1965: To Tell The Truth panel, again, tries to spot a spy

The panel on the popular CBS game show To Tell The Truth in 1963 had to figure out which of three men was a former Polish spy.

On that occasion, the panel was skunked, all four voting for an impostor (Henry Morgan, a panelist on another game show, I’ve Got a Secret).

The panel came up short in 1964 when trying to figure which of three men was the real John Le Carre.

In 1965, the To Tell The Truth panel again had to figure out a real spy, in this case a former British spy posing as a German agent during World War II.

Did the panel do better this time? You can see for yourself because the episode is embedded below. The same episode includes a replay of the daytime version of the show where Otto Preminger tried to fool the panel. And, without giving too much away, it relates to one of the previous spy installments on To Tell The Truth.

Stan Lee at 93: a complicated legacy

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1965

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1965, during happier days.

Stanley Martin Lieber, aka Stan Lee, turns 93 today. People who’ve never read a comic book have heard of him. Lee co-created the Marvel Universe of comic book characters, starting in 1961 with the Fantastic Four.

He is famous because of that and also through his own commercial sense and self promotion.

Stan (it’s hard not to call him that for anyone whoever read Marvel titles in the 1960s and ’70s) broke out from writing and editing comic books long ago. His IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 91 acting credits (though most are cameos or consist of voice over work) and 156 “self” appearances.

Stan had a way of making readers feel they were part of a club that “got it.” Marvel was less stuffy, less formal than arch rival DC.

One example is an Iron Man story in Tales of Suspense No. 84 in 1966. Tony Stark has suffered a heart attack just as began testifying about the Iron Man armor.

Outside Stark’s hospital room, reporters are present when Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts (yet another example of Stan’s alliterate character names) show up. “It’s Miss Potts, Stark’s private secretary!” says one. “And Happy Hogan, his right-hand man and trusted confidant!” says another.

The later quote has an asterisk that refers the reader to a caption. “We know people don’t really talk this way…but we wanna bring any newcomer up to date! —Smiley.” Smiley, of course, is one of Stan’s nicknames.

By the mid-1960s, general awareness of Marvel was taking off. Stan Lee was the face of the Marvel.

The problem was, Marvel was a lot more than Stan Lee. Artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Wally Wood, among others, largely plotted the stories.

Kirby, in a Fantastic Four story, created the Silver Surfer on his own. Ditko created Dr. Strange on his own and actually began receiving the plotting credit for Amazing Spider-Man starting with issue No. 26. Wood felt he did as much writing on Daredevil, if not more, than Lee did. (Wood was credited with writing one issue shortly before exiting the title.)

All three left Marvel by 1970. Fans of the artists make the case none of them, and others, got the due they should have received.

In a visual medium, it was Kirby who brought the FF, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers and the X-Men to life in a two-year span. Earlier in his career, Kirby had co-created Captain America. As a result, Kirby laid the groundwork for much of the Marvel movie universe.

In the past few years, there has been a re-examination of Marvel’s early days, such as Sean Howe’s 2012 book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.

Still, there’s no question there’s something about Stan that appeals to the public. In 2010, Lee made an appearance at a comic book gathering in Dearborn, Michigan. There was a long line of people. All had purchased tickets to receive a Lee autograph, each ticket costing at least $40. Lee, accompanied by bodyguards, began making his way to the desk where he’d write out the autographs.

“We love you, Stan!” somebody in the line yelled.

Lee, without missing a beat, replied, “I love to be loved!” It got a big laugh.

So, excelsior, Stan Lee. Below is an early 1970s installment of the syndicated To Tell the Truth show. Stan is the contestant in the second game.

Happy birthday, Dick Tracy

Happy 83rd, Tracy.

Happy 83rd, Tracy.

On Oct. 4, 1931, the Dick Tracy comic strip debuted in the Detroit Mirror newspaper.

The newspaper no longer exists. Tracy’s creator, Chester Gould, died almost 30 years ago. But while the strip isn’t widely distributed it’s still around, with Joe Stanton and Mike Curtis carrying on the tradition.

This blog has written before about how Tracy shares elements of James Bond and Batman, especially colorful villains and dabbling in science fiction. Gould devised villains such as Flattop, Pruneface and Mumbles. His successors have come up with their own villains in that tradition and (where they could) brought back Gould favorites who hadn’t been definitively killed off.
chester gould strip

Tracy, like Bond and Batman, has his own eras. The most offbeat, starting in 1962, was when Gould introduced the space coupe (a magnetic-powered craft that could travel into space) and a race of people on the Moon. Gould was 62 when that era began, an indication he wasn’t afraid of trying new things. Eventually, that was dialed back and a more down-to-earth approach took hold.

Sound familiar, Bond fans?

Anyway, here’s Chester Gould in a 1965 appearance on the game show To Tell The Truth in the midst of the space coupe/Moon people era. Gould, at this point, was still more than a decade away from retirement. He died in 1985.

Happy birthday, Tracy.

1964: John Le Carre appears on To Tell the Truth

David Cornell, aka John Le Carre

David Cornwell, aka John Le Carre

There was a time that game shows sometimes featured major literary or even historical figures. So it was in 1964 on the Mark Goodson-Bill Todman program To Tell The Truth when author David Cornwell, aka John Le Carre, was a contestant.

At the time of the broadcast on CBS, the author’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was a best seller. Cornwell had sold the film rights and it would be made into A 1965 MOVIE STARRING RICHARD BURTON. One of the screenwriters would be Paul Dehn, who had penned the later drafts of 1964’s Goldfinger.

The regular panel of Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle faced the daunting task of determining which of three contestents had once worked in British intelligence. The outcome? Well, let’s just say it didn’t turn out well for the panel.

Here’s the broadcast, featuring host Bud Collyer. Our usual caveat: these things are often yanked off YouTube, so it’s possible the embedded video may be gone by the time you see see this. Cornwell/Le Carre appears in the second of the three games:

1963: To Tell The Truth panel hunts a real spy

The defection of Pawel Monat from Poland to the U.S. caused a stir (as noted in a 1959 article in Time magazine). In 1963, Monat did something unusual for a defecting spy: he appeared on the CBS game show To Tell the Truth.

Going on a national television show isn’t the best way to keep a low profile. But Monat and two impostors wore masks and the real spy’s face was never revealed on the show. So a panel of Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, game-show host Art James and Kitty Carlisle went about trying to figure which of the three was the former spy. The staff of the Bud Collyer-hosted program, though, had one more twist to throw at the panel. Here’s how it played out (the video quality is unfortunately poor):

UPDATE (Oct. 5, 2012): Here’s a better quality video. The title admittedly gives the surprise away:

Al Harrington makes cameo on new Hawaii Five-0

Al Harrington, one of the few surviving cast members of the original Hawaii Five-O, made a cameo appearance on the new Hawaii Five-0 on Jan. 3.

Harrington, who celebrated his 75th birthday last month, played Ben Kokua in the fifth through seventh seasons of the original show. He was also in earlier seasons, usually playing a thug or hitman. In the new show, he played somebody Steve McGarrett 2.0 knew from his youth as the intrepid detective sought to find his kidnapped sister.

You can catch some glimpes of Harrington in this promo for the fifth-season opener of the original show:

You can get a longer look at him here in what was probably his network TV debut, also on CBS on To Tell The Truth:

Ian Fleming’s fascination with bowties

Ian Fleming, besides being the creator of James Bond, also had a thing for bowties.

Fleming (1908-1964) was photographed more than once sporting a bowtie. Once he finally had a deal to sell the film rights to 007, he felt bowties ought to be part of the proceedings. For example, he wrote in a memo to producer Albert R. Broccoli, that:

M should wear a dark blue bowtie with white spots.

(from When the Snow Melts: An autobiography of Cubby Broccoli: With Donald Zec, the contents of which can be viewed RIGHT HERE)

Broccoli and then-partner Harry Saltzman may have listened. In the first four 007 007 movies they produced (1962-1965), M (played by Bernard Lee) wore a bowtie.

A short while later, television producer Norman Felton (b. 1913) approached Fleming about a project. Felton, in meetings in New York City with Fleming, had trouble getting the author to focus. Eventually, Fleming scrawled some ideas on Western Union telegraph blanks. One suggested that secret agent Napoleon Solo (Felton’s original idea was the agent be called Edgar Solo) wear a polka-dotted bowtie. The eventual result was the TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. where Solo pretty much only wore a bowtie when he donned a tuxedo.

It could be there was something about the era that Fleming was born. Afterall, To Tell The Truth host Bud Collyer, born the same year as Fleming, was also known for wearing a bowtie.