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Category Archives: Personalities

The Face is Familiar

The Face is Familiar

Allen Jenkins – If you’ve seen a few of the wonderful Warner Bros. films of the 1930s, you’ve probably seen Allen Jenkins, since he pops up in literally dozens of them. Thanks to his nasal New York accent, he specialized in Damon Runyon-type characters, the sort of people you’d find in saloons, newsrooms and race tracks. He remained a busy character actor right up to his death in 1974. But after about 1952, most of his work was in television— everything from I Love Lucy to Playhouse 90 to (of course) Damon Runyon Theater. I was delighted to find him in this episode of Adam-12 (4:09, “Anniversary,” November 1971), but also sorry to see he’d been separated from a few teeth over the years.

05.22.16 - Allen Jenkins - early05.22.16 - Adam 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carolyn Jones – A television immortal thanks to her role on The Addams Family (1964-1966), Carolyn Jones was a busy and far more versatile actress than she’s given credit for. That was especially true during the decade leading up to Morticia’s debut. You never know what Jones is going to look or sound like; if you spot her name in the credits and watch out for someone looking like Morticia Addams, there’s a good chance you’ll miss her altogether. Her climb up the ladder had been a fairly short one, and by the age of 25 she was playing leads in TV crime shows and anthology dramas, not to mention supporting roles in major movies. I can recommend a couple of her performances in particular— the sexy, reckless flirt on Wagon Train (1:03, “The John Cameron Story,” October 1957) and the cool con woman who passes bad checks all over town on State Trooper (1:02, “The Paperhanger of Pioche,” November 1956). She’s also great in this early role as a shooting suspect on the original Dragnet (3:31, “The Big Girl,” April 1954).

05.22.16 - Addams Family05.22.16 - Dragnet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Banks – Possibly the finest actor in contemporary television, Banks is best known for playing elderly tough guy Mike Ehrmantraut on a pair of outstanding shows (Seasons 2-5 of Breaking Bad and both seasons of the still-running Better Call Saul). The early years of his TV career were spent playing assorted thugs on dramas like Barnaby Jones and Lou Grant. Here’s how he looked in an excellent episode of Simon & Simon (1:12, “Matchmaker,” March 1982), in which he plays (you guessed it) a criminal.

05.22.16 - Jonathan Banks05.22.16 - Simon and Simon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brad Pitt – I guess he needs no introduction, but his career does stretch back farther than you might think. Brad Pitt’s first credited role was on Dallas, in which he played Randy, a kid who dates Charlie Wade, the step-daughter of two-fisted rancher Ray Krebbs. Randy was a recurring character during the show’s eleventh season. He eventually goes too far with Charlie, gets his butt kicked for it and is never seen again. The producers evidently recognized some potential in the 23-year-old actor, but they still let him go after just four fleeting appearances. If you’ve seen those final seasons of Dallas, you know the producers were making more than a few unfortunate decisions in those days. Anyway, here’s Pitt, knee-deep in the ‘Eighties as romantic Randy (11:14, “Daddy’s Little Darlin’, December 1987).

05.22.16 - Brad Pitt05.22.16 - Dallas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Cartwright – Very few child actors ever win a supporting role on a successful network show. Angela Cartwright got two of them, one right after the other: The Danny Thomas Show (1957-1964) and Lost in Space (1965-1968). But when young actors make the slow-motion leap from childhood to adulthood, their careers usually fall into the gaping crevasse in between. This didn’t quite happen to Cartwright, who landed a smattering of one-shot roles here and there, and even reprised her Danny Thomas role on Make Room for Granddaddy (1970-1971). But her acting career would never regain its momentum, despite being a talented and lovely young lady. Here she is at age 19, trying to avoid sniper fire on Adam-12 (4:11, “Assassination,” December 1971).

05.22.16 - Angela Cartwright05.22.16 - Adam 12 Cartwright

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Posted by on May 22, 2016 in Personalities

 

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Before They Were Murdered

04.24.16 - QuincyBob Crane – The Hogan’s Heroes star was found murdered in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 1978. The case remains officially unsolved, although incriminating evidence implicates a former friend who was tried and acquitted in 1994. Prior to his death, Crane was primarily working in dinner theater, but he also did occasional TV work. Hogan’s Heroes was in heavy rotation on independent stations all over America, and Crane seems to have been eager to escape the wisecracking Hogan, expanding his range with roles such as the sensitive doctor in this episode of Quincy, M.E. (2:07, “Has Anybody Here Seen Quincy?,” March 1977).

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04.24.16 - SWATSal Mineo – Best known for film roles in Rebel Without a Cause and Exodus, most of Mineo’s credits were actually in television; he appeared in about a dozen anthology dramas in the 1950s and early 1960s. Most of his credits thereafter were guest shots in TV crime dramas like Hawaii Five-O, Columbo and Police Story, and there were plenty of them. Before he was stabbed to death in February 1976, the movie offers had dried up, but new opportunities in theater and television were perhaps better than ever. He landed the leading role in this early episode of S.W.A.T. (1:02, “A Coven of Killers,” March 1975), playing a Manson-like cult leader with memorable intensity.

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04.24.16 - CombatRamon Novarro – Making history as the star of M-G-M’s silent epic Ben-Hur (1925), Novarro remained one of that studio’s biggest stars right to the end of the silent era. After talkies arrived, he continued to play leads, but by 1935 his stardom had waned. Thanks to wise investments, he continued to live comfortably and he only accepted roles that appealed to him. After 1960, those were all on the small screen. They were always meaty, featured parts (Thriller, Dr. Kildare, Bonanza, The High Chaparral, etc.). He played a French count in this episode of Combat (4:15, “Finest Hour,” December 1965), and his French accent is startlingly good, coming from Hollywood’s first Mexican-American star! Tragedy struck in October 1968: Novarro was beaten in his own home by a pair of hustlers, and choked to death on his own blood. The killers served only a few years in prison before being freed to commit further crimes. One of them killed himself in 2005 and the other was returned to prison on a rape charge, where he remains today.

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04.24.16 - Burns and AllenCarl “Alfalfa” Switzer – Hollywood is notoriously indifferent to child stars who’ve outgrown their youthful usefulness. This former Our Gang star remained in the Los Angeles area, and was persistent in looking for acting jobs. He did manage to find quite a few, but most of them were in bit roles, often uncredited.  Somehow, unlike most actors in his situation, he found it easier to get film roles than television work. But he did get to appear with the stars of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (5:11, “George Gets a Call from an Unknown Victor,” December 1954). It’s a thankless little role, but it represents one final connection to classic comedy, bringing his professional life full circle. It also marks the beginning of the end of that profession. At the time of his shooting death in January 1959, he was primarily working as a trainer and provider of hunting dogs; he’d had only one known acting role in the previous three years. Meanwhile, his childhood was on view all over America, because the old Our Gang shorts had been sold to television. (Because “Our Gang” was a trademark owned by M-G-M, the kids were presented on TV as “The Little Rascals.”)

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04.24.16 - Beverly HillbilliesSharon Tate – The final tragedy of Sharon Tate’s life is that she’s better remembered today for her horrifying murder than for anything else. But she’d been a promising actress for much of the 1960s, slowly climbing the ladder to bigger roles, and at the time of her death in August 1969 she was on the verge of real stardom. She’d nearly reached it much earlier— she was all set to be one of the original Bradley girls on Petticoat Junction before being replaced at the last minute by Jeannine Riley. However, Petticoat producer Paul Henning gave her a few small roles on his other show, The Beverly Hillbillies, like this one (2:11, “The Garden Party,” December 1963), with Max Baer Jr. Better things would come her way in the future. Unfortunately, so would the Manson Family.

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Posted by on April 24, 2016 in Personalities

 

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