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.
Do you know anything about The Hour of St. Francis? It was a weekly Roman Catholic show, consisting of dramas filmed in colour that ran from about 1959-66, if I’m not mistaken. The Provincial Archives of Alberta showed an episode last year at their annual film night, and it starred a young Jack Nicholson as a prospective priest.
Although called The Hour of St. Francis, this syndicated, dramatic anthology series ran for only a half-hour. It was based on a radio program of the same name, which began in the mid-to-late 1940s. The radio show was created by Father Hugh Noonan, OFM, who would later founded the St. Francis Center in Los Angeles (read more about Noonan here). The television version was produced by Noonan and three other Franciscan friars: Edward Henriques, Terenec Cronin and Carl Holtsnider.
Exactly when The Hour of St. Francis was on the air is unknown. Alex McNeil’s Total Television states that it aired in 1961 while Hal Erickson, in Syndicated Television: The First Forty Years, 1947-1987, says it aired from 1951 to 1963 [1, 2]. Television listings, on the other hand, indicate that the show debuted in the fall of 1960. Also in question is how many episodes were produced. If The Hour of St. Francis ran from 1951 to 1963, there could be hundreds of episodes. If, on the other hand, it was only in production for a single year, there may be as few as 13 episodes (the typical initial number of episodes ordered).
Episodes of The Hour of St. Francis featured the likes of Raymond Burr, Danny Thomas, Ruth Hussey, MacDonald Carey and Jane Wyman. One episode dealt with the reasons a boy decides to become a priest. Another focused on an invalid who leap out of his wheelchair. It may not have been a very popular show and thus not seen on many television stations.
The 24th Annual Provincial Archives Film Night that Jack attended was held on April 17th, 2009 in Alberta, Canada. It featured historical films from the Provincial Archives of Alberta and the Franciscans of Western Canada Archives. Here’s what a press release (which can be read here) for the event had to say about the episode in question:
Challenge (approx. 1958) – 27 minutes
This film was produced by The Hour of St. Francis in Los Angeles as a recruitment film for the Order of the Franciscan Friars and directed by Joseph Santley (who co-directed the first Marx Brothers feature film The Cocoanuts). Starring Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson, Challenge follows high school student Jim Evans as he struggles to decide between a pretty, blonde classmate and dedicating his life to the brotherhood.
According to Jack, “the archivists didn’t know anything about it and were just guessing. I got the impression it was part of a series; the cars and hairstyles seemed to me to be from the early ’60s. It’s a hoot to see Jack Nicholson take a vow of celibacy.”