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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January 14, 2013

Today's Tuesday Timeline might not seem all that impressive at first...particularly since we're actually not going back in time that much at all this time around. However, the subject of the timeline is definitely a person who made a huge impact on the world of television, and for that, I feel justified in making this person the subject for today's blog entry.

Of course, before we go ahead with the Timeline, let us take a look at what else happened in the world on today's date. The following took place on January 14.

1539 – Spain annexes Cuba

1724 – King Philip V of Spain abdicates the throne

1784 – Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain

1858 – Napoleon III escapes an assassination attempt

1907 – More than one thousand people are killed in Kingston, Jamaica following an earthquake

1911 – Roald Amundsen's South Pole expedition makes landfall at the Ross Ice Shelf

1915 – Television producer Mark Goodson (d. 1992) is born in Sacramento, California – responsible for creating television game shows “The Price is Right” and “Family Feud”

1919 – Journalist and longtime 60 Minutes collaborator Andy Rooney (d. 2011) is born in Albany, New York

1933 – Australian cricket captain Bill Woodfull is seriously injured after he takes a cricket ball to the heart thrown by England's Douglas Jardine

1943 – The Casablanca Conference is held by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt

1952 – NBC's “The Today Show” debuts with Dave Garroway as host

1954 – The American Motors Company is created following the merge of the Hudson Motor Car Company and the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation

1967 – The “Human Be-In” takes place in San Francisco, California's Golden Gate Park

1969 – Twenty-seven people are killed after an accidental explosion aboard the USS Enterprise occurs just outside of Hawaii

1972 – Queen Margrethe III becomes the first Queen of Denmark since the year 1412

1973 – Elvis Presley's television special “Aloha from Hawaii” is broadcast live via satellite, making it the most watched broadcast by a single entertainer in television history

1984 – Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's, dies of heart failure at the age of 81

1986 – Actress Donna Reed passes away at the age of 64

1999 – Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman calls in the army for assistance after a huge snowfall (more than three feet fell over the city in a twenty-four hour period)

2006 – Actress Shelley Winters passes away at the age of 85

2007 – Actress Darlene Conley – best known to soap fans as Sally Spectra from “The Bold and the Beautiful” dies of cancer at the age of 72

2010 – Yemen declares open war against al-Qaeda

And, there happens to be a lot of celebrity birthdays for January 14. So, I'd like to wish the following famous faces a happy birthday; Fred Beckey, Warren Mitchell, Lucille Wheeler, Jack Jones, Faye Dunaway, Barry Jenner, Holland Taylor, T-Bone Burnett, Carl Weathers, Lawrence Kasdan, Jim Duggan, Geoff Tate, Steven Soderbergh, Mark Addy, Shepard Smith, Emily Watson, Saskia Wickham, LL Cool J, Jason Bateman, Dave Grohl, Georgina Cates, Angela Lindvall, John Reuben, and Jack P. Shepherd.

Now, what date are we going back to? Prehistoric times? The Middle Ages? The Swinging Sixties?

Nope. How about the wonderful date of January 14, 2013?

No, seriously, we're going back in time one whole year to 2013. I know some of you are disappointed and I imagine some of you probably want to forget all about 2013. But, what if I told you that 2013 was merely just the date where it all ended for one man?

Yes, sadly, on January 14, 2013, today's blog subject passed away.  And his death at the age of 89 marked the end of a television career that spawned several decades.  At the peak of his career, he was on two successful television series back to back between the years of 1972 and 1986.  This would be great success for young actors alone, but when you consider that in 1972, he was just shy of turning fifty years old, this was especially impressive, as back in those days, fifty was the age in which most people slowed down their career ambitions.  But not this man.

Mind you, he had other success stories throughout his career.  But the two television series that helped make him a star were "Maude" and "Diff'rent Strokes".  And certainly he helped make the characters of Dr. Arthur Harmon and Phillip Drummond two of the most recognizable sitcom characters of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Today, we'll be looking back on the life of actor Conrad Bain, who passed away on January 14, 2013.

Now, many people might not know this about Conrad Bain, but he was born on February 4, 1923 in Canada.  Lethbridge, Alberta, to be exact. 

(In case you're wondering where Lethbridge is, it's just southwest of Calgary.)

And, I bet some of you might not realize that Conrad Bain was an identical twin.  Although his twin brother Bonar didn't have as much success as an actor as Conrad, he did appear on a couple of episodes of "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Maude".  Bonar Bain passed away in 2005.

But, anyway, Conrad Bain grew up in Alberta, Canada, and actually served in World War II after enlisting in the Canadian Armed Forces!  I tell you, the things you learn about celebrities when you feature them in the Tuesday Timeline.  I think it's one of the reasons why I love this feature a lot!

After the war ended, Conrad opted to go to America to attend college, and found himself in New York City studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  While he was studying in New York, he made the decision to become an American citizen, which he accomplished in 1946, when Bain was just twenty-three years old.

TRIVIA:  One of Bain's classmates was comedian Don Rickles!

Of course in the earliest stages of his career, Bain took work wherever he could get it, and that sometimes meant returning to Canada to take work there.  He even took a job at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.  And when he first began his career, he did so in front of the Broadway lights, taking a role in the Broadway revival "The Iceman Cometh", in which reviewers praised his performance.

In addition to Broadway musicals, he acted in a few plays off Broadway, and even held a role on the daytime soap opera "Dark Shadows".  Unfortunately, his character was killed off of that serial, but when you consider that the main character of "Dark Shadows" was a vampire, I guess it was somewhat inevitable.

But here's one interesting fact about Bain that I didn't even realize.  Did you know that he was one of the key players in implementing the Actors Federal Credit Union in the early 1960s?  It's true!  And apparently the reason why he took a stand and was a driving force behind its creation was that back in those days, it was very difficult for actors to establish a line of credit.  It was incredibly difficult for working actors to even be respected by financial institutions, let alone get access to credit, and thanks to Bain's effort, this is no longer the case.

Mind you, it still doesn't prevent some stars from filing bankruptcy anyway, but at the very least, Bain made it easier for people in the acting industry to be approved for loans without getting any scrutiny for it.  I suppose I would call that a win.

But of course, his two biggest roles were in the world of as it so happened, they were one right after the other!

Now, I wasn't born when "Maude" was on the air.  A quick look at Wikipedia tells me that the series ran for six seasons between September 1972 and April 1978.  As you all well know, "Maude" starred future "Golden Girls" star Bea Arthur in the title role as the ultimate liberal feminist who was pro-abortion, pro-civil rights, pro-equality, and basically pro-Democrat.  And while the 1970s were considered a decade of radical change for the world, the early 1970s were still very conservative, and Maude certainly was quite a controversial show for its time.  I recall reading an article which stated that many people were up in arms when an episode was screened in which Maude became the very first sitcom character to have an abortion on the show.  I can certainly see it, especially as in 2014, abortion is still a rather hot topic.

Well, what kind of person would act as the ultimate foil for the very liberal Maude?  How about having a neighbour that is as Republican as Republican can be?  Enter Dr. Arthur Harmon, a very conservative minded individual whose values completely clashed with Maude's.  It's actually kind of a miracle that Maude and Arthur even had a relationship with each other because both were so different.  But of course, Arthur was best friends with Maude's husband (Bill Macy), and Maude was best friends with Arthur's wife (amusingly enough played by Rue McClanahan), so I suppose that there was already a built in tolerance between Maude and Arthur.

Still, if you click on THIS LINK, you can see Conrad Bain in action as Arthur.  I think that episode best showcases Bain's acting abilities alongside Bea Arthur's...which is actually quite good, considering that it's a first season episode.

Now, the role that I best remember Conrad Bain for was that of Phillip Drummond from "Diff'rent Strokes".  And the role that he played on that show was quite different from that of "Maude".  Sure, he still played a rich American who lived in a penthouse with his daughter, Kimberly (Dana Plato), but he also took in two boys from Harlem (Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman) and raised them as his own.  In fact, I found THIS episode of Diff'rent Strokes that I think probably best showcases Bain's acting abilities.  It's actually the episode called "The Bicycle Man", which is probably one of the most talked about episodes of the whole series.

Now, the reason why I posted two episodes of Bain in action was to show that he could play two completely different roles in two completely different ways, and still pull it off flawlessly.  That took real talent.

And, would you believe that Bain played the role of Phillip Drummond on three different shows?  It's true.  First of all, he played the role on "Diff'rent Strokes" between 1978 and 1986.  In between that, original cast member Charlotte Rae left the series to go and film "The Facts of Life" and Bain crossed over with the rest of the cast to help Rae with the transition.

But he also made an appearance on the very last episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" which aired in 1996.  Have a look!

As it happened, that appearance would be the last one that Bain would make in his life.  He would spend the last few years of his life in quiet solitude, until January 14, 2013, in which he passed of natural causes at the age of 89.

Although it's only been a year since he passed, his legacy remains.  He was one of the last cast members to pass away from "Maude" (well, aside from Adrienne Barbeau, that is), and with his death, only Todd Bridges and Charlotte Rae remain from the original cast of "Diff'rent Strokes".  But to me - and likely thousands of fans out there - he was and will always remain a class act.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Conrad Bain.

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