Monday, November 5, 2012

Mayberry Mondays #64: “The Harp” (11/30/70, prod. no. 0310)

Dr. Tobias O’Brien, Toobworld scholar and Chair of Advanced Television Studies (though it’s really more like a recliner) at the New School of Social Research (Motto: “Estne aliquid bonum super?” which translated from the Latin means “Is there anything good on?”) mentioned in the comments of last week’s Mayberry Mondays installment that he was hoping this week’s special guest would be S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, particularly when I hinted that the actor was someone who had appeared in both Ball of Fire and Casablanca.  Of course, he resigned himself to the fact that because Sakall passed away in 1955 it would be a little tricky (though not improbable, if you’re familiar with how the IMDb operates) for the beloved character actor to appear on Mayberry R.F.D…so it must mean that Leonid Kinskey would be today’s mystery guest.  Congratulations to him on his shrewd guess, and his prize of a dozen stingeberry jam tarts from Boysinger’s Bakery is on its way to him.

(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).

ALICE: Oh, Sam…look at this!
SAM: Hmm?
ALICE (holding up a ceramic pitcher with basin): Now I know that’s a genuine antique—my grandmother had one just like it!
SAM: Oh…that’s very nice…
ALICE: Wouldn’t that make a lovely lamp!
SAM: Uh…well…yeah…I guess so….I just…I can’t picture it…
ALICE: On the other hand, pitchers of old lamps are getting very common…you see them all over…

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: In a minute, Mike…Cousin Alice is looking for something to make a lamp out of…
ALICE: Sam, come here!  Look at this!
(Sam and Mike walk over to where Alice is standing by an ornate harp)
SAM: Wow!  I haven’t seen one of those in years!
ALICE: Isn’t it beautiful!
SAM: Yeah…
ALICE: It brings back such memories…

Of…what, precisely?  Marx Brothers movies?

ALICE: I remember when I was a little girl…

What a memory you have!

ALICE: …my father took me to a concert, and…this lady played the harp…oh, I’ll never forget it… (She runs her hand across the strings) Oh—and it’s reasonable, too!  A hundred and fifty dollars…
SAM: Well, I guess it’s not such a hot item these days…
ALICE: Very reasonable…
SAM: Oh…you’re not thinking of buying it, are you?
ALICE (incredulous): Me???  Buy it???  Well…well, Sam, don’t be so silly! (Scoffing) Whatever put an idea like that into your head?
SAM: Well…I…I just thought that…
ALICE: Well, I’d have to take lessons and everything!
SAM: Oh…
ALICE: Oh, no…it’s too late for me to start something like 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 Alice to bend to his will.

ALICE (defensively): Not necessarily…
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!

ALICE: Well, it’s…just ridiculous to go out shopping for a lamp and come home with a harp!  (Laughing) Isn’t it…?  (Sam laughs with her, Alice then turns pensive) I remember…she played “Claire de Lune”…her hands just seemed to flow over the strings…

“And then she did ‘Freebird’ as an encore…”  Alice 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.

“Yeah,” replies his father, “but it’s gonna take a little time.”  Fortunately for us, they have telescoped Alice’s waffling decision on whether or not to purchase the harp for syndication, and a scene shift finds Sam setting up the harp in their drawing room.

ALICE: Sam, are you sure you don’t mind having it here in the living room?
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!
SAM: Yeah…
HOWARD: My word…a harp!
SAM: Uh-huh…
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.

HOWARD: Do you know how to play the harp, Alice?
ALICE: I don’t even know how to sit at it…
EMMETT: Who are ya gonna take lessons from, Alice?
ALICE: Well, I don’t know yet…I’ll just have to find somebody…surely there’s someone around here who teaches the harp…
SAM: Oh, yeah…

Now…this for me was this episode’s laugh-out-loud moment because I had this mental picture of Alice grabbing the Yellow Pages and after letting her fingers do the walking say out loud: “Aha!”  But I stopped to think…in a community like Mayberry, it’s not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that there is a harp teacher in that burg, probably working out of the same building as the village smithy.  So there’s a scene shift to what appears to be a run-down boarding house with a pay phone ringing…and a woman in curlers and bathrobe (because at one time, federal law mandated that as the official uniform for landladies) answers it.  The landlady, Mrs. Finch, is played by character actress Karen Landers, with whom I must confess I’m not familiar but who appeared in movies like Busting, Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York, Audrey Rose and Fright Night Part 2 (Texas Blood Money) before her death in 1994.  Finch tells the party on the other end to hold for a minute and then she knocks on the adjacent door, and a disheveled man carrying a noose opens it.

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 Casablanca; 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 of The People’s Choice, playing a down-and-out character (“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.

RADETSKY (opening the door): Uh…oh, Mrs. Finch…about the rent—we’ll talk some other time, huh?
FINCH: You gotta phone… (Noticing the noose) …call…
RADETSKY: Oh—this-this is nothing!  It’s-it’s exchange lesson…with…with Boy Scouts!

Now there’s something you don’t see everyday, Chauncey—a little gallows humor on Mayberry R.F.D.  So Radetsky takes the phone and chats a few minutes with the party on the other end, and though we only hear the Prof’s end of the conversation it’s obvious that he’s secured a student who’s interested in wanting to learn the harp.  Radetsky kind of bee-esses the caller (“I could work her into my very heavy schedule”) but ultimately takes down the information by writing it on the wall near the phone, something that I’m sure will endear him to Mrs. Finch.  After completing the call, Radetsky excitedly tells Mrs. Finch “I have a student!” and he kisses her on both cheeks.  (Then they go back into his room for hot monkey…no, I’m just making that up.)

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 Alice can be seen sitting with a young African-American boy holding a violin case and a younger girl holding one carrying a clarinet.  The boy is played by Paul (M.) Jackson (Jr.)…who is not credited at the entry for “The Harp” at the IMDb (in the show’s credits he’s referred to as “Boy Violinist”), which is sort of curious since he appeared in several TV shows (The Bill Cosby Show) and movies (Cinderella Liberty) around that time, including the role of Herb Tenafly, the son of detective Harry Tenafly (James McEachin) in Tenafly, a short-lived segment (1973-74) of The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie.  Clarinet Girl is played by Jill Breslaw, who also receives no IMDb credit…I couldn’t find her name anywhere on the site, so this may have been her only shot at grabbing the brass ring of show business.

BOY (to Alice): That’s my mother calling…
BOY: To make sure I showed up…
GIRL: Do you like the clarinet?
ALICE: Uh…yes!
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?
ALICE: Well…you see…I’m not here with anybody…
BOY: You mean you’re taking music lessons?
ALICE: Well…yes!
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…”

RECEPTIONIST (pointing in Alice’s direction): Yes, Professor…right over there…
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 Alice) Madam…Madam, you are absolutely right to start her…learning harp now while she’s still young before she gets old!
ALICE: Professor…I’m Alice Cooper…

“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.

ALICE: Professor…if you think that it’s too late for me to start in on something like this…
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!
ALICE: What?
RADETSKY: Squeeze!
ALICE: Squeeze?
RADETSKY: Mm hmm… (Alice squeezes his hands) Ahh…very strange…very strange…now…tell it is…what brought you to the harp?
ALICE: Well…uh…it’s just something I always wanted to do…and…uh…well, it was very reasonable…I…and…uh…well, it’s such a beautiful instrument…I…
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.

EMMETT (plucking the harp strings): Gimme that “C” again, will ya?
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 Alice pull up outside in the car, and she enters the house in one of her Alice reveries.

ALICE (dreamily): Hello, Sam…hello, Emmett…
EMMETT: Hello, Alice
SAM: How’d it go, Alice?
ALICE: Wonderful…I’m going to take lessons from Professor Radetsky…

“He’s also going to teach me to play the harp.”  (That was too easy.)

ALICE: Years ago he taught in Vienna
EMMETT: Oh…great!
SAM: Hey…
ALICE: …and he knows…Madame Renee personally
SAM: Madame Renee?
EMMETT: Ain’t she the one who runs that beauty shop over in Siler City?
ALICE: She happens to be a world-famous harpist
EMMETT: No kiddin’?  Right in Siler City, huh?

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.”

SAM: So…you’re…uh…you’re going to teach Alice how to play the harp, huh?
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 Alice comes downstairs to greet the Professor, and he immediately kicks into schmooze mode:

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?
ALICE: Of course!
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.

ALICE: Well, Professor…I…I really don’t know how to begin…I mean, I never…
RADETSKY: Buh-buh-buh-buh…Miss Cooper…you don’t have to know how to begin…that’s what I’m here for… (Alice laughs nervously)

For the record…or in case a few of you wandered out for a snack…they are discussing the harp.

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?

And here’s Alice 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.”

ALICE: Every day?
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…”  Alice’s 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.

SAM (handing him an object): Emmett…could you fix this?
EMMETT: What is it?
SAM: Well, it’s the spring off the pedal of Alice’s harp…I guess she stepped on it too hard

“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 Vienna, eh?
SAM: Yeah…
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 Munster, 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.”

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 America!  And I can guarantee you the teachers ain’t strict!
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.

ALICE: How was it?  I didn’t miss a single note…
RADETSKY: My dear Miss Cooper…there’s more to music than not missing a note…there’s such things as emotiontechniquefeeling…otherwise, everybody who plays “Yankee Doodle Doodle” could be considered a musician!
ALICE: Well, Sam liked it when I played it for him…

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: Did…you…practice…this…week?!!
ALICE: Yes…well…yes…as much as I was able to…I mean, after all, I do take care of the house and Mike and Sam…I mean…
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…

Radetsky is grabbing his hat during this exchange and making tracks for the front door.  He passes Sam on the way out, and says to him: “I don’t criticize your tomatoes—don’t criticize the harp!”  And with that, exit stage left.

SAM: Oh…look, Alice…it’s not that important…
ALICE: Oh, Sam…it was a terrible mistake
SAM: Well, look…maybe we can get you another teacher…
ALICE: No…I’m giving it up… (Sam looks unhappy) And Sam…would you do me a favor?
SAM: Well…yeah…sure…of course…
ALICE: It’s a little embarrassing…so would you call Professor Radetsky tomorrow and tell him that I’m giving up my lessons…I know you can do it diplomatically

“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”)…

RADETSKY: B-B-But why?  Why?
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 Alice just wanted to play the harp for her own enjoyment…and the lessons were getting a little too rough…
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?

And that’s when Radetsky admits to Sam that his story of squeezing Alice in on his tight schedule was a load of borscht; his excitement and passion for the harp is what made him such a dink.  He pleads with Sam to act as intermediary on his behalf and convince Alice to continue the harp lessons and though Sam is reluctant at first he agrees to talk to Alice.  There is then a shift in scene to Alice’s playing of “Those Endearing Young Charms,” and as Radetsky patiently instructs her he only slightly winces whenever Alice hits a sour note.  This segues into her playing the same piece for Sam and Radetsky as they sit on the sofa, and when she is finished they both break out in applause.

SAM: Very nice!  Very, very nice!  (To Radetsky) Not that I have a trained ear, of course…
ALICE: Well, how was I?
RADETSKY: Well…you could be ready…
ALICE: Ready?  For what?
RADETSKY: The recital!
ALICE: Recital?  What recital?
SAM: Now, wait a minute, Professor…no…I thought we got that clear now…Alice doesn’t want to do anything professionally
ALICE: Oh, no…no…I just couldn’t…I really…
RADETSKY: Look…look…this is for the students at the conservatory…so that I can show them how you’ve progressed!
ALICE: Recital?  Oh my goodness…

And we dissolve into opening night at the conservatory recital.  Boy Violinist is on stage, playing a piece I’m sorry to admit I don’t recognize, and backstage Radetsky is telling Alice to “break a leg” by clasping both her hands.  “Strong hands!” he remarks to Sam as he walks away.

SAM: Good luck… (He kisses her on the cheek) You’ll be great…
(He starts to leave, but Alice reins him in)
ALICE: Oh, Sam!  I can’t do it!  I just can’t do it!

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: Well, of course you can!
ALICE: No…no…I don’t remember a thing!
SAM: Look, Alice
ALICE: I’ve forgotten every thing he taught me!
SAM: …it’s just a little bit of stage fright…
ALICE: Look…my fingers are getting numb…how can I play when my fingers are getting numb?
SAM: Will you relax?  It’s not Carnegie Hall…it’s just a bunch of kids!
ALICE: I know that!  I know I’m the only adult going out there!  It’ll look like I’ve been practicing all those years and I never got it!

I have to admit…Alice has a pretty good argument.  The Boy Violinist, having finished his portion of the proceedings, walks backstage and sees Alice

BOY: Boy, that was murder…my fingers were numb and I thought I was gonna faint!
SAM: Son…
BOY: But I did it!  I really did it!

On stage, a man identified in the credits as “Mr. Ferguson” is giving Alice a big build-up.  We’ve seen him on the show before—he’s character actor and voice artist Ken Sansom, and in “Millie, the Best Dressed Woman,” Ken was Clarence Demarest, a Mayberry denizen who liked the idea of Millie in short skirts (but then again…don’t we all).  Despite the brevity of his role in this episode, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear would like to dedicate this write-up of “The Harp” to Sansom, who passed away at the age of 85 last month (October 8); his work in TV animation includes voicing “Rabbit” in the many incarnations of Winnie the Pooh series produced by Disney, not to mention The Chipmunks, The Littles and Transformers.  His films include The Long Goodbye, The Sting, Herbie Rides Again (which stars Ken Berry) and Airport ’75.

So as Mr. Ferguson looks around to see why Alice 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.

As Alice walks out onstage to the encouragement of Radetsky, Howard, Emmett, Sam and Mike the Idiot Boy, she wows the crowd with a decent version of her signature tune, “Those Endearing Young Charms.”  The crowd applauds wildly, the cigarette lighters come out, and Ferguson brings all the prodigies out for another round of applause.  Even Radetsky starts to well up with tears, and so did I…because I know this episode is coming to a close.

Coda time!

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.

SAM: Well…did you enjoy that recital, Mike?
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…

Sam looks over towards Mike’s bed and finds this…

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.)

Cousin Alice’s prominence in this episode means that we get to fire up the ol’ Thrilling Days of Yesteryear Alice-o-Meter for a second week in a row, and tabulate four appearances so far for actress Ghostley in the third and final season of what World o’Crap’s 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!


Stacia said...

I FINALLY looked it up, and my memory was not failing me: Alice Cooper really did tell Dinah Shore that the band took the name from Ghostley's character, though Wikipedia seems to think the Ouija board story is the real truth. Since their first album was 1969, it's possible Ghostley's character may have been named after the band.

Brr. Now that's a thought.

I really like Kinskey, though I think he got shafted a lot playing Russians during the Cold War era.

I also saw Jack Dodson in something! I'll be posting about it soonish. It was pretty exciting.

Unlike this episode. Thank the gods for your snark, otherwise I'd have chewed my own foot off by the end.

Chris Vosburg said...

Leonid Kinskey did a Perry Mason ep TCOT Tsarina's Tiara, playing one "Vyacheslav Gernov" and was a hoot in that one as well, though I confess I don't remember how he figured in the plot.

He kept cracking me up in the courtroom scenes, in the multiple reaction shots the show liked to do, in which they'd show a second or two of each of the players in the gallery while Perry was zeroing in for the reveal, and every time they'd show Kinskey, his face was all screwed up into that bizarre and funny just-bit-into-a-lemon expression he demonstrates to Sam in the above screencap when he's checking out the harp's tuning. Hilarious!

Also, I'm having difficulty believing that the "down-on-his-luck harp teacher answering the door with noose in hand" scene came out of the MRFD writing staff, because as you say, it's awfully dark, and wickedly funny, and the writing on MFRD was so determinedly light and well, not-so-funny.

So I wonder if Leonid himself didn't come up this sight gag, and the "boy scout" line that goes with it. It does seem his style of humor, that's for sure.

And since Alice apparently made it to the recital with a fully working harp, I am forced, so help me, to conclude that Emmett actually was able to repair the unsprung pedal.

Congratulations, Emmett. Now about that tuning job...[sound of overwound harp strings snapping: pong! pong! pong!]

Chris Vosburg said...

Also, a last add on Kinskey from the Personal Quotes section of his IMDB page on why he turned down a regular part on "Hogan's Heroes": "The premise to me was both false and offensive. The Nazis were seldom dumb and never funny."

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing Kinskey (uncredited) in a Jack Benny episode where he's a dance instructor with Don Wilson as a student. He was a hoot there, too.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Chris Vosburg provided some info:

Also, a last add on Kinskey from the Personal Quotes section of his IMDB page on why he turned down a regular part on "Hogan's Heroes": "The premise to me was both false and offensive. The Nazis were seldom dumb and never funny."

I suspected that was probably the reason. While I applaud Mr. K for his principles, I'm pretty sure Hogan's Heroes was a sitcom and not a documentary.

Oh, and from the generous Perry Mason trivia provided it appears that I mixed up my Chrises (Chrisi?). For some reason I thought Mr. Riesbeck was the Mason connoisseur, and it would seem that appellation must fall to Mr. Vosburg. I sincerely regret the error.

Mike Doran said...

In September 1963, Leonid Kinskey appeared, very briefly, in the second segment of "5", the season premiere of the drastically rebooted 77 Sunset Strip.

This was when Jack Webb had taken over Warner Bros TV from Jack Warner's son-in-law Bill Orr, with the charge of getting away from the superslick series that WBTV had been doing for ABC throughout the '50s/'60s.
As part of that, Webb ordered that 77SS drop all of its regular cast, with the sole exception of Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and move him away from the title address and into Los Angeles's famed Bradbury Building (in an interview, Webb said that they were keeping the now-geograpically incorrect title because "it's presold").

To properly launch the 77SS reboot (not a term of the time, but I can't think of what they called it in '63), Webb and his new producer William Conrad (yes, that William Conrad) put together a five-part miniseries (See what I said about "reboot" above) entitled "5", written by Harry Essex and directed by Conrad. This took Stu Bailey around the world in a tough-guy-style whodunit far removed from the old finger-snapping 77SS.

The first episode was introed by the numeral "5" slowly growing on screen, as George Fenneman solemnly intoned:

Beginning tonight, and for the next five weeks, in this hour, you will see the following stars in something new on television.
In alphabetical order:

And then the screen would show a full-face closeup of each actor: Fenneman would announce the role, and the actor would state his/her name, so:

In the role of Thomas Allen:
"Luther Adler"

And so on, a total of about 25 actors, ending with Efrem Zimbalist.

What caught my eye at the time (I was just short of my thirteenth birthday) was that among the alphabetical guest stars - right in between George Jessel and Peter Lorre -

As Pete Kramer:
"Leonid Kinskey."

Unless I'm mistaken (and part of me hopes I am), this was the only time Kinskey got actual Guest Star billing on any TV show.

Ther were newspaper ads for "5" with head shots of the actors, and Leonid Kinskey was right there in the middle of all of them (some of the others were Richard Conte, Tony Bennett, Burgess Meredith, William Shatner, Brian Keith, Llotyd Nolan, Ed and Keenan Wynn, and a bunch of others I'll remember right after I hit Publish).

Anyway, since this posting is a tribute to Leonid Kinskey. I'd thought I'd throw that in.