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Golden Age of Television - Actors On Captain Kangaroo

Updated on August 8, 2013
Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit, the Captain, Mr. Moose, Mr. Green Jeans, and Grandfather Clock in the background.
Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit, the Captain, Mr. Moose, Mr. Green Jeans, and Grandfather Clock in the background. | Source

Tribute To a Great Soul

Captain Kangaroo ran during early weekday mornings on CBS for over 30 years from 1955 to 1984. From 1956 to 1864 and again in 1982, the show was joined by the Saturday Morning Treasure House and another day of fun for kids. Some adults also watched. The weekday broadcasts dropped off and the Saturday show remained for the last year or so of the program's run.

After Bob Keeshan (1927 - 2004) retired as Captain Kangaroo, which he created, another actor was tried in the title role, but failed very badly. To date, no one else has tried to play the part. However, I am thinking that if Tom Hanks can play Walt Disney, it is just a bit further stretching toward playing Captain Kangaroo in a full length film.

If you ever watched the show, who were your favorite actors - the humans or the puppets? I liked the hilarious cloth comedians Mr. Moose and Mr. Bunny Rabbit, and some folks adored Grandfather Clock even when his hands stuck, but many people loved Dancing Bear.

Cosmo Allegretti (1927 - 2013)

Puppeteer Cosmo Allegretti (Dancing Bear and others) and actor Dick Shawn on Captain Kangaroo in 1977. Many famous actors were guests on the shows.
Puppeteer Cosmo Allegretti (Dancing Bear and others) and actor Dick Shawn on Captain Kangaroo in 1977. Many famous actors were guests on the shows. | Source

Last Man Standing

Unfortunately, Dancing Bear died in 2013 at the age of 86. He was portrayed in a bear suit by Cosmo Allegretti. Little did we know, but Mr. Allegretti played most of the other puppet part as well. Hired as a painter on the original sets, he rebuilt a professional puppet that the show's exeuctives rejected and created several more. From then on, he was a puppet master and even portrayed Dennis the Painter as a human being. Moreover, he was the Magic Drawing Board's artist.

Allegretti never seemed to tire of his many parts, because he was always funny and always energetic in portraying them. His part as a space alien in an Earth diner was worthy of the Coneheads on Saturday Night Live.

At random times, I still think of Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit and laugh, even though their Golden Age of Television was way back in the 1950s - 1960s.

While Moose and Bunny are at home now in the Smithsonian Institution, Dancing Bear's costume recently sold for $200,000 at auction.

Allegretti created Mr; Moose and Bunny Rabbit from his experience as a puppeteer before coming to Captain Kangaroo. He likely could have become one of Jim Henson's crew of Muppeteers, but he sayed with Bob Keeshan the friendly group on the show. From behind the camera, they used to try whoever was being shown forget their lines and laugh. Several times, I saw the Captain break up, laughing.

Born the same year as Keeshan. Allegretti outlived him by nearly a decade and was the sole surviving member of the cast of regulars.

Hugh Brannum and Cosmo Allegretti on the Captain Kangaroo 5th Anniversary Show in 1960.
Hugh Brannum and Cosmo Allegretti on the Captain Kangaroo 5th Anniversary Show in 1960. | Source
Pee Wee's Playhouse.
Pee Wee's Playhouse. | Source

Another Treasure House

Pee Wee Herman's wonderful playhouse was the Captain's Treasure House gone mad. the Playhouse series was also shown on CBS, from 1986 - 1990. Pee Wee's Magic Screen character resembled a similar device of the Captain's. Pee Wee also had a talking clock and many Guest stars, as did the Treasure House. In addition, Pee Wee ran cartoons from the Golden Age of Cartoons.

Bob Keeshan said of the show in 1996, "With the possible exception of the Muppets, you can't find such creativity anywhere on TV." (Entertainment Weekly)

The Captain's Side Kick

Hugh Brannum (1910 - 1987) played Mr. Green Jeans on Keeshan's show, the farmer side kick of the Captain. Much of the interaction between the two characters was reminiscent of vaudeville.

Brannaum was a well known singer and composer during the Big Band Era before coming to the children's show. He performed with the famous Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. That was the first step toward his Green Jeans character, because Waring had his own radio show and that is where Brannum met Bob Keeshan.

In the Treasure House, Mr. Green Jeans often presented animals of various species, keeping with his farmer's duties. Many children saw their first kinkajou and coatimundi on the show in the days before Jack Hanna decided that he wanted to be a zoo director when he grew up.

The Teasure House had a penchant for painters, because Hugh Brannum also played the part of Mr. Bainter the Painter, although he may never have appeared in the same scene as Donald the Painter (played by Allegretti).

Hugh Brannum and Bob Keeshan were both US Marines during WWII, but neither of them saw action, despite rumors to the contrary. Both stayed in the US during the war and Brannum played instruments for one of the US Marine Corps Bands. Nearly 20 years younger that Brannum, Keeshan joined the servce too late to be shipped out to a war zone.

For a few years, the Treasure House opened with a Good Morning, Captain sequence in which performers from other CBS shows wished the Captain a good morning. In one episode, the greeting was given by Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) while in Star Fleet uniform. Watching the sequence at the time, I thought that the Captain and Mr. Green Jeans would make a pretty good rendition of an older Kirk and Spock. Today, I think I was correct. I have visions of Shatner and Nimoy doing a parody skit of the Treasure House.

Tribute to Cosmo Allegretti, the Last Survivor

As the popularity of early morning news programs like Today and CBS Morning News grew, Captain Kangaroo was pushed earlier into the morning hours and finally off the weekday programming schedule altogether and onto Saturday mornings as a final stop. Because school began so early in the mornings, I enjoyed only a couple of years of the show during its original run.

Losing Cosmo Allegretti in June 2013 causes sorrow for those of us that could watch him and the other Treasure House characters any time between 1955 through 1984 or in reruns after those years. His puppet characters made us smile and laugh as much as the human actors did and now we have only film memories.

During newscasts of war and murder and debates about political contrivances, I'd give anything to see Bunny Rabbit steal carrots from the Captain, or Mr. Moose play a trick on him. I'd like to see Dancing Bear dance with a ballerina again.

If I visit the Smithsonian display below, I will laugh and remember the ping ping ball joke Mr. moose played as often as he could. I will also remember the story he told, which must have been from vaudeville:

A boy moose and his uncle were tired from walking on a visit to New York City and were looking for a place to rest and perhaps get something to eat. The boy kept seeing restaurant signs, but his uncle would not stop at any of them.

When the boy finally asked why not, Uncle Moose replied:

"Restuar-aunt", "restaur-aunt", but no place to rest your dear old uncle!

Mr. Moose at the Smithsonian Institution with one of the Captain's original jackets. In the 1980s, the jacket was a red one and in the late 1960s, the Captain wore jackets made of paper to show viewers a new cloth invented with paper.
Mr. Moose at the Smithsonian Institution with one of the Captain's original jackets. In the 1980s, the jacket was a red one and in the late 1960s, the Captain wore jackets made of paper to show viewers a new cloth invented with paper. | Source

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I agree with you, RonElFran; I can't find anything like the Captain and his crew for kids today. Having had a long weekend, I'm looking at Capt. Kangaroo on Youtube right now!

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      4 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Ah, the memories you bring back! I remember Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans, Bunny Rabbit, and Mr. Moose. And I can still whistle the show's theme song. The sad thing, I think, is that there seems to be nothing like Captain Kangaroo for kids today. Well, we live now in very different times. Thanks for the memories.

    • bettybarnesb profile image

      bettybarnesb 

      5 years ago from Bartlett, TN

      Hey Patty! As you can imagine, I grew up the "Captain." Reading your hub brought back a lot of good memories.

      Thanks...

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Glad to have brought back some good menories for you, IIona! I still love the theme song.

    • Ilona1 profile image

      Ilona 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      I watched Captain Kangaroo every morning, and loved hearing the background on this.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @drbj - Now I keep expecting to be able to turn on CBS at 8:00 AM and see the show!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Patty - My children loved Captain Kangaroo and all the characters. My favorite was Mr. Green Jeans. Thanks for all the little details about the actors and the TV show that I did not know. This was powerful deja vu.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      MsDora - Did you ever see Pee Wee Herman when he hosted the Tonight Show in character? He did a wonderful job - very funny and a very good interviewer. I read that he will be back on TV in 2014 - it is hard to believe he is 60 years old!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      kaskmr56 - I really miss the people on the shwo and their interactions. Thanks for voting! :)

      wetnosedogs - He seemed a gentle caring person, didn't he? He seemed to havve great fun onnthe show and I know he was one of the people that tried to get the Captain to laugh and forget his lines on camera.

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 

      5 years ago from Alabama

      Wow, what great memories this hub gave me. I think Mr. Green Jeans was my favorite.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Peggy, thanks for walking me through; I haven't watched much television. I remember seeing Pee Wee Herman, but not sure what he was about. I like the joke at the end. Great article!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Patty thanks for this informative read it brought back a lot of great memories of watching that show every morning as a kid.

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Hi Karen Hellier and corol7777! - I think we could do with a tad less news in the mornings and give the kids a show like Captain Kangaroo for half an hour. It would have a positive effect. One Monday at work I heard the theme song to the show on the radio and smiled all week :)

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      What fun to relive the past. Great photos and we know that is an era gone by.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      Awww, I miss Captain Kangaroo. It was a great show when I was a little kid. Thanks for taking me down Memory Lane! Voted up and interesting.

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