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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 5311 times.
This clip debuted on FuzzyMemories.TV on Monday, December 5th 2011.
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I tried playing it again (on Firefox). I had to let it buffer several times but I got it to play but the sound still wasn't in sync with the picture.


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I'm currently on the go and using my IPad so right now I can't play anything. I will have to try it tomorrow when I have a chance.


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Smctopia - Are you still having problems playing the entire clip? (I'm waiting on posting new clips until we have these issues worked out - I really wanted to move forward with the new file format)


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Anyone else having problems?


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