Studio 57

TV classics: Studio 57

USA 1954-56, 4 seasons,  124 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, DuMont (then syndication), black & white. Produced by: Revue Studios, Sponsored by: Heinz 57. Cast selection: Lex Barker, Jean Byron, Barbara Hale, William Hopper, Brian Keith, DeForest Kelley, Angela Lansbury, Peter Lawford, Peter Lorre, James Nolan, Hugh o’Brian, Aaron Spelling, Rod Taylor, Bill Williams, Natalie Wood and many others

Plot summary: An anthology TV series, Studio 57 featured different genres, plots, actors and storylines every week.

Review: It is hard to review and sum up a program as diverse as Studio 57. Not uncommon in the 1950s, Studio 57 was one of those anthology series that featured a different storyline and cast of actors every week. Although mostly introducing unfamiliar faces, the show also had its number of rising stars and well-known actors, including Angela Lansbury, Peter Lorre, Barbara Hale, Bill Williams or Brian Keith. With its diversity of genres, Studio 57 met the style of the many other anthology shows. Due its often marginally successful scripts and not always driving force talents and names, the show was rather short-lived.

One of the better known episodes is “Young Couples Only”, starring Barbara Hale, Bill Williams and Peter Lorre. With its science fiction plot, the episode is a good example for the often well cast shows but poor storytelling. Although not extremely suspenseful by today’s standards, the episode is great fun to watch for everyone who enjoys the marvelous talents of the lead actors. The script may not have given them a lot of material to work with, but they do the best with what they have. Peter Lorre is eerily spooky as the apartment building’s janitor, and Barbara Hale and Bill Williams do a beautiful-as-always job to stir up suspense, fear and suspicions with the little meaningful lines they got to convey the plot.

All in all, Studio 57 is a program for everyone who is interested in TV history, in anthology series and rarely shown material with a beloved or sometimes little known cast of actors. Selected episodes are available on DVD and very worth checking out if you want to get a more accentuated impression of the diversity of 1950s programs and a sense of the roots of contemporary TV.

Available online here.

The Glass Bottom Boat

Talkie of the Week: The Glass Bottom Boat

USA 1966, 110 minutes, color, MGM. Director: Frank Tashlin, Producer: Everett Freeman and Martin Melcher, Written by: Everett Freeman. Cast: Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver, Paul Lynde, Edward Andrews, Eric Fleming, Dom DeLuise, Elisabeth Fraser, Dick Martin, George Tobias, Alice Pearce, Ellen Corby, Dee J. Thompson

Plot summary: Lady killer manager snags himself a fake mermaid gone supposed spy and tries to keep her hooked.

Review: The Glass Bottom Boat, also known as The Spy in Lace Panties is a highly entertaining example of a spy movie comedy from the 1960s. Doris Day gets to show off her dramatic acting talents, as well as her goofball qualities and exceptional singing voice. She is supported by charming co-star Rod Taylor who tries to sweep her Jennie Nelson right out of her mermaid tail. Picking up on films à la James Bond and Doris Day’s many romantic comedies, this film is a beautiful genre mix and positively tacky piece of hilarity.

With songs like “Que Sera, Sera” (which was originally featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s  The Man Who knew too Much in 1956 and won an Academy Award for best original song) and the title song The Glass Bottom Boat, this film “beats” its audience into the right mood for an endless cycle of slapstick, mishaps and misdemeanor with a healthy dash of the famous 1960s sense of humor and sexy flirtation.

The screwballish comedy presents a wonderful supporting cast for its leading lady and gentleman, including TV couple cameos by Alice Pearce and Geroge Tobias who starred as the odd spying neighbors on Bewitched at the time. In addition to this attention to pop culture detail, the film presents an eye-catching composition of colors, wardrobe and props. It is a real treat to watch Doris Day being so beautifully lit and featured, even forty-five years after the release of this package of silly fun.

Doris Day once said that all she wants is to make people happy, and that’s what this movie does.The Glass Bottom Boat is the perfect film for a rainy Indian summer night when the sky’s been gray for days and the heart needs some cheering up. Deliciously composed to relax it leaves a taste of carefreeness in your mind and paints a smile on your lips that may last for days.

Available on VHS and DVD. The Glass Bottom Boat trailer