Favorite TV Episodes: Route 66 “Some of the People, Some of the Time”

SWC75

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ROUTE 66 12/1/61 “Some of the People, Some of the Time”

My review:

I watched Route 66 with my parents as a kid in the early 60’s and never saw another episode until they appeared on Nick at Night in the 80’s. During that period, my memory of the show was that it was a light-hearted, rather charming romp across America, with the occasional touch of serious drama. When I got a chance to see it again, I was surprised at all the dark episodes about twisted or sad people. I guess that means that the lighter episodes somehow made a great impression on me, (and my parents). They are often episodes you couldn’t see as part of any other series. This one is a good example.

In the small town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, (there’s no mention of Jim Thorpe), Tod and Buz break up and wind up finishing a fight between Keenan Wynn, a small time con man, (it seems), who has just hustled some local toughs at pool. Wynn is running a beauty pageant with the prize being a trip to Hollywood and speaking part in a movie. He hires the boys to interview the applicants and pick the best ones. He goes from town to town doing this and getting the local merchants to offer prizes in exchange of publicity. He does in fact know a guy in Hollywood who has been getting bit parts for the young women he sends out there- bit parts that are filmed and then wind up on the cutting room floor. He makes his money by taking the prizes and selling them to a guy who follows him around to buy them so he can resell them at a profit. His problem is that he’s now on the outs with the guy at the movie studio and his last beauty queen- and her mother are now after him to expose him as a fraud.

Meanwhile Todd becomes interested in a local waitress, a plain-looking, under-confident young woman perfectly played by Lois Nettleton, who has what I call an “actresses’ face: she can be pretty and even glamorous when made up to look so or she can look like a plain Jane when the part demands it, (Angelina Jolie, for example, doesn’t have that option). Tod convinces her to enter the pageant after a visit to some local stores and a hairdresser. She comes out a radiant, confident Cinderella, ready for the ball and wins the pageant, smiling not at the audience but at some fulfilled dream.

At that point the angry mother of the previous winner, with her sniffling daughter and the police in tow, invade the auditorium and declare the whole thing to be fake, demanding that everyone associated with the pageant be arrested. Lois just deeps smiling dreamily through it all.

Afterwards, in the local lock-up, Lois reveals that she, too is a “fake”. She’s seen the pageant at another town and followed it to Carlisle, gotten and a job as a waitress so she could enter it there. She wanted to win it all long, not because of the trip to Hollywood- she knows she doesn’t belong out there- but because after all these years of taking people’s orders and realizing that her customers had no idea who she was, she’s now gotten the recognition she’s always wanted. She’s fulfilled and Wynn points out, (as soon as he’s talked their way out of jail), that so has everyone else. He’s made his money and can pay the boys theirs. The town got some excitement and t merchants their publicity. And the winner had her dream fulfilled. It reminded me a bit of the Music Man, without the music.

Incidentally, Lois Nettleton’s career began when she was named Miss Chicago of 1948 and went on to make the top 15 at the Miss America pageant, (they had representatives of the major cities as well as states back then). But she didn’t go to Hollywood. Instead she went to New York and the Actor’s Studio, where she really learned her profession and became one the finest actresses of her generation, as she shows with her soliloquy in the lock-up.

The previous two episodes had a director who would make a big name for himself in the movies in the next decade, (Sam Peckinpaugh), and so did this one- Robert Altman, whose facility with character vignettes comes strongly into play here.

IMDB: "Route 66" Some of the People, Some of the Time (TV Episode 1961) - IMDb (Amazon Prime has it for 99 cents)

You-Tube: (you can watch it for $1.99)

The first 9 minutes for free: ROUTE 66 TV S2 E10 "Some of the People, Some of the Time" [opening scene]
 
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