Saturday, August 18, 2018

Juvenile Mystery Collection - 002

After nearly a year, here is another round of mystery/detective book covers for young readers.

"Ken Holt: The Riddle of the Stone Elephant" by Bruce Campbell, 1949. Grossett & Dunlap

Ken Holt was a world traveling adventurous teen, and the son of a foreign correspondent. "Bruce Campbell" was the psuedonym for Sam and Beryl Epstein. The 18 book series was published by Grossett & Dunlap from 1949 - 1968.

"Robin Kane: The Mystery of the Blue Pelican", by Eileen Hill, 1966. Whitman Publishing Co.

Robin Kane was a 13 year old sleuth in a series of six books published by the Whitman Publishing Company from 1966 to 1971. "Eileen Hill" was reportedly a pseudonym for Nicolete Meredith Stack (1896 - 1978), who also contributed to other girls book series. 

"Ghost Writer: Clinton Street Crime Wave" by Laban Carrick Hill, 1994. Bantam Books.

Ghost Writer was a very popular mystery series that aired on PBS in America from 1992 to 1995. In serialized mystery stories a group of kids would solve mysteries with the help of an invisible ghost that would use words from many objects to help solve the case. I can still remember the storyline in which one of the kids, Jamal, was framed for burning down a video store. 

"The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo: Hot Rock" by John Peel, 1997. Pocket Books, New York. A series of 15 books based on the Nickelodeon TV series were published. 

The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo was a Nickelodeon series about the cases of a Chinese-American teenage police department intern. Running from 1996-1998, it was a fun series, and it is surprising that there have not been that many more live action kid detective shows since.

Monday, July 30, 2018

"Children's Sketch Book" and Lisl Weil.

Children's Sketch Book was a live drawing and storytelling series featuring Edith Skinner* as the rhyming storyteller with songs and drawings by illustrator Lisl Weil. The series aired from WNBT New York for the NBC Network from March 12, 1949 to February 4, 1950.

Snippet of a 1964 press photo of Lisl Weil.

Lisl Weil (1910 - 2006) was an accomplished artist and illustrator of many children's books. Her first book for children Doll House, was published in 1946 about 7 years after she immigrated to America from her native Austria. Weil would write and illustrate dozens of children's books and she was also known to draw and perform for children in several live venues. In Wesley Hyatt's book "Short Lived Television Programs", Weil recalled being cast for the Children's Sketch Book series because they needed a young artist who could move and draw the artwork quickly.

Weil, Lisl. 1948, 1976. Bill the brave. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Services.

Lisl Weil was also a artist and performer for Thomas Scherman's Little Orchestra Society's Concerts for Young People, in which she would create large charcoal drawings to music. While recordings of the Children's Sketch Book series do not seem to exist, a film of Weil drawing the story of The Socerer's Apprentice to music was uploaded to the Internet Archive by A/V Geeks and the Academic Film Archive of North America. This film gives us an idea of how a storytelling artist like Weil would have quickly told an illustrative story in front of a live camera.

*It is still unconfirmed if this was the same Edith Skinner who a professor of drama in New York at the time of this program.


Hyatt, Wesley. 2003. Short-lived television series, 1948-1978: thirty years of more than 1,000 flops. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co.

Viguers, Ruth Hill, Marcia Dalphin, Bertha E. Mahony Miller, Ruth Hill Viguers, and Bertha E. Mahony Miller. 1958. Illustrators of children's books: 1946-1956. Boston: The Horn Book.

Woolery, George W. 1985. Children's television: the first thirty-five years, 1946-1981 Part 2, Part 2. Children's Television. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Lost Classic TV: "Operation Neptune", 50,000 Feet Under The Sea!

Operation Neptune 
(also known as "Captain Neptune" and "Operation: Neptune".
June 28, 1953 - August 16, 1953. NBC TV 
Sundays 7:00PM EST
Creator/writer: Maurice Brockhauser

Advertisement for "Operation Neptune", the NBC undersea adventure series, from the Star Gazette (Minneapolis, Minnesota), July 28, 1953.

Captain Video, Flash Gordon, Tom Corbett Space Cadet, nearly all the fantasy heroes of the Golden Age of Television took young viewers into the realms of outer space. In the summer of 1953 one program dared to be just as fantastic, but on Earth in the depths of the ocean, more in the territory of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or the 1936 movie serial Undersea Kingdom.

From the cast of "Operation Neptune" (left to right), Tod Griffin as Commander Hollister (Captain Neptune), Richard Holland as Dink Saunders, and Margaret Stewart as Thirza a native of Nadiria. From the Wilmington Sunday Star, August 3, 1953.
The series starred Tod Griffin (1919 - 2002) as Commander Bill Hollister, who was also referred to as "Captain Neptune", and Richard Holland as Dink Saunders his young second in command. The heroes discovered that the disappearance of U. S. Navy ships was due to the evil Trychus Maximus (Humphrey Davis), ruler of Madiria an underwater kingdom "32,000 feet beneath the sea's surface" who wanted revenge against the surface world. The emperor of Nadiria gave orders to his sinister lieutenant Kebada (Harold Conklin), and his henchman Mersennus (Dehl Berti). Aiding Captain Neptune and Dink in their adventures were Admiral Bigelow (Rusty Lane), and Thirza (Margaret Stewart), a Nadirian who had allied herself with our heroes.

The series which was broadcast live from New York, was easily compared to Captain Video. It was a serialized television adventure of a captain and his young partner, against evils of another world, with a lackluster budget broadcast live from New York. An even stronger connection to Captain Video, was that Operation Neptune was created by Maurice Brockhauser, who been the lead writer of Captain Video during its first two years, from 1949 - 1951 under the pseudonym "M. C. Brock".  Many sources claim, that Brockhauser's writing on Capt. Video was so erroneous that he was fired from the show (even thought it was hit with kids), and was not known to write a TV program again, but that was not the case. As the creator/writer of Operation Neptune he was credited as both "Brock" and "Brockhauser".

Reviews from the New York Times, Variety, and other periodicals weren't so harsh on the show's writing as it was its production. It was noted that the special effects were limited to toy submarines in an aquarium or a washtub, and the illusion of the Nadirians being underwater was created with the illusion of bubbles passing in front of the camera. Not very technical even for 1953. The idea of an underwater adventure show with such primitive effects make the show a bit intriguing, and it is unfortunate that no recordings of this series have survived.
The same press image with more descriptive details of the show. 
All cast members of this series are known to be deceased except for actress Margaret Stewart. Very little information is known about her. If she were still living as of this writing, she would be one the oldest living leading ladies of a sci-fi series along with Margaret Garland of Tom Corbett Space Cadet.

Underwater fantasy adventures would endure more with 1960s children with the successes of "Diver Dan" (1960), Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1964 - 1968). and Captain Fathom. 


Fischer, Stuart. 1983. Kids' TV: the first 25 years. New York, NY: Facts on File Publ.

Terrace, Vincent. 2009. Encyclopedia of television shows, 1925 through 2007. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

Woolery, George W. 1985. Children's television: the first thirty-five years, 1946-1981 Part 2. Children's Television. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.

Articles from multiple newspapers and periodicals were consulted for this article. Please comment or email for these sources. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

"The Batman" Serial at 75, and other Matinee Classics of World War II

Newspaper ad for "The Batman" serial, clearly trying to pull in a young audience. From the Ogden Standard Examiner, (Ogden, Utah) Friday, July 30, 1943. Note that this ad announces the first chapter of the new serial and the final chapter of Columbia's "The Secret Code", another wartime serial that featured the original superhero, "The Black Commando". 

It was July 18, 1943, 75 years ago, that the famous (and controversial) serial "The Batman" was made widely available in theaters. The 15 episode chapter-play, which starred Lewis Wilson (1920 - 2000) and Douglas Croft (1926 - 1963) as the comic book characters Batman and Robin, was well received with its wartime audience, mocked as "camp" in the 1960s, and today is met with mixed views with audiences that have seen it restored for cable and DVD viewing. While well acted with a mood that reflected the earlier comics, most of the criticism of this serial comes from the wartime portrayal of the Japanese, especially with an Axis villain, Dr. Tito Daka, portrayed by Irish-American character actor J. Carroll Naish.

Ad for "The Batman" from the Showmen's Trade Review, July 31, 1943. From the Media History Digital Library. 

Wartime Serials

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the new World War impacted all forms of juvenile adventure mass media, including radio, comic books and on the big screen. The Batman was just one of the seven serials, out of nine, that were released in 1943 with a wartime theme. The others were:

From Republic Pictures
G-Men Vs. The Black Dragon
Secret Service in Darkest Africa
The Masked Marvel 

From Universal Pictures
Adventures of Smilin' Jack
Don Winslow of the Coast Guard
Adventures of the Flying Cadets

Ad for "Adventures of the Flying Cadets", from the Showmen's Trade Review, September 18, 1943. From the Media History Digital Library.

In each of these adventures, the heroes would face a villain of Japanese or Nazi German origin. Only two chapter plays released that year did not have a war time theme; Columbia's The Phantom (jungle adventure) and Republic Pictures' Daredevils of the West (a western).

Last year the best of all the wartime serials "Spy Smasher" turned 75, and it was one of six (out of 11) serials with a wartime plot. As we are in the midst of the centennial of World War I and the Semisesquicentennial (75th anniversary) of World War II, it is a great time to revisit matinee serials, radio programs, games, toys, cartoons, textbooks, and other media that was consumed by young Americans. This would give a new perspective of life on the American homefront and the role of mass media.

There will be more posts about "The Batman" serial and other films in what will hopefully be a reflective series on children's media in wartime.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

From The Archives: Based On The TV Program - 1950s Round Two

A popular post on this blog was the 1950s post from 2016. This is a long over due 2nd edition of 1950s items related to TV shows.

Schroeder, Doris. 1960. Walt Disney's Annette: Sierra summer. Racine, WI: Whitman.

This book, and others from Whitman Publishing, were published in the 1960s. The series "Annette" aired in the 1950s on the original Mickey Mouse Club.

Winky Dink and You (1953 - 1957) was one of the first commercially successful attempts at interactive television.

Every Baby Boomer could probably belt out this song.

Linkletter, Art, and Walt Disney. 1959. Kids say the darndest things!
If you find the videos funny, you should read the book! It is interesting to hear how Linkletter worked with the children, and how 1950s popular culture impacted kids responses to his questions.

Marshall, E. G., Leora Dana, Berverly Washburn, and Washington Irving. 1989. Rip Van Winkle. Los Angeles, CA: Distributed by Wood Knapp Video.
Episodes of the Shirley Temple Show (the second season that aired in color on ABC) were released on DVD by Legends Films in 2006. Episodes of the Shirley Temple Storybook (the first season on NBC, some color, most in black & white) remain out-of-print on VHS tapes only.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

"Kim's Kartoon Kapers" More Information?

Colorful image from pg. 126 of the RCA Broadcast News Vol. 136, October 1967. From
More info is wanted about a weekday afternoon program called Kim's Kartoon Kapers, that was hosted by a 12 year old girl named Kim Christie on WKTR-TV (now WPTD, the local PBS affliate) in the Dayton, Ohio area and licensed to Kettering, Ohio. It is always interesting to learn about local children's shows, but even more so when it is hosted by child. According to an article on WKTR in  RCA Broadcast News, Volume 136, October 1967, young Kim did the program ad-lib, with at least one puppet character. One viewer recollection claims that she hosted Batfink cartoons, which would fit for a local series on the air in 1967.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

From the Archives: 1970s Based on TV Books

Here is a random assortment of children's books based on TV programs and specials of the 1970s. All citations are in Chicago style.

Dinneen, Betty, Marlin Perkins, and James Seward. 1976. Wild kingdom a trip to a game park with Marlin Perkins. Racine, Wis: Western Pub. Co.
The original Wild Kingdom, also known as Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, is an American television show that featured wildlife and nature scenes. A new version airs on Animal Planet, but the first and most famous version ran from 1963 until 1988, with Marlin Perkins as host during the first 22 years.

      Schulz, Charles M. 1975. It's a mystery, Charlie Brown. New York: Scholastic Book Services.
In my opinion, this is one of the funniest of the Peanuts TV specials. I loved it after seeing it during "You're On Nickelodeon, Charlie Brown" around the late 1990s. It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown was the 11th prime-time TV special based upon the enduring comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. It was originally aired on February 1, 1974, on the CBS TV network.

Muller, Romeo, Fred Wolf, and Chuck Swenson. 1979. Puff the magic dragon. New York: Avon/Camelot.
Puff The Magic Dragon was a half-hour animated TV special based on the popular song by Peter, Paul and Mary. This special was produced by Fred Wolf Films and written by Romeo Mulller, more famous for his many stories for the Rankin/Bass holiday specials. Burgess Meredith played the title role with additional voices by Frank Nelson, Regis Cordic, Robert Ridgely and Charles Woolf. The special premiered October 30, 1978 on CBS. The book version was published in at least 3 different editions. 

Elias, Horace J. 1974. The Flintstones: Fred Flintstone and the very peculiar tree. New York: Modern Promotions.
By the time this book was published, the original "Flintstones" had an extended life with three successive Saturday Morning series: The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1971–72), The Flintstone Comedy Hour (1972–73), and The Flintstone Comedy Show (1973–74).