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It's time to put your feet up in front of the old telly

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: August 21, 2008

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This week Alan Keeling presents more programmes from his seemingly bottomless chest of TV classics and forgotten favourites, as it's time to put your feet up once again in front of the little box in the corner.

But before we embark on another trip down monochrome memory lane, Bugle reader Eva Warr from Smethwick regales us with her memories of being a cinema buff for nigh on 80 years:

"I love reading Alan Keeling's articles about cinema and television as I've always been a big lover of the silver screen, small or large, but especially at the cinema. I can go back as far as the '20s and '30s when I was just a small girl (I'm now 86), visiting the Old Rink Cinema in Windmill Lane, Smethwick, which was mostly built of tin. I remember seeing Uncle Tom's Cabin with Topsy and Little Eva in it, also another silent movie called Divine Love. I remember this one even better because I cried all the way through.

"I went to the Cape Electric and sat all day through a picture called Easy River starring Robert Young and Jean Parker for just 3d. There were several other picture houses including the Grove, Majestic, Windsor and Empire, where they showed films and also had stage turns. At the age of fourteen I got a job at a badge enamelling firm in Vyse Street in the Jewellery Quarter. I then moved to Hill Brothers in Vittoria Street where I met a life long friend Doris Norman (married name Hill), and we started to go to all the cinemas together. On Saturdays after work (half day) we'd catch the train to Snow Hill Station in Brum and be in time to watch the early showing at the Paramount (now the Odeon), New Street. We would then come out, have a meal at Lewis's, and then watch another film at the Forum in New street, later called the ABC. Then it was back home to meet up later at a local cinema. I lived in Gilbert Road, Smethwick, and Doris in New John Street West.

"Other cinemas I remember were the Villa Cross Palladium, the Hockley Regal, and even on the days when there was no work to do and no badges to enamel, Doris and I would board the train bound for the Metropole in Snow Hill with our last 4d. We both shared the same favourites on the silver screen, Fred Astaire was one and Ginger Rogers another, and when Gone With The Wind was released in 1939 we were probably two of the first to see it. We remained good friends and cinema buffs until Doreen died in 1983, but I still fly the flag and go as often as I can."

With fresh tea brewing in the pot it's time to sit back, put your feet up and enjoy Alan Keeling Presents:

"The Warner Brothers TV comedy series No Time For Sergeants was produced in 1964/65 and was based on the 1954 best selling novel written by Mac Hyman. The setting for the series was the Andrews Air Force Base, and the story-lines depicted the misadventures of hillbilly Private Will Stockdale (played by Sammy Jackson), a kindly and naive farm boy from Georgia, newly enlisted into the U.S.A.F., and his bumbling ways of trying to adjust to military life. Stockdale's superiors were Sergeant Orville King (Harry Hickox) and Captain Paul Martin (Paul Smith), and his best friend was Private Ben Whitledge (Kevin O'Neal, Ryan O'Neal's younger brother), not forgetting his pet bloodhound named Blue.

"Private Stockdale's girlfriend was Millie Anderson, played by Laurie Sibbald, and she lived with her grandpa, played by Andy Clyde. The series ran for 34 half-hour episodes, and viewers in the Midlands and the Black Country were able to enjoy the programme when ABC screened it on Sunday afternoons in 1964/65. But this wasn't the only screen version of the original novel. Andy Griffith portrayed Stockdale in an hour long TV play on US Steel Hour in 1955, and again later in 1958 in a cinema version.

"Who can remember The Ghost and Mrs Muir, a US comedy series based on a 1947 film with the same title which starred Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison and George Sanders? The set for the TV show was Schooner Bay in New England, and the stories were all about a young widow called Carolyn Muir (Hope Lange) who moved into Gull Cottage and found it to be haunted by the ghost of a previous owner, Captain Daniel Gregg, played by Edward Mulhare. The show was quite funny for its time and featured Carolyn's efforts to modernise Gull Cottage, despite the Captain's challenging attempts to persuade her to keep it as it was. Harlen Carraher played son Jonathon and Kellie Flanagan played daughter Candy. Other characters included Martha Grant the housekeeper (Reta Shaw), Claymore Gregg the Captain's nephew (Charles Nelson-Reilly), and last but no means least the family's small terrier called Scruffy.

"Altogether 50 half-hour episodes were made between 1968 and 1970 by 20th Century Fox TV, and the show was screened in most ITV regions in 1969. ATV finally showed the series in 1971/72. A clutch of co stars also made guest appearances and they included Bill Bixby, Dabbs Greer, Jonathon Harris, Benny Rubin, Leon Ames, Jane Wyatt, a young hopeful named Richard Dreyfuss, and a younger British actor named Mark Lester, who famously played Oliver Twist.

"Cartoon characters live long in the memory but what about Heckle and Jeckle the talking magpies, one of whom spoke with a profound British accent and the other with a broad New York dialect. (The original theatrical characters were created by Paul Terry for his Terrytoons Production Company). The first cartoon, which premiered in 1946, was entitled The Talking Magpies and depicted the two birds as husband and wife.

"Heckle and Jeckle were always on the look out for a free ride, a free meal, free room and board, in fact everything on the scrounge, and they usually got what they wanted due to their adept skill at being sly and clever. The cartoons were very often screened at News Theatres such as the Jacey or the Tatler and also at Saturday morning children's shows in the '50s and '60s, where some Bugle readers may have seen them for the first time.

"Dayton Allen and Roy Halee provided the voices for the two comic magpies throughout the total production of 52 cartoons, made between 1946 and 1961. In 1956 CBS Television acquired the rights to the Terrytoons studios and soon animated cartoons were being produced for television. As well as Mighty Mouse Playhouse, there was also The Heckle and Jeckle Show that ran for 26 half-hour episodes, featuring additional cartoon segments such as Little Roquefort, Gandy Goose, and the Terry Bears, thus making the series ideal viewing for American kids on a Saturday morning. In the UK the Heckle and Jeckle cartoons were screened by ATV in the Midlands in 1966 as part of the Tingha and Tucker Club."

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