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"Make Room For Daddy" aka "The Danny Thomas Show" was one of the
cornerstones of situation comedy. It was the longest running situation
comedy in American television history (11 years in prime time) until
"Cheers" tied it for longevity.
"Make Room For Daddy" was a milestone in showing how families truly behaved: indulgent parents, manipulative children and relatives,the trials of balancing a career and home life, ethnic pride vs. assimilation into American society. No other situation comedy of the period came close to such honest depictions of American family life.
The show provided the perfect showcase for Danny Thomas. He never found anything else that effectively showcased his comedy. His supporting players were excellent actors, including and especially, the child actors playing his children (Sherry Jackson, Rusty Hamer, and Angela Cartwright). The scripts were generally excellent. The show ended its run only because Danny Thomas was tired of it, not due to falling ratings.
"Make Room For Daddy" gave showcase roles for many up-and-coming players:
Pat Harrington, Jr., Annette Funicello, Pat Carroll, Piccola Pupa, Bill Dana (as the memorable Jose Jimenez). Thomas was generous enough to provide the great Hans Conreid his most memorable character besides the classic work he did on the Jay Ward cartoons.
"Make Room for Daddy"'s success helped create Desilu Productions as the first major television company in America and allowed Danny Thomas to become the most prolific television comedy producer of all time. Such shows as "The Andy Griffith Show", "Mayberry RFD","The Dick Van Dyke Show", "That Girl", "I Spy" (an action series laced with comedy)were all products of Danny Thomas and his business partner, Sheldon Leonard (who had a recurring role in "Make Room for Daddy").
Lastly, "Make Room for Daddy" featured Jean Hagen and Marjorie Lord with their best-remembered television roles.
"Make Room for Daddy" deserves belated ranking with the great television shows of all time. Nothing less!
The television series,"Make Room For Daddy",remains one of the most
neglected milestones in situation comedy,which to this day has not been
seen since. This was one of the cornerstones,if not,the steppingstone
that paved the way for the development of situation comedy,not to
mention of the founding pioneers as well,under its star Danny Thomas
and its producer and executive in charge of production Sheldon Leonard
and his assistant Ronald Jacobs. This series provided the perfect
showcase for Danny Thomas,who never found anything else that
effectively showcased his talent not to mention his own creative style
of situation comedy that remains to this day a bonafide classic.
The series,"Make Room For Daddy",aka,"The Danny Thomas Show" basically was one of the founding cornerstones of situation comedy,and it went on to become one of the longest running situation comedy shows of all time that ran for 12 astounding years in prime time and produced 237 episodes all in black and white and it ran on two major television networks....First,it ran for ABC-TV from September 29,1953 and ended its six year run on the network on July 1,1959. Then in mid-1959,the series switched networks,this time it went over to CBS-TV from October of 1959 to its final episode of the series on September 6,1965. It also went on to become the second longest running situation comedy of all time,and it is tied with "My Three Sons","M*A*S*H","Cheers","Frasier", for the duration of its longevity.
"Make Room For Daddy" followed the misadventures of the Williams family. Danny Williams(Danny Thomas),a nightclub entertainer tries to strike a balance between family life and the grueling lifestyle of the entertainment business. However,the series also showcased some of Danny Thomas' great singing abilities,and that is what brought out this series. In the beginning,the family consisted of his wife,Margaret,played by Jean Hagen,his 11 year-old daughter Terry,played by Sherry Jackson,and his 6 year-old son Rusty,played by Rusty Hamer. However,during the first four seasons of the show,actress Jean Hagen quit the show in 1956 to pursue other options and Danny Thomas decided to continue on without her. Her character was written out as having herself died and Danny was now a widower to take care of the children. The following season(1956-1957),featured Danny dating various other women with from the kids,but instead found his becoming by proposing to a young nurse named Kathy O'Hara,played by Marjorie Lord. The fifth season opened with Danny and Kathy returning from their honeymoon. The newcomer in the cast was Kathy's five year-old daughter from her previous marriage named Linda,played by Angela Cartwright. It was also during the switch that Sherry Jackson,at the height of the 1958-1959 season,where her character Terry left the show,but instead Jackson's character of Terry returned,but in certain spots where she was being courted by a nightclub performer,whom she eventually married. It was here during the 1959-1960 season that Sherry Jackson and the producers went at it over some contract disputes,and in 1960,Jackson left the show for good,never to be heard from again. Her replacement on the show the next season. An unknown actress named Penny Parker took over the character of Terry Williams,and that lasted one season with Parker leaving the show also at the height of the 1960-1961 season. There were other regulars in the cast that made their mark on this series,including some cast members like Hans Conried,Pat Harrington,Jr.,Annette Funicello,Sid Melton,Amanda Randolph as the feisty but comical housekeeper,and Sheldon Leonard.
For those who knew how successful this show was,let me put this in perspective....this show was a milestone in showing the overall behavior in the way families truly behaved,and this show was a prime example of this:indulgent parents,manipulative children,not to mention the relatives,the trials of balancing a career and home life,and so much more,since no other situation comedy of the period came close to such honest depictions of life within the American family....the only show that came close to that line was Dick Van Dyke's classic situation comedy series of the 1960's. Also of interest here:this show spawned a classic hit series;the episode of "Danny Meets Andy",or "Danny In Mayberry" was the pilot to "The Andy Griffith Show",which ran for eight seasons on CBS. Also such memorable guests that were given their own series as well including Bill Dana,Jesse White,Pat Carroll,and Joey Bishop. It is also to note that Joey Bishop's own series,"The Joey Bishop Show" was the only situation comedy in the early-1960's produced by Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas that was in color from 1961-1965 for NBC. Thomas' own sitcom "Make Room For Daddy".and other shows were still in black and white. However,after the show went off the air in 1965,the Williamses returned five years later in 1970 for the spin off comedy "Make Room For Granddaddy",which the regular cast members as this time Danny Thomas plays a grandfather...Marjorie Lord,Rusty Hamer,and Angela Cartwright returned,and this time with new members Micheal Hughes and Rosey Grier,which ran for one season on ABC-TV from 1970-1971.
I appeared on three Danny Thomas Shows; first in 1955 as part of the
Little League team from the episode of the same name which aired on
Sept. 20, 1955. I played drums in a band called The Dixie Small Fry and
we were part of "Good Old Days" -Season 5 Episode 25 from March 24,
1958 and then Season 6 Episode 13, "When The Saints Come Marching In" -
Dec. 29, 1958.
Recently, I bought the Fifth Season DVD collection and watched "Good Old Days" for the first time since it aired originally. I remember being a big fan of the show before ever being on it and watching this episode brought back not only how much fun that week at Desilu was for the guys in the band, but how well written and acted the Danny Thomas Show was week in and week out. There was nothing phony about the set ups, or the people being presented as the Danny Williams family. There was an intelligence about the situations, funny always, with an edge at times, again which made it believable. Regardless of age, The Danny Thomas Show was both real and funny, no small accomplishment. Marjorie Lord was first rate, Sherry Jackson, besides being a major babe for guys my age, was also a very good actress who might have become great and Rusty Hamer at eight years old had comedy timing most seasoned adults couldn't match.
As great as all the parts and people were, it was Danny Thomas who made The Danny Thomas Show exceptional. He was what he was portrayed to be, an entertainer,a nightclub entertainer and as sitcom fathers go, unique in his make up. This was a real guy and not a silly characterization of a father. In fact, every character in the show seemed to be from real life.
Danny Thomas was a man of remarkable character and compassion for others. To use the phrase that came into being during the Vietnam war, he "walked it like he talked it", whether heading the drive for St. Jude Hospital or as Danny Williams giving us another brilliant Danny Thomas spit take over coffee with Sid. Through all the years the Danny Thomas Show was on the air, he stressed values, truthfulness and respect and that's what we as the audience got back each week. That, and humor with a real life edge to it.
And it was clear that people working on the show LIKED working on the show. Danny and producer Sheldon Leonard were in charge, but Thomas never acted like he was the star. In the first scene of "Good Old Days", I had a line to say as our band left the Williams apartment....I was not an actor and the line got tossed to me in dress rehearsal...the show was shot in front of an audience, in sequence using the three camera film technique that Desi Arnez had dreamed up. Anyway, Danny saw that I was nervous and so he made a big deal about going over the sequence where he fed me his line, then I said mine and as soon as I got it out of my mouth, Danny nodded my way and spoke loudly enough for the crew to hear...."Do it that way in the show tonight, Kid and we'll be fine."
I saw reruns of this show as a youngster. Online, at www.tv4u.com,
several episodes are available free, and they include the embedded
commercials to add realism.
Recently I saw the episode, "The Visiting Englishman." It is a simple but fun episode that recalls the lower threshold of humor that apparently prevailed back then. The lines are written to be funny even if you don't watch the video -- in that way, it reminds me of radio show humor.
Nobody is ridiculed, the plot conflicts don't try to push the envelope and make some social statement, and nobody is really stupid -- thus it is unlike what passes for comedy these days.
Notice too -- the people speak good English and dress with respect for themselves and the viewer.
I enjoy seeing the 1950s America -- and thinking about what has changed -- and whether it has been for the better ... ?
"Make Room For Daddy" a.k.a. "The Danny Thomas Show" stands as one of the best-written, best acted comedy shows ever. The family situations and characters were like real people with real flaws and virtues. Maybe more so than any other show of it's time. I have read many critiques of the fifth season on DVD. Just about everyone complains about the syndicated, edited episodes being used for this and several other DVD sets. Let me say this. In my opinion, there may not be any cost-effective ways to issue some series in their original, uncut versions. Sam Nelson, son of Rick Nelson is undertaking a massive restoration undertaking to redo all 435 episodes of his Grandparents "Ozzie and Harriet" show. To do so, he has mounted a massive fund-raising campaign to fund this project. The series "Bachelor Father" has just begun to be re-shown on Antenna TV. They only have 118 of the original 157 episodes to show. The vintage series "Mr. Adams and Eve" apparently has only a handful of it's original episodes still in existence. So be happy with what we can get of these series and stop whining about small details. Enjoy your "Make Room For Daddy" and be grateful for the series we can get.
Outstanding comedy series of the 1950s starring Danny Thomas as Danny
Williams, a comedy pro who battles his loving family along the way.
Created by Sheldon Leonard, the show was memorable with a phenomenal supporting cast. When Jean Hagen left the show to pursue a movie career, she was replaced by Marjorie Lord. Lord knew just how to recite her lines in such a way so as to get what she wanted.
Rusty Hamer, who committed suicide in 1990, at 42, was simply terrific as the precocious Russell. He often did battle with his father in a memorable but comic way. Rusty sure had excellent comic timing for one so young.
Who can forget Hans Conreid as Uncle Tanousse? Amanda Randolph was that spunky maid.
We certainly made room for this daddy and his family for each and every episode.
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