Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy birthday, Don Medford and Frederik Pohl!

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear doffs its cap (the one my father found at a yard sale that says “beer” on it—and I’m not making that up) to veteran film and television director Don Medford, who celebrates his ninety-third natal anniversary today.

I tried to dig up a little autobiographical information on Don but from what resulted from a fruitless search he’s clearly a person who cherishes his anonymity.  His work, however, should speak for himself—between 1951 and 1989, he was at the helm of episodes from a long laundry list of classic TV series: Tales of Tomorrow, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, M Squad, The Rifleman, 12 O’Clock High, The F.B.I., Baretta and Dynasty are just a few of the nearly 75 shows he worked on.  He also dabbled in directing a few feature films, notably 1971’s The Organization, which was the third movie to feature Sidney Poitier reprising his original In the Heat of the Night role as police detective Virgil “They call me MISTER” Tibbs.

Medford directed two of my favorite Twilight Zone outings: “Deaths-Head Revisited” (in which a former SS officer visiting a concentration camp finds himself at the mercy of the ghosts of the men who were executed there) and “A Passage for Trumpet,” that wonderful Jack Klugman episode where Klugman plays a musician unable to communicate with anyone in the world around him.  Don would supervise a second Twilight Zone-Klugman experience in “Death Ship,” one of the really good episodes of Zone’s disastrous hour-long fourth season.  Classic television fans and couch potatoes might also recognize Medford’s name on a number of episodes of TV’s The Fugitive—including the classic two-parter “The Judgment,” which chronicles “the day the running stopped.”

Another nonagenarian celebrating a natal anniversary today is science fiction author Frederik Pohl, who turns ninety-one having been born on this date in the Big Apple.  Pohl, whose books include The Space Merchants, Gateway and Jem (which won a National Book Award in 1980), was also editor of Galaxy magazine (and its sister publication, if) from 1959-69, winning the prestigious Hugo Award three years in a row during that time.  I’m most familiar with Pohl’s classic short story “Tunnel Under the World,” about an incredibly mind-blowing and monstrous experiment instituted by an ad agency that I heard on radio’s X-Minus One—and which scared the living !@#% out of me afterward.  “Tunnel” was later adapted for television as an episode of the series Out of the Unknown in 1966 and an Italian film three years later (Il tunnel sotto il mondo).

So the happiest of birthdays to Messrs. Medford and Pohl…and on this “Black Friday,” we’d like to give a shout-out to these people as well:

Ford Beebe (1888-1978) – B-movie writer-director-producer who specialized in serials and the Bomba the Jungle Boy series; his cliffhangers include The Phantom Creeps, The Green Hornet, Riders of Death Valley and Overland Mail

Charles Brackett (1892-1969) – Academy Award-winning screenwriter and motion picture producer who collaborated with Billy Wilder on several films include Ninotchka, Hold Back the Dawn, The Major and the Minor, The Lost Weekend and Sunset Blvd.

Bruno Hauptmann (1899-1936) – German ex-convict and carpenter who was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Charles Lindbergh, Jr., the 20-month-old son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh in 1935

Eugène Ionesco (1909-1994) – Romanian-French playwright and dramatist whose works have come to be recognized as prime examples of Theater of the Absurd

Frances Dee (1909-2004) – Film and television actress best known as Mrs. Joel McCrea but whose vehicles include One Man’s Journey, Little Women, Blood Money, So Ends Our Night and I Walked with a Zombie

Eric Sevareid (1912-1992) – Peabody and Emmy Award-winning news journalist who worked at CBS from 1939 to 1977

Bill Baldwin (1913-1982) – Radio and television announcer who occasionally did some acting in movies and TV series; best known as Edgar Bergen’s announcer in later years and the narrator of TV’s Bat Masterson

Adele Jergens (1917-2002) – TDOY character actress fave who specialized in playing molls and floozies in such vehicles as The Dark Past, Armored Car Robbery, Blues Busters, The Sound of Fury and Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man

Daniel Petrie (1920-2004) – Emmy Award-winning television and motion picture director whose oeuvre includes A Raisin in the Sun, Fort Apache the Bronx, Rocket Gibraltar and Cocoon: The Return

Henry Beckman (1921-2008) – TDOY character actor fave best remembered as Colonel Harrigan on the sitcom McHale’s Navy and the besotted Captain Roland Francis Clancey on Here Come the Brides

Adam Williams (1922-2006) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include Without Warning!, The Big Heat, The Rack, North by Northwest and The Last Sunset

Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000) – Creator of Peanuts

Albert Mayles (1926-    ) – Motion picture filmmaker who in tandem with his brother David specialized in “cinema verite” documentaries such as Salesman, Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens

Robert Goulet (1933-2007) – Stage, screen, radio and television entertainer whose movies include Gay Purr-ee, Atlantic City, Beetlejuice and The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear

Barry Coe (1934-     ) – Film and television actor best remembered for his TV series Follow the Sun and for appearing in commercials as “Mr. Goodwrench”

Marian Mercer (1935-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actress-singer who’s remembered around TDOY as Nancy Beebe on the sitcom Making a Living and as heart transplant patient Eve Leighton in several episodes of St. Elsewhere

Rich Little (1938-     ) – Impressionist and voice actor who had a recurring role as Stan Parker on the 1966-67 sitcom Love on a Rooftop

Tina Turner (1939-     ) – R&B/pop singer and actress (Tommy, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) who looks damn good for a grandma

Wayland Flowers (1939-1988) – Ventriloquist-puppeteer (“the man behind Madame”) and the pride of Dawson, GA

Olivia Cole (1942-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress seen in such shows as Szysznyk, Report to Murphy and Brewster Place

Bruce Paltrow (1943-2002) – Motion picture and television director-producer whose TV shows include The White Shadow (which he created) and St. Elsewhere; husband of Blythe Danner and father of Gwyneth

Jean Terrell (1944-     ) – Supreme

John McVie (1945-     ) – Fleetwood Mac bassist

Daniel Davis (1945-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor best remembered as the acerbic butler Niles on the sitcom The Nanny

Tandy Cronyn (1945-     ) – Actress daughter of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy whose vehicles include All Night Long, The January Man and TV’s Guiding Light

Mark L. Lester (1946-     ) – B-picture director-writer-producer whose oeuvre includes Truck Stop Women, Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw, Roller Boogie, Class of 1984, Firestarter and Armed and Dangerous

Portland Mason (1948-2004) – Actress daughter of James and Pamela Mason who can be seen in such films as The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit and The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery; I always thought it was neat that she was named after Portland Hoffa, wife of Fred Allen, with whom the Masons were close friends

Carrie Rickey (1952-     ) – Film critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer

Julien Temple (1953-     ) – English motion picture and music video director whose oeuvre includes The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, Absolute Beginners and Earth Girls are Easy

Roz Chast (1954-     ) – Cartoonist for The New Yorker

Scott Jacoby (1956-     ) – Emmy Award-winning teen film and television actor whom I always remember as the unforgettable Bad Ronald, but whose films include The Anderson Tapes, Baxter! and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Jamie Rose (1959-     ) – Film and television actress best remembered as daughter Vicki Gioberti Hogan on TV’s Falcon Crest

Linda Davis (1962-     ) – Country music vocalist who scored a #1 duet with Reba McEntire with 1993’s Does He Love You…but hasn’t done much since

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quizshowbob said...

'Deaths-Head Revisited' and 'Passage For Trumpet' are both in my top 5 favorite Twilight Zone Episodes. The other 3 are 'Walking Distance', 'The Midnight Sun', and 'A Stop and Willoughby'.

Stacia said...

Pohl just won another Hugo for his fan writing on his blog!

I also read the LiveJournal of James Nicoll, nominated for the same award, and he campaigned for Pohl. People still complained about James being nominated, because I fear people just like to be complainey on the internet.