Q & A: Stump the Stars; Campo 44

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

I want some info. about a show, and I’m hoping you can help me. On the season 2 DVD set of “The Dick Van Dyke show”; one of the extras is an episode of a show called “Stump the stars”. They include it because the Van Dyke cast appeared on one episode. Can you tell me any info. about it? I know it was on CBS, because they have the CBS logo at the end, and it was on in either 1964, 65, or 66. I know that because one of the prizes was a Polaroid camera, and those were first introduced at the 64-65 New York Worlds Fair. (which I was at).

Stump the Stars was an updated version of Pantomime Quiz, a game show styled after charades that began life as a local Los Angeles program in November of 1947 over station KTLA. It was picked up by CBS in 1950 and would air on all four networks (DuMont included) over the next decade before going off the air on September 28th, 1959. Created by Mike Stokey, the program was revived in 1962 as Stump the Stars and given the the 10:30-11PM time slot on Wednesdays.

Advertisement for Stump the Stars

Advertisement for Stump the Stars – September 17th, 1962
Copyright © Chicago Daily Tribune, 1962 [1]

Pat Harrington, Jr. served as host and regular panelists included Diana Dors, Sebastian Cabot, Jan Clayton, Beverly Garland, Ross Martin and Mickey Manners. Guests for the September 17th premiere were Jerry Lewis and Jayne Mansfield. Critic Larry Wolters, writing in The Chicago Daily Tribune, had this to say about the new show:

Stump the Stars is nothing but Mike Stokey’s old Pantomime Quiz in new dress–or lack of dress. Jayne Mansfield and Diana Dors, her British counterpart, as guests on this charade show, didn’t contribute much, but they may revive that old argument of a decade ago about the perils of the plunging neckline. Under Pat Harrington Jr., the panelists had a lot of fun, with too much intrusion, however, by Jerry Lewis. [1]

The episode with the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show was broadcast on November 26th. Mike Stokey would replace Pat Harrington, Jr. as host the following month and was with the show until it went off the air following the September 16th, 1963 episode. A syndicated version aired in 1964 and again in 1969. An episode guide for the 1962-1963 series can be found at Jim Davidson’s Classic TV Info.

Anything on “Campo 44,” a rip-off of “Hogan’s Heroes” only set in an Italian prison camp during WWII?

Interestingly, although this unsold pilot was broadcast for the first and only time on September 9th, 1967, the story of “Campo 44” begins in 1964. So I’m not sure it can be called a rip-off of Hogan’s Heroes. The earliest reference I have found is a June 7th, 1964 article in The Chicago Tribune reporting that David Westheimer, author of Von Ryan’s Express, would be developing a comedy titled “Campo 44” for NBC’s 1965-1966 season [2]. It would follow American and British soldiers at a prisoner of war camp in Italy during World War II. Westheimer served during the war and was shot down in 1942. He spent several years as a prisoner of war and kept copious notes. The article explained that these notes would “be the basis for many stories” [3].

Hedda Hopper reported on July 31st that Buzz Kulik would direct the pilot and producer the series [4]. And on October 25th, an article in The New York Times about Hollywood’s fascination with war noted that MGM was working on a pilot titled “Campo 44” [5]. Then, for some reason, the project stalled. Perhaps Westheimer was unavailable to work on the pilot because Von Ryan’s Express was being turned into a movie starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard (it was released in June of 1965). Or maybe the pilot was completed in late 1964 or early 1965 and was shelved by NBC for some reason.

Either way, on Saturday, September 9th, 1967 NBC broadcast “Campo 44,” one of more than a dozen pilots it aired during the opening weeks of the 1967-1968 season. It ran from 8-8:30PM; the third season of Hogan’s Heroes began just an hour later on CBS. Vito Scotti, Dino Fazio, Jim Dawson and Phillip Abbott starred. According to Broadcasting magazine, the pilot ranked third in its time slot with a 20.1 Trendex share; The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS was first with a 44.1 share and ABC’s The Newlywed Game was second with a 29.0 [6].

Works Cited:

1 Wolters, Larry. “TV Things Change but Stay the Same.” Chicago Daily Tribune. 19 Sep. 1962: B6.
2 “Radio-TV News Notes.” Chicago Tribune. 7 Jun. 1964: S_A7.
3 Ibid.
4 Hopper, Hedda. “Looking at Hollywood.” Chicago Tribune. 31 Jul. 1964: B10.
5 Bart, Peter. “Hollywood: War Is Hell but Profitable.” New York Times. 25 Oct. 1964: X7.
6 “Specials confuse ratings in second week.” Broadcasting. 18 Sep. 1967: 76-77.

Image Credits:

1 From The Chicago Daily Tribune, September 17th, 1962, Page B9.

One Reply to “Q & A: Stump the Stars; Campo 44”

  1. “PANTOMIME QUIZ” (aka “STUMP THE STARS”) was Mike Stokey’s “annuity” in television: he was not only its producer and host, he OWNED it as well. Any time a network and/or sponsor had trouble figuring out what to schedule during the summer (or a mid-season replacement), Stokey managed to sell them another 13 weeks [or so] of “PANTOMIME QUIZ”, throughout the ’50s. I believe Jim [“The Smiling Cobra”] Aubrey of CBS suggested that Pat Harrington, Jr. serve as host when they bought it for a full season as “STUMP THE STARS” in the fall of 1962, on MONDAY nights at 10:30pm(et), right after “THE NEW LORETTA YOUNG SHOW” {“The title’s gotta go, too- ‘too ancient’- come up with a snappier one, huh?”, was probably Aubrey’s suggestion as well}. Well, as good as Pat is as an actor and comedian, he just wasn’t cut out to be an “emcee”- that’s why Stokey returned as the one and only host of the show that December. Even though the network cancelled it at the end of the season, it gained enough momentum for Stokey to produce new episodes for syndication
    during the remainder of the ’60s (he also saved the videotapes of the ’62-’63 edition, and sent THEM to local stations for a brief period).

    “CAMPO 44” was intended to become a series on NBC’s 1965-’66 season. However, I believe the network changed its mind when they learned that CBS had bought “HOGAN’S HEROES” from Bing Crosby’s production company for THEIR fall 1965 schedule. TWO comedies about World War II German prisoner of war camps, on two different networks during the same season, would have been too much, and possibly lead to criticism about “trivializing” the real events military officers faced in those camps [which is exactly what happened to “HOGAN’S HEROES”] and the “sameness” of network schedules, forcing viewers to decide which one they wanted to see {if either}…or the possibility that CBS and NBC might schedule both series OPPOSITE EACH OTHER? Let’s face it, copying successful formats has always been a trademark of the entertainment industry, but NBC KNEW they might be risking their reputation if they scheduled “CAMPO 44” (“Our show was created first!”/”No, OURS was submitted last December!!”/”We have the contracts to prove it!!”/”Aah, you got ****…..”).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.