* Honorary ears awarded June 1956
A Midwestern Mouseketeer*
A Midwestern native, Glen Graber had some stage and television experience before being cast in the Adventure in Dairyland serial opposite Annette Funicello. As an adult he has had successful parallel careers as an IT professional and a performer in regional theater.
Glen, the only child of Peter and Loretta Graber, was born in Chicago, Illinois during 1942 and spent his early years at the Naval Ordnance Test Station in Inyokern, Californa before settling in Griffith, Indiana. He began performing in talent contests at age two, had won a couple of big contests by age five, started modeling at age six, and by age seven was a member of the national touring company for High Button Shoes.
He also did TV commercials for Milky Way candy bars, Bendix washers, Illinois Bell Telephone and local clothiers, and when not working took singing and tap dancing lessons.
"Except for Illinois Bell Telephone, which was live during the Illinois High School Basketball Tournament Finals, and clothing commercials, which tended to be WGN during something like 'The Thursday Night Movie' and required being onsite at the studio on a school night 'til 9 or 10 pm (and God help you if the zipper stuck while you demonstrated the coat), the TV commercials were filmed for national networks. The network commercials were far more lucrative, since they garnered royalties (a.k.a. residuals) in addition to the SAG minimums, which were in turn more generous than the AFTRA minimums for radio & live TV work."
"The Milky Way job was far and away the most successful -- it started showing up on NBC and ABC network shows (Buffalo Bill, Jr., The Mickey Mouse Club) in late '55, and Annette reported seeing it in early '57. One day's filming ($70 SAG min. gross); $2000 after taxes & agent, net, due to royalties."
By the time he entered Griffith High School at age thirteen he was supplementing his performing income with caddying at the local golf course, a fortunate career turn as would become shortly apparent.
Adventure in Dairyland was filmed in June and early July of 1956. It starred Annette Funicello
and Sammy Ogg as themselves, and introduced Kevin Corcoran as Moochie McCandless. Glen recounts the background of the other 'McCandless' actors and how he came to be cast in the serial.
"Disney Studios wanted Midwesterners to play the farm family so they would have Midwestern accents, and maybe know something about farming. At the time, Fern Persons was living in near-north suburban Chicago - Wilmette or Evanston - and had her own radio program in one of those towns. Herb Newcomb (Mr. McCandless) was from Cicero, Illinois, a near west suburb. Mary Lou Delmonte described herself as being from McHenry, Illinois, out in the country west of town. She was the only member of the McCandless farm family who was actually from farm country."
"Lee Traver (casting director) and Bill Beaudine Sr (director) auditioned Chicagoland boys for the part of 'Moochie', but weren't satisfied. Kevin Corcoran had appeared in a brief episode of something filmed at the San Diego Zoo directed by Bill Sr [ed: Fun with a Camera], and was cast on the basis of that performance."
"I was a scrawny kid, and did not deserve to be cast in a role that represented all the sturdy young lads of the 4-H. But I had a good suntan. Mr. Beaudine or Mr. Traver asked me why, and I told them I was a caddy. By a karmic coincidence, they had both been caddies when they were younger! We got into a discussion of caddying fees, then and now (25 cents for 18 holes in the 1920's; $2.50 for 18, plus an average 50 cent tip, in the 1950's). I believe that discussion won me the role."
Sammy Ogg, Mary Lu Delmonte, and Glen all rode a commuter flight to Madison together, while Annette and her mother took a separate flight that was met by a crowd upon arrival. Glen noticed that Annette seemed to be isolated from other kids when she wasn't on the set, something that Annette herself mentioned in her memoirs. All the cast and crew stayed at Madison's Hotel Loraine during the filming.
"The Hotel Loraine was half a block southwest of the Wisconsin state capitol. There was a chartered bus for the crew, and a chartered airline limo for the cast. Kevin was known to get on the elevator and push all the buttons, and at least once he threw a water balloon or two from his hotel room window."
"The Wisconsin unit operated under California Screen Actors' Guild rules. All the minor principals were accompanied by their mothers during the location shoot. In the barn dance sequence, at least three of the "stage mothers" were used as extras at the side serving table - Marguerite Ogg, Virginia Funicello and Loretta Graber were on camera. I'm not sure about Mrs. Corcoran or Mrs. Delmonte."
On their one day a week off (SAG rules then allowed six day work weeks for kids on location) Glen and Sammy would hang out together, exploring the town or going boating on Madison's Lake Mendota.
While Glen worked his mother roamed over the filming locations snapping candid photos everywhere. Many of these snaps were out of focus or had exposure problems, but she also captured some real gems, including one that nearly six decades later would provide a possible answer to a long-standing mystery.
Glen privately expresses reservations about his own performance during the serial's opening sequences, but admired Herb Newcomb's acting as Mr. McCandless. He notes that several minor scenes seem to have been dropped over the years.
"This was prior to video tape. The production was a full-scale color film. Although the Mickey Mouse Club would show it in black-and-white, the American Dairy Association wanted it in color for their subsequent uses. The upside of this is that many production stills were/are available in color, including those in ADA's promotional booklet. The downside is that the originals have undoubtedly curled up by now, and the film may not be available anywhere."
One year after filming the serial, Glen caught up with Annette and the other Mouseketeers as they visited Chicago in early July 1957 with Hal Stalmaster to promote the film Johnny Tremain. After graduating from high school, Glen entered Northwestern University, though surprisingly not in its highly regarded Theatre Arts program.
Instead he joined NROTC, where he excelled in both academic and naval training, becoming a member of the program's Sextant Honor Society. He did take part in the Glee Club and once sang improvisational harmonies with a young Ann-Margret in a variety show. While on summer NROTC training in San Diego during 1960, Glen visited Annette at her home in Encino, where he also met Shelley Fabares who lived next door.
Glen left Northwestern and the NROTC program before graduating and taking up a commission. He enrolled in Indiana University where he earned a Bachelor's degree. While a member of the university's Singing Hoosiers, Glen performed in concerts with Duke Ellington and Bob Hope.
During the late sixties and early seventies Glen worked as a programmer analyst for an insurance company, while also performing for community theater in Chicago. After a production of No Exit
, he decided to forgo dramatic roles for musicals, as he explained in a 1974 interview.
"I consider myself first and foremost a singer, secondly an actor and more and more a dancer as the parts require it. My job at CNAF is sedentary and needs a lot of mental attention. Drama requires the same sort of concentration, so I find musicals a physically happy change of pace."
Musical productions he did at this time included major roles in Once Upon a Mattress
, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
, and as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha
. Glen switched from working full-time for a single employer to working as a consultant in 1975. He eventually would move from technical positions to project management and then to the board of directors for a software consulting firm.
He moved from Illinois to Colorado in 1988, but continued working as a software consultant. His performances in Chicago-area theater culminated with one of his favorite characters, as Fredrik Egerman in Sondheim's A Little Night Music
. While in his new home state, Glen would continue performing in musicals, with leading roles in productions of The Music Man
and Side by Side by Sondheim
among others. Glen retired from the business world in 2002, but would continue doing musicals for several more years.
Glen and his wife of more than forty years reside in a remote mountain community, where the local wildlife
is sometimes the only other traffic on the road. His long search for an extant copy of the color film for Adventure in Dairyland
is recounted elsewhere
on this site. More recently, Glen had a sudden epiphany concerning a photo his mother took of Bill Beaudine Jr and Sr standing with someone she had labelled as "script girl". The supposed script girl was actually writer Lillie Hayward
, for whom no photo was previously known to exist.
Most of the information and photos on this page come courtesy of Glen Graber