Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kay Kyser, Buzz Kulik, & December 28, 1950

On December 28, 1950 (60 years ago today), Kay Kyser’s NBC show had its final telecast.

The guest stars for the last show included Ted Lewis, and Frances Faye.

After his show left television, Kay Kyser, forty-five years old, retired from show business. (He passed away in 1985, at age 80.)

After his TV show ended, Kyser returned with his family to his home state of North Carolina. He became involved in various community-oriented efforts—such as, playing a key role in bringing public television to the state.

In addition, Christian Science became an increasingly important part of his life. In time (using his given name, James K. Kyser), he became a Christian Science teacher, and a Christian Science practitioner (a practioner being another term for a Christian Science healer).


Here is a ticket (its scuff marks and scratches more pronounced in the scan) from Kay Kyser’s last TV broadcast. I found it years ago, amidst other things my mother had saved from her career in New York (such as, scripts, recordings, photographs, newspaper and magazine stories, etc.).

Though it does not show up well in the scan, if you look to the right of the phrase “TELEVISION SHOW," you’ll see a name, written in pencil. It says “Kulik.” In that it is not my mother’s handwriting, I am guessing this means that the ticket had originally been put aside for (or, was put aside at the request of) Buzz Kulik, the show’s director, but that perhaps he ended up not needing it.

Later, Buzz Kulik became one of television’s best-known (and most accomplished) directors. In the 1950s, after directing Kay Kyser’s show, he directed such live television dramatic programs as Playhouse 90, Climax, and Lux Video Theatre. In the 1960s, he directed a number of episodes of The Twilight Zone, and worked on The Defenders, Have Gun, Will Travel, and many other programs.

He is perhaps best known for his direction of the landmark made-for-television film Brian’s Song, which aired in 1971. He also directed a number of feature films, including 1980’s The Hunter, which was Steve McQueen’s last film.

Though I did not know this when I interviewed him in 1981, Kulik also directed one of the TV productions I enjoyed most during childhood: a 1970 "Hallmark Hall of Fame" drama written by Rod Serling, A Storm in Summer, which starred Peter Ustinov.  Ustinov won an Emmy Award for his performance, the show itself was named "Outstanding Dramatic Program" (for 1969-1970), and Kulik received an Emmy nomination for his direction of the program.

Kulik (who passed away in 1999, at age 76) also received Emmy nominations for the 1984 mini-series George Washington, for the 1976 television film The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, for a 1961 episode of Dr. Kildare, and for Brian’s Song.