Rosemary Harris and William Shatner are boxing up the possessions of their cousin Julia who just died. Julia died alone, never married, and Harris wonders if she ever dreamed of leaving the room and escaping her loneliness.
That opens the door for Shatner to tell her story. It all begins with a glass eye. Actually, it ends with a glass eye, but that is enough to launch his tale.
Julia (Jessica Tandy) was an aged, decrepit spinster, which in the fifties meant she was 30 and unmarried. Her only social engagement is taking a local neighbor boy to the music hall. The insufferable brat goes with her to a ventriloquist act where she is entranced by the ventriloquist Max Collodi.
She asks the brat twice if he thinks Collodi could be Italian. I don’t know what that meant in the fifties. She immediately buys another ticket to return alone to see the show again that night. Now obsessed, she quits her job and begins following him to other theaters like the world’s first Deadhead.
Finally she gains the confidence to try to meet Collodi. He resists her, saying that he never gives interviews. She counters, like any good Match.com customer and sends him a photo that is 10 years old. She wears him down to where he agrees to meet her. Under certain conditions.
He will only promise her 5 minutes in a dimly-lit room — hey, that’s my line! She accepts his conditions and nervously gets her self dolled up to meet Max Collodi. She knocks and Collodi calls for her to enter. They have a short chat, then Harris sees that her allotted time is just about up. But she can’t resist just touching his hand.
This leads to one of the great reveals in TV history. The dummy is actually a Vertically-Challenged American, and Max Colloid is merely a mannequin. I’ll admit that this caught even me off-guard, but then I hadn’t ready any spoilery blogs. The mannequin falls over and she runs away in horror, inexplicably scooping up an eyeball as a souvenir.
She kept the eye for the rest of her life as a reminder of her one great love. Shatner says Collodi went on to be a clown in a small travelling circus. We cut to him driving a horse-draw wagon, sporting an eye-patch.
The patch really makes no sense as it was the mannequin that lost the glass eye. Maybe the short story explains this. Other sites claim this is a tribute in honor of “Max” but that doesn’t really makes sense either.
No matter, this is one of the greats.
- Rosemary Harris played Aunt May in the Maguire Spidermans. And William Shatner, c’mon . . .
- AHP Deathwatch: Pretty lively group. Rosemary Harris, Patricia Hitchcock, Paul Playdon and, of course, “The Shat” are still kickin’.
- [Update] Coincidentally, I was just reading an article about Disney’s animated Pinocchio and learned the source of Collodi’s name — Carlos Collodi was the author of The Adventures of Pinocchio.