I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Monday, September 27, 2010

"The M Squad" (1957-1960)

A lot of people wondered what the M in "The M Squad" meant.  Actor Lee Marvin, the lead on the show, stated that it was just a name, that it meant nothing in particular.  As his character, Lt. Frank Ballinger, explained at the top of each episode, M Squad was a special division of the Chicago Police Department.  The police officers in that department could and would be assigned to various cases, everything from fraud to murder.  Ballinger was a tough guy who usually worked alone, and took orders more or less from Captain Grey (Paul Newlan).

It appears that the interior scenes were filmed in California, but many of the outdoor shots were filmed on location in Chicago.  Marvin explained that the exterior scenes had to be done quickly and on the sly.  Richard M. Daley was mayor of Chicago at the time, and he had a problem with "The M Squad" having some story lines about corrupt cops.  Mayor Daley was not crazy about having film crews around in general, and for decades, not much was filmed in the city.  Many city shots show Ballinger driving down State Street, Wacker Drive or Michigan Avenue.  He's also seen hanging out on Lake Shore Drive, walking in and out of the Chicago Tribune building on Michigan Avenue, or walking near the Wrigley Building.  I smiled when during the end of one episode, Ballinger got on the Red Line (the subway train) in front of the old Marshall Field's building.  The scripts make reference to places around Chicago, as well as out in the suburbs and small towns. 

Marvin had been in several films before appearing in this TV series which is rarely re-run.  The series helped further his movie career after it ended.  Marvin went on to appear in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962) with John Wayne, and he won an Oscar for Cat Ballou (1965).  Like most old TV shows, many familiar faces appeared on their way to bigger and better things.  Actors guest starring on "The M Squad" included Don Rickles, Angie Dickenson ("Police Woman"), Charles Bronson (the Death Wish movie series), Marion Ross ("Happy Days"), and Leonard Nimoy ("Star Trek").

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Friday, September 17, 2010

A Face In The Crowd (1957)

People who only know Andy Griffith as the down home sheriff on "The Andy Griffith Show" or wily "Matlock" on the show of the same name, will be surprised to learn that Griffith plays underhanded men real well, too.  In this film, Griffith plays a Will Rogers type celebrity named Lonesome Jones.  Jones is a legend in his little Arkansas town, where he runs a popular radio show.  Jones spouts his opinions, and a lot of people listen to him and follow what he says.  Marcia Jeffreys (Patricia Neal) discovers him first, and is drawn to Jones.  His fame grows, and he is asked to come up to Memphis to appear on a TV show. When they get on the train to leave, Jones makes a comment about being glad to get away from the small town folks in Arkansas.  Marcia gives him a look, and Jones maintains that he was just playing.  It's foreshadowing of the problems to come.

Jones' fame grows as he ends up headlining his own TV show.  He gets an manager -- or rather, brash Joey dePalma (Anthony Franciosa) sees a meal ticket and forces his way into Jones' life.  Advertisers clamor to be sponsors on Jones' show, and soon, he's asked to help an uninteresting politician, Senator Fuller (Marshall Neilan) in his campaign to become President of the U.S. by his wealthy backers.  Jones, who already has a big ego, gets further drunk on power.  A few people around him, including Mel Miller (Walter Matthau), see the real guy behind Jones' alleged down-to-earth country boy persona.  Marcia keeps sticking up for Jones, even as he keeps letting her down and breaking her heart.  But sooner or later, something has to give.

A very good film about how fame can corrupt, and how the media can be used by those inside it to manipulate people.  There is a lot of food for thought here.

Patricia Neal, who passed away not long ago, was a great actress, and she's excellent here.  She was the one who was the first originated the role of Olivia Walton in the TV movie "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" (1971), which served as a pilot for the TV series "The Waltons".  Anthony Franciosa went on to be a cast member on the TV series, "The Name of the Game" (1968-1970).  Lee Remick was also in this movie; she appeared in Experiment In Terror (1962) and The Omen (1976).

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