Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 40 – ‘The Heiress’

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Heiress, Lucy Ewing

Fickle finger

“The Heiress” focuses on Lucy, and it’s one of the weakest entries during “Dallas’s” third season. This isn’t a coincidence.

At this point during the show’s run, the producers can’t decide who they want Lucy to be. Sometimes, she is a troublemaking teenager who blackmails Pam (“Lessons”) and runs away from home (“Runaway”). At other times, she is a sweet young woman who deals gracefully with a broken engagement (“Royal Marriage”) and struggles to forgive her deadbeat mama (“Secrets”).

In “The Heiress,” Lucy is all over the place. We see her seduce Alan Beam, which is a pretty grownup thing for a college freshman to do, but we also see Jock ground her for getting too many speeding tickets, which is not. Lucy’s zig-zagging from childhood to adulthood and back again is dizzying.

I don’t blame Charlene Tilton. She’s a spirited actress, and when she’s given good material, she’s one of “Dallas’s” most charismatic performers. I admire Tilton’s work in many episodes, especially “Royal Marriage.”

But in “The Heiress,” Tilton is given a weak script and bad direction. When I watch the episode, I get the feeling she’s trying her best, but there’s only so much she can do.

Consider the scene where Lucy goes to Alan’s office to flirt with him. At one point, Tilton fixes an unblinking gaze on Randolph Powell and rests her chin on her left index finger. I suppose director Leslie H. Martinson thought this would be seductive, as if Lucy is sizing up Alan and imagining what it would be like to sleep with him, but it comes off looking like an exaggerated gesture out of a Mae West movie.

Later, when Alan takes Lucy to a swanky piano bar, Tilton delivers her lines with such girlish enthusiasm, the scene takes on a creepy tone. It’s almost as if Powell’s character is robbing the cradle – in the most prurient sense. Not helping matters: the “Dallas” makeup artists pancake Tilton’s cherub face in this scene, making her look like a child playing dress-up.

“The Heiress” also leaves me feeling embarrassed for other “Dallas” cast members, including Larry Hagman and Jim Davis, who are each given sitcommy scenes involving faked phone calls in the Southfork foyer.

Of course, both actors are given lots of great scenes in future episodes. Tilton’s opportunities are much more limited, which is a real shame. She deserves better.

Grade: C

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Heiress, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Lucy Ewing

Call a script doctor!

‘THE HEIRESS’

Season 3, Episode 11

Airdate: November 23, 1979

Audience: 17.7 million homes, ranking 8th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Loraine Despres

Director: Leslie H. Martinson

Synopsis: Lucy pursues and seduces Alan after witnessing another staged fight between him and J.R. Cliff moves closer toward running for Congress and vows to win back Sue Ellen. Bobby learns about Ewing Oil’s Asian venture but J.R. won’t reveal his financing.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Joe Bratcher (Harry Shaw), Charles Cooper (Harry Shaw), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Karlene Crockett (Muriel Gillis), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Walker Edmiston (Roy Tate), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Eugene Jackson (Pianist), Laura Johnson (Betty Lou Barker), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Joan Lancaster (Linda Bradley), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Marcus Wyatt (Jimmy)

“The Heiress” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. A good critque!! Enjoy all the old Dallas episodes, and you do a great job critquing them.

  2. Lucy’s college experience was handled particularly poorly. College is an all-consuming experience. Lucy seems to treat it like a hobby. Seems like she’s elsewhere more often than not. And it’s shocking that she didn’t seem to make any friends in college. She hung out with Muriel–a friend from high school–and then met Mitch who, as a med student, would be unlikely to find romance with an undergrad (maybe Lucy wasn’t interested in any of the undergrads). Alan Beam could have been a fun character, but he didn’t seem to go anywhere. Definitely sexy though.

  3. The problem C.B. is u have II balance things out IV every actor on the show. U take the good, u take the bad. The point is, its all work & bad or good, its all DALLAS!

Trackbacks

  1. […] campaign he managed. (Alan even had the courage to wear a “Barnes for Congress” button to Jock’s birthday dinner!) Too bad it was all a ruse: Alan really worked for J.R., who wanted to sabotage Cliff’s campaign […]

  2. […] die. But instead, I went to college.” – Lucy recalling her romantic history to Alan Beam in “The Heiress.” Oh, “Dallas.” Charlene Tilton is such a charming actress. Why do you insist on giving her […]

  3. […] “The Heiress,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Lucy and Alan (Charlene Tilton, Randolph Powell) chat at a […]

  4. […] both installments were directed by “Brady Bunch” vet Leslie Martinson, who also directed “The Heiress,” another weak episode from “Dallas’s” third […]

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