Monday, September 10, 2012

Mayberry Mondays #57: “All for Charity” (10/12/70, prod. no. 0307)

Paul Hartman is remembered by most couch potatoes as fix-it savant Emmett Clark on both The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D…but these weren’t the only two shows on his boob tube resume.  Hartman and his wife Grace were actually among the first TV stars when the couple appeared together on a short-lived sitcom entitled The Hartmans (at Home) in 1949, and after Grace’s passing in 1952 Paul starred with Fay Wray and a young Natalie Wood in Pride of the Family from 1953 to 1954.  He later guest-starred on such series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents/The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, Naked City, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Family Affair…and even had semi-regular roles on the sitcoms Our Man Higgins and Petticoat Junction.  (He played Bert Smedley on the latter show—at the same time he was Emmetting on TAGS and R.F.D., surprisingly—but was eventually replaced by Tim Graham in one Junction episode and Frank Ferguson in another.)

It was my fellow television blogger Brent McKee, however, who reminded the TDOY faithful many years back (in the comments for the episode “Emmett’s 50th Birthday”) that before Hartman started working steadily in TV, he had had a very successful career on stage as a dancer, partnered with the aforementioned Grace.  The couple appeared in such revues as Red, Hot and Blue and Angel in the Wings (for which both Hartmans won Tony Awards) and after Grace’s death, Paul worked alongside Robert Morse in the very popular How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying.  Occasionally in Mayberry, Hartman’s Clark would demonstrate his fancy footwork—notably in the TAGS outing “The Wedding” and the R.F.D. installment “The Harvest Ball”—something that he will also do today in this week’s episode of Mayberry Mondays, “All for Charity.”

As our episode opens, we find bakery doyenne Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka) putting village idiot Goober Pyle (George Lindsey) through his paces in what appears to be a rehearsal for some sort of amateur theatrical production…something with which Millie’s character has become associated with, owing to her taking over the responsibility of overseeing the annual fundraising revue in the first season R.F.D. episode, “The Church Play.”  That episode features our cupcake gal going up against the evil sorceress Clara Edwards (Hope Summers) as to who will be in charge of the titular event, with Clara gleefully spreading the news around Mayberry that Millie was at one time—gasp!—a chorus girl.  (Later in this episode, Goober will reference this earlier installment…but his recollection of the event has a noticeable time element error, as we will see.)  Oh, I should also point out that Goober is dressed as a tree.

MILLIE: Goober, put your arms out… (He sticks his arms out) Uh…let’s see if you can you sway with the wind… (He sways) Oh, that’s fine!
GOOBER (laughing stupidly): It’s a little tight on the branches…
MILLIE: Oh, I can believe that…
GOOBER (walking down some stairs from the stage): What’d you say you was gonna call it again?
MILLIE (as she rifles through a box of costumes): The Rites of Spring…it’s…uh…it’s a pageant meant especially for children…
GOOBER: Well, these pageants are moneymakers, all right…
EMMETT (entering the hall): Sorry I’m late, Millie…
MILLIE: Oh, that’s all right, Emmett…
GOOBER (beaming): Hey, Emmett—how do you like my costume?  I’m a tree!
EMMETT: Well, that sounds about right for you

Every episode…one laugh-out-loud moment.

GOOBER: Always got some wisecrack, haven’t you?

I just wish he had more.  This is supposed to be a sitcom.

MILLIE: Here’s your costume, Emmett…
EMMETT (holding up a pair of tights): What’s this thing?
MILLIE: You’re going to play Robin Redbreast…
EMMETT: Robin Redbreast?
GOOBER: I knew it before you did…
MILLIE: You’re going to help usher in the spring season…
EMMETT: I’m gonna usher it in these things?
MILLIE: Well, here…with this top on, you’ll look just fine…


Don’t look now, Emmett…but your costume’s molting.

GOOBER: Yeah, they probably won’t even notice your knobby knees…
EMMETT: You wanna get chopped down?  Look, Millie…I wanna do all I can to help with this pageant…but when it comes to playin’ a part like this, well…after all, I’m a dignified businessman in this town…

And also suffering from delusions of grandeur.

GOOBER: Emmett, it’s for the church and you’re s’posed to do what you’re told!

“Accept the dictates of the church without question, citizen!”  Well, I’d like to say that the arrival of the man in Millie’s life, poor-but-honest-dirt-farmer-turned-town-council-head Sam Jones (Ken Berry) will brighten these proceedings but I don’t think I could do it with a straight face.

SAM: Well, Goob!  What are you playing?
GOOBER: Tree…
SAM: Ah yeah…
EMMETT: What are you playin’?
SAM: Nothing…I’m taking care of the ticket sales and publicity…it’s a full-time job…

“…and a new experience for me as well.”

GOOBER: Emmett’s gonna play a bird but he don’t want to ‘cause he’s got knobby knees
SAM: Oh…
EMMETT: Look…one more crack out of you and there’s gonna be a new knothole in that tree…
GOOBER: You just try…
SAM (laughing): Hey, you got things pretty well set, huh, Mill?
MILLIE: Mm-hmm…oh, I’ve got some posters over here for you…
SAM: Oh, good…
MILLIE (handing him the posters): Oh, I got Wally Granmeyer to play the bear

Poor Wally.  Forever typecast.

SAM: Oh…
MILLIE: …and I got all the children set for the daisies and the mushrooms
SAM: Ah…that sounds good…
MILLIE: The only little problem I have is that…well, the costume company can’t find the outfit for the shepherd god, Pan…
EMMETT: Whaddya gonna do about that?
MILLIE: Well, Pan was supposed to awaken the woodlands to the spring season and I guess…uh…spring will have to awaken without him…
SAM: Doesn’t sound serious…

Millie also takes the time to present to Sam the costume that his son, Mike the Idiot Boy (Buddy Foster), will be wearing in the pageant…


“He has to do a poem, and he’s so good at reciting,” Millie tells Sam as she labors under the delusion that Mike is not only four years old but a girl.  “Great!  He’ll get a kick out of that,” his father responds, lying through his teeth.

EMMETT: When are we gonna start rehearsin’ this thing?
MILLIE: In a couple of days, Emmett…
GOOBER: Hey, Mill…do you think this is gonna be as good as that Sleepin’ Beauty play you put on last year?

As I noted earlier, Goober is referencing the events from “The Church Play”…but since that episode was featured in the show’s first season and we’re five episodes into Season Three it would appear that our favorite gas pump jockey has lost track of a year.  (Logically, it would make sense for Goob to joke about “Little Red Riding Hood,” since that was announced as the next pageant at the end of “Church Play”—but scribe Bob “Continuity is for fools” Mosher has apparently decided to nix that idea.)

MILLIE: Well, I hope so…
GOOBER: Me, too…boy, that was an exciting finish when the prince kissed her and woke her up…I never seen that finish comin’ in a hunnerd years!

This last line might explain why Mosher decided to eliminate the year between that pageant and this one—Goober’s amazement at the denouement of Sleeping Beauty was played for laughs in “Church Play,” too.  Well, the scene now shifts to the stately Jones family home…and as Mike makes his way down the stairs in his dorky “spring lamb” costume, I can’t help but think of the sentiment expressed by another young boy who found himself in a similar situation one Christmas in Ohio in the early 1940s: “Immediately my feet began to sweat as those two fluffy bunnies with the blue button eyes stared sappily up at me…I just hoped Flick would never spot them, as the word of this humiliation could easily make life at Warren G. Harding School a veritable hell.”

ALICE: Ohhhh…isn’t that the cutest thing!
SAM: Hey, that’s great!  And it fits, too, huh?
ALICE: I won’t have to touch it!  Oh, isn’t that the cutest thing!

Oh, that one’s just too easy.  But seriously…I know I’ve slagged Mike a great deal on the blog in the past, but even I’m uncomfortable with this mortification he’s having to go through, as evidenced by this facial expression:


SAM: Hey…what’s wrong, Mike?
MIKE: Oh, I hate it…I just hate it!!!
ALICE: But…you’re so cute!
SAM: Well, look…all you have to do in it is get up and recite a little poem…
MIKE: But the kids are gonna laugh at me!

Oh, they’re gonna do more than just laugh at you.  You had better get used to seeing your underwear flapping in the breeze via flag pole for the rest of your school career…

SAM: Oh, don’t be silly, Mike…nobody’s going to laugh at you…look…now this is something your church has asked you to do…and that’s what’s important, right?
MIKE: Yes, Pa…but don’t tell anybody I’m cute…
ALICE: I won’t…
MIKE: Thanks… (He starts to go upstairs)
ALICE: …but isn’t that the cutest thing!!!

Maybe it’s due to my ingrained “religion is the opiate of the masses” skepticism, but I find this whole “do it because the church has told you so” tone of this episode a bit disturbing.  On the other hand, there’s a very good chance that the cast will down some doctored Kool-Aid by episode’s end, making this the best R.F.D. ever.  The scene now shifts to Emmett’s fix-it shop…where instead of repairing things, the “dignified businessman” is modeling his bird costume as Goober is on Greek chorus stand-by.

SAM: Well!  I don’t know whether to say “hello” or “tweet, tweet”!
(Both Sam and Goober start laughing, Goober in his usual idiotic fashion)
EMMETT: Very funny…very funny

“Why don’t I just fly over your truck and take a crap on it?”

SAM: Ah, I’m sorry, Emmett…I just wanted to put one of these posters in your window—we want a big crowd at this thing, you know…
EMMETT: It’s all right for you to go waltzing around town real happy-go-lucky…you don’t have to get up in front of an audience and make a darn fool of yourself…
SAM: Look…I’ve got my hands full with these tickets and these posters and everything…
GOOBER: Emmett ain’t got the right attitude about this thing, Sam…if your church asks you to make a darn fool outta yourself, that’s what you’re s’posed to do…
EMMETT: Aw, shut up…

Yeah.  Stick a sock in it, Tree Boy.

SAM: Oh, come on, you guys…I know how you feel, Emmett…I had the same problem with Mike…
EMMETT: He didn’t want to play the lamb, huh?
SAM: No…no…he was afraid people were gonna laugh at him…but one thing we have to remember—this is for charity, so…let’s all do what we have to do, and in another week it’ll all be over…

And with that sage piece of advice, he said sarcastically, Goober decides he’ll head for home because he needs to tree-practice.  “Wavin’ them branches ain’t as easy as it looks,” he says seriously, and he does a little vogueing on his way out the door.  The scene then shifts back to the Jones estate, as Sam enters the dining room where Alice is setting places for dinner.

SAM: Hey…is Mike home yet?
ALICE: Yes, he is—and I must admit, I’m a little bit worried
SAM: Oh?
ALICE: Well, he came home from school and didn’t say a word…he just went right upstairs and locked his door

Gosh, he said, also sarcastically.  I wonder what ever could be going on up there?

SAM: Huh…
ALICE: Well, I didn’t want to probe but I thought it might be…well…something man-to-man, you know…

My guess is that it’s more hand-to-hand than man-to-man, if you get my meaning, and I think you do.  So Sam decides to mosey upstairs to see if the little mook’s palms are hairy, and after some initial resistance young Mike opens the door and grants his father entrance as somber music plays on the soundtrack.

SAM: You, uh, wanna tell me what this is all about?
MIKE: It’s about that dumb old pageant…
SAM: Oh, I see…and, uh, just why is it a dumb old pageant?
MIKE: Because I don’t wanna be a crummy spring lamb, that’s why…
SAM: Well, I thought we discussed this yesterday and you decided to be a good sport about it…

“Yeah, well…I’m also approaching adolescence, and my raging hormones have a tendency to bring on mood swings…I’m back to loathing the idea of humiliation in front of my peers, and despising you as well.”

MIKE: But that’s before I talked to Harold…and found out…all the other kids in the play are girls

Cootie alert!  Harold, of course, is Mike’s stupefyingly dense (if slightly evil) sidekick, played by child pugilist Richard S. “Fishface” Steele (who will be joining us shortly).

SAM: Well…that’s just the way it happened to work out, I guess…look…Mike…you are going to learn your part…and you’re going to put on that costume, and get up on that stage and do your best…
MIKE (whining): But, Pa…
SAM (sharply): Look, a person can’t just take the easy way out in life when other people are counting on him!
MIKE: Gosh…everybody’s gonna laugh at me…and I’m gonna feel like the world’s biggest creep…

Oh, yes…this pageant will radically alter your present life in so many ways, Michael.

SAM: Mike…this is a performance that is going to benefit the church…and the whole community!  Now you’ve been asked to help out because you’re considered part of that community…

“…oh, and also because I’m banging the director of the pageant…”

SAM: …and it’s up to you to pitch in and help out just like everybody else!

“Now we’ll have no more discussion…drink your Kool-Aid.”  Thankfully, Sam’s smug piety is going to come back and bite him on the tuchus, because downstairs Millie has arrived with a large box and some exciting news!

MILLIE: Oh, Alice—I’ve got the most exciting news!  (Setting the box down on the couch) I thought I’d have to leave out Pan in the pageant because they lost the costume…
ALICE: Yeah…
MILLIE: …well… (Giggling) They found it! (She holds the costume up in front of Alice)
ALICE: Oh…oh, isn’t that the cutest thing!!!

You know…if someone had decided to remove the word “cute” from the English language before this episode went before the cameras Alice would be practically mute.

MILLIE: And it’s just right for Sam!!!

Oh, I concur.  Mr. “A-person-can’t-just-take-the-easy-way-out-in-life-when-other-people-are-counting-on-him” is going to love it!  Alice calls up to Sam to let him know Millie’s downstairs, and before taking his leave of Mike he digs just a little more hole for himself.  “Now we’ve all got to pitch in and do our part no matter what we’re asked to do—right, son?”  (The suspense is killing me, by the way.)

MILLIE: I…hope I didn’t interrupt anything with you and Mike…
SAM: No…we were just talking…why?  What’s up?
MILLIE (handing him the Pan costume excitedly): Hold it!
SAM (holding the costume): What?
MILLIE: Oh!  Oh, Sam…it’s perfect!  It’s just perfect!
SAM: Wh-What are you talking about?
MILLIE: It’s the costume for Pan!  They found it!  It’s like it was made for you!
SAM: You mean…the pageant?!!
MILLIE: Uh-huh!  Oh, and here’s the headpiece (she puts it on his head) so you can do your little dance…
SAM: Hey, Millie…
MILLIE: …hopping through the woods…
SAM: No, Millie…
MILLIE: …the pipes of Pan and all that…
SAM: Uh-uh…no, Millie…I’ve got to talk to you…
MILLIE: Sam, I’ve got to go…I’ve got a million things to do…I’ve got rehearsals starting tomorrow… (She heads for the front door)  If you want to stop by tomorrow morning, I’ll explain everything to you…see ya!

And she’s out the door, leaving Sam holding that stupid costume.  Alice comes back into the room, and upon seeing him burbles: “Oh, Sam…isn’t that…”


“…the cutest thing,” Sam says, finishing her words for her.  As Alice babbles on about having to take in the costume a little around the waist, Mike ventures downstairs to find out what all the hubbub is about…and then he sees his father.  “Don’t you have homework to do?” Sam barks in irritation.

Returning from letting General Foods pay some bills, we find The Rites of Spring in rehearsal at the church auditorium, including Goober, Emmett and a chorus line of kids (chorus lines are a Millie trademark).  As Millie instructs the little girls on their routine, Emmett does a quick bit of soft shoe in the background, which was good for a chuckle.  Millie then decides that’s a wrap for the day, and as everyone gets down off the stage, Emmett is approached by this little moppet in the red dress:


JODIE: This is fun, isn’t it?
EMMETT: Yeah, great…
JODIE: I’m going to be one of the daisies!
EMMETT: Oh…wonderful!
JODIE: Well…see you tomorrow, Robin Redbreast

The chipper little girl is none other than Alicia Christian “Jodie” Foster, in her third and last appearance on R.F.D. (the always reliable IMDb credits her with two appearances, but she’s also in the episode “Youth Takes Over” despite not having any lines).  I’m sure the fact that Foster would go on to win two Best Actress Oscars (for The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs) aptly explains her presence on the show, and has nothing to do whatsoever with the fact that her brother Buddy Foster is a cast regular.  (By the way, Jodie is identified in the closing credits as “Little Girl” but Millie clearly refers to her by “Jodie” when giving her instructions.)

GOOBER: Well, looks like you got a hit here, Mill…
MILLIE: Looks kind of cute, doesn’t it?
EMMETT: Uh…Millie…if you wanna add a little life to this thing…I do a dance step, “Off to Buffalo”… (He demonstrates a little footwork)
MILLIE: No, Emmett…we’ll do it just like we rehearsed it…
EMMETT (disappointed, to Goober): Comin’?
GOOBER: Yeah…

As Emmett and Goober start to file out of the auditorium, they run into Sam, who’s on his way in.  Emmett tells him everything is going great: “I’ve just been rehearsin’ with the chorus girls.”  Since Sam is planning to find a diplomatic way to weasel out of this “Pan the shepherd god” commitment, he plants a kiss on the back of Millie’s neck and then begins his line of defensive bullsh*t.  Let’s go to the highlight reel:

SAM: Uh…hey…the reason I stopped down…
MILLIE: Oh, and I’m glad you did…I want to explain to you what you’re supposed to do…
SAM: Yeah…that’s exactly the reason I’m here, Millie…you see…uh…I want you to know one thing for sure…I ‘d…I’d love to do this part…
MILLIE: Oh, goodGood!  You know, actually—you don’t have any lines…all you have to do is a woodland dance to Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song”…
SAM: Well…no…Millie…what I wanted to say…
MILLIE: You know, Sam…I thought of you as soon as I saw the costume…because of your dancing experience in those Army shows…

A little bit of Jones history that is referenced in a similar episode where Sam doesn’t want to show off his terpsichorean talents, “Saving Morelli’s.”  Millie starts to read the description of what Sam’s Pan will have to do in the pageant:  “Pan…the Greek god of shepherds and flocks…this woodland creature should be played by someone with knowledge of simple dance steps…as he leaps through the forest, playing his pipes, he should convey a sprightly feeling of bucolic awakening…”

Sam would really love to play Pan, “jumping through the forest with a sprightly feeling and all that,” but he’s more concerned about holding on to the last vestige of his dignity in that town.

SAM: …it’s just that I’m so darn busy
MILLIE: What?
SAM: Well, you know…I’m in charge of the ticket sales…and the publicity…and I’ve been putting posters in windows and…and I had to put an ad in the newspaper…and…uh…I’m in charge of the ticket sales…
MILLIE: You already said that…
SAM: …yeah, and then the finances… (He stops) I did?  Well, yeah…and on top of that, see, I’ve got…I’ve still got the farm…and I’ve got my job as head of the town council…

Millie might be a shallow ditz at times…but there’s no freaking way she’s going to buy that last bit of baloney (he would have been better off not mentioning the F-A-R-M).  She coldly accepts his backing out of the pageant, and her frosty reaction is a sure indication that Sam is probably never going to get any ever again, so maybe he ought to look into that monastery thing.



And in the next scene: give it up for Fishface!  Mike and Harold are climbing a tree on the Jones estate, and I kind of have to hand it to director Christian Nyby for wanting to shake things up a bit with the staging because, in real life, those two cretins would have fallen out of that tree by now.

HAROLD: Didja get out of playing the spring lamb in the play yet, Mike?
MIKE: No…my Pa and I talked it over…and we decided, if you’re asked to do something for your church and your community…you should do your best…no matter what it is!
HAROLD: Your father said that?
MIKE: Yeah…what about it?
HAROLD: Nothing…except I heard he was supposed to play the god Pan in the show and he chickened out
MIKE: If my Pa was supposed to be in the show…he would have told me…and he wouldn’t have chickened out…
HAROLD: Look…I heard it from Dorothy Brownlee…who heard it from Susie Haylor…who heard it from her mother…and Mrs. Haylor is the minister’s wife…are you calling her a liar?

Think carefully about your answer on this one, Mikey.  Because if you even remotely hint that the minister’s wife is not telling the truth, you will be cast into Hell where your marrow will boil and your tortured body will be ripped apart for all eternity by grotesque serpents with razor sharp teeth!

MIKE (opening the truck door for his dad): Pa…it’s not true, is it?
SAM: Hmm?  What?  What’s not true?
MIKE: What Harold said!

“Mike, what have I told you about listening to Harold?  You know he has a steel plate in his head…”

MIKE: He said that Millie asked you to play the shepherd Pan in the show and you chickened out!
SAM: Well, no!  No…I didn’t…chicken out, Mike…I…well…look, you see…Millie found that Pan costume at the very last minute…and by that time I was so involved in the other aspects of the show that I…I’m just too busy to play the part…
MIKE: But when I wanted to quit…you said I was lettin’ down the church and all that stuff…
SAM: Well…that’s not exactly the same thing, Mike…
MIKE: It isn’t?
SAM: No!  No…you see…uh… (After a pause) Where was I?
MIKE: You were telling me why you chickening out is not the same thing as me chickening out…

Sam’s explanation of “Don’t do as I do, do as I say” is a beaut:

SAM: What I am doing for the pageant…see…is not…is not apparent on the surface…it, uh… (Slight pause) It might be compared to an iceberg
MIKE: An iceberg?
SAM: Yeah…you see…now…now…the visible part…of the iceberg…uh…consists of the show itself…of…of, uh, Goober, and Emmett, and you and all the other kids who are going to be seen on the stage…but two-thirds of an iceberg, Mike, is underneath the surface…supporting that stuff that everyone sees…now, you probably learned that in school…
MIKE: If we did, I musta been absent or something…
SAM: Well…uh…anyway…see, in the pageant, you might say that I’ve been contributing my time and my efforts to all the things that are beneath the surface…see, the things like ticket sales, and publicity, and so forth…now if those things were neglected…the show itself might…just sink to the bottom and never be seen at all…now doesn’t it make things clear to you when I explain it to you like that?
MIKE: Yeah…sure, Pa…all that stuff about the iceberg means you’re still not gonna be in the thing…

“If you’re through making things clear to me—can I go upstairs and start my homework?” Mike asks Sam, clearing not buying the horsesh*t.  Sam is a bad father…and I don’t mean he’s bad because he’s bald-faced lying to his kid—every parent does that, and for those of you out there shaking your heads no you might want to review the chapters on Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.  No, Sam is a rotten parent because he’s opened this up for analysis and discussion.  Real parents do not do this.  Real parents rarely own up to their hypocrisy, and find it so much easier to magically wipe any and all potential conflict away with the magic words: “Because I said so.”

So…if Sam can’t get his own kid to swallow all that—what makes him think he can convince Cousin Alice?

SAM (as Alice comes around the corner of the house with a load of laundry): Did you hear that?
ALICE: Yes, I did…
SAM: Alice, what I was trying to explain to Mike is that an iceberg is two-thirds beneath the surface, right?
ALICE: Yes, iceberg…I heard that…
SAM: And only one-third above the surface…
ALICE: That figures…
SAM: Right…and my whole point in making that comparison was to try to explain to Mike that the reason why it’s important for him to do the show and the reason I didn’t want do it…no, I don’t mean that…what I…uh…ohhhh…where did I put that costume…?

Folded like a piss-poor poker hand, huh, farmer boy?  There is then a short scene at rehearsal, with Millie showing Sam the “Pan prance,” which is how she wants him to dance on the stage, awakening the woodlands and all that happy-crappy.  Sam gets embarrassed and angry: “Millie, I am not going to get up on this stage in front of an audience…


Dun-dun-DUN!!!

Sam then takes the pan flute from Millie.  “Show me again,” he requests quietly.

Overture! Curtain lights!  This is it!  So hit the heights!  Yes, to the stirring sounds of Mayberry’s own Carl Benton’s Wildcats, the church pageant gets underway.  First out of the box is Alice, who does a little recitation at the beginning that would have been perfect for pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson), but he’s MIA this week.


Eye makeup much, Alice?

ALICE: The Rites of Spring… (She hesitates, and Millie can seen mouthing a few words of her speech) Here we are amid the throes of Spring awakening, as winter goes…the birds and flowers return once more to see what Springtime has in store… (Alice then stops, and looks over to see Millie giving her approval) With the coming of Spring, all things come alive…the trees drink in the sun, and shed the snowy coverlet from their weary branches…


Goober as a tree.  It’s the role he was born to play.

ALICE: The big brown bear, who has been hibernating during the cold dark months, emerges from his cave and welcomes in the rays of the sun…


Earlier in the episode, Millie mentions offhandedly that the “bar” in this play will be played by Mayberryian Wally Granmeyer…but the actor in the bear suit is really Hungarian émigré Janos Prohaska.

Prohaska was one of several go-to thesps when you needed an actor in an animal suit—he played gorillas, dodo birds (he’s in the classic Bewitched episode “Allergic to Macedonian Dodo Birds”)…and in one instance, an alien costume he designed for Star Trek inspired producer Gene L. Coon to write an episode featuring the alien (known as the “Horta”), “The Devil in the Dark.”  But Prohaska’s stock-in-trade was bears—playing them on such shows as The Munsters, Love, American Style, Here’s Lucy and Dusty’s Trail.  His most prominent ursine performance was as Cookie Bear, a regular on The Andy Williams Show in that variety program’s final years.  The aptly-titled character was always trying to wheedle a cookie out of Andy, without much success…and because of Prohaska’s thick Hungarian accent, show writer Ray Reese had to dub Cookie’s lines.

ALICE: …Robin Redbreast returns once more from warmer climes…and joins in the welcome…


This is Emmett’s cue to move around, bird-like, on the stage.

ALICE: And now…all the woodlands come alive…

Cue the cute daisy and mushroom kids…


"It's the wolf!  It's the wolf!"

MIKE: The long winter’s over…the Spring lands are born…I leap through the forest…to greet the new morn…

Nerd alert!

MIKE: …I come here a-running…as fast as I can…to watch the Spring dance…of the Shepherd god…Pan…


Major nerd alert!  (And I thought that scarecrow thing he did in “Saving Morelli’s” was embarrassing…)

Sam-as-Pan is surrounded by the chorus, who dances around him in a circle, and then he flits from tree to bear to bird, shooing them away in his pansy fashion…


Give it up for the bear!


Because Emmett is the last one on stage that he gets to, Emmett decides to do a little “Off to Buffalo” behind Sam, which was good for another chuckle.  If I could get better screen captures I would, but the gist of what happens is that Emmett and Sam participate in a dance-off as the two men exchange fancy footwork back and forth.  It’s fitfully funny stuff because Sam is annoyed by Emmett’s antics at first but then is amazed that the old codger still has his stuff…


Wail on that sax, darlin’!

The nice thing about the routine is that it’s not too slick (if Sam and Emmett came off like real professionals we’d all be wondering why the hell they were still in Mayberry…more so than usual…) and both Hartman and Berry really seem to be enjoying themselves.  The show ends, the audience rewards the cast with thunderous applause and everybody comes out for a curtain call.

SAM: Well, Mike?
MIKE: Well, Pa…you sure held up your end of the iceberg

Oy.  I’m going to try and make the coda as quick and as painless as I can—Mike and Harold are back in their tree, and Harold compliments his buddy on what a swell job he did in the pageant.  “I know it’s a long way off…but do you think next year Millie might let me be in the spring pageant?” Harold asks Mike.

Mike is a little hesitant, seeing as how the show is important and “they just can’t put anybody in.”  Harold, sinister little creep that he is, then asks Mike if he’ll ask Sam, what with Sam sleeping with the producer and all.

MIKE: Pa?
SAM (down on the ground, mowing the lawn): Yeah, Mike?
MIKE: Do you think next year we might get Millie to give Harold a part in the play?
SAM: Uh…gee, I don’t know, Mike…of course, Harold, nobody knows what kind of parts will be open…
HAROLD: I’ll do anything!
MIKE: Tell you what, Harold…my Pa and I will keep you in mind…we might be able to get Millie to squeeze you in as a mushroom or something…
HAROLD: Gee, thanks

“Tell me about the mushrooms, George…”  Ye gods, that kid is dumb.

Well, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s brand-spanking-new Alice-o-Meter™ is able to tally another appearance for Alice Ghostley as Cousin Alice, which makes a total of two appearances for her on Mayberry R.F.D. in its third and final season.  Next week, Emmett Clark is ready for an extreme makeover in an episode entitled “Hair”…which also features a guest appearance from the man who played Corporal Steve Henshaw, Sergeant Charley Hacker, Sam “the Butcher” Franklin, Al the Plumber, Barney Hefner…and Magilla Gorilla.  Join us, won’t you?

5 comments:

Chris Vosburg said...

SAM: Oh, don’t be silly, Mike…nobody’s going to laugh at you…look…now this is something your church has asked you to do…and that’s what’s important, right?

After finishing school, Mike left Mayberry for Los Angeles, where he applied to and was accepted at the LAPD Academy.

Among the bullets points on the "tell us about yourself" section of his application:

* Thin skinned
* Stuffed into too many trashcans as a boy
* Emotionally scarred
* REVENGE!

It's rumored that Daryl Gates nearly broke into a tap dance when he saw this app, and shouted Get me more guys like this!

Stacia said...

Oh, I should also point out that Goober is dressed as a tree.

Ooofffff course he is.

“Why don’t I just fly over your truck and take a crap on it?”

Seriously, you need to be writing sitcoms.

I'm pretty cross with this episode being done on a week when Dodson was on vacation, because this is PERFECT for Howard. But I'm also vexed at the complete ridiculousness of this situation. No one explains who decreed this particular play need be done, and why the play couldn't have been changed, or done as a children's play only without adults, or any number of solutions. The key to a good sitcom episode (or comedic moment in a film) is that it has to be plausible. Just a bunch of silly crap tossed about because it's silly is BORRR-INNNGGG.

Chris Vosburg said...

As usual, right on, Stacia.

The Andy Griffith show was a bit shiny at the elbows in its last year, and it showed: the usually gracious Andy himself was increasingly testy with his fellow Mayberrians, and was from time to time reduced to simply saying just get away from me, y'all to them. I like to think that at some point that final year, Griffith threw down a script one day and said, how'm I supposed to deal with a townfulla people this stupid and make it look plausible, you know?

And when he'd finally had enough and the show's producers scrambled to make an Andy Griffith Show without Andy Griffith, it just got weird.

There is an "eh, it's a livin" vibe permeating the writing and directing of MRFD, a vibe that I'm glad to say largely did not trickle down into the performances of the talent, who were magnificent troupers throughout (if boring!).

For example, I've come to realize, through Ivan's very funny remembrances, that Jack Dodson was a comedic genius in his Howard Sprague role, which I did not appreciate as the show ran in real time back in the day, and I am not worthy to carry his bowtie.

But in the final days of Mayberry, a malaise* set in and they just didn't care [laughing], and it showed. All that was missing was a guy in a leather jacket waterskiing.

*That's right, Mistah Carter, a malaise.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Mr. Vosburg pointed out:

Jack Dodson was a comedic genius in his Howard Sprague role, which I did not appreciate as the show ran in real time back in the day, and I am not worthy to carry his bowtie.

While I can certainly understand why so many people display an animosity toward the Howard character, I honestly believe he's one of the better things to come out of the TAGS later years. The guy was a therapist's wet dream, though once they married Howard's ma and sent her off to wherever she went he lost a little of what made him so funny.

And my BBFF tossed in a couple of copper pennies:

No one explains who decreed this particular play need be done, and why the play couldn't have been changed, or done as a children's play only without adults, or any number of solutions. The key to a good sitcom episode (or comedic moment in a film) is that it has to be plausible.

I think they had two goals in mind when they came up with this episode: 1) embarrass the hell out of the Sam character, and 2) let Ken Berry and Paul Hartman dance. Now, because I find Sam as exciting as a milkshake with two straws, any situation that makes him uncomfortable scores points with me. And as far as the dancing goes (and I still recall your trauma with the One Day at a Time incident), while I generally loathe such shenanigans as a rule I really did enjoy seeing Hartman strut his stuff.

Stacia said...

But Ivan, it has two straws. TWO. STRAWS.