This is the sixteenth in a series of examinations of legends about television and the people involved in TV and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous TV urban legends.
This week is one of the oddest theme weeks yet! The theme this week is people standing in for other people!
TV LEGEND: Julie Newmar once had a particularly cutting response to a crude remark by Michael Dunn.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
After having some notable success in the world of the theater (even winning a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress), singer/dancer/actress Julie Newmar tried to make it big in the world of television.
In the mid-60s, she landed the role that she is most known for today, playing the sexy Batman villain, Catwoman.
Michael Dunn was a character actor whose most notable role was as the evil Dr. Miguelito Loveless, who was the most famous recurring villain on the TV series, The Wild Wild West…
Loveless made things difficult for Secret Service agents Jim West and Artemus Gordon (here’s West captured by the diminutive despot)…
Okay, now the precise details of the story vary from the telling, but the basic gist of the story is that Dunn, in real life, was making sexual advances upon Newmar (at a party, at a show – wherever).
He told her, “Julie — tonight I’m going to f**k you silly.”
And Newmar supposedly replied, “Michael — if you do, and I find out….”
The reason I don’t buy this as a real story is because the same exact story was told almost thirty years earlier, only with Judy Garland standing in for Newmar.
In THAT story, it is Judy Garland responding to the advances of an actor playing a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz…
In that version of the story, it goes “Judy, someday I’m going to f**k you” and Judy shakes her finger at him and says, “If you do and I catch you…”
It most likely did not happen to Judy Garland, but it DEFINITELY didn’t happen to Julie Newmar.
So thanks for everything, Julie Newmar – everything except this particular quip, that is…
TV LEGEND: Larry David had scenes from an earlier episode of Seinfeld re-shot so that Jerry Stiller could play the role of Frank Costanza in all of the Frank Costanza appearances.
Over the first few seasons of Seinfeld, viewers got to know the eccentricities of Jason Alexander’s George Costanza…
But we didn’t know where he came from – he talked about his parents but we never saw them. Not until May of 1993, at the end of the Fourth Season of Seinfeld, in the episode “The Handicapped Spot.”
In the episode, George borrows his father’s car but parks in a handicapped spot and, well, hilarity ensues…
In the episode, naturally, George’s father shows up (as well as his mother, played by Estelle Harris), played by…John Randolph?!?
Yep, the veteran character actor played George’s father in the episode.
In the next season, however, they decided to have George move home with his parents, meaning that Frank and Estelle Costanza would be showing up more frequently, and for whatever reason, they decided to recast Frank Costanza.
Enter Jerry Stiller.
He and Estelle Harris would go on to become major parts of the series for the rest of the run, and Stiller even got an Emmy nomination out of it.
Their first episode was in the second one of Season 5 – “The Puffy Shirt”…
That’s all normal enough so far – actors get re-cast all the time, after all.
Heck, a father of a main character had ALREADY been re-cast!
Jerry Seinfeld’s father on the show, Mort Seinfeld, was already portrayed by two actors.
First Philip Bruns…
then, for the rest of the series, Barney Martin…
However, that change over happened early in the series, when two things were notable…
1. The show was not a big hit yet, so Larry David did not have as much freedom as he would have in later years and, more importantly,
2. The idea of syndication was more like a dream than a reality that you would plan for.
By the time Season 5 came around, though, things were different. The show was one of the biggest hits on TV, and syndication was clearly coming, so in 1995, David actually brought in Stiller and Alexander (and others) to re-shoot all of John Randolph’s scenes with Stiller in his place. This way, when the series would go into syndication, there’d be a continuity between actors.
The show did the same thing with Wayne Knight doing voiceover work for the episodes where his character Newman first appeared (Newman originally appeared off camera with his voice provided by Larry David).
On the Season 4 DVD (linked above), both versions are shown (and I believe the Randolph version is also used overseas for some reason).
TV LEGEND: The last episode of Ellery Queen aired as an episode of Murder…She Wrote!
Ellery Queen was (heck, IS) one of the best mystery series of books out there.
The popular book series (“written” by and starring the fictional character Ellery Queen) was a standard “Whodunit?” series, but it was extremely well done.
Such a popular character would eventually end up on TV, and he did, more than once, actually!
The most recent TV series starring Ellery Queen was written and created by the production duo of Richard Levinson and William Link. The series starred Jim Hutton and Queen and David Wayne as his father. It debuted with a TV movie in 1975 and proceeded to have a 22 episode first season before getting canceled (here’s a nice picture for the series, courtesy of a great Ellery Queen fan site here).
The series was EXCELLENT – it’s a travesty that it has never been released on DVD by Universal.
In any event, when the series WAS canceled, Levinson and Link had a number of extra (quality) strips left over.
They first adapted some of the scripts for use in a TV series starring Vincent Baggetta called The Eddie Capra Mysteries…
The last script, though, would appear in one of the most unlikely places – an episode of Murder…She Wrote’s sixth season (a show also created by Levinson and Link)…
In the episode, titled “The Grand Old Lady,” Angela Lansbury’s character, Jessica Fletcher, just appears in the episode in a framing sequence telling the story of a mystery that took place decades earlier in the 1940s (the Ellery Queen TV series was set in the 1940s). Then, the rest of the episode (which is quite good) just takes place as a regular Ellery Queen episode, only with all the characters SLIGHTLY changed.
A pretty amusing end to Ellery Queen, but at least a quality script was not put to waste!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org