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TV work by film stars you must see...!


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I want to get the ball rolling here. I am not saying that TCM (a classic movie channel) should air these-- but if you happen to be able to see any of these, they are worth checking out. I think they help us appreciate the talents of classic film stars...and we get a sense of how some screen careers evolved.

 

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10. Tallulah Bankhead in 'The Celebrity Next Door' on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. By this point, Tallulah's screen work was rather erratic and she was known more for her stage triumphs. But this extended later episode of Lucille Ball's classic sitcom is a very good showcase for her.

 

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9. Lana Turner in Falcon Crest with Jane Wyman. Supposedly, these two women did not get along, and their scenes were filmed separately. Sometimes they were in the same scene which required editors to splice them into the same shot together. But they are both fabulous on this program, and it's must-see on many levels.

 

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8. Ruth Roman in 'Man Killer' on The Untouchables. This 1961 episode of Robert Stack's classic series has Roman playing a woman who kills her husband and takes over his narcotics empire. Think of it as early feminism meets Cruella DeVille. Roman is fantastic and avoids chewing the scenery.

 

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7. Zsa Zsa Gabor in 'Erika Tiffany Smith to the Rescue' on Gilligan's Island. It's a far cry from MOULIN ROUGE to Gilligan, but Zsa Zsa's irrepressible charm makes her worth viewing in this classic episode from the beloved comedy series. And let's face it, Zsa Zsa was never going to win any awards for acting, but she has personality in spades.

 

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6. June Allyson in Depends Undergarments commercials. In the 1980s and 1990s, June Allyson's career had taken a decidedly different turn. You have to see some of these advertisements to believe them. They can be found on Youtube. 

 

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5. Raymond Burr in Centennial. After two decades playing Perry Mason and Ironside, Burr is back to his roots as a villain. He plays a scheming patriarch in the first few episodes of Universal's hit miniseries and he is truly excellent.

 

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4. Helen Hayes & Mildred Natwick in The Snoop Sisters. What started as a television movie turned into a short-lived detective series. Perfect casting, perfect performances and good mysteries make this a winner. It should have lasted longer. Fortunately, what was produced is available on DVD.

 

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3. Mickey Rooney in 'Ooftus Goofus' on The Naked City. Often cited as one of the best episodes of this classic crime show, Rooney truly outdoes himself as a loser whose pranks become increasingly violent and turn a whole city upside down. He's charming, pathetic and deranged all in one episode. I would argue it's his best work, and he did a lot of good work. 

 

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2. Dorothy McGuire in Rich Man, Poor Man. First, I have to say she's miscast in this classic 1970s miniseries. She is too elegant and fine-featured to be playing a working class mother. But that doesn't stop McGuire from doing an exemplary job. She digs deep and captures the scratch-your-eyes-out nature of a woman who ruins one son to push another son ahead. I think because she doesn't look the part, she is even more shocking when she conveys the shrewish, uglier aspects of the character. Her death scene in one of the later episodes should not be missed. It's the best death scene ever played on television. McGuire was nominated for an Emmy and should have been given it on the spot.

 

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1. Jerry Lewis in the garment trade arc on Wiseguy. I just finished watching this arc (all five episodes) yesterday and it's what inspired this thread. Lewis is incredibly good in his role as a Jewish tycoon in the garment industry who gets set up for a crime he didn't commit, and he is superb playing off Ron Silver as his son. It makes me wish he had not been so identified with comedy, because this man is a great dramatic actor. He brought me to tears several times in more than one episode. What an outstanding performer he is.

 

Feel free to add your own...!

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Interesting take on Lewis, who also did a "bang-up" job on an episode of "Law and Order: SVU" as the mentally ill uncle of Richard Belzer's MUNCH character.  Many years ago, Lewis, much younger then, showed up on an episode of BEN CASEY as a new medical resident.  As that episode ends, Lewis' character chews out another resident for "clowning around on the job too much".

 

You mentioned The Naked City, and I recall many years ago, long before the existence of MeTV, a local channel showed this program late at night.  I stayed up late one night because I hadn't seen the show in quite some time.  The episode I saw involved a guy, who WASN'T a cop, dressing UP like one, and pretending he was.  He happens onto an armed robbery taking place in a small neighborhood drug store lunch counter, and LO AND BEHOLD!   The stick-up man was DUSTN HOFFMAN.  And his name never showed up in the credits!  Since the fake cop shot and wounded Hoffman's character, and it gets discovered the guy wasn't a real cop, Hoff shows up in a few more scenes as his character works at getting off the charges as the cop wasn't real.  He was pretty good in that role.

 

I agree with you about McGuire and Rooney's roles.  And, wasn't the Rooney movie "BILL" a MADE FOR TV movie?  He excelled in that one, too.

 

 

Sepiatone

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Interesting take on Lewis, who also did a "bang-up" job on an episode of "Law and Order: SVU" as the mentally ill uncle of Richard Belzer's MUNCH character.  Many years ago, Lewis, much younger then, showed up on an episode of BEN CASEY as a new medical resident.  As that episode ends, Lewis' character chews out another resident for "clowning around on the job too much".

 

You mentioned The Naked City, and I recall many years ago, long before the existence of MeTV, a local channel showed this program late at night.  I stayed up late one night because I hadn't seen the show in quite some time.  The episode I saw involved a guy, who WASN'T a cop, dressing UP like one, and pretending he was.  He happens onto an armed robbery taking place in a small neighborhood drug store lunch counter, and LO AND BEHOLD!   The stick-up man was DUSTN HOFFMAN.  And his name never showed up in the credits!  Since the fake cop shot and wounded Hoffman's character, and it gets discovered the guy wasn't a real cop, Hoff shows up in a few more scenes as his character works at getting off the charges as the cop wasn't real.  He was pretty good in that role.

 

I agree with you about McGuire and Rooney's roles.  And, wasn't the Rooney movie "BILL" a MADE FOR TV movie?  He excelled in that one, too.

 

 

Sepiatone

I haven't seen Lewis' work on Law & Order: SVU, but I will make sure to check it out. Thanks for mentioning it. The Dustin Hoffman appearance on Naked City was probably one of his earliest screen roles. I almost mentioned Rooney as Bill (I think there was a sequel as well). 

 

Another one I almost mentioned was Jean Arthur's work on Gunsmoke. She hadn't been on screen for 12 years-- since SHANE, but she still had that great quality of hers. Check out the episode from 1965 called 'Thursday's Child.'

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Though done a little later than the previously mentioned television programs(during the late-'90s), James Whitmore was absolutely fantastic, and won an Emmy as Best Guest Actor on a Drama, playing a renowned older lawyer suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimer's and who refuses to retire, on the television series "The Practice".

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Good choices, TB.

 

Mine - Any guest star by a film notable on any Twilight Zone. I was always so glad to see them.

 

A standout, at this moment in memory: Joan Crawford in Night Gallery (Serling of course). I recently ran through the entire storyline for Mr. primos, who has never seen it. Whatta story!

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Good choices, TB.

 

Mine - Any guest star by a film notable on any Twilight Zone. I was always so glad to see them.

 

A standout, at this moment in memory: Joan Crawford in Night Gallery (Serling of course). I recently ran through the entire storyline for Mr. primos, who has never seen it. Whatta story!

Thanks primos-- I read somewhere that several television roles written with Crawford in mind were played by Ruth Roman. I guess in the early to mid 60s Crawford thought she could still swing it as a movie star and Pepsi executive, so she would turn down good jobs on television. (She began to rethink that by the end of the decade.) After Crawford would say no, someone would then suggest calling Ruth Roman who was all too happy to take those parts and make them her own.

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Sepiatone mentioned Jerry Lewis' work on Law And Order SVU; guys like Lewis and Mickey Rooney who are first and foremost thought of as comics often do excellent work in dramatic roles. I have watched quite a few Law And Order shows over the years and a lot of veteran film  stars made guest appearances on them.  The wonderful Leslie Caron  (we all know her from GIGI courtesy of the letterbox presentation, eh)  gave a terrific performance on a SVU episode as a older woman who has long suppressed memories of being raped by a young man years ago  and must now tell her story when that same man is on trial for new assaults on women.

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...guys like Lewis and Mickey Rooney who are first and foremost thought of as comics often do excellent work in dramatic roles. 

Yes-- and this is not the norm. Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rooney were gifted with a versatility that other performers lack. Some guys can do it all. I read that Jerry Lewis was also very athletic and had a chance to play professional baseball. 

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TV's NAKED CITY was done by the same people who later did ROUTE 66. On both programs you saw a lot of old film stars, Joan Crawford, Chester Morris, Glenda Farrell as well as future stars like the aforementioned Hoffmann, Robert Duvall, and Bruce Dern.

 

Horace McMahon and Harry Bellaver from NAKED CITY were also long time unbilled character players from the thirties and forties.

 

Those shows are of near movie quality in their best episodes.

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Melvyn Douglas

The Fugitive

"The 2130"

 

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This is one of the best Fugitive episodes.

 

Douglas (somehow the producers were able to get him less than two years after his Oscar win for Hud ) plays a computer programmer trying to help capture Kimble, by predicting his future movements through his past behavior pattern -- but while doing so he becomes convinced that Kimble is innocent, and has to prove it to a skeptical Lt. Girard...

 

It's a solid variation on the man vs. machine theme that the increasing presence of computers was making popular, and of course has a great performance from MD. The episode holds up quite well -- if you can get past the fact that this intimidating electronic brain has all the computing power of a 1970s pocket calculator.

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Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen

Petticoat Junction

"Wings"

 

IMDb plot summary: "Gus Huffle, the owner of the Pixley Bijou, the only movie theater in the area, has decided to close due to lack of business. The people of the valley will do anything they can to help Gus stay open. Joe thinks that a big part of the problem is that Richard Arlen and Charles "Buddy" Rogers, who were supposed to come to the Bijou for the world premiere of their movie Wings (1927), decided instead to attend a premiere at the Roxy in New York City, which left a bad feeling between the theater and the community. Joe decides to write a scathing letter to Arlen and Rogers. After receiving the letter, Arlen and Rogers, in turn, believe that attending a world premiere of the movie at the Pixley Bijou - albeit forty years late - would be good publicity. When that news hits the valley, the arguments begin amongst the valley residents on who will lead the official event. As Uncle Joe takes over due to the dissent, everyone else quits the event committee leaving only Joe as the only one who will be attending the premiere due to the squabbling. Will Arlen and Rogers' visit to the valley be all for naught? And will this non-event ruin Gus' chances to keep the Bijou open?"

 

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Among the best things I've ever seen on television were Meryl Streep's performances in the 2003 HBO miniseries "Angels in America." Based on Tony Kushner's 1993 award-winning stage play about AIDS, the two-part drama, directed by Mike Nichols, won 11 Emmy Awards.

Streep, who rarely does television, won the Outstanding Lead Actress award for her roles as the mother of a closeted gay man, an angel, a rabbi and the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg. I'll bet a lot of people didn't catch on that she played the rabbi.

She was very pleased by her Emmy win. As she said in her acceptance speech: "There are some days when I myself think I’m overrated -- but not today.”

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Among the best things I've ever seen on television were Meryl Streep's performances in the 2003 HBO miniseries "Angels in America." Based on Tony Kushner's 1993 award-winning stage play about AIDS, the two-part drama, directed by Mike Nichols, won 11 Emmy Awards.

Streep, who rarely does television, won the Outstanding Lead Actress award for her roles as the mother of a closeted gay man, an angel, a rabbi and the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg. I'll bet a lot of people didn't catch on that she played the rabbi.

She was very pleased by her Emmy win. "There are some days when I myself think I’m overrated," she said in her acceptance speech, "but not today.”

Hoo boy, that was an amazing teleplay. Don't forget Pacino, he was outstanding as well.

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Hoo boy, that was an amazing teleplay. Don't forget Pacino, he was outstanding as well.

 

Well, I chose Streep because she does fewer television projects than Pacino, who has been very prolific in HBO productions lately. The "Angels in America" miniseries also had great performances by such actors as Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker, Patrick Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, etc. It truly was great television.

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I just finished watching a fourth season offering of The Naked City where Burgess Meredith is the guest star. He plays an alcoholic Greenwich Village poet in the episode 'Hold for Gloria Christmas.' Truly spectacular performance. The teleplay was written by fellow blacklistee Arnold Manoff. I highly recommend watching it. It's as good as Meredith's work on The Twilight Zone.

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Topbilled,

 

In your initial post, you have some Interesting comments on some.good performances, although I haven't seen about half of those you mention. Just one thing I'd like to say: Dorothy McGuire, never one of my favorite actresses, gave what I feel was her best performance in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, where she is totally believable as a working class mother.

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Good choices, TB.

 

Mine - Any guest star by a film notable on any Twilight Zone. I was always so glad to see them.

 

A standout, at this moment in memory: Joan Crawford in Night Gallery (Serling of course). I recently ran through the entire storyline for Mr. primos, who has never seen it. Whatta story!

It may help to get him more interested if you mention THAT Night Gallery episode was directed by STEVEN  SPIELBERG.

 

Not only NAKED CITY, but The Twilight zone and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS was good for that, too.  Both Hitchcock and Zone had episodes featuring a young and largely unheard of ROBERT REDFORD,  And BRUCE DERN has been in at least TWO HITCHCOCK episodes I can think of.  One, he plays a drifter who lands a job at a peach farm owned by PAT BUTTRAM, whose wife was TERESA WRIGHT, and Dern causes all kinds of mischief.  Another episode, Dern is thought to be the peeping Tom who's harrasing David White's wife with obscene phone calls.

 

Redford on Hitch plays a professional thief who tries to go straight, but fails and tries to hide his return to crime from his wife.  But his friend, a florist played by BARRY MORSE, who has a thing for Redford's wife, manipulates Redford into doing job after job 'till Redford is caught and convicted of murder.  And of course, we all know the Twilight Zone episode where Redford plays the angel of death disguised as a wounded cop.

 

 

Sepiatone

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Topbilled,

 

In your initial post, you have some Interesting comments on some.good performances, although I haven't seen about half of those you mention. Just one thing I'd like to say: Dorothy McGuire, never one of my favorite actresses, gave what I feel was her best performance in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, where she is totally believable as a working class mother.

Thanks Arturo for reading the original post. I agree about McGuire in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. What's different in Rich Man, Poor Man is that she is not playing a sympathetic mother like she did in the earlier production. I think she has too much of a 'patrician look' though to be believed as a working class woman. 

 

Similarly, but in the reverse way, I don't buy Marjorie Main as a socialite in THE LAW AND THE LADY or THE BELLE OF NEW YORK. 

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Thanks Arturo for reading the original post. I agree about McGuire in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. What's different in Rich Man, Poor Man is that she is not playing a sympathetic mother like she did in the earlier production. I think she has too much of a 'patrician look' though to be believed as a working class woman. It's hard to dress her down.

 

Aah, but NOT in THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE she didn't!!!

 

(...well, when nobody other than Robert Young was in that little house, anyway!) ;)

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Aah, but NOT in THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE she didn't!!!

 

(...well, when nobody other than Robert Young was in that little house, anyway!) ;)

Yes-- I deleted that sentence about dressing her down, because I thought it sounded funny-- and I can see where someone like you would think I meant undress her! LOL :)

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Isn't it amazing that TV was originally thought of as anathema by film people who "wouldn't be caught dead involved with it"?  Then it gave new life to stalled 40's careers, aging stars of the silent and early sound eras who still had the talent if not the youth and gave experience and exposure to newcomers to stage and screen.

 

Topbilled, I had no idea we liked so many of the same shows.  I remember Jerry Lewis’ last scene as Eli on Wiseguy when he tells the FBI agent “Always know who you are, John” which he had not done himself and was paying the price.  The SVU role was great as well; he worked well with fellow comedian Richard Belzer whose Munch was my favorite character on the show (It’s not been the same without him). 

I enjoyed Raymond Burr in Centennial as well but that’s my all-time favorite series so maybe I’m a bit prejudiced there.  That death scene with Dorothy McGuire and Nick Nolte in RM,PM  was only matched by Nolte’s with Peter Strauss later on in the show.

 

I was reading something about Tallulah Bankhead and realized that outside of Lifeboat this Lucy-Desi episode was the only other piece of her work I'd ever seen (she hosted a Sunday night variety show on radio which of course I could hear but not see).  I still remember it; She's doing a play with Lucy and Ethel who are going crazy with her "prima donna" act.  They get even by serving her strawberries instead of oranges in a scene on stage.  Tallulah is allergic to strawberries and must play the scene in full-blown attack.  It's a riot.

 

Perry Mason used many such performers:  Jon Hall, Fay Wray and  Barton McLane for starters.  James Coburn was deservedly wacked in two and Leonard Nimoy was the perp in a couple of others.  Perry helped Louise Fletcher beat the rap twice and Ellen McRae/Burstyn and Burt Reynolds were suspects.  This is why I love Classic TV as you never know who will show up in anything. 

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Let's throw in a few more, just for fun.

 

WILLIAM CONRAD

HANS CONRIED

EDWARD EVERETTE HORTON

CHARLES RUGGLES

 

And the excellent voice work they did on "Rocky and Bullwinkle"

 

And we all are already familiar with all THEIR other work.

 

Extra nods to Conrad and Conried  due to Conrad's doing CANNON in later years, and Conried's role as UNCLE TONOUSE in the "Make Room For Daddy" TV series.

 

Sepiatone

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