Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Case of the Golden Oranges

Since yesterday I’ve been wracking my mind trying to think of something even just vaguely patriotic for the blog today. Since I already spotlighted the military episodes I could only come up with the following ideas:

#1 Discussing The Golden Oranges, including its relevant sub-plot of whether or not Arthur Hunnicutt’s character was really a hero.

#2 Discussing Arthur Hunnicutt, and hence, coming back to the same episode topic.

#3 Discussing the one color episode and the lovely shades of red, white, and blue we saw on the series proper for the only time.

Of course, #3 is just plain silly (and shameless eye-candy). And it would require some screenshots (which I have, courtesy of my DVD). But if anyone wants me to do such a post sometime this month, I will.

For now I narrowed it down to the first two. But #2 would also require discussing season 7’s The Drowsy Mosquito, which I haven’t seen in quite some time. Then again, I haven’t seen The Golden Oranges in quite some time, either! So I suppose it’s a toss-up.

The Golden Oranges was one of the first season 6 episodes I saw last year after rekindling my interest in the series. It was also the . . . second time I saw Andy recently, I believe, and not the first as I’d previously thought. (I saw Andy many times years ago, but those memories did not travel with me and I only experienced some déjà vu of those times while watching some of the episodes last year.)

Basically the episode is one of my joys. There are so many classic, fun scenes, from Hamilton coming in to watch Perry defend a dog in court and discussing how animals really were brought to trial several centuries ago to Arthur Hunnicutt’s portrayal of our main guest star.

Arthur Hunnicutt has been a favorite of mine for years, ever since seeing him play Pa Kettle’s brother in The Kettles in the Ozarks. I was thrilled to see him on Perry, and also in his Outer Limits episode Cry of Silence (which is one of the few Outer Limits episodes that makes me laugh hysterically, at least for the first half of it. Then rocks fall and things get serious and unlaughable, for the most part).

Arthur typically plays rural or hillbilly type characters. He shines in The Golden Oranges as Amos Keller, the owner of the orange grove that is the central setting for the plot. Although he agreed to let his granddaughter Sandra sell the grove, he changes his mind at the last minute and refuses to sell. He hates the thought of the buyers chopping down all of the orange trees he’s loved and labored over and considered his friends for so many years. Plus, he doesn’t want to move into a retirement home that doesn’t allow dogs, which would force him to leave his beloved dog Hardtack behind. And he’s not partial to the thought of going to the Memorial Day parade by being picked up at the retirement home. That, he says, would be too embarrassing. Although Sandra tries to talk him out of such thoughts, Jim Wheeler, who works for Gerald Thorton, the man Amos was going to sign with, says he’s on Amos’s side after talking with him the day before.

All of the chaos in the episode results from Amos’s decision. Or rather, from the bad guys’ insistence on forcing him to go through with the deal when he doesn’t legally have to. Wanting to force Amos’s hand, the villains concoct a scheme to pretend the dog Hardtack bit Gerald Thorton. Then there will be the threat of Hardtack being taken away if Amos doesn’t cooperate, so they hope Amos will bend to their wishes to save his dog. Unfortunately for them, Perry is called in to defend the dog and gives reasonable doubt that Gerald’s injuries were made by a dog at all.

Furious, the bad guys are not ready to give up. And when Gerald Thorton ends up dead, an attempt is made to frame Hardtack again, as well as his owners. Sandra ends up arrested for the murder.

During the hearing, it comes out that something Amos has talked long and hard about through the years, being a hero during the Spanish-American War, seems to be a false claim. Hamilton brings it out during his examination of Amos. There is no record of an Amos Keller being part of the historic charge up San Juan Hill. The only Amos Keller on record was a clerk. Amos can’t deny the facts. He ends up looking like a liar just seeking attention and fame.

Perry and Paul, however, do some digging. And they eventually unearth a cover-up of a different kind. A corporal who was part of the charge was a friend of Amos’s. Upon his recent death and the reading of his will, there’s mention of Amos. It seems the corporal wasn’t part of the charge at all; he was a scared teenage boy, unable to move past his sudden fear to go ahead with the rest of the company. Amos took his place in the charge, but never said that the boy didn’t go with them. It was the corporal who ended up decorated, but, he said in the will, Amos was the real hero.

Hamilton has one of his best moments during that revelation scene. Although he doesn’t say a word, his expressions speak volumes. Clearly he feels terrible for having humiliated Amos and making it look like he really wasn’t a hero (even though the facts certainly pointed to it at that time).

Hardtack ends up being part of the solving of the murder. He recognizes the murderer and growls fiercely at him. And the murderer, agonized by the angry dog, finally confesses.

The epilogue features the Memorial Day parade and Amos, happily coming out to get in the car to ride in it. He calls to Hardtack, who joins him.

The scenes in court are so classic. There are several humorous bits in addition to the serious parts. Early on, after Hamilton observes Perry’s defense of Hardtack, he asks Perry if business is really this bad (that he has to take on animal clients). They have some very friendly interaction the likes of which was gloriously the standard thing by season 6.

During the murder hearing, Hamilton has a bit of trouble with Amos as a hostile witness. Amos initially refuses to answer anything and scolds the young Hamilton for his questions. (That’s not the first time a witness has referred to Hamilton as “young”. He definitely is, compared to those witnesses, but I always curiously wonder what the age of his character is. The age given in the books, if there was one, really wouldn’t apply to the television version; they’re very different character universes.)

As Amos remains uncooperative, Hamilton turns to the judge in exasperation. The judge instructs Amos that he must answer the prosecutor’s questions, no matter how they strike him. He finally agrees, but nonsense continues when, to protect Sandra, he insists that he wore the lady’s slippers that were found bloodstained at the scene of the crime. Hamilton is dubious and knows what Amos must be up to.

(One of these days I want to do a post on the most ridiculously uncooperative witnesses. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s gold. Poor Hamilton has conducted some very strangely amusing examinations those times.)

Being an animal lover, I enjoy the fact that the dog Hardtack has such a prominent and important role in the episode. He’s really quite adorable and gentle, except when he sees the murderer.

Andy has some good scenes too. He’s a bit more businesslike than friendly today, but he does engage in a bit of lovely lady admiring with Paul, to my surprise and amusement.

All in all, it’s such a great, fun episode. And its hero sub-plot makes it an appropriately patriotic highlight for this week.

Happy (belated) Independence Day!

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