Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bea Benaderet: Stardom After 50

Bea and Gale Gordon on My Favorite Husband.
If I lived to be ninety or so, I might get around to researching and writing books about all the performers whose careers have caught my attention over the years. Somewhere fairly high up on that list would be the fine character actress Bea Benaderet (1906-1968), who did yeoman's work in radio's My Favorite Husband, television's The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show in the 1950s, as the voice of Betty Rubble on The Flintstones, and finally as the star of her own sitcom, Petticoat Junction. Those few credits, of course, scarcely scratch the surface of her resume, bursting with memorable radio and TV performances before her career was cut short by her death at the age of 62.

Always in demand for character roles, Benaderet claimed she was caught by surprise when, after playing Cousin Pearl on the first year of The Beverly Hillbillies, creator/producer Paul Henning offered her a show of her own. "It was entirely his idea," she told syndicated columnist Bob Thomas in a 1965 interview. During her second season on Petticoat Junction, she said, "Sometimes I think, 'Goodness, this business of appearing in every scene of the script is too much work.' But let a script come along in which I'm not in all the scenes, and I go, 'Grrrrr.'"

After Bea's death in 1968, Petticoat Junction was never quite the same, despite the addition of the capable June Lockhart as motherly Dr. Janet Craig. But there's still plenty of Bea to be seen and appreciated, and surely someone will get around to writing a book that pays her the tribute she deserves. Who knows, it might even be me.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Raise the Flagg!

Happy birthday to Fannie Flagg, born on this date in 1944. Now a bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist, she remains, to my eyes, one of the funny ladies who frequently graced the bottom right corner spot on Match Game. She also played Dick Van Dyke's sister in his "New" sitcom of the 1970s, and was later best buddy to Barbara Eden in Harper Valley.

Although classic TV fell short of finding the perfect vehicle for her considerable talents, it's nice to know that bigger and better things lay in store once she took up writing. There's apt to be a big celebration today at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pearl Anniversary for the Golden Girls

Rue, Bea, Estelle, and Betty laugh it up.
I have to admit it. I'm one of those fans of The Golden Girls. The ones who have seen every episode at least a dozen times, and still watch. I even belong to a Facebook group devoted entirely to sharing GG jokes, memes, and memories. If you say "linguine with ear salve," or "In what, Blanche? Dog years?" I know exactly what you mean, and which episode it's in.

So naturally I can't let the 30th anniversary of this modern classic go unobserved. One of the best memories of researching and writing my first book was interviewing the great Betty White, back when she was just a kid of 84 or so.

Although most of my books are about the stars, films, and shows of the 1930s through the 1960s, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for four ladies who, in my mind at least, are still enjoying their golden years in Miami. Happy anniversary!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Remembering Judy

I was sorry to hear of the death of Judy Carne, the talented British actress - dancer who became an American TV star in the 1960s. Although Laugh-In is the show for which she's best-known, many also recall her sitcom Love on a Rooftop, a charming romantic comedy co-starring Pete Duel.

Before researching Lost Laughs of '50s and '60s Television, I'd never seen Rooftop, which ABC canceled in 1967 after one year. I found it a likable and well-done show that deserved a longer run. It's a bit poignant to watch reruns, knowing what troubled (and in Duel's case, short) lives lay ahead for its stars. Carne probably made the right call when she fled the Hollywood scene awhile back, and I hope her later years spent in a small English town were peaceful and happy. RIP, Judy.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Acres and Acres

They're two of radio and TV's most recognizable character actors, but I'd be willing to bet many of you aren't familiar with the show they're performing here. Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet played the starring roles in CBS' radio comedy Granby's Green Acres in the summer of 1950. The comedy was not picked up for a regular season run, and there it ended. At least, it ended until nearly 15 years later, when writer/producer Jay Sommers revived the concept for television, where Green Acres became much more successful.       

Gordon and Benaderet, of course, moved smoothly from their success as radio performers to being equally in demand on television. In fact, it was the popularity of Petticoat Junction, starring Benaderet, that prompted CBS to ask for another show from executive producer Paul Henning. Busy with Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies, he sought the help of Sommers, and together they concocted the idea of placing Green Acres in Hooterville.

Incidentally, Granby's Green Acres was followed on the CBS schedule that summer by Leave It to Joan, starring none other than our pal Joan Davis. See how neatly I did that?