(Speaking of Boysinger’s, our beloved bakery counter girl Millie Swanson [Arlene Golonka] is MIA from this episode, as is Mayberry village idiot Goober Pyle [George Lindsey]. So this will be tough sledding for some of us.).
But the episode starts off in high dudgeon with a visit to a local antiques store, as Cousin Alice (Alice Ghostley), housekeeper to the family Jones, is perusing some of the wares on sale there. She is accompanied by the patriarch of that clan, poor-but-honest-dirt-farmer-turned-town-council-head Sam Jones (Ken Berry), and his progeny Mike the Idiot Boy (Buddy Foster).
SAM: Oh…that’s very nice…
SAM: Uh…well…yeah…I guess so….I just…I can’t picture it…
One has to wonder why Sam insisted on bringing his dopey son along, seeing as the sign outside does indicate “Antiques”…but perhaps our hero is more concerned that leaving the little mook at home by himself could result in a greater calamity, say, having the house that he just got painted in last week’s episode burn down. Young Mike is none-too-pleased about having to watch Cousin Alice ooh and ah over the store’s niceties, and impatiently asks his father: “When are we going, Pa?”
(Sam and Mike walk over to where
is standing by an ornate harp) Alice
SAM: Wow! I haven’t seen one of those in years!
Of…what, precisely? Marx Brothers movies?
What a memory you have!
SAM: Well, I guess it’s not such a hot item these days…
SAM: Oh…you’re not thinking of buying it, are you?
SAM: Well…I…I just thought that…
SAM: Well, maybe you’re right…it might be too difficult for you…
I like Sam’s oh-so-subtle attempts at mind manipulation here. I don’t know what the hell he needs a harp around the farm for, but nevertheless he’s trying to get
to bend to his will.
MIKE: Can we go?
SAM: In a minute, Mike…in a minute…
Apparently the yo-yo that Mike has been messing with all this time has not served its purpose…someone needs to find a shiny object for this kid, stat!
“And then she did ‘Freebird’ as an encore…”
is still imprisoned in her harp reverie, running her hands along the strings
again. “Is she gonna buy it?” Mike asks
in that irritatingly impatient fashion of his.
SAM: No! No! Of course not! Adds a little class to the place…
“And believe you me, it could use it!” The doorbell rings, and in walks two more members of this week’s dramatis personae: pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) and fix-it savant Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman). Let the record show that one of these gentlemen actually knows that a harp is a musical instrument…the other is mostly familiar with a brand of lager beer with the same name.
EMMETT: You see! You see! (To Sam, indicating Howard) I told him I saw ya drivin’ by with a harp but he wouldn’t believe me!
HOWARD: My word…a harp!
EMMETT: You know, Sam…I always figured you more of a saxophone man…
I know. That joke makes no sense to me, either. Sam explains to Emmett—who, as I’ve previously noted, has to do the heavy lifting as far as stupid is concerned when Goober isn’t around—that the harp belongs to Alice.
HOWARD: Wow…it’s the most beautiful instrument in the world!
As he speaks this line, Howard is sort of…well, “stroking the harp” is the politest way I can put it. And I will refrain from making the easy joke.
EMMETT: Yeah! And when you go…it’s one of these you take with ya!
Emmett, as you can see, made no such promise.
EMMETT: Who are ya gonna take lessons from,
SAM: Oh, yeah…
Yes, this signals the arrival of the big “name” in this week’s episode: Leonid Kinskey, born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1903, made his first film appearance in The Big Broadcast in 1932, and then graduated to roles in movies like Trouble in Paradise, Les Misérables, The General Died at Dawn, So Ends Our Night (as “the Chicken”) and Ball of Fire. He’s best known as Sascha, the “crazy Russian” waiter in
the IMDb says his nickname was “Mad Russian” which makes me curious if Bert
Gordon was made aware of this (“How do you dooooo?”). He did a lot of guest appearances on TV
shows, including a great many sitcoms—he appeared in quite a few installments
People’s Choice, playing a down-and-out character (“ Casablanca Pierre”)
that’s very similar to the “Professor Radetsky” individual he plays in this R.F.D.
episode. He was also in the pilot for Hogan’s
Heroes (“The Informer”) as Vladimir Minsk… Minsk
was Stalag 13’s tailor but when Kinskey turned down the series his tailoring
duties were transferred to Corporal Louis LeBeau, played by Robert Clary. Kinskey passed away in 1998 at the age of 95.
FINCH: You gotta phone… (Noticing the noose) …call…
RADETSKY: Oh—this-this is nothing! It’s-it’s exchange lesson…with…with Boy Scouts!
The individual who called Radetsky wasn’t our Alice…it was a representative of the Mt. Pilot Conservatory of Music (I told you they’d have someone around with harp connections), which you can see in these screen caps is located right over Johnson’s Meat Market—I believe Johnson’s closed down a few years back about the time the nearby cat population took a suspicious dip.
This person answering the phones at the Conservatory should look familiar, because it’s Lavina Dawson, making her second of two appearances on the show (she was in the earlier “Sensitivity Training”). Lavina tells the party on the other end “Yes, ma’am…he’s here…” and the camera whips over to where
BOY: To make sure I showed up…
GIRL: Do you like the clarinet?
GIRL: I hate it!
BOY: At least you’re not stuck with a violin… (He starts to slap his violin case) I wish I could play the drums…but my mother says they make too much noise…
GIRL: What are you making your child play?
BOY: You mean you’re taking music lessons?
BOY: Without anybody making you?
And this prompts the little girl to call out “Nerd alert!” No, I’m only kidding…the door to the conservatory’s receiving area opens and in walks Professor Radetsky.
RADETSKY: Good afternoon…oh, those stairs! I’m Professor Radetsky…is my student waiting for me? Alice Cooper…
“I’m eighteen/And I don’t know what I want…”
RADETSKY (as he turns around and spots Clarinet Girl): Ah!!! I’m Professor Radetsky, your teacher…hello, girl…it’s a perfect age to learn the harp! (Taking her hands) Let me see those…oh, those nimble young fingers… (To
) Madam…Madam, you are absolutely right to start her…learning harp now
while she’s still young before she gets old! Alice
“But you and me ain't no movie stars/What we are is what we are…” Radetsky realizes his fox paw, and is interrupted by the receptionist, who informs the other children that their teachers are ready for them.
RADETSKY: Too late?!! It is never too late to learn the most beautiful of all instruments…let me see your hands… (He takes both of her hands) Mm hmm… (Extending his hands) Now…squeeze!
RADETSKY: Mm hmm… (
squeezes his hands) Ahh…very strange…very strange…now…tell it is…what
brought you to the harp? Alice
RADETSKY: Madam…it is the only instrument…it is an instrument you don’t play only with your hands…you play it in here… (Pointing to his heart) In here…that’s where the music begins…
“Alice Cooper,” Radetsky tells his new pupil, “you and I shall make the harp live again!” And with that, a scene shift finds Sam sounding the key of C on a piano in the living room and—Vosburg is never going to believe this—Emmett standing by the harp in order to tune it.
SAM: Yeah… (He hits the piano key, and Emmett follows by plucking the string) Yeah! Yeah, that sounds good!
“It’s a good thing I’m tone deaf or I would never have let you anywhere near that harp!”
EMMETT: Yeah, I didn’t need the piano to tune this thing…
“A couple of whacks with my handy fix-it mallet and she’s ready to go…back to the shop!”
EMMETT: …you know, when I was a kid I took violin lessons…but with baseball…football, you know…you know how it is…
“Hey—you don’t wanna buy a violin, do ya?” Emmett asks Sam, but our hero has something else on his mind. He’s just heard
up outside in the car, and she enters the house in one of her Alice
SAM: How’d it go,
“He’s also going to teach me to play the harp.” (That was too easy.)
SAM: Madame Renee?
EMMETT: Ain’t she the one who runs that beauty shop over in
? Siler City
EMMETT: No kiddin’? Right in
, huh? Siler City
That line has “Goober” all over it. Sam asks Alice when her first lesson is, and she replies that it’s tomorrow—she knows it will go well, because he’s so “patient and understanding and…oh…” She’s doing everything but writing “Mrs. Alice Radetsky” in her yearbook, so now would be a great time to take a commercial break.
Back from shilling for General Foods, Sam watches as Radetsky plucks a few of the harp strings…and the expression on his face is kind of chuckle worthy; it’s almost as if he’s thinking “This instrument was tuned by a man who breaks things for a living.”
RADETSKY: Yes…yes…only because of her burning desire…that I work her into my schedule…very tight…very, very tight…
“Otherwise I’d be watching Wheel of Fortune.”
RADETSKY: You know…Mr. Jones…I’ve always felt…that a home is not a home…without a harp…
Well, I’ve always said “home is where the harp is.” (Oh, like you wouldn’t have made the same pun.) So
comes downstairs to greet the Professor, and he immediately kicks into schmooze
RADETSKY: Ahhh…how charming you look, Miss Cooper! (Taking her hands) Let me kiss the hand that very soon is going to give with the most beautiful music…as a matter…let me kiss both hands! (And he does)
RADETSKY: Shall we begin?
SAM: Ah…we’ll leave you two alone…
“…to rent a room.” Sam ushers Mike out of the room as he departs, but Mike wants to know “What’d he kiss her hands for?” Sam tells his son to stifle it, because he’s not particularly wild about having the talk about S-E-X.
RADETSKY: Buh-buh-buh-buh…Miss Cooper…you don’t have to know how to begin…that’s what I’m here for… (
laughs nervously) Alice
RADETSKY: Just put yourself in my hands…now…let me show you how to sit…now…you sit down gracefully like this…put your feet forward…like this…and now…gently pull the harp toward your right shoulder…like this…see?
at the harp…
“Miss Cooper,” Radetsky chides her, “you’re not wrestling a bear.” Well, I can kind of cut to the quick on some of this…we see some scenes of Alice at the harp, playing the scales—but her progress has not impressed the Great Radetsky. He stresses the need for her to practice, practice, practice—“three hours minimum.”
RADETSKY: My dear Miss Cooper…either you want to learn to play the harp or you don’t! You do or you don’t…and there is no in-between!
“You gotta accentuate the positive…”
problem is twofold: she finds Radetsky brilliant but demanding, and she also
doesn’t have the time to commit to practicing in the manner he has ordered
because she’s occupied with household tasks like cooking and cleaning and
making sure Idiot Boy doesn’t get his head stuck in the stairway railing again. So the scene shifts to the epicenter of
Mayberry: Emmett’s Fix-It Shop.
EMMETT: What is it?
SAM: Well, it’s the spring off the pedal of
’s harp…I guess she stepped on it too hard… Alice
“Sam…I’m gonna level with ya…I can’t fix it. I can’t fix a damn thing. I’m a fraud. This whole fix-it shop operation is a front for an adult movie theater, located in the back…”
HOWARD: You’re supposed to step on those lightly, aren’t you?
SAM: Yeah…yeah, but this teacher of hers has got her all uptight, and I guess she’s having her problems…
HOWARD: Oh? How many lessons has she had?
SAM: Well, I guess…uh…six or seven by now…
EMMETT: He’s from
, eh? Vienna
HOWARD: He’s probably typical of that entire European school of music…you know, they can be very demanding and exacting…pretty tough taskmasters…but of course, we have to remember that these same methods have spawned the likes of Beethoven, Mozart and Strauss!
EMMETT: Did this fellow teach them, too?
Shut up, Goober. Oh, slightly off-topic: I was watching
, Go Home (1966) on Me-TV yesterday (don’t judge me) and Jack
Dodson had a bit part in the movie as a ship’s purser, which amused me to no
end. I only wish he had played the part
like Howard: “Mother suggested a long ocean voyage might do wonders for my
nasal condition.” Munster
HOWARD: No, Emmett…I’m merely saying that when it comes to teaching music, Europeans are usually very strict…
EMMETT: We’ve turned out some pretty good musicians here in
! And I can guarantee
you the teachers ain’t strict! America
SAM: Maybe not…
EMMETT: …and the guy who taught Duke Ellington—he didn’t do such a bad job, either!
“So take your European egghead elitist thinking elsewhere, Mr. Commie!” You can’t convince me that if Emmett were around today he wouldn’t be having a high time at a Tea Party rally.
HOWARD: Emmett, I’m talking about classical musicians…
“…you poo-flinging homunculus…” “All right…Liberace then…” Emmett counters, which prompts Sam to do a slight rolling of his eyes. Sam then asks Emmett if he’s sure he can fix the pedal, and Emmett of course lies to him. Sam then exits the shop, and we shift back to stately Jones Manor, where
Alice is mangling “Greensleeves” on
the harp, much to Radetsky’s irritation.
RADETSKY: My dear Miss Cooper…there’s more to music than not missing a note…there’s such things as emotion…technique…feeling…otherwise, everybody who plays “Yankee Doodle Doodle” could be considered a musician!
Radetsky is incredulous at this statement, pointing out that a “farmer” is not a “music critic”…and I got news for ya, Prof…he ain’t much of either.
RADETSKY: My dear Miss Cooper…if you want to learn to play the harp…you must practice…and everything else is second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh…
…it’s not that important… Alice
SAM: Well, look…maybe we can get you another teacher…
SAM: Well…yeah…sure…of course…
“Yeah…a swift kick in the balls ought to do the trick.” So Sam is assigned the unpleasant task of breaking the news to Radetsky that he’s been un dickhead formidable regarding l’affaire harp (Alice editorializes as she stares at the harp: “I suppose I could always make a lamp out of it”)…
SAM: She just didn’t think she was doing well enough…I don’t know, maybe…maybe you expected a little too much of her…
RADETSKY: Yes…I see…
SAM: Aw…look…Professor…the truth is that
just wanted to play the harp for her own enjoyment…and the
lessons were getting a little too rough… Alice
RADETSKY: Well…maybe I love the harp too much…
SAM: Well…it could be…yeah…
RADETSKY: And then you know when you haven’t anyone to teach in three years…
SAM: Three years?
RADETSKY: Well…you could be ready…
RADETSKY: The recital!
SAM: Now, wait a minute, Professor…no…I thought we got that clear now…
doesn’t want to do anything professionally… Alice
RADETSKY: Look…look…this is for the students at the conservatory…so that I can show them how you’ve progressed!
SAM: Good luck… (He kisses her on the cheek) You’ll be great…
(He starts to leave, but
reins him in) Alice
Believe it or not…those lines weren’t originally in the script. Ghostley ad-libbed some dialogue from an old Bewitched episode, in which she must cast Darrin into Hell in order to cure Samantha of some witch-related malady. (Okay…I made that up.)
SAM: …it’s just a little bit of stage fright…
SAM: Will you relax? It’s not Carnegie Hall…it’s just a bunch of kids!
BOY: Boy, that was murder…my fingers were numb and I thought I was gonna faint!
BOY: But I did it! I really did it!
So as Mr. Ferguson looks around to see why
hasn’t toddled onto the stage, she gets a few words of encouragement from Boy
Violinist: “Don’t be chicken! If I did
it…you can do it!” Yeah, stick around for halftime,
Poindexter…we’ll need you for the locker room speech.
This episode may have been a snooze, but the capper provides another laugh-out-loud moment as Sam is having a father-and-idiot talk with Mike at bedtime.
MIKE: Oh, yeah…Cousin Alice was real good!
SAM: Uh-huh…and…what did you think of those youngsters?
“It’s a relief to know that I won’t be the first person to be pantsed and thrown into the girls’ locker room…”
SAM: Well, you know…that’s…that’s great training to learn an instrument like that… (He walks over to the window and opens it a tad) I mean, it’s…something those kids will always be able to use, and enjoy…you…you can play for your own enjoyment, or…parties or whatever…hmm…yes sir, I bet those kids are really proud of themselves…and…and it doesn’t have to be a harp, or a violin or anything like that…it could be…any kind of an instrument…it’s not hard, either! Not hard at all…not…not if you start when you’re young enough… (He flips off the wall switch) Now, Mike…I’m not saying that you have to do anything you want to do…I…
Always likes to keep his audience riveted! Okay, we realize Mike is just faking it when Sam leaves the room…but I did laugh at the thought of the kid finally picking up enough smarts to outwit his old man. (He probably learned it from that little bastid Harold.)
Scott C. hilariously calls Mayberry D.O.A. While I don’t have any figures as far as ratings go for this particular episode, it appeared to be a popular one—because guest star Kinskey returned for a follow-up later that season entitled “Alice and the Professor.” (The title of that episode, a reference to the ABC sitcom Nanny and the Professor, is the funniest thing about it. Trust me on this.) But that’s a long way off and you’ve received ample warning to stock bottled water and canned food in your bunker. Next week, the vanilla pudding of sitcoms features the quartet of Jones, Clark, Sprague and Pyle in the far-from-uproarious “The Bicycle Club.” I’ll see you there!