Saturday, September 22, 2012

From Primetime to Daytime: Dennis The Menace (1959)

Hank Ketcham's seminal newspaper strip, Dennis The Menace, continues to this day, even though Ketcham himself passed away a few years back. The strip also holds the distinction of being the first humor strip to be adapted for television, with a live-action series that spent 4 years on CBS in primetime before moving to NBC for 2 seasons of Saturday morning repeats.

Dennis Mitchell (Jay North) means well, but, with his youth and enthusiasm comes a tendency to be also clumsy and prone to disasters, usually involving his next door neighbor, Mr. Wilson. Old time radio veteran Joseph Kearns was cast as Wilson, but the part had to be recast when Kearns passed away during season 3. Gale Gordon, best remembered for his supporting turn on The Lucy Show, later in the 60's, took over, playing the brother of Kearns' character. As it turned out, Gordon bore a closer resemblance to Ketcham's design for Wilson. Hmmm, makes ya wonder, doesn't it?

Here's the intro:

Dennis The Menace would return in animated form in a pair of series, both produced by DIC, in the 80's & 90's, and we'll be covering those down the line.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I remember watching the syndicated reruns of "Dennis", but I think they were on during weekdays in my area.

It's hard watching this show now knowing the cruel treatment North received at his aunt & uncle's hands. I remember he was interviewed on Geraldo's old talk show ("Former child stars, where are they now") and an audience member asked North what happened to the aunt & uncle. North casually replied, "They're in Hell.".

I also recall North did some voice work for HB - as a teenaged Bam-Bam in the "Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm Show".

hobbyfan said...

Correct. In between Dennis & "Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm", Jay also starred in a short-lived drama, "Maya", for NBC, in the mid-60's. I think Jay did just 2 seasons of P&BB, because the part was recast a few years later.....