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Back to the days of black and white television programmes

By john workman  |  Posted: February 23, 2012

The Texan played by Rory Calhoun.

The Texan played by Rory Calhoun.

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THESE days, with so many TV channels to choose from, programme repetition is common place. But sometimes shows and series that have languished at the back of a dusty shelf for several decades are rereleased, and go on to enjoy a new lease of life, enriching the lives of a brand new audience and defying the trend for visual effects technology with their nostalgic simplicity.

Over the past few years Alan Keeling has brought back to memory many of those long forgotten programmes from the age of the little box in the corner, of the days of monochrome screens and dodgy reception, the epilogue, the last broadcast of the evening, the test card, and the overnight shut down of all television transmissions.

In his latest contribution to the history of television programmes, Alan has singled out a few shows that may well fine tune those early recollections for many Bugle readers. So with a fresh brew in the pot and a couple of bickies to dunk, we present ‘The Roaring ‘20s’.

“This was a series produced by Warner Brothers Television and subsequently shot on the sets that the Warner company had used for their ‘30s and ‘40s gangster films. The monochrome series was based on an old film of the same name and ran from 1960 to 1962.

The forty-five hour long episodes depicted the investigations of two reporters who worked for the New York Record, Scoll Norris (played by Rex Reason) and Pat Garrison (Donald May), assisted by “Pinky” Pinkham (Dorothy Provine), an attractive young singer at The Charleston Club.

“The trio went to great lengths to expose gangsters and racketeers of the prohibition era, thus grabbing the headline news stories for the New York Record. In every episode there was always a moment set aside for Pinkyto burst into song, and included in her repertoire of favourite songs from that era included Don’t Bring Luke, Cuddle up a Little Closer, Ain’t she Sweet and Baby Face.

“Guest actors included Andrew Duggan, Anthony Caruso, Claude Akins, Peter Breck, Lyle Talbot, Birmingham born Alan Napier, Max Baer, Will (Sugarfoot) Hutchins, Roger Moore, Glynis Johns, Keenan Wynn and Eddie Bracken. Screenings here in the Black Country were broadcast by ATV (Midlands) on week nights at 9 pm during 1962, with the occasional sepia-tinted repeat in 1976.

“The name Rod Cameron should be familiar to fans of BWestern movies, an actor who also starred in the occasional war film during the ‘40s and ‘50s, and even though TV viewers in the Black Country were never given the chance to see him on the small screen, this part of his career is still worth a mention. His time on TV began in earnest in 1953 when he appeared as a Detective Lieutenant in a black and white half hour series called City Detective. His job of investigating crimes such as murder and extortion kept him busy from 1953 to 1956, and the stories were filmed at the Republic Studios in North Hollywood, California.

“Cameron’s second TV crime series was called State Trooper and was filmed at Chatsworth in California. In the black and white half hourly episodes that ran from 1956 to 1959, 105 times no less, he played the part of Nevada State Trooper Rod Blake and was reunited with his familiar cowboy hat.

Each story was based on actual police files, with Blake sometimes disguising himself to trap kidnappers, crooks and murderers, in the course of their criminal activities.

“In Cameron’s third and final TV show he was cast as a former naval intelligence officer operating as a privateeye in Coronado 9, with 39 black and white episodes filmed in exotic locations in and around Honolulu in Hawaii. The character he played was called Dan Adams and Coronado 9 was his private telephone exchange.

“All three of the TV series that Rod Cameron starred in were made by Revue Productions and distributed by MCA TV, and their broadcast on American television gave opportunities to a whole galaxy of guest stars, including DeForest Kelley (Star Trek), Ron Randell (O.S.S.), Carolyn Jones, Mike Connors, Chuck Connors, Fess Parker, Vera Miles, Rand Brooks, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Kelly, Andy Clyde, Marie Windsor, Beverly Garland, Claude Akins, Guy Williams, Mike Landon, Robert Vaughan (more recently seen on Coronation Street), Barbara Bain, Craig Stevens, Angie Dickinson, Amanda Blake, Denver Pyle, Anthony Caruso, Doug McClure, Jim Davis, Vito Scotti and Slim Pickens.

The Texan was a venture into television for Hollywood film star Rory Calhoun, who starred in around 25 movies from 1944 until 1982. In fact it was his only TV series and was filmed in monochrome at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, Los Angeles, produced by Desilu and Rennie Productions.

In the 70 half-hour episodes that ran from 1958 to 1960, Calhoun starred as Bill Longley, a fast moving drifter and ex civil war veteran, known by reputation as a feared gun fighter, who roamed the west helping people in need.

With Calhoun narrating the series and Reg Parton portraying his stunt double, the show had many violent sequences, and was shown on a restricted basis in various ITV regions in the early 1960s, so there may be Bugle readers who managed to catch a glimpse.

The various guest artists during the series included Neville Brand, James Drury, Bruce Bennett, Andy Clyde, J.

Carrol Naish, Mike Connors, Michael Landon, Alan Hale Jr, Jack Elam, Brian Donlevy, Cesar Romero, James Coburn and British actor Duncan Lamont who played the rail road boss David MacMorris. Calhoun did appear elsewhere on TV, but only as a star guest in programmes such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train and Hawaii 5-0.

“Finally, and staying with the Western theme, can any readers remember the TV series Temple Houston starring Jeffrey Hunter in the title role, which was produced by Warner Brothers at their famous Burbank studios in California during 1963/64? Temple was the son of Sam Houston, a circuit-riding attorney, who with his partner George Taggart (played by Jack Elam), an exgunfighter turned law enforcer, defended unjustly accused people in the post American Civil War south-west.

Twenty-six monochrome hour long episodes were made and screened by BBC1 in a teatime slot on a Sunday evening in 1965.

Various guest stars included Noah Beery, Robert Lansing, Elisha Cook Jr, Bob Steele, Paul Birch. Ruta Lee, Anne Francis, Denver Pyle and Robert Conrad.

After the last episode was broadcast in 1965, the series was never to light up a television screen again.”

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