Monday, June 28, 2010
There were several Flipper books for children. The mail subscription book series "Best In Children's Books" launched with a first edition that featured a Flipper adventure that had two children visiting the set of the TV show and eventually landing in peril and being saved by everyone's favorite dolphin.
Whitman publishing brought out a hardcover fiction book based on the series, The Mystery Of The Black Schooner, which was well written and featured some nice illustrations. The text even mentions the work of Dr. John Lilly! There were also two miniature "Big Little" books (a concept from the past that was relaunched in the 1960s with many TV and movie character titles). The Big Little Book must have been a big success, as there was a second title as well. The art in the Big Little books closely resembles the art then appearing in the comic books from the same publisher.
Included here is a look at the original artwork prepared for the first of the Big Little books, Killer Whale Trouble.
Debuting in the show's first season was a miniature two-man submarine. Painted a bright orange, this little sub showed up again the next season piloted by the stunning Swedish oceanographer Ulla Stromstead.
The idea of a small submarine like this is realistic, and there are now many submersibles of this size in operation. But the Flipper sub was an illusion. Although it was real to the extent that it was powered and operated underwater, it was not an airtight vessel. A "wet" sub, it had no glass in its portholes and was piloted by a diver wearing scuba gear.
But it was thoroughly convincing onscreen, and served duty not only in Flipper, but in movies such as Around The World Under The Sea and Hello Down There (both Ivan Tors productions).
Friday, June 25, 2010
Here we see the great View Master packet, which featured stereoptic scenes from the two-part second season episode Dolphin Love. View Master was a classic toy and survives even today. The metal 1-inch button badges were gum machine prizes that usually cost a penny or nickel! There are variations on these designs that I have seen around (this is the extent of my personal collection). The wind-up Spouting Dolphin from Bandai was quickly knocked-off and there were many generic versions of this toy available for many years.
Episode 1 - Aired: 9/18/1965
Flipper rescues a lady oceanographer from a barracuda and finds a permanent new friend as Ulla Norstrand joins the adven
Episode 2 – Aired: 9/25/1965
When the Ricks family visits a deserted island, a fugitive steals their motor launch leaving them stranded without radio food or supplies.
Episode 3 – Aired: 10/2/1965
In the conclusion of a two-part adventure, Flipper tows Porter Ricks to his stolen launch, where he finds that the thief has imprisoned Ulla and stolen her submarine.
Episode 4 – Aired: 10/9/1965
Flipper's natural curiosity gets him tangled up in a cable attached to a dangerous floating mine that could explode any minute.
Episode 5 – Aired: 10/16/1965
Ranger Ricks is knocked unconscious by an underwater explosion while tracking down a coral poacher.
Episode 6 – Aired: 10/23/1965
A young know-it-all trainee ranger joins the Ricks family and finds that he still has a lot to learn when he disappoints Bud who thought of him as a hero.
Episode 7 – Aired: 10/30/1965
Things take an ominous turn for Sandy and Flipper when the plane carrying them to the Bahamas crashes in the Ocean.
Episode 8 – Aired: 11/6/1965
Flipper is the only hope of saving Sandy from drowning in a plane that crashed at sea, in the conclusion of this two part adventure.
Episode 9 – Aired: 11/13/1965
Flipper and Sandy are duped into helping a spy when a secret instrument package from a rocket is lost in Coral Key Park.
Episode 10 – Aired: 11/20/1965
A school of killer sharks keep Sandy and Bud trapped in a sunken wreck while Flipper tries to arouse Porter Ricks to come to their aid.
Episode 11 – Aired: 11/27/1965
Flipper fights to save Sandy's life and the lives of a film crew when he discovers a power leak in an underwater electric cable.
Episode 12 – Aired: 12/4/1965
While Bud shows off Flipper to his new friend Stevie, thieves steal Stevies valuable show horse.
Episode 13 – Aired: 12/11/1965
When Bud gets locked aboard the HMS Bounty, a replica of the infamous Captain Bligh's sailing ship, Flipper tries to get the skipper's attention before the schooner gets too far along on its world cruise.
Episode 14 – Aired: 12/18/1965
A school of killer sharks attack Flipper after he saves a swimmer and leads Porter Ricks and Sandy in a hunt for the deadly fish.
Episode 15 – Aired: 12/25/1965
Flipper helps Sandy and Bud search for stolen jewels when Ranger Porter Ricks is charged with robbery and hauled off to jail.
Episode 16 – Aired: 1/8/1966
Flipper is captured by some fishermen who transport him a long way up the coast to stock a new marine exhibit.
Episode 17 – Aired: 1/15/1966
The Ricks family sails up the coast in search of their missing friend, Flipper, only to find that the dolphin that saved a man's life, and who they hoped would be Flipper, has gone.
Episode 18 – Aired: 1/22/1966
While Flipper recovers from the injuries received during a battle with an alligator, Bud grieves over the loss of his pet just a few miles down the coast.
Episode 19 – Aired: 1/29/1966
Bud, Ulla and Stevie are trapped when their truck swerves into a drainage canal.
Episode 20 – Aired: 2/5/1966
A well meaning Bud skips his chores to go off in search of a way to earn some money for a birthday present for his Dad.
Episode 21 – Aired: 2/12/1966
When Flipper and Bud discover some of Sandy's high school classmates setting lobster traps before the season opens, bud is faced with the problem of reporting it to his father or letting the older boys off.
Episode 22 – Aired: 2/19/1966
Sandy and Bud place a down payment on a used air boat and plan to pay it off by operating a touring service through the everglades.
Episode 23 – Aired: 2/26/1966
While fishing in the waters off Florida, visiting Prince Kaza and a state department official run aground on a reef. Sharks appear while the pair attempt to free the boat.
Episode 24 – Aired: 3/5/1966
A park inspector, who believes animals should remain wild and not be made pets pays Porter an official visit. He clashes with Bud over the ownership of Flipper.
Episode 25 – Aired: 3/12/1966
The Ricks family gets an inside look at the Navy's dolphin research when Ulla calls on Porter for assistance with a Navy dolphin that seems to have gone berserk.
Episode 26 – Aired: 3/19/1966
The Navy and the Coast Guard launch an extensive search for a research Dolphin worth half a million dollars, that escaped from the Ricks while Flipper was trying to nurse him back to health.
Episode 27 – Aired: 3/26/1966
An industrial spy takes a sonar device from Ulla that has been entrusted to her by an electronics company for field testing her submarine.
Episode 28 – Aired: 4/2/1966
When Porter dives into the depths with Ulla in her submarine for a survey of the ocean floor, the tiny craft snaps its propeller on the rocky coral stranding them under 50 metres of water.
Episode 29 – Aired: 4/9/1966
Flipper falls in love with another Dolphin much to Bud's puzzlement, and swims about the park with his new girlfriend until Ted Marlowe mistakes the female dolphin for a shark and spears her.
Episode 30 – Aired: 4/16/1966
Flipper is concerned over the outcome of an operation on his girlfriend, who was speared by Ted Marlowe.
These great Flipper comic books were issued during the mid-1960s by Western Publishing's Gold Key imprint. Like all the other TV derived Gold Key titles, the art was executed by european artists who only had stills to go by, so the characters and locations are a little off, but these are still very fun items and were really enjoyable back in their time.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Rick O'Barry is, to me, a genuine hero. He was the man who trained the dolphins for the Flipper television series. But that's not what makes him a hero. It's his tireless work to be an advocate for dolphins. His direct action has made him a controversial figure, but to many he is doing important, vital, worthy work.
It was the fate of the Flipper dolphins after the show ended that prompted O'Barry into action. He had lived closely with the dolphins and become a part of their world. He actually lived in the house that served as the Rick's residence. He was especially close with Kathy, the dolphin who was most often seen as Flipper. Once she returned to the Seaquarium she did not survive.
In the 1980s O'Barry wrote a book, Behind The Dolphin Smile, which not only told his story (it is a rich account of how the Flipper TV show was produced), but portrays the evolution of his activism. The honest tone of his book is a powerful argument against dolphin captivity and exploitation. Just as worthy is the follow-up: To Free A Dolphin. One thing about O'Barry that makes an impression, is his sober sincerity.
Last year The Cove, a feature documentary about O'Barry's efforts to expose the slaughter of dolphins in Japan, was awarded the Academy Award. It's a very powerful film and a testament to the best human advocate the dolphins have ever had.
The Launch was a 22 foot Iroquois Deep-V "Cathedral Hull" Thunderbird powerboat with twin inboard engines. This sleek craft was in nearly every episode, carrying Porter Ricks all over Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve to enforce the laws and rules that kept it a pristine paradise.
The innovative hull design was designed by Richard Cole and was a clever use of the fiberglass hull construction becoming popular at the time. The Flipper launch was a very ultra-modern design for its time and it certainly made an impression on audiences.
The Ricks' boat had a few extra features, like the underwater TV camera that was mounted beneath the bow and allowed the ranger to spy what was going on below.
Watch closely and you'll notice that there's a switch as the third season gets underway: the Launch is a newer model with a few modifications, such as an extra porthole along the side of the cabin, tan trimmed upholstery, and a wood deck. Coral Key Park must have had good funding!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The second Flipper feature, Flipper's New Adventure, was a pilot of sorts for the TV series. This is evident with the recasting of Brian Kelly as a widowed father (though young Bud Ricks is nowhere to be seen). There's a lot of action and it all starts with Sandy running away from home. He doesn't want to move and leave Flipper behind. The majority of the story takes place on a deserted island where Sandy ends up after a perilous ocean journey. On this island the encounters a family that has been besieged by modern-day pirates. The family is British, and they have a young daughter who is played by Pamela Franklin, who had previously been in the excellent The Innocents with Deborah Kerr (highly recommended), and who later grew up to be a beautiful, talented actress who brightened such films as The Prime of Miss Jean Brody and The Legend Of Hell House.
The film is very entertaining and is quite a bit more like the series would be (Flipper is more heroic and clever than before), and less like the previous film. One wonders if more films were planned or if the series was well along in the planning (my guess is the latter considering all the logistics involved in how the series was produced). But Brian Kelly's billing is "special introductory appearance", so this was really the beginning of what Flipper was to become.
There were many coloring and activity books available throughout the run of the Flipper TV series, and there was even one released at the time of the original film. Most were put out by Whitman Publishing, who also came out with a box of Flipper crayons!
Ricou Browning was a native Floridian who worked at various water attractions producing shows after graduating from Florida State University. While working at Wakulla Springs State Park he helped the team from Universal Pictures who were scouting locations for The Creature From The Black Lagoon. Browning's ease underwater led to his being cast as the eponymous creature (Browning performed all the underwater scenes while stuntman Ben Chapman played the creature on land). The film went on to become a classic, spawning two sequels. Having such a superb athlete in the role of the "gill-man" really helped in creating some of the memorable moments, such as when the creature follows the heroine as she swims on the surface.
Browning was fated to get even more involved with film production. When Ivan Tors came to Florida to stage underwater scenes for his Sea Hunt series he was impressed with Browning's abilities and established a long-term association with the man which would give Browning the opportunity to produce, write and direct. Creating Flipper led to other film and TV projects, including working with the producers of the James Bond films to stage the epic underwater battle scenes in the classic Thunderball. Further underwater projects included Around The World Under The Sea, The Daring Game, and Hello Down There. All featured remarkable footage and action sequences.
I met Ricou Browning at a toy show that featured celebrities of film and TV. He seemed happy to discuss something other than The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and was nice enough to answer many questions about his many projects. He seemed like a real gentleman and it was a real pleasure to have a conversation with the man who created Flipper and so many other productions that enriched my childhood.
Flipper comes to the rescue when a submarine gets caught on the bottom of the ocean, trapping its occupant who is fast running out of air.
Episode 2 – Aired: 9/26/1964
The boys find themselves in deep water when they disobey their father and dive down to investigate a car that has been dumped in the ocean.
Episode 3 – Aired: 10/3/1964
Dr Phil Harmon is attacked by a shark. He radios to bring a rare blood type that can save his life.
Episode 4 – Aired: 10/10/1964
Bud fears his father is planning to marry his new lady friend.
Episode 5 – Aired: 10/17/1964
City boy, Mike Beldon arrives in Corel Key with a huge chip on his shoulder about his mother’s new husband. However, a near death accident helps him see his new step-father in a different light.
Episode 6 – Aired: 10/24/1964
A greedy fisherman traps Flipper.
Episode 7 – Aired: 10/31/1964
Porter is concerned that Bud is taking old Hap Gorman’s stories too seriously and warns his son that not everything the old man tells him is true.
Episode 8 – Aired: 11/7/1964
Flipper’s days are numbered when he is accused of eating a prized fish worth a lot of money. Just as Flipper is to be cut open to retrieve the fish, Bud and Sandy discover it has been stolen by Jim and race to prove their pet’s innocence in before it’s too late.
Episode 9 – Aired: 11/14/1964
A ventriloquist wants Flipper for his act.
Episode 10 – Aired: 11/21/1964
A Greek believes Flipper is the reincarnation of his brother.
Episode 11 – Aired: 11/28/1964
Flipper befriends a paralyzed water-skier.
Episode 12 – Aired: 12/5/1964
Despite their best attempts to impress a visiting Congress woman, Porter and the boys are devastated to learn that she plans to close the park.
Episode 13 – Aired: 12/12/1964
In a last ditch attempt to convince Congress woman Helen Browning that she should use government funding to keep the Park open, Sandy and Bud take her skin-diving.
Episode 14 – Aired: 12/19/1964
Bud and Sandy, on a trip with Hap Gorman to his secret fishing grounds, board an abandoned boat, not knowing that a hidden charge of dynamite is about to blow it to pieces.
Episode 15 – Aired: 12/26/1964
Sandy, Bud and Flipper decide to become detectives when reports claim that someone has been looting boats in Coral Key Park.
Episode 16 – Aired: 1/2/1965
When Flipper finds a Spanish doubloon on the ocean bottom and brings it to Bud and Sandy, rumours about Spanish Treausures spread quickly and an underwater gold rush ensues.
Episode 17 – Aired: 1/9/1965
Flipper leads Bud to a beach where Lynn Borden lies half conscious after falling off a boat 20 miles at sea.
Episode 18 – Aired: 1/16/1965
Porter Ricks, Sandy and Marine Researcher Dr Williams Tollner go to sea to investigate a school of lemon sharks which have invaded Coral Key Park.
Episode 19 – Aired: 1/23/1965
Pretty teenager Bonnie McCoy takes Sandy by surprise when she sails into view aboard a floating zoo.
Episode 20 – Aired: 1/30/1965
Flipper finds money underwater and presents some of the bills to Bud. Flipper shows Bud where it came from and they collect more from the underwater wreck.
Episode 21 – Aired: 2/6/1965
Flipper goes to Bud and Porter Ricks for detective help after seeing a treasure chest stolen from the wreck of a sunken Spanish ship hidden on a nearby island.
Episode 22 – Aired: 2/13/1965
Flipper disappears for several days and, when found by Porter Ricks, Sandy and Bud, is with another dolphin, an amazing albino the only white dolphin in Porter’s memory.
Episode 23 – Aired: 2/20/1965
While Sandy and Bud prepare for the annual Coral Key Park swimming race, Porter is overcome by toxic chemicals dropped from a passing ship while he is carrying out an underwater investigation.
Episode 24 – Aired: 2/27/1965
Sentinel of the sea Flipper discovers a sinking raft, manned by Bonnie McCoy, her father, an elephant and a chimpanzee.
Episode 25 – Aired: 3/6/1965
In an effort to raise money to pay off creditors of McCoy’s Floating Zoo, Sandy and Bud join Bonnie McCoy in a scheme to run away with her father’s elephant and chimpanzee.
Episode 26 – Aired: 3/13/1965
Judy the chimp steals a briefcase full of money and Sean McCoy of McCoy’s Floating Zoo is arrested. Sandy, Bud and Bonnie decide to put on a show with Flipper to raise money for her father’s bail.
Episode 27 – Aired: 3/20/1965
Like the heroes he sees on TV, Bud tries to rescue a damsel in distress, but fails to tell Porter or Sandy of his intentions, and suddenly finds himself caught in a dangerous rip.
Episode 28 – Aired: 3/27/1965
Bud trying to help an injured man and his wife marooned on a sailboat, has to call desperately for help from Flipper when the boat becomes caught in treacherous coral reefs.
Episode 29 – Aired: 4/3/1965
Flipper, being a pack animal by instinct, is attracted by the sound of a school of dolphins and nothing Porter, Sandy or Bud can do will bring him back.
Episode 30 – Aired: 4/10/1965A motion picture company moves in to film an underwater monster picture in Coral Key Park, and Flipper become star struck.
Hungarian-born Ivan Tors emigrated to the United States shortly before the Second World War. He began his Hollywood career as a screenwriter, with standard fare such as In The Good Old Summertime. As he moved towards producing films he gravitated towards fact-based science fiction. His 50s films such as Gog, Riders To The Stars and The Magnetic Monsters are solid no-nonsense studies of the near future that are decidedly sober compared to the sort of sensational B-movie approach to SF of the time.
Moving into TV he made Science Fiction Theater, which was a weekly dose of the sort of nuts-and-bolts speculative tales as his notable films were. With Sea Hunt he went off into a more unique direction: the wonders of man confronting nature. This series, starring Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson, was a huge hit. It pulled the Tors fascination with our frontiers into an even more tangible realm than his SF efforts. The amount of underwater action and outdoor filming made the series stand out. The series helped popularize skin and SCUBA diving.
When Tors returned to feature films it was with Flipper. As I mentioned before, the focus on man respectfully encountering nature not only led to greater depth and success in Tors' work, it helped adjust the consciousness of the families his shows were aimed at.
Tors' devotion to the subject matter in his work was real. He helped fund Dr. John Lily's work with dolphins while producing the Flipper movies and show. He worked for conservation of wildlife in Africa, very much in the spirit of the characters in his Daktari. The animals in his shows were trained with Ralph Helfer's "affection" method. And he was open-minded and adventurous in many other ways, even personally experimenting with LSD while it was still legal!
The sort of man Ivan Tors was can be felt in his work- he was a deep-thinking man of adventurous spirit. Not typical of Hollywood, that is perhaps why he may have built his studio on the other end of the country!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The entire Flipper phenomenon began when producer Ivan Tors was pitched a movie idea by Ricou Browning. Browning was a diver and stunt man (he was in the Creature from the Black Lagoon, as the creature itself) who became important to Tors when he was producing his hit TV series Sea Hunt. Browning told Tors about his encounters with dolphins, which Tors found incredible but believed due to Browning's no-nonsense personality. Luckily, Tors agreed and Browning wrote a script with former journalist Jack Cowden.
The film was a beautifully photographed color production, and had the benefit of the great Chuck Connors, always watchable, as the gruff fisherman father. Luke Halpin is the film's heart, giving a natural performance that helped make the entire story quite believable. The dolphin footage is stunning and must have made a huge impression on audiences who had never seen a dolphin so close-up before. Lamar Boren's underwater photography is, as always, superb and clear.
I was unaware that there was a feature film that preceded the TV series as a child. I first learned of its existence when it was re-released as a matinee feature in the very early 70s. I was surprised by the differences between the film and series, but appreciated it even so.
The film is a dramatic turn in Ivan Tors' career. He would soon embark on a whole series of animal-themed films and series. These became important culturally. Tors productions such as Flipper, Daktari, Gentle Ben and Namu The Killer Whale all have themes of conservation and respect for other species that surely had an impact on all the children who grew up watching them. As light-hearted as they were, they had substance and merit that most of what gets churned out by the entertainment industry never considers.
Growing up with Flipper you had a wide assortment of licensed, high-quality playthings to choose from. These are all highly sought-after collectibles today. Most capture the magic of the Flipper show to those who remember them fondly. I will be sharing these treasures often here. Shown in this entry are: the Coleco Puncho- an inflatable dolphin pal, the Mattel Jack-In-The-Box Music Box, and the Mattel Gee-Tar Music Box.
This blog is devoted to the classic 1960s TV series Flipper. This show was one of the many wonderful entertainment offerings of my childhood. But its spell went beyond any other, and there is good reason for this. The show depicts a rich fantasy that appeals to many children: to live with the ocean as your backyard playground, with the wonders of the sea available to you. Beyond that it showed people and dolphins caring for one another. Sadly, the innocent message of the show has probably inspired the capture of many dolphins for corporate exploitation, but if you experienced the show as an open-minded child it wasn't at all about watching a dolphin in a tank jump through a hoop. It was about the connection people and dolphins actually experience. Perhaps someday we will come around to experience the sort of respect for these creatures that they deserve.
Another wonderful thing about Flipper is that it was the sort of level-headed entertainment that neither insulted its audience intelligence nor cheated it by coming up short in terms of production values. The sort of subtle characterizations in the show rarely occur in today's overwrought TV fare. And the rich photography and how fully the natural surroundings were employed are striking even moreso today.
So join me as I examine the many wonders that were the life and times of TV's Flipper.