Fractured Flickers

Fractured Flickers

"Fractured Flickers" was a live-action syndicated half-hour television comedy show produced by Jay Ward, who otherwise is known for animated cartoons (the most famous of which is "Rocky and Bullwinkle"). The pilot film was produced in 1961 (hence the 1961 copyright notice on the animated main title), but the series wasn't completed until 1963. Twenty-six episodes were produced; they were syndicated by Desilu Productions and played for several years on local stations.

Host Hans Conried introduced short "flickers" pieced together from silent film footage and from other older movies, overdubbed with newly written comic dialogue and music. The voices for these were provided by fellow Ward mainstays Paul Frees, June Foray, and Bill Scott. The earliest episodes have careful dubbing, with the actors and writers taking pains to synchronize the new dialogue with the actors' lip movements. Once the series had deadlines to face, however, the time-consuming dubbing was abandoned, and the later episodes don't bother with exact synchronization.

True to the Jay Ward brand of humor, the dialogue was loaded with puns and one-line jokes. (One silent vignette was retitled "The Barber of Stanwyck.") Movies, television, advertising, and even the "Fractured Flickers" series itself were fair game for merciless kidding. (Conried quipped, "This is what we'll be doing for the next several weeks--or until someone finds out!") The show was at its funniest when desecrating early melodramas with "hip" reinterpretations, such as presenting Rudolph Valentino as an insurance salesman or Lon Chaney, Sr.'s "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" as "Dinky Dunstan, Boy Cheerleader." (Lon Chaney, Jr. was not amused by the latter and attempted unsuccessfully to sue Jay Ward over it.) Many segments were vicious satires of television commercials; a typical "word from our sponsor" would have the announcer extolling the virtues of the item being advertised, accompanied by darkly humorous clips. A fly-by-night real estate development, for example, was illustrated with clips of buildings being destroyed by a cyclone (from "Steamboat Bill, Jr." with Buster Keaton). And "This moment of softness (explosions, wild parties, etc.) has been brought to you by Bee. Bee, the only tissue woven in mid-air by bees!" Regular features were the "Minute Mysteries," featuring Stan Laurel as master detective Sherman Oaks, and the weekly "tributes" to some American city.

Each episode also featured a celebrity guest whom Conried would interview. Most were popular personalities of the 1960s (Fabian, Bob Denver, Deborah Walley, Rod Serling, Rose Marie, etc.). Many of them caught the spirit of the show, and answered Conried's questions with tongue in cheek.

The films used in the show were then about 40 years old. Now, "Fractured Flickers" is even "more" removed from the present day, but the humor frequently holds up well, especially when the show dealt with universal themes: traffic jams, exercise programs, hobbies, careers, social pursuits. Many prominent figures of the 1960s were lampooned. A segment based on the Kennedy family (and produced long before air time) was excised from all copies of the series when President Kennedy was assassinated so that it was never shown. This segment remains lost to this day.

The entire series is available on a DVD set from VCI Entertainment. []

Guest stars

The following stars, listed in order of appearance by episode number, conversed with Conried during the guest segments.

:1: Rose Marie:2: Fabian:3: Gypsy Rose Lee:4: Allan Sherman:5: Annette Funicello:6: Edward Everett Horton:7: Paula Prentiss:8: Sebastian Cabot:9: Roddy McDowall: Reappears briefly after the following flicker, the only guest to reappear.:10: opera singer Vivienne Della Chiesa:11: Connie Stevens:12: Rod Serling:13: Connie Hines:14: Cesar Romero:15: Diana Dors:16: Bullwinkle J. Moose (in the form of a hand puppet):17: Deborah Walley:18: Paul Lynde:19: Anna Maria Alberghetti:20: Ruta Lee:21: Barbara Eden:22: Bob Denver:23: Pat Carroll:24: Bob Newhart:25: Ursula Andress:26: Zsa Zsa Gabor

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