Thursday, January 13, 2022

A Noted Television Composer


Boris Claudio "Lalo" Schifrin (1932-) is an Argentine-American pianist, composer, arranger and conductor. He is best known for his large body of film scores incorporating jazz and Latin American musical elements alongside traditional orchestrations. He is a five-time Grammy Award winner, and has been nominated for six Academy Awards and four Emmy Awards. Among his best known film compositions include the scores to Cool Hand Luke (1967), Bullitt (1968), the Dirty Harry series (1971-1988), The Four Musketeers (1974), and the Rush Hour trilogy (1998-2007). 

Schifrin wrote one of the most iconic television themes for Mission: Impossible (1966), a distinctive tune written in the uncommon 5/4 time signature, last notably used by David Raksin's earlier theme to Ben Casey. Similarly, his theme for the hugely successful Mannix private eye show was composed a year later in a 3/4 waltz time. Lesser-known perhaps, is his up tempo theme to the medical drama, Medical Center (1969-1976). While electric guitars and drums crank out the rhythm over bright, high contrast graphics, a synthesized starts on a low note and gradually rises in pitch to become a "siren" and the instrument that carries the melody.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Hustler for The Record


On this day in 1961, Major Henry J. Deutschendorf, United States Air Force, 43rd Bomb Wing, Strategic Air Command, flew from Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, to Edwards Air Force Base, California, with a Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler, serial number 59-2442, named Untouchable (above). He flew two laps of a 1,000 kilometer circuit between Edwards and Yuma, establishing six new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed records at an average of 1,061.81 miles per hour. Major Deutschendorf and his crew, Captain Raymond R. Wagener, Defensive Systems Officer, and Captain William L. Polhemus, Radar Navigator/Bombardier, were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The delta-winged plane did not have a stellar safety record with takeoffs and landings being particularly dangerous. Whether due to political preferences, advancements in radar detection, or a combination of both, all were withdrawn from active service by 1970. Untouchable was sent to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona, in 1969. It was scrapped in 1977. Convair built 116 Hustlers. 

Reel Characters


Frank Lovejoy (1912-1962) was an American actor in radio, film, and television, best known for his supporting roles as the “everyman” caught up in challenging circumstances. One actor who did not need to change his last name just to stand out from the Hollywood crowd. Whether in military uniform, as a detective, or common laborer, he handled a variety of roles with near flawless performances, from tough cop to sensitive husband. His sandpaper tenor voice lent intrigue to his radio characters and he could be recognized without viewing him on screen. Somewhat surprisingly, the 1950s was his only full decade of work, starting out that decade with a strong lead role in the chilling, Try and Get Me! aka Sound of Fury, as a struggling out of work family man spiraling into a life of crime with an arrogant instigator, Lloyd Bridges. In 1951, he had the title role and narrator for I Was a Communist for the FBI, going undercover to expose Communism. He was notable as a supporting player in The Hitch-hiker, the classic film noir of 1953. He crammed down a lot of scripts in 1955, his busiest year, with seven films and seven television appearances. Though he completed three more films in the late Fifties, he spent the balance of his career in television. Had he lived longer, he might have provided some interesting characters well into his seventies. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

This is Jim Rockford


Jim -- Sally. Hey, I just found out you're an Aries. Listen, if you have Virgo rising, give me a call.

Jim's answering machine: The Italian Bird Fiasco, 1976
Guest stars: William Daniels, Camilla Sparv

Note: Rockford's first meeting with the arrogant Thomas Caine (Daniels) is a joy to watch.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Project Skyhook


On this day in 1948, Captain Thomas Francis Mantell, Jr., 165th Fighter Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard, received a request from the control tower at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to investigate an Unidentified Object. The object was observed by four members of the control tower staff for approximately 35 minutes. Mantell led four North American Aviation F-51D Mustang fighters in pursuit. Two pilots broke off because of low fuel, and Mantell became separated from his wingman. He reported that he was climbing through 15,000 feet. 

It is likely that Captain Mantell lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen. The wreckage of his fighter was found 5 miles southwest of Franklin, Kentucky. Mantell did not survive. In seven decades of hindsight, he spotted either Venus or the top secret Project Skyhook balloon, which could ascend to more than 100,000 feet. “The Mantell Incident” was one of the most publicized “UFO” reports of the 1950s, coming exactly six months after “The Roswell Incident” in New Mexico. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Resurrected Radio of The Macabre

On this day in 1974, The "CBS Mystery Theater" premiered on radio. It was meant for an audience who remembered when old-time radio drama was a popular form of family entertainment. Riding on the era's wave of nostalgia fever, the radio show actually attracted many younger listeners. The series garnered a wide array of talent, many of whom were popular during the Golden Age of Radio. Having a window cracked open during a summer night's rain added the perfect atmosphere. The series was rebroadcast on NPR at the beginning of the twenty-first century but by then had lost any relevance beyond nostalgia's sake.

Each episode started promising with the ominous sound of a creaking door while a spooky, descending music theme introduced the host, "Come in! Welcome. I'm E. G. Marshall." Like many old macabre classic radio programs, the endings could be unbelievable and disappointing. Especially sitting still for about forty-five minutes. Marshall would provide concise commentary before or after a commercial break and at the conclusion, the door would swing shut, with his sign-off, "Until next time, pleasant…dreams?" 

Episode archives and details at:

What's His Line?


John Daly (John Charles Patrick Croghan Daly 1914-1991), commonly known as John Charles Daly, was a South African-born American radio and television personality, CBS News broadcast journalist, ABC News executive, TV anchor, and game show host. He was the first national correspondent to report the attack on Pearl Harbor and the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt and covered much of the front-line news from Europe and North Africa. In the 1950s, Daly became the vice president in charge of news, special events, and public affairs, religious programs and sports for ABC, winning three Peabody Awards.

Starting in 1950, Daly would become best known and visible as the congenial host on the CBS panel show, What's My Line?. The highlight of the show was the final guest, a famous celebrity who was initially only identified by the audience from signing their name on a blackboard. Once seated, the blindfolded panel would question them in hopes of guessing their identity. This was the only time the panel of elitists wore blindfolds. Daly hosted all but four episodes of its weekly, seventeen-year run. He was one of the few people to work simultaneously on all three networks. For What's My Line?, he worked for the show's producers, Goodson-Todman Productions, not CBS. He continued as broadcaster, host, and moderator throughout the 1970s. Daly did not host the syndicated version of What's My Line?, although he did co-host a 25th-anniversary program about the show for ABC in 1975. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.