Before YouTube

You may be wondering why you are looking at a poster of the 1973 film
“Bad Charleston Charlie.” (And what a poster: the hair… the bloated
lettering… the hearts… that suit! If this doesn’t say “lousy 1970s movie” I don’t know what

I can explain.

You see, I had planned to use the last days of the year to get caught
up on a few stories that slipped through the cracks before we rolled
over into 1958. (Yes, that’s what we’re going to do at the Daily Mirror).

Today, I was going to write about the introduction of videotape. Except
that the subject of videotape, though it revolutionized broadcasting,
is about as interesting as staring at a Betamax cartridge for an hour.
(Hey, Grandpa, what’s a Betamax? Oh, you kids).

In researching a post on videotape (which is about as much fun as it sounds) I came across the name of Kelly Thordsen,
a former LAPD motorcycle officer who became an actor. Thordsen turns up
in many films and TV shows from the 1950s into the 1970s, including
1957’s “Fuzzy Pink Nightgown.” He often played a police officer in
contemporary films or a lawman in period pieces.

According to The Times, Thordsen began
his show business career after serving as master of ceremonies at an
LAPD benefit that featured William Bendix. After the performance,
Bendix complimented Thordsen and suggested that he turn pro. By 1960,
Thorsden had appeared in many TV shows, including such hits of the era
as “Yancey Derringer” and “Tales of Wells Fargo.” He also was a member of SPEBSQA.

Thordsen was never the subject of a Times profile, but as a character
actor he often ended up in three-bullet items at the bottom of a
column, working regularly in projects such as “The Ugly Dachshund” and
“Texas Across the River.” And, five years before his death in 1978,
“Bad Charleston Charlie.”

So here’s to you, Kelly Thordsen, actor and police officer. The Daily
Mirror salutes you for capturing three robbers single-handedly in
1953–with only one pair of handcuffs.

As for videotape, NBC President Robert W. Sarnoff said in 1957 that the
new recording medium would free television from
the clunky technology of the day: kinescopes. NBC built what it called
the Western Tape Center at its Color City in Burbank to house 11
videotape recorders, The Times said. NBC planned to go to videotape for
the switch to Daylight Saving Time in 1958 to contend with the
challenges of broadcasting shows in different time zones across the

Did I mention that “Bad Charleston Charlie” is out on videotape (but
not DVD)? See, I knew I could pull this together if I thought about it.

Email me

Bonus factoid: As several people have noted, “Bad Charleston Charlie” was directed by Ivan “Izzy Sleeze’s Casting Couch Cuties” Nagy, remembered today for his role in the case of Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss. Of course there are many claimants to the title “Hollywood Madam,” including Madam Alex, and much earlier, Ronnie Quillan and Brenda Allen.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in broadcasting, Film, Hollywood, LAPD and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Before YouTube

  1. Joe D says:

    The director of Bad Charleston Charlie is none other than Ivan Nagy, boy friend of Heidi Fleiss.


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