Thursday, November 25, 2010

Our Lady of Horrors: Vampira's Programming, Part 2

What follows is another update on the pre-SHOCK! films hosted by Vampira. After reading my post last week, doctor kiss contacted me to say that he had some corrections and refinements to the original list that I had used.

In his note, doctor kiss said that he took some time to scour California newspaper TV listings for KABC during the run of Vampira's show, concluding that "although most of what I found corresponded with Dick Nitelinger's list, there were a couple of notable discrepancies among the early episodes (5/1/54 and 5/29/54), as well as the final movie (4/2/55) having been announced as a Vampira episode, but in fact ending up being shown with no host."

He goes on to say that programming did not begin as "The Vampira Show," but rather as "Lady of Horrors." The doctor explains: "The first five shows from 5/1/54 through 5/29/54 were billed in publicity, press reports, and TV listings as 'Lady of Horrors,' and it was only following Vampira's swift rise to fame did the show become billed as 'Vampira' from 6/5/54 onwards."

What follows are excerpts from doctor kiss's extensive research notes. I am putting these up here as insight to the origins of the Monster Culture revolution in the 1950s and to aid any future Vampira researcher who stumbles upon this blog:

5/1/1954 – all sources consulted from Bakersfield, Long Beach, and Van Nuys name WHITE ZOMBIE as the movie being shown on "Lady of Horrors" that night, and both the Long Beach Independent and Long Beach Press-Telegram additionally name Bela Lugosi as the star. (Nitelinger identifies THE CHARGE IS MURDER as the film shown).

The shift from a midnight slot to an 11pm slot beginning on 5/29/54 is attributed in all sources consulted to the KABC song-and-dance/variety show “Party at Ciro's” (which previously filled the 11pm slot) having lost its sponsor.

5/29/54 – all sources consulted from Bakersfield, Long Beach, and Van Nuys name CONDEMNED TO LIVE as the movie being shown on "Lady of Horrors" that night, and both the Long Beach Independent and Long Beach Press-Telegram additionally name Ralph Morgan and Mischa Auer as the stars. (Nitelinger identifies CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS as the film shown).

6/5/54 – none of the sources consulted name the film being shown on this date; Nitelinger reported the same situation in the Los Angeles press. This was the first date on which the show was billed as "Vampira" rather than "Lady of Horrors."

8/7/54 – Vampira appeared on two shows on this night, the earlier of which constituted her first appearance on a nationally-syndicated network show, "The Saturday Night Revue," hosted by Ben Blue. The show aired at 9pm on KNBH in the Los Angeles area; Blue's other guest that night was George Jessel. Vampira hosted DANGEROUS INTRUDER (1945) during her regular 11pm slot on KABC.

Ellis Walker's “Video Notes” column in the Hayward Daily Review (CA) of 8/7/54: “Ben Blue figures his stint on Saturday Night Revue tonight at 9 (KRON) will be about as jolly as a tour through the morgue. He'll introduce Vampira to the nation's televiewers. This doll hopes she kills the audience. Really.”

John Frederick's “Looking and Listening” column in the Long Beach Press-Telegram of 8/7/54: “Vampira to do haunting on 'Saturday Night Revue.' Ghoulish glamour girl Vampira of the KABC (7) 11p.m. mystery theater, will move over to KNBH (4) at 9p.m. to do a guest stint with George Jessel and Ben Blue on the 'Saturday Night Revue.' Jessel subs for Eddie Albert and Ben Blue gets involved with Vampira in her 'most horrible home in the world.'”

9/18/54 – RED DRAGON (1954).

John Frederick's “Looking and Listening” column in the Long Beach Press-Telegram of 9/18/54: “Vampira, the amazing glamour-ghoul (7) at 11p.m., will take a bath during the show. Naturally it'll be in a cauldron of fire fanned by gasoline.”

9/25/54 – THE MISSING HEIRESS. Both the Long Beach Independent and Long Beach Press-Telegram give a longer version of the film's title, as THE CASE OF THE MISSING HEIRESS [a confirmation of my own guess at identifying it in last week's post].

10/23/54 – THE SHADOW RETURNS (1946).

Terry Vernon's “Tele-Vues” column in the Long Beach Independent of 10/23/54: “Vampira, who'll be dining at Brower's in Long Beach on Thursday evening, will do a poison-to-poison interview with sponsor Fletcher Jones on her 11p.m. horror show on (7). Vampira opens at the Orpheum Theatre on Oct.29-30 in a stage horror show for Halloween.”

[10/28/54] As promoted on her 10/23/54 show, Vampira was the special guest interviewee on KFOX radio program ON THE AIR WITH DON MAY, broadcasting a Halloween-themed show from Belmont Shore that ran from 11pm to 1am. Vampira was billed in advertising as the “best lookin' spook in town.”

10/30/54 – KING OF THE ZOMBIES (1941).

Terry Vernon's “Tele-Vues” column in the Long Beach Independent of 10/30/54: “Vampira, the dream ghoul of (7) at 11p.m. will have a special show for this Halloween with fun and games for her friends (?). Formaldehyde-and-seek, bobbing for poison apples and other such games will be played and refreshments will include sui-cider and Thirteen Up.”

11/6/54 – Vampira appeared on two shows on this night, the first of which was a postponed Halloween episode of nationally-syndicated show PLACE THE FACE, hosted by Bill Cullen. The show aired in the Los Angeles area at 8.30pm on KNBH, and Cullen's other guests that night were Pat O'Brien and Tony Martin. Vampira hosted DOOMED TO DIE (1940) during her regular 11pm slot on KABC.

Ralph W. Shelden's “TV Hilites” column in the Elyria Chronicle Telegram (OH) of 11/6/54: “The October 30 'Place the Face' show was pre-empted by a political speech and will be carried over for the show of tonight on Channel 3 at 8.30. Scheduled to appear as a special guest is Vampira, TV's most frightening glamour girl. Vampira, who resembles a character in a Charles Addams cartoon, has created quite a stir throughout the country even though her TV show is seen only in the West.”

11/27/54 – DEAR MURDER (1947).

Terry Vernon's “Tele-Vues” column in the Long Beach Independent of 11/27/54: “Vampira (7) at 11p.m., will take her flying hearse to Decadence Manor for a Thanksgiving dinner of young Tom Vulture. Rest of the dinner menu includes Sparkling Arsenic, Sour Potatoes, dressing of head crumbs and tid-bits of toes, crank-berry sauce and dead lettuce salad.”

12/4/54 – CASTLES OF DOOM. John Frederick asserts below that the show's sponsor had agreed to another 26 episodes at this point.

John Frederick's “Looking and Listening” column in the Long Beach Press-Telegram of 12/4/54: “'Vampyre,' a French horror film of 1930 (silent) but said to be terrifying, will be offered by Vampira on (7) at 11p.m. The glamour ghoul is quite happy since Fletcher Jones, her sponsor, just dipped a vulture into a blood bank and signed a new 26-week contract.”

12/18/54 – RETURN OF THE APE MAN (1944). Show had a seasonal theme.

Terry Vernon's “Tele-Vues” column in the Long Beach Independent of 12/18/54: “Vampira (7) at 11p.m. goes Christmas chopping to fill her hate list.”

1/29/55 – CASE OF THE GUARDIAN ANGEL. Both the Long Beach Independent and Long Beach Press-Telegram additionally name Hugh Latimer as the star [this seems to confirm my previous attempt at identifying the film in last week's blog post].

Terry Vernon's “Tele-Vues” column in the Long Beach Independent of 1/29/55: “Vampira will receive the first 'Black Skull of Death Award' from the Mystery Writers of America during her show on (7) at 11p.m. Along with the mounted death head will be an assortment of weapons that have been featured in mystery stories written by the famous authors.”

John Frederick's “Looking and Listening” column in the Long Beach Press-Telegram of 1/29/55: “Vampira, the glamour ghoul of (7) at 11p.m., will be given the first 'Black Skull of Death Award' for her outstanding work as the most 'nightmarish ghoul of 1954' by the Mystery Writers of America.”

2/5/55 – LADY CHASER (1946).

Terry Vernon's “Tele-Vues” column in the Long Beach Independent of 2/5/55: “Vampira (7) at 11p.m. visits the spider pound to reclaim her black-widow spider.”

The shift from an 11pm slot to a 10.30pm slot beginning on 3/5/55 was identified in all sources consulted as part of a general adjustment of the KABC evening schedule after the station stopped showing live boxing matches from the Hollywood Legion Stadium on a Saturday night.

Terry Vernon's “Tele-Vues” column in the Long Beach Independent of 3/5/55: “At 8p.m. in this program realignment an old movie will take over and Vampira will do her ghoulish hostessing starting at 10.30p.m. instead of 11. This will all combine to fill the former boxing time, but we doubt that it'll improve the station's audience much.”

3/12/55 – Vampira appeared on two live shows on this night. She was a special guest on AL JANIS' HI-JINX on Channel 7 (KABC) at 9pm, in addition to hosting GLASS ALIBI (1946) during her regular slot on the station at 10.30pm.

John Frederick's “Looking and Listening” column in the Long Beach Press-Telegram of 3/12/55: “Al Jarvis will help Vampira introduce the new dance 'Vampira Vamp' during his “Hi-Jinx” on (7) at 9p.m.”

4/2/55 – Nitelinger identifies THE WOMAN WHO CAME BACK (1945) as the final film hosted by Vampira. However, although initially announced as being hosted by her, Vampira's show was canceled prior to broadcast, and the movie was instead shown without a host as the first feature in KABC's "Nitecap Theater" package, which continued in subsequent weeks with MR. WONG, DETECTIVE (1938; 4/9/55), GANG BULLETS (1938; 4/16/55), THE BATTLE OF THE RAILS (1946; 4/23/55), and THE STRANGE MR. GREGORY (1945; 4/30/55).

Vampira instead appeared at 10pm on Channel 4 (KNBH), as a last-minute addition to the line-up of the nationally syndicated GEORGE GOBEL SHOW, reviewed (incorrectly) as her first network appearance; Gobel's other (surprise) guest that night was Fred Allen.

Many thanks to doctor kiss for looking into this in more detail and for sharing his findings. What (very) little research that I have done on Vampira seems more concerned with her persona, her popularity, and her impact; so far, I haven't seen much said at all about which old wine she poured into new bottles on her show. This re-packaging of horror and murder-mysteries for TV is one of the important precursors to SHOCK!.

Vampira with BĂ©la Lugosi on "The Red Skelton Show," October 1954


1 comment:

Mirek said...

Great work by Doctor Kiss! Many thanks. I also couldn't help but notice the pun-filled wordage of one entry ("Sparkling Arsenic, Sour Potatoes, dressing of head crumbs and tid-bits of toes, crank-berry sauce and dead lettuce salad...."), such puns being a staple of future horror host shows and, particularly, FAMOUS MONSTERS, the magazine for emerging monster kids.