Showing posts with label The Man From UNCLE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Man From UNCLE. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Nose-talgia #14: Happy Birthday Today to Veteran Actress Kim Darby! She's a Real Grup!

In the 1960s whenever TV producers needed a young actress to play the part of a sensitive girl, they turned to Kim Darby.  In the 1970s when they needed a sensitive teen, they turned to Kim Darby.  In the 1980s when they needed a sensitive young woman, they turned to Kim Darby.  Heck, even John Wayne turned to Kim Darby when he needed a sensitive albeit gutsy young gal to play opposite him in 1969's Oscar-winning movie True Grit.  Kim Darby, born on this date in 1947 and celebrating her 67th birthday today, has always been the consummate actress -- professional, talented, no fuss, mature beyond her years -- who never delivered less than excellent work in all of her many film and especially TV roles.

You could hardly watch a top network drama during the '60s and '70s without running into actress Kim Darby guest-starring in an episode.  From The Farmer's Daughter to Dr. Kildare to Wagon Train to Mr. Novak to The Donna Reed Show to Ben Casey to The Fugitive to Ironside to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to Gunsmoke to Bonanza to Judd for the Defense to Run for Your Life to Marcus Welby, M.D. to Police Story to Baretta to Fantasy Island to The Love Boat to The Streets of San Francisco and many more, Kim was on them all, often more than once. Even after making True Grit she alternated big screen and TV roles throughout her busy career.

Kim was a popular choice for work in the TV movie format, including the science fiction tale The People in 1972, the classic thriller Don't Be Afraid of the Dark in 1963, Flatbed Annie & Sweetiepie: Lady Truckers opposite Annie Potts in 1979 and many others.

Kim also co-starred (and received an Emmy Nomination) in what was most assuredly the most powerful miniseries event of its day, the immensely popular Rich Man, Poor Man in 1976:

Kim Darby -Rich Man Poor Man from Mondo Justin on Vimeo.

In addition to her acclaimed role in True Grit, Kim starred in an interesting collection of big screen motion pictures including Norwood, The Strawberry Statement, The One and Only, Generation, and The Grissom Gang.  Her TV guest-star credits burgeoned to include Trapper John, M.D., The X-Files, Murder, She Wrote, Becker, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and many others including the very recent Perception.

Last but certainly not least, Kim joined the illustrious selection of actors and actresses who achieved popular culture godlike status by portraying the title character of the original Star Trek episode "Miri".  Her role was a vulnerable young human-like girl on the verge of becoming a woman and catching the deadly virus that infects and kills all grown-ups -- Grups -- on their planet.  It's one of the more memorable episodes if for nothing else other than the sinister "Nah nah nah nah nah..." chant that the group of feral children drone as they surround a hostage Captain Kirk -- William Shatner in full Shatner-esque glory.  The wonderful character actor Michael J. Pollard co-starred in the episode, too; that's a lot of acting talent in one episode.  First enjoy the newer shorter trailer from the recent syndicated run of the show, then the original trailer and finally a great scene with Kirk and the kids:

We recommend watching the entire episode on, of course, by clicking here.

In addition to her acting roles, Kim Darby continues her work as a respected and sought-after acting professor and coach. You can visit her official website by clicking here; lots of great material there, too.

It's almost hard to believe that Kim Darby has been a fixture on movie and TV screens for more than fifty years.   American entertainment would not have been the same without her consistently intelligent and uniquely honest portrayals throughout her long career.

Happy Birthday to the wonderful Kim Darby!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our Classic TV Valentines

Here's a Happy Valentine's Day to all our nostalgic TV crushes -- not that we don't still love these guys!

In no particular order...

Rob Petrie, played by Dick Van Dyke, on The Dick Van Dyke Show

How could any young girls not fall in love with the hilarious, urbane, supremely silly and utterly adorable Rob Petrie?  Not only did he have a cool job -- TV comedy writer -- but he worked in a great office with smart entertaining is that not perfect?  Even if we couldn't be Mrs. Petrie, I think we'd have settled for being Sally Rogers, just to be near Rob.  Wouldn't you?

Adam Cartwright, played by Pernell Roberts, on Bonanza

Naturally, young girls watching the series were supposed to fall for the teen idol-ish Little Joe (Michael Landon), but there was something dangerous and sexy about Ben Cartwright's oldest son Adam.  Smart as a whip and back at the Ponderosa after going away to college, this often-brooding brother had a temper and wasn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with his dynamic father (Lorne Greene).  If Little Joe was the heartthrob and Hoss the safe older brother, Adam was the slightly wild card.  So wild that he left the series after a few years, but while he was there, he lent a seductive air to the Cartwright clan.

Diver Dan, played by Frank Freda, on Diver Dan

Can an actor in a diving suit playing on a fake underwater set with puppet fish really make little girls' hearts flutter?  Well, Diver Dan did!  Whether it was his understated heroics or his "do-they-or-don't-they" -- or maybe more accurately "could-they-even-do-it" -- relationship with the elusive and beautiful mermaid Miss Minerva, Diver Dan made afterschool afternoons more exciting!

Professor Roy Thornton, played by Russell Johnson, on Gilligan's Island

Wouldn't you like to be stranded on a desert island with the Professor?  Handsome and so very smart -- and not even just compared to Mr. Howell, the Skipper or Gilligan -- the Professor was also inventive, good-natured and not a bit of the aloof intellectual.  I still think he's the perfect companion for a coconut-tinged retreat, though of course you'd have plenty of competition, what with Ginger and Mary Ann also having an eye for Roy.  Who can blame them?

Dr. James Kildare, played by Richard Chamberlain, on Dr. Kildare

Chamberlain brought a huge dose of charisma into the corridors of Blair General Hospital and became a huge teen idol for his role as Dr. Kildare.  The show was intelligent and dramatic, beautifully produced, excellently acted -- by Chamberlain, his co-star Raymond Massey and a bevy of guest stars -- but mostly we all fell in love with the appealing Dr. Kildare.  Sure, Ben Casey was also a hit TV series at the time on a different network, but Casey (Vince Edwards) was gruff and grim, while Kildare was bright and inviting.  Maybe the older ladies went for Casey, but Kildare got the youth vote, and how.

Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffiths, on The Andy Griffiths Show

Even those of us who grew up far from small town America -- or maybe especially us -- were drawn to Sheriff'Taylor's soft-spoken and kind-hearted brand of law enforcement.  He also had the allure of being a widower, and in the show he had a couple of different steady girlfriends, including the equally likeable schoolteacher Helen Krump (Aneta Corsaut).  Who could begrudge Sheriff Taylor a little Mayberry-style lovin', right?  In truth he was probably more of a father figure than boyfriend, but his comforting male presence was a welcome feature of our childhoods and ever since.

Superman/Clark Kent, played by George Reeves, on The Adventures of Superman

That smile, that cape, the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound -- we're still in love with Superman!  The brawny All-American good looks and personality of George Reeves gave his super-portrayal an irresistible appeal that has never died.  Okay, so maybe we didn't want him for a boyfriend exactly, but if he wanted to drop by and take us for a flight around the world...well, that would have been okay with us. 

Dr. Zachary Smith and the Robot, played by Jonathan Harris and Dick Tufeld, on Lost in Space

Yeah...there's no denying these two were one of the most authentic Odd Couples ever on TV, but they were also hilarious and they could have easily been, if not our boyfriends exactly, maybe our funny best friends.  We sometimes think that's even better than romance, in case anybody needs to be told that.

Hercules, voiced by Jimmy Tapp, on The Mighty Hercules

Hercules, like Diver Dan and Clark Kent, was a shy guy with a big job, and little time for romance with the lovely damsel Helena who worshipped the Greek he-man.  For a crudely animated show with only a dozen or so episodes, the influence of The Mighty Hercules was huge in our childhood and mostly because Hercules himself was the epitome of a classic hero.  Even though it was unlikely that we would ever accompany him to Mount Olympus -- "Olympia!" he cried at the end of every segment as he ascended -- we loved to watch him vanquish evil and yet somehow never quite get the girl.

Mickey, played by Mickey Dolenz, on The Monkees

Davy Jones was the anointed "boyfriend-in-chief" of the pre-Fab Four, but if you were a young lady who loved the funny, then Mickey was your guy.  Unconventionally good-looking, slightly hyperactive, and a terrific singer to boot, Mickey was my Monkee of choice and I'm sticking to it!

Illya Kuriakin, played by David McCallum, on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Open Channel D!  The suave Russian Illya, Napoleon Solo's partner in spying, soon almost eclipsed his James Bond-ish co-agent in popularity and fan mail, not that Robert Vaughn was anything less than spectacular.  It's just that Illya was, dang it all!  From his fluffy blond hair to his delicate foreign accent, Illya was oh-so-seriously wonderful and most definitely won the hearts of the younger set. 

Artemus Gordon, played by Ross Martin, on The Wild Wild West

In this series, ladies who loved tight blue pants went for the ultra-suave uber-hero James West, played by Robert Conrad.  Those of us who liked our heroes a little more creative, a little funnier, a little more inventive, preferred Artemus Gordon, masterfully brought to life by actor Ross Martin.  If West almost always ended up with the girl, Artemus ended up with our hearts and our minds, a potent two-fer that made Mr. Gordon my personal choice for the most super secret agent. 

I've saved the best for last --

Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, on Star Trek

Who might have dreamed that a half-human alien hybrid from the fictional planet Vulcan could become one of the most desirable of TV boyfriends for millions of young girls?  Super smart -- there's that very cool intelligence attribute once again! -- ultra-competent, and nearly non-emotional, although Spock might have seemed an unlikely candidate for Valentine's pin-up boy, he's the logical choice.  Since the late 1960's Spock has made the search for extraterrestrial life a must; how else are Sarek and Amanda, Spock's Vulcan father and Earth mother, ever going to get together?  From the first moment we set eyes on him to his evidently farewell appearance as Spock in J.J. Abram's 2009 Trek franchise reboot feature, Mr. Spock has truly been one of the wonders of the TV universe.

We all have our favorites, and many newer faces have come in since these guys captured our hearts long ago, but you never forget your first  A Happy Valentine's Day to all of the many unforgettable characters who have made us fall in love with them!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday, Vincent Price!

I'm currently composing a longer tribute to Vincent Price, one of my most treasured actors, on filmicability. I'm choosing to focus in on my favorite Vincent Price film performance, in 1973's Theater of Blood. However, in doing my research, I've been reminded of Price's warm, clever, and intelligent personality, often on display in guest shots on a variety of TV productions. So I thought I'd do a shorter twin tribute to the Price centennial by highlighting some of these appearances here on the Flaming Nose.

When I think of Vincent Price's TV appearances, one thing comes to mind: his tremendous sense of fun in spoofing his own fame as a horror movie icon. In many of his guest shots on narrative shows like The Brady Bunch, F Troop, and Love American Style, he traded upon this, but also showed he could play comedy just as well as the established pros. For instance, he has a memorable run-in with Lucille Ball on a 1970 episode of Here's Lucy, where Ball's Lucy Carter is visiting Price to have an art piece appraised, but is instead mistaken by Price as an actress auditioning for a role in a new horror film. Good stuff here!

But in earlier TV appearances, he was known less as a horror personality and more as a erudite character actor famed for largely villainous roles. In a 1953 appearance on The Jack Benny Program, he shares the screen with the master of the slow burn and also with the lovely Irene Dunne. Benny and Price find themselves as acting rivals for the lead in a production with Miss Dunne, and their interplay is extraordinarily hilarious (every time Benny stares into the camera, I can't help but lose it):

There were a lot of dramatic roles for Price on TV as well, on shows as varied as Lights Out, Climax!, Playhouse 90, Daniel Boone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Have Gun Will Travel, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. It's particularly fun to see him as a typically evil Russian THRUSH agent in an episode of The Man From UNCLE, called "The Fox and Hounds Affair." Here, Price shares the small screen with another crowning character actor, Leo G. Carroll, who played UNCLE's wisened head officer:

And, though I find the show irritating, it would just simply be wrong to ignore Vincent's bald-pated appearance as the villainous Egghead in the 1960's smash hit show Batman. If I were going to watch an episode of this show again, it'd probably one of Price's episodes, even IF the egg-related puns get eggs-cruciating.

Even games shows and variety shows were far from off-limits for Price. For instance, you can see Price's wit and facility with both music and languages here on his 1956 appearance as the mystery guest on What's My Line?

As a stunt to promote his then current 1972 film The Abominable Dr. Phibes (still one of his greatest performances, if you ask me), Price made an unlikely appearance on The Dating Game. It's bizarre, having Price act as proxy to the dating girl in questioning her three prospects. It's clear that none of the guys are equal to Vincent's inestimable sophistication, but he takes it all in stride and barrels through like the pro he was. Dare I say that the girl would have been better off going out to dinner with Vincent himself?

In 1973, Price was invited to fete his friend Bette Davis on an "Celebrity Roast"episode of The Dean Martin Comedy Hour. Here, again, we get to enjoy Vincent's charm as he plays slightly (and appropriately) blue. You don't get to hear Price use the word "knockers" very often!

A totally charming clip here, from Price's 1976 appearance on The Muppet Show. The only thing that can rival my love for Vincent Price is my love for Jim Henson, particularly in the guise of Kermit the Frog. To have these two stars sharing the stage is pure joy to me, especially in the hilarious final moment here!

Vincent even did many smart commercials, for products as widely varied as Milton-Bradley games, Tilex, Time-Life Books, and Century 21! Here's an excellent 1985 spot for Polaroid VHS tapes:

Here's another 80s spot, this one more lovingly low-rent, for Easter Seals:

And, finally, another for Sun Country Wine Coolers. This one's REALLY unusual!

In 1984, Vincent acted as host to PBS' anthology show Mystery! Here, the actor gets to expound on one of his favorite subjects--the Victorian era--in introducing the first episode of Grenada TV's Sherlock Holmes series. I have to wonder how much Price contributed to the writing of this intro, as he was certainly an expert on the subject matter and could have easily penned the piece. It seems to have been written in his unmistakable voice:

The interesting thing about Price is that, though he was most famous as a horror movie icon, it was always clear that he was so much more than just this. For instance, his art history expertise was unsurpassed. He had an extensive personal collection of works with which he often toured, and was an outspoken advocate of Native-American art in particular. Even though this rare 1962 instructional film wasn't shot for television (it's basically an industrial film used to educate art auctioneers on the value of their pieces, made by Sears and Roebuck), I think it's a fascinating peer into this very personal, revealing side of Vincent Price. The man knows so much; he never ceases to astound me.

Even more revealing is his 1982 interview on British TV with Terry Wogan. Here the actor's charm and smarts are again center stage, and we get to hear more about his love of art, his puzzlement over the American and British ways of life, and a wonderful story about his playing pranks on unsuspecting fans (something that I understand was, for him, a favorite by-product of being famous). By the way: isn't it interesting that Price and Christopher Lee share the same birth date?

I think my very favorite Vincent Price TV moment, though, is his appearance on an obscure 1952 show called What in the World? In this game show/educational show mash-up, a crew of art experts get together and are presented with a series of unfamiliar art objects. Their task is to determine the age and the origin of these ancient pieces. Produced for WCAU-TV (the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia), the fourth episode of this rather strange but delightful series has Vincent on as a very knowledgeable expert, and his accuracy is quite impressive. This is a real interesting bit of TV history here--an artifact in its own right:

Well, I guess that about does it for my TV-based tribute! All that's left to say, once again, is Happy 100th, Vincent! Wish you were here!