Wednesday 30 December 2020

Entertainment Headlines, 60 Years Ago

When years come to a close, the media likes to look back. It’s easy filler. The story’s pretty much been written. And, for whatever, reason, people like to look back, though I imagine a lot of people this year would like to look forward and hope the pandemic will soon be a memory.

So let’s look back at a look back. Here’s a column from the end of 1960 looking back at the “big stories” in entertainment that year. Apparently, weddings were the big thing for the Associated Press that year.

It Was Quite A Year For Hollywood
(AP Movie-TV Writer)
HOLLYWOOD (AP)—Oh, it was quite a year!
Any year is bound to bring a lion's share of news and surprises from the town called Hollywood. In 1960 it was more so. Rarely have a year's events seemed so varied.
Some news was momentous, some monumentally trivial, some sad, some amusing. As the first year of the new decade ended, it appeared that despite its business woes, Hollywood would continue to add its contribution to American culture and legend, for better or worse.
Here are the 10 stories that seemed the most newsy and or significant to this reporter during 1960:
1. The death of Clark Gable. No movie death in recent years received such worldwide prominence. The reason was simple: Gable had been a part of everyone's life for more than 30 years.
2. The movie strikes. The already invalided film industry seemed in grave danger of extinction when hit by strikes of writers and actors. The gentlemanly strikes, without picketing or name-calling, ended in compromise when the guilds realized the producers wouldn't give them a royalty on old films sold to TV.
3. The Desilu schism. TV's most famous team came to a personal and corporate division when Lucille Ball divorced Desi Arnaz.
4. The Monroe-Miller split. Marilyn was seldom out of the news, and her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller was rumored in danger of a backstage romance with Yves Montand. The marriage shattered, but the Montand issue remained unsettled.
5. New moral attitudes. Hollywood films were bolder and franker in 1960. This brought a wave of reaction from Roman Catholic bishops and Protestants, too, with indication of rough relations ahead between the film industry and the moralists.
6. Ben-Hur wins big race. The chariot race was nothing compared to "Ben-Hur's" triumph in the academy sweepstakes: A record 11 Oscars.
7. The squared-off triangle. Debbie Reynolds wedded Harry Karl quietly. She formerly was married to singer Eddie Fisher, now husband of Elizabeth Taylor.
8. Liz's ailments. Few toothaches earned as much coverage as Liz Taylor's, which delayed filming of "Cleopatra" amid much turmoil.
9. Hollywood's runaways. The most significant business development was the rise of production overseas. Main reasons: Tax breaks for stars living abroad; subsidies and cheaper coats.
10. Million-dollar-wedding. Starlet Jill St. John supplied the Cinderella tale of the year by marrying heir-speedster Lance Reventlow.
And there was other news, too. Gary Crosby made it a grand slam by marrying a Las Vegas chorine, like his brothers. Elvis was back. Eva Marie Saint startled a banquet by using a word that is unprintable except in war novels. Hollywood helped put on a party in July for Peter Lawford's brother-in-law.
Brilliant Buddy Adler was a cancer casualty. An era ended with the passing of Mack Sennett. Wagonmaster Ward Bond died suddenly. An unfriendly witness, Dalton Trumbo, wrote two of the year's biggest epics. Frank Sinatra tussled in a parking lot.
Cheryl Crane spent a restless year, and James Garner proved a real maverick by escaping from Warners. Sammy Davis, Jr. got married.
Yes, quite a year. Fasten your safety belts, here comes another one.

Mr. Thomas neglected any events involving animated cartoons in his 1960 highlights so, as this blog touches upon that particular subject, let us put together a short list in no particular order.

1. Prime Time Adult Cartoon. The Flintstones debuted on ABC, marking the first time cartoons had made the big time, ie. the big-bucks world of prime time. It was no more adult than Woody Woodpecker, but I guess anything that isn’t a nursery rhyme or full of kiddie animals is "adult."
2. UPA Gets Sold. Hank Saperstein shoved Steve Bosustow out of the picture and took over what had been the artiest theatrical studio. Soon he was making TV cartoons with Dick Tracy, who did nothing while familiar stereotypes solved cases. At least it kept Irv Spence employed.
3. On With the Show. ABC (and CBC in Canada) began airing a half-hour Bugs Bunny Show, with really fun wrap-around cartoons tying the show together in a theme. This marked the start of Bugs’ perennial appearance on network TV.
4. New Cartoons for Saturday mornings. Until now, kids up on Saturday mornings were forced to watch old theatrical cartoons or a series (Ruff and Reddy) with some old theatricals. 1960 saw the first full-half hour of new animation strictly for TV on NBC thanks to King Leonardo and His Short Subjects. Slowly but surely, more and more new TV cartoons took the place of used movie shorts.
5. Like, I Am What I Am. Al Brodax unloaded cheap Popeye cartoons on the television market, subjecting kids to Gene Deitch’s creepy boiiiings and Kent Hultgren’s Popeye butt-chin for the first time. Still, I have a soft spot for Coffee House because that Brutusk is, like, out of this orbit, man.
6. And the Winner Is... The Huckleberry Hound Show won an Emmy, the first cartoon to do so and the first syndicated show to be given that honour. The Emmy apparently ran past the same table seven times.

By the way, Coffee House wasn’t the only cartoon in 1960 where you can hear Jack Mercer as a quasi-beatnik. Dig this crazy one from Paramount. By then, Paramount’s animation was so ho-hum, they didn’t even bother showing the cat get zapped when his tail inevitably gets plugged into a light socket by a mouse. I think that’s Bob McFadden doing the other voice but I can’t sit through the whole thing to listen to it. Sorry if the aspect ratio is wrong.


  1. Where have we heard a cat's voice similar to that? I think McFadden was attempting to channel his inner Stan Freberg/Daws Butler/Frank Fontaine voice on that one. As far as the Hollywood news from 1960 is concerned. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  2. Miss St. John certainly had come a long way from her days as one of Mamie Kelly's children on Burns & Allen.

    The first handful of Jack Kenney Popeye efforts, like "Coffee House" were quirky, but still OK. But the apathy took over in a hurry and the worst of those efforts were boring (and often plotless) to even the 4-and-5-year-olds in the audience, while most of the staff apparently focused on getting "The Alvin Show" up and running for CBS in the fall of '61.

  3. Looks like Q.T. Hush, Deputy Dawg, and Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse were overlooked in TV toons making their debut in the Six-Oh, but that pic of JSJ more than makes up for any omissions.

  4. Aspect ratio is the least of that Paramount cartoon's problems. It's really just a Herman and Katnip, with different mice and a different cat (the latter with an ersatz Frank Fontaine voice). In any case, it's unfunny, indifferently written and ploddingly paced.

  5. Something else that died in 1960: radio soap operas.