Thursday, October 4, 2012

Be Our Guest: Volume Four

In The Underworld, a healthy amount of our free time is spent enjoying vintage television programs. Thus, having recently screened a number of old shows and stumbled upon a variety of stars working their thing on the small screen, we bring you another post devoted to looking at episodic television series guest stars, selected either because they are favorites here or may have only made a handful of appearances or perhaps only due to the fact they are doing something different from what we’re used to.

In the late-‘60s, Miss Barbara Bain could almost do no wrong. She was the primary female star of the hit spy series Mission: Impossible and won Emmy Awards for Best Dramatic Actress each season she was on it, in 1967, 1968 and 1969 (losing her sole Golden Globe nomination in 1968 to Carol Burnett of The Carol Burnett Show - hardly fair since the shows were so diametrically opposite!) In 1960, however, she had only been in the business for a short while, having begun in 1958 and enjoying a recurring role on Richard Diamond: Private Detective in 1959.

Here, in a 1960 episode of Perry Mason, she gave viewers a glimpse of the seductive personality that would serve her well on Mission. With her hair a tad longer and darker than her fans might be used to, it was twirled up into a twisty confection, as shown from behind here. Miss Bain is currently eighty-one.

In 1963, Perry Mason star Raymond Burr fell ill and had to make only cameo appearances in four episodes while guest stars carried the program. One of them was favorite Underworld hunk Hugh O'Brian, close to his peak of handsomeness.
In one part of the episode, we get a partial glimpse of that amazing hairy chest of his when he poses as an injured hit man with a torn-apart shirt. Now eighty-seven, Mr. O hasn't worked on camera since 2000. You can see and read more about him here and even here if you wish.

Do we recognize the rather stately lady shown below (no, not Ellen “Grandma Walton” Corby on the left!) appearing in period clothing for a short-lived western series?
This notable movie actress from the ‘30s and ‘40s would retire altogether in just one more year, though she certainly had the talent to continue on in demanding and multi-faceted character roles. The series is 1961’s Frontier Circus, which starred Chill Wills, John Derek and Richard Jaeckel and the actress is Miss Irene Dunne, the sterling star of Cimarron (1931), Magnificent Obsession (1935), The Awful Truth (1937), Love Affair (1939) and I Remember Mama (1948), to name a few. Retiring completely in 1962, she preferred to go out with dignity and devote herself to various civic and charitable causes, dying peacefully in 1990 of heart failure at age ninety-one.

Another guest on Frontier Circus struck me as familiar, too. Do you know him? At first glance I thought maybe Sean Connery had done an episode before he became a household name, but it’s not him. This man had quite a limited screen career, though one of his projects was monumentally successful and should arguably have led to more work.

The actor, Robert Gunner, was making his on-screen acting debut here. It was his only credit for several years until he picked up again in the mid-’60s. Inexplicably, his greatest success was also his final acting credit. In 1968, he played Landon, one of the three Earth astronauts who find themselves on The Planet of the Apes! He’s the one who had his head carved open in order to silence him permanently. Gunner never worked on TV or in films after 1968, but lived until 2001 when he passed away at age seventy (cause unknown.)

Family Affair was one of many shows I only got to see in reruns as it originally aired from 1966 to 1971 and, having been born in ‘67, I don’t believe I ever caught it as a toddler (and certainly don’t remember it if I did.) There’s a fairly in-depth look at tragic young doll Anissa Jones at this tribute in case you’re interested. One of the fun things is watching the show now, as a grown-up, is checking out the glamorous dates that Brian “Uncle Bill” Keith sometimes brings home.
One such was Rita Gam, a film actress primarily of the 1950s who has the distinction of having been one of Grace Kelly’s bridesmaids during her wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. I’m not 100% sold on the hats that Gam sports in this first season episode, but I do love her kicky, asymmetrically-styled haircut. Her chief claim to fame in The Underworld is her sleek, furious, nostril-flaring role as Herodias in the 1961 Biblical epic King of Kings, starring Jeffrey Hunter. She could have done nothing else in her career but that and would be lauded from down here! She is currently eighty-five.

Everyone knows about The Cosby Show (1984 - 1982), but did you know about the star’s previous venture from 1969 to 1971, The Bill Cosby Show? In it, he played a high school physical education teacher and coach. Rare for that period in time, the half-hour comedy had no laugh track attached to it. His character’s gently comedic experiences put him in the company of a wide variety of people, including (as shown here) Kathleen Freeman as the school’s drama teacher.

Freeman’s distinctive face marked many TV shows and movies over her life-long career. (She had begun at age two, working with her parents in Vaudeville!) Jerry Lewis was particularly fond of her and used her in about a dozen of his films. Still creating waves of laughter at the tail end of her life, she was nominated for a Tony in 2001 for The Full Monty, but died of lung cancer just days after the announcement. She was eighty-two.

Louis Gossett Jr made a 1970 appearance on The Bill Cosby Show as an old pal of Cosby’s and a talented boxer. Gossett was not new to acting or to television by this point, but had yet to claim the level of fame that would be his once he did Roots in 1977 and won the Oscar for An Officer and a Gentleman a little over six years later.

The mind reels at whatever acting choice it was (or was it merely some sort of joke?) that propelled him into taking a raw carrot to bed with him in the scene shown here and making a point of placing it right at crotch level for a few moments! It certainly made the visuals in the sequence a tad more interesting than what was intended… Mr. Gossett is seventy-six today.

Though he’d worked on a TV western series of his own (The Deputy, from 1959 to 1961), it was still quite rare for Henry Fonda to appear on television in 1970. In fact, he’d done only movies since his series ended a decade beforehand. However, he guested on The Bill Cosby Show as a man trapped in an elevator with Cosby who is forced to spend the time engaged in all sorts of games and conversation.
Also trapped in the elevator was Elsa Lanchester, playing an immigrant cleaning woman who spoke no English at all. At the end of the episode, the three of them reunite for dinner to commemorate their newfound friendship in the wake of their ordeal. Fonda went from this right into another (short-lived) series, The Smith Family, and continued to make films (including On Golden Pond in 1981) before dying in 1982 at age seventy-seven. Lanchester also worked sporadically after this (notably in 1976’s Murder By Death) until passing away in 1986 of pneumonia at age eighty-four.

TV shows are a great proving ground for young actors and often when watching old series one can stumble upon someone prior to becoming famous in his or her own right. Such is the case with this actor from a 1969 episode of The Bill Cosby Show. Farrell would soon go on to series of his own including The Interns (1970 - 1971) and the short-lived The Man and the City (1971-1972) with the career-building M*A*S*H coming his way in 1975, where he would stay until its cancellation in 1983. Farrell still works, notably on Providence from 1999 to 2002 (and he did a three-episode stint on Desperate Housewives) and is currently seventy-three.

Do you know this woman in distress in a 1972 episode of Emergency!? (This is from the pilot, actually, where she is called upon to provide a little comic relief.)
You see, she's come to the emergency room in order to have a toilet seat removed from her behind! Her husband had used some sort of epoxy paint on it that wasn't dry when she sat down.
The actress is Ann Morgan Guilbert, best known for her recurring role on the long-running The Dick Van Dyke Show, where she played neighbor and friend to Mary Tyler Moore, Millie Helper, from 1961 to 1966. Soon to be eighty-four, Guilbert still works on-screen from time to time.
Quinn Martin-produced series are known for featuring plenty of interesting guest stars, most of the time shown in the opening credits from within an animated cannonball (much to my delight!) Cannon starred the rotund William Conrad as a retired police detective-turned-private investigator. Does anyone recognize the actress shown here? She made a major splash in her 1957 film debut, but later fell off the radar significantly, mostly due to her own choosing.

The lady shown above is Diane Varsi, the headstrong star of Peyton Place, whose career was a roller-coaster of prestigious pictures and low-budget fare. The year after this, she would work on the science-fiction thriller TV-movie The People with William Shatner and Kim Darby, then made one final acting appearance in the 1977 film I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. She contracted Lyme Disease in 1977 and it was respiratory failure stemming from that which took her life in 1992 at the age of only fifty-four.

The actor shown here was a busy young man in the early 1950s, thanks to a Universal Studios contract. His films include the classic Douglas Sirk romance Magnificent Obsession (1954) and Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back (1955), but he never quite made it to full-on stardom.
As should be rather obvious, he experienced a significant weight gain as he aged and by this time in 1971, he scarcely resembled the man audiences had come to know in all those older films. Gregg Palmer continued to work on TV up until the early-1980s, but finally retired in 1982. Still with us today, he is eighty-five at present.

Take a look at this young man. Do you know him? In this 1971 episode of Cannon, he is playing a young farm boy who witnesses a small plane crash and is first on the scene. No one could guess at the time of filming that this youthful actor would soon be the star of one of the most phenomenally successful films ever! That raging success would come just six years after this episode. In the meantime he did a wealth of TV guest star work on series like Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, Room 222, Medical Center and even One Day at a Time.

Then in 1977, he was cast as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. Yes, this is Mark Hamill! He went on, of course, to star in two more films of the series, though a serious car crash almost ended his budding stardom. Fortunately, it resulted mostly in just a broken nose and some other minor damage, which he was able to fix. Heavily typecast after that staggering success (unlike costar Harrison Ford who went on to a sensational film career), he ultimately turned to voice-acting, which has offered him a great deal of success. As hard as it is to believe, Hamill is now sixty-one years old!

Check out the blonde bank teller shown here in this 1972 episode of The Streets of San Francisco. This one-scene supporting part came at the dawn of her television career. She would go on to a half dozen appearances on Emergency! before briefly essaying a super-heroine role on Saturday morning TV in 1976 that is still fondly recalled by a certain generation even now.

Yep, this is Deidre Hall (of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl), who very soon went on to portray Dr. Marlena Evans on Days of Our Lives, something she has done, with an occasional interruption, since 1976. Hall is sixty-five years old at present and still works on the venerable soap opera (whose plotlines long ago became preposterous in the extreme, but never more so than the time Marlena was possessed by the Devil!)

Police Woman, which debuted in 1974, gave plenty of actors and actresses some work early in their career. Here we have an actress who would later go on to significant success in both the soap opera world as well as in the talk show arena. Prior to this, she’d scored a few unbilled bit parts in movies and a couple of TV parts, but was basically at the dawn of her career. She played a woman whose banker husband is extorted into stealing money or face the murder of his two young children. (That’s familiar TV face James Murtaugh as the husband, also near the start of his career.)

The actress is Linda Dano, star of Another World (as Felicia Gallant) from 1982 to 1999 and the co-host of Attitudes from 1989 to 1991, a show that led to her being parodied by Nora Dunn on Saturday Night Live. As she was nearing her apparent expiration date as a viable leading lady, she had a dramatic chemical procedure done on her face, which basically burned off all of her old skin and required a lengthy recovery period. Whether it was worth the trouble is for her to know. Now sixty-nine, she has only worked occasionally since the mid-2000s.

Police Woman also gave this actor one of his earlier jobs. He had made a couple of film appearances and guested on TV, but had yet to break out (despite having had a very famous actress as his mother.) Here, he is playing a dangerously deranged young man who is close to doing Angie Dickinson in!

William Katt, son of Perry Mason’s Barbara Hale, would go on to appear in Carrie (1976) and the surfing flick Big Wednesday (1978) before starring in Pippin on Broadway in 1981. That same year, he starred in his own TV series The Greatest American Hero, which won him much notoriety. That series stayed on the air until 1986, after which he began to appear with his mom in a series of Perry Mason TV movies. Now sixty-one, he still works steadily, just not in projects with a very high profile.

The New Adventures of Wonder Woman also put forth the occasional star-to-be. At the time of this 1978 episode (which also featured Michael Cole, formerly of The Mod Squad), Philip Michael Thomas had been working in minor films and on TV shows since 1972. He’d starred in Sparkle in 1976, but still wasn’t breaking out into true stardom. In 1984, he and Don Johnson shot to the top in Miami Vice, which ran until 1990.
Since then, he’s done some TV-movies (and made a couple of guest appearances on Johnson’s subsequent series Nash Bridges), but hasn’t been on the radar since the early-2000s. He is sixty-three now.

Another young performer, far better known for his music than his acting, appeared on Wonder Woman, too. Rick Springfield had done episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, The Rockford Files, The Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Rockford Files and even two installments of Battlestar Galactica. Dig the feathered hair and the zippers on these pants, dude.

By the early-’80s, he had hit the jackpot with wildly popular songs like “Jessie’s Girl,” “I’ve Done Everything for You” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” among others. When his considerable success with music began to cool a bit, he worked as an actor again, notably on the TV show High Tide, which ran from 1994 to 1997 and General Hospital (a job he held even while enjoying success on the billboard charts. In more recent years, he popped up on Californication and even an episode of Hot in Cleveland. He’s sixty-three at present.

The early seasons of Robert Urich’s series Vega$ yielded some fun guest stars. Here we have Dawn Wells, a member of TV legend thanks to her role on the sitcom Gilligan’s Island from 1964 to 1967. Now seventy-three, she’s had a spotty career in the wake of that type-casting show, but has worked a couple of times this year. She’s also, along with Tina Louise and Russell Johnson, one of the few remaining Gilligan cast members left alive.

Next we have Underworld favorite Pamela Hensley as a police woman posing as a prostitute. Is it me or is there precious little difference in her makeup between the two looks? LOL Miss Hensley, who just turned sixty-two hasn’t worked on-screen since 1985 and has a tribute here.

One-time cinema bombshell Mamie Van Doren popped up on an episode of Vega$ as a slinky, flirty health club manager. She shows Urich around the place, then watches as he strips down to his undershorts for a dip in the facility’s whirlpool. Now eighty-one (say it isn’t so!), she last appeared on-screen in 2002 in the comedy movie Slackers.

Do you recognize the lady shown here?
This actress got her start at the tender age of fifteen in Otto Preminger’s Exodus (1960), appearing for him again three years later in The Cardinal and then in In Harm’s Way (1965.) She then spent close to three years as Sally Bowles in the Broadway musical Cabaret, but as most of you know, the movie version went to Liza Minnelli. Jill Haworth’s career, by then, had already cooled considerably and was all but over by the late-’70s. She had endured a troubled personal relationship with Sal Mineo, but remained friends until his death in 1976. She died herself in 2011 at only age sixty-five of “natural causes!”

During one episode (in which Clifton Davis played a former boxer and an old pal of Urich’s who is disabled), the car the men were riding in pulled up alongside a jogging Muhammad Ali. The cameo moment was brief, but allowed the series to us Ali in its promotional material and help to draw viewers in.
Most American viewers aren’t going to recognize this next lady, even after seeing her name, because she’s primarily an English actress. Judy Loe spent much time on that nation’s television from the early-’70s on, but worked with Carol Lynley on this episode of Fox Mystery Theater (which was shot by Hammer Films and originally called Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense.) The series of spooky telefilms usually featured a token American or at least a well-known British performer nestled into the cast.
The reason I’m including her here is because not everyone may be aware that Judy Loe gave birth to a daughter who became rather famous in her own right. The daughter made her film debut in 1993 with Much Ado About Nothing and later played the leading lady in 2001’s Pearl Harbor. Yes, the daughter is Kate Beckinsale. She has since become known for action and sci-fi projects like the series of Underworld films and the 2012 remake of Total Recall.
Loe married actor Richard Beckinsale in 1977, four years after young Kate’s birth, but astonishingly he was dead a mere two years later of a heart attack at only age thirty-one. Loe continued to work extensively on British TV through the late-2000s. She married for a second time in 1997 to TV and movie director Roy Battersby. She is currently sixty-five.

Most of you know that I watch precious little contemporary TV, but occasionally I make an exception. One show I came upon after it had already been cancelled was Worst Week, a sitcom that put its leading man Kyle Bornheimer through all sorts of calamities. It didn’t last long, but I thought it was terrific. It did my heart good, too, to see the face of an actress who’d worked in one of my all-time favorite movies, but who is rarely seen now.

Susan Blakely (of 1974’s The Towering Inferno) portrayed the wife of a wealthy, competitive country club member who engages Bornheimer and his father-in-law in a series of contests in order to determine who wins the right to use the club’s sought-after banquet facility, the arbor.

At one point, events put Bornheimer inside her locker as she’s approaching it to change from a robe into her street clothes.

It was great to see her dolled up in stylish, trendy clothes and looking so good after a period of years when she seemed awfully rough and tired-looking. She has continued to work on shows like Southland and Cougar Town. She’s currently sixty-five.

One show I never miss is Modern Family. Again, it was wonderful this past season to see a familiar face popping up. Though she has kept working all along, Stephanie Faracy’s principle days in the spotlight came in the late-’70s and the 1980s.

In this episode, she played a voting booth volunteer with a bit of an axe to grind with Ed O’Neill, who’d dated her briefly at one point and then unceremoniously dumped her. Now sixty, Faracy still works periodically on TV and in movies.

Queen, though, of the “Oh, look who it is!” guest appearances is the ever-lovely Miss Donna Mills. During GCB (another short-lived show that I watched on the advice of friends, loved, and then saw cancelled prematurely), Mills guest-starred as the wife of a man that regular star Annie Potts loves. The man, by the way, is another welcome guest, '80s TV star Bruce Boxleitner.

At one point, she dresses like Barbara Bush for a “Famous Texans” costume party and then proceeds to the buffet table, which she’d previously scoffed at for its tacky components such as barbequed ribs. Believing herself alone (and, in fact, she is!), she begins scarfing down the food and winds up choking to death! At seventy-two years of age, Mills seems to be defying all normal laws of aging. She was the subject of an Underworld tribute here.

As we get close to wrapping up this edition of TV guest stars, I return to Family Affair where many of you ought to be able to recognize the young playmate of Anissa “Buffy” Jones, shown below in the green dress with black collar.

This is Kym Karath, who portrayed little Gretl Von Trapp in The Sound of Music just a year before this. Her growth spurt is evident.
Still along the lines of youngsters before the camera, I give you this girl, a guest star on a 1972 episode of The Brady Bunch as one of Barry “Greg” Williams’ dates. The pretty and pert young thing ran into trouble because she was a tad overdeveloped for her age. Do you know her?

This was a trick question because this is also Kym Karath! She, in my opinion, grew up to look quite a bit different than she did as a little girl. I do think she was very pretty, though.
In the episode, she is the object of Christopher “Peter” Knight’s affection, but he is so tongue-tied around her he gets his brother Williams to do a Cyrano de Bergerac number on her and she winds up falling for him instead.

Williams eventually takes pains to turn her off with his cad act, but in the end neither brother winds up with her. Karath made very few acting appearances after this. Just one episode of The Waltons, then seven years later, a virtual walk-on on Archie Bunker’s Place and then a small role in the TV-movie Midnight Offerings in 1981. Her last time on-screen was a brief run on All My Children in 1988.

She had married in 1985 and in 1991 had a son who at three weeks of age suffered seizures and a stroke, causing some brain damage. Since then her primary focus has been caring for him and bringing attention to children with special needs (along with the occasional Music anniversary or reunion.) At fifty-four, she can still turn heads even now!

As I continue to burrow through classic TV, I’m sure I’ll be back again before too long with some more guest stars. I hope you enjoyed this assortment of them!


dcolp said...

I remember watching "The Bill Cosby Show" at the time. I recall it as being very low key and seemed true to life. I do not remember Kathleen Freeman in it, but I do remember Elsa Lanchester!

Jeffery P. Dennis said...

Great photo of Dick Gautier. Can I borrow it for my blog, "Boomer Beefcake and Bonding"?