Sunday, January 01, 2017

Shopping for a Spouse

When most people think of Alan Hale Jr., they probably think of his role as the Skipper on Gilligan's Island. To be sure, that is the role with which he was most associated during his life. Long after Gilligan's Island went off the air, Hale was still recognized on the street as the Skipper. He embraced that role, wearing his Skipper's hat in public and responding in character when people called out to him.

But Hale had a lengthy career apart from Gilligan's Island. He appeared in several movies and made guest appearances on numerous TV shows, such as the one he made on the Andy Griffith Show on this night in 1962. It was an episode called "The Farmer Takes a Wife,"

Hale played a farmer named Jeff who came to town looking for a wife. He had everything else he needed — a farm on a plot of land in the country. He also had a country girlfriend but decided he wanted a city girl instead so he came to town looking for one. Why did he do that? Well, his country girlfriend was great as a farmhand, but Jeff believed that "for marryin', a fellah wants a ... a female type, you know, kinda soft and squishylike." His plan was to look over the single women in Mayberry, pick out a bride and take her back to his farm in a couple of days.

Clearly Jeff didn't have much experience with women, especially city women — if Mayberry could, in any way, be regarded as a city — and Andy (Andy Griffith) was skeptical that Jeff could find a wife in two days.

"I'm good–lookin', ain't I?" Jeff asked Andy.

"Well, yeah," Andy reluctantly replied.

"I'm strong enough to protect a woman, ain't I?" Jeff insisted.

"Well, sure," Andy answered.

"Got one of the best farms in the county, ain't I?" Jeff demanded.

"Well, yeah," Andy said.

"Well, then," Jeff said, "shouldn't take more'n two days."

Jeff didn't understand that you don't select a mate the way you select livestock. Well, most folks don't, and the folks in Mayberry, while few in number, were pretty particular about the traditional approach to courtship. It wasn't acceptable, for example, for Jeff to stand on a street corner and lift up each girl who walked by, then set her down and say, "Excuse me, ma'am. Just checking your weight."

Barney (Don Knotts) decided he wanted to help Jeff out (sort of streamline the process, you might say), and Barney remembered that his girlfriend, Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn), would be having a gathering of single women at her place. They could casually drop by, Barney said, and that would give Jeff an opportunity to check out many of the town's most eligible bachelorettes at once.

So that is what they did.

Unfortunately, though, Barney's plan backfired. Jeff set his sights on Thelma Lou.

He thought Thelma Lou was "juicier'n a barrel full of corn squeezin's," and he told her so.

Barney thought he had laid down the law for Jeff, but then he saw Jeff and Thelma Lou walking on the street together, and Andy took it upon himself to work up a plan to discourage Jeff. He told Jeff he would need to meet Thelma Lou's requirements for a husband, which included moving into town and getting a job in a store. He also needed to wear a suit.

It was all too much for Jeff, who stormed out of Thelma Lou's house after trying to jump through the hoops Andy and Thelma Lou had set for him. I don't believe Jeff was ever seen in Mayberry again.

A couple of years later, Hale became the Skipper. But there was an element of the Andy Griffith Show episode that aired on this night in 1962 that foreshadowed Gilligan's Island. Hale kept calling Barney his "little buddy," which was, of course, what the Skipper called Gilligan.