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Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Frank Soyke, Mar 7, 2011.
Stick around. We aren't close to being done with the music yet.
I've read it a few times. What in particular did you want comment on?
One of our very favorite episodes! We watch it at least once a month.
You know, Stu did do quite a stage dive in this episode. He risked his professional career and his personal life. One hopes that afterwards the Feds prevailed upon the state to expunge the DUI from his record (and pay to repair his T-Bird, and get him his apartment at the Sunset De Ville back).
You know, this brings something up. We just watched the sequel, "Upbeat," and if I recall correctly, the characters all just call him "Van," as if that were his first name. I'll have to see whether he is called that in "Downbeat."
I hate to be pedantic, but it is a one-piece. That first image of her reclining on the chaise with her hat down is—well, I seldom use this word, but to me that image is iconic. I've never seen Dorothy Provine more lovely than in this episode.
EZ says in his autobiography that this bit of business was taken from Montgomery Pittman's own life.
He was acting as caretaker for Steve Cochran's ranch, and Cochran soon found that Pittman would immediately consume every drop of alcohol on the premises. So, he built a liquor cabinet much like the one seen in "Downbeat," with steel-barred, locked doors.
In response, Pittman did almost exactly what Stu did. The only difference was that Pittman tipped the bottle right into his mouth!
Saving The Strip: Seventh Season, 1964–65
Part 6: The Music, Continued
When Orr took over the production of the seventh season, he inherited the problem of having to bring the music back to the show’s environment in a compelling way, on very short notice.
The simple solution, of course, was simply to keep using Dino’s as before, but Orr didn’t really want to do that, because it would conflict with his goal of updating the depiction of the Strip.
Sadly, by that time, Dino’s was no longer a hip place. Dean Martin and all the celebrities were long gone, and Martin had already waged an unsuccessful legal battle to have his name and likeness removed from the sign. He had also sued his former partners for fraud, likewise unsuccessfully.
To make matters worse, on September 1, 1963, the restaurant’s image was tarnished when its waiters staged a walkout in the middle of a Saturday night dinner rush, an event that received heavy news coverage in the city.
Dino’s Lodge was in reality now just another overpriced Strip eatery, featuring a never-ending procession of obscure girl singers. It was still fairly popular, but this was mostly due to its frequent depiction on the show, which gave the place a nationwide cachet that was now entirely unjustified. Orr was thus eager to stop giving the place what amounted at this point to free advertising.
But he really couldn’t afford to, at least not right away. The music had to come from somewhere, and it was too late to come to a new agreement with another suitable place nearby and build new sets before shooting started for the season.
Thus, at the beginning of the season Dino’s is used as it was in the first five seasons, its recent history blithely ignored, with Frankie Ortega still in residence. The hard-bop themes and cues, having already been produced, are used, but the rest of Webb’s plan for the music is abandoned.
Instead, Orr returns to his old strategy of featuring, from time to time, acts from the studio record label’s roster, which recently had been significantly augmented by the purchase of Reprise Records.
Once he has the season successfully underway, Orr returns to the problem of replacing Dino’s. One day, he drives along the Strip in search of inspiration, and as he passes Dino’s, he looks on the other side of the street and sees Chez Paulette.
Chez Paulette! Of course! That could be at least a partial solution to the problem. And they already had the set! He drives back to the studio and orders the set to be pulled out of storage and re-assembled on the soundstage. Coming to a new agreement with Max Lewin was a simple, inexpensive matter.
Orr resolves to use Chez Paulette as Kookie and JR’s default hangout, and to transition the rest of the gang gradually from Dino’s to various generic, unnamed locations along the Strip, of which only the interior is shown. These will be the locations for the guest musical acts thenceforth.
In other musical matters, we again see Jeff play his guitar and sing from time to time, and Stu has taken to playing the piano (as we saw him do, briefly, in S4E12 “Reserved for Mr. Bailey”). We mostly see these musical interludes in the Pittmanesque episodes (about which more later), and Stu seldom performs for an audience.
We do see Stu play a little four-hand piano with Frankie Ortega in the wee small hours during a celebration at Dino’s upon the successful completion of a case in an early-season episode, but generally Stu only plays when he is alone and pondering a difficult case (and they can contrive to get him near an unoccupied piano). It seems to help him think.
Mostly he plays small snippets of familiar Classical and Romantic pieces, but from time to time he does play an entire brief piece, such as a Chopin waltz or Brahms intermezzo, and occasionally he does little improvisations of his own.
Next: seventh season developments.
Ohhhh, I like where this is heading!
I'm happy to hear that! I was afraid you wouldn't like what I reported about Dino's.
Like I said--worry not about my peccadilloes--just keep up the imaginative narrative. Combining actual historical sidelines with your fictional account is fascinating!
Sunday Night at the Trocadero (1937)
I saw this little gem on TCM a while ago and I didn't know where else to put it. Since it focused on the Trocadero, which was just down the Street from our 77 SS setting, I thought this thread might be the best place in which to showcase.
The Trocadero night club was the place to be seen in the 30's-40's, with reporters--cameras in hand--snapping pics of stars and starlets for the various fan magazines. Sort of the birth of the paparazzi. For those of us in the dusty Midwest, the joint just screamed sophistication and glamour.
This film short--an MGM production--was a blatant effort to promote some of their stars as well as feature dancers, musicians and singers. The very thin veneer of the script--and I repeat thin--was to have Reginald Denny hopping from table to table taking pictures of various stars at their four-tops opening surprise gifts. The likes of Chester Morris, Dick Foran, Frank Morgan, Sally Blane, Groucho Marx and Robert Benchley were just a few on hand. One hilariously unintended scene showed Glenda Farrell opening her present and pulling out a miniature rolling pin--which unfortunately looked convincingly like a marital aid.
Pop right in for a good time; An interior fit for a Des Moines Holiday Inn; Smoking allowed
Interspaced in all this nonsense was a slight back story of a waiter doing impressions of stars in order to get a movie contract. Not once did I recognize any voice he attempted. The club itself, while I'm sure was the height of fashion back in 1937, looked like a cheap tiki bar now. Walls that appeared to be covered in aluminum foil and a dance floor festooned with metallic palm trees felt like something from a high school prom. Showgirls dressed in outfits that most assuredly escaped notice of the Hays Code danced on the bar top while tuxedo-wearing gents smoked cigars and watched from their red vinyl bar seats with chrome legs. Singing acts waited for their cue in a dressing room the size of a 727 lavatory. One such act, the young Brian Sisters, were a far cry from the cute little Shirley Temple-types practically lining Hollywood streets at that time.
This was an odd but interesting little short that I understand was included on the DVD version of the Marx Bros. Night At The Opera.
By 1947, the famed Cafe Trocadero was kaput and eventually demolished--its site stood vacant until a storefront was built in 2013.
Rob, I was just curious as to what your overall impression of EZ's autobiography My Dinner of Herbs is?...a quality, detailed, honest and engaging narrative or not? Hopefully satisfying and doing justice to his interesting and likable self? I would really hope for rich detail in his recounting of his WB contract years and afterward, both in feature films (Bombers B-52, Crowded Sky, Fever in the Blood, etc.), but mostly centered on 77 Sunset Strip and The FBI. I would also hope for some detail about his combat experiences during the awful and bloody battle of the Huertgenwald in WW2... I'll probably get it anyway, but we've all had the disappointing experience of dud celebrity autobiographies...the unfortunately dull and self serving books better left unwritten in the first place...but your anecdote from EZ about Monty Pittman's personally inspired touches in his script for Downbeat in regard to his remembrance of desperate alcoholism leads me to believe that EZ's book is very much worth having...
Rob, she is very alluring in Downbeat (and Upbeat, Roaring '20s, Sugarfoot, Man From UNCLE, Good Neighbor Sam, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die etc.)...I took these screen caps from one of my DVD copies of Downbeat...
Very funny and sarcastic review as always, Russ! It's an entertaining and memorable experience to witness the immaculate Stu's determined and relentless descent onto skid row as depicted in Downbeat...I'm the guy on the left of the picture below...this slick dude Stu has invaded my turf at "Mike's International Bar", one of the finer and more discerning night clubs on LA's skid row of 1958...
And his nearly spontaneous rehabilitation by "Nurse" Dorothy Provine upon spotting her poolside at the the country club Commie's desert resort...
"Are you now, or have you ever been, a Communist?", ha, ha...Maybe J. Edgar Hoover was already a fan of Efrem, and watching this show helped EZ to secure his goldmine role on the later FBI, where he tracked Commies on a regular basis...
And rising WB star James Garner's appearance is pretty special to me...Stu greets him as "Maverick".
Having rounded up the Reds, Stu gets a warm welcome back at the office...
That last thing you said, Randall. It is an enjoyable read throughout, and authentically EZ. I can't imagine that any of us here would not love the book. My only real complaint is that it is too short.
His clear intention was to write a memoir of his life complete, with emphasis given to the less-known parts of it. While he speaks with great affection of his film and television career, he gives it less scale than the other aspects of his life.
My experience with WWII veterans, including my own father (especially him), was that they would talk about everything but their personal experience in battle. As far as I can recall, so it is with EZ. He talks at length of his recovery from his injury (which was lengthy), because it had a bearing on his future, and of the relationships he formed during his service, but not much else.
THAT'S IT! That is the exact frame I had in mind. Thank you for pulling it!
I should explain that, for many years, my only exposure to Dorothy Provine was in Take The Money And Run (one of my favorite comedies since I was a lad), That Darn Cat! and The Great Race. You all will laugh when I say that I long thought that she was brilliantly cast against type in Great Race. And in Good Neighbor Sam, I will own that I only have eyes for the luminous Romy Schneider.
That is why "Downbeat" was such a startling revelation for me when I first saw it. It is utterly believable that, of all the lovely women in Stu Bailey's life, Nora Shirley was the only one who really got under his skin. I dearly wanted to bring Nora back in the seventh season, but I just didn't have the courage to do so. I don't think Monty would have approved.
It's interesting to see Donald Wayne Beltz (Brad Weston) billed here as something close to his real name. And I'm always happy to see Johnny Grant, the unofficial Mayor of Hollywood, appear onscreen. He was a huge local presence in those days. He was a marvelously entertaining (and salty!) man in person.
My mind could be playing tricks but I recall hearing that the Hays office didn’t always pay as much attention to shorts as they did to features.
Russ, this is one of my favorite MGM shorts! I love that there are so many stars in it, from all the studios. It's rare to see such a wide array. I especially like that Connie Boswell, one of my favorite singers, is in it, and a very young Marge Champion (as Margie Bell). And as a bonus, Toby Wing, one of the loveliest women ever to appear in front of a motion picture camera.
It's such a fun film!
The Trocadero front entry steps were visible for many years in what was otherwise an empty lot. It always amazed me that such a valuable piece of property was vacant for so many decades. They may have used it for parking, but I can't remember that clearly.
Thanks as always, Randall.
I know that in the past I've used the term "sarcastic" in describing my commentaries--but now when I see the term, it kinda makes me feel like I'm being somewhat demeaning or disrespectful to the shows I actually love watching and discussing.
I'm hoping that "ironic" or "satirical" are more suitable and a little less harsh. My main goal has always been to just be entertaining and, sometimes, informative.
And, by all means, do NOT take this as umbrage to your comment. You've been much too great of a supporter for me to take it any way other than a compliment. I'm just being a little internal contemplative on how I write.
Thank you so much for your impressions of EZ's book, Rob! Very much appreciated. I will be seeking it out. So true about WW2 combat veterans in general, and both of our fathers in particular. I never once got my father to talk about his expansive keloid burn scars on his body, nor about the jagged scars that he and my uncle shared...I found out the truth by reading a history book in my high school library, which described the torpedoing of his warship that killed two thirds of the crew, and the 2 days and nights that they struggled to survive in rafts on the icy Atlantic...these guys only opened up when they were with their fellow veterans, perhaps enjoying a drink or two...in my case my father and his brothers...they forgot that a young boy was hiding under the table, not having fell asleep, and listening to them in the hope of hearing something thrilling like the things he saw on his favorite TV shows...what I overheard was something entirely different, and even as a 9 year old I suddenly understood why these painful things were best not told in casual conversation with people who simply could not have understood...
I think I could fill in at least a few blanks in Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s WW2 story...from the 9th US Infantry Division records, we know he was a 2nd Lieutenant and platoon leader,...theoretically, a platoon of requisite or reinforced strength could comprise up to about 36-40 men...but under the brutal and extended combat in the Huertgen forest on the Franco-German border, which lasted for several months in the fall of 1944, EZ probably only commanded half that number of troops...under continuous fire by the Germans, expected to maintain the attack, and likely taking casualties on a daily basis...I thought that his leg wounds, described as "shrapnel" wounds, would fit with what I have previously read about the battle...the Germans making heavy usage of anti-personnel canister artillery rounds that detonated in the forest canopy above the American positions, spreading deadly shrapnel and wood splinters everywhere...the fact that EZ was awarded the Bronze Star means that he led his men with distinction and was thus cited for his valor...
Don't change your style, Russ! And we won't change the channel, ha, ha...we understand totally what you are affectionately trying to achieve, which indeed you have accomplished! Honestly, you could be a professional comedy writer...and we get your pop culture references, as only our withered and decrepit generation can...so, please don't change a thing...and if you or Rob ever publish a book, I'm buying those books too!
Wow! Randall, your father and uncle were really in the thick of the battle, and served bravely. And you know a lot more about your father's war experience than I do.
I know that for much of his service time my father was the first officer on a supply ship, with a difficult, highly idiosyncratic captain, attached to a Seabee unit. Thus, he was just like Mister Roberts, except that he never had occasion to whine about being on the periphery of the war.
And I know that at the end of his service, for some unstated reason, he was transferred to the Army to serve the last six months in Washington, D.C.
And then, he went straight to a plum job with the SEC for a few years, after which he returned to California and the private sector. This much he told me. He spoke of his time on the supply ship with great affection, and told me many funny anecdotes about it.
But he never spoke of anything regarding actual mortal conflict. One of my older brothers pressed him hard about this one day, finally asking him if he ever saw anyone die, and my Dad went all John-Wayne-in-The-Searchers on him, saying with an crazed passion that was utterly unlike him, "Don't ever ask me that again!!"
Like you, I researched my Dad's service record, and discovered that in between the supply ship posting and the Army, there were a few years during which my Dad simply disappears from the record—although his discharge papers include that time.
This and a few other things make me suspect that, just maybe, Dad was in the OSS. And maybe that is why he was such a huge fan of 77 Sunset Strip.
Thanks for sharing your excellent, fascinating, valuable research with us! It really fills in some important blanks about EZ.
Yeah, Russ, what Randall said! Don't never change!
"Made In Paris" ( MGM 1966)
So what the heck is this commentary doing on this thread? Well, I recorded this movie because it had some common connections to 77 SS--and I wanted to see how it worked. Was it a good movie? Oh, heck no--it's one of those comedic 1960's sex farces that promises humpage on an epic scale but delivers nothing of the sort.
Ann Margret (who marries Roger Smith a year after this film's release) is a fashion buyer for a department store and sent to Paris. It's a thin excuse to put her in chiffon teddys, high heels and an array of god-awful trendy fashions from the era--as well as hang out in apartments that even King Louie would have thought as over-opulent. Oh, and she also shakes her booty in a French-style beatnik joint amongst a throng of gyrating folks in the throes of the Watusi, Jerk, Monkey, etc. One could almost superimpose her dance moves over those in Bye Bye Birdie.
Ann is being wooed by three bachelors whose lives are seemingly uncomplicated by employment and are free to spend their days chasing females (who really don't need chasing), drinking champagne and sporting $300 haircuts. Chad Everett, an occasional guest star on 77 SS (The College Caper, Rival Eye Caper, etc.) is one of the wooers, along with Louis Jordan and Richard Crenna.
Ann Margret doing the Zombie; Displaying a French kitchen chair; 3 guys who mistakenly think they're about to get lucky
Showing up in a role that lasts about as long as a gnat in winter is Jacqueline Beer, whose basic function is to be Louis Jordan's French arm candy and to display perfectly white teeth while smiling incessantly at nothing particularly amusing. Her regular appearance on 77 SS didn't seem to score her a bigger part in this opus.
I can guarantee that the closest this MGM film's production got to Paris was via rear projection screens and its own back lot. So who does Ann Margret end up with? Do you care? Does it matter? This is probably one of those career moves Ann Margret looks back on and winces. I read that Doris Day was supposed to star in this, but thought better of it. Yet I watched the whole movie and didn't particularly think I lost 2 hours out of my life. I can stare at Ann Margret as long as the next guy.
Another fun post! When I read it, I said to myself, "I bet Wifey is familiar with this film." I asked her, and she replied, "Ann-Margret, Louis Jordan, Chad Everett. . ." and then proceeded to give a brief synopsis. I think she saw pretty much every film released in the mid-Sixties, because she has an encyclopedic knowledge of them!
Checking it out on IMDb, it looks like a TV-ish sort of production (not that there's anything wrong with that), starting with Boris Sagal as director. And I see three more 77SS alumni, Marcel Hiliaire, Majel Barrett and Paul Bryar (uncredited!).
Sounds like a fun film!
Thanks, Rob! I missed the additional three 77 SS connections--good addition!
I always found it curious that Jacqueline Beer got such small parts in so few films after her exposure in such a popular series. Pillow Talk, The Prize and this movie are all examples of bit roles. Certainly not because of adverse looks. Maybe her accent? Or perhaps she just didn't want to work that much.
Russ, I think your last guess is a pretty good one. It's hard to believe that she couldn't have gotten a lot more work than she did if she'd wanted it. Or maybe it was that by that time Claudine Longet was getting all the pretty-French-girl-with-a-thick-accent roles.
Saving The Strip: Seventh Season, 1964–65
Part 7: Seventh Season Developments
Order thus having been restored, the seventh season then settles down to solving cases. The show is still following the old pattern of having two shows in production at the same time, but there are fewer solo episodes, and at least two of the three partners have significant interaction in many episodes, as in “A Nice Social Evening,” “Pasadena Caper” and “The Kookie Caper.”
Notably, we see a great deal more Stu-Jeff interaction, something both EZ and Roger Smith insisted upon when signing for another season. In his autobiography, EZ states that he and Roger Smith had a high regard for each other and had a lot of fun working together, and he expressed regret that they were usually on separate sets. In the seventh season, we see a lot more episodes like “Lovely Lady, Pity Me,” where their chemistry together is delightfully evident.
Pursuant to another of EZ’s contract conditions, we see a number of episodes written after the style of Montgomery Pittman, whom EZ considered the one man most responsible for the success of the show in its early years. Orr utilizes this opportunity to establish some of the callbacks to the glory days that Jack Warner had ordained.
We see more Roger Smith teleplays, one of which he also directs—another condition Smith insisted upon. EZ mentions in his autobiography that Smith was trying to work his way behind the camera.
We also see a good amount of Kookie-JR partnering, as Kookie brings JR along in his footsteps. Edward Byrnes is the lead in roughly a third of the episodes and is prominent in half of them. His increased presence is the result of a stipulation all three of the stars made; it is what allows EZ and Roger Smith to work together more frequently, and it allows time to be carved out for Smith to attend to his behind-the-camera efforts. This increased partnering is one of the benefits of the increased budget.
Another such benefit is the more frequent use of the actual city as a backdrop, with even some occasional location shooting in and around places such as Griffith Park and the Burbank Equestrian Center. This lends the show a heightened sense of place, and enhances the show’s authenticity.
Just as Stu’s OSS background has caused the federal law-enforcement agencies to seek his assistance with special cases, now Jeff and Kookie’s involvement with the Attorney General and the county DA Investigator’s office cause these agencies to bring the firm in when they need help.
Some of these cases fall to Kookie, especially those involving street gangs, whose activity is in the ascendancy, filling the void left by the weakening influence of organized crime in the city. It is in these episodes that we finally start to see Kookie rock his dark side.
Suzanne’s cabin fever gets the best of her, so she starts dropping into the office when she’s out doing the grocery shopping, and just naturally sits down and starts answering the phones to help Hannah out. By the middle of the season, the firm’s caseload has increased to the point where Hannah can’t be both stenographer and receptionist, so Suzanne returns as the official, if unpaid, receptionist.
While Jeff is in fact just as happy as Suzanne is with this development, he only allows it on the condition that she no longer be used as an operative. Needless to say, that condition goes by the wayside eventually.
Suzanne succeeds where all others have failed: she quickly cracks Hannah’s hard shell, and the two become close friends. As a result, Hannah unclenches a bit—and Suzanne begins to take on some of Hannah’s sauciness around the edges.
While Kookie and Hannah would certainly make a handsome pair, the issue never comes up, as it never did with him and Suzanne. Heartthrobs like Kookie seldom get steady girlfriends, although we see him dating various girls as ever.
But he and Hannah do work well together, as we see in the second half of the season, when Hannah’s intelligence, good common sense and sang-froid allow her naturally to evolve into another occasional operative. She proves a quick study.
And as regards Hannah and Stu, Stu has moved on, because with his mojo back he has a very wide field. He now treats her with chivalrous respect, just as he’s always treated Suzanne. Hannah still likes to play at giving Stu a hard time, but the truth is that as the season progresses, we begin to see her giving him the same sidelong, lingering looks that Suzanne used to give Jeff. Stay tuned.
Next: further developments.