Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Memoriam, 2013 Edition

It’s terrible that it’s been a year since this blog was updated. But even while, as Rose says, we ventured into other fandoms, we never forgot Simon. We never could. And during this bittersweet time, when Simon’s birthday and today, his death day, are here, we had to come and further celebrate this wonderful man with new posts.

Throughout the year, I have remained on the lookout for any and all new Simon footage and have sometimes chanced to re-watch some of my old favorites. And to my happy surprise, I have succeeded in turning up some more things with Simon that I hadn’t previously seen, including some I’d been trying to see for ages.

It’s been just over a year since a MeTV affiliate came to my area. I have been basking in the joy of having so many of the best shows available on broadcast television. And at long last, I was able to catch and record both Simon’s third Daniel Boone episode and his sole Kojak episode.

In both, he plays characters who are relatively good. In Daniel Boone’s Bickford’s Bridge, he is an adversary, strongly opposed to destroying a bridge he and his family built so the British won’t get to it. They have their crops on the other side of the bridge and he can’t bear to ruin the bridge and not have a way to bring in their food, after they slaved so hard to make their unusual home fully habitable. But in the climax, when the British arrive and there’s a battle, he sees Daniel in mortal danger and comes to rescue him. In horror he says that he lost sight of what was really important and was putting the bridge above human life.

On Kojak, he’s an ex-cop-turned-security guard, for a company that’s being targeted by bomb threats. He wants to report it to the police before someone gets hurt, but his boss forbids it on the threat of firing him if he tries. After having lived on the salary of a cop for so many years, and now having moved up to something more luxurious, he can hardly bear to leave it all behind. So he goes along with what the boss wants, amid protests.

While Kojak’s right-hand man Detective Crocker doesn’t like the guy, Kojak himself seems to be willing to give him a break, citing how he hires a lot of retired cops. And when confronted by Kojak and Crocker, he does agree to help them out. At the end, he’s furious over what the criminals have done and says he’s going to yell at his boss for ordering him to keep quiet. Kojak jokes that he bets the guy will really go in and end up saying “Good morning” instead.

This character reminds me a bit of Vern St. Cloud, in that he’s a strange mixture of being a bit spineless and yet will still stand up and do what has to be done. He’s very lovable to that effect, as only Simon can make him.

I also ran across a very disturbing villain, in the Tales of Wells Fargo episode Portrait of Teresa. He’s the former boyfriend of Teresa, and he’s very bitter and possessive about being dropped. He says that he doesn’t mind if other men want to date her, but first he must brand Teresa with his mark so that everyone else will know she was his.

Anyone else would play this character absolutely with no redeeming points whatsoever, and while Simon occasionally does that as well, he doesn’t here. The man is obviously off his rocker. To listen to him speak, to hear his utter desperation and his sincere belief that this is something that has to be done to keep hold of his honor … Simon succeeds in somehow creating a pitiable figure instead of an utter monster. This guy needs help. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get it; he ends up being killed in the climax after he incites a shoot-out.

I have been seeking the Disney film Scandalous John for quite some time and finally obtained it. It’s a Don Quixote-type tale, of a man living in the present who likes to pretend it’s the Old West. Simon plays his antagonist, his archenemy, but by the end of their clashing he has come to respect John and doesn’t want anything to happen to him. It’s a very moving part, and the movie in general, although billed as a comedy, really is more dramatic than humorous. I think it’s the only thing Simon did for Disney, and it is a gem.

And finally, I turned up his Men Into Space episode, Quarantine. It involves two scientists clashing repeatedly, frustrating the other characters. Simon’s character seems to particularly have a bad attitude. When the other scientist mysteriously falls sick, I wondered if they’d have it be that Simon’s character was responsible. But he isn’t, and is honestly concerned for his comrade. It’s largely due to his efforts that they manage to find a cure. And the two end up deciding to try to be friends and work together at the end.

While it’s always exciting to watch Simon in any role, I particularly love the thrill of finding a surprise good guy! His Men Into Space character surprised me the most, although I also wondered how Bickford would turn out.

Rose and I have both been watching some of Simon’s classic performances yesterday and today. As we reflect on a life over far too soon, we will continue to help keep his memory alive by sharing the joy of Simon’s amazing characters and continuing to seek out the performances we haven’t yet seen.

We love you, Simon. And we always will.

~Lucky Ladybug

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

There and Back Again--a Fangirl's Tale, by Rose of Pollux

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?  It’s been a year since our last post, and, goodness, do we apologize for that.  LuckyLadybug and I have been on several journeys through various fandoms within the last year.  My own path took me away from Simon for a while--specifically, first to 221 B Baker Street, and then to the TARDIS.  But here I am, back again.  There’s no way I could stay away.

One would wonder whether or not my forays into other fandoms would somehow dampen my ability to enjoy Simon and his characters.  The answer, of course, is a resounding no.  If anything, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who have allowed me to enjoy some of Simon’s roles even more than before.

How?  I’m glad you asked…

Let’s start with the example of Simon in Get Smart.  That was the first time I was ever introduced to Simon, and one of my favorite roles of his for that reason.  Some time ago, I had been rewatching that episode for nostalgia’s sake.  Nothing had ever been said about the final fate of Simon’s unnamed cowboy character--all we know is, according to Max, that he missed the truck of mattresses and fell five stories to the ground.  No possible way the poor Cowboy could survive a fall like that, right?  I assumed so… until I watched the finale of season 2 of BBC’s Sherlock.  If I learned anything from that episode, it’s that there’s every chance that the Cowboy could have survived his fall!  I’d like to think he did--that there’s a chance the story could continue…

Even more intriguing are the parallels between Simon’s Outer Limits appearance and Doctor Who; both Simon’s Empyrian character and the Doctor have the same basic modus operandi--try to stop an intergalactic cataclysm with the help of human companions.  On the surface, it seems that their methods of recruiting human companions are different; the Empyrian merely kidnaps them, while the Doctor invites them.  Intriguingly enough, though, if you look back at the First Doctor, before he mellowed out, he, like the Empyrian, kidnapped his first human companions in the very first episode of Doctor Who; even more intriguing is the fact that Simon’s episode of Outer Limits aired three and a half months after the first Doctor Who episode.

But, I digress.  Comparisons and parallels aside, the fact of the matter is that the one everlasting reason I keep coming back to Simon’s roles is because of how he breathed life into them--every well-chosen dialogue, every movement, every expression came together into creating unique characters each and every time.  No two of Simon’s characters are the same--not even the villains.  Even the villains who appeared on the same show were different; William Poole and Mel Barnes, despite being oneshot Bonanza characters, have notable differences.  You can feel some amount of sympathy for Poole (assuming you believe the idea that it was his girlfriend’s death that unhinged him), but Barnes gets no pity--nor deserves any.

Even the good guys have their differences.  Lieutenant Schrank and Tony Vincenzo are both men who are literally 500% done with the things (more specifically, the people) they have to put up with on a daily basis.  But while Schrank comes across as brash and biting, Tony is just a big teddy bear who’s way too nice for his own good.

Character actors play scores of roles in their careers; most of the time, their names are placed behind those of the starring roles, while, sometimes, they’re lucky enough to get a starring role.  Regardless of the role, their challenge is to make you remember them, whether they’re onscreen for just one scene or throughout the whole thing.  And Simon definitely succeeded; I never forgot that scheming Cowboy in the years between my first seeing him and then later discovering how wonderful Simon was.  And there won’t be a role of his that I’ll ever forget.

And that’s what will always keep me coming back.  It’s just a bit more obvious today, on what would’ve been his 98th birthday.

Happy Birthday, you wonderful man, you.

~Crystal Rose