Written by: Henry Garson and Edmund Beloin. Directed by: Charles Barton.
This week’s episode begins with French hustling the twins off to school.
Buffy and Jody, firing off a series of questions that embarrass French, learn that Stanley is new to the building and getting ready to attend his first day at their school. They are pleased to learn that Stanley, like them, is in second grade. (Whew! We’ve emerged safely from last week’s time warp.)
They can’t understand, however, why Stanley and his mother are planning to take a taxi to school, rather than walking.
French explains to them that Stanley has a brace on his leg and encourages them to be friendly and helpful to the boy at school.
(Leg braces always intrigued me when I was a kid. I saw them a lot on TV kids but never on any real ones. Apparently, they were frequently used by victims of polio, which was no longer an issue during my childhood–or Buffy’s and Jody’s.)
At recess, Buffy notices that Stanley is sitting by himself and tells Jody that they should help him. Jody invites Stanley to play marbles with his multi-racial band of friends, but by the time he convinces Stanley to play, the other boys have moved on to leap-frog. Jody still encourages Stanley to join them.”If you fall, you fall,” he says, noting that all the boys fall sometimes.
With exquisitely bad timing, Stanley’s mother picks this moment to show up at school with Stanley’s sweater.
Sure enough, Stanley hits the grass, and his mother doesn’t take it well.
Well, that’s going to be awkward because meanwhile, back at the apartment building…
Doug invites Bill to stop by later to catch up with him and his wife Estelle. Bill’s visit is marked by pained glances between Doug and Estelle when the subject of children comes up. Sheesh, their kid has a leg brace, not that “elephant man” disease! Eventually, Stanley himself appears, and Bill notices how protective Estelle is of her son.
When he returns to his own apartment for dinner, Bill learns that Estelle has forbidden Stanley to play with Buffy and Jody.
He decides to have a man-to-man, smoker-to-smoker talk with Doug.
Eventually, however, he agrees to let Bill take Jody and Stanley to the park for some kite-flying.
Even before they leave for the park, the situation deteriorates. Stanley has some kind of male-ego chip on his shoulder, and he challenges Jody to a fight. Our sweet-natured Jody has no interest in fighting, but Bill encourages the boys to settle their differences through “Indian wrestling.”
Showing her usual flair for timing, Estelle barges in, having learned about the kite-flying outing and wanting to nip it in the bud.
Soon, the boys are flying their kites in Central Park.
“I guess you just like kids,” she says.
This is a nice episode, one of many in which Buffy and Jody meet a child who is different from them in some way. Uncle Bill’s opinion, that it’s as important for twins to experience friendship with Stanley as it is for Stanley himself, seems rather progressive.
Stanley: Michael Freeman. Miss Jerome: Ila Britton. Eddie: Gary Dubin. Estelle: Sally Forrest. Scotty: Karl Lukas. Doug: John Lupton.
Michael Freeman was a cutie and an okay child actor, so it’s surprising he didn’t get more work. His most interesting credit is “The Boy Pusher” in the 1973 TV movie Go Ask Alice. (I see the whole movie is available on Youtube. That’s got to be good for some laughs.)
Dubin was Punky Lazaar in several Partridge Family episodes.Recent titles in his filmography suggest that his career has gone in, um, a different direction lately.
Lupton starred in a 1950s Western series called Broken Arrow and a short-lived 1960s daytime soap called Never Too Young. He played Tommy Horton on Days of Our Lives from 1967 to 1980. He appeared in an episode of the Sebastian Cabot series Checkmate and in the 1972 film Napolean and Samantha with Johnnie Whitaker.
Forrest found modest film success in movies directed by Ida Lupino (who would guest star on two Family Affair episodes herself); the first of these was Not Wanted in 1949.
The length of Buffy’s pigtails varies from scene to scene–see below and note the length in relation to her ears. They are shorter in her scenes with Uncle Bill; Brian Keith’s abbreviated shooting schedule undoubtedly led to these scenes being shot at a time far removed from the episode’s other scenes.
Less easy to explain is the way her hair bows change color from red to blue in between leaving the Davis apartment and entering the elevator. Freaky!
“Once in a while, she just stands there and looks at us and says, ‘Why didn’t I become an airline hostess?”–Buffy, describing her teacher.
This Week’s Bonus Feature
I know I’ve been stingy with bonus features lately, but my husband bought me something yesterday that I just had to share.
This is one of the few Family Affair toys I didn’t have and one that I particularly wanted–I love Jody’s ridiculous expression on the box. Note also that Mrs. Beasley is wearing a red dress, and Cissy appears to be a 35-year-old woman.
All the characters except Cissy have separate top and bottom halves, as well as separate arms.
I actually prefer the Colorforms version of the Davis apartment to the real one.
Bill’s reaction after learning of Stanley’s handicap is oddly unusual considering his otherwise casual and uncomplicated dealing with difficult situations and his usually instinctively right responses. Here, I feel he sort of ducks out of the situation, mumbling some words of excuse, becoming kind of speechless and endeavoring to get out of the flat as quickly as possible. Eventually, however, he handles the situation with his usual aplomb, of course.
Your PC remark about Indian wrestling reminds me of a heated discussion we recently had in Germany about banning certain terms, rated politically incorrect today, from traditional children’s books (e.g. “Neger”, meaning “negro”, but not equivalent to “nigger”) and replacing them with non-racist terms. I consider this utter nonsense because this is about standard terminology used at the time the books were written. Parents reading these books to their kids can explain the problem to them. Anyway, where would such “PC updates” end?
Brilliant post, again. Thank you very much.
You are right about Bill’s initial reaction. Maybe Doug and Estelle threw him off by acting so somber and almost embarrassed about their son’s condition.
We seem to have those controversies in this country all the time. I agree with you that the original references should be retained, and we should explain to children about the way attitudes and language have changed over time.
Thanks for another thoughtful comment!