- Around the World With Ivan Tors -
By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos
The dog days of August is an opportunity to take a trip to far away places in another time through the magic of the classic TV programs and films of Ivan Tors. Today's television viewers are immediately able to identify and connect the names of well known producers, screenwriters and/or directors with a specific genre, especially since the 1980s. Two such examples are Donald Bellisario ("Magnum P.I.," "Quantum Leap," "JAG" and "NCIS") and Dick Wolf (the "Law and Order" franchise). However, long before Messrs Bellisario and Wolf became household names, viewers of both classic film and television flocked to theaters or gathered in their living rooms to watch the programs of Ivan Tors, who is inextricably connected with emphasizing non-violent but exciting science fiction, underwater adventures and stories involving animals. A partial list of classic Ivan Tors TV shows reads like a roll of honor for fun family fare: "Sea Hunt" (1958-1961) starring Lloyd Bridges, "Flipper" (1964-1967), "Gentle Ben" (1967-1969), "Cowboy in Africa" (1967-1968) featuring Chuck Connors and "Daktari" (1966-1969).
"Sea Hunt" helped popularize the sport of scuba diving while the animal themed "Flipper" (dolphins) and "Gentle Ben" (bears) helped raise awareness about the innate intelligence in the animal kingdom. "Daktari" and "Cowboy in Africa" were both set in Africa while providing a fusion of exotic animals, adventure and the importance of preservation of rare species. The popularity of these TV shows arose from their big screen success as Mr Tors would typically make a film first, and then develop a show from that film. This double-play combination of big screen films that translated into successful TV series proved to be a financial bonanza. A partial list of these films makes the connection with their corresponding TV series self evident: "Flipper" (1963), "Flipper's New Adventure" (1964), "Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion" (1965), "Gentle Giant" (1967) and "Africa Texas Style" (1967). The combined success on both the big and small screens helped create unforgettable animal characters -- Flipper the Dolphin, Ben the American Black Bear, Clarence the Lion and Judy the Chimpanzee -- that are indelibly framed in the memories of Baby Boomers who were avid movie goers while coming of age watching the classic TV shows of the 1960s.
Mr Tors created programs that were popular with both adults and children. Indeed, they were excellent shows that were watched by the entire family, especially during prime time. Moreover, the big screen films were events that parents could enjoy with their children as there was just the right balance between serious but non-violent themes. Since most of the stories involved animals, this made them all the more endearing. Mr Tors not only had a keen sense of delivering high quality content that was entertaining for all ages, but he was a successful entrepreneur. He developed a sustainable business model based on syndication of his different programs when there were limited spots on the major TV networks. This has now become more commonplace, especially with the availability of streaming. But to be able to reach mass market audiences worldwide without the major networks in the 1960s exemplifies true ingenuity. The life of Ivan Tors (1916-1983) is a true American success story, and we would commend our Galaxy Nostalgia Network audience to learn more about this amazing person whose contributions span multiple generations. Please share your thoughts about your favorite Ivan Tors film or TV show by posting to the GNN FACEBOOK page (and "liking" us when doing so) or write to us directly at: GalaxyMoonbeamNightSite@gmail.com