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It Happened One Weekend (1974)
Obvious Vanity Project
I will have to admit I never actually saw this film, only the trailer, which ran in a theater in Knoxville, Tennessee back in the mid-70s. The title then was "Rockey's Style." It was quite obvious from the trailer that this was an independent amateur "vanity" project. It was shown in the theater where I saw the trailer (but not during any of the peak movie-going hours) and I am sure the producer of the film paid for the privilege. I can't even say what kind of a film it was, there was no spoken dialog in the trailer, but I think it was meant to be a comedy based on what the characters seemed to be doing. If you ever get a chance to see it, I wouldn't recommend it if you have any better ways to spend the time.
Star Trek: A Taste of Armageddon (1967)
Plot Possibly Borrowed from Herman Wouk Story
I've never heard anyone else make the connection, but the plot for this episode may have been "borrowed" from a novelette called "The Lomokome Papers" by Herman Wouk, the author of such best-sellers as "The Caine Mutiny" and "The Winds of War." Very obscure, it was only published first in Collier's magazine in the 1950s and the only book publication was a paperback original in the 1960s (available for a couple of bucks on abebooks if anyone is interested). Wouk's book is the journal of the first man to visit the moon where he discovers that two human-like civilizations live underground there and have been at perpetual war for thousands of years. However, long ago, it was decided that while war is a normal human activity, it was foolish to let it wreck your civilizations, so wars are now fought in the abstract by having each side demonstrate their potential to defeat the other and then having a neutral panel of judges decide the victor and then assess the amount of property and lives each side must voluntarily sacrifice to reflect the outcome. Sound familiar?
Treasure of Matecumbe (1976)
Don't Waste Your Time, Read the Book If You Can Find It
I had always wanted to see this movie as it was based on one of my favorite books, the historical novel "A Journey to Matecumbe" by Robert Lewis Taylor, who also wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, "The Travels of Jamie McPheeters." The book is a wonderful exciting and funny tale of a post-Civil War journey by a young boy and his uncle from Kentucky to the Florida Keys being pursued by the Ku Klux Klan and a vengeful southern aristocrat, with lots of great adventures in between.
I spent $10 for this movie and now wish I hadn't. The names of a few characters from the book are retained, but almost everything else is changed. It is neither particularly exciting or funny and it wastes the talents of a number of excellent character actors like Peter Ustinov, Dub Taylor, George Lindsay and Joan Hackett. It was also made on the cheap with lots of stock footage of the exotic locales that the characters are supposed to visit and lots of process shots filmed in front of blue screens. I suppose very young children MIGHT like it, but there are some violent scenes that make it problematic even for them. It's a probably eternal mystery why Hollywood buys the rights to film wonderful books and then doesn't put on the screen anything of what made the books wonderful in the first place.
A Gathering of Eagles (1963)
Mundane Military Command Study But With Rare Tom Lehrer Song
This is a study in the problems of military command, about how to reconcile the difficulties of a leader trying to decide whether to be a buddy to his men or a tough and hated son of a bitch who just wants to get the job done, no matter what the personal cost. In this case, Rock Hudson plays the commander of a Strategic Air Command B-52 bomber wing and missile base in Northern California.
As a command study, it was all done far better in films like "Twelve O'Clock High" and "Command Decision" although some of the aerial footage is impressive. The one reason I watched this film is that it contains a song called "The SAC Song" written by musical satirist Tom Lehrer (known for song parodies such as "National Brotherhood Week" and "The Vatican Rag" a number of which were sung on the 1960s TV show "That Was the Week That Was." ) The song is very short (it is sung in about a minute) but it is typical Lehrer and, probably for legal reasons, does not appear in the recent complete CD collection of his works "The Remains of Tom Lehrer.) I am going to try to put it in this listing as a quote.
Her First Romance (1951)
Not Nearly as Good as Herman Wouk's Book, But Not Horrible Either
I watched this movie with a great deal of curiosity mixed with an equal feeling of dread. The curiosity was because it was based on one of my favorite books, "The City Boy" by Herman Wouk, best known as the author of "The Caine Mutiny" and "The Winds of War." "The City Boy" is an absolutely delightful period piece set in 1920s New York City and whose main character is a young Jewish boy, Herbie Bookbinder, who would be called a "nerd" today. Herbie is extremely intelligent but a dud at the sports and games that his male contemporaries find most important. He becomes enamored of a young girl at his school and manages to have his parents send him to the summer camp run by the school principal which his lady love is also attending. At camp, Herbie is initially the same pariah he was back in his old neighborhood until he figures out a scheme to win the camp competition to become "Skipper" or boss of the camp for the day. He succeeds by devious means but later atones for his sins and also manages to save his father's family business from ruin. The book is both great fun and also contains some genuine wisdom about growing up and the perils of doing bad now in order to do something good later.
I learned about this movie from an introduction by Mr. Wouk to a later edition of this book. He was apparently unhappy that his fat Jewish schoolboy was transferred into pretty young Irish child movie star Margaret O'Brien of "Meet Me in St. Louis" fame and claims that he never saw the film or knew anyone who had. (He may have been telling the truth, he got the title of the film wrong and I had to track it down by scanning a list of O'Brien's movies on IMDb.) So, based on the track record of how the film industry has consistently managed to turn excellent books into wretched movies I wasn't expecting much. However, while "pleasantly surprised" would be overstating the case, "not entirely appalled" would be closer to the mark.
Basically, Hollywood took Wouk's novel and reversed the gender of all the characters. Jewish Herbie Bookbinder is transferred into the WASPish Betty Foster, however, Betty is a bit of a female nerd, very good at the book larnin', but not terribly adept at the use of her feminine wiles. Herbie had an older sister, Betty has a younger brother named--Herbie, who gets saddled with some of the original Herbie's awkward qualities. Herbie was smitten with a young female classmate, Betty is moonstruck by a junior league hunk at her school. Both have a rival of the same sex for their boy/girlfriend's affections (casting against type, Betty's rival is played nastily by "Father Knows Best's" Elinor Donohue, normally consigned to "good girl" roles.) Both Herbie and and Betty connive to get themselves sent to summer camp and win the camp competition in order to further their romantic aspirations and both show themselves to be basically good kids in the end.
In summary, Wouk's plot was left basically intact. Of course, nearly all of the delightful flavor of the original novel was squeezed out. Instead of a realistic portrayal of life in pre-Depression Jewish New York, we are given a contemporary (for the 50s) setting that could have been set in any of the generic white bread Midwestern Protestant towns of a hundred movies and sitcoms. Wouk's book was also wonderfully satirical. In the movie, the school principal, Mr. Gauss, is portrayed a rather bumbling but basically sympathetic figure. In the book, Gauss is a small time hustler who runs his summer camp to produce the maximum profit for himself while providing the minimum of services to the children under his charge. Also, in the movie the family business is almost lost due only to the younger brother's carelessness with what he thinks is a bit of scrap paper, while in the book the disappearance of the crucial document is due to the chicanery of Betty's father's dishonest business partner.
Finally, if you are a fan of Wouk's book, you will not be completely disappointed in this movie, but can only mourn what might have been done if this material had been placed in the hands of really gifted adapters of the material. If you haven't read Wouk's book, I can't really imagine you being interested in this at all.
Hail to the Chief (1985)
So-so Series, But One Great Joke
In her autobiography, Patty Duke claimed that this series failed because "Viewers couldn't accept the idea of a woman President." Not hardly, it just wasn't a very good show overall. But it did have one great comedy scene in one episode that I still remember and laugh inside when I do.
The scene took place at KGB headquarters in an office where two Russian agents were talking about something or other. People were going in and out of the office and every time the door was opened you would hear someone off-camera screaming in pain (obviously some poor soul being interrogated in one of the KGB's torture chambers.) The conversation between the two agents went on until finally someone opened the door and there was no screaming to be heard. When that happened, one of the two KGB men jumped up, ran to the door and shouted down the hallway, "Get back to work!" Immediately the screaming resumed.
We're Not Married! (1952)
Clever Comedy But Probably Not Legally Accurate
This is a clever sketch comedy movie about what happens when a half dozen couples discover that they are not legally married. All of the sketches are amusing and one or two are hilarious and it stars some of the best character and up and coming actor and actresses that Hollywood had to offer at the time (Ginger Rogers, Louis Calhern, Marilyn Monroe, David Wayne, Eddie Bracken, Paul Douglas, Eve Arden, one of the Gabor sisters and many more).
However, as an attorney, I cannot help but mention that the technical legal flaw that in the movie causes the invalidation of these marriages (the fact that the Justice of the Peace's term of office did not actually start until a few days after the marriages were celebrated) probably would not actually matter at all. The law of most states states that if a couple goes through the legal forms of marriage in good faith and then lives and present themselves to the world as a married couple for a substantial period of time, they ARE married in the eyes of the law despite any minor technical quibbles to the contrary. In fact, in many places a couple that does not even bother to go through with a marriage ceremony but lives together and acts like a married couple can be considered legally man and wife (this is sometimes known as a "common law marriage.")
So much as I enjoyed seeing the greedy Gabor sister stymied when she tries to take Louis Calhern to the cleaners in their divorce settlement, I am afraid that under the community property law of California he would still be obliged to pay up. And Eddie Bracken and Mitzi Gaynor's characters need not be concerned about the status of their unborn child, there is no question under the law that the little tyke would be regarded as legitimate.
Guestward Ho! (1960)
Only TV series based on a Patrick Dennis book
"Guestward Ho!" was a so-so sitcom about a young couple from the big city who move to the wilds of New Mexico to run a dude ranch. I saw the series at the time it aired, but since it only lasted one season and I was only 7 I remember little about it.
The one unique feature of this show was that it was based on a book, "co-written" by Patrick Dennis, of "Auntie Mame" fame. The book was supposedly non-fiction based on the lives of Bill and Barbara Hooton and co-written by Barbara, but believe me, every line of the book was pure Dennis. I am grateful to the show for having gotten me to eventually read it, every word of which was pure delight.
Vacation Playhouse (1963)
Not Great, But Better Than Double and Triple Reruns!
In these days TV series episodes are sometimes rerun within months, sometimes weeks, of their original broadcast and sometimes two or three times in the first year, but there was a time back in the 1960s when the three networks tried to avoid showing reruns at all! Then series produced as many as 39 new episodes a year (compared to maybe 20 to 22 today) so you didn't need to rerun episodes at all until the summer months and often the networks would try to avoid this by running a replacement program instead until the fall. Sometimes this was a cheap original variety show, sometimes they would run a British TV show they had bought (this is how both "The Avengers" and "the Prisoner" first appeared on US TV).
This show was a clever idea of salvaging something from what would ordinarily have been a dead loss. Every year, a number of ideas for new TV shows would get to what was called the "pilot" stage, that is, they would film a sample episode so the powers that be could make a final decision on whether to order a full season of shows. If the pilot was successful, the show would go on the air in the fall, if not that would be the end of it. Some TV exec got the bright idea of putting the failed pilots on as a summer replacement series. Since they were failures, they were of course not of the highest quality, but they undoubtedly felt (and rightly) that it was better to show them than forcing the viewers to watch something again they had already seen. And sometimes it was actually interesting to see familiar stars playing entirely different roles from what you were used to. I particularly remember a pilot Dwayne Hickman made after "Dobie Gillis" went off the air in which he played an elementary school teacher.
Ozzie's Girls (1973)
Bad Idea, Bad Show
Ten years after their long running family situation comedy went off the air, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson made this ill-advised attempt at a comeback. Still playing themselves, the hook was that in their retirement, they suddenly decide to take in two female college students as boarders. The two girls were played by two minor actresses whose main claim to fame was having played nude scenes in such exploitation films as "Mandingo" and "Big Bad Mama." The attempts at humor were heavy-handed riffs on the generation gap (like Ozzie mentioning to Harriet that one of the girls "needed a bath.") What fun! Or another laugh riot in which Ozzie decides to go on an all ice cream diet. This was only broadcast in syndication and that for only about ten seconds. Good riddance.