The Bell System, the original phone company before it was forced to break up into a lot of “Baby Bells,” was a pretty powerful communication force. Powerful enough to sponsor TV’s first color broadcast known as “The Bell Telephone Hour” (1959-1969) among other ventures. One of those other ventures was a one hour TV special aired April 1970 entitled “It Couldn’t Be Done,” hosted and narrated by none other than Lee Marvin.
The idea behind it was to celebrate American industrial accomplishments with rare footage, interviews, musical interludes by the then popular 5th Dimension singing group, singer Steve Mills and insight given by Lee Marvin.
It being 1970, he’s still sporting his long-ish hair and mustache from Monte Walsh (1970) and Paint Your Wagon (1969). It’s interesting in that at the time, once a former TV actor was lucky enough to establish a successful film career, they would never deign to again appear on TV, assuming it might jinx their hard-earned success or the medium was beneath them somehow. Not Lee Marvin. He returned to TV regularly throughout his career and doing so did not adversely effect him. Matter of fact, some of his best and most versatile performances were on television, as I discovered and wrote about in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
As for the show “It Couldn’t Be Done,” The Bell System wasted no time being as patriotic as possible in its depiction of American ingenuity while seeming to not care about the non-existent element of political correctness. For example, they fail to mention that Mount Rushmore was carved into the sacred Black Hills of the Lakota Sioux of South Dakota. Just saying.
Okay, political correctness aside, below is the actual (dated) one hour special as posted last year on YouTube. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein