I apologize for the unplanned hiatus from my Family Affair series. Health issues and a hectic day job put blogging on a back burner for a while. To increase the frequency of these posts, I am trying to cut back on their length, which has ballooned considerably since I started the series (and surely pushes into tl;dr category at times). Also, I’ve changed the series name to abandon the pretext that these posts will always appear on Fridays. I hope to bring them to you every week or two, on whatever day I get the chance.
Teleplay by: Peggy Chantler Dick and John McGreevey. Story by: Peggy Chantler Dick and Douglas Dick. Directed by Charles Barton.
As we open, French is entertaining a fellow gentleman’s gentleman, Alfred Dimsdale. French’s digs impress his old friend.
He also admires the way French manages the Davis children.
The caller’s name is Gopher Resnick, and he has come to see Cissy.
“Whistle for the little bird, man,” Gopher orders French. “I’m ready to fly.”
Such a charmer.
No shirt, no shoes, no date with Cissy, is French’s motto.
“You got something against feet, man?” an aggrieved Gopher asks.
When Gopher asks if French is “for real,” French assures him he is as real as the Davis front door–which he then closes in his face.
I would have lost all respect for her if she felt otherwise.
We next see Bill in his office, where he has apparently acquired a new secretary.
She gives him his mail, which includes this shocking missive:
At home, Bill shows the letter to French.
The sick mind is soon at work again.
She heads straight to Uncle Bill, who informs her about the letter he received.
She thinks the shoeless wonder felt disrespected by French and is trying to get him fired.
Nobody puts Gopher in a corner, I guess.
But Gopher has only a vague recollection of French as “the cat with the beaver and the hangup about shoes.”
He’s been preoccupied thinking about his new girlfriend, Jenny.
Meanwhile, Bill is putting his number one suspect to the test.
Dimsdale urges Bill to ignore rumors and turns down the job–he only like children from a distance and wants to work for an uncomplicated bachelor.
That let’s him off the hook.
At home, Jody gets the mail and lets Buffy open an unaddressed, unstamped letter. Cissy enters the room as Buffy is reading it.
This third letter is more detailed in its accusations.
Showing the letter to French, Cissy bubbles with anger about the person spreading lies.
Lord Glenmore did dismiss him with cause. He was lucky that Bill hired him shortly thereafter on the basis of an interview, without checking references.
Just how young is she imagining that “Lord Glenmore’s young daughter” was?
When they ask where French is, Cissy says she’s going to be taking more responsibility for the children.
(As a knitter myself, I watched this scene closely to see if Heather Angel is actually knitting. She’s doing something with the needles, but it looks awkward.)
“What kind of man is Mr. French?” she wonders.
Bill replies that French is intelligent and honest, and that there has to be more to the Glenmore story than it seems.
They are tired of being told that nothing is wrong.
Bill says that three people worrying is enough for one family, so they should let the older people handle it. The twins agree and secure Bill’s promise to tell them when it’s time to start worrying.
Bill goes to see French and listens as his French confirms again that the letter is true. When French offers to quit, Bill goes into mock-annoyed mode.
He lets French know that he still doesn’t believe the letter writer. French, who is obviously moved by him employer’s faith in him, says that is his privilege.
Bill then joins a still-brooding Cissy for another conversation.
That’s exactly what French won’t do, Bill says:”If he has to prove himself to keep your respect, your respect isn’t worth anything to him.”
Chastened, Cissy finds French and apologizes to him.
Now that French feels trusted, he’s willing to tell Bill and Cissy the whole story.
Lord Glenmore’s shy and overprotected daughter Evelyn had hardly any contact with men. She enjoyed talking to French about books and eventually believed herself to be in love with him.
He and Lord Glenmore were afraid that if French merely quit, Evelyn would continue to pine for him. Instead, they cooked up a story that French was a married cad scheming to extort money from his employer.
Things turned out okay for Evelyn, who is now happily married with a lovely family.
That rules her out. So who wrote the letters?
Alice probably feels it’s her duty to protect Cissy and the children, he says.
The next day, French is back on park duty.
“They served a purpose–oh, not necessarily the one you had in mind,” he crows.
This episode fills in a crucial hole in French’s back story–how he made his way from a British castle to a New York bachelor pad.
A mystery is always fun, although I feel confused about Alice’s motives. French’s explanation that she was protecting the children makes it sound like she doesn’t know the true story. His confrontation of her in the park, however, suggests that he ascribes malice to her actions. I suppose the details don’t matter, since this episode is really about French’s need to feel trusted by the Davis family.
I enjoy the scene where Buffy and Jody express frustration when no one will tell them what’s wrong. It’s realistic for kids to pick up on tension, and Bill handles the situation well.
There’s a slight oddity in the final park scene–Buffy, Jody and French talk about a game Jody invented called “I Know.” It seems to be a followup to an earlier conversation, one we didn’t see.
Miss Faversham: Heather Angel. Miss Grayson: Annette Cabot. Alfred Dimsdale: David Montresor. Alice Dimsdale: Irene Tedrow. Gopher: Gary Tigerman.
According to a bio of Irene Tedrow, “Her features grew more severe with age, which ultimately typed her as puritanical meddlers and no-nonsense matrons.”
Before TV, she was active in radio, with a regular role on Meet Corliss Archer and frequent appearances on such shows as Suspense, Family Theater, and Crime Classics. She worked steadily in television throughout the 1980s; her more memorable appearances include playing Aunt Martha on an episode of Leave it to Beaver—and reprising the role in twice on the 1980s comeback series—and attending two of Mary’s disastrous parties as Congresswoman Margaret Geddes on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She had a recurring role as Mrs. Elkins on Dennis the Menace. She appeared once on Sebastian Cabot’s earlier series Checkmate and crossed professional paths with Brian Keith in The Parent Trap (her role was tiny and uncredited) and Centennial.
Gary Tigerman’s screen career was short—Oggo the Caveboy on Lost in Space was probably his best role—but his life has gone in interesting directions. He served jail time for refusing to serve in Vietnam, and after his release he got involved in music and songwriting and later wrote a sci-fi novel, The Orion Project.
David Montresor didn’t have much of a screen career. His most intriguing credit is the 1960 Italian-made sci-fi film Space Man, a.k.a. Assignment Outer Space.