Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lyle Talbot and Show Business

In April we will begin performing my comedy murder mystery Cleaver It to Beaver - which means that I have to write it soon.

This also means that I have to research the series on which my mystery will be based, Leave It to Beaver.  Yesterday we watched an episode featuring Gilbert Bates, a neighbor of Beaver's and a sometimes friend / sometimes enemy.  Gilbert is portrayed by Stephen Talbot, whose real-life father Lyle Talbot also appeared on several episodes of the series.

"Lyle Talbot!" I thought.  "I worked with Lyle Talbot!"

Well, sort of.

I held the curtain for him when he'd make his exits and entrances for Camelot! at St. Louis' Westport Playhouse in 1980.  Talbot portrayed the magician Merlin.  He was 78 at the time, and my mother was excited to hear that I was working as a stagehand for a show he was in.  He was, apparently, at one time a kind of matinee idol - at least that's what I gathered from my mother's admiration of him.

Indeed, Talbot's career spanned the better part of the 20th century, from traveling tent shows to early talkies in Hollywood to appearances on any television show you can imagine.  Talbot made his first film in 1931, and over his career worked with Mae West, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, the Three Stooges, and even appeared in a few famous and famously bad Ed Wood movies.  He was the first screen actor to portray Superman's nemesis Lex Luthor, and the first to portray Commissioner Gordon of Batman and Robin's Gotham City.  He was a founder of the Screen Actors' Guild, and appeared in television shows from the days of the George Burns & Gracie Allen Show to Charlie's Angels and Who's the Boss?

Talbot lived to be 94 and one of his sons founded salon.com.  He was married four times, but the fourth one lasted for 40 years.

Lyle Talbot and I may have crossed paths only as he was making his way on and off stage for a six-week run in a show that closed 35 years ago, but having even a remote connection with someone with such a storied history is something that can only happen in show business.

Talbot as Commissioner Gordon with Batman & Robin.

Talbot as Lex Luthor

Lyle Talbot as I remember him.  You could see he'd make a great Merlin the Magician.

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