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?
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'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:


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?


Stacia said...

Another terrific recap, my friend. This episode is an absolute hoot.

Leroy is... boy, he's difficult to take, isn't he?

Richard J. Marcej said...

You left out one of Barney Phillips most famous roles (Famous that is to those of us who've watched episodes of the original Twilight Zone about a zillion times) that of Haley the diner cook (and unbeknownst to the audience a 3-eyed Venusian) in "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

You left out one of Barney Phillips most famous roles (Famous that is to those of us who've watched episodes of the original Twilight Zone about a zillion times) that of Haley the diner cook (and unbeknownst to the audience a 3-eyed Venusian) in "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"

My original game plan was that I was going to use that photo of him from Zone...and then I decided to change it out at the last second. But yes, I did regrettably leave it out. Mea culpa.

rockfish said...

Along with TZ i was trying hard to remember the show where he got to display some nice comedy chops (because it certainly wasn't Doris')... Then it hit me like a merengue -- ol' Barney was on the underrated Betty White show, which was a semi-spin off from Mary Tyler Moore Show. Which ties in well with my other fond recollection for Florence Lake, who was the "recipient" of Lou Grant's charm as Martha Dudley during MTM's 4th season -- i can't help chuckling now as i can picture Lou's quick burn when he realizes his blind date is a septigenarian! Is this a new game -- six degrees of James Hampton? Again, great summary!