Thursday, October 15, 2009
THE ORIGINAL PORTABLE MUSIC PLAYER - DOBIE, MAYNARD AND THE TRANSISTOR RADIO - DOBIE GILLIS - CBS-TV - CIRCA 1959
In 1959, across the USA, many people were driving new, chrome laden Cadillac's and Chrysler's styled with big,flowing tail fins. Some dreamed of owning a 21 inch, RCA Victor, console, COLOR-TV in a cherry wood cabinet. At NASA's facility in Cape Canaveral , Florida, a handful of heroes-in-waiting were volunteering for the opportunity to ride a rocket to the moon.
In 1959,Dobie Gillis was America's favorite, fictional teenager. A sweet and sensitive guy, Dobie worked in his parent's neighborhood grocery store, and truly craved a girl he could call his own. He confronted puberty's, manifold challenges with his best bud,a work-averse acolyte of the beat generation named Maynard.
Each week, Dobie sojourned to the park , stood in front of Rodan's The Thinker, and pondered ,aloud to his audience,the great mysteries of life. Often, he evidenced worldly wonder and asked ,"whither are we drifting?" Sometimes, he would , in response to romance denied, simply whimper,"How can I get a date with that gorgeous Thalia Meninger?"
There was one girl who wanted Dobie now and forever. But, alas, the love starved lad always ran from comely,classmate Zelda Gilroy, the brainy bobbysoxer who was dopey for Dobie.
Dobie was a solid citizen.Optimism was Dobie's opiate. He was high on High School.This sensitive, responsible lad, later, went to college and even joined the Army.Dobie lived in an America that had yet to send astronauts to the Moon or fighting troops to Viet Nam. Dobie dreamed of the decade ahead, with the promise of a new and improved,fast acting, fat free, Atomic powered future.
Dobie's reign as America's, rave fave, teen endured until Richie Cunningham rocked and rolled onto the scene , followed by The Fonz, in 1974.
Created by prolific, script-smith Max Shulman, THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS, was first a 1953 MGM film, starring Bobby Van. The title was later abbreviated to simply, DOBIE GILLIS, for syndication and the show was one of CBS-TV's finest attempts at humanizing the All-American, high school student.
In that era, network television tended to portray teens as juvenile delinquents and motorcycle maniacs. While Dobie made every emotional misstep and misguided move that a 16 year old could conjure as he entered a new, generational platoon in the battle of the sexes, he was pure of heart and honorable in intent.This sitcom did galvanize two disparate social strata: Parents and teens watched DOBIE together.
Lightly played with adolescent naivete, Stridex-grade insecurity,and a deft touch of Jack Benny bluster by Dwayne Hickman,Dobie Gillis was everyman's, teenaged,kid next door. Hickman, who went on to a fulfilling career behind the camera in television production, was supported on the small screen bythe late, Bob Denver, in a pre -Gilligan role, as Beatnik Maynard G. Krebs and by Sheila James Kuehl, now a politician and activist,who portrayed Zelda.
Sixties sex-kitten, Tuesday Weld, portrayed Thalia Meninger, the obtuse object of Dobie's unrequited affection. A young Warren Beatty was Thalia's steady, millionaire Milton Armitage. Stephen Franken served as Dobie's weekly nemesis in residence, Chatsworth Osborne Jr.
The 30 minute, B&W sitcom enjoyed a four year run on the Tiffany Network from 1959 to 1963.Produced by veteran, show-runner Martin Manulus with Rod Amateau, a master of the 1950's,sitcom genre, the show had a veneer of hipness that has faded to quaint, kitsch when viewed through the prism of TV LAND reruns, some five decades later.
DOBIE did give viewers insight to the teenage condition at the threshold of the 1960's, and a look at the space-age advances that were supposed to make life easier and more enjoyable, every day.
In the clip below, Dobie is confronted with a new and portable technology, when his buddy Maynard shows-up in class with a newly purchased, transistor radio. It was the I-POD equivalent for the Pepsi Generation, and while Dobie tuned-in, he was too wholesome and upstanding to ever turn-on or drop-out. Enjoy!!!!!
As a bonus, here is a clip showcasing the animated, opening titles to DOBIE and the brassy, bubbly theme song. Enjoy!!!!!