Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Reunited: An "Adventure" in "Love."

It wouldn't take anyone visiting here too long to grasp that, of all our favorite movies, one in particular stands out. The Poseidon Adventure (1972) rocked this 7 year-old's world upon first viewing it (sadly on TV and not in a theater.) I was hardly alone in watching, though. With a 62% share, it was the sixth most-watched movie ever broadcast on TV to that time. (The rating for it was 39. Today, a network special or even a hot series is lucky to hit a 5!) Most of the stars of the ensemble movie became legends to me, part of a special fraternity which earned lifetime devotion on my part. 

In a cast already brimming with Oscar-winners (Jack Albertson, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters and Ernest Borgnine), Gene Hackman joined the club as filming was underway. His was for The French Connection (1971.) (Interestingly, his BAFTA in 1973 was for both Connection and Adventure!)

As a kid, I was ALL IN when it came to following the survivors of the capsized S.S. Poseidon. They faced continuous peril as they climbed and sometimes swam to the hull of the ship in hopes of being rescued.

As much as the cast is cemented in my mind as a group, it's remarkable that Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters actually share very few moments together one-on-one. Here, she makes a futile attempt to keep Borgnine and Hackman from squabbling.

Their most considerable interaction occurs as he is assisting her out of a tunnel and onto a steep set of steps in an overturned smokestack. For me, these two will forever be associated with the fateful voyage of the S.S. Poseidon. But ten years later they were back on the water again (and not in the soggy Poseidon sequel!)

Yes, in 1982, Borgnine and Winters were reunited for a two-part installment of The Love Boat!

They played a long-married couple of Italian heritage who are aboard to celebrate their anniversary. Their accompanying family members could hardly be more staggeringly random and unlikely.

In red at the far right is Candice Azzara and she I can buy as Borgnine and Winters' daughter, though she doesn't bear any physical resemblance. She's believable as the child of Italians.

The interesting thing here is that Azzara had appeared in the second pilot for The Love Boat! In 1977's The Love Boat II, a 2-hour telefilm, she played Lounge Entertainer Amy Mitchell, intended to be a regular cast member. But in the end, there was no such ongoing role in the popular show. Her role is this voyage is rather thankless. She's only around as an observer of other people's stories.

And, no, you weren't seeing things if you thought you recognized a young Marie Osmond in the photos above...! She played the couple's granddaughter. Her daffodil-hued, ruffled monstrosity sort of put me in the mind of the frock handed to Angela Cartwright to wear in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979.) Osmond winds up entangled with Dynasty's John James, who is not the man her parents intended her to wed.

Their other daughter is the least likely of all... Meredith Baxter Birney! She falls for a man who was set up as a blind date, but he turns out to be a gigolo! ("Three Coins in the Condom Machine?")

Baxter had met Birney when they were cast on Bridget Loves Bernie in 1972. Is that enough Bs for you yet? The highly-rated show was pulled after one season due to controversy (interfaith marriage.) They wed in 1974 and could be found costarring or otherwise appearing together quite a bit thereafter. They divorced in 1989. (After three husbands and five children, Baxter married a woman in 2013.)

But back to the topic at hand. Borgnine (complete with a heavy Italian accent) and Winters (devoid of any accent other than her usual one!) realize that as they are celebrating their long-time marital union, they actually aren't happy with one another.

Nestled in their cabin, they determine that it might be best to divorce!

Borgnine could sometimes use a little help reining in his big personality and Winters could turn, in the wrong hands, quite hammy and more than a little shrill. There two pull out a lot of stops in order to out-act one another at times.

This Love Boat voyage didn't take place on board the usual Pacific Princess line, but instead was an Italian ship. Ironically, it was the Stella Solaris - Stella Stevens having played Borgnine's memorably sarcastic wife in Poseidon!

A tense family dinner in the salon. Shelley's dusty rose dress is something of a souped-up version of her taupe chiffon from Poseidon.

Playing a Catholic rather than a Jew, she sports a cross necklace this time out instead of the Star of David. Over Borgnine's shoulder is a waiter (also seen in the prior pic) and his gold jacket recalls the ones seen in the 1972 movie.

See what I mean? (Some of you might recall the time I was doing a rundown on The Phynx (1970) and spotted Freida Renti in that wearing this very same getup!)

At any rate, as the voyage continues, the couple keeps discovering that despite their long marital union, they just aren't happy with one-another. 

"You Don't Bring Me Flowers" anymore... (Actually, he never did!)

At times, the ham level is dialed down a notch and Winters is able to put forth some nice emotional touches. (But I couldn't help dwelling on the fellow diner behind her!)

Things finally reach a turning point for the couple outside a Roman church.

I don't think I'm ruining anyone's life too much if I tell you that they ultimately wind up sticking together and drifting along in a gondola all their own. (One hopes that with their history of maritime disaster, the thing didn't soon capsize!)

No, this wasn't Long Days Journey into Night or Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but it was nonetheless neat and fun to see these two members of the Poseidon Adventure family acting together on a ship again.


Forever1267 said...

I didn't see Marie Osmond first. I saw Adrienne Barbeau, who also seemed like an unlikely child of Borgnine and Winters.

The Poseidon Adventure is my favorite disaster movie, and in my Top 20 All Time Favorite Movies.

Dan said...

“Poseidon”, along with “Airport”, “GWTW”, and “Jurassic Park”, was one of the movies I was lucky to see on my home town’s long gone big screen, supposedly one of the biggest in PA. Must confess, as much as I loved it then, I really have trouble getting through it now. I just find Hackman so annoying.
Did I ever tell you he tried to kill me? He was filming scenes from “No Way Out” with Kevin Costner here in Alexandria (Georgetown in the movie). He was to pull up in his car, park, and stare down an alley. Every time he backed up for another take, he almost ran over my feet. A surprisingly small guy with, at least then, true red gold hair.
Borgnine always had that air of not believing his luck in having such a rich career. Amazing how he could morph from menacing to endearingly goofy in the snap of a finger.

http://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/ said...

Hey Poseidon,
I watched a few "Love Boat" episodes recently just for laughs. But I could not make it very far into this one. Ernest Borgnine's big EYE-talian hamming had me tuning out after 15 minutes. I met Ernie in Traverse City, MI once, where he was filming a movie late in life. He was friendly as could be, signing autographs right and left.

And yes, the Hollywood Squares-style casting of this "Borgnine Bunch" was quite amusing. I would love to know any dish on the behind the scenes of this episode, as Shelley Winters made it her business to steal all the scenes of any acting gig she got later in life!

Cheers, Rick

joel65913 said...

Hi Poseidon!

I'm sure I must have seen this when it first ran since I was a pretty regular Love Boat watcher then (you'd have to tie me to a chair to watch most of them now though!) but I can't say I have a memory of it.

Borgnine for a good chunk of his career (about the 50's to the later 80's) had a sort of ageless quality due to his rough hewn looks in that he was of indeterminate middle age. So it didn't seem out of place if his wives in different films ranged so wildly-Bette Davis, Stella Stevens, Katy Jurado among others and Shelley here.

Both Ernie and Shelley were frequently very skillful performers capable of finding great depths of emotion in their roles. However they were also, particularly as they got older world class hambones who shamelessly went over the top in atrocious ways. This pairing sound like an open invitation for just such excess. I might have to track it down just to see who wins!

Like Forever1267 I also thought Marie Osmond was Adrienne Barbeau on first glance and she would have made much more sense as those two's daughter than perky Marie. But then the Love Boat was never very concerned with reality, the only explanation for Meredith Baxter Birney as their other child!! Of course Meredith was a ubiquitous presence on TV at this point so the producers were surely happy to land her despite her unsuitability. Not sure if she's retired but I haven't seen her in anything in ages. She and David Birney seemed so well suited I was sorry to hear after their divorce that he was apparently an abusive jerk.

I wonder if during shooting breaks of this episode Shelley and Ernie reminisced about their time on The Poseidon Adventure. From interviews I've seen I know it was a rough shot so perhaps not!

Gingerguy said...

This certainly was exciting and new. I don't remember any episodes of The Pacific Princess. Truly disastrous casting, not Ernest and Shelley of course, but Meredith and Marie. Polar opposites in some ways. So funny the note about Bridget Loves Bernie, now it would almost be controversial if there was a show with spouses who were practicing anything religion wise. I watched that show, boring to a kid, but she was always likeable. The Love Boat sure is full of odd casting.


I read Ernie's autobiography (wish I still had it as I would have scanned the pages to Jon) but he did mention working with Shelley on this project and how she wanted to rehearse her part with him to the point where Ernie said he didn't have time to memorize his lines (or something like that) He also mentioned that they both worked on the 1985 mini-series "Alice in Wonderland" and as they had no scenes together he was happy to be able to avoid her. If anyone has his book, he was much more wittier about his Love Boat stint and memories of Shelley.

Poseidon3 said...

Forever1267, it seems you weren't alone in having Adrienne register in your mind in long-shot. 'Course, she had quite a bit more going on out front than dear Marie! Thanks.

Dan, the endless arguing between Gene and Ernie can get wearing. And, yes, some of that '70s hip swagger can as well. I got the shock of a lifetime a few months back when a tabloid type of site found Gene Hackman at a drive-thru and a shopping center. So, so thin and elderly. But it happens to all of us who survive, I suppose. That's wild about his driving (lack of) expertise! Agree 100% about Borgnine. Thanks!

Rick, Ernie is indeed big and hammy here. He and Shelley are a lot. LOL He was such a sweet man, though. I just loved listening to him describe his life, career and costars in a lengthy TCM interview. His description of landing "Marty" and doing that as well as working with Spencer Tracy stood out in my mind.

joel65913, very astute about Borgnine and his ability to costar with gals of all sorts! Just to clarify, Marie was playing Ernest and Shelley's GRANDdaughter. Can't recall whose child she was meant to be. I ought to do a post sometime on actresses who wed an actor and tacked on his name to theirs, then they broke up and their name went back to before! I can recall as a kid being so confused by three-named people like Patty Duke Astin. LOL

Gingerguy -- HA HA!! "exciting and new!" Well, this post was new anyway. Glad you came aboard. We were expecting you. ;-) I have never even seen a CLIP of "Bridget Loves Bernie!" It's like the show fell into a black hole. I'm always intrigued when a show that is a ratings success is nonetheless canned... Thanks!

Jeff Donnell, I feel sure I have Ernie's book. It's just tough to find it amongst the hundreds I have cluttering up my guest room...! I recall LOVING it. BTW, the cast list of that "Alice in Wonderland"... Totally INSANE. But it isn't very good. As usual, Irwin Allen managed to drag in every person of note that he could. :-)

David Kenilworth said...

Love Boat/Bracken's World trivia intertwine:

Forrest Tucker and Eleanor Parker ended up getting married on
A Dress to Remember
The Love Boat Episode aired May 8, 1982

Eleanor Parker starred in the first season of Bracken's World.

Forrest Tucker starred in the Bracken's World second season premier episode "Love It or Leave It, Change It or Lose It"
Episode aired Sep 18, 1970