Wednesday, March 18, 2009
STEVE CANYON SCREENING IN DAYTON
Last week I attended a screening of an episode of 'Steve Canyon', the TV show based on Milton Caniff's popular comic strip. The showing was part of the Reel Stuff Film Festival, a four day weekend of aviation films sponsored by the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Presenting the film was FotB (Friend of this Blog) John Ellis of the Milton Caniff Estate. Ellis is the man behind bringing the Steve Canyon TV series to DVD, after having not being seen since it's original broadcasts in 1958 and 1959. Even though it lasted only one season, that season was 34 episodes long. The DVD release has been broken up into three sets. Volume One came out last year and Volume Two is on the way. They can be ordered here. The episode we saw, "Operation: Intercept", came late in the series and won't be seen on DVD until Volume Three later this year. It's a harrowing half hour, with Steve pursuing an errant B-47 headed out to see with a crew that can't respond.
photo copyright ©1963, 2009 The Milton Caniff Estate.
A real treat that Ellis played before the episode was a long lost promo film of Milton Caniff. In it, he talks to an unseen and silent interviewer. The film and interview scripts were sent to TV stations for their own local talent to talk to Caniff like they were doing their own version of Edward R. Murrow's "Person to Person". In the film, which Ellis acquired on Ebay, the cartoonist chats, draws and, oddly enough, cooks! Here's one of his recipes -
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 can tomato soup
1/4 cup of milk
Heat, stir and pour over toast
Caniff then cooked another bachelor-type dish, joking that "every boy should learn a couple of gourmet dishes before he leaves home."
Ellis followed the screening with a Q&A. He shared some great information, such as the fact that "Steve Canyon" was the most expensive show on the air in 1958. He also gave us some insight behind the scenes. Apparently the network, NBC, was unhappy that Caniff wasn't more involved with the show and that it wasn't more like the comic strip. Caniff, who had enough on his plate with the strip itself, was happy with the show and decided to leave TV to the TV professionals. He didn't want it to be like the strip, and neither did series producer David Haft. In addition to the network, Haft had the U.S. Air Force to contend with. The show relied on the USAF's cooperation because they could kill an episode idea or even an episode in progress by not approving the military footage. It's amazing that the show not only got made, but that it overcame a lot of obstacles to be a show that was as entertaining now as half a century ago.