Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I remember watching Wally Cox in Mr. Peepers when I was a kid and I remember enjoyinbg it, but I really don't remember much beyond that.  The show ran on NBC from  Julu 3, 1952 to June 12, 1955, beginning as a summer replacement series.  It's popularity p[laced in the Thursday night lineup that October, replacing Doc Corkle, a fast sinking sitcom.  In 1953, Mr. Peepers won a Peabody award and was nominated for an Emmy for best Best Situational Comedy.  It went on to be nominated for four Emmies in 1954 and three in 1955.

Cox ortrayed Robinson J. Peepers, a timid junior high school science teacher.  Shot before a live audience, the sitcom  also featured Tony Randall as the handsome ladies man (and history teacher) Harvey Weskit, Jack Warden as phys ed coach Frank Whip, and Marion Lorne as Mrs. Gurney, the scatterbrained English teacher and wife of the school's principal.  Other cast members were Patricia Benoit, Georgann Johnson, Joseph Foley, Norma Crane, Ernest Truax, and Sylvia Field.

In the first episode, Mr. Peepers arrives at Jefferson Junior High only to find that construction on a new wing is behind schedule and that he will have to wait a month until jhis classroom is ready and he will be able to teach.  In the meantime he is assigned to assist another science teacher, Mr. Wadd.  Wadd tries to undermine Mr. Peepers, giving him meaningless tasks.  In a classic case of the biter bit, Wadd leaves the school in shame and Mr. Peepers takes his place as science teacher.  This pattern continues throughout the series:  Mr. Peepers finds himself in unusual and unintentional situations but always manages to extract himself.

Wally Cox himself did not care for Mr. Peepers; the character was too goody-two-shoes for Cox's sarcatic personality.  Cox was bright and quick-witted, though, and was able to portray the shy Peepers perfectly.  Cox was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, where he was a childhood friend of Marlon Brandon.  He trained as a metal worker and became a mast craftsman.  In New /york, jhe and Brando renewed their friendship and, for a while, became roommates.  It was Brando who convinced Cox to try acting and Cox began studying under Brando's acting coach Stella Adler.  Cox was active in television in the late Forties and early Fifties.  He became a major star with Mr. Peepers.  He later went on to star in The Adventures of Hiram Holliday in 1956 -- a show I remember fondly,   In the Sixties he was the voice of the cartoon character Underdog.  Cox is perhaps best remembered today as the upper left hand sqaure in Hollywood Squares, a show he appeared on from its debut in 1966 to his death in 1973.  Offstage, Cox wrote a number of books, cut records for three labels, and was an enthusiastic motorcycle rider.  He died sudenly at age 49 from what was reported to be an accidental overdose of sedatives, although Brando insisted he friend had died from a heart attack.  Brando kept Cox's cremated remains hidden in a closet for three decades and often talked to them; after Brando's death, both his and Cox's cremains were scattered at the same time.

Here's the first televised episode of the series, produced by Fred Coe, directed by James Sheldon, and written by series creator David Swift, along with Jim Fritzell.


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