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Leo G. Carroll
Then: It was "TROUBLE WITH FATHER" on TV. Now: It's TROUBLE WITH STUDENTS, but in the School; not the Living Room TV Sets!
When Commercial Television was still cutting its baby teeth, many of the producers of the minor or "B" Series Pictures in Hollywood set out to get in the newer business. Cautiously they tested the waters of the new medium with some half hour filmed series that were just a tad longer than a 2 Reel 3 Stooges or Laurel & Hardy comedy. There Small Studios' production schedule was already geared to this size of a film. So, quite naturally a Lion's shares of the titles were Comedies; a new breed of comedy called the "Sitcom!"
So one of the shows on the American Broadcasting Network's Fall Line-up was "TROUBLE WITH FATHER" (1950-55). This was a product of Hal Roach Studios; and that's good! Executive Producer Hal Roach had been in the business as a comedy producer since 1915, following several years before the Camera. He had at one time or another comedians Harold Lloyd, Snub Pollard, Max Davidson, Edgar Kennedy, Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, Charley Chase, Mabel Normand, Our Gang (aka Little Rascals), Patsy Kelly, Zasu Pitts, Billy Gilbert, Thelma Todd, Anita Garvin and Stuart Erwin.
Stuart Erwin was a multi-talented actor whose career dated from the latter days of the Silent Screen.* He had a resume that included Comedy (Farce) and Drama. It was he who was chosen to head up the cast of this new "TROUBLE WITH FATHER" comedy series. He was in the series the father of two girls and the Principal of the local High School.
Supporting Stu was his own real-life, June Collyer, a real All-American Home Maker. Ann E. Todd played Teen Aged daughter, Joyce and Sheila James was cast as Pre-Teen, Jackie. Others included Harry Hayden as neighbor, Willie Best as School Custodian, Willie, Paul Maxey & Frank Jacqet split duty as School Superintendent Mr. Selkirk. Emory Parnell and Effie Laird also appeared regularly.
A very young Martin Milner portrayed Joyce's Boyfriend, Drexel. And Merry Andres took the role of Joyce in the last season.
We haven't seen much of these shows since the Fabulous '50's save for a rental VHS tape some time around 1987-89. But it's truly peculiar how one can remember some things from childhood, well over 5o years ago; but can't remember what the Wife told me this morning! We can remember clearly watching this program regularly as a kid of about 4 or 5 years old. (It had to be judging by where our family resided then!) As far as sponsorship, I remember Gold Medal Flour as one; and they even worked that sponsor's name into a story once as June sent Joyce to the Corner Store for a bag of it specifically, by name. That company also made Bisquick, that marvelous multi-use baking mix.
One episode really stuck out in my mind for all these years since then. In short, the School Custodian, Willie (Willie Best) told Stu that his wife was expecting. When someone overheard the the Erwin's talking about a new baby being on the way and made the false assumption that it was June who was in a family way.
A Baby Shower was planned as a surprise for the Erwins and it was only when everyone got together; that they found out it was Willie's Wife and not June. When the lady guests began to leave taking the presents with them, June suggested that Willie's family could use all of those items; so why not throw the Shower her way.
Here was a low key, non-patronizing message of kindness, consideration and decency in our behaviour and attitudes to all. This was broadcast for the first time a good 10 years before any Civil Rights Act.
And all of this portrayed in a little TV sitcom show.
NOTE: * We can remember at least one Hal Roach Silent 2 Reeler with Stu Erwin. It was A PAIR OF TIGHTS (1929)with Mr. Erwin & Edgar Kennedy in a sort of Laurel & Hardy-type situation. Also appearing were: Anita Garvin, Charlie Hall, Spec O'Donnell, Marion Byron,Harry Benard, Edgar Dearing and Helen Vanderveer.
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