Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Classic TV Flashback: Mr. Lucky (1959)

Mr. Lucky
Debut: October 24, 1959
Created by Blake Edwards
Starring:  John Vivyan, Ross Martin, Pippa Scott, and Tom Brown
Synopsis: Adventure, like guests, seem to come to Mr. Lucky. He's a professional gambler who runs a swank, floating casino, the Fortuna II, beyond the three-mile limit, with the help of his friend Andamo. 

Trey: Mr. Lucky is a 1959-1960 series that aired on CBS. It was cancelled after only one season, even though it did pretty well in the ratings, due to loss of its sponsor. It ran 34 half-hour episodes. Created by Blake Edwards, it was loosely based on the 1943 Cary Grant film of the same name written by Milton Holmes. It stars John Vivyan in the title role and Ross Martin as his sidekick. Martin will be known to followers of this blog as Artemus Gordon from Wild Wild West. Mr. Lucky also has a score by Henry Mancini. 

We were able to watch this on Freevee on Amazon Prime. It's also on Youtube.

Jason: Mr. Lucky, the titular character this two-fisted, pulp dramedy, has a singular super-power -- extraordinarily good luck, at least where matters of gambling are concerned. Outside of high stakes bets, his fortunes appear to fall into the not-so-hot range. 

The first two episodes, taken together, constitute an origin story, setting up the circumstances that would become the show's formula. 

Blake Edwards makes damn sure we know he's in charge, stating so emphatically in the credits sequences, and his sensibilities are all over these episodes. I'm not an admirer of his work, aside from favorable memories of his collaborations with Peter Sellers, but he shines here. 

Trey: This is sort of a continuation of his stylistic approach with Peter Gunn, I think, but with a bit more humor.

Jason: So, how badly has it aged? I'm inclined to think network standards and practices may have saved Mr. Lucky from Edwards' more objectionable mid-century proclivities. 

Trey: Well, there wouldn't be so much smoking on modern TV! Martin is playing a Latino role and isn't (so far as I know) Latino, but I don't think we see anything really offensive here.

Jason: The first episode, written by Edwards, hums along smoothly, delivering more plot and juicy one-liners in a half-hour format than many shows manage in an hour.

Trey: It really does, and it's a great introduction. Very quickly. it establishes the characters and the stakes in an interesting way. I like the setting and situation a lot: it's a Latin American "banana republic" where Mr. Lucky and Andamo have been navigating politics to get rich (and Andamo also working with the rebels!), but then everything goes out the window and they have to flee. It reminds me other such tales of ne'er-do well adventurers in volatile Central and South American countries. It's a classic setup.

Jason: Episode two continues this high standard, and is clever, intense when it needs to be, and genuinely funny. 

Trey: Yeah, I think it points in the direction of the later episodes of series: run-ins with criminal-types in the U.S.

Jason: Both episodes showcase fine performances from the leads and guest stars. 

Trey: Martin is great as always, but John Vyvan is unflappable in that mid-century, smooth, tough guy sort of way. Particularly, in the first episode. 

Jason: I was surprised by the speed, intensity, and fun in the Lucky vs. Mafia muscle fight sequence. Judo chops flew and the casual use of a garbage can lid shield only added to the exciting and convincingly gritty brawl.

Trey: I think Mancini's music adds to the fight sequence--ups the energy. So.. verdict?

Jason: verdict: my new favorite show!

Trey: It really is good. An auspicious beginning to this project.

1 comment:

Dick McGee said...

Agreed. Quite an enjoyable watch, and I think it's aged well enough for a 2023 audience. I felt like it took a slight dip following some sponsorship meddling later on, but that's a ways down the road. Let me just say enjoy the gambling ship era while it lasts.


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