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WGN Channel 9 - Saturday Matinee - "The Bells of St. Mary's" (Opening & Bumper Excerpts, 1971)

Here's a clip that, for those of you who remember it will likely be pretty amazing - the opening segment and bumper excerpts of the Christmas 1971 Saturday Matinee presentation of the 1945 Bing Crosby Christmas classic "The Bells of St. Mary's" on WGN Channel 9 - but that's not what's amazing...

This is the older style bumper slate which was used for both Saturday Matinee and Sunday Matinee on WGN-TV until the "camera lenses" version took over for the Saturday Matinee and the "film projector" slate took over for the Sunday Matinee starting sometime in the mid-seventies (I would guess). A lot of people remembered this slate, and have described it to me over the years looking for it - "It had a brick wall, and an oval in the center...", so I'm happy to finally be able to display it here. :-)

The theme music is "Happy Feet" by Quincy Jones (from the soundtrack of Cary Grant's final film, "Walk, Don't Run" [1966]).

Voiceover by Len Johnson.

NOTE: This broadcast was in color, but captured on an early home videotape recording in black and white. (Of course, the film itself was in black-and-white - only the show opening, bumpers and commercials would have been in color.) There are also some tape-tracking problems that are noticeable at certain points on this clip.

"It's midday in Chicago and time to enjoy fantasy, comedy, romance and adventure, as WGN Television brings you the finest in family entertainment on Saturday Matinee...we'll begin our feature in just a moment."

This aired on local Chicago TV on Saturday, December 25th 1971 during the 1:00pm to 3:30pm timeframe.

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This clip aired on Saturday, December 25th 1971, and is included in the following categories:

Viewer Comments

Len Johnson Voiceover.
Comment posted by Erniebaud on Monday, December 5th 2011 at 9:41pm.

The song is from Cary Grant's last film "Walk, Don't Run".
I also remember this one but the background is yellow with brown bricks and the oval was red with white lettering. The camera lenses version came in the late 70s.

Comment posted by Betamax75 on Monday, December 5th 2011 at 10:06pm.

V/O info duly added to clip description.

Didn't "The Bells of St. Mary's" first air on Chicago TV in 1957-58 or thereabouts on what was then WNBQ? I know that their sister station, then WRCA Channel 4 (now WNBC), ran this picture in the late 1950's, originally part of a 58-film package offered by NTA (whose logo of the time was seen at the start of this picture) under the "Champagne" umbrella, a package that also featured such titles as the 1952 Gary Cooper Western "High Noon"; the Joseph Cotten/Orson Welles drama "The Third Man"; the 1950 Jose Ferrer "Cyrano de Bergerac"; Marlon Brando's 1950 film debut "The Men"; two Hitchcock entries, "Rebecca" and "Spellbound"; and the 1945 film "[The Strange Affair of] Uncle Harry." By the 1970's, "Bells" was running in NYC on WGN's sister WPIX Channel 11.

Comment posted by W.B. on Monday, December 5th 2011 at 10:25pm.

A common element on NTA prints on TV are the censored lines of text. You'll see one at 1:00. Usually they are blanking the copyright information, but in this case it looks like they covered the name of RKO, the old distributor.
Comment posted by Szake on Tuesday, December 6th 2011 at 7:15am.

"Bells of St. Mary's" first aired on WGN in December 4, 1958. An Tribune article dated September 7, 1958 mentions that John Mallow would host a 10 PM Thursday series of films called "Festival of Stars." The program was to air a package of 26 NTA Twentieth Century Fox films that included "High Noon" (the kickoff feature,) "Spellbound," "The Third Man," "Chad Hanna" (one of three color films,) and "Bells of St. Mary's."
Comment posted by Phantom on Tuesday, December 6th 2011 at 8:35am.

Ah, so WGN acquired the "Champagne" package for airing in Chicago. Thanks for the tip. WRCA in New York first aired "Bells" on Dec. 7, 1957 (one year to the week before its WGN debut - evidently different markets debuted individual titles at different points in a year) - indeed, may have been that station's kickoff feature among that package. Channel 4 held the package right up to 1962. Did WGN always have "Bells," or was there a stretch where they didn't?

As for "Festival of Stars" - wasn't that a predecessor of some sorts to "WGN Presents"?

And the Champagne package also held productions from Stanley Kramer and David O. Selznick, as well as the 20th titles in question. A few of them (such as "The Men" and "Uncle Harry") returned in later years in different packages to WNBC, but others were scattered among other stations such as WNEW Channel 5, WOR Channel 9, and WPIX.

Comment posted by W.B. on Tuesday, December 6th 2011 at 9:51am.

When was the last time WGN aired "The Bells of St. Mary's"?
Comment posted by Betamax75 on Tuesday, December 6th 2011 at 10:21am.

The last WGN showing I am seeing is December 23, 1983. Channel 7 acquired the film during the 1960s.
Comment posted by Phantom on Tuesday, December 6th 2011 at 4:23pm.

12-23-83 - the date of my appearance on Bozo!
Comment posted by FuzzyMemories on Tuesday, December 6th 2011 at 4:59pm.

Finally...I've been trying to find that song FOREVER!!!! I knew I wasn't crazy, although the last time I remember hearing it was when I was probably 6 years old!

Does anyone know what the actual title is?

Comment posted by atrex21 on Sunday, December 11th 2011 at 12:34pm.

WOW!!!
I thought I'd never hear that music again,Fuzzy memories indeed!!
When this aired I was about 4 mos. old. I remember the Saturday Matinee intro with the same theme on this clip along with a slide of a sun with a face on it. It's a possibility I'm off the mark with the smiling sun slide,but I definitely remember the music. If my recollection is correct,the theme was still being used by the late 1970's because that's when I remember hearing it.
Anyways,THANKS for posting this!!!!

Comment posted by 69TH&STONY on Sunday, December 11th 2011 at 5:05pm.

atrex21-
The song is "Happy Feet" by Quincy Jones. I just found a variation of it,but it has vocals sung over it instead of the whistling. I really want to find the version featured in this clip.

Comment posted by 69TH&STONY on Sunday, December 11th 2011 at 5:18pm.

Here's the song in it's entirety...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=xCT_LxF4XT8

Comment posted by 69TH&STONY on Sunday, December 11th 2011 at 7:04pm.

I don't remember this Saturday Matinee slide, but not too long after, I believe that they started using a drawing (similar to Creature Features, I believe, maybe even by the same artist) of a guy wearing a groovy checkered cap and dark sunglasses, with a handlebar mustache. Of course this is from the memory of a 6 or 7-year-old kid--could be inaccurate, but hopefully not too far off. It would be great to see that fuzzy memory again!

This was always one of my favorite pieces of theme music, associated with a lot of happy times watching Abbott & Costello movies on Saturday afternoons. They used this music all the way into the early 80's! Also, it's interesting to note that Len Johnson was working Saturdays for such a long time--until WGN seriously cut back their announcing staff in late May of 1981, a very sad time.

Comment posted by RLaPorte on Sunday, January 29th 2012 at 1:34pm.

Picked up a used VHS tape of "The Bells of St. Mary's" at a thrift store in the City of Chicago. It was released by Artisan Home Video (now Lions Gate). I think Paramount now has the rights to this title along with "It's A Wonderful Life".
Comment posted by Betamax75 on Thursday, August 23rd 2012 at 8:13pm.

Even the DVD release of this movie has the gray box at the one minute mark masking a title on the screen.
Comment posted by Szake on Sunday, December 22nd 2013 at 10:51pm.

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This clip has been viewed 4394 times.
This clip debuted on FuzzyMemories.TV on Monday, December 5th 2011.
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Most Recent Site Comments

Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by HUdson 3-2700 on Saturday, October 18th, 2014 at 8:52pm CT

GalagaFleetCommander - Johnny Unitas used to wear his hair in a crewcut until about 1970, when he decided to let it grow out to where he could part it. A real square...


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by GalagaFleetCommander on Thursday, October 16th, 2014 at 9:23pm CT

Johnny Unitas did WHAT? I can't believe that! He's got that perfect haircut you can set a watch to like Abe Simpsons said! I wonder if he made anyone any significant amount of money.


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by ER3017 on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 at 7:37am CT

About 2 years ago, my brother and I was on our way to the park and I saw boxes and boxes of videos, and my brother and I agreed to get almost all of them. Unfortunately, due to my strength, I didn't carry a lot, so I grabbed like 2 boxes and some videos are quite interesting I tell you. I'am still waiting to deliver these to you because if I wait, not only they'll rot but worried that these will be in the dumpster like my mom did but retrieved by me thank god.


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by FuzzyMemories on Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 12:48pm CT

davismv - Thanks Mark! Well, we do have some late-breaking developments - once again provided by our researcher extraordinaire, Mr. Chris Tufts (Phantom). He found this interesting article on the development of Teletext in the U.S. as well as it's use on Nite-Owl. It's from New Scientist magazine and dates to July 22nd 1982. After reading this one has to wonder - what happened? Everything seemed so rosy. They had lots of viewers, and were making some advertising money apparently. So why did Nite-Owl quit just about a month later at the end of August 1982? Were they just tired of "giving it away for free"?

In any case, Chris found another interesting article, this time from Broadcasting Magazine dated September 7th 1981. In it, we finally learn that the true start date of Nite-Owl was early Friday, September 4th at 12 Midnight! Therefore, we can say with certainty that the clip you see here is the opening of Nite-Owl's Second Episode! We'll have to adjust the airdates of a few other clips to reflect this new information.

(T.K. - the answer to your question regarding Nite-Owl's music is also in this article - although who knows, perhaps they changed music providers at some point during the run of the show)

One other thing - the article mentions that WFLD was actually including teletext pages over its regular broadcasts since April of 1981. I had never heard this before. This information just leaves me wanting more. Did they transmit the teletext pages over every program that aired on WFLD since April 1981? Secondly, if you have a recording of a WFLD broadcast from that time period and you are able to fashion some kind of decoder, can you see the original teletext pages that aired during the broadcast? According to this article, there were at least 100 decoders floating around the Chicagoland area. Did anyone save one?

davismv - Regarding your questions: this was recorded by someone who was a "serial taper" but who also apparently had a short attention span. His tapes are filled up with 4-6 hours of material per tape, and rarely are there complete programs, but instead have little "snippets" (no pun intended) of news, sports, commercials, and whatever else struck his fancy I guess. There are a lot of good "bits" but unfortunately almost each one makes you wish he stuck with the recording at least a little longer. (but then again, if he recorded longer segments we wouldn't have the variety that he captured, so it's a six-of-one situation)

Regarding finding tapes: more and more I believe that the best way to find tapes is by asking neighbors, friends, or acquaintances. Why? Because unfortunately these home recorded tapes are seen by most people as virtually worthless most of the time, and if something is viewed as worthless it has way less of a chance of even making it to a thrift store or garage sale. People would just throw them out (which is sad, I know).

Also, some thrift stores now have policies of not letting "home-recorded" tapes make it to the shelf at all - they will just toss or recycle them if donated. The reason I've heard for this is that either someone complained before about something they found on one of the tapes ("adult" content perhaps), or the thrift store people are just being proactive and trying to avoid any issues like this from happening in the first place. In any case, it does stink. One idea I had that you might want to do is call all of your local thrift stores in your area and ask them if they ever get any home-recorded tapes and what they do with them. (first hurdle is making sure they understand what you're talking about - I usually use the term home-recorded tapes and then make sure it's clear by saying I'm not talking about "store-bought" movie type tapes - but tapes that people recorded themselves at home off of TV) If they say that their policy is to just throw them away or recycle them, tell them to save them for you. Give them your name and number and tell them you will pay for them too if they are what you're looking for. Make sure you're talking to a manager or someone at the store that actually has the power to make this change. Also remind the manager to inform his workers so that they are aware of what to do with the tapes too. And lastly, it couldn't hurt to call the stores again every couple months or so, and talk to the same manager if possible, to double check they are still saving tapes for you and that they haven't lost your contact info. :-)

One last tip - when buying tapes I don't buy them based on what is on the labels. The stuff written on the labels can be a red herring. I go by the age of the tapes. If you've been doing this long enough you can identify a pre-1985 videotape just by the box style as well as certain markings on the videotape itself. The stuff written on the labels can be a nice clue, but again I don't hold much stock in it. There could be a Sony K-60 Betamax tape that could potentially date to 1975 and the person could have recorded over most of it and wrote "Jurassic Park 2" on the label - doesn't matter - because you may still find an untouched 10-20 minutes at the end of the tape of a 1978 airing of Baretta with original commercial breaks for all you know. Anyway, happy hunting and of course please let me know if you find anything good. :-)


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by Phantom on Monday, October 13th, 2014 at 6:41pm CT

An article in Broadcasting Magazine in February 1982 says Nite-Owl had as many as 110,000 viewers on some nights.


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by T.K. on Sunday, October 12th, 2014 at 10:04pm CT

It struck me how much Keyfax resembles the graphics of the Prodigy online service several years later. I guess I shouldn't be surprised because they both used the NAPLPS graphics language, which was originally developed for videotex and teletext use.

Now I'm curious how Nite-Owl's music feed originated. Usually the all-night news tickers run by stations in other cities simply carried audio from a sister radio station or the local National Weather Service broadcast. It sounds like Nite-Owl had a dedicated playlist. Did WFLD have a full-blown radio automation system with multiple carts and reels run off a clock, like something by Harris or IGM? Or did someone just dub everything together onto a new reel for each night's playback? Or did the overnight master-control operator sit there and play each song back from its own cart?


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by Detroit4Chicago on Thursday, October 9th, 2014 at 12:09pm CT

Kinda neat to see an early computer-based newsfax system up and running for a UHF Station in a big market about this time. I'm thinking WFLD was trying this out to see if it became successful, it would have been used within years at the other Field stations across the country. Another possibility was to compete locally against WGN, WBBM and possibly WSNS (with of course, ON-TV) in the wee hours of the morning.

But what's neater-than-neat? Watching the Empire State Building take off like a Saturn V rocket in Commodore 65 form!


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Son of Svengoolie - "Monster on the Campus" (Partial Mail Segment with Chicago Lions Showgirls, 1981) by HUdson 3-2700 on Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 at 2:57pm CT

http://chicagolions.com


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Son of Svengoolie - "Monster on the Campus" (Partial Mail Segment with Chicago Lions Showgirls, 1981) by GalagaFleetCommander on Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 at 11:57am CT

A Chicago team with Detroit Lion colors? That's awkward!


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by davismv on Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 at 10:39am CT

This is an incredible find, Rick. Could it be possible that this was Nite Owl's debut airing? Where did you get the tape from, and does that person happen to know why this was recorded? It appears that it was recorded for a specific reason as there are rainbow VHS wobbly vertical lines at the beginning of the recording, indicating that someone just hit the record button and it was seconds prior to when the ship takes off. I am at garage sales and thrift stores often and always look for home recorded VHS and beta tapes from the very early 1980's, hoping to find one with the words Nite Owl on it. Funny story though, I did recently purchase a tape that was labeled Three Stooges and was a very dated Quasar VHS tape. Turns out that it was a prerecorded dub from another tape... I was hoping it would end and that someone left the VCR recording back in 1982....


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