I Saw a Film!

Tim Conway, growing up for me, was a particular comic force (something not as wild as Faulty Towers, and maybe a step up from Keeping Up Appearances (not sure why I went after two Brit shows there, but have been raised on Brit comedy) having earned his keep on television, especially the old Carol Burnett show, and in a variety of kid’s films from Apple Dumpling Gang to Shaggy D.A. I always rather adored the rated-G clowning that was so satisfying when we were wide open kids. He did a few amazing stunts on Burnett’s show, from the little old man falling in slow motion up a set of stairs to arriving as the fireman intent on breaking all the windows. I had, by the time I was a grown man in the mid-80s entirely lost connection to him, though he kept steadily working to his death just last year.

Conway plays Vernon Praiseworthy, an earnest dolt who ends up in unfortunate situations mostly out of well-meaning but ill considered actions. He dumps the oil on the grease fire instead of the water, and takes the short order cooking job long before he could possibly be prepared for it. At the base of his concern is a group of down-and-out kiddos playing baseball that he’d like to help out.

And so we find out he’s actually the last living relative of old Will Geer who is a train mogul, and through some funky set of circumstances is set to inherit the industry, but must ride the rails as a hobo for a while before he can get it. Meantime he ends up a ditzy accomplice in a fancy dog heist (he’s already outfitted with a super smart dog from his wealthy relative). Conway plays well with dog co-stars at least as well as a Hanks performance. Enough goofy twists and turns ensue to fill a miniseries.

Conway’s humor is a mix of sad clown and everyday awkwardness that we all recognize. It’s a sort of universal that only the likes of Rowan Atkinson have taken to the most remarkable of heights. Conway only lacked Atkinson’s outrageous face, but easily mounted Mr. Bean level goofy pranks and antics.

This silly and very G-rated fun is running Free on Prime. I still think Conway was best when he was With Corman and Burnett but I have a soft spot for the beauty of the simple sometimes.

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