McMillan minus wife, in the last series of the show that started out as McMillan and Wife…
With the other fanciable Rock, giving a solid performance with my favourite Darlin Dallaser.
“McMillan & Wife” TV Intro and Ending, The Rap Sheet and photos © NBCUniversal Television Distribution
When I first heard of the Rock Hudson blogathon run by two lovely bloggers I just had to join. As it seems many a girly blogger has confessed to a crush on this gorgeous, sexy, award-winning, Oscar-nominated and talented actor, and (of course) these including yours truly.
As my choice wasn’t available, I plonked for an episode of McMillan (1976-77) and the renamed sixth final TV series of McMillan & Wife (1971-77). In this fifth episode of the sixth series, Stuart McMillan is a widower due to the sad demise of his wife Sally in a plane crash preceding this series.
Hudson’s supporting cast in this particular episode was perfect Realweegiemidget Review fodder. This included two pre-Darlin’ Dallasers. JR Ewing aka Larry Hagman and Barbara Babcock played Liz Craig (a work colleague of Pammy Ewing’s at The Store). Both were in the oft mentioned Dallas (1978-91). Also starring in this episode was Hart to Hart‘s (1979-84), Mrs H(art), Stefanie Powers. The episode events unfold like this…
The show started with a supercool inviting theme tune and 70s font that made me immediately want to watch the whole series. this includes the preceding shows with his wife (Susan Saint James) and those with Hudson’s early 70s moustache and hairstyle.
Enter a shaven, suited silver fox of a Rock Hudson as Stewart McMillan, a San Francisco Police Commissioner. He’s about to meet with the Deputy District Attorney (DA) and is encouraged to smile sweetly by his work colleague. He’s warned not to get annoyed with the DA by his Sargent and apparent chauffeur, Di Maggio (Richard Gilliland). This inevitably means one thing…
Cue a heated clash with the DA, with a shouting Hudson – reminiscent of Hudson’s role in Avalanche (1978) – with the trouser suited, Deputy DA Stephanie Bryant (Powers). He’s not ready to open a case for the prosecution, and she thinks it’s because she’s a woman. Cue insults of the 70s kind, including he’s a “one man obstacle course” and she’s a “professional female agitator”.
Eagle-eyed viewers will note Stephanie’s doing the big wide-eyed. come to bed thing simultaneously. He leaves for another meeting, with him retorting he wasn’t late for this give her “a good smack on the bottom”.
McMillan has an appointment with Dr Wesley Corman, his dentist, this to him another pain he can do without. There’s good ol’ Larry Hagman as Corman, McMillan’s poker buddy, good friend and dentist. So for once, I would even object to going with a bit of a crush on this actor too back in the just before Dallas days.
Corman extolls the joys of procaine (as I’m sure Jack Nicholson’s patient did to his dentist in the Little Shop of Horrors (1961)). McMillan meets an elderly dentist, Horace (Lloyd Nolan), Corman’s father-in-law as he leaves the dentist’s office.
In a scene with Horace and Wesley, it turns out
JR Wesley has taken out 100,000 dollars against their dental practice (ironically knowing Hagman’s then near-future role) to buy into an oil scheme with money back guaranteed.
It’s revealed Wesley and his wife Lydia (Babcock) are getting a divorce as she loves someone else. Corman owes 200,000 dollars to his father in law. Corman claims he has been trying to save the marriage.
Corman returns home – to what looked like Cliff Barnes apartment also in Dallas – but with a stage with a grand piano. The piano sadly has no apparent reason and a red herring (or a prop seen too bulky to remove from the set). His wife Lydia is watching the news read by a curly mopped anchorman Alan Evans.
The married pair talk about divorce and Corman confronts Lydia about her lover. He appears vulnerable and hurt, she’s cold. He obviously seems still very much in love with her. Corman leaves for his poker game. Lydia arranges to meet with Alan Wells (Jed Allan). her anchorman lover to talk.
McMillan and Corman attend their Monday night poker game. Meanwhile, Alan arrives and tells Lydia wants to confess to Wesley they love each other, Lydia’s confused as Wesley has been like the man she married recently (read nice, romantic and loving). She says she wants to cool things down with Alan.
She wants time, the pair snog then her daddy, Horace walks in… and Horace angrily demands Alan leaves. Lydia sounding shaky calls Wesley at the poker game asking he returns home, where it’s revealed the newsreader is dead… Cue dramatic music… and close-ups.
After returning a call to Di Maggio in the wee small hours. Di Maggio tells him Alan is dead. McMillan is on the case. This (surprisingly) is due to Alan careering off the road in a one car accident in dry weather. This you will note, was not how we discovered his untimely death.
As the coroner leaves, McMillan and Di Maggio, his one-man entourage Di Maggio arrive at this remote location for the accident. With the “accident” described apparently, Alan suffered from a heart attack resulting in Alan careering off the road. Yet the car is in “park” mode with turned off lights. McMillan also finds an appointment card for the Presido Medical Building with a time stamped on it of 1.27pm…
The chief – up for retirement – has Alan’s personal effects.. finding a box of unused matches with The Cormans emblazoned on it in his shirt. McMillan investigates more with his flu-ridden sidekick in tow and calls on Wesley still in his PJs. Corman claims that Alan visited them, had a brandy with Lydia and then left.
But McMillan reveals that an autopsy will take place… this revealing an overdose of Digitalis. This quick-acting heart medication was used by Horace to prevent heart attacks in minutes… and it really would be murder if you didn’t check out the rest of this star-studded episode.
Rock Hudson was wonderful in this role giving the gravitas, presence and forthrightness you love him for. Sadly though he didn’t have much to do in the first fifteen minutes with the storyline concentrating on Wesley’s life with his family. But he came into his own as a straightforward, direct, no-nonsense policeman.
I loved the storyline complete with many a red herring and twist and turn until the true identity of the murderer, their motives and the true story of events were revealed. Hagman himself is always a delight to watch with his vulnerable, loved up character Corman seeming like just one of the many suspects.
Babock as his wife, was perfectly cold with Hagman’s Wesley in their initial scenes but emotionally torn and responsive to both men. Her character with the victim as he died due to this quick-acting drug. Her character would have had access to this drug via her father. Her father is also a suspect due to his medication.
I can’t really judge the Jed Allan performance as he had a fistful of lines, then slumped “dead” on a couch. Nolan had an equally baffling character as Horace who seemed angry at his daughter having a lover, yet wanted Corman out the way too.
Also, a brother Peter who had been called by Lydia – about Alan’s demise – was suddenly introduced. Out of nowhere. All these characters along with the bizarre explanation of events and the personal effects lead to this compelling episode’s big denouement.
However, the co-running storylines did annoy me. Both were initially a hindrance but do bear with them (as I did). One of these storylines is important to the storyline. McMillan’s relationship with the feisty, at times feminist Stephanie Duranti was pretty obvious where their relationship was heading from the start. As you didn’t need to be a detective to understand the subtext. Or indeed have watched Hudson’s battle of the sexes films with Doris Day (with whom he had more chemistry).
In the initial meeting, Powers obviously either had a bit of a crush on this older actor – and who can blame her – or she made it too bloody obvious that the DA was equally besotted. These scenes led to inevitable flirty talk from McMillan and Stephanie, dinner at his place and then (inevitably) cockblocked by the “comic” timing of Di Maggio. There’s more in their explosive storyline…
The other co-running storyline was that of the “comic” – read irritating – flu-ridden, sidekick Di Maggio. This annoyed me as Hudson’s character said “Gesundheit” (translated as health from Darlin Husband Translate) every time Di Maggio sneezed. This line was as irksome as that line in a certain Doctor Who episode.
Other notable mentions have to include the knitwear worn by Larry Hagman and Rock Hudson. Firstly, I’m 100% sure Hagman wore that grey cardigan in the Dallas final episode of Conundrum (1991), about 16 years later. Check out the featured picture for this post for comparison. Also, Hudson’s cable knit cardigan reminded me of the knitwear range he wore a few years later in Avalanche, the disaster movie I loved.
But now for something completely different… you may be wondering just how this particular review choice was selected. I found just choosing one film or show from Hudson’s career was hard. My initial thought was his then-controversial character in what would be his final role, that of Daniel Reece aka Sammy Jo’s dad in Dynasty (1981-89).
These choices also included The Mirror Crack’d (1980). This movie has a sterling cast of Hollywood headliners including Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple and Kim Novak and Elizabeth Taylor battling it out. This is literally as both actresses play two former actresses who battle it out over Hudson in this 1980s screen Agatha Christie adaptation. There were also his lovely, delightful comedies with Doris Day, or his aforementioned disaster movie with Roger Corman to expand on. But I and I’m sure many of you will agree Rock Hudson really is a Rock for All Ages.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
This was entered in the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Love Letters to Old Hollywood’s Rock Hudson Blogathon. Rock Hudson also stars in my McMillan and Wife review, Avalanche and in Dynasty posts HERE and HERE, Other posts include Larry Hagman in my post on Dallas, the Christmas tag 12 Days of Dallas, Conundrum and confessing my love for JR Ewing. He also stars in 80s Crushes. His birthday inspired the Darlin Dallas blogathon. Stefanie Powers stars in Hart to Hart. Richard Gilliland starred in Murder She Wrote, Hotel, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.