Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Courtship of Eddie's Father


ALL IN THE FAMILY is often credited with changing the face of the American sitcom but I have to say that THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER had already started the maturing over a year before. 

Based on the 1963 feature film with Glenn Ford as Tom Corbett and THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW's Ronny Howard as Eddie, the basic storyline is that Eddie's mother has died and he feels it's time his Dad starts dating again because he's been kind of down. 


For the TV version, producer James Komack cast Bill Bixby, an actor who had been big on MY FAVORITE MARTIAN a few years earlier but who had kind of floundered around with hammy performances in a couple of big screen Elvis movies since. Bixby managed to completely redefine his sometimes manic acting style, in the process adding a more realistic, mature charm. Komack himself played his co-worker and often had some funny interactions with Kristina Holland as his secretary.


Academy Award winning actress Miyoshi Umeki played the gentle Japanese housekeeper--more a part of the family really--Mrs. Livingston.


Young Brandon Cruz took on the role of Eddie. He wasn't a great actor even as kid actors go but he brought the role a mannered realism  and what seemed at least to be a genuine bond with Bixby.


An unsung star of the series was rising star singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson whose song "Best Friend" served as the theme but also punctuated various points throughout each episode.



 There were tie-in comic books and several TV GUIDE covers. Over the course of the show's three seasons, there were at least hints of more adult themes as well as a number of somewhat serious episodes in general. But there was always a background of love and friendship.




Komack produced other hit series including CHICO & THE  MAN and WELCOME BACK KOTTER while Bixby ran through several more series including THE MAGICIAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK  (one episode of which guest-starred Brandon Cruz as seen below) and GOODNIGHT BEANTOWN before becoming a successful director on shows like BLOSSOM. Sadly, he died fairly young. 




According to Cruz, he and Bixby were so close that even when the show was not shooting, they hung out frequently. "He was like a second father," he said once. Perhaps that's why Brandon--although, like many child stars, he had issues--turned out pretty well in the long run. 



2 comments:

  1. Not too far behind you in having this series come back to mind, Steve!

    I was born in late '58. Just started a piece yesterday about developments in education using The Courtship as a frame. I found that the metaphors extend effortlessly!

    Do you know of any sources summarizing the individual episodes? (Memory doesn't serve that well at this point!)

    -Hal DuBois (duboishalb at aol dot com)

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  2. But what's the deal with those EARRINGS?? That to me shows that he did NOT turn out very well!

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