So, for my next trick "project", I decided to try re-watching The Munsters, which is another show I loved when I was a kid, but haven't looked at in a long time.


My intention is to re-watch the original series, and the film Munster, Go Home!.  These constitute the Munsters canon for me.

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For me, John Fiedler was part of the "Hey, It's That Guy, But I Know His Name" club for me.  I was an inveterate credit watcher throughout the '50's, '60's, and '70's.  Like some guys know cars and others know sports stats, I had a mind for that sort of thing.


I don't want to take this afield of the topic of The Munsters, because I do have some commentary on that, as soon as an appropriate opening in the conversation arises.  In the meantime, let me tell two anecdotes, one obliquely on the subject of John Fiedler and the other barely pertinent at all.  I'll start with that one.


I have a very good friend in the entertainment field---actually, I have a few, but my oldest and dearest one is Angel Tompkins.  I've mentioned that before.  The first time I visited her, out in California, was back in '87, and I stayed at her home.  As a member of the Motion Picture Guild, one of her obligations was to attend viewings of foreign films and nominate some for Academy Awards.  So, it happened that on my last night there, we attended a double-feature viewing.  Between the two films was a buffet arranged in the spacious lounge.  And, of course, there were quite a few actors and actresses there, most of them from the character-actor field.


Angel knew of my prediliction for remembering the names of virtually every character actor from television from those three decades.  So, here is what she did to me at the reception.


She would drag me by the hand up to some character actor or actress and announce "This is my friend, Adam Benson, and he is one of your biggest fans!"  And, most notably and to me, annoyingly, she never said the name of the person to whom she was informing I was his, or her, biggest fan.


What that meant was, I had all of---oh, about five seconds, while I shook his hand---to identify that particular individual and rattle off some of his performances.  All the while, Angel stood there with this smirk on her face, ready for me to slip up.


Thank god I never did.  It went on for half an hour.  John Randolph, Robert Pine, Sally Kirkland, Richard Herd, and more.  I wanted to strangle Angel, but I was sure that would probably violate some local city ordinance.



The other thing I was going to mention isn't an anecdote, but falls under the Department of Favourite Scenes.  The most memorable performance of John Fiedler, to me, was his rôle as "Juror # 2", in the film 12 Angry Men (United Artists, 1957).  Fiedler pretty much played his standard nebbish character, but there were moments when he showed a flash of grit which made it stand out for me. 


And that leads to my favourite scene from the film.  For those who came in late, 12 Angry Men is a real-time drama that centres on the deliberations of the jury immediately following a murder trial in which an angry Hispanic teen is charged with murdering his father in a moment of rage.  The dozen men comprising the jury are of disparate backgrounds and personalities, and small conflicts arise between the group and certain individuals during the course of the deliberations.


Ed Begley (the father, not the son) played "Juror # 10, a garage owner and bigot.  Not the fire-brand, cross-burning kind of bigot, but one of those unctious, blind to his own prejudice kind.  In the last third of the film, he takes an opportunity to tell the others about his opinions on the Hispanic defendant and what, to him, is his obvious guilt:


I don't understand you people! I mean all these picky little points you keep bringing up.  They don't mean nothing.  You saw this kid just like I did.  You're not gonna tell me you believe that phony story about losing the knife, and that business about being at the movies.  Look, you know how these people lie!  It's born in them! I mean what the heck?  I don't have to tell you.  They don't know what the truth is!  And lemme tell you, they don't need any real big reason to kill someone, either!   No sir!


They get drunk . . . oh, they're real big drinkers, all of 'em---you know that---and bang!  someone's lyin' in the gutter.  Oh, nobody's blaming them for it. That's the way they are! By nature! You know what I mean? Violent!

Human life don't mean as much to them as it does to us!


Look, they're lushing it up and fighting all the time and if somebody gets killed, so somebody gets killed!  They don't care! Oh, sure, there are some good things about 'em, too.  Look, I'm the first one to say that.  I've known a couple who were O.K., but that's the exception, y'know what I mean?


Throughout this tirade, starting from the first couple of lines and at points thereafter, each of the other jurors slowly removes himself from the table and turns his back on Juror # 10, to stare out the window or some other bit of business, in a united act of shunning the bigot.   He's left standing alone at the table.


What's goin' on here?  I'm trying to tell you . . . . These people are dangerous.  They're wild.  Listen to me.  Listen.


"I have," replies Juror # 4 (E.G. Marshall), finally.  "Now, sit down and don't open your mouth, again."


What makes this moment so powerful for me is that it is the only time in the film when this contentious assortment of varying men act in concert, in response to something so odious that it erases the lines of social status, education, background, age, and ancestry.  Even Juror # 3 (Lee J. Cobb), the designated "heavy" of the film, is repulsed by it.



Now, without further commercial interruption, we return to the discussion of The Munsters, while I wait for it to come around to the topic of "Beverly Owen vs. Pat Priest".



It was a playah!

A Walk on the Mild Side (First aired 10/8/64):

Plot:  Herman has insomnia, and finds that late night walks in Midcity Park are the only things that cure it, unaware that a mugger has been terrorizing women in the park lately. Lily is frightened by police reports that a monster has been spotted in the park, unaware that the "monster" is Herman.  Meanwhile, Grandpa's experiments play havoc with the family's electricity supply.


First Appearances: None.


Running Gags: Grandpa claiming to have interacted with various celebrities and historical figures - in the previous episode, he claimed to have provided Elizabeth Taylor with a love potion, here he claims that Thomas Edison stole the idea for the light bulb from him.

Eddie eats his breakfast while sitting in the kitchen cabinet.


Family Facts: Grandpa eats eggs and pancakes with gusto - an odd thing for a vampire.


Guest Cast: Police Commissioner Ludlow was played by frequent TV and film lawman Barry Kelley.

Police Chief Harris was played by TV veteran Cliff Norton.


Overall: Amusing enough - interestingly, much of the funniest humor comes in the scenes between the Commissioner and the Chief, rather than the scenes involving the Munsters.

In a Biography channel show on The Munsters, Al Lewis commented on how he and Gwynne were concerned about working with Yvonne DeCarlo because she was a glamorous movie star. Turns out DeCarlo was far from the snooty movie queen they expected and had no problem with the heavy make up or the silly humor. People seem to focus on the other characters from the show without giving Decarlo her due.
I never was a big Milton Berle fan, but there's a funny story of how he encountered DeCarlo on the studio lot one day while she was in her full Lily Munster make-up and regalia, and said to her: "Hi Yvonne! Working today?"
doc photo said:
. People seem to focus on the other characters from the show without giving Decarlo her due.

You're spot-on there, doc. As all television shows do, The Munsters found its own level, and that proved to be centering on the antics of Herman and Grandpa.  But such zaniness needs normality to bounce off from.  Miss DeCarlo's Lily Munster provided that level-headedness.  Save for Marilyn, Lily was the most "normal" member of the family.


The straight man---or in this case, the straight woman---is a most important rôle.  It's the barometer by which the madcap antics are measured.  Yvonne DeCarlo did a masterful job of adhering to her character, yet providing the necessary grounding.

Rock-A-Bye Munster (First Aired 10/15/64):

Plot: Grandpa and Herman overhear Lily and Marilyn talking about a new playmate for Eddie. They assume it means that Lily is pregnant - in reality, it means they will be looking after Elmer, the son of their family physician, while his parents are away.

Also, Lily buys Herman a car for his birthday.


First Appearances: The Munster "Koach".  Lily ends up purchasing two vehicles, which she has the dealer combine into one to form the "classic" Munster vehicle.

This episode also marks the first appearance of the great Paul Lynde as Dr. Dudley.


Running Gags: No new ones, in this episode.


Family Facts:  Herman and Lily went to Devil's Island on their honeymoon, where they met a Captain Dreyfus.


Guest Cast:  In addition to Paul Lynde, the guest cast included the follwoing:

Car dealer Diamind Jim was played by Sid Melton, who made numerous sitcom appearances.

Mrs. Dudley appeared as Mrs. Dudley.

Elmer Dudley was played by Peter Robbins, who went on to provide the first cartoon voice for Charlie Brown.


Overall: An OK episode, livened up a bit by Lynde's antics, and the first appearance of the Munster Koach.  Interestingly, the antics between Dr.  and Mrs. Dudley are as amuisng as anyhting going on with the Munsters.  In its own way, the program liked to show that so-called "normal" people were often as weird as the Munsters were.

Was that the one with the wind-up Frankenstein monster that Herman thought was his new son? I remember his head popping off and Herman saying that used to happen to him all the time!
Yep, that's the one.
I'm looking forward to when you get to "Just Another Pretty Face"---my favourite episode, and no doubt, one of Fred Gwynne's.
Is that the one where Herman is struck by lightning or something and has to go around looking like Fred Gwynne for an episode?

As with your Gilligan's Island discussion, it strikes me that a lot of the facts you're accumulating could be assembled into a Munster "family history."


Regarding the Muster Koach, I'm reminded of how many vehicles from '60s-era TV and movies were available as plastic model kits and advertised in comic books. And real life spacecraft, too, such as the Mercury capsule and the Apollo landing module. I was listening to a story on the radio just this morning about the international space station and wondered if it's available as a plastic model kit. Do kids even build plastic models anymore?

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