O.K. Crackerby is a rough-and-tumble man from Oklahoma who is also the richest man in the world. But because he lacks the "social graces," high-society rejects him. To improve himself and ... See full summary »
O.K. Crackerby is a rough-and-tumble man from Oklahoma who is also the richest man in the world. But because he lacks the "social graces," high-society rejects him. To improve himself and his children, he hires St. John Quincy, an unemployed Harvard graduate, as a tutor. St. John's girlfriend Susan and Slim is O.K.'s friend. O.K. and St. John are constantly arguing among themselves but stand together to fight the social prejudices of the "upper class." Written by
J.E. McKillop <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cleveland Amory has been dead now about seven years. I doubt most people ever recall him at all. But when this show appeared in the 1960s, Amory was known as an animal lover and animal rights activist, a chronicler of the upper crust, and (regarding the general public), the original critic for the T.V. Guide regarding the programs that were broadcast in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Amory, in 1964-65, did something very unusual. He decided to write a television series concerning a very wealthy man with very simple manners, who was snubbed by good society. The show was "O.K. CRACKERBY". It has been pointed out that "Crackerby" was a play on the pejorative term "Cracker". Similarly his first initials "O.K." reminds one of the term "Okies", meaning the poor of the dust bowl in the depression.
To play Crackerby, the world's richest common man, the role was given to Burl Ives. It was not much of a stretch for Ives - his best remembered performance was as "Big Daddy" in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, where he was a multi-millionaire who had rose from share-cropper. Ives career in Hollywood films lasted about fifteen years of so. He survived the blacklist by his series of folk songs records that led to hit records like "On Top of Old Smoky". Then he began getting noticed for his acting, especially after his appearance as "Big Daddy". Eventually he'd be in important parts in other films. For his role in THE BIG COUNTRY he'd win the Oscar for best supporting actor.
But his career did not maintain itself. By the middle of the 1960s his films were more like THE BRASS BOTTLE, a comedy with Tony Randall where Ives played a clever genie. He concentrated more on television work, and accepted the lead in O.K. CRACKERBY.
The show was not a success, despite Ives and despite Amory's attempts at satire of the upper classes. The scripts were uneven. Crackerby and his children's tutor,St. John Quincy (Hal Buckley) were supposed to be fighting the snobbery that refused to recognize O. K.'s real values. But in some of the episodes, Crackerby was determined to crash into society with some major splash. In one, he tried to patronize a visiting British viscount (Bernard Fox) with disastrous results. This did not fit the idea that he was fighting snobbery.
But the scripts struggled on. I recall one that was half forced and half funny involving Crackerby and his habit of fishing. He suddenly meets another fisherman (John Dehner) who sounds like he's been spoon feeding on Henry David Thoreau's books. Crackerby sort of likes Dehner as a result. But he does not realize as they are talking to each other, Crackerby is spilling out details of a major railway deal in Latin America that he is pulling together.
It turns out that Dehner is an old business rival who was bested years before in a fight with Ives (although Ives does not realize this). Dehner has planned to use the fishing habit to gain Ives' confidence, and then to pick his brains on his latest business venture - in order to spoil it for Ives. So Ives is amazed, upon going home, to find that his railroad plans are in ruins because of some other party beating him to the punch. Eventually Ives figures out it has to be Dehner.
Now here is where the script faltered. Ives teaches Dehner an expensive lesson, when he manages to purchase the train terminal buildings in the two major South American cities the line connects. Then he has his staff in those buildings refuse to allow the trains to enter the stations! Dehner, of course, is left holding an expensive, supposedly useless piece of two-railed property stretching thousands of miles that does not have any place to repair the rolling stock (the locomotives and train cars).
Of course, if you analyze this, how can one possibly have a situation where the train terminals are not part of the train system (including the connecting tracks)? The answer is you can't. Whoever wrote that script idea, and it's development, made it up in order to resolve the half hour episode with another victory by the cagey Crackerby. But it was a stupid idea.
Dehner, of course, is dumbfounded, and forced to sell the now "useless" railroad track back to Crackerby for a fraction of what it cost him. In reality you know this could never have happened in the real world. But similarly, for all that weakness in the story's plot, the writers did have a funny tag line for the episode. Crackerby, just before he springs his trap, returns to the swimming hole with some lunch sandwiches. He offers one to Dehner, who takes a bite, and his face registers disgust. Later, after he has been forced to sell his railroad at a loss, Dehner looks crestfallen and eyes the unappealing sandwich. Ives replies to this by suggesting he forget eating it - nobody, he says, likes to eat crow meat. It was a bright conclusion to the episode, but did not improve on the idiotic trick Ives used to beat Dehner.
The show lasted one season, and Amory always was willing to admit it was a disappointment, though he insisted that the production staff rarely listened to him about it. It has, as far as I recall, never been revived. Ives' career continued, and soon he found a good dramatic series, THE BOLD ONES, where he was an attorney. He would also continue his stage work (he was the antihero in DR. COOK'S GARDEN), and did some interesting television films (he is the wealthy villain in THE MAN WHO WANTED TO LIVE FOREVER). He lived long enough for people to quietly forget that for one season he was O.K. Crackerby.
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