Posts Tagged ‘Suzanne Pleshette’

My Classic Movie Pick: 1968’s Blackbeard’s Ghost

Turner Classic Movies cable channel decided that during the month of September they would show films from the “Disney Vault”, so to speak.  Not the animated films Disney is most famous for but the films the studio made with human actors and actresses, and a lot of special effects.  A couple weeks ago, I watched one that was new to me.  I decided to see it due to it’s cast: Peter Ustinov(Yes! The oscar winning british actor was in a Disney film!!), Dean Jones, Suzanne Pleshette, and Elsa Lanchester.  From 1968, in living color, Blackbeard’s Ghost  is a fun movie to view.

 

Dean Jones, as he often was cast, is the hapless hero of the film.  He plays Steve Walker, newly hired track coach for small Godolphin College, on the Carolina coast. ( Having lived in SC myself, there is a bit of historical lore that Blackbeard did hang out in  Charleston, SC but since I heard no southern accents in this film, I assumed Godolphin was in NC; the film doesn’t clearly specify the geographic location.)  The college booked Steve a room at an old inn, Blackbeard’s Inn, and the place is run by a group of little old ladies(Elsa Lanchester being the main owner) who are all descended from Blackbeard, who evidently got around-ahem,  he had a lot of wives, but wasn’t a polygamist!

When Steve arrives at the inn, there is a festival occurring, as a fundraiser for the little old ladies to be able to buy off the rest of the mortgage and get a local gambler off of their backs.  Gambler Silky Seymour(Joby Baker) wants to buy out the mortgage for the inn, take it away from the old bags(as he calls them) and turn the place into a casino.  Since the inn sits on a small island off shore, the state government can’t tax this casino.  Suzanne Pleshette(Prof. Jo Ann Baker) is at the festival running a Kissing Booth.  Steve can’t help but notice her and hands over a dollar for a kiss.  It’s s fun “meet cute” moment for the two characters.  Steve soon learns that the football coach at Godolphin, Pinetop Purvis(Michael Conrad of Hill Street Blues fame) is very interested in Jo Ann, and has a lot of distain for the track team. We soon learn that the track team members are a bunch of non-athletic bumblers, nice guys, but horrible at track.  An auction is announced, and to impress Jo Ann, Steve decides to bid on an antique bed warmer.  He is also showing local gambling kingpin Silky that he’s not afraid to financially donate to the little old ladies so they can save their inn.  Coach Purvis sees that Steve is bidding, realizes it may impress Jo Ann, so he joins in the bidding war to also impress her.  Steve wins the bed warmer, impresses Jo Ann, makes Purvis irritated, as well as Silky.  When Steve retires for the evening, he accidentally breaks off the handle on the bedwarmer and finds in it a scroll, with spells written on it.  He laughs at his find, and feeling silly, he reads a spell outloud.  With lightening flashes, thunder rumblings, and the camera panning over to a portrait of a creepy looking gal with huge eyes, Blackbeard’s ghost appears, and only Steve can see and hear him.

The Kissing Booth part 1

The Kissing Booth part 2

 

Bidding against Purvis at the auction.

Steve meets Blackbird’s Ghost for the first time.

Blackbird scolding the ex-wife who put a curse on him.

Blackbeard(Peter Ustinov, having a lot of fun) tells Steve that one of his ex-wives, who he accused of witchcraft, was being burned at the stake and she put a curse on him.  Until he conducts an act of human kindness, he will remain in “Limbo”.   I won’t delve into the plot anymore, but I will leave you with questions! Can the little old ladies save their inn from the clutches of the greedy gambler, Silky?  Can Steve turn the track team around into winners?  Can Steve win the heart of Jo Ann, and thwart Coach Purvis??  Will Blackbeard do a deed of human kindness and be able to exit Limbo?

Blackbeard suggesting how he can help Steve and the team.

Having fun with the cheerleaders!

Blackbeard meddling during the track meet.

Blackbeard trying to nab Jo Ann’s purse, but for a good reason.

Gambling kingpin Silky Seymore and his henchmen.

As I wrote earlier, Ustinov has a lot of fun playing the pirate.  He is feisty, crafty, but not outright evil, as the real Blackbeard probably was.  He and Jones have a good rapport in all of their scenes together, and with Jones’s Steve being the only one who can see the ghost, when he is yelling at Ustinov, and bystanders only see Steve yelling at the air, it makes for some funny moments of miscommunication.  Disney’s special effects team had a lot to do in this film, to show the ghost’s antics in his efforts to help Steve and the little old ladies, and the track team.  Pleshette and Jones make a cute couple, which they did in some other Disney films, and it’s great to see them together in this film too.

My only caveat is that this film is probably going to be boring to young kids, 5 and younger, and the scene where there is a volatile reaction to Steve reciting the spell may scare kids who are sensitive to such stuff on films.  For pre-teens, teens and adults, this is a fun film to view.  So get that popcorn popping, and as the weather turns colder, view this film-perhaps a good choice for Halloween weekend?  Some kind soul has put the entire film on Youtube!  Since the film was made in 1968, it possibly is still available at your local dvd renting store.  It is also available to buy or view through instant rent at Amazon.  

 

 

 

For the Dogathon: Disney’s The Ugly Dachshund

Cover of "The Ugly Dachshund"
Cover of The Ugly Dachshund

I was reading one of my favorite movie blogs, Classic Film & TV Cafe,  three weeks ago and found out it was going to be hosting a blogathon  about classic films that starred a dog or dogs.  This was to be called The Dogathon, and  it asked for volunteer bloggers to write about a dog movie.  I immediately started to wrack my brain about which film would I choose to write about?  Old Yeller and Lassie Come Home immediately came to my mind, as did Asta, the lovable pet Airdale of Nick and Nora Charles, characters of  The Thin Man movies.  No, I thought, I bet those topics have already been snapped up.  It was then that I remembered an obscure but still delightful Disney  movie that I had never seen  or heard of before until one day, 14 years ago, when I rented it from our local video store for my kids to see.  Disney’s The Ugly Dachshund was that film.  I remembered it was about not one, but two dog breeds,  that it starred Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette, and that my kids had liked it.  That clinched it for me, and I submitted my film choice, which was  accepted for the Dogathon.

This film was based on a book, The Ugly Dachshund, written in 1938 by Gladys Bronwyn Stern.  The plot is pretty straightforward.  Marc Garrison (Jones) is an artist with a lovely home and art studio.  His wife, Fran,(Pleshette) is the happy homemaker, who is a bit obsessed about her prize winning Dachshund, Danke, who is about to have her first litter.  At Dr. Pruitt’s office( the veterinarian played by the always delightful Charlie Ruggles), Danke successfully gives birth to 3 female puppies and with that Mark and Fran return home.  A couple days go by and it’s time to bring the puppies and their mama home.  Mark volunteers for the task and while  waiting for Dr. Pruitt to get the Dachshunds ready for their ride home, Mark notices a Great Dane who has recently given birth.  Dr. Pruitt can’t help but notice Mark’s admiration for the Great Dane, what a fine, noble dog it seems to be.  Dr. Pruitt also has an ulterior motive to play up on Mark’s liking for this breed.  The Great Dane mama had a large litter, but for some reason, doesn’t have enough milk for all of her pups.  Danke, the new mama Dachshund, has too much milk.  Would Mark be willing to take home one of the Great Dane pups and let Danke be a wet nurse for it?  Just until the pup is weaned?  Mark can’t resist a puppy being turned out by it’s mama, and after all, the Great Dane puppy is a male.  Mark allows he is a bit tired of being surrounded by females at the house, and he agrees that Danke can be a wet nurse for the Great Dane puppy, whom he names Brutus.   When Mark returns home with Danke and now 4 puppies, he at first lets Fran assume that Danke had a fourth pup, and doesn’t say a word as she makes comments from time to time about that fourth puppy’s size, how he doesn’t seem to fit the Dachshund mold.  As time goes by, and the weaning is complete for all the pups, Fran has figured out that the fourth pup was not Danke’s but from another breed entirely.  Mark reveals to Fran the truth of the matter, and Fran agrees that Mark’s decision to let Danke wet nurse the mother-less Brutus was the right decision.  Fran notices that   Mark has grown very attached to the dog, and she surprises Mark by  giving him Brutus as a birthday present, when previously she had vowed that once weaned, back to Dr. Pruitt the pup would  go.

For quite a bit of the movie, we get to see the three Dachshund pups ( who Fran has named Heidi, Chloe, and Wilhemina), tear up the  house, the art studio, ruin a backyard party, and everytime, they manage to slip away and poor Brutus is left at the scene and getting the blame.  Fran has had it with the Great Dane after the backyard party is turned into a disaster and the next day tells Mark that Brutus must go.  One of the  Dachshunds, Chloe, who Fran is grooming and training for an upcoming dog show, is sniffing around a garbage can the day after the party, and manages to crawl into a box containing a trashed cake.  Brutus sees her enter the box, but the garbage man, who has just arrived to gather up the week’s trash, doesn’t know Chloe is in the box, and he throws it into the device on his truck that dumps all of the garbage into the hold of the large truck.  Brutus at this point is barking like crazy, growling at the garbage man, preventing him from getting  into his truck.  The garbage man calls out for the Garrison’s to come and help him, and they do.  Over Brutus’s din, Fran hears a small yelp, and she immediately thinks it might be Chloe, who she had been searching for prior to the garbage man’s arrival.   Mark climbs up onto the truck, goes into the hold, and finds Chloe.  As he hands her over to Fran, she has a change of heart about Brutus, and decides to fix him eggs for saving her Chloe.

The last part of the movie is about the dog show.  Fran is busy training Chloe for the show, and she is still nagging Mark how Brutus acts like he is a little Dachshund, wanting to be a lap dog and crawling around on his belly like a Dachshund with it’s very short legs appears to do.  In a cute scene, Mark decides to get out his book on dog breeds, to show Brutus what a Great Dane looks like.   Brutus studies the picture and immediately strikes the proper pose.  Dr. Pruitt happens to stop by to check on Chloe, who has developed a mild skin rash, and he convinces Mark to enter Brutus in the dog show, as a way to train Brutus, and help the dog realize he is a Great Dane.  There is a funny training montage with Dr. Pruitt and Mark, and then the dog show day arrives.  I won’t give away who does or doesn’t win, but I will share one more funny scene.   When Brutus is in the ring with the other male Great Danes,  he sees a lady holding her Dachshund and he  begins to creep around low to the ground like a Dachshund.   Dr. Pruitt and Mark  begin to despair, when suddenly, a female Great Dane appears with her owner.   As soon as Brutus sees the female Great Dane, he snaps to attention.  Later on, Dr. Pruitt has the cutest line about that moment, when he tells Mark,” …takes a female to make a male want to show off!”  After the dog show, happiness reigns supreme in the Garrison’s household, with promises to just be good dog owners, no more dog shows, and Fran adds, they might be busy with other things very soon, hinting that perhaps the pitter patter of little feet is her next project to embark on.  The rest of the cast includes Kelly Thordsen as Officer Carmody, Parley Baer as Mel Chadwick, a Dachshund expert, Robert Kino, as Mr. Toyama, the caterer, Mako, as a caterer’s assistant, and Charles Lane, as a dog show judge.

The Ugly Dachshund was directed by Norman Tokar.  He had been an actor in the 1940s but then turned his career to directing, working with television shows.  He directed many episodes of Leave it to Beaver, which caught Walt Disney’s eye, for here was a director used to working with children.  Disney hired him to direct the movie, Big Red, which was based upon the book of the same title, a story about  a boy and his Irish Setter.  The success of this collaboration led to Tokar directing many Disney movies, and in 1966, he directed The Ugly Dachshund.   To handle the dogs in this movie, and all of the numerous scenes of their antics, Disney hired William Koehler.  Koehler was one of the names to turn to in Hollywood where dogs featured prominently in a movie.  Koehler had previously trained military dogs for the Army during WWII, and then after the war, took his skills to the movie studios.  He also authored 6 different books on dog training, and worked with many animals for the Disney studios.

Researching for this blog, I also enjoyed reading about Great Danes and Dachshunds.  Two extremes in size to be sure, and also in temperament.   Great Danes are truly gentle giants.  Bred to be working dogs, used primarily for guarding wealthy landowners’ properties.  These dogs are good with all people of all ages, especially the family that owns them.  Not prone to barking too much, only to alert the family if strangers are around.  The Great Dane’s  size makes it excellent for warding off strangers in anyone’s neighborhood.  Due to the breed’s large size, they do need room to stretch out in and a yard to cavort in.  Sadly, I also discovered that due to their large size, Great Danes have also earned the nickname of Heartbreak Hound, as they have a short lifespan, 8 years on average, due to the health problems that go hand in hand with such a large breed.   Dachshunds  are a much smaller dog, long- bodied with very short legs.  The breed was created for badger hunting, and Dachshunds do have large paws which make it easier to dig into those badger holes to get at that critter!  Dachshunds are shy around strangers, and may even be stand offish, but are very loyal to their owners.  A stubborn breed, I imagine Mr. Koehler had his hands full trying to train those 4 Dachshunds in the movie!  Author E.B. White, who owned a Dachshund named Fred, wrote, “I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club on his nose than induce a dachshund to  heed my slightest command.”

If you are wanting to  enjoy a fun movie, one the entire family can view without anyone becoming embarrassed, and especially for all out there who love movies about dogs, then find The Ugly Dachshund pronto!  Be sure to also check out the rest of the films being reviewed in Classic Film and TV Cafe’s Dogathon.  Click here  for the full schedule.