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Fractured Flickers

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Fractured Flickers was a live-action syndicated half-hour television comedy show that was produced by Jay Ward, who is otherwise known for animated cartoons. The pilot film was produced in 1961 (hence the 1961 copyright notice on the animated main title), but the series wasn't completed until 1963. Twenty-six episodes were produced; they were syndicated by Desilu Productions and played for several years on local stations.

Premise

Host Hans Conried introduced short "flickers" pieced together from silent film footage and from other older movies, overdubbed with newly written comic dialogue, music, and sound effects. The voices for these were provided by fellow Ward mainstays Paul Frees, June Foray, and Bill Scott. The earliest episodes have careful dubbing, with the actors and writers taking pains to synchronize the new dialogue with the actors' lip movements. Once the series had deadlines to face, however, the time-consuming dubbing was abandoned, and the later episodes don't bother with exact synchronization.

True to the Jay Ward brand of humor, the dialogue was loaded with puns and one-line jokes. (One silent vignette was retitled "The Barber of Stanwyck", utilizing scenes from Douglas Fairbanks' 1920 silent classic, The Mark of Zorro.) Movies, television, advertising, and even the Fractured Flickers series itself were fair game for merciless kidding. (Conried quipped, "This is what we'll be doing for the next several weeks--or until someone finds out!") The show was at its funniest when desecrating early melodramas with "hip" reinterpretations, such as presenting Rudolph Valentino as an insurance salesman or Lon Chaney, Sr.'s The Hunchback of Notre Dame as "Dinky Dunstan, Boy Cheerleader."

Many segments were vicious satires of television commercials; a typical "word from our sponsor" would have the announcer extolling the virtues of the item being advertised, accompanied by darkly humorous clips. A fly-by-night real estate development, for example, was illustrated with clips of buildings being destroyed by a cyclone (from Steamboat Bill, Jr. with Buster Keaton). And "This moment of softness (explosions, wild parties, etc.) has been brought to you by Bee. Bee, the only tissue woven in mid-air by bees!" Regular features were the "Minute Mysteries", featuring Stan Laurel as master detective Sherman Oaks (his scenes "fractured" from his 1925 short comedy, Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde), and the weekly "tributes" to some American city.

Each episode also featured a celebrity guest whom Conried would interview. Most were popular personalities of the 1960s such as Fabian, Bob Denver, Deborah Walley, Rod Serling, and Rose Marie. Many of them caught the spirit of the show, and answered Conried's questions with tongue in cheek.

Legacy

The films used in the show were then about 40 years old. Now, Fractured Flickers is even more removed from the present day, but the humor frequently holds up well, especially when the show dealt with universal themes: traffic jams, exercise programs, hobbies, careers, social pursuits. Many prominent figures of the 1960s were lampooned. A segment based on the Kennedy family (and produced long before air time) was excised from all copies of the series when President Kennedy was assassinated so that it was never shown. This segment remains lost to this day.

DVD Release and Other Home Video Formats

The entire series is available on a DVD set from VCI Entertainment

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