Classic TV Birthdays: February 28

Happy 65th birthday to Ilene Graff! In the 1970s, she guested on Barnaby Jones and NBC’s answer to The Love Boat, Supertrain. Graff’s biggest role came in the 1980s, when she played Bob Uecker’s wife on the sitcom Mr. Belvedere.

Others on the birthday list: actress-singer Bernadette Peters (guested on Love American Style, Maude, McCloud…starred in 1976 comedy All’s Fair) is 66, Frank Bonner (WKRP in Cincinnati) is 72, Canadian actor Don Francks (guested on Ben Casey, Mission: Impossible) turns 82 and Gavin MacLeod is 83. MacLeod guested on many classic TV shows, including The Big Valley, The Munsters, Perry Mason and The Untouchables. He co-starred in McHale’s Navy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, then took the helm of The Love Boat.

Today was also the birthday of several classic TV favorites since departed. Character actress Billie Bird was a familiar face, guesting on shows like Adam-12, Eight is Enough, Gunsmoke and The Waltons. She was later a regular on sitcoms Benson, Dear John and It Takes Two. Bird also some memorable movie roles, including Grandma Baker in Sixteen Candles.

Also born this day was Charles Durning. The veteran actor appeared in movies like The Sting and Tootsie. He guested on Cannon, Hawaii Five-0 and N.Y.P.D. Durning starred in a short-lived 1975 sitcom (The Cop and the Kid) and later had regular/recurring roles on Evening Shade, Everybody Loves Raymond and Rescue Me.

February 28 was also the day we lost some classic TV friends. Philip Ahn guested on many classic shows from the 1950s to the 70s, including Bonanza, Hawaiian Eye, Hawaii Five-0 and M*A*S*H. He later appeared as Master Kan on the adventure-western Kung Fu. Eddie Anderson was best known as Rochester Van Jones on Jack Benny’s radio and TV programs. Zara Cully was Mother Jefferson on The Jeffersons. Mary Stuart was a longtime star on the daytime drama Search for Tomorrow.

Paul Harvey also passed on this day. The veteran radio personality’s news and commentary features aired from the 1950s until his death in 2009. He also had a syndicated TV editorial segment that aired during local newscasts from the 1960s to the 80s. And now you know, the rest of the story…

Obit: Jim Lange

Former Dating Game host Jim Lange has died at age 81.

Lange was a long-time disc jockey in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He was the host of the original 1960s network version of The Dating Game and a syndicated 1970s revival.

Lange also hosted a number of other game shows, including $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime, Celebrity Bullseye, Give-N-Take, Hollywood Connection, Oh My Word and Spin Offs.

Lange died Tuesday in California.

Here’s a rare clip from a 1967 Dating Game episode featuring a special bat guest:

Classic TV Birthdays: February 27

Howard Hesseman is first on today’s classic TV birthday list. The 74 year old actor guested on such classic shows as The Andy Griffith Show, Dragnet, Mannix and One Day At A Time. We know him best as Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati. Hesseman later starred in the classroom sitcom Head of the Class.

Also celebrating a birthday: Barbara Babcock (appeared on Hogan’s Heroes, Mannix, Star Trek…later a regular on Hill Street Blues) is 77, Van Williams (Bourbon Street Beat, The Green Hornet, Surfside 6) turns 80 and Joanne Woodward is 84. Woodward guested on The Carol Burnett Show, Playhouse 90 and Studio One, but is best known for her movie roles (including The Three Faces of Eve). She is the widow of legendary film star Paul Newman.

February 27 was also the birthday of some classic TV favorites since passed. Singer-actor Carl Anderson guested on The Rockford Files and Starsky & Hutch but is best known for his stage/film role in Jesus Christ Superstar. Joan Bennett was a regular on the gothic daytime drama Dark Shadows. B-movie actress Lynn Cartwright appeared on Adam-12, Highway Patrol and Little House on the Prairie. She is perhaps best remembered for her role in the movie A League of Their Own.

Also born this day: Mary Frann (guested on Bonanza, Hawaii Five-0, That Girl…later played Bob Newhart’s wife on the long-running sitcom Newhart), silent film star Ian Keith (later appeared on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and Dragnet) and Franchot Tone. The character actor guested on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Ben Casey, Studio One and The Twilight Zone. He is also well-known as a co-star of the classic 1935 film Mutiny on the Bounty.


William Demarest (pictured) was also born February 27. He appeared in such movies as The Jolson Story and later starred in a short-lived 1959 sitcom Love and Marriage. Demarest guested on Bonanza, Ellery Queen, Make Room for Daddy and McMillan & Wife, but we know him best as Uncle Charley on the classic sitcom My Three Sons.

Today also marked the day we lost some classic TV friends. Western actor Pat Brady was a regular on The Roy Rogers Show. Conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. hosted the PBS series The Firing Line. Myron Cope was a Pittsburgh TV and radio sports reporter, best known as a Pittsburgh Steelers commentator and inventor of The Terrible Towel.

Others passing this day: The First Lady of American Cinema Lillian Gish (early film star, later appeared on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Defenders), George Tobias (neighbor Abner Kravitz on Bewitched) and children’s host Fred Rogers (Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood).

Classic TV Birthdays: February 26

Happy Birthday Marta Kristen! The 69 year old actress and I have something in common: we were both born in Oslo, Norway. Kristen guested on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Leave It To Beaver and My Three Sons but we know her best as eldest daughter Judy Robinson on the Irwin Allen classic sci-fi series Lost In Space.

Also on today’s birthday list: actor-director Bill Duke (appeared on Charlie’s Angels, Kojak, Starsky & Hutch) is 71, UK actress Josephine Tewson (Keeping Up Appearances, The Two Ronnies) turns 75 and game show host Tom Kennedy is 87. Kennedy hosted Name That Tune, Split Second and You Don’t Say…his brother was game show host Jack Narz (Beat The Clock, Concentration).

We have a lengthy list of classic TV friends born February 26 but no longer with us. Let’s start with classic radio actor Mason Adams, who went on to co-star in Lou Grant and was the longtime spokesman for Smucker’s jams and preserves. Tex Avery was a legendary animator who created the characters Daffy Duck and Droopy Dog…he’s also credited with coining Bugs Bunny’s signature phrase “What’s Up Doc?” Robert Alda guested on Here’s Lucy, Naked City, Quicy M.E. and his son Alan’s show, M*A*S*H.

Next up is The Man in Black: singer-actor Johnny Cash, who guested on Columbo, Little House on the Prairie and Wagon Train. He also hosted The Johnny Cash Show from 1969-71. Character actor Dane Clark worked on TV from the 1940s to the 80s, appearing on such shows as Bold Venture, Ironside, Mannix and Police Woman. William Frawley had memorable roles on two classic sitcoms: he was Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy and “Bub” O’Casey on My Three Sons.

The list continues with The Great One, comedian-actor-musician Jackie Gleason. We know him best for The Honeymooners, but he also starred in the original TV version of The Life of Riley. Gleason went on to star in such films as The Hustler and Smokey and the Bandit. Stage and film star Betty Hutton guested on Baretta, Burke’s Law and Gunsmoke, also starring in The Betty Hutton Show. Cliff Osmond appeared on such classic shows as Chips, Movin’ On and The Twilight Zone.

Also born this day: Tony Randall (Mr. Peepers, The Odd Couple, The Tony Randall Show) and western actor Dub Taylor. He guested on shows including Dennis The Menace, Hazel, Little House on the Prairie and The Roy Rogers Show. Taylor also appeared on Gunsmoke, where his son Buck was a regular (he played Newly).

We also lost some classic TV favorites on February 26. David Doyle guested on Car 54 Where Are You? and Naked City, but we know him best from his role on Charlie’s Angels. Constance Ford appeared on Another World, Perry Mason and Studio One. UK actress Wendy Richard was a regular on long-running Britcom Are You Being Served? Lawrence Tierney guested on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Naked City and Peter Gunn. He also had a memorable guest appearance on Seinfeld, playing the father of Elaine Benes.

Dale Robertson also died on this day. He starred in several classic westerns (Iron Horse, Tales of Wells Fargo) and hosted western athology Death Valley Days. Robertson later appeared on primetime soaps Dallas and Dynasty.

Classic TV Birthdays: February 25

We start off today’s birthday list with Karen Grassle. The 72 year old appeared on Gunsmoke and daytime drama Love of Life, but we best know her as Caroline Ingalls on the long-running family western drama Little House on the Prairie.

Others celebrating a birthday: college basketball analyst Billy Packer is 74, actress Diane Baker (guested on Bonanza, The Fugitive, Kojak) turns 76, CBS newsman Bob Schieffer (Face The Nation) is 77 and actor Dick Jones is 87. Jones starred in an early TV western (Buffalo Bill Jr.) and co-starred in another (The Range Rider).He also guested on such shows as Annie Oakley, The Gene Autry Show and Wagon Train. He may be best known as the voice of Disney’s Pinocchio.

February 25 was also the birthday of some old classic TV friends who have since passed on. Jim Backus (pictured above) had a TV career that stretched from the 1940s to the 1980s. He starred in Blondie (short-lived 1968 version), Gilligan’s Island, I Married Joan and The Jim Backus Show. He guested on shows including The Brady Bunch, Burke’s Law, Fantasy Island, Love American Style, The Love Boat and Police Story. Many of us classic TV fans also remember Backus of the voice of nearsighted cartoon character Mr. Magoo.

Others born this day include actor Christopher George (The Rat Patrol, husband of actress Lynda Day George), sax player Tommy Newsom (The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson), former Chicago Cubs player-broadcaster Ron Santo and country singer Faron Young (Country Style USA, Hee Haw, The Porter Wagoner Show).

We also lost some classic TV favorites this day. James Coco guested on Alice, The Love Boat, N.Y.P.D. and The Patty Duke Show. He also starred in a pair of short-lived sitcoms: Calucci’s Apartment (1973) and The Dumplings (1976). Darren McGavin (pictured above) worked from the 1940s to the 2000s, starring in Crime Photographer, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Mike Hammer (late 1950s version), The Outsider and Riverboat. McGavin guested on numerous classic TV shows as well, later appearing as the father of TV character Murphy Brown. New generations know him best as the lovably gruff father on the classic holiday film A Christmas Story.

Classic TV Birthdays: February 24

Edward James Olmos leads off today’s birthday list. The 67 year old guested on such 1970s classics Cannon, Kojak and Police Story. He went on to co-star in Miami Vice and the 1990s revival of Battlestar Galactica.

Also celebrating birthdays: Barry Bostwick (guested on Charlie’s Angels, Hawaii Five-0, later co-starred on Spin City) is 69, singer-actress Joanie Sommers (appeared on 77 Sunset Strip, Burke’s Law, The Wild Wild West) turns 73, Dominic Chianese (guested on Kojak, a regular on Ryan’s Hope and later The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire) is 83, Steven Hill (Mission: Impossible, Law & Order) turns 92 and Abe Vigoda is still alive at 93 🙂 Vigoda, who turned his reported death turned into a running joke, appeared in The Godfather movie but is best known as Detective Fish on Barney Miller and it’s spinoff sitcom, Fish.

February 24 was also the birthday of some classic TV stars no longer with us, including Pete Duel (Alias Smith & Jones, Gidget, Love on a Rooftop), James Farentino (The Bold Ones), Barbara Lawrence (guested on Bat Masterson, Perry Mason), Marjorie Main (guested on Wagon Train, best known as Ma Kettle in a series of Ma and Pa Kettle movies), Zachary Scott (appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Rogues), John Vernon (frequent classic TV guest star, best remembered for his movie role as Dean Wormer in Animal House) and Douglas Watson (Another World, Search for Tomorrow, Studio One, Suspense).

Today was also the day we lost a long list of classic TV friends. Bruce Bennett was an Olympic shot putter who later played Tarzan on the big screen and guested on small screen classics Lassie and Perry Mason. Actress-singer Virginia Bruce appeared on Lux Video Theatre and Studio 57. George Gobel was an actor, comedian and producer who starred in 1950s sitcom The George Gobel Show. His company, Gomalco, produced the first 4 seasons of Leave It To Beaver. Gobel was a frequent panelist on The Hollywood Squares and later co-starred in the Barbara Eden sitcom Harper Valley PTA.

Also passing this day: Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show, Three’s Company), Conrad Nagel (guested on The Defenders, Route 66), John Randolph (appeared on The Bob Newhart Show, The Bold Ones, Mannix…later played Clark Griswold’s father in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), Dennis Weaver (Gentle Ben, Gunsmoke, McCloud) and comedian-violinist Henny Youngman (frequent guest on The Tonight Show and other talk/variety shows).

Dinah Shore also died on February 24. The singer-actress starred in the primetime Dinah Shore Show and The Dinah Shore Chevy Show back in the 1950s, later hosting the daytime series Dinah’s Place and Dinah! in the 1970s. She appeared as herself on such TV classics as Alice, Make Room for Daddy and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Shore was also an avid golfer and helped launch the Colgate Dinah Shore golf tournament, now known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Classic TV Birthdays: February 23

Happy 74th birthday to Peter Fonda. Son of Henry and brother of Jane, Fonda is known for his roles in movies such as Easy Rider. He also appeared in classic TV shows 12 O’Clock High, Naked City and Wagon Train.

Several classic TV favorites were born February 23 but have since passed. Majel Barrett guested on such shows as Bonanza, Leave It To Beaver and The Lucy Show. She also appeared in the pilot of Star Trek and had a recurring role in the series as Nurse Chapel. Barrett later did voice work on Star Trek: The Animated Series. She also happened to be the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

Also born this day: Jon Hall (starred in early 1950s series Ramar of The Jungle, guested on Perry Mason) and film actress Diane Varsi (appeared on Cannon, Dr. Kildare, Playhouse 90).

February 23 was also the day we lost one of the legends of comedy. UK born actor-writer Stan Laurel worked in movies from the 1910s to the 1950s and is best known as the skinny half of the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy. The duo was honored on a 1954 episode of the classic TV series This Is Your Life.

Enjoy this classic short from the great Laurel and Hardy:


Classic TV Birthdays: February 22

Today’s birthday list starts with John Ashton. The 66 year old actor appeared in the Beverly Hills Cop movies and guested on Columbo, Dallas, Kojak and Starsky & Hutch.

Also celebrating birthdays: Leslie Charleson (General Hospital castmember since 1977, also guested on Adam-12, Cannon, Happy Days and The Wild Wild West) is 69, Paul Dooley (played Molly Ringwald’s dad in Sixteen Candles, earlier appeared on TV shows like Bewitched and The Defenders) turns 86 and Donald May (co-starred in Colt .45 and The Roaring 20’s, guested on The FBI and Quincy M.E., appeared on several daytime soaps) is 87.

Others born February 22: TV producer-director Bud Yorkin (All in the Family, Carter Country, Good Times, Maude, What’s Happening!!) is 88 and legendary NBC announcer Don Pardo turns 96. Pardo was a longtime game show announcer (Jeopardy!) and has been announcing on Saturday Night Live since the show’s 1975 launch.

One more familiar face is celebrating a birthday. You may not know the name, but you surely recognize his picture. Veteran character actor James Hong turns 85 today. He has been working in showbiz since the 1950s and reportedly has over 500 movie and TV roles on his resume. Hong co-starred in the 1957 series The New Adventures of Charlie Chan and the 1976 series Jigsaw John. He’s voiced characters on Jackie Chan Adventures and Kung Fu Panda. Hong has guested on countless classic TV shows, among them Bachelor Father, Hawaii Five-0, Hawaiian Eye, I Spy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Perry Mason and Peter Gunn. He also appeared in the memorable Seinfeld episode “The Chinese Restaurant.”

Several classic TV favorites were born this day but are no longer with us. Director David Greene worked on The Defenders, Rich Man Poor Man and Roots. Actor-director Sheldon Leonard appeared in such classic films as It’s A Wonderful Life and guested on numerous classic TV shows, even starring in a short-lived 1975 sitcom Big Eddie. He is probably best known for producing such classic shows as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy and Make Room for Daddy.

Robert Young was also born today. We remember him for his longtime role as Jim Anderson on the radio and TV versions of Father Knows Best. He later starred as kindly doctor Marcus Welby M.D.

February 22 was also the day we lost some classic TV friends. Ed Flanders guested on many classic shows of the 1960s and 70s, among them Daniel Boone, Hawaii Five-0, Mannix, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and M*A*S*H. He later went on to star in the medical drama St. Elsewhere. Legendary animator-director Chuck Jones worked on Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, creating such classic characters as Marvin the Martian, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.

Others passing this day: George Ives (co-starred in 1965 sitcom Mister Roberts, guested on Green Acres, Mister Ed, Emergency!, Wonder Woman), storyboard artist Michael Maltese (worked for Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera) and Alexander Scourby. Scourby guested on Mannix, Marcus Welby M.D. and The Rifleman. He was also well known for his recording of the King James version of The Bible and as narrator of National Geographic Specials from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Obit: Garrick Utley

Longtime NBC newsman Garrick Utley has died at age 74.

Utley joined the Peacock Network in 1963 and was among the first correspondents to cover the Vietnam War. He reported from more than 70 countries during his career, which also saw him anchoring evening newscasts and moderating Sunday morning roundtable Meet The Press.

After spending three decades at NBC, Utley went on to work at ABC and CNN. He passed away Thursday in New York.

Classic TV Westerns Viewing Guide

Westerns were all over the primetime network schedules in the 1950s and 60s. By the time the 1970s rolled around, viewer tastes were changing and the western era was all but over.

Long-running westerns Bonanza and Gunsmoke ended in the 1970s. Although there were a handful of westerns that launched later in the decade, none could match the genre’s earlier success.

Fortunately, many local stations continued to air off-network reruns of classic westerns long after they left primetime. These local stations, along with family-oriented cable networks like CBN (now ABC Family), helped expose these great shows to new generations of viewers.

Today there are many places to catch your favorite western shows, whether its on pay channels like Encore Westerns or for free on national diginets like Cozi and MeTV. There are also many westerns available for purchase on DVD.

The table below shows where classic westerns (1950s-70s) are currently available for viewing (as of February 2014). The columns include Program Title (with a link to DVD releases), Diginets (national programming services carried by local TV stations), Cable/Satellite Networks and Streaming (Internet-based services like Hulu, Netflix).

Saddle up and enjoy! Please contact me via Facebook or Twitter with your comments and suggestions.

Program Title w/DVD Link Diginet Cable/Satellite Streaming
A Man Called Shenandoah
The Adventures of Champion
The Adventures of Jim Bowie Cozi & Retro
The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin Antenna
The Alaskans
Alias Smith and Jones Cozi Hulu
Barbary Coast
Bat Masterson Encore Westerns
The Big Valley MeTV INSP Hulu
Bonanza MeTV Encore Westerns & INSP Hulu
Branded MeTV
Brave Eagle
Broken Arrow
The Californians
The Chisholms
Cimarron City
Cimarron Strip
The Cisco Kid Retro
Colt .45
The Cowboys
The Dakotas
Daniel Boone
The Deputy Cozi
Dirty Sally
Dundee and the Culhane
Frontier Circus
The Gene Autry Show
Gunsmoke MeTV Encore Westerns
The Guns of Will Sonnett MeTV
Have Gun Will Travel Encore Westerns
Here Come The Brides Antenna
High Chaparral INSP
Hopalong Cassidy Cozi & Retro
How The West Was Won
The Iron Horse
Johnny Ringo
Kung Fu
Law of the Plainsman
The Lawman
The Legend of Jesse James
The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp Encore Westerns
Little House on the Prairie Hallmark & INSP
The Loner
The Lone Ranger Cozi Angel Two & FETV Hulu
The Man from Blackhawk
Man Without a Gun
Marshal Dillon* Encore Westerns
Maverick Cozi Encore Westerns
The Monroes
My Friend Flicka
The Oregon Trail
The Outcasts
Overland Trail
The Quest
Rawhide MeTV AMC
The Rebel MeTV
The Restless Gun
The Rifleman MeTV AMC Hulu
The Road West
The Rough Riders
The Roy Rogers Show Cozi Angel Two & FETV Hulu
Sergeant Preston of the Yukon FETV
Sky King
Stagecoach West
Stoney Burke
Tales of Wells Fargo
The Tall Man
Temple Houston
The Texan
Tombstone Territory
The Travels of Jamie McPheeters
The Virginian* Cozi INSP
Wagon Train MeTV
Wanted Dead or Alive MeTV
The Westerner
Wichita Town
The Wide Country
The Wild Wild West
Yancy Derringer
Young Daniel Boone
Zane Grey Theatre

*Half-hour version of Gunsmoke
**Also known as The Men from Shiloh