- TV Series
"Big" Eddie Smith was the new owner of New York's Big E Sports Arena. Smith was also an ex-gambler who was trying not to get sucked back into the racket, while dealing with the various crazi... Read all"Big" Eddie Smith was the new owner of New York's Big E Sports Arena. Smith was also an ex-gambler who was trying not to get sucked back into the racket, while dealing with the various crazies and eccentrics that crossed his path. He lived with his ex-stripper wife Honey and thei... Read all"Big" Eddie Smith was the new owner of New York's Big E Sports Arena. Smith was also an ex-gambler who was trying not to get sucked back into the racket, while dealing with the various crazies and eccentrics that crossed his path. He lived with his ex-stripper wife Honey and their granddaughter Ginger.
The best thing about 'Big Eddie' was the opening theme tune, a Runyonesque hosannah, chanted rather than sung by Leonard himself, with Sheree North and Quinn Cummings singing back-up: 'If ye're up against the wall, all ya gotta do is call! Call Big Eddie! He's the man! He's as smart as a fox, as strong as an ox, but as soft as a teddy bear...'
I dislike movies and TV shows that glamourise criminals. One of the two offensive aspects of 'Big Eddie' was its attempt to have it both ways by depicting Sheldon Leonard's character as simultaneously honest and dishonest. Big Eddie Smith ('Smith'? With that face?) was formerly a union goon and gambler who had gone straight years ago, and was now a successful promoter. Yeah, but the scripts were always dropping hints about how Eddie was still in touch with all his criminal buddies, and how he could always 'pull a few strings' to get something done, if ya know what I mean.
The other offensive aspect of 'Big Eddie' was his African-American assistant Raymond, scripted and performed as the most stereotypical 'hip black dude' in the history of television. In the opening episode, actor Ralph Wilcox as Raymond did a little monologue about how he came up from the streets, and Big Eddie was the only guy who had ever given him a chance. We're supposed to admire Eddie for hiring a black man and giving him some authority in Eddie's empire. Sounds good, except that Wilcox performs the role of Raymond as a jive-talking' jitterbug who constantly speaks in rhyming couplets. I've never met any actual black men who are like this. I don't blame Wilcox, a struggling actor who got stuck here doing some white guy's idea of what 'street' dialogue sounds like. The scripts are by Persky and Denoff, who did brilliant work for 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' (a Sheldon Leonard production) but who are far less brilliant here. Billy Sands was annoying and effeminate as one of Eddie's hangers-on.
Apart from the title song, the best thing about this show was the incredibly sexy Sheree North (why isn't she better known?) as Eddie's wife Honey, a former stripper who still has the physique. North's smoky voice and lush honey-golden hair make her a delight, and she handles the poor dialogue skilfully. Instead of playing a typical blonde tootsie here, North lets her own substantial intelligence show up in her character Honey, giving good advice to Eddie while swanking about in stylish outfits.
The worst part of this show was Quinn Cummings, as Eddie's 'cute' orphan (hand me a revolver) granddaughter whom he and Honey are raising. The brat's name is Ginger; are all the females in this show named for flavours? Ginger was intended to provide opportunities for Eddie's 'soft as a teddy bear' side to show through, but I kept hoping Eddie would order his 'boys' to take the brat for a ride. The untalented Cummings was made even more unbearable with twee dialogue. In one episode, Honey took Ginger to the beauty parlour and brought her home with an upswept hairdo, prompting Ginger to tell Eddie: 'Look at my new head!' Yeah, c'mere, kid: I'll give ya a new head...
It would have been nice if Sheldon Leonard had been able to cap off his career by starring in a hit sitcom. 'Big Eddie' was dire, and yet - as I say - many shows even worse have been successful. I'll rate this mess 2 points out of 10. I wouldn't mind screening an outtake reel of Sheree North's scenes.
- F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
- Jun 12, 2004