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Correspondence and synopsis for Good Ole Hank, television series proposal, June 1955

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Creator: Willard, Bill

Date

1955-06-22

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The manuscript synopsis for the television series Good Ole Hank is accompanied by a letter from Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures (Hollywood, Calif.), rejecting the proposal.

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jhp000345
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jhp000345. Hank Henry Papers, 1934-1980. MS-00490. Special Collections. University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d1mk67x31

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2016-06-27

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COLUMBIA PICTURES CORPORATION 1 4 3 8 N O . G OWER ST R E E T HOLLYWOOD 28, CALIFORNIA OFFICE OF" THE PRESIDENT June 22 1 9 5 5 My dear Mr. Willardj- I was frightfully disappointed when I read the enclosed synopsis of "GOOD* OLE HANK". When I spoke to Mr. Henry, it was with the idea of getting something that would be good enough to present a series. I'm afraid this won't work. I'll try to think of something myself with this Depart?ment and submit it. I'm terribly sorry that yours isn't good enough, in my opinion, to build a series on. Kindest regards. Sincerely, HC jw encl-above HARRY COHN Mr. Bill Willard 1737 Canosa Las Vegas, Nevada "GOOD OLE HANK" An Idea and Synopsis for Television Series starring HANK HENRY fey Bill Willard "GOOD OLE HANK" The story of "Good Ole Hank" takes place in the colorful, nostalgic span of years between 1903 and 1912. The action re?volves around a big, lumbering clown of a man who owns a pungent place of business on Center Street of Middletown ? "Hank Plummer Livery Stable, Blacksmith & Buggy Repairs & Also Horseless Buggy Repairs." Hank is one of those unconsciously funny characters who often reach the rare heights of genuine wit and honest humor without knowing it. He is around 45 years of age, with oversize features and a huge frame. His expressive face is not handsome nor ugly, but shows a hewn quality of strength in many ways like a sculptor's carving in granite before smoothing the roughnesses or refining the features. Hank has never been chained by the bonds of matrimony, although he has weakened several times to the point of being engaged for extensive periods to various Middletown belles. They all grew impatient for his popping of the fatal question, and eventually settled for males more serious, responsible, or tractable. Everyone likes to pass the time of day with Hank. Even strangers who stop by for service, equine or motor, generally succumb to laughter at his jibes, his comic parodies of popular songs or jokes, and find themselves marvelling at his expansive, all-embracing love of life. While whanging away on his anvil or shoeing horses, or lost in the complicated entrails of the new-fangled automobiles, Hank rarely lets up his kidding, includ some pokes at himself. There seems to be no problem he will not tackle. He might go twice around Robin's barn to arrive at a solution, often as not blundering and stumbling precariously on the brink of disaster before arrising at a suitable, if not sensible, answer. Never an indication of treading in deep waters is apparent through all this, for Hank's face is no key to his inward strivings to make good, but is actually a poker face in reverse. It is the custom of a summer evening to join Hank on the porch of Iris Meadows' Boarding House. The Boarding House is where he lives, and the porch is his stage, from which is de?livered many a humorous observation on current events of the town or nation, or gossip about sundry figures and figureheads ox Middletown, or tips on farming, horsetrading, or conjectures about the future of the motor car. Hank is never the one to sit in a rocking chair and do his talking, but puts force into every subject by enacting each idea in a very broad manner. In Middletown, you'll never mistake Hank -- "Good ole Hank," as they say on Center Street, "A cracker jack fellow'." Iris Meadows has seen through Hank's outward comedy for many years, knowing it to be partly a mask for his true self ? romantic, sensitive, sentimental, and idealistic. Hank, also, has gotten beyond Iris's sharp tongue and nettling manners to find a nature that corresponds closely with his own. A widow, Iris runs her boarding house with iron rules and commanding 3. attitude, and can often top Hank's verbal or acting display with a single pointed remark that reduces him to speechlessness. Momentarily. Both put on the show of being at swords points constantly to the delight of boarding house guests and cronies of the blacksmith who are certain that Hank and Iris will one day marry and settle their differences by connubial fireworks. A mention of this eventuality to either Hank or Iris brings a loud guffaw from Hank and a sharp sniff from Iris. Hank's closest pal is Steward James? Stew to everyone ? who has the ice cream parlor and confectionery store across the alley next to the livery stable. Stew is fully a foot shorter than Hank, a small man with a big dome who sports a flowing mustache on his upper lip. His manner is bright, his actions quick. He doesn't walk; he darts like a waterbug on the surface of a pond. He is married to a magnanimously fleshed woman who, fortunately, loves to tend the shop in reach of her sweets. It is also fortunate for Stew that his Maggie takes care of the business. He spends most of his time with Hank around the forge, or shadows him wherever he goes. Stew's big passion in life is music. He is leader of the town band and plays tuba. He has been teaching Hank to play trombone, but Hank loves to whack on the drum, from his many years of beating out a rhythm on the anvil. In order to appease his little friend, Hank invents a gadget to hold the trombone, the slide to be manipulated by one hand, leaving the other to pound the drum. His efforts to slide and beat at the same time often produce the same novel results 4 as rubbing the top of the head and patting the stomach. Which trick of juxtaposition, from a musical standpoint, invariably leaves Hank in confusion and the music in chaos. Just as Hank's Anvil Corner is the hangout for boon companions and cronies, so the adjacent saloon run by big Herman Block nas its share of hail-fellows and buddies of the proprietor Block, however, attracts a different sort of MLddletowner than Hank. Hie saloon owner is deeply envious of his neighbor next door. Block's father had been Mayor of Middletown for many years. After he died, young Block had tried to step into the office, but most of the townspeople or a majority rejected his offer to run things. Discussed thoroughly and acted out by Hank 011 Iris's porch and in his livery stable, the scheme of Herman's ascendancy into his late father's office had been definitely rejected after Hank had given a crushing portrayal of Herman Block. And Herman never forgave Hank for his major part in the rejection. The town went on without a Mayor, but Block still hankered for the title. With this, he was sure of making a few deals to perk up his wallet and of becoming boss of Middletown in time with a small-town party machine. Since there was no immediate official business for anyone in the capacity of Mayor, such duties, when they arose, were taken care of by Constable Mike Dooley. Block had been tabbed "Big Herman" back in his school days because of his size and strength. He was an athlete, having ye ? developed his brawn in field events such as the shot-put and discus. He was also addicted to fighting, not boxing, and went unchallenged for some time because of his dubious methods of slugging and utter disregard for the rules. Later, he loafed around the corners of Center Street as leader of a bunch of young toughs who managed to become nuisances and retain the characteristics for years. Block tried his muscles as a farm?hand in the vicinity. Having little incentive to work hard at anything, he soon gave up the jobs to concentrate on loafing. Mayor Block, a carpenter and man of high standing in MLddletown, finally built his son a saloon, set him up in business, adding a s?Family Entrance and Garden1' to dispel the onus of an out-and-out saloon on Center Street. Constable Mike Dooley was a hero of the Spanish-American War. He walks Center Street attired in his old Rough-Rider uniform, with added silver badge and ebony nightstick. The uniform he refuses to put away in mothballs, although patched and worn, because it reminds him of his days of glory sloughing up San Juan Hill with Colonel Teddy Roosevelt. He is also Fire Chief, with the Brigade equipment located in Hank's place; a hose cart, slightly rusted engine and two fine bay mares. His main beat is concentrated around Hank's Anvil Corner where he grooms the horses or tries vainly to polish up the old engine. Dooley's close association with Roosevelt who went in the White House after McKinley's assassination makes him the chosen political pundit of Center Street. He and Hank are solid Republicans, set for some Middletown campaigning for Taft in the coming 190& election. Because Taft has been backed by Roosevelt, Dooley has taught Hank how to orate and gesture like T.R., and when Hank puts on glasses and Dooley's Rough-Rider hat, several sizes too small, and extolls the virtues of Taft, the effect is startling to the uninitiated, yet wholly satisfactory to Constable Dooley. Dooley is of Irish descent, stocky in build and tries to be pugnacious in keeping with his job and background. That he covers up a warm nature with his blustery exterior is no secret to Hank. The burly blacksmith uses Dooley to great advantage, the unsuspecting officer playing straight to the spontaneous humor that Hank derives from everything within reach. Social arbiters of Middletown are Herbert and Molly Piatt. Herbert owns the town's largest store -- "Piatt's Dry Goods Emporium & Haberdashery." He is a prosperous merchant and has built his Molly and their two daughters, Maud and Middy, a splendid mansion. This gives Molly her chief diversion, to entertain and to set the standards of etiquette and decorum for Middletown. She tries in vain to impress upon Hank the value of having social graces. One day, after Stew and Dooley egged him on, Hank offered to teach Molly Piatt how to shoe a horse in exchange for some lessons on how to become a gentleman like the swells in high society. Because he liked Molly in spite of her often ridiculous pretenses, Hank often went to the mansion on the hill to courageously brave the decorum and choose the correct 7. utensil among the array of knives, forks and spoons, or desper?ately remember the necessary deportment in the company of ladies. Herbert Piatt is a prissy sort; a man sartorially elegant at all times ? a walking advertisement for his haberdashery. To him Molly bequeathed the task of showing Hank the manners of proper gentlemen, in the company of proper people. Hank would always return to his livery stable enlightened to the point of showing his close cohorts the Piatt System of Socially Correct Behavior. From him, Stew and Dooley mastered the art of asking a lady to dance, with the bay mares as acting ladies; and the method and manners of drinking tea, with the pinkie horizontal to the cup, plus other extremely novel? to them? social exercises. The PiattTs daughters, Maud and Middy, were chubby and comely, respectively. Maud was the older, the picture of her mother and very serious about life or any other subject under discussion. Middy, on the other hand, was not like either her mother or father in actions or looks. She was a pretty brunette, where Maud was a pale blonde and rather pie-faced, and had the boys swarming around when she was only fifteen. Molly kept her vivacious Middy close beside her just in case an amorous swain would get too ambitious and try for marriage before she, Molly, had set up the machinery for a correct union befitting the daughter of a Piatt, Molly had few worries with Maud. Not until young Dr. Amos Friend set up his shingle on Center Street did Maud ever turn more than a pale, wan eye a. toward any man. But with Dr. Friend she found a person with whom she could talk at great length, who seemed to understand her and showed more than a passing interest. Her self-styled romance had a thorn, however, in the equal attention of Dr. Friend toward sister Middy. He liked both girls, was approved by Molly and Herbert and became a regular visitor at the soirees in the Piatt mansion. Dr. Friend was in his late twenties or just turning thirty when he came to Middletown to take over the practice of aging Dr. Taylor. The townspeople took some time to warm up to the new Doctor. Most of the older citizens were prejudiced in favor of the familiar, old-time, slow-pokey ways of the retired man of medicine, and the idea of a youngster in such a position of importance administering orders, prescribing various pills, ointments and treatments was not to their liking. Hank and the new Doctor hit it off immediately. Dr. Friend always managed to spend some portion of his day at the Anvil Corner, laughing with the rest of the townspeople at the comic antics of Good Ole Hank, livery stable owner and horseless buggy repair man. s|< i\i s',; t\i sje ;|c >|c If Middletown wasn't caught up in the middle of the whirlpool of American expansion during those years before World War One, at least it felt the eddies along the outer circle. Even in the days before professional boosters, or chambers of commerce, there was civic pride in growth. For the U.S.A. was 9. just then beginning to view size and numbers and wealth as a positive virtue. Population was the mark of progress, even in Middletown where the welcome signs on each end of Center Street carried this legend: MIDDLETOWN? Population ?99, ?91, ?93 ?93, ?9^, 505 - AND STILL GROWING I" Another factor which put Middletown on the map, so to speak, was the spur line of a big transcontinental railroad which made regular stops at the yellow depot, and had its terminus in Junction City, fifty miles to the north, and the county seat. There were factories in Junction City, warehouses, and produce markets for the farmers of the county. The railroad made it possible for more exciting events to take place in town; it brought in some important people who otherwise would never under?take the tiresome journey over the rough dirt connecting roads by slow stage and horses or jouncing in the faster high-backed automobiles. There are some episodes concerning Hank and his immediate circle of Middletowners which bring into clear focus the way of life and manner of natural unforced comedy indicative of the period. Human attitudes had little of the desperate urgency or were not stifled by the nervous, exhausting complexities so marked in later decades of the century. The many-sided tasks of the livery stable, blacksmith and auto or buggy repair business kept Hank active physically; and to intents of these episodes, comedically. The nightly one-man shows on the boarding house porch-stage saw Hank in fine 10. fettle and ready for any joust with any manner of subject. His ability to bring forth the human side and the funny side of life vaulted him into the sudden glare of national prominence upon one occasion. Before this undreamed-of fame came to rest on Hank's strapping shoulders, several incidents close to home and Center Street come to mind. There is, first of all, an introduction or perhaps a prologue serving to bring Hank and the leading characters of Middletown before our camera. We pick up a vintage motor car, Circa 1906, chugging along the road entering Middletown, and there is the welcome sign with its legend of population. The engine begins to balk, cough and sputter, and as the driver fairly pushes and edges the auto along from his seat, here is Center Street and yonder is relief in sight for the distressed motorist, a brick building with a false wooden facade bearing a sign over the large central door ? "HANK PLUMMER, Livery Stable, Blacksmith, & Buggy Repairs, & ALSO HORSELESS BUGGY REPAIRS." The auto barely makes the turn off Center Street to stop before the entrance in a final dying gasp from the engine. The man honks the serpentine brass horn by squeezing the rubber bulb. A sound of clanging and banging of metal upon metal ceases inside the shop, and out into the billiant early summer sunlight comes Hank to greet his customer. Hank dives into the engine at once, taking the motor apart, with the mystified Stew and Dooley assisting. The owner 11. of the car has gone down the street to Piatt's Dry Goods Emporium & Haberdashery for the purchase of another cap to replace the one that Hank has just squirted and ruined with oil. He returns with Herbert and Molly Piatt, who introduce him to Hank as a big silk salesman from Junction City. Hank continues to take out parts of the engine, explaining their function to the all-believing Stew and Dooley. What Hank doesn't know about a certain funny-looking nut, bolt, thingamajig, or part, he makes up to sound authentic. Dr. Friend and the Piatt's daughters, Maud and Middy, join the circle around the auto; are introduced to the motorist-salesman, Mr. Austin Daley. He twirls his mustaches in the direction of pretty Middy, whereupon Molly has to whisk her offspring back to the store clucking like an anxious mother hen. Iris Meadows notes the gathering across the street from her Boarding House and hurries over to see what is going on. She throws a few barbed remarks in reference to Hank's mechanical ability. He ignores her completely, which brings on her parting shot, ilYou'd better get a horse, mister, 'cause by the time Hank fixes that contraption so's it'll go, autos will be out of style; and him too, for that matter!" Her exit cues the entrance of Herman Block from the saloon next door. He is surrounded by a few of his cronies and they all stand without saying a word watching the fumbling Hank. In a moment, Herman goes back into the saloon making a not too compli?mentary remark about Hank with his gang laughing and slapping him on the back. 12, Hank has kept cool during the ordeal of engine-fixing, but realizes that diplomacy might now replace knowledge, or trumped-up knowledge. He tells Dooley to hitch up a horse and buggy for Mr. Daley for him to continue his journey on to Junction City. "Hitch up a buggy for me?',? asks the astounded Mr. Daley. "What for?" "Why, for to get to Junction City," replies Hank. "ITm not going to go all that distance in a buggy. Ifll have my auto, thank you, and please hurry up!" Mr. Daley has now taken out his turnip watch and has lost some confidence in Hank's blithe razing of his auto's anatomy. "But, sir," pleads Hank, "your auto won't run. The piston has overshot the driving chain which makes the oil seep through the cylinder into the back seat. Take the horse and buggy, Mr. Daley, and I'll have your auto fixed, oh, mebbe tomorrow." "Now look here, Hank, there was nothing wrong with this motor in the first place. I just ran out of gas, that's all. Fill it up and I'll be on my way. And pay me for that cap you ruined." "Are you sure you ran out of gas?" Hank questions, stall?ing for time. "'Of cour se I'm sure." Hank takes a stick and, in bravado but with hands shaking, puts it in the tank. He pulls out the stick and sighs with relief as the stain measures a good three gallons. "Just as I told you, Mr. Daley, there is something radically wrong in the engine. 13. Wouldn't you diagnose this car as being sick, Dr. Friend?17 Hank speaks to the young doctor watching the proceedings with Maud holding onto his arm. "Sounded like dyspepsia to me," laughed the doctor. "Give it some sarsaparilla." "Right. Sarsaparilla. Dooley, run into Stew's place and bring back a bottle of sarsaparilla." Dooley starts to go, then checks himself quickly. "Don't be orderin' me around like that!" he thunders, shaking his nightstick at Hank. "Now, Mr. Daley, you just climb into that buggy and get under way. No extra charge for the horse." "Very well, Hank. But as soon as you get the auto fixed, will you drive it over to my place in Junction City?" "With pleasure, sir. Always wanted to try one of these new rip-snorters out." Daley giddy-ups the horse and exits down Center Street as Hank once more returns to the motor. He replaces the parts, jiggles the auto back and forth and kicks it in the back end. "Now crank it, Dooley." Dooley gives the crank a whirl and the engine splutters into life. "Hurrah, and rip my britches and fluff my duff! She's a purrin' like a cat drinkin' cream. Come on, Stew, Dooley. Get in and we'll zip down the road and catch Mr. Daley," Hank yells over the motor din, and scrambling behind the steering tiller. Stew and Dooley pile into the tonneau as Hank pushes pedals and the car leaps forward into the shop. Hank pushes another pedal 14. and the auto shudders to a stop inches before the anvil. "Sorry, wrong pedal," he explains to his passengers now huddled on the floor. Hank presses down what he hopes is re?verse, which is, gases the motor as the auto whizzes backward with the bug-eyed blacksmith wildly jiggling the tiller. When he almost rams into the boarding house across the street, he jams on the brake. Iris, upon hearing the racket, has come out on the porch but bravely stands her ground as Hank finally stops on the stoop at her feet. He calmly tips his skull cap. "Hullo, Iris," he grins. "Thought you and me might take a little spin over to Junction City." "I'll spin you, Hank Plummer!51 she volleys back. "Now you git that smelly thing off my porch and git out of here. Scoot!" Hank solemnly tips his cap, gives the auto the gas and careens out into Center Street in hot pursuit of Mr. Daley. As Hank chugs into the distance with Stew and Dooley holding onto the sides of the auto with fearful grips, the cloud of dust settles and a sign comes into focus: "You are now leav?ing Middletown. COME BACK SOON!" "VO' "*?i*?' ' ?i*'<? ??' '?* <?- *'i*??* FURTHER STORY IDEAS (1) Hank is talked into the idea of learning the rudiments of etiquette by Stew and Dooley after Molly Piatt offers her ser?vices as a teacher. Hank buys a new suit at the Haberdashery 15. and goes up to the Piatt mansion for his first lesson. He is shown how to drink tea in delicate china cups; how to use the many silver utensils at the dinner table; how to smoke after-dinner cigars with a nabob air in the drawing room with Herbert Piatt illustrating the latter manly art. He receives his first dancing lesson, having both Maud and Middy Piatt as partners. Returning to his livery stable, Hank imparts his newly found knowledge of deportment with the ladies to Stew and Dooley, showing them the details with no ladies present but with the bay mares as objects of their proper advances. Herman Block walks in on the startling scene. After listening to Hank's advice and the way in which it was taken, he snickers, "Learning how to become sissified dudes, eh? Why you simpletons can't get real girls to go for that stuff. But it sure has the mares in a tizzy." Hank, unperturbed, asks Herman if he knows how to dance the waltz. Herman boasts that he is the best waltzer in Middle-town, whereupon Hank dares him to prove it. Hank offers Stew as a partner, but Herman refuses saying that he'd rather dance with a pitchfork. Hank hands him a pitchfork and Herman starts waltzing around the stable. Hank, Stew and Dooley sneak out during Herman's enraptured and thorough demonstration, and cross the street to the boarding house porch. Iris comes out just as Herman whirls out of the stable still clutching his pitchfork partner, oblivious as to the direction of his dancing feet. As he reaches the center of the street he suddenly becomes aware of his location and of the stares of the quartet on the porch, stops 16. in confusion, hurls the pitchfork toward the porch and half-runs back to his saloon. Iris calls Hank in for supper and he picks up the pitchfork, enters the house and heads for the table. "What are you bringin' that thing to my table for?" Iris fairly shouts with a glint in her eye. "Well, Iris, I learned a lot today up at Piatt's." "Don't tell me Molly Piatt uses pitchforks at her dinner table!" "Shucks, no. But she don't serve much food on her table either." "What's that got to do with your bringin' a pitchfork to my table?" "Easy now, Iris. You know that up at Piatt's those tiny little forks are good enough for her tiny little helpings, but you put so much food on the table for your hungry boarders, a man's got to pitch in and get all he can before others beat him to the food!" He starts toward the table still clutching the pitchfork, but Iris intercepts him, grabs his ear and marches him to the door. After she pushes him through, she slams the door hard. Walking back to the table she sees the pitchfork coming through the window and picking up the plate of roast beef. She watches it disappear out of the window, but instead of showing anger, breaks into a triumphant smile. On the final shot, the target of Iris's smile, we see Hank, momentarily diverted from diving into his plate of roast beef by a little dog yapping at his 17 o heels. Hank turns around and reaches for the roast beef just as the boarders have snagged the last piece of meat off the plate with their forks. Hank skulls the fadeout. FURTHER STORY IDEAS (2) Dooley comes into the livery stable all excited, inter?rupting Hank who is busy pounding a horseshoe on the anvil, unrolls a sheet of paper which shows a "Wanted for Thievery" picture of an escaped prisoner. Dooley has just come from the telegraph office at the depot with the news that this man has escaped the county jail over in Junction City and is loose somewhere in the vicinity. Stew arrives at this point and all three decide to form a posse and search the woods, fields and farms nearby for the prisoner. Hank gets his Winchester, hands Stew another rifle and they go outside. Herman Block walks by and wants to know if they are going hunting. Dooley tells him of the escaped prisoner, and Herman decides to get his gang and go in search also. He is warned not to use bullets, but buckshot, because they want to take the man alive. Dooley, Stew and Hank strike out across the fields with Dooley deploying each man to take separate paths. Hank soon finds himself alone in a dark wood and follows all manner of creepy situations, sudden noises, etc., with Hank's visibly nervous reactions. Block has headed in the same direction as Hank, sending his men in opposite directions. He is determined to give Hank a big scare and Id. perhaps a charge of buckshot, lightly salt and peppered, for embarrassing him with the dancing pitchfork incident. Meanwhile, switching back to town, we discover the prisoner creeping around the livery stable and going inside. The hunt goes on as we pick up the various men gradually converging upon the berry thicket. Caught in the brambles and making a lot of racket is Hank. Block reaches the spot first, gleefully recognizes Bank and is just about to fire when Stew jumps him from behind, bringing on a scuffle. All the men rush in to separate the two. All is serene over in Hank's direction, until a rustle is heard. Block stays behind as Stew and Dooley, still unaware that Hank is the object of their stealth, creep over to the thicket, peer through some bushes and discover Hank peacefully eating berries. Dis?gusted with the whole manhunt, the trio walks back to Middletown followed by the frustrated Block and crew. Upon reaching town, Stew returns to his ice cream parlor; Dooley goes off down the street peering behind buildings still in search of the prisoner, and Hank goes inside his place. Hank puts his guns back and is about to resume the work on his horseshoe when he hears a stifled cry from the stall of his pet donkey, Erasmus. Hank begins con?versing with his donkey, telling him about the search for the prisoner. He is stopped in mid-sentence by a louder, more human sound, and one with overtones of pain. Hank goes over to the stall. Erasmus has the prisoner pinned against the rough boards and is lazily bumping him from time to time, bringing forth the protesting cries. Hank pushes Erasmus away, bindsthe man's hands 19. with baling wire, and leisurely walks out to the street with the thoroughly cowed and very bruised escapee in tow. Block and gang arrive from the fields just in time to see Hank standing in front of the livery stable calmly chewing on a wisp of hay and holding the bound man by the arm. Dooley spies Hank and his charge, runs to the stable to arrest the prisoner in the name of the law. Stew returns and Iris joins the crowd. Hank, now in his glory, tells the assembled multitude of how he caught the dangerous criminal, reciting about the grim battle, the hand-to-hand conflict, the hand at the throat, the dastardly reach for the knife, and final surrender of the villain after Hank had pummelled him into submission. At the close of Hank's melo?dramatic narrative, the camera picks up Erasmus looking over his shoulder at Hank and letting go with a resounding hee-haw. *'/ 0?? O/ /(* /|* /V|S1/ />|S!/ \l/ FURTHER STORY IDEAS (3) Factual background on the big story of how Hank attained national fame is this: It all started when William Jennings Bryan was making his campaign tour on the Democratic ticket in the 190& election. Although defeated twice before, the candidate still exerted some influence among the farm votes. He hit the byroads that summer to offset the big-city influence of Taft, and it was in Middle-town that he suffered a major defeat, and all because of Hank. Bryan, booked to speak at the Opera House, arrived at the 2C station in due time, flanked by his entourage, to be swept away by Herbert and Molly Piatt for a snack and rest before mounting the stage for his speech. The Opera House was filled long before the crucial hour with noisy supporters and equally noisy opposition bearing placards, banners and unlit torches to be used in the parade following the rally. Bryan made his entrance to cheers, began his usual harangue on the silver issue, which by then was old-hat. He reached into his past glories with eloquence as his voice roared and thundered along the by-now familiar phrases. The audience was respectful yet not altogether sold on the subject matter or Bryan' s verbal confections, and after the last words echoed into silence, the applause was respectful, not thrilling. Slightly mystified by the rather lukewarm reception, Bryan left the stage to return to the Piatt's for their big social event of the season, the Bryan Ball. Not all of the audience left the Opera House to join the parade. When Hank for the fun of it jumped up on the stage and stood at the lactern in mock attitude of the recently departed candidate, there came a mighty cheer. He launched into a parody of Bryan, inserting some of his own homilies into the discourse, whipping up laughter and hurrahs from the delighted crowd. By one of those artful coincidences, a well-known politi?cal writer for the famous humor magazine, Judge, had been assigned to cover the grassroots journey of Bryan. He stayed behind in the hall after the noted "Free-Silver" orator had left 21. jotting down further notes on the Middletown meeting. Soon he became fascinated by Hank's impression, and began to scribble furiously. After Hank had finished his burlesque of Bryan to an ovation, he was carried out to the street on the shoulders of some laughing townspeople to lead a mock parade back to the livery stable. The reporter followed, making notes, observing all that went on. One month later, the Middletown event was the highlight of Judge, and the nation was having a good laugh at Bryan's expense. The story was complete, even with cartoon of Hank standing by his forge stripped to the waist and bearing a hammer in one hand and horseshoe in the other. The article was captioned. 'A Vill age Smithy Forges Bryan's Silver." The reporter had listened well, for in its entirety was Hank's mocking speech, filled with platitudes, yet containing shrewd showmanship. The piece contained enough ammunition to become a solid vote-getter for Taft. The climax of the whole affair came about when some very important Republicans came to Middletown offering Hank a trip around the country. They wanted him to ride on Taft's private Pullman and repeat his Middletown Opera House speech from the observation platform at every stop to warm up the crowd for Taft's appearance. Hank put on a party at the Livery Stable, by now the country's most famous livery stable, for the GOP bigwigs. Attended by all Middletowners who could crowd into the building, 22* the shindig was a pronounced success.