Saturday, September 20, 2014

Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion – Chapter 12: Blazing Retribution


Curiously, I thought with this being the final chapter in our Serial Saturdays presentation of (Big) Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion, there would be much whooping and cheering and jumping for joy.  But when I went to the space on the shelf where I keep this prime piece of chapter play fromage, fans had already started a memorial with flowers and those irresistible stuffed teddy bears.  Needless to say, I was noticeably moved.

Last week, we witnessed Hal Duncan (Walter Reed)—Special Government Agent!—plummeting from a window of the offices of The Voice, LLC…pushed out said opening by the evil henchman known as Regan (Dick Curtis) after Hal engaged Regan and his toady Cady (Fred Coby) in a spirited display of Republic fisticuffs, assisted by his sidekick Sam Bradley (John Pickard).  Since Hal cannot exercise his usual option of leaping to safety—because, technically, he’s already taken a leap—we can only wait for the eventual sickening splat of him hitting the pavement, his pointy head crushed like a ripe melon.


Hokey smoke, Bullwinkle!  Seconds before Hal is to hit the asphalt like bird droppings, a truck pulls out from the service entrance at the Metz Building and breaks his fall!  Unfortunately, those boxes contain broken glass…so Duncan will be cut to ribbons.  No, I’m just kidding about that.  Hal climbs down from the truck bed as several gawking spectators gather around—one of whom (Gene Christopher) asks “Are you hurt, Mister?”

“Well, actually...if you would say that a man with an ulcer had a nail in his shoe and a splinter in his finger, was then struck by lightning…if you could say that that man was not hurt, then yes, you would say I'm not hurt.”  Hal has emerged with nary a scratch, but he directs the concerned spectator to find a policeman and send him up to Room 511—the offices of The Voice!  Meanwhile, back in Room 511…

VOICE (over intercom): Regan!  Get out at once—the police will be here any minute!  Go to the underground warehouse and finish that hidden vault job!  Take the intercom with you!

You know, I don’t know why Hal and Sam didn’t just stake out that hidden warehouse in the first place—they know its location—and wait for the crooks to eventually return…except that I really do know; then this serial would have been twenty minutes long.  Regan and Cady do as they’re instructed and exit the office while The Voice makes tracks through his exit in the adjoining office.

A dissolve later and Hal and Sam are giving Room 511 a going-over as a policeman (Frank O’Connor) observes standing close by.

SAM: Hey, Hal… (Showing him a file thick with papers) This is all I could find…
HAL: Well, it doesn’t look like much…but I’ll take ‘em back to the office and look ‘em over… (To the policeman) You’d better stand by until the detectives get here—they’ll want to check for fingerprints…
POLICEMAN: Yes, sir!

“Guy must think he’s some sort of Special Government Agent, ordering me around like that…”  As Hal and Sam depart the crime scene, we then fade to the Interstate Block building—home of the Interstate Truck Owners Association offices.  Hal addresses the members of that august body—Armstrong (Pierce Lyden), Crandall (Arthur Space), Thompson (Mauritz Hugo) and Willard (George Meeker)…


HAL: The papers we found were just copies of shipping schedules…a few bills and receipts…mostly for car rentals and repairs…there was nothing that will be of much help except to prove that the place was headquarters for the hijacking gang…
ARMSTRONG: But you didn’t find anything to prove that the mastermind you think is running the gang had ever even been there…
HAL: No, I didn’t…

“Thanks again for reminding me what an abject failure I’ve been.”

HAL: …in fact, the place looked more like a waiting room than a regular office…the only thing that I can figure out is that Regan and Cady simply stayed in that room until they got their orders by phone or radio…
CRANDALL: So you still have no clue to who or where the real leader is…
HAL: No…

“Again—thanks for the confidence booster…dickhead.”

THOMPSON: Which means you’ve made no progress whatever…and we still don’t dare haul any critical supplies for the government…

“Look—do you want to be the Special Government Agent for a while?  Because I’m kind of fed up with having to leap from moving vehicles, if you must know…”

HAL: Well, it isn’t quite that bad…the gang has been disorganized enough that it will certainly take them some time to get into operation again…so, I think we can go on with our shipments safely…

Hal passes out the shipping orders and schedules to the owners as the meeting adjourns.  “Aren’t you being a little careless handing out these orders when you still think one of us is the master criminal?” asks Armstrong huffily.

“As long as I’m the government agent in charge, I’ll continue to handle this case in my own way, Mr. Armstrong!” retorts Hal sharply.  Temper, temper!  Fortunately, Hal’s gal Friday Kay Roberts (Mary Ellen Kay)—who pines secretly for her boss—is there with a gin-and-tonic as big as his head.

KAY: Is this thing as hopeless as it seems?

The serial, or the fact that Hal’s just not that into you…?

HAL: Well, not quite… (Removing some papers from his pocket) I didn’t mention it at the meeting, but I found this among the other papers in that office…
KAY: Why—it seems to be a diagram or some kind of construction…
HAL: That’s right…and from the outline, it’s that cave from under the warehouse where we found all that stolen equipment…
KAY: You mean they’re using it again?
HAL: Well…there was no recess like that in the wall when we were there before…they must have just put it in…
KAY: Sounds reasonable…

“And they did a little painting…got some new furniture…that rug that they bought really ties the warehouse together…”  Hal thinks it’s worth looking into—hey, he’s got to do something to justify his phony-baloney job—so he and Sam are going to mosey on over and check things out.

KAY: If they’re using that place—it’s sure to be guarded…
HAL: So we’ll sneak in the back way through that tunnel from the waterfront…
KAY: Be careful, Hal…

“’Careful’ is my middle name, sweetcheeks.”  And with a dissolve, we find our heroes tooling along the streets of the city on their way to the waterfront…then another dissolve puts them in the underground tunnel.  In an adjacent area, Regan and Cady stop to admire their handiwork.


REGAN: Well, that looks okay—nobody will ever suspect there’s a vault in back of that wall…now let’s get this land mine hooked up again…


Explosives!  A sure sign that something is going to blow up real good soon, I’ll bet.  “You sure this mine isn’t too strong?” Cady questions his partner.  “Could blow up the whole place.”  (That’s why Howard and Theodore Lydecker are on the payroll, numbnuts.)  “Nah, but it will sure take care of anyone who comes prowling around the vault,” assures Regan.

As Hal and Sam continue down the tunnel for the eventual showdown with the big, bad henchmen…there’s a cut to the office formerly used by The Voice in the Metz Building (Room 511-B, let’s call it).  Regan and Cady continue their deviltry, then they hear their boss over the shortwave.

VOICE: Calling R-37…calling R-37…
REGAN: Come in…
VOICE: Is the concealed vault ready?
REGAN: Yeah…it’s all set…
VOICE: Good…the police have finally left here…I’ve called Daly to come over and help me pack the papers…they’ll be ready by the time you and Cady get here and you can take them back to the vault…
REGAN: Good—we’ll leave right away!

“Not so fast, my fine feathered friend!” Hal doesn’t say as he and Sam emerge from the tunnel.  From that moment on, it’s standard Republic protocol—hands in the air, Regan and Cady wait for an unguarded moment by Hal to start a fistfight…

Saracen pig!
Spartan dog!
Anglo-Saxon Hun!

…but during the melee, Regan forgets about the trip wire to the mine and the explosion brings a large heavy crate down on him.  RIP, Regan…you were a goon among goons.

HAL: You okay?
SAM: Yeah…I guess so…
HAL (referring to an unconscious Cady): Then cuff this one up and call the police—Regan’s finished…from what we heard on the radio, the big boss is up in that office and I’m goin’ after him!


“I’ll teach those I.T.O.A. bozos to make fun of my investigative skills!”  With four minutes left in the serial, Hal races across town to the Metz Building—where The Voice is in his private office, gathering files.  Henchman Daly (George Volk) enters the adjoining “waiting room,” and The Voice lets him know that he’ll pass the important papers to him through some sort of night deposit slot.  Do I need to point out that in all previous scenes in the “waiting room,” this slot has been nonexistent?  No, I do not.  Outside the building, Hal pulls up in his Duncanmobile and sh*t’s about to get real.

“That’s all the important ones,” The Voice instructs Daly.  “I’m going to burn the rest of them.”  As The Voice makes plans to torch the paperwork, Hal bursts into the waiting room, gun drawn.  “All right, drop that bag and get those hands up,” he barks at Daly.  Looking through his one-way mirror, The Voice fires at Hal through the night deposit, and the following shootout results in the death of Daly.  Out of ammo, Hal picks up a chair and heaves it through the mirror to discover the office next door.  He leaps up and through where the mirror was just in time to learn the identity of the criminal mastermind…


…Armstrong!  That vichyssoise  As the inferno rages on inside the office (that’s the “blazing retribution” referred to in the chapter title) Hal and Armstrong fight to the death.  Director Fred C. Brannon (“Fred C. Brannon don’t show nothin’ he don’t mean…”) zooms in on a close-up of this…


…a shard of broken mirror, telegraphing that it will trigger the demise of the master villain.  He does not disappoint.


With the death of Armstrong, the implication is that his little band of crooks have been degraded and destroyed…though I have my doubts about this; there always seemed to be a stray henchman running around, so do they file for unemployment or what?  Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion wraps up in the usual Republic fashion with its main characters laughing at something that’s not the slightest bit funny: here it’s Hal, Sam and Kay all seated together in the cab of one of Hal’s trucks (yes, there’s some disturbing implications that I’ll refrain from exploring because this is a family blog)—Sam is driving, and after a near collision with another car on the highway Hal suggests his sidekick “pull up and let me drive.”  “Oh no, Hal,” protests Sam.  “You’re still a government agent—you shouldn’t be driving a truck.”  (I think that may be my favorite line of dialogue in the entire serial, btw.)


Then Hal notices that a motorcycle cop is following Sam, and decides that maybe his pal is doing fine behind the wheel after all.  Sam sees the fuzz, too: “Thanks…thanks a lot!”  The three of them laugh like hyenas, and the curtain comes down on our little serial adventure.


A good cast is worth repeating…


I’m going to take a break from Serial Saturdays next week (Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s guest reviewer Phil Schweier will substitute in the interim with a look at a chapter play he’s recently watched) but the following week the batteries will be recharged and we’ll have fun with another serial.  It’s one that I discussed at the old Salon Blogs site of TDOY, though not on a chapter-by-chapter basis—and it’s just so irresistibly goofy that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to revisit it.  So join me two weeks from now for the first installment of a brand-new edition of Serial Saturdays: The Black Widow (1947)!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On the Grapevine: Clara Bow Double Feature - Free to Love (1925)/My Lady of Whims (1925)


Every now and then, the Mom-and-Pop joint known as Grapevine Video sends out an e-mail offering 25% off any of the DVDs in their massive inventory (with the exception of their latest releases).  And because my money seems to be soaked in gasoline (because you’ve never seen anything go so fast in all your life) I always pony up a few gitas and grab a few titles not available in the dusty Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives.  Grapevine has a nice selection of sound and silent films—and while you’re likely to hear as much praise for along with complaints about the company, I’m a repeat customer because in many instances they’re one of the most reliable sources for these great rare films.

One of the releases I bought in the 25%-off is a double feature presentation (released in 2007) featuring Roaring Twenties sex symbol Clara Bow, and the first film is a short-but-sweet mellerdrammer entitled Free to Love (1925).  Clara plays Marie Anthony, a girl of the streets who’s just finished a two-year hitch in the reformatory, put there by a judge (Winter Hall) who was convinced she was guilty of a crime.  She was innocent, of course, and she visits him in his palatial manse for the purposes of popping a cap in him…but she’s unable to pull the trigger.  The remorseful Judge Orr wants to make amends, and offers to take Marie in as his ward.  (Just like Dick Grayson.)

Marie is also romanced in the film by the Rev. James Crawford (Donald Keith), a parson who starts a union mission in town attending to the needs of ex-convicts…and Marie very much wants to help him make the place a success.  But trouble rears its ugly head in the form of master thief Jack Garner (Hallam Cooley), whose base of operations is described in a title card as “an incubator of crime.”  (I love that.)  Garner has got a nice little stolen jewelry racket going on there (and he’s taken a shine to Clara’s Marie as well, asserting in a title card that he wants to be “her pal”), but that set-up is threatened by a hunchbacked lackey named Tony (Raymond McKee), who gives the gendarmes an earful about Garner and his activities.  The problem is: the man fencing the jewelry is none other than Crawford’s pop (Charles Hill Mailes), and in the course of helping him escape before the police arrive, Marie is arrested for Garner’s murder (which was actually committed by Tony).

Will Marie confess what she knows in order to save herself?  Or will she make the noble sacrifice to protect the Crawford family name?  I’ll let you hunt down your own copy of Free to Love for the answers, but I will say that while the movie is certainly no classic it’s a pretty entertaining showcase for “The It Girl”, released during a year when fifteen features spotlighting Bow were released to theaters.  Clara was not an actress, but a presence: you couldn’t (and still can’t today) take your eyes off her whenever she’s onscreen.  (She’s at her vivacious best in a short sequence after she’s been adopted by the Judge and she watches as her benefactor practices some rod-and-reel casting in an indoor pond.)  The narrative of the movie is a bit hard to follow, however—I don’t know if it’s due to editing or they set out to make it confusing in the first place.

Donald Keith is pretty average as Bow’s paramour in Free; he co-starred with her in a total of five films including the better-known Bow vehicles Parisian Love (1925) and The Plastic Age (1925), and he also supports her in My Lady of Whims (1925)—the second feature on the Grapevine disc.  Clara’s a flighty Bohemian who’s run off to Greenwich Village to become an artist, and her father (John Cossar) hires tough guy Bartley Greer (Keith)—I know…how tough can a guy be with a name like “Bartley”?—to fetch her back.  Bartley winds up the third side in a triangle that includes Bow and her fiancé, a simp named Rolf (played by Francis McDonald, whom we last saw as John Wilkes Booth in The Prisoner of Shark Island).

My Lady of Whims also suffers from a few gaps in the narrative…but this film has an excuse; the only existing print in circulation is a five-reel Kodascope version (cut-down from seven reels)—Silent Era says that there is a print in the UCLA Film and Television Archive so it might be more complete than the one I watched.  I’ll admit that Free to Love is the better movie even though Whims has the better Bow performance; she really seems to be having a ball in this one, dancing with her trademark wild abandon.  Sadly, actress Carmelita Geraghty doesn’t get much to do as Clara’s roommate…though maybe some of her scenes wound up in the Kodascope floor.

I purchased a third Clara Bow film from the Grapevine folks…but you’ll have to return here next week to get the details on that.  Remember: movies are your best entertainment!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

DVR-TiVo-Or whatever recording device strikes your fancy-alert!


Brother Terry at A Shroud of Thoughts (or as we call it here in our Noo Yawk accent at Rancho Yesteryear, “A Shroud of T’oughts”) was kind enough to inform me after the last blogathon post went to press that Fritzi at Movies Silently—and brace yourselves, because I know this is going to be a stunner—will be hosting another ‘thon from November 9-11 entitled The Fairy Tale Blogathon.  The title on that is pretty self-explanatory: the topic will cover silver screen adaptations of “primal and exciting” traditional stories, to use her description.  I’ve got all I can handle on my plate right now, so I’m going to sit this dance out—but if you’re interested, skate on over and sign up.  (And bring me back some punch, okay?)

As I’ve mentioned here on the blog in the past, I record a lot of classic movies onto blank DVD’s…and because I have this weird hang-up where I don’t like to leave any blank space if I can fill it up with something, I often go looking around the schedule of The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ to see if they’ve got any one- or two-reel shorts on the menu in between movies.  In doing this, I noticed that TCM is going to run a Charley Chase comedy, What a Bozo! (1931), after its September 20th showing of Five Star Final (1931) at midnight (around 1:33am).  This is a Chase comedy that I have not seen; according to an IMDb review Charley plays a bandleader and at one point sings a portion of his theme song, Smile When the Raindrops Fall.

In other Hal Roach news, grand dames Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly are the stars of The Tin Man (1935), a comedy short scheduled after the September 21st airing of The Whole Town’s Talking (1935), starring Edward G. Robinson and my beloved Jean Arthur.  (My very good friend Cliff Weimer—Statler to my Waldorf—has been claiming Ms. Arthur for his own in a furious Facebook debate…in my defense, I did see her first.)  Tin Man will air at approximately 10:04am; of course, the U-Verse Total Home DVR© necessitates that I record the entire block (Talking and Tin Man) but as soon as that’s transferred to physical media it disappears—POOF!—just like ServPro.

Now, I checked the TCM site a few minutes ago to make certain all my information was correct…and all mention of these two shorts has vanished, so Tee Cee Em may have called an audible on me.  I’m going to let the info in the post stand, however, just in case they change their mind.

From the DVR: The Big Mouth (1967)

I’ve referenced both here on the blog and in other venues on the Internets that my introduction to classic movies as a tyke involved many of the great movie comedians.  I went ga-ga over the silent clowns like Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd…and later moved on to those funsters who made solid reputations in talkies like the Marx Brothers, the Stooges, Laurel & Hardy and W.C. Fields.  As a young tad, I was also a big fan of Jerry Lewis…though admittedly, my ardor for his cinematic antics has cooled over the years.

I’m not one of those folks who sniff “The only people who like Jerry Lewis are the French”; I’m a huge fan of the films he made with Dean Martin (and feel that Dino often gets short shrift in them—since in many instances he was funnier than his partner), and some of Jerome’s solo vehicles can produce much merriment—usually the ones in which Frank Tashlin directed (I like Rock-a-Bye Baby and The Disorderly Orderly…but my all-time fave is It’$ Only Money).  Last Thursday night, The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ (as Rick Brooks colors in another section of the thermometer in red) paid tribute to Jer with a few of his vehicles, notably The Nutty Professor (1963).

Professor often gets singled out as Lewis’ best solo effort, in terms of the auteur thing (starring, directing, co-writing, etc.)—I’m in the “funny peculiar not funny ha-ha” camp with the film, but I can’t deny the movie doesn’t fascinate me.  Its TCM showing featured Stacia fave Ben Mankiewicz quizzing its star as to just who was the inspiration for the Mr. Hyde character in the movie, Buddy Love.  Jerry gets asked that a lot—was he based on Dean Martin, etc.  It seems as if the man has a different response every time he’s asked the question…when the answer is pretty much in front of us: Buddy Love is the darker side of Jerry Lewis—the guy who once berated a lady in the audience on the Phil Donahue show when she challenged him about the MDA telethon and believes comediennes aren’t funny.  (Lewis at one time refused to let any of his kids see Professor if you think I’m joking about this.)

But this post isn’t about Professor—it’s about The Big Mouth (1967), a comedy Lewis made for Columbia (his second for the studio after leaving his longtime Paramount home in 1966) that admittedly was a favorite of mine as a child.  Well, maybe I need to qualify that—not so much a favorite, more like a movie I watched quite often…and that might be because I didn’t understand the damn thing.  So I taped it off TCM when I saw it was on the schedule, surmising that a revisit was in order.

Jerry plays a seemingly normal character named Gerald Clamson, who, while enjoying a two-week vacation in San Diego, manages to reel in a frogman with his fishing gear.  He assumes it’s a frogman—the individual is wearing a wet suit, flippers, swim mask, etc.  The frogman informs Clamson of a cache of stolen diamonds hidden around a nearby hotel, and that his rescuer needs to hie himself to safety because the frogman is being pursued by gangsters.  It is very important that at no time Gerald unmask the mysterious individual, lest he discover that the guy is Syd Valentine, a mobster who could be his identical twin.  Otherwise the movie would be five minutes long.

Three henchmen—Studs (Buddy Lester), Rex (Charlie Callas) and Gunner (Vern Rowe)—in the employ of a racketeer named Thor (Harold J. Stone) arrive on the scene shortly after Clamson heads off to contact the police (who refuse to believe the tale of the injured Syd, by the way), and make certain that Syd is really most sincerely dead by gunning him down with weaponry.  Here’s the problem: each one of the henchies eventually comes into contract with Gerald later in the movie, and upon doing so suffer nervous breakdowns—Gunner becomes convinced he’s a dog, Studs loses all his teeth and is transformed into a mumbling Larry Fine, and Rex develops a noticeable stutter.  Much pretend hilarity results from all this.

Clamson arrives at the hotel, but is refused a room after injuring the foot of the head desk clerk (Del Moore).  Why any hotel would turn away a paying guest is up to you to decide, but Gerald must resort to subterfuge by disguising himself as a tweedy academic who sounds strangely like Professor Julius Kelp.  In pursuit of the diamonds, Clamson encounters both a rival mob and a sinister Chinese warlord (Leonard Stone) who answers to “Fong.”  On the plus side of the ledger, Clamson romances a pretty air hostess (Susan Bay) who becomes his prize at the end of the film (curiously, he nor anyone else ever locates the diamonds).

I’ll say this in support of Big Mouth—after watching it the other day, I was finally able to understand the plot.  That it’s an idiotic one probably doesn’t help much, and though some consider the movie to be one of Lewis’ better later pictures (Leonard Maltin gives it two-and-a-half stars) I sat through the darn thing completely stone faced.  The only times I chuckled were when Callas was onscreen (doing the shtick that made him in nightclubs and on talk shows, politically incorrect though it may be)—I always liked Charlie; I was a big Switch fan—and seeing Florence Lake (from yesterday’s Doris Day(s)) as a little old lady accosted by Charlie and Harold in the process of chasing Jerry.

Jerry does his unfunny Asian shtick in The Big Mouth; I sat there wondering why Sea World features Kabuki theater.

Lewis and co-writer Bill Richmond appear to be hoping to duplicate their success with Professor on Big Mouth: Jerry does the Kelp character, and several actors from Professor appear (Moore, Lester, Med Flory, etc.)—and the movie also recreates one of Nutty’s most memorable sight gags (Kelp is incapable of holding up a set of barbells and his arms stretch like Silly Putty to the floor) with a bit where Clamson is trying to board a boat yet is stuck on the pier.  Big Mouth doesn’t have as strong a plot as its predecessor, and there doesn’t seem to be any flow to its narrative; many of Lewis’ films often seem to stop for the purpose of a weak gag (one of his “comeback” vehicles, 1983’s Cracking Up, is a good example of this).  I don’t remember the person who said it, but someone once opined that Jerry’s movies would have been much stronger had he been afforded the opportunity to make two-reelers like Chaplin, Keaton, etc.  Frank Tashlin, despite his obsession with women’s hooters, was a good director for Jerry because of his previous experience directing animated cartoons.

Fellow Mountaineer Frank De Vol is on hand to explain the confusing plot to the audience, and it’s a shame that the man who made me laugh as the deadpan Myron Bannister on I’m Dickens…He’s Fenster has precious little to work with.  There are other TV veterans in Mouth: Leonard Stone, of course, and Jeannine Riley, the first and best of the Billie Jo’s on Petticoat Junction (I always liked Riley’s interpretation of the character—she wasn’t afraid to be selfish and a bit self-centered).  Jeannine plays Stone’s moll (Bambi Berman) in the movie, but I was kind of rooting for her to wind up with Jerry because I do love me some bad girls.  Susan Bay is pretty blah as the leading lady…plus, I’m always wary of any credit that reads “Introducing So-and-so” when so-and-so (in this case, Bay), already had a pretty extensive resume guesting on television shows (Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, Perry Mason, etc.).  (Bay is now married to Leonard Nimoy; she was at one time betrothed to John “Sergeant Enright” Schuck.)

Looking back, it’s not hard to comprehend why I was such a fan of Jerry Lewis in my youth; the man was the epitome of arrested development, who garnered big laughs being the naughty kid—this is why even as he was making those terrible films in the 1960s his biggest audience remained those of a younger crowd.  (It’s the same way with the Stooges and Abbott & Costello…though my appreciation of them has grown considerably as my appreciation for Jerry has diminished.)  Lewis eventually matured and demonstrated he could do great things; I think he’s sensational in both The King of Comedy (1983) and the underrated Cookie (1989), and as several folks have pointed out in the comments section he was first-rate in that Wiseguy story arc as clothier Eli Sternberg.  (I also liked him on Law & Order: SVU when he played Munch’s uncle…my parents…not so much.)  But you know the familiar Thomas Wolfe refrain—so I was a bit saddened to learn The Big Mouth just doesn’t play as funny as it once did.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Doris Day(s) #24: “The Still” (04/01/69, prod. no #8540)


Oh, have we wacky shenanigans aplenty for you this week on Doris Day(s)!  Lovable old ladies…flagrant disrespect for the law…Leroy B. Semple Simpson (James Hampton) is almost killed—this may very well be my favorite Doris Day Show episode so far.

We begin with a scenario familiar from anyone’s childhood…and even if you didn’t have a childhood, you’ve certainly seen it on shows like My Three Sons and The Brady Bunch.  The Widder Martin (Doris) is in the kitchen, stirring up what appears to be a mess o’fudge—I’m guessing it’s fudge because Dor’s loyal housekeeper Juanita (Naomi Stevens) mentions that it’s breakfast—when she becomes all too aware that her two progeny, Billy (Philip Brown) and Toby (Tod Starke), are being slug-a-beds.  And hey—those little pukes have got to be at the bus stop soon!


DORIS (yelling once she reaches the top of the stairs): Toby!  Billy!  This is the last call!
BILLY (in bed): Just five more minutes…
DORIS: Not even five more seconds—now, you’ve got ten minutes to get down to breakfast and twenty-five minutes to get to the bus!  So come on!
BILLY: I’m not hungry!
TOBY: Me either!

Hey—that’s quick thinking, Billy boy!  That means you can lay in bed another ten minutes!  But because Doris has “to go through this every morning,” she has a backup plan: she sends Nelson the sheepdog (Lord Nelson) into the boys’ room to make certain they keep that appointment with the school bus.  Poor Nelson.  He’s simply powerless to resist Doris’ bidding, as he was that fateful day in Larchmont.  (“Get in the car…I command you to get in the car!”)


Back in the kitchen, Doris lets Juanita know she can start the eggs (eggs for breakfast? There’s a novelty…) when the two of them are interrupted by a siren outside in the yard.  “It’s Ben!” exclaims Doris; she is referring to Sheriff Ben Anders, played by this familiar character face.


It’s Barney Phillips—the actor who briefly replaced Barton Yarborough as Jack Webb’s Dragnet partner on both the radio and TV shows (before the network insisted Phillips be replaced because they felt he looked too much like Jack).  His many radio appearances (he possessed one of the medium’s most distinctive voices) were on shows like The Whistler, Escape, Suspense, Gunsmoke, Have Gun – Will Travel and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar; he also made the rounds on many TV programs including regular stints on Johnny Midnight (a detective show starring Edmond O’Brien), The Brothers Brannagan, 12 O’Clock High (as “Doc” Kaiser), Felony Squad, Dan August and The Betty White Show.  Barney’s extensive radio resume also got him work voicing characters in animated cartoons: he was the genie they called Shazzan!—not to mention Porthos in the Three Musketeers segments on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and appeared in later series like The New Fred and Barney Show and Jana of the Jungle.

Phillips makes two appearances on The Doris Day Show as Sheriff Anders—the second, “The Tiger,” is a dismal affair that will take all of my considerable powers of snark to muddle through.  But that’s in the future; right now Ben’s got a problem:

BEN: Treasury agents—Alcohol and Tax Division…they arrived this morning…
DORIS: Oh, the McGlinsey Sisters again…
BEN: That’s right—yes…they set up another still and they’re at it again!
DORIS: You’re kidding!
BEN: No—I passed the word that they’re gonna be in trouble but they won’t listen!
DORIS: Well, I guess I’d better get going…

Doris…sweetie…just because it’s your name on the show doesn’t mean you have to handle every crisis.

BUCK: Now just a minute…wouldn’t it be better if you went up there and talked to them, Ben?
DORIS: No!
BEN: You know better than that…if I go out there officially, I’ve got to run them in…

Why, Ben—that’s very Andy Taylor-ish of you.  ("By the way...how's your mom, Ed?")  “That’s right—I’m the one who has to go,” Doris explains to her father (Denver Pyle), while Anders adds “She’s the only one that they trust.”  Oh, Doris—you’re such a supermom!  All Doris has to do is get rid of the still…without getting caught.  Buck sends Ben on his way, and Doris darts back in the house…where she is confronted by her sleepy-headed, cretinous sons.

BILLY: What’s the matter, Mom?
TOBY: What did the sheriff want?
DORIS (as she primps in front of a mirror): Will you two get upstairs and finish dressing?  Now it’s getting so late…
TOBY: Where are you going?
DORIS: Uh…on an errand, honey…
BILLY: To the McGlinsey Sisters?
DORIS: How do you know that?
BILLY: We heard you talkin’ to the sheriff…
DORIS: Oh, you did…?
TOBY: What’s a still?

“It’s something I wish you were more often.”  Doris shoos the kids upstairs, telling them to shake a leg—and after a brief physical bit with Nelson, who’s preventing her from adjusting her accoutrements, she’s out to the kitchen to answer questions from Juanita about why Sheriff Ben was snooping around.  Doris explains the situation regarding the Sisters McGlinsey, and asks her to take charge of getting her children to school because she has other priorities.

DORIS: Just see to it that they make that bus…
JUANITA: Are they late?
DORIS: Yes—they’re very late…

“Thanks, boss lady…thanks for adding another chore to my list of Menial Tasks That Need Done Today.”  Doris goes out to the station wagon, and having opened the door watches Nelson leap into the car and the front seat.  (“Take this car to New York, lady—or I’ll maul the little kid.”)  There’s some sustained business with Dor and Nels—she pleads with the mutt to amscray usterbay—and then having rid herself of that fleabag, starts to back out of the yard…where she is then blocked by her idiot handyman, seated on a tractor.


DORIS: Leroy, would you please move that thing?  I’m in such a hurry!
LEROY: Sure thing, Miz Martin…say—you know, I had the craziest dream last night…do you wanna hear about it?
DORIS: Leroy…really…I’m a big hurry…
LEROY: Well, it’ll only take a second…

“I was naked in this room…surrounded by bananas…then the room turned into a train, and it was going into a tunnel!”  Doris pleads with Leroy to get out of the way and plant the tractor in the barn, and he finally agrees to her request.  And with that, Doris is off to warn Cotina’s answer to the Baldwin Sisters—Lydia and Adelaide McGlinsey.


Lydia—or “Liddie,” as she is called in the episode—is played by a true show business veteran in Jesslyn Fax, whose best remembered boob tube gig (and on radio as well) might be that of Angela Devon on Our Miss Brooks.  In addition, Fax had regular stints on Many Happy Returns and The Jack Benny Show; on the Benny program she usually played one of the devoted members of his fan club.  Jesslyn is best remembered as “Miss Hearing Aid”, the sculptor in Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), and she also appears in such films as Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Desk Set (1957), Blue Denim (1959), The Music Man (1962), 4 for Texas (1963) and the Don Knotts vehicles The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1965) and The Love God? (1969).


Sister Adelaide—“Addie” to her many gentlemen callers—is played by another actress who’s no slouch in movies and TV; we remember Florence Lake best here at TDOY as Edgar Kennedy’s wife in many of the Slow Burn Master’s classic RKO two-reel comedies, but she also appeared in the likes of The Rogue Song (1930), The Drums of Jeopardy (1931), Quality Street (1937), Stagecoach (1939), Bachelor Mother (1939), San Diego I Love You (1944), The Stratton Story (1949) and The Day of the Locust (1975).  (Lake was in a few Lassie episodes as Jenny, the telephone operator.)  In a little thing we used to call vaud-a-ville, Florence frequently performed with her brother Arthur—who later became the personification of Dagwood Bumstead on radio and TV and in the movies.

LIDDIE: Addie—you have the cooker turned up too high!
ADDIE: Mercy!  My goodness!  (She lowers the fire on the still) There—it’s turned down now…
LIDDIE: You can’t rush good white lightning, Addie—don’t you remember what Daddy used to say?
ADDIE: No…what’d he say?
LIDDIE: “You can’t rush good white lightning…”
ADDIE: Daddy always had a way with words…

“I remember how he and Ashley Longworth used to sit for hours, seeing who could drink the most of The Recipe.”  To be honest, I think I like the “little old lady” bootleggers of The Waltons better than the McGlinseys—it was charming that Mamie and Emily Baldwin were completely oblivious to the fact that they were manufacturing shine.  Liddie’s going to run the fermentation check while Addie sterilizes the bottles…but a honking horn can be heard outside, and that means Doris has arrived to rain on their parade.

LIDDIE: Addie!  Visitors!  Now you know what to do…
ADDIE: Roger!
LIDDIE: Can’t you say anything but ‘Roger’?
ADDIE: How ‘bout ‘Wilcox’?


The McGlinseys apparently have a routine down whereupon they camouflage their still and other equipment to escape the notice of possible “revenooers.”  However, their attempts at subterfuge are for naught—it’s just Doris, girls!  Before she enters the house, however, Dodo does two bits of physical comedy: 1) she forgets she’s wearing her seatbelt as she gets out of the car and 2) she loses her cute hat running to the house and has to go back after it.


LIDDIE: Doris!
DORIS: I’ve got some bad news for you…
LIDDIE: Now you sit right down—we’ll put the teakettle on…
DORIS: Honey, I’d love it…but we don’t have time…
ADDIE: I just baked a batch of fresh cookies!

And that’s when the boiler on the still kicks up again, prompting a look from Doris.  “Well, I thought I had it turned down low enough,” Addie says sheepishly.

DORIS: Look—that’s why I’m here…you’re going to have visitors in very soon…
ADDIE: You mean the fuzz?
DORIS: Two federal agents are arriving in town this morning!
LIDDIE: They never sent two before!
ADDIE: They must think we’re mighty important!
LIDDIE: It’s a proud day for the McGlinseys!
ADDIE: Wouldn’t Daddy be pleased!

Okay, Gran’ma—let’s save the end zone dance for later, shall we?  “Daddy won’t be so pleased if you two land in jail,” retorts Dor matter-of-factly.  “You’ve got to get rid of that still and all the whiskey on the place”—and so Operation Sobriety gets underway.

LIDDIE: Why—they’d never find our still the way we have it disguised!
ADDIE: Even you wouldn’t have recognized it if it hadn’t been for the smoke…
DORIS: Honey, this disguise wouldn’t fool Toby


“And believe me—that kid is an idiot!”  Addie goes over to a book on the shelf and pulls out a container of shine that was hidden in one of the volumes (I’ll bet it’s Leaving Las Vegas)—then tells Doris that’s the extent of their inventory.  Doris might have been born at night…but it wasn’t last night; and she proceeds to round up the rest of the hooch.


Doris walks over to a picture hanging on a wall and opens a secret panel…as a sandbag come crashing down.  The McGlinsey gals are still protesting.  “Well, you know very well we have to have a little around for medicinal purposes,” complains Liddie.

“That’s right—it’s wonderful if you’ve got the grippe,” adds Addie.  Doris takes two bottles from the picture stash and puts them in a wicker basket, then moves onto a wall clock…


…that’s been booby-trapped with a stream of water.  The girls agree to help Doris out, and they begin gathering up bottles as our heroine reaches into the fireplace…


…oh, that’s going to leave a mark.  “It works!” says Liddie delightfully.  “We had that changed since you were here.”

“The delayed action was my idea,” Addie points out.  Doris, convinced she’s found it all, heads out to the wagon and Addie volunteers to help her…but then Doris remembers that Ray Milland used to board with the McGlinseys…


…so Doris finally heads out the door, and Addie walks over to the TV set to reveal…


“At least she didn’t find these,” Addie says excitedly…but Doris quickly comes back inside the house and snatches up the grippe medicine.

DORIS: I’m dumping all of this stuff in the river!
ADDIE: Oh, Doris—it’s a terrible waste…
DORIS: And while I’m gone, you’d better get rid of that still…
LIDDIE: Get rid of it?  Why, it’s the best one we ever had!
ADDIE: What’ll we do with it?
DORIS: I don’t know what you’re gonna do with it—but get it out of that house, and hide it somewhere!

“Well,” says Liddie sadly, “if we must, we must.”  Dor promises her she’ll be back later…and she speeds off in the station wagon.

LIDDIE: There goes the last drop we had on the place, Addie…
ADDIE: Oh my goodness—I just had the most terrible thought!
LIDDIE: What was it?
ADDIE: What if one of us should come down with the grippe?!!

Old people…they sure are funny.  (And with what little they get from Social Security, I’m not surprised they have to run shine to make ends meet.)  Tooling down a Cotina country road, Doris’ ride quickly stops when she gets a flat tire.


Cheese and crackers—now what she is supposed to do?  Not to worry!  These nice gentlemen who were coincidentally following in their sedan can lend a hand.  Except for one thing…


…Treasury Department—a Quinn Martin Production!  Yes, these are the two agents referred to earlier—Bronson (Tom Falk) and Willoughby (Jeff DeBenning).  This is Falk’s second and last appearance on the show—he played a sergeant in the earlier “The Fly Boy.”

DORIS: Oh…look…thanks so much for stopping…but I can really handle it myself!  I really can!
BRONSON: No trouble!  I’ll get a jack!

Oh, you’ll find plenty of jack back there in the trunk, my good man!

WILLOUGHBY: Oh, no—you can relax, ma’am…we’d be more than happy to take care of it for you…
DORIS: Oh…yes…well…I don’t want to put you in any trouble…
WILLOUGHBY: No, it’s no trouble at all!
DORIS: I’ve done this a thousand times…
WILLOUGHBY: I’m sure, but it’s…

Agent Bronson moves the basket with the illegal liquor to better access the tire jack…and drops one of the Mason jars on the ground...thereby making this discovery:


Dun-dun-DUN!!!

BRONSON: Ma’am…?  (Doris stops short) Agents Bronson and Willoughby…Treasury Department…
DORIS: Gentlemen…this whole thing is a big mistake!  I mean…I can explain everything!  You see…
WILLOUGHBY: Ma’am, it’s our duty to inform you that…it’s our duty to inform you that anything you say may be used against you…
BRONSON: However, you don’t have to make any statements or answer any questions until you’ve obtained legal counsel…
DORIS: Legal counsel?  But I just told you the whole thing’s a mistake…


That’s right, Missy—and you’re the one who made it!  “Nobody knows…the trouble I’ve seen…”  Now would be a good time for a Ralston-Purina break, n'est-ce pas?

Back from commercial, Doris is still in the sneezer as Sheriff Ben is discussing with Agents Bronson and Willoughby just where she’ll be sent and how soon it will be before some inmate makes Doris her bitch.

BEN: Well, you Federal boys sure work fast…we can lock up this evidence in the closet back here…
BRONSON: That’ll be fine… (To his partner) Will, do you want to take these bottles in back there?
WILLOUGHBY (referring to his cigarette): Yeah, but…I think I ought to put this out first…you know, I wouldn’t want to be around here if this stuff ever blew up! (He chuckles to himself)
BRONSON: No problem—you wouldn’t be…

“She can’t be in this alone, Sheriff,” Bronson continues.  “We’ll take a look around back where we picked her up…see if we can’t find her accomplices.”  That means a return to Casa del McGlinsey, and the Feds tell Ben they’ll be back at three o’clock.

DORIS (from her cell): Come on, Ben—I’ve got to get going!
BEN: What went wrong?
DORIS: Oh, I had a flat tire…
BEN: Well, you can’t get arrested for having a flat tire!
DORIS: So what am I doing here?

Ben is sort of violating his oath of office by letting Doris out so she can head back to the McGlinsey’s and find out what they did with the still.  “As long as you’re back before three,” Anders warns her, “as far as I’m concerned you never left.”  Huh…this lax law enforcement is quite a change from the previous Ben Anders that we were introduced to in “The Matchmakers”—perhaps this is because he was played by Frank Maxwell in that episode.  (Yes, it’s the same friggin’ lawman!)

To the accompaniment of some wacky travelin’ music, Doris drives down several Cotina back roads like a mad stuntwoman—but has the distinct advantage of being more familiar with the area than the visiting Treasury agents, so she arrives at the House of McGlinsey first.  She does the seatbelt bit again, and rushes into the house.


ADDIE: Oh, you came for the cookies! 
LIDDIE: Oh, Doris—we’re so glad you’re here…
DORIS: Where you’d put the still?
LIDDIE: We didn’t forget, Doris!  We put it where nobody will ever find it!
DORIS: Good!  Oh, but what a relief… (As Addie hands her a plate of cookies) I’ll take one… (With a mouth full of cookie) Where’d you put it?
ADDIE: At your place!  (Doris chokes on her cookie) Oh—did it go down the wrong pipe, honey?

Wash that down with a little applejack, Doris—that’ll do the trick.  No, no time—Doris is out the door and running back to her car.

Now, I’m just going to break from this a bit to call shenanigans on this twist in the plot—mainly: how did the McGlinsey gals get the still over to Rancho Webb in the first place?  They don’t appear to have any transportation…and as we will soon see, neither Uncle Jesse Buck nor Leroy know about the still on the property.  I realize writers Lloyd Turner and Gordon Mitchell wanted to keep the antics ramped up to “eleven,” but that’s an awful gaping plot hole to drive that station wagon through.  And that’s as good a way as any to get back to the narrative—Doris peels out and heads for her house…just as Bronson and Willoughby are pulling up at the McGlinsey’s.

BRONSON: Wasn’t that the blonde we picked up this morning?
WILLOUGHBY: Of course not—she’s in jail!
BRONSON: Well, it sure looked like her!
WILLOUGHBY: You think she’s the only blonde in the county?
BRONSON: Maybe not…but she’s driving the same make and model car!

Okay, maybe Bronson has a point, Will.  The two agents give chase, but Doris still has that home field advantage.  She makes it back to the lockup with seconds to spare, and Ben puts her back in her cell.


BRONSON: She’s still there!
WILLOUGHBY: I told you—I told you she would be!
BRONSON: I could have sworn that was her…
WILLOUGHBY: Yes, but you can see that it wasn’t…

Bronson still isn’t convinced…but he’ll investigate further after he and his partner finish having a look around Doris’ place.  As soon as they’re out the door, Sheriff Ben pumps Dor for info.

BEN: Did the sisters get rid of the still?
DORIS: Oh, yeah…
BEN: Good—where?
DORIS: My place
BEN: Your place?  That’s where they’re headed now!
DORIS: What?!!  Oh, Ben—get me outta here!

Once again, Anders has to collect the keys to the cell and…you know, Benny—you could save yourself a heap o’trouble if you’d design that cell like something out of Stalag 13.  (Doris, for some odd reason, feels like she can’t go anywhere without her hat and coat—I think if I were facing the kind of charges she is that would be the last of my worries.)  As more wacky music is heard on the soundtrack, there’s footage of Doris racing to her house in a manner where you’d swear you could hear Waylon Jennings in the background.  (“About this time at the Boar’s Nest, Boss Hogg and Roscoe were cooking up a scheme that’s sure to land Bo and Luke in some real hot water…”)

Meanwhile, at Webb Farms—Leroy is pitching hay into the back of a truck while Buck works on the motor in his jeep.  “I’m going to have to take this thing all the way down to the block—I’ll be all day getting it put back together,” Buck gripes.

“Well, I’ll give you a hand just as soon as I finish here,” Leroy promises him…and then his pitchfork hits something hard in the hay.

LEROY: Mister Webb—could you come here a second?
BUCK: What?
LEROY: I said could you…? (He lifts up the still)
BUCK: Hey!  That’s a…how’d that get there?

And that’s when Doris pulls in with the station wagon.  “Hey—isn’t this the McGlinsey’s still?” Buck asks his daughter as she struggles to get out of the car.  “Sure is—and there are two Federal agents right behind me!” she responds, out of breath.

“Revenooers!” yells Leroy as he drops the still.  Doris orders Leroy to hide her wagon and Buck to get rid of the still.  The quick-thinking Buck puts it back in the hay as the Federal boys start pulling onto the ranch’s access road.


The seams in “The Still” start to show again with the following sequences.  As you can see in the above screen cap, Leroy and Buck work on the jeep while a third person clad in coveralls is underneath.  Naturally, you’ve figured out that is Doris is under the vehicle—though when Bronson and Willoughby arrive and introduce themselves, Buck in turn introduces “the third man” as his son.

The agents inform Buck that they believe he has a still on the premises, and ask to take a look around.  The Feds head off to look in the barn, and Doris emerges from underneath the Jeep to help her pop find a better hiding place for the still.  Leroy acts as lookout, but before Buck and Dor get anywhere with the still, he alerts them to the returning agents, and the still goes back in the hay…and Doris back under the Jeep.  (Face first this time.)

Now, this is funny maybe one time—but it’s repeated once more with no variation: agents leave; an attempt to hide the still; agents return; Doris under the Jeep.  Somebody like Lucille Ball could have milked this for comedy gold—but alas, Day is not up to the task.  So Bronson and Willoughby leave (believe me, it wasn’t easy resisting temptation to make a Then Came Bronson joke), and that means Doris has to beat the two of them back to the Sheriff’s office.  Doris takes Leroy with her because she needs him for the payoff, and mercifully we are spared any more footage of driving with a dissolve to the jail.

DORIS: They can’t be far behind…here, Leroy—take the keys…get all of the moonshine out of that closet, you hear?
LEROY: Okay!  (He locks Doris back in her cell)
DORIS: Without that—they don’t have a case!
LEROY (as he fumbles for the key to the closet): What’ll I do with it?
DORIS: I don’t know—just hide it!


“Boy, it sure is dark in here,” observes Leroy as he enters the closet, striking a match.  “Yeah,” confirms Doris, “whatever you do—don’t light a…”


Ka-boom!  That blowed up real good!  Just in time for Agents Bronson and Willoughby to arrive and see that a corn-fed hick has completely destroyed their carefully constructed case against Doris.


Ah, Dor…I bet it feels real good to win for a change.

The coda finds our girl and Sheriff Ben having a spot of tea and some cookies in the home of Cotina’s most notorious rum runners…

LIDDIE: Doris, we really don’t know how to thank you, dear…
BEN: Oh, I can tell you how to thank us both…don’t make any more of that moonshine!
DORIS: Right!  Boy, Ben and I decided we can’t go through this again!
ADDIE: Well, you won’t have to, honey—Liddie and I are going to turn over a new leaf…aren’t we, Liddie?
LIDDIE: We certainly are!
DORIS: That’s the best news I’ve heard all week…

Well, that and Leroy’s bandages will be off soon.  Like a good hostess, Addie runs to the alcove to fetch Doris’s gloves…and reveals…


…the only truly funny bit here is that Anders immediately turns his back upon seeing the still, like Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes.  (“I see nothing…NOTHING!”)

“The Still” marks the first Doris Day Show episode that credits Dodo’s son Terry Melcher as the show’s executive producer; a job previously afforded to her husband Martin, who—as we have discussed previously on Doris Day(s)—was really most sincerely dead at the time the series was telecast over CBS.  That’s one of many reasons why I believe the oft-told tale that Doris didn’t learn of her sitcom commitment until after Marty snuffed it is a lot of fiction—I don’t understand why a dead guy gets a producer’s credit, and it’s not like he would have cared if they took his name off the show.

“The Still” is also the last tolerable episode of the series’ first season—next time on Doris Day(s), it’s “The Gift,” a Leroy-centric episode that is really a tough slog (plus there’s nary a character actor to brighten it up), followed by the aforementioned “The Tiger,” which is no picnic in the park either.  The nadir of the first season, “The Date,” follows both of those…but the series ends on an optimistic note with “The Five Dollar Bill.”  So if you’re game, join us—won’t you?