Will We Ever See Jamie Again?
A Lost Video Treasure That Cries for Revival
The Golden Age of Television gave us many family sitcom shows that today are familiar icons. Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver to name a few. They each have stood the test of time, reaffirmed regularly as each new generation comes along. Even with today's ever-changing mores to the nuclear family, these depictions of the "model" American family stay popular.
So where's Jamie?
Brandon deWilde and the beloved character actor Ernest Truex were the principal stars of Jamie, a 1953-54 ABC-TV program. Coming off both his successful run on Broadway in The Member of the Wedding and his Academy Award®-nominated performance in the film Shane, Brandon was hot. People wanted more of "the kid from Shane." It was only natural that he would be sought out for a television show of his own.
Eleven-year-old Brandon was to play seven-year-old Jamison "Jamie" Francis McHummer, a recent orphan. What would be occurring with Jamie's production was that it would be broadcast each week live. That was a lot of pressure for a pre-teener, even one as gifted as Brandon. Much press was made of the fact that Brandon's parents had negotiated a contract stipulating that Brandon could be "pulled out" of the series on short notice if he wanted to or if his parents felt it was impairing his emotional growth.
Family Portrait. From May of 1954, comes this portrait of Brandon deWilde's Jamie TV family; his supporting cast as it were. With Brandon are Polly Rowles, left, who plays "Aunt Laurie", Kathy Nolan as "Cousin Liz", and veteran actor Ernest Truex, who has the role of "Grandpa".The ensemble performed live on ABC every Monday evening, at 7:30 p.m. on the East coast and here they have just wrapped up a successful first season.
Yes, Brandon deWilde flubbed his lines. They all did. And therein lies a certain charm. They knew the script and they kept it going. Ever the pro, it is great to see Brandon at work here, such as in this screen shot. The sets may have been painted, but the people were real -- and it was live television.
Ernest Truex is a name not that well known and yet he continues to be seen by millions of people today appearing in some memorable motion pictures and classic TV episodes. Even though his acting career began at age 5 (Brandon first appeared on Broadway at 7), he is best remembered for playing kindly elderly gentlemen. In the 1939 The Adventures of Marco Polo, he played Marco Polo's comical assistant, opposite Gary Cooper, and a reporter in 1940s His Girl Friday. He is credited for 2 classic episodes of Rod Serling's original The Twilight Zone. Truex had the main role in the Kick the Can episode (with his son Barry) as a man who learns the secret to staying young, literally. In What You Need, he played a traveling peddler who happens to have exactly what people need, just before they knew they needed it.
Jamie was not your typical TV family situation, especially for the family-friendly 1950s. Having recently lost both his parents, young Jamison was being passed from relative to relative, baggage in hand, until he winds up on the front porch of Aunt Laurie, a widow and matron of her household. Living there also are Liz, Jamie's teenage cousin, and Grandpa McHummer, who was similarly ignored by his kin. Almost immediately Jamie and "Grandpa Frank" bond sharing exploits together.
From a 21st Century standpoint, the concept is more appropriate today than when it was first envisioned. According to recent Census Bureau figures, 6.5 percent of children in the United States live with their grandparents, a 20-year high and double the rate in 1970, said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University, who analyzed the data.
Combining both comedy and drama elements, many of the show's plot lines centered on Jamie's and Grandpa's friendship sharing the experience of one growing up and one growing old in the same house together. As was custom with the genre during the period, each episode would present a "life's lesson" in the storyline. Jamie aired Monday evenings at 7:30 pm. All totaled, a pilot and 22 episodes of the program were done before the show was abruptly canceled 2 episodes into its second season by ABC-TV over a dispute with one of the show's sponsors.
The whereabouts and ownership of Jamie are a mystery to this day. The show was originally created by David Susskind's Talent Associates production company. According to Wikipedia, in 1977 the company was sold to Time-Life Films. Time Warner's HBO currently owns the copyrights to the Talent Associates library, with TV distribution rights handled by CBS Television Distribution. It is not known if this includes Jamie or not. There has never been a home media release of any of the Jamie episodes or pilot. It is not clear if they were ever rebroadcast or if they have entered the realm of public domain. It is believed that it is the copyright on the theme music, renewed on January 4, 1980, that keeps Jamie out of circulation. You would think the holders would allow distribution of the series to sell more downloads of the music!
The program went out "live" and was captured (filmed) by the kinescope process (like so many episodes of Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners).
After 58 years, one can only hope that Jamie will eventually surface and again reach the public, either through cable TV or the home media market via DVD release. Existence of the pilot and at least some of the 22 episodes has been recently ascertained.
If a film or TV series outlives its copyright and/or marketability, why are they not "donated" to the American Film Institute, Turner Classic Movies or the Internet Archive where they can be posted on-line and enjoyed by all? It is indeed sad that the corporate mentality treats "black & white" as an unmarketable medium denying future generations of both the historical and entertainment value of these "lost treasures".
We find it hard to believe that so much has been written about something that so few have seen. That is Jamie. Here is a compilation of links for Jamie enthusiasts to explore:
Feature article on Wikipedia is the most comprehensive Jamie article to date. We have actively contributed to (as well as started) that feature.
Brandon deWilde's January 10, 1954 guest appearance on What's My Line, at age 11, where Jamie is discussed appears here.
Discusses Brandon's life during this time period with mention of Jamie.
Discusses the Grandma Moses Suite CD release and Whistle Stop, the musical theme to Jamie.
Episode and associated information for Brandon deWilde's short-lived ABC sitcom, Jamie, which ran from October 5, 1953 to October 4, 1954, as listed on The Classic TV Archive.
Brief, but information-packed synopsis of Brandon deWilde's Jamie, with associated links, as listed on SitcomsOnline.com.
As listed on the Paley Center for Media website. Individual episodes also listed. Note: PCM has been identified as having prints of the Jamie pilot and at least 4 episodes, but has not been receptive to our repeated requests for additional information.
If you are one of those that would like to see MORE of Jamie, either on DVD or on-line, please add your voice to be heard!!!
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