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The Incredible Inman: Wally Cox played detective in NBC's 'Hiram Holliday'

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By David Inman
Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, 8:56 p.m.

Question: Do your parents remember Wally Cox playing a detective on TV? His weapon of choice was an umbrella.

Answer: My parents? Are you implying that I'm just a pup, that I am too youthful and handsome and fun loving to know so much about old TV shows and movies? Thanks for the compliment.

As for the show, it was called “The Adventures of Hiram Holliday,” and it ran on NBC from 1956 to 1957. Cox played the title role, a mild-mannered newspaper copy editor who possessed amazing secret agent-type skills and who was sent out on a worldwide mission to fight crime. At least that's what he did until early 1957, when “Hiram Holliday” was canceled, because its Wednesday night competition, ABC's “Disneyland,” stomped it in the ratings.

You can check out at least one episode on youtube, if you're interested.

Q: There's a TV commercial for the iPad Mini with a song being sung by two men. I think the title is “The Two of Us,” or at least that is one of the phrases. My question is, who are the men doing the singing?

A: Those men are Johnny Mercer and Bobby Darin, and the song is “Two of a Kind,” recorded in 1961.

Q: In the mid-1940s, when I was just a kid, we saw a movie that had a routine in it that we started using as we played. The line was “Slowly I turn. Step by step.” Is this routine available on DVD or online?

A: That routine originated in vaudeville, and it was utilized by the Three Stooges and Abbott & Costello, and it showed up on an episode of “I Love Lucy.” Depending on who you ask, it's known as “Slowly I Turned,” “The Stranger with a Kind Face” or “Niagara Falls.” You might have seen it in the 1944 Abbott & Costello film “Lost in a Harem” or the Stooges short “Gents Without Cents,” which also came out that year.

If you've never seen it, it's about an innocent guy who keeps saying a phrase (like “Niagara Falls”) that triggers another man's memories of attacking a rival. The man gets so wrapped up in his story (“slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch”) that he attacks the innocent man, and we all laugh heartlessly.

The routine is available on YouTube.

Q: I'm still haunted by the brief part of an old movie in black and white that I caught on television in about the mid-to-late 1950s. There was a boy on top of a building that was on fire; it seemed to be a big school, and he seemed to have gotten up there on purpose. Thinking a late-1940s movie. Any idea?

A: This is, you should pardon the expression, an educated guess, but it sounds like the climactic scene of the 1949 film “Mighty Joe Young,” where the giant ape saves children from an orphanage that's on fire.

That might be your answer, but if it isn't I'm sure our readers might have a few suggestions. Let us hear from you, folks!

Q: In the 1980s, I saw what appeared to be a television play staring Anne Bancroft. She was a lawyer's wife being interviewed by a police detective about why she shot a young woman to death in the parking lot of a grocery store. Is it possible that a video of this would be available for purchase?

A: That was “Mrs. Cage,” a videotaped play that aired on PBS in 1992. The supporting cast included Hector Elizondo as the detective on the case. Alas, “Mrs. Cage” is not on video or DVD.

Q: I enjoy the TV show “Blue Bloods,” but what happened to Det. Dan's partner Jackie? I thought she was good.

A: Jennifer Esposito, who played Det. Jackie Curatola, has been placed on a leave of absence for health reasons. She has celiac disease and collapsed on the set earlier this season. It isn't known if or when she will return.

Q: I once saw a movie (I don't even remember when) about a group of people involved in a bus crash. Most of the people die in the crash — the one survivor is a young boy. The spirits of the people who died become attached to the boy and cannot be more than a few feet from him. Does this ring a bell or did I imagine it? What's the title? Is it on DVD?

A: That's the 1993 film “Heart and Souls” with Robert Downey Jr. as the boy, now a grown man. The ghosts included Charles Grodin, Alfred Woodard and Kyra Sedgwick. And it's on DVD.

Q: I happened to catch part of a movie that I would say was made in the late 1930s or so. I was so amazed, because it was a Western with the entire cast made up of little people. They all rode little horses. The hero wore all white. The love interest was, of course, from a rival family. The swinging doors of the saloon were at regular height, and the cast walked under them. I haven't seen that many small people in a show or movie other than “The Wizard of Oz.” I fell asleep before I could find out the title. Could you please name that movie for me?

A: That was “The Terror of Tiny Town,” a 1938 film that frequently appears on lists of strange and/or bad movies. The cast includes three guys named Billy — the hero, played by Billy Curtis; the bad guy, played by “Little Billy” Rhodes; and Billy Platt as the rich uncle.

Of the entire cast, Curtis probably had the most active career— he was a Munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz” and stayed busy in movies and TV until the mid-1980s, including episodes of “Laverne & Shirley” and “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.” He died in 1988 at age 79.

Write David Inman in care of The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, 525 W. Broadway, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, Ky. 40201-7431; or email him at Questions of general interest will be answered; personal replies are not possible.

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