After helplessly witnessing his father's death, in a fiery car accident, 14-year-old California boy Ronny Howard (as Chris Long) went into shock. Overcoming some grief, young Howard had to adjust to life with a new stepfather, Earl Holliman (as Cal Fitch). Although Mr. Holliman tried to be fatherly, he only opened old wounds. Howard wants his real father, which is not possible. Mr. Holliman turned down his stepson's request for a dog - but, in part one (last week) Howard found his dog "Smoke". He is defiantly determined to keep the animal, but the real owner has other plans
"Smoke" is a great story; it's one of those symbolic animal tales the Disney studio favored, and often did so well. This one surely benefits from William Corbin's original book (adapted by John Furia Jr.) - the young man's transference of love to, and identification with, the wounded animal is nicely done. But, the story's more subtle symbolism (like the "fox in the hen-house") is even better. The climatic, heavy-handed "rescue from fire" isn't as satisfying; but, this is mainly due to TV budget restraints. "Smoke" could have stood up as a first class feature presentation.
Howard and Holliman do well, as the disconnected son and stepfather. Of course, Howard, uses his acting education, from years of appearing in Andy Griffith's "Mayberry"; still, this is a strong, individual characterization - and, it shows Howard to be very capable between his two long-running typecasts ("Opie" and Richie"). Jacqueline Scott (as Fran Long Fitch) makes the most of the more minor mother/wife role, lifting the picture with a couple of very strongly performed dramatic scenes. With Pamelyn Ferdin and Andy Devine in the cast, "Smoke" is cute and irresistible.
******* Smoke, pt 2 (2/8/70) Vincent McEveety ~ Ron Howard, Earl Holliman, Jacqueline Scott
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