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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Monday, July 3, 2006
Two More From The Rockford Files
I realize that the practice is something of a staple in private-eye fiction, but it seems like Jim Rockford (James Garner) hardly ever had clients that didn’t lie their asses off. In "In Pursuit of Carol Thorne," a nice old couple hires Rockford to find their missing son by tailing his ex-wife, Carol Thorne (Lynette Mettey), who has just that very day been paroled from prison. Posing as a well-to-do bookie, Rockford makes Carol’s acquaintance, but is confronted by a pair of cops who warn him to stay away from her.

Some of the best ROCKFORD FILES episodes involve a con game of some sort, and “In Pursuit of Carol Thorne” has a tricky one. Very few characters are whom they seem, and Rockford finds himself in the midst of a gang on the hunt for $1 million in stolen Army payroll loot stolen three years earlier. Rockford’s client, Miles (Robert Symonds), is not a worried old man, but rather an ingeniously clever crook, who was in on the original caper and now wants his cut. Thanks to Rockford’s conniving (and a witty con), the gang ends up with zip. For that matter, Rockford nearly does as well.

Lynnette Mettey was a busy TV leading lady during the ‘70s and ‘80s, guest-starring on many shows and appearing as Jack Klugman’s girlfriend in early episodes of QUINCY, M.E. (even appearing in a bikini in one shot in Mexico). THE ROCKFORD FILES played host to a lot of beautiful guest stars, the only problem being that many of them came across as too young for James Garner, who was in his mid-40s when the series began. Mettey was probably in her 20s, but at least presents a maturity that led her slide by (Klugman was older than Garner).

“The Dexter Crisis” was written by Gloryette Clark, who was THE ROCKFORD FILES’ film editor. This wasn’t her first teleplay; she had also written scripts for ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, another series she edited for Universal. Despite Clark’s sole credit, it’s likely “The Dexter Crisis” was given a good polish by producer Stephen J. Cannell and/or co-creator Roy Huggins, as the specific gambling tips on how to beat the house in roulette and some other dialogue have their touch.

Once again, Rockford (James Garner) is hired by a client who lies his ass off. Wealthy creep Charles Dexter (“special guest star” Tim O’Connor) sends Rockford to find his much younger mistress, Susan (Lee Purcell), who vanished in the middle of the night from the apartment she shared with law student Louise (Linda Kelsey). In exchange for crucial information only she has, Rockford agrees to let Louise tag along, and the clues lead them to Las Vegas, where Jim poses as a professional gambler and makes her acquaintance (much like he did in “In Pursuit of Carol Thorne”). Wouldn’t ya know that--ta da--almost everyone has a dirty little secret.

You could barely turn on a TV or go to the movies during the ‘70s without seeing red-haired Lee Purcell, who was quite beautiful, but often played criminals or “bad girls” that I don’t think she had the strength to pull off. She looked young and was memorable in a two-part CANNON where she played the girlfriend of murder suspect David Janssen. Linda Kelsey, also red-haired, was just as busy in television guest shots, but managed to land a regular gig on the acclaimed drama LOU GRANT playing a spunky newspaper reporter.

Veteran character Bing Russell plays one scene in the episode as a Reno sheriff. Russell played a ton of cowboys on TV, but made a more lasting mark on the Hollywood scene by fathering Kurt Russell. You can see the resemblance.

Posted by Marty at 5:17 PM CDT
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