Gloria Grahame On The Small Screen

Gloria Grahame is a Special Guest on "The Outer Limits"

What becomes of a screen siren/Academy Award winner afterwards…after she’s not such a siren anymore, and maybe she’s gotten a reputation as a little bit difficult to work with?  Lucky for talented and tempestous Gloria Grahame there was television, and the medium was delighted to have a genuine Oscar-calibre actress available.  When Grahame started to take guest roles in series — her first appearance was in 1961 — she was not even forty years old, and her name still meant a lot to audiences.  There were television stars, and there were movie stars — and Gloria Grahame was still a movie star, even on the small screen.  She wasn’ t the only refugee from the world of cinema to dip her toes into TV, but she was a cut above.

Her last movie had been in 1959 — the crime drama Odds Against Tomorrow, directed by Robert Wise and co-starring Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters and Ed Begley.  Gloria made her TV dramatic debut in an episode of the Ronald Reagan-hosted anthology General Electric Theater.  Actually, the episode was a comedy starring Dick Shawn, Jerome Cowan and Joey Forman, and gave Gloria a chance to display some of her charm — more Ado Annie than femme fatale this time around.   Less than a month later TV audiences saw her in an episode of veteran movie Irishman Pat O’Brien’s half-hour comedy series Harrigan & Son (about a family law practice), which lasted one season.  Interesting that television was using her in a comedy context when her predominant screen image was anything but. Another 1961 assignment was an episode of The New Breed, a spin-off from The Untouchables, starring Leslie Nielsen.  Gloria played a nurse in a story about a quack doctor who has attracted the attention of the authorities.

Fellow movie actor Edmond O’Brien tried his hand at series television in a legal drama entitled Sam Benedict, on NBC, and Gloria Grahame guest-starred in an episode in the first half of the Fall 1962 season; the show only last one season.  The next year she guested in an segment of former Your Show of Shows star female comic (alongside comedian Sid Caesar) Imogene Coca’s solo sitcom effort Grindl, with Coca as a domestic worker for hire who is thrown into crazy job situations.  Grahame’s segment was called “Dial G for Grindl” and the story revolved around the hapless Grindl being mistaken for a professional killer.  The segment’s milieu was something that played off Grahame’s movie image. 

With Vaughn Taylor and Nellie Burt in "The Outer Limits"Undoubtedly Gloria Grahame’s most famous television appearance — and the most visible one — is her guest appearanceGloria Grahame guests on "The Outer Limits" in a 1964 segment of ABC’s legendary science fiction/fantasy anthology series The Outer Limits.  One of the last episodes filmed, “The Guests” is an eerie and mysterious episode, a haunting tale of a young drifter (Geoffrey Horne, now a respected acting teacher at NYC’s Strasberg Institute) who is drawn into the weird existence of a quartet of outcasts who are being held captive, stuck in time in a old mansion.  By what, you might ask?  By a creepy blobby alien who’s probing their minds to find out what makes humans tick.  He couldn’t have dredged up a weirder group of them — a 1920s Stock Market criminal, his nasty nagging wife, an innocent girl from the 19th century, and a silent screen actress (played by Grahame) who was unable to make the transition to sound — for his experiment.  Grahame is given “Special Guest Star” credit in the episode, and in an episode that’s all moodily strange, she gives an effective, moving performance.  The Outer Limits is an oft-repeated pop culture icon and so it’s possible more people know Grahame from this one series appearance than many of her movies, and she acquits herself admirably.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmlLSI3ED1M&feature=player_embedded]

Gloria Grahame Guests on an episode of "The Fugitive"1964 also brought a guest role in an episode of David Janssen’s hit drama The Fugitive.  Grahame’s segment also starred actress Shirley Knight, and Grahame again received “Special Guest Star” billing.  Knight played a Georgia woman with mental problems who is battling with her stepmother, played by Grahame.  (This episode is now available on DVD).  Around this time she also made a pair of appearances on Gene Barry’s millionaire police detective/semi-spy series Burke’s Law.  Barry’s dapper charm made this stylish show a critical and audience favorite for two seasons.  It featured a central murder that was eventually solved through Burke’s wit and smarts, Gloria Grahame in a segment of "The Fugitive"with guest stars frequently showing up as suspects.  Grahame’s first episode “Who Killed April?” also starred screen favorite Eddie Bracken, along with Hans Conreid, comedian Jack Carter, and Martha Hyer.  Her second appearance in “Who Killed the Rabbit’s Husband?” co-starred Sal Mineo and Una Merkel. 

In 1967 Gloria guest-starred (along with Bill Bixby and John Ireland) in a segment of the Dale Robertson Western Gloria Grahame guest stars on NBC's "Then Came Bronson" in 1969Iron Horse, about a man and his railroad.  In 1969 she co-starred on an episode of the one-season but incredibly memorable NBC series Then Came Bronson, starring Michael Parks as a motorcycle-riding free spirit who crosses the country in search of himself.  Its memorable theme song, cool premise and the lure of the open road made TCB a favorite of many, though it only lasted a single season.  The episode was shot in Colorado, and Grahame played the wife of a returning prisoner who had promised revenge on his enemies. 

The next year Gloria Grahame made a guest appearance in a segment of NBC’s frontier actGloria Grahame on "Then Came Bronson"ion/adventure series Daniel Boone, starring Fess Parker.   She also did a guest turn on the innovative 90-minute drama wheel The Name of the Game, starring Gene Barry as the dashing powerful head of a publishing company.  The show was essentially three series in one, with Tony Franciosa and Robert Stack heading up the rest of the triad.  (The series is also known for being the breakout role for actress Susan Saint James).  Grahame was in a Gene Barry segment “The Takeover”, playing the part of “Madame Noh” in a tale set in a corrupt Asian nation.   She also made an episode of the snazzy CBS Mike Connors action detective series Mannix, which is also now showing up on DVD. 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF_49tWPNWA] 

The 1970s were especially memorable on television for the rise of the TV movie, and Gloria Grahame found herself work in several memorable titles.  She co-starred with ’70s TV action star Christopher George (The Rat Patrol) in 1971′s Escape, about a private eye who uncovers the gruesome secret of mad scientist who creates zombies.  Escape had a Title Card for "Black Noon" co-starring Gloria Grahame, 1970perfect TV Movie cast — George, William Windom as the evil M.D., the lovely Marlyn Mason (Longstreet), John Vernon, William Schallert (The Patty Duke Show), Avery Schreiber and Huntz Hall!   Next up was another genre tale, this time the spooky horror Western Black Noon, starring another TV favorite Roy Thinnes as a preacher who’s sucked into the evil goings-on in a creepy frontier town.  Another amazing cast — Yvette Mimieux, Ray Milland, Grahame, and Henry Silva — made Black Noon a well-remembered but hard-to-get-your-hands-on TVM. 

Gloria’s movie allure came in handy when she co-starred in the 1974 Gloria Grahame was "The Girl on the Late Late Show" in 1974TV movie The Girl on the Late Late Show, starring Don Murray as a newspaper reporter on the trail of a mysterious former movie siren who disappeared from view over twenty years ago.   Grahame played the fictional star “Carolyn Potter”, and one of the delights of the movie was the many other Hollywood greats who also made appearances in the film, including Walter Pidgeon, Yvonne DeCarlo, Cameron Mitchell, Van Johnson, John Ireland, Ralph Meeker, and Frankie Darro.  The movie was envisioned as a pilot for a Don Murray series, but unfortunately it didn’t make the cut, although audiences were treated to a clever premise along with a glimpse into Hollywood nostalgia (which at that time was a big deal in entertainment).

By this time Gloria Grahame’s movie career was heating up a bit, and she made some films, both major and minor, but also found time to co-star in the groundbreaking and insanely popular 1977 miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man, as well as a segment of the popular Telly Savalas detective show Kojak and the Seventh Avenue mini about the NYC garment industry.  Gloria’s last two television appearances were guesting in segment of the half-hour horror anthology Tales of the Unexpected, co-starring with Joseph Cotten in “Depart in Peace” from the series’ first season, and another, filmed before Grahame’s death in 1981 but not aired until 1984, in an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith short story “Sauce for the Goose”. 

Because it’s the only piece of Gloria Grahame’s TV work that I could easily get hold of, and because I no doubt became of aware of Gloria Grahame first from watching the series many years ago, I’ll end with a series of shots of Gloria from “The Guests” segment of The Outer Limits.  She’s often quite lovely in the show, and has a few scenes especially worth watching. 

Drifter she says

Gloria, Nellie Burt and Vaughn Taylor

Gloria Grahame is aware of a monster

Gloria is a lonely trapped silent screen actress

Gloria explains why she left Hollywood

"I can't wait to step upon that stage

"How Many Doors Did You Count?" she asks

Yikes!  The Monster Ponders Gloria Grahame

"Blame it on my madcap heart" she tells him

Gloria Grahame

6 Responses Gloria Grahame On The Small Screen
Posted By moirafinnie : August 14, 2009 1:54 pm

Thanks so much for this review of Gloria Grahame’s small screen career. I’ve seen the episode of The Fugitive that you mentioned and thought she was very effective and looked well. Grahame’s appearance in The Girl on the Late, Late Show is apparently quite legendary, though I can’t recall seeing the made for tv movie. It seems unlikely that this will emerge from the vaults (or anyone’s vhs tapes) soon.

I enjoyed her silent movie actress role in Merton of the Movies which was broadcast on TCM the other day, so I really appreciate those images of her other silent heroine that you’ve unearthed from that intriguing sounding episode of The Outer Limits.

I realize that made for tv movies were not made for long term marketing purposes; (kind of like feature movies were originally intended), but wonder if any of these well cast and sometimes engaging programs and films have ever been re-broadcast anywhere since the ’70s? Perhaps they were once featured on TV-land or something like it?

Thanks for filling in the blanks on this part of G.G.’s career so well, Medusa.

Posted By moirafinnie : August 14, 2009 1:54 pm

Thanks so much for this review of Gloria Grahame’s small screen career. I’ve seen the episode of The Fugitive that you mentioned and thought she was very effective and looked well. Grahame’s appearance in The Girl on the Late, Late Show is apparently quite legendary, though I can’t recall seeing the made for tv movie. It seems unlikely that this will emerge from the vaults (or anyone’s vhs tapes) soon.

I enjoyed her silent movie actress role in Merton of the Movies which was broadcast on TCM the other day, so I really appreciate those images of her other silent heroine that you’ve unearthed from that intriguing sounding episode of The Outer Limits.

I realize that made for tv movies were not made for long term marketing purposes; (kind of like feature movies were originally intended), but wonder if any of these well cast and sometimes engaging programs and films have ever been re-broadcast anywhere since the ’70s? Perhaps they were once featured on TV-land or something like it?

Thanks for filling in the blanks on this part of G.G.’s career so well, Medusa.

Posted By CineMaven : August 15, 2009 10:30 pm

What a wealth of information this article is. I am a big Gloria Grahame fan and am over-the-moon about seeing her talked about. She is kind of forgotten and often unsung. But the series of articles here in Morlock-land brings Gloria back to life and front and center.

Thank you ALL who contributed articles on GLORIA GRAHAME!!!

Posted By CineMaven : August 15, 2009 10:30 pm

What a wealth of information this article is. I am a big Gloria Grahame fan and am over-the-moon about seeing her talked about. She is kind of forgotten and often unsung. But the series of articles here in Morlock-land brings Gloria back to life and front and center.

Thank you ALL who contributed articles on GLORIA GRAHAME!!!

Posted By Karen Wayland : October 5, 2016 5:41 pm

This is a great find. I am so excited to see some of her T.V work. I have searched for any talk show appearances she may have made.

Posted By Karen Wayland : October 5, 2016 5:47 pm

Also note the date is Oct.5.unfortunately the date we lost the Gloriously Glamorous & Gracious Ms Grahame.

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