Sergeant Ryker” and had been culled from two episodes of the “Kraft Suspense Theatre” anthology series and was filmed in the US.

“Here in Britain the pilot was released for screening in cinemas. There was a smattering of well known names who made guest appearances, and they included Ronald Howard, Cameron Mitchell, Anthony Quayle, Donald Sutherland and Warren Mitchell. If you remember this one you must have been allowed to stay up late on a Friday evening as it had a 10.30 pm slot across the whole of the Midlands ATV area.

Cartoon “The last inclusion in this selection of Yesterday’s TV for this week is a little indulgent on my part as for some unknown reason ‘The Beatles’ cartoon of the mid 1960s was never broadcast here in the Midlands. For that reason I have called it The Unseen Beatles Cartoons. Like many thousands of others, I followed every move The Beatles made during their heyday and have enjoyed their music ever since. The animated cinema feature film entitled “Yellow Submarine”, with the Fab Four as cartoon characters, was a favourite with every Beatles fan, and was produced and created by Al Brodax for King Features in 1968, and may well have been based on an earlier television cartoon series that made the screens on American TV in 1965.

Simply entitled ‘The Beatles’, the unseen Beatles cartoons were made into 39 halfhour shows, each programme containing three story segments that had the Fab 4 battling monsters, rescuing damsels in distress, and generally travelling the world. At the end of each segment there would be a sing-a-long sequence featuring various hit singles the Beatles had written such as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Love Me Do”.

Several animation studios worked together on the series, including TV Cartoons of London, Artransa (Australia), Cine-Centrum (Holland) and Canawest (Vancouver), with the voices of Ringo and Paul provided by British actor Lance Percival, and John and George voiced by American actor Paul Frees.

Granada and Channel TV screened the series in its entirety in the early 1980s, but as I mentioned earlier those of us here in the Black Country were never given the chance.”

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