Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Forgotten Gems: "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken"

Well, it's been quite a while since I've done a 'Forgotten Gems' post, and this is a movie I've been meaning to talk about for a while, but just never got around to, for some reason.

A childhood favorite of Uncle P and his sister, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is a 1966 vehicle made solely for the purpose of showcasing the physical comedy attributes of its star, Don Knotts ("Mayberry, RFD;" The Incredible Mr. Limpet; Pleasantville). 

Knotts plays Luther Heggs, a lowly typesetter at a small town newspaper who dreams of being a real reporter. When the 20th anniversary of the town's most infamous murder/suicide rolls around, Luther is finally given his big break - he is assigned to spend the night in the 'murder house,' where the ghost of Mr. Simmons has been reported to be heard playing the organ at midnight. Luther is terrified and has a horrible night, but his account is a sensation and the paper sells more copies than it ever has. Until he's sued by the Simmons' only heir for libel and made to look like the fool he is in court. It doesn't help that he's in love with a gal completely out of his league or that his 'mail order karate lessons' are just ridiculous. And I don't know about you, but a night in this house would surely freak me out:

The only other name you might recognize in the cast is Dick Sargent (best known as the second Darren on "Bewitched") but there are plenty of 50's and 60's character actors you'll recognize like Reta Shaw (Mary Poppins); Sandra Gould  (the 2nd Mrs Crabtree on "Bewitched" - is there a pattern here?) and Ellen Corby ("The Waltons"). The movie is actually quite silly and would never fly today (though I imagine some studio 'genius' is contemplating a big-budget remake starring Jim Carrey, Jack Black or Seth Rogan as I type this) but no one did physical comedy quite as well as Knotts:

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken  may not be the best movie ever made. Or even the funniest. Still, it brings a smile to my face and elicits fond memories of my childhood. If you've never seen it, you should. Just remember to access your inner 8 year-old before you press "play" on the remote. If you do, you'll find a delightfully goofy movie suitable for the entire family.

More, anon.

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