Andy Griffith's ''Woman Speeder'' essentially recycled the plot to its pilot episode
And there was another connection to The Danny Thomas Show right under your nose.
It didn't take long for The Andy Griffith Show to find its legs. In fact, one could argue that it is the rare example of a sitcom that arrived perfectly formed from its premiere, "The New Housekeeper." Television was just better at that back then. So, by the time Sheriff Andy, Opie, Barney and Bee made it to season two, they were humming like a well-oiled comedy machine.
"Andy and the Woman Speeder" arrived early in the second season, just the third episode, and it does feel like a bit of an outlier. Opie and Bee are pretty scarce. Floyd gets a lot of the sidekick action. Barney wears fishing gear through half the episode and sings Frank Sinatra in the final scene. There is a sort of courtroom scene. Andy seems a little sterner. The plot centers around the "Woman Speeder" of the title, a charming traveler named Elizabeth Crowley (Jean Hagen) who ends up in Mayberry's jail.
There might be a good reason why this episode just feels a little different — it essentially recycles the plot to the rather different pilot episode.
If you recall, Sheriff Andy made his debut on The Danny Thomas Show, in a 1960 episode titled "Danny Meets Andy Griffith." In that tale, Danny is passing through Mayberry in his automobile when he lands in jail. Danny is incensed at the fine, which he considers to be small-town extortion. Danny demands to see the Justice of the Peace. Andy obliges — because Andy is also the Justice of the Peace.
This exact set-up and premise plays out in "The Woman Speeder." Elizabeth Crowley gets ticketed when passing through Mayberry. She cries, "Speed trap!" and demands to see the Justice of the Peace. Of course, that is Andy, again.
Andy tosses her in the clink, charging the elegant woman $20 for contempt and $30 for "insulting the dignity of his robe." (Though, he's wearing a flannel shirt, having just come from the fishin' hole.)
It's all an echo of "Danny Meets Andy Griffith." And here's where it gets weirder — Jean Hagen, the "Woman Speeder," played Danny Thomas' wife on Make Room for Daddy, a.k.a. The Danny Thomas Show.
Now, Hagen was not in the episode "Danny Meets Andy Griffith." She had left the series by then. Hagen played Margaret Williams in the first three seasons. She left the show rather acrimoniously, tired of butting heads with her costar. Thomas, in turn, killed off her character — making poor Margaret Williams the first-ever sitcom character killed off on American television.
This is what makes "The Woman Speeder" so funny. The Danny Thomas Show carried on without her — and she ended up basically playing the Danny Thomas role in a remake of "Danny Meets Andy Griffith."
Oddly, Hagen would be the only principal cast member from The Danny Thomas Show to ever appear on The Andy Griffith Show.
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In the 1920s, Lina Lamont was Monumental Studios' female superstar during the silent days of movies until "talkies" came along... then her high-pitched, New York voice almost spelled certain doom for the studio until Kelly (Don Lockwood) and O'Connor (Cosmo Brown) convince Debbie Reynolds (Kathy Selden) to dub her voice for Lamont.
A truly classic movie that's well worth watching again and again...
By the way, it was producer Arthur Freed's idea to take his song catalog (he co-wrote all of those songs with Nacio Herb Brown during the 1920s and 1930s) and develop a story around the movie industry adapting to talkies in the 1920s. He had Betty Comdon and Adolph Green write the script and incorporate the various songs at key spots in the film. However, "Make 'em Laugh" was a rewrite of Cole Porter's "Be A Clown" from the Gene Kelly Film "The Pirate".
According to Wikipedia:
"Make 'Em Laugh" is a song first featured in the 1952 MGM musical film Singin' in the Rain, energetically performed by Donald O'Connor. Written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the screen writers of the movie, the song is closely based on Cole Porter's "Be a Clown" from the 1948 MGM musical film The Pirate, in which it was sung by Gene Kelly and Judy Garland.
O'Connor's performance for "Make 'Em Laugh" is noted for its extreme physical difficulty, featuring dozens of jumps, pratfalls, and two backflips. Hollywood legend states that O'Connor, though only 27 years old at the time but a chain-smoker, was bedridden for several days after filming the sequence. This high degree of difficulty has made the original routine a tour de force in physical comedy.
"Make 'Em' Laugh" is listed at #49 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema."
Just hope Andy had his fishin license
That must have been a seriously acrimonious exit, for Thomas to go that far to make sure her bridge was burned behind her when she left!