#54 - "Like One of the Family"
Morrell, an obnoxious railroad man, has a court order directing the Rangers to evict the Willinghams from Magnolia Manor. Alcott Willingham has sold the estate to the railroad and they want to run track through it the next day. Captain Parmalee is clearly irritated, but promises to send the next Ranger to come in. Alcott asks the Captain to send someone "firm but gentle" to kick his family out of their home. Reese is the first Ranger back from his assignment.
When Reese arrives at the Manor, he first encounters Lionel the black butler who graciously states that his family has had the honor of serving their family for five generations. (We hoped that was supposed to be humorous, but it didn't seem like Laredo style humor.) Reese next encounters the flamboyant Miss Bliss reciting some bloody lines from MacBeth as she descends the staircase armed with two daggers. Reese steps into the parlor to confront an Indian with a raised tomahawk. Vita Rose steps between Reese's drawn gun and Noble Savage whose portrait she is painting.
Reese is soon charmed by the whole family. He stays to luncheon and a few doses of the Colonel's tonic which tastes a lot like sour mash. But Reese finally insists the family must leave with him to talk to the Captain. However, when he returns to the house to fetch Vita Rose her parasol, he falls over a burglar device invented by the Colonel. The Colonel has another invention to ease Reese's sprained back. Reese ends up stretched out on a bed with a rope tied to each limb, listening to Bliss play the trombone and drinking the Colonel's special tonic. When Alcott finds Reese incapacitated, he rushes back to Laredo to complain to the Captain.
When Reese fails to return, Chad is next up in the batting order. He's amused to think Reese has botched such a simple assignment. However, when Chad arrives some railroad surveyors are messing up the herb garden. The gallant Chad quickly dispatches the invaders.
The ladies are enchanted to meet a fellow Louisiana native, especially when he admits their friends the Baton Rouge Coopers are his first cousins. Chad is quite amused to see Reese hung up like a side of beef. He lets Reese know, he'll have no trouble carrying out the assignment where Reese has failed miserably.
But Chad finds himself distracted by Southern hospitality, discussion of old friends in common and the lovely, if wacky, Bliss. Chad is enticed into staying for dinner. After dinner, Chad and Reese join in a family musicale accompanied by piano and trombone.
They're in the middle of a hearty rendition Swanee River when Joe arrives. He adopts a no nonsense attitude until they find out that Alcott had no right to sell the property to the rail road because he had signed over his share when the Colonel paid off Alcott's gambling debts. Now they just have to find the paper Alcott signed. While they're looking, Noble Savage, known to Joe as his old friend Grinning Buffalo, comes out and greets Joe. Vita Rose suddenly insists that she must paint a portrait of Joe locked in mortal combat with Noble Savage.
Erik arrives while they're still looking for the paper. Erik alternates between searching and exchanging lines from Romeo and Juliet with Bliss. When Alcott tells Morrell that the Rangers are looking for the waiver, he arms a bunch of gandy dancers with clubs and rocks. The paper is found while the gandy dancers are on the way.
When the gandy dancers arrive, they are warned off by the four Rangers. Naturally a fight ensues, and the noble Rangers won't use their guns against men armed with clubs so its fisticuffs for all.
The Rangers tell the railroad they'll have to renegotiate with the rightful owners. A few months later, with all the Rangers invited to dinner, we find out how the negotiations went. The family has kept their Manor and the rail road runs, not through the middle of the house but just in front. When it breaks down, Vita Rose gets to serve tea to the passengers.
NiteOwl Review: There was a real Siskel-Ebert split on this one (but not quite so intellectual). The female Peter Brown fans (which include most of the women) liked this one for giving Chad some cute bits and because he looked so damned good doing them. But it was a disappointment for those who wanted to see more William Smith and more action. And it was just so over-the-top silly.
Cast Notes: Robert L. Goodwin was only the third black man to make any appearance, however, brief in Laredo. We could find nothing on him except as writer, director, producer of a 1971 movie called Black Chariot. As William Smith himself reminded us during an interview, a third of the Texas Rangers were actually black. Wouldn't it have been interesting to have seen William Smith, Peter Brown and Fred Williamson as a Ranger trio? Or maybe Sammy Davis Jr.? This was Jeanette Nolan's third appearance on Laredo. Each time her main "Ranger" interaction was with Neville Brand. She appeared in dozens of western movies and series, sometimes with her long-time husband John McIntire. They co-starred as Clay and Holly Grainger [1967-70] after Lee J. Cobb left Shiloh in The Virginian. She appeared opposite Peter Brown in a first season Lawman episode as the mother of an outlaw (played by Robert Fuller) that Peter's character kills.
RESIDENTS OF MAGNOLIA MANOR
Vita Rose Willingham Culpepper
Bliss surprises Reese with
Shakespeare and daggers
Then there's the tomahawk
"Are you related to the
Baton Rouge Coopers?"
"My first cousins, Ma'am"
"Well, aren't you a sight?"
Everyone joins the search
Chad searches the library
Chad lets Alcott know
they're on to his duplicity
Bliss tells Chad Vita Rose wants them to pose as Adam and Eve Chad thinks about his costume
In the middle of dinner, the passing
train shakes the house but no one minds
Original air date Mar 24, 1967
Directed by Robert Gist
Written by John McGreevey
Neville Brand as Reese Bennett
Peter Brown as Chad Cooper
William Smith as Joe Riley
Robert Wolders as Erik Hunter
Phil Carey as Capt. Parmalee
Jeanette Nolan as Vita Rose
Parley Baer as Alcott
Don Beddoe as Colonel Willingham
Gillian Tomlin as Bliss
Walter Coy as Morrell
Robert L. Goodwin as Lionel
Russ McCubbin as Noble Savage
George Robotham as surveyor
Official Peter Brown Fan Site