As we continue looking at some of our well-known character actors, today we consider the career of Milton Frome. Frome was born in Philadelphia in 1909. He began acting in his mid-20s.
His first major movie role was in Ride ‘em Cowgirl in 1939. Frome would go on to appear in 55 movies (including The Nutty Professor, Bye Bye Birdie, and With Six You Get Eggroll), as well as five made-for-TV movies. He also had a thriving television career beginning with Chevrolet Tele-Theatre in 1950.
Appearing in 34 different shows during the fifties, he performed in a variety of genres including dramas, comedies and westerns.
During that decade you would have seen him on I Love Lucy, Lassie, The Adventures of Superman, Playhouse Theater, The Thin Man, and The Gale Storm Show. He also worked with many comic legends on television, including Milton Berle, Red Skelton, and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
His career escalated in the sixties when he would accept roles in 48 programs. He showed up in dramas, including The Twilight Zone, 77 Sunset Strip, and Dr. Kildare. He also found his way into many westerns such as Bat Masterson, Death Valley Days, Gunslinger, Big Valley, Rawhide, and Wagon Train. However, he seemed to excel at comedies and during the 1950s you could have spied him in many sitcoms. He accepted parts in Bachelor Father, Pete and Gladys, The Jim Backus Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mister Ed, The Joey Bishop Show, I Dream of Jeannie, My Favorite Martian, The Donna Reed Show, Gomer Pyle USMC, Bewitched, The Monkees, The Patty Duke Show, Petticoat Junction, and The Andy Griffith Show.
Frome was never offered a permanent role in a series, but he did have a recurring role in The Beverly Hillbillies, appearing eight times as Lawrence Chapman, who managed Jed Clampet’s Mammoth Studios.
His television career slowed down a bit in the 1970s and became nonexistent by 1983, but he did make appearances in shows like Ironside, Columbo, Here’s Lucy, The Streets of San Francisco, Sanford and Son, and Trapper John MD. He also appeared in two Love American Style episodes in 1971 and 1973. In the 1973 episode, “Love and the Anniversary,” he played “The Man” and his son Michael played a bellhop.
At some point, Frome married Marjorie Ann Widman, but I could not verify when they married. I also could not verify if Michael was their son, or his son from another relationship.
Frome passed away in 1989 from congestive heart failure.
While it is now easy to analyze and detail an actor’s professional career, it was very tough to find any information about Frome’s personal life or his working relationships with other actors. It makes me sad that these hard-working actors who provided so much to our classic television-watching experiences are just not well known. Hopefully blogs like mine keep them in television viewers’ memories, and some day maybe I will have time to write a book about these unsung heroes of our pop culture history. Thanks for all you contributed to the golden age of television Milton Frome!
For the month of June, we are celebrating some of our favorite fathers. One of my favorite dads was Carl Betz in his role as Dr. Alex Stone on The Donna Reed Show.
Betz was born in Mary of 1921 in Pittsburgh, PA. He came from an upper middle-class family, and his father was a laboratory chemist.
in school, Betz started a rep theater company with several friends. They
performed plays in his grandmother’s basement.
During WWII, he served in the army. He was deployed to Italy and North Africa and left the military as a technical sergeant with the Corps of Engineers.
When he returned to the States, he enrolled at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon) in Pittsburgh, majoring in drama. While going to school at Carnegie, he played football and made an appearance in the Sugar Bowl against Texas Christian University.
His first job after graduation was a radio announcer. He moved to New York and worked as a doorman at Radio City Music Hall while auditioning for Broadway productions. He received his first part in “The Long Watch” in 1952. He then toured in “The Voice of the Turtle” with Veronica Lake.
his work as a young adult, he said, “Those were good times for the beginning
actor. There were so many summer stock companies. We worked for room and board
and the princely sum of $45 a week. By
eliminating haircuts, we managed to keep ourselves in shaving cream, clean
shirts, and beer.”
Twentieth Century Fox offered him a contract, and he received a number of supporting roles in films. In 1953, he made an incredible six movies.
In 1952 he
married Lois Harmon. They had one son and divorced in 1961.
His first job on television was a soap opera, Love of Life. Throughout the fifties and sixties, he performed in a variety of plays, including “The Seven-Year Itch” and “The Zoo Story.”
In the mid-1950s, he began appearing on television shows, and shows up in reruns on Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Mike Hammer.
In 1958, Carl was offered the role of Alex Stone on The Donna Reed Show, and he was with the show until it ended in 1965. The heart-warming show centered around Donna and Alex Stone, a pediatrician, and their two children, Jeff (Pete Petersen) and Mary (Shelly Fabares). Betz continued his stage career in his off time with the show.
Both Carl and Donna were protective of their television children. In an interview in 2011 when Petersen was 66, he discussed his second set of parents. “They made a commitment to Shelley and me as surrogate parents to be on our side and be with us for the long haul. They kept that commitment up to their deaths.”
As Alex, Betz was the voice of reason. When anyone got too worried, he gave advice and put things in perspective. He had a fun side to him and could always see the humor in situations. He was a caring doctor and had fun in life, realizing death and illness were always lurking around the corner. He often made fun of Donna and the kids but in a loving way, not cruel. His comments typically illustrated that things were not as dower as they appeared. But when there was an emergency or a serious situation, he was calm and collected and took charge.
Carl continued to take roles during breaks in taping for The Donna Reed Show. In 1964, Betz received amazing reviews for his performance as the Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon in “The Night of the Iguana.”
During his time on the show, he ironically married Gloria Stone, and they would remain married until his death in 1978.
In 1967, he starred in Judd for the Defense where he played an attorney. Clifton Judd, a lawyer based in Texas, would travel across the country to defend a client. Many cases involved labor unions, draft evasions, civil rights, and murder. The series featured a number of guest stars, including Ed Asner, Mike Farrell, Norman Fell, Beverly Garland, Ron Howard, Ted Knight, Cloris Leachman, Ruta Lee, Gavin MacLeod, Vera Miles, Tom Selleck, and Dennis Weaver. The critics gave the show great reviews, but the ratings were always a struggle. In 1969, ABC cancelled the series and that same year, Betz won the Emmy for Outstanding Performer by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series.
Once the series was cancelled, Betz continued in plays and also picked up several television appearances on a variety of shows, such as Love American Style, Medical Center, McCloud, The Mod Squad, Ironside, The FBI, Mission Impossible, BarnabyJones, and Quincy ME. Since he handled comedy so well on The Donna Reed Show, I was surprised to learn that most of his career was spent on drama or crime shows.
In 1977, Betz was diagnosed with lung cancer. He kept the illness a secret until November when he was hospitalized. He died in January of 1978, 56 years young. Ironically, thinking about celebrating fathers, my dad also died at age 56.
From all accounts, Carl Betz wanted to be an actor from a very young age. Fortunately, he was able to spend most of his life in the entertainment business. Unfortunately, his life ended much too early, and his career was cut short. Any time someone can spend their life pursuing their passion, it’s a life well spent. Happy Father’s Day to one of our favorite dads.
We’ve all experienced that moment we’re at the grocery store and see someone we know, but we can’t remember their name or how we know them. Maybe it was work or school, or their kids were friends with ours. Sometimes we even remember we spent a lot of time with them and like them, but the name and relationship is just not there.
This month we are meeting some of our television friends that we’ve gotten to know, even if we can’t remember their names or what we watched them on. We’ll learn more about eight different character actors. We start off the month learning about Edward Andrews and Herb Edelman.
Edward Andrews from Doris Day and Disney comedies. Anyone who grew up in the
1960s or 1970s will remember this military man with a grandfatherly softness to
Andrews was born in Georgia in 1914. His father was a minister and their family moved a lot; he lived in Pittsburgh; Cleveland; and Wheeling, West Virginia. He had a very small part in a James Gleason production at age 12. He attended college at the University of Virginia. In 1935, he got his first part in a Broadway production, “So Proudly We Hail.” He continued in Broadway for the next twenty years, including a touring production of “I Know My Love” with Lunt and Fontaine. During that time, he took a leave from his career to serve in WWII. He was a Captain and commanding officer of Battery C with the 751st Artillery Battalion of the Army.
In 1955 he married Emily Barnes and they would have three children, remaining together until his death. About the same time, his movie career took off. Andrews looked older than his age which helped him get parts for older roles. He could play a grandfather, then turn around and handle a sleazy businessman or legalistic bureaucrat. He portrayed George Babbitt in Elmer Gantry in 1960. He worked for Disney playing the Defense Secretary in both The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber (1963). I remember him fondly in Doris Day’s movies, The Thrill of It All (1963), Send Me No Flowers (1964), and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). One of his last roles was Grandpa Howard in Sixteen Candles in 1984. His movie credits totaled 46.
Edward also kept busy with television appearances. One of the first actors to guest star on television, in 1950, Andrews was on Mama. As early as 1952, he began acting in the variety of drama shows on television. During the 1950s he would appear in eighteen of these shows including The US Steel Hour, Robert Montgomery Presents, Studio One in Hollywood, and Omnibus.
He showed up in westerns including The Real McCoys, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Rawhide. We saw him on medical and legal dramas such as Ben Casey,The Defenders, The Bold Ones, Ironside, and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law. Mysteries and crime thrillers also found a place for him. You might remember him from Naked City, The Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad, Hawaii Five-0, McMillan and Wife, and Quincy, ME.
Like his films, he seemed to excel in comedy. Andrews played George Baxter in the pilot for Hazel, but unfortunately when the show went into production, the part was recast with Don DeFore. He would guest star in some of the most popular sitcoms, including The Phil Silvers Show, The Andy Griffith Show, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Paul Lynde Show, Love American Style, The Bob Newhart Show, and Three’s Company.
In 1964 he starred in Broadside. Commander Adrian (Edwards) is not happy when a group of Waves are posted to his station on the South Seas island Ranakai. His men no longer have focus, so he spends the series trying to get the women relocated.
In 1970 he had a recurring role on The Doris Day Show as Colonel Fairburn. He also starred as Harry Flood in the show Supertrain in 1979. Playing on the Love Boat and Hotel themes, the show was about a bullet train that had new passengers each episode.
Perhaps Andrews will be best remembered for his guest starring role on two Twilight Zone episodes, “Third From the Sun” (Andrews plays a company man who thinks a coworker William, a nuclear engineer, and his friend Jerry are going to steal a spaceship to leave Earth) and “You Drive” (Andrews hits a newspaper boy and then flees the scene, trying to hide the crime).
In all, he appeared on 118 different television series as well as made-for-television movies.
Andrews enjoyed playing a character actor. He said it ensured more work and longevity in his career. He was quoted as saying, “What you get are people who speak to you. They know you from somewhere, but they don’t think of you as an actor. They stop and say, ‘Harry, how’s everything in Miami?’ I’ve learned by experience not to argue with them.”
In March of 1985, Andrews had a heart attack and passed away at age 70. With his white hair, and horn-rimmed glasses, Andrews was an adaptable character actor. Whether he was playing a lovable doctor, a nosy coworker, a fun-loving grandfather, or a despicable murderer, he was believable. He truly was a great character.
Another fun actor
everyone will recognize is Herb Edelman. Herb was born in Brooklyn, New York in
1933 in the midst of the Depression. Tall, lanky, and prematurely bald, he
would go on to have a long career in movies and television.
Originally, Edelman wanted to be a veterinarian, and he went to school at Cornell but left after his first year. He served in the Army as an announcer for Armed Forces Radio. After he left the service, he started college again, this time studying acting at Brooklyn College. Once again, he dropped out. He made a living as a hotel manager and a cab driver.
In the mid-1960s he began both his film and television careers. Some of his best-known roles were in the movies. He played Harry Pepper, a wise-cracking telephone operator, in Barefoot in the Park and Murray the Cop in The Odd Couple, as well as Harry Michaels in California Suite.
However, it was television where he received most of his work. In the 1960s, he began his career, appearing on a variety of shows, including That Girl, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and The Flying Nun. During these years he also dated and married Louise Sorel who he was wed to for six years.
In 1968, he accepted the role of Bert Gamus in The Good Guys. Bert and his friend Rufus (Bob Denver) open a diner, their dream. Bert’s wife Claudia (Joyce Van Patten) helped him serve customers.
In the 1970s, his career continued as he appeared in many shows every year. Some of the hit series we saw him on during this decade include Room 222, Bewitched, McMillan and Wife, The Partridge Family, Love AmericanStyle, Maude, Happy Days, Barney Miller, Kojak, and Charlie’s Angels.
In 1976, he was again cast in a show, Big John Little John. Edelman was a middle school teacher who drank out of the fountain of youth on vacation. Afterward, he would randomly turn into a thirteen-year-old and worked to keep the secret from his friends and coworkers. The show was short-lived.
Edelman’s work schedule did not slow down in the 1980s. He would have roles in the cast of five television shows and spent time in between guest starring on other shows such as Trapper John, Highway to Heaven, The LoveBoat, and thirtysomething.
From 1980-81, he was cast as Reggie on Ladies’ Man, about a woman’s magazine with one male journalist. From 1981-82, he appeared as Commissioner Herb Klein on Strike Force. This show followed a strike force team that handles cases too difficult for the mainstream officers. The following year, he was Harry Nussbaum on Nine to Five, the show based on the movie about a group of office workers. From 1984-88, he was cast as Richard Clarendon on St. Elsewhere, a teaching hospital.
Although his roles decreased in the 1990s, he had one of his most memorable roles during those years as Stanley Zbornak, Dorothy’s ex-husband, on Golden Girls; he was nominated twice for his role on the show.
In 1990, he played Sergeant Levine on Knot’s Landing. Knot’s Landing was a night-time soap about the lives of the wealthy who live in a coastal suburb of LA. His last recurring role was Lieutenant Artie Gelber on Murder She Wrote, about a mystery writer who helps solve crimes.
Edelman died much too early in 1996 from emphysema at age 62.
who was unforgettable in his movie and television roles. Whether playing a repairman,
a cop, a teacher, or a ex-husband, he always came through as an authentic
Much of the entertainment news media has been focused on the death of Mary Tyler Moore this past week, and rightly so. However, with the passing of two other television icons in Barbara Hale and Mike Connors, I decided to celebrate the life and career of Barbara Hale in this week’s blog.
Like William Christopher, whom we looked at a couple weeks ago, Barbara Hale seems to have had a successful and fulfilling career. She comes across the decades as a very nice person and a hard-working actress. She was married for more than 46 years to the same man and they had three children. A lot of her career was based on acting with her husband, her son, and her close friend Raymond Burr.
Born in April of 1922 in DeKalb, Illinois, she moved to nearby Rockford shortly after her birth. She and her sister had a nice life, growing up in a middle class family. Always interested in the arts, she attended The Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. She continued to have an interest in art the rest of her life, often sketching while waiting for taping to resume. She worked as a model during part of her school years for a comic strip Ramblin’ Bill. She was also featured as a Dr. Pepper girl in the Dr. Pepper calendars in the 1940s and 1950s.
Continuing her modeling career after graduation, it was through that avenue she was given a contract with RKO in 1943. While at RKO she met her husband-to-be Bill Williams and they married in 1946. Their wedding took place in the Old Stone Church in Rockton, Il and their reception was at the Wagon Wheel in Rockton, north of Rockford. During her RKO-tenure she also met Raymond Burr.
Her first movie was Gildersleeve’s Bad Day in 1943. Her contract with RKO continued until 1949 at which point she signed a seven-year contract with Columbia. During her career she appeared in 42 movies and 34 television movies, 31 of which were Perry Mason films. Some of her costars included Frank Sinatra, James Cagney, and Jimmy Stewart.
Between 1953 and 1956 she appeared in 14 drama/anthology series on television including SchlitzPlayhouse, Studio 57, The Loretta Young Show, Damon RunyonTheater and Playhouse 90. She also appeared in many print ads during these years promoting products such as Lux Soap Flakes, Sunnybrook Margarine, and Chesterfield Cigarettes.
Debating whether or not she should retire and stay home to raise her three children (born in 1947, 1951, and 1953), she was offered the role of Della Street for the upcoming Perry Mason series. She declined it at first, but when she realized her old friend Raymond Burr was starring in the show, she opted to take the part. From 1957-1966, she appeared in 263 of the 271 shows. In the midst of the series’ run in 1960, she received a marker on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. In 1959 she won the Emmy for best actress in a drama and was nominated again in 1961.
When the series ended, she appeared in only a handful of shows including Lassie, Adam-12, The DorisDay Show, Marcus Welby, and Walt Disney’s Wide World of Color. She was in her dear friend Raymond Burr’s show Ironside and acted with her son William Katt, the star of The Greatest American Hero, playing his mother on the show. She was also in the movie Big Wednesday in 1978 with her son, playing his mother. During this time, she also appeared in several commercials and was a spokesperson for Amana Radarange microwave ovens. In 1970 she was one of the celebrities appearing in the movie Airport.
In the mid-1980s, Raymond Burr was approached to make several Perry Mason television movies. He agreed only if Barbara Hale was cast as Della Street again. Hale’s son William Katt appeared in some of the movies as Paul Drake Jr. From 1986-1995 Hale and Burr made 31 Perry Mason movies. Sadly, her husband passed away from cancer in 1992 and Burr died in 1993. She was one of the friends to deliver a eulogy at Burr’s funeral. He cultivated orchids and named one for Barbara Hale.
In her later years, Hale battled colon, ovarian, and bladder cancer. With a remarkable attitude and her belief in God, she defeated the disease each time. She died from natural causes this month at 94.
One of the most charming stories I read about Hale was one she told a few years ago when she had returned to Rockford, which she did often, to attend a theater renovation celebration. She talked about after-football parties they had in high school. The kids would drive to the Spring Creek Road subdivision. Roads had been constructed for the housing development, but no homes had been built yet. The kids would park their cars in a circle, turn their headlights on, tune their radios to the same channel, and get out and dance. It was a heart-warming story about a more innocent time. After hearing so many sad stories about the issues actors often face in the industry, it was refreshing to hear about someone who was a nice person who appeared to have a normal and happy career with a great life balance of work and family.
A lot of her movies and the Perry Mason shows are available on Amazon. Take an upcoming week-end and watch a few seasons and keep track of how many cases Perry loses. Here is some dialogue to listen for while you watch.
Perry Mason: The Case of the Spurious Sister – 1959
Perry: Della, how would you like to get a divorce?
Della: I thought you were supposed to be married first.
Perry Mason: The Case of the Surplus Suitor – 1963
Hamilton Burger: Well, Miss Street, having you here just as a witness for the prosecution is a rare experience for both of us.
Della: I’ll try not to be hostile, Mr. Burger
Hamilton Burger: Well, that’ll be a rare experience too.
Perry Mason: The Case of the Angry Mourner – 1957
Bell Adrian: Mr. Mason, were you surprised when you found I didn’t do it?
Perry: Of course not, Mrs. Adrian. I knew all along. You just weren’t the type.
Paul Drake: And who is the type pray tell?
Della: Oh, that’s easy, Paul. Anyone who is not represented by Perry Mason.
Thank you Barbara Hale for providing us with so much drama over the years, but only on the television episodes!
This week I was inspired by the blog “Once upon a screen . . .” to take a look at television pioneers who were born in 1917. (For some great articles on pop culture, movies, and television, check out her blog at aurorasginjoint.com.) Let’s get to know 17 of the stars who helped shape the direction of television during the golden age.
Herbert Anderson. Best known for his role as Henry Mitchell on Dennis the Menace, Anderson began his career making movies. He transitioned to television in 1953, appearing on 61 shows over the years. He appeared in episodes on such shows as Gunsmoke, Petticoat Junction, Batman, I Dream of Jeannie, Manfrom U.N.C.L.E.,My Three Sons, Bewitched, and The Waltons. One of my favorites is the first season of The Brady Bunch. The kids are sick and both parents call a doctor. The girls were used to a woman played by Marion Ross while the boys always had a man, Anderson. After weighing factors to pick one of them, the family decides to keep both doctors. He died from a heart attack in 1994.
Carl Ballantine. Ballantine began his career as a magician and inspired many famous magicians since. He began working in Las Vegas and on television as a magician. Eventually he transferred to movie roles and after appearing in McHale’s Navy on the big screen, took on the same role of Lester Gruber on the television series. He went on to appear on 33 additional tv shows including That Girl, Laverne and Shirley, Trapper John MD, and Night Court. He passed away at his home in 2009.
Earl Bellamy. Earl Bellamy directed episodes for 101 different television shows. He is best known for TheLone Ranger and The Tales of Wells Fargo. He directed 82 episodes for Bachelor Father, one of my all-time favorite sitcoms. In the 1960s he specialized in sitcoms including That Girl,The Brady Bunch, ThePartridge Family, and My Three Sons while the 1970s saw him transition to dramas including MarcusWelby MD, The FBI,Medical Center, and Eight is Enough. In 2003 he passed away from a heart attack.
Ernest Borgnine. Best known of his Oscar-winning role of Marty in 1955, Ernest enlisted in the Navy in 1935 until 1941. In 1942 he re-enlisted and served until 1945. After doing some factory work, he decided to go to school to study acting and began his career on Broadway. He was also in the movie McHale’s Navy and went on to tackle the role in the television series. He loved working with Tim Conway and in later years they did the voices for Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy in SpongeBobSquarePants. He appeared in 47 different shows over the years, including the series Airwolf which he starred in. Borgnine appeared in the final episode of ER which he won an Emmy for. He was married five times, including a 32-day marriage to Ethel Merman. His last marriage to Tova lasted 39 years. He died of kidney failure in 2012.
Raymond Burr. Best known as Perry Mason, Burr started his career on Broadway in the 1940s and then appeared in 50 films from 1946-1957. In 1956 he auditioned for the role of Hamilton Burger, the DA in Perry Mason. He was told he could have the starring role if he lost about 60 pounds which he accomplished. He later starred in Ironside, another crime drama and appeared on a variety of other shows. Burr had many interests including raising and cross-breeding orchids; collecting wine, art, stamps and sea shells; reading; and breeding dogs. He was extremely generous, giving away much of his money over the years. He passed away from cancer in 1993.
Phyllis Diller. Known for her wild hair and clothing, Diller was one of the pioneering stand-up female comedians. She appeared in films in the 1940s, worked in radio in the 1950s, and began her stand-up career in 1955. Her first television appearance was in You Bet Your Life. She appeared in 40 shows including Batman, CHIPs, Full House, and The Drew Carey Show. She had her own show titled The Pruittsof Southampton, and in reruns The Phyllis Diller Show that ran from 1966-67. She recorded comedy albums in the 1960s, wrote several books during her career, was an accomplished pianist, performing with symphony orchestras across the US and taught herself painting which she continued throughout the 1960s and 70s. Her husband Fang was not real, but she used him in her comedy routines. She died of natural causes in 2012. My first memory of Diller was in the movie Boy Did I Dial a WrongNumber with Bob Hope which my parents took me to at the drive in.
Ross Elliott. A prolific actor on stage, film, and television, Elliott appeared in 184 different shows from sitcoms to westerns to medial dramas, all between 1951 and 1983. He passed away from cancer in 1999.
June Foray. One of the greatest voice actors ever, Foray has been active in the industry since she had her own radio show. She did off-air voices for many sitcoms including I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, Jack Benny, Rawhide, Get Smart, Lost In Space, and Bewitched. She also appeared in more than 76 animated series. She is perhaps best known as Rocky in Rocky and Bullwinkle and as Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Karen and other voices in Frosty the Snowman. Foray is still alive today.
Zsa Zsa Gabor. Unlike her sister Eva who became known as Lisa Douglas on Green Acres, Zsa Zsa seemed to make a career out of playing herself. Of the 80 appearances she made in film and television, 20 of them were as herself. She was a true celebrity. Crowned Miss Hungary in 1936, she came to the US in 1941 and began her career. She was known for her extravagant lifestyle and many marriages: 9 with 7 divorces (including one to Conrad Hilton) and 1 annulment.
Sid Melton. Known to most viewers today as handyman Alf Monroe on Green Acres, Melton began as a film star and went on to appear in 71 shows including Topper, Bachelor Father, Make Room for Daddy,That Girl, Petticoat Junction, I Dream of Jeannie, and Empty Nest. He died from pneumonia in 2011.
Alice Pearce. Although her career was cut short due to illness, I included Alice Pearce because her role as Gladys Kravitz in so memorable. After spending her childhood in Europe, Pearce started on Broadway and after appearing in On the Town, she was brought to Hollywood to reprise her role in the movie version. She began specializing in comedy in the 1940s. In 1964 she turned down the role of Grandmama in The Addams Family and shortly after was offered the role of Gladys in Bewitched. She was already diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she began her role but didn’t tell anyone and was able to act for two seasons before she passed away from the disease. She received an Emmy for her work on Bewitched.
Gene Rayburn. One of the kings of game shows, Rayburn began his career as an actor, taking over for Dick Van Dyke in Bye Bye Birdie when Van Dyke began his television show. While he was on numerous game shows as a panelist or host over the years, Rayburn is best known for Match Game which first ran from 1962-69. It was revived again in 1973 and took several formats in the following years. He died from heart failure in 1999.
Isabel Sanford. Best known as Louise Jefferson, she grew up in Harlem and performed in amateur nights at the Apollo Theatre. Her Broadway debut was in 1965. After appearing as a maid in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, she was cast by Norman Lear in All in the Family which led to the series TheJeffersons. When the show ended in 1985, she appeared in a variety of other shows until 2002. She passed away from natural causes in 2004.
Sidney Sheldon. A writer and producer, Sheldon created The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, and Hart to Hart, writing many of the scripts for all three series. After he turned 50, he began a career writing romantic suspense novels. He died from pneumonia in 2007.
Robert Sterling. A clothing salesman before getting into acting, Sterling was best known for his role as George Kerby in Topper from 1953-55. His wife, Anne Jeffreys played his wife in the show. From 1943-49 he was married to Ann Sothern. He appeared in 36 shows between 1951 and 1986. He passed away from natural causes in 2006.
Jesse White. While White was a hard-working character actor, he is best known for his commercials as the Maytag repairman from 1967-88. After appearing in films for many years, he transitioned to television in the 1950s. His daughter Carole Ita White also became an actress best known for Laverneand Shirley. White appeared in 113 shows, never receiving a regular series.
Jane Wyman. Wyman began working at Warner Brothers at age 16, claiming to be 19. Although she was a successful film star and began in television in 1955 with her own show, Jane Wyman Presents Fireside Theater, she is probably best known for her role on Falcon’s Crest from 1981-90 and her marriage to Ronald Reagan. She died in her sleep from natural causes in 2007.
These are just a handful of television mavericks that influenced television as we know it today. I was amazed at the variety of different talents each of these stars displayed. In comparing their television appearances, it’s surprising how many of them overlap and worked on the same shows. What I found most surprising was that Ballantine, Diller, Melton, Sanford, Sterling, White and White’s daughter all appeared on Love American Style while Bellamy, Borgnine, Burr, Diller, Gabor, Rayburn, Sanford, White, and Wyman all guest starred on The Love Boat. During my research, I ran across many shows that will become future blog topics.
Another fun fact about celebrating stars born in 1917 is that this week we are traveling to Pennsylvania to celebrate my grandmother’s 100th birthday who was also born in 1917. Happy Birthday Mamie.