Thursday, August 30, 2012

In Memoriam: Wesley Lau

This is memorial post two of two for today. If you come for the first time and see this post at the top, please scroll down to also see the first one.

Ah, Wesley Lau. I find it intriguing how I’m always lukewarm about replacements but almost always end up loving them. Wesley and his Perry characters Amory Fallon and Lieutenant Anderson have touched me deeply over the past months. Wesley managed to become my second-favorite Perry actor, along with William Talman.

Both William and Wesley were highly talented and highly underrated. They played everything from cowboys to killers (as Wesley said about himself), and everything in between! I’ve delighted to view them in the various movies and television series in which they took part.

I first had an inkling of how multi-faceted Wesley was when I saw his portrayal of the agonized, stressed Amory Fallon, a character so different from Lieutenant Anderson and yet still possessing some of the same mannerisms and speech patterns (possibly because they’re Wesley’s own). As I began to view his various guest-spots on television shows, I became more and more aware of just how incredible an actor he was.

Just as an example, I viewed the first of two Peter Gunn episodes in which he takes part. He plays Joe Scully, a male nurse and assistant to an invalid woman. The woman is mysteriously shot and Joe flees, terrified that he will be implicated. When Peter finally tracks him down, he finds a frightened, guilt-stricken, timid man, domineered by his cold-hearted wife. Apparently Joe was part of a plot to con the woman out of her money. It had worked; she named him in her will. But he is a changed man. Although he originally became her nurse with those ulterior motives in mind, he came to honestly care about her. When he found out she was going to be shot and killed, he was horrified.

Overall it’s a rather depressing episode. The woman wasn’t killed when she was shot, but for some reason, they had it mentioned in the epilogue that she later died. Peter and Lieutenant Jacoby are talking and it’s mentioned that she was never told the truth about Joe.

I was left a little uncertain as to why they seemed to be painting Joe as such a horrid person. Even if he started work with ulterior motives, it’s a beautiful thing that his attitude changed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the episode, but perhaps the thing was that he didn’t try to stop the shooting even though he knew it was planned? If so, that is definitely horrid. But I can’t remember if he did nothing at all or if he tried to stop it.

EDIT: I saw the episode again and most emphatically confirm that Joe knew nothing of the plan at all. He wanted to divorce his wife, who really was a wretch, and marry the woman he was taking care of. That was when his wife decided to kill her, not because of jealousy, but because she wanted the money from the inheritance, which she could still get if she framed Joe for the murder. Joe knew nothing about any of it until Louise, the woman, was shot.

And I decided I had to give him and Louise a happy ending, because the whole thing was just too depressing and horrible for them. I wrote a short follow-up to the episode.

In any case, Joe is a character worlds apart from honest, upright, serious Lieutenant Anderson.

And Emil Sande is worlds apart from both of them.

A mercenary merchant based in San Antonio, Emil is smooth-talking, snarky, and absolutely doesn’t get along with Davy Crockett’s easy-going manner in The Alamo. He’s also set his sights on the lovely young Graciela (whose complete name is really a mouthful) and wants to marry her, for reasons unknown. He already seems to own her family’s property, and he tries to convince her to marry him because he knows she wants to get it back and he tells that’s the only way she’ll manage to retrieve any of it. A very self-assured sort, he tells her that she’ll eventually say Yes, even if she deliberates over it for a while. It’s practical and logical and she’ll come to that conclusion.

He’s right about that. Graciela, despite not liking him, determines to go through with the marriage. She would have, if not for a chain of events that happens that same night.

Graciela supports the rebellion and the fight for Texas independence. She takes quite a shine to Davy (as he does to her) and ends up telling him about the weapons Emil had stashed for General Santa Anna under the church. When Davy and his rebel group go to get them, Emil is waiting. While trying to keep them from taking his stockpile, he’s killed by Davy throwing Jim Bowie’s knife.

Something about the character appealed to me. Naturally Wesley’s portrayal had a lot to do with that. And I just couldn’t feel that he deserved death. I felt very sorry for him when Davy had to kill him in self-defense. I mean, these people are coming in to take his stuff. What’s Emil going to do but fight back?

There’s also some very interesting things I discovered while reading between the lines. I wonder both if he was really as bad as all that and what the extent of the relationship was between him and Graciela. When Davy wonders if she would like him to throw Emil out of her house because she doesn’t seem to like his company, she tells him that she is in no danger. Emil is apparently close enough to her to call her by her first name (albeit not by the nickname her closest friends use). And when Davy tells Graciela that Emil is dead, she says his death isn’t worth tears and yet she cries anyway (although she attributes it to feeling overwhelmed by so many things happening to her lately).

Emil is a character. Davy has to press and press to get him to pay the boy who takes Graciela’s luggage up to her house. The scene is highly amusing. Davy keeps wanting to talk to him, and Emil keeps opening the door for two seconds, doing what he thinks Davy wants, and then shutting the door again. But he doesn’t stick around long enough, so Davy keeps knocking and the cycle repeats. Emil is finally so annoyed that he answers the door with his gun.

I was so fascinated by the character and determined to refuse to accept his death that I immediately started a project of connected scenes or vignettes, exploring the idea of what if he was not dead, but badly injured, and he survived. And what if he slowly began to have a change of heart as he was nursed back to health?

It’s a very interesting project. Mostly it consists of soliloquies and dialogues involving Emil and Graciela, with the occasional action-oriented scene. Emil is a lot of fun to write. His snarky and smooth speech patterns are unique and amusing. And without too many scenes in the movie to go on for other personality elements, I borrowed traits from some of Wesley’s other characters for other scenes. He is confused and frustrated over his changing attitudes and conflicted feelings, and any stressed scenes are based on Amory Fallon’s behavior. Whenever a bit of a long-buried kind side surfaces, that is also based on either Amory or Andy. Then, at other times, I gather all the various knowledge I have about any of Wesley’s characters that would fit and try to create something a little bit different and new. I definitely want Emil to sound like one of Wesley’s characters, as well he should.

I’d really like to mention his character Staff Meeker in the Law of the Plainsman episode Stella, but this post is getting quite long. Staff is quite adorable, though. He does participate in a bank robbery, but he doesn’t want to and he doesn’t hurt anyone. He seems very timid and shy and gentle. He only became involved in the robbery because his tough wife wanted to and she wanted the money. His wife, Stella, and her brothers were the ones calling the shots.

Gah, Stella treats him cruel. When they’re arguing about the robbery and the money and how reluctant he is to do anything about it (one brother says they had to force him just to strap on a gun), he finally exclaims, “Why did you marry me?!” Stella replies that she was lonely and he was there and asked her. And she says he’s nothing. Oh goodness, he looks so crushed. He says in despair, “I love you!”

Stella finally softens after talking with the show’s awesome main character, an Apache federal marshal. When the brothers come back after recovering the money which was hidden, they corner the marshal and are treating him cruel. Then they want Stella to shoot him. Staff protests, and between him and the marshal, Stella is finally convinced to side with them and not with her brothers. Staff is hurt in a fight with one of the brothers, but is alright. The marshal promises to testify in his and Stella’s behalf at their trial.

We never really do see if Stella treats Staff any better, though. I think I ought to write a little scene of them talking in jail.

I could go on for pages if I tried to discuss all of Wesley’s variously fascinating characters. I am also highly intrigued by his character Carl Armory from the Bonanza episode Her Brother’s Keeper. I’m writing a vignette series about him and his sister, too. And I even wrote a silly addendum to an equally silly episode of a show called The Law and Mr. Jones. I was most unsatisfied with the episode’s conclusion and I endeavored to “fix” it in a way that would please me.

I imagine it’s very unnatural to become so fascinated by minor and/or oneshot characters. And yet on the other hand, the production crew often has specific people in mind for the parts because they want them to attract the audience’s attention. I like to think it’s a tribute to them, the scriptwriters, and of course the actors, when a character is portrayed so well that someone is intrigued and wants there to be more of that character. That’s how some oneshot characters ended up recurring or even becoming cast regulars, after all.

I have been considering off and on making some websites for specific Perry actors as Crystal and I have done for Simon Oakland. I would like to start with Wesley, since I feel he sometimes is lost in the shuffle when he wasn’t one of the original Core Five cast members. Hardly anything is actually known about Wesley, either, and whether that’s because his family honestly wants it that way or because information has simply been lost to time, we have no idea. But if it’s the latter, then I say it’s high-time that information is found and Wesley is properly honored as one of the great character actors of the Golden Age of Television.

Wesley Albert Lau: Passed away August 30th, 1984. Still sorely missed and well-loved.

In Memoriam: William Talman

This is memorial post one of two for today. If anyone happens to stumble in when this post is at the top, please check back to find the other one too. This one is going up first because William left us first.

I’ve been pondering on what to write about for both of these memorial posts. I chat a lot about the wonderful characters the actors have brought to life, both on Perry and elsewhere, but I like to discuss other aspects too, when possible. And for William Talman especially, I’ve talked at length about many of his movie and television characters aside from Hamilton.

One I haven’t mentioned is his very last role, in an episode of The Invaders. The series involves aliens who have come to Earth and assumed human identities. William plays one of the aliens. And he doesn’t have near enough screen time, to my way of thinking.

The character is a bad fellow; in the first minutes alone he and another alien kill a guy in a truck and take it over. He’s a mysterious figure until his final scene, where it’s revealed that he took on the name and occupation of a colonel.

One very unique thing about his role is that the audience does not hear him speak until that last scene. Until he was shown talking in a phone booth (his words not penetrating the glass), I wondered if he spoke at all or if the character could speak.

Alas, he ends up killed during a battle. It all comes full-circle; his earliest movie roles were bad guys, and they all seemed to get killed off. But it’s both sad and eerie that his final role also involves the character dying. The episode aired in 1967. William died August 30th, 1968.

Several of his good guy characters haven’t survived the movies or television series, either. As previously mentioned, his very honest and upright characters in both The Racket and One Minute to Zero were killed, as was an outlaw trying to turn his life around in an episode of Tales of Wells Fargo.

I don’t like seeing characters played by my favorite actors dying, particularly when they’re wonderful characters. Sometimes I rebel and try to “fix” it in fan stories so they don’t die. I have a short and completed story for The Racket where Officer Johnson lives and was only said to be dead to the murderer so he or someone else couldn’t come back and finish the job. And I have been working off and on with stories for One Minute to Zero and the Tales of Wells Fargo episode. The latter I never did get very far into, but I established the character as being badly wounded but alive.

The One Minute to Zero piece, by contrast, I got farther into but still have not finished. I had to do a couple of things I’d never done before in order to get Colonel John Parker to live as well as to have the other story elements I wanted. I brought things to the end of the Korean War with everyone still thinking him dead, and the main character, Colonel Steve Janowski, is still haunted by that death, which he witnessed in the film. In actuality Colonel Parker was barely alive but taken with the rest of the dead. Somehow along the way he ended up in a Korean hospital (something I still need to better explain), and although he physically recovered, he remained in a state of catatonic shock until the female lead, Linda Day, stumbled across him. Seeing her jerked him back to awareness. I still need to write about his wife and children learning he’s alive.

Sometimes I wonder what William and the other actors whose characters I do this with would think if they’re aware that I’ve been tinkering with some of their characters’ deaths like this. I wonder if they wouldn’t like it, feeling like the deaths were the way things were supposed to be, or if they’d be more entertained and amused than anything else.

As much as I don’t want to accept the Perry reunion movies as canon, I do appreciate that nothing was said in the films about the absent characters being dead. (I have even been told that Paul was never actually said to be dead.) It would make me even less likely to want to so much as see the films if Hamilton and Tragg and Andy and Paul were all declared as departed from this life. The beloved Perry characters, as far as I’m concerned, are immortal and will forever live in the fans’ imaginations solving cases together.

There’s a lovely poem circulating among the Sherlock Holmes fans, the gist of it being that for the fans, it’s always 1895 and Holmes and Watson are together, solving crimes, just as it should be. That’s quite how I feel about the Perry characters, minus the idea of a date in the past. To me they are not only immortal but adaptable, and can just as easily solve crimes in the present day.

Of course, for me the reason why the characters are so beloved is in a large part due to the actors who played them. William’s Hamilton is the perfect depiction of the character, so three-dimensional and balanced beyond what he was in the books. He definitely became identified with the character, so much so that even while the show was originally on, people started addressing him as “Burger.”

I imagine that happens a lot with actors who play very iconic and beloved characters. I watched a short interview a couple of weeks ago where Richard Anderson was addressed as “Mr. Goldman” and he responded without a thought.

I know that William obviously connected with his character Hamilton very deeply; he even made that comment once that he knew more about Hamilton than Gardner did. Which I can believe; Gardner never seemed too interested in exploring Hamilton’s character, since he left him so one-dimensional.

And William had a lovely sense of humor. In all the articles I’ve read about him, he took a very good attitude towards life and the oddities found therein. And he was a very good sport about Hamilton always losing. He pretty much had to be, once he realized Gardner’s formula would never be changed. In one article he made an amusing remark about considering the vast losing streak a thing of pride due to its immense length. It certainly was quite a record.

I hope that wherever William and the other departed Perry actors are, they are happy about the continuing popularity and remembrance of the show and their characters. I am convinced that such interest will continue to endure, just as interest in well-written novels from the 18th century and talented actors and actresses from the beginning of the film era has endured.

William certainly deserves a place among the talented actors. I have seen him play cold psychopaths, upright federal marshals, bitter and troubled Cavalry officers, determined district attorneys, and many other incredible characters each so varied and different from all the rest. It is always a delight to see him handle a part; he always knew just what it needed.

William Whitney Talman, Jr.: Passed away August 30th, 1968. Gone but never forgotten; always remembered and loved.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Notable Guest-Stars: Simon Oakland

It’s strange to think about, but tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of this blog’s opening post. And it won’t be long before we hit the 100 posts mark. Since Simon Oakland is a wonderful guest-star on Perry, and rather directly responsible for this blog even existing, I decided it was high-time to give Simon his own tribute post.

Simon was born August 28th, 1915, the same year William Talman was born. Information about him is hard to come by; Crystal and I have collected pretty much all that we could gather on our website (which will be getting updated this week along with our Simon blog): I wrote the biography, piecing together bits that we’d found, and we both contributed the articles we discovered.

Simon appeared on stage before moving to movies and television, but we sadly have only very scant information on that point in his life. It’s also been said that he was a violinist. I wish some footage existed of that!

Concerning movies and television, he is often remembered for playing the villains. However, while he did take on many roles of that type, he also played many protagonists and misunderstood characters as well. Even many of the villains are so three-dimensional, they still have good in them. One of the articles we found outright mentions that Simon approached his characters wanting to make them three-dimensional and human. He certainly succeeded! He could play any part to perfection, making the viewers really believe in the character.

On Perry Simon appeared twice, once as a bad guy, once as a good guy, and both times ending up the murder victim. Poor characters.

His first appearance was in season 3’s The Frantic Flyer, which happened to be arguably the first time I ever saw Simon anywhere. His character Howard Walters was certainly a wretched sort; as if it wasn’t bad enough that he arranged for the robbery of the safe at the company where he worked as the trusted general manager, he was having an affair with his accomplice and killed the company president’s son so there would be a body discovered and hopefully identified as his when his burned plane was found.

It was such a tangled web all around. His accomplice was a wicked little thing too. She was carrying on with someone else, who planned with her to kill Howard and take the money for themselves. And the guy who ended up being the murderer was the man who had nursed Howard to health when he broke his leg parachuting from the plane. He wanted the money.

In spite of everything, I did feel sorry for Howard. He honestly loved that Janice witch and would have been crushed to learn that she had planned to betray him. But on the other hand, I suppose he really got what he deserved. He definitely was a horrid person, especially on the matter of murdering the president’s ne’er-do-well son. (Whose name, by the way, was Andy Taylor, something that amuses this Andy Griffith Show fan every time.)

I also felt really sorry for Howard’s poor wife in the mess. She honestly loved him and kept trying in vain to see that their marriage stayed alive. But she was brushed off for whatever reason. We weren’t told why the marriage went sour, and in the end, I imagine it’s not a critical detail. But I hope she found someone decent after the episode’s events.

Simon returned in season 4 for The Misguided Missile, which, of course, I’ve talked of several times. Simon played Captain Michael Caldwell, who really can’t be characterized as a bad guy just because he has a grudge against Perry’s friend Major Jerry Reynolds. We don’t even know if it wasn’t at least somewhat justified. He could have been telling the truth about never receiving Jerry’s order, just as Jerry could be telling the truth about sending it. If no one believed Caldwell, including Jerry (who may or may not have been a friend), that would have definitely been enough to make him bitter and wonder if Jerry was really the good man he was praised up as being. When other characters talk about their last encounters with him, they mention how he raved about having the proof that Jerry was not a great hero. I had the feeling that he honestly believed what he said, rather than just pretending to think Jerry was awful in order to cover his own irresponsibility.

By all appearances, Caldwell is a serious and efficient man just trying to do his job—namely, investigating the failed launch of the titular object. He even tells one of the parties involved that his job isn’t to hurt people but to get at the truth—no matter who gets hurt when the truth comes out. That sounds quite similar to what Perry tells his clients and their families and friends.

Caldwell is murdered because he’s too close to the truth. And because, according to the lunatic Dan Morgan, Caldwell “wouldn’t let the missile fly.” The launch for the next one would have been stopped once Caldwell’s investigatory findings about Morgan’s criminal activities became known. And so Morgan murders him and then does the very stupid thing of leaving the body right on the missile range, which nearly stops the launch in the morning anyway.

Caldwell is one of the very few characters murdered for trying to be honest and upright.

On the one hand I wish we’d been told more about Caldwell and Jerry’s past. On the other, perhaps I prefer it the way it was left, so extremely ambiguous and without proclaiming Caldwell a liar. That opens the door for fan story explorations, as I did with both The Case of the Captain’s Ghost and the unrelated The Case of the Spectral Stalker.

It was my desire to look up Simon’s guest-spots last year that led to a rekindling of my interest in Perry—this time a much stronger interest than even before, although the seeds were certainly planted those years earlier. And at least partially from my labor of love on the Simon website and blog, the idea for a Perry blog emerged.

We lost Simon on August 29th, 1983, another wonderful man and excellent actor gone far too soon. We salute you, Simon. You and your amazing characters are still remembered and loved.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Case of the Season Finales

First, a note. The tribute week will start this weekend, kicking off with a post devoted to guest-star Simon Oakland. And I’ve decided that the only thing I could really feel good about on the 30th would be to make separate memorial posts for William Talman and Wesley Lau, both posted on the same day. I’ll just have to make notations on each post that they are one of two for that day, to try to ensure that everyone sees both posts.

Yesterday I started musing on the Perry season finales. Shows these days usually try to have especially spectacular and intriguing season finales, to keep people coming back for more. I’m not fully sure what the idea was in the past. It seems to me that old shows’ season finales are not always a great deal different or more spectacular from the other great episodes in the seasons.

Nevertheless, there’s certainly some on Perry that are better than others. I tried to sort it out in my mind and break it down from favorite to least favorite. I think for this post I will make a countdown, starting at the lowest number and working up to the one I consider the best.

9. The Final Fade-Out (season 9)

Well, this should come as no real surprise to anyone who’s followed my musings for a while. When it comes to what I personally want to see from Perry, this episode falls very short. I don’t consider it the best send-off for the series that they could have made.

However, trying to look at it objectively, the in-jokes are amusing (particularly the one about being opposite Bonanza) and it’s neat that crew members walked on and off the camera in bit roles. Having Erle Stanley Gardner as the last judge seen in the series is a nice touch.

I do think Hamilton deserved a chance to finally explode and rant after nine seasons of taking defeat from Perry, but the only way I can really appreciate the scene as filmed is as another in-joke. I like to think that Hamilton is really ranting about the treatment he received from the show’s writers, forced to lose to Perry again and again. Otherwise I’m just cringing, because the scene should have happened a lot sooner in the series if it was going to exist at all. In season 9, after all the character development for both Hamilton and Perry, its placement just doesn’t make sense. But season 9 sometimes did seem to forget said development; this episode certainly wasn’t the only instance of it.

Steve is adorable, if I remember correctly. The episode let him shine very well, which was one thing season 9 did right. The only thing I can really remember about his screentime here was him saying he had to escape from Hamilton’s office because of how Hamilton was ranting so much about feeling that Perry had tricked and humiliated him in court.

It was nice to see Hamilton struggle to apologize to Perry at the end. And I liked seeing Perry, Paul, and Della discussing their next case. That was a nice closing shot, showing things just as they should be. Perry’s defending the innocent, Della and Paul are assisting him, and Hamilton and the police are around to lend a hand. All’s right with the world.

8. The Mischievous Doll (season 8)

No, I’m not going to list the episodes backwards all the way through the seasons. It just works out that my least favorite finales are from the last two seasons.

The plot is very interesting and convoluted, with one kind of obnoxious and unladylike girl pretending to be her own double. And William Boyett has a bit part, which is always a joy to see.

I suppose what bothers me most about this episode is that it was Andy’s last episode and it really doesn’t treat him very well. He’s made a fool of more in this episode than in any of his others, I think. The whole scene with the fingerprints and the points of similarity had me cringing.

And it got me thinking. Of course every one of the police are trying to do their best, but Tragg is the one the writers seem to put in more embarrassing situations than the others. Andy is a bit harder to fool, but being young and perhaps a bit trusting and na├»ve, sometimes it happens. (It seems a bit odd and out-of-character when it does, too, since it’s so infrequent. I suppose the argument could go either that he was being out-of-character or just plain human, whatever floats your boat.) Although with Steve, presumably the youngest of them all, I think Perry only managed to show him up once, in The Vanishing Victim (an episode that really doesn’t represent anyone’s roles by season 9 very well). Steve is tough and hardcore and doesn’t get shown up or fooled easily.

7. The Lonely Eloper (season 5)

Well, I’ve discussed this episode a bit in the past as well. The gal who became the defendant seriously irritated me. She’s twenty but acts fourteen, as is canonically stated. But with the life she grew up in, I guess it’s not much of a surprise.

Then there’s Hamilton’s comment in court that Della deems “nasty”. I was both amused and groaning at it at the same time. As Perry says, “Nasty, but accurate.” Aside from the wild accusations Hamilton makes in the series, most of his comments assessing the various situations are quite accurate. By itself the comment doesn’t bother me much, but in a season finale along with an aggravating defendant . . . yeah, not such a great mix for me. I’d rather see Hamilton shine in a season finale, instead of having one of his not-so-nice moments (which seem to be plentiful in season 5).

The plot itself is fine and intriguing. I remember watching it years ago, particularly the scene of Andy with the suitcase and opening it to find the bloodied clothing wrapped around the murder weapon.

6. The Witless Witness (season 6)

Now we move to the episodes that I really have no problems with.

This is a very interesting one involving a fiercely honest judge who’s framed into a dreadful situation that makes it look like he bought his way into office. He and Perry have a very intriguing and amusing friendship. They don’t agree on interpretations of the law and seem to quite enjoy bantering over it.

One thing I was puzzled about is why Hamilton doesn’t express any reluctance to prosecute the judge. I would think that with the judge’s staunch reputation Hamilton would be an admirer of his, as he seems to be of the General in The Positive Negative. The only explanations I could come up with are either that he was reluctant and the scene just wasn’t written, or that he was skeptical that the judge was all he was hailed as being.

5. The Ugly Duckling (season 7)

The defendant is one angry girl. Usually the Perry characters in her type of situation, pressured by family into being something they’re not all of their life, tend to be quiet and withdrawn. This one’s got a bad temper. I would hate to make her angry.

I’m not much of a romantic person, as I’ve mentioned; I prefer friendships. But I do have a romantic side and I kind of love the pairing set up here. The guy is a scoundrel who starts to seem nice, then appears to be a wretch, and then is proven good when all is revealed. He only pretended to be a cad while trying to protect the defendant, whom he really had fallen in love with.

Also, Sergeant Brice gets a really good and chatty scene with Perry, and William Boyett has another awesome cameo. Overall, it’s a very good example of why the later Perry episodes should be appreciated more.

4. The Rolling Bones (season 1)

Season 1, being the season in which everything was highly experimental as the writers tested what worked and what didn’t, is not my favorite season, character-wise. But plot-wise it is excellent! And this installment is no exception. It also has one of my most favorite moments in all of season 1, when Perry and company realize the office is bugged. Paul thinks Hamilton would be capable of doing it, while Perry is adamant that Hamilton would never stoop to such a thing. I am very sad this scene is sometimes cut from reruns.

3. The Flighty Father (season 3)

A really fun episode involving two men claiming to be one girl’s father, and how Perry unravels the whole mess. The solution is intriguing and surprising, and the epilogue is highly satisfying. This is Perry in top form.

2. The Guilty Clients (season 4)

Well, my romantic side rears its rarely seen head again with this one. I just can’t get enough of this episode, with the divorcing and squabbling couple that apparently, thoroughly loathes and detests each other. And yet the guy goes to all kinds of lengths to protect his former wife when it looks like she killed the victim, and the girl breaks down in tears during court exclaiming that she killed him, when things go bad after her former husband is arrested. I love it. There’s a scene in Hamilton’s office too, and a bit of interaction with him and Perry. Always a plus.

1. The Lame Canary (season 2)

An intense plot, revolving around a wife’s fear that her husband is trying to kill her, and as I see it, the most perfect epilogue. All of the Core Five gather in Perry’s office to tie up the loose ends and mingle. More than just about any other scene, this depicts the whole lot of them as friends. As the camera fades out while everyone laughs at Hamilton’s cheesy joke, there’s such a happy feeling of it being so right. They have conflicts, and they don’t always agree, but at the end of the day they’re all still friends.

Which may be what The Final Fade-Out eventually tried to achieve in its epilogue. But I like how this one did it much better.

Now, aside from all personal preferences, which season finale would I select that best represents our show’s awesomeness? That is a tough call. Tentatively I would break it down between The Rolling Bones and The Lame Canary. The writing is just excellent for both, with intense cases, engaging characters, and the Core Five all getting some good scenes in. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Rolling Bones in its uncut form, but I might select it overall.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

First encounters

Next week there will be a lot of tribute posts. And I’m kind of wondering how to do the ones on the 30th, for William Talman and Wesley Lau. Should I combine the tributes into one large post? Should I post twice that day, with them separate? Should I post one of them on the weekend and one on the 30th?

I realize that in May, I ended up doing a combined post for Raymond Burr and Lee Miller, but that was only because I found out about Lee Miller’s birthday while checking up on material for Raymond’s post. Otherwise, the posts would have been separate (and on the proper days, too).

I feel like I want to do the memorial tributes for both William and Wesley on the right day. But I’m concerned that if I post them separately, even if on the same day, the first one may get lost in the shuffle. On the other hand, if they’re combined in one post, I’m not sure that would allot the same amount of attention to each one either.

It seems a problem without a perfect solution. This is the first time I’m faced with it, as last year I was unaware that they passed away on the same day (sixteen years apart). And that is sad and eerie and uncanny to begin with, as they are two of my three favorites.

Thoughts, anyone? What seems the most respectful way to handle this?

While checking up on some of the recurring cast and their birthdays, I stumbled across this: I’ve been on this site now and then; they have some fun and rare pictures for various character actors. The picture of Karl Held they have up suddenly made me realize something. There are certain cast members from our show with whom I was at least aware of for years before I was introduced to Perry. Karl is one of them.

I honestly can’t remember when my dad introduced me to The Student Prince, but I am positive it was before I ever saw Perry. I also think it was before I developed an independent interest in old movies and television. If so, Richard Anderson may very well be the first Perry cast member I ever ran across. The more I think about it, the more I am very sure that his character Lucas was my favorite character from the film.

Isn’t it strange, how that works? He was my favorite, but I knew nothing about the actor, and by the time I became reacquainted with him years later I’d all but forgotten that initial encounter. And yet he managed to once again become a favorite due to Perry, with me not remembering the first meeting until after the fact. The same thing happened with Simon Oakland (whom I first saw on Perry years ago and immediately liked).

I guess it goes to show that my preferences have never really changed much, even after all this time.

As for Karl Held, well, my maternal grandmother had this magazine about cats that I just loved to read and re-read. One segment talked about cat movies. Disney’s 1965 classic That Darn Cat! was mentioned and I was intrigued. In 1996 I looked for it at the library and found it. I watched it, loved it, and my interest in old movies was sparked. It was the first old movie, aside from animated films and The Wizard of Oz, that I deliberately set out to see. That led to many more Disney comedies, and from there, an interest in similar fun family films.

I also watched the old movies my parents selected with greater interest and decided to seek out some of the awesome-sounding television shows my mom had talked about for years. I became so entranced with the golden oldies that for a time, I actually preferred things being in black-and-white to color! I generally prefer color again now, but some things really do look better in black-and-white for the shadows and mysterious effects.

Karl Held appears in That Darn Cat!, as an F.B.I. agent assigned to trail the titular character because there’s reason to believe the kitty knows where a kidnapped bank teller is being held. While he wasn’t my favorite of those agents, I enjoyed his part. The scenes of the agents tailing the cat are among my most favorites in the film.

(And I didn’t realize Karl Held has such pretty blue eyes. I’ve only seen him in black-and-white stuff other than this, I think. And I haven’t seen the film again since becoming better aware of who Karl is. Man, he looks good in a fedora. Of course, people generally do. It’s such a cool hat.)

I find it kind of neat that a Perry cast member was in the thing that sparked my interest in old media. And I’m one of the very few people who honestly isn’t bothered by David Gideon, so that makes it even better for me.

Offhand, I also remember seeing Raymond Burr in A Place in the Sun years ago. I want to say it was before I saw Perry, but I’m honestly not sure on that. It probably was, though, because otherwise my parents probably would have talked about the irony of him playing a prosecutor, and I don’t recall such discussion. What I do remember, very vaguely, is thinking he was very good in the part.

Ray Collins I met prior to Perry because of my love for the Ma & Pa Kettle films. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw him in other things too. I remember The Magnificent Ambersons being on television sometimes and catching snatches of it.

William Hopper I would have seen in Rebel Without a Cause, but even though I liked that film, I cannot bring his character to mind. I regret that. I should get the film out again and refresh my memory.

It’s very possible that I saw Barbara Hale in things before Perry, too. With William Talman and Wesley Lau it’s more unlikely, since their films are sadly more obscure for the most part.

I would tentatively say it’s slightly possible that I saw Wesley in The Alamo, if that film was on television at some point. It’s probably one of the two most commercially available of all of his films. Of course, I also saw him in I Want to Live!, but I think I first saw that film after seeing Perry. I wish I could remember for sure. It’s also possible that even if it was after, it was before I saw any Wesley episodes.

I want to say that I thought the main character’s husband was very cute, in spite of the character being a deadbeat jerk. If that happened, it was similar to how I immediately liked Simon and didn’t want his Perry character in The Frantic Flyer to be hurt, even though he was . . . quite a nasty fellow. Instead of just being completely shallow, I think it was more that the actors themselves appealed to me, rather than their specific characters in those productions. Their goodness shone through.

(Albeit every now and then, I do become downright fond of a specifically antagonistic character, if the personality intrigues me in a certain way. I am extremely fond of Emil Sande in The Alamo and feel sorry for him when he is killed while trying to defend his weapon stockpile that Davy Crockett and the others show up to take. But that is a ramble for another place. Maybe on the 30th, hmm?)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Misguided Model: The writers were not misguided!

Oh my goodness! I don’t know if I’ll actually post this a day early, but I’m typing it up on Wednesday because I just couldn’t wait to rave.

(As it turned out, I saved it . . . but have been delayed getting it up while watching Wesley Lau and Richard Anderson in various guest-spots. . . .)

The Misguided Model from season 9 is . . . oh wow. So, so intense. It has just claimed its spot as one of the very few episodes without Hamilton that I will jump at the chance to watch. Last year I watched maybe a third of it, while I was half-asleep, and then stopped it to look for one with Hamilton, as I specifically wanted one with him right then. This time, despite knowing he wasn’t in it, I wanted to watch it because of Steve being in it.

I also discovered I know the deputy D.A. who is in it. Remember my musing on The Impetuous Imp? He’s baaaack. Say hello to Deputy D.A. Bill Vincent, eager beaver extraordinaire. (Nobody corrected me to let me know he was in other episodes, so I suppose nobody else remembered. Hmm.)

This is a very different Perry episode. It opens with a starlet-hopeful and her friend arriving at her apartment and discussing the fact that she is being threatened by a shady character she knows. When the door is opened, a fist comes flying at Duke, her friend, and he begins fighting with the man attached to it. The fight ends with the intruder, Art Grover, being killed and Duke going into hysterics over the thought of turning himself in for it. He has a phobia of being locked up, so even though it was a self-defense killing he begs for his friend Sharon to keep quiet about it. She’s more than willing; she wants the body out of there, as any scandal will hurt her chances at becoming the spokesperson for the conservative White Snow company. Duke carts it into an alley, where a thief tries to pick the pockets and ends up arrested for murder.

Meanwhile, Duke goes to Perry and tells him in confidence about the fight. Perry urges Duke to turn himself in, but Duke continues to refuse, both because of his fears and because he’s trying to protect Sharon. Perry compromises that he will try to find out what has happened and whether the body has been discovered, but tomorrow he wants Duke to go to the police. Perry also promises he will not break the confidence.

Perry and Paul visit Steve at the station and learn about the poor fellow who has been arrested. Perry immediately calls Duke and tells him he has to turn himself in now, but Duke still refuses.

This puts Perry in a horrible moral dilemma, reminiscent of The Capering Camera but infinitely worse. He doesn’t want to betray the promise to Duke. But he can’t let an innocent man be tried for murder.

I have to admit, I squealed and really loved Perry in this episode. I have nothing against him, of course, and I love his compassion and his dedication to his clients and the truth. But his legal tightrope-walking does frustrate me. I’ve made that very clear. I just don’t believe the end justifies the means.

In this episode, Perry is just wonderful. He tries and tries so hard to get Duke to come clean, but when Duke absolutely refuses and then disappears, Perry knows he has no choice. He goes to the hearing as a friend of the court and admits to what he knows in the judge’s chambers. Steve also speaks up and reminds them of the things about the case that he didn’t feel added up, such as Art being killed with a blunt object but the defendant not having any such thing on him when the police caught him in the process of pick-pocketing. The defendant is re-booked on a charge of robbery and the search for Duke begins.

Here I must pause and ponder on two things.

Why is William Talman credited when he is nowhere to be seen? William was denied the honor of always being included in the cast list when he was re-hired in season 4. The Misguided Model is the only episode since season 3 where he is credited while being absent. I have puzzled on that before and have never found an answer.

Could it be that he was supposed to be in it? Or even that he had scenes filmed, but for some reason they were changed? Why?

What is Bill Vincent doing here again? His main purpose seems to be to get reprimanded by the judge for his flimsy case against the hapless defendant. Certainly the same thing has happened to Hamilton, even as late as season 9.

Is there any possible chance that the writers or the director or someone else in the crew decided to have a little compassion on Hamilton and make Bill Vincent the scapegoat this time instead? His case is much flimsier and the judge’s reprimand much stronger than anything I remember where Hamilton is concerned.

This is something else that will likely never have an answer.

I cringe a bit to see that Bill is still the same eager beaver from The Impetuous Imp. (Or possibly even moreso!) Poor Hamilton; he really has his hands full with this fellow.

It kind of seems that the stuff with Bill was meant to be a sub-plot in season 9. Unfortunately, a sub-plot that never quite went anywhere. Since they knew season 9 was to be the last season, they should have worked harder to develop this angle once they introduced it. It could have been really interesting, seeing how Hamilton handled this young and impulsive deputy D.A. with Hamilton himself being older and wiser than he was when the series started.

As I’ve been discovering, season 9 was very good to the police. Steve has many scenes again. He shines gloriously!

We find more interesting tidbits into various aspects of his personality. In his first scene, he greets a lady in the records department by calling her “Honey”, to which she flatly informs him that she wants to be called by her name, which isn’t Honey. Ouch. Ha, poor Steve. Hence we have the first time any of the main police have tried to flirt (unless we count some of Tragg’s comments to Della as flirting).

He listens in the judge’s chambers as Perry tries to explain about Duke killing in self-defense. He feels that an innocent man would not run, and says that when they find him, he will try to remember Perry’s fine-line distinction between murderers and killers.

Steve is hardcore on the job. He demands answers from Sharon and doesn’t believe her when she insists she doesn’t know where Duke has gone. He also is very unimpressed by her insistence on not wanting her chances for being the White Snow Princess to be ruined. He is so frustrated and unimpressed that he can’t even care to get the name right. Twice he calls it “Miss Snow Plow”. I laughed out loud. Priceless.

Rudy, the fellow who seems to be Sharon’s agent, is contacted on the phone by Duke and directs him to a cabin. Upon hearing that Steve doesn’t believe Sharon is unaware of Duke’s whereabouts, and that he won’t keep silent about her part in things, Rudy rushes out to tell him about the cabin in spite of Sharon’s protests. Once the deed is done, however, she doesn’t seem too bothered. She just goes to her mirror and tries out the crown from her costume, looking enchanted.

Paul, meanwhile, goes up to Seattle and finds one of Art’s old cronies. He comes back with some shakedown information that makes Perry start to doubt that Duke killed Art after all, as impossible as it sounds. Hearing about the standoff at the cabin between Duke and the police, Perry knows they must act immediately.

They rush to the studio where Sharon is rehearsing after being chosen as the White Snow Princess. She’s good at the part, no doubt about that, but she is anything but the pure person the company wants for the role. To get the rehearsal stopped and have her come with them to the cabin, Perry and company arrange to put a picture of Sharon with a much older man on the screen. (A tactic that made me raise an eyebrow, I’ll admit.) I’m assuming the picture was among the stuff that Paul brought back, as it’s what Art was holding over Sharon and threatening to reveal. Sharon sees it and any sweetness is gone. She demolishes all of the sample products behind her, throwing them to the floor as she screams and yells. Perry, Della, Paul, and Sergeant Brice come in and escort her out with them.

I was wondering why good old Brice wasn’t with Steve at the canyon. I still don’t know why, but I am terribly amused at his bit part here. He drives everyone up there and rushes the car past an officer without slowing down or stopping to explain. Sergeant Brice the speed demon! Who would have thought?

At the cabin, Duke is hysterical. He has a rifle, from which he fires warning shots at the police cars. He yells that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Steve, ducking behind his car with an officer, finally allows his stern cover to fade for a brief moment. “We don’t want to hurt anyone, either,” he says softly.

Oh Steve, I love you.

They try twice to get some tear gas into the cabin window, but fail. Perry and company then arrive and Perry pleads with Steve to be allowed to try to get Duke to give himself up. Steve doesn’t want Perry to do it, certain that Duke will try to kill him, but Perry proceeds anyway.

Duke does threaten to kill Perry, and gives him ten seconds to leave. Perry stands his ground and tells Duke how he’s figured out the case. Duke really fought with Rudy in the dark apartment. Art was already dead behind the couch. Rudy was an accomplice to the real murderer, who did not want Art to reveal scandalous truths. She had him killed and deliberately set Duke up as the fall guy.

Sharon immediately speeds off in the squad car, being the last one inside after everyone else gets out. Steve sends out an alert and she’s captured at the roadblock.

I didn’t like Sharon from her very first scene. I thought she was too consumed by wanting to be the White Snow Princess and that she didn’t really care about Duke. I softened when she insisted on how she felt indebted to Duke, but was immediately suspicious again when she didn’t seem bothered by Rudy telling Steve about the cabin. I was kind of glad my dislike turned out to not be unfounded. But gah, poor Duke. What an awful “friend.”

At least Duke has real friends like Perry and Della. The epilogue has them all planning to go out for dinner.

This is definitely one of the best episodes of season 9. And I daresay it’s among my overall favorites. There is just so much good stuff in here, from Perry’s moral dilemma to Steve’s scenes to the standoff at the cabin and Perry trying to talk Duke down.

The only thing I question is the reappearance of Art’s crony. She comes down to L.A. after saying she did not want to be further involved. I don’t quite understand her purpose other than to have more screentime. Unless she’s the one Paul gets that picture from (and I don’t recall that she was), she doesn’t really do anything.

But that’s such a minor quibble. This episode is wonderful!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Golden Girls: A golden episode, a gold-plated bomb, or just plain weird?

I’m not sure who keeps making these mistakes, but The Golden Girls is another episode whose IMDB page said for a while that Hamilton was not in it. That has been corrected now (but not by me).

It’s another one I’m just getting around to now. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it before at all. Somehow I think my local station might have always skipped it, for content, even though of course it’s very mild. (My station is quite conservative, which I appreciate.)

When reading the summary last night, my eyebrows shot a mile high at the mention of what the Golden Bear club was and what it was parodying. I’ve already seen the episode of the recent detective series Monk that parodies/comments on the same type of thing, and I was displeased with how it was handled there, so I became leery of watching The Golden Girls at all. But the pull of seeing a new episode was too strong. That, and my hope that things would be handled tastefully, considering both the series and the time period in which it was made. To my relief, I was not disappointed.

(And I’m not trying to be a prude by not naming certain names, by the way. I simply don’t want people searching for such keywords to find this innocent blog instead, due to those keywords registering in a search from their usage in this entry. Or for Internet filters to block the blog due to picking up the keywords….)

The Golden Girls is based on season 1’s The Vagabond Vixen. Well, the remake episodes are hit or miss, as I see it. And sometimes they forget their place as season 9 episodes instead of season 1. That was another reason I was leery. There was one such season 1-ish moment where Perry was concerned, but surprisingly, really nothing with Hamilton or Steve.

The basic plot of the shakedown scheme and the not-so-innocent traveler remains the same. But everything around it is quite different. Instead of movie people, the partners locked in conflict own the Golden Bear club. Originally it was a respectable men’s club, but one of the partners has warped it into a place where girls prance around as “Teddy Bears” (instead of Bunnies. Yes.). The other partner is repulsed and horrified, but everything he has tried to do to stop it and regain his control over the operations has failed.

It’s the gutter-minded partner who first picks up the crafty hitchhiker. She’s just come from the beach and has a two-piece swimsuit on. She looks a bit apprehensive, but he says he’s been around girls all the time with less on than that. (Not in the club, though; seriously, the get-ups the girls wear in the club cover more than the swimsuit does!)

He stops for a pre-arranged meeting and goes into the building. Soon the girl hears gunshots from inside. She runs and finds his partner at a gas station. She pulls the same routine with him, wanting a ride, and he agrees. Seeing his antique gun on the car floor, she takes it.

The next day, she shows up at the club with a note from the first partner, written last night, saying to hire her as a Teddy Bear. The conservative partner is not pleased, but there’s nothing he can do about it for now.

And here I must pause and just shake my head in disbelief at the whole Teddy Bear concept. It’s so silly. And I’m sure the writers knew that; we’re probably meant to take it tongue-in-cheek. I fail to see anything that sultry about girls dressed as bears, even the way they do it on the show. And the costumes are so plain. I suppose that’s to give things a rustic air, in keeping with the club’s roots, but still. So silly.

Well, so as per the episode it’s based on, the first partner is found dead. And the second partner is later arrested, after having been blackmailed by both the girl and a repulsive character claiming to be a reporter. Eventually the hitchhiker’s blackmailing partner beats her up and takes most of the money she got when blackmailing the defendant for his gun.

And concerning the season 1-ish content: Perry and Paul go to see the girl after she’s been beaten up. Della is already over there with her, concerned after she called up terrified from the beating. Looking out the window, they see the police coming. Perry says that they’ll high-tail it out of there, with the girl’s luggage, and after she talks to the police she should come to Perry’s office.

I’m assuming Perry wants to get out of there because his client’s gun is in the girl’s bag. (At least, they think it is.) And that definitely seems like concealing/withholding evidence to me. I have to admit, when the girl vanishes and they discover she was picked up by the police, I felt it served them right for trying to withhold the gun.

Hamilton behaves very maturely in court as he questions witnesses and exchanges conversation with Perry, which is just how I’d expect to see him by season 9. When Perry exposes the key witness’s perjury, Hamilton has to put the girl on the stand, which he had not wanted to do at that time. (It’s not mentioned here as it was in the original, but perhaps Hamilton was hesitant because of her tender age and was hoping it wouldn’t come to needing her testimony.) She reveals that Perry has the gun in her bag. Hamilton is shocked.

The bag is brought and Hamilton goes through it. Not finding the gun, however, he does not explode as he probably would have in season 1. Instead, he looks to Perry in utter bewilderment and calmly asks if Perry removed the gun from the bag. Perry says No, and starts to realize that maybe they have the wrong bag. (Either that or the gun was switched to another one; it’s not expressly said.) Getting an idea of who the killer is and how to trap them, he calls Steve over for help. They go to the club to find the right bag.

As in The Vagabond Vixen, the culprit is a woman who loves the defendant. I think she’s his secretary, but I can’t remember if that was said, either. She breaks down and confesses when Perry puts on a show of having to get the gun even though it will surely convict his client.

Steve has some wonderful scenes throughout the episode. Even Sergeant Brice gets to do a little something, as he holds back some people from entering the dressing room during the climax. They are both prominent all the way along, and then the epilogue brings us some more of Steve’s palling around with Paul, which is always fun to see.

One thing I was particularly uneasy about where the episode was concerned was how the men would react to the club. I did not want to discover that at least one of them was a secret patron of the place or some such thing. The writers decided, in their tasteful way, to not really say one way or another. No one gives an opinion, positive or negative, aside from the guest-starring partners’ conflicting views. That was probably the best way to do it.

The closest anyone in the main cast came to offering an opinion is in the epilogue. Clay brings a copy of the Golden Bear magazine, which has been naughty since the one partner assumed control. Della comments that she didn’t think Paul would be interested in the thing. Paul then tells her that this is the first issue under the new-old format, where it has returned to being a magazine about California and the wilderness and wildlife.

Amusingly, he and Steve then engage in a bit of good-natured teasing as Paul discovers the centerfold. He reacts as though it’s a picture of a girl. Steve leans over and whistles. Della wants to see, and when Paul turns it around, it’s a sketch of a big furry bear, a “real” Golden Bear, says Paul. Ha!

During court, there is a point where Hamilton asks a witness if what the deceased did with the club and the magazine brought them out of bankruptcy (and phrasing it to indicate he thought it did). It’s denied. Hamilton, however, was just trying to find out the facts and did not really express an opinion one way or another either.

All in all, aside from that bit of season 1-ish/book-inspired material with Perry hoping to get away with the gun bag, I really enjoyed the episode. I appreciated how tastefully the subject matter was done and the way the writers chose to handle the cast’s reactions. Perhaps it’s not an episode I would like to watch over and over, but it certainly isn’t the worst of season 9, despite its oddness and tongue-in-cheek elements. And the core plot, underneath all the new twists, is very similar to The Vagabond Vixen. I find that interesting rather than an insult to the viewers’ intelligence, as I saw from at least one review.