Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 147 — ‘Some Do … Some Don’t’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Howard Keel, Miss Ellie Ewing, Some Do ... Some Don't

Limited engagement

The first scene in “Some Do … Some Don’t:” Donna and Lucy are making muffins in the Southfork kitchen and listening to Miss Ellie and Clayton tease each other about their recent misadventures in Jamaica. Clayton recalls taking Ellie to a French restaurant, where she mistakenly ordered a head of veal instead of a veal chop but ate the whole thing because she was too stubborn to admit her error. Ellie, in the meantime, describes how Clayton accidentally lost his swim trunks on the beach in front of a group of New Jersey schoolteachers. “I would imagine I’m quite famous in Paramus,” he says.

The last scene in “Some Do … Some Don’t:” Clayton brings Ellie home after escorting her to the opening of Jenna Wade’s boutique. The mood is as light and as jovial as the earlier kitchen scene — until Clayton suggests he’d like to stay over so he and Ellie can spend their “first night together.” Suddenly, Ellie becomes rattled, begins to cry and calls off their wedding. “I can’t marry you. I can’t marry anyone,” she says as she runs upstairs. In the freeze frame, Clayton stands at the bottom of the steps, looking more than a little bewildered.

The two sequences serve as the emotional bookends in “Some Do … Some Don’t,” the strongest episode yet from “Dallas’s” seventh season. The opening scene does nothing to advance the show’s storylines, but it’s essential to the episode because it showcases the warm, effortless chemistry between Barbara Bel Geddes and Howard Keel. Together, these actors have charm to spare, and watching their characters gently chide each other allows the audience to feel emotionally invested in their relationship. By the time the hour is over and Ellie has called off the wedding, we can’t help but feel concerned for them.

I also love how “Dallas” doesn’t shy away from the idea that Ellie and Clayton, who are probably supposed to be in their late 60s or early 70s, are capable of having an intimate relationship. I find this subplot even more provocative than Sue Ellen’s May/December romance with Peter Richards. (Frankly, I’m also a little surprised Clayton wanted to sleep with Ellie before their wedding. Who knew the old chap was so modern?) When I watched these episodes when I was younger, I’m sure it never occurred to me to think of Ellie and Clayton as sexual beings, but now it’s not such a hard thing to wrap my head around. Bel Geddes was still a beautiful, vibrant woman when this episode was filmed in 1983, retaining more than a hint of the sauciness she exhibited in her early film roles. Meanwhile, Keel was dashing as ever. In this episode’s final shot, when Clayton stands at the bottom of the Southfork staircase with his hand on his hip, I’m reminded of Clark Gable striking a similar pose in “Gone With the Wind.” I’m sure this was intentional.

Indeed, “Some Do … Some Don’t” is full of flourishes like this. This comes as no surprise: This episode is helmed by Larry Hagman, who always brings an eye for detail to the director’s chair. For example, in one of the Ewing Oil scenes, Bobby tells J.R. about a company he wants to buy. Hagman could easily have started the exchange with J.R. seated in his office, but instead, he opens the sequence with a shot of Kendall at the reception desk, answering a phone call. In the background, J.R. steps off the elevator and walks through the room, stopping by Sly’s desk to pick up his phone messages. As he heads into his office, Phyllis buzzes Bobby on the intercom to let him know that J.R. has arrived, and then Bobby pops into J.R.’s office to tell him about the potential purchase. Maybe this was Hagman’s way of making sure the actresses who played the Ewing Oil secretaries each got a few lines in this episode — too often these performers toil silently in the background — but it nonetheless makes Ewing Oil feel like a real, functional workplace.

More details: The scene where Pam and Mark visit Cliff and Afton at their townhouse begins with Cliff sitting on the sofa, playing a videogame. It’s another small point, but isn’t it just like Cliff to get so wrapped up in a game that he would ignore his guests? (Also: Notice how John Beck seems to be limping as Mark crosses the living room, a subtle throwback to the previous episode, when the character pulled a muscle while playing tennis with Pam.) Additionally, I love when Cliff arrives at the dive bar for another clandestine meeting with Sly and steals the fries off her plate. In another great restaurant scene, J.R. brings Edgar Randolph to lunch at his favorite French eatery, where J.R. threatens to ruin Edgar’s life in one breath and enthusiastically orders him the bouillabaisse in the next. “Oh, you’re just going to love it. It’s really good,” J.R. says with a smile. I dare you to watch this scene without doing the same thing.

The scene where J.R. and Katherine sleep together for the first time is more wicked fun, and so is Pam’s confrontation with Marilee Stone. Pam is clearly out of line when she orders Marilee to stay away from Cliff, but who cares? Isn’t it nice to see Pam exhibit a little backbone and do something besides whine about being torn between Bobby and Mark? It also turns out that Pam and Marilee make good sparring partners. What a shame Victoria Principal and Fern Fitzgerald don’t have more scenes together on this show.

Surprisingly, I also like Sue Ellen and Peter’s scenes in “Some Do … Some Don’t.” Their once promising storyline took a turn for the ridiculous in the two episodes that preceded this one, but heaven help me, I find the couple’s outing to the ice rink kind of charming. I also like when Sue Ellen and Peter run into his classmates from the university and they mistake Sue Ellen for his mother. This feels like the kind of thing that might happen to a woman who dates a younger man, and Sue Ellen and Peter’s reactions to the situation ring true. Sue Ellen, ever the lady, is aghast at the thought that Peter’s friends are gossiping about them, while Peter couldn’t care less. I still have trouble believing Sue Ellen’s attraction to Peter, but at least it’s nice to see the show bring the couple back to a place that resembles reality.

Some more thoughts about Sue Ellen and Peter’s encounter with his friends: Besides Linda Gray, the actor who impresses me most during the scene is Lee Montgomery, who plays Peter’s pal Jerry Hunter. Watch Montgomery’s sly smile when Jerry spots Sue Ellen and Peter; it’s very subtle, but it lets us know he realizes there’s more to their relationship than meets the eye. It’s also worth noting this scene’s two young actresses, who both became science-fiction stars: Kate Vernon played Ellen Tigh on “Battlestar Galactica,” while Claudia Christian was Ivanova on “Babylon 5.” According to IMDb.com, Vernon and Christian are slated to appear together in a forthcoming film called “Chicanery” along with three other “Dallas” actresses: Colleen Camp, who originated the role of Kristin Shepard in 1979; Patty McCormack, who played Mitch Cooper’s friend Evelyn Michaelson during Season 5; and Michelle Scarabelli, who appeared during the 11th season as Connie, Ray’s stalker.

I have a lot of fun finding these connections. I’ve always appreciated how “Dallas” offered steady work to older performers like Barbara Bel Geddes and Howard Keel, but until I started this website, I didn’t realize how many young actors appeared on the show at the beginning of their careers. None of these up-and-comers have become as famous as Brad Pitt, who appeared on “Dallas” a few times in 1987 and will probably always be its most famous alumnus, but it’s impressive to see how so many actors who got their start on the show continue to find work.

This realization has made me watch TNT’s sequel series in a whole other light. Pay attention to all the actors who appear in small roles on the new show. Chances are some of them will still be entertaining us years from now.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Linda Gray, Some Do ... Some Don't, Sue Ellen Ewing

Not the mama

‘SOME DO … SOME DON’T’

Season 7, Episode 16

Airdate: January 20, 1984

Audience: 22 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: J.R. sleeps with Katherine, allows Cliff to steal another deal from Ewing Oil and continues to pressure Edgar to unseal the offshore oil lease bids. Jenna celebrates the opening of her boutique by sleeping with Bobby. Clayton suggests he wants to be intimate with Miss Ellie, who is rattled and calls off their wedding. Mark checks into the hospital for tests without telling Pam.

Cast: Denny Albee (Travis Boyd), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Claudia Christian (Peter’s friend), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Sherril Lynn Katzman (Jackie Dugan), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Anne Lucas (Cassie), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Lee Montgomery (Jerry Hunter), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Kate Vernon (Peter’s friend)

“Some Do … Some Don’t” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. As for Sue Ellen and Peter, I agree to what some of you here said before: “Peedurr” and Sue Ellen just don’t match at all to me. Actually, I like the idea of a couple with an age difference “the other way round” – it is a fact that nobody seems to mind a man being older than a woman (as Peter points out to Sue Ellen). But I can’t help it – Peter appears to me like someone with a mother complex. I thought so even before they bumped into Peter’s friends from college at the restaurant, who thought Sue Ellen was Peter’s mother. And Sue Ellen indeed looks like Peter’s mother – to me at least. It’s not that Linda Gray looks “old” in any way, she doesn’t, but it’s her whole personality, her aura, her ladylike way. She’s just too mature a woman to be with such a “baby”.
    Speaking of grown up men who behave like little boys: Cliff and Mark playing that videogame… 😉

    Chris, I totally agree to what you wrote about Miss Ellie and Clayton. They have wonderful chemistry together, and I too like the way the two characters are presented as a man and a woman who don’t consider themselves “too old for sex”. The way Miss Ellie was worried about Clayton’s reaction to her mastectomy is so touching, and much more gripping than the idea of her just shrugging it off, saying something like, “Oh well, who cares, THAT part of my life is over anyway!”

    • Balena, I’m glad you agree! Miss Ellie and Clayton’s storyline is so interesting, and so ahead of its time. I’m so impressed with “Dallas.”

      Thanks for commenting!

      CB

  2. Anonymous says:

    I haven’t been here for a while – thanks for a great review of one of my fav episodes this season and you are spot on describing BBGs relationship with Howard Keel. Just wait for next episode!

    Sue Ellens relationship with Peter aka Peeddurrr is the weakest storyline this season and not that believable but asides from that its top notch.
    I loved this season ……………

  3. Wasn’t Howard Keel an Academy Award (TM) Winner like Donna Reed C.B.? Thats why he was so reliable!

    • I don’t think Mr. Keel won an Oscar, although he probably deserved one.

      • Giving the company names II Cliff thru Sly IV Brother Bobby II steal is Machiavellian genius C.B. as J.R. can act just as infuriated with Bob for not moving in faster & be his pal & console him that that “god damned Barnes” got the upper hand on Ewin’ Oil again boy! Then Bob will wind up asking J.R. for tips on how to outfox Cliff on other company deals. Forcing him to trust J.R.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Some Do … Some Don’t,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, Katherine (Morgan Brittany) lies in bed, wrapped in a sheet, […]

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