Television was once the enemy of the movie industry.
In the early 1950’s, movie theatre attendance was suffering from the growing popularity of TV
which led to filmmakers inventing new ways of creating excitement in cinemas such as with the
introduction of wide screen formats such as CinemaScope, Cinerama & VistaVision.
Today however, the movie and TV industries work in concert with each other
and many successful properties switch from the small screen to the big screen and vice versa.
Indeed, two of this year’s box-office hits were derived directly from television concepts.
With its vintage period setting,DOWNTON ABBEY came lock, stock and barrel from a British TV series
of the same name which had premiered in 2010 and THE ADDAMS FAMILY is an animated film based on the
similarly-titled 1960’s live-action TV spooky sitcom series which was subsequently extended into two earlier
live-action theatrical films first in 1991 and again in ’93.
In addition, Thanksgiving will see the premiere of
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD,
the biographical film of TV star Fred Rogers and also opening this month
will be a third CHARLIE’S ANGELS movie based around the 1976 adventure series.
RADIO, TV and FILM CHARACTERS...
Looking back over the years,
certain properties have stretched even back to radio days…
as in the case of the police drama DRAGNET
which was a radio series that debuted in 1949
and then its creator & star Jack Webb (pictured above) developed a parallel TV series beginning in 1951 and the format was revived in the 1987 movie DRAGNET
starring Dan Aykroyd & Tom Hanks.
Longtime masked man favorite THE LONE RANGER
also made its debut on radio beginning in 1933;
two movie serials took up the storyline in ’38 & ’39
& then the character with his faithful Indian companion
Tonto started its long TV run in ’49.
Two big screen versions followed in the 50’s
but the more recent revival left a lot to be desired.
Here’s a YouTube link to the opening titles of the
1950’s TV version complete with its famous use of an
extract from Rossini’s WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE. https://youtu.be/jbQfutzSJoc
Similarly, the sitcoms OUR MISS BROOKS
and THE LIFE OF RILEY started on radio,
became hit TV shows and were also developed
into movie vehicles..
Certain comic book superheroes have long been giant favorites in various media. Both BATMAN and SUPERMAN
had appeared in their own TV series prior to their contemporary box-office hit movies but both characters had earlier
been heroic champions on radio and in movie serials.
Another comic book favorite THE INCREDIBLE HULK was featured in a 1966 animated TV series
and SPIDER-MAN had appeared in an cartoon TV series in ’67 and a live-action TV series ten years
later titled THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
A number of British home-grown characters
from radio into film such as in the case
of DICK BARTON SPECIAL AGENT.
Literary heroes BULLDOG DRUMMOND
and SHERLOCK HOLMES have both been the subject
of radio, film & TV properties.
In addition, the BBC’s legendary wartime radio comedy show
ITMA (IT’S THAT MAN AGAIN) was developed into a
movie spinoff released there in 1943.
Private detective PAUL TEMPLE was another very popular
fictional British radio character beginning in the 30’s and
was later featured in films and a TV series.
British copper P.C. 49 was the hero of a radio series
in the 40’s whose adventures were subsequently explored
in two feature films beginning with the one pictured above
Following the huge 1958 Christmas hit record
THE CHIPMUNK SONG, David Seville’s characters
Alvin, Simon & Theodore became the stars of the animated TV series THE ALVIN SHOW and full-scale movies in the 2000s.
Other small-screen cartoon favorites who trekked
into motion pictures included THE FLINTSTONES,
GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, THE JETSONS, MR. MAGOO,
ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE and YOGI BEAR.
Both the aforementioned THE ADDAMS FAMILY
and CHARLIE’S ANGELS are examples of
TV Shows from the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s that were
developed into film projects.
Most successful by far from those years were
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and STAR TREK which both made their debut
in 1966 and whose franchises still continue into contemporary projects.
Among the many other American
small-screen successes that transitioned into
full-length films were:
THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED,
THE BRADY BUNCH, CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU?,
CHIPS, DARK SHADOWS, THE DUKES OF HAZZARD,
THE FUGITIVE, GET SMART, THE HONEYMOONERS,
H.F. PUFNSTUF, I SPY,
LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, LOST IN SPACE,
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, MAVERICK,
McHALE’S NAVY, THE MOD SQUAD,
THE MUNSTERS, MY FAVORITE MARTIAN,
PETER GUNN, THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW
(the show was the basis for the 1996 movie SGT. BILKO),
SESAME STREET, STARSKY AND HUTCH,
S.W.A.T., THE TWILIGHT ZONE
and THE WILD WILD WEST.
Among the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s British TV series which resulted in movie spin-offs were:
ARE YOU BEING SERVED?, THE ARMY GAME (Its movie spinoff was titled I ONLY ASKED!),
THE AVENGERS (that’s the spy series starring Patrick Macnee & Honor Blackman,
not the contemporary sci-fi adventure movies), BLESS THIS HOUSE, CALLAN,
DAD’S ARMY, DOCTOR WHO, DOOMWATCH, FATHER DEAR FATHER,
GEORGE AND MILDRED (which had started as a spin-off from MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE TV show),
THE GROVE FAMILY (The 1955 Grove Family film was called IT’S A GREAT DAY!) , THE LIKELY LADS,
LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR, MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE, MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS, THE MUPPET SHOW,
ON THE BUSES, PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, PLEASE SIR, PORRIDGE, THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT,
RISING DAMP, 6-5 SPECIAL, STEPTOE AND SON, THE SWEENEY, THUNDERBIRDS, UP POMPEII
and WHACKO (Its movie was called BOTTOMS UP).
In addition, three episodes of the 1950’s British police series
FABIAN OF THE YARD were combined into a single feature which was released theatrically.
I haven’t included the very popular British suspense series THE SAINT
because its character Simon Templar had been the subject in American films
in the 30’s & 40’s, long before his 1962 TV debut on British ITV.
To close out this blog, here is a YouTube clip of the opening titles of
MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS
featuring the theme tune THE LIBERTY BELL by John Philip Sousa
played by the Band Of Grenadier Guards.
The TV series listed above are selected titles and are in no way intended as definitive collections of the genre.
© Alan Warner, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission
from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit
is given to Alan Warner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.