Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gotcha, Mary Kay!

Two nights ago, I was seized by a strong desire to see Peter Bogdanovich's WHAT'S UP, DOC? (1972) again. I hadn't seen it since it played in theaters, and I remembered it as being very funny. I'm pleased to say the film holds up very well, it's still very funny, but it's most enjoyable for assembling a remarkable cast -- so many great character actors, ranging from Austin Pendleton, Kenneth Mars (who in fact died the day I watched it), Michael Murphy (whose screen energy, in a part mostly without dialogue, snaps the film to life at once), Randy Quaid, M. Emmet Walsh, an uncredited John Byner, John Hillerman (who seemed to be in everything that came out of Hollywood in the early '70s)... the list goes on and on, and the film also "introduces" Madeleine Kahn, who arguably steals the film from its stars, Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal -- both, in my opinion, uncommonly charismatic here.

When the film reaches its courtroom finale, I noticed Liam Dunn as the hypochondriac judge and Graham Jarvis as his bailiff. Donna recognized the bailiff but couldn't place him, so I explained that Graham Jarvis had been featured in one of her favorite shows of the 1970s -- MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN -- as Charlie Haggers, doting stage husband of would-be country-western star Loretta Haggers, who was played by then-newcomer Mary Kay Place.

As soon as my mouth invoked her name, I was startled to see a young, still-undiscovered Mary Kay Place walking onscreen to deposit two of the film's plaid carrying cases on the judge's bench!

The IMDb has no record of Mary Kay's presence in the film, as they do with John Byner's uncredited appearance, but there she is, right up front, plain as day. The IMDb lists a 1973 episode of ALL IN THE FAMILY, like MARY HARTMAN a Norman Lear production, as her first onscreen acting appearance.

Graham Jarvis passed away in 2003, but Mary Kay Place continues to make welcome appearances in film and television, currently holding down a primary supporting role in HBO'S BIG LOVE. I've got to wonder if she and Graham had the same agent or something, or if they were even conscious of having worked together in this earlier project when they were subsequently cast as "baby boy" and wife.
Anyway, a discovery worth sharing with the rest of the world.

6 comments:

  1. I have fond memories of "What's Up Doc? " being screened for us on a school camp in the late 70's on a 16mm projector ! Pre videotape days of course.

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  2. Also watched "What's Up, Doc" in the last 6 months. Still fun in its way. And why isn't "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" available on DVD or iTunes? Same goes for "Fernwood 2Night!"

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  3. cadavra5:49 PM

    Jeez, how could I not have noticed her, as many times as I've seen this? Getting old really blows...

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  4. Anonymous1:36 PM

    Saw this first run as well, and my friends and I liked it so much we stayed for the next showing by hiding down in our row as they cleared the theater. Always wondered how it would play if I saw it again.

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  5. Funny, but just the other day I bought the dvd of this movie, not having seen it since its theatrical release. But I had fond memories of it from that time, so I got it. I'd bought FOR PETE'S SAKE with Babs a couple of months ago, and enjoyed that, and had hoped to see Bogdanovich's film, which enjoys a better rep.

    Now, after reading your remarks, WHAT'S UP DOC shoots up to the top of my "watch this soon" pile! (It's separate from all the others.)

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  6. Not sure why Mary Hartman X2 isn't available on DVD, but Fernwood 2Night would have too many music rights issues to iron out: Happy Kyne and His Mirthmakers sure tortured a lot of popular tunes.

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