Monday, December 15, 2014

52 pickup


Guess who’s celebrating a wedding anniversary today?  Yes, it’s the blogosphere’s favorite comedy couple, Ivan (Sr.) and Irene, more familiarly known here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear as “the ‘rents.”  (Or “Los Parentes Yesteryear,” as my pal Brandie once memorably tagged them.)  They were married on this date in 1962, and continue to defy the odds season after season by being renewed in perpetuity.  I’d be hard-pressed to explain their longevity, except that they simply excel at making it work.

This morning, the ‘rents were nice enough to invite me along to their breakfast celebration at The Cracker Barrel (I know—I was afraid things would get out of hand and the police would be called in).  Truth be told—I’m not a fervent fan of the Barrel, but I pushed aside my usual tendency to order the combo breakfast with the biscuits and the gravy and the grits and instead had my favorite, blueberry pancakes.  They were indeed most excellent.  (The sausage patties I ordered on the side…not so much, but then I’m more of a link man.)  Both Mom and Dad have noticed that the quality of the Barrel’s cuisine has seen a decline in recent years (the last time we went was on Election Day and the biscuits were like hockey pucks), so a return trip might not materialize unless things improve.  (If anyone with the organization is reading this—you seriously need to step up your game.)

Dad prevailed upon me to find some comedy aprons for Mom as an anniversary gift…


…and I complied, courtesy of Café Press.  There will be much feasting and merriment later this evening (Mom is making her favorite dinner, filets mignon) but I just wanted to nibble a tiny bit of bandwidth to wish my parents the happiest of anniversaries…because I dearly love them so.

Doris Day(s) #32: “The Woman Hater” (10/13/69, prod. no #0402)


When I first started Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s Doris Day(s) project back in June of 2013, I occasionally “skipped ahead in the reading” by watching episodes from future seasons—the explanation for which escapes me at the moment, though I’d probably plead temporary insanity if the case ever went to trial.  Some of the future installments were so unmemorable that when I now look at the titles I think “I don’t remember if this was a good one or bad one…better mark it as a bad one to be on the safe side.”  I can say without fear of correction that today’s episode, “The Woman Hater,” is one of these terrible episodes.

The curtain on Act One rises to reveal Michael “Nick” Nicholson (McLean Stevenson), editor of Today’s World (The NOW Magazine), who seems to be in stirringly good spirits after a phone conversation with someone will meet in a few minutes.  His Gal Friday, the Widder Martin (Doris), enters Nick’s office just as he is completing his talk.


NICK: Rhinehart’s come up with a great new title for the article—“Women: the Unnecessary Sex”…

Jezebel needs to hire this guy—stat!  Needless to say, Dor is not on board with this radical kind of journamalism—“That’s very funny” is all she can manage to say.

NICK: Well, you have to admit a lot of what he says is true
DORIS (disapprovingly): Look, I don’t mind him taking a poke at us once in a while—but he really overdoes it…and you know it…
NICK: He really bothers you, doesn’t he?  I mean, he gets to you…
DORIS: Let’s put it this way, sir…if I were marooned on a desert island…I’d prefer a coconut to him

“That’s exactly why women read him!  They hate him—but they read him!” Nicholson exclaims, pleased that he was one of the pioneers in what the Internets crowd refer to as “trolling.”  Incidentally, Doris isn’t kidding about that desert island scenario; she was once in a similar situation in Move Over, Darling (1963)…except she hooked up with Chuck Connors rather than getting intimate with any of the vegetation.

NICK: Since we started running his series—our circulation has skyrocketed!
DORIS: Naturally!  I buy a copy myself just for the privilege of tearing it up!

Dodo must have been absent the day they had the discussion on “boycotts” in her high school History class.

NICK: You really don’t like him, huh?
DORIS (deliberately): No…I…don’t…it’s nothing personal…I don’t know him…but I’ll just bet you he is the most conceited, egotistical, opinionated…
NICK (interrupting): Would you like to meet him?
DORIS: Meet him?  I wouldn’t meet him if he were the last man on earth!


And with a quick cut, we find Doris in the hotel room of Alex Rhinehart…who seems strangely calm for the last man on earth.  Since Doris isn’t too anxious to meet him, perhaps we should introduce this week’s guest star.

Anthony Eisley’s TV immortality is a result of playing private investigator Tracy Steele for three seasons on Hawaiian Eye, a successful ABC crime drama that ran from 1959 to 1963 and co-starred Robert Conrad and Connie Stevens.  (It was a carbon copy of 77 Sunset Strip, except it was set in Hawaii.)  The actor was billed as “Fred Eisley” in his early movie and TV days, guest starring on such series as Racket Squad, Tales of the Texas Rangers and Pete Kelly’s Blues while appearing in films like The Young Philadelphians (1959) and The Wasp Woman (1960).  Tony later had a recurring role as Chet Randolph on TV’s The F.B.I., and graced such movies as The Naked Kiss (1964), The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966) and The Doll Squad (1973)—so I suspect Scott C. will be mocking him in the comments section any minute now.  He passed on in 2003 (Eisley, not Scott).

Doris introduces herself and tells Rhinehart she’s there to pick up the revisions for his article, and he invites her to take a seat while he reads an example of his journamalistic brilliance:

ALEX: “…and though it is your money…earned by the sweat of your brow…they not only spend it happily on themselves for luxuries…but begrudge spending any of your own money on yourself even for the necessities of life…such as a pistol to shoot yourself with when the whole awful involvement becomes more than a sensitive human being can bear…”


I think if I conducted a whip-round on the blog we could raise the fundage for that pistol, Alex old sock.  Rhinehart’s brilliant prose—“Ladies love to shop…amirite, fellas?”—produces a predictable side-eye from Doris…but his words also cause her to twist her beaded necklace in anger and frustration until she snaps it and the beads go spilling to the floor.


ALEX: Ah, no…I can do better than that…it just doesn’t have enough bite… (Noticing that Doris is on the floor) Oh…you’ve got a lovely face…it’s a shame you’re so short…tell me—do you usually go around strange hotel rooms on your hands and knees?
DORIS: Only when my beads break
ALEX: Thank goodness…I loathe seeing a beautiful woman with poor posture…

He helps Doris gather her beads as the conversation continues.  “I’m surprised it would matter to you,” Doris remarks with thinly disguised contempt.

ALEX: Oh, but it does…I admire a beautiful woman…much as I would a…graceful lioness…appreciating the beauty of each while…not really caring to share a cage with either…
DORIS: I think we’ve got them all now…
ALEX: Well, keep looking…four more beads and we can buy Manhattan
DORIS: Do you really hate women as much as you say you do?

And sadly…those are Doris’ last words, because Rhinehart proves indeed he does by strangling her and carrying her lifeless body down the hall, dumping it down the hotel’s laundry chute.  No—I’m just kidding about that; Rhinehart maintains that as a writer he only composes what he sincerely believes.  Doris, on the other hand, has seen through his cynicism and argues that he only does it for shock value…”and the money.”  Getting up off the floor, Alex realizes that he’s done his back in…so Doris offers to fix it for him, as she often has to do with her father, Laird Buckley Webb (Denver Pyle).


DORIS: How’s that?
ALEX: You have any glue?  I think I heard something break
DORIS: Come on—move around a little bit…
ALEX (taking a walk around the room): You did it!
DORIS: Of course!


O ye of little faith—she’s Doris Freaking Day, my man!  “Well, that’s amazing,” he gushes.  “Amazing—a creature with beauty, intelligence…and the hands of a karate expert.”  Why does this assclown keep calling Dor a “creature” as if she just climbed off a slab in some laboratory?

Things start to get a bit awkward after this.  Doris insists on taking the revisions back to Nicholson despite Rhinehart’s dissatisfaction with that last part of written chauvinism.  He suggests the two of them take a walk so he can have a few minutes away from the typewriter: “I’ll even let you state your case for womanhood!”  Your generosity knows no bounds, kind sir.

I’m going to skip over most of this next section because a) most of it consists of grunting from Rhinehart…which is pretty much what you’d expect from a pig, and b) Doris starts to act a bit sappy in his presence despite his terribleness.  Many Doris Day Show fans were pleased that the minds behind the show transplanted their heroine to city environs beginning with the second season (in the third season, she even moves there with her kids) since that meant she would be exposed to more possibilities in the romantical department.  I can’t argue that they don’t have a point, considering her past conquests included Ubbie Puckum and that Air Force wanker…besides, TV already had a nun (and this one could even fly!) on the airwaves at the time.


The two of them sit on a park bench, eating peanuts (they even feed a squirrel at one point)—with Rhinehart admiring the fact that The Widder Martin has a sense of humor, since “very few have” in his expert opinion.  “Most of us lose it,” responds Doris, “having to put up with men like you.”  (Ya burnt, Rhinehart!)

After a ceaseless sequence of lame philosophical banter between the two of them, we are whisked back to the Today’s World offices: Nick asks Doris if Alex has dropped by with the revisions yet.  Doris replies that he’s due in any moment now, and she’s instructed to show him when he does.  As she visits with office gossip Myrna Gibbons (Rose Marie), a young office lackey named Dave (Johnnie Collins III) brings in a gi-normous rose bouquet, and Doris thanks him profusely.  Note: this is not the same Dave the Lackey we saw previously in “A Frog Called Harold,” since he was played by a different actor.  I would imagine having two Daves at the magazine would make things a tad confusing.  (Though Bruce McCullough might be able to get a song out of it.)

DAVE: Oh gee, Doris—they’re not from me
DORIS: I was only thanking you for bringing them in, Dave…

Plonker.

DORIS: Who would be sending me flowers?  (She opens the card) Alex Rhinehart!
MYRNA: Now, be careful…there might be a bee enclosed…
DAVE: Myrna, I got the impression your boss is looking for you…
MYRNA: Why?  What did he say?
DAVE: If I saw you to ask if you’d mind dropping by and visiting him for a while…
MYRNA: Oh, I don’t mind—ask him what his visiting hours are…

This will be kind of a thing on The Doris Day Show—Myrna loves to while away the working hours by chatting things up with Doris…much to the dismay of her boss, assistant editor Ron Harvey (Paul Smith).  Dave, apparently not the sharpest pencil in the office desk drawer, runs off to tell Harvey this but Myrna stops him and assures him she’s on her way.

DORIS (admiring the flowers): Aren’t they lovely!
MYRNA: Okay…come on…what’s the card say?
DORIS (pulling it away from Myrna): Get out of here!
MYRNA: Come on…
DORIS: I’ll tell you…
MYRNA: All right…
DORIS (reads): “To the loveliest exception…”
MYRNA: Hmm…
DORIS: Oh, it says “over”… (Turning the card over) “P.S. Enclosed find one we missed…” (She opens up an envelope and holds up a bead)
MYRNA: I’m not even going to ask you how your beads got broken…even if it kills me…

Myrna starts toward the door, adding “And believe me—it’s killing me!”  She starts to walk out, and runs into Alex Rhinehart.  “Good afternoon,” he greets Myrna, who responds “It sure is!”

Doris also greets Rhinehart, which tips Myrna off to the man’s identity—she mouths words of approval to her pal as she skitters out of the office.   Doris thanks Alex for dropping a bundle on the poses, and he shifts into suave mode: “A quote from a minor Persian poet: ‘Even the loveliest rose pales where your beauty glows.’”  (I’ll bet he read that off a restaurant placemat somewhere.)

“Now why don’t you write things like that!” she teases him.  Rhinehart parries with “I’d starve to death” and then, having brought up the subject of strapping on the ol’ feedbag, wants to know the direction to Rancho Webb because he’d like to take Dodo to dinner that evening.

ALEX: Don’t get all flustered…I’d just like to take you out to dinner…
DORIS (sweetly): Oh…
ALEX: We’ll talk about it later…
DORIS: Okay…oh, and thanks for the pearl…

Rhinehart ducks into Nicholson’s office, and exits in the blink of an eyeball.  He presses Doris on the dinner invite, and warns that if she doesn’t accept “I’ll sit down at my typewriter and write nasty things about women all evening.”  “Yeah—when you see how much I eat you’re liable to do that anyway,” Doris grins.  Awwww…Doris has a date!  Her stroll along Cloud Nine comes to an abrupt halt when Nick buzzes her on the intercom and requests her presence in his office.  You know it’s serious when he calls her “Mrs. Martin” and remarks “don’t bother to bring your notebook!”

NICK: Mrs. Martin…?
DORIS: Yes, sir?
NICK: What happened between you and Rhinehart this morning?

“Oh, come now…a lady never reveals those details…”

DORIS: Well…nothing, sir…I mean…I went over there as you told me to do…and when I got there…he hadn’t finished the article…and then he thought…well, then my beads broke…and then he thought that maybe we should have a walk…which we did…and…well…I thought we got along rather well…
NICK: Oh, yes…I know you two got along very well

“Know what I mean…nudge nudge?”

DORIS: I beg your pardon, sir…?
NICK: So well…that because of you…he’s changed his mind about women and won’t allow us to print his article!


Sweet honey bee of infinity!  Doris’ legendary powers of sweetness and light have transformed a loathsome misogynist into a kind, thoughtful member of the human race!  Or have they?  Doris is convinced that Nicholson is kidding…until in his anger he snaps a pencil in two.  (He’s not kidding, Dodo.)

The scene shifts to the living room at Webb Manor.  Doris is frantic to come up with a solution to this problem, since it could mean saying goodbye to her Today’s World job and returning to her stifling bucolic existence on the ranch…and the possible homecoming of Leroy B. Semple Simpson (James Hampton), which would make a number of the TDOY regulars (both of you) a bit unhappy.

DORIS: I’ve got to think of something…I just can’t lose that job!
BUCK: Now, wait just a minute…just settle down…the job isn’t that important—we’re pretty self-sufficient around here, and if you lose the job…so what?
DORIS: But I love it!
BUCK: Well…then we gotta think of somethin’…

Doris’ progeny—young William (Philip Brown) and the younger Tobias (Tod Starke)—tell their mother that they could perhaps find jobs to help her out (Billy says he could lie and tell them he’s 17), and while she’s touched by their thoughtfulness she instructs them to wash up for dinner (raspberry tart…without so much rat in it).

BILLY (to Toby): What kind of a job could you get?
TOBY: Well—could you get a job?
BILLY: Sure!
TOBY: Then I could be your helper!


Game, set and match, Billy boy!  Doris does a bit more pacing in the living room…and then snaps her fingers in triumph!  Sure she represents the forces of goodness, but she can be pretty diabolical when she wants to be...and she wants to be.  She phones Alex at his hotel and tells him not to bother driving out to pick her up—she’ll meet him at the restaurant, and he’s taking her to La Petite Maison (French for “the little house”), so be there at 8:30.  “Something tells me I just heard a trap being baited,” observes Buck as Doris hangs up the phone.

“Yeah…but he’s a pretty smart little mouse,” she informs her father.  “Let’s just hope he takes the cheese.”  (I was very much surprised that Toby didn’t come bounding down the stairs at that remark.)

“The Woman Hater”—Part the Second.  Here’s the skinny: Doris’ nefarious scheme is to make herself the least desirable woman in the world so that Alex Rhinehart will revert to his Neanderthal ways.  She arrives at the restaurant late (9:10), and calls out “Yoo hoo!” in a voice loud enough to be heard in Portland.  Her tardiness is on account of a neighbor, “Mrs. Steinbater”: “All she does is talk talk talk talk talk talk talk,” she explains without a whiff of irony.


ALEX: Would you like a drink, Doris?
DORIS: Oh, I’d love one!  Oh…what are you having?
ALEX: Scotch on the rocks…
DORIS: I’ll have that!

She continues to prattle on about Mrs. S, then diverts to a pillow fight involving Billy and Toby.  Then she gets the attention of the bartender (Julius Johnson), previously addressed as “Tony” by Alex before Doris’ arrival at the restaurant.

DORIS: Oh, bartender—would you make that with ginger ale, please?
ALEX: A fourteen-year-old Scotch with ginger ale?
DORIS: Not good, huh?  (Alex nods disapproval) You’re right…bartender…make that with cola instead…


In addition to her crass, common ways (Doris wants Alex to point out any potential celebrities so she can get autographs), our heroine is chomping on a piece of gum—and even offers her date a piece.  “It’s terrific—it’s wild boysenberry…and it really holds flavor.”  When Tony the bartender arrives with her drink, Doris removes the piece she’s been chewing out of her mouth and, placing it in a small bit of cocktail napkin, rolls it into a ball and tosses it at a trash basket apparently behind the bar.

ALEX: Well…as they say in the little duchy of Luxembourg…
DORIS (interrupting): Bottoms up!

Sampling her drink, Doris is not pleased.  “I think the Scotch spoils it,” is her verdict.  “Well, Scotch has a habit of doing that to cola,” replies Alex.

Doris, in explaining she doesn’t care for alcohol (“It makes me nauseous”), goes on to tell a story about a guy named Bertram she once dated—she remembers he was a shoe salesman because he sold her a pair that “killed me.”  “I had such a corn on my little toe so that I couldn’t walk for two weeks!”  Fortunately for Alex, their headwaiter Claude (Luis de Córdova) has arrived to show them to their table.  Doris is stoked, because she’s heard the food is excellent—“Of course, they say it’s overpriced.”


If you’re familiar with an I Love Lucy episode entitled “Lucy Chases Her Mind” (03/30/53), Doris’ ensuing shenanigans will seem a little Deja vu (she was starting to morph into a Lucy clone by the second season anyway)—after she’s shown a table, she insists on changing her seating in the restaurant two or three more times, and then, looking at the menu, she can’t quite agree on what she’ll have.  She orders Veal Alphonse before switching to Duck a l’Orange…

DORIS: Oh, wait a minute…my stomach hasn’t been too good lately…it’s been kind of icky… (To Claude) That’s kind of rich, isn’t it?
CLAUDE: Well, Madame…it’s excellent!
DORIS: Well, I think duck is greasy…isn’t it?  I’d better not…no…I’d better not…uh-huh…well, here we go again… (Looking over the menu) I’m sorry…I just…you know, in these fancy restaurants with these big menus I just don’t know what to order… (Laughing) Oh, boy—I go to a hamburger joint, I know what to order…no problem…hey, do you have hamburgers?
CLAUDE: Oui…only we call it ‘Beefsteak Americain au Champignon”…
DORIS: Oh…well, whatever it is, I’ll have it…
CLAUDE: Very good…
DORIS: With French fried potatoes… (Claude gives her a look, and she turns to Alex) I just figure we’re in a French restaurant, they should have good French fries… (She cackles with laughter)
CLAUDE (writing): Beefsteak Americain au Champignon… (Shaking his head in disgust) With French fried potatoes…
DORIS: Right!  Got that?  Oh—don’t forget the ketchup!

Doris’ transformation into the type of woman you would usually meet right around closing time has not gone unnoticed by Alex; she explains that she was initially shy around him but now she’s gotten to know him better she’s free to be more open.  She also explains that Toby the Cheese-Eater is shy, and then segues into a discussion as to why it’s difficult keeping kids in shoes.  Finally, before Alex can dine-and-dash (leaving Dor to pay the bill), Claude returns to offer coffee.  Additionally, Alex suggests a peach flambeau to cleanse the palate…but Doris is hardly a novice in the ways of dessert:

DORIS: Did I hear dessert?  Did I hear you say dessert?  Oh, that’s my specialty

You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie, Miz Kappelhoff.

DORIS: Do you mind?  Well, first of all—you take a scoop of chocolate ice cream…and a scoop of vanilla ice…I think you better write it down…
CLAUDE: It won’t be necessary, Madame…
DORIS: Oh…you have a good memory, huh? (Claude shoots her a look) Cute…well, first you take a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of strawberry…and on the chocolate goes the strawberry topping…and on the strawberry goes the chocolate topping…see, you reverse those two…then on the vanilla goes the pineapple…then on top of that goes hot marshmallow sauce
ALEX (looking nauseous): Claude…I think I’ll stay with the peach flambeau…

“Heavy on the whipped cream!” shouts Doris at Claude as he slowly heads out in the direction of the kitchen.  “I’ll diet next week,” she alibis to Alex.  Then it’s “paint-and-repair time,” as Doris puts a few touches on her hair and make-up at the restaurant table!  Quelle refinement!

Doris continues to gab and gab and gab until, looking at his watch, Alex alerts her that it’s 1:30 in the a.m.  The two of them bid a sleeping Claude fare-thee-well (“He’s not very alert for a headwaiter—is her?” asks Dor) as Doris is shown to her car, driven up to the front of the restaurant by a valet.  She had simply the most marvy time, and hopes to do it again real soon with Rhinehart.


ALEX: Oh…oh…Mrs. Martin—if they ever give an Oscar for the best performance in a restaurant…you can count on my vote…
DORIS: Thank you, Alex—that’s very sweet… (Pause) What?
ALEX: Well, your whole characterization was so authentic…right down to the…gum chewing
DORIS: You knew?  You knew it all the time?  Oh…Alex Rhinehart…why didn’t you say something?  I’m exhausted!  And my jaw!
ALEX: You’re exhausted?  You almost talked me into a coma!

Doris then explains that the whole ruse was desperation on her part to “get you back to normal.”  “I mean, hating women,” she adds.  Alex agrees to let Today’s World publish his article…provided they also publish his follow-up, “Women are Here to Stay.”  (Oh, the circulation is destined to plummet after that, I’m sure.)  “I may have to come to you for a lot of help,” he confesses.

“Well,” Doris finishes, “I’m at your service…”  (Jackpot!)  And she’ll be “as quiet as a mouse”—which is her cue to lean on the car horn, and the resulting noise won’t stop.  (Oh, Doris…)

The coda on this is short and sweet…and asinine.  Nicholson is pleased with Alex’s article—he thinks it’s the best he’s ever written.  Much of the content is comprised of the way Doris acted at dinner the night before—changing her mind, chewing gum, talking incessantly.  It is then that Doris reveals that she’s a little hoarse from the previous night.

Nick then suspects the truth—Doris went out with Alex.  She confirms his suspicions by croaking “Boss…I gave my voice for the magazine!”  And…scene!

Next week on Doris Day(s)—and I guarantee it will be next week, because here’s why:  I’m normally loathe to do write-ups on episodes out of sequence because I’m just anal that way…but in the spirit of the season, I’ve decided that our next presentation will be the Yuletide-themed Doris Day Show episode “A Two-Family Christmas,” originally telecast on December 22, 1969.  (I never had to face this problem with Mayberry Mondays because Mayberry R.F.D. never tackled a Christmas episode.  “Goober gets stuck in a chimney and much hilarity results…”) So it will be “Two-Family,” and then we’ll return to the proper episode sequencing the following week.  I do hope you’ll join me.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Black Widow (1947) – Chapter 7: Wheels of Death


When we last left our imperiled heroic couple—novelist-criminologist Steve Colt (Bruce Edwards) and his irritating gal reporter sidekick Joyce Winters (Virginia Lindley)—they were battling the evil machinations of the wonderfully wicked Sombra (Carol Forman) in the laboratory of dotty old inventor Professor Henry Weston (Sam Flint).  Sombra, cleverly disguised as renowned lesbian physicist Dr. Ann Curry (Virginia Carroll)—not to be confused with the intrepid NBC News journmalist—had rendered Joyce unconscious with Curry’s pocketbook, sending the female correspondent sprawling across an open window frame…where above, shards of glass threaten to fall down on her like…oh, let’s call it a glass guillotine.  As you’ve already guessed, Colt rescues Joyce from being sliced in the nick of time…though his reason for doing so remains a mystery for the ages.


Back in Sombra’s lair, her esteemed colleague in malevolence—Dr. Z.V. Jaffa (I. Stanford Jolley)—welcomes back his mistress and her Head Goon, Nick Ward (Anthony Warde).  The real Dr. Curry continues to be tied to a chair, by the way.


SOMBRA: You might be interested to know that Steve Colt prevented us from getting the sinetrone…
CURRY: It’s too bad he didn’t prevent you from getting away, Madame…
SOMBRA: Your comment is so harsh, Dr. Curry…can’t we be more friendly?
CURRY: Friendly?  After what you’ve done, I’d sooner die
SOMBRA: I’d be glad to oblige you…take her away…

“To the Killing Chamber!”  We then see a switch in the action to the editorial offices of The Daily Clarion, where the newspaper’s editor, John M. Walker (Gene Stutenroth), reads from the front page of his own publication.

WALKER: “The Black Widow, mysterious murderer, has again struck a terroristic blow…the latest victim in this series of outrageous murders…is Dr. Ann Curry, noted physicist…”
JOYCE: So they killed Dr. Curry…

Sweet child o’mine!  Maybe you shouldn’t have been so flip with Sombra, Doc.  The reason for this startling twist in the plot will be revealed in a moment, but I’d be lying if I didn’t point out that the murder of Doc Curry poses a couple of curious questions.  One, did the other female impersonated earlier by Sombra in this serial, Professor Weston’s secretary Ruth Dayton (Ramsay Ames), suffer the same fate as the esteemed Dr. C?  Two, if so—why didn’t Sondra’s employees do a better job of concealing Curry’s corpse…since there was no mention of Ruth’s demise in the Clarion?

WALKER: Same old story…the only difference is the victim’s name…and Steve still doesn’t have a single clue that can be used to run down…
STEVE (interrupting as he enters the office): That’s not quite right, Walker…

Ladies and gentlemen…the president of his own fan club—Steven Colt!

STEVE (carrying Curry’s pocketbook): There’s some interesting fingerprints under that cellophane…and that’s Dr. Curry’s handbag she left at Weston’s…

“…and those indentations on that bag were made by Joyce’s head.”

STEVE: …but the Dr. Curry we saw there wasn’t the real Dr. Curry…
JOYCE: Now don’t tell me…let me guess…it was the Black Widow…


STEVE: That’s right…
WALKER: This is nothing to kid about, Steve…
STEVE: I was never more serious in my life…there are two distinct sets of fingerprints isolated on that bag…Dr. Curry’s and one other…now the other can only belong to the impersonator of Dr. Curry…
WALKER: I may be thick…

The first step in getting help is admitting it…

WALKER: …but I still don’t see how that solves anything…
STEVE: I examined Dr. Curry’s body at the morgue…and found some scratches in the nail polish on the left hand…on the right was a sharp, pointed ring—turned into the palm…
JOYCE: What could that mean?
STEVE: A message perhaps…


Steve goes on to reveal that he took some photos of those scratches…and as if it were scripted, an unidentified employee knocks on Walker’s second door and enters…then hands Steve an envelope while saying “Your enlargements, Mr. Colt.”  (You know Walker has to be thinking: “When did I lose control of this newspaper?”)  Handing Walker a magnifying glass, Steve shows him and Joyce that the letters M, Y, S and T have been carved into the fingernails on the dead doctor’s left hand.


WALKER: No doubt…Dr. Curry was trying to convey some sort of message!
JOYCE: What could it mean?
STEVE: It’s only part of a word…M-Y-S-T…mysterious…mystify…

Maybe she regretted not playing Myst more in her spare time.

JOYCE: Now if you only had a crystal ball, you might be…
STEVE (interrupting): Wait a minute!  You’ve got something there…crystal ball…mystic…get it?  Dr. Curry was trying to tell us the Black Widow was a mystic or a fortune teller…
JOYCE: Sounds logical…

That’s a hell of a leap in logic, Mr. Colt.  Maybe she was jotting down a reminder to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000?  (Little shout-out to the Mysties in the audience.)  So you can see why it was necessary to croak the good doctor…but what goes unexplained is how Curry knew Sombra’s line of work (she was blindfolded during her capture in Chapter 6).  But thanks to the assist from the screenwriters (Franklin Adreon, Basil Dickey, Jesse Duffy and Sol Shor), all Steve and Joyce have to do now is locate the fortune teller whose fingerprints match those found on Curry’s handbag.

“That’s a big chunk of work,” observes Walker.  “There’s at least a hundred of them in the city.”  I can’t even begin to contemplate a burg with such a large population of suckers, to be honest.  But in the montage that follows, Steve and Joyce seek out each and every practitioner of phrenology, palm reading, etc. operating in No-Name City in their search for a fingerprint match—including this mysterious figure in silhouette, featured in the background of each of the Widow chapter credits:


And finally…


Steve pulls up in his jalopy near the entrance to Sombra’s House of Racket…and the ever-dutiful Blinky the Stoolie (Ernie Adams) alerts the Black Widow of Colt’s presence via his fake hearing aid.  In response to Ward’s query “You think he’s wise?” Sombra comes back with what may be the funniest line in this serial: “I’m supposed to be a fortune teller, not a mind reader…”

Sombra steps into her parlor and prepares herself for Steve’s inquisition.

SOMBRA: Nice to see you again, Mr. Colt…
STEVE: Thank you… (Sitting down) You remember me, huh?
SOMBRA: I never forget a face…

“Or a lousy tip…cheap bastid…”

SOMBRA: …you’re Steven Colt, creator of that brilliant fictional detective Rodman Crane…
STEVE: That’s right…but at the moment I could use your help…

Steve gives Sombra a phony line of malarkey that he’s working on a case involving a palm reading clue—and he shows her the photograph of Curry’s palm.  After making some shrewd guesses with her fortune telling prowess (“This palm indicates a woman…strong character…perhaps a teacher or some professional…”) by holding the photo, Colt’s trap has been sprung and in thanking her, he reaches into his pocket for that tip he owes her.  “Oh, no,” Sombra refuses, “but perhaps you can send me an autographed copy of the book.”

“It’ll be a pleasure,” he smiles insincerely.  “And I won’t forget to inscribe it to Madame Sombra.”  She eyes him suspiciously as he leaves, and then she returns to her office to contact Blinky on the street.  “Colt just left here,” she tells the snitch.  “Watch him.” 


At this point in the narrative, Joyce pulls up in her car…and pasted on a fence belonging to a construction company is a sneaky bit of promotion for the Republic serial Jesse James Rides Again (1947).  With Blinky’s hearing aid turned up to “eleven,” Sombra and her mugs are able to eavesdrop on Steve and Joyce’s conversation.

JOYCE: I thought I’d catch up with you here…I’m all through with my list…
STEVE: Good!  I’ve only got a few left—suppose you get the experts started on all we have…
JOYCE: Trying to ditch me?
STEVE: Wrong again, featherbrain…I wanted you to help me check the results against Dr. Curry’s handbag…
JOYCE: My apologies, Sherlock—where do we meet?
STEVE: Walker’s office tonight…

Sombra!  The dude played you, girlfriend!

SOMBRA: So that was his game…to get my fingerprints on that photo…
WARD: What for?
SOMBRA: To check against the fingerprints on Dr. Curry’s handbag…
JAFFA: Which is evidence enough to swear out a warrant for your arrest…
SOMBRA: If it isn’t destroyed… (To Ward) You will get Hodges immediately…and tonight while they’re at the Clarion office, here’s what you have to do…


Just for a point of reference, Sombra pronounces “Clarion” so that it rhymes with “carry on.”  Back at the paper, Steve tacks a large blow-up of the unidentified fingerprint to the map in Walker’s office, and he and Joyce painstakingly start comparing it to the fingerprints they turned up in their inquiries.  Just when Steve appears to be making a breakthrough in the identification…trouble comes waltzing in the window…


Ward and the previously mentioned Hodges, after pulling up in their sedan, decide to bypass the service desk at the Clarion in favor of a shortcut.  Hodges is played by stuntman Dale Van Sickel, making his second of four appearances in The Black Widow (Tom Steele really slacked off in this one—he takes on only three roles).  A typical Republic free-for-all results between Steve, Ward and Hodges—with an interesting wrinkle added here…


…in that Joyce also gives her all in the melee, before being knocked unconscious.  Ward grabs the folder with the fingerprint information and decides he’ll take the long way out…


…while Steve subdues Hodges with a righteous pummeling.  However, Hodges doesn’t stay down long—he leaps out of the window and lands on Steve below…


…as the two men take their disagreement to a back alley.  Hodges beats Steve senseless and leaves him for dead.  Ward, fed up with all this folderol, motions for his buddy to get in and guns his sedan toward the unconscious Steve…