Cecil B. DeMille's 'North West Mounted Police' had Gary Cooper shouting 'Rangers!'
By David Inman
Published: Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, 8:51 p.m.
Question: I remember an old movie with Gary Cooper as a Texas Ranger in Canada looking for an outlaw. What I remember about the movie is that his Canadian friends kept introducing him as from the “Texas constabulary,” to which he kept responding “Rangers!” Can you tell me the name of the movie, and if it's on DVD?
Answer: That's the 1940 film “North West Mounted Police,” directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The cast also includes Paulette Goddard, Madeleine Carroll, Preston Foster and Robert Preston. And it's on DVD.
Q: As a young boy in the early 1970s, I have a vague memory of a scary movie from which I remember only one scene. I believe the movie was in black and white, but that may have just been the dreariness of the scenery. It is a scene in which a person is strapped down in a dungeon with a large blade slowly lowering as it swings back and forth over the captive. Any information you can offer on the movie and its availability would be appreciated.
A: Sounds like the 1961 film “The Pit and the Pendulum,” based on the Edgar Allan Poe story. It's directed by B-movie master Roger Corman and stars Vincent Price, Luana Anders, Barbara Steele and John Kerr. And it's on DVD.
Q: When I was a little girl in the late 1950s, my favorite TV night was Friday. I remember watching two private eye shows. It seems like one had the word Hawaii in it and the other one Sunset. Can you tell me their names and if they are on DVD?
A: Those were two shows produced by Warner Bros. with suspiciously similar concepts — “Hawaiian Eye” was about a group of swingin' gumshoes in Honolulu and “77 Sunset Strip” was about a group of swingin' gumshoes in Hollywood.
“77 Sunset Strip” came first, and it ran on ABC from 1957 to 1964. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. played Stu Bailey and Roger Smith was his partner, Jeff Spencer. They were former government agents who ran a private eye business located on the Sunset Strip, next door to Dean Martin's cocktail lounge, Dino's Lodge.
Comic relief was provided by Edd Byrnes as Kookie, the jive-talking hipster who worked at Dino's parking cars and later became a gumshoe himself; and by Louis Quinn as Roscoe, an undercover operative who could usually be found at the racetrack.
“Hawaiian Eye” didn't run on Friday nights — it was usually on the ABC Wednesday-night schedule, and it ran from 1959 to 1963. The detective partners here were Tracey Steele (played by Anthony Eisley) and Tom Lopaka (Robert Conrad) and their agency, Hawaiian Eye, was on the grounds of the Hawaiian Village Hotel, where they also handled security. Their sidekicks included Cricket Blake (Connie Stevens), who sang in the hotel bar and doubled as a photographer; and Kim (Poncie Ponce), an undercover guy. Troy Donahue joined the cast as hotel social director Philip Barton after Eisley left the show in 1962.
Neither “77 Sunset Strip” nor “Hawaiian Eye” are officially on video, but there are bootlegs out there.
Q: I once saw a brief Laurel and Hardy bit on TV that has remained with me. I still laugh when I think about it, but I have never been able to find to find it. The circus they were working for was bankrupt. Since the owner could not pay them, he told them to take whatever they wanted. Hardy chose a very short ape wearing a tutu and Laurel chose a flea circus. I'd like to know the title and if it is on DVD.
A: That's the 1932 short film “The Chimp,” and it is available in the DVD package “Laurel and Hardy: The Essential Collection.”
Q: As a kid I loved those 45 RPM records on cereal boxes that you could cut out and play. My favorite was “You Are the One” by Sugar Bear and the Sugar Bears of Super Sugar Crisp Cereal. Who was the real rock group behind that hit, and where are they now?
A: The Sugar Bears recorded “You Are the One” and other songs nobody ever heard of back in 1972. A couple of group members would go on to bigger things, most notably Kim Carnes, who provided the voice of Honey Bear. She's best known for her mid-1980s hit “Bette Davis Eyes.”
Another group member, Mike Settle, was a former member of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.
And yet another, Baker Knight, wrote “ Lonesome Town” for Ricky Nelson and “The Wonder of You” for Elvis Presley. Oh, and he wrote “You Are the One.”
Q: I recently heard about a movie some years back starring Jason Robards. In it, he plays a man who admires trees and eventually decides to “plant” himself in the backyard. I believe he finally does turn into a sycamore tree. Know anything about it and is it on DVD?
A: Avoiding all possible tree puns only through exercising superhuman effort, the columnist said, with a straight face, “Why, yes, the movie is called ‘Mr. Sycamore' and it was released in 1975. Jean Simmons and Sandy Dennis are also in the cast.”
And it's not yet on DVD, although some people wood love to see it there. Oops.
Q: I remember many years ago Wayne Newton, at an early age, appearing on “The Lucy Show.” He was dressed in overalls and had to be surrounded by farm animals in order to be comfortable and able to sing. My older friends say he was never on any Lucille Ball series. Can you prove to them that I am correct? Thank you!
A: Your memory is as right as rain. Newton appeared on an episode of “The Lucy Show” titled “Lucy Discovers Wayne Newton” that originally aired in late 1965, and has the exact plotline you recall. Newton sang — and this is true — “Bessie the Heifer, the Queen of All the Cows.”
Newton also appeared as himself on two episodes of Ball's subsequent series, “Here's Lucy.”
Write David Inman in care of The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, 525 W. Broadway, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, Ky. 40201-7431; or email him at email@example.com. Questions of general interest will be answered; personal replies are not possible.
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