Monday, November 10, 2014

Doris Day(s) #30: “A Frog Called Harold” (09/29/69, prod. no #0404)

I have good news and bad news.  The good news is: today’s Doris Day(s) installment, “A Frog Called Harold,” is not nearly as terrible (once I got a second glance at it) as I hinted following the completion of last week’s episode, “Doris Gets a Job.”  The bad news is that while it’s still not as awful as some of the first season entries like “The Songwriter,” “The Librarian” and “The Date,” my reevaluation of “Harold” doesn’t mean it gets any better.

The shenanigans get underway with Doris’ two developmentally-challenged children, Billy (Philip Brown) and Toby (Tod Starke), as they give the Martin Family household’s living room a thorough ransacking in the middle of the night.  In doing so, they wake their mother up…and she wants to know what’s all the hubbub (bub)?

DORIS (as she descends the stairs): Hey…what’s going on here and why are you two out of bed?
BILLY: Toby’s dumb frog got loose…
TOBY: He’s not a dumb frog!  Harold just got tired of his shoe box and went for a walk…
DORIS: Oh, Harold picked a swell time for his constitutional… (Calling out) Here, Harold…Harold…

This is pretty much where this episode starts to go south—Harold is a friggin’ frog, ferchrissake, and will not come when you call him like that shaggy sheepdog you stole from Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.  The clamor resulting from the Great Frog Hunt awakens the Laird and Master of the estate, Buckley Webb (Denver Pyle), who ventures downstairs to find out who dare disturb his slumber.  “If you’re havin’ a pajama party,” he inquires, “how’s come I wasn’t invited?”

“Midnight hopper’s on the prowl again,” explains Doris.  Most of what follows is pretty idiotic, but I did enjoy this screen capture of young Toby:

" that you?"
The boys hear a frog croaking, and deduce that it’s emanating from the kitchen—so they run off in that direction to see if it’s Harold.  “Did you ever consider gettin’ that boy a goldfish?” asks Buck of their mother.  A search of the kitchen turns up no new leads, and Fromage Boy is quite concerned: “Maybe he’s been kidnapped!”

“Oh, I don’t think so, Tobe,” advises his grandpa.  “I haven’t seen any frognappers in the neighborhood, have you?”  Billy notices that one of the kitchen windows is open and postulates that Harold may have breached the perimeter surrounding the house.  But before he and his brother can conduct a hard target search, the Widder Martin puts the smackdown on that kind of activity.

DORIS: Now, look…Harold’s been gone before—and he always comes back, right?  We’ll find him in the morning…come on, it’s bedtime…
BILLY: Hey…we didn’t look in the refrigerator!  (Opens fridge door) Nope…he’s not in there…but look what I found!

Billy has honed in on a pan of brownies, which one can only assume is leftovers from that evening’s supper.  Doris pulls him away and shoos him upstairs with his idiot brother…then has to pull her father away from a potential brownie nosh as well.  But Doris—despite seemingly superhuman at times—is just as weak as you and I might be in that situation…and so she treats herself to a brownie orgasm.

It’s the next morning, and Doris must commute to work because someone in that household has to earn the scratch to afford midnight brownies.  Buck and the boys are continuing the frog search, but all that’s turned up is a roller skate that Billy lost last summer.  “I found something I lost, too,” grumbles Buck, “this old crick in my back.”

DORIS (running towards her car): Sorry I can’t stay to help—but I gotta get to work!  Hey, and you guys…you better get to school, too!
TOBY (whining): But, Mom…
DORIS: It’s getting very late…
TOBY: …I can’t go until we find Harold!
DORIS: Toby, you’ve got to get to school…now, if we don’t find Harold you’re gonna have to get another frog…
TOBY: But I don’t want another frog…I want Harold!

Oh, this is too pathetic.  Doris climbs out of the car to comfort the disillusioned little tyke…and guess who jumps into the front seat of her ride?

Doris explains to her little man that they will find Harold—that Buck is going to spend the rest of the afternoon looking for a freaking frog despite having a farm to run.  “Sure, Toby,” says his brother encouragingly, “we’ll find your dumb frog.”

“He’s not a dumb frog!” Doris and Buck say in unison.  Meanwhile, the dumb frog climbs into Doris’s handbag and will apparently be making the drive with her to the Today’s World (The Now Magazine!) offices in Frisco.

Doris arrives at work, and as she makes her way to the office of Michael “Nick” Nicholson (McLean Stevenson), her boss, she passes through an office where a number of secretaries (A gaggle?  A pride?) are coffee breaking and listening intently to a story being told by Dor’s best bud at the magazine, Myrna Gibbons (Rose Marie).  All we hear is Myrna saying “Listen, none of those cheap places for me, buddy boy…I’m not that kind of…” before Doris cuts her off with a “Yoo-hoo!”  This raises two questions: 1) “What kind of” is Myrna, really?  And 2) is the “buddy boy” in reference to comedy writer Buddy Sorrells from The Dick Van Dyke Show?  (Well…I can dream, can’t I?)  We do not get an answer—Myrna tells Doris “You better get your coffee perking right away” because Nick is urgently looking for her…and as if it were scripted…

NICK: Would you come in please—the meeting has started…
DORIS: What meeting?
NICK (sotto voce): The bankers…the bankers are here…it’s about the loan…
DORIS: Today?
NICK: Yeah!
DORIS: Well, you didn’t tell me that there was going…
NICK (interrupting): I didn’t know they were coming myself, Doris—they drop around unexpectedly to catch you off-guard!  It’s like an Army inspecting team!

What the hell kind of bank do you people work with, anyway?  First National Gladio?  You come back to your apartment with your date, ready for soft lights, music and champagne…and then there’s a representative from your bank ready to examine your books.  Well, they’re not here for a meet-and-greet so let’s go inside…

These are two lower-level bank representatives—introduced to Doris by Nicholson as “Mr. Hopkins” and “Mr. Rinaldi.”  I took this screen capture from a later scene so you can get a better look at the actor playing Hopkins (he’s billed in the credits as “Aide”—“Rinaldi” gets no recognition at all)—he’s Jack Garner, the older brother of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear idol James Garner.  It would be all too easy for me to crack a nepotism joke here because most of Jack’s best known TV roles were on series starring his famous sib—Jack was Captain McEnroe on The Rockford Files, and Jack the bartender on Bret Maverick.  But Garner did do a lot of TV outside those shows, including guest shots on such classics as The Green Hornet, Felony Squad, Lancer and Daniel Boone and a recurring role on Medical Center…not to mention appearances in films like Wild Rovers (1971) and The Mad Bomber (1973).

The actor who gets special mention in the closing credits, however, is guest star Parley Baer—who plays the part of Harold Thornby, the bank president.  (Yes, you can see the obvious jokes from a mile away.)  I recently wrote a tribute to Parley on the occasional of his centennial birthday which you can scope out on the Radio Spirits blog…suffice it to say, my admiration for his talent knows no bounds, and I can only attribute his agreement to being in this mess to the wise words of my friend Pam: “A man’s gotta eat.”

Mr. Thornby is a rather irascible type, and responds to Hopkins’ enthusiastic greeting to Doris (“Certainly nice to meet you, Mrs. Martin”) with a loud clearing of his throat and a suggestion they get started.  “Time is money,” he grumbles.  (“You said opium is money.”  “Money is money.”  “Well then, what is time again?”  Yes, I have seen Volunteers too many times to count.)

THORNBY: I’m quite impressed with your financial statement, Mr. Nicholson…your magazine seems to be prospering…
NICK: Yes, we’re doing very well…and if we can get those high-speed presses I think we can cut costs and increase our profit margin considerably…
THORNBY: I understand all that…but $100,000 is a lot of money… (Frog croak, as the others look around in bewilderment) As I was saying…$100,000 is a lot of money… (Second frog croak)

Harold, it would seem, either has an opposing opinion or is agreeing with Thornby.  The bank president goes on—as those high muckety-mucks have a tendency to do—with the usual platitudes before telling you you’re not getting a single thin dime: “We believe in backing people, Mr. Nicholson…not figures…and a firm is only as efficient as its executives and its employees!”  This prompts Harold to croak for a third time—which may be Froggish for “Bullsh*t! You wouldn’t have trouble approving this loan if Nicholson belonged to your freaking country club!”

By now, it’s obvious that a frog is somewhere in the environs of the board room…and my good people, this is simply not done.  Doris has a glance in her purse, and discovers its hidey-hole.

THORNBY: As incredible as it may sound, I do believe there’s a frog in this room!
NICK: A frog, sir?
THORNBY (reiterating): A frog…
NICK: Uh…Mrs. Martin…Mr. Thornby thought he heard a frog…
DORIS: A frog, sir? (Croak) I don’t hear a frog, Mr. Thornby…
THORNBY: That frog you don’t hear—could it possibly be in your purse?

After some initial resistance from Doris, everybody decides to have a look-see…son of a gun, you’re right—there is a frog in her purse!

And now it’s on top of Mr. Thornby.  Wacky!

DORIS: Now…stand still, Mr. Thornby…I’ll get him from the back…

Yeah, you might want to grab him before he piddles on the bank president, Dor.

So Doris successfully collects the frog, and in a maneuver that suggests she might be hallucinating after some toad-licking (yes, I know it’s not the same thing—work with me here) she starts to scold the frog.  “Harold, you’ve been such a naughty boy,” she disciplines the pet.  “Can you imagine naming a frog Harold?” she asks Thornby.

My name is Harold,” Thornby replies coldly.  Oh, Doris…you done f**ked up now.

NICK: Doris…why don’t you take Harold… (Thornby throws him a stink-eye) Your pop-eyed little friend with you on coffee break…
DORIS: Yes, sir…
NICK: Right now

Doris hauls keister out of the board room, and as Thornby mops his head with a hanky, Nicholson is kind enough to let him know “you missed a spot.”  In the outer offices, she runs into Myrna.

MYRNA: Conference over?
DORIS: No…but my job might be…
DORIS: Oh, Myrna…I have never been so embarrassed in all my life…

Frog-inspired side-eye.
Doris…it’s just a damn frog, ferchrissake.

DORIS: Well, I was in there taking notes for the meeting…
MYRNA: Yeah…
DORIS: …when all of a sudden I hear these croaking noises… (Harold croaks)
MYRNA: Hey!  You do pretty good imitations!
DORIS: That wasn’t me!

Doris opens her handbag to introduce Myrna to Harold.  “Boy, that frog does a pretty good imitation of a frog, too,” Myrna jokes.  Doris tries to explain to her pal that it’s Toby’s pet frog when Harold leaps out of the handbag, because we do have a half-hour to fill.  Doris asks Myrna to help her find him and Myrna cries out: “Here, froggie…hey, froggie…”

DORIS: Call him by his name, will you?  He won’t come unless you do…
MYRNA: Well, what’s his name?
DORIS: Harold!
MYRNA: Oh…sorry…

Doris corners the frog under a bench in the office…while on the other side of a nearby door, Nicholson plans to take the bank people on a tour of the magazine.  Shenanigans ahead!

Thornby trips over Doris, and Nicholson and Company rush over to help him off the ground.  Here’s the funny part:

Nicholson does not extend this courtesy to Doris, pushing her head down.  (What can I say—I laughed in a moment of weakness.)  As his aides usher him out the door to the elevator, Nicholson takes Doris aside in the other laugh-out-loud bit in this episode: “Get rid of it…give it to Disney…sell it to a French restaurant…anything—but just get rid of it!”  As the curtain falls on Act One, you can all say it with me now: “Oh, Doris—will you ever win?”

Harold the Frog—Part the Second.  (“On Harold the Frog tonight we look at violence…the violence of British Gangland…”)  We resume with Doris and Myrna’s hunt for the elusive Harold as Dor crawls into her office on her hands and knees.  (Goodbye, Dignity!)  Myrna thinks it’s all much ado about nothing and tells her she just forget all about it.  “Let him stay in town,” she ruminates.  “You never can tell—he might like San Francisco.”  But Doris can’t get Myrna to understand that she’s doing this all for Toby—if she can’t locate that frog, Toby will grow up to be a maladjusted social misfit.  (I think I hurt myself laughing typing that.)  Myrna picks up a phone receiver: “Give me the FBI…I want to report a missing frog.”

"One of these days, Myrna..."
Back in the outer office, assistant editor Ron Harvey (Paul Smith) enters…and he does not look well.  Holding his temple and wincing in pain, he passes by a ringing telephone and, lifting up the receiver, places it down on the desk and continues to make his way over to the water cooler…where he’s joined by a lackey named Dave—played by David Mooney, billed here as David Manzy—who enters bearing gifts of aspirin.  Manzy has a smattering of TV and movie credits on his IMDb resume but he’s best known for playing the titular role in 1973’s The Baby, in which a woman (Ann Wedgeworth) insists on raising her grown son as an infant.  (Disclosure: I have not seen this movie…and after reading about the premise, I’m not so certain I want to…)

DAVE: A rough night, huh?
RON: No, it was a wonderful night…it’s the morning that’s terrible…Dave my boy—a word of advice…when you reach my age, never try to outdrink a client…even if it’s on his expense account…
DAVE: Oh, I don’t drink…my bag is surfing
RON: Please…don’t talk about waves right now…

So as Ron takes a cool, refreshing drink of water to help him with his hangover…he can’t help but notice the little amphibian who’s taken up residence inside.  (“I’ve heard of pink elephants…but this is ridiculous!”)

RON: Dave—will you tell me…what do you see in the water cooler?
DAVE (hardly believing his eyes): A frog!
RON: A frog…and you don’t drink?
DAVE: No, sir…
RON: We have a frog in the water cooler…
DAVE: What’s it doing in there?
RON: I have a better question—what am I doing drinking the water?

I have an even better question—how the hell did the frog get in there in the first place?  Look, I’m not arguing that having a frog in a water cooler isn’t amusing on some small level…but the logistics of the gag don’t work, because it would be quite difficult for him to get in there without being noticed by the person changing the jug (I’ve changed a few in my long working-in-an-office career, and a good many of them are sealed to begin with).  Perhaps it was done through the courtesy of some blind custodian, and those details were edited out for syndication.

Well, there’s still a bit of mileage to get out of the frog-in-water-cooler gag: Doris and Myrna enter, asking if anyone’s seen Harold—and once it’s been established that Harold is a frog, Ron volunteers that he might be the same one floating in the water cooler.

DORIS: Harold…you nut!  What are you doing in there?
MYRNA: Yeah…Harold, you nut—how are we gonna get you out of there?!!
RON: Doris, it’s none of my business—but what are you doing with a frog?
MYRNA: Oh…she bought him for me—you see, I’m gonna kiss him and see if he turns into a prince

The side-eye is contagious.
So Doris gives Ron the backstory (damn that Toby!), which prompts Harvey to crack: “Well, I hope Harold’s clean—I just drank some of his bath water.”  Ron is prepared to “release this creature from his watery dungeon”—he grabs the water cooler jug and tries to lift it, whereupon he will set it on its side and coax the little varmint out.  Doris in concerned, but Myrna says not to worry—“Mr. Harvey’s been lifting bottles all his life.”  Unfortunately, Ron winds up imitating a similar gag Jerry Lewis did in Artists and Models (1955):

Despite drenching the office floor in Harold’s bathwater, Ron does succeed in freeing the frog from his plastic prison (though the frog beats a hasty retreat in the melee)…and wouldn’t you know it, that’s just about the time Nicholson returns with the bankers.  “Well, we got off to a shaky start,” remarks Thornby, “but I will admit that I am favorably impressed with both your accounting and circulation departments…most favorably impressed.”  If you think that’s impressive—check out the aquacade on the other side of the door! 

Nicholson tries to cover for the sight of his employees mopping and picking up damp pieces of paper…but in chasing Harold, Doris runs right into Mr. Thornby.

DORIS: Hi, there…
DORIS: Uh…Harold’s on the loose again, sir…
THORNBY: He’s a slippery little rascal, isn’t he?

Doris hears Harold croaking and rushes off to try and catch him…and in the meantime, Thornby wants to know who the person is on the floor with the water cooler jug.  Nick introduces Ron to Thornby, and Dave and Myrna help Ron to his feet…but when the bank president says it’s not necessary for him to get up the two of them let Harvey fall to the floor.  (I did chuckle at this.)

Thornby has had enough of this foolishness, gosh darn it!  He goes into Nicholson’s office to collect his hat and briefcase…and guess who’s now taken up residence in the briefcase?

Doris tries to stop Thornby, but he snaps the briefcase shut and heads for the elevators with his lackeys. 

Doris misses him by that much.

I am going to cut to the quick on this one before my leg starts to fall asleep.  My antipathy toward “A Frog Called Harold” stems from the fact that it turns Doris’ character into an ersatz Lucy Carmichael—in fact, in the next scene where Doris follows Thornby to his bank…I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Theodore J. Mooney turn up.  I was, however, surprised to see this guy:

Honest to my grandma—the first time I spotted this joker I said out loud “I could have sworn Ned Sparks died in 1957.”  It’s actually veteran actor Ralph Neff, who had uncredited bits in such classics as The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and The Comancheros (1961).  He’s a bank guard in this one—he keeps an eye on Doris because she seems rather preoccupied with Thornby’s briefcase.  When Doris opens the case and snatches Harold, Neff is there to foil her nefarious scheme and make sure she’ll soon be standing tall before The Man.  Fortunately, Thornby knows Doris is just a screwball and he smoothes things over…at the risk of having a frog piddle on his head again.

“Tonight…when my wife asks me ‘Did anything interesting happen at the bank today?’—I’ll finally have something to tell her!” bellows Thornby in true Gale Gordon-fashion.  Parley Baer is not Gale Gordon, however…and soon, once he and Doris sit down and have a chinwag about the idiocy that went on at Today’s World does his Thornby open up and reveal that he, too, had a frog when he was a kid (his name was ‘Hoppy’).  Thornby’s just a big old teddy bear, and he tells Doris that he’ll be by Nick’s office in the morning to discuss the matter of that $100,000 loan.  Awww…don’t you tell me that Mary Richards is the only person who can turn down the world with a smile!

So Doris arrives back at the ranch with the triumphant news that she found Harold in her handbag and all is right with the world again.  Ay, here’s the rub—Billy and Toby found Harold while Doris was at the ol’ salt lick!

DORIS: Well, if that’s Harold—who’s this?
TOBY: I don’t know…but this is Harold—he has a wart over his left eye!  See?
BUCK: Your frog’s obviously an imposter…
DORIS: Oh, and after all I went through at the office…you don’t know…of course—he never did say his name was Harold…
TOBY: Look, Mom—they like each other!

And as Toby flashes some derp-face, Doris gets concerned: “Uh-oh—you know what that means…”

“Yeah,” grimaces Buck.  “Polliwogs.”

And here’s the coda, short and sweet: Nick takes Doris to lunch at her “favorite place” (the restaurant menu reads ‘Alberto’s’).  While Nicholson does not condone such monkeyshines like allowing frogs to have the free reign of the Today’s World offices, he is grateful that she was able to paper things over with banker Thornby.

A man (Ed McCready) at a nearby table places a lunch order: “Oyster cocktail for the lady…and a shrimp cocktail for myself…and for the both of us, a great big platter of frog’s legs!”  Doris is so incensed by this stranger’s insensitivity that she declares she will no longer sit in his presence…and she’s ready to head out the door.  “Cannibal!” she shouts at the poor slob as she goes.  This reminds me of a December 4, 1949 broadcast of Our Miss Brooks in which the character of French teacher Jacques Monet—played by Gerald Mohr—is introduced, and as he, Miss Brooks (Eve Arden) and Mr. Boynton (Jeff Chandler) sit down for chow in Madison High’s cafeteria he asks if they ever serve frog’s legs.

Boynton, whose devotion to lab frog McDougall was well established by this time, announces he would “feel like a cannibal” at the thought of devouring such a dish and makes his excuses to his lunch partners that he’s not feeling well.  “Why would he feel like a cannibal,” Monet asks Connie.  “He is not a frog.”  (If only I could have listened to that show again instead of watching this one.)

Next time on Doris Day(s): Nicholson’s former girlfriend is in town…and to discourage her romantic advances, he cons Doris into pretending to be Mrs. Nicholson.  It’s shenanigans galore, and the guest star is a well-known actress (who turned 88 this October!) best remembered as the damsel in distress in one of the fifties’ biggest box office horror hits.  Join us for “Married for a Day,” won’t you?  (Get it?  Married for a Day…? Hello?  Bueller?)

1 comment:

Stacia said...

I recognized Manzy immediately from THE BABY, which is actually a little less bonkers than I expected, until the final 20-ish minutes, when it gets so bonkers you look around to make sure no one is watching you watch this movie.

Boy this was SUCH a "Lucy" episode it's not even funny. No pun.