One was Forsythe. It’s hard to say if he would have been a movie star had television not come around, but he had a lengthy and continual career on the small screen. The first of his regular series was Bachelor Father, a sitcom that was very much in the vein of radio comedies a decade earlier. The show aired for five seasons starting in 1957. It was originally dropped into the powerhouse Sunday line-up by CBS, alternating with Jack Benny. Interestingly, it was the only show on the network airing between 7 and 10 p.m. on Sundays that didn’t break into the top 30 (it was opposite Maverick and another radio-esque sitcom named Sally).
Soon after the show debuted, there was a bit of a change in its focus. This story emanated from the National Enterprise Association and appeared in papers on February 13, 1958.
John Forsythe Discovers Bonanza: There's Nothing Like Teen-Age DameThat “good picture” never came, not one that put him in the Clark Gable star category (though Kitten With a Whip has its fans). But he was in continual demand for several decades, starred in a number of popular shows and achieved fame. That’s not a bad consolation.
By ERSKINE JOHNSON
NEA Staff Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD—(NEA)— "There's Nothing Like A Dame"—a teen-age dame.
Television's "Bachelor Father"— handsome John Forsythe—made the discovery that the song lyrics of "South Pacific" didn't. He discovered there's nothing like a teen-age dame for adult TV comedy—and that there's nothing like a teen-age dame for a TV fan.
When "Bachelor Father" started on CBS last Fall, alternating every other Sunday with the Jack Benny Show, the plot emphasis was on John's romantic problems, as a sophisticated man-about-town while playing father to Noreen Corcoran, his 14-year-old niece.
"But it didn't take us long to realize we were on the wrong track," he says today. "Adult problems are limited compared to the wild problems of a teen-age girl. So we made a quick switch and now the plot accent is on Noreen’s problems and my reaction to them. It's resulted in better comedy and bigger audiences.
Today adult fans are howling over Noreen's chatter:
"I'd like to go out with Freddie but I don't know. He's an older man. He's 16," and: "I was watching an old movie on TV. Some actor named Clark Gable was in it. He looks a little like Tab Hunter."
And today teen-age TV fans dig Forsythe the most.
"It's amazing," the boyish-faced father of two daughters, Page, 7; Brooke, 4, and a son, 14-year-old Dall, told me, "In motion pictures (The Trouble With Harry, The Ambassador's Daughter) my teen-age fan mail boiled down to words like, 'Gee, you're a nice looking man.' "
Says John: "It's heavily perfumed with things like, 'How about meeting me under the clock at the Biltmore Hotel Friday afternoon?' and 'Gee, I wish I had a father like you.' I guess they think I'm the wolf I'm playing. I'd like to be," he grinned, "but I'm not."
The "I wish I had a father like you" fan mail refrain to Forsythe's easy to understand. Father may know best in the Robert Young league, but as a "Bachelor Father" even Forsythe admits: "I let Noreen get away with murder. I guess that's why the show is clicking. She's become a heroine to the teen-age set because she has an over-indulgent father. But lucky for us, even parents are amused."
Television is nothing new to Forsythe, a Cape May, N. J., lad whose Broadway and radio performances won him a movie contract that was shelved when he joined the U. S. Air Force in World War 2. In 1947 he starred in "Miracle In The Rain," the first live, one-hour commercial TV show produced in NBC's New York studio. But the show had to be produced twice.
The miracle of TV didn't work the first time.
"We were about 20 minutes into the show," Forsythe laughs, "when the director, Fred Coe, left the control booth and waiked out on the stage waving his hands and saying, 'All right, kids, hold it. We're not on the air.'
" 'Not on the air?' the cast gasped. "
" 'That's right,' groaned Coe. 'Something wrong with the transmitter on the Empire State Building. The show has been canceled. We'll try it again tomorrow night.' "
Forsythe grins about his first thoughts being about his mother.
She didn't own a TV set—only a few people did in 1947—and she had talked the owner of a neighborhood saloon into dialing out wrestling for an hour so she could watch her son act. "She was madder than I was," he chuckles.
Between TV shows Forsythe studied at Elia Kazan's studio, replaced Henry Fonda in "Mr. Roberts" on Broadway and later appeared as Lt. Fisby in the play "Teahouse of the August Moon." Today "Bachelor Father" gives him the chance to act and create, too—he's active in the production, writing and casting of the show. But he hasn't given up film acting.
"I'm just waiting," he says, "for a good picture. But they are so infrequent these days."