Friday, October 19, 2007

From 'Son of a Gun' to Eternity

I used to see Joey Bishop a lot on TV when I was a kid. Bishop, who died this week, was a game show panelist, talk show host, member of the fabled Rat Pack.

I remember him being funny in a deadpan, acerbic way. But somehow the only shtick of his I can remember is his catchphrase, "Son of a gun." Boy, did I think that was funny. Don't ask me why. Sometimes he'd roll his eyes, too. I liked that, too. Boy, did I have a subtle sense of humor.

He had a sitcom for a few years, featuring Abby Dalton and the woman who later played Aunt Harriet on "Batman." On the sitcom he had a second banana played by a guy with the unlikely moniker of Corbett Monica. But I don't remember much else about the show.

In the late '60s, Bishop unsuccessfully went up against Johnny Carson. If "The Tonight Show" sometimes seemed too buttoned-down, Bishop's show seemed a bit too loose without being particularly funny. Bishop's announcer was a young Regis Philbin, who I thought was too overbearing for a young second banana. Years later, Regis is doing pretty much the same shtick, but it's somehow much easier to take now that he's grown into the persona of Cantankerous Broadcasting Pioneer With a Heart of Gold.

Why didn't Bishop beat Carson? One example:

It's the night of Aug. 29, 1967. ABC (Bishop's network) airs the final episode of "The Fugitive." Later that night, Bishop, who hasn't seen the episode, has "Fugitive" star David Janssen, who played Dr. Richard Kimble, on the show. Bishop wants to guess the identity of the person who really killed Kimble's wife.

Janssen seems uncomfortable with this, but Bishop insists on guessing.

Carson, I suspect, would have known enough to pull back. ...

I'm sorry to say I haven't seen very many movies starring Deborah Kerr, who also died this week. I've seen parts of "Black Narcissus" and "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison." I'm happy to say I've seen all of "From Here to Eternity" and less happy to say I once sat through "Beloved Infidel," in which Kerr is Sheilah Graham, Gregory Peck is F. Scott Fitzgerald and the audience is hornswoggled.

I heartily recommend one of her very early films, "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp," which is much, much better than that title might make it sound.

Kerr always gave the impression of being an elegant lady who, given certain circumstances, might stray from what "society" might consider "acceptable behavior."

It's true that she, like Greer Garson, could be a Goody Two-Shoes. But in Kerr's case, those shoes weren't welded to her feet.

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