Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Monday, March 10, 2008

GREAT OLD TV: I MARRIED JOAN


I MARRIED JOAN. A collection of episodes from this classic fifties sitcom (1952 - 1955) starring Joan Davis has been put together on a two-part four-DVD set. I loved this show when I was a kid, but I wasn't certain how it would hold up after so many years. I must admit that at first it seemed pretty silly, with Davis a deft comedienne on her own terms but not quite a genius on the level of I Love Lucy's Lucille Ball. The scripts seemed even more childish than Lucy's could be on occasion. Then I saw some of the more memorable episodes of I Married Joan and the full magic of the show -- and of Davis -- came through, and I suddenly remembered after all these years why I had enjoyed it so much when I first saw the reruns years ago.
COLLECTION ONE: In “Joan's Haircut” Joan gets one of the hot new “panda” haircuts for her class reunion but then feels like putting a bag over her head when she can't get used to it. In “New House” she and hubby Jim Backus ["Thurston Howell" from Gilligan's Island] put down a down payment on a hew home only to learn that another couple has done the same thing – and both couples are equally determined to move in! Joan and Brad have an argument while showing movies from their trip to Hawaii in “Home Movies.” “Honeymoon” features a flashback to Joan's disastrous honeymoon where her new husband spent most of the trip trapped in a closet. “Alienation” is a slightly risque episode in which Brad believes that Joan has been entertaining a variety of lovers.
COLLECTION TWO: Lee Patrick guest-stars as a tough hospital clerk when Brad gets a couple of “Broken Toes.” To impress a snotty “friend” [played by Adele Jergens] Joan buys a hugely expensive dress she can't afford in “Clothes Budget.” [Fritz Feld marvelously plays the dress shop owner and there are also appearances by Bernard Gorcey and “Clara” from the I Love Lucy “operetta” and other episodes.] At a hat shop Joan gets into a cat fight with a touchy lady that she doesn't realize she'll be having dinner with later in “Acrobats.” Joan finds out that she's apparently allergic to her own husband in “Allergy.” A smooth lecturer with wonderful manners creates “Jealousy” in Brad and other husbands.
I Married Joan could be much racier than I Love Lucy. Joan's daughter Beverly Willis played her sister Beverly in several episodes. Joan's wise Aunt Vera was played in other episodes by the “speed it up!” lady from the chocolate factory episode of I Love Lucy ["Job Switching"].
Two episodes that are not included in this collection but I wish had been: Joan innocently drops a piranha in with Brad's collection of tropical fish. And tries to stuff or do something to a chicken while taking some kind of course in school. Now those I'd really love to see again!
Verdict: Lots of fun! ***.

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