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

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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.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 146 — ‘Offshore Crude’

Christopher Atkins, Dallas, Linda Gray, Offshore Crude, Peter Richards, Sue Ellen Ewing

Wrong turn, darlin’

The “Offshore Crude” scene where Sue Ellen goes to Peter’s apartment to break up with him is one of “Dallas’s” sillier moments. When she arrives, Peter is wearing nothing but a towel and a face full of shaving cream, so he excuses himself and returns to the bathroom to finish freshening up. While he’s at the sink, Sue Ellen stands with her back to him and pours out her heart, explaining why the two of them can no longer see each other. She finishes her speech and is surprised to see Peter is unfazed, until she realizes he didn’t hear a word she said because the water was running. Sue Ellen, who apparently is too drained to repeat herself, allows the none-the-wiser Peter to hug her tightly and gush about how important she is to him. “I love you. I really do love you,” he says.

Oh, good grief. Linda Gray and Christopher Atkins do their best to sell this scene, but there’s only so much they can do. Sue Ellen’s confession that she only slept with Peter to persuade him to go back to college isn’t credible, and I don’t believe she’d deliver such important news while he’s shaving and she’s facing the other direction. Frankly, I’m even a little surprised to discover the baby-faced Peter shaves. Like Bobby and Pam’s breakup at the beginning of “Dallas’s” seventh season, this is another example of how the writers rely on misunderstanding and miscommunication to drive their storytelling. Sometimes this show has more in common with “Three’s Company” than I care to admit.

Nothing else about “Offshore Crude” is quite this fatuous, except for the shots that depict the Ewings spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon by the Southfork swimming pool. These scenes were filmed on “Dallas’s” Hollywood soundstage, where the pool is noticeably smaller than its real-life Texas counterpart. So why does the show concoct a race between Bobby, Ray and Peter? It only takes Patrick Duffy, Steve Kanaly and Atkins a few strokes each to go from one end of the pool to the other. Bradford May, the show’s seventh-season cinematographer, makes the outdoor sets look a little more convincing than they did in previous seasons, although there’s still no mistaking them for the real thing. Scenes like this make me so happy the new “Dallas” films its exterior scenes outdoors.

The rest of “Offshore Crude” is standard-issue, mid-1980s “Dallas.” J.R. and Sue Ellen have a couple of good fight scenes, including one where he enters her bedroom and wonders if she’s avoiding Peter because she’s afraid his acne is contagious. I love how Gray hisses Sue Ellen’s response: “Your jokes aren’t funny. They are disgusting and boring.” (I predict I’ll spend the next week quoting that line to anyone who will listen.) Larry Hagman is also wonderfully diabolical in “Offshore Crude’s” final scene, when J.R. summons Edgar Randolph to his office and tells him he’s glad Edgar rejected his recent attempt to bribe him: “If my money can’t buy you, nobody else’s can either.” No matter how much time I spend with J.R., he always manages to surprise me.

I also like the scene where Cliff and Marilee sneak off to a bar on a Saturday night to plot their latest business deal. Fern Fitzgerald delivers another one of her delicious performances as the wine-sipping Marilee, who is clearly savoring this opportunity to mix business with pleasure. I also love seeing Cliff trade in his flashy suit for that nifty electric blue shirt. “Offshore Crude” also includes a fun scene between Miss Ellie and Clayton, who skip the usual family dinner at Southfork to take in a meal at the Oil Baron’s Club. The conversation is mostly designed to lay the groundwork for the arrival of his sister Jessica at the end of the season, but it also plays on the charming rapport between Barbara Bel Geddes and Howard Keel and ends with Clayton asking for the check so he can whisk Ellie away to the city’s last big-band dance club.

This turns out to be the only time Bel Geddes and Keel appear in “Offshore Crude.” What a shame. I’d much rather see Ellie and Clayton on the dance floor than watch the rest of the Ewings frolicking around that tiny pool.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Edgar Randolph, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Martin E. Brooks, Offshore Crude

Unbought

‘OFFSHORE CRUDE’

Season 7, Episode 15

Airdate: January 13, 1984

Audience: 20.3 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Paulsen

Director: Ray Danton

Synopsis: Cliff decides to bid on the offshore oil leases after Sly lies and tells him that J.R. is planning to bid too. J.R. lets Edgar know he has damaging information about him. Peter tells Sue Ellen he loves her. After failing to find Naldo in Rome, Katherine returns to Dallas.

Cast: Mary Armstrong (Louise), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), 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), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Anne Lucas (Cassie), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Alberto Morin (Armando Sidoni), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

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

The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 5

“Dallas’s” fifth season was dandy, save for a few disappointments.

Performances

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

Walk to remember

Barbara Bel Geddes delivers one tour-de-force performance after another as the grieving Miss Ellie. Everyone remembers the scene where Mama smashes the dishes in the Southfork kitchen, but Bel Geddes also shines in quiet moments like the one where Ellie takes that mournful stroll across the ranch. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Bel Geddes can say more with one look than most actors can with a whole script.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Ewing blues

Runners up: Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy both break my heart as the brothers Ewing struggle – in very different ways – to deal with Jock’s death (J.R. falls apart, Bobby falls in line). Meanwhile, Linda Gray does a beautiful job conveying Sue Ellen’s conflicting emotions as a recent divorcee. I understand her confusion: It’s nice to see Sue Ellen on her own, but I also want her to reunite with the soul mate she’s left behind at Southfork.

Storylines

I love to watch J.R. scheme his way back into Sue Ellen’s heart. This is another fascinating performance from Hagman, who keeps us guessing about J.R.’s motivation: Does he really love his ex-wife, or is he merely trying to get his hands on John Ross’s Ewing Oil voting shares? My guess is it’s a little from Column A and a little from Column B. One thing is certain: Seeing J.R. pick off Sue Ellen’s suitors (Dusty, Clayton, Cliff), one by one, is a hoot.

Weakest storyline: Pam’s mental breakdown. Victoria Principal does a nice job depicting her character’s despair, but this isn’t the heroic Pam I fell in love with during “Dallas’s” early years. Thankfully, she gets her groove back toward the end of the season, when she lays down the law to creepy Roger and helps Bobby solve the mystery of Christopher’s paternity. And while we’re on the subject: They may not be Nick and Nora, but isn’t it fun watching Bobby and Pam figure out that J.R. didn’t father Christopher? (The season’s best plot twist, by the way.)

Episodes

Adoption, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing

Adopt or cry

“Adoption” is one classic scene after another. Donna socks it to Bonnie. Bobby asks Sue Ellen to sign the affidavit. Sue Ellen tosses the necklace at J.R. and proclaims their relationship is “sick, sick, sick!” This is another great script from Howard Lakin, but don’t overlook Hagman, who sat in the director’s chair for this episode and once again proved he’s as gifted behind the camera as he is in front of it.

My least favorite episode: “The Maelstrom,” in which Lucy discovers Roger’s shrine to her and responds by making love to him. Come on, “Dallas.” Charlene Tilton deserves better. So do we.

Scenes

This is always the toughest category to choose a winner, and Season 5 is no exception. Among the contenders: J.R. and Dusty’s Cotton Bowl showdown, Ellie’s confrontation with the cartel and J.R.’s soliloquy in front of Jock’s painting. In the end, I’m going with “The Search” scene where the Ewing sons break the news to Mama that Daddy isn’t coming home. I don’t know who moves me more here: Bel Geddes, Hagman, Duffy or Steve Kanaly. Beautiful performances all around.

Supporting Players

Afton Cooper, Audrey Landers, Dallas

Hot stuff

No one impresses me as much as Audrey Landers. This is the season Afton breaks J.R.’s grip and comes into her own as one of the show’s heroines. There’s no doubt she deserves a better mate than Cliff, but I love how Afton humanizes him – and you can’t deny Landers’ chemistry with Ken Kercheval. As an added bonus, Landers delivers several hot musical numbers this year, including that sultry rendition of “All of Me” in “The Phoenix.”

Runners up: Morgan Brittany, who debuts in Season 5 as scheming Katherine Wentworth and begins laying the groundwork for the havoc she’ll wreak in later years; Fern Fitzgerald, whose Marilee Stone becomes J.R.’s equal in every way; Barry Nelson as Sue Ellen’s sympathetic lawyer Arthur Elrod; Claude Earl Jones as Wally Hampton, J.R.’s co-conspirator in the plot to sabotage Cliff’s career; and Lindsay Bloom as Bonnie, the sad-sack barfly who beds Ray.

Costumes

Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Howard Keel

Hello, handsome

Virtually every “Dallas” diva sports a fur coat during Season 5, but the full-length number Susan Howard dons during Donna’s barroom brawl is the most meaningful. Among the dudes, no one wears suits better than dapper Howard Keel. I especially love when Clayton shows up at Sue Ellen’s townhouse in pinstripes and an open collar shirt, the same look Josh Henderson often sports on TNT’s “Dallas.”

At the other end of the spectrum: What’s with Sue Ellen’s culottes during Season 5? You get the feeling the character spent every episode standing in front of her closet, trying to decide between skirts and pants and choosing to compromise by wearing both. No wonder she became a politician.

Quips

“You getting good mileage on Donna’s car?” – J.R.’s cheery query to Ray in “Five Dollars a Barrel” cracked me up. Only Larry Hagman could turn a throwaway line into a hilarious putdown.

What do you love and loathe about “Dallas’s” fifth season? Share your comments below and read more “Best & Worst” reviews.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘No One’s Made a Ewing Back Down’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Paternity Suit

Scene from a mall

In “Paternity Suit,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie and Lucy (Barbara Bel Geddes, Charlene Tilton) are shopping for dresses when Marilee and Linda (Fern Fitzgerald, Joan Lancaster) approach.

LUCY: [Walks toward Miss Ellie with a red boa around her neck] Grandma? Grandma, what do you think?

ELLIE: Well, I think it has a rather limited usefulness.

MARILEE: Why, what a surprise.

LINDA: We didn’t expect to see you here.

LUCY: Where did you expect to see us?

MARILEE: This must be a terrible time for you, Miss Ellie.

LINDA: We’re all gonna miss Sue Ellen tomorrow night at the DOA dinner.

ELLIE: I don’t know what you mean.

LINDA: Well, with all the goings-on in the papers, I hardly think she’d be comfortable there.

ELLIE: Why, she wouldn’t miss it for the world. We’re all going, aren’t we, Lucy?

LUCY: Of course.

ELLIE: We’re buying some new clothes for the occasion.

LUCY: [Holds up the boa] Yeah, how do you like this one? For me, of course, you know.

LINDA: Well, it’s interesting.

MARILEE: We’d love to have you at our table, Miss Ellie.

ELLIE: Thank you, Marilee, but the whole family will be there. I imagine we’ll take up a whole table by ourselves. But why don’t you stop by the ranch for cocktails first. We’ve invited a few friends.

MARILEE: You’re having a party?

ELLIE: Six-thirty, tomorrow.

MARILEE: Linda?

LINDA: Well, that sounds just fine.

MARILEE: I’m sure my husband will be delighted.

ELLIE: Good. We’ll see you then. Bye.

MARILEE: Bye.

Marilee and Linda walk away.

MARILEE: [Under her breath] Who’d have thought?

LINDA: Honey, the Ewings have nerves of steel.

LUCY: Grandma, you were terrific.

ELLIE: I thought so. But I’ve faced worse scandals than this. No one’s ever made a Ewing back down yet. I doubt if they ever will.

LUCY: Are you sure you don’t like this? [Wraps the boa around her neck]

ELLIE: No. You may not wear that horrible dress.

Lucy smiles and walks away.