Category Archives: Comedy

100 years of the best in comedy. TV, movies, comedians, stand up, stage performers. We give the background and stories about your favorite comedies of all times.

The Dick Van Dyke Show – 1961 Comedy

 

The Dick Van Dyke Show is an American television sitcom that initially aired on CBS from October 3, 1961, until June 1, 1966. The show was created by Carl Reiner and starred Dick Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore. It centered on the work and home life of television comedy writer Rob Petrie (Van Dyke). The show was produced by Reiner with Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. The music for the show’s theme song was written by Earle Hagen.

Now in my humble opinion, The Dick Van Dyke Show, is the best sitcom ever. Many might disagree, but it still won 15 Emmy Awards overall. Plus in 1997, the episodes “Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth” and “It May Look Like a Walnut” were ranked at 8 and 15 respectively on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. Also in 2002, it did rank at 13 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and in 2013, it was ranked at 20 on TV Guide’s list of the 60 Best Series.

Premise – The two main settings consist of the work and home life of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), the head writer of a comedy/variety television show (the fictitious The Alan Brady Show). Many scenes deal with Rob and his co-writers, Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally Rogers (Rose Marie). Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), a balding straight man and recipient of numerous insulting one-liners from Buddy, was the show’s producer and the brother-in-law of the show’s star, Alan Brady (Carl Reiner). As Rob, Buddy, and Sally write for a comedy show, the premise provides a built-in forum for them to be making jokes constantly. Other scenes focus on the home life of Rob, his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), and son Richie (Larry Mathews), who live at 148 Bonnie Meadow Road in suburban New Rochelle, New York. Also often seen are their next-door neighbors and best friends, Jerry Helper (Jerry Paris), a dentist, and his wife Millie (Ann Morgan Guilbert).

Dick Van Dyke Show 2Little Known Facts
• Mary Tyler Moore usually wore Capri pants on the show, but the Network didn’t like it. So they required the producers to put her in a skirt or a dress for a specific number of scenes per episode. So they filmed a scene where she goes into the kitchen in Capri pants and came out shortly thereafter wearing a skirt. The Network eventually relented.
• Because of Moore, Capri pants became a huge fashion craze in the early 1960s.
• The office where Rob works is a re-creation of the writers’ bullpen from Your Show of Shows, where Carl Reiner worked as a young writer. The character, Rob Petrie, was based on Reiner and the character, Buddy Sorrell, was based on Mel Brooks. The role of Alan Brady, was based on Sid Caesar.
• Reportedly Mary Tyler Moore told the producers she was older than she really was in order to get the role of Laura. Carl Reiner later incorporated this into the show causing Rob and Laura having to get re-married because Laura had lied about her age.
• Carl Reiner would often ask cast and crew members about funny things that had happened to them, then he would write episodes about these occurrences. As a result, many episodes of the show were based on actual events.
The Dick Van Dyke Show was the last show to be shot entirely in black and white. The show was due to be shot in color after the fifth season, but never happened because of the cast and producers’ decision to end the show after five seasons.
• For the first three seasons, Alan Brady’s face was never shown but his voice was heard rarely, because Carl Reiner wanted to get a big star to play Alan. Reiner eventually decided to take on the role himself.
• Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore played a married couple so convincingly on the show that many viewers actually thought they were married in real life. They have remained close friends ever since.
• Carl Reiner was careful not to use any 1960s slang in the show. In fact, references to any time period or current events are very few and far between.
• According to Dick Van Dyke, viewers used to make bets (during the opening credits of seasons 2, 3, 4 & 5) on whether or not Rob Petrie would stumble over the Ottoman.
• Rose Marie’s husband, Bobby Guy, died during the series. This caused her to want to quit the show. Director John Rich talked her out of it and she stayed until the series’ end.
• Dick Van Dyke’s personal assistant, Frank Adamo, can be seen in numerous episodes as a waiter, delivery man, walk-on, or just a face in the crowd. He was always un-credited.
• Morey Amsterdam and Richard Deacon were actually close friends. According to Deacon, many of the best insults Buddy hurled at Mel were worked out while the two went out for a drink after work, or a screen filming time out.
• Dick Van Dyke took a big chance agreeing to do this show because in order to do it, he had to leave the Broadway hit show Bye Bye Birdie for which he won a Tony Award. If the show was not a hit, he would have been out of work.
• Johnny Carson was a runner-up for the role of Rob Petrie.
• The show’s production company was called Calvada Productions. The name came from the names of all of the key persons involved in production: Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard, Dick Van Dyke and Danny Thomas.
• Dick Van Dyke was concerned that the age difference between he and Mary Tyler Moore would not be convincing as husband and wife, but their on-screen chemistry soon dispelled that fear.
• Laura’s maiden name was changed from Meeker to Meehan following Mary Tyler Moore’s divorce from her first husband, Richard Meeker.
• As soon as Rose Marie signed her contract, she immediately suggested Morey Amsterdam for the role of Buddy Sorrell.
• During Richard Deacon’s first season as Mel Cooley, on The Dick Van Dyke Show, he was also finishing up the last season as Fred Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver.
• Morey Amsterdam wrote lyrics to Earle Hagen’s famous musical theme, but they were never used. The lyrics can be heard as a bonus on The Dick Van Dyke Show season 4 DVD’s and blue-ray discs.
• During the final season, Carl Reiner temporarily gave up his producer duties in order to appear in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.
• The running gag about Alan Brady’s toupee was based on Max Liebman, the producer of Your Show of Shows.
• The task of casting Laura proved to be the most difficult. About 60 actresses auditioned for the role before Mary Tyler Moore was chosen. She almost didn’t go to the audition, but was persuaded by her agent.
• Dick Van Dyke’s favorite episodes from the entire run of The Dick Van Dyke Show are: #5 – The Attempted Marriage, #4 – It May Look Like a Walnut, #3 – I’d Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head at All, #2 – Never Bathe on Saturday, and his top favorite, # 1 – Where Did I Come From?.

Dick Van Dyke Show Emmy awards pic 3

Little Known Facts about Charles M. Schultz and The Peanuts – 1950 Comedy

 

•There are over 65 productions on television, film, and stage.
• Schulz wasn’t a fan of the name Peanuts. Even after Peanuts became hugely successful, Schulz said he never liked the name and wanted to call the strip “Good Old Charlie Brown.”
• Schulz loosely based Snoopy on a black-and-white dog named Spike he had as a teenager.
• Woodstock was named for the 1969 landmark music festival.
• Named Charlie Brown after an instructor at the art correspondence school he attended and taught at.
• The never seen character of the “Little Red-Haired Girl” that Charlie Brown has a crush on was based on a girl Schulz knew in his youth, who turned him down when he asked her for a date.
• TV execs thought “A Charlie Brown Christmas” would flop. It later won an Emmy award and became one of the longest-running holiday specials of all time.
• Charles M. Schulz was a World War II veteran.
• 2/12/00: Died in his sleep at about 9:45 pm in Santa Rosa, CA. He was suffering from colon cancer, with which he was diagnosed in November 1999. He also had Parkinson’s disease.
• Charles M. Schultz won the Reuben Award, comic art’s highest honor, in 1955 and 1964.
• In 1978 Charles M. Schultz was named International Cartoonist of the Year.
• His comic strips featuring the character Snoopy, in his World War One Flying Ace strips, are credited with reviving interest in WWI aircraft, especially the Sopwith Camel, which Snoopy pretended to fly.
• Was a .50-caliber machine gunner in World War Two. He forgot to load the thing during the one time he actually had the opportunity to use it; fortunately the German soldier he ran into surrendered.
• 5/27/00: Nearly 100 syndicated cartoonists created special Peanuts-themed comics as a lasting memorial to him, as creator of the enduring and beloved strip.
• His studio in Santa Rosa was One Snoopy Place.
• At the peak of his popularity, “Peanuts” captured as many as 355 million readers, and he was earning from US$30 to US$40 million a year.
• Schulz liked to play hockey, which is why hockey and skating were occasionally featured in both the comic strip and the animated programs.
• Was struggling to come up with the name for a new character when he happened to see a bowl of candy, and decided on “Peppermint Patty.”
• He was promoted a couple of grades when he was in school, and this was the cause of his depression and anxiety; the older kids who were now his classmates were constantly teasing him because of his small size, which also fostered a deep competitive streak in him.
• Schulz was the grand marshal of the 1973 Rose Bowl Parade.
• When Mad Magazine parodied Schulz’s book, “Happiness is a Warm Puppy”, with their article, “Being Rich is Better than a Warm Puppy”, Schulz canceled his subscription.
• Contrary to popular belief, Schulz’s chief character, Charlie Brown, is not bald. Schulz insisted that Charlie Brown’s hair is blond, but the hair is so light that it is almost transparent.
• His favorite movie was Citizen Kane (1941). He incorporated many references to the film in his strips over the years.
• He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
• Peanuts comic strips and products gave Schulz an estimated income of $30-40 million each year, and Peanuts characters were featured on 20,000 new products every year, by 1999.
• Peanuts is considered as one of the most influential, greatest and popular comics of all time, receiving a number of awards over the years, and as a result, Snoopy became the mascot of NASA personal safety for astronauts, and along with Charlie Brown became the semi-official mascot of the Apollo 10 mission.

Snoopy Stamp

The Peanuts – 1950 Comedy

 

The Peanuts history in a nutshell:

“The Peanuts” began as a syndicated comic strip that ran daily, with a special color extended strip every Sunday. It was written and illustrated by the late, great, Charles M. Schultz. It ran from October 2, 1950 until February 13, 2000, with reruns continuing on afterwards. It is one of the most popular and influential comic strips of all time, with 17,897 strips published in all. At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages.

But to me, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The Peanuts influence is massive. It reaches into every facet of our society. To understand this completely, I think we should acknowledge that what began as a small black and white comic in a small local newspaper, blew up to be a worldwide, billion dollar franchise. The newspaper strips were just a part of that, and a small part of it at that. There have been books, television productions, feature films, plays, recordings, t-shirts, toys, peanut butter, underwear, a shaved ice machine, waffle maker, Hallmark cards, Christmas ornaments, ties, lunch boxes, skate boards, figurines, candy, coin banks, puzzles, corn on the cob holders, and on and on. In 2011, Forbes Magazine listed Peanuts as number 9 on its’ list of the 20 best-selling entertainment products in the world.

Let’s face it, it’s a brand that is recognized the world over, by many generations. And even 15 years after Schultz death, it’s as strong as ever. There’s even a new movie coming out as I write this. And I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited about taking my kids to go see it!

So I have to ask, what makes Peanuts so great! Is it the relatable loser Charlie Brown, who can’t seem to win? (Has he ever kicked the football?) Or is it his lovable dog Snoopy? Lucy? Linus? Peppermint Patty? Woodstock? Pig-pen? Franklin? Schroeder? Sally? Marcie? Did I miss anyone? I wrote that list without looking. That’s how ingrained these characters are to me. I remember their television specials and movies. I remember their bed sheets. There would be no Thanksgiving Day Parade without the Snoopy balloon. He also has his own blimp. How cool is that? How many characters can say that?
I love The Peanuts and you love The Peanuts (come on, you know you do). The world loves The Peanuts. We love the strips, the television specials, and so forth. We love all of it.  And evidently, we can’t get enough of it. Why?

Well, let’s see. It’s funny. It’s heartwarming. It’s sad at times. It’s relatable. It’s got complex characters. It’s got intriguing story lines. It has no adults. And it’s wholesome. I found countless articles on the internet about the enduring timeless messages in the Peanuts content. The proof is there. I think there is something for everyone. I believe there’s a Charlie Brown and Snoopy in all of us.

Top 10 Charles M. Schultz films according to Flickchart.com:

Charlie Brown 1Charlie Brown 2Charlie Brown 3Charlie Brown 4Charlie Brown 5Charlie Brown 6Charlie Brown 7Charlie Brown 8Charlie Brown 9Charlie Brown 10

Little Known Facts About Mary Pickford

 

• Stage producer David Belasco gave Mary her stage name in 1908. Her real name, Gladys Marie Smith, wasn`t right for an actress on his stage. “Gladys” didn`t suit the diminutive actress, “Smith” was too common, “Marie” was too foreign. “Marie” became “Mary”. “Pickford” was her mother`s maiden name. Years later, a fan who traced her family tree found that the name “Mary Pickford” occurred several times in her mother`s family going back to the 12th century.
• Pickford charmed producer David Belasco on their first meeting. When he asked, “So you want to be an actress, little girl?”, she cagily replied, “No, sir. I have been an actress. I want to be a good actress.”
• In October 1911, a court voided her contract with IMP because she was a minor when she signed it. As a result, she left IMP for the Majestic Company for $275/week.
• Became a US citizen on her marriage to Douglas Fairbanks, but later reclaimed her Canadian citizenship and died a dual US/Canadian citizen.
• First star (along with husband Douglas Fairbanks) to officially place hand and footprints in the cement at Grauman`s Chinese Theatre (April 30, 1927).
• Was named #24 on The American Film Institute 50 Greatest Screen Legends.
• The house in which she lived in Hollywood for most of her life was nicknamed “Pickfair”.
• Was Joan Crawford`s mother-in-law, while Crawford was married to Pickford`s son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
• Measurements: 33 1/4-25-36 (from her dress designer).
• She and husband Fairbanks were friends of the Edsel Fords (Henry Ford`s son). In the Edsel & Eleanor Ford home at 1100 Lake Shore Rd., Grosse Point Shores, MI there hangs in the study an autographed photo of her signed “Mary Pick-A-Ford”, c. 1932.
• She became estranged from daughter Roxanne for a time when she, at age eighteen, ran off to marry a man her parents did not approve of.
• She had intended to have all of her films destroyed after her death, fearing that no one would care about them. She was convinced not to do this.

mary-pickford-stamp

Mary Pickford – The Poor Little Rich Girl

 

The Poor Little Rich Girl is a 1917 American comedy-drama film directed by Maurice Tourneur and stars Mary Pickford, Madlaine Traverse, Charles Wellesley, Gladys Fairbanks and Frank McGlynn, Sr. It was shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey. In 1991, The Poor Little Rich Girl was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Plot – It’s about an 11-year-old girl, Gwendolyn, who is left by her rich and busy parents to the care of unsympathetic domestic workers at the family’s mansion. Her mother is only interested in her social life and her father has serious financial problems and is even contemplating suicide. When she manages to have some good time with an organ-grinder or a plumber, or have a mud-fight with street boys, she is rapidly brought back on the right track. One day she becomes sick because the maid has given her an extra dose of sleeping medicine to be able to go out. She then becomes delirious and starts seeing an imaginary world inspired by people and things around her; the Garden of Lonely Children in the Tell-Tale forest. Her condition worsens and Death tries to lure her to eternal rest. But Life also appears to her and finally wins.

The Poor Little Rich Girl

Poor Little Rich GirlDirected by Maurice Tourneur
Written by Frances Marion
Starring Mary Pickford, Madlaine Traverse, Charles Wellesley, Gladys Fairbanks.
Distributed by by Artcraft Pictures
Running Time 65 minutes
Release date March 5, 1917

Mary Pickford (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979) was a Canadian-American motion picture actress, co-founder of the film studio United Artists, one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and started the Mary Pickford Foundation, a charitable organization.

She often played the role of a poor girl who married into a wealthy family but always stayed true to her roots. This friendly, modest, honest persona compounded with her beauty made her an international favorite of women and men alike. She was known as “America’s Sweetheart” and during her time, she was recognized as the most famous woman in the world.

Pickford was awarded the second Academy Award for Best Actress for her first sound film role and also received an honorary Academy Award in 1976. In consideration of her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute ranked Pickford as 24th in its 1999 list of greatest actors of all time.

Top 10 Mary Pickford Films (As rated by IMDB)

Mary Pickford 1Mary Pickford 2Mary Pickford 3Mary Pickford 4Mary Pickford 5Mary Pickford 6Mary Pickford 7Mary Pickford 8Mary Pickford 9Mary Pickford 10

Vaudeville

 

Vaudeville is a theatrical genre of variety entertainment. It was especially popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. A typical vaudeville performance is made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Types of acts have included popular and classical musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and movies. A vaudeville performer is often referred to as a “vaudevillian”.

Lured by greater salaries and less arduous working conditions, many performers and personalities, such as Al Jolson, W. C. Fields, Mae West, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, Jimmy Durante, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Edgar Bergen, Fanny Brice, Burns and Allen, and Eddie Cantor, used the prominence gained in live variety performance to vault into the new medium of cinema. In so doing, such performers often exhausted in a few moments of screen time the novelty of an act that might have kept them on tour for several years. Other performers who entered in vaudeville’s later years, including Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello, Kate Smith, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Judy Garland, Rose Marie, Sammy Davis, Jr., Red Skelton, and The Three Stooges, used vaudeville only as a launching pad for later careers. They left live performance before achieving the national celebrity of earlier vaudeville stars, and found fame in new venues.

Vaudeville Poster

 

Little Known Facts About Charlie Chaplin

 

Here are some fun and lessor known facts about Charlie Chaplin:

 

• Charlie Chaplin was the first actor who graced the cover of Time magazine. He appeared on the July issue of Time in 1925.
• He was 73 years old when his youngest son was born.
• He was trained in playing the cello and violin.
• Charlie Chaplin joined a “Charlie Chaplin Look-Alike Contest” and he only came in third.
• Queen Elizabeth II knighted him when he was 85 years old.
• There is an asteroid named after Charlie Chaplin – the 3626 Chaplin. It sits in the asteroid belt found in between Venus and Mars.
• Charlie Chaplin stood 5 feet 5 inches tall.
• Charlie Chaplin had blue eyes. Most people guessed he had brown eyes since they only see him in black and white films.
• He was ordered to pay child support for a child that was not his own. In the 1940s, Charlie had a brief relationship with actress Joan Barry. Several months after their breakup, she claimed that Chaplin was the father of the child to which she had just given birth. When blood tests proved that Chaplin was not the father of the child, Barry’s attorney moved to have the tests ruled inadmissible as evidence. Because there was little historical precedent to admit the test results into the trial, the judge did not allow them to be used as evidence of Chaplin’s non-paternity. After a mistrial and a retrial, Chaplin was ordered to pay Barry $75 per week for child support, a respectable amount in those days.
• Three months after Chaplin died on Christmas 1977, his body was stolen in an effort to extort money from his family. Chaplin’s body was recovered 11 weeks later after the grave-robbers were captured. He is now buried under 6 feet of concrete to prevent further theft attempts.
• His daughter portrayed his mother in the movie Chaplin. The accomplished actress, Geraldine Chaplin, is Charlie’s daughter with his last wife Oona. In the 1992 Hollywood movie adaptation of Charlie Chaplin’s life, Chaplin, she portrayed Hannah Chaplin, Charlie’s mother.

chaplin Stamp 2

Charlie Chaplin in The Tramp

 

It should be no surprise to anyone that I open this blog with the Master himself, Charlie Chaplin. He gets my first vote for his film,” The Tramp”. It is actually Chaplin’s sixth film with Essanay Studios. The Tramp marked the beginning of The Tramp character most known today, even though Chaplin played the character in earlier films. This film marked the first departure from his more slapstick character in the earlier films, with a sad ending and showing he cared for others, rather than just himself.

Plot – The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets his dream girl (Edna Purviance) and takes a job on her Father’s (Ernest Van Pelt) farm. The Tramp helps around the farm, including getting rid of criminals. Everything is perfect, until the Tramp meets his dream girls’ boyfriend. He doesn’t want to get in the way of her happiness, so the film ends with the Tramp heading on back down the road.

The Tramp PosterDirected, Written, and Starring Charlie Chaplin
Produced by Jess Robbins
Also Starring Edna Purviance and Ernest Van Pelt
Cinematography by Harry Ensign
Edited by Charlie Chaplin
Distributed by Essanay Studios
Release Dates April 11, 1915
Run Time 32 minutes

Goof – Near the end of the movie, the “Tramp” writes a note and there are two separate shots of it edited in. Both notes are in completely different handwriting and the word “good bye” is spelled differently. But Charlie couldn’t blame the editor because… Yep, you guessed it! It was himself.

Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor and film-maker who rose to fame in the silent film era. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona “the Tramp” and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry.

Chaplin’s childhood in London was defined by poverty and hardship. His Father was mostly absent and his Mother was committed to a mental institution, so Charlie began working at a very young age. He always preferred performing to the workhouses, so he toured music halls and later worked as a stage actor and comedian. At 19 he travelled to America and began working for the Fred Karno Company, appearing in the popular Keystone comedies. He soon developed the Tramp persona and formed a large fan base. Chaplin directed his own films from an early stage, and continued to hone his craft as he moved to the Essanay, Mutual, and First National corporations. By 1918, he was one of the best known figures in the world.

In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the distribution company United Artists, which gave him complete control over his films. This is where he wrote, directed, and produced many films that rank on various industry lists of the greatest films of all time.

Chaplin’s later years are marked with controversy as he found his popularity decline. He was accused of having communist sympathies and was criticized for having marriages to much younger women. There was even a scandal involving a paternity suit. Eventually, an FBI investigation was opened, and Chaplin was forced to leave the United States and settle in Switzerland.

In 1972, as part of a renewed appreciation for his work, Chaplin received an Honorary Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century”. Today, he continues to be held in high regard and is often celebrated as one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood.

Just as a side note, I think that Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in the film “Chaplin” was brilliant. It’s a travesty that he didn’t win an Academy Award for it, but you’ll have to wait to read all about it in my next series, “100 Years of the Best Oscar Snubs”.

Top 10 Charlie Chaplin Films (As rated by IMDB)

Charlie Chaplin's Top 10 Films as rated by IMDB
Charlie Chaplin’s Top 10 Films (As Rated by IMDB)

Covert Operations Mission Objective: Infiltrate Bad Guy’s Hideout

 

When sneaking past security to infiltrate a bad guy’s fortified compound, my mode of covert subterfuge would have to be the often underused yet effective…walk through the front door disguised as the telephone repairman ruse. Bruce lee in Fist of Fury

It consists of the following:

  • Thick black-rimmed glasses
  • Goofy smile
  • An air of indifference to whatever evil plot is seen or overheard while in the presence of said bad guys, while pretending to fix a fully functional telephone receiver
  • Helpful prop would be a tool belt while holding at the bear minimum, a few handy telephones, in best case scenarios, a nifty screwdriver
  • No telephone ID’s needed, as the best infiltrators can just talk their way through security

A good example would be Bruce Lee in The Chinese Connection (Fist of Fury) 1972.  You can see the scenes in this clip, starting at 2:09.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFghe514COY

Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China

An effective use of the disguise can also be seen by Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China, 1986, twice when he infiltrates the brothel and later with telephone in hand at the lair of the bad guy, Lo Pan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBJSfGM5dGY

John Wayne and Trouble Along The Way

 

I have a soft spot for John Wayne because I was named after a John Wayne movie (Donovan’s Reef) and he really reminds me of my grandfather that I am also named after (my middle name is his, Arch). It’s interesting to add that my other grandfather, Earnest, reminded me of Henry Fonda, because of his resemblance to his character in the movie, Mr. Roberts. Anyway, that’s for another post.Sherry Jackson John Wayne

I especially liked it when John Wayne did his non-war movies, and comedies on top of that.  An especially under-rated gem is the movie, “Trouble Along The Way” (1953) with Sherry Jackson, Charles Coburn and Donna Reed.  He plays a University football Coach that tries to retain custody of his daughter after his divorce. It doesn’t sound like a comedy, but it has some very witty lines at times.

Donna Reed is very good in it too, five years before she takes on her own show in the Donna Reed Show, which, my brother and I would watch in reruns after school when we were in high school.  We were very fond of them and we also liked her a lot in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.Charles Coburn John Wayne

As an added benefit, there is a great supporting role for the character actor Charles Coburn, which I really enjoyed in the movies, “The Lady Eve”, “The More the Merrier” and “Heaven Can Wait”. He was a favorite of my mothers, as well.

If you get a chance to see this little gem on Turner Classic Movies, do so, it’s very engaging and the plot keeps you interested.  It also doesn’t tie things up in nice little bow in the end and keeps things a little open ended, which I can appreciate by not making things so perfect.  My favorite scenes are the courtroom scenes and I laughed out loud today when Donna Reed was asked on the stand if she was in love with John Wayne and he shouts out, “Remind her that she is under oath!”.

Donna Reed John Wayne Sherry Jackson
TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY, from left: John Wayne, Donna Reed, Sherry Jackson, 1953

Under context, I understand that the film was made around the time of John Wayne’s second divorce with wife Chata, and the plot follows along with her real-life accusations that he was violent with her.  Just as in the movie, the ex-wife turns out to be throwing accusations just to hurt him and they turn out to be untrue.  Watching the film, I wonder if any of this was just a coincidence or if the studio decided to protect it’s star and create a vehicle to prop up his image as an honest, strong and upright coach and father.  Regardless, the film as seen today is delightful and full of great moments.  Well worth the time spent watching it for the whole family.

Chuck Connors John Wayne Sherry Jackson
TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY, second, third and fourth from left: Sherry Jackson, John Wayne, Chuck Connors, 1953

Sherry Jackson, the little girl in this film, turned into a fine actress and was later seen in “Star Trek”, “Twilight Zone”, “Make Room For Daddy”, “Rockford Files”, “Perry Mason” as well as a slew of others.  She was even recently at our very own Phoenix Comicon signing autographs!  She has a fantastic website at:  www.sherryjackson.net

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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