Wednesday, May 30, 2012

B-Western Wednesday: Eyes of Texas (1948)



Camp Cameron is a boys’ camp built and run by wealthy Thad Cameron (Francis Ford)—whose nephew Frank was MIA in the war, and for which the camp is dedicated, taking in other boys whose fathers perished under similar circumstances.  Thad, however, will learn via telegram that Frank is still alive, and so he pays a visit to his attorney: grandmotherly Hattie Walters (Nana Bryant).  Excited about the news (Thad’s been estranged from Frank for twenty years, having had a disagreement with Thad’s ma), Cameron directs Hattie to change his will: instead of leaving his fortune to the camp, he’ll split his estate between the boys and the newly-found Frank.  On his way back to Camp Cameron, Thad is attacked by a pack of wolves and killed…wolves that would actually appear to be wild dogs.  They’re rounded up by a pair of no-goodniks, Vic Rabin (Roy Barcroft) and his partner Pete (Pascale Perry)…but one of the dogs was apparently shot by Thad, and the two men elect not to hunt for the dead canine.

The appearance of the “wolves”—who in addition to the murder of Thad Cameron have been attacking livestock and making trouble for local ranchers—has brought U.S. Marshal Roy Rogers (himself) riding into town on Trigger (the smartest horse in the movies).  (In fact, Trigger has a memorable run-in with henchman Vic, who makes the foolish mistake of trying to clobber the horse with a pitchfork.)  Visiting his old friend Cookie Bullfincher (Andy Devine, a doctor in this one), Roy lets on that he’s working on behalf of the insurance company that’s paid off on the stockmen’s policies…and that he personally has doubts as to whether wolves were responsible for Thad’s death.  But Roy is also anxious to meet up with his old pals The Sons of the Pioneers (who are running the camp), so he plans to head out that way…and Cookie asks if he can join him, seeing as he has to make a house call at Hattie’s.

Hattie, it would seem, is not the sweet little old lady with a law degree that she appears to be.  She informs Bob Nolan and the rest of the Pioneers that “Uncle” Thad left all his money to nephew Frank, and the camp has been cut out of the will.  When pressed for details, Hattie has one of her “spells”—according to Doc Bullfincher, she has a “coronary occlusion” (“A bad ticker,” he explains.)  Learning from cook Pat Brady that a wolf was spotted in the direction of Timber Ridge, the two of them ride off in that direction and discover the injured dog from the attack on Thad.  Roy is able to befriend the dog (with some help from Trigger) and he takes the canine back into town, where Cookie and nurse Penny Thatcher (Lynne Roberts) nurture the newly named “El Lobo” back to health.

The discovery of the dog starts to worry Rabin; it turns out that he’s in the employ of Hattie, who’s responsible for Thad’s death by training the dogs to be homicidal mutts.  (She’s evil…eevill!!!)  Hattie learns that Roy has asked the insurance company to hold up the money from Thad’s estate, so she whips up public sentiment against our hero by accusing him of wanting to sabotage the camp.  A petition gets started among the townsfolk to request Roy be stripped of his marshaling duties, and at a meeting Roy ends up decking Cookie when his pleas to those assembled to let him handle the matter are ignored.  As Hattie and Vic leave the meeting, they put the snatch on Lobo when they discover him in the back of a surrey.

Roy’s punching out of Cookie has cost him his badge…as it turns out, this was his plan all along—with him disgraced in the eyes of the other townspeople, he’s free to work on clearing up the matter involving Thad’s murder.  He experiences a setback when Vic, Pete and a few other goons take him outside of town and beat/whip the living $%#@ out of him; he’s rescued by Cookie and Penny just in the nick of time.  Hattie, in the interim, has decided to put Plan B in action in order to speed up the insurance paying off—she arranges for nephew Frank Cameron (Danny Morton) arrives in town to claim his inheritance.  But he’s a fake (he’s ex-con “Frank Dennis”; the real nephew died during the war) and statements that he makes at a welcome party held in his honor tip Roy off to the deception.  Ironically (irony can be pretty ironic sometimes), Dennis’ greed is the catalyst for bringing down Hattie and her operation (like you would actually doubt Roy Freaking Rogers wouldn’t come out on top).

Anyone who’s ever dismissed Roy Rogers movies as just average singing cowboy vehicles needs to become well-acquainted with Eyes of Texas (1948), one of the most action-packed and violent entries in the western star’s oeuvre.  There are sequences in this film that would not be out of place in an “A” western; the wolf attack on Thad Cameron is pretty sobering stuff for its time, and Roy’s beating at the hands of henchman Barcroft and his stooges doesn’t (if you’ll pardon the pun) pull any punches either.  Eyes is another one of the great Roy Rogers-William Witney collaborations (Witney being the Republic Studios director who cut his teeth on cliffhanger serials before graduating to the Rogers product), with a suspenseful script courtesy of scribe Sloan Nibley (who also penned Night Time in Nevada, the premier entry in our B-Western Wednesdays series).

Eyes of Texas features one of the most formidable villains ever to grace a Rogers oater…and is played by Nana Bryant, a veteran character thespian best known for matronly and motherly movie roles in films like Theodora Goes Wild, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Reluctant Dragon (she plays Robert Benchley’s wife in that Disney film).  Her last onscreen role was as a Mother Superior in The Private War of Major Benson in 1955; by that time she was a cast member on TV’s Our Miss Brooks (as the owner of the private school where Connie and Mr. Conklin ended up in the sitcom’s last season) but her death on Christmas Eve of that year necessitated her being replaced by Isabel Randolph (as Bryant’s character’s sister).  Hattie Walters, as played by Bryant, doesn’t have much of a backstory; we never really learn why she’s so pure dagnasty evil but it doesn’t really matter much in the big picture.  She does meet a particularly grisly fate: Lobo, the dog adopted by Roy Rogers (played by his real-life canine Bullet in his film debut), never really liked Hattie and when he returns to her house she dies of a heart attack when he lunges for her, literally scaring her to death.

She looks harmless, but don't let that fool you.  Bryant's daughter-in-law so despised her character in this movie that she refused to watch it whenever it turned up on TV.
I thought it sort of odd that Bryant’s Walters goes down so easy (her demise could have come straight out of a Disney film) but I was pleased by the fact that Roy Barcroft’s Vic isn’t rounded up until the final minutes of the film.  Barcroft, the man to whom I frequently refer as “the baddest serial villain of them all,” is engaged in a shootout with Roy in a stable at the end of Eyes when he manages to wound Roy with his rifle…but that shot sets off a blaze in the makeshift fort he’s built out of hay bales and Barcroft is nearly barbecued to death.  They just don’t make them any meaner than Roy B.; he attempts to beat Trigger early in the film (with the horse having other ideas), and then about midway he and a bunch of goons give our hero a right pummeling, finally tying Roy to the back of a runaway horse (the dummy they used for this stunt is a little unconvincing).  He’s even pressed into service to dispose of “nephew” Frank when Mr. Dennis decides he wants a bigger cut of the take by shoving him into the basement where the vicious dogs are being kept.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie: greedy Danny Morton tells villainess Nana Bryant he's taking over the operation as loyal henchman Roy Barcroft listens in...
...Roy subdues him with a whip and prepares to chuck him into the basement as Alpo for some vicious canines.  ("Wolves!")
Lynne Roberts had a long history working with Roy Rogers, appearing in some of his earlier Republic films (billed as “Mary Hart”); she also played leading lady in two of the studio’s serials, The Lone Ranger and Dick Tracy Returns (where she was billed in both as “Lynn Roberts”—before the extra “e”).  Lynne’s character of Nurse Penny figures in two amusing gags in Eyes where she ends up doused with water (the second one at the end has her grumbling “This is where I came in!”).  Other character greats you’ll recognize include Stanley Blystone (as the sheriff) and Francis Ford, who plays the doomed Thad Cameron.  Ford, who appeared in many of his brother John’s films, sort of surprised me in this role because he was actually “cleaned up” for a change (when I think of Francis, it’s as the grizzled old halfwit who winds up hung along with Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn in The Ox-Bow Incident).

Normally, I don’t mind Andy Devine as the comic relief in Roy Rogers’ films (I know for some he’s an acquired taste) but for some odd reason I had difficulty buying into his Cookie Bullfincher being a doctor in this one.  Future TV sidekick Pat Brady has a couple of amusing moments (his line “My corns are wore to a frazzle” brought Chet Lauck’s Lum Edwards of Lum ‘n’ Abner to mind), and even sings lead on a number he does with the Sons of the Pioneers, Graveyard Filler of the West.  (The Pioneers and Roy sing two additional numbers, Texas Trails and Padre of Old San Antone; all three of them penned by Pioneer Tim Spencer.)  When many of the Roy Rogers films were shown on TV they’d often be whittled down to less than an hour, meaning the musical numbers were often scrapped—this DVD I purchased is the full seventy-minute version…but is not in “Trucolor,” as the original negative is apparently lost.

The opening credits on the DVD have a black band at the bottom to obliterate the fact that this is not the Trucolor version.  (Something tells me we probably would have figured that out.)
Eyes of Texas has been released in a number of DVD formats and the fact that Alpha Video has paired it with another Rogers film, Grand Canyon Trail, would seem to hint that it’s in the public domain (and if it isn’t, somebody’s in trouble for making it available for free download here).  It’s a top-notch outing for The King of the Cowboys, and I’m glad I was able to track down a copy at DeepDiscount.com (Motto: “Thanks for the swimming pool, Iv!”) when the company was having a clearance sale (I also grabbed a copy of Dangerous Assignment: The Complete Series…much to my mother’s chagrin).  I know whenever I do a review of a Rogers-Witney film I’m bound to be biased, but I really enjoyed this one (so thanks to the anonymous commenter who recommended it) and I think you will, too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Buried Treasures: Casanova’s Big Night (1954)



It is 1757 in Parma, Italy…and Giacomo Casanova, famed lover and swordsman, is planning to invade the boudoir of Francesca Bruni (Joan Fontaine) in order to do that voodoo he do so well.  He is stopped by an angry wine merchant (John Hoyt), who seeks vengeance on the legendary Casanova for attempting to make love to his wife (and also for skipping out on paying for his wine).  It is soon revealed, however, that “Casanova” is an imposter—he’s merely a “miserable apprentice to a miserable tailor,” Pippo Popolino (Bob Hope), who thought that by dressing in Casanova’s finery he could fool the widow Bruni and steal from her a kiss.  Pippo strikes out…and it doesn’t help matters when the real Casanova (played by an unbilled Vincent Price) arrives to reveal Pippo’s ruse.

Casanova may be an accomplished swordsman—and all that and a bag of chips when it comes to the art of love—but as a businessman, he’s pathetic.  He owes money to all the merchants in town, and he tells Francesca to gather them all at his lodgings the next morning at 10am so that he can pay what he owes.  But again, deceit is the order of the day—he trades Pippo his clothes for a fast horse out of town (the horse doesn’t belong to Pippo, by the way) and Casanova’s valet Lucio (Basil Rathbone) learns that his master has beat a hasty retreat at a most inopportune time: the Duc (Robert Hutton) and Duchess of Castelbello (Hope Emerson) have arrived with a proposition for Cas that will net him ten thousand ducats.  All the great lover has to do is seduce the Duc’s fiancée, Dona Elena Di Gambetta (Audrey Dalton), and take from her a petticoat gifted by the Duc to prove he’s come to know her in the biblical sense (the petticoat is embroidered with the Castelbello family crest).  Lucio, Francesca and the rest of the merchants decide that one of them must impersonate Casanova in order for them all to be paid…but Pippo is way ahead of them—sneaking into Casanova’s house, he’s mistaken by both the Duc and Duchess for the master.  It is then decided that Pippo will play Casanova, and that way everyone will benefit.

Pippo, Lucio and Francesca travel to Venice to find themselves smack dab in a situation of genuine palace intrigue.  The Di Gambetta family hasn’t a ducat to their name, and live the way they do (we call it “puttin’ up a front” where I come from) because of Dona Elena’s impending nuptials to the Duc…whom she does indeed love very much.  The ruler and chief magistrate of Venice, The Doge (Arnold Moss), is banking that the marriage will not come to pass because of his ambitious plans to conquer the city of Genoa (home to the House of Castelbello)—if the marriage is stopped, it will be an insult to Venice and will give them proper provocation for the attack.  Pippo has several opportunities to obtain the petticoat but finds himself constantly stymied—that’s when the Doge and his advisors step in, and offer their services to obtain m’lady’s underwear.  But Pippo is having second thoughts—he likes Dona Elena, and won’t do anything to hurt her.  The Doge has Pippo tossed into prison, and the petticoat (taken by the Doge’s guards) is handed off to Lucio and Francesca…well, more like Lucio—he makes off with the petticoat, revealing himself to be a first-rate bastid.

Francesca rescues Pippo in a thrilling jailbreak, and even knowing they must get safely back to Parma doesn’t dissuade Pippo from vowing to help Dona Elena…and his tailoring talents will do the trick.  He embroiders a duplicate petticoat, and then he and Francesca crash the bride’s reception (impersonating Baron and Baroness Mittschalk of Cardovia) in order to give it to Dona Elena.  When the situation seems dire—the Duc and Duchess of Castelbello have arrived, accompanied by Lucio—Pippo distracts everyone by playing Casanova one last time in order to allow Francesca to help Dona Elena.

My choice of Casanova’s Big Night (1954)—a Bob Hope vehicle that I consider his last really great movie comedy—for this week’s “Overlooked Films” entry stems from a recent Facebook discussion that was instituted by the proprietor of the web’s premiere matinee memories site, Laughing Gravy at In the Balcony.  The debate centered on comedians (starting out in the world of stand-up and then sort of branching off to other venues) and people were encouraged to list their favorites; keeping in mind, natch, that somebody who makes you laugh might not necessarily cause others to crack a smile.  One of the participants made this pronouncement from upon his Throne of Comedy: “Bob Hope, the only comedian in history who made an entire career out of never being funny.”

Bullshit.  I wouldn’t have had a problem if the guy had said simply, “I don’t find Bob Hope funny” or “Hope doesn’t make me laugh.”  Different strokes for different folks.  It was the way he phrased the statement (as if there just couldn’t be any other opinion but his own) that sort of riled me a little, and I called him out on it—he responded with a pitiable defense that Hope was funny when one was ten years old but he isn’t now.  (He has also made similar statements about Abbott & Costello.)  We went back-and-forth on this a while (and I was fortunate in that I had a few other folks who felt the same way I did) until I finally decided it wasn’t worth the time and effort to convince an otherwise pompous ass (who had held the debate in his head and won already) that he was just dead mistaken.

One of the reasons why Bob gets the “he’s-not-funny” rap is because he kind of wore out his welcome as far as movies went.  Hope made some classic comedies: the Road pictures with his longtime “feuding” partner Bing Crosby, The Ghost Breakers, Son of Paleface, etc. (I’ve discussed this on the blog in the past here.)  But by the 1960s, his stock in film comedy was way down—with stinkers like Eight on the Lam and Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! on his c.v.  His reputation as a virtual Gatling gun of one-liners suffered, too, because as he got older his delivery got slower.  (This is one of the reasons why George Burns succeeded as he did later in life…his delivery was always slow and deliberate.)

Casanova’s Big Night is a funny Hope vehicle.  Like The Ghost Breakers, which even a lot of non-Hope fans like (my Mom is one), it has a lot more plot than usual for a Hope film and a supporting cast of character actors that is like a movie nut’s dream.  A few people have complained that the film is a little too similar to 1946’s Monsieur Beaucaire, which also features Bob as a character impersonating a nobleman…but I think Big Night has the edge for several reasons.  It’s in sumptuous Technicolor, was scripted by Hope collaborator Edmund L. Hartmann (who also worked on Fancy Pants and My Favorite Spy) and veteran OTR scribe (and Savannah, GA native) Hal Kanter, and substitutes Joan Caufield (Bob’s leading lady in Beaucaire) for Joan Fontaine, who does quite well in a comedy role.  In one scene, Hope’s Pippo pleads for her to give him a kiss so he’ll be ready to woo Dona Elena, and he tells her “I’ll give you a sample, in case we’re ever cast away on a desert island.”

He kisses Francesca, who takes a beat and says dryly: “Better bring a deck of cards.”

Big Night is Bob Hope doing what he does best—playing the “cowardly custard” while dishing out a reservoir of wisecracks at every turn.  In a scene in which he is introduced to the Doge’s guests at a fancy dinner party, he introduces his traveling companions to one of the Big D’s advisors, Foressi (played by John Carradine!):

PIPPO: This is Lucio, my food taster.
FORESSI: Your food taster?
PIPPO: Yes, and you can't get a good food taster these days…the slightest hint of poison and they quit!
FRANCESCA: Lucio is my cousin's ninth food taster!
PIPPO: Tenth—counting Mother!

From L to R: Foressi (John Carradine), The Doge (Arnold Moss - "a snake with a beard!" cracks Pippo), and some guy  who I heard later started a law practice.
The dinner party scene also contains one of my favorite Hope jokes—all through the proceedings, Pippo has been generously sampling the wine…much to Lucio’s displeasure (“The wine’s free, and I’m thirsty!” Pippo fires back at his “valet”), not to mention Dona Elena’s mother (Frieda Inescort), who’s been continually irritated by “Casanova” all evening.  The Doge allows Foressi to challenge Pippo’s “Casanova” to see if he is the genuine article, and Foressi arranges for the finest swordsman of the guards, Captain Rugello (Henry Brandon), to challenge Pippo to a little match…so Pippo stalls for time by suggesting that everyone have a little more vino.  “Haven’t you had enough wine?” implores Signora Di Gambetta.

“You’re her mother, not mine,” responds Pippo, referring to Dona Elena.  (That line and Bob’s delivery of such breaks me up every time.)  Big Night also contains one of the funniest “fourth wall” gags in any Hope film.  At the end of the film, Pippo is about to be beheaded…but an off-screen narrator tells us that star Hope has a different interpretation of how the film should end.  In Bob “Orson Welles” Hope’s version, Pippo rises to his proper level of heroism, defeating the Doge, his advisors and guards and getting Francesca’s love as a reward.

FRANCESCA (rushing up to him): Casanova…I mean…Pippo
PIPPO: And I mean business!

Bob then steps out of character and asks the audience to vote: all those who prefer Paramount’s ending (and his character’s demise) hold up their candy bars…and after counting candy, he then asks those audience members who like his ending to hold up their popcorn.

“What’s the matter with this theater—don’t they sell popcorn?” Hope complains, disappointed with the tally.

Playing the part of the real Casanova (in two brief scenes) is an uncredited Vincent Price, who agreed to do the film as a favor to his friend Bob, and Big Night also contains a funny sequence (not quite as funny as their byplay in My Favorite Brunette—but that would be hard to top) with Lon Chaney, Jr…who plays Bob’s fellow prisoner when he’s tossed into jail.  Lon convinces Bob to swap clothes with him and he’ll allow him to escape through his secret tunnel…and after having done so, Chaney stops and reaches into the pocket of Hope’s new duds and pulls out a mouse, saying in his best Of Mice and Men fashion: “I like to pet him.”

Hope travels through the tunnel and winds up in another cell which is wall-to-wall with prisoners, all of whom were foolish enough to give Chaney items of value in order to “escape.”  (One of the prisoners checks Hope’s rags and then complains “Emo [Chaney] kept my mouse!”)  Douglas Fowley, the actor who played dowser J.B. Judson in yesterday’s installment of Mayberry Mondays, is recognizable as one of the prisoners; sharp viewers will also see such great character thesps as Hugh Marlowe, Raymond Burr, ex-boxer Primo Carnera, Frank Puglia, Natalie Schafer (as Carradine’s character’s wife), Nestor Paiva, Lucien Littlefield and Oliver Blake, aka “Captain Drake” in Jungle Queen.  (As a Paramount player, Blake turns up in quite a few of Hope’s comedies; here he plays Amadeo, a cabinetmaker who tries to pass himself off as Casanova…unaware that Pippo’s already got the job.  “Some of his hinges are loose,” explains Pippo to the Duchess, after the others quickly cover that Amadeo is a poor Casanova relation.)

I classify Casanova’s Big Night as Bob Hope’s last great movie comedy, but that doesn’t mean it was all downhill from there—the comedian still had a few goodies left in his arsenal, like The Seven Little Foys, Alias Jesse James and The Facts of Life (with Lucille Ball).  (I also have a soft spot for The Road to Hong Kong, even if they royally screwed up by reducing Dorothy Lamour to a glorified cameo.)  But soon the hits would be outweighed by the misses, so Big Night for me represents Hope at the peak of his powers.  And I think it’s a good enough comedy to enjoy on its own (it’s very reminiscent of Danny Kaye’s The Court Jester, released two years later)…even if Bob isn’t necessarily your cup of Orange Pekoe.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mayberry Mondays #42: “The New Well” (01/26/70, prod. no. 0222)


I’ve mentioned in previous Mayberry Mondays installments that every so often, the writing team behind Mayberry, R.F.D. felt it necessary to remind viewers that the show’s main character—poor-but-honest-dirt-farmer-turned-city-council-head Sam Jones (Ken Berry)—does, in fact, work on a farm…despite the fact that any real farmer who spent as much time as Sam does jawing with his idiot friends would soon be standing around watching as the county auctioned off his stuff.  As “The New Well” opens, we find Sam atop a tall ladder peering into a large water tank as housekeeper Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Frances Bavier) and his son, Mike the Idiot Boy (Buddy Foster), look on.


SAM: Okay…turn it on, Aunt Bee!
AUNT BEE: All right… (She and Mike disappear out of the shot, apparently complying with Sam’s request) It’s on, Sam!
MIKE: Any better, Pa?
SAM (calling down): No…no better…

Sam closes the door on top of the tank, and then makes his way down the ladder to join Aunt Bee and Mike.

SAM: The flow’s way down…
AUNT BEE: Oh…well…maybe it’s just a clogged pipe or something…
SAM: No…no, might as well face it…the well’s gone dry…
AUNT BEE: Oh, dear…I was afraid of that but I didn’t want to be the first one to say it…
MIKE: You mean we’re out of water, Pa?
SAM: Not yet, no…but we will be if we don’t do something about it…
MIKE: I could cut down on my baths

Hey—the kid is already unpopular as it is…I see this only as a win-win situation.  But his father assures him that his regular hygiene habits will continue unabated.

AUNT BEE: Well, what now, Sam?
SAM: We’ll just have to drill a new well…no choice…
AUNT BEE: Oh, dear…
MIKE: Where are we gonna drill it, Pa?
SAM: Well, that’ll be up to a drilling company…a…a geologist…Aunt Bee, I think I’ll drive into Raleigh tomorrow—there’s a couple of big drilling outfits up there…
AUNT BEE: Oh, Sam…this isn’t serious, is it?
SAM: Oh, no…no…most wells run dry sooner or later…we’ll find water around here someplace…
AUNT BEE: Oh…the soil taketh away…and the soil giveth…

Methinks Aunt Bee has been smoketh something that Sam groweth on the farm.  As a sidebar, I once worked for a motel in Savannah in the early part of the nineties whose water source came from a well on the property.  I swear I am not making this up.  Everyone to whom I’ve told this story argues that commercial establishments cannot be run using this kind of setup, but they never met the owner of the BWC (Best Western Central): the wily and parsimonious Robert Anderson.  In an episode that could have come straight out of a sitcom, it was Labor Day in 1991 when Mr. A’s well finally ran dry…and the unfortunate schmuck at the front desk (do I really need to tell you who that was?) was pressed upon to come up with creative excuses as to why none of the guests could bathe or shower.  Here’s a testament to the amount of pull my old boss had in that city: he got a crew out on Labor Day to take care of the problem (hooking the hotel up to the city water system).  (Not long after, a new well was dug and water once again flowed freely through the spigots and faucets at the BWC.)

Now back to the real sitcom.  In a scene change, Mike the Idiot Boy works on his coordination skills by bouncing a baseball off the roof while Aunt Bee sits on the porch, shelling peas.  She asks the little mook to “throw that some place else”…which he interprets as “going to my immediate right and bouncing the ball off that side of the roof.”  But it’s a good thing he’s done this, or else he wouldn’t notice the prospector gentleman (complete with burro) shambling up the front yard.


He’ll introduce himself as “J.B. Judson,” and since I’ve already watched what transpires in this outing I’m guessing the “J.B.” stands for “Just bullsh*t.”  Judson is played by venerable character thespian Douglas Fowley (billed here as Douglas V. Fowley), who made appearances in so many films. chances are quite good you’ll run across him if you’re watching a title at random.  His best-known movie role is probably that of frustrated movie director Roscoe Dexter in the classic musical Singin’ in the Rain, but he also turns up in films as varied as Mighty Joe Young, Armored Car Robbery and The High and the Mighty (he’s also in the reviled 1946 Columbia cliffhanger Chick Carter, Detective as reporter Rusty Farrell).

On the boob tube side, he guested on many of the medium’s top shows and his longest-running gig was a semi-regular role as Doc Holliday on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.  In the 1960s, Fowley decided to grow a beard and gravitate toward Gabby Hayes-type parts, notably in the 1966-67 sitcom Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats—a comedy-western that is one of the worst sitcoms I’ve ever watched, in case you thought I embrace all sitcoms.  (One of Fowley’s last TV gigs was another sitcom stinker in 1979 entitled Detective School, in which his character’s name was…get ready for the splitting of sides to commence…”Robert Redford.”  Yuk yuk yuk.)  Fowley was also the father of music impresario Kim, who’s probably best known as the mastermind behind the female rock group The Runaways…but because I’m wired sort of differently, I always think of Kim as the man who created (along with Gary Paxton) the fictional group The Hollywood Argyles, who recorded the one-hit wonder Alley Oop.

JUDSON: Afternoon, ma’am…this here the Jones farm?
AUNT BEE: Yes it is!
JUDSON: J.B. Judson’s the name…
AUNT BEE: How do you do, Mr. Judson?  I’m Beatrice Taylor…
JUDSON: Oh…that’s a mighty pretty name...
AUNT BEE: Thank you…can we help you?
JUDSON: I think I can help you, ma’am…hear tell you’re lookin’ for water ‘round here…
MIKE: How did you know that?
JUDSON: Sonny…I can smell a dry well from twenty miles…

“Which is sort of funny, because we could smell you from nearly the same distance.”

JUDSON: Came to offer my services, ma’am… (He removes a business card from his pocket) J.B. Judson…dowser!
AUNT BEE (staring at the card): Dowser?

“I didn’t even know her!”  (Sorry about that.)

MIKE: What’s a dowser?
JUDSON: That’s my profession, sonny…I find water… (He reaches into the pack on his burro and pulls out a stick) …with a divining rod…
AUNT BEE: Oh, yes…yes…
JUDSON (reaching for the card, as he wants it back): Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am…my new supply of business cards ain’t come in yet…

Vistaprint is kind of fussy about delivering to an address that’s simply “Under the freeway bypass outside Siler City”…

MIKE: Can you find water with that stick?
JUDSON: That’s not just a stick, sonny…that’s a willow witch…both me and the stick have got special powers…

I think you have that confused with Willow the witch on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

MIKE: Golly…
JUDSON: Uh…why don’t you tell Mr. Jones I’m here and I can get started…?
AUNT BEE: Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Judson…Mr. Jones has gone to Raleigh to find out about a geologist…
JUDSON: Say—why don’t you give him a call in Raleigh and tell him I’m here?
AUNT BEE: I’m sorry…I’m sure Mr. Jones knows what he’s doing…

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

MIKE: Sure wouldn’t hurt to call him!
JUDSON: Now, sonny…give your sister time to think…
MIKE: Sister?
AUNT BEE (blushing): Oh…oh ho…oh my goodness!  Oh…

You know, I thought all those flies buzzing around were because this old tramp hasn’t seen soap and hot water since the Depression…but now it would appear they’re from a different source.

JUDSON: I’m sorry, ma’am…I ain’t wearin’ my specs…but I don’t need none to see that you’re a good cook…not many young ladies would take time to shell peas these days…mind if I sit a spell?

You know, for one brief second I thought this might be the episode where Aunt Bee and Mike are killed by the passing drifter.  But as I have stated so many times on the blog in the past, we simply aren’t that lucky.  Aunt Bee invites Judson up on the porch and he sits down beside her, holding the basket of peas in his lap while she continues to shell them.  They both reminisce about the way things used to be; for example, he asks whatever happened to “the old hammock that was always on the porch—no better place for sparkin’!”  (I have never been more grateful for the absence of a hammock on the porch at Casa del Jones in my life.)

JUDSON: Yep, everything’s gone…it’s the same with dowsin’…people just don’t take stock in it no more…
AUNT BEE: Well, you know—I remember my father talking about a dowser trying to find water on the farm…

This bit o’dialogue seems to suggest that Aunt Bee’s formative years were set against the background of a farm-like existence.  But here’s the thing: in the premiere episode of R.F.D., Aunt Bee’s reluctance to keep house for the Jones boys stems from her admission “I never lived on a farm before.”  (This is fortified by wacky scenarios involving her being spooked by cow noises and being reluctant to “lift a chicken.”)  So there are several ways to interpret this:

1)     In referring to her father and the dowser, it was a story told to her long after her pop got out of the farming bidness.

2)     It’s a sloppy continuity error on behalf of scribes Dick Bensfield and Perry Grant (who based their teleplay on a story by associate producer Joel Swanson…so named because he’s the only who would associate with the producer).

3)    We’re witnessing the early onset of senile dementia.  I’m kind of leaning toward this last explanation because of what happens next:

JUDSON: I’d better be goin’… (He hands Aunt Bee the basket of peas and rises from his chair)
AUNT BEE (rising also): Uh…uh, Mr. Judson…Mr. Jones will be back in the morning…would you like to talk to him then?
JUDSON: Thank you, ma’am, but…I don’t know where I’ll be…
MIKE: Where do you live?
AUNT BEE (disapprovingly): Oh, Mike…
JUDSON (pointing to his burro): Here’s my home…right here…wherever Jenny and me can lay out my bedroll…
AUNT BEE: Oh…well…Mr. Judson…we have a little room on the back of the barn…wouldn’t you care to spend the night?
MIKE: Hey, yeah!

“And in the morning, Aunt Bee can prepare a hearty breakfast just before you slash our throats with a bread knife!”  Judson is a little reluctant to accept Aunt Bee’s hospitality at first…but she finally persuades him to crash in the barn for the night, so he leads his burro off in that direction.

MIKE: Boy, wait till Pa hears we got a real dowser!  Is he gonna be surprised!
AUNT BEE: Yes, I suppose he will be…but you know, Mike—I think you better let me tell him about it…

I just had a horrible vision…and it involves Judson busting up a chifferobe—prompting a grateful Aunt Bee to follow him into the barn and…(shudder) Sorry about burning that image on your retinas, good people.  Back from Raleigh, Sam has good news: he’s found a drilling company, and their geologist will be out first thing in the morning.

AUNT BEE (pouring him a cup of coffee): Oh…so soon?
SAM: Ah…sure…might as well get started…
AUNT BEE: Yes, I suppose so…I mean…if you’re satisfied…
SAM: Why shouldn’t I be?
AUNT BEE: Oh, no reason…I guess…
SAM: Oh, I’m really impressed with this outfit…
AUNT BEE: Oh, good…it’s just it seems to me you’d want to explore some…other possibilities?
SAM: Oh?  Like what?
AUNT BEE: Well…

Before Aunt Bee can get around to telling Sam she’s fallen madly for a hobo and they went at it like rabbits in his barn, he hears the plaintive “hee-haw” of Jenny the Burro out in the corral.

SAM: What was that?
AUNT BEE: Oh…well, I…I guess that’s the burro…

Okay…I did snicker at this—partly because Bavier tosses it off like “Oh, it’s just the teakettle boiling”…as if having a burro on that farm is an everyday occurrence.

SAM: The burro?
AUNT BEE: Mm-hmm…Mr. Judson’s burro…
SAM: And who is Mr. Judson?
AUNT BEE: Well, he’s the old gentleman who owns the burro…

“Aunt Bee…anytime you want to tell me about it—I’m ready…” Sam says patiently, and so Aunt Bee suggests they go out to the barn to meet Judson.  She is very careful to also suggest to Sam “Only I just hope you realize that sometimes the old-fashioned ways are the best…like shelling your own peas.”


This is what “the room in the barn” looks like—and I have to tell you, I’m not entirely certain why this is on the premises outside of making things more convenient to move the plot along.  Because a room like that…you could rent it out to somebody like Goober, or…okay, I’ve been out in the sun too long.  (By the way—George Lindsey is listed at the IMDb as appearing as village idiot Goob in this episode…but I didn’t see him; it’s possible he was the victim of a little syndication trimming.)

AUNT BEE: Mr. Judson, I’d like you to meet Sam Jones…
JUDSON (getting up from the bed and shaking Sam’s hand): Glad to meet ya, Mr. Jones!  Hear tell you’re a real down-to-earth farmer!

Jud…you might have gotten away with that “sister” crap around Aunt Bee…but Sam’s got a bit more Moxie on the ball than you’d suspect at first glance.

JUDSON: You want water?  I’ll find it!
SAM: Well…look, Mr. Judson…
JUDSON: All I need is my willow witch!  None of that expensive, Johnny-come-lately hocus pocus…
SAM: Yeah…well, look…Mr. Judson…see…I…
JUDSON: Results guaranteed!

“I'll eat anything you want me to eat.  I'll swallow anything you want me to swallow.  But, come on down and I'll... chew on a dog!  Awrroooo!”

AUNT BEE: Hear that, Sam?  Guaranteed!
SAM: Aunt Bee…please…look, Mr. Judson—I have a geologist coming out first thing in the morning…
JUDSON: Is he guaranteed to find water?
SAM: Well, they give it a 75% chance…
JUDSON: I’ll give you 100%!
AUNT BEE: A hundred percent, Sam!
SAM: Aunt Bee…Mr. Judson, I’m sorry…it was nice of you to stop by, but it’s like I said—I’ve already made other arrangements…
AUNT BEE: Well, Sam, you could at least walk…
SAM: Aunt Bee…I have already made other arrangements…

“Curb your tongue, saucy house wench!”

JUDSON: Well…that’s okay…that’s okay…if you want to take a gamble…
AUNT BEE: Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Judson…
JUDSON: That’s okay, young lady…I’m gettin’ used to it…

Young lady.  That “willow witch” can certainly find its share of B.S., that’s for sure.  Judson asks Sam if he can stick around “and see if that college kid lucks out,” and though Mistah Jones is hesitant, Aunt Bee kind of throws her weight around a little by noting “Now, Sam…if Mr. Hudson would like to observe…”  It’s as if she’s sort of forgotten that it’s entirely Sam’s prerogative—nothing keeping him from tossing this skid row bum off his property if he so desires.  But Sam’s a decent sort, and acquiesces…and once he’s left the “barn room” Aunt Bee gives Judson a sort of “high sign” to let him know he’s still in the running.  (Either that or she’s thanking him for rocking her world the previous evening…I’m almost afraid to ask.)


It’s the next day, and Sam is conferring with a geologist named Harris, who’s played by bit actor Hal Lynch.  Lynch’s film credits include appearances in Stagecoach (the 1966 version) and Wild Rovers, and he made the rounds on TV series like Gunsmoke, The Fugitive, Star Trek (“Tomorrow is Yesterday”), The Big Valley and The F.B.I. back in the day.  His show bidness career was relatively brief; he retired in 1975 and returned to his hometown of Opp, Alabama to become a columnist and community historian for Opp’s local paper.  According to the (always reliable) IMDb, “he called 911 and then shot himself about an hour after submitting his last article” on the day of his death in 2006.  Tragic story.

HARRIS (looking at a large map): The counter on the north end would seem to indicate water…but I think we’re gonna hit sandstone at about thirty feet… (Judson, who has shambled up to where Sam and Harris are standing, suppresses a chuckle) That’s porous enough for water, but to get any kind of volume we’re gonna have to hit a bedding plain or some kind of open cavity…
JUDSON: What are ya chargin’ for all them big words, sonny?
SAM: Mr. Judson…if you don’t mind…uh…it’s up to you, Mr. Harris—you’re the expert…

The many years of sleeping with a burro seems to have taken the edge off of ol’ J.B.’s manners…he snorts and rolls his eyes.  “I ain’t much for readin’ maps…but where is that in real life?”

HARRIS: Well, it’s about…twenty feet that side of that tree…we oughta hit water about forty feet down…
JUDSON: Whaddya charge for a haul like that, Skippy?
HARRIS: It’ll run about three hundred…
JUDSON: Eh…you mind if I check it with my wand?
SAM: Yeah, fine…fine…go ahead…

Judson shambles off (that’s really the best way to describe his manner of walking, by the way—all those years with the burro have left him bowlegged) as Sam apologizes to Harris for not having done the old man in with a shovel to the cranium and buried him already.  (Hey—he’s good friends with the deputy sheriff in that burg…no one would need to know.)  As if Sam doesn’t have enough problems, pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) walks into the picture…and I’m going to give this episode the benefit of the doubt in assuming that this well-digging is a weekend project, otherwise someone is severely neglecting his government job.  I’m surprised fix-it savant Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman) didn’t come along with Howard—he must still be recuperating from that tumble he took in last week’s episode.

HOWARD: I hear you’re digging for a new well…
SAM: Oh…yeah…’fraid we have to…what can I do for you?
HOWARD: Oh, nothing…nothing…heh…just curious…you know, when something big happens in Mayberry I don’t like to miss out on it…

“Besides…I’m bored with my rock collection…and no one will ever play chess with me.”  Sam introduces Howard to Harris the Geologist, and then Howard notices Judson out wandering around with his divining wand.  “Who’s that guy… what’s he doing?” Howard asks our hero.

SAM: Oh, that’s Mr. Judson…he’s a dowser
HOWARD: Oh—you mean one of those fellows who looks for water with a stick?
SAM (laughing): Yeah…yeah…
HOWARD: Say…you play all the angles, don’tcha?
(Both of them laugh)
SAM: No…no…I’m not playing any angles…he’s a friend of Aunt Bee’s…

“And just between you, me and the lamppost…I think they did it in my spare room in the barn.”

HOWARD: Oh…real bit of Americana
SAM: Oh, yeah…
HARRIS: And they can find water…

Kind of unusual for Harris to admit this, seeing as he’s going to charge Sam $300 a pop to go looking for the wet stuff.

JUDSON: You sure that’s where you want to dig, Skippy?

“You call me ‘Skippy’ one more time, old man, and the reason why you walk that way will be because you’ve got a willow witch wedged up your ass…”

HARRIS: That’s it!
SAM: I suppose you don’t think that’s the right spot…
JUDSON: Not unless you got use for a forty-foot posthole

Every episode…one moment that makes me laugh out loud.


You’ll notice in this screen cap that they got a pump set up in record time (and there’s Jenny the Burro in the background, nibbling on Sam’s non-existent vegetation) and when Sam asks Harris how long it will be before they hit water the geologist tells him “We’ll know in a minute.”  Mike and Aunt Bee arrive on the site, with Bee carrying out cups and a pitcher of ice water.

MIKE: Hurry up, Aunt Bee—you’re missing everything!
AUNT BEE: I’m coming, I’m coming… some ice water, Sam?
SAM: Well, yeah…thanks!
JUDSON: I’d start rationin’ that stuff if I was you…

A laugh-out-loud twofer this week.

As the drill comes to the surface, Howard gushes “I just love watching this stuff.”  (I am not going to go there.)  The machinery is pulled out of the hole, and Harris tests the ends to see if there is any moisture.

SAM: Well?  Did we hit it?
HARRIS (after a pause): Sorry, Mr. Jones…she came up dry…

“Jenny here coulda picked a better spot than that,” kibitzes Judson from his spot lying on the grass.  Since it’s time for a General Foods break, maybe they’ll have killed the old fart by the time they get back.


Back from the commercial, Judson is still among the living…and he’s walking the property with his water wand extended (stop that snickering) until the stick starts to vibrate.  “Water…water…” he mumbles to himself, and the scene switches to inside the familiar living room inside the house at Jones Farm.

SAM (coming down the stairs): Oh…Aunt Bee, I’m gonna run outside first and…
MIKE (running in from the kitchen): Pa!  He did it!  He did it!
SAM: What?  Who did what?
MIKE: Mr. Judson found water!
AUNT BEE: Oh!  Really???
JUDSON (coming in from the kitchen): Yes, sir!  All the water you can use!  Seventy feet down, one hundred and thirty gallons a minute…
AUNT BEE: Oh!
MIKE: Wow!
AUNT BEE: Where?
JUDSON: Well…that’s where the negotiatin’ comes in…my fee’s fifty dollars…

“And another roll in the hay with your young lady here…”

SAM: Now, wait a minute…wait a minute, Mr. Judson…I didn’t ask you to do this…
JUDSON: I know it’s down there, sonny… (He starts getting breathy with excitement) Pure…sweet water…I was just out there…goin’ back and forth…followin’ my dowser pattern…usin’ all of my mental powers…every nerve in my body workin’…and then all of a sudden…I felt a tremblin’…and…down she goes…wham!

Judson describes this as if it were a religious experience…though I suspect he won’t require that roll in the hay now that he’s finished.

SAM: Look…Mr. Judson…it was awful nice of you to take the time to do this, but…I got the geologist coming back Monday…
JUDSON: Well…you think about it, sonny…I’ll be around…

“I wouldn’t make book on that…Aunt Bee, get Goober on the phone and tell him to bring over that rubber hose out by the gas pump…”

JUDSON: The way I see it…you got two choices…you drill where I tell ya…and you’ll hit water…or ya let that college boy turn your farm into a Swiss cheese!  At $300 a hole!

Judson shambles back into the kitchen, prompting Aunt Bee and Mike to start pleading Judson’s case.

AUNT BEE: Well, Sam?
SAM: Well what?

“Well” as in you ain’t got one…’cept a dry’un.

AUNT BEE: Well, he found water!
SAM: He claims he found water…
MIKE: Well, then what made the stick bend down?
SAM: I don’t know what made it bend down…
AUNT BEE: Well, something did!
SAM: Yeah, something did—maybe it works!  I don’t know!  Or…or maybe he just wants it to work so badly that he makes that stick point down without even realizing it!  Just maybe

Later that evening, Samuel Jones tosses and turns in his bed, having fitful dreams about his well situation, with voices echoing in his subconscious:

HARRIS: They can find water…
JUDSON: Swiss cheese
MIKE: What made the stick bend down?
AUNT BEE: Well, something did…

Congratulations, Sam.  Your dreams are every bit as boring as your waking state.  Oh, check out this next screen cap—Sam is doing manual labor!


Laying down the sack of feed (snicker), Sam approaches the spare room in the barn and finds Judson’s “willow witch” on a chest of drawers…


He picks up the wand, holding it for a few seconds…and then he puts it down, allowing his rational nature to take the wheel.  But then his superstitious fears hit Rational with a sap and stow it in the back seat, and he takes the divining rod with him, exiting the barn.


There is then a cut to a shot of Aunt Bee picking berries (the amount of farm content in this episode is amazing!) and when she looks up, she notices that Sam is wandering around the property with Judson’s divining rod in his hands.  He can’t see Aunt Bee since he’s stumbling around with his eyes closed…and then the tip of the stick nudges Bee in the gut.

AUNT BEE: Hello, Sam…
SAM: Oh!  (Laughing) Aunt Bee!  I’m just…I’m just having some fun here…
AUNT BEE: Well—did it wiggle?

Isn’t that a rather personal question?

SAM: Oh…oh, no…of course not…I was just kidding around…
AUNT BEE: Oh, Sam…I think you feel the same way I do about this…now there just might be something to this…
SAM (stammering): No…no…I was…I was…oh…I don’t know why I came out here for in the first place…it’s ridiculous—here I am, supposed to be a modern farmer…

“Modern” in that he uses unorthodox methods like spending time with his farm only when this sitcom dictates.

SAM: …and I’m wandering out here with a stupid stick
AUNT BEE: Well, it’s perfectly understandable and I think you should give some thought to Mr. Judson…

This Judson guy has really got a hypnotic hold on Aunt Bee.  He’s like the second coming of Charlie Manson or something.  But Sam continues to think this whole dowsing thing is idiotic, and with a scene change Harris the Geologist and his crew are continuing to (couldn’t resist the pun) soak Sam by hitting nothing but dry wells.  As Sam paces nervously back and forth, he walks over to a “way station” set up by Aunt Bee and gets himself a cup of ice water.  Howard (he took the day off) and Aunt Bee are sitting on chairs beside the table.

HOWARD: How’s it going?
SAM: Don’t know yet…
AUNT BEE: Oh…this is nerve racking…
HOWARD: Yeah… (Offering her a bag) Peanuts, Aunt Bee?

Ladies and gentlemen…a R.F.D. LOL hat trick.  (Although to be fair, that peanuts gag is really more of a Goober joke.)  The drill comes up to the surface, and after examining it Harris quietly replies: “Still dry.”  (Or as a famous Christmas claymation prospector once observed: “Nothin’!”)

The drillers are taking a third stab at finding water, but old man Judson has decided that he’s got things to do, people to see, trash to haul, corn to hoe…

AUNT BEE: Oh, Mr. Judson…are you leaving?
JUDSON: Yep… (Shouting to be heard about the noise of the machinery) Good luck to you, Mr. Jones!
SAM: Thank you…thank you…
JUDSON: I’ll be moseyin’!  (He starts to make clicking noises to his burro) Come on, Jenny…
SAM (getting to his feet): Uh, Mr. Judson…just out of curiosity…how do you feel about this place where we’re drilling?
JUDSON: You payin’ or freeloadin’?

Mighty bold talk from the guy who spent a couple of nights rent-free in Sam’s barn…along with some additional fringe benefits, if you know what I mean…and I think you do.  Sam tells him to “forget it,” and when the machinery once again reaches the surface…still no water.

JUDSON (to Harris): Well, Skippy—you blew it again!
SAM: Now, look…Mr. Judson…nobody asked…
JUDSON (interrupting Sam): Now you look, sonny…if you listen to me, I’ll tell ya where ya can find water…and ya won’t have to drill more than twenty feet down!
HARRIS: Twenty feet?  You can’t find water within twenty feet anywhere in this whole county!
JUDSON: Ya wouldn’t want to put your money where your mouth is…would you, mister?

Actor Fowley has a little trouble articulating the word “mouth”—it’s almost like he’s saying “put your money where your mouse is”…

HARRIS: Ten bucks...says you’re full of hot air!
AUNT BEE: Oh, my!
JUDSON: You’re on!
SAM: Now, wait a minute…I’ve got something to say about this…and I’m not startin’ another well on your say-so… (To Harris) Or yours either, for that matter…
JUDSON: You don’t have to, sonny…just drill straight down there…that’s where I found water!
HARRIS: Wait a minute—you said twenty feet!  We’ve already gone down fifty feet!
JUDSON: The water’s at seventy feet…and that’s no more than twenty feet of drillin’…
SAM: You mean…keep drilling here?
JUDSON: That’s what I said, Mr. Jones…here…
(Sam looks at Harris)
HARRIS (rolling his eyes): It’s up to you!
SAM (after looking again at Judson): Take ‘er down, Charlie!

You heard the pretend farmer, Charlie—take ‘er down!  Charles does indeed take her down, and it’s not long before the bit is covered with mud.

HARRIS (as the rest of them cheer): We’ve got water!
JUDSON: One hundred and thirty gallons a minute!
SAM: Whoa!
HARRIS: Well, that’s about it!
JUDSON: No, it ain’t, sonny…not quite—ten bucks, please!

Harris reaches in his pocket for his wallet, but because his right hand is covered with muck, Judson takes a sawbuck out of his billfold.

SAM: I guess I owe you fifty dollars for your services…
JUDSON: Oh, no…you don’t owe me a thing…besides, you folks have been pretty good to me…but this ten bucks from the college boy is pay enough for this, boy!  (Harris laughs and shakes his head) I think I’ll frame it—gimme a few chuckles in my old age!

Where are you going to hang it, homeless guy?  On the burro?  Having availed himself of the Jones hospitality, Judson prepares to mosey on down the road with ever faithful Jenny.  Sam thanks him again, and tells him he’ll recommend Judson’s services the next time someone in Mayberry is in need of water…but Judson is having serious thoughts about retiring from the dowsing business.


“But you were right,” Aunt Bee points out.  “I’m always right,” Judson counters.  “But look at all I had to go through to get you to listen.”  No, he’s going to make a late life career change and follow the example of his Uncle Ned:

SAM: What business was he in?
JUDSON: Rainmakin’… (Sam gives Aunt Bee a comical look) I remember he had this big cannon…and it shot bombs up in the sky…explodin’ chemicals all around up there!
AUNT BEE: Really?
JUDSON: Yeah… (Laughing) He was quite a showman, too…and he always started out with a little ritual…I remember…first he put on his raincoat…then he’d take a sponge like this…and he’d squeeze the sponge in his handand he’d shake it up in the sky…and he’d say…”Clouds…clouds…clouds come on by…sponge…sponge…draw water from the sky!”  And he’d slowly open his hand and…


In the distance, there is a peal of thunder…and the three of them see a storm cloud in the distance.  “Hey!” Judson exclaims.  “Maybe it runs in the family!  I’m gonna have to do me some research!”

Judson takes his leave, telling them to “look me up” in case of a drought.  Aunt Bee then says to Sam: “Do you think…maybe…?”  All Sam can do is shrug his shoulders and hope the coda to this thing is funnier.

Well, it’s not…except for one small detail (and it’s not the writers’ contribution, it’s just me being a smartass).  Mike rides up to the house on his bike, and explains to his father that he was playing ball…but as you can tell from this screen cap…


…he’s a bit smudged with grunge.  Sam walks over to the bushes and grabs a stick and starts pulling the leaves off, and for a brief moment I thought “Oh, man…that kid is going to get a beating!  This is the best R.F.D. episode ever!”  But no…all Sam does is fashion a divining rod of his own, allowing it to take him and Mike into the house…where it ends up vibrating in the vicinity of upstairs, as young Michael’s bath awaits.  (Please…I don’t want anyone too convulsed with laughter.)

Well, with Aunt Bee back in the picture around the Jones family homestead, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Bee-o-Meter™ is ready once again to calibrate the number of appearances Frances Bavier has made on R.F.D. before she ceremoniously departs the show (actually, if memory serves my correct it’s simply mentioned in passing, almost as if it was like “Aunt Bee died falling into the root cellar…what’s on the menu at the diner?”) in the third season.  But for now, it’s seven appearances in the second season…with a total of nineteen show-ups overall.  The person I’m most concerned about, however, is bakery goddess Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka)—who’s been MIA for two weeks now and won’t be in our next Mayberry Mondays installment, “Emmett and the Ring,” either.  (If Millie has jumped ship to another sitcom—I need to know which one immediately!)