‘Lost Episode’ of Route 66 Offers Look at Glory Days of Falls
By Frank Parlato
The Niagara Broadcasting Network (www.nbn7900.com) will be broadcasting the so-called "lost episode" of the CBS television series Route 66.
The lost episode - filmed in Niagara Falls, in 1963, never aired because its plot was eerily similar to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
NBN will begin broadcasting the episode, "I'm Here to Kill a King," following the Sal Paonessa show on Wednesday (Sept. 4) starting at 7:30 p.m. and will air every other hour.
It was former Niagara Falls State Park official Paul Colangelo who made the film available to Paonessa. Colangelo obtained the rights to air the lost episode for the Niagara Falls State Park back in the 1980's from CBS Television.
Because it had scenes of Niagara Falls as it was in the early 1960's, Colangelo thought it was historically significant to preserve this footage and to make it available to the people. He acquired a 16 millimeter copy of the show in 1988.
It was October,1963, when the cast and crew of Route 66 came to Niagara Falls to film "I'm Here to Kill A King."
The plot was about a gunman who came to Niagara Falls to assassinate a fictitious Arabian Potentate by gunning him down while he visited the falls.
The episode was originally scheduled to air on Nov. 29,1963. It was removed from the schedule because of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas one week earlier, and it was not aired until the series went into syndication.
After Colangelo obtained a copy of the film, the Parks Department had it shown at the Niagara Falls Visitors Center for a brief time.
Colangelo told the Reporter that people left the theater "chilled and stunned" by the haunting irony of how the plot of a TV show mirrored the true life details of the assassination of an American president.
Colangelo named several similarities that are strikingly weird.
The assassin, after being told that the Arab king wears body armor, says "I'm shooting him through the head."
One of the characters, a park employee who works at the Cave of the Winds, remarks to the assassin that "my father's name was Lee," drawing a parallel to JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
The motorcade scene, where the king waves to crowds from a limousine, bears resemblance to the Kennedy motorcade in Dallas.
When the king lands in Niagara Falls, his chief of security is speaking with a federal security official and he advises him that things here are unsafe and that the king should go on to Dallas.
Lastly, the assassin, when he is about to kill the king, is standing on a grassy knoll on Goat Island where today there is a paid parking lot.
Columbia released the film to Colangelo giving him the right to show it at non-charging venues and without commercials.
Ultimately, Colangelo donated the 16 millimeter film to the Niagara Falls Public Library and it is stored in their archives.
Route 66 was a television drama about two men who move from place to place and get caught up in the struggles of the people there. Martin Milner, George Maharis, and later, Glenn Corbett, starred as wanderers, rather peaceful rebels adrift in American society. Writer-producer Stirling Silliphant traveled the country with a location manager scouting a wide range of locales and writing scripts to match the settings.
Route 66 is one of few series in the history of TV to be filmed entirely on the road.
One of the legacies Route 66 left behind is a dramatic and photographic portrait of early 1960's America and that includes, thankfully, a look at Niagara Falls.
"I eat my heart out when I see it," Colangelo says. "Main Street business district was alive and thriving. Old Falls Street shows people shoulder to shoulder. Terrapin Point and Goat Island had no restaurants on it."
The episode shows downtown Niagara Falls before its urban renewal. Mayor Calvin Keller appears; and there is, footage of Goat Island, the old Seagrams Tower, excellent footage of the airport and much more.
For those old enough to remember, it is a monument to what was, when the world was young.
For those who never saw a Niagara Falls when it was prosperous, it might open a new vista and connect one to the past when the people had hope and confidence in the rightness of their city and in their nation.
"I don't know, if it has a lesson," Colangelo said, "but it offers a memory that we should always cherish and that is the way our downtown used to be. The film might stir up some eerie memories of an assassination, but it should also stir up eerie memories of the death or our downtown."
Asked why he chose to broadcast the episode, Paonessa said "because it was filmed in Niagara Falls, showing a vibrant city, and there are some old time residents and old landmarks that most people never got the chance to see."
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
SEP 03, 2013