The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show


Charles Barton       (1902-1981)

Third Season Serial Director

Mouseketeer-sized Charles Barton had been working behind the camera for over thirty years before coming to the Mickey Mouse Club in 1957. Best known as a director, he also did one or two stints as an actor early in his career. He finished his film career directing several Disney movies then switched full-time to television.

Background

He was born Charles T. Barton Jr, on May 25, 1902 in Oakland, California, the youngest of four children. His father managed a candy store, his mother, Nellie S. Bronner, was a housewife. Charles Sr moved the family to Los Angeles, where after his death, the oldest son, George Barton, took over the candy business. By age 17 Charles was acting in silent pictures, and a few years later was an assistant director. In 1926 he married his first wife, Lois Austin, and shortly after, moved to Beverly Hills. In early 1934 he won an Oscar as "Best Assistant Director" for Paramount (each of the seven major studios had its own winner). His first film as a full director was Wagon Wheels (1934) for Paramount. Thereafter he made four or five pictures a year for that studio, but after serving as assistant to the tyrannical Cecil B. DeMille on Union Pacific (1939), he jumped to Columbia.

One of his last assignments at Paramount was a small acting role in Beau Geste (1939), a sort of demotion for refusing to work with de Mille. He never worked in front of the camera again; instead he churned out as many as eight features a year for Columbia. These were largely grade B comedies or musicals, the sort of pictures that stopped being made with the advent of television. In 1945, as the movie business started to enter a long slow decline, he switched studios again, to Universal. Here he made only a few films a year, but at least got to work with top-name stars like Abbott and Costello. Charles alternated between television and the movies in the fifties, doing one film a year while working on various small-screen series.

Contribution

Charles was hired to direct The New Adventures of Spin and Marty in the summer of 1957. The two previous Spin and Marty series had been directed by William Beaudine Sr, who after suffering a ruptured appendix on Further Adventures of Spin and Marty (1956), did not return to Disney for several years. Beaudine wanted to do the third Spin and Marty, but after the tepid reception to his full-length film Westward Ho, the Wagons! (1956), Disney executives decided to go with another director.

Charles Barton's long experience at directing quickie movies on a shoestring served him well at Disney. Just over $610,000 had been allocated for this third installment, and Barton delivered it on time and only $15,000 over budget. However, Barton, like Beaudine, was a bit past his prime, and though his work was always competent, there was no innovation, nothing to suggest individual directorial style.

Charles Barton's forte was supposed to be musical comedy, another reason for his selection for this particular series. The "show within a show" storyline would suit his style it was thought, but Barton failed to inspire his cast. The series had five lead actors this time: Tim Considine, David Stollery, Annette Funicello, Darlene Gillespie, and Kevin Corcoran. Despite getting far more money than their female co-stars, David Stollery and Tim Considine both came across as lackadaisical and bland this time out. A short guy himself, Barton must have sympathized with youngster Kevin Corcoran, letting him run rampant over the lifeless older boys.

Aftermath

Charles continued working for Disney after the Mickey Mouse Club stopped filming. He directed episodes of the Zorro television series, and the films The Shaggy Dog (1959) and Toby Tyler (1960), neither of which were very memorable. He switched to CBS Television in the early sixties, directing second-rate comedy series such as Dennis the Menace and Hazel, as well as more popular programs like McHale's Navy, The Munsters, and Petticoat Junction. In 1966 he began directing episodes of the schmaltzy but very successful series Family Affair. He would be the principal director for this show during its five year run.

After his first wife died in 1957, Charles married actress Julie Gibson, with whom he had a daughter late in life. Charles Barton died in Burbank, California, on December 5, 1981.

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