Thursday, August 11, 2005


I could just as easily have sub-titled this eulogy "I Remember Mama"......

Remember that episode of 'Saturday Night Live' which was hosted by Dolly Parton? At one point, she regaled the cast with the stories her Mama done tol' her, which they realized were nothing more than retellings of old TV show plots.

Phil Hartman:
She must have been quite a woman!
Dolly Parton:
Well, you don't have to patronize me, Phil.

In a way, the same thing happened to me once. My Mom once told me a story about a woman who killed her husband with a frozen leg of lamb, and then when the police showed up to question her, she had it cooked up and served to them, thus destroying the evidence.

Years later, I found the episode "Lamb To The Slaughter" on a video collection of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' and was pleased to give Mom the chance to see it, as she had never seen it either. For her, it was also a story told by someone who had watched the show.

Of course, such a plot line wouldn't hold up in today's TV world, not with all those forensic specialists roaming round the dial. ("I say! What's this behind his ear, Holmes?" "I believe it to be mint jelly, Inspector.")

But as a story spun by one's Mom, and fermented in my own imagination, it made for one hell of a tale.

And when viewed with its own time period in mind, I think the episode holds its own as one of the unofficial 8 million stories from 'The Naked City'. In fact, I'll have to watch it again now just to see if the police precinct is named; the detectives (and the murder victim) could have easily been assigned to the 2-7 of the 'Law & Order' patch of the TV Universe.

It seems appropriate that this macabre "I Remember Mama" moment should come to mind. Aside from the imaginative way in which the wife dispatches her husband (as well as the evidence), the episode is notable for the performance of Barbara Bel Geddes as Mary Maloney.

Bel Geddes passed away the other day at the age of 82, yet another victim this week of lung cancer. I would put forward the claim that her performance in that episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' will stand as one of the top five highlights of her career.

In the world of the "Theatuh", she originated the role of Maggie the Cat in 1955 on Broadway in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof".

In the movies, she played Jimmy Stewart's patient and plain girl-friend in "Vertigo". And she received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in the movie version of "I Remember Mama".

But it was when she assumed a maternal role in Toobworld that she gained her greatest acclaim. If, as Miles Drentell once said on 'thirtySOMETHING', we are a nation of amnesiacs, the impact of Ms. Bel Geddes performance as Miss Ellie, the matriarch of the Ewing clan on 'Dallas', was made even stronger by the fact that she had been out of the public eye for so long before she took on the role.

And she did have quite an impact as Miss Ellie. When she was sidelined by a heart attack for nine months, the legendary Donna Reed stepped into the role.... and was not accorded the most convivial of receptions from fans who wanted the one, true Miss Ellie back.

Ms. Bel Geddes also won the Emmy for playing the role in 1980, and she remains the only actor from a night-time soap opera to ever be given such an honor.

And so, with the passing of Barbara Bel Geddes, we at Toobworld Central tip our Toob Top Hat to her memory as we remember the Ewing Mama.

Here are a list of her TV Universe credits, as compiled by

"Dallas" (1978) TV Series .... Eleanor 'Miss Ellie' Southworth Ewing Farlow #1 (1978-1984, 1985-1990)

"Spencer's Pilots" playing "Maggie" in episode: "The Search" 29 October 1976
"Journey to the Unknown" playing "Inga Madison" in episode: "The Madison Equation" (episode # 1.7) 2 June 1969
"Daniel Boone" playing "Molly Malone" in episode: "Sweet Molly Malone" (episode # 5.25) 17 April 1969
"Dr. Kildare" playing "Dr. Ruth Halliman" in episode: "A Miracle for Margaret" (episode # 4.22) 25 February 1965
"Death Valley Days" in episode: "The Vintage Years" (episode # 11.11) 19 December 1962
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" playing "Sybilla Meade" in episode: "Sybilla" (episode # 6.10) 6 December 1960
"Riverboat" playing "Missy" in episode: "Payment in Full" (episode # 1.1) 13 September 1959
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" playing "Helen Brewster" in episode: "The Morning of the Bride" (episode # 4.19) 15 February 1959
"The DuPont Show of the Month" in episode: "The Hasty Heart" (episode # 2.4) 18 December 1958
"The United States Steel Hour" playing "Lily Barton" in episode: "Mid-Summer" (episode # 6.3) 8 October 1958
"Playhouse 90" playing "Sidney Cantrell" in episode: "Rumors of Evening" (episode # 2.32) 1 May 1958
"Studio One" playing "Letty Greene" in episode: "The Desperate Age" (episode # 10.28) 21 April 1958
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" playing "Mary Maloney" in episode: "Lamb to the Slaughter" (episode # 3.28) 13 April 1958
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" playing "Lucia Clay" in episode: "The Foghorn" (episode # 3.24) 16 March 1958
"Schlitz Playhouse of Stars" in episode: "French Provincial" (episode # 7.14) 13 December 1957
"Studio One" playing "Charlotte Lamb" in episode: "The Morning After" (episode # 10.5) 7 October 1957
"Schlitz Playhouse of Stars" in episode: "Fifty Beautiful Girls" (episode # 6.33) 21 June 1957
"On Trial" in episode: "The Gentle Voice of Murder" (episode # 1.27) 24 May 1957
"Toast of the Town" playing "Herself" (episode # 10.8) 11 November 1956
"Campbell Playhouse" in episode: "XXXXX Isn't Everything" (episode # 2.26) 9 April 1954
"Nash Airflyte Theatre" in episode: "Molly Morgan" (episode # 1.14) 21 December 1950
"Pulitzer Prize Playhouse" in episode: "Bethel Merriday" (episode # 1.11) 15 December 1950
"Robert Montgomery Presents" in episode: "The Philadelphia Story" (episode # 2.7) 4 December 1950
"Robert Montgomery Presents" in episode: "Rebecca" (episode # 1.9) 22 May 1950

Our Town (1977) (TV) .... Mrs. Webb


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