Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 3, “A Waltz from Vienna,” 10/7/1968

Written by: Hannibal Coons and Charles R. Marion. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Some awkwardly expository dialog in the opening scene sets the tone for this bizarre Family Affair outing.

iuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc e4r ]]]]]]t55555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555 "Oh, Karl, I've had such a marvelous time these past three months," Cissy coos to this guy we've never seen before.


“Oh, Karl, I’ve had such a marvelous time these past three months,” Cissy coos to this guy we’ve never seen before.

Cissy mentions the New York night spots they’ve visited together: The Colony, the Four Seasons, the Persian Room, and 21.

We quickly learn that Karl is one of those sophisticated, European types--he tries to order an after-dinner liqueur for the two of them.

We quickly learn that Karl is one of those sophisticated, European types–he tries to order an after-dinner liqueur for the two of them.

When the waiter raises an eyebrow, Cissy quickly changes her order to an ice cream parfait, while Karl complains that Cissy is being treated like a child. Cissy points out that the legal drinking age is 18. Fun fact: New York raised the minimum age to 19 in 1983 and to 21 in 1985.

Somehow the conversation shifts to Karl’s impending return to Vienna. He just can’t bear the thought of leaving Cissy, so he takes a very reasonable course of action concerning this underage girl he’s know for three months–he proposes.

"Yes!" Cissy exclaims.

“Yes!” Cissy exclaims.

Hell-to-the-no, Uncle Bill counters.

Hell-to-the-no, Uncle Bill counters.

Bill is the voice of reason, bringing up Cissy’s tender age and the fact that she and Karl don’t know one another well. Strangely, he omits what I consider the strongest argument–that she should finish her education before she thinks about marriage.

Karl's parents are no help to Bill--they assure him that teenage marriage is the done thing in Austria. Karl's mom claims that she married at 15 and has been blissfully happy for 23 years.

Karl’s parents are no help to Bill–they assure him that teenage marriage is the done thing in Austria. Karl’s mom claims that she married at 15 and has been blissfully happy for 23 years.

So, aristocratic Austrian girls routinely married in their mid-teens in the 1940s? Okay, Frau Really-I’m-Under-40-Do-the-Math.

Bill holds firms, though, even when he later finds Cissy pouting on the terrace. He explains that while he may seen like an “an old fuddy-duddy,” marriage is a big responsibility, she’s just “in love with love,” etc.

Cissy's not buying it.

Cissy’s not buying it.

The next day, Bill’s still feeling bad about the situation.

French doesn't help by pointing out that marrying into one of "the oldest and wealthiest continental families" would be a dream come true for many girls.

French doesn’t help by pointing out that marrying into one of “the oldest and wealthiest continental families” would be a dream come true for many girls.

It’s enough to send anyone running for the cigarettes.

See the penguin logo shirt Bill is wearing. I remember my dad having golf shirts like that, so of course I had to look up the history of it.

See the penguin logo shirt Bill is wearing. I remember my dad having golf shirts like that, so of course I had to look up the history of it.

Bill still feels in his bones that this marriage is wrong for Cissy. A good Frenchism follows: “Let us trust that your bones have good judgment.”

Poor Bill can't even escape from this weird situation at work.

Poor Bill can’t even escape from this weird situation at work.

Karl’s mother drops by the office with a new plan–let “Catherine” visit their family in Vienna for three weeks to see if she would like living there.

Bill's instincts tell him this is a bad idea, and that the Viennese atmosphere will only increase Cissy's romantic frenzy.

Bill’s instincts tell him this is a bad idea, and that the Viennese atmosphere will only increase Cissy’s romantic frenzy.

He agrees to think about it, though. And while he does so, Cissy is cultivating a new mature image. As everyone knows, maturity is best expressed through…

...slinky dresses...

…slinky dresses…

...and an up-do of adultishness.

…and an up-do of adultishness! Nice Family Affair green on those salon walls. Strange, though, how Cissy’s hair has briefly turned as red as the hairdresser’s.

Strangely enough, her approach works on Bill, who agrees to let her visit Vienna.

Inexplicably, her approach works on Bill, who agrees to let her visit Vienna.

It also inspires French to describe her as “a marriageable young lady.” Um…ew. French insists that there’s no danger of Cissy and Karl eloping during the visit, though–such things just aren’t done “on the continent.”

The direction in this scene is awkward, making it really obvious that each side of the Bill-Cissy conversation was shot at different times.

The Cissy-Bill conversation here is done in a series of closeups, making it obvious that each side of the conversation was filmed at a different time. Brian Keith is probably watching a middle-aged assistant director deliver Cissy’s lines.

Hey, remember the two little kids on this show? What were their names? Tubby and Toby?

It's a measure of this episode's strangeness that we don't see the twins until we're about three-quarters of the way through, as Cissy prepares to take her updo Alp-ward.

It’s a measure of this episode’s strangeness that we don’t see the twins until we’re about three-quarters of the way through, as Cissy prepares to take her updo across the pond.

The twins are sad to see her go and afraid she’ll forget what they look like.

That night, they're so lonely that they pile in with Bill. While he looks amusingly exasperated, the twins have a cute conversation about marriage. (Jody pledges himself to the single life.)

That night, they’re so lonely that they pile in with Bill. While he looks amusingly exasperated, the twins have a cute conversation about marriage. (Jody pledges himself to the single life.)

Meanwhile…

Cue the Strauss and the stock footage! We're going to Austria!

Cue the Strauss and the stock footage! We’re going to Austria!

Karl's parents have a nice little shack there.

Karl’s parents have a nice little shack there.

They also have about a hundred middle-aged friends who have come to gawk at “Catherine.”

I do like Cissy's evening gown in this scene.

I do like Cissy’s evening gown in this scene.

While the young xouple begins a waltz, Karl’s parents tell everyone how they’re longing to welcome Cissy to the family.

Cissy's nice enough, but I don't really get where they're coming from. Aren't there any young women in Austria?

Cissy’s nice enough, but I don’t really get where they’re coming from. Aren’t there any young women in Austria?

Soon Karl and his “liebchen” are visiting cafes and spouting dialog that’s even more nauseating than before.

"It's like living in a fairy tale," Cissy gushes. Karl says they can make the fairy tale come true if they marry right away.

“It’s like living in a fairy tale,” Cissy gushes. Karl says they can make the fairy tale come true if they marry right away.

Cissy’s game, but Bill says no over the phone. Undeterred, Karl thinks they should elope to Innsbruck.

I thought they didn't do such things in Europe, Mr. Continental Smarty-Pants.

I thought they didn’t do such things in Europe, Mr. Continental Smarty-Pants.

Cissy soon starts having second thoughts, though, for no apparent reason other than the episode’s impending end.

Suddenly, she agrees with Uncle Bill--she's just in love with "a little girl's idea of love."

Suddenly, she agrees with Uncle Bill–she’s just in love with “a little girl’s idea of love.”

Auf Wiedersehen, Karl.

Back at home, Buffy and Jody are still moping about missing their sister. French, who’s making Cissy’s favorite dessert, tells them that if they close their eyes and wish for her to walk in the door, it might happen.

It's an old Gaelic legend, according to our favorite font of questionable European knowledge.

It’s an old Gaelic legend, according to our favorite font of questionable European knowledge.

Of course, Cissy does stroll through the front door at exactly that moment–no one in New York ever gets delayed by traffic or anything.

Everyone's relieved that this weird interlude has come to an end.

Everyone’s relieved that this weird interlude has come to an end–including me.

And Cissy, showing her can-do American spirit, lines up a date with the grocery delivery boy before her jet-lag even wears off.

Commentary

There are good episodes of Family Affair, and there are bad episodes of Family Affair. Fortunately, there are also so-bad-they’re-good episodes of Family Affair, like this one. The whole thing is so surreal that it should have ultimately been revealed as a dream, preferably Buffy’s dream. “A little girl’s idea of love,” indeed. It certainly doesn’t seem like anything a teenager in 1968 would fantasize about.

It’s romantic atmosphere does make it seem fitting as we approach Valentine’s Day.

Guest Cast

Waiter: Jan Arvan. Guest: Charlotte Boerner. Hairdresser: Ila Britton. Friedrick Krug: Karl Bruck. Saleswoman: Annette Cabot. Karl Krug: Mark de Vries. Johnny Archer: Hank Jones. Anna Krug: Eva Szorenyi.

The guest cast is authentically European–the actor who plays Karl’s father was actually born in Vienna.

Annette Cabot, Sebastian Cabot’s daughter, made her second of five appearances in this episode.

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9 thoughts on “Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 3, “A Waltz from Vienna,” 10/7/1968

  1. Your wry observations of Mr French kept me in stitches – that “Mr. Continental Smarty-Pants”.

    i was unfamiliar with the Penguin clothing line. My father only wore plaid cotton long sleeve shirts, with snap buttons and a cowboy-style yoke. Not that it matters.

  2. Orschel52 says:

    Ouch! This IS a weird episode. As always, your review is excellent and very amusing.
    “On the continent we do not consider 16 so young.” My eye, we don’t!!! Maybe the writers thought of the Germans’/Austrians’ most favorite empress, Sissi (!!!) or Empress Elisabeth of Austria, as portrayed by young Romy Schneider in a 1955-1957 trilogy of films that has become one of the most successful movies in the German-speaking world (the condensed version, still aired here every Christmas, was dubbed English and released in the USA in 1962 under the title “Forever my Love). Sissi married Emperor Franz Joseph at the age of 16.

    Cissy’s (Cissy Davis, that is!) outfit supposed to be too mature (according to the saleswoman)? It rather looks like a very uncomfortable nightgown to me. And that hairdo is just ridiculous for everyday use.
    “Liebchen” is not a pet name that would have been used any more in the 60s. The word has received a rather negative connotation used to declare a woman to be the lover of a married man.
    Does Bill play golf for money? Or why else does he ask his partner to bring money for the game?

    • Amy says:

      I was especially hoping you would comment on this episode, to set the record straight on things the writers got wrong!

      They definitely had an older, “story book” version of Europe in mind. Your mention of Sissi is interesting–if the writers were familiar with that story, it might have been part of their inspiration. Even if they didn’t see the movie version, I think there was at least one popular book about Elisabeth of Austria in the 1950s–I have heard a radio drama that was based on the book.

      (I’m going to have to try to track down a subtitled version of the movie–I love historical romantic dramas like that!)

      Before you mentioned Sissi, I was trying to think of other popular entertainments that might have inspired the writers. I thought teenage romance might have been part of the zeitgeist due to Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, but that movie actually opened the day after this episode aired.

      Bill and his partners must bet on their golf game’s outcome.

      Cissy’s dress does look like a nightgown. That makes French’s “marriageable young lady” comment seem even ickier.

  3. This was hilarious! Great write-up. That “nice little shack” belonging to Karl’s parents is actually a famous Hollywood filming location. I haven’t found out just WHERE it is located, but will have to write a post about it once I do find out. It was featured in numberless tv shows of the 1960s-1980s, including Murder She Wrote and Columbo ( “Dagger of the Mind” ).

  4. Orschel52 says:

    OK, I stand corrected! Right after my “Liebchen” comment, I heard the term being used in a TV show. Obviously I had based my comment too much on personal perception, i.e.I considered “Liebchen” way too old-fashioned. A brief look into the “Duden”, the German equivalent to the “Webster’s Dictionary”, seemed to confirm the term’s negative meaning as indecent (female) lover. After the war, women dating American military members were disparagingly called “Ami(=Yank)-Liebchen”, for example.
    A closer look reveals that the use of “Liebchen” is pretty region-dependent, and Austria obviously is one of the “regions” where it is a term of endearment without any negative connotation.

  5. […] even in my teens, even when I’d become obsessed with royalty. (Your can read a funny summary of the episode here.) Never mind the scoffers I was in love! Carl was suave, debonaire and dressed […]

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