THE THINGS I WATCH: HERE COME THE BRIDES: SEASON ONE-EPISODE ONE

Here Come The Brides (1968-1970)
Season One-Episode One:
Here Come The Brides
Cast:
Robert Brown as Jason Bolt
David Soul as Joshua Bolt
Bobby Sherman as Jeremy Bolt
Mark Lenard as Aaron Stempel
Bridget Hanley as Candy Pruitt
Joan Blondell as Lottie Hatfield
Henry Beckman as Captain Clancy
Susan Tolsky as Biddie
Bo Svenson as Big Swede
Mitzi Hoag as Miss Essie
Directed by
E.W. Swackhamer
Music by
Hugo Montenegro

I hate it when the first episode of a series is simply called “Pilot”. You can’t come up with a name for it? Yeah, everybody knows that it’s a pilot you used to sell your series to the network, but from the moment they give you the go ahead to keep going, can’t you come up with a real title besides just calling it Pilot?

This show gets around that by using the series name for the title of Episode One. I’ll take it any way I can get it.

As pilots go, this one covered everything you needed to know in a fast paced 52 minutes that premiered without much fanfare on September 25th 1968 via the ABC Network. And still to this day it is one of the better TV pilots I’ve seen although you might be left scratching your head as to how they were able to cram so much story into less than an hour.

When the show was first advertised in the trailers for the new fall season of 1968, they were very misleading. I thought it would be a farcical comedy and while Brides has its moments of light laughter, I always found it to be more drama than comedy. If you are asking me as to why I tuned into the first episode way back when, do not even try. That was over 50 years ago.

Within one minute or so of the opening, you will find out that it takes place for the most part on Bridal Veil Mountain owned by the three Bolt Brothers: Jason, Joshua, and Jeremy. Their mountain is located in and around Seattle, a short time after the civil war. There’s plenty of Lumber at the Bolt’s logging camp, and plenty of men to do the work. But Seattle is lacking in one commodity. That would be females.

We find this out when Big Swede (Bo Svenson), one of Jason’s best loggers is being hauled off to jail by Aaron Stempel (Mark Lenard) for assaulting Miss Essie (Mitzi Hoag) one of the few women in town. Miss Essie, a very extremely shy schoolmarm, is not used to having big brutes like Swede wanting to perform such a violent dastardly sexual act like wanting to hold her hand. So, it’s into the pokey for poor old Big Swede.


Jason (Robert Brown), after being summoned from on high and mistakenly being told that one of his two brothers was about to be strung up, he races down the mountain like shit shot out of a goose to see who is doing what to whom and why.

After finding out it is not either his younger brother Joshua (David Soul) or his youngest brother Jeremy (Bobby Sherman) and not wanting to lose his best worker to doing hard time, he quickly intervenes.

Jason is a damn good talker. He could rob you blind at gun point and five minutes later convince you it had never happened.


Observe:

Jason: Big Swede? Why he’s too dumb to hurt a fly! Who’d he attack?
Miss Essie (coming forward): Me
Jason: Miss Essie, I want you to tell me right out…just tell us what happened.
Miss Essie: I wasn’t expecting anyone to come calling. I was just sitting there in my little pink camisole grading the children’s papers. And if I were expecting a gentleman…
Jason: You wouldn’t have minded a bit.
Stempel: Let her talk for herself.
Jason (ignoring Stempel): Would you Miss Essie?
Miss Essie: (smiling lightly) No. But well, he was so unmannerly. He just came to my back door and yanked my little bell.

Jason: Yanked your little bell, did he?
Miss Essie: And then when I saw him standing there, I pulled my camisole together like this, and he reached out and grabbed my hand.
Jason: Now how did that big Monster grab your little hand, Miss Essie? (Gently takes her hand) Like this?
Miss Essie: Rougher than that.
Jason: Like this, huh? (Grabs her hand a bit harder and pulls Miss Essie towards him.) And what did that Big Monster do next? Try to put his arm around you like this? (Jason puts his arm around Miss Essie who is openly enjoying Jason’s advances)

Miss Essie: (laughs) Something like that.
Jason: And what did that mean man do next? Try to kiss you like this? (Jason kisses Miss Essie on the forehead and she starts to fall backwards) Easy Miss Essie, Easy. That wasn’t so terrible, was it?

Miss Essie (laughing): Oh no! I don’t know why I screamed. I just screamed and everybody started running and making a fuss.
Jason: Big Swede’s bashful. As bashful as you are.
Miss Essie: Well, he was drunk.
Jason: Maybe he had to get drunk to have the courage to come callin’.
Miss Essie: Let him out Aaron!
Jason: Let him out Aaron!

Despite the fact that Big Swede is given a get out of jail free card by Jason and Essie, Swede has had enough of Seattle, the Bolts, and the Logging Camp. He wants to leave for better opportunities. In this case opportunities being more women and women who will not get you thrown in the pokey just for being neighborly like and a little bit horny.

And just like that, the rest of the men prepare to join him and leave the conveniently named Bridal Veil Mountain in the distant past and leaving Jason, Jeremy, and Joshua Bolt with nobody to saw logs.

Jason Bolt is not one to give in so easily. “If it’s women you want, I’ll get ‘em for you.”

In Lottie’s saloon, Jason tells his idea which is met with the approval of rowdy, horny, and heterosexual men. But a very skeptical Lottie isn’t buying it especially when Jason tells her she’s going to become a very rich woman.

Jason: I’m going down to San Francisco and I’m gonna bring me back a passel of girls.
Lottie: What are you gonna do with ‘em?
Jason: The first thing I’m gonna do, I’m gonna let you hire ‘em.
Lottie: Oh I see. You think I’d like to hire a bunch of Fancy Ladies, do you? (Fancy Ladies in this case being a synonym for prostitutes, Ladies of the Night, Call Girls, or Ho-bags. Take your pick.)
Jason: You don’t?
Lottie: Nope. Somebody else tried it and they were run out of town by Aaron Stempel. So long, boys!

Jason is not to be deterred and goes into a long schmiel about how great it will be for Lottie if she brings some hobags into the saloon, much to the approval of the cheering men. But Lottie has heard Jason’s bullshit before and she isn’t buying.

The room suddenly goes deathly quiet when what to our wondering eyes should appear is one Miss Essie, who may be shy but she knows a good catch when she sees one.

After apologizing to Big Swede for all the trouble she caused Essie invites him for a walk which he hesitantly accepts. As the two of them leave together, Swede makes sure to tell the bar patrons, “And I ain’t drunk either.”

Lottie: Do you understand now, Jason. Real men want real women, not floozies. Now I’ll tell you what to do. You get yourself some respectable women. Women who want to get married. Those are the kind you need. You’re not gonna find them in San Francisco, but I’ll tell you where you will. New England. There’s been a war Jason. Lots of women are left without men. Not the fancy ones, the plain ones. The Marrying Kind.

Having been convinced that Lottie is on to something, Jason proceeds to raise the money from the townsfolk to pay for his voyage east or in this case, south, then north, then east, then north again. What can I say? It is a long trip.  Google tells me that the trip could be made in six months but it was not one that was taken lightly.

Stempel, always one to look out for his own self-interests does his best to convince the town folk that they would be throwing their money away. Sensing he is on the losing side of the argument, Stempel begins to look at the practical advantages of the venture. He even says he’ll finance the trip as long as the Bolts agree to certain provisions.

1. He must bring back 100 women. No less
2. They must all be marriageable. Or as Stempel puts it: No Tramps.
These girls have to be clean, decent, upright. Marriageable.
3. Jason must agree that the women must stay one full year.

Aaron points out that even with all the above agreements Jason is risking nothing. The only collateral Jason has is Bridal Veil Mountain. After consulting with Jeremy and Joshua, the Bolts agree to use their mountain as collateral to pay for the trip.

This agreement is what drives the show through the early episodes. Aaron Stempel will pull just about any stunt to gain control of the Bolt’s land. But I always wonder why Jason didn’t hedge his bets by trying to bring 110 or even more just in case one or two wanted to head for the hills.

If you were watching back in 1968, we would go to commercial instead we just skip over the ocean voyage and transition into New Bedford, Massachusetts where the Bolts are hanging signage.

Judging from the reaction of the women in town, The Bolt Brother’s task might not be so difficult after all as every gal in town goes google-eyed at the sight of three walking talking breathing living full of testosterone men.

But they hadn’t met Candy Pruitt (Brigitte Hanley). She would like to snag a guy as well, but she’s also nobody’s fool.

Jeremy reigns Jason in, telling his two brothers that these ladies are different than the floozies they dally with for an hour or so in the brothels of San Francisco and that Jason has to talk to them honest, not with some over-blown over-sized promises he can’t keep. Although it occurs to me that to hear these guys talk, you would think the city of San Francisco was nothing but one big whorehouse. Maybe it was. I was not there so I could not tell you.

At the town hall meeting, there is one question after another. Robert Brown does one hell of an imitation of Burt Lancaster’s Elmer Gantry. And if you have seen that movie, you know before all is said and done, that these women will be completely giddy over the prospect of shipping out to Seattle, population 152. Painting a mental picture it recalls an image of that utopia known as Shangrila.

Candy: Mr. Bolt What we’re getting at is what about the men? Are they honest? Can a woman rely on them?
Biddy: Are they good looking? Are they tall?
Franny: Are they as tall as you?
Jason: Tall lady? Where I come from they call me a little half-pint.
Franny: Are they strong Mr. Bolt? ‘Cause I want a strong one.
Jason: Strong Sister! Why when a Seattle man spits in the wind, tall trees fall down. And talking about trees, they’ve got trees so tall they punch holes right through the ceiling of the sky. And the sky, when the suns ridin’ in it, that sky’s so gold, why if you get married in the daytime, your boyfriend will just reach up his right hand and pull out a wedding ring. And if you get married at night, diamonds. He’ll just swish around up there for a shower of stars and hang ‘em around your neck as a necklace. And he’ll tack a couple of extras on your high heel shoes. Let me tell you about the snow. You’ve never seen snow until you’ve seen it snow in Seattle. And the rain. Why if you get wet in the Seattle spring rain you won’t wanna take a bath for a month because you don’t want to wash off how clean you feel. But the big thing ladies, can I tell you about the big thing? I’ll bet you think you know what the color of green is. Evergreen, that’s what it is. Green like the morning the world started. Green like the carpet of Adam and Eve. Green like the morning the Lord first painted his garden. Green forever, yes sir, ladies we got everything in Seattle. Everything! But we haven’t got you. And if we haven’t got you, we haven’t got anything. So who’ll go.”

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By the time he was finished I thought for sure Sister Sharon Falconer was going to come marching down the aisle singin’ “Give Me that Old Time Religion”  and these girls could have been convinced to walk through hell in a gasoline rain coat if it would get them to Seattle.

Surprisingly Candy is the one who jumps up first to sign the agreement to go to Seattle which is the spark plug for the rest of the single marriageable female population of New Bedford to sign on.

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Cut to one Capt. Roland Francis Clancey, owner and operator of one empty mule boat. While Clancy doesn’t mind a ship full of stinking mules, he’s not about to let 100 women on his vessel. At least not until Jason agrees to pay him $17000 dollars and insults Clancy in the process.  Don’t ask me.  I don’t know why insulting Clancy makes him more agreeable.  I guess it’s just his way.


Once the last woman is on board, Jason makes sure Clancy sets sail immediately before their passengers discover that they are taking the dirtiest, nastiest, smelliest, boat in the country on a six month Carnival Cruise to Seattle. And once the ladies figure out that their living accommodations aren’t even fit for the likes of Mr. Ed or Seattle Slew, they decide to commit mutiny.

Jason quickly sets them straight, and this time he doesn’t paint such a pretty picture:

“You wait till you get to Seattle. You’ll sleep a lot rougher than this. And after a hard working day you’ll be grateful for any place to lay your head down. Now you better learn to get along right now without bellyachin’. I don’t know about you, but I’m eatin’.”

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And after saying a rather unorthodox prayer to the magic man in the sky that puts all the impetus on the brides to make the best of things if they want to be married, they give up on mutiny for having a bite of slop to eat.

The Brides do what every woman in the 19th Century and every Republican Woman in the 21st Century was born to do. Clean up the boat and set a table of food that looks damn good. Candy, impressed by Jason’s prayer the previous evening, cajoles him into saying another. She knows a good orator when she hears one.

Jason: Well, Lord. It sure looks like these girls want to get married. So when we put the gangplank down in Seattle, Gangway Lord, Here Come the Brides.

It’s also on Clancy’s boat where love begins to blossom between Jeremy and Candy. Jeremy goes top deck to find Candy hanging up her newly washed underwear. They then proceed to discuss the proprieties of hanging corsets in public and why women wear them.


All of this is a mystery to Jeremy. Having viewed Candy’s undies, and having saved her from pulling a Rose Dewitt Bukater Dawson, Jeremy decides it’s time to make 19th Century type true confessions.

Jeremy: I stutter
Candy: I bite my nails.

Now I have no clue if Candy Pruitt broke her habit of biting her nails. But as the series went on, Jeremy’s stuttering seemed to just fade away. It was a shitty plot device anyway and not really needed.


But big romances were built on less trivial beginnings. Think of how Tony and Maria fell head over heals in love after about five seconds gazing at each other and becoming enraptured across a dirty old gym dance floor in West Side Story. Oh wait, that didn’t work out too well so never mind.  Bad example.

Eventually the ship lands in Seattle and one gets the idea at first look, the 100 Brides-to-be aren’t terribly impressed with the scruffy looking men there to greet them or the wet muddy streets of Seattle. The men might bathe and shave, but get used to those muddy streets as they are almost a permanent part of the scenery.  Good times!

To welcome the Brides there is one big party, with dancing, singing, some kissin’, and a lot of face slappin’.

But it’s a long TV season. Aaron hints that Jason may have dallied with some of the gals on the voyage from New Bedford, they take off their jackets to fight about it, but Lottie, always the voice of reason puts a stop to that horse shit. 

The way Aaron and Jason were always at each other’s throat, I’m trying to remember if they every did come to physical blows.  If they did, I’d put my money on Jason Bolt over that fancy pretty boy any day of the week.  So it is finished. Or is it just beginning?

Lottie: Welcome Home, Jason. Welcome Home.
Jason: Thank you, Lottie.
Lottie: A hundred girls. I don’t know how you did it but it’s done.
Jason: It’s just the beginning, Lottie. Just the beginning.

And that, is how you do what I think should be a text book example on how to make a good pilot episode.  I swear by the time it’s over, you’ll feel like you’ve just sat through a feature length movie and I mean that in a very good way.

A lot of the credit has to go to writers N. Richard Nash and Alan Marcus, whose script covers a lot of ground in a short period of time. By the end of the episode, you have all the information you need to decide if you’ll continue watching, and you’ll also have a sense of the flavor and tone that was intended by producers Paul Junger Witt, Stan Schwimmer, Jerome Courtland and Bob Claver.  The humor is light, and will make you smile at times when needed but you won’t be rolling in the aisles double up on the floor.  It’s simply not that type of show.

The casting is perfect. I don’t think the show works at all without the bombast of Robert Brown who we know is a pussy cat underneath his rough exterior. Bobby Sherman, who had one hit record in 1965 is a revelation as the shy youngest brother in a role that would help him garner more attention as he spewed out one hit record after another from 1969 – 1970. Thankfully, the producers didn’t use his pop stardom as an excuse for teenagers to tune in and fawn all over him.

David Soul is the middle brother Joshua, who seems often irritated for having to put up with the naiveté and Jason’s kid glove handling of his youngest brother. He does not hide his irritation. Soul would have a singing career of his own and after Brides two year run (should have been longer) would do an even longer stint on Starsky and Hutch and other series including Owen Marshall, Counselor-at-law.

When it came to TV movies and guest starring role, Soul was the go to guy doing a more than memorable bit in the adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, one of the scarier Made for TV movies.

Mark Lenard as bad guy Aaron Stempel never lets the character devolve into parody or some pure evil shtick. While he’s not beyond pulling a dirty trick or twoto wrestle control of Bridal Veil Mountain, it does not become the overriding arch of the story telling. Late in the first season and during the second season, it was just as common for Jason and Aaron to team up as much as to being at each other’s throat.

Veteran actress Joan Blondell as saloon owner Lottie is the no nonsense voice of reason.

Bridget Hanley, who is the unchosen leader of the Brides is both beautiful, smart and often demanding. The romance between Jeremy and herself, plays out over the life of the series but unfortunately that’s not entirely a good thing.

It’s something that should have been resolved in the opening episode of Season 2 but instead somebody decided that it was necessary for the Brides to introduce their Seattle version of The Brady Bunch’s Cousin Oliver or The Partridge Family’s neighborhood brat known as Ricky.

Speaking of comic relief, most of it comes from Susan Tolsky as Biddie but she can also be kind of a pain in the ass at time. I should also mention Henry Beckman as Captain Clancy. There, I mentioned it.

Oh that wasn’t nice. I’m sure some will enjoy his caricature of an alcoholic sea captain. You can’t tell what he’s saying about half the time so be ready with those subtitles. I’m just of the opinion that a little bit of Clancy goes a long way.

I’ll give more mention to Hugo Montenegro, who wrote the score to this series. It is perfect and gives the episodes a theatrical feeling to them. He also penned the theme song, Seattle, which would get lyrics later on, and be recorded by both Perry Como and Bobby Sherman so pick your poison.

I probably shouldn’t have delved so deep into this episode, but consider it ground well-covered that won’t have to be retread if we revisit another episode. I can just about guarantee we will, one way or another. This is undoubtedly the most screen captures and text I’ve written for any of my TV show retrospectives to date, and it maxes out more than some of my movie reviews.

There’s a lot more you can learn about the making of the series in Jonathan Etter’s book, Gangway Lord, Here Come the Brides available on the Kindle for $9.95. You can also get it in paperback or hardcover for some very ridiculous prices. I bought the Kindle version but have only scratched the surface and haven’t had time to finish before posting this.

How do you watch? Well, it does show up in syndication from time to time. I think it ran on Me-TV for a while, so you’ll just have to check around. Season 2 is readily available on Amazon (for now but maybe not forever) from Shout Factory. Season 1 is a horse of a different color.

It was released by Sony on DVD and I’m glad I bought it early on before it went out of print. The lowest asking price on Amazon is now at $239. And no, that is not a typo. Why Sony never re-released it or why it was not given to Shout Factory and have them release it again when Season two came out is a mystery.

But all is not lost. There are episodes on YouTube so watch them there while you can because as you know, things like this can disappear from YouTube in a heartbeat. And lo and behold, I will even set up this very first episode for you (scroll to the bottom) and I do highly recommend you take the opportunity to watch while you can. It’s 50 minutes well spent. The quality is DVD type so there you go. You’re welcome.

Update: Had to yank the video out as Sony, in their almighty wisdom and as I predicted, blocked the Here Come the Brides videos on YouTube. It’s why I always hesitate posting crap from YouTube. I’ve seen a lot of stuff taken down or blocked for whatever reason. Hell if I know what the problem was here. Sony has shown no interest in re-releasing Season One nor has Shout Factory. But apparently people selling the OOP copies on Amazon and other places for exorbitant sums is A-okay. I have no way of knowing if the videos will play in other countries but you can find them on YouTube if they do.

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