Bully For You

Filmed July 1969

A little more than twenty-four hours after I said, “Cut, print,” on the last scene in AN F FOR MRS. L., I said, “Action,” on the first scene in BULLY FOR YOU. This was the first time I started a show with no preparation time. But by then I was learning that prepping a half-hour show was different than prepping an hour show. All of BULLY FOR YOU was to be filmed in the studio, so there were no locations to scout. The story to be told occurred in the Corbett apartment, Tom’s office (in both of which I had already filmed extensively) and one new set, the office of the school nurse. After eight years it was no longer necessary for me to come the studio on weekends to plan my staging in the actual sets. I was now doing that with the floor plans that the art director provided.

Almost all television series had the same opening billboard each week announcing the series and the cast. Many shows did not even change them from season to season. Here barely into his first season and before his show had even debuted Jimmy introduced a new one; he would add others before the season was over. He didn’t change them every week, but he did change them. Another of Jimmy Komack’s innovations!

Although Peggy Chantler Dick would not have any writer’s screen credit on this show, I sensed an added dimension in the characterizations that I attributed to her. There was an added sensitivity to the people in what was actually the broadest situation comedy of my first four outings.

As for the cast, the episode consisted of seven actors, four of whom were running characters on the series. A meeting on the set of AN F FOR MRS. L. with the casting director while a shot was being lit took care of selecting the other three

Did I recognize when I was directing six year old Jody Foster (our Joey) that she would grow up to become a megastar and win two Academy Awards? No, I have to confess I didn’t. Oh I realized that she was enormously talented, but so were most of the kids with whom I worked — and there were a lot of them. But the list of talented child actors who went on to have stellar careers in film was very short. Mickey Rooney. Judy Garland. Elizabeth Taylor. Even the biggest child star ever, Shirley Temple, didn’t quite make that list and found her later acclaim as an ambassador to the United Nations. And then there was Jackie Cooper and Ron Howard, two who moved behind the cameras for illustrious careers as producer-directors. What I did recognize and what constantly amazed me when working with child actors was her professionalism and the depth of preparation she brought to the set.

Once Joey started serving the dinner, those two youngsters, seven year old Brandon and six year old Jody, had all the business; Bill and Miyoshi were relegated to the side lines to react. There was a hysterically funny moment when Eddie asked for more tea and Joey responded, “Get it yourself”. The script called for Joey to hit Eddie and for Eddie to respond by hitting her back. I carefully staged the scene, cautioning both of them to pull their punches; no one was to actually get hit. Well on the first master two shot of the business Jody carefully socked Eddie without touching him. Brandon however ended up walloping Jody in the shoulder. Jody paused, turned to me standing by the camera and with the greatest comedy timing and an even greater understated reading of the line she said, “He hit me.” The crew and I exploded in laughter as I cut the take. Only then, too late, did I realize that reaction could have been used, with some judicious rewriting, in the continuation of the scene. That was a valuable lesson.

A recent Comment on my blog RALPH’S TREK for this episode (which I posted a year and a half ago) stated:

 

I wanted to ask you about BULLY FOR YOU. You noted, “And finally I wonder how the feminists of today are reacting to the Japanese customs of forty-one years ago.” Well, though a guy, I was somewhat taken aback by this episode and was frustrated that the writer Joanna Lee was no longer with us to ask. She has such an incredible track record with the documentary “Babe” and others with strong female lead characters.

The lessons in this episode seem to be: Lesson one: “Tom boy” has rough edges, requiring the smooth edges of Mrs. Livingston. Lesson two: Learn how to serve man, “because we woman are here to do it for them.” Lesson three: When she has one last blast of resistance to this, “Your arms are not broken — pour it yourself!” and then after giving him a smack, Eddie, with the approval of the girl’s father (and tacitly his father), smacks her back. Result: She cries. Now, she becomes a “very sweet little girl.” In fact, becomes clingy requiring Eddie to ask her to leave him alone. Shades of “Taming of the Shrew”.

 

 

One may make the case I am looking at this from contemporary eyes. Possibly so, but 1969 was 6 years after “The Feminine Mystique”. How do you view the episode from your current perspective?

 

I reply now as I did to that Comment. 1969 may have been six years after “The Feminine Mystique” but that doesn’t mean the philosophy presented in “The Feminine Mystique” had become the prevailing attitudes of the period. And Joanna Lee’s “Babe” was not written until 1975, six years later. I think an added bonus to viewing what is now being considered classic television is that beyond the entertainment, there is an insight into the mores and culture of the period. Remember, Mrs. Livingstone was not representative of the modern and current American attitudes prevailing at the time; she was still old world Japan. Would that scene be written the same way today? I doubt it.

The journey continues

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4 Responses to Bully For You

  1. Mark Henschel says:

    Hi

    I have a vivid memory of a TV show about a boy and his dad. The boy is getting hit at school by a bully. When he finds out what’s happening the father goes to have it out with the other boy’s father in the latter’s basement workshop. When the bully’s dad explains that he has no problem with his kid hitting other kids, our father is upset. But then his son hits back. Predictably, the bully is shocked and tearfully turns to his father for support… which isn’t forthcoming. Fair’s fair, you don’t throw a punch if you can’t take one. The boys come to terms with this equality and the hitting (supposedly) stops. Our father accepts that the lesson is learned and also accepts a beer from the (former) bully’s dad.

    I always thought this was an episode of “Eddie’s Father” but I seem to be wrong. I do remember this episode with Jodie Foster. Was there such an episode of Eddie’s Father? If not do you happen to know what programme it was? I have a hunch it might have pre-dated Eddie as I “see” it in black and white.

    Thanks.

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