Remembering Ed Kemmer … Commander Buzz Corry Of The “Space Patrol”

By Steve Vertlieb: In the early days of television, my boyhood was enchanted by the weekly adventures of Commander Buzz Corry and Cadet Happy aboard the spaceship “Terra V” of the inter galactic Space Patrol. The series, written by Norman Jolley and Mike Moser, and directed by Dick Darley, aired Live every Saturday morning from 1950 until 1955 over ABC Television and radio. Each episode would air first as a radio broadcast at 10 o’clock in the morning (EST) over ABC Radio, followed at 10:30 (EST) on ABC Television. The series was among the earliest and most professional of tv’s original space operas, featuring imaginative scripts and top flight production. The program would continue to air for decades in syndication as Satellite Police.

Starring Edward Kemmer as Commander Buzz Corry, the show featured an ensemble cast that included Lyn Osborn as Cadet Happy, Ken Mayer as Major “Robbie” Robertson, Virginia Hewitt as Carol Carlisle, and Nina Bara as “Tonga.” The show assembled a colorful recurring cast of villains that included Bela Kovacs as the nefarious Prince Baccarratti, and Marvin Miller as Mr. Proteus.

Marvin Miller would go on to star in his own popular CBS Television series, The Millionaire (as Michael Anthony, Executive Secretary to the fabulously wealthy John Beresford Tipton, voiced off camera by Paul Frees), as well as enacting the voice of Robby The Robot in MGM’S Science Fiction extravaganza, Forbidden Planet. Indeed, Space Patrol may well have inspired the filming of the MGM classic in 1956, as well as NBC’s Star Trek series in 1966. William Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk was, in many ways, a haunting reinterpretation of Kemmer’s Buzz Corry.

Ed Kemmer had been a heroic World War Two flyer whose P-51 fighter plane was shot down over France in 1944. He spent the next eleven months interred in a German P.O.W. camp, having escaped but later recaptured. It was the very same prisoner of war camp that inspired the popular Steve McQueen drama, The Great Escape. During his imprisonment, Ed would often stage plays for his fellow prisoners and, when the war ended, he embarked on an acting career.

Ed appeared from 1964 until 1983 as a featured player on such prominent soap operas as The Edge of Night, and All My Children. He also co-starred with Dorothy Malone in Too Much Too Soon, the story of actress Diana Barrymore. However, it was his affiliation with sci-fi that he is best remembered for. He co-starred with William Shatner (as the flight engineer) in Richard Matheson’s classic Twilight Zone episode, “Nightmare At Twenty Thousand Feet” in 1963 as well as playing the lead in Earth Vs. The Spider in 1958.

Ed Kemmer and Steve Vertlieb

Here I am some years ago meeting my boyhood hero at last. Ed Kemmer was a delightful gentleman, actor, and war hero who, wonderfully, became a personal pal during the last years of his life. When I first met Ed, I gushingly told him that I’d loved him for fifty years. He said “You couldn’t possibly be that old.” I assured him, however, that I was. I corresponded with Ed during the last years of his life, and often sent him tape recordings of Frank Sinatra, whom he adored. Dick Darley, who had directed the entire run of Space Patrol, had later directed the Rosemary Clooney television program, and Ed would often visit the set, discussing Sinatra with Clooney.

Meeting Ed was, quite literally, a dream come true for me. Along with William Boyd as Hop-A-Long Cassidy, and Larry “Buster” Crabbe as Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers, Ed was one of my earliest, most cherished and remembered heroes. Ed suffered a stroke, and passed away on November 9, 2004. He was eighty-four years old.

The decades have separated us, but my memories remain as vital and clear as they were in 1950 when, in my innocence, I first heard announcer Jack Narz proclaim “High adventures in the wild reaches of space … Missions of daring in the name of interplanetary justice. Travel into the future with Buzz Corry, Commander in Chief of the … Space Patrol.”

“Oh, Captain, My Captain”

Steve Vertlieb, William Shatner, and Erwin Vertlieb in 1969.

By Steve Vertlieb: I interviewed William Shatner for British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema in the Summer of 1969 at The Playhouse In The Park whilst Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC. My old friend Allan Asherman, who joined Erwin and I for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (Bill Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry, commander of the Space Patrol (Ed Kemmer). It’s funny how an often-charmed life can include real life friendships with childhood heroes.

Steve Vertlieb and Buster Crabbe in 1979.

Boyhood hero Buster Crabbe was the special guest at a local Philadelphia nostalgia convention during the Spring of 1979, and took the trouble to search for me in the telephone directory. He telephoned my parents’ home and spoke with my father, asking him if he knew Steve Vertlieb. My dad said that he did, indeed, know me as I was his son. Buster said that he was in town for a few days, and asked my dad to have me call him so that we might meet for dinner. It took my father some thirty minutes to convince me that Buster had really called. I called him back at his hotel, and we dined the next evening at a restaurant in Philadelphia’s Chinatown where he playfully dumped some of his dinner into my own plate, and urged me to “Eat, Eat, Eat.”

Ed Kemmer and Steve Vertlieb.

Together with one of my earliest boyhood heroes and role models, Ed Kemmer, who starred as Commander Buzz Corry of the Space Patrol, broadcast every Saturday morning on ABC Television and radio in the early-to-mid 1950’s. After this initial meeting, Ed and I remained friends through correspondence until his passing. Ed was a great guy. It was a thrill to meet him finally after some fifty years, and to develop a friendship with him in the years before he passed.

Oh Captain, My Captain – Jim Kirk, Flash Gordon, Buzz Corey

By Steve Vertlieb: William Shatner, the iconic actor who first sailed the Star Ship Enterprise through three intergalactic seasons on NBC Television beginning September 8th, 1966, and starred in six Star Trek feature-length motion pictures, turned eighty-six years young recently. He was the valiant inspiration for millions of young boys and men for decades of thrilling cinematic heroism. I conducted, perhaps, the very first “fan” interview with William Shatner ever published during July, 1969, whilst the series was still being aired over NBC in its final re-runs, for the British magazine, L’Incroyable Cinema. He was both delightfully witty, and warm, sharing a memorable hour of his valuable time with us. Here are Erwin and I together with Captain James Tiberius Kirk outside his dressing room at The Playhouse In The Park where he was starring in a local Philadelphia Summer Stock production of “There’s A Girl In My Soup,” with Exodus star Jill Hayworth.

Together with boyhood hero and cherished friend, Buster Crabbe, here in Philadelphia in 1979. On this particular occasion, Buster and I had dinner together in “Chinatown.” Although Jack Nicholson was nowhere to be found, Buster playfully emptied the remains of some his dinner into my plate, insisting that I “Eat, Eat, Eat.” My Jewish mother would have been proud. Buster, along with Ed Kemmer and William Boyd, was among my earliest childhood heroes. Buster and I were good friends over the last two decades of his life, and I remain honored to think of myself as one of Flash Gordon’s pals. Knowing him personally was a thrill beyond imagining. My affectionate remembrance of Larry “Buster” Crabbe, and “Fantastic” children’s television during the 1950’s, has been nominated as “Best Blog of the Year” under the heading of Better Days, Benner Nights in the annual Rondo Awards.

Steve Vertlieb and Buster Crabbe.

Together with one of my earliest boyhood heroes and role models, Ed Kemmer, who starred as Commander Buzz Corey of the “Space Patrol”, broadcast every Saturday morning on ABC Television in the mid 1950’s. He also co-starred with William Shatner in “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet,” the original classic episode of The Twilight Zone written by Richard Matheson. Shatner’s own Star Trek series was heavily influenced by Ed’s Space Patrol, as well as MGM’s Forbidden Planet. After this initial meeting, Ed and I remained friends through correspondence until his passing. He loved Sinatra, and so I’d periodically record tapes of Francis Albert for him, and send them to his apartment in New York. Ed remained conspicuously among the few stars refusing to accept compensation for posing for pictures or signing autographs. He felt that charging money for his image would be a betrayal of the millions of children who made him so popular during the nineteen fifties. He was not only a tv hero, but a real hero, as well. During the second world war, Ed was a pilot who had been shot down behind enemy lines and imprisoned as a POW. He was quite a remarkable human being, both on screen and off.

Steve Vertlieb with Ed Kemmer, who played Cmdr. Buzz Corey in Space Patrol.