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Archive for July 2nd, 2018

by Sam Juliano

What saved the mid-60’s two-year run of F Troop from some serious Song of the South-like stereotyping is the cartoonish way the shows’s characters were portrayed.  As a result none can ever be taken seriously and as a result the Indians -played by often uproarious Italian and Jewish comics- are extensions of Caucasian attitudes and behavior, offering up a mirror on the unrepentant land pilferers.  The foghorn-voiced Sgt. O’Rourke (Forrest Tucker), a big man with a Bud Abbot demeanor and the irrepressible Corporal Randolph Agarn, (Larry Storch) a stand-up comic whose purpose to provide the comic foil in Lou Costello fashion are the main players. The bumbling-to-a-fault Captain Parmenter (Ken Berry) was an actor with dance training was called up to trip and fall over things, but he had the heart of the blonde-haired Wrangler Jane Thrift (played by Melody Patterson who was only 16 when first cast) who was summarily smitten with her handsome officer.  While those four characters inhabited the narrative dynamic, the Hekawi Indians were featured in most episodes. Their leader, Chief Wild Eagle (Frank de Kova) had some of the series’ best lines.  One uproarious passage was one he uttered in response to a query about how the tribe was given its name:  “Many moons ago tribe move west because Pilgrims ruin neighborhood. Tribe travel west, over country and mountains and wild streams, then come big day… tribe fall over cliff, that when Hekawi get name. Medicine man say to my ancestor, “I think we lost. Where the heck are we?”   Chief Wild Eagle and the Hekawes often referred to Parmenter as the “Great White Pigeon”.  Wild Eagle also admits “Don’t let name Wild Eagle fool you.  It was changed from Yellow Chicken.”  As a sly jest predicated on the myth that Native Americans are the 13th tribe of Israel, most of the Hekawi Indians were portrayed by veteran Yiddish comedians favoring classic Yiddish shtick.

There was a running gag in the show where someone would be given directions. The directions usually included “Turn right when you see the rock shaped like a bear. Turn left when you see the bear shaped like a rock.”  Many viewers have thought that because “Old Charlie” the town drunk would usually be thrown through the saloon doors (or window), bounce off a support post, fall face forward over the hitching rail, spin around and land on his face or back in three episodes, he was actually a young stuntman in “old man” make-up. In reality, “Charlie” was ace stuntman Harvey Parry, who at that time was sixty-five-years-old and had been a stuntman for almost forty-five years.

The fort’s lookout, Trooper Vanderbilt, one whose eyesight is so impaired that he seems blind  (even with glasses (20/900 in each eye, according to Agarn) and answers questions from the lookout tower about what he sees with incongruous responses such as, “No, thank you Agarn. I just had my coffee”, also once allowed two Indians wearing feather head-dresses to enter the fort unchallenged. Asked why, he replied, “I thought they were turkeys.”  In another episode he mistakes a group of turkeys for attacking Indians.   In one episode he shoots his pistol in a crowded barracks—and manages to miss everyone. Of course the satiric humor of placing a sharp-eyed sentry for Fort Courage as a person who can barely see is sledge-hammer clear, but actor Joe Brooks gives such a bumbling, good-natured portrayal, that one is loathe not to join in on the fun. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 is winding down, with only two-and-a-half weeks remaining on the long-running project to go.  Though the early weeks of the endeavor were sparsely attended as could be easily ascertained from the dearth of comments and page views, matters have changed, with a spike in both departments, a well-deserved change of events that has brought some well-deserved attention to some splendidly written essays from our distinguished fraternity.  As announced several times, this will be the final project for 2018 year, though some have been making inquiries on potential plans for 2019.  While no commitment could possibly be made at this early date, we have long promised to run a Greatest War Films Countdown.  This tantalizing possibility will be scrutinized and in the end it all comes down to how many would want to participate.  If there is an acceptable degree of interest, I foresee a prospective launch date of April or May of next year.  So, stay tuned.  Thank you to all who have written brilliantly, with a special shout out to the remarkably prolific Adam Ferenz!

90 to 100 Degree weather has arrived and those braving the outdoors should be saluted from some who will take the air-conditioning, thank you very much.  Summer school started today and Yours Truly is again teaching a literature enrichment class for the twenty-eighth consecutive year.  The program, however, only runs until the 31st of July. (more…)

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