Mickey Mouse Club Serials: Annette
As a shortened Mickey Mouse Club started it's third season of broadcasting, Walt Disney wanted to see if Annette Funicello could handle a lead dramatic role before committing her to a film project. His staff came up with the perfect vehicle for her in this third season serial, a part that would do much to mould the public perception of her as a shy, sweet, gentle young lady, beloved of gals and guys alike.
With a screenplay adapted from a now-forgotten teen novel, and a director with a past history of discovering young female stars, production began in November 1957 and wrapped up in December, with the first television showing in February 1958. Serial actors, Mouseketeers, and some outside talent rounded out the cast in this, the last Mickey Mouse Club serial to be filmed and broadcast.
Annette McCloud, an orphan from Nebraska, arrives unannounced at the home of her Uncle Archie and Aunt Lila in the town of Ashford. She is
the daughter of their deceased younger brother, and was previously unknown to them. Though initially suspicious, they take the country girl in,
and prepare her for a life in town. Annette soon makes friends with the MacLeod's housekeeper Katie, and with Jet Maypen, another country girl
who delivers produce from her parent's ranch to Ashford. While shopping for new clothes with Aunt Lila, Annette meets Val Abernathy, her mother,
and Moselle Corey. Annette is invited to a party at Val's home, given in honor of Moselle's house guest, Laura Rogan, who will attend Old
South High with the other kids this year. Through a mixup, Annette's escort to the party turns out to be a perpetually-hungrey, smart-aleck
kid named Olmstead Ware. "Steady" takes Annette to the local malt shop first, and introduces her to another country kid, soda jerk
Despite her shy manner and quiet voice, Annette catches the eyes of the boys at the party, annoying the snobby Laura. While playing a party game, Laura loses track of her expensive necklace, and halfway accuses Annette, who left the party early, of taking it. The following Monday at Old South High School, Annette finds her transfer from a country school means she must go down a level to the tenth grade, instead of joining the other kids in eleventh grade. Her friend, Jet Maypen, who lives on a farm just outside Ashford, takes Annette to the soda shop during lunch. When the other kids arrive at the soda shop, Laura again insinuates that Annette took the necklace. Annette overhears her and leaves the shop. Thereafter, Annette avoids the crowd at school, eating lunch with Jet.
Later, Steve Abernathy, who is the student body president, appoints Annette to the entertainment committee as tenth-grade chairman. Surprisingly, Annette accepts and comes to the committee meeting at the Abernathy home. Laura, who is also there, objects to Annette's appointment. When Annette announces Jet as her assistant, Laura pronounces the latter as crude, drawing a rebuke from Annette. Laura then repeats her insinuation about the necklace, again causing Annette to flee. The next day Steve, Mike and Steady try to talk to Laura about Annette, but make a hash of it. Steve then tries to convince Annette to talk to Laura herself, but it backfires when Laura sees them together in Steve's car parked outside the McCloud home.
Steve Abernathy decides to have a barbeque at his parent's country house. He invites Annette, but she declines, since she and Uncle Archie are going to visit Jet Maypen and her father at their farm. The kids ride a hay wagon out to the Abernathy place. Laura is happy to have Mike and Steve to herself, but gets miffed when they stop the wagon at the Maypen farm. The boys persuade Jet and Annette to come along with them, sending Laura into a funk. At the barbeque Steve pays attention to Annette, ignoring Laura, who throws a fit. Jet forces Laura to come right out and accuse Annette of theft, and when she does jumps in and tackles her. They fall into the swimming pool, which ends the fight and barbeque. Mrs Abernathy gets the necklace story out of Val, and very quickly all the other parents know it as well. Feeling she has brought trouble to her Aunt and Uncle, Annette runs away but is brought back by Mike.
At the next entertainment committee meeting at the Abernathy residence, Laura, Jet, and Annette all show up. To forestall trouble, Steve asks Laura to do her song. She tries to play the piano, but it produces off-key noises. Steve and Drew Stafford open it up and discover the necklace deep inside. Laura apologises to Annette, Jet apologises to Laura, and everything ends happily.
|Episode||       ||Orig Air Date||       || |
| ||       || ||       || |
|      An Introduction||       ||Feb 10, 1958||       || |
|1.   The Newcomer||       ||Feb 11, 1958||       || |
|2.   Annette Meets Jet||       ||Feb 12, 1958||       || |
|3.   An Invitation||       ||Feb 13, 1958||       || |
|4.   The Escort||       ||Feb 14, 1958||       || |
|5.   The Party||       ||Feb 17, 1958||       || |
|6.   Paying the Piper||       ||Feb 18, 1958||       || |
|7.   The Missing Necklace||       ||Feb 19, 1958||       || |
|8.   What Happened at School||       ||Feb 20, 1958||       || |
|9.   Almost a Fight||       ||Feb 21, 1958||       || |
|10. Steady Gets an Idea||       ||Feb 24, 1958||       || |
|11. The Explosion||       ||Feb 25, 1958||       || |
|12. The Turned Down Invitation||       ||Feb 26, 1958||       || |
|13. Annette Makes a Decision||       ||Feb 27, 1958||       || |
|14. The Hayride||       ||Feb 28, 1958||       || |
|15. The Barbecue||       ||Mar   3, 1958||       || |
|16. The Fight||       ||Mar   4, 1958||       || |
|17. The Farewell Letter||       ||Mar   5, 1958||       || |
|18. Mike to the Rescue||       ||Mar   6, 1958||       || |
|19. The Mystery is Solved||       ||Mar   7, 1958||       || |
The teleplay was adapted by Lillie Hayward from a book called Margaret, written in 1950 by Janette
Sebring Lowrey (who also wrote the children's classic The Pokey Little Puppy). It is a well-written and sensitive novel, but
contains material that at the time was not acceptable for teenage television entertainment. Hayward changed the story's setting from southeast
Texas in 1909, to a contemporary western small-town environment. The essential elements of the conflict between town and country, as
represented by Margaret (Annette), Laura Rogan, and Jet Maypen were preserved, as were some minor characters. However, Hayward removed most
of the adult characters and situations found in the book, consolidated events down to the school, party, and fight scenes, and added some
new material to bridge the gaps.
Originally titled after the book, the serial was publicly announced as Annette and Darlene in Summer 1957. It was to be a starring vehicle for the two female Mouseketeers, with David Stollery and Tim Considine as the featured guests stars, a turnabout from The New Adventures of Spin and Marty, which the foursome was then filming. But in October 1957, Darlene Gillespie was suddenly dropped from the cast. Judy Nugent, a well-regarded professional actress, was brought in to play her role, and the serial was renamed to just Annette. The circumstances surrounding this change are a bit murky. The studio belatedly (and unconvincingly) gave out that the switch was so Darlene could prepare for the upcoming film project, The Rainbow Road to Oz. It's likely that director Charles Lamont recommended Judy to the producers as Darlene's replacement.
The soda-jerk Mike Martin, played by David Stollery, is the only example I can think of a teenager holding down a real part-time job in an MMC serial. It was a realistic touch in the otherwise make-believe Disney world, so different from the real one, and yet so captivating for it's viewing audience. David's singing voice in his duet with Annette seems to have been augmented somehow, though it doesn't appear to have been completly dubbed in as was done with Judy Nugent.
Complementing the two main couples were Roberta Shore as Laura Rogan, and Steve Stevens as the erstwhile lover Drew Stafford. Roberta, who was billed as Jymme Shore, proved quite adept at playing the catty Laura, though in true Disney style and unlike the book, her character is redeemed at the end. The novel's author described Val Abernathy as "not pretty", so of course, the serial has her played by the beautiful Doreen Tracey. Another unattached character, Moselle Corey, was played by Shelley Fabares, who would become Annette's best friend through having worked with her on this serial.
Providing comic relief was the final teenage couple, professional actor Rudy Lee as Steady Ware and Sharon Baird, as Kitty Blalock. The character Steady, who is pursued by Kitty, was in the book himself pursuing Madge Markham, played in the serial by Cheryl Holdridge. Madge, a significant character in the book, was reduced to background in the serial, while Kitty, just a name in the book, was given major exposure in the serial. Kitty was actually called Katie in the book, but was given a name change when Uncle Archie and Aunt Lila's African-American servants were replaced by a white housekeeper called Katie, a character created by Lillie Hayward. (Got all that?)
Other Mouseketeers used were Bonnie Fields as Pat Boren and Tommy Cole as Jimmy Smith, while juvenile actor Barry Curtis (The Adventures of Champion) was seen but not heard as Court Whitney. Tom Mahoney both choreographed the dances and had a silent part as the haywagon driver.
The studio changed the family name of Annette's character from the book's original Scottish spelling of MacLeod to the American variant McCloud. However, as the mailbox shot on the sidebar shows, there was some inconsistency on this.
The song that launched Annette's recording career, How Will I Know My Love?, was written by Frances Jeffords and Tom Adair, with producer Bill Walsh claiming partial credit for the lyrics. The theme song Annette was by Jimmie Dodd, and was first used for a second season skit. It's melody is strangely evocative of the 1945 Jules Styne-Sammy Cahn hit It's Been A Long, Long Time. Other songs heard during the serial were Readin', Writin' and Rhythm, Meetin' at the Malt Shop, Pigeon Wing, and Don't Jump to Conclusions, all by Tom Adair and Buddy Baker.
Veteran character actors Richard Deacon and Mary Wickes played gruff Uncle Archie and his housekeeper foil, Katie. Sylvia Field, who played Aunt Lila, is best remembered for playing Martha Wilson on the Dennis the Menace television series, from 1959-62. Doris Packer, who portrayed the school principal on Leave It to Beaver, played the somewhat elderly mother to Steve and Val Abernathy.
|Annette Funicello||       ||Annette McCloud|
|Tim Considine||       ||Steven Abernathy|
|David Stollery||       ||Mike Martin|
|Judy Nugent||       ||Jet Maypen|
|Richard Deacon||       ||Uncle Archie McCloud, Ph.D.|
|Sylvia Field||       ||Aunt Lila McCloud|
|Mary Wickes||       ||Katie|
|Roberta Shore||       ||Laura Rogan|
|Doreen Tracey||       ||Val Abernathy|
|Shelley Fabares||       ||Moselle Corey|
|Rudy Lee||       ||Olmstead "Steady" Ware|
|Steve Stevens||       ||Drew Stafford|
|Sharon Baird||       ||Kitty Blalock|
|Tommy Cole||       ||Jimmy Smith|
|Doris Packer||       ||Mrs. Helen Abernathy|
|Cheryl Holdridge||       ||Madge Markham|
|Bonnie Lynn Fields||       ||Pat Boren|
|Barry Curtis||       ||Court Whitney|
|Ralph Dumke||       ||Mr. Abernathy|
|William Benedict||       ||Delivery Man|
|Amzie Strickland||       ||Saleslady|
|Helene Marshall||       ||Maid (Abernathy's)|
|Thomas L. Mahoney||       ||Curley (Haywagon Driver)|
|Irving Bacon||       ||Jim Maypen|
|Chuck Hicks||       ||Tony Blair (boy at party) (uncredited)|
|Bill Walsh||       ||Producer, Songs|
|Charles Lamont||       ||Director|
|Janette Sebring Lowrey||       ||Writer (novel Margaret)|
|Lillie Hayward||       ||Writer (teleplay)|
|John Grubbs||       ||Production Manager|
|Mike Holoboff||       ||Production Supervisor|
|Russ Haverick||       ||Assistant Director|
|Dolph M. Zimmer||       ||Assistant Director|
|Arthur Viterelli||       ||Assistant Director|
|Frederick Gately, A.S.C.||       ||Director of Photography|
|Walter H. Castle, A.S.C.||       ||Director of Photography|
|Marvin Aubrey Davis||       ||Art Director|
|Stan Jolly||       ||Art Director|
|Pat McNalley||       ||Make-up|
|Chuck Keehne||       ||Wardrobe|
|Eve Newing||       ||Hair Stylist|
|Al Teeter, A.C.E.||       ||Film Editor|
|Ed Sampson||       ||Film Editor|
|Wayne Hughes||       ||Film Editor|
|Robert Stafford||       ||Film Editor|
|Jimmie Dodd||       ||Theme Song, Songs|
|Buddy Baker||       ||Music, Songs|
|Joseph Mullendore||       ||Music|
|Oliver Wallace||       ||Music|
|Tom Adair||       ||Songs|
|Franklyn Marks||       ||Songs|
|Bob Jackman||       ||Songs|
|Robert O. Cook||       ||Sound|
|Armor E. Goetten||       ||Set Decorator|
|Emile Kuri||       ||Set Decorator|
|Thomas L. Mahoney||       ||Choreographer|