Monday, July 22, 2013

Tate (1960)

Perhaps the first series to feature a handicapped character in the lead role, Tate was a summer replacement western that ran for only 13 episodes, filling in for the second half of the regular-season Perry Como Show. The series, which aired on NBC, was sponsored by Kraft Foods and produced by Como's Roncom Productions. The title character, played by David McLean, who was then appearing in Marlboro cigarette ads as one of the early versions of the Marlboro Man, is a Civil War veteran who was shot in the left arm during the Battle of Vicksburg, rendering him lame in that arm. He keeps the arm covered in a black leather glove and sleeve up to his elbow and wears a sling to support it. Despite this handicap, Tate is an expert marksman and faster on the draw than anyone else he encounters. He loans himself out as a gun for hire, though never an assassin, and has been compared elsewhere to the character of Paladin on Have Gun -- Will Travel, though Tate, who goes only by his last name, is not a foppish dandy with Shakespearean pretensions. Instead, he wears corduroy and carries a Bible.

We learn his back story in the series' opening episode, "Hometown" (June 8, 1960), in which Tate returns to his unnamed hometown after a 10-year absence that began when the Civil War broke out, placing the timeframe in 1871. (Two other episodes--"The Mary Hardin Story" (June 29, 1960) and "The Gunfighters" (August 31, 1960)--specifically mention in their openings that they are set in 1871.) He has returned at the request of Sheriff Morty Taw, who needs his gun as a backup so that he can hang convicted murderer Joey Jory, whose brothers and friends aim to rescue him. Taw takes Tate out to the gravesite where his wife Mary is buried. Oddly, this is the first time he has been to her grave. Being a widower gives Tate a sympathetic past, showing that he is capable of love and being loved, while allowing him to roam free to pursue any and all employment opportunities. In various episodes, he takes assignments in Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, and Texas. The remainder of the "Hometown" episode plays out like High Noon in which Tate and Taw are the only ones brave enough to stand up to the Jory gang.

In other episodes, Tate is hired as a bounty hunter who then must answer the challenge of a young gun eager to establish a reputation ("Stopover," June 15, 1960), fend off a bounty hunter himself hired by a vengeful young man whom Tate is forced to kill in self-defense ("The Bounty Hunter," June 22, 1960), defend a widow from a land-grabber who refuses to acknowledge her right to her property via the Homestead Act ("The Mary Hardin Story," June 29, 1960), and help a group of farmers get what they're owed from a double-crossing cattle rancher ("The Gunfighters," August 31, 1960). In other words, each episode presents a different problem that usually can be resolved only with a gun, or so the narrative would have us believe. However, the episode "Reckoning" (August 24, 1960) ends with Tate not having killed anyone nor made good on his assignment. He is originally sent to bring back Abel King for killing the son of the man who hires him, but after King rescues Tate from sickness brought on by drinking contaminated water, Tate decides to delve deeper into the case and learns that King had killed the man's son to defend the honor of his daughter, who got the reputation of having had intimate relations with the son. But Tate is able to determine that the rumors were only that, spread by King's hired hand Luke Corey to ward off rival suitors. Once Tate uncovers what really took place, he allows Corey to merely walk away, perhaps convinced that the shame he has brought on himself will be a harsher punishment than anything the law could hand out.

As this episode shows, Tate is a man driven more by principle than monetary interest. He is willing to forget the bounty he was promised for King because he comes to believe that King was justified in his behavior (whether we agree with it or not). Likewise, he isn't above thwarting the interests of his employers if they conflict with his morals. In "A Lethal Pride" (July 20, 1960), Tate is faced with a similar position: he is hired by Mexican father Arriaga to bring justice to privileged young white man Clay Barton for taking liberties with his daughter Carmela. But Tate refuses to turn over Barton to Arriaga to exact his revenge, insisting that he be taken to the legal authorities for any warranted punishment. Arriaga has a hard time accepting this because, as a Mexican, he expects not to receive justice from the white legal system and is too eager to believe that Tate plans to conspire against him with the other whites. In "Comanche Scalps" (August 10, 1960) Tate has no problem providing backup for his old war friend Amos Dundee when he meets him in a Montana town to shoot down the man Dundee says killed his younger brother. But when Dundee receives word that his other brother Tad has married the woman he loves while he was away, he is determined to go back home and kill his own brother. However, Tate refuses to stand aside, even after being paid. He goes with Dundee, urging him the entire way not to seek vengeance against his brother, and finally draws his pistol against Dundee when the latter bull-whips Tad, who refuses to fight back. But Tate is spared the task of gunning down Dundee because a band of Indians come by at that moment and fatally shoot him with an arrow. Still, we get the sense that Tate would not have allowed Amos to kill Tad.

Since Tate's physical handicap is so unusual for the era, it is remarkable that it is not more central to the plots. He occasionally is insulted, called half a man or "one wing," but these incidents are never the driving force of the narrative. He does not seem particularly offended by such remarks because he seems to feel that he is not at a disadvantage, despite the loss of one arm. Occasionally his lame arm is a kind of identifying badge, as in "Hometown" where two of Jory's cohorts find him camping outside town and ask what his name is. When he refuses to provide it, one of them asks him to step out into the light and once they see his arm in a sling, Joss Jory immediately recognizes him as Tate. Whereas it would have been easy to use the handicap as a means for eliciting more sympathy for his character, that never seems to be the intent. Even when it comes to hand-to-hand combat, Tate more often than not holds his own, even though the scenes where he pushes another man clear across the room with his good arm strain the show's credibility. Rather than a man pitied by women, Tate is more often seen as desirable, as the wife of one of the aforementioned farmers considers him a man of action who is willing to fight, while she sees her husband as a coward who has to hire someone else to fight his battles. And in "Reckoning," the sullied young woman Lulie Jean King is disappointed that Tate intends to leave after her reputation has been restored because she has become infatuated with his worldliness. All of these elements combine to depict Tate as a man who refuses to be limited or defined by his handicap. As such, the series is considerably ahead of its time in providing a positive role model for the disabled without resorting to cheap emotionalism.

Though there are no credits for the theme song or individual scores, musical supervision is credited to Irving Friedman, whose biography can be found in the post for Father KnowsBest.

The complete series has been released on DVD by TimelessMedia Group.

The Actors

David McLean

Born Eugene Joseph Huth in Akron, Ohio in 1922, McLean began his acting career on the stage in Ohio, eventually moving to Los Angeles, where he continued his stage work and broke into credited screen work on the TV western Sugarfoot in 1957. Other than an uncredited appearance in the 1955 TV movie Captain Fathom, this was his only documented film work before being cast as Tate in the series of the same name. However, he had developed a national identity as the Marlboro Man in both print and television ads. While trying to launch his acting career, McLean worked as a cartoonist and sketch artist. He also was said to be an accomplished woodworker.

His lead work on Tate led to four film appearances and a TV guest spot the following year, most notably an uncredited role in Irwin Allen's film version of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which preceded the TV series of the same name. McLean's other film roles were in B movies, like the sci-fi classic X-15, which also included Charles Bronson, Mary Tyler Moore, Stanley Livingston of My Three Sons, and narration by Jimmy Stewart. Guest appearances on a host of TV shows continued throughout the 1960s, despite the fact that McLean was diagnosed with cancer in 1964 due to his heavy smoking. McLean then became an anti-smoking advocate, going before the board of Philip Morris to plead with them to limit television advertising and joining the campaign that eventually took cigarette ads off the air. Meanwhile, he continued his acting career and had a recurring role as Craig Merritt on the daytime soap Days of Our Lives in 1965-66. TV guest roles continued into the mid-70s and at the end of the decade there was more B movie work in films like Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) and Deathsport (1978), his last work. In 1985 he began suffering from emphysema and had a tumor removed from one of his lungs in 1994. He died the following year on October 12, and after his death his widow and son filed a wrongful death suit against William Morris. This sequence of events was dramatized in the book and subsequent film Thank You for Smoking.

Notable Guest Stars

Season 1, Episode 1, "Hometown": James Coburn (shown on the right, starred in The Magnificent Seven, Charade, Our Man Flint, and In Like Flint and played Jeff Durain on Klondike and Gregg Miles on Acapulco) plays convicted killer Joey Jory. Hank Patterson (Fred Ziffel on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction and Hank on Gunsmoke) plays his friend Charlie Simms. Royal Dano (appeared in The Far Country, Moby Dick, and The Outlaw Josey Wales) plays hometown sheriff Morty Taw. 

Season 1, Episode 2, "Stopover": King Calder (Lt. Gray on Martin Kane) plays Tate's target Ben Tracy. Robert F. Simon (Dave Tabak on Saints and Sinners, Gen. Alfred Terry on Custer, Frank Stephens on Bewitched, Uncle Everett McPherson on Nancy, Capt. Rudy Olsen on The Streets of San Francisco, and J. Jonah Jameson on The Amazing Spiderman) plays the local sheriff. Vaughn Taylor (starred in Jailhouse Rock, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Psycho, and In Cold Blood and played Ernest P. Duckweather on Johnny Jupiter) plays an unnamed bartender. Peggy Ann Garner (appeared in The Pied Piper, Jane Eyre, Daisy Kenyon, and Thunder in the Valley) plays saloon girl Julie. 

Season 1, Episode 3, "The Bounty Hunter": Robert Culp (shown on the left, starred in Sunday in New York, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and Breaking Point and played Hoby Gilman on Trackdown, Kelly Robinson on I Spy, Bill Maxwell on The Greatest American Hero, and Warren on Everybody Loves Raymond) plays bounty hunter Tom Sandee. Robert Redford (starred in Barefoot in the Park, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and All the President's Men) plays Sandee's employer Torsett. Robert Warwick (starred in Alias Jimmy Valentine, The Supreme Sacrifice, The Heart of a Hero, and Against All Flags) plays Irish poet and station master Sean McConnell. Louise Fletcher (starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Exorcist II, and The Cheap Detective and played Kai Winn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) plays his wife Roberta.

Season 1, Episode 4, "The Mary Hardin Story": Julie Adams (starred in Creature From the Black Lagoon and played Martha Howard on The Jimmy Stewart Show, Ann Rorchek on Code Red, and Eve Simpson on Murder, She Wrote) plays widow Mary Hardin. Mort Mills (Marshal Frank Tallman on Man Without a Gun, Sgt. Ben Landro on Perry Mason, and Sheriff Fred Madden on The Big Valley) plays land-grabber Tetlow.
Season 1, Episode 5, "Voices of the Town": Paul Richards (appeared in Playgirl and Beneath the Planet of the Apes and played Louis Kassoff on The Lawless Years and Dr. McKinley Thompson on Breaking Point) plays townsman Will Ragan. William Mims (Editor Dameron on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp) plays an unnamed hotel clerk. Wendy Winkelman (younger sister of Michael Winkelman of The Real McCoys) plays the younger sister of a woman Tate shot.

Season 1, Episode 6, "A Lethal Pride": Gregory Morton (Mr. Wainwright on Peyton Place and Walter Williams on Ben Casey) plays proud Mexican father Arriaga. Marianna Hill (Rita on The Tall Man) plays his daughter Carmela. Ted de Corsia (Police Chief Hagedorn on Steve Canyon) plays wealthy landowner John Barton. Kelton Garwood (Beauregard O'Hanlon on Bourbon Street Beat and Percy Crump on Gunsmoke) plays a scamming preacher.

Season 1, Episode 7, "Tigero": Martin Landau (shown on the right, starred in North by Northwest, Cleopatra, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Fall of the House of Usher, and Ed Wood and played Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible!, Commander John Koenig on Space: 1999, Dr. Sol Gold on The Evidence, Bob Ryan on Entourage, and Frank Malone on Without a Trace) plays sheepherder John Chess. Robert Brubaker (Deputy Ed Blake on U.S. Marshal and Floyd on Gunsmoke) plays local kingpin Abel Towey. Warren Vanders (Chuck Davis on Empire and Ben Crowley on Daniel Boone) plays his brother Mannen. Ted Markland (Reno on The High Chaparral) plays his other brother Bill. Harry Swoger (Harry the bartender on The Big Valley) plays an unnamed bartender.

Season 1, Episode 8, "Comanche Scalps": Frank Overton (starred in Desire Under the Elms, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Fail-Safe and played Major Harvey Stovall on 12 O'Clock High) plays Tate's friend Amos Dundee. Robert Redford (shown on the left, see "The Bounty Hunter" above) plays his brother Tad. Leonard Nimoy (shown below, played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, Paris on Mission: Impossible!, and Dr. William Bell on Fringe) plays the leader of the Comanches.

Season 1, Episode 9, "Before the Sun-Up": Warren Oates (starred in In the Heat of the Night, The Wild Bunch, and Stripes and played Ves Painter on Stoney Burke) plays troublemaker Cowpoke. Peter Whitney (Sergeant Buck Sinclair on The Rough Riders and Lafe Crick on The Beverly Hillbillies) plays town bully Clay Sedon. Richard Whorf (starred in Midnight, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and Chain Lightning and directed 18 episodes of Gunsmoke, 37 episodes of My Three Sons, and 67 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies) plays Doc Emmett Ealy. John Qualen (starred in The Three Musketeers(1935), His Girl Friday, The Grapes of Wrath, Angels Over Broadway, Casablanca, Anatomy of a Murder, and A Patch of Blue) plays restaurant proprietor Sam. 

Season 1, Episode 10, "Reckoning": Bing Russell (Deputy Clem Foster on Bonanza) plays hired hand Luke Corey. 

Season 1, Episode 11, "The Gunfighters": Jack Hogan (shown on the left, starred in The Bonnie Parker Story, Paratroop Command, and The Cat Burglar and played Kirby on Combat!, Sgt. Jerry Miller on Adam-12, Chief Ranger Jack Moore on Sierra, and Judge Smithwood on Jake and the Fatman) plays farmer Cromley. Ken Mayer (Maj. Robbie Robertson on Space Patrol) plays farmer Lathrop. 

Season 1, Episode 12, "Quiet After the Storm": Hampton Fancher (Deputy Lon Gillis on Black Saddle and co-wrote the screenplay and was executive producer on Blade Runner) plays unfaithful husband Coley. Cathy O'Donnell (starred in The Best Years of Our Lives, They Live by Night, Detective Story, The Man From Laramie, The Deerslayer, and Ben-Hur) plays his wife Amy.  

Season 1, Episode 13, "The Return of Jessica Jackson": Patricia Breslin (shown on the right, played Amanda Peoples Miller on The People's Choice and Laura Brooks on Peyton Place) plays stolen wife Jessica Jackson. John Kellogg (Jack Chandler on Peyton Place) plays her husband Milo. Henry Corden (Carlo on The Count of Monte Cristo, Waxey Gordon on The Lawless Years, and Babbitt on The Monkees and did voicework on The Flintstones, Jonny Quest, The Atom Ant Show, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and Return to the Planet of the Apes) plays his employee Leroux. Jon Lormer (Harry Tate on Lawman, various autopsy surgeons and medical examiners in 12 episodes of Perry Mason, and Judge Irwin A. Chester on Peyton Place) plays an Indian chief.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rocky and His Friends (1960)

Like The Flintstones, Rocky and His Friends (later called The Bullwinkle Show) was a cartoon series aimed to entertain adults as well as children, so much so that it was often criticized as being too sophisticated for children. While Hanna & Barbera's Flintstones riffed on The Honeymooners in a mild parody of the situation comedy, Jay Ward's Rocky and His Friends satirized all authority figures (particularly those in the government) as well as the American public in a way that made everyone appear ridiculous except for the talking dog Peabody. Additionally, much of the show seemed to be little more than a set-up for agonizing puns, from the double titles for each Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, to Peabody's closing line in his Improbable History shorts, to Aesop Junior's alternative aphorisms at the end of his father's fables, bad puns that only a grown-up would "appreciate" were sprinkled throughout each show. But the show was nonetheless popular with children, providing Ward and the show's sponsor General Mills with a gold mine of merchandising tie-ins. However, its adult appeal eventually prompted NBC to move the show into evening prime time, like The Flintstones, by its third season.

But the beginnings of the show were chaotic, to say the least, as chronicled exhaustively in Keith Scott's The Moose That Roared. Ward, who was neither an animator nor a voice actor himself, had decided to get into animation more than a decade earlier with his boyhood friend Alex Anderson with a series they named Crusader Rabbit, which like Rocky and His Friends, featured a small, plucky adventurer teamed up with a larger, more slow-witted sidekick, in this case a tiger named Rags. Anderson was the animation side of the team: his uncle Paul Terry ran Terrytoons. Ward was the businessman, holding a Master's degree from Harvard in business administration and working as a realtor off and on while launching his show business career. Ward also had a keen eye for talent and a diabolical sense of humor. He and Anderson at first came up with an idea for a 30-minute show of what would essentially be animated comic strips, but when they pitched their idea to NBC the network said they wanted only a 5-minute show airing four days a week. Crusader Rabbit ran a total of 195 episodes over a year and a half before being canceled by NBC. Due to financial difficulties by their promoter Jerry Fairbanks, Ward and Anderson eventually lost creative rights to the series, which was later resurrected by the man who bought those rights, Shull Bonsall. But while they were still working on Crusader Rabbit Ward and Anderson came up with an idea for another show called The Frostbite Falls Review about a staff of animals producing television from a small, remote north mid-western town. Amongst the animals on the staff were a small flying squirrel wearing an aviator helmet and a large moose. Though the show idea never got picked up for production, Rocky and Bullwinkle would find a new home nearly a decade later. In the meantime, with Crusader Rabbit canceled and in legal limbo Ward returned to realty and Anderson took a job with an advertising firm.

But by 1957 Ward got the animation bug again and went to work for Shamus Culhane on a series called Phineas T. Phox, Adventurer. There he met Bill Scott, a talented writer and voice actor who had bounced around a number of animation houses, including Warner Brothers, Paramount, and United Productions of America. Ward proposed a new series starring the moose and squirrel from The Frostbite Falls Review and the two of them wrote a 5-minute pilot episode and were able to recruit established voice actors June Foray, Paul Frees, and Daws Butler to do the voices, along with Bill Scott, for the pilot. The pilot garnered interest from several parties, as chronicled extensively in Keith Scott's book, and eventually wound up being picked up by NBC with General Mills as the sponsor. However, during final negotiations Ward was suffering from the after-effects of a nervous breakdown and did not attend some of the final meetings in which General Mills had said they wanted a 30-minute program and the advertising agency committed to an extremely low budget that forced the bulk of the animation to be done by a start-up animation firm in Mexico that had not produced anything to date. Added to the mix was the fact that the network and sponsor wanted the show to debut in late September 1959, which proved an impossibility. American producers, animators, and supervisors had to be sent to Mexico to work with the local talent and get them up to speed, which was fraught with all manner of problems, so that the show did not actually appear until two months later, on November 19, 1959. Also, because the show had been expanded from the original concept of just the adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle to a 30-minute program, Ward and his team had to come up with several other segments. In its initial episodes, each show consisted of two Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes at the beginning and end, with one segment each of Fractured Fairy Tales, Bullwinkle's Corner, and Peabody's Improbable History in between. 

The first season, which ran until early May 1960, consisted of 26 episodes and traced two Rocky and Bullwinkle story arcs. The first, "Jet Rocket Fuel," which ran for 40 installments (or the first 20 episodes of the show), lampoons the Cold War and the Space Race as Bullwinkle accidentally discovers a powerful rocket fuel while baking a fudge cake using his grandmother's recipe, thereby drawing the interest of both Washington and the mythical Soviet-like country Pottsylvania, whose operatives Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale attempt to steal the formula's secret ingredient. The second story arc, "Box Top Robbery" (12 installments), pokes fun at the box-top redemption craze by claiming that the entire world economy is driven by box tops, which prompts Boris to counterfeit them and threaten global stability. This second story arc caused considerable discomfort for advertising agency D-F-S since the show's sponsor, General Mills, was heavily involved in box top redemption programs, but it also is typical of Ward's and the show's irreverence, almost literally biting the hand that fed them.

But the box top plot was not the only segment to meet with sponsor disapproval. In The Moose That Roared, author Keith Scott mentions that Fractured Fairy Tales was not popular with General Mills and that after 52 scripts of the fairy tales had been completed and Ward was in discussions about renewing the show for a second season, his team came up with the Aesop & Son idea and got approval for the new segments from the sponsor based on storyboards for the pilot of the series, "The Lion and the Mouse." But this pilot actually aired during the 9th show of Season 1, broadcast on January 14, 1960, and both Fractured Fairy Tales and Aesop & Son continued airing throughout the remainder of Season 1 and on into Season 2. It seems unlikely that Ward and his crew would have completed all 52 fairy tale scripts only 9 episodes into their first season (or actually earlier), and if General Mills was really unhappy with the fairy tales, why would so many more have been produced (there were 91 in all during the 5-year run of the series)? This incongruity is but one example of the many inaccuracies surrounding the show's chronology, despite its place as one of the most ground-breaking and influential animated series in television history. The episode index currently published on (admittedly not a scholarly source) drops off in the middle of Season 2, and while the episode index published on is complete, the air dates are incorrect for the Season 2 episodes that aired on Thursdays, when the show was being shown twice a week. 

Fractured Fairy Tales was not the only segment to alternate with another, nor was it the only one to suffer from sponsor and advertising criticism. When the show debuted, Fractured Fairy Tales was followed by a segment called Bullwinkle's Corner in which the moose read part of a famous poem, which was also illustrated with humorous results that usually ended badly for Bullwinkle. Keith Scott notes that there were 39 segments in this series and that later it was "reformatted" as Mr. Know-It-All. The Mr. Know-It-All segments featured Bullwinkle giving advice on how to accomplish something, like "How to Train Your Doggy for Fun and Profit," again with disastrous results. But Keith Scott's chronology is off: The first Mr. Know-It-All appeared in the 12th episode of Season 1 on February 4, 1960 and thereafter alternated with Bullwinkle's Corner, though there were more of the former segments than the latter from that point on.

The show's crown jewel, Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, began alternating with Peabody's Improbable History in the 11th episode of Season 1, which aired on January 28, 1960. The segment features the always pure and gullible title character, his commander Inspector Fenwick, Fenwick's daughter Nell, with whom Dudley is in love but who loves Dudley's horse instead, and arch-villain Snidely Whiplash. The stories are set in Canada in the late 1800s with music and settings meant to recall silent-movie melodramas in which Snidely often tries to do away with Dudley, who inadvertently foils the plot but lets Snidely escape through sheer stupidity. The Peabody segments came in for their own round of criticism from sponsor and advertising agency because they depicted famous historical figures as being inept and only able to carry out their exploits with the brilliant assistance of a dog. At one point, according to Keith Scott, Ward was asked not to do any more segments featuring American historical figures, though the show continued airing segments on characters like Sitting Bull and Alexander Graham Bell at least through the middle of Season 2. The segment on Pancho Villa (December 1, 1960) stirred such displeasure in Mexico, where the animation for Peabody was being done, that Ward had to move production for that episode back to the States.

But despite the various criticisms, the show was a hit, and General Mills overall was pleased with the results. Soon Rocky and Bullwinkle began appearing in commercials for Cheerios as well as occasional spots for other cereals like Trix, Cocoa Puffs, and Jets. Peabody and Sherman appeared in a commercial for Wheathearts, Boris and Natasha plugged Lucky Charms, and Dudley and Nell shilled for Frosty O's. This commercial success would later lead to a long and lucrative deal for Ward Productions creating and producing all the commercials for Quaker Oats' Cap'n Crunch from its introduction in 1963 well into the 1980's.

But some considered the show a bit too clever. Bill Scott recalled that one advertising executive once told him that the show was too funny. And its satire of everything from government incompetence to television viewers themselves was seen as subversive. However, the show was hardly ahead of its time in its treatment of ethnic stereotypes. Native Americans said, "Ugh" and "how," Italians had exaggerated accents and an obsessive love of spaghetti, and Asians mixed their "l's" and "r's" and spoke in the chopped manner often seen in movies and other TV shows of the era. Yet the show was advanced in breaking down the "fourth wall" of theatre--having characters speak directly to the viewer and refer to the fact that they are part of a television show, not something real in its own right. In the episode airing April 15, 1960, the second Rocky and Bullwinkle installment begins with the narrator having lost track of where they were in the story, so Rocky provides the usual recap by reading from a script. During the Upsidaisium story arc, Captain Peachfuzz gets up to speed on what has happened with Rocky and Bullwinkle by watching their show on TV, which provides a deja vu moment by repeating the recap that played at the beginning of the installment. And the Metal Munching Mice story arc begins in Frostbite Falls where Rocky and Bullwinkle are celebrities because of the success of their TV show. This story arc is also the most critical of television viewers, most of whom stare dumbly at their sets once their antennas have been devoured by the mice or plan to travel to another country where television transmission has not been interrupted. But despite the pokes at sponsors and viewers, the show was such a success that General Mills ordered twice the number of episodes for Season 2 as they had for Season 1, going from 26 to 52 and airing the show twice a week, on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and on Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. Because not all markets carried the Thursday broadcasts, Ward and company had to keep two story arcs airing concurrently--one that ran only on Sundays and the other that ran only on Thursdays.

The theme and incidental music for Rocky and Friends was composed by Frank Comstock, a largely self-taught arranger who got his start when high school friend and trumpeter Uan Rasey recommended him to band leader Sonny Dunham. Dunham, in turn, recommended him to Benny Carter, and from there he moved on to arranging for Les Brown, whose girl singer at the time was Doris Day. When Day left Brown's band in 1946, she continued to work with Comstock, whose arranging on her screen test for Warner Brothers landed him a spot composing and arranging for their movie studio, though quite a bit of his work went uncredited. Among his credited movie works were Calamity Jane, April in Paris, Lucky Me, The Music Man, and Hello, Dolly! Besides Rocky and His Friends, his television work included Adam-12, Dragnet, Happy Days, and Laverne and Shirley. He also worked with a number of vocalists, in particular for Doris Day and eight albums with The Hi-Lo's, as well as Rosemary Clooney, June Hutton, Andy Williams, Frankie Laine, Margaret Whiting, and Bob Hope. Additionally he worked freelance for the Disney theme parks, arranging and orchestrating music for several attractions still used to this day. He died May 21, 2013 in Huntington Beach, CA at the age of 90.

All five seasons of Rocky and Bullwinkle have been released on DVD by Sony.

The Actors

Bill Scott

Born in Pennsylvania (Keith Scott says he was born in Philadelphia; the Wikipedia author says Pittsburgh), Scott's family moved to Trenton, NJ then to Denver when he developed tuberculosis as a child. After high school, he did voice acting on a number of radio shows in Denver until World War II broke out, at which time he joined the military and eventually wound up working for the First Motion Picture Unit, initially for Lt. Ronald Reagan. There Scott got to meet and work with many of his animation idols, including Disney veteran Frank Thomas. After the war his connections from the FMPU landed him a job with Warner Brothers, and, as mentioned above, later Paramount and UPA. At Paramount he worked with noted comedian Stan Freberg on the live-action puppet show Time for Beany. At UPA he moved up to assistant producer on the award-winning The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show. As also mentioned above, Scott met and worked with Jay Ward on the Phineas T. Phox show, and when Ward later asked him if he was interested in working on an animated series about a moose and squirrel, Scott replied, "Sure," though he had no idea if he could do such a thing but was never one to turn down a job offer. The rest, they say, is history. Scott not only co-wrote the pilot for Rocky and His Friends with Ward, he was also co-producer for the series and provided the voices for Bullwinkle, Peabody, Dudley Do-Right, Fearless Leader, Mr. Big, and others. He wrote many of the Cap'n Crunch commercials and did voice work and writing for Ward Productions cartoons that followed Bullwinkle--George of the Jungle, Super Chicken, Tom Slick, and Fractured Flickers. When Ward Productions finally closed its doors, Scott was immediately hired by Disney to voice the characters of Moosel on The Wuzzles and Gruffi Gummi, Sir Tuxford, and Toady on The Adventures of the Gummi Bears. He died of a heart attack at age 65 on November 29, 1985.

June Foray

Born in Springfield, MA in 1917, Foray began her career as a voice actor on radio at the age of 12. After high school her family moved to Los Angeles, where she continued working in radio on WBZA and then on nationally syndicated programs such as Lux Theatre and The Jimmy Durante Show. Her work in animation began in the 1940s, most notably voicing Lucifer the Cat in Disney's Cinderella, Witch Hazel both for Disney and Warner Brothers, and taking over the role of Granny in the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons from Bea Benaderet. She auditioned for but lost out to Benaderet for the role of Betty Rubble on The Flintstones but wound up being hired by Jay Ward to voice Rocket J. Squirrel, as well as Natasha Fatale, Nell Fenwick, and most of the other female parts on Rocky and His Friends. She continued working for Ward after Rocky and Bullwinkle, voicing Ursula on George of the Jungle. She also worked extensively with Stan Freberg on his albums, commercials, and radio programs. She played Cindy Lou Who on How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jokey Smurf and Mother Nature on The Smurfs, the Talky Tina doll on an episode of The Twilight Zone, and was the original voice of the Chatty Cathy doll. She reunited with Bill Scott to play Grammi Gummi on The Adventures of the Gummy Bears and more recently appeared in episodes of The Powerpuff Girls, has done cameos on The Simpsons and Family Guy, and received her first Emmy nomination for playing Mrs. Cauldron on The Garfield Show in 2012. At age 95, she is still an active performer.

Paul Frees

Born Solomon Hersh Frees in Chicago, Frees, like Mel Blanc, was a man of a thousand voices, thanks to a four-octave range. Like Blanc, he was also extremely prolific, doing everything from radio dramas to cartoon voices to narrators to overdubs for actors, such as the falsetto faux female voices of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot. His radio work included alternating with William Conrad (who would later become the narrator on Rocky and His Friends) as the announcer on the series Suspense and filling in for Howard McNear as Doc Adams in an episode of the radio version of Gunsmoke. For Disney he provided the voice for Ludwig von Drake as well as the ghost host for the Haunted Mansion and various pirates and an auctioneer in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at their amusement parks. For Rankin/Bass he voiced Santa Claus for the stop-motion animated special Frosty the Snowman. He did the voices of John Lennon and George Harrison for the cartoon show The Beatles and provided the Peter Lorre impersonation for Spike Jones' recording of "My Old Flame." On Rocky and His Friends Frees voiced Boris Badenov, Inspector Fenwick, and a host of other characters on Fractured Fairy Tales. After Rocky and Bullwinkle, Frees worked again with Ward Productions on Hoppity Hooper. He also appeared in many TV commercials, playing the Pillsbury Doughboy, Little Green Sprout in the Jolly Green Giant commercials, Boo-Berry, and taking over for Blanc as the voice of Toucan Sam in Froot Loops commercials. He died at age 66 on November 2, 1986.

Daws Butler

Charles Dawson Butler from Toledo, OH got his start as an impressionist, winning many amateur contests before moving into animation work after World War II for Screen Gems and then MGM in 1948. The next year he began working on the Warner Brothers puppet show Time for Beany, which paired him with Stan Freberg and would eventually introduce him to future Ward Productions stalwarts like Bill Scott and writer Lloyd Turner. In UPA's Mister Magoo theatrical shorts, he provided the voice of Magoo's nephew Waldo. He provided the voice of Fred Flintstone in the show's unaired pilot The Flagstones and filled in as Barney Rubble on five episodes after Mel Blanc was injured in an auto accident. But Butler is best known for his work at Hanna-Barbera, where he voiced such icons as Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Wally Gator, Elroy Jetson, and Snagglepuss. Because he was under contract to Hanna-Barbera at the time Rocky and His Friends debuted, Butler is not included in any of the show's credits, but he provided the voices of Aesop's son and a variety of characters for the Fractured Fairy Tales segments. He also worked with Ward Productions on their Quaker Oats TV commercials, providing the voices for Cap'n Crunch and Quisp. By the 1970s Butler scaled back his prolific workload but started a voice actor workshop that included Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, among its students. Butler died of a heart attack on May 18, 1988 at the age of 71.

Walter Tetley

Walter Campbell Tetzlaff was born in New York City and began performing on stage at age 7. Due to what has been described as a hormonal condition, Tetley retained the voice of a prepubescent boy for his entire life, making him perfect for a variety of childhood voice roles, though Bill Scott reportedly once said that Tetley's mother had him castrated to prolong his successful radio career. He began working in radio in the 1930s, appearing with such notables as Fred Allen, Jack Benny, and W.C. Fields before moving to Hollywood in 1938 where he was cast as Leroy on The Great Gildersleeve radio program for 17 years. He also played the part of sarcastic delivery boy Julius Abruzzio on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. Tetley met Bill Scott while working on The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show, and Scott picked him to provide the voice of Peabody's boy Sherman in the Peabody's Improbable History segments. In 1971 he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident that confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He died at age 60 September 4, 1975.

Hans Conried

Hans George Conried, Jr. was born in Baltimore, MD, studied acting at Columbia University, and became a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre Company. He began working in radio in the 1940s and, besides working in Welles productions, played a psychiatrist on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. He appeared in both live-action and animated films, playing the title role in The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T and Captain Hook in Disney's Peter Pan. On television, he played Uncle Tonoose on Make Room for Daddy, was a regular on Jack Paar's Tonight Show, and had guest appearances on many shows, including The Donna Reed Show, The RealMcCoys, Mister Ed, Have Gun -- Will Travel, and Lost in Space. On Rocky and His Friends Conried provided the voice for Dudley Do-Right's nemesis Snidely Whiplash. He later worked for Ward Productions on Hoppity Hooper and Fractured Flickers. He died from cardiovascular disease on January 5, 1982 at the age of 64.

William Conrad

Born John William Cann, Jr., Conrad became a household name as an actor in the 1970s playing the title role in the crime drama Cannon and continued that success into the next decade, starring in the series Nero Wolfe and Jake and the Fatman. But before his late-found TV fame Conrad was a film actor in such noir classics as The Killers (1946), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), Tension (1949), and The Naked Jungle (1954). He also appeared in numerous westerns during the 1940s and '50s, but like many other voice actors, his career began in radio. He was the voice of Marshal Matt Dillon in the radio version of Gunsmoke, narrated the adventure series Escape, and was a cast member in Jack Webb's Pete Kelley's Blues, to name but a few of his estimated 7500 roles. He also narrated the TV version of Escape a decade before landing the narrator role on Rocky and His Friends. As Keith Scott tells it, Conrad begged Jay Ward to let him do other voices on the show as well, but it always came off sounding like himself. He didn't have the flexibility to take on a variety of personas the way Frees, Foray, and Butler could. In later seasons he would occasionally receive a bit role, as Sam the cannibal in one episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, but largely his role was describing the action as one would expect to hear in a movie serial from the 1940s. He would work again for Ward Productions as the narrator on Hoppity Hooper but he had a bigger narrator role before that on the David Janssen crime drama The Fugitive. He also directed and produced for many TV shows in the 1950s and '60s, including multiple episodes of Bat Masterson, Have Gun --Will Travel, and Naked City. He died of congestive heart failure at the age of 73 on February 11, 1994.

Edward Everett Horton

Horton was in the last decade of a prolific acting career when he was tabbed by Bill Scott to be the narrator of Fractured Fairy Tales on Rocky and His Friends. Like many of the Ward Productions team, Horton had worked on The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show narrating a segment titled "The Unenchanted Princess," which convinced Scott he would be perfect as the fairy tale narrator on Rocky and His Friends. Horton began his performing career in vaudeville, then moved to Los Angeles in 1919. His film career dated back to the early 1920s, appearing in the comedy Too Much Business in 1922 and playing the title character in one of several film versions of Ruggles of Red Gap the following year. He appeared in several Fred Astaire - Ginger Rogers pictures, including The Gay Divorcee and Top Hat and also appeared in such classics as The Front Page, Lost Horizon, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, and Arsenic and Old Lace. He continued appearing in films into the 1960s, including It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Sex and the Single Girl, and The Perils of Pauline. Besides his narrator role on Rocky and Friends he appeared on several TV shows in the 1950s and '60's including three episodes of Dennis the Menace as Ned Matthews and six episodes of F Troop as Chief Roaring Chicken. He passed away at the age of 84 on September 29, 1970.

Charlie Ruggles

When Ward and his team developed the Aesop & Son segments as an alternative to Fractured Fairy Tales, they brought in another veteran movie actor to play the part of Aesop, though Ruggles was never listed in the credits. Los Angeles native Charles Sherman Ruggles appeared in over 100 films from the silent era up to the mid-1960s, his first being Peer Gynt in 1915. His first talking picture was Gentleman of the Press in 1929, and he appeared with W.C. Fields, George Burns, and Gracie Allen in Six of a Kind, with Charles Laughton and Zasu Pitts in the 1935 production of Ruggles of Red Gap, with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman in Anything Goes, and with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby. In 1949 he moved over to television, playing the lead role of a character named Charlie Ruggles in The Ruggles and later starring in The World of Mr. Sweeney. He guest starred on a number of series, including multiple appearances on The Red Skelton Show, Burke's Law, and as the character Lowell Redlings Farquhar on The Beverly Hillbillies. He died of cancer at age 84 on December 23, 1970.