Hec Ramsey: Season 2, Episode 5

Only Birds and Fools (7 Apr. 1974)

TV Episode  -   -  Western
8.0
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New Prospect hosts the first flight by two airplane inventors, but a cloud hanging over the celebrated exhibition is Hec's investigation of a mysterious murder. Doc Coogan attempts to heal a family torn asunder by alcoholism.

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Title: Only Birds and Fools (07 Apr 1974)

Only Birds and Fools (07 Apr 1974) on IMDb 8/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Police Chief Oliver B. Stamp (as Richard Lenz)
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Jonas Goodwin
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Tom Bailey
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Nellie O'Shea
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Clyde Harris
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Emily Harris
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Robert Y. Pierce
Dennis Rucker ...
Constable Arne Tornquist
Don Mantooth ...
John (as Donald Mantooth)
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Elizabeth Harris
Owen Bush ...
Bartender
Francis De Sales ...
Wingate
Harry Harvey ...
Drew (as Harry Harvey Sr)
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Storyline

New Prospect hosts the first flight by two airplane inventors, but a cloud hanging over the celebrated exhibition is Hec's investigation of a mysterious murder. Doc Coogan attempts to heal a family torn asunder by alcoholism.

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Western

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Release Date:

7 April 1974 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Hec Ramsey Glides Off Into The Sunset
28 July 2011 | by (Omaha, Nebraska) – See all my reviews

This final episode of HEC RAMSEY aired in April 1974, a year and a half after the series premiered in October 1972. As was often the case, no indication was given that this was the end; no closure was provided viewers. Worse, Hec doesn't even occupy center-stage in this final episode of his series, which reminded me of so many 1970s-era GUNSMOKE episodes where the series regulars simply lend support while the stories surrounding its guest stars are showcased.

In this episode, Hec's murder investigation is bumped to the back bench by two other plots. The first involves a pair of aspiring "aeronauts" who come to New Prospect looking for $100 to construct a glider, which they will then demonstrate in a public exhibition. Robert Foxorth plays Jonas Goodwin, a former confidence man who is reformed and transformed by the prospect of man flying and signs on to see this fantasy become a reality. Cliff Potts plays Tom Bailey, the actual developer of the glider and a man haunted by his history. Attracted by Goodwin's radiant idealism (not to mention handsome face) is the husband-hunting Irish lassie, Nellie O'Shea, who runs the hotel where the men are staying and constructing their glider. The story of these three is often self-contained, only occasionally visited by Ramsey following up on a lead or, notably, offering an observation that proves to be an epiphany to Bailey. Alas, poor Ramsey, his invaluable insight doesn't even merit a footnote in aviation history.

The town drunk and the headaches he makes for the police and the heartaches he makes for his wife comprise the second plot line. Charles Aidman ably plays tortured drunk Clyde Harris, whose long-suffering wife Emily won't leave him, even as he humiliates her and even assaults her physically in a drunken rage. Doc Coogan counsels Emily to leave Clyde, but to no avail (the old codger later admits he was attracted to her himself). Can Hec get Clyde to sober up for his daughter's visit home with her beau in tow? That family melodrama never took flight for me and dragged the episode down.

Hec saunters through the episode investigating the murder of a distinguished gentleman who arrived in town and was almost immediately murdered. Hec slowly pieces together the man's identity and establishes a motive for the murder. At times it plays like a COLUMBO episode, Ramsey asking innocent questions and allowing people to weave webs of deceit that soon entangle them. The detective work was enjoyable, but missing were those elements that distinguished this series early on, such as Ramsey conducting ballistics tests, checking fingerprints and employing the techniques of an early criminologist. Also AWOL was that attention to period detail. Foxworth wears a 1970's style turtleneck sweater at the end of the episode, stripping away what little sense of 1902 that remained after the scene where Hec has a drink with Foxworth in a bar bedecked with potted plastic plants.

Robert Foxworth and Charles Aidman were each engaging in their roles, so strong were they that they stole the limelight from Richard Boone (no mean feat). One guest star who was underutilized: Western veteran John Hart, who plays the murdered gentleman from St. Louis. In the 1950s Hart pinch-hit a season for Clayton Moore on THE LONE RANGER. With such an iconic credential on his resume, it was a shame to see him receive so little screen time here. A guest star to watch for is Bob Hastings, radio's Henry Aldrich and Archie Andrews, here playing a pesky reporter. I would have enjoyed seeing more of him; he brings a lot of charm to his minute or so.

I must give the episode credit for not resorting to the expected endings. The two major plots each resolved in unexpected ways. Nonetheless, it was a disappointing denouement of a series with so much more potential and promise than it was allowed to fulfill.


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