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Pop culture Q&A: Betty White, 'Highway Patrol'

By Rich Heldenfels

Akron Beacon Journal

Published: Tuesday, April 17 2012 4:31 p.m. MDT

Q: I saw a movie in the early 1990s named "Chance of a Lifetime" with Betty White and Leslie Nielsen. Is it available anywhere?

A: If you think White only recently became hot in Cleveland, flip back to this 1991 movie for NBC, in which she played a Cleveland businesswoman who has a romance with a Chicago executive played by Nielsen. Sadly, I do not know of an authorized video release, and I do not recommend unauthorized ones.

Q: I'd like to find DVDs of an old show I haven't seen in years called "Highway Patrol" starring Broderick Crawford. Is it available?

A: "Highway Patrol" "was one of the most popular syndicated programs in television history," says "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows." It originally aired from 1955 to 1959, with repeats for years afterward. Crawford — who had won the Academy Award for best actor for the 1949 movie "All the King's Men" — played Dan Mathews, chief of the patrol in an unspecified state. Crawford's gruff delivery inspired a lot of kids in the '50s to bark "10-4."

While there have been various unauthorized video releases over the years, MGM has released the 39-episode first season in a DVD set that is available through various retailers, including online at Amazon.com and Walmart.com.

Q: Whatever happened to "Merlin," airing on Syfy on Friday nights? There were just six or seven episodes, and then pooof! What's the story?

A: The fourth season of the series consisted of 13 episodes, the last of which aired in late March. A fifth season is reportedly in the works, but I have not yet seen an air date.

Q: Back in the '70s (?), there was a made-for-TV movie titled "Evening in Byzantium." As I remember, it had some big-name stars. I remember at the time it was really intriguing. I have tried to purchase it on every website I know of that sells old movies and TV programs, but have yet to find it. Am I off-base with the title, or is it just locked in a vault and not available?

A: "Evening in Byzantium" originally aired in 1978 as part of Operation Prime Time, an alternative to broadcast network programming that sold productions to individual stations. Other OPT efforts included "Testimony of Two Men," "The Immigrants" and programs based on John Jakes' Kent family novels, including "The Bastard" and "The Rebels."

The two-part, four-hour "Evening" — about a movie producer at the Cannes Film Festival — starred Glenn Ford, Eddie Albert, and others, and was based on a novel by Irwin Shaw. (The author was a hot TV ticket at the time thanks to the success of his "Rich Man, Poor Man," as a miniseries for ABC; his novel "Top of the Hill" would also become an OPT presentation.) Unfortunately, I do not know of an authorized release of "Evening" on video.

Q: I am looking for DVDs of Mikhail Baryshnikov in "The Turning Point," "That's Dancing" and "Dancers." Also, anything with Cyd Charisse. All I have is "Silk Stockings" — her very best in my book.

A: You're quite a dance fan. "The Turning Point," with Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, was released on DVD in 2005 but is now hard to find (and expensive). "Dancers" is also pricey, unless you want to watch it on streaming video. "That's Dancing" is more readily available, and I have seen it for sale on Amazon.com.

Charisse was, of course, a well-regarded dancer and film star; she died in 2008. The Warner Archive DVD collection includes several of her movies, among them "Party Girl," "Meet Me in Las Vegas" and "The Unfinished Dance." A quick look also came up with "Brigadoon," "It's Always Fair Weather," "The Band Wagon," "The Wild North" and, of course, "Singin' in the Rain." If your local retailer cannot get them, try online vendors; I saw all the titles mentioned here on Amazon.com.

Do you have a question or comment for the mailbag? Write to the Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or rheldenfelsthebeaconjournal.com. Please mark the email or envelope with "mailbag." Letters may be edited for publication. Please do not phone in questions. Individual replies cannot be guaranteed.

(c)2012 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio); Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com; Distributed by MCT Information Services

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