Wednesday, February 29, 2012

B-Western Wednesday: Trouble in Texas (1937)


Last week when I introduced this feature, I got a nice reception from my Facebook compadre and fellow blogger Lloyd Fonvielle, who remarked that the title of the film I reviewed—Night Time in Nevada (1948)—had a special resonance for him in that Nevada is the location for his own little Rancho Mardecortesbaja.  So this week, I’ll serve this one up to the Lone Star State’s own Bill “Texas leads the way” Crider with a 1937 oater starring Tex Ritter…

(Angelic chorus)

Tex Ritter?  Oh, well…that’s when I woke up.  And I’m sorry I did…because…

I dreamed I was there
In Hillbilly Heaven
Oh, what a beautiful sight

True story: I did this bit on the phone one day when my BFF The Duchess asked me if there was ever a famous person named Tex Ritter.  (Honest to my grandma, she did.  She doesn’t get out much.)  The response I got was…well, strikingly similar to one I’m getting right now…except not as many crickets.

Okay, let’s get to work.  In Trouble in Texas, Tex plays Tex Masters, an amiable drifter and rodeo champion, which apparently is keeping him one step ahead of the vagrancy laws in each small town he passes through.  Accompanying him is the requisite comedy sidekick, Lucky (Horace Murphy), who suggests to Tex that they could make a more substantial living as entertainers (Tex sings and plays guitar, with Lucky on harmonica backup) but Tex’s interest in the rodeo stems from an incident in which his brother was murdered while competing and he’s sworn to catch up to the gang responsible.

Fortunately for Tex, he’s going to get an opportunity to settle that score.  A man named Barker (Earl Dwire) is directly responsible for Tex’s bro’s demise; he’s running a racket—assisted by henchmen Pinto (Charles King) and Squint (stuntman Yakima Canutt)—that conveniently “takes care” of any local talent entered in the events so that Squint can win the prize money.  Apparently the U.S. Government has also taken notice of this little rather egregious breach of good sportsmanship, because they send Carmen Serano (Rita Cansino), an undercover female agent, in to do a little nosing around in Barker’s operation.  Tex and Rita meet one another when Pinto and Squint try to rob the stagecoach she’s on, and while it’s plain to see that Tex is developing a thing for her this is, after all, a B-western…and we have to keep things chaste.

Tex starts kicking ass and taking names during the rodeo, winning all the events…so Barker has his goons attempt to dispose of our hero in the same fashion they did his brother—placing a poisoned needle in Tex’s halter.  But Tex is on to them before they can succeed with their foul scheme, so the bad guys have to settle for a consolation prize…robbing the local bank.  This, too, will be futile because Tex runs them down and rounds up the gang before Texas 63-minute running time is out.

Gene Autry may have been “America’s favorite singing cowboy” but Tex Ritter was “America’s most beloved cowboy”—and though I’ve only seen a small handful of the fifty-some oaters he appeared in during his lengthy movie career, I simply cannot disagree with that statement.  It’s impossible not to like the guy, even though he wasn’t particularly gifted in the thespic area—he projected an easy-going, natural presence onscreen that put him among the Top Ten Western stars for the years 1937-41 and 1944-45.  Tex also enjoyed a successful singing career and fame as a performer on the Grand Ole Opry, scoring several #1 country smashes including I’m Wastin’ My Tears Over You (his biggest hit was probably Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’—the ballad from High Noon).  Tex, like “King of the Cowboys” Roy Rogers, also had a restaurant franchise at one time, Tex Ritter’s Chuck Wagons.

Ritter’s first feature film was Song of the Gringo (1936), which he made at Grand National—an independent studio remembered today mostly because at one time the company had James Cagney on the payroll after one of the actor’s frequent quarrels with Warner Brothers.  Tex made a dozen westerns for the studio (produced by Edward F. Finney; Trouble in Texas was the fourth) before the company went belly up in 1939 but he found a job at Monogram afterward making oaters (he also appeared in several programmers for Columbia alongside Bill Elliott).  Tex then co-starred with Johnny Mack Brown in a very entertaining series of westerns at Universal (I recorded some of these off of Encore Westerns, so they’ll probably turn up here eventually) and was allowed to fly solo when Brown left the series.  The Ritter westerns were quite popular but Universal let him go when they started to experience financial woes and Tex finished out his onscreen stardom at Poverty Row’s PRC (the initials joking referred to as “Pretty Rotten Crap” throughout the industry) with eight additional shoot-‘em-ups between 1944 and 1945.  He then took a break from movie work until 1950, with most of his roles afterward either in supporting parts or turns as himself.

Trouble in Texas isn’t a bad Ritter vehicle but I’ll readily admit that it might be a trying experience for those people not generally inclined to enjoy B-westerns.  Part of this stems from the fact that there are rather long stretches in the movie that feature a lot of drowsy rodeo stock footage, recycled no doubt from the first time this appeared before the cameras in 1934 when John Wayne was The Man from Utah (one of the Duke’s “Lone Star” westerns, before he became JOHN WAYNE).  In fact, the “Murder Rodeo” plot was recycled again in Ritter’s Frontier Town (1938), then passed down to Bob Steele the following year in Mesquite Buckaroo (1939).  Steele went a-ridin’ and a-ropin with it again in 1944’s The Utah Kid (which co-starred Hoot Gibson) and after dusting it off one final time for the 1951 Whip Wilson programmer Lawless Cowboys, the big, bad rodeo was vanquished, never to be heard from again.

But Trouble in Texas had an enormous amount of staying power in theaters…and you don’t have to guess why this was so if you glanced at the plot synopsis a few paragraphs up.  A young professional dancer with aspirations of being an actress appeared in this film as an assignment between her leaving 20th Century-Fox and being hired by Columbia, where after undergoing electrolysis and a dye job she became Rita Hayworth.  In 1943, Ambassador Pictures re-released Trouble to theaters with this announcement:


In fact, the print of this movie on the America’s Greatest Westerns box set gives Hayworth star billing, too (though the print also reveals the film was released by an outfit called Stagecraft Pictures):


I like that “With Tex Ritter” bit there.  I can picture a moviegoer thinking “Have I seen this one before?  I could have sworn Tex got top billing the first time around.”  Now, Trouble in Texas gives Rita the opportunity to show off her terpsichorean skills, and she’s positively mesmerizing during her Mexican dance number.  Her acting…well, not so much.  But I don’t think this is because she stinks, I’m convinced that she’s still learning her craft—because her naturalness (there’s no hiding it—she is exquisite) before the camera is a nice contrast with Ritter’s in the film (since he’s certainly no Olivier); the two of them exhibit a wonderful chemistry.  (There’s a scene where the two of them hit the dance floor together and both of them look as if they are really enjoying themselves.)

One of the more amusing bits in Trouble is that the extensive rodeo footage is intercut with shots of Rita looking on, and except for one brief scene where she claps in approval most of the time it looks as if they just used the same shots over and over again.  Observe:

"Okay, Rita...we"re rolling...you're beyond impressed with Tex's rodeo skills...GO!"

"Okay, Rita...now Tex is singing, but he's singing especially to you...GO!"

"Okay, now you're thinking about macaroni and cheese...GO!"
I swear to you I did not use the same screen cap three times in succession, by the way.  Speaking of screen caps—this is the best one I could get of one of the other highlights in the movie: a nice little eccentric dance number performed by none other than character great Hank Worden, who was in more John Ford movies than Carter’s has little you-know-whats. 


Oddly enough, I usually think musical numbers slow a movie down but in this particular instance Tex’s songs are a highlight (including Song of the Rodeo, which he wrote, and Al Bryan’s Down the Colorado Trail), backed by the Texas Tornadoes (Earl, Norman and Willie Phelps).

As for the supporting cast…well, Charles King can always bring on the villainy and while Yakima Canutt may not be the silver screen’s greatest actor he is definitely the King of the Stuntmen as far as I’m concerned—his work during the climactic wagon chase and some of the ridin’ ‘n’ ropin’ make up for the movie’s dull spots.  I think this is the first movie I’ve ever seen Horace Murphy in—I was familiar with him because he was on Roy Rogers’ radio program for a brief stint (he replaced “Gabby” Hayes as a garrulous old codger named “Clackety”)—but while I liked the byplay between him and Tex I have to come clean and say he’s no Gabby Hayes.  You might recognize the gentleman on the right…


…as the guy who tended bar at the Long Branch for a good many years on TV—it’s future Frankenstein monster Glenn Strange who, strange as it may seem, is actually a good guy in this one.  But the one moment that made me laugh out loud is the scene just before the bad guys go racing for the border with the stolen bank swag; they’ve also made off with a wagon and the guy who owns it (George Morrell) is very upset: “Good glory!  And it’s loaded with dynamite!”  (You’d think the FDIC would cover that sort of situation.)


By the way, he wasn’t kidding about that cargo—take a look for yourself!


Well, “Stagecraft Pictures” might have hijacked the opening titles for Ms. Hayworth’s benefit but Trouble in Texas closes with one of my favorite motion picture studio logos—the sweeping hands of the Grand National clock that tell us that’s all for this week.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Buried Treasures: Flame in the Streets (1961)


A cursory glance at the names in the cast of this film scripted by Ted Willis (who adapted his 1958 stage play Hot Summer Night, based on the infamous Notting Hill riots) and directed by Roy Ward Baker (A Night to Remember, Quatermass and the Pit) convinced me that it would be an ideal candidate for Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s first official “Overlooked Films” entry: John Mills, Sylvia Syms, Brenda De Banzie and Wilfrid Brambell, to name just a few.  The good people at VCI Entertainment were nice enough to send me a gratis copy, one of several films that make up what they call “The Rank Collection.”

Jack “Jacko” Palmer (Mills) is a liberal-minded union official who’s struggling to keep several of the members in his organization in line because of his intention to promote West Indian worker Gabriel Gomez (Earl Cameron) into a supervisory position in the furniture factory where they both work.  A faction of white workers, egged on by a particularly nasty piece of work named Mitchell (Meredith Edwards) and pressured by the fact that most of the union members are working “short time”, opposes Gabe’s promotion and threaten a strike on racial grounds but are eventually won over by Jacko when he argues that “black or white or khaki” they must all stick together or the union is done for (“United We Stand—Divided We Fall”).  We like Jacko—a straight-shooting, plain-spoken speaker who judges an individual not by the color of his skin but by the caliber of his work.

But through the course of Flame’s 93-minute running time, the likable Jacko is exposed as a hypocrite—and it comes in the form of his daughter Kathie, a dedicated schoolteacher who’s fallen in love with another fellow educator in Peter Lincoln (Johnny Sekka) and plans to marry him.  Her mother Nell is the first to hear of this (Kathie is quite coy about her paramour but Mum gets the skinny from a gossipy neighbor who tells her that Kathie was in the company of a “coloured”) and is horrified at the thought; she argues vehemently against her daughter’s intentions, gradually revealing herself to be a monstrous racist (she accuses Kathie of being a "whore" and at one point during the movie screams at her “Go to your nigger!”).  When Jacko learns of Kathie’s matrimonial plans he doesn’t quite react in the same violent fashion as his wife but he is also against the union, using familiar arguments about the adversity of facing prejudice, the stigma of non-acceptance, etc.  Not only is the relationship between Kathie and her parents ripped to shreds but we also learn that despite their twenty-year marriage Jacko and Nell have been going through the motions; Jacko has little focus outside the union but his Union…Nell, who believes that she’s little else than a stick of furniture or a fixture in Jacko’s home, would have walked out on her husband were it not for Kathie.

It’s fitting that the events in Flame in the Streets (1961) take place on November 5—the holiday known as Guy Fawkes Day, when Londoners celebrate with fireworks and bonfires because that is what literally and figuratively results from the events in the film.  There are additional subplots in the movie, too—the best one being that Gomez is married to a white woman (Ann Lynn), who has to convince her husband that his tendency to want to avoid conflict won’t advance his cause in life (he had planned to avoid the meeting that will decide on his promotion).  Judy Gomez also has a no-holds-barred conversation with Kathie toward the end of the film in which she tactfully lays out what’s ahead for the starry-eyed teacher once she and her black fiancé are wed (they live in a “slum” area of town because landlords are rarely accepting of mixed marriages).  I thought the relationship between Gabe and Judy was quite intriguing; they are very much in love (they even have a baby on the way) but every now and then the tension rises to the surface because their marriage is constantly a rocky one.  The similarities between married man Gabe and unmarried Peter are also fascinating…and I was quite taken that while they are portrayed quite sympathetically the film never has to resort to that sort of safe Sidney Poitier nobility in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).

Reviews that I’ve read of this movie are critical of the fact that the film doesn’t lack for subtlety; the subplot that’s a little too melodramatic is the introduction of some leather-jacketed thugs (or “teddy boys,” to use the British parlance) who function as kind of a substitute KKK—I think there’s enough ugliness present amongst the main characters that this element could have been excised without too much trouble.  The reason why I liked Flame in the Streets is its solid acting; I’ll watch Mills in just about anything, and Syms, Sekka, Cameron and Lynn all offer fine support (not to mention Wilfrid Brambell, who plays Mills’ father…except whenever I see him in anything I always find myself shouting “You dirty old man!”—a reference to his long-running role as the senior Steptoe on the Britcom Steptoe and Son).  The acting honors go to De Banzie (whom most people are familiar with as the female villain in 1956’s The Man Who Knew Too Much), who lets us know right from her first appearance onscreen that there’s something not quite right in the House of Palmer…but when her mask is pulled away to reveal the monster beneath, it is positively marrow-chilling.

Except for the performers I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I wasn’t familiar with most of the names in this film’s cast though I spotted Monte Landis right off the bat in a small role as one of the union members (Landis plays the studio exec in the opening scenes of Targets) and of course heard the unmistakable screech of comedienne Barbara Windsor, who can be glimpsed (with her black boyfriend) walking past Syms in a street scene.  A fascinating blend of “kitchen sink drama” and race relations expose, Flame in the Streets is a neglected little gem…in fact, it is in many ways a sort of funhouse mirror version of the better-known Dinner but with a much more satisfying ending (the loose ends aren’t necessarily tied up in a pretty pink bow, and considering what the family goes through they shouldn’t be).  See this one when you get the chance.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mayberry Mondays #30: “Goober and the Telephone Girl” (10/13/69, prod. no. 0204)

In May 2010, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear embarked on its most ambitious project to date—watching (and offering snarky commentary on) every episode of Mayberry R.F.D., the phenomenally successful sitcom spin-off to the classic TV series The Andy Griffith Show.  The inspiration for this is still shrouded in mystery even to myself, but a lot of it stemmed from the fact that while I can often quote chapter and verse from many an Andy Griffith episode, the only thing I ever remembered about R.F.D. was the opening credits sequence where poor-but-honest-dirt-farmer-turned-city-councilman Sam Jones (Ken Berry) has a spirited game of catch with his idiot son Mike (Buddy Foster)…which results in the little doofus lobbing the old pepper into a storage shed window.  Both Griffith and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (the other successful TAGS spin-off) have been released in their entirety on DVD courtesy of CBS DVD-Paramount, but the third member of the “Mayberry trilogy” is still cooling its heels in the TV-on-DVD waiting room.  (I thought that maybe giving it a little exposure might convince Warner Home Video, the current rights holder, to rush it onto disc.  Silly ol’ me.)

I went good guns with the show for a while but it sort of ground to a halt in December of that same year…and there are any number of reasons why this happened, but I wanted to sort of make it clear that I didn’t abandon the project because of its formidable dullness.  In fact, I gave serious consideration to getting Mayberry Mondays back on track once the move to our new digs here at Rancho Yesteryear were complete…but for some unexplained reason, Disc 6 in my “rootpeg” R.F.D. collection got separated from the others in the set and I didn’t want to soldier on with the feature until I located it because I’m a little anal retentive (there was still an episode left on Numero Seis—the one you’re reading now).  But I ended up rescuing the DVD from the unlikeliest of places, and decided that it was time to reinstate our weekly triptek to that beloved little town in North Carolina that millions of people continued to visit every week (despite the fact that most of the main draws had long moved away: Griffith, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors, Howard McNear, etc.) until the spring of 1971…when CBS decided enough was enough (R.F.D. was still in the Top Twenty, too) and, in the words of Green Acres’ Pat Buttram, “canceled everything with a tree in it.”

I used to get an awful lot of e-mails asking me to pick this up again—so in some small way, you can put yourself in the same category as the folks who kept Cagney & Lacey, Designing Women, Family Guy, etc. on the air.  But as the old adage goes: be careful what you wish for.


As we rejoin our pals in Mayberry this week, we actually take a side trip to Mt. Pilot—to the bidness office of the Mid-South Telephone Company, where we find the star of the show, Farmer Jones, pulling up in front in his pickup truck, with faithful village idiot Goober Pyle (George Lindsey) riding shotgun.  (The angle doesn’t reveal this, but a sawbuck says Goober rode most of the way with his head out the window.)  For those of you not familiar with how these episodes are laid out each week, despite being employed in the noble profession of farming, one rarely sees Sam actually do any work resembling such.  I have long speculated that he’s cashing large subsidy checks from the government; others have opined that his meager part-time job on Mayberry’s city council is the only way he’s putting food on the Jones family table.

SAM: Okay, Goob…just take it easy, will ya?
GOOBER: I’ll tell you somethin’ right now… (He exits the vehicle along with Sam, except that he slams his door with great force) If they think they’re gonna make me pay for any phone calls I didn’t make, they got another think comin’
SAM: Now, I’m sure they’ll check it out for you, Goob…
GOOBER: Well, they’d better!  Long distance to Warrentown—you know I don’t know anybody in Warrentown!
SAM: Well, look…I’ll meet you back here later…I’ve got to go over to the Farm Bureau…

Less than a minute into this, and I’m already floored by one of the funniest lines in any episode of R.F.D.  Goober may or may not know anybody in Warrentown, but it’s even money Sam’s never even stepped foot inside the Farm Bureau.  But Goober is steamed at the inefficiency displayed by the phone company…he’s been charged thirty-five cents (thirty-five cents!) for a six-minute long distance call.  “Well, I never talk longer than three minutes—that’s why I got that egg timer on there!”

Goober enters the offices of the phone company, loaded for bear.  He asks to speak to the “owner,” but the woman in charge of the office (whose nameplate reads “Miss V. Henderson”) informs him that the “high muckety-muck” (Goober’s words) is out and that she will be more than happy to help.


If this young lovely looks familiar, it’s because it’s actress Luana Anders—making her second appearance on the show (she had a small part as a theater cashier in a previous R.F.D. episode, “Emmett’s Retirement”).  Both her beauty and charm provide the necessary tonic to calm the enraged Goober.

VIOLET: And you are Mr. Pyle…and you’re from Mayberry—that’s a very nice town… (Note: Anders pronounces it “May-bree”—just like Don Beddoe did in “An Efficient Service Station.”)
GOOBER: Sure is…I own a gas station over there…
VIOLET: Oh, really?  I always admire a man who’s in business for himself…
GOOBER (sheepishly): Well, it…takes some doin’, but it’s worth it…uh…about that phone call…I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it…
VIOLET: Well…if it was up to me I’d just make out a credit voucher, but…you know how companies are…now it’ll just take me a minute to check this number…

During the course of their conversation, it becomes fairly obvious that Mayberry’s resident Manchild is developing feelings for Pretty Telephone Lady—he even tells her “It ain’t the money—it’s the principle of the thing.”  He’s even gallant enough to help her reach a large ledger that’s been placed on a high shelf in the office, whereupon she gushes: “It must be wonderful to be so tall…”

“Well, it comes in handy helpin’ out a pretty girl,” he replies, with that trademark idiotic grin.  Outside the building, Sam pores through a magazine (the latest copy of Milk Maidens Gone Wild, I’m guessing) while he waits on Goober to finish his business.  (Little does he realize that ol’ Goob has been getting down to business…heh heh heh…)

SAM: Did you get the bill straightened out?
GOOBER (slightly dazed): What?
SAM (pointing to the office): The bill…
GOOBER: Oh, yeah…yeah…I was right, it was the company’s fault…
SAM: Oh!  Well, I guess it pays to go in there and tell ‘em off, huh?
GOOBER: Sam…you just don’t go tellin’ people off for a mere thirty-five cents…you realize those girls in there bill over forty thousand customers a month and they have less than three-tenths of a percent error?
SAM: What’s her name?

He may not often appear to be so, but Sam is actually the smartest of the regulars on this show, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that the big grease monkey has got it bad.

GOOBER (grinning): She’s real nice…she’s in customer service…
SAM: I’ll bet she is…

Hey…hey!  That’s the future Mrs. Goober Pyle you’re talking about…show a little respect!

SAM: You ready to go home now?
GOOBER: Well, are we in a big hurry?
SAM: Did you have something else you want to do?
GOOBER: Well, it’s…just that…Violet gets her coffee break in ten minutes…
SAM: Ohhh…
GOOBER: Well, you’re welcome to come along with us…if you don’t have somethin’ else you have to do
SAM: Well, I’ll…find something else I have to do…


Yeah, why don’t you go back on over to the (snicker) Farm Bureau, Samuel.  In the meantime, Goober and his new lady friend Violet find themselves getting better acquainted at a nearby diner, where after a brief bit of refreshment they will head back to her apartment for a little “Goober love”…oh-ee-oh-ee-oh.  (Okay, I apologize for that.)

GOOBER: You want some more coffee?
VIOLET: Oh…no thank you…
GOOBER: Well…how about a donut or a…piece of pie?
VIOLET: No, thank you…
GOOBER: Stack of buckwheats?

I’m beginning to understand why Goober lost the Dos Equis gig.  Telling Violet that she can anything she wants (“I come into a little money from the phone company today,” he grins), they engage in more small talk before she announces that it’s back to the old salt lick:

GOOBER: Look…I…I know I just met you, but…um…how about me and you steppin’ out Friday night?
VIOLET: Oh…I can’t Friday night…
GOOBER (dejected): Oh…
VIOLET: No…I gotta go to a class
GOOBER (brightening): Oh!  A class—whaddya takin’?  Cookin’?  Sewin’?
VIOLET: Judo…

Now, I was hoping Goober’s reaction to this would match that of pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague’s (Jack Dodson) expression when he found out his girlfriend was into skydiving in one of my favorite R.F.D. episodes, “Howard’s Hobby.”  (But Goober always looks like a slack-jawed donkey.  Incidentally, the similarity between these two episodes can be attributed to the fact that both were penned by Dick Bensfield and Perry Grant, the most prolific of the R.F.D. scribes.)  Fortunately, Goob has his idiocy to fall back on.

VIOLET: I know it sounds kind of silly, but…sometimes I have to work late at night, and I’m scared about walking home alone in the dark…
GOOBER: Oh…you know, I know a better system…what you need is some big guy to walk you home…

“What a wonderful idea!  Could you suggest someone?”

GOOBER: I mean, I don’t mean to brag, but…I’m pretty strong!  Back home, I used to lift a hog clear over my head!


That’s the facial expression of a woman who’s stupefied that someone hasn’t already come along and grabbed Goober Pyle as solid husband material.

GOOBER: Hey, Violet…how ‘bout Saturday night?  We could go to Morelli’s and do some dancin’—they got a real good jukebox!
VIOLET: Saturday night’s all right…

“...for fighting/Get a little action in…”  Violet says it’s a date, and we dissolve to the focal point of most of the action and conversation in these episodes—the humble shop of Mayberry’s resident fix-it savant Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman)…or as TDOY commenter rockfish once memorably referred to him, “the anti-Floyd.”  Now, considering the amount of actual labor the viewing audience witnesses at Emmett’s (most of the time he’s either playing checkers, jawing with the rest of the male cast, or warming a bench outside the joint) the next scene, which finds Mr. Clark doing paperwork as county clerk Howard Sprague looks on is actually pretty hooty:

HOWARD: Well, that certainly is some filing system you’ve got there, Emmett…
EMMETT: Well, I like to be neat…
HOWARD: The fix-it business is pretty good, huh?
EMMETT: Yep!  My official quarter just ending, I’m forty-two dollars over last year’s…if there’s a recession goin’ on I ain’t felt it…
HOWARD: Well, good…

A cursory glance at the wall in the shop will indicate that the junk that cluttered the place (stuff even Fred and Lamont Sanford wouldn’t have in their home) in previous installments has vanished, so I’ll be damned if I know how Emmett is making money.  All I know is a) that shop is a popular male hangout in Mayberry, and b) there have been a rash of unexplained disappearances of female high school students from the Siler City area.  As for Mr. Sprague—all you need to know is that despite his elephantine vocabulary and bookish manner he’s the most annoying person in May-bree…which hands down, also makes him the funniest.

HOWARD: You know, as county clerk I’m rarely exposed to the world of profit and loss—I sometimes lose track of the mercantile side of our society…
EMMETT: What you’re tryin’ to say is you don’t know nothin’ about business

Fortunately for us, Goober arrives on the scene to spare us a business lecture from the eminent Dr. Clark, dean of the School of Business at Mayberry University.

GOOBER: Hey, Howard…I got a date Saturday night and we’re goin’ to Morelli’s…how ‘bout you gettin’ one, too?

Howard reaches into his pocket…and pulls out a “black book.”  (Some of you may have to help me off the floor.)

HOWARD: Oh…gee, I don’t know, Goob…
EMMETT (irritated): Hey, wait a minute—you don’t even ask me!
GOOBER: Oh look, Emmett—we’ve asked you fifty times but you know you never like to take your wife out!
EMMETT: Well…I still like to be asked
GOOBER (scoffing): Well, whaddya say, Howard?
HOWARD: Aw, gee…I’m all tied up Saturday, Goob…

Chess Club tournament would be my first guess.

EMMETT: Who’ve you got a date with, Goob?
GOOBER: Oh, it’s a new girl…her name’s Violet…ain’t that a pretty name?  Just like a flower… (He grins stupidly)
HOWARD: Hey, Goob—I might be able to make it if you switch it to Friday
GOOBER: Aw, Friday’s out—she’s got her judo class
HOWARD: Her judo class?
GOOBER: Yeah!
EMMETT: Our little flower?

“She happens to have a good reason for takin’ it up,” Goober retorts defensively.  Which is Sam’s cue to join The Mayberry Brain Trust Trio—he hands Emmett a toaster and remarks that “it’s stopped popping again”…almost as if he expects the man to fix it this time.

GOOBER: Sam…you and Millie wanna go to Morelli’s Saturday night?  I’m takin’ Violet…
SAM: Yeah!  Yeah, I’m sure it will be okay with Millie…
EMMETT: Hey, Sam…
SAM: Hmm?
EMMETT: What’s the reason for Goober’s girl takin’ up judo?
GOOBER (defensive): So she can protect herself when she walks home alone late at night…
EMMETT: Ohhh…well, I think you’re smart—going out with a girl who can protect you…
GOOBER: Look, Emmett—any girl who goes out with me I protect her…not only can I lift a hog over my head but once I tore a telephone book in half with my teeth!

Okay, Goober losing out on the Dos Equis commercial…controversial, but again--understandable.  How he failed his WWF audition is another mystery altogether.  Well, when Howard announces that he has to get back to work—and Sam follows by also needing to punch the council office time clock—you know things are just starting to get silly.  Goober offers to walk along with them, prompting Emmett to crack: “Oh, they can make it by themselves, Goob…it ain’t dark yet.”


Goober walks over to where Emmett has laid out his paperwork, switches on a nearby fan and points it toward Emmett’s labors, scattering papers all over the floor over Emmett’s protests.  (Yes, I did laugh out loud at this.)

Two episodes back, in an outing called “Saving Morelli’s,” the Mayberry gang’s hangout was in danger of being closed because the owner couldn’t compete with another local joint that was offering live entertainment on the weekends.  Thanks to the song-and-dance skills of Samuel Jones, the establishment was rescued from the precipice of closure…but apparently Mr. M’s adopted policy of Saturday entertainment didn’t last long because it’s back to the jukebox again.  (Also, no sign of Morelli—though you could argue he’s busy in the kitchen.)  What is also entertaining is watching Goober Pyle trip the light fantastic on the dance floor—his terpsichorean prowess resembles an epileptic trying to tamp down a forest fire.

GOOBER: Well, you sure dance good, Violet…
VIOLET: Oh, fine…you’re really wild out there…
GOOBER: Thanks…
MILLIE: You gotta learn how to do some of this stuff, Sam… (She does a few dance moves while seated)

By the way, in case I have not mentioned this previously—Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka) is the only reason why anyone would ever sit through any of these episodes.  She is a hottie to the nth power, and I am also proud to call her (Arlene) one of my Facebook friends—the fact that she has not dumped me is proof positive she is completely unaware of this blog, and that can only be a good thing.

But back to the action: Sam suggests that they tie on the ol’ feedbag, but Goober waves him off, telling him “I’m just gettin’ warmed up…and I lose my speed on a full stomach.”  He’s rarin’ to have another go at the jukebox, but is out of change…and when he asks Sam for some spare, Violet announces that she has some and that she and Millie will play D.J.

SAM (complimenting Violet): Cute girl!
GOOBER: Yeah…kinda dainty, but I like ‘em that way…


But there is trouble a-brewin’ in Morelli’s, good people.  Violet and Millie are choosing tunes at the juke when Violet is approached by what my mother still refers to as a “masher.”  The masher in question is none other than TV character great Dave Ketchum—best known for his roles on sitcom classics like I’m Dickens…He’s Fenster (as melancholy married man Mel Warshaw), Camp Runamuck (“Spiffy”) and Get Smart (Agent 13).  Dave has taken an interest in the flower known as Violet, which does not sit at all well with our hero Goober.  (His character is identified only as “Man” so I’m going to refer to him as Dave because it’s my recap.)

GOOBER (arriving at the jukebox): Hey—watch it there, fella…
DAVE: Who’s this—the boyfriend, right?
GOOBER: Yeah, I’m the boyfriend…you wanna make something of it?
SAM (trying to make peace): Uh, hey…
GOOBER: Never mind, Sam—I’ll take care of this… (To Dave) How would you like a nose full of knuckles?
SAM: Goob…
DAVE: Look, pal…I was just talkin’ to the girl…nothing…


He never finishes his sentence because by that time he’s delivered a haymaker right into Goober’s breadbasket, sending the dumbass to the floor.  And I call him “dumbass” because Goober should have recognized the guy was a CONTROL agent, and that his hands are registered as lethal weapons.  Fortunately for the hapless Goob, his girl has also got it under (I’m really ashamed of this pun, by the way) control…


Allez oop!  Violet sends Masher Dave (or more accurately his stuntman) to the ground via a judo flip as an incredulous Sam and Goober look on.  Sam helps Goober to his feet while Violet concernedly asks if Goob is okay…Millie reciprocates by asking Violet if she’s okay, and suggesting they return to their seats.  As Sam and Goober follow, one of the patrons cracks: “You can sure tell who wears the pants there!”  “You can say that again,” his redneck buddy responds, chortling.

GOOBER: Sam…
SAM: What?
GOOBER: I’d be much obliged if you take Violet home…
SAM: Oh, now come on, Goob…
GOOBER: No, I just don’t feel like stayin’…I’ll settle up with you later…I’ll see ya…

Goober storms off despite Sam’s protests, and as Sam walks back over to their table Violet again asks if Goober’s hurt.  “Oh, no…no, I don’t think so,” he replies.  And then as an afterthought: “At least…not physically.”  As Millie and Violet exchange sad looks, that’s the episode’s cue to have General Foods pay the bills.

Act Two finds Goober hard at work at his service station when a snazzy ride pulls up—and we recognize the car as belonging to Emmett Clark, who has apparently turned over the fix-it shop to an intern while he decides to be the salt that’s headed right for Goober’s wound:

EMMETT: Hey!  I just heard the big news!  How’s your stomach?
GOOBER: It’s okay
EMMETT (laughing): I hear he really belted you one…I guess I oughta go out more often—I always miss these things…
GOOBER (clearly irritated): You want some gas?
EMMETT: No…I understand he knocked you right under the table!
GOOBER: I wasn’t under the table
EMMETT: Oh…well, that’s what they said over at the barbershop…

The barbershop?  Hey, everybody—Floyd’s back from the dead!  I’m going to cut Goob and Emmett’s exchange short here because there’s a funnier conversation between Goob and Howard coming up…it happens after Emmett manages to piss off his chum for painfully reminding him that his girlfriend beat up the guy who was bullying him.

HOWARD: Hi, Goob…
GOOBER: I guess you want the gruesome details, too…
HOWARD: Is that why Emmett was here?
GOOBER: That’s why everybody’s been here…to see the chicken that runs the gas station…
HOWARD: Aw, Goob…

Goober angrily storms inside the office, with dutiful Howard following.

HOWARD: Hey…this will taper off!  I came here as a friend…you know, you’re developing a complex over this thing…I mean, you’re getting all emotionally involved over nothing…
GOOBER: Well, what’s that supposed to mean?
HOWARD: Well, be honest…now, would it really have made any difference if you had clobbered him?
GOOBER: Of course it would!
HOWARD: Why?
GOOBER: ‘Cause that is what a real man is supposed to do…
HOWARD: Now that’s where you’re wrong…we’re living in a civilized society—we’re not supposed to go around hitting people…
GOOBER: I didn’t hit him!  Nobody give me the chance!
HOWARD: What I’m trying to say is…Goober, a man doesn’t have to go charging to the rescue anymore…
GOOBER: Why not?
HOWARD: Because it doesn’t prove anything…look at me—I avoid fights…
GOOBER: Well, yeah…but everybody knows that!
HOWARD: Goober, physical violence… (Goober’s remark suddenly registers) What do you mean, everybody knows that?

I know Howard’s kind of an acquired taste…but that reactive take he does is a thing of beauty.  It’s not for nothing that Jack Dodson was a first-rate farceur, and an actor who is sorely missed today.

GOOBER: Well, I mean that…you’re a different type than I am…I got my letter in football, and you got yours in debating…
HOWARD: What are you trying to say?!!
GOOBER: Nothin’…I’m not tryin’ to say nothin’…it’s okay for you, but I don’t want to be known as a chicken
HOWARD (really pissed off): Now just a minute, Goober!  Strength comes from the mind as well as the body!  A man doesn’t have to prove himself by…by engaging in a barroom brawl!  Besides, I came to here to discuss your problem, not my… (He stops short) Well, I don’t have a problem!

By the way, if you’re curious to check out Howard’s “problem”—I highly recommend the eighth season episode of The Andy Griffith Show, “Howard’s Main Event” (10/16/67).  It’s the first of two episodes to feature the Howard-Millie romance (back when Millie was Millie Hutchins), and our favorite county clerk has to confront Millie’s jealous boyfriend (played by sitcom veteran Allan Melvin).


But back to the action.  Howard tries to reassure Goober that this incident will all blow over, but the two men are interrupted by what sounds like a bicycle bell ringing outside the office.  Two adorable moppets enter—one of them is Mike the Idiot Boy’s equally cretinous friend, Harold (played by child pugilist Richard S. Steele…affectionately known as “Fishface” here on the blog, thanks to Phil Schweier) and another boy who’s identified in the credits as Danny…probably because he’s played by the young Danny Bonaduce, later a cast member of TV’s The Partridge Family and even later a DJ and genuine, 24-karat asshole.

HAROLD (to Danny): You owe me a nickel…I told you he wasn’t in the hospital…
DANNY: I didn’t say he was in the hospital…I said he got beat up!
HOWARD: Look, boys…why don’t you run along?
HAROLD: We just wanted to see if he had a black eye…
DANNY: I know how you feel, Goober…I got beat up by Sally Burns…
HAROLD: You got it all mixed up…the lady didn’t beat Goober up—she was beatin’ up the guy who was beatin’ him

Man…when you’re made the town laughingstock by a couple of wiseass kids—is it possible to sink any lower?  Howard tells the little mooks to scram, but Goober is positively whipped…

GOOBER: Blow over, huh?  It just might be that I may be finished in this town…
HOWARD: Aw, that’s ridiculous, Goober…

“For starters, we would have to assume that you had actually amounted to anything in the first place!”

HOWARD: You know, despite the talk—this pulsating little community of Mayberry has a heart as big as all outdoors…and it will always have a warm spot for one of its favorite sons…

Well…maybe a wet spot.  As Howard gives Goob a reassuring clamp on the back, Goober tells him: “Let’s not get sloppy, Howard.”

Back in town, Violet stops off at the council office to have a word with Sam—she’s worried about Goober, whom she has not heard from since “the incident.”  “Yeah…well, he was…awfully embarrassed about that, Violet…you know, his ego was bruised a little,” Sam manages to stammer.  Millie then rushes in to break up this little conclave by telling them that Goober is planning to sell the service station—he’s put a For Sale sign up.  “Oh…that nut!” says Sam angrily, realizing that once again he’s going to have to be the “Andy Taylor” in Goober’s little psychodrama.  He arrives at the service station and, grabbing the sign, heaves it in the direction of Myers Lake…which raises Goober’s ire:


GOOBER: What do you think you’re doin’…?
SAM: I just did it, didn’t I?
GOOBER: Now, Sam Jones…you get that sign and put it right back!
SAM: It stays there

“Don’t give me any of your sh*t, pump jockey…I’m friends with a girl who can kick your ass!”  Goober’s not in the mood for another heart-to-heart, because “a certain member of the debating team just talked to me—are you gonna talk to me the same way?”

SAM: I know it was an embarrassing situation for you…and I…I…I know people are doing some kidding about it—but that’s not important…I mean, it isn’t as if you’re a weakling or anything, is it?  (Goober remains silent) Well, is it?
GOOBER: I guess not…but they all think I’m chicken…
SAM: No…no, the guy got off a lucky punch…that’s all…why, you’re as much a man as you ever were, and everybody knows that…yeah!

They should have played some Bo Diddley on the soundtrack about this time—that would have been so righteous.  (“I spell m-a-n…man…”)

SAM: Look, nobody in this town forgets that you were the only guy on the whole football team who played sixty minutes out of every game…now, that’s in the records, right?
GOOBER: Well…it was…my wind…I always did have good wind…

In fact, the coaches on the opposing teams would always instruct their players to “Break The Wind!”  (If you thought I wasn’t going to go there, you’ve clearly been away from the blog too long.)

SAM: Yeah, but you’re strong, too…what about that time you lifted that whole axle assembly right out here?  People are still talking about that…

And that’s as sad a commentary on the populace of Mayberry as anyone can ever offer.  “Hey…do you remember that time that doofus lifted that entire axle assembly?  I always argued ‘Wind” should have worn a helmet while playing football…”

Sam’s attempts to repair Goober’s ego seem to be going well but he still hasn’t closed the deal because as Goober points out: “It’s even worse if people think you’re a strong chicken.”

SAM: You know when people are going to stop kidding you about this thing?
GOOBER: When?
SAM: When you come out and show your face…when you show everybody that this whole thing doesn’t bother you one little bit…that’s when they’re going to stop kidding you…

And the only remedy is for Goober to call Violet for another Saturday night date at Morelli’s, the scene of his former shame.  (If Sam were a little smarter, he’d spread the word around and maybe even make an extra buck or two selling tickets to this clambake.)  Goober is determined that if Dave the Bully shows up again, he’ll be ready for him—so we’re treated to a brief montage of his Goobness putting himself in top physical form (chin-ups, jogging, etc.)…accompanied by Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.  (Okay, I may have made that last part up.)

It is now…Saturday evening.

SAM: Well…still a few tables left…

He did sell tickets to this thing!  Sam, you scheming bastard!

MILLIE: It’s crowded, though…always like this on Saturdays…
GOOBER: I don’t see that guy around…
VIOLET: It’s just as well…
GOOBER: Yeah, for him…if I had the chance I coulda taken him—you know that, don’t you, Violet?
VIOLET (slightly coquettish): Why, of course, Goober…it was just a lucky punch…


Goober approaches the headwaiter and asks for a table for four…and here’s a little Alfred Hitchcock-like trivia for you: said waiter is played by the director of this episode, Hal Cooper.  Cooper was one of the most prolific TV sitcom director-producers in the history of the medium, and before his retirement in 1997 worked on a plethora of series that include classics such as I Dream of Jeannie and Maude (he helmed 126 out of that show’s 141 episodes) and modern-day fare like Gimme a Break! and Dear John.  Cooper started out in his career as an actor (he worked on the TV soap The Edge of Night) and would occasionally return to that love in brief bits—he turned up as a character named “Gus” in a few episodes of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (which he also directed quite a few installments for).  Cooper celebrated his 89th natal anniversary this past Thursday (February 23) so belated happy birthday wishes to him!

WAITER: Aren’t you the guy who got… (He makes a fist motion with his hand)
GOOBER (threatening): You wanna make something out of it?

The headwaiter chooses not to make something out of it, and leads the two couples toward a booth…prompting Millie to observe: “You may have created a monster…”

But this tense encounter is soon forgotten, as the laughter and merriment commence—Goob’s back on the dance floor doing his spastic moves and then in a dissolve, can be heard boasting to his lady love about his prowess on the gridiron:

GOOBER: …and I was the only man on the team that played sixty minutes a game…right, Sam?
SAM: Yeah, right…right…
GOOBER: Went both ways…used to call me “Iron Man Pyle”…right, Sam?
SAM: Right…
GOOBER: Ah…it was my wind that did it…had a lot of wind then—still do!  Right, Sam?
SAM: I’ll say…

Sam is making a meal on the free breadsticks at Morelli’s, so Millie suggests they order—but Goober still hasn’t finished boogieing with his baby, so he excuses himself to feed the juke.  He’s still trying to decide which selections he wants when a man approaches and commits a tiny etiquette fox paw by punching in a choice before Goober has finished.

GOOBER: Hey, what are you doin’?  I ain’t made my last selection…
JIM: I’m sorry…I thought you were through…
GOOBER: Well, I wasn’t
JIM (laughing): You were standing here long enough…

Jim didn’t technically mean to violate jukebox protocol—he just doesn’t know that Goober’s mental capacity means that it takes him two hours to read a box of cereal.  Jim, by the way, is played by one of my favorite character actors—Ron Masak, who you will no doubt recognize as Sheriff Mort Metzger from TV’s Murder, She Wrote (though I always remember him as one of the stars of the brief 1975 TV sitcom Love Thy Neighbor, an American version of the long-running British hit).  While Goober and Jim are trying to iron out their disagreement, back at the table the conflict is noticed by Sam and Millie, but they’re distracted by this woman who stops to hi to Violet—she’s Gwen Tyler, the instructor in Vi’s judo class.


Kind of hard to tell from this crappy screen capture, but the woman who plays Gwen is character actress Nora (Dodo) Denney, a veteran of oodles of TV show episodes and films like Who’s Minding the Mint? (1967), I Walk the Line (1970) and Splash (1984).  But if I had a better picture of her I’d bet 99% of you would recognize her as the mom of Mike Teevee in the 1971 cult children’s classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.  (Denney was not the first choice to play Mrs. Teevee—she only got the part after the original actress, Jean Stapleton, bowed out to do a TV pilot for some show called All in the Family.)  By now, you good people know where this is headed:

GOOBER: Okay…okay…that does it…I tried to be nice, but you are taxing my patience… (He starts in with the arm-stretching, as if he’s ready to rumble)
GWEN: What’s going on, Jim?
JIM: Oh, this guy’s trying to get tough…
GOOBER: I am tough!


Goob gives Jim a shove, and Gwen responds with…


Allez oop!

The first time I watched this episode, I saw this coming a mile away.  And I still laughed my darn fool head off.  Violet rushes to Goober’s side:



VIOLET: Oh…Goober…are you all right?
(Goober groans)
MILLIE (to Sam): Oh, boy…what now?
SAM: I guess we just…act like nothing happened…and whatever you do—don’t order the chicken

Not much of a coda to this outing…of course, it’s pretty hard to beat Goober somersaulting in the air and landing on his wind.  Howard and Sam pull up in Sam’s truck and look around for Goob before Sam realizes that Goober may not be back from “taking some lessons”—our non-hero has decided he’s going to learn how to defend himself.  It is interesting to note that during the course of their conversation that Sam tells Howard Goober was essentially asking for it (he was being kind of a dick) and then Goob pulls up in his truck, wearing the patented Funny Costume of “judo pajamas,” complete with black belt.


And Sam’s comment on this is so lame it’s hardly worth repeating.  Weak ending to an otherwise funny episode (well, it made me laugh).

Each week at the end of these write-ups, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear tabulates the number of appearances on Mayberry R.F.D. made by Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Frances Bavier) via our patented Bee-o-Meter™…and the reason for this is because when I first noticed that she was only credited with appearing on the show twenty-five times (about a third of the total number of episodes in the series) at the IMDb I thought it seemed kind of light (but then again, she was only on R.F.D. in its first two seasons, so it may be that the IMDb is right after all).  So because she doesn’t appear in “Goober and the Telephone Girl” the count stands officially at fourteen appearances in the series entirety (two show-ups in Season 2 so far).  Next week, the evilest woman in Mayberry returns in a little number called “Millie, the Model”—and even though I was juiced about watching this one the first time around because it’s all about the Millie…it wasn’t nearly as good as I hoped.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do—the die has been cast, and I will see you here next week on Mayberry Mondays