Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Milt Caniff's popular adventure comic strip Terry and the Pirates was the basis of a syndicated television series which lasted for eighteen episodes from June 26 to November 21, 1953.   The comic strip began in 1934 and garnered Caniff the first Cartoonist of the Year Award from the National Cartoonist Society in 1946.  The strip reached 31 million readers from 1934 to 1946.  In 1937 Terry and the Pirates started on the airwaves on the NBC Red Network and soon moved to the NBC Blue Network until 1939.  After an absence of two years, the show returned weekdays on Chicago Tribune's WGN radio shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor; the weekday broadcasts moved back to the Blue Network in 1943 and continued for another five years before closing shop on June 30, 1948.  In 1940 Terry and company were featured in an unimpressive fifteen-part movie serial.

USAAF Colonel Terry Lee goe to the Far East to locate a gold mine left to him by his grandfather.  He soon finds work as a pilot for a commercial and passenger airline owned by the slightly shady Chopstick Joe; his friend and co-pilot is Hotshot Charlie (whose real name is Charles C. Charles -- I assume his parents had little imagination).  And of course there's Burma, the beautiful blonde romantic interest, and a mysterious nemesis known as The Dragon Lady.

Playing the title role was bopyishly handsome John Baer, who never again had a starring role.  Baer kept busy with films and television during the Fifties and Sixties, retiring in the Seventies for a career in real  estate.  Jack Reitzen (Appointment with Murder, Mask of the Dragon, Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl) spent most of his career appearing in television shows through the early Sixties.  Hotshot Charlie was played by William Tracy (Angels with Dirty Faces, Brother Rat, Tobacco Road) ws a youthful actor actually played Terry Lee in the big screen serial of Terry and the Pirates twelve years before playing Terry's friend on television.  The role of the lovely romantic interest Burma was played by Sandra Spence, who -- with one exception -- had uncredited roles in film.  Spence did land a regular role in television's Whirlybirds in 1957.  She died from cancer sixteen years later at the young age of 48.  The mysterious and seductive Dragon Lady was played by Gloria Saunders, who also appeared in numerous television shows in the Fifties.  Saunders was disfugured in a car accident in 1945 but a series of plastc surgery operations eliminated all signs of facial scarring, allowing her to continue her actng career.  She was married for three years to Tommy Thompson who would go on to produce The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy!, Designing Women and other well known televicion shows.
Among those appearing in episodes of Terry and the Pirates were Key Luke, Victor Sen Yung, Phyllis Coates, Michael Ansara, Lyle Talbot, Tristam Coffin, and a definitely not Rolling Stone Keith Richards. 

Here's an episode titled "Macao Gold."  Enjoy. 

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