Grab Bag!

Because I’ve been too lazy to watch all the 1940/1946/1953/1954/1962/etc Best Actor Oscar nominees and thus revive my Oscar series as a buildup to this year’s ceremony. Because I am also too lazy to construct cohesive posts about the various topics that have been floating around in my head (there’s so much room up there). But mostly because I am oh so fascinating and have oh so many interesting thoughts about oh so many things…here is this month’s grab bag of a post–upcoming anniversaries, forgotten films, out-of-syndication television programs, and dead actors and musicians (actually just one…still livin’ and breathin’ nothin’ but Ricky Nelson ’round here), straight ahead!    

1. The Super Bowl wasn’t that super this year.

That’s right–I do turn on the television and pretend to live in this century every now and then. It’s harder, though, for me to pretend to understand the sport that is American Football. All I’ve got so far is scoring touchdowns is good. Anyway. The Super Bowl was kind of depressing and most definitely Boring with a capital B–except when they showed Paul McCartney chowing down on his vegetarian pizza. That was awesome. And it was oh so awesome when Bob Dylan asked, “Is there anything more American than America?” (I’m guessing…no?)

My sister was all, “Bob Dylan can still walk?”

2. Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

I honestly don’t know what the big deal is since last year was the 49th anniversary? But I am loving the big deal because everywhere it is Beatles, Beatles, Beatles, as it should be!

“Won’t you please sing something?”

“NO!”

Oh, I love nothing more than the Beatles. They have been my favorite people in the world since I was a little girl and will forever remain so. Looking forward to the CBS special this Sunday!

3. I have started spending a lot of time in a bar. 

Because I just want to go where everybody knows my name. And they’re always glad I came.

That’s right…I’ve started watching Cheers. I’m not really sure why, but I’m kind of in love. Coach and Cliff are my favorites so far, but I also like Norm and Sam and Carla and Diane is kind of annoying but she’s OK, I guess. I absolutely cannot wait for Frasier to come onto the scene! Only a few more episodes!

4. I FINALLY got to see Désirée, a 1954 film starring Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando as Napoleon Bonaparte. Thank you, TCM, for airing this gem at 2 A.M.!

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Can you say awesome?

Besides the awesomeness of Brando’s wardrobe (and Brando in general), I enjoyed the film way more than I thought I would. It was engaging and interesting and Brando, Brando, Brando! Was there ever a more attractive and compelling actor? Oh, yeah, Montgomery Clift. Hahahahahahahahaha. Great, now I feel like watching Clift compare guns with John Ireland and woo Olivia de Havilland and fall off a train all in one night.

5. That Darn Cat! (1965) is definitely superior to That Darn Cat (1997). 

The exclamation point totally should have given it away, but after watching and enjoying the original film, I wanted to re-watch the remake and compare notes. The remake has its moments but overall it is just so cheesy. And cheese gives me gas, man.

Plus the original is just so darn perfect. Perfect cast. Perfect soundtrack. Perfect cat, though darned he may be.

Oh, and I just happened to find this photo of Dean Jones this past week. You know me, always searching the web for a good Dean Jones photo. Here he is hanging out with Sal Mineo and the Nelson brothers. What a world this is!

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6. My My Three Sons diet is becoming harder to maintain because the episodes are so funny and poignant and just plain old wonderful.

I got the second season on DVD for my birthday in October and told myself I would have to limit myself to watching it sparingly because none of the other seasons are available on DVD (…WHY???) and it’s not in syndication here.

I recently watched the episode entitled “Bub’s Lodge.” In this episode, Bub is being honored in his Lodge where he will be crowned D’Artagnan of the East Door. He has a fancy outfit and everything. Meanwhile, Mike is aiming to become part of a fraternity and is worried that Bub and his ridiculous outfit will embarrass him. The episode is funny, of course, but it’s also so sweet and touching. My favorite part is the glimpse it allows into Bub’s room:

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There are pictures of Steve and the boys everywhere. D’awwwwww!

I love Uncle Charley and all, but Bub was the best. The early episodes are the best. Give me more!

7. I saw Two for the Road and loved it.

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Two for the Road is a polarizing film, I think, because it is so unconventional. It is not your typical romantic comedy. Everything is not tied neatly in a bow by the end of the film, and the overall narrative is non-linear and often difficult to follow, requiring careful and attentive viewing. The story of Mark and Joanna Wallace is not told in chronological order but rather story threads are loosely connected by a certain sight — like the sight of a ferry where they first met — or an object — like a hat — or something as simple as the weather. In the present, as the film begins, the audience sees Mark and Joanna, with obvious tension between them, embark on a trip and as they travel, they reflect on their relationship through other trips they took together. Their relationship has had its ups and downs, and toward the end of the film when Mark asks Joanna why they didn’t end their relationship at a certain point, part of you is wondering the same thing. But the other part also knows that these two people love each other, despite the difficulties of their relationship. The film is realistic in its portrayal of love and relationships — it’s not always easy and Shangri-La like in a movie but is instead often very difficult and requires a lot of effort and hard work.

8. I also watched Love and Kisses, starring Rick and Kris Nelson, and loved it. 

This movie has been described as nothing more than an extended episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and in some ways that is true. It’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is fun and cute and some really important things happened in this movie.

First, Rick wears some white pants that are really flattering.

Second, there is a dream sequence that involves Rick visiting a strip club/bar, and he gets into a major fight. Meanwhile, David and Wally sit at the bar and wonder if they know Rick. They decide they don’t. It’s cute.

Third, Rick (actually his character’s name in the film is Buzzy, which is bizarre so I am just going to keep on calling him Rick) gives this speech to his dad (who is not Ozzie which is also bizarre) about teeny-weeny jammies, itsy bitsy feet, diapers, and a trip to Disneyland. It’s awesome.

Finally…Rick (er…Buzzy) curses in this film. He let’s a “what the hell” rip not just once but twice and then claims that saying “what the hell” is not cursing. There’s also a bonus d–n. Pretty sure if this were released today, they would have to slap an “R” rating on it.

Anyway. This movie was cute, you can watch it on YouTube (in poor VHS quality, alas), and sorry about the curse words. I’m gonna put a bar of soap on my keyboard.

9. My current Rick Nelson phase is starting to scare me because I stayed up late last night watching an episode of The Hardy Boys that Rick guest starred in. 

Rick plays a rock star named Tony Eagle who actually sings Rick Nelson songs and he’s unknowingly involved in the disappearance of a man the Hardy brothers are investigating. It also involves a plane which makes me scream and cry inside for obvious reasons.

I’d never watched The Hardy Boys before and it’s so ’70s, but it was also kind of fun and entertaining. Getting to watch Rick sing so many songs was wonderful. He was so natural…and beautiful. Sigh.

10. I recently learned that Montgomery Clift reportedly turned down the part of Dude (eventually played by Dean Martin) in Rio Bravo

Do you realize what this means?  

Do you?

This means that had Clift taken the role, he and Rick Nelson would have been in the same movie and I never would have worn a clean pair of underwear in my life (as if I don’t have enough trouble with that already). Clift reportedly turned down the role because he did not want to work with John Wayne again (can’t blame him).

Thanks, Monty. I like wearing clean underwear.

OK, that’s it for this grab bag. I’m off to work on something cohesive and worthwhile…that is, after I finish watching this unaired pilot featuring Rick Nelson as some sort of bad guy in tights. Until next time!

Much love,
The Count Petofi

Livin’ the Dream: Watching My Three Sons

Whoa, a month has flown by without an update–inexcusable! Except I was exhausted, uninspired, and livin’ in the dream in Utah for a few weeks. And by livin’ the dream, I mean I was helping my grandma clean and organize, visiting cemeteries, listening to my brother rattle off our family tree back to the seventeenth century by heart (…seriously), frequenting thrift stores, and making myself stay up until 11:41 P.M. every night to watch My Three Sons. Like I said, inexcusable. Except in my book, when you have the chance to watch My Three Sons, it is inexcusable to not drop everything else and grab that chance and never let go, Jack.

Unless they’re the color episodes featuring some demon masquerading as a child named Dodie. Then you go right ahead and let go.

But we’ll talk about Dodie later. Right now let’s focus on why I felt compelled to stay up to watch this 50-year-old show, just as I felt compelled to forego sleeping in on my summer vacations as a child to sit in front of the television at 8 A.M. to watch the reruns of the black-and-white episodes on TVLand. (I was a healthy and balanced child. Promise.)

First things first: the toe-tapping theme song. Literally. 

I dare you to listen to this theme song and not have it stuck in your head…forever. No, really. It will be stuck in your head forever. Because it is just that delightfully insidious. It is also known in some circles as the bomb diggity. Really.

Do do do doooooo, do do do dooooo, do do do dooooo

I told ya.

Ain’t no estrogen ’round here…

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My Three Sons premiered on ABC in September 1960. Unlike some of the other sitcoms of the era, the all-male Douglas household was loud and messy. It was a more realistic portrayal of suburban life than some of its contemporaries, where children’s rooms were often in near-pristine condition. And Grandpa Bub (William Frawley) did not clean that adorable little house in Bryant Park (far superior to the North Hollywood home the family occupied in later seasons) in high heels and pearls. (Uncle Charley, on the other hand…Just kidding!) He did, however, gripe (good-naturedly) about having to repeatedly clean up after those boys and that rascal of a dog, Tramp. Oh, Tramp. No other TV dog compares to you. (And your autograph is adorable.)

Now for those of you watching in black and white…

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The first five seasons of My Three Sons aired on ABC in black and white. They featured William Frawley as Bub and Tim Considine as oldest brother Mike. These are undoubtedly my favorite episodes. The personalities of Mike, Robbie, and Chip blended well. Bub was an endearing curmudgeon. The love interests of widower Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) were minimal and short-lived. The focus instead was on his three sons, their lives and mischief, and how their Dad and Bub helped them learn and grow. Plus, there’s just something about watching a show in black and white as opposed to color that I find inherently more enjoyable.

When ABC deemed the show too costly to produce in color at the end of the fifth season, the show moved to CBS. The end of the black and white episodes also marked the departure of William Frawley, who was declared too ill to work and thus too costly to insure, and Tim Considine, whose request to be able to work behind the scenes on the show as well as act was denied. Considine’s character Mike got married, moved away, and was sadly rarely mentioned in later seasons. I wish he would have been allowed to stay. I wish it hadn’t been so expensive to insure William Frawley. But he wasn’t and it was and so instead of canceling the show outright, the show changed.

…this one is in Technicolor!

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Enter Bub’s brother Uncle Charley (William Demarest) to assume Bub’s housekeeping duties and neighbor Ernie (Barry Livingston, real-life brother of Chip aka Stanley Livingston) to fill the void left by Mike and become the adopted third son, keeping the title of the show intact. Uncle Charley is just a much of an endearing curmudgeon as Bub, and Ernie assumes the duty of being the little cute one, now that Chip is entering his teen years. Steve and Uncle Charley still help the boys solve their problems. They still live in Bryant Park. The house is still messy. A few seasons later, Robbie marries a girl named Katie, and they subsequently have three sons of their own. (Take that, Bradys!) But the show is still watchable, enjoyable even.

And then the show’s creators decided that it wasn’t good enough that the three sons grew up and got married. Longtime widower Steve needed to get married, too. I guess they were possessed or something.

She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Jr. 

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It was painful to upload that picture. If I ever run out of storage space on this blog, it is the first thing to go.

Now, why did Steve have to get married? I hate the premise in life and on (some) television that a character needs to get married. Has to get married.

Okay, so he gets married to someone who he doesn’t even seem all that crazy about…but there has to be a kid, too? I understand that perhaps the show’s creators felt that they needed to fulfill the “cute” factor once Ernie entered puberty. But in no universe could Dodie be honestly described as “cute.” I’m sorry, but that is the truth. She wasn’t cute, but she was an annoying little brat whose dresses were inappropriately short. What were the show’s creators thinking? They weren’t, apparently.

The episodes introducing Barbara and Dodie began to air toward the end of my stay in Utah, and I found myself checking my phone often to see if the twenty-two minutes had yet come to an end. The episodes go by so slowly. The plots are threadbare and pointless. I began to make a list of things I’d rather do than watch episodes revolving around Barbara and/or Dodie. Item number one on the list: ANYTHING!!

Meanwhile, Robbie leaves for business in Peru or something. And Chip elopes. And Ernie’s voice is still cracking. And Mike…wait, who’s Mike? This is sadly no longer the same show I fell in love with. And it’s not difficult to understand why it was eventually cancelled after twelve seasons.

But My Three Sons remains one of my most-beloved shows. Steve Douglas is one of my favorite TV Dads. He was kind and fair and understanding, with a good sense of humor. I love the disorderly Douglas household. I love how they all ate at that small, circular table together, digesting Bub’s oatmeal without complaint (sometimes). I love how they bickered and fought and helped each other. I love how, corny as it may be, a lesson was learned at the end of each episode–the most recurring lesson being that this was a unique family who loved each other, muddy shoes and dirty hands and all.

Even an infuriatingly annoying little girl in a dress so short it shows her underwear couldn’t erase that lesson.