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Mini-Review of Champagne for One (A&E Series)

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  • a@aboq.org
    Hi all, I ve been re-watching the A&E Nero Wolfe series in the chronological sequence (I intend to do the same with the literary Corpus in electronic
    Message 1 of 10 , Feb 4, 2012
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      Hi all,

      I've been re-watching the A&E Nero Wolfe series in the chronological sequence
      (I intend to do the same with the literary Corpus in electronic editions), and I try
      to write a mini-review of each instalment after I finish watching it. To whom
      it might interest, here's my mini-review of _Champagne for One_ starring
      Maury Chaykin & Tim Hutton. I have also posted the mini-review online at:
      http://aboq.org/Champagne_for_One_%28TV%29
      and am also submitting it to IMDb.

      *****

      THE ART OF REPARTEE

      _Champagne for One_ is, I believe, one of the weakest novels in the classic Nero Wolfe murder-mystery series. It would, therefore, seem like an odd choice for the film-makers to select as one of the first Wolfe movies to include in the much-loved A&E TV series. However, the result does not disappoint; there is always the opportunity, when the literary source is of only mediocre quality, to exceed the book source in the way it is transposed to the screen; and that is exactly what happens here in the TV version of _Chapagne for One_. Whereas the book is *not* enjoyable throughout, and is in fact in some places tiresome and the novel seems overlong -- that is decidedly not the case here in the TV version; it is brisk and fast-paced and enjoyable throughout the short run-time of not even 90 minutes.

      Of course, Rex Stout's greatest weakness as a writer of murder mysteries is highlighted here in _Champagne for One_ as well: and that is his (murder-themed) plotting and dénouement; a true master of that skill, like Dame Agatha Christie, would slap their forehead at the far-fetched and anything but convincing dénouement that is presented to us here in _Champagne for One_; it's as if Rex Stout tried hard to make Nero Wolfe like Hercule Poirot, yet fails miserably in that endeavour.

      Yet this does not matter at all in the Wolfean universe; that is because Rex Stout's focus is quite elsewhere: it's on that Wolfean universe, the great cast of leading characters and the interplay among them. There is great chemistry between Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as his assistant Archie Goodwin; the two men are purposefully depicted by Stout as each other's antithesis, even while being the closest confederates, and this antangonism combined with association and mutual dependence is excellently highlighted and portrayed in _Champagne for One_.

      The dialogue in this TV version is very witty -- no wonder, since due to the movie's very short run-time, the screen-writers could pick and choose only the wittiest, juiciest bits of dialogue from the original book, while (it seems to me) also adding quite a few chunks of funny dialogue of their own making, fully in tune with the characters.

      Hutton is pitch-perfect as Archie Goodwin. Chaykin is not the ideal portrayal of Nero Wolfe -- he seems much too mobile (both in terms of his body and facial mimicry) compared to the more stolid Wolfe of the books, and he also shouts and bawls too much, and seems to get too excited and infuriated over every trifle every five minutes of the movie; yet Chaykin's delivery of some of the classic Nero Wolfe lines and moments is masterful, so the other inaccuracies can easily be forgiven and forgotten.

      The direction by Timothy Hutton this time around is adequate, unlike in the foregoing, disappointing _The Doorbell Rang_ where the characters' mannerisms got the upper hand and resulted in a dissatisfactory viewing experience that seemed too artificial, contrived to produce comical effects at all costs.

      As always, in _Champagne for One_ as well, I regretted the film-makers' decision to turn Fritz the master chef into a one-dimensional "funny character" intended to provide comic relief; in the Rex Stout books, Fritz definitely does not fulfil that role; Fritz may be flustered and old-fashioned, but there is rarely anything comical about him in the books (he is rather drab and indistinctive in the books, in fact), whereas in the TV series, Colin Fox is playing Fritz's role straight (too straight!) for the laughs, which I find distracting in every instalment. It is a sign of lack of confidence on the film-makers' part if they need to resort to the character of Fritz to inject humour into the narration; that's because in the original books, all the wit and humour that the reader may need, is provided within the brilliant first-person narration by Archie Goodwin. Of course, first-person narration is extremely difficult to transfer from a book to the screen without any loss, and that is probably why -- to compensate for the loss of Archie's witty first-person narration -- the film-makers chose to turn Fritz into a clown; I for one am not too happy about this choice.

      On the other hand, some of the other repertory actors shine in _Champagne for One_, particularly Kari Matchett as a depraved, seductive suspect, and the delicously ever-growling Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer; his role here is small and short, but incisive and memorable indeed.

      RATING: *C*

      --
      Yours,
      Alex.
      www.stout.aboq.org

      [processed by "The Bat!", Version 4.2.44.2]
    • tree's books
      Which of the DVD s to start with has been on my mind. I loaned the first one to a friend because he hadn t known anything about Nero Wolfe, but later thought
      Message 2 of 10 , Feb 6, 2012
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         Which of the DVD's to start with has been on my mind.
        I loaned the first one to a friend because he hadn't known anything about Nero Wolfe, but later thought maybe I shouldn't have started with the first disc, and instead chosen a different show to introduce NW.
        wasn't the first A&E show "The Golden Spiders"?  Although in the intro to the book it also describes it as an atypical NW story.
         
        although Archie often jokes about Nero's weight, he refers to Nero as weighing a seventh of a ton....that's about 285 pounds.  So maybe Nero is more mobile than you imagine him to be?
        also there are time when Archie relates how quickly and graceful Nero has moved.
        I like Chaykin as Nero - he feels quite believable.
         
        Felix had never seems like comic relief to me - just a different personality, not as outgoing, as Archie or Nero.   Maybe I'm not understanding what your point is about him?
        perhaps I need to rewatch the series.....
         
        One of the things about the A&E series I found brilliant was the way the secondary actors took on different parts in each show. what a joy it must have been to be a part of that troupe.
         
         
        on a side thought...
        something that annoys me is when a mystery writer is compared to Christie.
        if you pick up The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, of course the writing is wonderful.
        but try reading her first Miss Marple story (Murder at the Vicarage). 
        it's a struggle to get through.
        like any writer some are better than others.
        she was not the "be all to end all" mystery writers.
        to me, Rex Stout is a better writer, and certainly more enjoyable to read.
         
         
        tree
         
        ----- Original Message -----

         

        Hi all,

        I've been re-watching the A&E Nero Wolfe series in the chronological sequence
        (I intend to do the same with the literary Corpus in electronic editions), and I try
        to write a mini-review of each instalment after I finish watching it. To whom
        it might interest, here's my mini-review of _Champagne for One_ starring
        Maury Chaykin & Tim Hutton. I have also posted the mini-review online at:
        http://aboq.org/Champagne_for_One_%28TV%29
        and am also submitting it to IMDb.

        *****

        THE ART OF REPARTEE

        _Champagne for One_ is, I believe, one of the weakest novels in the classic Nero Wolfe murder-mystery series. It would, therefore, seem like an odd choice for the film-makers to select as one of the first Wolfe movies to include in the much-loved A&E TV series. However, the result does not disappoint; there is always the opportunity, when the literary source is of only mediocre quality, to exceed the book source in the way it is transposed to the screen; and that is exactly what happens here in the TV version of _Chapagne for One_. Whereas the book is *not* enjoyable throughout, and is in fact in some places tiresome and the novel seems overlong -- that is decidedly not the case here in the TV version; it is brisk and fast-paced and enjoyable throughout the short run-time of not even 90 minutes.

        Of course, Rex Stout's greatest weakness as a writer of murder mysteries is highlighted here in _Champagne for One_ as well: and that is his (murder-themed) plotting and dénouement; a true master of that skill, like Dame Agatha Christie, would slap their forehead at the far-fetched and anything but convincing dénouement that is presented to us here in _Champagne for One_; it's as if Rex Stout tried hard to make Nero Wolfe like Hercule Poirot, yet fails miserably in that endeavour.

        Yet this does not matter at all in the Wolfean universe; that is because Rex Stout's focus is quite elsewhere: it's on that Wolfean universe, the great cast of leading characters and the interplay among them. There is great chemistry between Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as his assistant Archie Goodwin; the two men are purposefully depicted by Stout as each other's antithesis, even while being the closest confederates, and this antangonism combined with association and mutual dependence is excellently highlighted and portrayed in _Champagne for One_.

        The dialogue in this TV version is very witty -- no wonder, since due to the movie's very short run-time, the screen-writers could pick and choose only the wittiest, juiciest bits of dialogue from the original book, while (it seems to me) also adding quite a few chunks of funny dialogue of their own making, fully in tune with the characters.

        Hutton is pitch-perfect as Archie Goodwin. Chaykin is not the ideal portrayal of Nero Wolfe -- he seems much too mobile (both in terms of his body and facial mimicry) compared to the more stolid Wolfe of the books, and he also shouts and bawls too much, and seems to get too excited and infuriated over every trifle every five minutes of the movie; yet Chaykin's delivery of some of the classic Nero Wolfe lines and moments is masterful, so the other inaccuracies can easily be forgiven and forgotten.

        The direction by Timothy Hutton this time around is adequate, unlike in the foregoing, disappointing _The Doorbell Rang_ where the characters' mannerisms got the upper hand and resulted in a dissatisfactory viewing experience that seemed too artificial, contrived to produce comical effects at all costs.

        As always, in _Champagne for One_ as well, I regretted the film-makers' decision to turn Fritz the master chef into a one-dimensional "funny character" intended to provide comic relief; in the Rex Stout books, Fritz definitely does not fulfil that role; Fritz may be flustered and old-fashioned, but there is rarely anything comical about him in the books (he is rather drab and indistinctive in the books, in fact), whereas in the TV series, Colin Fox is playing Fritz's role straight (too straight!) for the laughs, which I find distracting in every instalment. It is a sign of lack of confidence on the film-makers' part if they need to resort to the character of Fritz to inject humour into the narration; that's because in the original books, all the wit and humour that the reader may need, is provided within the brilliant first-person narration by Archie Goodwin. Of course, first-person narration is extremely difficult to transfer from a book to the screen without any loss, and that is probably why -- to compensate for the loss of Archie's witty first-person narration -- the film-makers chose to turn Fritz into a clown; I for one am not too happy about this choice.

        On the other hand, some of the other repertory actors shine in _Champagne for One_, particularly Kari Matchett as a depraved, seductive suspect, and the delicously ever-growling Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer; his role here is small and short, but incisive and memorable indeed.

        RATING: *C*

        --
        Yours,
        Alex.
        www.stout.aboq.org

        [processed by "The Bat!", Version 4.2.44.2]

      • CE
        Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer is a real treat.  I had some ideas about Cramer from the books, but Smitrovich really excelled my imagination. He s
        Message 3 of 10 , Feb 6, 2012
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          Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer is a real treat.  I had some ideas about Cramer from the books, but Smitrovich really excelled my imagination. He's wonderful, and better, he's no stock character. He's entirely believable.
          Cecilia



          On the other hand, some of the other repertory actors shine in _Champagne for One_, particularly Kari Matchett as a depraved, seductive suspect, and the delicously ever-growling Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer; his role here is small and short, but incisive and memorable indeed.

          RATING: *C*

          --
          Yours,
          Alex.
          www.stout.aboq.org

          [processed by "The Bat!", Version 4.2.44.2]





        • Ellen rappaport
          I was so appreciative when N.W. was brought to my T.V. After one episode I couldn t wait for the next episode. It was ok with me to elaborate a bit on the
          Message 4 of 10 , Feb 7, 2012
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            I was so appreciative when N.W. was brought to my T.V. After one episode I couldn't wait for the next episode. It was ok with me to elaborate a bit on the characters. I loved Archie and thought how campish. All of Archie's mannerisms especially his swagger in walking. I thought Maury Chapin was a fun character of Nero. All in all it was a respectful and fun program.
            It may not have been exactly the same as Rex portrayed his characters, but that's okay. It was a respectful likeness and I appreciated all of it. Still read the books and listen to the CD's.

            From: CE <cec_moss@...>
            To: "nerowolfe@yahoogroups.com" <nerowolfe@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Monday, February 6, 2012 9:52 PM
            Subject: [NeroWolfe] Mini-Review of Champagne for One (A&E Series)

             

            Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer is a real treat.  I had some ideas about Cramer from the books, but Smitrovich really excelled my imagination. He's wonderful, and better, he's no stock character. He's entirely believable.
            Cecilia


            On the other hand, some of the other repertory actors shine in _Champagne for One_, particularly Kari Matchett as a depraved, seductive suspect, and the delicously ever-growling Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer; his role here is small and short, but incisive and memorable indeed.

            RATING: *C*

            --
            Yours,
            Alex.
            www.stout.aboq.org

            [processed by "The Bat!", Version 4.2.44.2]







          • Ellen rappaport
            If I remember correctly the Nero Wolfe T.V. series began with The Golden Spiders. Fritz reminded me of a rather withdrawn type of personality unless he was
            Message 5 of 10 , Feb 7, 2012
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              If I remember correctly the Nero Wolfe T.V. series began with The Golden Spiders.
              Fritz reminded me of a rather withdrawn type of personality unless he was cooking in his kitchen. Then he was in charge...that is after Nero made his request for dinner.
               
              I also remember very well actors showing up in ongoing episodes. One week the murderer the next week the victim. In Champayne for One the woman/villain was in many other episodes as was the thin, blonde actress. (don't know their names.)
               
              Love it all. Wish they would bring it back to T.V.

              From: tree's books <treebook@...>
              To: nerowolfe@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Monday, February 6, 2012 8:43 PM
              Subject: Re: [NeroWolfe] Mini-Review of Champagne for One (A&E Series)

               
               Which of the DVD's to start with has been on my mind.
              I loaned the first one to a friend because he hadn't known anything about Nero Wolfe, but later thought maybe I shouldn't have started with the first disc, and instead chosen a different show to introduce NW.
              wasn't the first A&E show "The Golden Spiders"?  Although in the intro to the book it also describes it as an atypical NW story.
               
              although Archie often jokes about Nero's weight, he refers to Nero as weighing a seventh of a ton....that's about 285 pounds.  So maybe Nero is more mobile than you imagine him to be?
              also there are time when Archie relates how quickly and graceful Nero has moved.
              I like Chaykin as Nero - he feels quite believable.
               
              Felix had never seems like comic relief to me - just a different personality, not as outgoing, as Archie or Nero.   Maybe I'm not understanding what your point is about him?
              perhaps I need to rewatch the series.....
               
              One of the things about the A&E series I found brilliant was the way the secondary actors took on different parts in each show. what a joy it must have been to be a part of that troupe.
               
               
              on a side thought...
              something that annoys me is when a mystery writer is compared to Christie.
              if you pick up The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, of course the writing is wonderful.
              but try reading her first Miss Marple story (Murder at the Vicarage). 
              it's a struggle to get through.
              like any writer some are better than others.
              she was not the "be all to end all" mystery writers.
              to me, Rex Stout is a better writer, and certainly more enjoyable to read.
               
               
              tree
               
              ----- Original Message -----

               
              Hi all,

              I've been re-watching the A&E Nero Wolfe series in the chronological sequence
              (I intend to do the same with the literary Corpus in electronic editions), and I try
              to write a mini-review of each instalment after I finish watching it. To whom
              it might interest, here's my mini-review of _Champagne for One_ starring
              Maury Chaykin & Tim Hutton. I have also posted the mini-review online at:
              http://aboq.org/Champagne_for_One_%28TV%29
              and am also submitting it to IMDb.

              *****

              THE ART OF REPARTEE

              _Champagne for One_ is, I believe, one of the weakest novels in the classic Nero Wolfe murder-mystery series. It would, therefore, seem like an odd choice for the film-makers to select as one of the first Wolfe movies to include in the much-loved A&E TV series. However, the result does not disappoint; there is always the opportunity, when the literary source is of only mediocre quality, to exceed the book source in the way it is transposed to the screen; and that is exactly what happens here in the TV version of _Chapagne for One_. Whereas the book is *not* enjoyable throughout, and is in fact in some places tiresome and the novel seems overlong -- that is decidedly not the case here in the TV version; it is brisk and fast-paced and enjoyable throughout the short run-time of not even 90 minutes.

              Of course, Rex Stout's greatest weakness as a writer of murder mysteries is highlighted here in _Champagne for One_ as well: and that is his (murder-themed) plotting and dénouement; a true master of that skill, like Dame Agatha Christie, would slap their forehead at the far-fetched and anything but convincing dénouement that is presented to us here in _Champagne for One_; it's as if Rex Stout tried hard to make Nero Wolfe like Hercule Poirot, yet fails miserably in that endeavour.

              Yet this does not matter at all in the Wolfean universe; that is because Rex Stout's focus is quite elsewhere: it's on that Wolfean universe, the great cast of leading characters and the interplay among them. There is great chemistry between Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as his assistant Archie Goodwin; the two men are purposefully depicted by Stout as each other's antithesis, even while being the closest confederates, and this antangonism combined with association and mutual dependence is excellently highlighted and portrayed in _Champagne for One_.

              The dialogue in this TV version is very witty -- no wonder, since due to the movie's very short run-time, the screen-writers could pick and choose only the wittiest, juiciest bits of dialogue from the original book, while (it seems to me) also adding quite a few chunks of funny dialogue of their own making, fully in tune with the characters.

              Hutton is pitch-perfect as Archie Goodwin. Chaykin is not the ideal portrayal of Nero Wolfe -- he seems much too mobile (both in terms of his body and facial mimicry) compared to the more stolid Wolfe of the books, and he also shouts and bawls too much, and seems to get too excited and infuriated over every trifle every five minutes of the movie; yet Chaykin's delivery of some of the classic Nero Wolfe lines and moments is masterful, so the other inaccuracies can easily be forgiven and forgotten.

              The direction by Timothy Hutton this time around is adequate, unlike in the foregoing, disappointing _The Doorbell Rang_ where the characters' mannerisms got the upper hand and resulted in a dissatisfactory viewing experience that seemed too artificial, contrived to produce comical effects at all costs.

              As always, in _Champagne for One_ as well, I regretted the film-makers' decision to turn Fritz the master chef into a one-dimensional "funny character" intended to provide comic relief; in the Rex Stout books, Fritz definitely does not fulfil that role; Fritz may be flustered and old-fashioned, but there is rarely anything comical about him in the books (he is rather drab and indistinctive in the books, in fact), whereas in the TV series, Colin Fox is playing Fritz's role straight (too straight!) for the laughs, which I find distracting in every instalment. It is a sign of lack of confidence on the film-makers' part if they need to resort to the character of Fritz to inject humour into the narration; that's because in the original books, all the wit and humour that the reader may need, is provided within the brilliant first-person narration by Archie Goodwin. Of course, first-person narration is extremely difficult to transfer from a book to the screen without any loss, and that is probably why -- to compensate for the loss of Archie's witty first-person narration -- the film-makers chose to turn Fritz into a clown; I for one am not too happy about this choice.

              On the other hand, some of the other repertory actors shine in _Champagne for One_, particularly Kari Matchett as a depraved, seductive suspect, and the delicously ever-growling Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer; his role here is small and short, but incisive and memorable indeed.

              RATING: *C*

              --
              Yours,
              Alex.
              www.stout.aboq.org

              [processed by "The Bat!", Version 4.2.44.2]



            • tree's books
              bringing it back who could they get to play the parts? I never saw the William Conrad /Nero series but other who have thought it good. there was also
              Message 6 of 10 , Feb 7, 2012
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                 bringing it back  <sigh>
                 who could they get to play the parts?
                 
                I never saw the William Conrad /Nero  series but other who have thought it good.
                there was also a series in the early 50's.  the stories in that series have different titles, so I don't know if they were Rex Stouts....
                maybe someday they will rebroadcast some of the old ones.
                 
                and there was the radio shows ......
                you can get them from Old Time Radio in mp3
                again, I don't know what they're like, but thee is a sample episode on the website.
                 
                I'm glad for the shows A&E did because it led me to the books.
                and they are best.
                 
                tree
                ----- Original Message -----

                 

                If I remember correctly the Nero Wolfe T.V. series began with The Golden Spiders.
                Fritz reminded me of a rather withdrawn type of personality unless he was cooking in his kitchen. Then he was in charge...that is after Nero made his request for dinner.
                 
                I also remember very well actors showing up in ongoing episodes. One week the murderer the next week the victim. In Champayne for One the woman/villain was in many other episodes as was the thin, blonde actress. (don't know their names.)
                 
                Love it all. Wish they would bring it back to T.V.

                 
              • sondrao@earthlink.net
                Hi Gang: I hadn t heard the rumor that they are bringing it back. But I believe it. Did you hear that this Christmas the first DVD box was selling at Wal-Mart
                Message 7 of 10 , Feb 7, 2012
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                  Hi Gang:

                  I hadn't heard the rumor that they are bringing it back.  But I believe it.  Did you hear that this Christmas the first DVD box was selling at Wal-Mart for @$79.00.  And it is selling for $ 102.++ other places on line.  I've been meaning to write everyone about that for some time, but been too busy. 

                  But at that kind of money and popularity, sure they will bring it back.  Someday!  Soon I hope!

                  sao


                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: tree's books
                  Sent: Feb 7, 2012 12:51 PM
                  To: nerowolfe@yahoogroups.com
                  Subject: Re: [NeroWolfe] brining it back?

                   

                  

                   bringing it back  <sigh>
                   who could they get to play the parts?
                   
                  I never saw the William Conrad /Nero  series but other who have thought it good.
                  there was also a series in the early 50's.  the stories in that series have different titles, so I don't know if they were Rex Stouts....
                  maybe someday they will rebroadcast some of the old ones.
                   
                  and there was the radio shows ......
                  you can get them from Old Time Radio in mp3
                  again, I don't know what they're like, but thee is a sample episode on the website.
                   
                  I'm glad for the shows A&E did because it led me to the books.
                  and they are best.
                   
                  tree
                  ----- Original Message -----

                   

                  If I remember correctly the Nero Wolfe T.V. series began with The Golden Spiders.
                  Fritz reminded me of a rather withdrawn type of personality unless he was cooking in his kitchen. Then he was in charge...that is after Nero made his request for dinner.
                   
                  I also remember very well actors showing up in ongoing episodes. One week the murderer the next week the victim. In Champayne for One the woman/villain was in many other episodes as was the thin, blonde actress. (don't know their names.)
                   
                  Love it all. Wish they would bring it back to T.V.

                   

                • Joe Suggs
                  In my head I used to always cast the late great James Gammon, a tremendous actor, as Cramer.  He played the manager in the Major League films, among many,
                  Message 8 of 10 , Feb 7, 2012
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                    In my head I used to always cast the late great James Gammon, a tremendous actor, as Cramer.  He played the manager in the "Major League" films, among many, many other things.  Eventually I ended up hiring him to do voice-over on an industrial film, and at lunch I told him he was my Inspector Cramer for the Nero Wolfe books.  He hadn't read any of them, but he said he had played Timothy Hutton's uncle in something.  What a great guy he was, and a great actor. He would have been an amazing Cramer.

                    Best to all-

                    j  d  s




                    From: CE <cec_moss@...>
                    To: "nerowolfe@yahoogroups.com" <nerowolfe@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Monday, February 6, 2012 9:52 PM
                    Subject: [NeroWolfe] Mini-Review of Champagne for One (A&E Series)

                     

                    Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer is a real treat.  I had some ideas about Cramer from the books, but Smitrovich really excelled my imagination. He's wonderful, and better, he's no stock character. He's entirely believable.
                    Cecilia



                    On the other hand, some of the other repertory actors shine in _Champagne for One_, particularly Kari Matchett as a depraved, seductive suspect, and the delicously ever-growling Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer; his role here is small and short, but incisive and memorable indeed.

                    RATING: *C*

                    --
                    Yours,
                    Alex.
                    www.stout.aboq.org

                    [processed by "The Bat!", Version 4.2.44.2]







                  • sue kearney
                    James Gammon? Nash Bridges dad? Nah, he s not Cramer. Smitrovich did a pretty good job. Although it shoulda been Broderick Crawford, if we could only shift
                    Message 9 of 10 , Feb 8, 2012
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                      James Gammon? Nash Bridges' dad? Nah, he's not Cramer. Smitrovich did a pretty good job. Although it shoulda been Broderick Crawford, if we could only shift time.




                      Sue Kearney—Magnolias West
                      Sue Kearney — Inspiration in bloom at Magnolias West
                      office: 510-698-6245   |   mobile: 510-504-6355   |   sue@...
                      Twitter   |   Facebook   |   LinkedIn   |   Sue's gratitude blog   |   Skype: SueKearney

                      On Feb 7, 2012, at 2:39 PM, Joe Suggs wrote:

                       

                      In my head I used to always cast the late great James Gammon, a tremendous actor, as Cramer.  He played the manager in the "Major League" films, among many, many other things.  Eventually I ended up hiring him to do voice-over on an industrial film, and at lunch I told him he was my Inspector Cramer for the Nero Wolfe books.  He hadn't read any of them, but he said he had played Timothy Hutton's uncle in something.  What a great guy he was, and a great actor. He would have been an amazing Cramer.

                      Best to all-

                      j  d  s




                      From: CE <cec_moss@...>
                      To: "nerowolfe@yahoogroups.com" <nerowolfe@yahoogroups.com>
                      Sent: Monday, February 6, 2012 9:52 PM
                      Subject: [NeroWolfe] Mini-Review of Champagne for One (A&E Series)

                       

                      Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer is a real treat.  I had some ideas about Cramer from the books, but Smitrovich really excelled my imagination. He's wonderful, and better, he's no stock character. He's entirely believable.
                      Cecilia



                      On the other hand, some of the other repertory actors shine in _Champagne for One_, particularly Kari Matchett as a depraved, seductive suspect, and the delicously ever-growling Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer; his role here is small and short, but incisive and memorable indeed.

                      RATING: *C*

                      --
                      Yours,
                      Alex.
                      www.stout.aboq.org

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                      ... I subscribe to and underline every word you said here! Before the A&E series came out, I somehow had trouble visualising Cramer, especially his face, while
                      Message 10 of 10 , Feb 18, 2012
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                        On Monday, 6th February 2012 at 18:52:07 (GMT -0800 GMT), CE wrote:

                        > Bill Smitrovich as Inspector Cramer is a real treat.  I had some ideas about
                        > Cramer from the books, but Smitrovich really excelled my imagination.
                        > He's wonderful, and better, he's no stock character. He's entirely believable.

                        I subscribe to and underline every word you said here! Before the A&E series
                        came out, I somehow had trouble visualising Cramer, especially his face,
                        while I was reading the books for many years. I had my own mental
                        image of Wolfe, Archie, Fritz, and even Stebbins... but couldn't quite
                        picture Cramer to myself, despite being very familiar with his
                        behaviour, etc. But as soon as I saw Bill Smitrovich in the role, it
                        was like, "Bam! That's him alright! *That's* the Inspector Cramer
                        at long last that I'd been searching for for so many years." :-)

                        On Monday, 6th February 2012 at 19:43:16 (GMT -0600), tree's books wrote:

                        > Which of the DVD's to start with has been on my mind.

                        The first one (pilot)! I find _The Golden Spiders_ to be a superb movie!
                        It's not surprising the whole A&E series was commissioned a year later
                        based on that pilot. The pilot movie perhaps isn't as polished in some
                        respects as the later TV series (see, for example, Wolfe wearing a white
                        shirt instead of the obligatory yellow shirt), but it's outstanding and an
                        excellent intro into the Wolfe universe. More especially, the screenplay
                        for the TV version of _The Golden Spiders_ is superb, but it does not seem
                        to get the recognition it deserves. It was written by the veteran screenwriter
                        Paul Monash who was 82 (!) years old at the time, and it was to become
                        his final work. He really got the nuances of Wolfe & Archie right
                        in _The Golden Spiders_, as opposed to _The Doorbell Rang_,
                        written by Michael Jaffe a year later as the first instalment of the
                        TV series, which really disappointed me. The characters' mannerisms
                        got the upper hand in _The Doorbell Rang_, something that Paul Monash
                        skillfully avoided in _The Golden Spiders_. I also believe it was a bad choice
                        for A&E to start the TV series with _The Doorbell Rang_ -- it's one of
                        the later Wolfe novels, and I believe you can only fully appreciate it
                        after first having spent some (considerable) time within the Wolfean
                        universe. For example, take the famous milk scene with Cramer and
                        Archie. I was unhappy about how it was filmed (only Smitrovich was
                        adequate in _The Doorbell Rang_, as usual). The whole point of the
                        milk scene is that after years or decades of being nasty, Cramer tries
                        to be nice towards Archie for a change. However, you can't really
                        appreciate any of this if this act of kindness occurs in the very first
                        instalment of a TV series! Yes, _The Doorbell Rang_ is an outstanding
                        Wolfe novel, one of the best, but they should have kept it towards
                        a later point in the TV series -- it could have closed out Season 1,
                        for example.

                        > wasn't the first A&E show "The Golden Spiders"?

                        Yes, that was the pilot movie from March 2000. The A&E series proper
                        started a year later (April 2001), the second season started in April 2002,
                        and the final episode (_Immune to Murder_) aired in August 2002.
                        Incidentally, many Wolfe fans hate the TV version of _Immune to
                        Murder_, but I loved it, and once again, the credit for that goes to
                        the screenwriter, Stuart Kaminsky here. He really permitted himself
                        some freedoms as to how to transfer _Immune to Murder_ to the screen;
                        it was more of a variation on Wolfean themes than a slavish transition
                        of the novelette, and that's what I liked about it, but that's also what
                        other Wolfe fans frowned upon. :-)

                        > Although in the intro to the book it also describes it as an atypical NW story.

                        I would disagree witht that. I find _The Golden Spiders_ (the book)
                        to be a typical Wolfe novel, of very good quality, and a suitable intro
                        to Wolfe in the written format as well. It was a very good choice for
                        the pilot movie on the part of A&E.

                        > although Archie often jokes about Nero's weight, he refers to Nero
                        > as weighing a seventh of a ton....that's about 285 pounds. So maybe
                        > Nero is more mobile than you imagine him to be?
                        > also there are time when Archie relates how quickly and graceful Nero has moved.
                        > I like Chaykin as Nero - he feels quite believable.

                        He does, but he's not *the* ideal Wolfe in my mind. Take the many
                        occasions in the books where Archie describes Wolfe as being too lazy
                        to turn his head to look at the wall clock; he prefers to ask Archie
                        what time it is. I can't quite reconcile those descriptions with Maury
                        Chaykin's fairly agile portrayal of Wolfe, who would probably just
                        turn his head to look at the wall clock. :-)

                        > [Fritz] had never seems like comic relief to me - just a different
                        > personality, not as outgoing, as Archie or Nero.

                        Yes, that's my impression of Fritz from the *books*, too. However,
                        Colin Fox seems to play him differently -- the way Colin Fox moves
                        and speaks seems too comedy-like to me, unlike the serious (and you
                        could even say rather dull) Fritz of the books.

                        > One of the things about the A&E series I found brilliant was the
                        > way the secondary actors took on different parts in each show.

                        Absolutely!

                        > something that annoys me is when a mystery writer is compared to Christie.

                        Why not? She is *the* Mystery Writer no. 1, recognized world-wide.

                        > if you pick up The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, of course the writing is wonderful.
                        > but try reading her first Miss Marple story (Murder at the Vicarage).
                        > it's a struggle to get through.

                        I absolutely agree with you. But the same is true of Rex Stout and
                        Nero Wolfe. A volume like _The Silent Speaker_ is a masterpiece,
                        also from the literary point of view, but other Wolfe volumes, such as
                        _Where There's a Will_, are a failure, *especially* from the literary
                        point of view.

                        And so, there are both superb and bad Agatha Christie books.
                        For an excellent Miss Marple book, go to _They Do It with Mirrors_,
                        or the exquisite collection of classic short stories, _Thirteen Problems_.
                        Christie could write some pretty awful books, too, take the atrocious
                        late Poirot novels like _Elephants Can Remember_ and _Third Girl_.
                        Stout never sank as low in his old age as Dama Agatha did.

                        > like any writer some are better than others.

                        Definitely. :-)

                        > to me, Rex Stout is a better writer, and certainly more enjoyable to read.

                        Rex Stout is a better stylist, for sure, but Agatha Christie is a better plotter.
                        Also, Rex Stout's dénouements are totally inferior (one could even say
                        amateurish) compared to Agatha Christie's. To sum up, both Stout and
                        Christie have both great and bad books in their portfolio. :-) I find both
                        of them, in their finest works, to be artists of genius, and it seems useless
                        to me to argue which of the two was "better". Their strengths and
                        weaknesses were simply different from one another; although both are
                        "mystery writers", their writing styles are completely different, but neither
                        of the two styles is necessarily "better" than the other one.

                        --
                        Yours,
                        Alex.
                        http://stout.aboq.org

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