THE GALE STORM SHOW: OH! SUSANNAH (1956-60) 127 EPISODES
Texan Gale Storm had been around in Hollywood since making her screen debut at seventeen in Tom Brown’s School Days (1940). Despite having won national radio talent contest ‘Gateway to Hollywood’ in 1939, she found herself in programmers for the next fifteen years or so and going nowhere. She starred in a TV series titled My Little Margie (1952), which was well-received and inevitably led to this one. It lasted one season longer than did her first series. Once it ended, however, Gale’s film career sharply declined, placing most of her focus on summer stock or the dinner theatre circuit. Her candid autobiography titled ‘I Ain’t Down Yet’ explained her particularly vicious battle with alcohol during those years. It was not until she appeared in an episode of The Love Boat in 1979 that she felt confident enough to return to the screen. She eventually made a full recovery and embarked upon making the public aware (by lecturing) on the pitfalls of alcoholism, especially when it involved the fairer sex. Gale passed away in a convalescent home at eighty-seven in 2009.
Gale Storm & Zasu Pitts in Oh! Susannah
The Gale Storm Show was re-titled Oh! Susannah after it went into syndication. In it she plays Susannah Pomeroy, a cruise director on a ship that travels around the world. As it stops at different ports along the way she encounters many interesting characters and new adventures. We can see why she was asked to grace an episode of The Love Boat in 1979. The format for both shows are quite similar. Former silent screen actress Zasu Pitts enjoys a supporting role as ‘Nugie’, Susannah’s close friend.
Gale surprised many when she recorded a pop single, ‘Dark Moon’, in 1957, and it made it to #4 on the Billboard charts. Her problems with alcohol proved to be a blessing in disguise in later years, as she was happy to relate in her lectures. ‘My successes have certainly not been without problems’. During the 1970s I experienced a terrible low and painful time of dealing with alcoholism…I thank God daily that I have been fully recovered for more than twenty years. During my struggle, I had no idea of the blessing my experience would turn out to be! I’ve had the opportunity to share with others suffering with alcoholism the knowledge that there is help, hope, and an alcohol-free life awaiting them.’
THE ARMY GAME (1957-61) 157 EPISODES
Of the more than one hundred and fifty episodes shot in this series, the first sitcom ever produced by ITV, only fifty-two are still in existence in the ITV archives. The show follows the exploits of the dysfunctional group of National Service conscripted soldiers in Hut 29, in the British Army of the post-WW2 years. The men are determined to do as little as humanly possible…and to have fun. The original cast consisted of William Hartnell, Michael Medwin, Geoffrey Sumner, Alfie Bass, Charles Hawtrey, Bernard Bresslaw and Norman Rossington. Over the years the cast would change with the likes of Bill Fraser, Ted Lune, Frank Williams, Harry Fowler and Dick Emery popping up in subsequent series.
Initially, the IQ-deficient Private Popplewell, (played by Bernard Bresslaw), emerged as the break-out character of the series, so much so that Bresslaw re-played him in the film I Only Arsked (1958). Bernard became a star of the late fifties, usually playing characters that incorporated many of Private Popplewell’s characteristics. Bresslaw’s departure from the series saw Alfie Bass and Bill Fraser become the most popular characters, Bootsie and Snudge respectively. They would ultimately get their own spin-off series (Bootsie and Snudge) after The Army Game finished.
BACHELOR FATHER (1957-62) 157 EPISODES
This very popular sitcom became the only prime time series ever to run in consecutive seasons on three major television networks in the United States: on CBS from 1957-1959, on NBC from 1959 -1961, and on ABC from 1961-62. It featured John Forsythe as the never-married attorney Bentley Gregg who, with the help of his Chinese house-boy Peter (played by Sammee Tong), takes on the task of raising his young niece Kelly (Noreen Corcoran), after her parents are killed in an accident. The job of raising Kelly becomes increasingly difficult as she enters her teens and begins dating. Gregg is also often romantically involved and endeavoring to find happiness in the series. It is probably not widely known that John Forsythe helped found the Actors Studio after he finished serving in World War Two, where he worked to recover wounded soldiers who had developed speech problems.
John Forsythe & Noreen Corcoran
If it had not been for an intervention by Ronald Reagan, Noreen Corcoran would not have landed the role that made her known in households around the world. Another young actress, Helen Green, virtually had the part locked away, until Reagan tossed in his ten cents worth. He suggested that the role of Kelly should be played by a more ‘down-to-earth’ girl, ‘someone who looks like a niece, not Hollywood’s idea of a niece’. Noreen looked like ‘everybody’s daughter’ and she eventually got the part. The unfortunate Ms. Green’s reaction to this news has been lost to history.
Noreen hailed from Quincy, Massachusetts, the third of eight siblings, all of whom found acting roles as children with varying degrees of success. She retired from acting in 1965 to become a dancer, working with the Lewitzky Dance Company for over a decade, before passing away in 2016 at seventy-two. Donna, Kevin and Kelly Corcoran were all prominent at various times, with Kevin ‘Moochie’ Corcoran enjoying the most success. He appeared in several Disney productions, among them the following: Old Yeller (1957), The Shaggy Dog (1959), Pollyanna (1960), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), Babes in Toyland (1961), Bon Voyage! (1962), and Savage Sam (1963). He also portrayed Daniel Boone’s son James in the 1960 Disney series Daniel Boone. In October 2006 he was honored as a ‘Disney Legend’. He died in 2015.
Sammee Tong’s is one of Tinsel Town’s many sad stories. He tasted success as Peter Tong the house-boy in Bachelor Father, although forced to fake a Chinese accent for the part. He was, after all, born in America and had even graduated from Stanford University! He was a compulsive gambler, however, and was devastated by the cancellation of the TV series Mickey, in which he had been set for a featured role. Owing a lot of money to the Mafia, a debt he was unable to pay off now that his TV series had folded, and faced with no way out, he took his own life in 1964 at the age of sixty-three. The troubled man left a note that read simply: ‘I have taken my own life. No-one is to blame.’