Sat, 10/31/2009

Lon Chaney, Jr. in "Frankenstein" on "Tales of Tomorrow" -- Famed "Live" Production that Chaney thought was the Dress Rehearsal

Tales of Tomorrow (1951-53) is described by the Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows as "one of TV's earliest adult science-fiction series." These days, the series is known for early performances by such up-and-coming stars as James Dean and Leslie Nielsen, and later performances by such Hollywood legends as Boris Karloff and Sylvia Sidney.

With biopic Amelia currently in theaters, take a look at Veronica Lake as lost aviatrix "Paula Bennett" on Tales of Tomorrow: "Flight Overdue" (airdate: 3/28/52). Lake made over two dozen appearances on TV in the early 1950s as her Hollywood career waned. On this episode of Tales of Tomorrow, she appears as a short-haired brunette-- a switch from her blond 'peek-a-boo curl' image.

One of the series' most notable shows was Lon Chaney, Jr. in "Frankenstein" (airdate: 1/18/52). Chaney gives an excellent performance as the Monster, despite the fact that he notoriously thought that the "live" show was the dress rehearsal and at times doesn't destroy breakaway chairs-- saving them for the "real" show. Moments can be seen at 12:01 (where he makes a comment right at the camera during his exit) and at 14:47 ("miming" how he would break a chair). Below, from the Internet Archive, is the infamous production.

Lighting Director Imero Fiorentino, who began his career at ABC in the early '50s, recalled in his Archive of American Television interview another incident that occurred on Tales of Tomorrow in a "live" broadcast, during one of the show's famed openings.