Daily Archives: November 3, 2009

Batten Down the Hatches

I Voted Today

Yeah, but that’s not why. Sure, today’s a mid-session crapshoot and there will be all sorts of political nonsense spewed from coast to coast. Sure, the phrase means prepare for trouble…but this is a politics-free blog.

Sure, I voted. But when I got home I was saddened to read that Lester Gruber is no longer with us. Or The Amazing Ballantine, for that matter. Because today, Meyer Kessler left this mortal coil.

All three of those people, of course, were Carl Ballantine, the cut-up on McHale’s Navy and the first magician to ever play Las Vegas…even though his whole act was being the world’s most inept magician. Carl was a character actor and a great storyteller from an age gone by, and for those lucky enough to meet him, a damned nice guy to boot. 

McHale’s Navy, in retrospect, wasn’t the funniest show on the planet, but it featured a likeable cast of guys who were always outsmarting the officers, and what kid could resist a show about thumbing your nose at authority? But it was a wartime show, and every so often the crew and their PT boat would be called upon to perform some semi-heroic deed. This was not M*A*S*H by any stretch of the imagination, but at those times, someone would invariably say batten down the hatches.

The show worked because of a great ensemble, including Billy Sands, Joe Flynn as the put upon Captain and Bob Hastings as his buffoonish aide. And while you don’t think of Ernest Borgnine as a comic actor, he held his own, although it was Ballantine and a fresh-faced Tim Conway who brought the biggest laughs.

There must have been something in that fake ocean water on the backlot at Universal Studios, because Ballantine was 87 years old and still active, and Borgnine is still making movies at 92! Hastings,  now 84, is the voice of Commissioner Gordon in some Batman games. And that young pup Tim Conway doesn’t look so bad for a guy who will be 76 next month.

They don’t make shows like this anymore. And there aren’t many around like Carl Ballantine, either. Rest in Peace.

Witness The Great Ballantine!

McHale's Navy

Another hatch battened


Filed under Film/TV