Friday, May 8, 2020

Minisode! Nero Wolfe! The Doorbell Rings...

Please join me and Tim S. Turner as we discuss the 1977 (aired in 1979) TV movie Nero Wolfe starring Thayer David as Nero Wolfe. (Based on the novel The Doorbell Rang)

I'm a huge fan of Rex Stout's detective so let's dive in and talk this TVM...





  1. I don't suppose that you could find a way of transferring those comments that I put on the previous post to this one …

    Oh well …
    I guess I'll just take this time to tell you about a new book I just got: The Misadventures Of Nero Wolfe: Parodies and Pastiches Featuring the Great Detective of West 35th Street, edited by Josh Pachter, available at Amazon and other such places.
    It's a sort-of follow-up to The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, which Mr. Pachter put together back in 2018, also available at Amazon.
    And anyone reading this can find my comments about this pilot in the post for Episode 85, below - and Dan, you really ought to get these posts better coordinated, OK?

  2. Back from some busy-work:

    The other day, I watched both versions of "The Doorbell Rang", back-to-back, with the book at my side to double check.
    Quite an experience, I can tell you …

    First off, about the "period" of these films:
    The ABC pilot was intended to be contemporary - i.e., the '70s.
    J. Edgar's death was only a few years before, so he was still fairly fresh in the public mind.
    As to the men's wear, the FBI dress code was still in force in Hoover's last days, and as I recall, this included hats, so there's that.
    Once again, I would remind you that The Doorbell Rang was written by Rex Stout in 1965; my spot-check shows that Frank Gilroy's script uses much of the book's dialog verbatim (tweaks here and there, but that's par for the course for an adaptation).
    The A&E version is even more faithful to Stout's words (the use of Archie's narration helps), as well as to Stout's story, which makes this version one of the best mystery-detective films ever made.
    This was the first official episode of the A&E series; the pilot (which aired the year before) was The Golden Spiders - which, by incredible coincidence, is the premiere episode of the NBC/Conrad series, which you are about to undertake here.
    My suggestion for you and Tim (which I'm probably making too late) would be to watch both these shows back-to-back, with the book at close hand (which I'm about to do right now - again).
    That would be a discussion I'd love to hear …

    Between times, I'd suggest looking up the careers of Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, to whom Paramount (who kept the Wolfe rights after the earlier project went down) assigned the property after making the NBC pickup deal (and this is several other stories).

    Until that time …

  3. Just listening to Episode 86.
    I'll comment directly at the proper place, but meantimes, here are a few points:

    - Above, I mentioned Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, who were the showrunners here (the term wasn't in use in '81, but you know what I mean).
    Goff and Roberts had a long career in movies and TV; their best-remembered theatrical film was White Heat ("Top of the World, Ma!" was theirs).
    G&R had just come off a seven-season run as producers of Mannix when this job came up; it was one they'd been after for years … but that's another story …

    - If you've read the Stout books, you know that Theodore Horstmann, the orchid nurse, is little more than a bit player in any of them.
    Theodore is usually described as a short, thin, cranky, older man, with a high, squeaky voice - nothing at all like the hearty Robert Coote.
    So how did Coote get the part?
    That was Goff and Roberts, who'd used him back in the '60s on another show they'd had a hand in - The Rogues.
    Since Theodore was a blank slate in Stout's stories, G&R went all in and created a character for their old friend, which Coote filled in admirably (even Wolfe purists liked him in the role).
    By the way, that's why, as the series progresses, you see a lot of traffic in the greenhouse: if you're paying for Robert Coote (all the way from England), you might as well get as much use out of him as you can.

    I'll hold off on the rest of this until you put up the official post.
    'Til then …


    The music for this Wolfe series is the work of John Addison, who'd just relocated to the USA from Britain.
    His best-known music over there was the score of the film version of Sleuth (the original with Olivier - you, know, the good one).
    Later on, John Addison composed his most popular American TV theme - Murder, She Wrote.

    Now to see if this Oedipusrexing laptop lets this one get through …

  5. Thanks, Mike. As Always... The new post is up. I will see if I can move comments from one post to another. I hope you're safe and well. Oh... I might do another "Comments From Mike" on Episode 87.