Flipper (1964 TV series)

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Flipper
Flipper Title Screen.JPG
Title screen
Genre Children/Family
Adventure/Drama
Format Color, full-screen
Created by Jack Cowden
Ricou Browning
Starring Brian Kelly
Luke Halpin
Tommy Norden
Andy Devine (1964)
Ulla Strömstedt (1965)
Flipper (various dolphins)
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 88 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time approx. 25 minutes
Production company(s) MGM Television
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Original run September 19, 1964 – April 15, 1967

Flipper, from Ivan Tors Films in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Television, is an American television program first broadcast on NBC from September 19, 1964, until April 15, 1967. Flipper, a bottlenose dolphin, is the companion animal of Porter Ricks, Chief Warden at fictional Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve in southern Florida, and his two young sons, Sandy and Bud. The show has been dubbed an "aquatic Lassie", and a considerable amount of juvenile merchandise inspired by the show was produced during its first-run.

Production[edit]

The television show is an adaptation of the 1963 film Flipper starring Chuck Connors and Luke Halpin as Porter and Sandy Ricks, and its 1964 sequel, Flipper's New Adventure, where Brian Kelly took over the role of Porter. In adapting the films to a television series, the producers made Porter a single parent and gave him a second son, Bud, played by Tommy Norden. The producers departed yet again from the films in endowing Flipper with an unnatural degree of intelligence and an extraordinary understanding of human motives, behavior, and vocabulary.[1]

The show was created by Jack Cowden and Ricou Browning, a man with extensive experience in underwater filming and underwater performance, notably as the monster in The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In Browning's second filmed portrayal of the Creature, Revenge of the Creature, a scene showcases one of the film's shooting locations, Marineland of Florida (depicted with a fictionalized name), presenting several stunts performed by "Flippy, the Intelligent Porpoise", in a form of product placement. Browning also wrote the book "Flipper" that was picked up and adapted by famous producer Ivan Tors into the first Flipper movie.

Filming locations[edit]

Flipper was filmed in Miami at Greenwich Studios (formerly Ivan Tors Studios) at 12100 Ivan Tors Boulevard in Miami, Florida, USA. Nassau was an occasional location. The show was produced in cooperation with Miami Seaquarium, an aquarium located on Key Biscayne in Miami.

Miami Seaquarium has the Flipper Show; a dolphin show in the lagoon that served as the film location for the show.[2]

The Miami Seaquarium set where Flipper was filmed also served as the set of another Ivan Tors production, Gentle Ben; the house where the Ricks family lived was the same house used for the Wedloe family on Gentle Ben. Flipper was moved to Jimbo's Shrimp/aka Jimbo's Place located across from Miami Seaquarium into the care and exercise of Jimbo aka James Luznar Sr. Flipper lived in a pen in the cove behind Jimbo's shrimp.

Role of Flipper[edit]

Flipper was played at first by a female dolphin named Susie, though primarily by another female, Kathy, and occasionally by other females named Patty, Scotty and Squirt. Female dolphins were chosen because they are less aggressive than males and their skins (unlike the skins of male dolphins) are usually free from scars and other disfigurations acquired in altercations with other dolphins. The five dolphins performed all of Flipper's scenes except the famous tail walk, a trick they were unable to master completely. A male dolphin named Clown was brought in for scenes involving the tail walk.[3] The famous "voice" of Flipper was actually the doctored song of a kookaburra.[citation needed]

Music[edit]

The show's theme tune was credited to Henry Vars with lyrics by By Dunham. In France the melody was known as "La Romance de Paris" ("The Love Song of Paris"). The first five episodes of the second season featured a different version of the theme, with Frankie Randall singing new lyrics. After those episodes, the original style of the theme was brought back. The background music of the long underwater sequences was inspired by Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe.

Broadcast history[edit]

Initially the show was broadcast September 1964 – September 1967, NBC, Saturday 7:30–8:00 pm. Later, reruns of the first two seasons aired January 1968 – June 1968, NBC, Sunday 6:30–7:00 pm and June 1968 – September 1968, NBC, Sunday 7:00–7:30 pm.

Characters and cast[edit]

Animal cast[edit]

Flipper the Dolphin.
  • Flipper. Flipper is a dolphin and the companion animal of the Ricks family. Flipper is an extraordinarily intelligent dolphin who helps enforce regulations on the preserve, assists Porter Ricks with rescues at sea, and keeps a watchful eye on Sandy and Bud, who themselves he has rescued or helped rescue from danger on numerous occasions. Flipper was played by five different dolphins, the most commonly used ones were named "Kathy" and "Susie."
  • Pelican Pete. A pelican named Pete, depicted in the original movie as Sandy's pet before he met Flipper, had a recurring role on the show and appeared in several episodes.
  • Additional animal cast members. Other animals appearing on the show included a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Spray (real name was Chobee from Okeechobee, Florida) (seen only in a few early episodes), a seal, a baby elephant, alligators, a female albino dolphin (whose baby Flipper fathered during her only appearance, in the "White Dolphin" episode); and another female dolphin, introduced at the end of the second season, dubbed "Lorelei" by the Ricks family. Lorelei became Flipper's "girlfriend".

Human cast[edit]

Clockwise from top: Brian Kelly, Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden.
  • Porter Ricks. Brian Kelly fills the show's moral center with his portrayal of Porter Ricks, a loving father, conscientious government employee, rugged outdoorsman, and all-around good guy. Porter is a widowed father with two sons, Sandy and Bud, and is employed as Chief Warden at fictional Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve in southern Florida. Reflecting on Porter being single, Brian Kelly told TV Guide (July 9, 1966): "I'm going to bring a couple of bikini girls on. I want some groovy-lookin' girls because a lot of fathers who see the show say, "Where are the chicks?""
  • Sandy Ricks. Luke Halpin plays Porter's elder son, Sandy, a mid-to-late teen adolescent sometimes given to boyish mishaps and poor choices yet old enough for adult responsibilities and duties. Sandy often accompanies his father on dangerous adventures and rescues at sea. The character of Sandy (as well as the actor) is carried over from the feature films, where he was the one who first met Flipper and became his special friend. Halpin was an expert diver and thus was able to perform the extensive water related work throughout the series largely without stunt doubles.
  • Bud Ricks. Redheaded, freckle-faced Tommy Norden played Porter Ricks's younger son, Bud (a character created specifically for the TV series), a boy who had a difficult time staying out of trouble. Many episodes revolve around mistakes made by Bud, intentionally or unintentionally. Bud is gullible and easily swallows the tall tales Hap Gorman feeds him. Bud is at home on or near the sea and loves animals of all sorts. Flipper is his special companion.
  • Hap Gorman, Veteran film, radio, and television character actor Andy Devine had a recurring role in the show's first season as an old salt and marine carpenter named Hap Gorman. Hap was something of a bungler who tried Porter's patience. Hap, in the traditional vein for Andy Devine, enjoyed spinning yarns and tall tales about bejeweled maharajahs, faraway kingdoms and exotic ports for the amusement of skeptical Sandy and gullible Bud.
  • Ulla Norstrand. Swedish-born actress Ulla Strömstedt had a recurring role during the second season as Ulla Norstrand, an oceanographer whose work frequently took her to Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve. She was often instrumental in enforcing the park's regulations. One of her trademarks was her miniature yellow submarine she was often seen using in her oceanographic explorations, and which was sometimes pivotal in storylines. She was a potential love interest for Porter Ricks, although no serious relationship was ever shown to develop.
  • Warden Ed Dennis was played by Miami actor Dan Chandler. The recurring role of a Coral Key Park game warden was created by writer Maria K. Little who needed a sidekick to play off of Porter Ricks. Dennis performed such sidekick chores as helping find a kidnapped Flipper and saving Porter Ricks from murderous lobster-poachers. Chandler also appeared in the feature films Flipper and Flipper's New Adventure.

Plot[edit]

The Ricks cottage at Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve

The series follows a Bottlenose Dolphin named Flipper who is the wild pet of Porter Ricks, a park warden, and his sons Sandy and Bud. Flipper lives in a lagoon near the Ricks cottage at Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve. With the Ricks family, Flipper helps protect the park and preserve and its wild inhabitants. He is also instrumental in apprehending criminals and thugs in the park. Flipper is generally recognized by the characters in the show (and the theme song) as being a particularly intelligent and capable dolphin. Flipper is the special companion of the youngest member of the Ricks family, Bud, and several episodes feature Flipper rescuing Bud from dangerous situations. There are few women in the lives of the Ricks males but Porter does have a date in the first season while Sandy falls for the girl operator of a floating zoo. A female oceanographer enters the series in the second season to add a feminine touch to the proceedings. Promotional material for the third season announced a new girlfriend for Sandy, although she only appeared in one episode. The series is distinguished for its lush photography of subtropical Florida and its colorful underwater sequences.

Cancellation and subsequent history[edit]

The last first-run episode of Flipper aired April 15, 1967. In the conclusion of a two-part episode, the characters of Sandy and Bud are written out of the show (by that time both boys had grown out of their roles), as it is detailed how each plans to leave Coral Key — Sandy has been accepted to the Coast Guard Academy, and Bud will be attending a private school remedially, out-of-state, as arranged by their Aunt Martha. At the same time, a new family (the Whitmans) moves to the area: a widowed mother (played by Karen Steele) and her young son and daughter (played by Stuart Getz and Chris Charney). The two new children are depicted as unfamiliar with maritime life, but they promptly befriend Flipper, and promise to be his new companions after Sandy and Bud leave. Plans were made for a fourth season; revolving around the Whitman children taking the role of Flippers guardian/playmates and their mother becoming involved in a serious relationship with Porter. It would be assumed that Sandy and Bud would make a cameo visit in an episode or two. All this was for naught, however, as the NBC network declined to renew the series in this new format.

Flipper has seen periodic syndication since its NBC cancellation. The show has aired on cable's Family Channel, Nickelodeon, Animal Planet, Discovery Kids, and satellite provider Voom's Family Room channel in high-definition. Most of the images of Flipper jumping against a skyline were not in the originally aired version, as the filming took place in an enclosed lagoon. They were filmed at the end of the series and added for syndication.[4]

The rights to Flipper were later acquired by Turner Entertainment, with distribution rights being acquired by the Samuel Goldwyn Company, and in turn acquired by MGM Television (the company that originally produced the series). MGM owns full rights to the series; the series copyright is held by MGM's in-name-only unit Orion Pictures (whose own holdings include the Goldwyn library).

Flipper appears as a character in the Cartoon Network series The Annoying Orange.

As of February 2014, Flipper airs on weekends on the classic TV network Antenna TV.[5] and can be seen on subscription streaming media channel Hulu.[6]

Merchandise[edit]

Flipper merchandise generated for the juvenile market during the show's first run is now scarce and collectible. Flipper vintage collectibles include: lunch boxes, song books, comic books, coloring books, a Whitman novel, Big Little Books, souvenir spoons, Whitman frame tray puzzles, a board game, Viewmaster reels, and a battery-operated "spouting dolphin" water toy, children's swim trunks with the Flipper logo and a 1966 Bradley glow-in-the-dark watch.

Home Media[edit]

Flipper received an incomplete VHS release during the 1990s under the title "Flipper-Original Series". MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the first season on DVD on April 24, 2007. MGM has also issued Season 2 as an 8 disc set in June 2010. Amazon.com is selling the set exclusively, on a "manufacture on demand" basis. The "DVD-R" discs do not play on some computer DVD drives. A Blu-ray release is expected to hit shelves in 2015.[citation needed]

Awards and recognition[edit]

The Miami Seaquarium celebrated the 50th Anniversary of "Flipper" in 2013 with Tommy Norden and Ricou Browning participating. A previous event celebrating the 40th anniversary of Flipper in 2004 was also held with Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden. Flipper was nominated for two TV Land awards: in 2004 for the TV Land Favorite Fauna Award and, in 2003, for the TV Land Favorite Pet-Human Relationship Award. Flipper appeared twice on TV Guide covers.

Controversy[edit]

While the TV show itself was not controversial, several controversies have spun off of it. Ric O'Barry, the head trainer of the Flipper Dolphins (and also Luke Halpin's stunt double[4]), became a world-renowned animal activist after the death of the dolphin who played Flipper most often. O'Barry stars in the Oscar award winning documentary The Cove, which features dolphin capture and captivity. Miami Seaquarium, the set of the Flipper show, has also received decades of bad publicity due to their controversial animal care, and their lone orca Lolita is currently the center of the "Free Lolita" campaign.

List of episodes[edit]

First season (1964–1965) Second season (1965–1966) Third season (1966–1967)
  1. 300 Feet Below
  2. The Red Hot Car
  3. SOS Dolphin (pilot episode)
  4. The Gulf Between
  5. City Boy
  6. Dolphin for Sale
  7. Not Necessarily Gospel
  8. Countdown for Flipper
  9. Mr. Marvello
  10. My Brother Flipper
  11. The Second Time Around
  12. Lady and the Dolphin (1)
  13. Lady and the Dolphin (2)
  14. Danger
  15. The Misanthrope
  16. Flipper's Bank Account
  17. The Lifeguard
  18. The Day of the Shark
  19. Love and Sandy
  20. Money to Blow
  21. Flipper's Treasure
  22. The White Dolphin
  23. Teamwork
  24. Flipper and the Elephant (1)
  25. Flipper and the Elephant (2)
  26. Flipper and the Elephant (3)
  27. Bud Minds Baby
  28. Sailor Bud
  29. The Call of the Dolphin
  30. Flipper's Monster
  1. Flipper and the Mermaid
  2. Dolphin in Pursuit (1)
  3. Dolphin in Pursuit (2)
  4. Flipper's Hour of Peril
  5. Coral Fever
  6. Junior Ranger
  7. The Ditching (1)
  8. The Ditching (2)
  9. Flipper and the Spy
  10. Dolphin Patrol
  11. A Job for Sandy
  12. Flipper and the Horse Thieves
  13. Flipper and the Bounty
  14. Shark Hunt
  15. Flipper, the Detective
  16. Flipper's Odyssey (1)
  17. Flipper's Odyssey (2)
  18. Flipper's Odyssey (3)
  19. Slingshot
  20. Flipper and the Shark Cage
  21. The Lobster Trap
  22. Air Power
  23. Gift Dolphin
  24. The Raccoon Who Came to Dinner
  25. Flipper Joins the Navy (1)
  26. Flipper Joins the Navy (2)
  27. Flipper's Underwater Museum
  28. Deep Waters
  29. Dolphin Love (1)
  30. Dolphin Love (2)
  1. Agent Bud
  2. Disaster in the Everglades (1)
  3. Disaster in the Everglades (2)
  4. Lost Dolphin
  5. The Warning
  6. Cupid Flipper
  7. An Errand for Flipper
  8. A Whale Ahoy
  9. Explosion
  10. Executive Bud
  11. Flipper and the Puppy
  12. Flipper's Island
  13. Alligator Duel
  14. Flipper and the Fugitive (1)
  15. Flipper and the Fugitive (2)
  16. The Most Expensive Sardine in the World
  17. Flipper and the Seal
  18. Dolphins Don't Sleep
  19. Aunt Martha
  20. Dolphin for Ransom
  21. A Dolphin in Time
  22. Decision for Bud
  23. The Firing Line (1)
  24. The Firing Line (2)
  25. Devil Ray
  26. Cap'n Flint
  27. Flipper's New Friends (1)
  28. Flipper's New Friends (2)

References[edit]

  • TV Guide. July 8, 1966.
  1. ^ "Flipper - The Original Series: Season One". DVD Talk. Retrieved February 5, 2011. 
  2. ^ Miami Seaquarium: Tickets Prices Coupons Discounts
  3. ^ Ric O' Barry and Keith Coulbourn, "Behind the Dolphin Smile" Renaissance Books, 2000, ISBN 978-1-58063-101-3
  4. ^ a b Ric O' Barry and Keith Coulbourn, "Behind the Dolphin Smile" Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1988, ISBN 0-912697-79-2
  5. ^ http://www.antennatv.tv
  6. ^ http://www.hulu.com

External links[edit]