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April 24th, 2018

The Classic TV Spot The Homosexual Game

I have a certain fondness for the old Burke’s Law TV series. It’s a very weird concept even for its day: a millionaire playboy police captain who investigates homicides among Los Angeles’ fabulously rich in his chauffeur driven Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II, in between makeout sessions with one lovely babe after another. And it’s certainly a product of its time in its regard for women. But all that went over my head when I was a kid. My interest in the show was I liked Gene Barry, having loved his stint as Bat Masterson previously, and the stories were pretty engaging mysteries that usually played fair with the audience. But the big draw for me at that age was that Rolls Royce. I was absolutely fascinated by that Rolls Royce.

Years later I’m sitting at home watching an episode from the first season DVD set. Because even with all the early 1960s sexist baggage I find I still enjoy the whodunnit mystery format, the writing is better than I remembered (at least two episodes were written by Harlan Ellison, and in one of them Sammy Davis Jr. Plays a suspect named Cordwainer Bird (!)), the Rolls Royce still fascinates me, and I get to watch a ton of famous dead Hollywood stars bring their magic to life again. The episode I’m watching is Who Killed Annie Foran? (the episode titles always began with “Who Killed…”).

The episode synopsis is thus…

Party girl Annie Foran is found strangled in the back seat of a customer’s car at the exclusive restaurant Club Nova. Suspicion falls on her ex-boyfriend, baseball sensation Eddie Dineen, who was there at the time in the company of his mentor, the acerbic columnist Whitman Saunders, and Saunder’s assistant, Milo Morgan.

Don Ameche does a killer job playing Whitman Saunders, a slimy Hollywood gossip columnist whose evil just oozes of the TV screen. The scenes between him and Gene Barry are electrifying in this one, and all the more when you consider that Saunders is a pitch perfect embodiment of the evil faux moralizing gossip columnist and Burke is a millionaire playboy giving Saunders all the righteous shade you could ask for.

Saunders has been playing up Eddie Dineen in his columns, and wrote a hit piece on his ex girlfriend Annie to get the couple to break up and get Dineen matched with the more socially glamorous and acceptable (I think…I’m typing this from memory at the moment) Mitzi Carlisle.  The episode begins at dinner party in a very exclusive club with Saunders, his assistant Milo, Eddie and Mitzi. Ameche just oozes evil as he pontificates about this and that, abuses the waiter over some slight he won’t even explain, while dictating his next column on Eddie to Milo. As they are leaving a valet pulls what they think is Saunders’ car around and when the valet opens the back passenger door Annie falls out, dead. Cue the screams from the ladies in the crowd. 

But the car didn’t belong to Saunders. It was another man’s car that was nearly identical to his. Burke quickly rules that man out as a suspect and quickly focuses on Eddie, who may have thought Annie was a drag on his career. Annie as it turns out, was a call girl, though this was 1964 TV and you didn’t come right out and say so. So it’s implied as Burke and detective Tilson search her apartment looking for her address book because…suspects. Burke finds a picture of Eddie he autographed for her. But maybe it was Mitzi, who didn’t want her respectable socialite name associated with Annie’s in one of Saunder’s columns. Or maybe Mitzi tried to set up Saunders because she really loves Eddie and hates Saunders for being such an evil manipulator but she dumped the body in the wrong car. Or maybe it was Eddie’s coach (played tough as nails by Jackie Coogan). Or maybe it was Fisk, the shifty night clerk of the hotel Annie stayed at, and worked out of (played by Sterling Holloway the way Sterling Holloway always plays anybody). Fisk tries to blackmail Eddie over his relationship with Annie and Eddie goes on the run and is eventually captured by Detective Tilson (the series young nerd to Les Hart’s hardboiled old school cop). But by this time Burke is convinced Eddie didn’t do it. He had arrived at the dinner party with Saunders, and couldn’t have put the body in the wrong car.

But Milo…meek mild deferential Milo, always dutifully writing down Saunders’ dictation arrived at the party late. In the Big Reveal at episode’s end, Burke confronts Milo in his apartment and asks why he did it. Milo as it turns out, worked at the same Chicago newspaper as Saunders and was a bright and rising star, slated to get his own column, until Saunders dug up some dirt on him. Remember, this is 1964 so the writers couldn’t come right out and say he’s a homosexual. You had to allude to it, just as they did in 1972, in that Hawaii Five-O episode I was bellyaching about previously, though with a bit more of a heavy hand. Words…bad words…about Milo…were thrown about, he tells Burke as he lounges in his evening attire in his piss elegantly furnished stereotypical homosexual apartment, and he lost his job and his career when no newspaper would touch him afterward. Then Saunders, who gets the column and the fame Milo would have but for him…graciously…offers Milo a job as his assistant. And if you’re thinking now that if it was the last job on earth you’d tell Saunders to go stuff it rather than work for him after what he did, you need to understand a basic fact about homosexuals on TV and in the Movies of the period…and well after: These are homosexual characters written by heterosexual men whose only understanding of homosexuals and homosexuality is everything their cheapshit bar stool prejudices tell them.

Milo kills Annie and tries to frame Saunders because all this time he’s hated the man’s guts (and Don Ameche plays a intensely evil stone hearted narcissistic man in this one). He killed Annie because she was a call girl. Evil, he tells Burke, destroying evil. Burke observes that’s a bit psychotic. Milo, being homosexual, doesn’t deny it. The one slim shred of decency the writer, Tony Barrett, allows him is to say if Eddie had been arrested for the murder of Annie he would have stepped up and confessed to the crime himself, to keep Eddie out of jail.

(I’m paraphrasing this from memory at the moment, and might replay the episode later to get it right…)

BURKE: Would you have confessed if it looked like Eddie was going to to take the fall for Annie’s murder

MILO: Would it help my case?

BURKE: Not in the least.

MILO: I would have confessed.

 

 

Somewhere, in some better place, maybe, Vito Russo nods his head…

Hollywood is too busy trying to make old formulas hit the jackpot again to see the future. Hollywood is yesterday, forever catching up with what’s happening today. This will change only when it becomes financially profitable, and reality will never be profitable until society overcomes its fear and hatred of difference and begins to see that we’re all in this together. –Vito Russo

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Classic TV Spot The Homosexual Game

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