CTVA - The Virginian 3.13 [073] "Portrait of a Widow" 09-Dec-1964

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3.13 [073]
"Portrait Of A Widow"

Original NBC Broadcast - 9 December 1964
Universal TV
Executive Producer Frank Price
Produced by Winston Miller
Written by Tom Blackburn and Lawrence Edward Watkin
Directed by Don McDougall

(shown in the ride in)
Lee J. Cobb as Judge Henry Garth
Doug McClure as Trampas (not in this episode)
Clu Gulager as Emmett Ryker (not in this episode)
Roberta Shore as Betsy Garth
Randy Boone as Randy Benton
James Drury as The Virginian

Guest stars
Vera Miles
[Maggie Menken]
and Special Guest Star
John Gavin
[Charles Boulanger/Baker]

Ending Credits: [possibly incomplete]
Ann Doran as Reba
Michael Forest as MacGregor
L.Q. Jones as Belden [recurring character]
Roy Engle as Barney Wingate [recurring character]
Pitt Herbert as the Clerk
David McMahon as the Conductor
Charles Horvath as Jesse Fairchild
Audrey Swanson as Mrs. Wingate
Ron Burke as the Cowhand
[Nancy Gates appears uncredited as Sophie Fessenden]
Virginian Theme Percy Faith
Director of photography Benjamin H. Kline, A.S.C.
Art director ... George Patrick
Film Editor ... Edward Haire, A.C.E.
Assistant director ... Henry Kline
Set decorators ... John McCarthy and James M. Walters, Sr.
Sound ... David H. Moriarty
Color consultant ... Alex Quiroga
Color by Pathe
Editorial Dept. Head ... David J. O'Connell
Musical Supervision ... Stanley Wilson
Costume Supervisor ... Vincent Dee
Makeup ... Bud Westmore
Hairstylist ... Virginia Darcy
The title "The Virginian" by permission of EMKA LTD.

Series regular characters appearing in this episode:
featuring Judge Garth, with Betsy, the Virginian, Randy, Belden and Barney Wingate

Detailed Synopsis:
On a brownstone-lined street in Chicago, Charles Boulanger sees luggage
being stacked outside the home of Sophie Fessenden. The luggage belongs
to Maggie Menken and Betsy Garth, who have been visiting Sophie, and are
now returning to Medicine Bow. They are both recent social acquaintances
of the French-accented Boulanger, who is a professional portrait artist.
He enters the home and expresses regret that Maggie and Betsy are leaving.
Sophie and Betsy are wowed by his charms but Maggie isn't quite so taken in.
Maggie off-handedly says that should he ever come to Medicine Bow, she would
like to sit for him, but he says he doubts that his business will ever take
him that far West. After he leaves, Sophie and Maggie have a brief conversation
and we learn that Maggie has been a widow for about a year and Sophie was
hoping she'd "get back into circulation."

Next we see Boulanger returning to his studio where he's greeted by two
unwelcome visitors, MacGregor and Jesse, who have been following him to
various cities because Boulanger owes them $1500 in gambling I.O.U.'s.
Boulanger drops his phony French accent and we learn that his real name
is "Charles Baker." MacGregor warns him to come up with the money in a week--or else.

Baker/Boulanger decides to take advantage of Maggie's "offer" to visit
Medicine Bow and sit for him and hurries to meet up with Maggie and Betsy
on the train. Of course, his ulterior motive in doing this is to at
least temporarily escape from MacGregor and Jesse and secure a commission
to do Maggie's portrait to pay off his gambling debts.

At Shiloh, Judge Garth and the Virginian are looking over the stock when
the Judge receives a telegram from Betsy announcing their return.
The Judge tells the Virginian that it was he who suggested Maggie make
the trip to give her a chance to "come out of her shell" after mourning
the death of her husband, Bob.

The Judge and Randy greet the returning ladies at the train station and
are surprised to find them accompanied by Charles. Maggie introduces him
and somewhat reluctantly says that he has come along to paint her portrait.
The Judge gets Maggie alone and is disappointed to learn that they didn't
discuss a price. He's the executor of Bob's will and has a final say-so
on Maggie's financial affairs. He invites Maggie and Charles to dinner
that night at Shiloh, presumably to find out how much this is going to cost.

Randy drops off Maggie and Charles at Maggie's home where we meet Reba,
Maggie's cook. Maggie tells Reba that Charles will be staying in Bob's
old study in the guest house. Reba is initially cool to Charles because
she had been so fond of Bob. Charles admires the books and the artwork
in the guest house and Maggie says that Bob knew little about art but just
bought what he liked.

After dinner at Shiloh over brandy the Judge finally brings up the subject
of money. Charles says that his fee is $1500 and it will take a week to
ten days. Judge Garth says that the price seems rather steep but he won't
stop it since Maggie has already committed to it. Charles assures him
that when he sees the finished portrait, he will "have no regrets." After
Charles and Maggie leave, Betsy expresses the wish that "wouldn't it be
wonderful if Charles and Aunt Maggie were to fall in love?" We next see
Judge Garth in his study writing a letter to the Sorenson Art Gallery in
Chicago requesting information on one Charles Boulanger.

The next day Maggie shows up at the guest house wearing a new dress so
that Charles can begin the portrait. At first he seems to be more
interested in enjoying the beautiful day than in painting, but at her
urging, he does manage to get started. She says that he should stop
calling her "Madame" but instead call her "Maggie." Ever the charmer,
he says that he shall call her "Marguerite." Later that day the session
is interrupted by Reba announcing supper. Reba looks at what Charles has
drawn so far (just a preliminary sketch) and says she hopes he'll put some
"zip into it." She compares its lack of "zip" so far to another murky
and dull painting on the wall saying, "Mister Bob paid good money for that
and look at it! I could do better than that with a bucket of barn paint!"
The painting catches Charles' eye, too, as he realizes it may be more
valuable than anyone thinks. Later that night he cleans and makes a more
thorough examination of the painting and determines that it is indeed a
painting by one of the Italian Renaissance masters, Tintoretto. The next
day, however, he tells Maggie that the painting is only a copy, "a very good
copy, but only a copy."

While taking a picnic break from the sitting, Maggie tells Charles that
she's surprised that he seems to be enjoying life around Medicine Bow
when she thought he would be more of the big city type. He explains that
painting is his life, but the commissions are in the big cities, so he must
live there. He says that when he was a student in Paris he dreamed he
would one day "capture all the beauty of love and nature on canvas" and
that people from all over the world would enjoy it. "As you might have
guessed--I was very young," he adds. Maggie, who increasingly appears to
be falling in love with him, tells him that "there's nothing childish in
dreams of that sort." "Perhaps not childish," he replies, "just impractical."

Back in town, Judge Garth receives a reply to his letter to the art gallery
about Boulanger. The telegram says that Boulanger's average price should
be around $500, not the $1500 he's charging Maggie. Betsy pleads with her
father not to tell Maggie: "We women are different; there's just certain
things we don't want to know about."

On their way back from town, Judge Garth and Betsy stop at Maggie's to check
the progress of the painting. Charles wants to keep the portrait a surprise,
and Maggie instead shows the Judge the Tintoretto "copy" that Charles has
cleaned up. The Judge finds the cleaned-up painting "remarkable" and notes
that even the signature was copied. Charles diverts everyone's attention
back to Maggie's portrait and says he's currently struggling to make the
painting "come to life." Judge Garth suggests that he take a day off and
come to Shiloh tomorrow for a tour. When the Judge and Betsy arrive back
at Shiloh. Betsy thanks him for not bringing up the telegram that told of
Charles' usual price. She points out that he appears to be spending a lot
of time on it in order to do a good job, but the Judge is still dubious.

We next see Charles working late at night painting a copy of the Tintoretto
painting. The scene shifts back to Shiloh as Judge Garth is retrieving a
copy of "The Art of the Centuries" from his bookshelf to look up information
about Tintoretto.

The next day, while Maggie and Charles are visiting Shiloh, the Judge goes
over to Maggie's and is given permission by Reba to enter the guest house
under the pretense of retrieving one of Bob's important papers. With the
art book in hand he takes a closer look at the Tintoretto "copy" on the
wall to compare it to a picture he has of the same painting in the book.
Reba enters and offers to show him the progress on Maggie's portrait.
Reba, who has herself by now succumbed to Charles' charms, remarks on what
a nice guy he is and how she has noticed that he's been staying up late
every night working on it. Unknown to her, of course, is that the work
he is doing late at night is making his own copy of the Tintoretto.

That night, after returning from their day at Shiloh, Charles says that
he will be leaving as soon as the portrait is finished. Maggie, by now
totally smitten, doesn't want him to leave. They embrace and kiss, but
Charles says, "It would not work, but I would like you to know this time
that I have spent here has been the happiest time of my life."

Entering the guest house, Charles is surprised by MacGregor and Jesse, who
have traced him to Medicine Bow by keeping in touch with the galleries
which had told them about Judge Garth's letter. They, of course, are
demanding their money, but the price has gone up. The $1500 will now
only cover their traveling expenses. Charles holds them off by saying
he's going to substitute his copy for the painting on the wall, which
is, in fact, an authentic Tintoretto. He'll be able to do this in the
next couple of days, but first, he must do what he came here for--
complete Maggie's portrait.

Finally, the day arrives for the great unveiling. At a reception in
Maggie's home we see many friends and neighbors, including the Garths;
the Wingates; and Shiloh hands, the Virginian, Randy and Belden. Before
unveiling the portrait, Charles announces that "Never has an artist had
such a lovely model. It would have taken a Michelangelo or DaVinci to
do her justice but I have done the best I could." The painting is a huge
success. Judge Garth says it is "magnificent. You understood your subject!"

Later on during the reception, Judge Garth excuses himself to go find
Charles to pay him. He goes into the unoccupied guest house and finds
the Tintoretto painting askew. While straightening it, he discovers that
the paint is still wet--this must be a recent copy! Maggie enters and
she and the Judge start talking. The Judge doesn't say anything about the
Tintoretto. Maggie admits that she hates to see Charles leave because
"he's made me feel alive again for the first time in a long time." She
leaves to go back to the party and then shortly afterward Charles enters.
The Judge pays him his commission and lets him know that he's wise to the
Tintoretto painting switch. He also tells him to drop the phony accent.
Charles admits his duplicity and when the Judge asks him how he thought
Maggie would feel, answers, "Self preservation's a pretty strong instinct,
Judge, even in the lowest form of animal life." Judge Garth tells him to
take the painting and get out. He's letting him walk away in order to
spare Maggie's feelings. The Judge walks out of the guest house in disgust
and returns to the reception.

Back at the reception in the main house, Maggie asks Judge Garth if he
paid Charles and says that she'd hoped he would change his mind about leaving.
"Let him go, Maggie," says the Judge. She does manage to catch him as
he's leaving but Charles admits that he's "not very good at saying goodbye."
"Au revoir, then," says Maggie as she awkwardly offers her hand.

The Judge, who has been watching this sad farewell follows Maggie to the guest
house after Charles' departure. He tries to tell her that "you may not think
so now, but it's good he left when he did." While he's talking, Maggie is
straightening the place up. When she goes over to straighten the painting on
the wall, the Judge tells her not to touch it. He goes over to straighten
it himself and discovers that it is the real painting--Charles must have
substituted it back! Judge Garth then goes back to the party and tells the
Virginian and Belden to stop Charles' train and bring him back--even though
they may run into some opposition trying to do so. The Virginian and Belden
(wearing their fancy clothes) meet up with Randy, who had driven Charles to
the train, on their way into town. The three of them go on into town and
stop the train. They board and retrieve Charles over the objections of
MacGregor and Jesse, whom they quickly dispatch. The Virginian gives MacGregor's
gun to the conductor and tells him to return it to them when they get off
the train in Chicago.

The three Shiloh hands return Charles to Maggie's house where Judge Garth is
waiting for him. "Why'd you do it (switch the paintings)?" asks the Judge.
"A man doesn't have to have a reason for everything he does," answers Charles.
"She's waiting for you in the guest house. Go on in!" says Judge Garth.
Maggie is very depressed but perks up considerably when Charles enters.
"Charles!" she says. "Charles," he replies without the accent, "just Charles
Baker. I'm no more French than Reba." "Is that what you came back to tell
me?" she asks. He says that there's much more he must tell her, but she says
it can wait. If he's staying in Medicine Bow, there will be plenty of time. [rho]

This is a quintessential "chick-flick" type of episode that the writers
occasionally produced for the series, presumably to spice things up. It's
low on violence and the majority of the story is given over to the budding
romance between Maggie and Charles. One or the other or both are in almost
every scene. The Shiloh characters, except for Judge Garth, are mostly
peripheral to the story.

The scene near the end, where the Virginian, et al, take care of MacGregor and
Jesse, while somewhat heartwarming, is nevertheless a bit too pat. If these
gamblers had gone to such a great effort to track Charles to Medicine Bow,
what's to stop them from coming back again after they get back to Chicago?

It struck me as odd that the Judge would have a book in his library which
included a picture of the very Tintoretto painting that was hanging in Maggie's
guest house. Wouldn't such a painting be hanging in a gallery or museum or
be part of some important collection to merit its inclusion in a book?

In the scene where Judge Garth is entertaining Maggie and Charles at Shiloh
for dinner, we see that the Judge has an art collection of his own; several
George Catlin paintings. Catlin (1796-1872) was a well-known 19th Century
painter of Indian life and political figures.[rho]

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Main Contributor for this episode  Robert Henry Ohlemeyer [rho]