Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Birds of a Feather

The Gale Storm Show episode "Singapore Fling" (1957) starts out with cruise ship chief, Captain Huxley (Roy Roberts), assigning his cruise director (Gale Storm) to teach his mynah bird to talk.  Storm becomes exasperated when hours of coaching fail to elicit a single word from her feathery charge.  She insists that the captain has given her an impossible task.  "Captain Huxley is off his rocker," she complains.  To her surprise, the mynah bird finally breaks its silence by repeating the phrase.  The bird cries out the phrase again and again, sending Storm into a panic. 

Storm visits a pet shop to replace the bird.  She is ready to leave the shop with a lookalike mynah bird when the new bird, in mimicry of the captain's bird, suddenly squawks, "Captain Huxley is off his rocker!"  The scene ends with all of the birds in the shop screeching, "Captain Huxley is off his rocker!"

This story will no doubt sound familiar to fans of the Car 54, Where Are You?, which made use of the same storyline for one of its most memorable episodes.  The Car 54 episode, "I Hate Captain Block!" (1962), starts out with Captain Block (Paul Reed) asking Officer Toody (Joe E. Ross) to take care of his beloved parrot while he is away on vacation.  The captain tells Toody that it has always bothered him that he has never been able to get the parrot to talk.  This gives Toody an idea.  If all goes as planned, he will be able to surprise the captain by teaching the parrot to talk before he returns from his trip.  But the bird fails to pick up on any of the phrases that Toody is trying to teach it until it overhears Toody say, "I hate Captain Block!"

"Singapore Fling" was written by Larry Rhine and Bill Freedman.  Rhine was a prolific writer in radio and television.  He worked on Mister Ed for four seasons, producing scripts for 52 of the series' 143 episodes.  In addition, he received Emmy nominations during his longtime tenure on The Red Skelton Show (1962 to 1971) and All in the Family (1975 to 1979).  Freedman had little television experience at the time that he worked on "Singapore Fling," but he went on to work as a staff writer on My Favorite Martian and The Brady Bunch.

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