Saturday, June 22, 2019

70th Anniversary of "Captain Video": The Search For Surviving Episodes.



Photo of the Video Ranger (actor Don Hastings) with Captain Video holding a scientific weapon (Al Hodge).

In the 1970s reportedly hundreds of rare TV recordings from the legendary DuMont Network (1946 - 1956) were tossed into New York City's East River. Among the hundreds of classic programs destroyed were episodes of "Captain Video and His Video Rangers" which premiered 70 years ago (June 27, 1949) as American TV's first science-fiction series and became a huge hit with kid and adult audiences in the Golden Age of Television.

The series featured the adventures of the titular hero who led multiple Video Rangers and his junior companion The Video Ranger who operated from a secret mountain base in the future, and fought evil on Earth and across the universe. Richard Coogan (1914 - 2014) was the first Captain Video. After 17 months he was replaced by Al Hodge (1912 - 1979) who stayed with the series until its end in 1955. There was only one Junior Ranger, actor Don Hastings (1934 - ) who later became a major daytime television actor.

The program was filmed live 5 to 6 days a week and any recorded episodes would have been kine-scoped. Innovative in its storylines while limited on a budget, it is unfortunate that only 24 episodes out of a possible 1,700+ (or 1.4% percent) are known to exist. It is this writer's hope that more may surface one day. Here is a research summary of what has survived from this historic series, and what could still be out there.

Episodes available to the public.
5 complete episodes have been circulating for years among collectors and they are all available for download from the Internet Archive.

"Captain Video" episodes on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=%22captain%20video%22&and[]=mediatype%3A%22movies%22



Two of these episodes were uploaded to the "Children's Media Archive" YouTube Channel

4 of these episodes were released on a DVD from Alpha Video, with their logo placed in the opening credits.

UCLA Television/Film Archives
24 episodes (including the 5 released ones), all that are believed to exist are held at the UCLA Film/Television Archives and can be seen by appointment only. Hopefully one day they will be released as part of a digital collection or a DVD/ Blu-Ray set.

Ad Views Digital Collection
Duke University in Durham, North Carolina at has least six Post Cereals commercials as part of its massive AdViews digital collections. These Captain Video ads were a part of the D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles advertising agency archives which are held in the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at the Duke University Libraries.

They can be viewed from this page as numbers 60 - 65 (they are also available from the AdViews collection at archive.org
https://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/adviews_post_cereals/

60. Post-Tens Cereal Packs, 1950s (dmbb17801) Captain Video. Silent midway through
61. Post-Tens Cereal Packs, 1950s (dmbb17802) Captain Video.
62. Post-Tens Cereal Packs, 1950s (dmbb17803) Captain Video.
63. Post-Tens Cereal Packs, 1950s (dmbb17804) Captain Video.
64. Post-Tens Cereal Packs, 1950s (dmbb17805) Captain Video.
65. Post-Tens Cereal Packs, 1950s (dmbb17806) Captain Video.

These ads were downloaded and uploaded to YouTube in various channels. In acknowledging these rare commercials it is hoped that other "Captain Video" advertisements may exist in another advertisement archival collection.

Al Hodge's personal collection???
A possible myth that I picked up from at least one printed text years ago was that a few episodes of Captain Video were in the possession of Al Hodge's hotel room residence at the time of his passing in 1979. This is doubtful because in a 1972 interview on radio's What Ever Happened To...? with Richard Lamparski, Hodge was asked if he was aware of surviving episodes of Captain Video and he said no. However, if he did have copies at the time of his death, what became of those films?

Personal collections of other cast and crew???
In the same radio interview it was mentioned that a copy was believed to be held in an unnamed Ohio university's collection and more episodes may have existed in the possession of a former makeup artist. It would be great if either story could be confirmed even after 40 years.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Headlines From the Death of George Reeves 60 Years Later.

One of the thousands of headlining news stories about the death of George Reeves.
Rutland Daily Herald, Wednesday, June 17, 1959. 

"Despondent, Superman Kills Self" -
Press Democrat, Tuesday, June 16, 1959

"Superman Takes Life"- Tampa Times, Tuesday, June 16, 1959

"Television's 'Superman' Ends Life With Pistol" - Pittsburgh Press, Tuesday, June 16, 1959

Snippet from the Pittsburgh Press, Tuesday, June 16, 1959.

Beginning Tuesday, June 16, 1959, national and international papers would repeat the tragic news of the death of actor George Reeves best remembered as TV's 'Superman' who was found dead in his Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, California home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Within a few days the focus of the story would be on events of George's life that have placed his death in so much mystery like: his will not including his finance Lenora Lemmon (or such a will being missing), the belief of his mother Helen Bessolo and several friends that Reeves wasn't suicidal, and the presence of extra bullets in the room.

By the end of June 1959, there would be headlines about the "mystery" and suspicions of Reeves death that continue to this day. A great curiosity of mine is how learning of Reeves death, whether from newspapers, TV, or hearing it on the radio impacted his young viewers in that tragic time. If you were a child or adolescent and remember that day in 1959, please share your recollections in the comments section or write to archivebuilder@gmail.com with the subject heading "Reeves".


Monday, June 3, 2019

From The Archives: 1950s Radio and TV Coloring Book covers

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club Dot to Dot. 1953, Whitman Publishing Company.
From the Blogger's collection.
 Coloring books based on juvenile programs go back a several decades. This Mickey Mouse Club book was just one of hundreds of Disneyana to come from the popular weekday afternoon series (1955 - 1959)

Manning, Russ (illustrations). Sergeant Preston Coloring Book. 1953 Whitman Publishing Company.
From the Blogger's Collection.
Add first I mistook this as a TV series coloring book, until I remembered that it took a little longer for Sergeant Preston and his "wonder dog Yukon King" to transition from radio to TV. The TV version (1955 - 1958) premiered 2 years after this coloring book was published.


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Uncle John Daggett, Queen Titiania and the Fairyland of KHJ Radio

Clip of "Uncle John" Daggett in "Mary, Queen of Tots" (1925) 

"Uncle John", or John S. Daggett (1878-1945) was a radio station manager for KHJ in Los Angeles in the 1920s. As host of its popular evening children's program Daggett worked with several radio and screen child stars in the area throughout the 1920s. His cameo in the 1925 Our Gang/Little Rascals short "Mary, Queen of Tots" is great for viewing rare footage one of the first children's "Uncles" figures in broadcasting.

Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1924. "Uncle John" Daggett can be seen with glasses in the upper right. The caption says that this was a birthday party for Muriel MacCormac (1918-2000) a silent child actress probably most famous today for playing the blind girl healed by Jesus in Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings (1927). 
In it's earliest years KHJ Los Angeles was owned by the Los Angeles Times, later CBS, and then became one of the Don Lee Mutual stations. The KHJ "Children's Hour" usually ran Tuesdays or Wednesday evenings at 6:30pm Pacific Time, and featured a few child stars who also appeared in the motion pictures like Joyce Coad, David Durand, Leon Ramon (Leon Janney), Lois Jane Campbell and Johnny Downs. In the early radio days, this west coast program could be heard as far away as Atlanta, Georgia.

Helene Pirie, "Queen Titiana", "The Fairy of the Microphone" of the KHJ Fairyland.
Los Angeles Times, August 24, 1924. 
The most famous child performer on the program was Helene Pirie (1916-1988) who was known as "Queen Titania", the "Fairy of the Microphone". After she began appearing as this character in the fall of 1923, her real name was rarely given in publicity so she was known as "The Mystery Child of Radio". A growing theme of the Children's Hour was to transport young listeners to "Fairyland" with Queen Titania, to the "Fairy Garden", the "Moonbeam Express" among other wonders. She was joined by the "Sandman" and Uncle John under the title of the "Sandman's Hour" and sometimes the "Radio Fairies". As Queen Titania, Pirie made public appearances on behalf of KHJ and the Los Angeles Times. The Fairyland program was so popular that even Paramount Studios actress Betty Bronson "The Peter Pan Girl" made a guest appearance in April 1925 for KHJ's 3rd anniversary. 

"Queen Titania's Radio Fairies" by Oliver Garrison Pirie, Helene's father. Very rare signed book from KHJ with photos and stories from the radio Fairyland. From The blogger's collection. 

Press articles of the time suggest a promising career as a child film star was planned for Pirie. She was selected by Ivan Kahn (1890-1951) to star in a series of kid films called the "Kahn Kid Komedies. Photo stills at the Young Entertainer's Directory (possibly from the Ivan Kahn Collection at the Margaret Herrick Library) show that this series existed, or was at least initiated. Only two film roles appear on Pirie's IMDB profile, one of which was a MacDougal Alley Kids short "Getting Hitched" from 1926. 

The Children's Hour Fairyland broadcasts continued as late as October 1927 when it was announced that Queen Titania had made 200 consecutive broadcasts. "Uncle John" Daggett, the "Sandman" and Helene "Queen Titania" Pirie would make occasional public appearances as their beloved roles in Los Angeles into the early 1930s. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

When Captain America Fires His Blazing Gun? The Republic Serial at 75 and the Decline of War-Time Heroics

1944 newspaper ad for Captain America serial. 
In 1943 at the peak of World War II there were nine Saturday morning cliffhanger serials, all but two of which featured wartime storylines. For example Columbia Pictures' The Batman (1943) pitted the DC comics character against a Japanese spy. Republic Pictures The Masked Marvel (1943, which also recently turned 75) likewise featured a two-fisted masked hero against an Axis saboteur. 1943 was the peak of Hollywood's contributions to the war effort and every effort may have been made to include wartime themes in the serial genre that was largely geared toward younger audiences.

As early as January (but officially the week of February 5th, 1944) Republic's newest serial Captain America hit theaters. The 15 chapter serial is a small landmark for being the first film adaptation of any Marvel Comics superhero. It is widely known that the storyline and character portrayed bear no resemblance to the Timely (Marvel) comics figure of super-soldier Steve Rogers. Instead this Captain America is the costumed identity of district attorney Grant Gardener (Dick Purcell, in his final role; he died only a few months after the film's release) in his battle against the Scarab (Lionel Atwill), in reality a museum curator plotting revenge and theft of advanced scientific weapons. There is no "mighty shield", kid sidekick Bucky Barnes, no Axis Powers, or any sign of any superpowers.

What makes the storyline changes extra interesting, in context of the time period, is that compared to 1943 only ONE serial out of the nine released from 1944 employed a wartime theme or villain, Universal's "The Great Alaskan Mystery". Throughout the year there was a steady return to the normal range of storylines associated with the genre like the fantasy adventure Haunted Harbor and the jungle favorite "The Tiger Woman". In 1945, the last year of the war, there were 3 war themed serials, Jungle Queen, The Master Key, and Secret Agent X-9, all form Universal.

Newspaper ad for "Captain America" from the January 7th, 1944 edition of the Elmira (New York) Star Gazette. Notice there is no indication of the changes to the character. It is clear that "boys and girls" are the target audience with the free passes given out in local schools. 

Decades ago, serial historians suggested that this Captain America was made into a gun-toting, two-fisted district attorney because the script was originally written for another character "Mr. Scarlett". While this is a probable reason, another theory I propose is due to the overall decline in wartime themes in serial storylines in 1944 as the Allied Forces were approaching victory, there may have also been a push to eliminate elements from the Captain America character that would affect how seriously young audiences would take the war, and this may have led to a complete rewrite of the character for his screen debut.

1955 ad for the "Return of Captain America". The serial was popular enough for a re-release even after the end of the original "Captain America Comics" run. 
Captain America was popular enough for a theatrical re-release in 1953 as "Return of Captain America".

Clip of the cliffhanger ending of Chapter 1 "The Purple Death", and beginning of Chapter 2 "Mechanical Executioner". 

"Magic Shadows" was a Canadian series that would show American movie serials on TVOntario.
Captain America (1944) appears sporadically on many American and Canadian TV schedules

*(added April 26, 2019) The Captain America serial was reintroduced to new audiences in the 1970s via American and Canadian TV shows that played vintage movie serials to kids. Like most older millennials I rented "Captain America" from my local public library on VHS tapes in the 1990s. To date the serials has never had a re-release on DVD and Blu-Ray from a remastered 35mm print.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Classic Comics 007: Vintage 1970s ads

Here is a fun look at some quick scans of comic book ads from 1977 and 1979.

Clark Bars. 1979.
Yes, you can still find most of these Clark candy bar products.

Famous Sea-Monkeys Ad. 
The "Sea-Monkeys" probably would have been and interesting comic series or Saturday Morning Cartoon series.

Ad for the "Trixie Belden" Mystery Series. 
Did not know there were ads for actual "books", especially juvenile literature, inside of comic books.



Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas Stories by Georgene Faulkner, The Original "Story Lady"

Faulkner, Georgene. 1927. Story Lady's Christmas stories. J.H. Sears & Co.


While visiting a used book store, I found a unique treasure in the free bin, a copy of "The Story Lady's Christmas Stories by Georgene Faulkner". Being an Old-Time Radio (OTR) and classic television buff, I know the term "story lady" was used often for an "auntie" figure like Ireene Wicker, or Alene Dalton the "Story Princess" who told stories on radio or television. However, I had never heard of the author Georgene Faulkner, and was stunned to learn who she was.

Snippet from press article about Georgene Faulkner from Radio Digest, April 26, 1924.
This entire article can be read in context at THIS LINK from the Media History Digital Library. 

Georgene Faulkner (1873 -1958) was THE original "Story Lady". She began telling stories to children on WMAQ Chicago radio in 1922, which may make her the first woman to host a children's radio program. Another media landmark of Ms. Faulkner's was being the first person to record phonograph records for children.

Even before her radio career she dressed as Mrs. Claus for Christmas as early as 1908, started a school for girls, was a kindergarten instructor, children's editor for the Chicago Tribune, and the Ladies Home Journal, and told stories at parties, Chautauqua events, schools and overseas in World War I where she was known as the "Auntie of the AEF".

She published numerous books and short stories, many of which were republished in readers, textbooks, and storybook collections for decades. Here are a couple of scans from her 1927 Christmas Stories book. The illustrations were by Frederic Robinson, more famous for his "Oz" series artwork.

Faulkner, Georgene. 1927. Story Lady's Christmas stories. J.H. Sears & Co.