The Girls on Route 66

I've been watching Route 66 Season One, Volume One on DVD (from Infinity-entertainmentgroup.com). It's about two guys in a Chevrolet Corvette convertible, riding around the United States, working odd jobs, and becoming involved in other people's lives. Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) is a college kid whose father died and left him the Vette. Buz Murdock (George Maharis) is an orphan and a tough guy from Hell's Kitchen and Tod's best buddy. Tod is the brains and the conscience. Buz is the heart and muscle. The hour-long show ran from 1960 to 1964 and played on Friday nights. I barely remember the original show but, like a lot of kids who grew up in that era, I remember the theme song by Nelson Riddle. I think I also remember all the waitresses and girlfriends and secretaries and sisters and barmaids and farmgirls and fishermen's daughters who were played by young starlets like Anne Francis, Anne Helm, Barbara Eden, Brooke Bundy, Deborah Walley, Diane Baker, Donna Douglas, Elizabeth Ashley, Fay Spain, Inger Stevens, Janice Rule, Jessica Walter, Joanna Moore, Joey Heatherton, Julie Newmar, Lynda Day, Martha Hyer, Ruth Roman, Stefanie Powers, Susan Kohner, Susan Oliver, Suzanne Pleshette, Tina Louise, Tuesday Weld, and Vera Miles. Which is probably why I may be somewhat fixated on these women and women like them.

Anyway, Tod Stiles tended toward nerdishness and buttoned-down short-sleeved shirts. Buz Murdock was cocky and a bit of a beatnik, uttering things like, "We just drive, and we find what we find, whatever's out there." Stuff like that. Nowhere was it implied that these two were gay. Things like that didn't exist on television. They just wandered 1960 America.

It was an America without seat belts, cell phones, or Microsoft. Sometimes they used a map. Sometimes they just got lost on shortcuts. They strayed to places where the actual Route 66 never went. And they didn't seem to need credit cards. Murdock would utter one of those Buzzisms like, "Connecting (with people) means strings, and strings mean you're a puppet, and who wants to become a puppet?" And then they'd drive off. They met people with problems. They met friendly, somewhat careless girls. They never went "all the way," but they were fun girls.

A lot of the show was filmed on location. A very unique thing was that the opening and closing credits (with that famous theme music) were filmed on location, specifically for each show. There was no set piece opening. Offhand I can't recall another television show that did that. They used lots of local extras. They featured a lot of local color. But the show was in black and white. If you watch it, you'll notice lots of now-famous actors in small and sometimes uncredited parts, guys like Edward Asner, James Caan, Bruce Dern, Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, Martin Sheen, Jack Warden, and Lee Marvin.

I've just made it through Season One (1960), and I'm pretty impressed with it. Later I guess there were personnel changes and script problems, but right now it's very compelling stuff. And I recommend it. If only as a time piece, a brilliant sampling of early 60s Americana, Route 66 is well worth the time.

Inger Stevens in The Beryllium Eater.

Janice Rule in A Lance of Straw.

Joey Heatherton in Three Sides.

Suzanne Pleshette in The Strengthening Angels.

Susan Kohner in The Quick and the Dead.

Anne Francis in Play It Glissando.

Deborah Walley from Ten Drops of Water.

Donna Douglas (above) and Zohra Lampert (below) in
Layout at Glen Canyon.

Elizabeth MacRae was also in Layout at Glen Canyon.

And, finally, Anne Helm from The Clover Throne.


CarolMR said...

I've always been a fan of Zohra Lampert and wondered why she hasn't been more famous. I always thought that when and if NBC ever revealed the wife of Peter Falk's COLUMBO, Zohra would have been perfect.

Anonymous said...

Very nice pictorial.
Another web side has outed George Maharis. George was out in the 1960's. Here I am finding out now and being a fan of the show, and bought the DVDs. But now I know he prefers men It ruins my perception of his character Buzz.

After 2 years Glen Corbett took over.

CarolMR said...

One of my favorites was "A Month of Sundays." Buz falls hard for Anne Francis and they become engaged, but she dies the same day. I also love the opening lines, usually spoken by Martin Milner, before each show.

Retro Hound said...

We've watched season one, and we (the teenage boys and I anyway, the wife didn't seem to care one way or another about the show) liked it quite a bit.