Monday, March 23, 2015

Doris Day(s) #35: “Doris the Model” (11/17/69, prod. no #0415)

So here’s the short version of today’s installment of Doris Day(s): in wacky circumstances that could only have originated on a lame sitcom, The Widder Martin is dragooned into modeling clothes in a fashion show when the models originally scheduled for the event quit for reasons that will be explained in a moment.  It’s pretty much an excuse to allow Dodo to strut around in sartorial finery, which really doesn’t make a lot of sense in the long run because—and I say this as a person whose fashion sense could barely be covered in a pamphlet—girlfriend always did have an exceptionally tuned sense of style despite the fact that she lived on a farm and probably earned peanuts in that dead-end job of hers. 

This is one of the reasons why I never took to That Girl, to be honest: I refused to believe that Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) was able to afford such a fabulous apartment and exquisite clothes toiling as a struggling actress.  (Plus, you will never convince me that ol’ A.M. wasn’t turning tricks on the side.)  Of course, Doris wouldn’t get the opportunity to practice the world’s oldest profession until she shook loose her father (Denver Pyle) and kids (Philip Brown, Tod Starke) in later seasons, so it’s possible she benefited from Buck’s cultivation of some other kind of cash crop on that ranch of his…if you know what I mean, and I’m sure you do.  (Incidentally, Buck and the kids are absent in this episode—an indication of events to come.)

Anyway, as the curtain rises on Act One we see Doris showing off her “new hair” to her pal and fellow office drone Myrna Gibbons (Rose Marie); we got a preview of Dor’s coif in the Yuletide episode “A Two-Family Christmas,” which I covered out of sequence in December of 2014.  Myrna loves Doris’ “weave” (as does Dodo’s boss), and I call it that because Doris has a line of dialogue in which she asks Myrn “Why don’t you get one?”  (To be honest, I would have laughed harder if the exchange went like this: “Nice wig, Doris—what’s it made of?” “Your mom’s chest hair!”)

DORIS: Men love long hair!
MYRNA: Yeah…look, here’s the guest list…
DORIS: Myrn—did you hear what I said?  Menlovelonghair
MYRNA: It won’t help

The “guest list” to which Myrna is referring is one pertaining to a fashion show that’s being sponsored by Today’s World (the NOW magazine), and Doris is tres impressed by the fact that “every fashion editor on the West Coast has accepted.”

MYRNA: Naturally—who wouldn’t want to see a Montagne collection?  Gee, I wish I was invited…
DORIS: Yeah…so do I…

But you aren’t, girls—because your wicked stepmother has decreed that you stay behind and…er…do some filing or whatever the hell tasks you perform at that magazine.  Since this episode would be fairly dull without some conflict, Doris’ boss Michael “Nick” Nicholson (McLean Stevenson) enters the office to provide some.

NICK: Doris, I’m going to have to send you on an errand…
DORIS: Yes, sir…
NICK: Montagne and his models are arriving on the 11:00 plane from Paris…I was going to meet them myself but I’ve got too many details to take care of…so I’m going to have to ask you to do it…

You may have surmised from Doris’ expression of unbridled glee that she’s looking forward to this little assignment because she’ll get to meet “Monsieur Montagne” personally.  There’s just one catch.

DORIS: Oh, Mr. Nicholson—by the way…do they speak English?
NICK: Well, I don’t know…
DORIS: Oh…if they don’t, I’m in big trouble…I don’t speak French!
NICK: Oh, boy…
MYRNA: Um…I speak it perfectly…
NICK: You do?
MYRNA: Like a native

I don’t want to say anything before all the facts are in…but the look on Myrna’s face suggests that she’s lying her ass off.  But if we’ve learned anything about Nick since the second season began, he’s a pretty gullible sod, and so he allows Myrna to tag along as interpreter.

DORIS: Hey, I didn’t know you speak French!
MYRNA: I…I don’t…
DORIS: What?  You just told…
MYRNA: I want a chance to meet Mr. Montagne, too!

Myrna…why you’re not running that damn magazine by now is a mystery for the ages.  “Oh, great,” whines Doris.  “So if they can’t speak English how will we talk to them?”

“We’ll use subtitles,” explains Myrna.  (Yes, I did laugh out loud at this.)

The scene shifts to San Francisco International, where a man wearing a poncy scarf and a jacket draped over his shoulders enters the terminal accompanied by two attractive women.  Before we begin with the meat of this week’s plot, let’s get acquainted with the guest star.

Montagne is played by character great Johnny Haymer, who by this point in his career had built up a rather impressive sitcom resume by appearing on such favorites as The Dick Van Dyke Show, He & She, Get Smart and My Three Sons.  You might remember him from a memorable bit in Annie Hall (1977) as a comic soliciting material from Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), and his movie resume also includes the likes of American Hot Wax (1978) and Real Life (1979).  It’s interesting that Haymer appears in this episode of Doris’ show with McLean Stevenson because a good many people probably recognize Johnny as Sgt. Zelmo Zale, a semi-regular on TV’s M*A*S*H; I originally thought that Haymer joined the cast of that sitcom after Stevenson’s departure but it turns out John’s first M*A*S*H appearance was in the 1973-74 season (in the classic “For Want of a Boot”), and he was in three additional episodes the following season.

Oddly enough, the show for which I remember Haymer best—and it’s not his voice work on such cartoon series as Scooby and Scrappy-Doo or Alvin and the Chipmunks—was a terrible sitcom entitled Madame’s Place, on which he played ex-boxer/butler Walter “Pinky” Pinkerton.  Place was a first-run syndicated series that featured ventriloquist Wayland Flowers and his puppet “Madame,” always entertaining in brief venues like Hollywood Squares but a tad tiresome in a half-hour sitcom.  The only explanation I can offer as to why my friends and I watched this show—it was during my ivy-covered college days at Marshall University—was that we were waiting for Gunsmoke, which was on afterward.  The premise wasn’t necessarily horrible—it featured Madame as a faded film star in the Norma Desmond mold and was filled with more the recommended daily allowance of gay subtext—and the cast was okay (Susan Tolsky from Here Come the Brides was on it, as was Judy Landers—we used to yell out “Stacks!” whenever she came on, in reference to her B.J. and the Bear character) but because the damn thing was on five-days-a-week the seams in the writing eventually began to show.  (Madame’s Place showcased the occasionally offbeat guest star, like Dr. Joyce Brothers and William Shatner, and many Groundlings alumni also turned up: Edie McClurg, Paul Reubens, John Paragon, etc.)

Back to the action: Doris greets Montagne with a predictable amount of pidgin French, and while she doesn’t resort to the time-honored tactic of yelling loudly in an effort to be understood she does engage in a bit of pantomime (she asks him if he had a nice flight by miming a bird flapping its wings).  Fortunately, Monsieur Montagne spares her any further embarrassment by revealing that he does speak a bit of the language (un per, as the French say)…but is a bit red-faced when he tries to introduce Dor and Myrna to his female companions and…sacre bleu!  They have skedaddled!

MONTAGNE: Oh, those girls…the minute my back is turned, they disappear…
DORIS: Where could they be?
MONTAGNE (sniffing): I smell food…

“And appalling food at that.”  Doris helpfully volunteers that there is a refreshment stand nearby, and that’s where we find Simone Giroux (Arlyn Genson) and Yvette Bouchard (Gail Stevens), orgasmically chowing down on hot dogs.  Montagne chides the two women in French, and though my high school French is tres rusty, I interpreted what he said as “Imbeciles!  Don’t you know you pay three times as much for the food in an airport?!!”

DORIS: Oh, Monsieur—is something wrong?
MONTAGNE: Oh…I have to watch them every minute…they are crazy about your American food…delicatessen, hamburger, hot dog, corned beef, pastrami…if I let them, they become too fat for my clothes…
MYRNA: Yeah…I know the problem…

So this part of the plot is kind of cute and amusing (well, apart from the fat-shaming), particularly due to the established belief that supermodels subsist solely on water and watercress to maintain their wafer-thin figures.  Montagne explains to his new American friends that Simone and Yvette “eat and eat and eat until they cannot move”—though he kinda sorta makes that sound like it’s a bad thing.  Be that as it may, he’s got to keep that decadent American cuisine away from them.  Doris feels sorry for the two women, but then she has to pull Myrna away from the lunch counter in the midst of Myrn’s ordering a hot dog.

Back at the NOW magazine, Nick is in the middle of a conference with several other white guys bragging about the upcoming fashion show, and he turns things over to assistant editor Ron Harvey (Paul Smith), who’s also boastful that the preparations have been put together “with the precision of a moon shot,” for those of you who can’t get enough of topical NASA humor.  Ron fumbles through his manila folder and his pockets for the show’s schedule—which he seems to have misplaced with the precision of clueless assistant editors—but fortunately Myrna enters and comes to his rescue with the necessary paper…which Ron carelessly left on his desk.  (“Your timing is perfect, Myrna.”)

DORIS: Did you get to him in time?
MYRNA: Yeah…he was going from embarrassed red to panic purple

The phone rings, and it’s Montagne on the other end.  He desperately needs to speak to Nick, and when Doris informs Montagne that Nick is in conference Montagne drops the bombshell that Simone and Yvette—zut alors!—have flown their hotel coop.  He suspects the girls have hied themselves to a delicatessen, and that they must be located before they “blow up with food.”  (Blowed up real good, I’d say.)  Doris will have to break the news to Nick, and she enters his office while Ron continues to drone on with the details of the fashion exhibition.

RON (as Doris whispers in Nick’s ear): Well, as you can see—every contingency has been taken care of…I mean, every detail planned…absolutely nothing could go wrong!
NICK: Except our models have just disappeared…
RON: Except our models have just disappeared…whaaaa?

The scene shifts to a delicatessen, where kindly deli owner Hal (played by Paul Marin) sets down a generous helping of potato salad in front of hungry Simone and Yvette.  “My brother Nat remembered you like it with a lot of mayonnaise,” he beams as the models squeal in epicurean delight.  Brother Nat is played by a familiar TV face, making his second of three appearances on The Doris Day Show

…yes, it’s character fave Larry Gelman—a.k.a. The Odd Couple’s Vinnie Barella, The Bob Newhart Show’s Dr. Bernie Tupperman and Maude’s Hubie Binder…to name a few of the many.  (We last spotted Gelman chasing Doris around a desk in the season opener, “Doris Gets a Job.”) “You know,” Hal continues, “Nat and I never thought we’d see you in San Francisco again—it’s such a pleasure to serve you ladies.”

Doris and Nick observe the models feasting outside Hal and Nat’s store window.  They run in and drag the women out (the models blow kisses to the deli brothers, which made me chuckle) and lay down the line: ixnay on the oodfay.  “After the show you eat all you want,” explains Doris.  “Le hot dogs…le corned beef…le chopped liver…le kosher pickles…le everything!”  But here’s the dilemma: how will Today’s World deal with two ladies who apparently have tapeworms?

In Montagne’s hotel suite, the designer explains that while Simone and Yvette have promised that they will not succumb to the munchies “unfortunately, when it comes to delicatessen—their word of honor is worthless.”  Clearly, someone will have to police la models…but Montagne cannot do this, as he is busy.  As Nick discusses the situation with Montagne, Doris tries to get her boss’ attention by volunteering to play Food Cop.  “Doris, I think your new hair has gone to your head,” he cracks, a line that just struck me funny for some odd reason.

NICK: You will have to be up twenty-four straight hours
DORIS: I don’t mind!  I’ll get Myrna…she’d love to!  I can handle it…
MONTAGNE: I think she can do it…
NICK: You think you can do it?
DORIS: I know I can do it… (Saluting) Policewoman Doris Martin, at your service, sir…
MONTAGNE (after a pause, to Nick): You think she can do it?

Of course she can do it!  This is Doris Freaking Martin we’re talking about, Frenchie!  There’s a scene shift to the outside of the hotel at night, with a light on in one of the rooms.  We hear a buzzer, and Doris opens the door to allow a waiter (Sam Javis) in, wheeling a food cart.  Doris lifts up the various covered plates to make sure everything is kosher (well, I couldn’t resist) but she does find one plate with several pads of butter.

Then, using her powerful sense of smell, she detects the distinctive odor of something that is kosher.  Looking under the cart she finds…

J’accuse!  Contraband with a pickle on the side!  “I don’t believe it!” Doris exclaims in her best Victor Meldrew manner.

DORIS: Look at this!  Where did you get this?
WAITER: Well, I don’t know…
MYRNA: Talk!
DORIS: Where did you get them?!!

The waiter comes clean.  “Two guys gave me the sandwiches and handed me a buck to stick them under the cart,” he confesses…and his description of the felons being short, chubby and delicatessen owners means only one thing—Hal and Nat!  Doris waves the waiter in with the other items while she and Myrna consume the contraband in the form of delicious pastrami sandwiches.  “I’m glad they didn’t order bologna,” Myrna puts in.  “I don’t like bologna.”

Doris confesses that bologna gives her gas, which prompts Myrna to reply “Everything gives you gas.”  Sorry, Myrna my pet—I refuse to acknowledge the existence of a flatulent Doris Day.

Yvette and Simone may have just gotten off the plane…but they’ve learned a trick or two.  First, they try to smuggle in illegal salami in the form of dry cleaning…

Next, a delivery from the roof.  “It’s not too bad an assortment though, I’ll tell you that,” editorializes Myrna.

Finally, with Doris and Myrna conked out, Yvette and Simone sneak out of their hotel room and off to a night of brisket and cream soda as the curtain falls on Act One.

Doris the Model—Part the Second.  Doris, knowing full well she will be in deep merde with her boss when he learns that the two fashion models beat a hasty retreat while she and Myrna were supposed to be supervising them, waits with her pal outside Hal and Nat’s.  Doris is certain they’ll return to their favorite hangout.

MYRNA: Yeah, but it’s such a long shot—they could be stuffing their faces with somebody else’s corned beef…
DORIS: Well, we can’t go chasing them all over town!  We’ve got to play this hunch and hope…

And when a taxicab pulls up outside the deli, the reason why Doris is known as “Texas Hold ‘Em” Martin is revealed—Hal and Nat and Simone and Yvette and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice emerge from the vehicle.

DORIS: Okay, girls…you’ve had your fling and you’ve eaten to your heart’s content…now you come back with us…
HAL: I’m afraid they’re not going with you…
DORIS: They have to go!  The show is about to…
NAT (interrupting) Sorry…we don’t believe in our wives working…

Mon dieu!  How’s that for a plot twist?  Hal and Nat inform Doris and Myrna that they’ve made the models Mrs. Hal and Mrs. Nat in Reno.  “We’ve been in love with them ever since the first time they walked in and ordered our chopped chicken liver,” explains Nat.

“Now we’re going to feed them until death do us part,” responds Hal dreamily.  “Come on, girls—before the rush hour starts.”  See, I would watch a sitcom with this premise: two schlubby deli owners marry a couple of ooh-la-la French models, and the wacky complications that ensue.  Unfortunately, this is the last we’ll see of this quartet—it’s back to the lame sitcom we’re stuck with now.

Since my interest in what happens next in this episode has taken a severe nose dive, I’m going to summon up what happens next as quickly as I can.  Nick and Montagne are frantic back at the auditorium, where the fashion show is about to commence.

MONTAGNE (in his pronounced French accent): Imbecile!  Idiot!
NICK: What does that mean in English?
MONTAGNE: The same thing—imbecile…idiot…

Doris and Myrna arrive with the bad news.  Montagne, devastated to hear that not only have his employees married into delicatessen royalty but have retired from the modeling business, struts and frets and lets loose with a flume of French profanity.  “You know—I got a feeling he’s not too thrilled about the news,” Myrna cracks.

What to do, what to do.  Ron Harvey arrives backstage and, of course, he’s completely useless—even though he thumbs through his little black book for some of the models he’s dated in the past.  No—they can’t possible get there on such short notice…so it’s Myrna to the rescue!

MYRNA: Mr. Nicholson—you don’t have to look for any other models…you got the perfect one right here!
NICK: Oh, come on, Myrn—you wouldn’t fit into those clothes in a million years!

Haha, because Myrna is too dumpy.  She doesn’t mean herself, you wanker—she means Doris!  Doris can wear the clothes and save the day…and she does!

Work it, girl!

If you thought Doris on the catwalk was lame, you will be right at home with the coda of this little opus.  Myrna enters Doris’ office with a devastating outfit, and brand new wiglet hair!  “Hey, groovy!” squeals Dodo in approval.  (Far out!)

MYRNA: I figured if those skinny models can wear this kind of stuff why shouldn’t a real woman try it, huh?
DORIS: It’s really groovy…
MYRNA: Yeah, huh…oh, I tell ya—from now on, men just aren’t going to pass me by as if I didn’t exist…from now on, they’re gonna notice me…
DORIS: You better believe it!

Ron Harvey enters the office…and he is speechless.  He is captivated by Myrna’s new look.  Words fail him, and he struggles to describe his feelings at that moment in time.

RON: Well, well, well—this is quite a surprise!  A very pleasant surprise!
MYRNA: Oh…is it?
RON: Yes!  It’s the first time in months you’ve been to work on time!

Ya burnt, Myrna!  “He’s a man,” consoles Doris.  “What does he know about clothes?”  What indeed.  Fans of TDOY’s dearly departed Mayberry Mondays—and I hate to admit this, but I find myself missing R.F.D. more and more with each Doris episode I tuck under my belt—might be interested to know that this turkey was directed by Hal Cooper, who helmed thirty-eight of the misadventures that took place in that sleepy little North Carolina town.  (Cooper would direct one more Doris episode, “The Gas Station”—which features the return of the Day show’s resident faux Goober, Leroy B. Semple Simpson [James Hampton].)

In the third season of The Doris Day Show, Monsieur Montagne (and Johnny Haymer) returns for the episode “The Fashion Show,” where once again Doris proves she’s too sexy for her shirt.  Fortunately, that agony is still a ways off—but we’ll still have to endure more pain next time with “Doris Strikes Out,” which does have one bright spot: it features a beloved actor best known for his starring role on WKRP in Cincinnati.  Join me next time, won’t you?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Adventures in Blu-ray: In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914)

Though technically not a motion picture director, Edward Sheriff Curtis devoted his life to capturing images on film; he was a renowned photographer who chronicled much of the history and culture of both the American West and Native Americans.  Curtis numbered among his friends President Theodore Roosevelt, not to mention a generous patron in John Pierpont Morgan, whose unlimited wherewithal funded much of what would become Curtis’ lasting legacy: a twenty-volume series known as The North American Indian.  Even today, his original photographs fetch staggering sums among collectors.

But even with the deep pockets of J.P. Morgan, Edward was flat broke ten years into chronicling The North American Indian.  Curtis had an ambitious plan to cull together investors for a movie project that would provide him security and solvency, and his roll-of-the-dice gamble was a fictional film depicting the life of the Kwakiutl people (now referred to as Kwakwaka’wakw) living on Canada’s Vancouver Island.  Keep in mind the ambitious nature of this project—though a few movie directors were dabbling in longer features, Curtis’ film was produced before D.W. Griffith’s celebrated The Birth of a Nation (1915).  Using several individuals from the Kwakiutl tribe—and relying on his skills and those of his admittedly inexperienced crew—Edward S. put together In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914), a motion picture that opened to much critical praise and respectable box office.  However, a legal dispute with Head Hunters’ distributor—the fledgling and short-lived World Film Company—over who would pony up the funds to take the movie to other markets killed any future opportunities for profit.

For many years, all that remained of Head Hunters was a shortened 16mm version that was released in 1973, retitled In the Land of the War Canoes.  The original 35mm reels of the movie had succumbed to nitrate decomposition (speeded up by Curtis’ insistence on using color tints and tones in what was labeled “the Hochstetter process”) but fortunately had been transferred to 16mm by the Field Museum of Natural History before they crumbled to dust.  In addition, two 35mm reels had been discovered by film preservationist David Shepard in the 1970s and donated to the UCLA Film and Television Archive.  A lengthy period of “button, button—who’s got the button?” followed, with neither archive certain as to the whereabouts of the surviving materials.  Academics Brad Evans and Aaron Glass eventually recovered the missing elements, not to mention a hefty number of copyrighted film frames that had been placed in the Library of Congress.  (The LOC put In the Land of the War Canoes on the National Film Registry in 1999…even though the original film probably hadn’t been seen in its entirety since the 1940s.)  Along with Glass’ discovery of the film’s original score (by John J. Braham, believed to be the oldest surviving orchestral film scores according to the people involved in the project) at the Getty Institute, a joint effort by the Getty, UCLA and the Field Museum began to restore Head Hunters as close to its original presentation released over one hundred years ago.  Milestone Films released the finished project on both Blu-ray and DVD in February, and once again—due to the kindness of Dennis Doros—I got the opportunity to see this fascinating historical document.

In the Land of the Head Hunters tells a fairly simple story.  Motana, the son of a great chief, heads out on a vision quest that involves the hunting of whales and sea lions.  During his journey, he sees the vision of a princess named Naida, and though he falls for her their love cannot be since she has been bequeathed to a Sorcerer from a rival tribe.  Undaunted, Motana makes short work of The Sorcerer and claims Naida as his bride; they are married, but Yaklus, brother of The Sorcerer attacks Motana’s village on the day of the wedding and spirits the newly married Mrs. Motana away.  This aggression, however, will not stand; Motana reclaims what is his and in following Motana back to his village Yaklus and his men perish in the raging waters of the sea.

My interest in seeing Head Hunters stemmed from my lifelong love of and fascination with silent films, and Hunters is unquestionably a mesmerizing viewing experience.  I won’t lie to you: it’s not an easy movie to watch, because even though the finished project is as complete as it can be it still has a few gaps in the narrative, and Head Hunters demands patience and attentive viewing.  But the rewards are ample: the film, which in ways echoes the landmark documentary Nanook of the North (1922) despite its fictitious nature, offers an absorbing look at the culture of the Kwakiutl nation—their canoes, their costumes, their dances and their dwellings.  It’s probably one of the earliest examples of what many would call an “art film” (and explains why Curtis wasn’t able to recoup much from his original investment).

Milestone doesn’t skimp on the extras in their releases (the material here is so plentiful it takes up two Blu-ray discs!).  Included with the presentation of Head Hunters is the shortened 1973 version of In the Land of the War Canoes, as well as “making of” documentaries, a stills gallery and a featurette about the Gwa’wina Dancers, who were part of the presentation when In the Land of the Head Hunters made its return for a public viewing in 2008.  Because I wanted to make certain I had a richer understanding of the material, I opted to listen to the commentary track (featuring Glass, Bill Holm and Andy Everson—whose grandmother played “Naida” in several scenes) instead of Braham’s score (performed by The Turning Point Ensemble, in collaboration with The Vancouver Film Orchestra).  Though I’m not sorry I did this (the score will have to be savored during a second viewing)—there are a lot of interesting tidbits revealed in the commentary, notably how Curtis had his actors don dark wigs despite many of them having light-colored tresses—it helps to have a point of reference for some of what’s discussed there.  A look at the supplementary featurette Documents of Encounter: The Head Hunters Reconstruction Project will help you out enormously in that regard.

In the Land of the Head Hunters provides not only captivating entertainment for the silent film devotee, but it’s a must-see for Native American scholars and students of an important era of history.  For more information on the project to restore this amazing movie, click here.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Black Widow (1947) – Chapter 10: The Stolen Corpse

Many apologies for having to skip out on Serial Saturdays last week, but sister Kat dropped in over the weekend and I thought it would be rude for me to be holed up in Casa del Boudoir working on an installment while she visited.  So without further ado, let’s get right into this week’s action on The Black Widow (1947): criminologist and pretend detective Steve Colt (Bruce Edwards) was actually playing possum as far as his “injuries” went (faker!), enabling him to nab the delectably diabolical Madame Sombra (Carol Forman) before she injects a deadly poison in his ass.  Plucky gal reporter Joyce Winters (Virginia Lindley), attending physician Dr. Harcourt (Larry Steers) and some no-name cop enter Steve’s room just as Colt captures Sombra.

STEVE: I’ve seen this woman before, and I have a hunch she’s the Black Widow!
SOMBRA: I don’t know what he’s talking about!
STEVE (producing the hypodermic needle): And that’s her stinger!
JOYCE: Steve!  You sure take chances!
STEVE (to Harcourt): Have that analyzed while we take her down and have her booked!

“Perhaps I should have made this clear—I’m the doctor.  Analyzing is what my flunkies do.”  Seriously. Colt really ought to seek professional help about this bossing-people-around habit of his.  Sombra is hustled out of Steve’s room by the cop, and as Steve heads toward the door Joyce makes a lame crack about his hospital attire: “What the well-dressed man is wearing this season—according to Esquire…”

HARCOURT (laughing): Your hat and coat’s in my office…come along…
STEVE: Thank you, Doctor…
JOYCE (on the telephone): Hello…is this the Clarion?  Give me the city desk please…

The scene fades as Joyce checks in with the paper, and then fades up to show Sombra cooling her heels in a cell at the ol’ grey bar B&B.  She’s being grilled by Colt and D.A. Mark (John Philips) as a turnkey looks on—the guard is played by Thrilling Days of Yesteryear villain fave Robert J. Wilke, making his second appearance in this serial (he was a cab driver in Chapter 1).

SOMBRA: How many times must I tell you—I’m Mary Arnoldtrained nurse…!

Trained in the art…of murder!

MARK: All her papers seem to bear her out…
STEVE: Well, that may be…but I’m convinced I’ve seen this woman before in a fortunetelling establishment…besides, her credentials could be forged—couldn’t they?

“Hey—you’re right!  I guess that’s why you’re the faux gumshoe and I’m just the…law-talking guy.”  Mark explains to Colt that he’ll have to have positive proof before he can get the grand jury to indict…and Steve explains that he’ll need time to dig up more dirt, so the D.A. posits that they can hold “Ms. Arnold” without bail for attempted murder.

Now…I realize the plots of serials are incredibly farfetched by design—but what happens next definitely takes an off-ramp into “Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”  Steve tells the D.A. he’ll need to check on all the fortunetellers in town (Mark humorously dismisses this with “Now, Colt…it’s all very well and good for your storybook detectives to consult fortunetellers for their clues—we don’t do these things in real life”) and since there’s about a hundred in that berg (superstitious people, huh) it’ll take a while to run them all down (fortunately, Steve informs the D.A. he and Joyce have a list).  By checking on all the psychics, Steve will be able to determine if “Nurse Arnold” is telling a big honking fib because when they find a missing fortuneteller it has to be her—“she can’t be in two places at the same time.”

But this is just plain dumbassery: both Steve and Joyce crossed paths with Sombra the fortuneteller at her establishment in Chapter 7—do you really mean to tell me he’s forgotten all that since then?  (Granted, he’s taken a few hits to the head in the interim…but he couldn’t have suffered all that much brain damage.)  No, the reason why the writers had to resort to these shenanigans is because after Colt and Mark leave (along with the jailer, who comically tells the prisoner “If you want anything, just ring for the bellhop”) Sombra pulls a compact out of her purse, which turns out to be a nifty communications device.  She contacts Dr. Z.V. Jaffa (I. Stanford Jolley) back at the hideout.

JAFFA: Go ahead, Madame Sombra…
SOMBRA (on the device): I’m in the Lincoln Street jail…tell Bradley, my lawyer, to come here at oncehe knows what to do…meanwhile, Steven Colt is checking on all the fortunetellers in the city…be prepared…
JAFFA: I understand…

Jaffa then turns to Sombra’s number one henchie, Nick Ward (Anthony Warde) and says: “What did I tell you?”  “Now I’ve seen everything,” Ward assures the doc.  I have no idea what this dialogue means.  Jaffa walks over to a telephone and begins to dial as an earlier montage of Steve and Joyce’s visits to various fortunetelling establishments is rerun.  The couple then arrive at Sombra’s (next door to A. “Shish” Kabob’s Fine Tobaccos) and as they make their way upstairs Jaffa gets a heads-up from another of Sombra’s goons, Blinky the Stoolie (Ernie Adams).  Steve and Joyce enter the parlor and find…

…what the…front yard?

SOMBRA: I’m glad to see you again…what brings you here, Mr. Colt?
STEVE: Why…uh…just a routine check-up for the District Attorney’s office…may I see your license to operate?

Sombra produces a certificate that attests her business is legit, and our heroes—stunned, to be sure—mumble their apologies and depart.  Sombra then enters the back room area of her hideout and is greeted warmly by Jaffa.

JAFFA: He fell for it!
SOMBRA: And why not?

Sombra then enters her wardrobe area and after closing the curtains (she is modest, you know), sits at her makeup table and pulls at her face to reveal…

Yowsah!  A hot blonde!  This woman (Laura Stevens) is addressed as “Trixie,” and exiting the wardrobe chamber she is paid off by Jaffa for her first-rate impersonation of her Wickedness.

JAFFA: Thank you, Trixie…you did very well…
TRIXIE: It was a pleasure…call me anytime you’ve got a cinch job like that…

The serial doesn’t reveal what Trixie does for a living, so I’m going to take a wild guess and say she’s employed in the entertainment industry.  (Wink wink.)

Meanwhile, back at the Lincoln Street Hoosegow, mouthpiece Bradley (Forrest Taylor) confers with his malevolent client.

SOMBRA: Surely, Mr. Bradley, something can be done…
BRADLEY: They’re holding you on a charge of attempted murder…it’s my advice that you throw yourself on the mercy of the court when you come to trial…

“Or you could plead insanity…hey, tell them about the device you use to summon your father—they’re sure to think the cheese has slid off your cracker!”

GUARD: Time’s up, counsellor…
BRADLEY (rising): All right…I was just leaving… (He stops) Oh…perhaps you’d like to read this

Bradley starts to hand Sombra a newspaper, but Wilke the Turnkey stops him short—he needs to check the latest edition out to make sure it’s copacetic and all.  He rifles through the newspaper, chuckles at the Dick Tracy strip, and hands it off to Sombra—content that there’s no funny business going on.

Oh, Wilke.  You will soon regret that action.  For once Bradley has left, Sombra peruses the paper until she hits upon this interesting item in the classifieds:

The scene then shifts to Steve and Joyce, as they discouragingly tool along in the Coltmobile.

STEVE: It really got me…I never saw two people look so much alike as that fortuneteller and the girl we’ve got in jail…
JOYCE: It’s amazing…as Ethel Barrymore once said, “That’s all there is…there isn’t any more”…

What a strange, strange line.  Any further odd dialogue is interrupted by the car’s radio—a news announcer interrupts the music program with a bulletin that “Mary Arnold, suspected leader of the Black Widow gang, was found dead in her cell from heart failure.”  Ye gods and little fishes!  Steve thinks there’s something rotten in Denmark, and so he starts booking for the Lincoln Street Lockup.  “All I knew is what the doctor said,” Turnkey Wilke tells them both when they arrive, “she died of heart failure, so they took her to the morgue…”

And that’s when Steve picks a coffee cup from off the floor and examines its strange contents…

STEVE (picking up the newspaper): Where’d this come from?
GUARD: The girl’s lawyer brought it to her…there wasn’t anything in it—I looked through it before I let her have it…
STEVE: Was this torn out before you gave it to her?

It was not.  And using his sensitive sense of smell, Steve has deduced something that would make even Sherlock Holmes mutter “GTFO.”  “If what I suspect is true,” he tells Joyce and Wilke, “she merely drugged herself to simulate heart failure!”  Twisted and evil.  The next stop: the city morgue!

But Steve and Joyce are going to be too late.  Two men, one of them Ward and the other identified as “Smith,” are wheeling Sombra’s “corpse” out of the morgue and to a nearby morgue wagon.  Smith is played by legendary Republic stunt man Dale van Sickel, who’s already turned up in this thing on two occasions—once as “Bill” in Chapter 4, and as “Hodges” in Chapter 7.  He was quite the industrious water rodent…we’ll see him one more time before this thing is over.

When Steve and Joyce do arrive at the morgue, they find an attendant (William Bailey) recovering from the pummeling he took from Ward and Smith.  “Two…two men…beat me up…they…they stole the body of…Mary Arnold…they…they got away on the morgue wagon…”  All right, ya crybaby—you’re okay, rub some dirt on it.  So our hero tears off in the direction of the fleeing morgue automobile, leaving Joyce behind…and there’s a reason for this.

Astute members of the TDOY faithful might have noticed that the title of this chapter, “The Stolen Corpse,” is similar to the title of Chapter 2 in the last chapter play I tackled here on the blog, (Big) Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion (1951).  This is no coincidence: both chapters rely on the same cliffhanger, but in this case it’s Sombra and Ward fleeing Steve—Ward fires his gun at Colt until there are no more buwwets, and then heaves a gurney out the back at Steve’s ride to slow him down.  (That’s why Joyce isn’t riding shotgun—it would be hard to match the footage, and even though Legion came after Widow I’m pretty sure this footage was recycled from an earlier Republic serial—I’m just not well versed on the subject to know which one.)

Anyway, Steve swerves to miss the gurney…and this happens…