They say that 1939 was the golden age of movies. In that year, ten movies were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. These included Stagecoach (which introduced us to John Wayne), The Wizard of Oz, Good Bye, Mr. Chips and Gone with the Wind.
I believe 1959 and 1960 were the golden age for television. At least for me it was. I was 11 years old and I, along with millions of other baby boomers, were coming of age. There were several wonderful and memorable television shows that debuted in those two years.
Bonanza was the first hour long western in color. It introduced us to four accomplished actors at the peak of their game. Lorne Greene (Ben), Dan Blocker (Hoss, the gentle giant), Pernell Roberts (handsome, brooding and charismatic Adam) and last, but definitely not least, Little Joe, played by Michael Landon, who would go on to conquer TV with Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven.
Bonanza was indeed a bonanza for NBC. It ran for 13 years, and was seen all over the world.
A whole generation grew up on Bonanza. The show tried to instill good moral values. The Cartwrights were fair and honest men and their sex appeal did not go unnoticed. In my life, I have found that you can find a lot out about a person by asking them who their favorite Cartwright was.
Adventures in Paradise introduced us to handsome Gardner McKay, who played Captain Adam Troy who sailed his schooner, the Tiki, around the South Pacific. Gardner was a strong presence on the screen and he gathered a great deal of attention because of his striking good looks. He was on the cover of Life Magazine in July of 1959, several months before his show debuted. He was called the new Adonis.
One of the producers, the wonderful Dominic Dunne, saw Gardner in the commissary one day and was so struck by his good looks, that he invited him to audition for Adventures in Paradise. Dominic later said that of all the actors who auditioned, Gardner was not strong, but oh, did he have charisma. Despite his looks and his gentle spirit, Gardner was not attracted to the acting profession and left Hollywood in the early 60s. He traveled around the world and ultimately became a director and a very talented writer. He was also an artist. Nevertheless, Adventures in Paradise was an escape from reality. The guys wanted to be like Gardner and the girls, . . . they just wanted him.
Both Bonanza and Adventures in Paradise introduced a whole new generation of up and coming actors. Many stars like Stephanie Powers, Jack Lord, Susan Pleshette and Diane Baker, all had their chance to sparkle in front of the camera on these shows.
Route 66 debuted in October, 1960. Every Friday night, my best friend and I would be glued to the television set waiting for Martin Milner, and the one and only George Maharis, to ride into the sunset in a Corvette convertible. The stories by Herbert Leonard and Stirling Silliphant were eclectic and thought provoking and they gave actresses like Tuesday Weld, Julie Newmar, and Joanna Moore (Tatum O’Neal’s mom) a place to shine. After a serious bout with hepatitis, George Maharis left Route 66 in 1962. He was later replaced by Glenn Corbett, but the luster had worn off. For many of my generation, it would always be Buzz and Todd driving off into the sunset, and that’s the way it was . . . My best friend and I both had crushes on George Maharis, but I think her crush was stronger because I also had crushes on Gardner McKay and Pernell Roberts. Maria was loyal, but I certainly enjoyed my week waiting for my favorite shows so I could see my favorite heart throbs. Those were the days of movie and television magazines. And boy, did we collect them.
What do these three shows all have in common? They all had beautiful and memorable theme music, which are recognizable to this day.
Please join Movies Broadway Singers and Beyond on Wednesday, July 29th, at 1pm Eastern / 10 am Pacific Time as we listen to some of this great music. You will hear Peter Gunn, Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, Hunter, Hill Street Blues and many more. As an added treat, I have also included some mini-series music like Tom Selleck’s Jesse Stone series, North and South, and Downton Abbey. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did when I put it together for you.