Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ted Williams, cont'd

The Ted Williams documentary, referred to in the prior post (Ted Williams: "The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived"), aired on Monday, on PBS stations; it was superb.

The review below, by Chad Finn of The Boston Globe, appeared in the paper the day before the film aired.  Finn is the Globe's sports media columnist.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Ted Williams's last game, Fenway Park, 1960

On Monday evening (July 23rd), PBS's American Masters series will focus on baseball's Ted Williams.

Included in the documentary is color film of Williams's last game, in 1960, made at Fenway Park by a college student in Boston, Bill Murphy; this is the first time the film has been seen publicly.

As is well-known, Williams hit a home run (his 521st) in his final at-bat. Compressed/edited views of his four plate appearances, in the game (including, indeed, the home run at-bat), can be seen in Mr. Murphy's footage.

This week, in advance of the PBS program, a piece about Murphy, and the striking color film he took, appeared in The New York Times; the footage can be viewed within the article.

I don't know if all PBS stations will be carrying the Ted Williams documentary on the same evening; please check your area's television listings.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Keith Textor, of The Honeydreamers (1921-2018)

I was very saddened to learn, recently, of the death of singer, arranger and composer Keith Textor.   He died in California in February, two weeks after falling, and suffering a head injury.  He was 96.  His wife, singer Sylvia Textor, died in 2014, at age 89.

Mr. Textor was the leader of, and a founder of, the five-singer vocal group The Honeydreamers (also known, over time, by the three-word name, The Honey Dreamers). The group was formed in 1946, at Minnesota's St. Olaf College.

Textor had studied music at the school, graduating in 1943. After serving in the Navy, he returned to St. Olaf, to earn an additional music degree. In 1946, when The Honeydreamers was founded, Sylvia Textor (known, then, as Sylvia Mikelson) became one of its singers. She was, at the time, a student at St. Olaf, studying music, and performing in the school's widely-known choir. She and Keith Textor would marry in 1949.

Early in the The Honeydreamers' career, the group performed in Minneapolis, and later relocated to Chicago.  In 1949, the group joined Dave Garroway's Chicago-based NBC television show Garroway at Large. In December of 1949, when bandleader Kay Kyser brought his longtime radio program, the College of Musical Knowledge, to NBC-TV (broadcasting from Manhattan's International Theatre), The Honeydreamers became part of the cast.

The Honeydreamers, at International Theatre, for Kay Kyser show;
Sylvia Textor and Keith Textor are in the foreground.

The group, at the time, featured Keith Textor, Sylvia Textor (she was known on Kay Kyser's program as Sylvia Michaels), singers Bob Davis and Marion Bye (also married to one another), and Lew Anderson. Anderson later became well-known for playing Clarabell the Clown, on the Howdy Doody TV show; he portrayed Clarabell from 1954 until 1960, when the program left the air.

The Honeydreamers left the Kay Kyser Show after its first season, and in the fall of 1950, Keith and Sylvia Textor left the group. They soon became a singing duo on Fred Waring's TV show on CBS.  In 1954, they were featured on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, for the last several months the program was on the air.

In a 1981 interview for my book about early television, Keith Textor said the following, about the era, and its fundamental live component.

"You took a risk when you went on live," he said. "Something was bound to happen of an accidental nature nearly every show."  He recalled that Max Liebman, the producer of Your Show of Shows, "used to say, if you drop your hat, or you drop a handkerchief, that becomes the star of the number right there, 'cause people's eyes focus right on that thing."

Keith and Sylvia Textor, in 1951 television magazine

In the late 1950s, the Textors, with two other partners, founded what became a highly successful production company, best-known for creating and recording commercial jingles. With the two partners, Keith Textor had, several years earlier, written one of TV's most famous theme songs: "Smile, You're on Candid Camera."  In the 1960s and 1970s, Textor also released several albums featuring his own Keith Textor Singers.

Textor also worked in the 1970s with Jim Henson. During the second season of Sesame Street, in 1970, music written by Textor was featured in a number of short films produced by Henson for the television program.  Textor also served as musical arranger and conductor for a Muppets special--The Muppets Valentine Show--which aired in 1974 on ABC. The special was the first of two pilot shows for what would, in 1976, become The Muppet Show.


Here is a video of The Honeydreamers--performing a song on NBC's Colgate Comedy Hour, in September of 1950; the group's number begins at approximately 42:30, in the video.

The Colgate Comedy Hour featured rotating hosts; the episode, above, starred Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; it was their first appearance as hosts of the program. The show (like Kay Kyser's show) aired from New York's International Theatre. The Honeydreamers (and the Comedy Hour's other performers, that week, including guest star Marilyn Maxwell), were listed in the scrolling credits, at the show's start--as were the Martin & Lewis program's three writers, which included the writing team of Ed Simmons and Norman Lear.  Simmons and Lear had come to television during the summer of 1950. They wrote, for a brief period, for Jack Haley's Ford Star Revue, on NBC; the Ford Star Revue was the summer replacement, in 1950, for Kay Kyser's program.

Top photograph: The Honeydreamers, from 1949 or 1950, during their time on Kay Kyser's television show. From the top of the photo, clockwise: Lew Anderson, Marion Bye, Keith Textor, Sylvia Textor, and Bob Davis (NBC-TV photo).  Photo, above, of Keith and Sylvia Textor, from TV Digest, weekly television guide, 1951.