A while ago I Netflixed some DVDs of a venerable classic I recall from the dim paleolithic era of childhood:
It’s the nighttime version, which was saved - apparently most of the daytime shows were lost. Maybe it’s me, but there’s something about this date that gives you a pang.
The end of May, 1962. Things got weird and bad down the road, but of course they had no idea. This is the last few exhalations of the post-war culture, right here.
Not to make too great a case for this, of course. It’s just Password. Our host:
Alan Ludden: buzz-cut, black frames. The sixties would do a thorough job of ridiculing this look, but compared to the hirsute eras that followed, it’s looking pretty good. It certainly looks intellectual, and Ludden had that smart-guy shine without ever having to prove it. He wasn’t the ineffably civilized John Daly, but he wasn’t one of the motormouthed pitchmen, either. He had a great breezy skill, but he wasn’t a lightweight.
The set was something else:
Never mind the big geometric shapes in the background - dig the stacked stereo consoles for the set. Now, the contestants. This was part of the weekend Frame Grab Caption Contest:
James Mason emoting some murderous intent. He was damned good, but he’s James Mason, so no surprise. On the other team:
Recognize? She was charming and lovely and funny and sweet, albeit a bit the-AH-trical, but she was young. Climbing up on North Vietnamese armaments was still a long way off.
Another episode had the master of the deadpan non-reaction reaction, reacting:
If, like me, you grew up with the Carson “Late Night” persona, early Johnny is a bit of a surprise. He was all deadpan back then. The man had taken the lessons of Jack Benny down to the bone, but his deadpan was unique. Keaton’s deadpan said “well of course. Yes, of course.” Bunny's said “Well I never.” Carson’s had a touch of “what the hell happened?” that added a nervous element, as if he didn’t know quite how to react. Very Midwestern.
This was a celebrity contestant. Recognize?
While you figure it out, let’s break for one of my favorite brands:
It’s a gun, it’s a shaver, it’s a typewriter, it’s computer! It’s a Remington! Different companies, sure. Right? Sort of: the firearms manufacturer went into the typewriter business in the 19th century (they backed the QWERTY standard, which in a way made them the Microsoft of their time) but sold the branch in 1886. This was the company that became Remington Rand; they started selling electric shavers in 1937. Remington Rand merged with Sperry, makers of Univac, in 1955. They continued to make electric razors, obviously. The firm has been sold a few times - remember Victor Kiam? I liked it so much I bought the company! According to wikipedia, the company was last sold to Rayovac Batteries, another great old name that was subsequently changed to “Spectrum Brands.” Yawn. On the other hand, Marisa Miller did a YouTube ad for them, so there’s that.
(Side note: as an actress, she’s no Kathy Ireland.)
And now, back to our show. If this woman had been more on the pixie side, I think the term gamin would apply:
She’s quite dramatical:
Also quite delightful. You feel terribly sorry for the big galoot with whom she’s paired. They do very well; they’re on the same wavelength. She touches him and tells him he’s great and at one point says “We’re in love” after they blew through a 60-second challenge. The guy is so smitten he cannot believe his luck in this world. He also says he’s married, and you know it was a very, very cold ride home from the studio that night.
She’s Anne Bancroft, if you hadn’t figured it out.
A new season, a new set: much slicker:
Our first guest:
It wasn’t. She was sad, in a way - a bit confused at the start, not sure why she was here, smiling broadly when complimented for her work, unsure how the game worked. But she did fine.
Let no one ever say Joan Crawford didn’t give one hundred percent.
Parting guests receive the following:
If you’re in my demographic, you know what color those books were; you know what the smelled like; how the pages were gilt-edged; how they had fascinating transparencies that let you study things like human anatomy; how you cracked them the night before a paper was due; how you never sat down and read them the way your parents hoped you would.
They’ve removed many of the ads, but a few remain. Here’s one for a perm product preferred by lovely women who are not from this earth, but have come here in pod form to hypnotize you and suck your brains through their long, tentacle fingers:
Finally, scalp chemicals for the younger set:
She looks like she grew to be 47 feet tall at the age of 3, and had to be taken down by artillery fire.
Oh, the unnamed woman above you didn’t recognize? She was the daughter of this fellow below.. And the Password is:
He got about a minute of ceaseless laughter without saying a word.