Sunday, May 20, 2007

Great Lost TV Shows, Vol. 5.4: Thomas Mitchell












Our intrepid correspondant Pierce Inverarity found this interview with the beloved actor Thomas Mitchell {above left} in the files of "Parade" magazine, from Dec. 12, 1961:
"The Jolly Six Bums was far and away one of the most artistically satisfying projects I’ve ever worked on. I signed on as soon as I read the script for the pilot epsiode, a Tennessee Williams piece called 'Old Miss Edna's Jewelry Box' in which the six bums wander into a little town in Mississippi and wind up moving into the secluded plantation house of an eccentric and rich blind old maid, the eponymous Miss Edna (played wonderfully by Dame Edith Evans). Being blind she has no idea that we’re obviously a pack of roving rapscallions, and we convince her and her slightly insane niece (the lovely Joan Greenwood) {above right} that we’re a travelling evangelist -- moi -- and his flock. She has a couple of ancient servants but they’re so senile that they also they have no idea that, far from being messengers of the good Lord’s word, we’re out to find the jewelry box full of Confederate gold rumored by the townspeople to be hidden somewhere on the premises.

"We shot on location down in Oxford Mississippi and after the day’s wrap we would all go over to William Faulkner’s house and drink mint juleps and play canasta. Bill loved the premise of the series and he promised to write an episode for us, but, alas, the show was cancelled before he could do so, and the world was deprived of a masterpiece."

(Check the right hand side of this page for listings of links to many other fine "Great Lost TV Shows".)

6 comments:

Goodtime Samaritan said...

I remember this episode vividly from one of those WUHY late-night fund-raising marathons back in the 70s, that dreamlike way the narrative flowed through each of the six bums, Evans and Greenwood, their servants -- was that Canada Lee? -- and the townspeople. Really masterfully written, staged, and shot, and with that cast it's not surprising how great the acting was. Who directed this episode? Was it Marty Ritt?

Dan Leo said...

Ritt did a later epsiode, as did John Frankenheimer and Bob Altman, but the pilot was directed by our old friend Larry Winchester.

Jake said...

By the way, Sam: That wasn't Canada Lee in that episode. Lee died in 1952.

Dan Leo said...

Right you are, Jake. The actor was -- now hold on to your seatbelts -- Sammy Davis Jr! He was playing about 50 years older than he was at the time, and doing a damn good job of it too. His equally aged wife was played by Butterfly McQueen, who was herself only around 50 at the time. These two were fantastic in their roles as the dotty but wily old servants who triumph in the end, inheriting both the mansion and the jewelry box full of Rebel gold coin.

Becker said...

Didn't Sammy Davis guest star in another episode of "Jolly Six Bums"?

Dan Leo said...

Yeah, it was the Samuel Beckett episode, entitled "Nothing to be Done", directed by John Frankenheimer. This episode was set in a traveling carnival and was shot on location at an actual carnival at St. Helena's Church in Philadelphia. Producer Phil Leotardo was from that neighborhood, and his family, who were active members of that parish, used their influence to convince Bishop Graham to let the crew shoot there.