May 16th is National Classic Movie Day. In honor of that day that is near and dear to our hearts, I offer my entry in the Classic Movie Blog Association Spring 2023 Big Stars on the Small Screen Blogathon. Click here for more television memories.
Anyone here old enough to remember a television show called "The Hollywood Palace"? It ran on ABC from January 1964 through February 1970. It was a variety show like so many that were popular at the time, but it had a few features that spoke to my little but growing classic movie loving heart.
The show had a revolving door of guest hosts that served as emcees, but the most frequent host was a fella named Bing Crosby.Now, I probably was familiar with Bing even at a young age because he was on television quite a bit and was always selling Minute Maid Orange Juice, but I kind of liked the guy and looked forward to seeing him and hearing him most every week (please do not tell John, Paul, George & Ringo). He was warm and casual and always seemed to fit so comfortably into our living room. Bing seemed to know everyone! And it was there, at the Hollywood Palace, that I first encountered performers who apparently were big stars some time ago and were - tonight!- gracing us lowly television audience members with their glittering presence. Who were, as Lina Lamont would say, these "shimmering glowing stars in the cinema firmament"? Thankfully, my mother was there to fill in some blanks.
The show was run as a sort of high class Vaudeville show with placards announcing each act. It was here I found out these people were movie stars:
Groucho Marx: well, he was funny. I think I'll check out one of his movies when they are shown.
Dean Martin: He made movie with Jerry Lewis? How did he stand him?
Fred MacMurray; He always seemed so nice. Little did I know he had thing for ankle bracelets.
Betty Hutton: Wowee! where can I see more of her?
Donald O'Connor: Fred who? Gene who? This guy could dance! Wait - is this the guy with the mule?
Betty Grable: My first look at a real glamour girl.
Olivia de Havilland: I needed my mother to tell me who this was. Later one of my most favorite actresses.
Ginger Rogers: Ah, more glamour. I knew she and Fred were a team, but had yet to see any of their films.
Ann Miller: Yikes! Tap-a-palooza! Years later I caught her on film, but always remembered my first sighting.
Jane Powell: Gee, she's tiny, but has a big voice. She was treated like a star, not just another singer booked for the week.
Van Johnson: He seemed so very nice playing himself. later he just seemed so always nice in the movies.
Bette Davis: Okay - I knew who she was, but I had yet to see her in a movie. She seemed like she was trying to be nice, but really wanting to be anywhere but there. Please check her out her singing "Single." It's kind of unforgettable.
Fred Astaire: Yes, I knew Fred, but, as with Ginger, I had not yet seen any of his films. He was on the small screen as he was on the big screen: elegant, modest and wholly charming.
Bob Hope: well, of course I knew Bob Hope, but did not yet know he had made all those films with Bing Crosby. Who knew these guys were such big movie stars?
But it was this gal that really wowed me:
Alice Faye: Now, I never heard of Alice Faye, but she was on with her husband, Phil Harris. However, my mother, who seemed to know things, said that her true love was her first husband, Tony Martin.(Later there was a show with Cyd Charisse: Awkward! Here was Cyd with her husband, Tony Martin. But, wait, wasn't he Alice Faye's true love? I watched for signs of discontent. Didn't see any.)
But back to Alice Faye. To me, she conducted herself like a true movie star. Crosby treated her as an absolute queen. Yet, she was warm and funny and lovely; just like she was, as I eventually discovered, in the movies. Of all the star performances I remember from that show, I recall her being greeted with the most warmth and affection.
Since that time I have always adored Alice Faye. It was her genuine sincerity, naturalness and wonderful talent that made me a fan, and I am so very, very thankful to all of those 60s and 70s television variety shows that introduced me to stars I would later fall in love with.
And while not big movie stars (yet), may I give a shout out to other frequent Hollywood Palace guests such as the great Carl Reiner and the still great Mel Brooks, the incomparable Victor Borge, and the sort of creepy Marquis Chimps? And who can forget Enzo Stuarti?
One more thing (no, not Columbo):
While not my selection, I'm going to sneak this one in:
Just as movies gave us records of great stage performers that we would never otherwise be able to see, television, that much maligned medium back in the day, let us kids see what a great movie star looked like.