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77 Sunset Strip / Hawaiian Eye, etc.

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Frank Soyke, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. Message #2161 of 2188 Nov 28, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
    criblecoblis

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    VIEWER’S GUIDE
    S3E22 “Once Upon A Caper
    February 10, 1961


    Rex asks Jeff, Stu and Kookie how the firm was founded, and hears three wildly-divergent versions of the same basic story.

    Directed by George Waggner · Written by Roger Smith

    Guest cast: John Hubbard, Mr. Winterbottom · Carolyn Komant, JoAnne · Brad Weston, Jack Hood · Lennie Bremen, Pete · Mike London, Limy · Joan Staley, Miss Stanley · Jack Daly, Salesman.


    CAST & CREW NOTES

    There are several familiar faces in this episode: Brad Weston (eight episodes), John Hubbard (seven), and Carolyn Komant (five). Technically, Joan Staley beats them all with ten episodes, but eight of those are in The Season That Shall Not Be Discussed. This is the only appearance in the series for Lennie Bremen and Jack Daly, and according to IMDb, this is Mike London’s only appearance anywhere.

    Speaking of Joan Staley, isn’t it hilarious that even this early in the series, and playing a different character, she gives Stu the cold shoulder?


    EPISODE NOTES

    This seems to be one episode that everybody loves. And what’s not to love? It’s a thoroughly hilarious episode from the first shot to the last—and it never leaves Los Angeles!

    It’s a thoroughgoing farce, of course. It is not true to canon—we all know that Stu started solo at that location with Suzanne before Jeff or Kookie showed up, and neither Stu nor Jeff could ever have been the pathetic goofballs that they characterize each other as being when they met.

    But that just makes it more fun, because we’re in on the joke, and Rex isn’t, although he certainly figures out by about halfway through the episode that he is being fed a trough-ful of sheep dip.

    This is one of the truly ground-breaking episodes of the series, along with “The Silent Caper” and “Reserved for Mr. Bailey.” As with those episodes, “Once Upon A Caper” goes where no series had gone before. Smith mercilessly, if good-naturedly, lampoons the series’ three main characters, sparing not his own.

    Each of the three main characters is a strong, highly competent man, and thus naturally competitive and self-confident. Smith purports to peel back the controlled, polished, chivalrous outer layers of each to reveal the swashbuckling corsair underneath.

    But there’s nothing Freudian about his psychoanalysis. It’s a farce, and it’s all in fun, so pickled in hubris that one can’t take it seriously—although to be honest, there’s probably a tiny bit of truth regarding the characters to be found there. And good comedy always has a bit of truth to it.

    Speaking of truth, there is undoubtedly a rough draft of the true origin story of the firm to be found in the three stories, once one collates them and corrects for ego. Which brings me to perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the episode: it is a skilfully-rendered homage to the Akira Kurosawa film Rashômon (1950).

    In brief summary, the film depicts four differing accounts of an incident in which a samurai is found dead, and a bandit is accused of his murder. Three accounts are given by those involved in the incident: the alleged murderer, the dead samurai (told through a medium), and the samurai’s wife. While each of these accounts contradicts the others, all three contain the same essential events, obviously cast so as to serve the self-interest of the teller.

    Then, a witness to the incident gives his account, and while it seems quite evident that his version is the closest to the truth when considered in light of the others, it is nevertheless still colored by his own self-interest.

    Smith took this tragic story and made it a farce, with all three participants casting themselves as ninjas. This was a bold, risky move, taking the series' three heroic lead characters and poking fun at them in this way. The episode was quite an ambitious undertaking for what was only his third produced teleplay, and he pulled it off with remarkable skill.


    On the surface, 77 Sunset Strip was a thoroughly traditional series in that it sought simply to entertain its audience by telling a good story; it made no particular pretense to anything more ambitious artistically than that.

    And yet, no successful series before it, and few since, took such bold risks with highly experimental episodes outside of its format. Happily for us, the risks paid off resoundingly every time.

    To me, that sounds suspiciously close to art.

    77 Sunset Strip was a product of the studio system. The show had all the vast resources of Warner Brothers to draw from: a large stable of veteran directors, writers and actors, a large number of standing interior sets, and a huge back lot full of streetscapes that could be dressed to represent pretty much anyplace in the world.

    It is true that the series had a tight budget, the result of its being funded by ABC, which was a fiscally-weak network in those days. Still, because of the studio’s considerable production capabilities and roster of talent both before and behind the camera, its producers were able to put out a first-class show, very polished for its time and still compelling today.

    Moreover, the studio provided an environment that nurtured talent and encouraged experimentation. They gave a prodigal talent like Montgomery Pittman free rein, and he in turn helped develop a number of actors into successful directors and writers.

    Without a doubt, Pittman’s most remarkable protégé was Roger Smith. According to Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Smith was eager to get behind the camera in some way, and Pittman was instrumental in getting Smith started as a writer.

    And look at the results! Smith wrote two of the three most remarkable episodes of the series, and co-wrote (with Pittman) another memorable and distinctive episode, “Mr. Bailey’s Honeymoon.”

    Still, I think Roger Smith missed a sure bet by not carrying the homage out fully. I wish he had completed the story by making it a two-part episode, in the second part of which Suzanne, who after all must have been there at the formation of the agency, tells her version of the story.

    Imagining just how her version would go is a fun diversion for me, in idle moments.



    “Once Upon A Caper” next airs on Friday, November 30 at 4 AM PST.
     
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  2. Message #2162 of 2188 Nov 28, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
    Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    Another exceptional Viewer's Guide, Rob! I'm so glad you chose "Once Upon a Caper"--one of the 3 top 77 SS episodes of the entire series. I've avoided writing a commentary about this episode simply because I don't think I could be as witty in my review as the show is all by itself. And your comparison to Akira Kurosawa's Rashoman is dead on--I had never made the connection until you mentioned it.

    I have always thought Roger Smith's writing creativity was never fully utilized, either in his own career or those who had access to him. "Once Upon a Caper" and "The Silent Caper" unfortunately among the very few testimonies of the extent his talent could have taken him.
     
  3. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Second Unit
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    I see from IMDb that aside from his writing for 77SS, he wrote an episode of Surfside 6, Mister Roberts and two films. It would be nice to see these someday.
     
  4. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    One of those movies was C.C. and Company (1970), an absolute mess of a film starring Joe Namath and Ann-Margret. I give Roger the benefit of the doubt on this one in that he was obviously over-intoxicated by Ann-Margret's perfume and was simply temporarily dumbfounded.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    Wifey coming home today from trip. Would like to make the bed and neaten up, but you can see my dilemma...

    IMG_0049 (002).
    Hopefully will find time to write up another 77 SS commentary a bit later.
     
  6. Message #2166 of 2188 Dec 5, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
    Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    Episode Commentary
    "Lady in the Sun" (S5Ep32)

    This odd episode doesn't get much play in discussions of the series. It represents, I think, the waning creativity of scripts as the season was coming to an end and the format being changed in the following last season.

    However, what was lacking in writing, it overly compensated with Yvonne Craig and Karen Sharpe parading on set in bathing suits.
    The story begins with Stu Bailey in Palm Springs checking into the Palmetto Inn--sort of a pre-Marriott Courtyard motel that I'm guessing most high rollers would have driven past without a second thought of consideration. Also arriving is a van with four youths with plans of their own--Willie (Yvonne Craig), Ron (Richard Davalos), Mel (Fred Vincent), and Ken (Gordon Wescourt). For some inexplicable reason, they enter poolside separately and then act as if casually running into old friends with one another.

    I mention poolside, for this is the majority of the setting for the story--an obvious WB set with achingly apparent fake scenery backdrops and voices attaining that odd echo of being in-studio. Ron immediately spots shapely Paula (Karen Sharpe) and sets forth with awkward wooing of the lady. Not even remotely successful with her, he picks up a convenient guitar and the rest of the friends join in instrumentally with Willie singing the old Harry Warren / Al Dubin song "You're getting to be a Habit With Me".

    [​IMG] upload_2018-12-5_12-4-3. upload_2018-12-5_12-4-53. upload_2018-12-5_12-9-2.
    Karen Sharpe, Yvonne Craig, Richard Davalos, Fred Beir

    The hotel manager likes the group and hires them to perform in the hotel's lounge. In short order, we learn Stu is on site spying on Paula at the behest of her husband Joe Carton (Fred Beir) a real estate agent whose books have been stolen by Paula. The growing relationship between Paula and Ron take up way too much space in the story. Thrown in almost as an aside is wild Hollywood producer, Tip Cabelle, unfortunately miscast with Harry Hickox and his signature lilting voice.

    Joe shows up drunk to win back his wife and books, Tip makes successful passes at Paula and Ron sulks at being jilted. Stu stands around with not much to do and Yvonne Craig thankfully spends an inordinate amount of time in her bathing suit. The ending is so predictable that I won't bother revealing it--you'll guess way before it winds up.

    This episode appears to be mostly a vehicle to parade WB's stock of contract actors for whatever reason, as Efrem Zimbalist has almost no role as his character Stu Bailey. I sort of liked it mostly because of the pool setting, which focused the story in one area and gave me a chance to check off all the obvious studio clues--lighting, sound, scenery, etc.

    NOTE: You may or may not recognize him in a small role—Bernie Kopell, later to be lionized as Dr. Adam Bricker on The Love Boat.
     
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  7. Gary16

    Gary16 Supporting Actor

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    Great review of course. I wouldn’t excuse weak scripts because of format changing next season since no one knew at the time that the format and cast were changing.
     
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  8. MartinP.

    MartinP. Second Unit

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    I got out my album CD recording I purchased last year of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"
    sung by Warner Bros. TV Stars of 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye etc. to listen to again
    this year! I believe it was this thread someone told us about it last year and I ordered it
    because of hat post! Thank you!
     
  9. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Second Unit
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    Martin, where did you find a CD of the album? I couldn't find it anywhere, LP or CD.
     
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  10. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Second Unit
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    Watching that episode, I get the idea that this was another "backdoor pilot" of some sort.
     
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  11. Bob Gu

    Bob Gu Screenwriter

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    Say Russ, are you sure that picture is Karen Sharpe? It's a tiny pic, but it looks more like Grace Lee Whitney, to me. zzzzzz.

    EZJ with a friend:
    efrem-zimbalist-jnr-dog-77-sunset-strip-1958-bpbcmn.
     
  12. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    I’m never completely sure of any labels on Google Images. I may have been blinded more by the bathing suit than the person.
     
  13. Gary16

    Gary16 Supporting Actor

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    I didn’t think it looked like Ms. Sharpe either.
    22B31A8D-F841-440A-8883-3051A4A8BFCF.
     
  14. Message #2174 of 2188 Dec 6, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
    Bob Gu

    Bob Gu Screenwriter

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    You can't trust the internet, Russ, and don't forget to wear your shades, Dad.
    dd42d650c68c5613fa4b5f8b09b44cf9.

    I get the names, Karen Sharpe and Karen Steele mixed up.

    Karen-Sharpe-full-body-10.
    Roger_Smith_Karen_Steele_77_Sunset_Strip_1959.

    These two pics were identified online as being Efrem, with Patrice Wymore and Merry Anders, but they are Joan Staley, (I think), and Joanna Barnes.
    patrice-wymore-efrem-zimbalist-jnr-77-sunset-strip-1958-bpbcp2.
    efrem-zimbalist-merry-anders-violent-road-1958-bpahrb.
     
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  15. Bert Greene

    Bert Greene Supporting Actor

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    Yeah, count me in, as someone who always mixes up Karen Steele and Karen Sharpe, no matter how many times I've consciously tried to straighten the two names and the two actresses in my mind all these years. It's another one of those Don Haggerty and Ron Hagerthy things (cited by Bob on these boards earlier). Two other names/actors I invariably get crossed up on are:

    Elliott Reid and Ross Elliott

    Edward Earle and Edward Hearn
     
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  16. Gary16

    Gary16 Supporting Actor

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    You are correct—Joan and Joanna.
     
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  17. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    Well heck, whether Grace Lee Whitney or Karen Sharpe or even Olive Oyl--any opportunity to post additional cheesecake must be obliged...

    [​IMG] upload_2018-12-8_11-17-2. [​IMG]

    You'd think I'd have better things to do...
     
  18. Bert Greene

    Bert Greene Supporting Actor

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    Two other actresses I sometimes had a history of getting a bit mixed up (although I managed to eventually resolve the situation):

    Claire Carleton and Joyce Compton

    When younger, they looked a bit alike, and played similar kinds of roles. But upon adding a few years, Claire Carleton veered more into a hard-bitten, brassy persona (more in the direction of Iris Adrian, though not 'quite' as harsh), while Joyce Compton stayed with her same rather bubbly, yet oddly soothing charm.
     
  19. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Second Unit
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    And they're both 77 Sunset Strip alumni!
     
  20. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Second Unit
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    I'm sorry to report that it seems that Me-TV is stiffing us again regarding "Bullets for Santa." The schedule is now posted through 12-25, and I don't see it.
     
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