Saturday, August 28, 2010

The sky queen (or was she a sky princess?)

You might have already heard that Gloria Winters, who played Penny on the "Sky King" television series, died the other day.

Unless you're above a certain age (50, maybe) you might well shrug this off.
But to those of us who grew up in the earlier days of Saturday morning television (I'll leave it to others to determine whether it was a Golden Era), the thought of Gloria Winters brings back memories of a more innocent time.

"Sky King" was about a rancher named Schuyler (or maybe Skyler) King who also wore a hat and flew a plane called the Songbird and caught crooks or helped rescue people. Penny, his niece, helped him.

I don't particularly remember any of the plots -- I strongly suspect the plots were never meant to be memorable -- but I remember watching it at noon on Saturdays.

I suppose we boys and girls were supposed to identify with young Penny. I didn't exactly identify with her; she was too much older than I. But I'm pretty sure there were some young men, not that much older than I, who didn't identify with Penny as much as they wanted to transport her into the wide blue yonder, if you get my drift, and if you do, you should be ashamed of yourself and hit the showers -- the cold ones -- right now.

Sky himself was played by a guy named Kirby Grant, who died in 1985.

I think the name "Kirby" struck me as uniquely neat, and I got the impression that Grant was as nice a fella off screen as he was airborne.

I suspect "Sky King" was the high point (figuratively and literally) of Grant's career. I do remember watching an Abbott & Costello movie, "In Society" (1944), and seeing him in it when I was a kid. I think he even sang. From what I've read, he was a child prodigy violinist, too, but in "In Society," he, like practically every other supporting actor in an Abbott and Costello movie, had to play second fiddle (actually it was probably fourth fiddle, at least) to A&C's interpolated vaudeville bits.

It wasn't until some years after "Sky King" left the airwaves that I found out that the show had originated as a radio program, without Kirby and Gloria.

I've since heard at least one of those shows. But what I remember of it isn't the plot, but the commercials, for Peter Pan Peanut Butter.

And when it came to smoothness, the announcer who did those commercials outdid his product.

Boy, did he want those kids to get their moms to buy that stuff. He was so enthusiastic, and in those days his enthusiasm might well have been contagious. I myself am not allergic to peanuts, but as I listened to his pitch I darn near broke into a rash.

That announcer's name?

Mike Wallace.

Yes, that Mike Wallace.

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