Episode First Shown:
Ben’s old friend, Ruth Manning, has been the owner and publisher of the newspaper in Gunlock since her husband died. Now a man called Tabor wants to get control of the paper, ‘The Clarion’, and will stop at nothing to do so.
I made a snack and
had some papers to sort out while I watched this episode and I'm glad that did!
Apart from a very good opening scene and a potentially good story line this is
a very disappointing episode which
suffers from lack of other Cartwrights/Candy and any energy. So I'll give you a quick summary and add my thoughts on how it could have been.
There is a terrific opening scene where all the Cartwrights and Candy arrive in the small town of
Ben stays on alone in the town and meets his friend Ruth Manning who is running the Clarion newspaper after her husband died. Thugs controlled by the crooked Judge Tabor damage the newspaper office and attack Ben and a Clarion employee. When Ben tries to bring charges at a hearing with the corrupt Judge Tabor he realises what he is up against.
Later at the auction of Ben's horses Tabor makes a ridiculously low bid (the townspeople are too frightened to bid themselves) which illustrates how he holds the town to ransom. Now that scene was crying out for the presence of Hoss, Joe and Candy whose mere presence would have ensured a proper
auction and whose physical prowess and gun power would have been a match for the baddies.
Ruth has had enough of the corruption and puts the Clarion up for sale only to discover that Ben has bought it. Ben learns all about journalism instantly, even down to type setting (LOL!) and prints an edition
telling the truth about Judge Tabor and his crooks. (At this point there were so many indoor scenes that I wanted to see some nice blue sky and a street scene at least and felt a great desire to see the green acres of the Ponderosa!)
Just as the papers are being loaded into a wagon (so dark you could hardly see!) Judge Tabor kills one of his own henchman near the wagon and tries to frame Ben. Ruth comes to the rescue with a gun (actually unloaded but the bluff works) and Ben kills Tabor in a fair fight.
The part of Ruth Manning swings between a strong woman and the dithering fit-of-the-vapours type e.g. she comes out convincingly with the gun and then sinks onto Ben's shoulder saying she could never bear a loaded gun! How on earth did she manage the tough job of a newspaper editor, working late, without a gun??? Her all too frequent remark was "oh Ben" which I found both incongruent if she was tough enough to run a newspaper and also exasperating. I suppose that Phyllis Thaxter performed as she was directed
but I thought that, even given the way women were portrayed in the 60s, both the character and the actress were far too wimpish.
Some of the Ruth/Ben scenes were bewildering as in the first scene Joe teases his father about "the Widow Manning" and then Ruth sometimes looks romantically at Ben but nothing happens one way or the other. So what was the point?
The episode desperately needed some outdoor and physical action and the presence of Hoss, Joe and Candy in terms of both moral and physical support for Ben and Ruth. I kept thinking about Hoss grabbing two of the baddies and banging their heads together or Joe and Candy doing some fast action fighting against the crooks or those three catching Tabor and his thugs red-handed and carting them off to face real justice.
Of course Ruth regains ownership of the Clarion and presumably all was well that ended well.
There was one really good line from Ben when Judge Tabor has fined him for contempt of court and Ben replies: "You are absolutely right Mr.Tabor - contempt is what I feel". Nice one Ben! Lorne of course gives his usual 100% but is mired down in such a weak and disjointed script.
Overall I am left with the overwhelming feeling that the first scene was really good and promised so much and that the rest of the episode was a huge disappointment. I would say only watch this episode if you have some spare time and want watch the episode because it is part of Bonanza.
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