Thursday, June 21, 2012

Richard III in Magnum, P. I.

“Case of the Red Faced Thespian.” By Donald P. Bellisario and Glen A. Larson. Perf. Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, and Roger E. Mosley. Dir. Ivan Dixon. Magnum, P. I. Season 4, episode 12. CBS. 19 January 1984. DVD. Universal Studios, 2006.

While Runaway Train lies nearer to the sublime on the continuum, this episode of Magnum, P. I. moves along the scale toward the ridiculous.

I know very little about the conventions of the show, but this episode centers on a character named Higgins who is struck on the head by a croquet ball just before a 1920s Theme Party begins. He imagines himself to be the great (albeit fictional) Shakespearean actor Sir Fearing Pangborn. [As a side note, does anyone know whether that name is parodying any actor in particular? Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree? John Barrymore?] [Additional Note: See the comments below for the solid suggestion that the character actor Franklin Pangborn is the object of the mild parody.] Another character (T.C., for those in the know) is dressed as Paul Robeson—but he claims he's playing Paul Robeson playing Brutus Jones, so there's no additional Robeson-as-Othello material in this episode.

Here's a brief sample. Warning: It's quite silly, and impressional people should not be allowed to assume that Magnum's shirt-and-shorts combo is appropriate attire in the twenty-first century.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.
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Ed said...

My guess is that it's a take on the notoriously sissified 30s/40s-era actor Franklin Pangborn, whom John Hillerman resembles.

kj said...

Fascinating, Ed! Thanks very much. I think you've got it exactly right.

Here's the Wikipedia article on Franklin Pangborn:

That makes a lot of sense.



Ed said...

A pleasure. Sometimes the memory works despite the mileage on the mind!

Valstone said...

TC said the emperor Jones not Brutus. I'm watching it now

kj said...

Thanks, Valerie. I must have heard it wrong.

Take care!


Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

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Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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