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David W.

O what a tangled web we weave / when we think our parents were naive...

denisdekat

Try thinking about pepe le peu sometime...

That guy is a sexual harraser and kids like me grew up laughing at it. Do you recall his famous quote? "Everybody needs a hobby, mine is love" I think it was...

Kevin Wolf

If it weren't for the dialog at the end of the episode, I might think this was merely an awkward evocation of then-emergent "Swinging London" as seen from across the pond and embodied in the character of a cad. (Remember the episode with Chad & Jeremy? Was this Brit thing personal for somebody on the D-V-D Show writing staff?)

But that dialog clinches it. You're not wrong, Lance.

burritoboy

The times were quite a bit more sophisticated than we are now. Remember that your viewing of TV Land and re-runs is a very skewed picture of television back then. A lot of prime-time TV was occupied by the anthology programs, some of which were magnitudes better than almost anything we have now.

Shows like Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, Playhouse 90, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Fireside Theatre, General Electric Theatre and so on are only the best known of these programs.
Folks like Paddy Chayefsky, Arthur Penn, Rod Steiger, Peter Falk, Rod Serling, John Cassavetes, Sidney Lumet, Jessica Tandy and many others came out of (or worked in) the anthology programs. Ken Loach and Dennis Potter came out of similiar shows on the BBC.

Exiled in NJ

Culture, if I may call it that, is sort of like the tide. It comes in, it goes out. I watch little old TV, but at some point the twin beds of the forties were replaced by the queen and king-sized ones, but twins were a reaction to something before. If I recall, Nick and Nora slept in a full-size bed.

I saw the last half of 'Dangerous Female,' the pre-code Maltese Falcon on TCM. Ricardo Cortez plays Spade as a womanizer; there is no beating around the bush about his relationship with Ivy Archer, and he makes Wonderley/O'Shaugnessy strip when Gutman suspects her of palming the thousand.

Pre-code or post Sixties doesn't mean the films were better, just more racy tracy. The Mannerist remake of Postman Rings Twice, with its raunchy sex, can't hold a candle to Lana Turner stepping in the doorway in her white outfit.

davidS

I'm sorry, but I don't get the point. Could someone explain this to me?

Cryptic Ned

I also do not understand what the sophisticated subtext was supposed to be. Is Racy Tracy Rattigan a mass murderer? Homosexual? Schizophrenic?

blue girl

Lance, there were probably lots of writers who wanted to tackle this issue in 1963. I got to thinking about why they portrayed him as being a womanizer. If you were sitting down brainstorming with other writers and wanted to do it in a way that wouldn't be *completely* obvious (to a lot of viewers and some TV execs -- so you could get it on the air) -- I can see why they chose this route.

But, on the other hand, it's really dishonest, isn't it? They portrayed him as a jerk -- where *they're not really jerks*, right?

You feel compassion toward him because of the compassion the others showed him. I didn't see this episode, but it would've been nice to have felt compassion maybe from something he himself did -- was there anything?

Do you think the point was for *certain viewers* who got it -- to realize that there are people who would understand and accept them -- to give them the message that they don't have to put on an act all the time?

blue girl

davisS & Cryptic Ned: I totally feel your pain. This was like a word problem I've been trying to figure out all day! And then a lightbulb went off a little while ago.

(Damn you Mannion! -- say it like Jon Stewart!)

I don't even know if I'm right -- but if I am -- I also wanted to write: it was good casting for the part of Ratigan!

davidS

Will somebody please at least give me a hint?

davidS

Am I getting warmer?
Possibility A: He's gay and puts on a big show of being a womanizer. The writers worked in a subtle reference to Terence Rattigan and the gays disguised as straights in he put into his plays.
Arguments against: Why would he enjoy humiliating women and being humiliated by men? That's not gay, that's pathological. Being beaten up by jealous husbands cannot be good for anyone's career.
Possibility B: He's impotent.
Arguments against: Doesn't seem like something a sitcom would tackle in 1963. Besides, wouldn't someone like that put on a big show being hypermasculine, Hemingwayesque?
Possibility C: He's so boorish and socially inept, he doesn't realize anything is wrong.
Arguments against: Since when has being boorish and socially inept kept a movie star from being successful with women? I mean, Mickey Rooney was married seven times.
Possibility D: He's an advance party from the Planet Twilo.

The Viscount

I rememember when I was about 23, I was at a party at my friend's house. It was his parents' party really. Mostly 40 and 50 somethings. Some of them had a few too many. I remember this one guy came up to us and he said something like, "You kids don't know anything. You think everything is different now, don't you? Sex. Drugs. Let me tell you something. I knew guys that smoked 'reefers.'" We loved that! We called it 'reefer' in the singular. It sounded so funny to us. This drunken older geezer (probably about the age I am NOW!!!) saying "reefers" really cracked us UP! We said it a lot in the next couple of weeks. "We had sex with our girlfriends," he continued. "You think we never had sex before we got married? We just didn't TALK ABOUT IT!"

I'd seen that episode as a kid, and again as an adult. They dealt with all sorts of issues on television in a similar fashion. Some people "got it;" others didn't. The ones who didn't "get it" still got something from it. I'm not sure that I'm prepared to call "The Dick Van Dyke Show" good art, but it was definitely good television.

I often think about "Huckleberry Finn." I read it at 12 or 13 and then again at about 30. I thought it was great both times I read it, but it was something different at 30. At 13 it was a cool story about a smart kid that ran away and had some adventures. At 30? Wow. Slavery, alcholism, hatred. Religion. It was all in there. The fact that I didn't see it at 13 didn't matter. It was good on the level that I could appreciate at that age.

Now what do we have, "Reality TV?" What a deal for the producers, huh? "Writers? ACTORS? Who needs 'em!" Me, I wouldn't walk across the street to watch any of those stupid shows. As an English buddy of mine once said over a pint in a small pub in London: "Why would I want to watch a bunch of bloody tossers sitting around talking about nothing?"

Man I miss those those days of "Dick Van Dyke," when writers had to WORK to get a point across.

pasquinn

Ahhh, lest ye forget....

If the hidden subtext is that Racy Tracy is a deeply closeted gay man, might I point out the episode wherein Rob is cajoled by Allen Brady to punch up a script for a play Allen is in. The play was written by (if I remember the name correctly) Harper Worthington Yates, who is apparently a conflation of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote.

Harper discovers Rob in Allen's dressing room, and Allen passes off Rob as his tailor, Vito, not wishing to insult Harper. Somehow Rob disparages the choices of the costume designer for the play, a person by the name of Buck Brown. Buck later enters the scene, sniping at Rob and his supposed "tailor" credentials, and then, calming himself, says, "Sorry I flared."

The upshot here: later, when Rob is recounting the situation to Laura, he says that in addition to all the other indignities he has suffered in this situation, he was also called a "lousy tailor."
"Who called you a lousy tailor?" Laura asks.
"Buck Brown," says Rob.
Laura asks, "The cowboy star?"
And Rob says, "Hardly," in an unmistakable, but not unkind, tone of voice.

The Dick Van Dyke show was ahead of its time. (sorry about the length of this post)

sfmike

If I'm reading Lance correctly, Racy Tracy was a closeted gay dude who liked to be beaten up by other men. The 1950s and early 1960s were much more sophisticated than is generally acknowledged. The stupidity of the era was essentially created by later glosses on the period like "Grease" or the hideous "Happy Days."

The Viscount

>hideous "Happy Days."<

Apt.

burritoboy

SFMike,

I would argue that, in terms of popular entertainment, the 1950s were much more sophisticated and far less conservative than we are NOW. Just look at, for example, war movies. Samuel Fuller started production of The Steel Helmet (a movie very critical of the Korean War) within a few months of the beginning of that war. It's been more than two years since the beginning of Gulf War II, and there's been not a single mainstream movie produced about it. (Jarhead is about Gulf War I). Indeed, there have only been a handful of movies about Gulf War I, which ended 14 years ago. Compare that with the searing set of movies about Korea (The Steel Helmet, Fixed Bayonets, Men in War, The Hunters, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, I Want You, Retreat Hell!, The Rack and Time Limit).

When the 1950s brought about the (continued) rise of the large corporation, we got such thoughtful movies as Patterns of Power, Executive Suite, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and multiple others. In the recent past, we've got.......not very much (In Good Company and The Office are the only interesting ones).

KathyF

Wait...you have time to watch TV AND blog?

And isn't DVD the show where they slept in separate beds?

Mychelline

Based on your description of the episode (which I've never seen), I thought Racy Tracy was a sociopath. Or maybe a serial rapist-in-training who was also a masochist.

I'm not sure I understand the reasoning behind crediting sophistication for the premise that Ratigan is actually a closeted gay man, who acts like a sociopath. That seems dreadfully unfair to gay people.

The Viscount LaCarte

>I'm not sure I understand the reasoning behind crediting sophistication for the premise that Ratigan is actually a closeted gay man, who acts like a sociopath. That seems dreadfully unfair to gay people. <

It wasn't like that really. You'd have to have seen the show. Comedy can use exaggeration to make the point.

Gays went to great lengths to hide their predicament, and I guess that many still do. From the character's point of view, who is going to suspect a guy who is flirting with every woman available? His performance was over-the-top to make it funny.

Greg

You might find this interesting...

That episode was one of 2 DVD shows written by Ronald Alexander. Among his writing credits elsewhere is the play "Time Out For Ginger" (wink, wink), adapted as the movie "Billy" starring Patty Duke who "plays a tomboyish high schooler who excels in athletics but who continues to strike out socially". Jim Backus and Jane Greer play her parents "who wonder how long it's going to be before their daughter stops trying to be their son". Backus is especially concerned because he's running for office on a platform of "male supremacy". "From time to time, Duke expresses her frustration in song: her big number finds her holding her gym shoes in one hand, a bottle of perfume in the other".

Amazing stuff, those internets! (Synopsis and quotes from VH1 Movies in case the link doesn't work.)
Link:
http://www.vh1.com/movies/movie/3333/plot.jhtml

abyssgazer

DVD was quite ahead of its time. I recall at least two epidsodes that dealt with race. In one, race was simply a punchline. No, Ritchie wasn't switched at birth with another infant--obvious after Rob and Jerry tracked down the other family, who turned out to be black. This realization was treated in a very good-natured way.

But the other ep, had Laura and Rob attending some African-American gala and having to wear long evening gloves because they had been helping Ritchie make a costume and had accidently dyed their hands black. It was really quite brilliant. They were concerned about showing up with black hands, but then realized they couldn't insult their hosts by shaking hands wearing gloves.

I mean--1963, people!

Overall, the show was just great--one of the best sitcoms.

Paul the Spud

This is very interesting, and I think where Ratigan can be "read" in many ways (I think the "surface" explanation may be that the other writers feel sorry for him because he's such a pathetic human being... he can't "really" be with a woman [i.e., marriage] because he's obviously afraid of commitment, and he's such a pathetic loser that the only way he can interact with people is to enrage them... therefore, what else does he have?), I think the "closeted homosexual" is probably pretty apt. I'd have to see the episode to be sure, as I'm sure the performances will point towards what they were "really" getting at, but I don't think the closeted gay man is too far off the mark.

Many times, the self-loathing gay man is shown as someone who "enjoys" getting beat up. By enjoys, I mean he's constantly intentionally provoking a beating. The explanation usually follows that:

1. Being gay is not accepted, therefore the gay man cannot express his true feelings.

2. More than likely, the object of his affection will *never* have sex with him, let alone love him.

3. The gay man is self-loathing, and therefore craves abuse (in the form of beatings, usually)

4. The only way he can get a man to touch him is with fists.

This is how the self-loathing homosexual is usually potrayed (see "Last Exit to Brooklyn" for more examples), and I think the potrayal works very well here. I only wish I had TV land so I could watch it and get a better idea!

Domoni

Ah, Greg, you're reading my mind! Always go back to the source I say. I don't have the script Alexander co-wrote with Carl Reiner, but Alexander also wrote another episode and three plays that I believe figure in Lance's theory. Which I'm going to disagree with -- a first for me. I think Lance is filtering 1963 through his 2005 bckground.

And none are Time Out for Ginger. It was more than 10 years old by the time of the DVD episode.

First up is Time Out's sequel "Time for Ginger." It seems Ginger is now married and one sub-plot is her son, Tinker, "is giving evidence of being attracted to his own sex, despite his cozy relationship with Billie, the stunning girl next door."

But wait, that's a red herring...

Here's the play, Alaxander's "Grand Prize."

"a private secretary, Lu Cotton, employed by and constantly trying to discourage the amorous advances of her attractive, charming millionaire boss, Mr. Robert Meredith. Lu's life becomes humorously complicated when Mr. Meredith forces her to appear on a TV show, and she wins the grand prize: the right to be her boss' boss for 24 hours. Meredith arrives at her one room walk-up apartment and suggests that he start working for her as soon as possible. Outraged by this invasion of her privacy, yet attracted to him, she turns the tables and forces her boss to become her domestic. She makes him rinse her laundry, wash her dishes, and shouts orders at him as though she were a five-star general. Meredith vows vengeance and the basic poor girl, rich man conflict is established..."

Ah, an amorous man who is really a masochist. I didn't see "Dick Dawson" as gay as much as a jerk, or in sixties parlance "a rat." Go back and look how the members of The Rat Pack treated women. You'll see films full of women "falling" for such cads. Getting slapped on the butt and told to leave the men alone. Men who play power games by flirting with the women of other men. It was seen as the ultimate Alpha Male activity...take a man's woman and make him accept it.

I see Rattigan as thinking Rob was weak because he didn't take a punch his guest. After all, the Puerto Rican ambassador threw Rattigan out of the country. Rattigan got his jollies out of using his position as a "star" to exhibit boorish behavior. Wasn't Peter Seller's hitting his stride as a boor about the same time?

Rattigan twists the knife when he "apologizes" and Rob says, "You were just putting me on? You weren't serious." And Rattigan says, "that's something you'll never really be quite sure about will you, ol' lad." Cue: the laugh track.

Rattigan tries to get everyone to have dinner with him at the end because he has established the pecking order. He's the star. Of course, our good guys don't bother and shake him off. After all, he's a rat and even though none of them want to be around him they all feel bad about lying to ditch him. He's going after Marge, the receptionist, because he has worked his way down the company ladder to her.

Rob suggests they write him the best show possible, Sally agrees, and Buddy promises to even give up his afternoon naps.

Here is where Mel's very important line is spoken: "I don't get it. After the way he behaved and you all are willing to work hard to make him look good on the show? That's when Rob replies:"Mel, what else does he got?" (He's only worthy when performing.)

Sally throws in her wisdom, "It's like my Aunt Agnes always says, "You might have the world at your feet, but that don't stop the corns from hurting." Cue: Morey quizzical face. Insert laugh.

In the coda: Rob has Tracy, Buddy, Sally, and Mel over for a wrap party. Rob makes a telling line: "With him (Tracy)it's either performing or flirting. We just have to keep him performing."

Rob ruins Tracy's joke and Tracy continues it with Sally.

That's where you might have misremembered one point Lance. Sally wasn't at the first party -- where Rob poured champagne.

For another example of an Alexander cad look to his DVD solo script (filmed a month after "Racy Tracy Rattigan.") -- "Jilting the Jilter." The bad guy is a New York second-rate comic, Freddy White, White is described by Laura as a "Rat Fink." He's another facet of the Alexander jerk. He plays all lovey-dovy to Sally, but he just wants hr to write him a new act.

Now that third Alexander play I promised: "Nobody Loves an Albatross"

"As Walter Kerr of the New York Herald-Tribune describes the play and its central character: "He's a producer and writer of television serials, except that he doesn't really write any serials, they're written by frostbitten spastics he keeps in closets, and he really doesn't produce anything either, he just keeps dancing around his living room pretending to be as many other people as possible. Sometimes he is Toulouse Lautrec, popping stubby-kneed from his hiding-place behind the black leather furniture, sometimes he is Michelangelo, bestowing a kiss upon himself in the mirror, sometimes he is Father Christmas, sometimes he is Jack the Ripper, and always he is Ananias, the man who cannot tell a lie. 'This is my art form!' He coos in loving self-congratulation as he opens his arms to embrace the ersatz universe he has spun out of whole cloth, a universe in which busy people come and go to listen to his quick and glossy fabrications before interrupting him to articulate theirs."

He premiered that play just nine months after working with Carl Reiner.

Domoni

Oops, I blew it...Lance didn't have Sally at the informal brainstorming session. I misremembered your seque from office to session. Mea cupla.

Domoni

Waait a minute? Is your feed different entry written at a different time from your html entry?

Domoni

Today's lesson: Use preview kids.

Lance, do you write your XML feeds in a different area from your entries or should they match?

There. That made sense. Obliquely.

Honour Amongst Steves

I think *television programming* was more sophisticated, beyond a doubt.

Remember I, SPY, from a few years later? One episode, which took place in Morocco, had them there to check out an imam recently released from prison (there were worries about him being a focal point for Muslim unrest -- how prescient!).

Bill Cosby's character Scott finds in the imam's house a copy of OEDIPUS IN COLONUS (which he's reading in a Greek edition, and of course Scott can read Greek as well -- I was a preteen then and thought the world of Scott's knowledge of languages). This little discovery gives Scott an insight into what the imam is actually up to (which turns out not to be the obvious thing).

For what was basically an action show, I thought this was a pretty sophisticated point on which to turn a plot.

D

I think most of what was said here is ridiculous. There was nothing in the episode to indicate anything about Rattigan being gay. Gay men don't womanize. The fact that he was flirting with Laura like that right in front of Rob proved what he said later...that it was simply a performance. Quite an unwise thing to do, but still, a performance. (And what a hilarious performance...Richard Dawson was excellent in the role!) Personally, I loved this episode!

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