Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Garry Simpson - TV Director Par Excellence

I have just learned of the death of Garry Simpson at age 97 in Middlebury, Vermont. Garry had an extremely distinguished career as a television director, a small part of which was directing my father’s TV show, “Ford Festival,” in 1951-52. He became a very good friend to both my parents for the rest of their lives. He helped my mother through my father’s death, storing great quantities of Melton memorabilia from my father’s office in his Greenwich, Connecticut barn. When he moved to Vermont to help start Vermont Public Television, in the late 1960s, and my mother had to clear out the barn, she had a great big bonfire. On it went all the records, correspondence, photographs (mostly duplicates of what she saved). My father’s history literally went up in smoke. Her choice. Who knew that decades later I would wish for all that material when researching my book? Oh well. Garry personally helped me with my research, talked to me at length, commented on my manuscript, and gave me things from his own archives that were relevant to my father's career. Garry helped my mother find a home for the kinescopes of "Ford Festival" at Dartmouth (long, long before I was married to a Dartmouth alum and went to work at the College). Some years ago I rescued the kinescopes from Dartmouth's attic, and donated them to the Museum of Television and Radio in NYC.

Here’s a link to a multi-part interview with Garry on the Archive of American Television:


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Palm Beach Post story on the Autorama

And here is what appears on the reverse of the photo, in my father's own hand:

Recently, Eliot Kleinberg at the Palm Beach Post did a multi-part story on the Autorama, at the 50th anniversary of it's closing. Here's the link:

As a result, I was able to contact Peggy Patterson McClellan, daughter of Gladys Patterson, who ran the gift shop at the Autorama. "Mrs. Pat" was very patient with this seven-year-old who constantly wanted to "help" in the shop. Peggy has sent me a wonderful collection of Melton memorabilia, including scrapbook, photo album and my father's spats, linen driving cap and goggles!

The photo above (early 1950s) is one that Peggy sent. I'll post more later.

(In case you can't read my father's handwriting, the reverse of the photo says: "James Melton & Leonard Stokes, both from Moultrie, Georgia, at a recent rehearsal of the CBS TV show "Toast of the Town" -- JM rehearsing a production number "Ghost Riders in the Sky"-- Stokes was one of the cowboys in the scene. But the costumers sent him the wrong costume. Instead of a cowboy suit he was sent the uniform of a Union Soldier! When he showed up on the stage, Melton drew a gun on him. (Note: the proper cowboy costume arrived shortly thereafter.) Shades of Chickamauga!