Monday, January 04, 2021

MAVERICK Mondays: "A Tale of Three Cities" (1959)

 



MAVERICK Mondays: Number 30  





MAVERICK: "A Tale of Three Cities" (ABC-TV/Warner Brothers 1959) Original Air Date: October 18, 1959.  Starring Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick, Pat Crowley as Stephanie Malone, Ben Gage as Sheriff John Hardy, Ray Teal as Sheriff Murray, Ed Kemmer as Sherwood Hampton, Barbara Jo Allen as Mrs. Hannah Adams, Louis Jean Heydt as Jim Malone, Frank Richards as Sam, Leake Bevil as Pete.  Written by Leo Townsend and Robert Vincent Wright.  Directed by Leslie H. Martinson.


The first of our titular cities is Gold Flats, where Bart Maverick wins $800 in a poker game and is promptly relieved of it by businesslike but polite female bandit Stephanie.  The next morning Bart finds that Sheriff Murray will be of no help, since it was the mayor Bart bested in last night's game.  Forced on the next stage out of town by the lawman, Bart ends up in our second city, Brotherly.


After chatting up Mrs. Adams on the stage over, Bart finds a reception to match the name despite the clean nature of Brotherly.  Brotherly Bart charms Adams' Ladies Aid group with an inspiring story of his triumph over the evils of gambling.  Even better, Maverick recognizes Ms. Malone in the group by her ring and perfume, and learns the real reason she robbed him--to pay off her father's debt, incurred in a card game in neighboring Hampton, where one can find all the evils expunged from Brotherly.  You guessed it: Bart completes the trifecta by entering Mr. Hampton's (crooked) game next door.


The third season of MAVERICK brought an almost entirely new group of writers to the show, and A Tale of Three Cities was the first contribution for both Robert Vincent Wright (The Bold Fenian Men) and Leo Townsend (Maverick Springs).  This crucial first sale for 40 year old Wright was the first step away from his Seattle day job: supervisor of motion pictures in Boeing's engineering division.  Wright only provided the story in his debut but with encouragement from producer Coles Trapnell, he would go on to script The People's Friend and the hilarious Greenbacks, Unlimited solo.  Wright literally stayed with MAVERICK to the end, authoring the 1962 series finale, One of Our Trains is Missing.


Roy Huggins observed that Jack Kelly would sometimes deliver a punchline with "a little too much care", and this comes to pass during reformed gambler Bart's luncheon speech.  That said, Kelly mostly acquits himself well during both sermon and the season's heightened emphasis on the show's comedic elements, getting several witty lines from Townsend and some perfectly played physical humor during the barnyard climax--featuring some unhelpful surprises from a chicken and a rake.  



Best of all is the opportunity for Bart to make himself at home during incarceration, giving Kelly some choice interaction with Ben Gage, reprising his James Arness imitation after a very memorable performance in Gun-Shy.  John Hardy is far less hypocritical than Mort Dooley but more constrained by the book and more competent overall.  With Gage playing the role and Gun-Shy so prevalent in MAVERICK memories, it's a subversion of expectations to see Hardy bonding with Bart and proving to be a capable, if still rigid, Sheriff (though his blind spot is exploited in a big way by Hampton).



Helped by Martinson's sure hand, the writers debut with a great grasp of MAVERICK and Maverick.  Bart might be caught off guard by his thief, but his resourcefulness has rarely been on display so frequently in one segment: charming the Brotherly ladies enough to have them petitioning to his release (and making him the most comfortable prisoner in city history), picking up on Hampton's cheating before he even joins the game (a nice touch by Martinson with a simple cut of the cards), and staying several steps ahead of his adversary afterward.  (Yes, a woman can get the drop on Bart, but three men can't--nice rebound, Bart!)  Interestingly the cheat Bart sidesteps is lifted from UNHOLY PARTNERS, in which executive producer William T. Orr co-starred early in his acting career.


A Tale of Three Cities does contain one very noticeable misstep: Hampton's rather foolhardy gagging and binding of the Sheriff, who is left awake to witness the cardsharp's theft.  The villain's impatience makes little sense with little more than a week to go on Bart's sentence, and permanently, flagrantly getting on Hardy's radar makes even less.  It's the MAVERICK swan song for the always welcome Pat Crowley (The Rivals), but Ben Gage would return to parody Marshal Dillon twice more.

HOW'D BART DO AT POKER?

Maverick won $800 in Gold Flats as noted, and another $2,000 in Hampton Center.  He ended up giving Stephanie $1500 of the winnings in total (the additional $700 voluntarily) and $100 more went to the Brotherly saloon owner for property damages, leaving Bart with a still solid $1200 profit.

WISDOM FROM PAPPY?

The Ladies Aid Luncheon speech contained a trifecta of pearls: "The only way to throw dice is to throw them away"; "Son, shun the roulette wheel as if it were the Devil's turntable" and finally "Get out, and work with your hands".  Real quotes or not?  Since Pappy was always consistent in telling the boys to stick to poker and had a dim view of other casino games, they could be authentic.


THE BOTTOM LINE:

Consistently intriguing and amusing entry despite the rather glaring misstep late, A Tale of Three Cities remains highly watchable.  The situation seems less perilous than in the show's top tier installments, but everyone involved is in good, if not great form.  A solid addition to the MAVERICK queue, if not the first I'd choose for either the series or the season.  Wright and Townsend both had better scripts ahead of them, but overall A Tale of Three Cities is a pretty good start for both.  (*** out of four)



There's ample opportunity to catch MAVERICK these days: on MeTV at 9 A.M. Central every Saturday; on Encore Westerns every weekday at 3:35 P.M. Central, and on Heroes & Icons every weekday at 5 A.M. Central.  Regardless of where you watch it, it's a legend of the west and always worth catching. 


  


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Bob's Christmas Party" (1957)



LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW: "Bob's Christmas Party" (NBC-TV/Laurel-McCadden Productions 1957) Original Air Date: December 24, 1957.  Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Lyle Talbot as Paul Fonda, Ingrid Goude as Miss Sweden, King Donovan as Harvey Helm, Ralph Reed as the Elevator Boy, Nancy Kulp as Pamela Livingstone.  Written by Paul Henning, Shirl Gordon and Dick Wesson.  Directed by Bob Cummings.


Introduction to the LOVE THAT BOB/THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW episode guide here.


It's Christmas Eve and Chuck is dressed to the nines, reasoning that he's now old enough to show up at Uncle Bob's office party.  But an invite looks doubtful, considering that our playboy has yet to have his own sister there.  Yes, they'd cramp his style.  Bob wants to get Miss Sweden under the mistletoe, and Schultzy has covered the ceiling with it for her own obvious uses.



Bob Collins' social event doesn't sound too family friendly: that wolf Paul Fonda flies in from Paris(!) just to attend Le Grand Affaire Sauvage.  Yes, the Collins parties are notorious even across the pond and word of the decadence has also spread to Sweden: Ingrid declines an invite.  That forces Bob into a Plan B--outdoor location shooting in the cozy cold to soften her up before the 3:00 start.  Can Bob finally attain the unattainable?  In addition to Schultzy and Fonda he'll have a third obstacle to his goal: a randier Pamela Livingstone than usual, who seems eager to get either flyboy under the numerous plants.    



Schultzy's chasing Bob, every male is chasing Ingrid, and Pamela is chasing every male except Chuck.  Yes, that includes the erstwhile "Tiger" but now very married Harvey Helm!  We get a horny little Christmas from LOVE THAT BOB in its third yuletide outing, and the series is uniquely qualified to give this gift.




BOB: "You only knew one word of English."

INGRID: "Yes"

BOB: "Unfortunately, that wasn't the word..."

With all that buildup the titular celebration would have to be a disappointment, so there's little surprise in revealing that we never see it.  At least, as intended.  Bob's quest will have him in the darkroom with Ingrid for the duration anyway, with her "big brother Bob" keeping her "safe from the libertines".  Meaning Paul, presumably.  Harvey Helm drops by to regretfully decline in person--Ruthie's decision, not his, of course.  He manages to serve Bob's purpose by getting pointy-eared competition Fonda drinking and reminiscing, with toasts hilariously going back to World War One by the time the bottles are empty.  


Maybe the season's the reason Pamela Livingstone's lust is turned up to 11.  She's made aggressive plays for Bob before (Bob Meets Miss Sweden, Goude's first episode) but seeing Paul and Harv being vigorously pursued tells me she's after some action, coats on the bed be damned.  Not certain how the change in locale for le affaire sauvage will affect her chances, but let's just hope that Fonda and Helm aren't driving.  In Harvey's case, let's also hope he didn't go home to Ruthie in that condition.  Since we see him again in future episodes, we can assume he didn't.


Mistletoe, parties, and Santa Claus. Well, OK, he just gets a passing mention by the ever innocent Ingrid.  Thanks to some cleverly needed "location" shots while Bob is priming her for the close, we even get snow.  Miss Sweden remains the King's kryptonite, though.  She remains unkissed by our legend when Bob's Christmas Party fades to darkroom.  We get assurances that more models are on the way, but Miss Goude is the only one who shows--for work.  Don't worry that we're going to be seeing ghosts, though--everyone is out of the workplace at 3.  Except Schultzy, who chooses to stay.



Bob's Christmas Party follows back to back seasonal segments from 1955: The Christmas Spirit and Grandpa's Christmas Visit.  The latter is ubiquitous on YouTube and bargain DVD's owing to its public domain status, but all three holiday BOBs are worth watching, as is the series as a whole.   You can check out Bob's Christmas Party here.


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

Schultzy has to block Pamela from Bob and Bob from Ingrid, Paul and Bob continually thwart each other with the latter, and ultimately, the family provides the final barrier by moving the party back to the Collins household.

DID BOB SCORE?

Yes...unknowingly---with Schultzy!  If that doesn't prove that Christmas is the time of miracles, I don't know what will.  To be fair, the big bad wolf notching unattainable Ingrid would be even more incredible.


THE BOTTOM LINE:

Bob's Christmas Party might not reach the heights of television's Christmas classics, nor is it one of the series' best.  But the lack of sentimentality--softened with some show-centric seasonal magic--provides a perfect capper for LOVE THAT BOB's trifecta of holiday episodes.  Watching Cummings and Talbot one-up each other is reliably funny, and seeing Bob's WWII comrades enjoying all that champagne a little too much creates more merriment.  Not enough hilarity to reach the show's top tier, but good holiday fun, and who knew that darkroom could be such a perilous place for even the most seasoned photographer?  (*** out of four)


Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Television Review: HONDO: "Hondo and the Rebel Hat" (1967)




 "Your lives are meaningless compared to HONDO!"





HONDO: "Hondo and the Rebel Hat" (1967 ABC-TV/Batjac Productions/MGM) Season One, Episode 17.  Original Air Date: December 29, 1967.  Starring Ralph Taeger as Hondo Lane, Noah Beery Jr. as Buffalo Baker, Gary Clarke as Captain Richards, William Bryant as Colonel Crook, Jack Elam as Diablo, Eugene Iglesias as Neomo, Rafael Campos as Carlos Hernandez, Linda Dangcil as Maria Hernandez, Rudy Battaglia as Chico Hernandez.  Written by Max Hodge.  Directed by Michael D. Moore.


Introduction to the HONDO episode guide and series overview is at this link.


In his latest assignment from Colonel Crook, Hondo Lane is sent to negotiate the sale of needed horses with untrusting Chief Neomo.  With soldiers disallowed from crossing into Mexico, the trusted scout is sent to the Val Verde way station on the border, where he bides his time playing poker while awaiting Captain Richards' arrival.  After winning a big pot with trip Queens, Hondo bags the winning in his trusted Rebel hat--and promptly gets robbed by Carlos Hernandez, who needs $100 protection money.


The security is not needed from Neomo (the Apaches water their horses on Carlo's land) but from half-breed Diablo, who has threatened to burn the expectant father's house down.  Seeming much more concerned about the loss of his beloved hat than his poker take, Hondo reluctantly sets off on his official mission with an eye on his personal one.  After a marginally fruitful powwow with the Chief, Hondo finds Hernandez' home--with the man of the house away and his laboring spouse in immediate need of a midwife.


"I'm not doin' it for you, I want my hat back!"

Spending much of his prime time finale unprotected from the desert sun, Hondo Lane is arguably more put-upon than ever before.  After losing his gold and favorite headgear at gunpoint, he faces two attempted heists of his horse, has liquor mooched by Buffalo (no surprise there) and Chief Neomo, then is finally forced into a crash course in obstetrics.  Truculent and reluctant, Lane disavows altruism.  His birthing ability might be chalked up to a man rising above himself in a pressure situation, but that farfetched cure of infant shock at the climax is a bit much, just one of several times the script by Max Hodge (creator of Mr. Freeze for BATMAN) misses the mark.


Hondo and the Rebel Hat repeats the unusual structure from Hondo and the Gladiators, with nearly ten minutes of action before the opening credits roll.  That installment gave us a memorably vicious Claude Akins and an intense search for the kidnapped Sam.  This time around, the stakes are much lower--the audience simply can't have the same investment in the pursuit of a "beat up old rebel hat" compared to a frantic race against time to save Sam from a brutal pit fight.  The lengthy teaser sets that tone, and if it feels padded, it is--with somewhat awkwardly fitting footage previously seen in Hondo and the War Cry.  A fitting introduction to a segment too slight and sluggish to really score.

With Diablo and Neomo, we get two antagonists for the price of one.  The setup gives Lane the opportunity to divide and conquer by playing them against one another to his benefit.  Unfortunately more is less here: the double dose of villainy ends up with neither nearing the menace of Brock, Colonel Spinner or the Apache Kid in the preceding installments.  Jack Elam's Diablo is the more imposing of the two for a while, ruthlessly taking protection money and forcing the poor into criminal activities to get it.  But the miraculous survival of the newborn not only turns our biggest threat into a pussycat, it resolves all conflicts--hard bargainer Neomo is suddenly ready to sell his (most likely stolen) horses! 


 Hondo's ambiguity regarding his Civil War days is as evident than ever--Richards is the only one to point out that his prized loss is a Rebel hat.  It seems to be something only brought up by "blue bellied" officers, as General Rutledge and Colonel Smith had similar derision in earlier episodes.  Of course, Buffalo seizes the opportunity to troll the Captain about the hat once Hondo is out of earshot. 


Dominican character actor Rafael Campos followed up his BLACKBOARD JUNGLE breakthrough with three decades of steady TV work.  He was only 49 when he died of cancer in 1985.  Linda Dangcil had just landed her signature TV role on THE FLYING NUN.  Eugene Iglesias is still with us at 94, but this would prove to be one of his final TV roles.


While Hondo and the Rebel Hat might have been a valley creatively, this swan song produced the show's peak in the Nielsen ratings, continuing several weeks of positive momentum by posting a 16.1 rating/27.3 share on December 29, 1967.  Numbers that certainly would have produced a full season order two months later, but it was too little, too late: HONDO disappeared from screens until its June 1989 resurrection as a Saturday morning perennial on TNT.  


HOW MANY CANS OF WHOOPASS?

Lane dispatches two of Neomo's braves after they fail to steal his horse.  It's the only skirmish in this almost fight-free installment.

IS THE CANTINA STILL STANDING?

With the action moved out of Fort Lowell, the only watering hole in any danger is the one in Val Verde, which stays unscathed as Hernandez' robbery goes smoothly for the rookie criminal.



A DOG'S LIFE:

Sam closes out the show's run in fine style.  First he alerts Hondo to the presence of the would-be horse thieves.  He later locates that battered old hat/water dish after every human fails.  Even the taciturn Hondo has to admit: "no hat ever smelled out a waterhole".

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Max Hodge's script has a few nice character points, but ultimately ends an impressive streak of hurtling installments that took Hondo and Buffalo away from Fort Lowell.  Despite typically fine production values and more agitation for its hero than usual, Hondo and the Rebel Hat lacks the intensity of its four predecessors: padded, sometimes cheesy, and even plodding in the middle.  An unsatisfying wrapup to a memorable, way too brief ABC run.  (** out of four)    

HONDO airs every Saturday and Sunday morning at 10:15 A.M. Central time on getTV, the show's home since September 2015.


Friday, October 30, 2020

F TROOP Fridays: "Here Comes the Tribe" (1965)



 F TROOP Fridays: Number 27







F TROOP: "Here Comes the Tribe" (1965 ABC-TV/Warner Brothers) Season One, Episode 15.  Original Air Date: December 21, 1965.  Starring Forrest Tucker as Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke, Larry Storch as Corporal Randolph Agarn, Ken Berry as Captain Wilton Parmenter, Melody Patterson as Wrangler Jane, Frank deKova as Chief Wild Eagle, James Hampton as Bugler Dobbs, Joe Brooks as Vanderbilt, Bob Steele as Duffy.  Guest Stars: Laurie Sibbald as Silver Dove, Makee K. Blaisdell as War Cloud, J. Pat O'Malley as Medicine Man, Jeff Lerner as Brave.  Written by Ed James and Seaman Jacobs.  Directed by Charles R. Rondeau.


While picking up the latest batch of booze for the saloon, O'Rourke and Agarn witness the kidnapping of Wild Eagle's daughter Silver Dove.  The abductor: young Shug War Cloud, who asked the Chief for Silver's hand in marriage and was rebuffed.  We all know the Hekawi are lovers, not fighters.  Knowing that and needing to keep his 50/50 partner happy, the Sarge convinces Captain Parmenter that a rescue will further strengthen the troop's treaty with their "ferocious" native neighbors.

"Shug warrior not good enough to lace moccasin of Hekawi maiden!"



Inspired by his reading of The Last of the Mohicans, Parmenter attempts the rescue via infiltration using only his non-coms.  But Silver Dove has a surprise: she isn't there against her will, and initially refuses to leave the Shug camp.  Nevertheless, her father's wish wins out and she is returned home, safe and sound.  But now O'Rourke has a bigger problem: Hekawi tradition dictates that Silver Dove must marry her liberator--the Captain.


Wild Eagle's business sense is undeniably shrewd, but the Chief has an Achilles heel with his reluctance to let Hekawi customs slide when (also the case in A Gift From the Chief) the Medicine Man prods him to observe them.  Series newcomers Al Gordon and Hal Goldman contributed that middling exploration, but with Here Comes the Tribe, F TROOP co-creators Ed James and Seaman Jacobs come up with an analysis far richer in comic possibilities.


"Why you think we make paleface blood brother?  U.S. cavalry always comes to the rescue!"

In fact, Wild Eagle might be playing 4-D chess (as he would the following week in Iron Horse Go Home).  Think about it: having the Scourge of the West as son-in-law offers far greater protection than the current arrangement with O'Rourke, and might well result in a renegotiation of that 50/50 pact with O'Rourke Enterprises.  After all, who has more to lose from the Captain finding out: the non-coms or the Hekawi?  Mind you, I'm just mulling possibilities--O'Rourke is the only one to mention the business ramifications of the arranged marriage:

"If the Captain marries Silver Dove, we might as well turn honest!"

In Here Comes the Tribe we meet Wild Eagle's daughter Silver Dove, a third child after Bald Eagle and Boy Deer.  Those sons from a prior union are severed from the tribe, but Silver Dove remains Hekawi (at least, until the end of Act Two) and her mother is still Mrs. Wild Eagle.  We know Wild Eagle's opinion of suitor War Cloud (that of the Mrs. remains a mystery) but despite disliking his daughter's choice, she remains in better standing than her brothers--Wild Eagle goes outside the family for his Chief-in-waiting, opting for Crazy Cat.


As for O'Rourke, he's clearly back from his mini-slump.  After Professor Clyde and Lily O'Reilly showed us cracks in the armor on consecutive weeks, the Sarge deftly handles the crises as they come at him furiously here.  He may indeed be a little old to be playing Indian, but he does it successfully--twice.  And doesn't even have to walk on his knees the second time, thanks to that wild horse!  


James and Jacobs did let a few groaners like that line through, but they keep the gags coming so rapidly that the clinkers go virtually unnoticed.  It helps that all three principals get superb material.  Parmenter gets to do some delicate balancing of his own, first between Wrangler Jane and Silver Dove and then taking the postponement push over from Agarn when the realization hits him at the Hekawi ceremony.  Hey, we even get a few risque lines from the JJ's--what's not to like?

"I didn't know Indians kissed!  In The Last of the Mohicans, they rubbed noses."

"Well, that's why they were the Last of the Mohicans."   


Laurie Sibbald (The Girl From Philadelphia) returns for arguably the most remembered role of her too-brief acting career.  The ballerina prodigy was retired from acting barely a year later at 22, but not before also scoring credits on TARZAN, HANK and a regular role as Sammy Jackson's love interest in NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS.  Publicity for that show indicated her indifference to an acting career.  To give an idea of her potential, she was a Deb Star of 1965 alongside Raquel Welch and Barbara Parkins.  Her romantic partner here, Makee Blaisdell (Hondo and the Comancheros) gets his first post-HAWAIIAN EYE credit as War Cloud.


J. Pat O'Malley ends his two segment run filling in for Edward Everett Horton, who departed for the Broadway revival of CAROUSEL and found himself written out as Don Diamond's Crazy Cat took over as Wild Eagle's confidant.  One could say that was the final piece of the show's puzzle, but Here Comes the Tribe reveals F TROOP to already be a well-oiled machine fifteen episodes in.


THINGS YOU LEARNED:

The Hekawi translation for "rotgut" is Nashuma Hakanuma

Private Vanderbilt is incapable of distinguishing the flagpole from a horseshoe stake, or turkeys from Indians in the lookout tower, but he can successfully identify Natives inside the fort--he's the first to spot and attack O'Rourke, Agarn and Parmenter in their disguises.

Silver Dove's eclectic kitchen specialties are Dried Otter Rump, Pickled Rattlesnake, and Candied Sumac with Hawk Giblets.


HOW'S BUSINESS FOR O'ROURKE ENTERPRISES?

O'Rourke Enterprises faces a more insidious threat this time, and it is much more diversified than we realized.  The bread and butter might be a tourist trap and saloon, but the Sarge also owns a laundry, a hotel, and a real estate office on Boot Hill.  Having a town full of heavy drinkers is gold.

NUMBER OF TIMES O'ROURKE COULD HAVE BEEN TRIED FOR TREASON:

Captain Parmenter was saved from an arranged marriage by the consortion with the Shugs, so I think he'd let the Sarge slide this time.  Manual or no manual.

WISE OLD HEKAWI SAYING?  

"When field mouse see shadow, time to string beads."  Makes more sense than most even if Wild Eagle doesn't know the meaning.

"If I wise old Indian, would I have him for Medicine Man?"  This straightforward question is answered soon enough, as Here Comes the Tribe would be the character's swan song.

The big news, though, is that Captain Parmenter has a wise old cavalry saying: "There are two sides to every rock and it takes all kinds of Indians to make the west."  


PC OR NOT PC?

Agarn seems far more frightened by the "flashy quack" who 86's the wedding once and for all than the supposedly superstitious natives.  On the other hand, there's this exchange between the Sarge and the Chief:

O'ROURKE: "You can't make the Captain get married, he's not a redskin!"

WILD EAGLE: "Him pinkskin, that close enough."

THE BOTTOM LINE:

The mojo is strong with both O'Rourke and F TROOP; not many pratfalls, but superb verbal and visual humor without them.  Lots of Enterprises intrigue for the second week in a row, but a far more grounded situation this time--at least, for F TROOP.  Some of Agarn's finest moments as he valiantly tries to stall a wedding that only Wild Eagle really wants, and enough gags for everyone to get in on.  The first season kicks into high gear with an installment that, on reappraisal, is the show's finest to date.  (**** out of four)



BONUS: F TROOP 1965, RANKED:

With Here Comes the Tribe, I've now reappraised all 16 segments from 1965:

1. Here Comes the Tribe (****)

2. The 86 Proof Spring (****)

3. Don't Look Now, One of Our Cannon is Missing (***1/2)

4. The Scourge of the West (***1/2)

5. Iron Horse Go Home (***1/2)

6. Old Ironpants (***1/2)

7. The Phantom Major (***1/2)

8. Honest Injun (***1/2)

9. Me Big Heap Injun (***)

10. Dirge for the Scourge (***)

11. O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly (***)

12. The Girl From Philadelphia (***)

13.  The Return of Bald Eagle (**1/2)

14. A Gift From the Chief (**1/2)

15. Corporal Agarn's Farewell to the Troops (**)

16. She's Just a Build in a Girdled Cage (*1/2)

F TROOP currently airs on Circle TV Network 

Friday, October 16, 2020

F TROOP Fridays: "Honest Injun" (1965)






F TROOP Fridays: Number 26  







F TROOP: "Honest Injun" (1965 ABC-TV/Warner Brothers) Season One, Episode 12.  Original Air Date: November 30, 1965.  Starring Forrest Tucker as Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke, Larry Storch as Corporal Randolph Agarn, Ken Berry as Captain Wilton Parmenter, Melody Patterson as Wrangler Jane, Frank deKova as Chief Wild Eagle, James Hampton as Bugler Dobbs, Bob Steele as Private Duffy, Joe Brooks as Private Vanderbilt.  Guest Stars: John Dehner as Professor Cornelius Clyde, Lou Wills as Running Bull.  Written by Ed James and Seaman Jacobs.  Directed by Charles R. Rondeau.


The latest juicer for Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke's eponymous Enterprises?  A gold strike sparked by just $75 in nuggets by salting Calico Mountain, "12 miles north by northeast of Fort Courage".  Unfortunately for the Sarge, Professor Cornelius Clyde witnesses the plant and beats O'Rourke to the punch.  Moving the bullion to Laramie, Clyde steals the Gold Rush, sells out of land claims (and "magic elixir"), and renders the Sergeant's saloon as deserted as the rest of the Fort.  O'Rourke threatens the confidence man with the clink, only to back down once the Professor counters with the threat of exposing the Sarge's own subterfuge.




The Professor is allowed to depart hastily with his ill-gotten gains, but after looking up the land plots and determining the supposed Pazo land sold is located in Yellowstone Park, even Captain Parmenter realizes his men have been had.  The CO sends his non-coms out to locate the swindler.  Too bad Clyde's blackmail material severely limits any motivation O'Rourke and Agarn have for the Professor's capture.  Needing to lay low for a few days, the troopers head for the Hekawi camp--and promptly learn that Professor Clyde has beaten them there, too.



Sergeant O'Rourke collides with TV's reigning guest conman and unsurprisingly finds his most formidable challenger to date.  MAVERICK veteran John Dehner (Shady Deal at Sunny Acres, Greenbacks Unlimited) is in fine form as the oily Professor Clyde, slyly guaranteeing "14 Karat solid gold" (i.e., 58% pure!) on each and every parcel of land.  And oh so generously throwing in three bottles of Running Bull's Magic Elixir, which keeps Clyde's native sidekick ("the last of the Pazo Indians") looking remarkably youthful for his claimed 122 years of age.




Just how daunting is Clyde?  He's the rare adversary to make O'Rourke lose his cool, once the Sarge finds that the Professor has elbowed his way into a deal with Wild Eagle that threatens the Enterprises' key partnership.   Agarn has even more trouble with the pesky Running Bull, and for once it really does look like the end of the line for the 50/50 partnership.




Key to it all is Dehner, keeping the troopers enthralled with that resonant voice as he relieves them all of their solvency.  It is a bit jarring to see him without his mustache, and if you're wondering why, well, the Professor's final ruse likely explains the need to be clean shaven.  Forsaking his signature facial hair for one half-hour role would be typical John Dehner--full commitment to the part was always a given.




With James, Jacobs and Rondeau as the creative team F TROOP gets his mojo back after two lackluster outings with Honest Injun.  It isn't quite perfect--Chief Wild Eagle seems far more gullible than one would think possible--but to be fair, we all want to live to be 143 years old, right?  Jane's coincidentally timed spying on the Hekawi camp is another eye opener: suffice to say it's a good thing she isn't there to overhear other powwows.



O'Rourke eventually seizes a small window of opportunity with that uncanny ability to think on his feet, restoring both his whiskey supply and his customers.  A commendable correction after Clyde has seemingly had the upper hand throughout, but does it last?  It's a shame we never got a return match.  Short of Phil Silvers himself making an appearance, you just couldn't get a better opposing force for one Sergeant Morgan Sylvester O'Rourke.  




THINGS YOU LEARNED:

This segment had to have taken place after 1872, the year Yellowstone Park officially opened.

An educated guess on this one: wise old Wild Eagle is 40 years old, based on his new life expectancy on the 103 years Running Bull allowed himself with that "magic elixir".  (SIDE NOTE: I'd rather hear from 147 year old Flaming Arrow myself.)

In addition to being competent on the drum (O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly) and flute (That's Show Biz), Dobbs shows decent aptitude on bagpipes and tries out the violin as well.  Hell, as a multi-instrumentalist he puts even Richie Cunningham to shame!  Too bad that bugle is outside his limitations.

HOW'S BUSINESS AT O'ROURKE ENTERPRISES?

Pretty bad throughout, with the durashun of that gold strike taking up most of Honest Injun.  Then, just when the status quo becomes king again, a new discovery near Cheyenne by the titular Chief Thunderbird empties the saloon--and town--a second time.




WHERE THE HELL IS FORT COURAGE ANYWAY?

Nagging question that deserves its own comment.  The location gets a little fuzzier in Honest Injun.  I assume that Calico Mountain is no relation to the Calicos in California, but the gold strikes in Laramie and Cheyenne and plots sold in Yellowstone Park clearly suggest Wyoming.  It's a Hell of a lot further away from Dodge City than other segments suggest, at least this week.

NUMBER OF TIMES O'ROURKE COULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH TREASON?

There's other charges he could have faced, starting with fraud, but the Sergeant is safe from any suspicion of aiding and abetting the enemy thanks to Wild Eagle's reluctance to reveal their deal to Clyde.

PC, OR NOT PC?

Uh, what's this episode's title?

THE BOTTOM LINE:

After a mini-slump with two consecutive installments by first-time writers that were way too conventional, F TROOP gets its edge back with this riotous, double-cross packed entry from series creators James and Jacobs.  Watching Forrest Tucker and John Dehner go at it makes for one highly entertaining half-hour and the one-upmanship doesn't end until the fade-out.  (***1/2 out of four)






Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Bob Meets Fonda's Sister" (1955)




LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW: "Bob Meets Fonda's Sister" (1955 CBS-TV/Laurel-McCadden Productions) Original Air Date: October 6, 1955.  Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Charmaine "Schultzy" Schultz, Lyle Talbot as Paul Fonda, Diane Jergens as Francine Williams, Lola Albright as Kay Michaels.  Written by Paul Henning and Bill Manhoff.  Directed by Rod Amateau.


Introduction to the LOVE THAT BOB/THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW episode guide at this link.


Margaret is fit to be tied after Brother Bob blocks her daytime beach date with Paul Fonda, the latest interference in his sister's love life under the guise of protecting her from the "wolf".  Fonda wonders what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot and enlists beautiful starlet Kay Michaels to pose as his sibling.


And so an "accidental" meeting is set up outside Bob's studio in which Kay sprains her ankle, allowing the Wolf of wall snapshots to play doctor inside.  And, he hopes, doing it that night as well.  Little does our Air Reserve Colonel know that he's walking right into Fonda's trap--which will be sprung inside the Collins household!


Lyle Talbot's sixth appearance as Paul Fonda sees Bob's old WWII comrade finding a way to fight back against those "Wolf" accusations.  After insisting (to no avail) that he's changed (in future episodes, we learn that's debatable), he cooks up a hilarious scheme to give Bob a taste of his own overprotective medicine.  In the process, Bob Meets Fonda's Sister introduces Kay Michaels for a four-segment arc as the newest object of the Playboy shutterbug's desire.  



Michaels turns out to be more than just that, though--the aspiring movie starlet becomes the strongest contender to date to get Collins to the altar.  One can see that extra "oomph" in Bob's efforts to woo her, and all that experience in the cockpit pays off--he stays silk smooth all the way up to Fonda's shotgun search.  For her part, Kay Michaels plays her part in the plot perfectly.  Is it any wonder she ends up breaking into pictures?  Method or not, the instant mutual interest is palpable: there's no condescension when she plays hard to get.


For his part, Bob lives up to his reputation, making nary a wrong move pre-date at home or the office.  Kay continually moves up the intervention time once she gets a whiff of Bob's cologne.  Speaking of, Moustache (yes, it was around way back in 1955!) gets one Hell of a plug here, with Ms. Michaels' full approval followed by Margaret's, and finally Francine's--Uncle Bob's fragrance choice even helps young Chuck onto a smooth movie date.  


Ultimately, LOVE THAT BOB is its subversive self once again in the end.  Bob's comeuppance?  That date with Kay, starting circa 10:00 P.M., with no interference at all from any of the usual suspects.  If Fonda was trying to teach Bob a lesson, fixing him up with a gorgeous aspiring actress/model might not be the most punishing lesson, you'd think.  Oh, and if it was 4-D chess to get our loverboy married off, that didn't work either.  Too bad, Paul.



WHO WAS BLOCKING?

Bob--blocking Margaret, again.  Worry not, she would soon be paying her brother back in episodes to come.  Bob had little resistance in wooing Ms. Michaels--at least, in this installment.  Schultzy is surprisingly subdued in the office, letting the entire Collins sales pitch proceed and only calling him to work when Kay is gone.  Pining for the Boss but not aggressively---yet.



DID BOB SCORE?

With Kay?  Eventually, I'm sure.  Hell, she almost got a proposal eventually.  He was well on his way around the basepaths throughout Bob Meets Fonda's Sister, with unimpeded progress before and after being the butt of Paul's joke.


THE BOTTOM LINE:

Lola Albright's popularity on the series kept her recurring for the next two seasons; Kay Michaels was her signature TV role before PETER GUNN came along.  Her chemistry with Cummings stayed strong through seven appearances in all, through Bob Calls Kay's Bluff.  As always, Talbot is a fine foil, and the clever Henning-Manhoff script is one controlled, consistent burn throughout.  Unfortunately, the denouement fizzles slightly, with the theatrics muting the payoff and Bob (as usual) not really getting that much of a comeuppance.  Still, Bob Meets Fonda's Sister provides more than enough hilarity to overcome a wobbly conclusion.  (*** out of four)


Bob Meets Fonda's Sister is available through Shokus Video on LOVE THAT BOB Volume IX.