The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis ran from September 1959 until September 1963 on CBS.
This situation comedy about a girl-crazy teenager was ahead of its time. Its central characters would have felt equally at home in the late 1960's: Dobie Gillis , the confused romantic who could never figure out what he wanted from life , and Maynard G. Krebs, his carefree beatnik friend, television's premordial hippie.
Dobie Gillis( played by Dwayne Hickman; his hair was lightened for the series , apparently to make him look younger although it did grow darker as time wore on ) was a typical American teenager. He loved beautiful girls, fancy cars and money. Unfortunately he was the son of a grocer ,and not the most attractive kid, which put a crimp in his style. Dobie and his beatnik buddy Maynard( Bob Denver) for whom work was a dirty word , did their best to get by with a minimum of effort. Dobie had two real nemeses in his life. The first was Zelda Gilroy( Sheila James), an intelligent but unattractive female who was trying to get herself married to Dobie. Whenever she saw Dobie , she twitched her nose at him as a mating call and in an automatic reaction , he twitched back at her. Then got angry with himself with an " Oh Zelda, stop winking "The second nemeses through most of the series was millionaire Chatsworth Osborne, Jr ( Steve Franken),a spoiled young man who spoke with a darian accent and referred to his mother as " Mumsie." He would flaunt his social status, not to mention his money, to snare the attractive girls who eluded Dobie.
When the series premiered in 1959, Dobie had to contend with handsome Milton Armitage( Warren Beatty) for the attention of his favorite girl, the modest, aristocratic ( despite her rather modest means) mercenary Thalia Menninger( Tuesday Weld). She was interested in acquiring "oodles and oodles" of money. She was constantly looking to better Dobie's prospects for supporting her in the lifestyle to which she would become accustomed! Dobie was also much concerned about his future and was seen at the beginning of each episode in Central City's park next to a statue of The Thinker, assuming the same famous pose while pondering his fate.
The Gillis's lived at 285 Norwood St. where Mr. Gillis had his store and the family had its home above the store. Dobie's mom Winifred ( Florida Friebus) was the sweet suffering sort who often sided with Dobie and in fact would sometimes slip him some money ( for dates) behind his father's back. Her husband, Herbert ( Frank Faylen) was a grumpy grocer and could contain himself only with his wife's persuasion. He wore old clothes and hated to part with a nickel. He was sure everyone was trying to exploit him. In Dobie's case he was right. Dobie irked him ( he wanted Dobie to work in his store) and he didn't care for Maynard either. Maynard always endearingly called him Mr. G.
Dobie Gillis was based on Max Schulman's book, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. In 1953 it was made into a movie starring Bobby Van and Debbie Reynolds. For two years, Schulman -best known for having written Rally Round the Flag Boys-tried to get Dobie on television. Finally Dobie was changed from a college kid to a high school kid-making him a teenager to appeal to the TV audience, full of teenaged kids.
Signed to play 18 year old Dobie was Dwayne Hickman, about whom TV Guide said, " He's so cleancut you could slice roast beef with him." Hickman was familiar to TV viewers as Bob Cummings' nephew Chuck McDonald in the 1955-1959 sitcom Love That Bob. While playing Dobie, Hickman recorded songs for Capitol Records, including one which opened the second season in 1960 " I'm a Loner, Not a Fighter" which later appeared on his first LP Dobie. Variety called the song " A cutie of a tune." In one episode Zelda wrote a song for Dobie called " Who Neds Elvis?" which he sang to woo gorgeous six foot Esme Lauterbach away from trumpet-player Maynard.
At the time when Dobie Gillis began shooting , Hickman announced that he was a " leading boy" adding that " I have almost no natural talent in acting...but I have worked until I've surpassed those with more natural talent." A professional actor since the age of 10, Dwayne Hickman lived with his parents and sister while making the show. His older brother Davey appeared occasionally as Dobie's older brother Davey.
The show was full of changes throughout its four year run. Bob Denver who played best bud Maynard was drafted after four episodes. Art imitated life by having Maynard drafted on the show. He was immediately replaced by Michael J. Pollard as Maynard's cousin Jerome Krebs. Pollard was under consideration to replace Denver permanently but Denver flunked his physical due to an old neck injury and so after two episodes , Jerome was out and Maynard was back in-discharged from the army as a hardship case-hardship on the army, and anyway Maynard was allergic to khaki ( Denver was a former athletic coach , and history and math teacher).
Meanwhile Dwayne Hickman and Tuesday Weld who played Thalia Menniger didn't exactly hit it off. " People used to wonder why I didn't get along with Tuesday Weld in the early days of the show and they all thought it was some sort of romantic dust-up or something," Hickman said. " It wasn't. She just wasn't a pro, that's all, no discipline, late to work getting back from lunch, no sense of responsibility to the show, the crew, the rest of the cast. She's a very talented girl and maybe by now she's learned discipline. I don't know I haven't seen." For her part Weld responded that she preferred to keep silent if she had nothing kind to say about a person...In her column Luella Parsons called Weld a " disgrace to Hollywood" and indeed she was unconventional . She would come onto the set with a ferocious white german shephard which would bite the director. Weld left the show after the first year to concentrate on her film work.
Warren Beatty got his acting start on the show playing Milton Armitage , the school's stuffy but talented man of distinction. Beatty thought the role was absurd and quit and in February 1960, Milton was replaced by Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. with Doris Packer assuming the role of his snobbish, overbearing mother ( " Chatsworth , you nasty boy"), essentially the same type of part she had played as Milton's mother when the series began. In March 1961, Dobie and Maynard enlisted in the army, thinking that would help them find themselves. The army thing only lasted until the first episode of the 1961-1962 season, when they resigned from the service and enrolled in S. Peter Prior Junior College. It was there that Maynard fought the system in his nonconformist way and his "good buddy" Dobie chased women and tried to find himself for the last 2 seasons that The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis was on the air. Leander Pomfritt ( William Schallart) who was Dobie's high school teacher was now his teacher at college and Jean Bryron who had played his math teacher Mrs. Ruth Adams was again on the show this time playing Dr. Burkhart. Raymond Bailey played Dean Magruder and during the last season Robert Diamond appeared as Dobie's cousin Duncan . Ryan O'Neal made his TV debut on one episode " The Hunger Strike" which also featured Marlo Thomas ( January 26, 1960)
On May 10, 1977, 15 years after Dobie Gillis ended its run, CBS aired the pilot episode for a proposed revival series titled Whatever Happened To Dobie Gillis? What happened was Dobie had finally been snagged by Zelda, and had a teenage son, Georgie (played by Stephen Paul). Maynard, now forty-something but still unconventional, came back to visit. The new series never happened. Another reunion took place in February 1988.
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