Saturday, August 16, 2014

And you are the Weaver's bonny

No, that's not Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, though you may be excused for making the comparison. It's Burl Ives, who, surprisingly, starred in a complete turkey of a TV show in the mid-1960s. 

As good an actor as Ives was, and he was very good with the right part, there was something oppressive about him, a little adenoidal contempt in his speaking voice that took something away from his folksy charm. In  his one-and-only, one-season attempt at a TV sitcom, he played one O. K. Crackerby, supposedly the richest man in the world. In the opening credits, he buys a hotel just because it's there. In one sequence he sits in a rocking chair whittling, but you get the feeling he could just as easily stab you in the throat.

In this memorable scene from the intro, he takes one look at his new hotel and commands: "Paint it!" Somebody should have dumped a bucket of whitewash on the whole show.

This is folksy on an endless loop. You can't say the man isn't trying, he does what he can with very weak material, but he did a lot better playing Santa in the Holly Jolly Christmas special. I've tried to describe Ives' voice, which was unique. Not at all what we think a folk voice should be, almost baleful. He excelled at morbid songs like Long Black Veil. (I've also been trying to find one called That's All I Can Remember, just a kick-ass morbid jailhouse execution song). I've always wanted to say about him, "folksy my ass". There was some sort of legend that he got up and walked out of the classroom in school and never came back. Like Bob Dylan, he was singing in front of people at age four. He sang one about the devil's nine questions, an old Child ballad that in actuality has only eight questions in it (maybe to see if you're paying attention?), and the accompaniment consists of two chords, strumming perhaps three strings per chord. At least until all that Little Bitty Tear business, he was a minimalist.

O. K. Crackerby on amphetamines. To be honest, these clips were not very good material for gifs, so I had to play around with the settings. I just liked the hokey name, which sounds almost like a breakfast cereal:  the O. K. is obvious, but Crackerby is remeniscent of cracker barrels and even "crackers", po' white trash who made a killing somewhere. And not hunting possums. (This was, don't forget, the era of the Beverly Hillbillies.)

My favorite of the bunch, a grey square that appears between the end of the scene and the commercial. Probably had more audience appeal than the show. If Burl had been allowed to sing, it might have boosted the ratings, not to mention the quality. Even Andy Griffith pulled out his guitar once in a while.

The Patty Duke Show 1963