Thursday, April 02, 2020

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "The Models Revolt" (1957)





THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW a.k.a. LOVE THAT BOB: "The Models Revolt" (1957 Laurel-McCadden Productions/CBS-TV) Original Air Date: January 24, 1957.  Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Charmaine "Schultzy" Schultz, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Joi Lansing as Shirley Swanson, Lisa Gaye as Collette DuBois, Lita Milan as Marie De Paulo, Margie Tenney as the Blonde Model.  Written by Paul Henning, Shirl Gordon, Dick Wesson and Phil Shuken.  Directed by Bob Cummings.


Overview to the BOB CUMMINGS SHOW/LOVE THAT BOB episode guide is at this link.


The Horn Section gives special thanks to Jackson Upperco of That's EntertainmentSubscribe for lots of great classic TV reviews several times a week!


Fat chance Chuck has of convincing his Uncle Bob to go on a fishing trip next weekend.  The Biltmore in Palm Springs is hosting a fashion show with twenty-five of Hollywood's most beautiful ladies on the runway in "everything from evening gowns to bikinis".  Naturally the go-to girls for Bob Collins shoots will be there, but Bob has promised his down time to his special lady.  Well, make that ladies: Shirley, Marie and Collette all received the same promise the prior evening, and Bob kept making the rounds well after that trifecta of speed dating.


"Last night's web: The Wildflower, The Ambassador and The Thief."

Unfortunately, in doing so the lascivious lensman overplayed his hand, ending up with a studio full of piqued posers who finally rebel against his playboy ways and organize the D.D.T.: Don't Date the Two-Timer.  Staying footloose and fancy free in Palm Springs is now the least of Collins' worries.  Needing the homegrown harem restored, Bob zooms in on the firewall's weakest link before setting sail for the Sonora.


"Well, I have yet to catch anything in the desert with a hook and line."
"Not with a hook, maybe, but your line..."

The Models Revolt was Cummings' second outing behind the camera after the reigns from Norman Tokar midway through the third season.  The star would become a top-notch (and IMO Emmy worthy) director by season's end, but The Models Revolt shows there was a learning curve before Bob blossomed in the chair.  He's a little self-indulgent in the opener, as Collins tries to get the family to persuade him to take the time off in the "dry climate" his cold requires.


Director Cummings allows star Cummings to display his "symptoms" often enough to stretch this scene out to nearly nine minutes.  He would quickly become more ruthless in the editing room, but the stretch marks show here, stalling the show's usual momentum for the first third.  At least this is lampshaded by having Chuck and Margaret speak out loud of Uncle Bob's hamminess.  Despite some great lines, one key question goes unasked: if Collins has a cold, why was he out literally all night?


Once the plot finally starts thickening, we start the racing to the finish line, and Cummings is already a pro with the camera placement.  The director provides some expert sight gags during The King's make-out sessions, for which rigid timing is ironically required.   Every wink and leer is milked for full effect as the silver-tongued shutterbug weaves his tangled web in multiple locations.  Of course, Bobby Boy saves venerable Mulholland Drive for the midnight moonlight.


Change was also afoot in the writing staff, as actor Dick Wesson (Bob Batches It) joined the team of Shuken, Henning and Gordon for what would prove to be a highly successful second career.  Wesson would not only prove to be a permanent addition to the CUMMINGS team (co-writing over 50 of the show's remaining scripts) but to the Henning team as well, with 61 BEVERLY HILLBILLIES installments to his credit.  The scribes must have had some fun with the infusion.  Listen closely for one of those patented Henning in-jokes about Rosemary deCamp's DEATH VALLEY DAYS side hustle near the 6:15 mark.  Quick reference point for the young'uns follows:



Lita Milan (The Dominant Sex) takes over the role of Marie de Paulo from Donna Martell.   Third different model was the charm for Milan after playing two different models previously; she returned to this role in Bob Saves Dr. Chuck.

Bob with Margie Tenney

The unnamed blonde model who was apparently Bob's fourth date the previous night is an uncredited Margie Tenney, who has no lines, but nevertheless gets about ten attention grabbing seconds.  Joan Garris and Carole Conn also appeared with Tenney, Lansing and Gaye in newspaper publicity photos, but not in the episode itself.  Apparently that scene in the studio got some last-minute rewrites.


Of course, Lisa Gaye and Joi Lansing were the MVM's of the show throughout its run, probably providing the 1950's equivalent of the "Ginger or Mary Ann" question.  Predictably, neither disappoints.  This was the first time either was directed by the show's star; years later Gaye stated Cummings was the best director she ever worked with.


Cummings and Wesson would both settle into their new roles quickly, but The Models Revolt is a tad more ragged than most LOVE THAT BOB segments that followed.  It still has a lot of laughs, with Bob's harangue in the living room about the D.D.T. arguably even funnier than the flowery flattery that preceded it.

Schultzy's not happy, but gives no difficulty.

WHO WAS BLOCKING?

Only the models themselves once they realized the deception.  Hence, the title.


DID BOB SCORE?

The time limitations make it unlikely he got very far on the basepaths, but we have visual evidence of him getting to first base three times before midnight, with another plate appearance at 2 A.M.  The OBP is outstanding, but the OPS probably suffers from Bob's lack of focus this time.  He also jeopardizes his chances for the immediate future.  Sometimes less is more Bob!


IMDB CORRECTIONS SUBMITTED:

Directed by Cummings alone, the second of his 92 episodes behind the camera.  And Phil Shuken, not Bill Manhoff, co-wrote with Henning, Wesson and Gordon.  Neither Rod Amateau nor Manhoff had any involvement with LOVE THAT BOB after the second season, with the former moving to THE BURNS AND ALLEN SHOW.


THE BOTTOM LINE:

Lots of laughs provided, but not as brisk as the top tier tangles.  Perhaps The Models Revolt suffers a bit from too many behind-the-scenes changes at once.  Still highly amusing once the adrenaline kicks in at the one-thirds mark.  A weak three star or a strong two and a half.  I went back and forth on it, but eventually decided... (*** out of four)

If you'd like to check out The Models Revolt for yourself:



Friday, March 20, 2020

Favourite Episode Blogathon: THE HIGH CHAPARRAL: "It Takes a Smart Man" (1970)






THE HIGH CHAPARRAL: "It Takes a Smart Man" (NBC-TV/Xanadu Productions 1970)  Original Air Date: October 23, 1970.  Starring Leif Erickson as John Cannon, Cameron Mitchell as Buck Cannon, Henry Darrow as Manolito Montoya, Linda Cristal as Victoria Cannon, Don Collier as Sam, Roberto Contreras as Pedro, Richard Bradford as Tulsa Red, Garry Walberg as the Bartender, Carle Benson as the Banker, Wes Bishop as Carter.  Written by Jack Sowards.  Directed by Leon Benson.


This is The Horn Section's contribution to the Favourite Episode Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts.  I've participated in this terrific annual event four times previously (from 2015 to 2018) and I'm glad to be back for this year's edition, the sixthCheck out the rest of the posts from all of this year's participants, and subscribe: you'll always find some great classic television reading at A Shroud of Thoughts.

Marie Gomez is documented as one of my biggest celebrity crushes, and the fourth season of THE HIGH CHAPARRAL is often cited as the weakest by fans, so it might be surprising to discover that my Favourite Episode of this durable series doesn't feature the impish Perlita Flores and comes from that truncated (18 segments) 1970-71 season.


Billy Blue Cannon disappointingly vanished without an explanation and there are embarrassing duds like The Badge, but the final season also boasts some memorably strong dramatic installments.  Cameron Mitchell's always colorful Buck Cannon takes center stage for three of those, and It Takes a Smart Man is not only my favorite of the final batch, but of the show's entire run.

"They're all around us.  We're trapped!"
"No, I've got 'em right in the palm of my hands."

Taking a shortcut back to the home, Manolito is rebuffed when he attempts to aid a white man chased into the hills by Apaches.  Despite the chilly reception from the stranger, Mano fires from behind his boulder until he is out of bullets.  At that time Mano discovers the gunfire has ceased, and that the white man has vanished with it--having killed every single Apache who had been firing at him.


"That's one of your problems, Tulsa.  You judge every man by yourself."

Later, Mano sees the same man ride up to the Chaparral, arrogantly demanding to see John Cannon.  We learn he is Tulsa Red: killer of eighteen men before his 23rd birthday who escaped the hangman's noose in a Kansas City murder trial (with John's testimony as the key factor).  Tulsa is short on cash and his talent with a gun has made making a living difficult since.  Noting that he's come a long, hard way (and "wouldn't be here" if not for John), Tulsa demands $5000, an order the Cannon patriarch flatly rejects.  Cocksure that John will pay, Tulsa Red states he'll wait in Tucson for Mr. Cannon to come around.


"Well, sooner or later, I'll have to go to Tucson.  Tulsa Red or no Tulsa Red."

Before he exits, Tulsa goads the unsuspecting Buck into conflict, and only the intervention of John and the ranch hands stops a gunfight.  Knowing he will be unable to keep the antagonists apart forever, John reluctantly and quietly gives Red the $5,000 under the pretense of a "loan" to save his brother's life against a much faster draw.  But that extortion can't be kept a secret from Buck for very long, and the younger Cannon seethes as having battles fought for him, no matter how imposing the opponent may be.


"Who's gonna say it wasn't a fair fight?  There's only you and me, and you'll be dead."

Spokes and Fiesta were almost solo flights for Buck, displaying the depth of that compassionate heart beating beneath the gruff exterior and essential decency that guides the younger Cannon.  In the former, Buck stands up to a tyrannical William Conrad (one year away from CANNON) on behalf of a friendless old trapper being wronged by cowardly townspeople under Conrad's thumb; in the latter, Buck protects an 11 year old boy who has been abused to the point of unresponsiveness.

Featuring the rest of the Chaparral clan far more equitably than those segments but staying focused on Buck, It Takes a Smart Man takes that sense of fairness and points it directly at his temple.


"John, I can't help it if I'm good with a gun.  That's a gift. That's like some people who can sing songs, some people can draw pictures."
"And you're just a natural born killer."

Buck Cannon is not such a man, and while his own prowess with a gun is considerable, he can't possibly win a draw against the fastest gun in the West.  Tulsa pushes Buck's buttons, but it's all business, nothing personal (at least initially).  Tulsa's hit upon the idea of getting paid not to use his peerless skill and uses Buck to get to John, putting the former's honor at stake.  Buck seems to be in a no-win situation: he can't possibly go high against Tulsa Red.  So justs how low will injustice-hating Buck be able to go?


"If you was to admit that you had made a mistake, I just might forget the whole thing."
"I don't make mistakes!"

That legendary speed with a gun isn't the only reason for Tulsa Red's arrogance--Tulsa takes great pride in his ability to read people, and to "stay within the rules" so that each fight is technically fair, even if the skill level is always lopsided.  Knowing John Cannon's integrity from the testimony has him correctly surmising John will back down and pay the money to protect his brother.  He also correctly assumes that Buck is as noble as his older brother. 


"I never figured you for a coward."
"Well, you live and you learn."

Extortion as a legitimate business can only work against someone rich enough to pay him, and Tulsa heads for the Chaparral to begin his new "labors".  But while he's pegged John Cannon perfectly enough to pull off his bluff, Red both under- and over-estimates Buck.  Both miscalculations contribute to his undoing.

"You're so willing to kill, you must be willing to die.  It's just the other side of the coin."

As noted, Tulsa Red has found a foolproof (he thinks) way to make money--his reputation does his work for him, and as long as he stays outside the parameters of murder, he'll avoid another close call like the one in K.C.  Tulsa Red's plan does not involve possibly dying for the cause.  Buck figures this out, and also knows that a successful blackmailer will go back to the well again.  Tulsa must be dealt with.


Buck Cannon inspires loyalty--Mano, Sam, Pedro and John all want to help him, but can't.  As Mano learns in the opening scene, Tulsa Red has no amigos by choice.  Making an arrangement with the one friend who can help him (Mike the bartender) gives Buck his out for a true one-on-one showdown.  To Tulsa's surprise, the feared gunslinger finds himself in a battle that isn't fair.  And yet, legally, it is.  Freewheeling Buck Cannon is as adept at bending the rules as Tulsa is.


Buck Cannon has been irresponsible and often downright gullible (Stinky Flanagan) in prior years.  And for once, his tried and true aim can't help him.  But he has pretty fair acting ability of his own (calling Tulsa's bluff in the tensest moment) and reads the gunslinger well enough to find that crack in the armor and exploit it, beating a seemingly invincible opponent with his wits.  At the end of It Takes a Smart Man, we see that the younger Cannon isn't all that proud of what he's done, but ever the realist, he knows it was necessary.  And emotionally draining--not because of the fearsome opponent he just faced down, but due to the stress of going against his nature to do it.  Deep down, cheating bothers Buck more than death.  Arguably Mitchell's best delivery of the entire show is his final admission to brother John.


"You know what, John?  I don't fight fair."

Does the audience lose any respect for Buck?  Quite the opposite.  It indeed takes a smart man to outwit this adversary, and to do it without loss of life is one Hell of a plan from one Hell of a man.

Writer Sowards and director Benson were vets of CHAPARRAL and producer David Dortort's biggest hit, BONANZA.  They collaborated on A Piece of Land and Friends and Partners previously, two explorations of the friendship between Buck and Mano and the strengths and weaknesses of their similar lifestyle choices.  Here, Buck gets center stage, and Mitchell successfully navigates this far less humorous terrain.


The controlled anger from Cameron Mitchell is matched by the equally impressive performance from Richard Bradford (THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN) as Tulsa.  Bradford conveys the arrogance of an undefeated champion and the desperation of a broke drifter--both forced (early on when he's convincing John Cannon to fold) and real (when the realization hits Red that Buck won't throw in his cards so easily).  And yes, that's Lieutenant Monahan himself (Garry Walberg) behind the bar in Tucson.  There are many rewarding installments throughout the show's run, and It Takes a Smart Man shows that even after nearly one hundred segments, Buck Cannon and THE HIGH CHAPARRAL are both still capable of finding new wrinkles.

THE HIGH CHAPARRAL airs weekdays at 9 A.M. on Heroes and Icons. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Bob Batches It" (1956)



THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW aka LOVE THAT BOB: "Bob Batches It" (Laurel-McCadden Productions/CBS-TV 1956) Original Air Date: October 18, 1956. Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Dick Wesson as Frank Crenshaw, Donna Martell as Marie, Joi Lansing as Shirley Swanson, Kathleen Freeman as Bertha Krause.  Written by Paul Henning, Phil Shuken and Shirl Gordon.  Directed by Norman Tokar.

Overview of THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW a.k.a. LOVE THAT BOB at this link.


The Horn Section sends special thanks to Jackson Upperco at That's Entertainment.  Subscribe to That's Entertainment (I do) for lots of great classic TV reviews!

"What would you like on your toast--cottage cheese and pickles, or peanut butter and sardines?"

As you might guess by the title, Margaret MacDonald is away for the week, leaving brother Bob and son Chuck to their own devices.  Chuck is resigned to seven days of creative toast toppings and dirty dishes piling up, but Bob has other plans.  Namely, living like Kings with Bob's marriage minded models Shirley and Marie competing for that proposal.  The lovely ladies aren't counting on competition from Schultzy, and Charmaine isn't expecting the return of boyfriend Frank Crenshaw from six months at sea while throwing her Hail Mary to land The Boss.


"Uncle Bob, I just hope that whatever you've got can be inherited by a nephew."

Manipulating two of his most beautiful models into cooking and cleaning, pretending to be married(!) to steer sailor Crenshaw away from one, and, with sister Margaret away, showing the benefits of hedonism to impressionable young Chuck.  No way around it: playboy Collins is in full fledged stinker mode in Bob Batches It.  And yet Bob botches it.



"A 98 year old housekeeper driving a $10,000 Ferrari??"
"That's why she's still working, to keep up with the payments!"

As noted on the series overview, that nice, big home and successful vocation makes Bob a Hell of a catch even to the most beautiful models.   Marie seems to have a slight edge in the household with her willingness to do housework outside the kitchen, but her culinary skills are limited to Mama's spaghetti and meatballs.  So breakfast will give Shirley the shot at an early lead, if she can keep that jealous streak under control.  The platinum blonde is more than ready to serve up pancakes (not the only set of cakes she's using to entice our shutterbug).


Always perceiving her SMV limitations, Schultzy seeks to display kitchen expertise to put the others to shame.  Bertha points out that sailor Crenshaw is a very solid choice, but Charmaine shoots for the moon--Bob--with Bertha's full understanding.  You can't blame her--Frankie boy has his own high hope: Shirley!  Bob may not be keen to marry the voluptuous model, but at least he's willing to pretend to if it will keep competition away. 


With Emmy nominee Rod Amateau having departed to take over Producer duties for McCadden's BURNS AND ALLEN, Norman Tokar (LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) successfully held down the fort in season three (through Eleven Angry Women) until Cummings took over in mid-season.  He's much better known for slower paced, more family friendly fare, but Tokar proves himself proficient at handling this risqué door slamming farce handed to him by the team of Henning, Shuken and Gordon.



"Schultzy!  You're going to pass up a sure thing on a million to one shot?"

Schultzy wants Bob, Frank wants Shirley, and all involved are aiming high---Shirley and Marie also want the unattainable.  Chuck, meanwhile, simply wants to eat--which shouldn't be difficult.  The nephew is once again in awe of his role model.  Smooth Bob brings lovely, eager models to the Collins kitchen, but ultimately fails to provide that most basic of necessities.  Quite a comedown: it makes Uncle Bob's fallibility in The Fallen Idol pale in comparison. 
   

If there is a drawback to Bob Batches It, it's the pain of watching all that good food go to waste in the name of jealousy.  Margaret may not have many dirty dishes to deal with when she returns, but it appears she will have a clogged garbage disposal at some point in the near future.  There is a false moment or two--I mean, come on, Schultzy had to already know Shirley made the batter if she didn't do it herself, right?--but so many great laughs that one can't complain.  I couldn't help but wonder what Shirley's most frequent rival Collette DuBois would have come up with.  Crepes Suzette, anyone?


Character actor Dick Wesson popped up in all five seasons as Crenshaw, who wanted those models every bit as badly as Chuck (understandable after months away at sea!) but always found himself roped into a date with Schultzy, and Bob Batches It is no exception.  But hey, how often does Schultzy score while Bob strikes out?  Wesson soon joined the crack writing staff of LOVE THAT BOB, helping pen dozens of installments from 1957-59.  It was the start of a highly successful second career and a long association with Henning: Wesson ended up writing for 61 segments of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. 


In what is almost a regular LOVE THAT BOB feature at this point, ImdB.com needs a correction.  This time Marla English (The Dominant Sex) is erroneously listed as playing Marie.  Nope, it is actually Donna Martell returning to the series after The Silver-Tongued Orator.  She may not yet be that aforementioned housekeeper's age, but Ms. Martell is thankfully still with us at 92.    She's also your key to finding this now-rare segment in a YouTube search...hint, hint. 


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

A round robin of cold water being thrown as Shirley, Marie and Schultzy all take turns exasperating each other.  Poor Chuck is denied a simple breakfast, which is possibly even more frustrating.


Don't be fooled, he still doesn't get any!

DID BOB SCORE?

Overplayed your hand this time, Bobby boy.  Should have taken a cue from BOEING BOEING and had 'em come over in shifts!



THE BOTTOM LINE:

Tokar (later to direct 93 segments of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) seems to relish the opportunity to work with the racy, hyper material that Henning, Shuken and Gordon were really adept at delivering by this third season.  This installment is one of the best of Tokar's half-season at the helm, with an extended teaser building nicely to a satisfying payoff.   Enjoy that leisurely paced opening since there's barely a moment to catch your breath after it.  (***1/2 out of four)


Yeah, I left a strong hint within the review, but WTH.  For your viewing pleasure, Bob Batches It:


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Leon Errol Series: BEWARE OF REDHEADS (1945)



BEWARE OF REDHEADS (1945 RKO Radio Pictures) Original Release Date: September 14, 1945.  Starring Leon Errol as Leon Errol, Dorothy Granger as Mrs. Errol, Myrna Dell as Gloria Richards, Marc Cramer as Mr. Richards, Arthur Loft as Dr. Thompson, Cyril Ring as Ed Brooks, Tanis Chandler as the Secretary, Tommy Noonan as the Assistant.  Written and Directed by Hal Yates.

Introduction to our Leon Errol Salute Series is at this link.

Leon Errol managed to make it to his office the morning after a particularly wild party at The Pelican Club, but isn't taking any visitors.  Too bad: titular fire bunny Gloria shows up, requesting the return of a compact she accidentally dropped in his pocket while they were dancing.  If you're guessing that Mrs. Errol is unaware of last night's activities, you're right--and you can probably deduce that she will find the compact and storm into the office while Ms. Richards is still there.  Leon is able to convince the Missus it was intended as a surprise gift for her, but his worries are far from over.  Gloria also has a spouse, and he's even more upset.  Mr. Richards files for divorce--naming Leon as a co-respondent.



He may have a cold pack on his head and the need to replace a few appointments with naps, but Leon sucks it up and makes it to the workplace under trying circumstances in this classic Hal Yates barn burner.  Ms. Richards shows she means business from the get-go, even ripping Chandler's skirt to get into Leon's office!  It must have been some party for both of them, if she was sufficiently distracted to leave a $200 makeup mirror with her venerable suitor.  Gloria certainly can't be all that innocent if she's dancing with Leon at his favorite watering hole--perhaps she's looking to upgrade financially?  If her age-appropriate husband can afford a compact worth $2,822 in today's dollars(!) she isn't doing too badly for herself already.  A bald, short man in his sixties able to pry Myrna Dell from her hubby--need any further proof that Leon Errol is a role model?


Our durable carouser is also commendably careful, able to charm his brother-in-law the physician into helping.  Hard to swallow?  Maybe, but then again Leon could have a little blackmail material ("he's my pal!").  Errol also deftly avoids having Gloria's name on one of his checks and makes assistant Brooks accompany her to the store to The hangover doesn't keep him from thinking on his feet when the Missus arrives, but the addled state of his brain finally shows itself when she leaves and takes the adrenaline rush with her.  A bit of advice: don't put your whiskey next to the ink bottle in your secret desk drawer.


Yates keeps the complications coming swiftly: numerous ill-timed arrivals on and off screen are par for the course, and a most unfortunate sprained ankle at the Errol household is the one thing our boozy buddy just can't see coming.  Still, Leon does a terrific job deflecting exposure under the circumstances, and just might avoid getting that vase broken over his head this time. 


Myrna Dell (Oh, Professor Behave!) was just beginning to receive consistent screen credit; this was the second of her seven Errol shorts.  Despite her titular role here, she was usually a beautiful blonde.  She gets laughs with her subtly assertive nature, which immediately changes once Mr. Richards shows his anger and threat of a divorce seems real.  It doesn't happen by the fadeout, but I still came away thinking the Richards have more marital problems than the Errols.  Dorothy is considerably more understanding than usual, maybe even gullible for the first reel.  Don't worry, that doesn't last.


Soon to join a pre-HOLLYWOOD SQUARES Peter Marshall in an underrated comedy team of the 1950's, Tommy Noonan makes his series debut as Dr. Thompson's unfortunate assistant.  This would be the first credited role for Tanis Chandler, and also the only short subject possibly best known for THE TRAP.  Marc Cramer would also play Dell's angry (to be fair, with good reason) husband in Double Honeymoon.


Drinking, carousing, burning the candle and both ends, and practicing the  "deny, deny, deny" technique decades before GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN, Leon Errol never changed on screen no matter how many decades passed.  Thank God.  He and Hal Yates both realized audiences never wanted him to, and as a result we have dozens of laugh riots just like Beware of Redheads just waiting to be rediscovered.  (***1/2 out of four)




Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Bob Becomes a Genius" (1955)




LOVE THAT BOB (a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW) "Bob Becomes a Genius" (1955 NBC-TV; Laurel-McCadden Productions) Original Air Date: January 30, 1955. Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Rosemary de Camp as Margaret MacDonald, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Will Wright as Burt "Pappy" Mason, Gale Robbins as Philippa Farnsworth, Frances Pasco as Thelma, Jerry Hausner as the Agent, Paul Frees as the Movie Hoodlum.  Directed by Rod Amateau.  Written by Paul Henning and Bill Manhoff.


Overview of LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW is at this link


Bob's mentor Mason approaches him with an offer he can't refuse: photographing his studio's most important signee, beautiful Philippa Farnsworth.  She finds Mason's work lacking, so our shutterbug is puzzled by the request, since "Pappy" taught Bob.  Mason confesses that Bob's way with women is the real reason for the proposal.  Since Farnsworth is Bob's favorite screen siren, this one is right up his alley, correct?


Believe it or not, incorrect!  Once Bob meets Philippa, he finds her to be overbearing, insulting, and abusive to all of her subordinates.  Collins promptly refuses the gig--which makes Bob the perfect man for the job in Farnsworth's eyes.  The temperamental diva goes off in hot pursuit, with 14 phone calls and cojoling of those closest to Bob (after a personal wooing doesn't work!).  Is Bob just playing hard to get to perfection, or is he really serious about telling one of the world's most delectable stars (physically, anyway) to take a hike?


This early segment--only the fifth BOB CUMMINGS SHOW to air--finds that "way with women" already established.  Bob's skill with the ladies is Mason's entire rationale, and the playboy lives up to his billing by providing the only palpable opposing force Farnsworth faces.  Naturally, the diva finds the challenge irresistible.  Less than a month into its run, the lead character is mostly realized, but writers Henning and Manhoff (whose LOVE THAT BOB credits were sparse after the first season) are still working on the universe around him.


Bob's business isn't yet overrun by glamour girls: the only client we see in Bob Becomes a Genius is plane Jane Thelma, who seeks the Collins touch for her Lonely Hearts Club photos.   Schultzy therefore has nothing to block, and even assists Philippa in her efforts to get a foot in the door!   High school Sophomore Chuck wants to get near his Uncle's work, but isn't yet bold enough to crash the studio. Amazingly, Bob seems to have the only working bullshit detector in his home or office:  Collins is all alone in seeing through Philippa's histrionics and he also recognizes another actor piling it on while pretending to be a hoodlum.  While it stands to reason Bob would be at the movies a lot, he always seemed like he'd be too um, busy to notice the film onscreen.



That's right, I did say he wasn't fully realized: Bob is letting the big head do all the thinking here, so to speak.  The veteran BOB viewer would think Collins is playing hard to get in an effort to score--but no, he really isn't interested in the job or any fringe benefits!  While this is due to Farnsworth's toxic personality, that character flaw doesn't stop our Playboy in the years to come: witness Eleven Angry Women, or more relevantly, his encounter with another temperamental actress in The Dominant Sex barely a year later to see the subversive sitcom LOVE THAT BOB would develop into.  In comparison to those efforts, Bob Becomes a Genius is remarkably conventional.




For example, Robbins is over the top, but there's miniscule--if any-- nuance for her to play.  While Miss Farnsworth is able to snow Schultzy, Margaret and (more predictably) Chuck, the mask comes off swiftly and violently with each rejection from Bob.  An overgrown Veruca Salt on the surface, Farnsworth does have fleeting lines indicating her insecurity at being a woman advancing in age (Miss Wyoming of 1937 before she catches herself, which would put her in her mid-30's) in an industry with clear double standards for the sexes.


That said, you have to dig really deep to find any sympathy for Phillipa after witnessing her condescending and cruel treatment of anyone she finds beneath her.  Which--buttering up of Chuck ("the next Monty Clift"!), Schultzy and Margaret notwithstanding--is pretty much everyone.  Miss Farnsworth is given only two dimensions, but the writing of female CUMMINGS characters would improve dramatically just a week later: Shirl Gordon made her series debut with A Date for Margaret, the first of nearly 100 installments she would co-write over the next three and a half years.  Adding Gordon's perspective no doubt helped LOVE THAT BOB become the premier adult comedy of its decade.




"She's just flesh and blood like the rest of us, Chuck,"
"Yeah, but look how hers is put together!"

Bob Becomes a Genius has a healthy number of hints at things to come.  Collins tells Chuck that's a line for a "high school freshman", then uses it himself later and subtly takes full credit.  Mason seems hopeful that his protégé can "tame" the star based on Collins' reputation, and he makes it pretty clear he doesn't mean the one behind the camera.   If Pappy had returned a year later, he would have found the Bob he was looking for.  As it is, he has to settle for one who would use his own theatrics to make Farnsworth finally appreciate the stable, experienced lensman she has.  Noble...but disappointingly normal compared to the oft-racy mischief we would become accustomed to.  Fear not: Bob Collins would become much hornier and funnier on a weekly basis soon after.




Davis, Cummings, Frees (L to R)


Voice acting legend Paul Frees gets a rare role in front of the camera as an actor coerced into playing a hoodlum to get Bob to acquiesce to the star's wishes.  It's a real treat to see and hear Frees (who gets to do his Bogart) for once. Thanks to frequent mislabeling on YouTube uploads, this episode somehow gets confused with Bob Becomes a Stage Uncle (I counted four of these on YouTube, including this colorized one!).  Don't believe the ImdB credits of the latter: Frees, Hausner, Robbins, Pasco and Wright do not appear in that fifth season entry, and only Frees returned to the series (in Grandpa Meets Zsa Zsa).  Speaking of Grandpa Collins, Mason as mentor was an idea that quickly vanished, once Cummings began playing that dual role in Grandpa's Christmas Visit.


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

In a real rarity for Collins' world, no one.



DID BOB SCORE?

He didn't even try, which was even more of a rarity.



BOTTOM LINE:

LOVE THAT BOB is still getting its legs here--come on, even half a season later and Bob would have been playing games and trying to get in Phillipa's pants (with Schultzy obstructing).  Despite jokes more typical of the blander sitcoms of its day Bob Becomes a Genius is acceptable, if unexceptional, and it is fascinating to see a long running show in its infancy.  For a great example of LOVE THAT BOB realizing its destiny early on, the third episode, It's Later Than You Think, is a riot that wouldn't be out of place two or three seasons later.  As for this one: (**1/2 out of four)

This one isn't colorized, but at least it is labeled correctly if you'd like to see Bob Becomes a Genius for yourself: