Sunday, January 13, 2013

Don't Forget the Nuts

Woke up at 5 AM for no good reason, precisely in time to watch an entire episode of MOVIN' ON on the channel that shows Porter Wagoner. As I am sure you will recall, MOVIN' ON visited the Gulf Coast of Alabama to shoot some episodes in the mid 1970s and we were all pretty excited. Well, folks, you're going to be thrilled to hear that the episode of MOVIN' ON I happened to catch was shot in Mobile, Alabama! It sure was weird. I don't know if it would be weirder, less weird, or exactly the same amount of weird to someone not from the area, and I guess I'll never know. That's one of the tragedies of life. The episode was filled with things peculiar - very peculiar - to Mobile, such as "Azalea Trail Maids." It was a strange combination of long, static, method-actor scenes fueled by meandering improvisation, unbelievably contrived plot points, and allusions that only someone from Mobile in the 1970s could even begin to understand. Along the way, scenes had to be invented to account for the gawking crowds. There was an endless, almost experimental montage of balloons being popped by darts, Frank Converse grinning, and money being stuffed into a bucket, the same shots over and over. I would describe it as all padding, yes, everything in the whole episode seemed like padding for another episode, a missing episode, a phantom episode. Here is something I noticed about the acting style of Claude Akins, star of MOVIN' ON. He would add a sentence of his own to the end of every scene. Like, his sidekick (played by Frank Converse) was noisily eating nuts (a bit of method-actor "business") while looking over musty old books in the Mobile County courthouse (I guess). And at the end of the scene, when Frank Converse got up to leave, Claude Akins uselessly said, "Don't forget the nuts," obliging Frank Converse to ad-lib some line back to him, expressing that the nuts did not belong to him. That, in a "nutshell" - ha ha ha! wheeeee! - is what the whole episode felt like. At the end of another scene, Claude Akins added out of nowhere, "Shine your shoes!" The viewer then noticed that Frank Converse's shoes were extremely dirty. I could just imagine Claude Akins talking to the director like, "My character would notice that his shoes are dirty!" Or in that other scene, "My character would not want to see nuts go to waste!" Claude Akins was just trying to do his best.