Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (TV Series 1963–1967) Poster

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Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre:1963-1967
rcj536514 November 2008
"Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre" was one of television's last attempt at a quality anthology series. However,this was one of the last anthology series to came out of the 1960's. The Chrysler Theatre was a mixed bag of sorts all wrap up into a very impressive hour long series. You have a mixed bag of drama,espionage,westerns,comedies not to mention musical and "event" specials,all involving Bob Hope in one role or another. However besides Bob Hope as the host,The Chrysler Theatre featured some big-name guest stars,impressive full color photography,and a much higher production budget than those offered in the classic black-and-white anthology series of the 1950's such as "Playhouse 90",and "General Electric Theatre". But those series tended to feature dramas of stark realism featuring protagonists with whom the audience could identify with. "Chrysler Theatre",along with another successful anthology series from the early 1960's "Suspense Theatre",had a penchant for espionage suspensers and noir crime dramas,featuring characters unlike anybody the viewers were ever likely to meet.

Bob Hope,the nominal host of this series and at the beginning of each episode would strut out in front of the Chrysler PentaStar logo(which was the show's sponsor)and make a few comments about the story we are about to see. After the epilogue,he would return to make a few comments about next week's story. This was however another fine anthology series produced by Universal Television and under the guidance of Roy Huggins who served as executive producer of this series along with Richard Berg, Frank P. Rosenberg,and Jack Laird. 107 episodes were produced in full color and it ran for four seasons for NBC-TV from October 4,1963 until May 17,1967 for Hovue Productions and Universal Television. The program ifself was a landmark chapter of television history. Among some of the memorable episodes of Chrysler Theatre were"One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich",starring Jason Robards; "The Seven Little Foys",starring Mickey Rooney, Eddie Foy,Jr.,and the Osmond Brothers,and "Think Pretty",a musical starring Fred Astaire and Barrie Chase. Other episodes included "Gulity or Not Gulity",starring Robert Ryan,and "Have Girls Will Travel",starring Aldo Ray. Some of the episodes were presented live and in color which includes the classic "Murder at NBC",which stars not only Bob Hope but with special guest stars Frank Sinatra,Bill Cosby,Dean Martin and James Stewart.

In the four years that this show was on the air,performers who starred in at least two of the episodes in this series were Peter Falk,Jack Lord,Hugh O'Brien,Shelley Winters,John Cassavetes,Robert Stack,Dina Merrill,Leslie Nielsen,Darren McGavin,Angie Dickinson,Broderick Crawford,and Stuart Whitman. Others included William Shatner,Jack Klugman,Janet Leigh,Suzanne Pleshette,Carroll O'Connor,Dana Wynter,and Ernest Borgnine. Another fine series from Roy Huggins,the man who brought you "Maverick","77 Sunset Strip","The Fugitive",and "Kraft Suspense Theatre","Run For Your Life",and "The Rockford Files".
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'The Blue-Eyed Horse': Whinny the poo
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre31 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
'The Chrysler Theatre' was one of American tv's last attempts at a quality anthology series. 'Chrysler Theatre' featured some big-name guest stars, impressive colour photography, and a much higher production budget than those on offer in the classic black-and-white anthology series of the 1950s such as 'Playhouse 90' and 'General Electric Theatre'. But those series tended to feature dramas of stark realism, featuring protagonists with whom the audience could identify. 'Chrysler Theatre' had a penchant for espionage suspensers and noir crime dramas, featuring characters unlike anybody the viewers were ever likely to meet.

Bob Hope, the nominal host of this series, collected an easy payday. At the beginning of each episode he would strut out in front of the Chrysler PentaStar logo and make a few sardonic comments about the story we were about to watch; after the epilogue, he would return to make a few comments about next week's story. It was obvious that Hope was filming several weeks' worth of these intros in a single session.

Probably the worst instalment of this series was 'The Blue-Eyed Horse', an unfunny comedy written by Michael Fessier and directed by Hal Kanter, which aired as the 23 November '66 episode of 'Chrysler Theatre'. Ernest Borgnine stars as Melvin Feebie, a Los Angeles working stiff. At the beginning of the episode, Feebie is sitting in his armchair reading his newspaper. Suddenly noticing our presence, he introduces himself to us, but claims he can't understand why we'd be interested in a normal guy like himself, who never has any unusual experiences. Well, come to think of it, there was that *one* unusual incident a while back. Y'see, it all started... Cue the flashback.

It's a really stupid idea to tell this story in flashback, as we know in advance that everything will come right at the end. Anyway, Feebie is a hard-working guy but he never has any money, due to his wife (the coarse and vulgar Joan Blondell). She's always squandering his wage packet on ugly antiques, which Feebie attempts to put to good use ... such as the beat-up old brass lamp which the Feebies use as a gravy boat. Also, Feebie's wife keeps betting on the horses, but she always loses. Meanwhile, Feebie is also supporting their daughter (the winsome Ann Jillian) and his wife's spinster niece (Joyce Jameson), who uses annoying phrases such as 'cry for happy'. Feebie makes a few ill-chosen comments about how he'd be better off without his wife.

One evening, as the Feebies are sitting down to dinner, Melvin is lifting the gravy boat (an old brass lamp, remember?) as his wife confesses that she blew his wages on a horse race again. 'You and your horses!' says Feebie angrily to his wife. 'I wish you *were* a horse!' Instantly, the brass lamp in his hand glows red-hot and emits a cloud of steam. Gravy warm enough for you, Melvin?

The next morning, lo and behold, Feebie's wife has turned into a thoroughbred mare: a white horse with blue eyes and Joan Blondell's voice. (For some reason, the horse doesn't have Blondell's facial moles.) Now get this stupid script: Feebie has a talking horse, and he desperately needs money. Does he ring up Ed Sullivan's booking agent? No! He decides to enter his wife in the Santa Anita Handicap! Pardon me, scriptwriter, but doesn't a racehorse need breeding papers? Adding insult to idiocy, there's no plausible reason why a horse with a human brain should be able to outrace horses who have been bred and trained for that one activity. Also, female racehorses are consistently outrun by males. There's absolutely no reason why Feebie should expect his wife-turned-horse to outrace *real* horses, but he enters her in the race anyway. Johnny Silver gives a nice performance as Blondell's Runyonesque jockey.

Meanwhile, the neighbours have noticed that Feebie's wife has vanished ... and his comments about being 'better off without her' have come back to haunt him. Feebie is charged with murdering his wife, and hauled off into court. 'The Blue-Eyed Horse' was filmed during that horrible period in American television when Paul Lynde showed up in *every* tv series, always giving his one-note performance as a pop-eyed swish. Here, he shows up as the judge at Borgnine's hearing. If you've seen any of Lynde's other performances, you can fill in the blanks here.

SPOILERS COMING NOW. Needless to say, Feebie's wife wins the Santa Anita Handicap. He collects a pot of money, and the horse conveniently changes back into his wife. Her niece gets to 'cry for happy' again. We end up right where we started, with Borgnine sitting in his easy chair and reading his newspaper. 'Well, after all,' he says, grinning into the camera, 'it's not every guy who can say his wife won the Santa Anita Handicap.'

If this is meant to be funny, it isn't. Joan Blondell looks better as a horse than she ever did as a human being, but that's the only merit in this unfunny episode.
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