Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happy Birthday Bert Convy!

Anyone who visits my blog has probably, ahem, noticed how much I adore Bert Convy. His unflagging likability and boyish good looks have always impressed me, and he was a mainstay of my more formative years. Whether I was participating in the pop culture phenomenon of The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders movie or simply enjoying his goofy mishaps as the host of Super Password, I have adored Bert for most of my life. However, I didn’t really fall in love with him properly until just a few years ago when I saw one of his celeb contestant turns on Password Plus, which was airing on GSN. Jaw firmly dropped to floor and amore was in the air. After that moment of oh-my-gawd-hotness, I wanted to watch and re-watch everything Bert has done.

Turns out, he was just as wonderful as I remembered and even moreso.

I found I kept turning to him in times of despair simply because he always makes me smile. He seemed like the obvious mascot for my blog because this is one of the other places I turn to when I want to shut out the world. Hey, two great tastes, right? Well, as much as I adored Bert as a gameshow host, I was only beginning to discover his work in the tele-film. The gorgeous dark haired actor played everything from aggressive lotharios to louses to second fiddle comic relief, and he was great in every role. I thought since it’s Bert’s birthday today, I would take a look at some of the TVMs I’ve seen and loved.

Death Takes a Holiday (1971): I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen this TV movie since I was but a wee Amanda By Night, but it’s one of my earliest memories of watching not just a tele-film but any film. What I remember most is the story, which is about Death falling in love with a mere mortal. This is a remake of the well-regarded 1934 film of the same name, which starred Fredric March and it originally aired on ABC on October 21st, 1971. I seem to recall that it had a romantic and dreamy atmosphere and that Monte Markham was pretty divine in his role as Death. I’ve had a copy of this movie on vhs for forever and so I should really just watch it again. Plus, Bert looks super cute in it!

Love Boat II (1977): This movie, which originally aired on ABC on January 21st, 1977, was a second attempt to get the Love Boat series off the ground. A lot of the cast members from that show first pop up here, including Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange and Fred Grandy. The film itself is pretty amusing, but also disjointed, with stories starting and ending at the beginning while others don’t start until the halfway mark or even later. I forgot about some of the passengers until they popped up again towards the end! Bert is Ralph Manning, a lothario type who attempts to court the ship's cruise director Sandy (an adorable Diane Stilwell). Despite his love-em-and-leave-him attitude, Ralph has decided that he’s ready to settle down with Sandy, but she obviously has her suspicions. He also semi-courts Donna (Diana Canova looking gorgeous as usual), so you can see that perhaps Sandy is right in her hesitation to walk down the aisle with Ralph! Forever charming, Bert is perfectly cast as the lovably sleazy guy whose heart might be in the right place, but whose libido isn’t! The other stories are great too and Craig Stevens, Hope Lange, Robert Reed, Ken Berry and Lyle Waggoner also hop aboard the horniest boat in the Pacific for hijinks, hilarity and heavy petting! 

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery (1978): It’s so funny to me that Bert played semi-sleazy throughout his career. Since I knew him mostly as a game show host, I always thought he was Mr. Affable Laugh A Lot Guy, but he had a nice range as an actor, playing, ahem, the field, so to speak. In this film, which originally aired on NBC on November 1st, 1978, Bert revives his lovable lothario role in an effort to embody the swinging 70s in this overwrought and soapy drama. It’s not one of my favorite Bert TVMs, but it does sport a reunion for he and Robert Reed who also appeared in Love Boat II (but I’m not sure they had any scenes together), so there’s that tidbit. And Bert looks pretty damn good (no surprise). Click on title for a full review.

Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (1979): This movie, which aired on ABC on January 14th, 1979, was a lighthearted romp that was supposed to give viewers a look into the hardcore world of cheerleading. It’s dog-eat-dog, but with more thigh muscles. Released during the era of Jiggle TV, it certainly embodied all the tropes of 70s anti-feminism, although Jane Seymour said she took the role because it gave her an opportunity to play a contemporary woman. I dare say she took the part because she got to play Bert's main squeeze, but you know, that’s how I roll… Jane plays a hot reporter who is sent undercover by her boss and lover (Bert) to infiltrate the insides of cheerleading, which is sure to be captivating for all. But all she seems to come across are a lot of white go-go boots and not much else, so Bert decides to write the article himself. Drama ensues. This was an extremely popular film, and a sequel sans Convy was released in 1980.

Ebony, Ivory and Jade: This tele-film, which originally aired on CBS on August 3rd, 1979 appears to be a pilot film for a Charlie’s Angels type show about a rich guy who works for the government and lures a singing and dancing duo into his espionage ring. They really just want to perform, but yikes, they aren’t so good at it. Bert is a bit of a goofy James Bond type and the whole affair is silly but fun, despite the fact that none of it makes a lick of sense. Bert would take on the real Charlie’s Angels that same year in the infamous Love Boat Angels episode which initiates Tiffany Welles (Shelly Hack) into the fold. It also brings Bert back to the Love Boat, but I think I’m getting off track.

Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls (1981): Hmmm, this is a remake that misses all of the campy charm of the original, choosing instead to play it straight as an arrow, but with more neon and Lisa Hartman. Bert is fantastic as Tony Polar, the sweet actor who has a degenerative brain disorder that he doesn’t know about! This creates a mountain of heartache for Jennifer (Veronica Hamel), and melodrama ensues… and ensues… and ensues. I won’t lie, I enjoy this remake, but mostly for the cute guys and 80s clothes. I do miss the humor (whether intentional or not), but will never consider watching this as three hours wasted. Click on title for full review.

Help Wanted: Male (1982): I’m kind of obsessed with this movie. It’s got Suzanne Pleshette as Laura, the driven media mogul who just wants to have a baby. Her boyfriend Skip (Convy) is shooting blanks, so she looks to one of her employees, the uber-gorgeous Johnny (Gil Gerard) to impregnate her. Help Wanted is delightful. It’s got a breezy and fun script and Gerard and Pleshette share a wonderful chemistry together. Convy is hilarious as the sometimes overly-confident but sweet ex who fights for Laura’s hand. Of all the movies on this list, this is the one that gets the most action on my television (and for the record, the above image is my desktop wallpaper). Help Wanted was recently part of my TV Spot Tuesday series, so click on link to watch a promo and read about the movie.

Love Thy Neighbor (1984): Linda (Penny Marshall) has a tough choice to make – should she stay with her philandering husband Mike (Convy) or should she take up with her obsessive-compulsive neighbor Danny (John Ritter)? Normally I would totally be Team Bert, but after Mike runs away with Danny’s high-maintenance wife Sally (Constance McCashin), only to come crawling back after Sally dumps him, made him somehow seem less appealing. Love The Neighbor, which originally aired on ABC on May 23rd, 1984, was a runaway success, leading the Nielsen’s for the night, and who could blame people for tuning in to see two great sitcom actors (and Bert, of course) tackling the heady and relevant topic of divorce? It’s a sweet movie that is more drama than comedy, but fine performances all around and a fairly realistic script make it worth a go.

I know the Convy is no longer with us, but he left a behind a wonderful filmmography and his work and presence will always be in my life. Since he's made for surch an adorable mascot for Made for TV Mayhem, I thought it was only right to celebrate the actor/gameshow host/awesome man today.


Pam said...

Well Happy Birthday to Amanda's (other) man! He was a good looking guy and while I'm not familiar with many of his TV appearances that you noted here, I was tickled to recently find out he sang in a group called The Cheers. Their hit "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots" was responsible for popularizing the music genre known as "teen tragedy." Happy birthday, Bert!

Wings1295 said...

He is much missed. We have been watching him lately as the host of Super Password.

W.B. Kelso said...

Tattletales 4VR!!!

Classic Film and TV Cafe said...

My favorite Bert Convy performance is from the entertaining 1960s big screen soaper SUSAN SLADE. Bert played a rich guy named (I love this!) Wells Corbett!

Amanda By Night said...

Hi guys,

Thank you for all the Bert love. It does make me feel good to know he was loved by so many. Such a wonderful personality and talent.

Pam, I saw your article on teen tragedy music. Who knew Bert was so influential in the music world?

Joe, yes, Super Password is one of my all time favorite game shows. Too much fun, especially when Bert gave the answer away by accident! :)

W.B., I'm so ashamed to say I had not seen a full episode of Tattletales until earlier this week. It was great. Can't wait to see more!

Classic Film, I am also a fan of Susan Slade. The burning baby was a shocker! Yikes.

Thanks again guys for stopping by, reading and taking the time to comment!

Dr. David Jank said...

I did enjoy this write-up on Bert, so thanks for that. Don't forget to mention, though, that we New Yorkers called him "ours" for almost 20 years, from the 1950s to the 1970s, where he starred in long run of hit Broadway musicals, in particular the original "Fiddler on the Roof" with Bea Arthur, and the original "Cabaret," with Joel Grey. By the time he left us for Hollywood, he was already long and well established!

Amanda By Night said...

I am woefully uninformed when it comes to Convy's theater work. Thank you for mentioning it. I did know about Fiddler but actually had no idea about Cabaret! Was there anyone cooler than Convy? Doubtful!

Dana Rose Crystal said...

Just found ths today, while hoping I can find some way to see that TV show he did, Late Summer Early Fall, because I was frustrated. Imagine loving him desperately, wanting to see everything he did, only to be thwarted by a TV affiliate who hated the show and replaced it. They did the same with tattletales for years -KPIX channel 5! Thanks for posting all this, I will do my own page on him, too. BTW, he also did a thing for ABC, it was a late afternoon thing, called "Baby, Baby, baby" about a couple having quintuplets. Starring Judy Carne, too, and misspelling his name as "Burt" in the TV guide ad (Bert's pal, Burt Reynolds was married to Judy at one time)


Dana Rose said...

Re Thou Shalt Not committ Adultery --
I remember that show and that mini-series, tackling each of the Ten Commandments. It did so poorly in the ratings that they never completed all 10 of the sins. That one had Robert Reed of the Brady Bunch as a paraplegic and Louise Fletcher as his frustated wife, who is tempted by Bert's character. You are right, it is astonishing that he was always playing bad sleazeball types when he was best playing himself, and being cute and funny as a game show host. None of these bad guys nor even the better guys ever captured his charisma, nor showed him at his best.
I did not like that show -- it used that old saw that men can't have nor perform satisfying sex on their wives, when the film "Coming Home" had already been in theaters, with this scene of the wife being extremely pleased with the paraplegic man's performance while just tolerating her husband's. By the time this show aired, there was public discussion about oral sex and penile implants to help paraplegic men please their wives. I thought it stupid, unsatisfying and the wife just gave up on sex and all hopes of enjoyment as the resolution, instead of the married couple finding satisfaction --they just had to accept their sad sex life.
You didn't include The Snoop Sisters, which DVD I just ordered. When Bert was on Match Game, Gene Rayburn teased him by caling the show "The Snoopy Sisters." That show was inspired, I think by an earlier TV movie about 4 old women solving a mystery, which had the two Snoop Sister stars, Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick, along with Sylvia Sidney and Myrna Loy --"Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate." There was also a Love American Style episode that dealt with older women in a feminist group who did some caper --that one had Judith Lowery and Phyllis Diller.
Also, the pilot for Police Woman was on Police Story ("The Bait"), with Bert playing Lt. Crowley (later changed to Sgt. Crowley played by Earl Holiman, who said they had replaced "the other guy, because they thought he was too good-looking to be a cop," despite Bert's playing police Lt. Ostrowsky in "The Snoop Sisters").

Cosmoetica said...

Bert Convy, Superspy. You gotta read my book Amanda.

I think he was best on Tattletales- the first few seasons before they changed the rules.

But, here is the all time Bert Convy question: natural Bert or Brady perm Bert?

greg6363 said...

Classically trained performer who was a theatre major at UCLA. One of his Bruin classmates was no other than Carol Burnett.