Friday, September 28, 2018

From The Archives: "Little Women" Adaptations

Today there is a new version of the popular Louisa May Alcott classic "Little Women". There have been multiple film adaptations of the story since the 1910s. Here are some artifacts related to three media adaptations of the story across six decades. 

I have posted these images before, but this 1949 Dell Paperback tie in the MGM remake (they did one before in 1933 with Katherine Hepburn as Jo) is worth sharing again.

Alcott, Louisa M, Patti Mortensen, Janell Bohanna, Lucille Bliss, Karen Jurley, Judy Feil, Joseph Gostanian, Aurora Wetzel, and Ray Reinhardt. Little Women. San Francisco, CA: Mind's Eye, 1979. Sound recording.
 This audio drama version from the "Mind's Eye" series featured veteran voice actress Lucille Bliss (1916 - 1912) as Jo. Bliss is probably best remembered today as the voice of "Smurfette" on the 1980s animated "Smurfs" series.

This Christmas slim hardback edition features scenes from the 1994 adaptation of "Little Women" which starred Winona Ryder . It originally came with a ornament pendant.

The original novel with scene of the 1994 film.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

This Month in Children's Media: September 2018, Part I

I missed all of the summer months, but could not pass up the history of the fall 1968 season.

50 Years Ago - 1968

Newspaper Ad for "Oliver". Philadelphia Inquirer, December 29, 1968.
Italian photo ad for "Oliver"

The live-action film musical Oliver, based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, premieres September 26, 1968. The film would win the Academy Award (Oscar) for best film.

September 14, 1968 - This fall season was the beginning of a crackdown on violent content on Saturday Morning Cartoons. The following programs debuted that day.

"The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour" and on CBS Saturday Morning (1968–1971; 1975–1985; known as "The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show" from 1978–1985)

"Wacky Races" on CBS Saturday Morning (1968-1969)

Several Prime-time shows that were not geared specifically for children, but would have caught their attention include:

September 17, 1968 – Julia on NBC (1968–1971).
September 21, 1968 – Adam-12 on NBC (1968–1975).

Newspaper Ad for "Land of the Giants", sci-fi fantasy series that rand on ABC for until 1970.
September 22, 1968 – Land of the Giants on ABC (1968–1970).

Snippet from WBEN-TV ad for the debut of "Blondie" on CBS.
Niagara Gazette (New York), Thursday, September 28, 1968.

September 26, 1968 - Blondie CBS (1968-1969). Reportedly one of the biggest flops of the late 1960s, and dismissed as suitable only for children. That critique only make it more of a curiosity; maybe it should have been allowed to finish it's run on Saturday mornings (like Calvin and the Colonel did for ABC). This series would also be worth seeing for the good casting lead by Patricia Harty and Will Hutchins, and that one episode with Bruce Lee as a karate instructor.

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 Sorcerer'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.