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Neil

Doris Packer Revisited

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Neil    1,345

I posted this video a long time ago and just ran across it again, marveling at the performance of Doris Packer in a 2nd season Dick Van Dyke episode (edited down to Doris's scenes only).  Watch her stall for time when "Make that "You and Your Gallbladder" gets a big, sustained laugh that they obviously didn't anticipate.  Her timing of the line was impeccable. Even her choppy reading of the lines introducing the donations (cue cards?) is endearing.  Everything she does it great, including her grand gesture referring to the book "Point Me to the Moon!1".  She was wasted on her 2 Lucy appearances (I think it was only 2).  If Doris's bio is to be believed she was a mere 56 or 57 when this VanDyke episode was shot!  (YOB: 1906) which I find hard to believe.  Also I love the way the snooty woman walks off after she says her line "You see, I don't own a television machine."

I wonder if it hadn't been for Beverly Hillbillies I wonder if we would have had 5 seasons of Dick Van Dyke.  As you all probably know, it was cancelled at the end of its first season (61-62) and only pressure from Sheldon Leonard and others made CBS renew it for a 2nd season, scheduled after the surprise #1 hit of the 62-63 season "Beverly Hillbillies" and it shot to the top ten.  The ranking for the 1st season was a dismal 72nd (if memory serves).  It did not have a great time slot: Tuesday at 8, following the 7:30 "Marshall Dillion", reruns of the half-hour Gunsmoke episodes. It was not up against competition that made the top 30: ABC's Bachelor Father and the 2nd half of NBC's Laramie western.  It fared no better when moved to the Wednesday 9:30 berth replacing "The Gertrude Berg Show" (aka "Mrs. G Goes to College" with Emmy nominated co-star Mary Wickes).  It had a weak lead-in "Checkmate" and the disadvantage of being opposite the 2nd half hours of shows on the other networks.  That all changed in the fall of 1962.  Though the show and its stars won Emmys year after year, the last season of Dick Van Dyke, considered by many to be the best, had dropped out of the top ten for the first time since 1962, coming in at #16.

 

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HarryCarter    1,048

Doris Packer gives one of the all time best sitcom performances here. I agree that she was completely misused in her Lucy episodes. The other Dick Van Dyke Show actress who gives a bravura performance is Eleanor Audley as Mrs. Billings, the head of the Parents Council. Luckily, I Love Lucy also showed off her great talents in Lucy Wants to Move to the Country. 

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Neil    1,345

I forgot one of Doris Packer's Lucy appearances.  There were 3 that I know of, none of them using her talents to their fullest:  Lucy's night in Town, Paul Douglas and the one episode I consider the "Drafted" of TLS's 1st season   "Runaway Butterfly"*.  Are there any others?  This Dick Van Dyke episode is Doris at her peak, but she had wonderful moments as "Mrs. Sohmers" in several Burns and Allen shows during the show's last 2 seasons.    "Millicent Sohmers" just can't deal with Gracie's logic (culminating in the episode entitled "Mrs. Sohmers Sees a Psychiatrist")  The Sohmers' want to move to southern California,  but fragile as Millicent is around Gracie,  if Gracie lives in Beverly Hills, Millicent wants to live in Pasadena.  Ever-loyal Blanche convinces her what a wonderful person Gracie is so she decides to buy the Bev Hills house...until confounded once more by Gracie's logic, with GREAT FLOURISH she turns around raises her arm and finger up in the air (not unlike her "Point Me to the Moon" gesture) and exits with the impeccably timed line "Well......BACK TO PASADENA!!'

Doris was a semi-regular on Leave It to Beaver as the school principal, a relatively staid role considering she is probably best remembered as Mrs. Chatsworth Osbourne, the wealthy matriarch of the daffy "Dobie Gillis" show.   I remember her entrance onto a set at the Osbournes, flank by "the help", delivering this line starting off-camera "Oh I LONG for the days when servants were indentured!"   Like Reta Shaw, Eleanor Audley, Isabel Randolph and so many others: Doris had a speaking voice like no other.   Doris was less active as the 60s progressed.  Her "Mothers In Law" appearance (again not taking full advantage of her talents) was one of her last.  There is just NO WAY she was born in 1906 making her only a mere FIVE YEARS older than Lucille Ball.  And I don't care what her "Find a Grave" headstone says.  

Gracie herself stuck with 1906 as her birth year.  News reports of her 1964 death stated her age as 58, when more likely it was 69.   Her grave marker says 1902, but some researcher has proof it was 1895, making her a year older than George!  Once Gracie made her last Burns and Allen episode in 1958, she never again appeared before a camera.   Gracie is wonderful and probably the most underrated actress of the 50s TV era.   She was so good that people took it for granted she was just playing herself.  No Emmy for Gracie: blasphemy!!

*  "Butterfly" had a great supporting cast but I'll go so far as to say its my least favorite of the first TWO seasons of the 58 Bob and Madelyn episodes. 

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