Final Tribute & Brush Roper

Gasser

     My latest foray into the 1955-56 television series Screen Directors Playhouse involved a rather pointless drama and decent, if not annoying, comedy. In The Final Tribute Larraine Day as small-town nurse Joyce Carter narrates the story of the new doctor in town. This Dr. Kent (Dan O’Herlihy) is young, cold and unsympathetic with his patients, yet they flock to his professional ways. In doing so they somewhat abandon the town mainstay, Dr. Walton (Thomas Mitchell) whom Joyce describes as being as taken for granted as the post office.

     Joyce gets a job as a nurse alongside Dr. Kent, and we find minor romantic tension between them. At one point getting flustered, Joyce attempts to speed away in her car but the vehicle lets her down and she is stuck accepting a ride home from Dr. Kent, along with dinner. Dr. Walton arranges with Dr. Kent to take the house calls he receives at night because the young man refuses to help people in an unnecessary panic.

     When an accident involving a dump truck and a school bus sends loads of injured kids to the doctor’s office, everyone pitches in –including Joyce who had recently quit in a huff– and Dr. Kent refuses to rest. The town later names him their person of the year, but, in revealing Dr. Walton has been making all those house calls for free, he passes the award to the old man. This again warms Joyce’s heart.

     For me Andrew Stone‘s The Final Tribute felt rather pointless. If it is meant to be a romantic plot, it fails to give the necessary exigence to Joyce’s occasional hatred for the man and gives us little to believe she should be attracted to him. If it is meant to show us that a cold-hearted man like Dr. Kent can do a kind thing like giving his award away, it fails because he seems to be rejecting the town’s affection as he begins his speech about why his colleague better deserves the tribute. The plot contains neither a clear villain or hero. The bus accident would have made a better climax than the doctor’s rejection of the award.

     A western comedy, Director Stuart Heisler‘s The Brush Roper offered some relative humor and one amazing feat of chance. Western standby Walter Brennan plays Grandpa Atkins, a former cow roper who is relegated to the position of family farmer in his old age. When a couple of young cowboys (Chuck Connors and Edgar Buchanan) come along and say a prize bull has escaped, Atkins’ grandson Cowhide (Lee Aaker) volunteers the old man to beat the young ones to the reward money.

     Riding his old cow-roping horse Liver Pill, grandpa initially finds and ropes the bull but loses him when his saddle flies of the horse and he and it slide on the ground until the rope breaks. Next, using a stronger rope, Grandpa and Liver Pill follow the roped bull off a cliff. Although the secured bull lands on the ground, Grandpa and the horse are stuck in the branches of a tree. Grandma and the young cowboys arrive to cut the man down and hear his gloating.

     Brennan was the slightly annoying yet funny aspect of The Brush Roper. His predicaments and complaining are worthy of enjoyment as are the trick his horse seems to play on him. Cowhide tells the story in addressing the camera, which felt a bit unnecessary and showed off the boy’s acting weaknesses. Overall it was a well-constructed short story and had its humorous moments but is nothing to write home about.

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