For once, being a day late with this feature actually serves a purpose–it allows us to celebrate the birthday of this week’s beautiful guest star, Martha Hyer.
She is 89 today!
So, yeah, I totally planned this week’s lateness. And, incidentally, I look just like Martha Hyer does in this episode. Trust me.
Written by: Roy Kammerman. Directed by: Charles Barton.
It’s bedtime, and the twins want to hear a story. Uncle Bill’s attending a party so the task falls to Mr. French.
The kids say it will be good practice for French, in case he ever becomes an uncle.
Actually, he is an uncle. That was a Nigel French episode, though, and the twins might not realize that his nephew would be Giles French’s nephew, too.
French suggests a chapter of Winnie the Pooh. (The show’s frequent Pooh references are in-jokes, since Sebastian Cabot began narrating Pooh features in 1966.)
The kids ask for Jack and the Beanstalk instead, and French puts his unique stamp on the story. When Uncle Bill returns, the kids ask him to take over.
He tries, but Cissy keeps interrupting to hear details of the party he attended.
Bills says the guest list included several senators, a Nobel laureate, a famous explorer–and a movie star.
Guess which one Cissy wants to hear about.
The movie star was Carol Haven, who happens to call at this moment to invite Bill to dinner the next evening.
Cissy can’t believe Bill is so calm about this invitation from “the most beautiful woman in the whole world.”
For their part, the twins don’t know who Carol Haven is. They don’t know who Thomas Edison is either. (Buffy makes a good point–if Thomas Edison is so important, why isn’t his birthday a school holiday?)
At dinner the next evening, Carol makes it clear that she wants to get to know Bill.
He’s made quite an impression on her–she says the last time she called a man she just met was in junior high. (According to the old teen advice books I review on this site, that means she was a hussy in junior high.)
Dinner is interrupted a few times by fans requesting autographs and sending champagne, as well as a photographer who takes a picture of Bill and Carol. Carol handles these people in a calm and gracious way.
Bill is uncomfortable, though–he’d apparently like her to go all Sean Penn on them.
He asks why she doesn’t disguise her appearance, and she replies that she’s worked hard to be recognized. He suggests that they have their next date at a place with gourmet food and absolute privacy–his apartment.
The next night finds Cissy in a tizzy–she can’t do a thing with her hair. (Cissy is wearing one of those quilted robes that every ’60s and ’70s girl had.)
Even French is excited about their guest’s impending visit–he’s wearing white tie and tails!
He looks cute, like an emperor penguin.
When Carol appears, she puts everyone at ease.
Even Cissy, who’s still standing around in her robe. Get dressed, girl!
How wonderfully well does Carol fit in with the Davis family? Let us count the ways:
She offers to help Cissy with her hair and ends up helping the teen feel good about her usual hairstyle.
She isn’t afraid to embarrass herself while playing charades.
She tells the twins a bedtime story and includes Mrs. Beasley in the story as a friend, not a doll.
This earns her the first kiss Mrs. Beasley has bestowed upon a grown-up, excluding Bill and French.
By the end of the evening, Jody is asking Cissy if their mother looked like Carol. (Silly boy–we’ll find out later that she looked like June Lockhart.)
She didn’t, Cissy replies–but she was just as nice.
If you notice anyone missing from these charming tableaux, you might have a clue about where this episode is heading.
Soon, word gets around that Carol and Bill are dating.
French’s nanny friends grill him: What does she look like without makeup? And what are Bill’s intentions toward her?
French is appalled: “The relationship of gentleman’s gentleman to master is as confidential as that of lawyer to client.”
A reporter also tries to pump him for information, promising him personal publicity.
French says that a gentleman’s name should only appear in the paper three times: When is born, when he marries, and when he dies. “I’ve already done the first and contemplate neither the second nor the third,” he says.
(I’ve always heard that old newspaper rule applied to women–men are allowed to have newsworthy accomplishments. Maybe gentlemen’s gentlemen aren’t, though.)
Back at home, we learn that Carol has taken Buffy and Jody to the zoo. Buffy asks Bill if he plans to marry Carol.
“Women do know about these things,” Buffy says, when Bill expresses surprise at the question.
Both twins say they would like him to marry her, even if it means moving to Hollywood. Bill assures them that no wife of his will have a career.
“The lady is not going to live in Hollywood and not going to be a star in the movies. She’s gonna be a wife to me and a mother to you.”
I think I got that quote right, but it was hard to hear over the sound of my own gagging. Apparently, having two working parents is much worse for children than having a single parent who works.
Soon, the kids have another fun outing with Carol. They celebrate “nobody’s birthday” with a shopping trip.
Jody talks about riding the “alligators,” meaning escalators. (Sometimes I worry about Jody.)
Just when everyone is so happy, a dark cloud appears on the horizon. Carol’s been offered the plum role of St. Joan in a movie filming in Spain. If she takes it, she’ll be gone for a year. (It must be quite an epic.)
The next night, Carol tells her shocked agent to turn the role down.
She’s found something more important, she says–something she’s been looking for her whole life.
When Bill arrives and hears her plans, he wonders if she can adjust to non-stardom. Can she deal with life’s “petty annoyances” without agents and handlers?
Hmm, petty annoyances? Like packing your own suitcase, cooking your own dinners, taking your own children to school? Tell us how you deal with those petty annoyances, Bill.
Taken aback, Carol suddenly realizes that she’s been doing all the pursuing in this relationship.
“The whole Davis family fell in love with you, that’s for sure,” Bill says, glossing over his own feelings.
He encourages a crestfallen Carol to go to Spain. The Davis family will wait for her and then–well, we’ll see…
Carol wishes she had a screenwriter to help her make this scene come out right.
“Maybe that’s because what you had in mind was a scene, not just two ordinary people talking,” Bill replies. Ouch.
We flash forward a bit and see the kids have received a package from Carol in Spain.
Carol has included a clipping for Bill–it says she’s signed to a new three-year contract. Her next picture will be Mama Wore Spangles.
Everyone looks sad, and French expresses his condolences to Bill.
Buffy finds a bright spot–at least Carol will get the chance to “play mama” again.
“Sure, play acting is fun,” Bill agrees.
“As long as everybody knows you’re play acting.”
This is a very good episode, with a lot at stake for all the characters.
It also leave more room for interpretation than most episodes.
Trying to figure out Bill’s motivations made me as confused as Carol looks here.
His comments about “scenes” and “play acting” suggest that he doubts Carol’s long-term intentions. Is her decision to keep acting supposed to make us think his suspicions have been confirmed? If so, it doesn’t work for me. She seemed sincere in her desire to quit acting until he hurt her with a lukewarm response.
Was he ever really serious about Carol? Keith’s laconic performance doesn’t provide many clues.
Was he just too traditional to handle a woman pursuing him? Would marriage to a woman with her own career interests be uncomfortable for him?
Or was Carol overly interested in the “instant family–just add love” aspect of their relationship? (Yes, she actually uses that phrase.)
I am very interested to hear what my readers have to say.
A few other random observations:
- When Carol joins them for dinner, after Bill escorts her to the table, Jody does the same with Buffy.
This is a cute little moment.
- French really seems to enjoy charades.
This might be another in-joke, based on Cabot’s two-year Stump the Stars stint.
- Carol’s bedtime story features French as a friendly giant who considers the kids his masters. Buffy thinks this is appropriate, since French sometimes calls her brother “Master Jody.”
Carol Haven: Martha Hyer. Photographer: Ray Ballard. Woman: Helen Eby-Rock. Myron Fox: John Howard. Reporter: Grace Lenard. First Nanny: Gwen Watts Jones. Second Nanny: Nora Marlowe. Hyer was quite a successful film actress with important roles in such films as Battle Hymn, Houseboat, The Best of Everything, and The Sons of Katie Elder. In 1958, She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Some Came Running and was considered for the role of Marion Crane in Psycho. During that period in her life, she lived in a drool-worthy Hollywood hills home. (Also check out this sumptuous Life 1959 spread.) At the time of her Family Affair appearance, she had recently married producer Hal B. Wallis; they would remain together until his death in 1986.
Howard also had a long film career that included roles in Lost Horizon and The Philadelphia Story. He had a recurring role as Dave Welch on Don Fedderson’s other show, My Three Sons. After retiring from acting, he taught English at Highland Hall Waldorf School for 20 years. (Famous alumni include Mackenzie Phillips. I bet she was a joy to have in class.)
Lenard had an uncredited role in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, in which Hyer appeared. Marlowe had small parts in films ranging from An Affair to Remember to Kitten with a Whip and a recurring role as Flossie on The Waltons. Gwen Watts Jones is a minor mystery, with no IMDb entry.
Jody’s sometimes-dead, sometimes-living turtle gets a mention. So does the kids’ mother (who’s always dead).
“Whenever you hear someone say, ‘They lived happily ever after,’ it’s the end.”–Buffy
If you haven’t already done so, make sure you check out the recent Family Affair post on Silver Scenes. It has some good comments about this episode.