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Himself - Co-Host
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8 October 1967 (USA)  »

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"A Paper of Pins": Greer Garson guys herself.
27 February 2008 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

I was living in Britain and Australia when 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour' aired in the States, so I didn't have a chance to watch it regularly. I'm aware of the controversies which accompanied this programme, and which only make me that much keener to track down all the episodes. Despite the 'Comedy Hour' title, this was actually a variety series featuring impressive guest performances by some major music acts across a wide range of musical styles and genres.

This synopsis is specifically a review of the fifth episode of the 2nd series of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour', one of the few episodes which I've seen. The musical guests in this episode are cried the Association ... and where did they come up with THAT strange name? I've heard several of the Association's performances; I've never enjoyed their close-harmony arrangements, and I tend to dissociate myself from the Association. I can't even remember what song(s) they perform here, and that's no loss.

'Mister Patrick Leighton Paulsen' (as Dick Smothers introduces him) does one of his usual unfunny 'editorials'. I've never found Paulsen funny: he was a deeply angry man who didn't even bother memorising his material; he relied heavily on cue cards, and towards the end of his life he got increasingly lazy at hiding this penchant.

Far and away, the real delight of this episode is a rare guest appearance by the actress Greer Garson, still gorgeous and classy several years after her film career waned. She and Dick duet here on 'A Paper of Pins', a beautifully understated English folk-song. Just occasionally, the Smothers Brothers would put aside their political agenda to return to their roots as folk singers ... by which I mean performers of authentic folk minstrelsy, rather than that hippy-dippy coffee-house stuff. Garson's singing voice is splendid here, and she's very beautiful. When Dick Smothers (an underrated actor) sings to her the song's simple lyric -- "I'll give to you a paper of pins, and that's the way my love begins" -- it's easy to imagine that he's genuinely courting her.

There has long been a very nasty urban legend about Garson that I'd love to put to rest. Supposedly, when she won her Oscar for 'Mrs Miniver', Garson gave a very long boring acceptance speech. Here's the truth: shortly after Garson's Oscar win, gay actor Laird Cregar attended a gay party in Hollywood at which he performed a vicious parody of Garson, giving a long-winded and pompous parody of her speech. Somehow this came to be perceived as the fact. On the very rare occasions when Greer Garson ever discussed the incident, she made plain that she resented the inaccurate rumour.

In light of the above, I was astounded by a comedy bit which Garson performs in this Smothers Brothers episode. In the second half of the show, the Smothers siblings and their resident repertory company (without Garson) perform a series of skits. Alternating with these, Garson stands at a podium and gives a very long-winded parody of her own Academy Award speech! I found it deeply surprising that she would do this, since she must have realised that this skit would lend credence to the same rumour that she'd previously disavowed. Well, at least this shows that Garson could make fun of herself. What a classy lady! My rating of this episode: 7 out of 10, mostly for Garson's participation.


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