Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More on "Calvin and the Colonel"

Since I wrote about Calvin and the Colonel, I thought I'd share some of the buzz the show got during its broadcast. The following article ran on the Toledo Blade in October 1, 1961, on the debut of the show (which occurred on the following Oct. 3).



'CALVIN AND THE COLONEL'
by Ray Oviatt, Blade Entertainment Editor

FAME AND anonymity have gone hand in hand for Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

What's more, the paradox seems destined to continue even as they prepare their personal television debuts.

These partners, whose many voices were as familiar to most of us as our next of kin when they were radio's Amos 'n' Andy, are used to going unnoticed in a crowd. At the height of their radio popularity Gosden recalls being pushed aside unceremoniously at a Hollywood premiere by an autograph seeker in hot pursuit of Roscoe Ates.

This season the 40-year veterans of broadcasting is finally make their entry of the television scene. Actually, they don't really make the scene, but they will supply the voices for the leading characters in the new animated series, "Calvin and the Colonel," premiering Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC-TV.

***

EVEN IN Romanoff's, a prestige beanery for the Beverly Hills crowd where we had gathered recently for a luncheon interview, Gosden and Correll would not have been picked out as show business stars. Their appearance might suggest that they were successful businessmen - investment brokers perhaps - and members of the governing board of an exclusive country club. Ant this impression is not entirely amiss.

A good share of the early conversation was devoted to a discussion of new developments in electronics as they relate to stock market quotations. Gosden, normally the spokesman for the team, seemed to command particular respect as an investment counselor. And, during the course of the meal, he excused himself to confer with a gentleman at a nearby table on some country club board business.

Gosden and Correll are still showmen, though, and admittedly are hoping for a little more recognition from the TV series, even though they will not be seen in person. A video version of "Amos 'n' Andy," still running in some areas, brought financial rewards to the radio creators of the characters, but the roles were played by other performers. "Maybe by the time we're 90, we'll be recognized at Forest Lawn," said Gosden

Basically, though, the two millionaires were lured back to business of performing because they live in a town where other wealthy veterans keep on working and are not available for a golf game. Then, too, they are reunited with Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, former Amos 'n' Andy writers, and among the most successful producing-writing duos for TV ("Leave it to Beaver," "Ichabod and Me" and "Bringing Up Buddy")

***

GOSDEN INSISTS that characters and voices of "Calvin and the Colonel" will not be the same as those of Amos 'n' Andy, although making the distinction is something of a problem. As the Colonel, a sly fox from the piney woods of Dixie, he'll use a southern accent acquired by him long ago in his native Richmond, Va. However, he'll avoid malapropisms, mispronunciations and slurs and he will keep his voice somewhere between Amos and the Kingfish.

Correll speaks for Calvin, a lumbering bear with an eye for ladies. He wears a straw skimmer which he habitually tips to passing females with a lilting, drawn-out "Howdee doo." The partners believe it is highly likely that this greeting will become a national craze, rivaling some of the catch phrases made a part of the national idiom by Amos 'n' Andy.

"It will be a modern show," say the team. "We even use an electronic storyboard with flashing dots. You should see it. I don't think there's anything quite like it in the cartoon business."

***

FROM THIS automated animation line will come, we are promised new and adult approaches to the cartoon humor. The pair was chuckling over a sequence recently completed in which Calvin was trying to remember some telephone numbers, a street address and several other figures, which become jumbled in a series of tabulations picturing his mental confusion. "It's hard to explain, but it's something which hasn't been done before and I think it will be very funny," says Gosden.

Their entry on the TV scene (or soundtrack) is not a terribly strenuous chore, they confess. It entails primarily an hour or two per week recording the dialogue for an episode.
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The following ran on November 6, 1961 in the
Pittsburgh Press, following the show's dismal ratings.

Calvin, Colonel Bite Dust
By Vernon Scott

HOLLYWOOD, Nov. 7 (UPI) - That splash you just heard was the first new TV series of the season hitting the water like a dead duck.

The casulties, however, are a bear and a fox, the cartoon stars of "Calvin and the Colonel". And the characters aren't really dead, just badly wounded.

As of Nov. 14 the program will be off the air.

But come next January, after major surgery - perhaps a prefrontal lobotomy - "Calvin and the Colonel" will return for another try.

The animated cartoon show was one of four such to invade the nation's living rooms this fall, the others being "Top Cat", "The Bullwinkle Show" and "The Alvin Show."

They came in a rush after the success last season of "The Flintstones." But, fittingly, they have been received with something less than all-out enthusiasm by viewers.

There is a small tragedy in the temporary demise of "Calvin and the Colonel" in that two of the country's most beloved entertainers are involved - Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

Gosden and Correll originated and portrayed "Amos and Andy" on radio for 30 years and provide the voices for Calvin (the bear) and the Colonel (the fox) on the troubled series.

Gosden, a golf buddy of former President Eisenhower, said his series was tailored for adults and at the same time disagreed with critics who think cartoon shows are for kids, low-brows and the mentally retarded.

"If we're good we'll survive. If not, we won't. It's that simple."

Gosden went on to say that one of the other new cartoons had won a 33 percent share of the audience in its time slot. This information seemed to cheer him.

But it will take more than that to keep "Calvin and the Colonel" from being shot down for good next spring.


The show returned in Saturday evenings at 7 PM (not mornings as some sources state) in January 27, 1962 and stayed there until it was taken off the air the following September. It's interesting how networks treated failed shows back then. Today, any sitcoms that fail are taken off air and never seen again, regardless of how many unaired episodes are left.
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The following appeared in the Pittsburgh Press in January 24, 1962. Considering that Top Cat aired the same season, you'd think people would complain about that show...

Gosden Defends 'Calvin And Colonel'
Replying to criticism that "Calvin and the Colonel" was simply an animalized, cartoonized version of Sgt. Bilko, Freeman Gosden has this to say:

"Sure, The Colonel is a schemer. So was Bilko. But don't forget before Bilko, The Kingfish was a schemer, too. Down through the years, comedy teams often used a team of a conniver and his foil. After all, there's nothing new under the sun."

Gosden, you'll remember, did the voice of The Kingfish (as well as Amos) on the old Amos 'n' Andy radio show.

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