The Courtship of Eddie’s Father was originally filmed as a 1963 movie that starred Glenn Ford as a widowed father and Ron Howard as his son. Inspired by the 1961 book written by Mark Toby, the movie focuses on the young Eddie Corbett (played by Howard) eagerly seeking an ideal new wife for his now single father, Tom Corbett (played by Ford). While the movie sees its end have Tom Corbett find his suitable bride soon enough (after two failed attempts), the storyline carried out in the following television series wasn’t so quick.
From Movie to Series
MGM Television rides the coattails of the success of the 1963 movie, “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” by spinning it off into its own television series, which first aired on the ABC Network. Now as the widowed father Tom Corbett, actor Bill Bixby, costars in the series with Brandon Cruz as the new six-year-old Eddie Corbett. In the series, Eddie wants a new mother and cleverly maneuvers the various relationships his father has with the women in hopes he will fall for that right one. At first, Eddie hopes it would be among the women he already knows and likes. Also part of the core cast lineup is Miyoshi Umeki, who plays the Japanese housekeeper known as Mrs. Livingstone.
This version of Mrs. Livingstone is very different than the one in the original film, which was played by Roberta Sherwood. Aside from ethnic differences, Umeki’s version of the role saw a more comedic entanglement as she’d often help young Eddie come up with matchmaking schemes in an effort to find Tom Corbett a new wife. Adding to the humor, Mrs. Livingstone would refer to her employer as “Mister Eddie’s Father” instead of “Mr. Corbett.” Other characters within the series included Tom’s secretary, Tina Rickles (played by Kristina Holland), and Norman Tinker (played by James Komack), who was his partner at a magazine company they ran together. On the show, Tinker was referred to as “Uncle Norman” by the young Eddie.
The occupation of the series’ version of Tom Corbett is different from the movie’s version as in the feature film, Corbett was an advertising director for a radio station.
The theme music that would open up each episode was written and performed by Harry Nilsson. “Best Friend” would play as scenes of a happy father-son relationship between Tom and Eddie Corbett. Over the years, even after the show’s three-year run ended, the song served as an unofficial anthem toward the bonding relationship between father and son.
The series saw a great number of names who would come and go on the show throughout its three-year run. Among the ladies, from as young as little Jodie Foster, there was Brenda Benet, Yvonne Craig, Tippi Hedrin, Carol Lawrence, Eve McVeagh, Anne Meara, young Erin Moran, Diane Muldaur, Trisha Noble, Suzanne Pleshette, Ann Prentiss, Lauri Saunders, Sally Struthers, Cicily Tyson, From these ladies, it was Brenda Benet who played Tom Corbett’s girlfriend in the series. At the time, Bill Bixby and Brenda Benet were already married to each other for real.
Other notable guest stars included Willie Aames, Warren Berlinger, Bill Dana, Sammy Davis Junior., Ron Ely, John Fiedler, Ronnie Graham, Will Greer, Pat Harrington, Lou Jacobi, Bruce Kirby, Alan Oppenheimer, Richard Slattery, Bob Sones, Jerry Stiller, and George Takai.
Some of these guest stars appeared in more than just one episode. With Bob Sones, in particular, he appeared in a total of nineteen episodes as a supporting character named Billy Gerber.
In the third season, Mrs. Livingsone’s Miyoshi observed the original focus of the show about a father-son relationship had strayed from its original format, into an awkward triangle that saw too much involvement of Komack’s “Uncle Norman.” Throughout the production of the series, Miyoshi was noted for being more than simply another actor cast as a costar. She was very observant and very vocal. If something bothered her, she would speak up about it. This was a trait she was well respected for as all members of the set agree Miyoshi was a very wise woman.
Not only was Miyoshi dissatisfied with how Komack was receiving more screentime than he deserved, so were the fans. The more Komack was seen on the screen that took away the father-son chemistry between Bixby’s Tom Corbett character and Cruz’s Eddie Corbett character, the more fans the series lost.
And this argument ensued upon the actors, Bill Bixby, and James Komack. When they couldn’t agree on the show’s direction, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father was immediately canceled. The run of the series was from September 17, 1969, until March 1, 1972. Towards the end of the show’s run, there were more scenes that featured all three male characters instead of focusing more on the father-son relationship between the Corbetts.
A grand total of seventy-three episodes over a three-year span is what sums up the portfolio of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. From them, Hal Cooper directed the most with twenty-seven episodes. Additional multi-episode directors include Ralph Senensky (nine episodes), Bill Bixby (eight episodes), James Komack (seven episodes), Harry Falk (seven episodes), Gary Nelson (3 episodes), Don Weis (3 episodes), and Bob Sweeney (2 episode). Singular episode direction came from Jeffrey Hayden, Leslie H. Martinson, Alan Rafkin, Jerrold Bernstein, Randall Hood, Luther James, Sid McCoy, Terry Becker, and Herbert F. Solow.
After The End
After the cancellation of the series, The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father ran as television reruns. This spiked the show’s popularity. After three failed attempts to renew the show. In 1999, there was a discussion of Nicholas Cage to be featured as Tom Corbett, but a 2011 interview with Brandon Cruz suggested Cage lost interest due to Nicholas Cage’s own son, Weston, having grown too old to play the young Eddie Corbett.
Actors Ken Marino (as Tom Corbett) and Josh Hutcherson (as Eddie Corbett) began to film a pilot in 2003 for a renewed version of the series, but none of the networks seemed interested enough to pick it up.
The third and (so far final) attempt was made in 2014 by Willie Garson to feature the supporting character of Norman Tinker as a lead, but nothing ever came of it than mere talk.
Check out this great clip starring a very very young Jodie Foster.