Author Topic: Young and Innocent - Episodes 1-2  (Read 2350 times)

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Offline Luciaphile

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Young and Innocent - Episodes 1-2
« on: November 11, 2004, 07:23:23 PM »
Fashion notes first . . .

Alexandra Moltke appears to have fifteen pounds of hair. Just thought I'd mention that.

The fashions for these first couple of weeks of DS are pretty uneven. Characters like Vicki, Maggie, Joe and the Conrad Bain character make out the best. Their clothes look appropriate enough. The quality is poor, but that works. I mean, these are not wealthy characters. They wouldn't be blowing money away on expensive togs.

The costuming is more problematic for Elizabeth and Roger. There's Joan Bennett resplendent in decolletage, pearls, and black velvet--probably a decision made because they had the great fortune of signing a bonafide movie star and damn it, she was going to look like one, and also I suspect, because those responsible thought that's how a wealthy woman would dress. Except not.

It's ludicrous to have Elizabeth wearing something that would not be out of place at a state dinner at the same time she's telling Vicki that insane line about how the family does all the housework. That and c'mon, she's home alone with her alcoholic brother waiting for the new victim--er, governess to show up and she's wearing a floor length evening dress?

What makes that even worse is that having blown the wardrobe budget on Bennett; they didn't have any money to dress Louis Edmonds. A. He didn't bother to dress for dinner and b) his shirt and suit look cheap. No. Not working for me.

My brother hated it when I would watch DS tapes when I was living at home. He thought the show was dumb and his first reaction on seeing Barnabas Collins was "So he's the serial killer, right?" He did, however, cotton to Victoria. Not for her personality, of course. No, my brother's approving comment: "Boy, is she stacked!" Which is very apparent in the first flashback scene. Evidently, sheltered little Victoria was at the forefront of the Burn the Bra movement. Also, she apparently owns very little in the way of apparel. One suitcase. I pack more than that when I leave for a weekend.

You have to love Wilbur Strake. The man's in that seedy trench coat, hat on his head at all times--indoors, no less--and still, he holds onto his beer stein.

For me, one of the more amusing things about the very first episode of DS is the whole discussion between the announcer and the inaudible voice offstage about the slate that has the dates for the show's taping and airing. We have the guy with the Voice of God saying tetchy things like "I can't see the slate. What do you want me to do with it?"  We also have the notable fact that this was Take #3. That's the third take, people. Let's think about that for a long moment.

On a show where they claimed they could afford to edit or re-do scenes, they managed to find the cash to have three--count them three run-throughs. I also find it fun to count the number of actors with speaking parts in these episodes. Look at the scenes in public places. They're filled with extras.

Years later when the show had taken off in popularity and they had high ratings and press galore and the money from advertising revenue and merchandising was rolling in? Suddenly it's all: 6 people in an episode? What are you trying to do to us? We can't afford more than 5 actors in an episode. Hell, I don't care if they're SAG extras with one line, we can't afford it! Reshoot the scene? I don't care if the set caught on fire. What are we made of? Money?

So don't talk to me about that was how it was done back then. Like hell. I'd be willing to bet cold, hard cash that the producers on The Guiding Light or As the World Turns weren't limiting themselves to 5 actors per episode and shooting scenes in empty sets because they couldn't afford to hire a non-speaking extra. And that if the set caught fire, they stopped taping to reshoot. Couldn't afford it, my sorry derriere.

Okay, now that I've gotten my rant out, onto the show.

We open with a nice scene between Roger and Elizabeth. I really like the first year of the show, not so much for the sometimes tedious plots, but for the layered performances of the actors. Joan Bennett and Louis Edmonds are marvelous in these parts. It's instantly possible to believe they're brother and sister, and you get a clear sense of their characters immediately. In later years, they become pale shadows--almost caricatures--but now? Now they're three-dimensional, strong, interesting figures.

Based on the scene, it becomes very clear, very fast, that Victoria Winters would have an easier, saner, and happier time of it cleaning toilets in Bangor than she will as a governess at Collinwood. Since, however, we're in a gothic drama, it's an ideal situation. We have the spooky old house (and it's on a hill! Bonus!), requisite troubled small child, highly dysfunctional family, and mysterious motives for hiring the governess--what more could anyone want?

Meanwhile, Vicki, oblivious to the hell that will be her job, is riding the train to Collinsport. She's had the misfortune to be seated next to Chatty Kathy (the credits call her Mrs. Mitchell). Now, I can sympathize with this. For a couple of years before I had my own car, I was forced to take public transport. It was not a happy time in my life. Aside from the dubious pleasure of having to map out transfers and alternative scenarios for those all too frequent occasions when the bus drivers decide to be late, or hell, not to bother to show up, and the trudging through the snow and the rain, there were the passengers. I, apparently like Miss Winters, happen to be a magnet for the crazy, the unwashed, and the gregarious. God knows why. I mean, you're sitting there, minding your own business, perhaps reading (or staring out the train window wondering about the "people who tonight are still only shadows in my mind, but who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows")--anyhow, clearly not looking to strike up a conversation, and because you look like "such a nice girl," you get a new friend.

This is why I'd almost rather eat ground glass than have to take the Elmwood bus that passes by the mental hospital again. This is also why I am probably going to fork over money on a washer and dryer so that I never have to run into the problem patrons that frequent both the library and the Laundromat. But I digress.

I like this scene for several reasons:

1.   It establishes that Vicki is a nice, sheltered girl (who evidently never left that NYC orphanage, or if she did, never had to take the bus).
2.   It gives us some fun local flavor, also incidentally shattering the notion about taciturn Down Easterners.
3.   We also now know that Vicki has no idea how to take care of herself. For those of you, who have seen the entire run of the show, well, that just enforces our sense of doom about her.

The flashback scene with Mrs. Hopewell bugged me for the first time. I totally get why Vicki wants to take the job; her chief motivation is, of course, to find out who her parents are. Also, she's clearly young and inexperienced enough, not to be asking herself the important questions. What I don't get is Mrs. Hopewell. Here's Vicki, who lives in a major metropolitan city, with presumably any number of avenues for employment. She gets a mysterious offer of a job in rural Maine, and all Mrs. Hopewell can say is that it sounds like a great opportunity and that the money is good??? How about: what do you know about the household? How old is the child? What kinds of schooling has he had and what will he require? What other kinds of duties are they going to give you? Have you considered asking if they would pay for you to come and look the situation over? And lastly, most importantly: Vicki, I know you want to find about your history, but Maine is a long way away, and the area, the family, the job are all going to be very different from what you're used to. You should have a backup plan.

But no: sounds like a good gig and they're offering you a lot of dough.

Yeah, I know Mrs. Hopewell isn't a social worker, but if indeed she is as fond of Vicki as she seems to be, you'd think she'd be using the benefit of her experience and wisdom to give this girl a little guidance.

Having left Chatty Kathy to whatever future awaited her in Mayberry, Vicki gets off the train. The subsequent action leads me to wonder whether the "New York City" we keep hearing about is oh, not the New York City, but rather New York City, Kansas or something. ¢â‚¬ËœCause there she is chatting up a total stranger. Okay, he's a very good looking total stranger and even bitter ol' suspicious me would probably be falling all over myself trying to get his attention (there's a story here about a patron we call "Aragorn," but I'll save that for another column), but still. It's pitch black and the station's deserted and she GETS INTO THE CAR WITH A TOTAL BLOODY STRANGER???

This is also when we once again are immersed in textbook Gothic (or hell, even Western) territory: Leave town if you know what's good for you.

Not a good sign for your happiness in that new job.

Then we have a new total stranger telling you that you're a jerk. And spelling it out for emphasis. The Monday morning quarterback in me pauses to note that Miss Evans would have done well to heed her own advice.

Wilbur Strake and the Blue Whale. Lots of extras. Lookie there. It looks like an actual bar.

Welcome to Collinwood.

Episode 2 reinforces that this is perhaps not going to be Vicki's dream job. Certain words or phrases like "what an interesting fill-in-the-blank" or "I've never seen anything quite like that before" or "David is likely to be different than any child you've ever met," these are what I like to call damning neutrals. The last, in particular, should have been a screaming red flag to Vicki for "you are in for so much trouble" and "maybe I should hop on a bus and see if I can get an office job in Bangor."

I love the early Blue Whale scenes. The extras, Nancy Barrett, and Joel Crothers are engaged in what I like to call "stupid people dancing"--a style that is often practiced at weddings by people who have partaken a bit too much of the offerings of open bars. It's the kind of dancing, I myself excel at: a lot of arm and body gyration, while the feet remain firmly fixed upon the floor. Wilbur is having a field day. Now when he says he wishes his wife could "move like that," I'm a little suspicious. Because I'm thinking that ol' Wilbur's wife looks a lot more like Chatty Kathy from the train than Carolyn Stoddard and I'm not sure I'd like to see Chatty Kathy gyrating like Carolyn Stoddard. But perhaps I'm wrong.

Joe is even worse at this exercise than Carolyn, so perhaps it's no wonder that he gets off the dance floor fast. Looking at her previous and subsequent dance partners, I do, however, find myself puzzled. Are we supposed to presume that she has no taste? That would make sense given that dancer #1 has made an unfortunate sartorial choice to tuck his shirt in the front, and leave the back out hanging. Or are we supposed to believe she's a raging nympho? Because I'm sorry: choice of maybe taking off with the luscious Joe for Lover's Lane or hanging around with a bunch of guys who look like they will end up working at the bowling alley? Would you even let these bozos wash your car let alone make body contact with you on the dance floor? The hell? At least, dancer #2 seems to have a nodding acquaintance with an iron.

Viewed with the entire series in mind, it's easy to see the pattern of Carolyn's romantic future. When Burke says "You go home, Miss Stoddard, before I take you over my knee and paddle you," her eyes practically light up. Somebody's sure as hell looking for daddy. Or failing that, a bad boy. Joe's pretty much doomed and we all know it.

Oh, dear God, shot of some groovy wannabe hep cats on the dance floor--hold me back, baby! Let's all make a silent prayer of thanks that DS did not debut in the era of disco.

I've always like the scene where Vicki is shown her new room. Later on in the show, we are continually treated to reminiscences of her Happy Life Amongst the Orphans. Which is so much bull. Because I don't care how nice the people were, that would have been a hard life. Not many material possessions, the knowledge that you weren't wanted, probably indifferent education, and most like indifferent opportunities. It's refreshing to hear Vicki saying matter-of-factly "all we had at the foundling home were hard iron cots." I also love how Elizabeth quickly turns the conversation because she's uncomfortable with that statement.

And there's Elizabeth trying to make sure her daughter has a nice, safe, boring life. Honey, what the kid needs is a job. At one point in time, I thought Carolyn would benefit from college. Now? No, an-honest-to-God job. Carolyn Stoddard: trainwreck waiting to happen.

Vicki, who seems doomed never to be out of that sad little raincoat, goes walking out in the middle of the night in a strange place to meet Roger. I've always thought this was a weird scene. There's some sort of chemistry between the two, that's not quite romantic or sexual, but yet is well . . . there's something there. I like the scene though. I love the writing for the first year in general. The scenes accomplish far more than mere exposition. They establish character, relationships, past histories. The dialogue is usually good. This is good writing. And you could take almost any scene from this first year and compare it with something from 1968 or 1969 or 1970 and it will still hold up in quality.

Poor Vicki. You should know you¢â‚¬Ëœre in trouble when your charge's father infers that his son would likely push you over a cliff. And when the guy swings into a violent episode at the mention of a name? Honey, if the money was coming from Bangor, maybe you should go find a job in Bangor.

But then we wouldn't have a story . . .
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Offline Raineypark

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Re: Young and Innocent - Episodes 1-2
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2004, 09:20:39 PM »
Oh, dear God, shot of some groovy wannabe hep cats on the dance floor--hold me back, baby! Let's all make a silent prayer of thanks that DS did not debut in the era of disco.

 :o  (hee hee!)

I loved reading this.  I was watching with my Mother that first day....and I've never again seen any of the episodes before the arrival of Barnabas, since that first time.  This is a treat.  ;)

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Offline michael c

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Re: Young and Innocent - Episodes 1-2
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2004, 03:59:24 AM »
a great read!it's true about alexandra's hair in these episodes.she wears a massive fall...which is funny because in later eps. we see that she already possesses the most luxurient head of hair imaginable.maggie too gets that funny ash-blonde wig.she's sooo "maggie the sassy waitress",full of vinegar from her years slinging hash but true at heart.(she and vicki would have been wise to take that bus back to new york).vicki show's a preference for blouses and cardigans these days(she hasn't just yet dove head first into sleeveless).i think liz's "at home" attire is awsome,you could tell they were very impressed to have this "grand dame" with them(as i complained about in a recent post it's sad the way the character deteriorates by 1968).roger's cigarette pants are too much!(as is the cheesy prop-glass brandy snifter he shatters between his fingers in "fear").i agree that there was a strange chemistry between roger and vicki here...a bit later they very briefly toy with the idea of romance(imagine!).but a set-up between her and burke is obvious from minute one at the train station.i love vicki endlessly wandering around in that trench.the exteriors were so good(it is funny how the more successful the show becomes the cheaper it's production values).carloyn gyrating at the blue whale is priceless.

this is making me want to go back and watch from the beggining again but i have to finish what i've started ::) ::) ::).
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Offline Josette

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Re: Young and Innocent - Episodes 1-2
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2004, 05:30:20 AM »
Love it - you have such a knack for getting into these things in novel and insightful ways - a fun read.

Offline Gothick

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Re: Young and Innocent - Episodes 1-2
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2004, 10:32:32 PM »
Excellent work!  I also was bothered by the over-the-top gown Liz wears in the first shows, but since Joan looks so stunning in it, I do my best to suspend disbelief.

I think KLS said in the original Scrapbook Memories that they worked on the first episode for a month. It may have been two weeks,and that may have included the first trips to film in Essex and Newport.


Offline Cassandra Blair

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Re: Young and Innocent - Episodes 1-2
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2004, 09:28:44 PM »
I so enjoyed reading this, Luciaphil!  The fashion comments are just priceless, and I too have always wondered why Liz was lounging around the house in the kind of dress a woman would wear to the opera or to be presented to royalty. ::)

Will have to go back and watch these on tape sometime very soon.  Your recaps are really making me wish these earliest episodes were available on dvd.  And you're right - the writing here was really good, giving viewers such fleshed-out characters.
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