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Old 07-30-2012, 10:28 PM   #1
LittleRickyII
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Default DTM without Joseph Kearns

The first episode filmed after Joseph Kearn's death was "Dennis and the Dodger," guest starring Sandy Koufax. In that episode, the George Wilson role and lines were quickly shifted to grocery store owner, Mr. Quigley, played by Willard Waterman. And (I think) for the first time ever, we got to see Mr. Quigley's wife, which was necessary to play out a George and Martha scene. It's very clear this episode was quickly rewritten as there really wasn't that much rewriting. All the George Wilson lines, and even facial expressions, were handed over to Willard Waterman. And then in the next episode, "Dennis' Lovesick Friend," Edward Everett Horton played the part in the persona of Martha Wilson's uncle. Gale Gordon then joined the show in the next episode. I'm wondering, though, how long after Kearn's death before the show went back into production? What caught my attention was this article from Wednesday, February 14, 1962 in which Sandy Koufax is interviewed about his appearance on Dennis the Menace. It appears from his statements that rehearsals had already begun:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...y+koufax&hl=en

Three days after this article appeared, on Saturday, February 17, 1962, Joseph Kearns died suddenly. On March 16, less than four weeks later, it was announced that Gale Gordon would join the show as the new Mr. Wilson:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...e+menace&hl=en

I'm assuming it was within days of this announcement that production began on the first Gale Gordon episode. So during those four weeks, two episodes -- "Dennis and the Dodger" and "Dennis' Lovesick Friend" -- were filmed, meaning that the show probably wasn't out of production for more than a week or two. That's a very short amount of time for the cast and crew to recover from the shock of their fallen cast member. To have to so quickly return to the cameras, in a comedy, no less, where they had to laugh and smile and act silly, could not have been easy. It seems they weren't even allowed time to mourn. Does anybody know if any cast members have ever discussed this difficult period, how it was having to return to work under such sad circumstances, and how long they had off before going back to work?
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Old 07-31-2012, 06:54 AM   #2
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It appears Kearns may have been replaced a lot sooner. Look at this article - it's taken from the Monday, February 19 edition of 'The Robesonian' - just two days after Kearns died.

The article not only reports Kearns' death, but states that Kearns would appear in the following 9 episodes that had already been filmed and that he would then be replaced by Gale Gordon in the 12th episode (so 2 episodes in between, 10 and 11, would not feature either actor).

So, CBS might have scrambled to cast Gordon (at least as a temporary replacement in case Kearns recovered) while Kearns was still fighting for his life at the hospital.

The only error is - Kearns actually appeared in another 10 episodes aired between Feb. 25 and May 6, but that's close enough and the article accurately states the 2-episode gap between the two Mr. Wilsons.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...5945%2C2262733

(NOTE: The article appears on the last page of the February 19 edition of the newspaper which is actually included in the Google News Archive scan of the Feb. 20 edition, thus the GNA date above the article is Feb. 20. You can see the correct date at the top of the actual scan).

I would therefore assume they were about to start or they had already started production on "Dennis and the Dodger" when Kearns had his stroke (perhaps he had already filmed a scene or two), took a short break (or not) and then just hastily gave his scenes to Waterman and finished production of the episode.

Here's another article from the late 1962 in which Jay and his mother recall hearing about Kearns' death:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...=2661%2C233812

Last edited by Milkamplifier : 07-31-2012 at 07:22 AM.
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Old 07-31-2012, 11:41 PM   #3
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Wow, that's very interesting. And kind of disturbing, too, to think that it was all about business. It seems inappropriate to me, and very disrespectful, that they would move so fast to find a replacement for Joseph Kearns. From the information you've provided here, it sounds like they didn't even take a break in production. So the cast is out there having to work in the midst of their grief and shock. That's really bad.

I don't think CBS would have been involved in the casting as Screen Gems was the producer of the show. CBS might have put pressure on them, though, to do some quick casting and keep the episodes coming without interruption. But whether it was Screen Gems or CBS, I think it's pretty bad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Milkamplifier
It appears Kearns may have been replaced a lot sooner. Look at this article - it's taken from the Monday, February 19 edition of 'The Robesonian' - just two days after Kearns died.

The article not only reports Kearns' death, but states that Kearns would appear in the following 9 episodes that had already been filmed and that he would then be replaced by Gale Gordon in the 12th episode (so 2 episodes in between, 10 and 11, would not feature either actor).

So, CBS might have scrambled to cast Gordon (at least as a temporary replacement in case Kearns recovered) while Kearns was still fighting for his life at the hospital.

The only error is - Kearns actually appeared in another 10 episodes aired between Feb. 25 and May 6, but that's close enough and the article accurately states the 2-episode gap between the two Mr. Wilsons.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...5945%2C2262733

(NOTE: The article appears on the last page of the February 19 edition of the newspaper which is actually included in the Google News Archive scan of the Feb. 20 edition, thus the GNA date above the article is Feb. 20. You can see the correct date at the top of the actual scan).

I would therefore assume they were about to start or they had already started production on "Dennis and the Dodger" when Kearns had his stroke (perhaps he had already filmed a scene or two), took a short break (or not) and then just hastily gave his scenes to Waterman and finished production of the episode.

Here's another article from the late 1962 in which Jay and his mother recall hearing about Kearns' death:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...=2661%2C233812
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:53 AM   #4
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They may have shut down production for a little while, I don't really know, I can only speculate about that since that can only be confirmed by people involved with the show who are still alive today (or if we come across another revealing article in Google Archives). It appears, though, if there was a break - it wasn't too long. As they say, the show must go on.

When Gloria Henry and Jeannie Russell did their recent interview (for a season 1 DVD bonus feature), Gloria said:

"I guess he decided he was sort of a star, so he should slim down and look more like a star. So he went on a diet of that drink Metrical and he had that for breakfast, lunch and dinner - that's all he had for about 6 weeks in a row and you can't lose that much weight that fast... healthily. So he had a stroke. It wasn't on the set. It was at home. We were told how serious this was and that Joe would probably not survive it, so they went into a panic mode and tried to figure out what to do and they decided that his brother would come and live there."

I think it was common practice to quickly replace/recast an ailing star - it reminds me of actress Dorothy Malone, the star of the first prime-time soap - ABC's "Peyton Place," who collapsed with blood cloths in her lungs at the beginning of the show's 2nd season, and had to undergo urgent surgery in late September 1965.

Her condition was serious and potentially fatal, but she survived and, bless her heart, she's still alive today at 87. She was temporarily replaced by Lola Albright, just days after her surgery, though in her case the producers waited until it was announced she would recover. Then again, soaps can be more flexible given the size of their cast - every character does not have to appear in every episode, they can wait a little longer to replace them. Mr. Wilson was somewhat more crucial to "Dennis the Menace" as he appeared in almost every episode.

Last edited by Milkamplifier : 08-01-2012 at 06:12 AM.
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Old 08-01-2012, 08:45 AM   #5
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Very interesting.
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:06 AM   #6
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I found another article from Sunday, February 18, 1962 (the day after Joseph Kearns died) which gives us some additional information and confirms the producers had already hired Gale Gordon as a replacement:

- Kearns was hospitalized on Sunday (I presume February 11, 1962) after going into a coma and never recovered
- he died from the effects of cerebral hemorrhage Saturday February 17, 1962
- Jay North's mother Betty North said her son would be heartbroken and he would not be told about Kearns' passing immediately "because they are shooting now and he is very sensitive" (later that year she revealed Jay had seen the news about it on TV anyway)
- Kearns was survived by his mother and sister
- funeral was held on Tuesday, February 20 at Forest Lawn's Hollywood Hills Cemetery

It therefore appears Joseph Kearns had a stroke on Sunday the 11th, the cast and crew continued filming that week (February 12-18) with Waterman taking over Kearns' lines, while behind the scenes the producers were in a rush to find a replacement and by the end of the week they had hired Gordon and announced it on Sunday, February 18th (an all-new "Dennis the Menace" - episode "Mr. Wilson's Uncle" [#3.20] aired that evening).

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...4219%2C2417874
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Old 08-01-2012, 07:18 PM   #7
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Wow, this is excellent research, and a great summary! Thank you for pulling this together and answering these questions. I have to say, it does bother me to think that, while this man was lying in the hospital in a coma, and in the days right after his death, they not only kept the cameras going, but were busy behind the scenes looking for someone to replace him. Business trumped humanity. Awhile back, I posted this link to another article:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...s+folksy&hl=en

In this article, Winston O'Keefe, the show's producer, was being interviewed a couple months before the show went into its final season. He makes comments about Joseph Kearns being "a folksy kind of comedian," and Gale Gordon being "smarter, more sophisticated" and providing "more chance for all kinds of comedy." That rubbed me the wrong way. What kind of a way is that to talk about a man who had been such an important asset to his show for three years, and saying this so soon after his death? Now this information you have provided showing how they kept right on filming (and looking for a replacement) while Joseph Kearns was dying, it's nauseating to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Milkamplifier
I found another article from Sunday, February 18, 1962 (the day after Joseph Kearns died) which gives us some additional information and confirms the producers had already hired Gale Gordon as a replacement:

- Kearns was hospitalized on Sunday (I presume February 11, 1962) after going into a coma and never recovered
- he died from the effects of cerebral hemorrhage Saturday February 17, 1962
- Jay North's mother Betty North said her son would be heartbroken and he would not be told about Kearns' passing immediately "because they are shooting now and he is very sensitive" (later that year she revealed Jay had seen the news about it on TV anyway)
- Kearns was survived by his mother and sister
- funeral was held on Tuesday, February 20 at Forest Lawn's Hollywood Hills Cemetery

It therefore appears Joseph Kearns had a stroke on Sunday the 11th, the cast and crew continued filming that week (February 12-18) with Waterman taking over Kearns' lines, while behind the scenes the producers were in a rush to find a replacement and by the end of the week they had hired Gordon and announced it on Sunday, February 18th (an all-new "Dennis the Menace" - episode "Mr. Wilson's Uncle" [#3.20] aired that evening).

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...4219%2C2417874

Last edited by LittleRickyII : 08-01-2012 at 10:30 PM.
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Old 08-01-2012, 07:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleRickyII
Wow, this is excellent research, and a great summary! Thank you for pulling this together and answering these questions. I have to say, it does bother me to think that, while this man was laying in the hospital in a coma, and in the days right after his death, they not only kept the cameras going, but were busy behind the scenes looking for someone to replace him. Business trumped humanity. Awhile back, I posted this link to another article:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...s+folksy&hl=en

In this article, Winston O'Keefe, the show's producer, was being interviewed a couple months before the show went into its final season. He makes comments about Joseph Kearns being "a folksy kind of comedian," and Gale Gordon being "smarter, more sophisticated" and providing "more chance for all kinds of comedy." That rubbed me the wrong way. What kind of a way is that to talk about a man who had been such an important asset to his show for three years, and saying this so soon after his death? Now this information you have provided showing how they kept right on filming (and looking for a replacement) while Joseph Kearns was dying, it's nauseating to me.
Yea and I think it was you that posted that article about not knowing if Gale Gordon was under contract for Dennis the Menace for the 1962-63 season. It does appear that Gordon was only signed as a replacement as he was commited to a Donna Reed spin-off that year. I read an article yesterday on Google News how nobody knew if he was coming back or not. Since the spin-off didn't go to series he thus could continue on DTM.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...4126%2C3423540
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:38 PM   #9
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Yeah, that was me. I wish I could get more information on that. People keep referring to books that say Lucille Ball wanted him on The Lucy Show from the start in 1962, but nothing I've seen from the time suggests to me those books are correct. For years, it was repeatedly written in books that Vivian Vance was born in 1912, and that Lucie Arnaz appeared on the last I Love Lucy, neither of which is true. Gale Gordon was in high demand in those days and, it seems, had any of a number of options. Paul Henning even wanted him to star on Green Acres.

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Originally Posted by Stuck In The '70's
Yea and I think it was you that posted that article about not knowing if Gale Gordon was under contract for Dennis the Menace for the 1962-63 season. It does appear that Gordon was only signed as a replacement as he was commited to a Donna Reed spin-off that year. I read an article yesterday on Google News how nobody knew if he was coming back or not. Since the spin-off didn't go to series he thus could continue on DTM.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...4126%2C3423540
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleRickyII
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...s+folksy&hl=en

In this article, Winston O'Keefe, the show's producer, was being interviewed a couple months before the show went into its final season. He makes comments about Joseph Kearns being "a folksy kind of comedian," and Gale Gordon being "smarter, more sophisticated" and providing "more chance for all kinds of comedy." That rubbed me the wrong way. What kind of a way is that to talk about a man who had been such an important asset to his show for three years, and saying this so soon after his death? Now this information you have provided showing how they kept right on filming (and looking for a replacement) while Joseph Kearns was dying, it's nauseating to me.
That is messed up but, unfortunately business is business and the show must go on. They did seem heatless.
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Old 08-02-2012, 03:23 AM   #11
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I agree their handling of the crisis and the producer's comments regarding Joe Kearns were inappropriate. It seems Hollywood has always been a heartless kind of place, even in those 'good old days'. Did they not like him, did they not appreciate what he had done for them?

When a TV show is successful, it happens for a variety of reasons, but I think a contributing factor of paramount importance is how the cast gels together. Getting that right mix of people, that illusive magic and chemistry that is created among them. "Dennis the Menace" lost a great deal of that magic when Joseph Kearns passed away.

I think they should've shut down production for the season, they'd already had 30 episodes in the can - that seems sufficient and such episode count would've still taken CBS through May. They could've then relaunched the show in the fall and perhaps thought out more carefully how to handle the transition (perhaps they could've found a way to keep the lovely Sylvia Field).

They could've also produced the 2 episodes without either Mr. Wilson and inserted them into the final batch, but kept the last episode with Joe Kearns for the season finale in May. But I suppose CBS and Screen Gems would've lost a lot of money if they'd simply scrapped the final 6-8 episodes as the show was still doing well in the ratings. They wanted to keep airing originals through July 1.

Also, I don't think they should've announced Gale Gordon as a replacement one day after Joe Kearns' death and on a Sunday - that seems too early and it also comes across as a cheap way to pump up the ratings for that evening's installment of the show. In fact, they could've aired a rerun of a fine Mr.Wilson-centric episode that evening beginning with a special tribute to Joe featuring select members of the cast.

If they did film "Dennis and the Dodger" [#3.31] while Kearns was in a coma, and "Dennis' Lovesick Friend" [#3.32] the week of his funeral, Gordon probably wasn't due on set till around March 1, and that would've been a more appropriate time for the announcement.

Last edited by Milkamplifier : 08-02-2012 at 08:42 AM.
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Old 08-02-2012, 10:02 AM   #12
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Interesting information here, I agree there should have been more respect given to Joseph Kearns, without him the show would have been a failure. On the basis of looks alone, Gale Gordon was a better fit for the role of Mr. Wilson. But he did not have the same chemistry with Jay North as Joseph Kearns did. Gale Gordon worked great with Lucille Ball in her sitcoms, but as Mr. Wilson in Dennis The Menace, he's just as bland as the actors who portray Dennis' parents.
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Old 08-02-2012, 11:06 AM   #13
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Joseph Kearns is one of my favorite actors and his character of Mr. Wilson was played brilliantly, it was perfect. Just his facial reactions were spot-on. But when one reads of these facts of history, you need to remember the time in which they took place. Worrying about feelings and walking on egg shells to be sensitive wasn't a big concern. I'm sure most thought of it in just the way stated here earlier, "The show must go on." And everyone carried on as best they could. Maybe it was better that way, rather than go into weeks of mourning and crying. I do wish they had done things differently too, I like the idea of ending the series after 30 episodes with the last Kearns episode and starting the new season fresh with the changes. But it was not to be. It must have been a shock for everyone to have someone who seemed so alive and well to suddenly be gone. Here today gone tomorrow, literally. I sometimes wonder, after seeing everyone's reaction, even "Alice's" explanation in the modern day DVD interview seemed to me to be rather callous and cold and not the least bit affectionate. I sometimes wonder if Joseph Kearns wasn't all that much liked by the people doing the show. Perhaps they were jealous of the attention he got. I read that the guy who played Henry liked Kearns a lot, but it doesn't seem that "Alice" or the producers had much affection for this genius. Too bad they could not appreciate what they had.
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Old 08-02-2012, 11:34 AM   #14
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Nowadays if a cast member died, they would usually have an episode dedicated to them. Death just didn't seem to have a place in 1950's and 60's tv shows. Oh I know they had sitcoms where the father was a widower and such but even then, they barely talked about the dead parent. The only sitcom I can think of that did some was Family Affair. It's too bad because some of these actors including Joseph Kearns deserved to be appreciated.
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Old 08-02-2012, 12:56 PM   #15
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I enjoyed these thoughts from a DVD review site:

That knowledge of Kearns' passing does set up a rather morbid curiosity in the viewer while watching this third season collection. Of course there's nothing in anyone's behavior here to suggest some weird occult predestination of Kearns' fate (although how spooky is the coincidence that Where There's a Will, the episode where Mr. Wilson makes out a will and leaves everything to Dennis, was the last episode to air before Kearns' own death, just six days later?). And being a model of Hollywood efficiency, there's not the slightest trace of acknowledgment from the remaining cast, on any level in the subsequent episodes, that the show's co-star has actually and for real, died. Everyone moves on in that supremely odd TV world, as if nothing has happened. That doesn't stop us from looking for signs, all the same...but they're not there.

Full article: http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/51185...-season-three/

Also check out a review of season 4 which I believe nicely sums up why the show goes off track that year:
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/52774...nace-season-4/
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