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MGM Treasures Parade by With Murphy as Marshal

June 25, 1998|JOAN FANTAZIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Turner Classic Movies doesn't show commercials, so you won't see the amusing Pall Mall and Minute Rice ads that originally aired with the 1955 premiere of "MGM Parade" (Saturday at 2 p.m.).

Still, you'll feel like fast-forwarding whenever you see host George Murphy--who had retired as an actor a few years earlier and would later become one of California's U.S. senators--awkwardly hyping the studio.

But Murphy's right when he calls MGM "one of the great treasure chests of the entertainment world." He doesn't prove it by showing the mementos that include a helmet worn by Van Johnson in "Battleground" or Greta Garbo's necklace from "Mata Hari"; we've already seen those things on the screen.

Here are the real gems he's talking about:

* A big-voiced 12-year-old Judy Garland singing her famous "Dear Mr. Gable" from "Broadway Melody of 1938."

* Murphy and Fred Astaire doing "Please Don't Monkey With Broadway" from the musical "Broadway Melody of 1940."

* Cyd Charisse dancing with boxers in the number "Baby, You Knock Me Out" from her then-upcoming "It's Always Fair Weather" (1955), which she was on the show to promote.

Clips like those help viewers make it through such hokum as when he tells Charisse, "Gee, that's a lovely gown. Would you turn around and let's have a look at it? . . . You know, I'm convinced, Cyd, that cameras were invented just to photograph girls like you."

Or when Murphy tells viewers, "Yes, our pictures play every place in the free world where there's a motion picture screen. It's wonderful to think about, isn't it?"

Unlike Walt Disney's similarly plug-happy show, "MGM Parade" didn't make it past 1956, even after Walter Pidgeon became the host and they showed longer segments of classic MGM movies.

DETAILS, DETAILS: Besides "MGM Parade," which program in 1955 marked a movie studio's entry into TV production? Answer next week. The answer to last week's quiz (What's the name of the theme music from "The Jack Benny Program"?): "Love in Bloom."

Set Your VCR

Marion Ross had a life before she was Richie Cunningham's mom. You can see her in a "Lone Ranger" episode that first aired in 1954--when she was 26 (Saturday at 11:30 a.m. on TV Land). She was already a regular in a TV series, the sitcom "Life With Father" (1953-55).

These shows start fresh runs with first episodes: "Lost in Space" (Monday at 4 a.m. on the Sci-Fi Channel), "Family Matters" (today at 3:05 p.m. on TBS), "Absolutely Fabulous" (Saturday at 4 p.m. on Comedy Central), "Family Affair" (Friday at 7:30 a.m. on TV Land) and "Petticoat Junction" (Monday at 9 a.m. on TV Land).

KCET Channel 28 airs the first three segments of a six-part British documentary about European silent film, "Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood" (Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.; parts three, four and five air July 5 at the same time). Kenneth Branagh narrates.

Fred Allen is reunited with pseudo-rival Jack Benny in a 1953 "Jack Benny Program" (Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on KOCE Channel 50).

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