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That's entertainment - on the big screen and the little box in the corner

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: April 19, 2007

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It's about time we introduced Alan Keeling once again with another batch of his nearly forgotten memories from both the big screen and the little box in the corner. To help us with this week's feature, Alan has supplied a few intermission adverts which may well bring the memories flooding back from past visits to the local flicks:

"Police stories were always a winner with an audience and the general public took pride in seeing the boys in blue beating the criminals every time, especially as many of the stories were based on fact. In cinemas in the '50s and '60s featurette programmes, or B-movies as they were commonly called, were the order of the day and proved almost as popular as the main feature film. One particular half-hour featurette ran for many years, from 1953 to 1962, and was almost regarded as a television series at the cinema, a home from home, but on a bigger screen. The programme was entitled Scotland Yard and distributed throughout the ABC cinema network by Anglo Amalgamated. But despite being British through and through, the opening title sequence featured an American voice, obviously with a view to selling the series to an American audience.

  As the light in the auditorium dimmed and the usherettes showed the last of the late-comers to their seats, restless kids were transfixed for half-an-hour by the next episode of Scotland Yard ...

  "London, greatest city in the world and home of the oldest democracy. A city whose world-wide reputation for honesty and integrity is firmly based on one thousand years of the rule of law, enforced and guarded by a police force whose headquarters are as well known as London itself ... Scotland Yard."

  At this point there was a burst of theme music, then the American voice continued:

  "Filed in the records department of Scotland Yard are the histories of thousands of cases, evidence of this long standing and successful battle with the criminal ... and here to tell you about it is Edgar Lustgarten, famous novelist and television personality, and one of the world's foremost authorities on criminals and crime."

  "It was quite an introduction for a half-hour show, but it certainly grabbed the attention of all those watching in the cinema. Most of the cases were in the capable hands of either Inspector Carron (Gerald Case), or Superintendent Duggan (Russell Napier), with Edgar Lustgarten giving his own conclusion before the end credits began to roll. During its run there were various sinister episode titles such as Fatal Journey, Wall of Death, Mail Van Murder, The Tyburn Case, etc., and guest stars included John le Mesurier, Jill Ireland, Leonard Sachs, Harry H. Corbett and Wilfred Brambell. US television finally screened the series in 1957/58, and in the UK too, it eventually ended up on the small box. ABC television screened two episodes back-to-back under the title Casebook in 1963, and Scotland Yard was last shown on Channel Four in the 1980s.

  "Back to the small screen we remember Sword of Freedom, a swashbuckling adventure that was filmed in 1957 and shown on local Midlands ATV in 1958, with its final run in 1966. Set in Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance period, it starred Edmund Purdom as the hero Marco del Monte, an expert swordsman, artist, and lover, who defended the weak and needy people of 16th century Florence from the cruel dictatorship of the villainous Duke de Medici, played by Martin Benson.

  "Assisting the flamboyant hero Marco in his struggle for liberty and freedom were Angelica (Adrienne Corri), a reformed pick-pocket who became his model, and his burly friend Sandro (Rowland Bartrop). Amongst the list of guest stars in a series very much modelled on Robin Hood, were Kenneth Williams, Bill Owen, Peter Wyngarde, John le Mesurier, Jean Kent and Jane Asher. In the end 39 half-hour episodes were made by Sapphire Films at Walton and Twickenham Studios, and distributed by I.T.C.

  "Henry Fonda was of course an accomplished and well known Hollywood actor, but his first television series was called The Deputy, 78 half-hour episodes of which were produced by M.C.A. (later Universal) and screened between 1959 and 1961. Fonda starred in a dozen or so of the episodes and appeared briefly in others as Chief Marshall Simon Fry of Silver City, Arizona. His side-kick but starring in the title role was Deputy Clay McCord (played by Allen Case), a store keeper who was somewhat reluctant to use his gun.

  "During the first season of the show Wallace Ford played the elderly Marshall Herk Lamson, with Betty Lou Keim as Clay's sister, Fran McCord. Read Morgan joined the series in the second season as the one-eyed cavalry officer Sergeant Tasker, and in one of the episodes Robert Redford, no less, made his TV debut. ATV screened the series for one season only in a late evening slot in 1963.

  "When ATV first screened the US half-hour comedy hit Julia at 7 pm on Wednesdays in the spring of 1969, it quickly became a big hit with viewers in the Black Country and the wider West Midlands. At first 13 episodes were shown, but viewers had to wait a further two years to catch up with the story line; a strange set of circumstances. Set in Los Angeles, California, it told the story of Julia Baker (Diahann Carroll), a widow and registered nurse working for the Inner Aero-Space Centre. Her boss was the irascible Dr Morton Chegley, played by Lloyd Nolan, with busy-body head nurse Hannah Yarby played by Lurene Tuttle. A few veteran movie stars to make guest appearances included Don Ameche and Eddie Quillan.

  "Back at home Julia struggled to raise her son Corey (Marc Copage) after her Air Force husband had been killed in Vietnam. But the series turned out to be very successful and 86 episodes were made altogether by Twentieth Century Fox TV between 1968 and 1971."

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