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Radio: The Week in Review

4 minute read

With a rumble of kettledrums and a flourish of flags, TV moved into the fall season. Curiously, the week’s best drama was a 2,400-year-old Greek tragedy. Jean Anouilh’s version of Sophocles’ Antigone was given a striking, modern-day adaptation by Worthington Miner on NBC’s experiment-happy Kaiser Aluminum Hour. As Creon, Claude Rains was a fine old despot, and once even squeezed out a real tear. But Rains was all but overborne by the wooden acting of Hollywood Starlet Marisa Pavan. In the title role of the girl trying to bury her brother, Italian-born Marisa was lovely to look at, but she spoke as if she were still lying around the Roman ruins with Gregory Peck in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, with a studio elocution teacher prompting her between takes. Best innovation: Alexander Scourby’s one-man chorus describing the death scene, or expounding the tragic theory: “Tragedy is restful and clean. It is firm, it is flawless, it is quiet.”

With tragedies in style, James Cagney made his TV dramatic debut on NBC’s Robert Montgomery Presents, as a fumbling sergeant in the U.S. Military Escort Detachment carrying a flag-draped victim of a Communist mortar shell back to the boy’s home town. LIFE Staff Writer Robert Wallace’s script (Soldier from the Wars Returning) was a noble-minded but often pedestrian tone poem which confused patriotism with adulation of the anonymous dead. Cagney’s usual clipped, staccato style was properly subdued—especially when, at the end, he tried to work out a salvation for his hero: “Where do you go when you die? The book says, ‘In my father’s house there are many mansions.’ Where? In the sky, under the ground, or in the minds of men?”

The real people who appeared on TV last week were more improbable, in spots, than anything in the fictional dramas. Frank Sinatra’s new Coldwater Canyon, Calif, home was invaded by an army of Ed Murrow’s electronic gremlins only two hours after Frankie had moved in. Kicking off his fourth season on Person to Person (CBS), Murrow positioned his cameras in every cranny of Sinatra’s two-bedroom Japanese house, with its elaborate hi-fi gadgets, Bing Crosby recordings, a TV set that swings out of its niche to front any chair in the room, and a huge kitchen, chock-full of pizzas. Sinatra bounced around each room with assured grace, talking pure Sinatrese. Samples: “I’m very large down in Australia.” Pointing to the fancy trappings: “The furniture’s finished in teak, you might say,” or to a huge Japanese mural painted across an entire wall: “It’s a Japanese print, you might say.” By contrast, Boston Barrister Joseph Welch, chatting graciously with Murrow from his eleven-room, 150-year-old Walpole, Mass, home, was funny and brimming with sweet charity. Said he: “If I go on having any more fun than I’ve had, I will have cheated fate itself.”

Elvis Presley, the 21-year-old bobby-soxers’ delight, shot the Ed Sullivan Show’s rating up to 43.7—highest in two years. Actor Charles Laughton, his glib tongue in his dumpling cheek, introduced Elvis with: “Ed insisted I give a high tone to the proceedings,” then, to the frenzied shrieks of the teenagers, let Hillbilly Presley take over. Crooner Presley, sideburns dripping with sweat and goose grease, mumbled through three songs, gave his guitar a thorough clouting, contorted his mouth suggestively and his pelvis more so. When it was over, parents and critics, as usual, did a lot of futile grumbling at the vulgarity of this strange new phenomenon that must somehow be reckoned with.

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