Wednesday, March 22, 2017

This Is The Episode I Was Talking About!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                Three years ago, back in 2014, I wrote a scathing post about TV director Peter Tewkesbury, and his abusive treatment of child actress Lauren Chapin, who played Kathy "Kitten" Anderson on "Father Knows Best."  The episode I thought was the one where it took place was "Big Sister," first aired
on January 8, 1958.  Kathy has a big crying scene at the end. and it is so wrought with depth I figured it went beyond acting.

                                 As Lauren chronicled, on pages 67 through 69, of her 1989 memoir, "Father Really Does Know Best," she was having a bad day.  Hey, everyone does; even child actors. Or, maybe, especially.

                                 Lauren had to do a crying scene.  She doesn't specify the episode, but I concluded it was 1958's "Big Sister," because I remember how powerful the scene was, when I first saw it, and that Kathy, like Lauren, was older.  On the day the scene was to be shot, Lauren just could not focus, and Tewkesbury was getting pressure from the front office.  So, he sent everyone off the set--then called everyone back, and resorted to the oldest trick in the book--verbally abusing the child before everyone so much she breaks down, and cries!!!!!!!!!!!!   When the scene was done, Lauren handled it the way I would have done--she cursed Tewkesbury out, and walked off the set for three days.  Even her tramp stage mother backed her up!

                                   In today's parlance, this would be known as the Joe Mantello School Of Theater Direction--direction by intimidation.  It would never work with me, because, as anyone who knows me can attest, I am not easily intimidated.  You'd better watch it, Joe!  I know right now you are occupied, playing an over aged Tom Wingfield, but if we ever do cross professional paths, then, honey, you will have to deal with my diva-ness!!!!!!!!!!!  And, then, look out!  If you thought Streisand was trouble to William Wyler--WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                   As for the episode, watching it, years later, was something of a surprise.  I recalled the story involved Kathy going to camp, and Betty being the counselor of her cabin, and that super-competitive Betty, the classic sibling overachiever, rode Kathy hard, because she wanted her to be just like her, and win everything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                   But there was a bit more to it, than that!  The underlying motivation for Betty's wrath was that, before leaving for camp, she caught Kathy reading her diary. Granted, that was wrong of Kathy, but, then, if it was so private, why didn't Betty hide it better?

                                    I had forgotten that Bud goes to camp, too.  Betty gets him a dishwasher's job.  So, this is pretty much the children's show, with Jim and Margaret (Robert Young and Jane Wyatt--just love them both, especially Jane!!!!!!!!!) sort of inserted between scenes.

                                     Bud (Billy Gray) is the first one to get it.  Betty acts like such a bitch at camp you would wonder if she was on the rag, or had a yeast infection. Elinor Donahue does such a convincing job of treating Kathy so hatefully, she foreshadows Bette Davis, as Baby Jane!!!!!!!!!!!!
After a time, I wanted to smack Betty across her face!  This episode could also have been entitled "The Golden Arrow," because goddamn overachieving Betty drives Kathy to a nervous breakdown in an effort to push her to win that award, and gain counseling credit for herself.

                                     Kathy's crying scene is heartbreaking, and it starts with the same angled shot as Judy Garland  starting to return home from home, in "The Wizard Of Oz."  And a storm is brewing, too!!!!!!!!!

                                     Things end on a hopeful note, but, as far as I am concerned, the damage was done.  Donahue's animosity was so convincing, I never trusted Betty Anderson again.  And when you add the other layer of subtext to what Lauren was actually going through, this episode, while a must, is doubly hard to watch.

                                       I can tell you one thing.  That repressed lesbian Camp Director, Mrs. Ellis, played by veteran character actress Florida Friebus, had Betty's number, from the get go!  And you can bet, Betty will NOT be invited back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                        Bitches always get found out, darlings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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