Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Temple Tuesday: Shirley saves Dr. Smith

“The Shirley Temple Show” ran on NBC from January 1960 to March 1961. Episode 9, “The Reluctant Dragon,” debuted on November 13, 1960. The above photo was accompanied by this caption:

DRAGON’S DEFENDER: Shirley Temple will portray a village maid, Gillian, who dissuades Saint George, the knight, portrayed by John Raitt, from killing a shy, poetic beast in “The Reluctant Dragon,” a musical version of the Kenneth Grahame fable, on Miss Temple’s program at 7 o’clock this evening over Channel 5. The hour-long presentation recounts how the knight, hired to slay the dragon, isntead stages a fake fight for the benefit of the town. Jonathan Harris will perform as the animal’s voice and Don Weissmuller as its body.

That’s right. Shirley’s character saves the dragon voiced by Jonathan Harris, best known as Dr. Smith from “Lost in Space.”

At least Harris didn’t have to don the pink dragon’s heavy costume. Oh, the pain!

At age 43, John Raitt was a bit long in the tooth to be portraying a prince. At 32, Shirley was somewhat more believable!

Also in the cast was Alice Pearce, the rubber-faced comic who brought Gladys Kravitz to life on “Bewitched.”

In later years, Harris was particularly rude in his memories of working with Shirley:

I’ll never forget the fact that this divine child actor became a non-actor! For “The Reluctant Dragon,” I had a song which they had written for me; Shirley was furious! She wanted a song! Oh yes! And I said to myself, “No, honey, my ass, you’re not getting my song!” And she didn’t! I had my “Reluctant Dragon” song!

In watching “The Reluctant Dragon,” Harris should have relinquished his musical number to Shirley; his voice (especially in the pitch area) was no match for hers! It is somewhat bewildering to hear Harris’ commentary on Shirley, as she definitely retained her star quality and beauty in every performance. If Shirley had known at the time that Harris would be so nasty about her, would she have let the dragon live?

I guess we’ll never know!

See more “Shirley Temple Show” photos at my main website.

1 comment:

Fifthrider said...

Some people tell a story ( Jonathan Harris, Herb Ryman, etc. ) and as they speak, your natural built-in BS filter starts going off.