'Police Woman'

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Snarky's Ghost, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. Snarky's Ghost

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    "Seven Eleven"

    This is the series at its most DALLAS-y. You've got Larry Hagman in his best early-JR mode, Mrs Scottfield, and a jaunty John Parker score. Even the title almost sounds like "Sue Ellen".

    Pepper meets her snitch, Hester, in a darkened alleyway but Hester is blown away by a faceless assailant in a shadowed corner with a double-barrelled shotgun. Pepper chases the gunman but he escapes. Crowley and the squad descend on the site and Crowley chews Pepper out for daring to have an entire scene in which he wasn't involved.

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    Pepper and Joe Styles go to inform Hester's nearest and dearest (Albert Popwell) about her expiration, and to request if he knows anything of the drug shipment Hester was attempting to tell Pepper about. He claims ignorance and then calls Styles the N-word, back in that brief era, circa 1971 thru ROOTS 1977, when TV attempted to toss in the occasional racial epithet for purposes of realism before realizing that the term was just too ugly... But the scene works because it gives us a taste of what Pepper was originally like: a raspy-voiced, flinty-eyed tough cookie -- before that cookie eventually crumbled into a dithery polite woman with a creme-filled pastry who rarely raised her voice let alone her .38 police special.

    Back at the station, Crowley figures out that Hester's cryptic clue that "Seven Eleven --- it's plain..." wasn't a pre-mortem attempt to sound glib and sassy but in fact "it's plain" actually meant "it's a plane," a flight due in from Vancouver where the junk will be delivered. But the squad's attempt to bust the drug ring is foiled when they run head on into the fed narcs who planned to do the exact same thing.

    Pepper then poses as a stewardess to investigate the flight's crew, after she claims to have never wanted to be a flight attendant (later retconned to her having spent years on a jet liner) and she quickly buddies up to a fellow stewardess (Karen Carlson) while navigating the flying hands of various amorous pilots. Pepper follows Mrs Scottfield into the toilet where the latter makes the drop, pardon the expression, and Pepper informs her that she's in a lot of trouble.

    Pepper then takes her place once she realizes none of Mrs Scottfield's contacts have ever laid eyes on her. So Pepper waits by the airport locker where the ruffled go-between (Chuck McCann) usually finds the stash of drugs; she demands the doomed gofer take her to his leader, and Pepper winds up at a marina bar where JR Ewing, over a bourbon, makes googly eyes at Sergeant Anderson and she ups the ante: she wants an increase in salary, and he wants what JR usually wants from attractive women. Pepper agrees to his terms, but only after she gets her money... It's a very pre-'Who Shot JR?' scene. Only I guess now it's: Who Shot Hester?

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    JR, always the boy in a grown man's suit, goes and asks his business daddy, Atticus Ward (John Larch) on a nearby yacht, if he can have some extra flash so he can boink Sergeant Anderson. His daddy pulls rank and says he wants to get a taste of Pepper first, leaving JR predictably frustrated.

    Grabbing Pepper by the elbow, JR escorts her from the marina bar to the car when he discovers a pistol in her purse; naturally nervous about lovely ladies with firearms, JR grabs Pepper by the hat, and she slaps him for messing up her hairdo.

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    Continuing to navigate the marina and its bars without losing his grip on her elbow, JR eventually delivers Pepper and the junk to his boss who then informs his horny protégé that Pepper is not the girl JR thinks she is: her face doesn't match up with the porno shots they've been blackmailing Mrs Scottfield with.

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    Below deck, Pepper gets a little nervous when she hears the yacht engine start up, probably remembering that girls with guns and drugs don't wind up too well when they're with JR Ewing and near bodies of water.

    Crowley and the gang show up and saves the day, JR makes a quick escape dive off the yacht, the coast guard appears out of nowhere to collar him, and the episode ends all John Parker-y and whatever.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  2. Snarky's Ghost

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    "Anatomy of Two Rapes" opens up with Sergeant Anderson, ostensibly bruised and bloodied, giving a play-acting presentation in a darkened squad room of a rape victim being given the third degree by an angry, incredulous male cop issuing insensitive accusations at her. The lights go up and Crowley steps center stage and explains that women who've been raped are afraid to come forward because of how they fear they'll be treated by the police.

    Well, the way this episode unfolds, they're likely to be even more afraid to come forward.

    A slutty girl named Wanda May (Angel Tompkins) drops her Asian photographer's camera into a Japanese pond (so you know she's bad, and you know she's gotta die) in one of those sequences you'd see so often in the early-'70s, and then, drunk as a skank, she picks up with a couple of married men (Don "Red Rider" Barry and Jack "Mr Carlin" Riley) in a honky tonk bar. Later, in the backseat of an old jalopy, she begins questioning the literal manhood of a faceless suitor who then proceeds to beat the crap out of her as the camera pulls back to a jazzy Pete Rugolo score.

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    The next day, some teen aged boys flying model planes around in an open field crash-land their toy and Wanda May's corpse is found in the high grass.

    At the morgue, Pepper questions Crowley's assertions that this beaten and raped prostitute had to have her arm twisted in order to be injected with the DNA information from enough men to fit inside a VW bus... Remember, this is 1974, the first year that rape became an acceptable crime TV cop shows were willing to address, so even the word "rape" still had a certain power.

    Cruising numerous porn shops, Crowley and Pepper eventually locate her photographer (Pat Morita) who sobs that his beautiful messy flower, Wanda May, has met the tragic death he'd always feared for her.

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    Meanwhile, Pepper is called to the good side of town to interrogate a society matron (Rhonda Fleming, in an Old Style performance) who claims she was raped by a big black man with huge hands who ravished her and gave her a new hairdo while he was at it -- all just before her daughter was supposed to be married.

    Pepper also questions a soda jerk suspect at the local bowling suspect (cuddly Doug Chapin, who'd later act as Matthew Perry's manager) who'd also dated Wanda May, and who promptly recognizes that while flirty Pepper might be able to guess he's "a Scorpio" at first sight, it's far more unlikely that she also knows his name is "Craig." Cue the chase scene and he's wrestled by Crowley into the nearest set of bowling pins screaming, "I didn't kill her!" added later as a wild line.

    Frustrated that all their leads seem to be dry holes, as it were, the soda jerk directs them to a friend of his who drives an old car with red candles on the dashboard and who only gives you "a funny look" if you ask what they're for.

    Pepper and Crowley show up at the boy's home -- a boy who just happens to be one of the kids flying those model planes earlier in the story. His country-fried mama says he's not home and that she's callin' her husband, and Crowley and Royster go peruse the suspicious old car out back complete with red candles on the dash, leaving Pepper alone to wander the back of the house, bathed in that noir sidelighting they gave her in the early episodes and should never have dropped, and she winds up in what is obviously the teen culprit's room, candles blazing, when she opens a closet door and he jumps out at her wrestling her to the floor, where he proceeds to confess all of his "it was my first time and it was important to me, but she laughed" guiltiness, Pepper trying to seem as sympathetic as she can with his hands around her throat. Mama runs in, screams at what's just transpired, and the kid tearfully assures her that he's still "pure." (Angie Dickinson pretends in the DVD commentary that she thinks this boy is "our Gary" Busey, just so we'll think she's charmingly stupid).

    Back to Big Mansion Alley and Pepper interviews Rhonda Fleming once more, only this time Sergeant Anderson is hip to Rhonda's wily ways and feminine guile. Turns out she's a spoiled cow who just wanted to keep her daughter from getting married, so she made up the whole rape scenario.

    "It means you lied!," Pepper courageously informs the rich lady who turns out is not a lady at all.

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    Back at the station, Pepper and Crowley lament their "two rape cases and neither one turns out that way" and then he offers to feed her a big steak he'll provide.

    In 1974, this was both daring and regressive simultaneously. But it's all so slickly done, and the direction and camerawork so good, Angie so luscious and engaging, you just forgive the what-we-used-to-call chauvinism.

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    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
  3. Snarky's Ghost

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    It's Only a Game.

    Undercover in a dark wig in a dive, Pepper dances up a storm with a handsome, fellow undercover cop who is soon shot and dumped in a trunk of a car. The squad now has an opening, so a brash retired cop (Dane Clark) pushes Crowley into giving his son (Patrick Wayne, the Duke's boy who slept with someone I know during the filming of THE GREEN BERETS) who's also on the force a chance to work the narcotics case they're on. No sooner does the boy join the team but he promptly blows a drug bust when he fails to announce they're the cops when he breaks in on Philip Michael Thomas and his '70s din of street chemicals, the department's case thrown out as a result by the judge.

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    Wayne takes time to flirt with Pepper and headquarters is all abuzz, while Crowley takes time to angrily manshame Clark for angrily manshaming his son.

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    There's lots of shots and scenes of Pepper and her connections going here and there around town trying to make a score. Eventually winding up at that studio set with the curved staircase and the walnut paneled living room they never try to disguise. There's a shoot out, Dane Wayne Jr. is hit, Bill Crowley chews out Daddy at the hospital for nearly getting his son killed, Pepper charmingly credits Daddy with his son's best qualities they probably don't really share, and the episode ends with an elevator kiss between Sergeants Anderson and Crowley.

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    Last edited: Jul 23, 2018
  4. Snarky's Ghost

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    'Flowers of Evil'

    The most controversial episode of the entire series (and recipient of an excessive level of criticism by the "gay-libbers" of the era, freshly enraged by a MARCUS WELBY, M.D. installment airing only weeks earlier which equated homosexuality to child molestation, with one industry periodical headline literally reading: 'Lesbians Finger Police Woman') the moody, Poe-via-Baudelairian "Flowers of Evil" begins with a duo of unladylike ladies driving a dithery geriatric woman to a motel in the rain -- and, once there, a third one kills her. Just off-camera.

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    Nearly a week later, Pepper and the unit show up, and the motel manager seems overly emotional over the death of this old woman he didn't know, in keeping with TV's endearing pretensions of the early-1970s.

    Turns out that the old folks' home, one being run by these three same women (Fay Spain, Lynn Loring and, the executive producer's wife, Laraine Stephens), has seen an unusual number of residents dying off inordinately quickly after moving in, even in consideration of their ages. Crowley observes they ought to call it The Golden Year (in the singular) instead of The Golden Years because that's about as long as the residents last.

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    Pepper goes under as a nurse, on-the-run and badly in need of hiding and a job. Cooing at her lesbian coworkers -- almost off-the-charts subject matter for TV in 1974 -- Pepper determines that the butch women are the evil ones, and the feminine one is not and is therefore salvageable.

    The scam is that they're stealing the patients' checks and murdering them, supposedly based on a real case.

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    The most recent victim's false teeth having been located somewhere on the premises by Sergeant Anderson, the three ladies are busted. The two butch dykes spew filth during their respective interrogations, while the femme one is instead sorry for all the killings and confesses completely -- but not before lovely Pepper can convince her that she herself once had a college roommate who'd had the hots for her, and that "I know what a love like yours can do to a person."

    Pepper's point is a dubious one (as was story editor Ed de Blasio's later rationalization that the line referred to unrequited or an imbalanced romance with someone who doesn't really love you) but Angie Dickinson delivers the interrogation dialogue and climactic speech so well, it still works.

    Like Linda Evans in the first two seasons of DYNASTY, this early in POLICE WOMAN's history, Angie is at times shockingly good. Almost idealized women, both stars are later dismissed as talentless mere lookers who otherwise can't act their way out of paper bags. Even their respective shows betrayed them, neither actress having quite the confidence to navigate around the on-set or network politics and have their performances survive. And it's a shame.

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    Anyway, outside in the hall, a nervous Crowley, unsure of just exactly how far that collegiate relationship may have gone, kisses Pepper on the forehead and offers to drive her home, perhaps intent on validating her womanhood.

    Fatigued and aware of his agendum, she declines, strolling down the hallway to a long shot freeze frame.

    Daring material at the time, handled bravely yet unprogressively.

    Excellently directed by Alexander Singer with an ominously hovering musical score provided by Jerry Fielding, the episode was pulled from any future network showing, but (contrary to rumor) did reappear in syndication a dozen years later.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2018
  5. Snarky's Ghost

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    The Stalking of Joey Marr. Sergeant Crowley goes to Mexico to convince Joey Marr (Monte Markham) to travel to the States in order to testify about the criminal activities of his dead father's organization. He reluctantly agrees, and eventually meets Pepper and Royster at a San Diego airport with the intention of driving up the coast where he'll eventually turn state's evidence.

    But it becomes obvious immediately that syndicate goons have no intention of letting Joey get anywhere near a courthouse. Royster's car is blown up, Styles is run off the road, Pepper has to don a platinum wig to hitch a ride with a charter bus driver, and then she comes to the belated realization that this witness she's protecting is just a lookalike cop, Carl Rossi, assigned to be a decoy while the real Joey Marr is whisked under cover of darkness to Washington.

    "They're not going to kill Joey Marr," Sergeant Anderson surmises, "they're just going to kill two dumb cops!"

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    Well, one anyway. While Pepper in her traveling wig gets off the bus and goes for ice cream, Joey's double, Carl, is iced by a hitman. Pepper reboards and screams at Carl's corpse.

    All eyes are out for the hitmen, and Pepper and Crowley corner them at an airport as they attempt their escape. Crowley gets in a round or two while Pepper struggles with the revolver in her purse.

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    A teary-eyed Pepper, well into her pattern of becoming emotionally involved with the crooks and semi-crooks she's investigating or protecting, demands which of the injured hit men pulled the trigger on her fellow cop, Carl Rossi. Crowley is afraid she's gonna crack and start firing, but, as per usual, she doesn't.

    George Romanis' funky score, here and in "Fish", is tracked throughout the entire series -- especially that "doo-daa-doo-DAA-doo" which was repeated endlessly for four years.

    Aaron Spelling apparently really liked Angie Dickinson and her show, so he starts borrowing from it. Including this script which he appropriated for an episode of STARSKY & HUTCH 10 months later.


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    "Requiem for Bored Wives." Undressing after a long day on the job, Pepper turns on the radio for some jazz before the cocky disc jockey (Bob Crane) comes on and starts making cracks about women in law enforcement, taunting any female cops to call in to the station, an irritable Pepper baited into making that call, the radio jock unable to resist making fun of her Beatlemaniacal name, "Sergeant Pepper."

    The next morning, Pepper's AM/FM tantrum is the talk of the police department, and she attempts to rebuff Crane's phone invitation to lunch "at Fuquee's" (she gasps to Crowley, but the french name sounds dirty). The DJ agrees to apologize for the previous night's public conversation, so Pepper takes that lunch, promising that she's "not really that obnoxious" most of the time.

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    After arguing with his histrionic wife about money, the DJ later returns home and finds her dead on their bed, shot through the temple.

    Is it suicide? Murder?

    Pepper and Crowley take the case, convey their suspicions to the widower disc jockey, and the DJ comes up with a piece of paper from his dead wife's purse with a number scrawled across it. It turns out that his deceased wife was having an affair with a marina playboy (WL LeGault) who then started blackmailing her with pictures of their foul passions, a scheme he'd pulled on numerous women.

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    So Pepper hops a speed boat, zips around the bay, and has engine failure conveniently at the gigolo's pier. They become chummy very quickly, as Sergeant Anderson tries to simultaneously flirt yet slip out of his grasps so as to not compromise her professional virtue in case he tries to dock her.

    But not all is what it seems. Sergeant Pepper and Colonel Hogan have one final drink, when she reveals that the gigolo-extortionist's phone number was changed a couple of days after the DJ's wife was murdered -- which means Crane got the number by dialing 411 "information." The DJ confesses that he and his wife fought over her affairs, saw the photos where "they did everything," the gun went off accidentally and struck her, and now he's pulling one on Pepper, too (who seems a little too surprised by this maneuver) and forces her out of the marina bar, onto a boat, and is chased across the bay with Pepper jumping overboard to safety just as Crane careens into a sand bar and explodes in a nautical conflagration of death.

    Given how, and why, Bob Crane was murdered four years later, the plot's a tad creepy.


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    "Smack." A goofy teen aged boy falls from a high school stadium, and it's assumed to be a drug-related murder. But Pepper is already undercover as a physical education teacher, trying to sniff out the source of the extracurricular narcotics that have been plaguing the student body.

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    She warms to a fellow teacher, Mark Ciprio (William Shatner) whose very name is a prescription drug, a guilt-ridden chemist whom Crowley suspects is pushing heroin in some way, even though Pepper opines, "...he doesn't seem the type."

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    Pepper charmingly enlists the help of an adorable young police rookie (Brenda Sykes) enthusiastic about her first undercover assignment at the high school, but it all goes horribly wrong when her cover is blown and the real pusher (Robert Sampson) beats the hell out of her -- which may have as much to do with the title of the episode as slang drug references. We just don't know. But Shatner admits to processing the drugs to pay for his wife's dialysis.

    Vengeful about the death of his friend, the school's equipment manager (Smokey Robinson -- yes, Smokey!) corners the pusher somewhere in the bowels of the stadium before the police can get there. Pepper & Crowley talk Smokey out of blasting the bastard, and they go back to the station where the pusher's on-campus seller (Barry Livingston of MY THREE SONS) confesses to needing the profits to pay for his student council campaign, a skill he learned from his dear old dad, a successful local politician. Styles, who interrogates the boy, passes up the opportunity to ask him just how much some Sharpies and a stack of poster-board would be expected to cut into a 16 year old's allowance.

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    Pepper and Crowley walk down the hall and she says something about the good guys having to work harder than the bad guys.

    The snappily portentious original score by Richard Shores seems a bit laughably powerful for an episode with a high school setting, but it's perfect for the series overall, and the score will be heavily tracked (along with Shores' composition for "Target Black" coming up) for the remainder of the first season.


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    The Cradle Robbers. Arlene Golonka is an evil child buyer and seller, and Cliff Emmich is her chubby enforcer. And after a desperate mother (Sharon Farrell) sells her baby and then demands him back, the top man in this ghastly business (John Vernon) sees that she's done in.

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    Pepper investigates when an old pal of Crowley's goes looking for the missing grandchild his wayward daughter bore.

    Perfectly acceptable entry.


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    Shoefly. The beating of a rock singer outside the nightclub of shifty Lou Gerard (Rory Calhoun) becomes increasingly suspicious when the detective (Ed Nelson) who'd done the beating turns out to be the father of the girl who previously dated the lounge act -- and that girl (Annette O'Toole) was once impregnated by him.

    The incident is removed from the official police record, just as a gun barrel used to dust Gerard's enemy is changed en route to court... Just what's the cop been doing for this mobster? And where's that baby?

    Uh oh.

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    We get to hear ballads by Bacharach and Bread belted out. Which is nice.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2018
  6. Snarky's Ghost

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    'Target Black' opens at the station where Crowley has corralled several black activists out of concern that they might disrupt the campus visit of speaker Cora Sanders (Ruby Dee) an Angela Davis-style Communist Marxist. Meeting her at the airport, Pepper and the unit ask Cora, for purposes of security, not to reveal the location of her lodgings, but Cora immediately tells the press on the sidewalk which hotel she's staying in.

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    Suspicious of the police and already establishing bad blood with Sergeant Anderson, Cora is resistant to Pepper acting as her bodyguard, but after Cora slips away to meet an old lover, doomingly nicknamed "Boomer" (Pervis Atkins), on the roof of the hotel and he's shot from another building by a gunman in a ski mask, she reluctantly agrees to stay at Pepper's condo but still refuses to call off her speech at the university despite a wave of threats which are turning violent.

    Miss Sanders attends her lover's wake, but his angry wife (Mary Alice) sasses her big time and throws her out of the dour festivities, but not before Pepper defends Cora. It's all so very '70s.

    At one point, the psycho sniper out to nail the activist can be seen preparing himself for battle around his apartment, and when the episode first aired, he has a huge JFK poster on his door. Angie Dickinson must have had a duck fit when she saw that, because the shot was soon removed from the episode and is nowhere to be found in reruns nor on the DVD.

    The animosity between the two women cools, and by the morning of Cora's speech, they're almost friendly. Just in time for Pepper to get shot while she crosses the stage as gunfire rings out -- the killer is an apolitical nut job in a security officer's uniform who's simply looking for fame by knocking off a controversial figure in the news.

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    Real life feminists' complaints were so weird, they demanded that Pepper never again get shot on the show unless it was by a female assailant.

    The elegiacal original musical score was by Richard Shores and was heavily tracked thru the remainder of Season One.

    This episode of POLICE WOMAN hit #2 in the Nielsen ratings that week, behind only the Orange Bowl (an annual sports event). Angie's being on the cover of the TV Guide probably didn't hurt.

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    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  7. Snarky's Ghost

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    The only episode directed by dynamic Reza Badiyi (best known for designing the iconic opening titles to THAT GIRL and HAWAII FIVE-O and the freshman season of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW), the self-titled mercenary gang "Sidewinder" pull off a weapons heist at an armory where a security guard is hurt.

    Pepper and Crowley show up the next morning and determine that somebody somewhere appears to be planning a small war. Pepper also establishes that she's a Scorpio (undercover, she's been a Gemini and a Virgo, while Angie herself is a Libra) and that her contract binds her to the show and to Earl Holliman "for at least another three years" -- and given the series' huge ratings by this point, a four year run indeed seems assured. (Alas, its snap-crackle-and-pop is not so guaranteed to last).

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    The heisting posse is made up of a bunch of old service buddies (including Ron Masak, Geoffrey Lewis, and Glenn Corbett) with their own agenda: they plan on knocking off an armored car for the loot. (Is that so much harder than knocking off a National Guard armory in order to obtain the firearms necessary to knock off the armored car??) In preparation for the big event, they bazooka an old car, shoot a guy behind a counter (they really didn't wanna do it) and their wives are becoming increasingly concerned.

    The day arrives and the Criminal Conspiracy Unit is on to them, showing up just as the robbery is going down on a stretch of rural road. Pepper fires repeatedly, but even now when the series is still good, the producers have to slap her down a smidgen by having her emptying her revolver into one of the thieves running directly at her result in absolutely nothing: it doesn't even slow him down -- and then Crowley fires his high-powered rifle from behind the perpetrator and he finally falls ... turns out he was wearing a bullet proof vest.

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    The installment ends with Pepper and Crowley and Pete and Joe all sitting around a bar room table as Bill toasts Sergeant Anderson with the popular cigarette ad line, "You've come a long way, baby...!"

    Two years later, a sequel episode of sorts, S3's "Banker's Hours," focuses on the wives, their husband's in prison, knocking off Savings & Loans while dressed as men.



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    "Blast".

    After the skeleton of a blown-up luxury car, one owned by local district attorney Edward Littel, is pulled from a lake, Crowley meets with the decedent's widow (played by the executive producer's wife, though it seems a great role for Bette Davis, but oh well..) and her father, Jonas Van Dyke, powerful patriarch of a corrupt California political dynasty. But Crowley neglects to mention that the forensics department found in the vehicle a sole finger print from an African American go-go dancer, the improbably-named Paris Palmer, employed at a local dive.

    "You mean, kill one of their own?," Crowley asks George Daner, the cagey member of "that political machine you call the Special Prosecutor's Office" who'd worked with the late Edward Littel. But Daner protests, "He was not one of their own -- he hated what they were doing and he wanted to bring them down. Edward always said 'power corrupts in the hands of a godfather or a Jonas Van Dyke'." So it seems the dead D.A. had it out for his oligarch father-in-law. And, just possibly, vice versa.

    The script is by Chester Krumholz, who always seems adept at high-society crime plots. (And he would briefly work with Ed de Blasio on the first season of DYNASTY).

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    Pepper goes under as a Reno casino showgirl, revealing her supposed affiliation with the missing Paris, and promptly earns a place on the dance floor by charming the club's owner, Robert Vaughn, and bumping-and-grinding to his satisfaction -- somewhat startling material for pre-Charlie's Angels TV in January of 1975, the leading lady of a prime time series shakin' it up in a white fringe bikini. (Miss Dickinson would years later decry her own go-go moves as "awwwwwwful !")

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    Vaughn invites her, as a sideline, to participate in "private parties" (in which businessmen and politicians are photographed in flagrante delicto and presumably blackmailed). Pepper declines the offer and enquires as to whether her old pal, Paris, was engaging in that kind of activity, too. "There are two things I want: a good job -- and to be left alone," she informs the club's owner, and then adds, so as not to put him off, "and a little champagne now and then..." But this doesn't prevent Pep from being wined and dined on the town by her dapper new employer, off-camera.

    At this point early in the series, you're never quite sure with whom Pepper is or isn't sleeping. And neither is Crowley.

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    While her absurdly-monikered alter ego, Flaxy Dupree, swoons over her boss's allusions to taking her to exotic places like the French Riviera, Pepper is careful not to sound overly curious about the dead dancer's whereabouts. But one of her co-workers is not so cautious, desperately pulling a knife on Vaughn and his business partner, the girl herself disappearing the same evening and found under a bridge the next morning by the police.

    Bill Crowley then pays a visit to the Van Dykes' mansion, dropping a hint to the widow that her late husband had been using Paris in some kind of crime investigation while simultaneously having an affair with her, the girl recorded tapes, and that Crowley presently has "an agent" in the club where Paris Palmer worked "and she does all the digging for me."

    Inspired by the paranoia Bill has now instilled in her, the brittle widow drives to meet Vaughn whom she'd blackmailed into having her husband and the call girl killed; enraged that he may have blown the job, she shoots Vaughn when he threatens to blackmail her and she drives off in her rented car... Back at the club, the mortally wounded owner returns to find a gushingly gorgeous Pepper awaiting him, and she gets him to confess all on audiotape.

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    Vaughn now having expired, Crowley informs Pepper that "all we have is a voice on tape," the duo unsure that Mrs. Littel will indeed take the fall she deserves... And then they freeze frame on the sidewalk, illuminated by a flickering sunset thru the leaves, but not before Pepper says something philosophical about the climate in California: "I hate winter out here -- it never gets cold enough, and it doesn't stay warm enough..."

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    ____________________
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
  8. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    No Place to Hide. After a murder occurs in a seedy motel and a college professor is shot to death in his campus chemistry lab, and the bullets match despite the crimes seemingly having no reason to be connected, it becomes apparent to Pepper that someone has been hired to knock off participants in the federal witness protection program.

    [​IMG]

    Posing as a mini-skirted nurse in the hospital where a wounded witness (Mark Harmon in a cameo) to the latest killing is convalescing, Crowley and the guys shoot to death the hit man once he arrives, is spotted, and attempts his escape. The unit then turns their attention to the grumpy federal agent with great hair (Stephen Young) who oversees his agency's local office, and Pepper takes her place as a secretary, quickly focusing on the mousy, "...30, and in love for the first time..." desk mate who shows up late to work and has a boyfriend whose photo looks suspiciously like Quentin Channing (David Selby).

    Inviting the girl, Mary Anne (Katherine Justice), over to her apartment for drinks and chit-chat, Pepper and she ramble about their modest lives when Pepper reveals coffee table periodicals which have the latest killing on the cover. Upset, Mary Anne leaves suddenly, and approaches her evil suitor about why the names she keeps providing him are repeatedly turning up dead. He explains to her the obvious, that he's using her to locate these protected witnesses, and that if she doesn't continue, she can be charged as an accomplice -- or worse. The girl walks into the hallway and sobs on a bench.

    Back at The Witness Semi-Protection Program office, Mary Anne is now uncomfortable around Sergeant Anderson, and even screams for Pepper to "leave me alone!" when confronted in the file room -- which today would lead their coworkers to assume that Pep made a lesbo pass at the girl. Chasing her down into the lobby where she's calling Quentin on the phone, and then out onto the street, Pepper watches from the front steps of the building as the distraught Mary Anne runs into traffic and is sideswiped by a car.

    Back at headquarters, Pepper nudges barely-injured Mary Anne into grudgingly admitting the entire thing by saying, "I'm not saying that you knew, I'm not saying that you wanted anything to happen -- but it has...", and the girl sobs again.

    [​IMG]

    Armed with the identity and location of the next hit, Pepper and Crowley rush to the Veteran's Administration to save the female physical therapist from assassination, the woman shot at (and missed, in a sun-streaked but badly edited sequence) by the killers in the bushes high above the field. The gang chases after the thugs, catch them, and Crowley makes a provocative crack about "heads or tails" while flipping a coin to see who pays for drinks and dinner.

    [​IMG]

    This is likely my favorite period of POLICE WOMAN, where the show is tight and very competently produced, Pepper is an idealized woman both ethereal yet down-to-earth, there is the simmering feeling of gravity and portend, everything glows like it's a movie, and it's all mostly set to musical cues, forlorn and sacred, Richard Shores originally composed for "Smack" and "Target Black."

    And the ratings are really high.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
  9. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    'Nothing Left to Lose'

    In fact, there's plenty left to lose: it's the series’ best episode!

    This episode displays a kind of character and narrative maturity POLICE WOMAN had approached by the end of Season 1 (and would quickly lose with the unfortunate changes in the show the following season). At this point, it's clear that the producers are still intent on doing something "good" with POLICE WOMAN, and it remains easy to remember that this is a spin-off of the then-groundbreaking (if deathly repetitive) POLICE STORY anthology.

    Following a painful-looking massage courtesy of LaRue Collins (Patty Duke-Still-Astin) where various crimes are presumably being discussed, the old Kris Kristofferson song echoes from down a corridor, as undercover-hooker Pepper is prowling the local bus station trolling for johns for no stated reason--- but it's Pepper, so you assume it's her lunch hour.

    [​IMG]

    Pep tries to wave her away, but the two wind up at the soda counter as LaRue anxiously passes some criminal gossip to a halo-encircled Angie Dickinson never photographed more beautifully (by STAR TREK's Jerry Finneman). Pepper surprises LaRue by remembering that the informant has a little boy, and LaRue communicates her vulnerability by nervously mis-associating Joe Namath with baseball terminology.

    [​IMG]

    As a result of this meeting, a fur heist is stopped by the squad, and the call goes out that LaRue Collins is the culprit.

    While exiting a local Pan Parlor, an ominous limo sweeps by, taking several shots at Collins, establishing the premise for the episode: the underworld is out to get her... LaRue's friend, Alma, about which a lesbian relationship is suggested, immediately becomes alarmed.

    Desperate and realizing she's been fingered (by the mob, not Alma... at least, not on camera) LaRue goes to the police department to get her payoff from Pepper, who's out on a dental appointment. Proving how doomed she really is, Crowley is there to escort her into his office; having no knowledge of Pepper's alliance to this snitch (Pepper always called her 'Apple Annie'), Crowley calls LaRue a liar and sends her packing. She asserts, "You just killed a girl". And indeed he has.

    Trying to obtain bus fare any way she can so the episode can neatly end in the same location in which it started, LaRue goes to visit aging madam, Mrs. Fontaine, who owes her a finder's fee. In an apartment decorated as if it was intended for Alexis Carrington, Patricia Barry gives perhaps the Best Brittle Bitter Bitch performance I think I've ever seen such that Joan Crawford would run screaming for cover. She's totally convincing. LaRue is sent away.

    [​IMG]

    Pepper, her teeth all shiny, returns to the precinct in time to have Crowley deny responsibility as per usual. Pepper intuits without even leaving the office that LaRue is being hunted by killers because an obscure shooting on the edge of town (this is only Los Angeles, after all) and Collins' improbable appearance at the station both occur only 15 minutes apart. They've got to save her. Crowley reluctantly agrees to participate.

    The cops pick up Alma (Kathleen Lloyd) who then searches thru mug books and tries to identify the random names of the show's crew they toss at her until she recognizes Donald Hoss, LaRue's old boyfriend who was paralyzed when shot during a bust in which LaRue was the informer.

    [​IMG]

    This provides nice irony as LaRue approaches Donny (Duke's then-real life hubby, Gomez Addams) in his room for cash. He isn't sympathetic openly, wishing her dead to her face. But, as maybe the most tragic person in the entire episode, he has enough character to later mislead the brutes who come looking for her, getting a face full of brass knuckle for his trouble.

    Poor Donny. Can't win for losin'... sorta like the title song says.

    [​IMG]

    Meanwhile, the desperate snitch calls her country-fried mother who's been raising LaRue's young son back in Arkansas virtually since the day he was born. LaRue asks for money to come home on, but it seems she's pulled this trick before and never appeared; Mama hangs up, but you can't really blame her.

    The activity is made all the more effective from the use of Richard Shores' foreboding score and Finnerman's moody camera-work.

    From a phone booth, LaRue calls Pepper at the police station in a tense and effective exchange; Pepper, assuring her she has the money, gets LaRue's location and heads out to find her.

    Nervous upon catching every limousine in her peripheral vision, LaRue doesn't do the sensible thing and hide in the culvert underpass until Pepper arrives; she runs thru it and up onto the other side of the intersection to catch a bus to go see Mrs. Fontaine once again.

    This time, LaRue has a big rock and threatens to "bash your skull" unless she's paid. Mrs. Fontaine agrees to the terms but not until LaRue calls her self "lower than the dirt that rock sat in!!" Collins takes her new wad and runs, but you know what Mrs. Fontaine is going to do next.

    LaRue gets to the bus station, buys a one-way ticket home to Arkansas -- a little toy truck for her son, and dashes for the nearest Greyhound, only to encounter a gun-toting thug at the doorway and another to her rear, the hoods presumably tipped-off by Mrs. Fontaine. Both fire and take-off, leaving Patty Duke to collapse in a nice, music-free slow-mo, before hitting the tile at the proper speed.

    Pepper shows up at the terminal just in time to delay the EMT's from carting her off to prompt medical treatment so Angie can get in her requisite, "You're gonna be okay, you know that", which, of course, is the Kiss of Death. Crowley appears seconds later without explanation other than he hates to be left out of anything, let alone a freeze-frame. And freezes it does as LaRue dies.

    [​IMG]

    The series had ripened so nicely by the end of Season One... and this should have been where POLICE WOMAN remained, this level of focus and quality.
     
  10. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    'The Company'

    "Oooh, Crowley's not going to like that..."


    "The Company" is, technically, just another mobster's infiltration of another mobster's territory type of plot. Yet it contains all the elements which made Season 1 of POLICE WOMAN so distinctive: shot in shimmery, sun-drenched style, the Los Angeles scene is made to feel glittery and glamorous, if not entirely safe.

    And all set to an effective score tracked mostly from Richard Shores.

    Sure, it's mostly style over substance, but it's arguably the series' best Pepper-does-the-town installment...

    Following the gangland sidewalk killing of a mafia thug during which an imprisoned don's name is uttered, Pepper (along with informant, Linda Summers AKA "The Black Widow, " played by Paula Kelly) cruise the seamier social spots of L.A. under cover as, presumably, hookers in ambitious evening gowns.

    [​IMG]

    Asking the right questions, they make a trip to a clandestine, high-class gambling casino and witness first-hand the game "taken" by the henchman from this new circle of crooks, the casino's money stolen, the equipment destroyed, and the guests forced to turn over their valuables.

    [​IMG]

    After the man who ran the illegal casino (comic Shelley Berman!) is blown up in his car in front of Pepper and Crowley, the unit tries to flush out the gang responsible by setting themselves up as businessmen resistant to the protectionism (i.e., "free book keeping service") these ruthless mobsters are offering.

    (Regrettably, the S1 DVD print of "The Company" has deleted a wordless long-shot of Pepper and Crowley's car, a panoramic view of the L.A. skyline at sunset in the background, as they're driving to meet their snitch, Linda, on a parking deck, the camera then passing over her as Pep & Bill drive up the ramp... The moment was removed in syndication for purposes time, and as a scene with no dialogue and lasted maybe 15 or 20 seconds, it was a logical choice for cutting... Yet this is such a cinematic perspective shot, it's a disappointment when the scene fails to be reinstated on the DVD -- although all the other previously-cut moments are intact, including the exchange with Linda Summers.)

    [​IMG]

    After an intriguingly understated jailhouse conversation with Pepper and Bill, the imprisoned kingpin, dying Vito Angelo (Frank De Kova), who's been falsely blamed for this series of gangland takeovers, sends his assistant out on the streets to learn for the cops that a local, corrupt mafia lawyer has brainstormed the scam, using the kingpin's name for purposes of leverage.

    With the era's true life Church (and other) Committees' public investigations into CIA/mafia conspiracies and assassination schemes, one wonders (especially given the title) was this script originally meatier than what we wound up with: just a "safe" local mob plot??

    Who knows... But it certainly feels bigger than that somehow.

    In any event, warned that the police were about to bust him, the crooked lawyer (Rick Jason) moves to dispose of his incriminating records --- but not before the CCU can stop him. Tossing his box of important paperwork into the wind, the gusts from the nearby docks scatter the records in a thousand different directions, leaving Pepper and Bill to scramble to recover them, resulting in one of the best episode-ending freeze-frames for a TV series ever!

    [​IMG]
    ____________________
     
  11. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    "Ice" is a tongue-in-cheek entry which opens on the robbery of an L.A. jewelry store run by an older couple (Ned Glass, Florence Halop) which leads Pepper and Crowley to Mexico to sniff out a pair of thieves (James Keach, Jane Elliot) and then back to California where our heroes are held captive in an airport warehouse by thugs in security guard uniforms (William Campbell, and Angie's beloved Michael Parks) in search of the baubles they believe the cops brought back from south of the border. The elderly couple who were originally robbed show up, confess they were behind their own theft for the insurance Pepper assures the goons will never be coming, invite the creeps to kill these two officers, and Crowley wrestles with Parks when the latter demands Sergeant Anderson disrobe to reveal the diamonds not hidden in her brassiere.

    [​IMG]

    Fun stuff, and Angie shows she can still do comedy when she doesn't forget to actually act it.

    [​IMG]

    ---------


    "Bloody Nose" begins with Pepper in the shower breathily warbling her husband's songs, when the landlady comes banging at the door because a couple in an upstairs unit are having a knock-down-drag-out verbal fight the manager is afraid will get physical. Reluctantly, Pepper wanders out in her robe and asks the screaming couple to cool it.

    Repeated incidents like that cause the artist husband (David Birney) to become increasingly paranoid about the "feminine solidarity" going on between Pepper and his frazzled wife (Joan Goodfellow) who eventually files a police report, assuring Sergeants Anderson and Crowley that her husband, jealous that she's having affairs she denies, is quite dangerous and has already struck her.

    The husband finally packs up and moves out, most of his art work mysteriously missing or destroyed (which the wife blames on one of his tantrums), but he eventually turns up at a greasy truck stop where Pepper is undercover in an effort to smoke out a band of truck heisters. He maliciously blows Peppers cover, reveals she's a cop, and she barely escapes when a shoot-out ensues.

    [​IMG]

    The only problem with how this happened is that Pepper only gave the wife her location and phone number at the truck stop in case of an emergency. Pepper figures out that the wife, who is indeed an unfaithful spouse, gave the number to her reactive husband knowing he'd likely get himself killed by the police -- which indeed almost happens at his ping pong parlor hang-out (where he'd illegally purchased a gun) when Pepper and Crowley go there to arrest him.

    A rather brave episode (which could never have been done in the more politically-correct '80s and '90s) because it reveals the baiting wife to be as bad or worse as the screwed up husband -- a message which might work a little better if the writer hadn't contrived to make her "a psychology expert" and if she was played by a better actress, and if more recent revelations about David Birney's personal life weren't so unattractive.

    Pepper tells hubby (who has a pistol stuck in her face) what's really been going on and to not to give his wife the satisfaction of getting himself shot to death. And then Crowley chivalrously tells the wife to go to hell on the sidewalk.

    [​IMG]


    ---------


    "The Loner" is a private eye (played by football icon Don Meredith) who meet Pepper & Crowley during an airport shoot-out. Meredith is trying to keep his client (Pat Harrington) from being dusted, somewhat unsuccessfully, by a goon boss (Neville Brand) -- and then goes gunning for the goon boss as the goon boss goes gunning for him.

    [​IMG]

    Pepper is charmed and intrigued by the private dick she's assigned to cover, Crowley gets a little jealous, and the show begins its annual tradition of ending each season with her at the hospital bedside of her latest wounded dude pal.

    [​IMG]

    Thus concludes easily the first and best (and most consistent) and highest rated season of POLICE WOMAN, when they still allowed Angie to be Angie and when everything still worked.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  12. Snarky's Ghost

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    What Went Wrong with This Show?


    In the 1950s, Beverly Garland starred as a cop in DECOY. In 1965, Anne Francis was private eye HONEY WEST. In 1966, Stefanie Powers was a secret agent in THE GIRL FROM UNCLE.

    But none of them lasted more than a season. They became cult programs, but weren't successful in primetime.

    In early 1974, Angie Dickinson made an appearance in the final episode of the first season of the critically acclaimed POLICE STORY anthology series entitled "The Gamble". Even before filming was complete, there were whispers of it going to series as a spin-off... It seemed an inspired idea: Angie was gorgeous -- and ridiculously charismatic -- in the installment, the premise seemed right for her, the shoot-'em-up cop show craze of the '70s had yet to produce a successful entry featuring a woman or really even try to do so...

    All that was needed was to get the actress to agree, and, reluctant though she was to take on the life-killing schedule of a TV series, she was finally coaxed into saying "yes".

    Premiering on a Friday night that September, POLICE WOMAN was in the Top 10 by its second week. It couldn't have been more promising. Angie Dickinson, both sexy and tough, as the improbably-named Sergeant "Pepper" Anderson of the LAPD, trolling undercover in one get-up and disguise after another, week after week, guided by her scowling boss and off-hours pal, Sergeant Crowley (Earl Holliman), with whom she shared a pronounced chemistry. Angie's "Pepper" seemed at first an almost idealized woman: beautiful, warm, capable, strong, naughty-when-necessary. She became TV's first bonafide over-40 female sex symbol.

    The show was, initially, quite edgy for the era: rapist baiting, undercover hooker investigations, white slavery rings, lesbian murderers, lesbian roommates, go-go dancer assignments --- all new topics for TV and all done with a certain shameless bravura... In its first season, the show was very well-produced, filmed a little bit like a movie, both southern Californian sunny and film noir, the repartee saucy, the actors directed in near constant cross-movements in many scenes to keep the kinetic energy flowing.

    It was fabulous. A very macho cop show about a very feminine cop.

    [​IMG]

    By the middle of its first season, POLICE WOMAN hit #1 in the Nielsen ratings twice, and by the spring and summer of 1975 had become the hottest show on television, hitting Number One in numerous other countries.

    A copycat industry if ever there was one, that same year, AMY PRENTISS with Jessica Walter, and GET CHRISTIE LOVE with Teresa Graves, both made stabs of their own at entering the female police officer TV sweepstakes but, once again, they never got passed their first seasons. But POLICE WOMAN was now the first successful action series built around a woman and the first successful drama series to feature a woman in the title role in television history.

    What could go wrong?

    How could a small political activist group bring down NBC's top series?

    Well, it happens... The feminists were not pleased with POLICE WOMAN. Perhaps one can understand their discomfort with Dickinson's sexualized (by the standards of the day) role and the frequent titillating undercover assignments she was given. They complained to the network and the producers with the outset of the filming of Season 2 during the summer of 1975, but some of their demands seemed rather odd (e.g., they only wanted Pepper shot in the line of duty by women, as if her being shot by a man -- statistically far more likely -- was somehow an expression of sexism on the part of the show itself).

    But mostly, they just wanted Angie Dickinson toned down. Not only the Vegas showgirl undercover jobs were discouraged, but the way Angie looked, talked and walked around the squad room was also to be reined it.

    Somebody caved.

    Journalists in recent years, when interviewing lady cops who got into the crimefighting business decades ago, have been surprised how often POLICE WOMAN with Angie Dickinson is referenced as an inspiration and motivator. So, given that the series created a significant wave of applications around the country from women for employment in law enforcement agencies, why wouldn't the '70s feminists place any value on what the show and character of Pepper were achieving?? But, no, they would have none of it: the show was "a step backward", all those resultant new real-life female cops be damned.

    There were stories "of downright unhappiness" coming from the set of POLICE WOMAN during that summer of 1975, despite the show being the top program on the tube at that moment. For a show so well done in its first season, one can only imagine the anxiety these new constraints were creating... And, that fall, when Season 2 began airing, it didn't take long to see the difference -- and the result wasn't good: particularly obvious in early Season 2, when the Squelch Angie Directive was new, you can actually see her in numerous scenes catching herself from smiling when her natural impulse was to do so. She's now cautious not to carry herself too provocatively, too freely, even around the police station, lest she appear slutty and therefore "degrading to women".

    What the network executives didn't seem to understand about Angie Dickinson (and her detractors no doubt didn't care) was that the Sexy thing and the Tough thing in Angie come from the same place in her brain: suppress one and you lose the other... That enigmatic purrrr, so controlled and deliberate and so present in Season One, wasn't merely a "sexy" thing from Angie. It had a consciousness. It had an irony. It was the moral compass of the show. That purr told you everything about what Pepper was thinking, what she wanted the bad guys to think she was thinking, and the inherent contradictions between the two.

    That purr provided the dramatic tension, deepened the subtext, guiding and correcting essentially every scene she was in.

    That's some purr!

    But no more. The purr was gone. Excised from Angie's performance. From mid-Season 2 onward, Pepper began to seem like a secondary character in her own show, a dithery and apologetic hostess, Donna Reed with an empty service revolver. At first it was just the body language and the vocalization. But then the show itself, now denied its original star's full star quality, begins to write away from her. Soon, Pepper ceases to even interrogate witnesses or criminal suspects by herself; she and Crowley now do it together -- always -- and he does all the talking. And if she returns to the office with a new lead or a clue, Crowley's already learned the same thing from his desk... The early "rescue scenarios" from the first year made narrative sense, as Pepper was the undercover agent, but soon those rescues would become contrived and even ridiculous... Pepper could no longer even grin, scowl or just gaze blankly at somebody for more than two seconds, nervously averting eye contact to avoid making them uncomfortable or appear too resolute in her own convictions... Suddenly, she can't seem to do the tough stuff or the sexy stuff. Nor do they demand it of her. It's as if they've told her to "stop acting". And that directive to ambivalently not mean anything too much creates a neurotic lack of focus in Pepper, pulling her out-of-the-moment far too often... The Pepper Anderson of later years just isn't the one from Season One. Her mojo has been stolen, and the scripts and direction quickly follow suit.

    In other words, they sucked the diva right out of her. From the middle of Season 2, that charisma was all but flipped off like a light switch.

    Even her lighting and her hair and wardrobe are allowed to slide, seemingly dictated.

    Oh, sure, the sex crutch was probably passe after Season One anyway -- the show was already a hit. Yes, they still did the occasional porno plotline and still had characters obligatorily swoon here-and-there over Pepper's now-modified beauty, but she was no longer permitted to play it... So we now had the reverse of what should have happened: it's okay for her to be called "sexy" and be in compromising situations just as long as she isn't too convincing, as long as she isn't too effervescent and remains fairly bland.

    Would that really satisfy either the bra-burners or the audience??

    Plus, there seemed to be other political issues behind the scenes: around the outset of filming for the second year, Dickinson, usually known for her amiable affability on the set, refused to do a scene or an episode in which she was to drive an 18-wheeler, feeling it was implausible that a petite female cop would spontaneously know how to handle a big truck. But, even decades later, Angie conceded that "the producers never forgave me." So she may have made a strategic misstep with her male bosses as well. Did they decide to punish her?

    By mid-Season 2, POLICE WOMAN has already dropped out of the Top 30 (a poor timeslot change didn't help). It's mostly now by rote, pedestrian, static, too polite. Sometimes something with great potential, when that potential is squandered or abused, can become far more intolerable than something which had little potential to begin with. And watching this once-dynamic, volatile but now often-listless cop show has become harder and harder to do... Angie's still there, and yet she's not. And only Angie's melancholy romantic quality lurking discretely behind the newly subdued facade helps the project survive.

    Listen to the dialogue between Pepper and Crowley in the darkened bedroom scene three-quarters of the way thru "Pawns of Power", the first episode of Season Two: someone is editorializing in the script about the behind-the-scenes politics of the show (e.g., "it's all downhill from here").

    Even Angie's fellow TV stars noticed the decline at the time, RHODA's Valerie Harper observing that, "POLICE WOMAN was good at first, but then Angie started getting shoved aside by the guys."

    There's still the goodish episode, but it's just not the same. The energy is just gone. There is the constant feeling of the show holding back -- or constantly holding Angie back. They're no longer respecting their own femme fatale, so the program ceases to grow after the first season, instead devolving as she endlessly tries to avoid seeming overly assertive. Once perched and ready for action, her original cagey, coquettish competence had given way to an ineffectual, unassuming pleasantness.

    A potential classic marginalized on the altar of political correctness and/or perhaps by producers who'd dismissed their star for daring to put her foot down over something.

    [​IMG]

    After the advent of CHARLIE'S ANGELS in 1976, there seemed to be a slight move towards re-energizing charismatic Pepper for Season Four of POLICE WOMAN, but the effort felt half-hearted and eleventh hour. In fact, the only substantive element the show picked up by this point from The Three Bimbos at ABC is a certain cartoonishness which infected POLICE WOMAN's final season, and it wasn't to the show's benefit. It didn't fit. (And when the boringly by-the-numbers Virgil W. Vogel begins directing a number of your series' installments, it's never a good sign).

    The splashy but admittedly vapid CHARLIE'S ANGELS, and the fantastical WONDER WOMAN and THE BIONIC WOMAN -- and the later more legit CAGNEY AND LACEY -- would never have happened if it weren't for Angie Dickinson's series (nor would countless new police women across America).

    It changed television, and even the law enforcement culture.

    So it begs the question: were the '70s feminists (who, curiously, mostly left ANGELS alone) correct to try and pull down POLICE WOMAN and then bash it for years? Or can we dare to ask if a feminist is capable of common, routine sexual jealousy masquerading as something else?? Angie Dickinson had, after all, initially struck a rare and memorable balance between credible ability and traditional femininity as Pepper, and, despite being older and singular, had twice the sex appeal of Charlie's Angels combined.

    Was that somehow too threatening? And is such a question in itself sexist?

    And were the show-runners really all that permanently mad at Angie?, as her suppression after Season 1 does feel almost personal.

    The mind reels.

    But the first season --- with Angie tough and competent and gorgeous and lit and soft-lensed from exactly the correct angle and to exactly the right degree, and almost insanely alluring --- presented an image of feminine power so resonant, so unthreateningly threatening, that even other women felt compelled to put a stop to it (under the pretense that they were protecting the dignity of the gender) while others just marched down to their local police department and signed up.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
  13. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Angie turns 86 today...

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    1966 Esquire Magazine cover, republished for January 2008 Vanity Fair article, "A Legend with Legs" (see below)...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
    • Funny Funny x 1
  15. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    For some reason, somebody did a Police Woman video set to Outkast's "Hey Ya"...

     
  16. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    A Vanity Fair article from a decade ago:

    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2008/01/dickinson200801

    A Legend with Legs

    The secret crush of generations of male moviegoers, Angie Dickinson walked into Hollywood history as the Rat Pack’s gal pal, kicking off a 10-year affair with Frank Sinatra, playing his wife in the original Ocean’s Eleven, and catching the eye (if not more) of J.F.K. Now 76, Dickinson talks about her marriage to Burt Bacharach, the tragedy of their daughter’s struggle with Asperger’s, and an erratic but memorable career—including the groundbreaking cop show Police Woman and her classic reverse striptease in Dressed to Kill.

    'There’s a part of her that’s a phantom, and a part of her that’s very much alive.'

    By Sam Kashner

    Fourteen years ago, Angie Dickinson did the unthinkable: she walked off the television program This Is Your Life, leaving its host, Ralph Edwards, and a collection of Dickinson’s family and celebrity and hometown friends stranded on the set.

    Edwards had lured her with the pretense that she would be meeting with Brian De Palma, who directed her so magnificently in the 1980 thriller Dressed to Kill, to talk about directors and actors. Instead, “they had assembled all these people,” Dickinson explains over dinner in West Hollywood, “my sister Janet, my daughter, Nikki, even an old high-school boyfriend. Bob Hope had left a dinner with President Ford and Colin Powell to be part of this, and of course they all had to go home.” That had never happened in the history of the show. When asked why she refused to allow the assembled crowd to honor her, she replies, “All these people are supposed to come around and rave about you. I think they should have organized it the other way around, so I could have talked about their importance.”

    Her refusal to be part of that show is one of the many things that Los Angeles novelist and screenwriter Bruce Wagner—who wrote the 1993 mini-series Wild Palms, in which Dickinson played Josie Ito, a sexy, villainous grandma—loves about the actress: “That was so ballsy and so antithetical to the culture,” he says. “Knowing Angie, you would think she’d have no trouble with that show; she’d think it was a hoot.” He compares Dickinson to British actress Jacqueline Bisset: “There’s a kind of easiness about the way they carry themselves in the world, a kind of devil-may-care, sexually charged quality. They’ve really seen it all and done it all and don’t give a damn—but in a really elegant way.”

    That was not the only time Dickinson—born Angeline Brown in North Dakota in 1931—balked about revealing her personal life. In 1989 she returned a six-figure advance from a major publisher for her autobiography. What was it that she couldn’t bring herself to tell? Rumors had swirled around her for decades: about an affair with President Kennedy during the four-day inaugural celebration; about her on-again, off-again 10-year love affair with Frank Sinatra; and about the dissolution of her marriage to songwriter Burt Bacharach. Were there other secrets as well? And for an actress as good, as professional, and as beloved as Angie Dickinson, why were there so few major film roles?

    “I was a leading lady,” she says, “but never the lead.”

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    A veteran of more than 89 films and television movies and well over a hundred TV appearances, she still gets scripts that ask her to do nude scenes. “Don’t they know I’m an old lady?” she says, laughing. At 76, Dickinson still attracts admiring glances, though she apologizes for “not having the Angie Look” anymore. But she does: the champagne-colored hair, the warm, flirty eyes, the sensual mouth, the peach-melba voice—in short, the epitome of the game blonde with class and brains.

    “You know my story. I’m pretty,” Dickinson says as Sheila Farr, the femme fatale nonpareil in Don Siegel’s thrilling 1964 noir film, The Killers, in which she seduces a racecar driver, intensely played by John Cassavetes, and leads him to his doom. Dickinson’s Sheila is so seductive, so sympathetic, that when she finally shows her true, treacherous nature, you gasp. The most terrifying moment in the film is when Lee Marvin, playing a vicious hit man, dangles her by her ankles from a hotel window. She also gets slapped hard across the face by Ronald Reagan, in his last film role and his only one as a villain. For years after, he would apologize to her. “He was uncomfortable playing the villain,” Dickinson says, “and only did so to fulfill his contract.”

    Film historian David Thomson claims that Dickinson is his favorite actress, “a woman you thought of as a pal, always effective, a reliable doll,” though he admits that “there was a moment when it looked as if she could do a great deal more than she did.” If she never won an Academy Award or achieved the superstar status of Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor, she still remains the secret crush of generations of male moviegoers. Mention her name and eyes light up.

    It’s not just Old Hollywood that remains entranced with Angie Dickinson. Younger, hip directors do too. Gus Van Sant cast her in Only Cowgirls Get the Blues. Steven Soderbergh made sure she had a cameo in his remake of Ocean’s Eleven. And when Brian De Palma cast her as the sensual, adulterous wife in Dressed to Kill, it was because he needed someone who would immediately establish a sympathetic bond with the audience—someone we already knew and loved.

    The character of “Feathers” (usually just called “The Girl”) in Howard Hawks’s 1959 Western, Rio Bravo, put her on the map. Cast as a flirtatious saloon girl, she likes to please men, or, in this case, The Man (John Wayne, as Sheriff John “T for Trouble” Chance). But there’s never a weak or passive aspect to her performance. “I’m hard to get, John T.,” she says to the stoic Wayne. “You’re going to have to say you want me.” There’s a similar self-assurance in all the characters she has played—what one critic called “a quasi-liberated, pre–Women’s Liberation woman.”

    Hawks, who also discovered Lauren Bacall, first noticed Dickinson in an episode of Perry Mason, which he watched at the suggestion of his elegant wife, Slim Keith. But when he chose Dickinson, Slim remarked, “Really? I’m surprised.” And Hawks replied, “That’s what I wanted you to say.” Dickinson wasn’t exactly a newcomer: she had already appeared in seven films and had played the female lead, “Lucky Legs,” in Sam Fuller’s 1957 melodrama China Gate. As a Eurasian good-time girl whose marriage to Gene Barry is derailed by the birth of her Chinese baby, Dickinson at 25 is stunning and her confidence borders on bravado.

    She was born in the North Dakota prairie town of Kulm (pronounced “Kulum”), settled by Germans, and then moved to the even smaller town of Edgeley. “Some say that L. Frank Baum, who wrote The Wizard of Oz, used Edgeley to describe the edge of the world,” Dickinson says, “and it wasn’t Kansas, it was North Dakota.” It was “smaller than small, and then again, it was the Depression.” Her parents published two newspapers when Angie and her two sisters, Janet and Mary Lou, were growing up: the Kulm Messenger and the Edgeley Mail. “My father, Leo Henry Brown, really was talented—he could write. He had a gift, and he had a great, sly humor. He was handsome, he was tall. He taught my mother how to run a Linotype, and they had that big roller—everybody working on that,” Dickinson recalls.

    Like many of his generation, Angie’s father lied about his age to get into the navy at the outset of the First World War. “But his stepfather died, and he had to come home and take care of his mother I think his dreams were smashed. He’d wanted to play the saxophone, he’d wanted to be a veterinarian, so I think he was one of those sad people who didn’t get what he wanted in life.” Instead, he became an alcoholic. “It made it hard at home. You don’t know if that’s what gave you the drive to say I’m never going to be stuck like that. I loved him, but you can’t love the life—the life is horrible. Just remember this was Kulm, North Dakota, population 700, the end of the war, the Depression. It all adds up to what you are.”

    Dickinson did what every other child with imagination and hope did during the Depression: she went to the movies. And she found herself identifying not with the leading ladies of the day—Marlene Dietrich, Betty Grable, and Lana Turner—but with the men. “I remember a Humphrey Bogart movie where he was a reporter, so I wanted to be a reporter, and then he was a parachutist and I wanted to be a parachutist,” she says. “Even a priest, when Gregory Peck was a priest in Keys to the Kingdom, because the women didn’t do anything! They were just wives or old maids. I wanted to look like Dietrich or Grable or Lana Turner, but I wanted to do what the men did.”

    After the war, her parents moved the family to California, where her mother worked as a proofreader for the Burbank Review (“She could spell any word there was”) and her father “shuffled around from job to job, poor soul.” Angie attended Glendale College, and in 1952 she met and married Gene Dickinson—a big, good-looking football star with a passion for electronics. They divorced in 1960, and she went to work as a secretary at an airplane factory. She came in second at a local preliminary for the Miss America contest, and that got the attention of a casting agent, who landed her a spot as one of six long-stemmed showgirls on The Jimmy Durante Show.

    That’s where she met Frank Sinatra, who was a guest star on the television show. “It was my first show, my first step onto a professional stage. I had not even seen one before. I had come from work in a fill-in job, and I stepped on the stage, and there were Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante, working. I just walked in and thought, Oh my God, this is what I want to be a part of.”

    That’s one reason she believes that “the most important man in my life was Frank. He was so important, because he was so powerful when I got to meet him.” In 1960, Dickinson played the estranged wife, Beatrice, of Sinatra’s Danny Ocean in the Las Vegas caper film Ocean’s Eleven, and by that time she was the gal pal of the Rat Pack, the one woman they would let in the room, who could beat them at poker and tell a bawdy story. “The part of Bea Ocean is too small for a star, so I was lucky to get it,” she says. It is indeed a small role—she has only two scenes, both with Sinatra, but the chemistry between them is unmistakable. Watching the film today, Dickinson comments, “Look at that face!” She’s still entranced by him.

    “Frank and I stayed friends for all those years, and it was just one of those great, comfortable things, where you always desire somebody, but you can live without them,” she says about their 10-year affair. Sinatra would park his Dual-Ghia behind her house, Dickinson recalls, and in the morning “the garbagemen would come and hang around the car,” she says with a husky laugh. “It was wonderful, it was kind of perfect,” she adds, “but I don’t think he ever had a great passion for me, which is why I think it lasted as long as it did. And I for him. There’s a difference between having to have something and wanting something.”

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    Another part of Sinatra’s life that Dickinson shared was his involvement with the Kennedys. “It was Frank who brought me in,” she says, recalling a big party given by J.F.K.’s sister Pat and her husband, Peter Lawford, at their beachfront home in Santa Monica, just before the 1960 Democratic convention, in Los Angeles. “The future president was there,” she says, “and Joe Kennedy, and Bobby and Eunice and Pat, of course—and Frank. We were feverish to work for him, which is why I got invited to the inauguration. It was an electrifying time.” Dickinson believes it was her role in Ocean’s Eleven that made her so welcome with the Kennedy family. Sinatra, the film’s guiding spirit as well as its star, sent a copy of the movie before it was released to the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. “I was Frank’s wife in the movie, so I was already one of the boys!”

    “We went barnstorming to seven states,” Dickinson recalls, “and we picked up athletes like [baseball stars] Stan Musial and Ernie Banks.” None of those seven states broke for Kennedy, but she felt they reduced the margin. Dickinson missed the inaugural parade because she had to spend the day getting her hair fixed for the ball later that night (“There were no hot curlers in those days!”). The night before, there was a gala put on by Sinatra at the National Guard Armory (with Jimmy Durante, Gene Kelly, Shirley MacLaine, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others), and then the president-elect went to Paul Young’s restaurant for a late-night dinner hosted by his father. Among the guests was Paul “Red” Fay Jr., a friend who’d served with J.F.K. in World War II, who would soon become undersecretary of the navy. In his 1966 memoir, The Pleasure of His Company, Fay recalled that his assignment that night was to escort Dickinson, a date arranged by Ethel Kennedy. He recalled Angie “wrapped in fur, standing all alone,” and many have speculated that Fay was merely the “beard.”

    That night Kennedy teased Fay and flirted with Dickinson. Since then the rumor of an affair with J.F.K. has clung to Dickinson like the fur coat she wore that cold January evening. It comes up again and again, and she’s quick to show her displeasure when asked about Fay’s book. “He shouldn’t have written it,” she says. “It was too personal.” The persistent rumor is “kind of like having a broken wrist,” Dickinson admits. “It’s an annoyance, but I have to live with it.” According to one source, her unwillingness to publish anything about her relationship with Kennedy is why she returned her advance to the publisher. She had completed more than 100 pages, with “all the details of her affair with the president intact.”

    ‘I thought better of it,” she says today. “I didn’t want to let it go out,” so she withdrew the manuscript. “They wouldn’t believe me if I said it never happened Anyway, it’s time for everybody to grow up about the Kennedys. It’s more important what we lost as a country.” It was during the making of The Killers, with future president Ronald Reagan on the set, that she first heard the news that the president had been assassinated in Dallas. David Thomson assumes the rumor of a Kennedy affair is true, but lauds Dickinson because she has never once “talked about it publicly, taken advantage of it, tried to use it to boost her celebrity, or said one word to detract from the dignity of the presidency.” Or, more to the point, as Sinatra liked to say about Dickinson: “How wonderful it is to meet a lady who’s a gentleman.”

    Indeed, when asked her opinion of the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998 over the Lewinsky scandal, she rises to his defense. “I think it was a terrible thing. He did so many great things for this country, and when they go after you, if they can’t find anything, that’s when they go after the genitals!”

    She met President Clinton once, at a Democratic fund-raiser given by film mogul Lew Wasserman. “I was standing next to [actress] Suzanne Pleshette on the receiving line,” she recalls about the encounter, “and as he got closer, I said to her, ‘My God, I’m beginning to sweat!’ And then he was in front of me, bigger than life, and so great-looking. He said when he met me, ‘At last!’” He must have known of her long-standing connection to the Kennedys and her support for Democrats. In fact, she once famously joked, “I have never knowingly dated a Republican.”

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    In the 1960s, Dickinson played the female leads in a number of compelling films (The Sins of Rachel Cade, Jessica, Cast a Giant Shadow), but that star-making role eluded her, and her parts—though good—did not give her a lot of screen time. After The Killers, Dickinson accepted a small role as the sheriff’s wife in Arthur Penn’s 1966 film, The Chase, because it gave her the chance to play opposite Marlon Brando. Lillian Hellman wrote the overheated screenplay, and the rest of the large cast—including James Fox, Robert Duvall, E. G. Marshall, Jane Fonda, and a wildly miscast Robert Redford—all seem to be acting in different movies. Only Brando and Dickinson are true and sure.

    “The director, the screenwriter, and Brando all wanted different things,” Dickinson explains. “I was totally in awe to be working with Brando, who made me feel part of the group. He didn’t ad-lib just to smart off. He did it to add to the scene, and he wanted me to feel that comfortable. I watched him, and it was as if there wasn’t a camera in sight. He was so rich, he just exuded a greatness, and yet a comfortableness. We’d sit in his trailer and talk, and he’d tease me to death—it was all part of him making me feel less intimidated and able to work.” But, generally, away from the cameras, she notes, “he liked to make people squirm.”

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    In 1967, John Boorman directed Dickinson and Lee Marvin (who had played one of the relentless hit men in The Killers) in the chilling Point Blank, a noir film about a double-crossed man who obsessively tries to recover a fortune stolen from him by the Mob. Dickinson has a steamy sex scene with the film’s villain, John Vernon, but what everyone remembers from the film is her pummeling of Lee Marvin, who refuses to give up his search for the stolen loot. She stands there and beats his chest with her fists, much longer than you expect her to, until she finally collapses on the floor. In the next moment she belts him with a pool cue, and actually opens a gash on his face.

    “She was very enthusiastic about it,” Boorman recalls from his home in Ireland, “because I think she was taking revenge on Lee Marvin for holding her upside down out the window in The Killers. She didn’t get on with Lee, really. She was afraid of him in a sense, uneasy with the character Lee was playing—a terrifying figure. When she got into that scene, she really went for it. She went beyond what was required. He stood there impassively, which was exactly that character, but the next day he was covered in bruises.” (Boorman did feel, however, that Dickinson eventually felt “an affection for Marvin.”)

    Boorman adds, “I do think I photographed her well. We were shooting in February of ’66, I think, and I put her in the first miniskirt to hit America. They were already, you know, on the Kings Road in London, but she wore the first one seen in America. She had the legs for it.” Indeed, she was given the Golden Garter Award for “Hollywood’s Greatest Gams” in 1962 and voted the actress with “the most beautiful legs in Hollywood” by the L.A. County Podiatry Association in 1981. Boorman confesses that Dickinson “was very unhappy with me about forcing her to change her hair color. I had this maniacal idea that I wanted her hair to be the same color as her dress, and we went through three dyeing jobs to get there. The hairdresser at MGM said, ‘I can’t go any further, her hair’s starting to break off.’”

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    And then, for a while, the terrific roles stopped coming. It’s hard to know why. Bruce Wagner says, “You know, I think it’s just the luck of the draw, the throw of the die. Angie is completely iconic, and yet perhaps never got those roles—or passed them over—that would have made her a much bigger star than she is.” A slew of younger actresses—Jane Fonda, Mia Farrow, Julie Christie, Faye Dunaway—got the plums instead: Klute, Rosemary’s Baby, Doctor Zhivago, Bonnie and Clyde. At this point in her career, Dickinson contemplated a move to Paris, where The Killers and Point Blank had given her star status. (There’s nothing the French love more than a good noir.) She began studying French, but stayed in L.A.

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    By the time she met Burt Bacharach, in 1964, her career had cooled, just as his was reaching for the stratosphere. They were married on May 5, 1965, in the Silver Bell wedding chapel in Las Vegas. The ceremony was attended by Ricky Nelson’s older brother, David, and the producer and über-agent Charles K. Feldman.

    Shortly after their marriage, Bacharach, a former accompanist for Marlene Dietrich’s Las Vegas show, was handed the opportunity to score his first film, What’s New, Pussycat?, and the title song became a huge hit for Tom Jones. There was also a spate of hit songs performed by Dionne Warwick (“Walk On By” and “Do You Know the Way to San José”), Dusty Springfield (“The Look of Love”), and Jackie DeShannon (“What the World Needs Now”).

    An Academy Award for best song, for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, arrived in 1970. For a time, they were Hollywood’s most glamorous couple; with her pale blond hair and his gold records, they practically shimmered. “You couldn’t be a hotter couple than Angie and Burt in those days,” says Wagner. But, in fact, Dickinson noticed that the power equation in their relationship changed on the night of the Academy Awards, with 60 million people watching: “The audience loved ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,’ and they loved the attractive man who wrote it,” she says. Photographers practically knocked her down in their rush to get pictures of Bacharach.

    In 1966, their only child, a daughter named Lea Nikki, had been born three months prematurely and weighed not quite 29 ounces. “It was the nurses who named her,” Dickinson says, “because nobody thought she would live.” Mother and infant barely survived, and Nikki’s prematurity would have serious consequences down the road.

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    Dickinson continued to work in film, though in smallish roles in Westerns such as Sam Whiskey, with Burt Reynolds, and Young Billy Young, with Robert Mitchum. In l974 she made a rollicking, lightweight Roger Corman film, Big Bad Mama, “basically a rip-off of Bonnie and Clyde,” she says now, with Tom Skerritt and William Shatner. Again, she has a number of incredibly sexy love scenes with her two leading men, and her nudity, at 43, is breathtaking.

    Her marriage to Bacharach lasted 15 years. Dickinson later felt that she had “held on too tight” in caring for her daughter. “I spoiled her. It obviously damaged the marriage, plus we had other problems. We really never should have married. We should have stayed in a romance, in love, and I should have walked away long before.” When Dickinson was offered a role in a new television cop show, Police Woman, she asked Bacharach if she should do it, and he said yes. It became a smash hit, one of the first successful crime dramas in television history to feature a female lead.

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    “It was the cement block that landed on our marriage,” Dickinson now says. After the failure of Lost Horizon in 1973, for which Bacharach composed the music, his career went into the wilderness, while Dickinson’s shifted into high gear. “It was hard,” she admits, and the grueling schedule was even harder—12-hour days on location six days a week. Her not coming home was difficult for Bacharach, she recalls, “and he’s a New Yorker, used to going out at night after working.” She was disappointed when he declined to write the theme music for Police Woman, because, Dickinson says, “he didn’t think it was going to be a hit.” Bacharach did, however, compose a piece for his daughter, “Nikki’s Theme,” for an ABC Movie of the Week.

    “It was exciting when it was good—and it was great a lot of the time,” she now says about the marriage, but they separated in 1976 and divorced four years later.

    Police Woman—released in 2006 on DVD with Dickinson’s commentary—ran from 1974 to 1978 and earned Dickinson three Emmy nominations. Her Sergeant Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson was among the first of a new wave of tough, resourceful female action heroes who could hold their own in a man’s world. She was perfect for the role—that independent spirit coupled with a willingness to go undercover as a hooker or a moll, to be “eye candy”—and she was grateful to have the series. “A lot of actors tried television—Shirley MacLaine, even Anthony Quinn—but few were successful,” she says in a rare boast.

    “I never really felt like a movie star until Police Woman,” when she began to be recognized on the street, she says. Unfortunately, success on television seemed to signal the end of leading-lady film roles. Her next movie appearance would, indeed, be small, but it would make a tremendous impact.

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    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  17. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    A Legend with Legs, Part 2:

    Two years passed between the final episode of Police Woman (“I just didn’t want to sign another four-year contract”) and her unforgettable appearance in Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill. Dickinson played Kate Miller, a sleek, elegantly dressed, unsatisfied wife who embarks on a daytime tryst with a stranger. The erotic content is far more intense than anything she had done before, and the fact that most of her 20 or so minutes of screen time are acted in silence makes her performance all the more remarkable. Dickinson asked De Palma if he “wanted to put in dialogue in the museum scene, and he said he’d written lines, but when he saw the rushes, he knew that they weren’t needed. And he was right. He knew exactly what he wanted.”

    The film opens with Dickinson in the shower, slowly pleasuring herself while her clueless husband shaves at the bathroom sink. Except for her eloquent face—and at 48 she was at the peak of her beauty—the scene is played with a body double, but it’s her face that delivers the erotic charge. Later, after unburdening her discontent to Michael Caine, who plays the film’s psychiatrist/psycho-killer, she has that glorious scene in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (actually filmed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art). Dressed resplendently in a white dress, white trench coat, and off-white kid gloves, Dickinson alternately flirts with, runs from, pursues, then loses a handsome stranger in dark sunglasses. She searches for her lost glove, which the stranger has found and uses to lure her into his cab. They end up at his apartment. Next we see her waking up alone and writing a note of appreciation to her mysterious lover. She silently dresses, and it’s De Palma’s genius that the camera watches her, both as voyeur and as lover, as she slowly puts on her clothes. The reverse striptease is excruciatingly intimate, and Angie unself-consciously holds the gaze of the camera.

    There were some uncomfortable moments on the set, however, because of friction between Dickinson and De Palma’s then wife, Nancy Allen, who stars in the film as a high-priced call girl. “His wife hated me because I asked her to stop smoking in a small room … I mean, hated me. And the director didn’t want to hear about two bitches bickering!”

    Dressed to Kill was a sensation at the box office, in part because of the controversy over the movie’s mingling of sex and violence. Several feminist organizations, such as Women Against Pornography, picketed it, but the National Association of Theater Owners named Dickinson Female Star of the Year.

    It’s her favorite of all her film roles, because, as Dickinson says, “I’m good in it, and it’s a great part. I’m sorry I didn’t try to go for an Academy Award for that role. I think I could have won it. But the studio didn’t want to put up the campaign, and I felt that I didn’t want to go for a supporting-actor award, because I’d always thought of myself as the lead, even though by then I wasn’t getting starring roles. I regret it now. Of course, De Palma is to blame for the great performance.”

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    Dickinson’s most enduring passion may be poker. “I played every Saturday night instead of going to the Daisy, or whatever was popular at the time,” she says. Regular Sunday-night games at the Sinatras’ included Jack Lemmon and his wife, the Sammy Cahns, and the Gregory Pecks, though Sinatra himself never liked to play. “Frank never played poker,” Dickinson explains. “Frank’s game was the dice. He’d be going great at the crap tables, but he was an impatient man,” and he liked the continual action of craps and baccarat. “Dean Martin was a professional poker player” at one time in his hometown of Steubenville, Ohio, she says, “but he got into a lot of trouble, and they broke his hands.” The reason poker is so popular now, she believes, “is that they play Texas Hold ’Em. You’ve heard of the dumbing down of America? This is the dumbing down of poker.”

    Johnny Carson, who was a close friend for many years, was “a great cardplayer. He was an amateur magician.” Dickinson was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show, where she ad-libbed her most famous remark. “I had a funny outfit on—funny to Johnny,” she recalls, “and he said, ‘Tell me, do you dress for women, or do you dress for men?’ And I said, ‘I dress for women. I undress for men.’”

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    At one point she and Carson came close to having a romantic relationship, but the timing was never right. And Dickinson has always seemed to prefer men of action. David Janssen, the brooding, hard-drinking star of The Fugitive, was “a great gentleman, a great date, and a great love.” While on the set of Wild Palms, Dickinson found producer-director Oliver Stone highly attractive. “He’s so magnetic, it was unnerving.” She calls it “the John Wayne syndrome—that quiet presence.” Earlier, she had been involved with the director Richard Brooks (Blackboard Jungle, In Cold Blood, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). But sometimes, as she says, “excitement can be a pain in the ass.” According to John Boorman, she and Brooks once went off on a tramp steamer together. “We wanted to be alone,” she told Boorman, “but after three days we couldn’t stand each other. Brooks stayed in the cabin and wrote a script [for Elmer Gantry], which he then won an Academy Award for. And he didn’t even thank me!”

    Dickinson, who’s an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, loves the movies. “I’m one of the few members of my generation who still gets in line for them. I like to see them all.” She believes that a certain femininity is missing in contemporary actresses, with the exception of Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron. “When they’re too tough,” she says, “it just doesn’t appeal.” Are there any actresses she would rush off to see? “I like Hilary [Swank] very much. She’s extraordinary.” She’s also impressed with relative newcomer Rachel McAdams, especially her performance in Wedding Crashers. “She’s so great,” Dickinson says. “Every once in a while that happens, and you root for her not to f*** up. Charlize Theron does it for me, though—so great in Monster. I would never even dream of looking like her—she’s breathtaking.”

    As for her own appeal, Dickinson says, “I wasn’t considered beautiful, not to the executives. I think I was just too unusual. I didn’t fit. Besides, it’s hard to define beauty, but I think one of its qualities is a generosity, a reaching out. I think I had that.” She recalls that, in the l950s, “everybody looked alike. Our hair was the same. I looked like Lana Turner sometimes; sometimes I looked like Esther Williams—the dress down to here, the ugliest fucker! It wasn’t until the 60s you were allowed some individuality.”

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    At a recent dinner in Beverly Hills, Dickinson found herself seated next to Clint Eastwood. They were talking about how relieved they were not to be fussed over anymore by countless makeup artists and hairdressers on movie sets. “I’m glad that’s over with,” Eastwood confided to Angie. “I’m not saying I’ll never act again, but I don’t miss that part of it.” Dickinson, however, admitted, “You get so used to being fussed over that when it stops you feel naked just going to the supermarket. You end up obsessed with your looks. If an elevator doesn’t have a mirror in it, I’m finished. I don’t care who you are, when you get to be past 50, it all changes. That’s the way it is. It isn’t wrong—we want to look at young, beautiful things. I don’t want to see two old people screwing,” she says with a laugh.

    Dickinson guards her time and her privacy and is still coping with the heartbreak caused when her daughter committed suicide on January 4, 2007. Nikki Bacharach, who was 40 when she died, had Asperger’s syndrome, a neurobiological disorder first described in 1944 by a Viennese doctor, Hans Asperger, but not widely recognized until the mid-1990s. It’s characterized by normal and sometimes extremely high I.Q., deficiencies in social skills (stemming from the inability to read nonverbal cues), extreme literal-mindedness, difficulty handling changes in routine, and a tendency to become obsessed with things. Another feature is extreme sensitivity to noise, which especially plagued Nikki, who was tormented by the sounds of the omnipresent helicopters flying over Los Angeles. “We have so many disgusting sounds,” Nikki would complain, asking that the air-conditioning be turned off because she found it too noisy. “It’s horrible and I dread every single day, except Sunday.” “She just went crazy with it,” Dickinson says. “Believe me, we played music, but when the helicopter came over, we jacked up the Pavarotti.” Dickinson even thought about selling her beautiful home in Coldwater Canyon and finding a quieter spot.

    Some experts consider Asperger’s a high-functioning form of autism, and in fact many people with it do manage careers and families of their own, but Nikki was also hobbled by diminishing eyesight, a result of her premature birth. The greatest trial of her life, Nikki firmly believed, was her hospitalization when she was 14, when her Asperger’s syndrome had not yet been identified. Hospitalization is not a prescribed treatment for the disorder, and Nikki held her father responsible for her 10 years of incarceration. “I don’t want to be unkind to Burt,” Dickinson says, “because I’m very respectful of him, as a person and an artist, as a former husband and as a father to Nikki, but he had no real connection with her. She was too difficult for him, but it was his loss. He put her in a hospital, and it was the worst thing you can do. He had the wrong goal in mind: he thought that she was just a difficult child, and I was just a terrible mother, indulging her. He didn’t know there was actually a syndrome. He thought, Just get her away from Angie’s indulgence and she’ll shape up. But, of course, the doctors didn’t have a clue. He does regret it,” she adds wistfully, “and he has said, ‘I’m terribly sorry. Had I known, I never would have done that.’ Nevertheless, it destroyed her.”

    Nikki had a difficult time forgiving her father, because holding on to ideas and emotions is part of the syndrome. “Since then, Burt was very supportive,” Dickinson says, and made repeated attempts to move back into his daughter’s life, but Nikki “resented him so much, she wouldn’t let him back in. He kept telling her, ‘I’m sorry.’ But once she got on a thing, it was very hard We were once coming up with titles for a book, and she floored me with the title she came up with: I’ve Never Healed from Anything. Whatever she’d been wounded by, she never healed. It’s a terrible syndrome because they can’t let go. Medication can slow it down a little.”

    Nikki had her own apartment in Los Angeles but spent a great deal of time living with her mother, skinny-dipping in their pool, watching DVDs at home or going to screenings at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Like her mother, she loved the movies. “I love her career,” Nikki would say, going on to recite dialogue from her favorite Angie Dickinson film, Big Bad Mama.

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    Dickinson was clearly proud of her daughter, and, as she says, “You wouldn’t have wanted to see her gifts ignored.” Like a lot of people with Asperger’s, Nikki was extremely articulate, even lyrical. She once described listening to one of her father’s songs as “going to heaven on a velvet slide.” Dickinson realizes that she “became less viable about the time Nikki needed me so strongly. It wasn’t a sacrifice. Would I have been out working? Yes, I would have been doing plays in Chicago or something like that, if I hadn’t had a daughter who needed me. But I did. I didn’t have the gift of free time.” In the days and weeks after Nikki’s suicide, Dickinson’s close friends helped her to survive her grief. Gregory Peck’s widow, Veronique, introduced her to playwright Tony Kushner at a literary event she hosted. “He read a piece about loss, about a death in his family, and it was the truest thing I’d ever heard. I asked for a copy of it. I miss Nikki so much, but it was her decision. The world was too harsh a place for her.”

    In some ways, Dickinson’s career has been one of great film moments: teasing John Wayne in Rio Bravo, pummeling Lee Marvin’s chest in The Killers, betraying John Vernon in Point Blank, seducing and being seduced in that great little silent film at the heart of Dressed to Kill. But when asked what she considers her greatest role, she says without hesitation, “I have yet to do it.” Bruce Wagner says, “I was always so moved by how Angie prioritized her life. I will always think of her as a kind of rose, in a luminous black-and-white photo taken at Chasen’s or Romanoff’s. There’s a part of her that’s a phantom, and a part of her that’s very much alive. I don’t know how else to put it.”

    Sam Kashner is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

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    These were not the photos used in the Vanity Fair article.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
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