Mickey Mouse Club Serials: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure
In December 2006, the Disney studio issued a Treasures DVD for The Hardy Boys: Mystery of the Applegate Treasure. As with the earlier release of the Spin and Marty DVD, there is a certain loss of nostalgia attendent to having the complete work available for viewing on demand. Memory is trumped by a silvery disc, the taut thriller of yesterday is revealed as a mild, plodding mystery, but the opening theme song clip is still great after fifty years.
Frank and Joe Hardy are spending the summer in Bayport with their Aunt Gertrude, while their detective father works in the city. Their young friend, Iola Morton, bumps into a strange boy named Perry Robinson, and spills the contents of her purse on the sidewalk. Later, she is knocked down and has her purse stolen while crossing the Applegate estate. After finding her purse nearby, the boys check out the Applegate estate, only to be stopped by a menacing man named Jackly. When Perry Robinson appears, the boys confront him, only to be interrupted by the mercurial Silas Applegate. Jackly, a plumber doing work for Applegate, urges the boys to come back that evening and search Perry's room while he takes his meal with someone named Sanders. Later, Fenton Hardy tells his sister Gertrude that Sanders is the county juvenile officer, and that Perry is on probation from reform school.
When the boys and Jackly search Perry's room they find some tools that Jackly claims are his. Perry sees them from the window and runs away, knocking over Applegate. The police and Fenton Hardy search for Perry on the Applegate estate, but Joe finds him first. Perry gives Joe a gold coin, which Iola had scooped up by accident into her purse when they collided earlier that day. Before giving up to the police, Perry tells Joe to hide the coin for him, and that he didn't steal the tools. The boys find out the coin is a Spanish dubloon, and that Applegate was rumored to have a pirate treasure. Perry phones the boys and tells them where to dig. They find someone else has also been digging in Applegate's yard. Applegate catches the boys, but then invites them in to look at his treasure chest. As the boys leave, they are scared by finding a footprint. They drop their tools and run home. A mysterious figure in a striped shirt and flat cap finds their tools and digs numerous holes in the yard, leaving the tools in plain sight. The boys are blamed for the holes. Grounded, they convince Iola to recover the tools that night.
That evening Jackly is knocked unconcious and tied up by the mysterious figure. Iola discovers Jackly, screams, and brings the boys, their father, and Applegate running. After untying Jackly, Fenton Hardy flushes out the mysterious intruder, who turns out to be Applegate's old gardener, Boles. The police arrest Boles, while the Hardys search Boles room. The landlady mentions Boles old roomate, Jenkins. When questioned, Boles is cadgy, but when Joe suggests looking at his shoes, he becomes alarmed and confesses to doing the digging for which the boys were blamed. The boys return to Boles room, where they struggle with the landlady over his shoes. The heel of one pops open revealing a note and gold coin. The landlady grabs the coin and runs, while the boys take the note. It reveals the treasure is hidden "in the wall of the old tower". Alerted by the landlady, the whole town is searching for the treasure at Applegate's tower, but nothing is found. Boles, meanwhile, stands around smirking....until he spies Jackly. Everyone leaves the Applegate estate, and the police let Boles go. The boys trail him, convinced he still knows something. They see him salute the water tower by the railyard, and realize that must be where the treasure is hidden. The boys are spotted by Jackly, who jumps Boles, then goes after the boys. The boys find the treasure, but Jackly seizes some, then falls through the rooten floor of the tower, also knocking out Boles below. The police rush over, having been inadvertently alerted by Boles himself. The serial ends with the Hardys, Iola, Perry, and Silas Applegate celebrating around the treasure chest.
|Episode||       ||Orig Air Date||       || |
| ||       || ||       || |
|      An Introduction||       ||Oct   1, 1956||       || |
|1.   A Stranger||       ||Oct   2, 1956||       || |
|2.   A Real Case||       ||Oct   3, 1956||       || |
|3.   The First Clue||       ||Oct   4, 1956||       || |
|4.   The Fugitive||       ||Oct   5, 1956||       || |
|5.   Applegate's Gold||       ||Oct 8, 1956||       || |
|6.   Dig For Treasure||       ||Oct 9, 1956||       || |
|7.   A Pirate's Chest||       ||Oct 10, 1956||       || |
|8.   Boys in Trouble||       ||Oct 11, 1956||       || |
|9.   Female Detective||       ||Oct 12, 1956||       || |
|10. Iola's Bravery||       ||Oct 15, 1956||       || |
|11. Footsteps in the Tower||       ||Oct 16, 1956||       || |
|12. The Prisoner Speaks||       ||Oct 17, 1956||       || |
|13. The Strange Confession||       ||Oct 18, 1956||       || |
|14. A Golden Clue||       ||Oct 19, 1956||       || |
|15. The Final Search||       ||Oct 22, 1956||       || |
|16. The Tower Secret||       ||Oct 23, 1956||       || |
|17. Never Say Die||       ||Oct 24, 1956||       || |
|18. Boys in Danger||       ||Oct 25, 1956||       || |
|19. The Tower Treasure||       ||Oct 26, 1956||       || |
Jackson Gillis was a first-rate writer, who had scored a hit the year before with The Adventures of Spin and Marty. Jackson had begun writing while in college during the thirties. After serving in the Army during WWII, he wrote stories and scripts for radio, then moved to doing teleplays in 1953. He was a freelancer, not a studio employee, who wrote serial episodes on assignment, while continuing to write for other television shows, like The Adventures of Superman, Lassie, and The Millionaire.
For this serial, the first Hardy Boys book published, The Tower Treasure (1927), was very liberally adapted by Jackson Gillis, retaining little of the original story. (The book itself was updated and shortened by twelve pages in 1959). Gillis later explained to Disney historian Bill Cotter that he replaced the boy's mother with Aunt Gertrude to make it more plausible for them to disobey her, however, all MMC serials used the convention of making the protagonist an orphan or part of a one parent household.
This was the only serial that had an opening song preceding the title and starring credits. Disney composer George Bruns wrote the music for Gold Dubloons and Pieces of Eight, to lyrics by Jackson Gillis. The accompanying film excerpts were from the Disney live-action film, Treasure Island (1951). The background music for the series was composed by William Lava and arranged by Buddy Baker.
The opening song and credit totalled one minute; each episode was also bisected by three minutes of commercials midway through the action. Thirty-second sponsor messages preceded and followed the serial segment, which meant that each episode had roughly ten minutes of storyline. A few episodes, starting with number eleven, had a quick repeat of the ending action from the previous day's show, lasting about forty-five seconds.
Because so much of the story occurs at night, it was decided to film the serial inside Stage 2 of the Disney Burbank studio. (The young actors who play the principal characters were limited by law to working daytime hours). The studio craftsmen constructed a set measuring 205 by 120 feet, including the old water tower, rail tracks, a full-scale billboard, and the grounds of the Applegate estate. A few exterior scenes were shot on the studio lot, the front of the animation building doubling as the Bayport Police Station. Filming began in late May or early June of 1956, and was over by July 1st.
This was the second-most successful serial made for the MMC, but it was also the most costly, due not only to the elaborate set, but also to the level of acting talent employed for the adult roles. Nearly all the supporting players, Florenz Ames, Bob Foulk, Charles Cane, Mort Mills, Francis Morris, and above all, Arthur Shields, were well-known established character actors. When the second Hardy Boys serial, The Mystery of Ghost Farm, was filmed a year later, the caliber of supporting acting talent used was definitely of a lesser scale.
Though David Stollery also tested for the part of Frank Hardy, there was little doubt it would go to his Triple R costar, Tim Considine. Tim was already becoming a teen idol, drawing large amounts of fan mail for his role as Spin Evans. For the younger Hardy brother, Joe, nine different actors were given auditions before Tommy Kirk was selected. Tom had made his MMC debut as a correspondent for a political convention that was shown as a newsreel special during the show's first season. The youthful-looking Tommy, just a year younger than Tim Considine, was actually older than most of the Mouseketeers.
The character of Iola Morton, not present in the original story, but who was Joe Hardy's girlfriend in later books of the series, was added as a wannabe girlfriend in the teleplay, in consideration of the younger age of the television actors. Supposedly, both Annette Funicello and Shelly Fabares were briefly considered for the role, however, the former was instead cast in Adventure in Dairyland, which was made at the same time as this serial. According to contemporary newspaper reports, Carole Ann Campbell was selected for the part by Walt Disney himself, after seeing her in I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955). Though she was third-billed in this serial, and was a big part of the story, Carole was given little publicity by the studio. She had a very short acting career, lasting just three years, ending in 1958.
Donald MacDonald, who played Perry Robinson, also had a short acting career, from 1952 to 1957. He started with an uncredited role in Ma and Pa Kettle at Home (1953), then appeared with Tim Considine and David Stollery in Miss Baker's Dozen (aka Her Twelve Men, 1954). He would appear in four more films and three television shows before winding up his career with an episode of The Real McCoys.
|Tim Considine||       ||Frank Hardy|
|Tommy Kirk||       ||Joe Hardy|
|Carole Ann Campbell||       ||Iola Morton|
|Russ Conway||       ||Fenton Hardy|
|Florenz Ames||       ||Silas Applegate|
|Sarah Selby||       ||Aunt Gertrude|
|Donald MacDonald||       ||Perry Robinson|
|Bob Foulk||       ||Jackley|
|Arthur Shields||       ||Boles|
|Charles Cane||       ||Sergeant|
|Francis Morris||       ||Landlady|
|Dan Sturkey||       ||Detective|
|Bill Henry||       ||Policeman|
|Mort Mills||       ||Policeman|
|Brick Sullivan||       ||Policeman|
|Jess Kirkpatrick||       ||Policeman|
|Don Harvey||       ||Policeman|
|Unknown||       ||Miss Snodgrass, librarian (uncredited )|
|Unknown||       ||Newspaper Boy (uncredited)|
|Bill Walsh||       ||Producer|
|Jackson Gillis||       ||Writer (teleplay), Theme Song (lyricist)|
|Franklin W. Dixon1||       ||Writer (original story)|
|Charles Haas||       ||Director|
|Robert G. Shannon||       ||Assistant Director|
|Lou Debney||       ||Assistant to the Producer|
|Buddy Baker||       ||Music|
|William Lava||       ||Music|
|George Bruns||       ||Theme Song (composer)|
|Bruce Bushman||       ||Art Director|
|Marvin Aubrey Davis||       ||Art Director|
|Gordon Avil, A.S.C.||       ||Director of Photography|
|Walter H. Castle, A.S.C.||       ||Director of Photography|
|George Nicholson||       ||Film Editor|
|Ellsworth Hoagland, A.C.E.||       ||Film Editor|
|Joseph S. Dietrick||       ||Film Editor|
|Al Teeter||       ||Film Editor|
|Robert O. Cook||       ||Sound|
|Dean Thomas||       ||Sound Mixer|
|Fred MacLean||       ||Set Decorator|
|Chuck Keehne||       ||Costumer|
|Carl Walker||       ||Wardrobe|
|Dave Newell||       ||Make-up|
|Lois Murray||       ||Hair Stylist|
|Russ Haverick||       ||Production Manager|
1 - This was the official pseudonym used by the many authors who wrote the Hardy Boys books.