In this interesting look at the early days of television, Fred MacMurray and Dorothy McGuire play Mike and Debbie, executives who snagged the TV rights to air "old" cowboy movies starring Smoky Callaway (Keel).
Smoky's Westerns are a huge hit with kids, and there's a mint waiting to be made on Smoky toys and new Smoky movies -- if only Smoky were actually around to sign contracts and resurrect his film career. Unfortunately no one's seen Smoky in a decade, and at last report he was a raging drunk.
Although Stretch is an awkward actor, the director (Don Haggerty) sees a "freshness" in "Smoky" that he likes, and Stretch-as-Smoky is a big hit with the kids in personal appearances, especially as he has genuine cowboy skills. Moved by his hospital visits, Stretch sets up a foundation for kids with polio.
The movie certainly underscores what a talented man Keel was. It's always clear which character the audience is watching, with Keel charming as the singing cowboy and also quite believable as his unpleasant doppelganger.
Mike, it seems, will likely remain a fairly shallow fellow, as even near the end of the film he attempts to manipulate Stretch into doing what he wants, even though he knows he really shouldn't. Given how MacMurray is remembered for MY THREE SONS and Disney movies, it's interesting to realize how many times in his career MacMurray played characters with varying degrees of sleaze. The ick factor is fairly mild here, compared to, say, THE APARTMENT (1960), but Mike is definitely out for himself first and foremost, and MacMurray's not afraid to dive into the role.
Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, a team especially known for writing and sometimes directing comedies and musicals. Their screenplay for the very serious ABOVE AND BEYOND (1952) about the dropping of the first atomic bomb, was unusual fare for the pair; THE COURT JESTER (1956) was more typical.
The movie was shot by Ray June. It runs 81 minutes.
The supporting cast includes Natalie Schafer, Fay Roope, Douglas Kennedy, Acquanetta, Ned Glass, and Stan Freberg. Look for Ann Robinson (THE WAR OF THE WORLDS) as the hatcheck girl at Mocambo's and Hugh Beaumont (LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) as an attorney. There are also fun cameos by a trio of very big name MGM stars of the era.
For more on this film, please visit KC's review at A Classic Movie Blog.
The Warner Archive DVD is a crisp black and white print. The DVD includes the trailer.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.