6/12/17

widowhood way back when: widowed tv dads



If you’re a baby boomer or beyond, this post by Guy Belleranti from www.loti.com (Rewind the Fifties) should bring back memories.

If only being a widower with kids was as easy as it looked way back then.

Widowed Fathers in TV Programs of the 1950’s and 1960’s

There were a number of television programs in the 1950’s and 1960’s which revolved around a widowed father and his child or children. Several, but not all, were sitcoms.

One of the most famous has to be The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968). Andy Taylor (Griffith) is the sheriff of the small town of Mayberry, North Carolina. He has the added responsibility of raising his son Opie (Ron “Ronny” Howard). Andy gets help in the matter from Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). There were many wonderful aspects to this classic series, but one of the best had to be those moments of father-son discussions.

My Three Sons, starring actor Fred MacMurray, was another sitcom where a father had mother-less sons. In this case, the father, Steve Douglas (MacMurray) had not one son, but three. Mike (Tim Considine) was the eldest, Robbie (Don Grady) the middle and Chip (Stanley Livingston) the youngest. From 1960 to 1965 Steve had help from Bub O’Casey (William Frawley). After that, until the program’s end in 1972, he had help from Uncle Charley (William Demerest). When Tim Considine left the show, his eldest son Mike character was written out. However, the Douglas family gained a third son by having Chip’s former best friend, Ernie (Barry Livingston, Stanley Livingston’s real life brother), lose his parents and then become adopted into the family.

Danny Thomas’ Danny Williams character became a widower in 1956 on Make Room for Daddy when Jean Hagen (his series’ wife, Margaret, since the program’s start in 1953) left the program. For the 1956 season Danny had to raise his son Rusty (Rusty (Hamer) and daughter Terry (Sherry Jackson) solo. He did have a housekeeper, Louise, however, to help out when needed.
Then in 1957, the program’s title changed to The Danny Thomas Show and Danny had a new TV wife, Kathy (Marjorie Lord). He also had a new daughter, Kathy’s daughter Linda (Angela Cartwright), as well.

The sitcom The Courtship of Eddie’s Father in 1969 featured Bill Bixby as Tom Corbett, widowed father of a son, Eddie (Brandon Cruz). Like the title implies, Eddie was forever trying to get his father remarried.

The family drama Flipper also featured a widowed father. Brian Kelly played Porter Ricks, a Park Ranger in South Florida. Ricks had two sons: Sandy (Luke Halpin) and Bud (Tommy Norden). He also had help from a dolphin named Flipper.

Finally, there were a couple famous television westerns where fathers were single parents. One was The Rifleman. Chuck Connors played Lucas McCain, a New Mexico rancher. His son Mark (Johnny Crawford) featured heavily in most episodes. Lucas taught Mark both by the “Good Book” and by example.

Bonanza featured widowed rancher Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and his three sons. Ben apparently had lots of bad luck in marriage, with three wives dying. However, each wife did leave him a son. The sons that we, the viewer, see on Bonanza are all grown men. Adam (Pernell Roberts) is the eldest, Hoss (Dan Blocker) is in the middle and Little Joe (Michael Landon) is the youngest.

Interestingly, a glance back at all of these programs reveals that only one featured a widowed father with a daughter. And this program, Make Room for Daddy, only had the father a widower for one year.

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