Today's column photo shows a WJHL advertisement for April 2, 1956. Several shows were favorites of mine. I am highlighting five of them for your enjoyment.
Mountain Music Makers
In 1953, Bonnie Lou and Buster, whose real names were Margaret Bell and Herbert Moore, came to Johnson’s City’s WJHL television with a three-day-a-week early evening music show that combined country, gospel, bluegrass and comedy into their act, along with some fine banjo work from Chuck (Henderson), the Carolina Indian. Buster performed a comedy routine during each program by donning a clown outfit and portraying a character known as “Humphammer.” The couple moved to Pigeon Forge in 1972 and opened their own show, the “Smoky Mountain Hayride,” at the Coliseum. I attended one of their shows.
The Life of Riley
The Cast of Life of Riley Carry On a Discussion in the KItchen
Oct. 4, 1949 to Aug. 22, 1958: Chester A. Riley (William Bendix), the lovable blunderer, was always getting into trouble at work and at home, but always sported a soft heart. Riley was married to Peg (Marjorie Reynolds); they had two children: Junior (Wesley Morgan) and Babs (Lugene Sanders). The series was played by Jackie Gleason for a year and a half years due to Bendix's movie contract commitments. The actor is best remembered for his oft-repeated line, “What a revoltin' development this is!” John Brown played the role of the sarcastic undertaker, “Digger O'Dell,” who showed up frequently at the Riley home. When he got ready to “depart”, he would declare, “Guess I'd better be shoveling off.” The cast began to dwindle after Babs got married in real life and Junior enrolled in college.
Oct. 9, 1953 to Oct 14, 1956: Topper (Leo G. Carroll) and his wife, Henrietta (Lee Patrick) was a situation comedy about three ghosts: Marion Kirby (Anne Jeffreys), her husband, George (Robert Sterling) and their favorite canine (Neil). After George, Marion and Neil were killed in Europe by an avalanche during a skiing expedition, they returned to America to haunt the Toppers who resided in their former home. Finding Mr. Topper extremely monotonous, the invisible ghoulish trio vowed to help him overcome his bland personality. Although only Cosmos became aware of their presence, the show was packed with floating objects. Even though the series ran only two years on CBS, its reruns resurfaced on ABC and NBC for another year.
I Married Joan
Oct. 15, 1952 to Apr. 6, 1955: Zany Joan Stevens (Joan Davis) was married to a domestic court judge, Bradley Stevens (Jim Backus). Backus is fondly remembered as the voice of the Mister Magoo cartoon character. Bradley counseled individuals who came to him with marital problems. His “ace in the hole,” was that he learned about marriage problems by dealing with his wife on a day-to-day basis. The Judge would relate stories to his patients. Just as this occurred, the television cameras would fade back to the Steven's home for a glimpse of a situation enactment between the judge and Joan. River's daughter, played the role of a college student.
My Friend Irma
Jan. 8, 1952 to Jun. 25, 1954: This situation comedy starring Marie Wilson, who assumed the role of Irma Peterson and who became known as Hollywood's favorite dumb blond. Her role called for being friendly, enthusiastic, attractive and very wacky, with little sense of logic. Irma roomed with another lady, Jane Stacy (Kathy Lewis) who was everything that Irma was not: levelheaded, smart, logical and patient. Irma's boyfriend, Al (Sid Tomack) was an impoverished con artist. Jane's favorite fellow was Richard Rhinelander (Brooks West), her millionaire boss. The last season lead to numerous personnel changes that eventually lead to its demise.