Monday, March 28, 2016

The Silent Film episode of Petticoat Junction (1968)

Back on November 9, 1968 the cornball American sitcom Petticoat Junction aired an episode that was something of a love letter to the silent era. The season 6, episode 6 program, titled "Wings," starred early Hollywood actors Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen. Here is that episode.


Along with the appearance of Rogers and Arlen and a story that centers around a screening of Wings (1927), there are a handful of "shout-outs" to other films and actors of the silent era. There are also mentions of silent era stars Ken Maynard, Charlie Chase, Chester Conklin, Monte Blue, Clive Brook, Rin Tin Tin, and Rex the Wonder Horse. Three early films mentioned in the show are Tess of the Storm Country (1922), Cardboard Lover (1928), Nanook of the North (1922), and The Green Archer (1940.

The story revolves around an effort to save the local theater, the Pixley Bijou, from closing. One of the residents of Hooterville contacts Richard Arlen and Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, who were supposed to come to the Bijou 40 years earlier for a showing of Wings, but decided instead to attend a premiere at the Roxy in New York City.

Curiously, even though the story centers on a screening of Wings, one of the big stars of that film, Clara Bow, is never mentioned. There is only mention of the local "It Girl," who looks like a flapper and sports bobbed hair. Near the end of the episode, during the showing of Wings, a few brief passages from the film are shown including the scene where a young Gary Cooper enters the flier's tent. "Hey, there's Coop, Gary Cooper" character Sam Drucker says. "Shut up, I can't hear anything," Uncle Joe Carson responds. "It's a silent movie you blockhead," Drucker says.

Interestingly, the owner of the Pixley Bijou is played by Benny Rubin, who got his start in films in 1928 in a short titled Daisies Won't Yell.

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