1950s TV shows still impact villages and nation
The decade that won’t die – the 1950s – seems more popular than ever, especially in The Villages.
As the world endures viruses, wars, and economic turmoil, the nostalgic appeal of those old songs, movies, and TV shows remains strong.
In the coming days, villagers will be able to attend a stage production called “The Honeymooners: From New York to The Villages.” It runs March 15-17 at the Savannah Center and parodies the Jackie Gleason and Art Carney classic.
“With everything going on in the world — Covid, war — I think those old shows make us feel better about ourselves,” said Gary Chubeck, who plays Jackie Gleason’s character Ralph Kramden. “These shows rekindle a feeling that we had in another era. Life seemed much simpler.
Additionally, Rocky and the Rollers will hold a doo-wop concert on March 28 in Savannah. And Jerome “Little Anthony” Gourdine, an original ’50s icon, who worked with Alan Freed and Dick Clark, plays at the Savannah Center April 13-14.
The TV Nostalgia Club will premiere episodes of “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Roy Rogers” on March 15 at 7 p.m. at the Eisenhower Recreation Center.
This current 50s craze is bigger than The Villages.
“Elvis,” a biopic starring Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Austin Butler as Presley, opens June 24. There is a hot buzz for the film, directed by Baz Luhrmann. The trailer video has already scored millions of views.
Then there’s “Being the Ricardos,” the 2021 Oscar-nominated film detailing the rise and near-fall of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Additionally, a new documentary, “Lucy and Desi,” recently debuted on Amazon’s Prime Video.
“Being the Ricardos” details a week in 1953 of “I Love Lucy”. It was then that a scandal over Ball’s involvement in communism nearly led to the show’s cancellation.
Nicole Kidman as Lucy, Javier Bardem as Ricky and JK Simmons as William Frawley (Fred) have been nominated for Oscars.
“West Side Story,” is another 2021 Oscar-nominated film based on the play that debuted on Broadway in 1957.
Director Steven Spielberg was nominated for an Oscar, as was actress Ariana Debose. Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar in the 1961 film version, makes a guest appearance in the current film.
“Grease” is perhaps the grandfather of all 1950s homages. The film was one of the highest-grossing musicals of all time, and the stage version is still going strong.
“Grease” recently performed at the Savannah Center for three days of sold-out performances.
“People never get tired of ‘Grease,'” said villager Joan Knapton of KC Productions, who co-produced the show here. She described it as “delicious like a scoop of ice cream”.
And next fall, Knapton will present “West Side Story” on the Villages stage. “The new movie is awesome,” she said. “People are talking about it and wanting to see ‘West Side Story’ live.”
The local stage version of “The Honeymooners” features Gary Chubeck as Ralph Kramden, Bill Krone as Ed Norton, Janet Maloney as Alice, and Tina Shapiro as Trixie. It was written by villagers Tina Shapiro and Carol Azzarone-Onuschak.
“I love getting into the character of Ralph,” Gary Chubeck said. “And I love that the set for this room ends in The Villages. We bring the newlyweds into our bubble and it’s a lot of fun.
But the essence of the play, as of the TV show, is the relationship between Ralph and Alice.
“Ralph is a loudmouth but Alice gives him right back,” Chubeck said. “They fight all the time, but in the end they still love each other.”
Stu Sachs, head of TV Nostalgia Club, knows why these shows have such enduring and new popularity.
“The No. 1 reason we still love old shows is that they take us back to a great time in our lives,” he said. “The shows were so simple that you didn’t have to spend time figuring out what was going on. It was very clean and fun.
The passion for “I Love Lucy” never faded. Generations have grown up with Lucy, Desi, Fred and Ethel for over 70 years.
“Lucy was so popular and groundbreaking because she gave you the first real look at a husband and wife relationship,” Sachs said. “And of course Lucy was a fantastic comedian, you couldn’t help but laugh at everything she did. Desi was the perfect straight man she could play with.
Lucie Arnaz, 70, the daughter of Lucy and Desi, is not surprised by the current craze for “I Love Lucy” and her parents.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, for a TV show that’s relevant for all time.
“I think they were incredibly grateful people; they have always been grateful to their fans and the recognition given to them for the work they have done,” Arnaz told the Los Angeles Times of his parents.
“I’m sure if they look they’re just amazed that 70 years later there really is a greater appreciation than there was then.
“It’s different. It’s deeper now… It’s: I love you with your warts and all kinds of love. So it’s kind of like, ‘I love Lucy.’ And I think that would make them very happy…”