Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Trouble Last evening, ol’ Robbo watched a movie which, if you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten path, you might consider tossing into your Netflix queue, “Trouble Along The Way” (1953).  The movie stars John Wayne (yes, the Dook) as Steve Williams, a once-great-but-now-down-on-his-luck college football coach hired by Father Burke (played nicely by Charles Coburn), head of a small and failing Catholic college, who gets the idea that if he can field a good football team, he might generate some doubloons and save dear old St. Anthony’s  from being kiboshed by the Diocese.   (In a way, then, this flick is somewhat akin to both “Horsefeathers” and “The Blues Brothers”.  Good company, that.)   Because he sincerely wants the Padre’s scheme to succeed, Steve uses every recruiting trick he can think of – legal and illegal – to turn St. Anthony’s squad into world-beaters.  (Chuck Connors is one of Steve’s coaching minions.)  Trouble ensues.

Steve lives with his 11-year old daughter/sidekick Carol (Sherry Jackson), only issue of Steve and his ex-wife Anne (Marie Windsor) on whom Steve had walked out five years previously after leaving an elite game early only to catch her hootchie-cooching in his bower with some high-end toff.    As the film opens, Anne has just unleashed the long arm of the law on Steve in the person of Alice Singleton (Donna Reed), a Probation Court investigator determined to prise Carol out of Steve’s loving arms because, on first impression, she thinks Steve is a bum and  a bad influence.   More trouble ensues.

While not the greatest movie ever made, “TATW” is really not bad.  A lot of people make the mistake of dismissing the Dook as a real “actor” because a) of his politics, and b) they’ve only caught snippets of him costumed either as a cowboy or a soldier.  Fact of the matter is, his range was a lot greater and more subtle than such people might imagine, and here he really had the opportunity to show a side that you won’t normally see in the standard western or war flick.  He used it, too.  His interactions with little Carol were especially endearing and his approach to Father Burke and the other priests was both reverent and dignified, while at the same time preserving a certain worldly knowingness.

I may say, by the bye  that, overall, the film is very respectful of HMC and whoever wrote it knew exactly what he was about in terms of the Mass, Church politicks and the bailing-wire-and-bubble-gum plight of so many Church -affiliated places of learning.  I couldn’t help wondering if making this film had anything at all to do with the Dook’s later conversion to Catholicism.  Why not?  Alec Guinness has said that his swimming of the Tiber was influenced, at least in part, by the work he did filming Father Brown.

Anyhoo, I say not the greatest because this film definitely has its weaknesses.  The character development is rather uneven. (Anne is such a two-dimensional villainess that you practically need a razor blade to scrape her character off the screen.)  The plot gets somewhat wobbly here and there.  (Why Steve chucks big-time college ball because of Anne’s infidelity in the first place escaped me.)  And Donna Reed was….well, a disappointment.  Don’t get me wrong – Ol’ Robbo has always been a fan of The Donna.  Here, though, she starts out as a clueless and bloodless bureaucratic busybody (I, ah, am familiar with the type (heh)) but, to me, never really warms up under the Dook’s sunny smile the way I think she might have done.  I was left wondering what Steve really could have seen in her, apart from a nice pair of legs.

Eh, not a deal-breaker, but this isn’t exactly a film I’d want to watch over and over again.  Still, as I say, worth a dekko.

trouble 2One other thing about Sherry Williams, who played Carol.  She was quite endearing here, both in her loving joshing of Steve and in her wretched miserableness at being forced to miss St. Anthony’s opener at the Polo Grounds and instead being dragged off to Evil Anne’s apartment for some high-end bacchanal.   11 y.o. herself at the time, Williams reminded me rayther of my own youngest gel in both spunk and looks.  Although my own gel has almost dramatically larger eyes and a somewhat leaner face, there is definitely a certain resemblance. ===>

Looking Williams up on IMDB, I found that this role was one of the first of many over the course of her career.  She apparently specialized mostly in “guest” appearances on various tee-vee series and seems to have hit all the major ones from the 50’s through the early 80’s, including “The Rifleman”. “Maverick”, “The Twilight Zone”, “Gunsmoke”, “Perry Mason”, “Gomer Pyle”, “My Three Sons”, “Batman”, “The Wild, Wild West”,  “The Rockford Files”, “Starsky and Hutch”, “Barnaby Jones”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Alice”, “Charlie’s Angels” and “CHiPs”.  In other words, barring “The Love Boat”, “The A-Team” and “The Dukes of Hazzard”, damn near every series that formed ol’ Robbo’s misspent yoot.

"You call THAT the 'Captain's Log'?"

“You call THAT the ‘Captain’s Log’?”

Oh, I almost forgot, she also had a (to me, at any rate) very memorable gig as one of the myriad space babes in “Star Trek: TOS”.

Yippee-ki-yay.

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