War Tails for Nielsen in 'Swamp Fox'

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Swamp Fox is wily. And brave. And very clean--especially for someone who spends a lot of time around mud.

That's because this is Disney's version of Francis Marion, the real-life Revolutionary War hero who fought the British on his own terms in the marshes of South Carolina. He and his men manage to harass and outmaneuver the redcoats without breaking a sweat in "The Birth of the Swamp Fox" on "Walt Disney Presents" (Friday at 11 p.m. on the Disney Channel). It's the first of eight episodes that began airing in 1959.

Leslie Nielsen is Col. Marion, who spends a lot of time with arms crossed or akimbo, looking like a hero. With this handsome (Nielsen didn't always look like Mr. Magoo, you know), kind and loyal officer on our side, we couldn't not win the war. Who wouldn't be inspired to prevail when Marion quietly explains that sometimes a man's got to do what a man's got to do? Or when he warns the British that "as long as there are free men in Carolina, the war will go on until every redcoat is driven from our shore"?

The animal tails that Marion and company wear on their tricorns--so they can tell who's one of them--never did create a fad with viewers the way Davy Crockett's coonskin cap did in the mid-'50s. Maybe it's because Davy had an advantage with his theme's lyrics, which proclaimed him "king of the wild frontier." That's a little cooler than "Swamp Fox, Swamp Fox, tail on his hat."

Set Your VCR

Perhaps you don't recognize the woman who plays a misguided mother in a 1962 "Bonanza" (Tuesday at 2 p.m. on KDOC Channel 56)--even though she won an Oscar for "All the King's Men" (1949)--but chances are that Mercedes McCambridge has scared the daylights out of you: She did the devil voices in "The Exorcist."

Alexander Sourby's is another unfamiliar face. But, ahh, that voice. Listen as he plays a TV executive on "The Phil Silvers Show" (Wednesday at 4 p.m. on TV Land). His was the voice of such documentaries as "Victory at Sea" and old "National Geographics." In fact, he was once called "the voice of the world."

Harrison Ford has a guest role on a "Gunsmoke" from 1973 (Monday at 1 p.m. on KDOC Channel 56), the same year he appeared in "American Graffiti." He doesn't get close to top billing. But he does better than Gerald McRaney, who's at the bottom of the list.

"Lethal Weapon" director Richard Donner was still doing TV when he was asked to work on a "Wild Wild West" (Monday at 3 p.m. on KDOC Channel 56) with Rat Packers Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford in 1966. The three would team up a couple of years later for the film "Salt and Pepper."

An alien fails to get Richie back to his planet for study on "Happy Days" (Monday at 1 p.m. on KTTV Channel 11), but prepares the way for his own show. Robin Williams' shtick on "My Favorite Orkan" was such a hit 20 years ago that the episode was spun off into "Mork and Mindy" the following fall. Later that season, Mork would make another trip to see Richie and Fonzie in "Mork Returns" (Monday at 1:30 p.m. on KTTV Channel 11).

Watch the "Isn't It Romantic" episode of "The Golden Girls" (Monday at midnight on Lifetime), in which Dorothy's friend moves in on Rose, and then try to figure out what it won an Emmy for. Acting? Costume design? Sound editing? Or something else? (We'll have the answer next week.)

The answer to last week's question (What series was "The Andy Griffith Show" spun off from?): "Make Room for Daddy," starring Danny Thomas.

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