Tuesday, February 20, 2018

THE SMALL SCREEN BLOGATHON: The Snoop Sisters (1972 - 1974)

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting The Small Screen Blogathon on February 20th dedicated to our favourite television programs. Click HERE to see what everyone is writing about.

The pilot for The Snoop Sisters called The Female Instinct aired on NBC on December 18, 1972. The network may have been inspired by a 1971 telefilm called Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate which starred Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Mildred Natwick and Sylvia Sidney as seniors with time on their hands who both cause and solve a murder. There appeared to be a TV market for veteran actresses.

Mildred Natwick, Art Carney, Helen Hayes, Lawrence Pressman, Jill Clayburgh
Hail, hail, the gang's all here.

Theatre legend and two time Oscar winner Helen Hayes was cast as Ernesta Snoop, a successful mystery writer. Mildred Natwick, Oscar nominee for Barefoot in the Park who made her film debut in John Ford's 1940 classic The Long Voyage Home, plays her sister and assistant, Gwendolyn aka "G" Snoop Nicholson. The ladies live in a Gramercy Park townhouse with their driver/handyman, an ex-cop named Barney played by Art Carney. Their nephew Lt. Steven Ostrowski, played by Lawrence Pressman, works for the New York Police Department. Convenience is all in the cozy mystery world!

Mildred Natwick, Helen Hayes
A quiet evening's work.

Ernesta and G are fun gals with whom to spend a lazy hour or two. They truly seem to enjoy everything they are doing, whether it is working on one of Ernesta's novels or keeping their nephew out of their unofficial investigations for his own good. Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick work well together as the elegant G and the eccentric Ernesta, two very close sisters who can finish each other's sentences.

The 1974 Primetime Emmy Awards saw The Snoop Sisters receiving three nominations and one win. Mildred Natwick won the Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Limited Series in a category that also featured her co-star Helen Hayes, and Lee Remick for The Blue Knight. Grady Hunt was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design and lost to Bruce Walkup and Sandra Stewart for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

Paulette Goddard
Enough presence of mind to leave a dying clue.

The Female Instinct concerns the murder of a famous movie star played by Paulette Goddard in her final screen appearance. Suspects include her estranged daughter played by Jill Clayburgh, some exes played by Kurt Kasznar, Fritz Weaver and Ed Platt, an eccentric writer played by Bill Dana, and a publisher played by Craig Stevens. Throw in Charlie Callas as a pickpocket, Ed Flanders as a private eye, and Kent Smith as an old flame of G's and you've got a lot of fun. There's even a car chase starring the ladies' 1926 Lincoln Model L.

A blistering tell-all by the glamorous star is at the bottom of all the trouble and presumed to be the cause of her murder. Having worked with the actress is the long ago past, Ernesta and G feel obligated to ferret out the answers to the mystery. They are especially emboldened when shots are fired in their direction!

Clips from Paulette's 1940 movie The Ghost Breakers are used in the solution of the case which comes in a classic gathering of the suspects finale.

Four episodes of The Snoop Sisters would follow as part of NBC Mystery Movie series featuring Tenafly with James McEachin, Banacek with George Peppard, and Faraday and Son with Dan Dailey. Banacek, which ran for three seasons, is the only segment of the program with staying power. It is my belief that the network didn't give the shows proper publicity and a solid spot in order to find their audience.

Helen Hayes, Bert Convy, Mildred Natwick
Lt. Steve Ostrowski loves his aunts. Really.

The series replaced two actors from the pilot. Bert Convy became Lt. Steve Ostrowski and Barney, now played by Lou Antonio, is no longer an ex-cop, but a parolee. Corpse and Robbers aired on December 19, 1973. The plot involves the disappearance of an old friend of the ladies, and the confiscation of his toy factory. Sam Jaffe is a very eccentric inventor, Neva Patterson a suspicious character, Donald Moffatt an industrialist, and Logan Ramsay a drunken doctor. Victor Buono is a genial physician, and Geraldine Page a major hoot as a not-so-grieving beneficiary.

Helen Hayes, Lou Antonio, Mildred Natwick
Barney will do anything for the ladies.

Everyone believes the old gentleman who keeps phoning Ernesta actually died some months ago. If Ernesta and G have to disguise themselves as cleaning staff to break into a factory in the middle of the night, then so be it. An amateur detective must do what an amateur detective must do. Luckily, the Ostrowski cavalry arrives in the nick of time.

Helen Hayes, Bernie Casey
A mystery author and a basketball player guest on a talk show.

Fear is a Free Throw aired on January 29, 1974. It guest starred Bernie Casey as a basketball star, Bo Svenson as a friend, Steve Allen as talk show host Steve Allen, and Walter Pidgeon as the team's owner, an old flame of G's.

Walter Pidgeon
He misses the old days. He misses G.

G is a particular fan of this player and team, so it is truly galling when she is a suspect in the attempted poisoning of the sports star. The authorities claim her prior relationship with Walter Pidgeon as a motive. It is up to Ernesta's sharp eyes and instincts to save G from a framing or worse.

Helen Hayes
Ernesta subdues a suspect.

The ladies learn lessons regarding what shoes to wear on a gymnasium floor and who to trust when the stakes are really high.

Lou Antonio, Mildred Natwick
When in Rome...

Who doesn't love a mystery with a hint of the supernatural? The Devil Made Me Do It! aired on March 5, 1974 and concerns a mysterious NYC coven that is involved in murder and drug smuggling. Their latest murder victim had been sitting next to Ernesta on a plane, and had slipped a much sought after relic into her suitcase. The ladies got involved in this case without even trying.

Cyril Ritchard
Supernatural advice? $50 should cover it.

Greg Morris is a police expert on the occult and George Maharis a member of the coven. Cyril Ritchard is a hoot as a purveyor of witchly supplies - eye of newt, anyone? Joan Blondell is a phony fortune teller who puts G on the spot. Alice Cooper is a supposed witch who sings a very boring song while providing a handy clue.

Joan Blondell
She doesn't seem impressed with G.

Perhaps if the ladies had let their nephew, the Lieutenant, in on some of their suspicions earlier, they wouldn't have come so close to disaster. I don't believe if the series had continued, that they would have changed their ways one little bit.

Vincent Price, Helen Hayes, Mildred Natwick
Dracula with the Bride, and the world's shortest Frankenstein's monster, unmasked.

The final episode, A Black Day for Bluebeard aired March 19, 1974. The era of classic Hollywood provides the background for the story. Vincent Price guests as Michael Bastion, a star of horror films who is hoping a film festival would revive his career. Tammy Grimes is his wealthy wife whose murder puts him in the hot seat. Other suspects include a cousin played by Roddy McDowall, a secretary played by Katherine Helmond, William Devane as the wife's boyfriend, a lawyer played by David Huddleston, and our actor's agent played by Mort Sahl.

Mildred Natwick, Vincent Price's reflection, Helen Hayes
Looks like good news being delivered behind the bars.

Can Ernesta and G solve the case without hurting Michael's feelings? Ernesta has come to the conclusion that the movies they worked on so long ago weren't quite of the quality he believes and actors can be so sensitive. Vincent Price delivers a deliciously hammy performance as Michael Bastion.

Here are our stars of A Black Day for Bluebeard, Helen Hayes and Vincent Price in the 1936 Broadway production Victoria Regina as Victoria and Albert.

Mildred Natwick, Helen Hayes
They just heard that NBC canceled the show.


In 2014 NBC announced they would be rebooting Murder, She Wrote as a vehicle for Octavia Spencer and there was an outcry throughout the land. The idea quietly disappeared. While I would have welcomed and would welcome still, a cozy mystery starring Octavia Spencer, I understand the reaction. Rebooting a show that still has a following and whose beloved star Angela Lansbury is still with us, seemed unnecessary. A popular actress and a strong premise would require no tie-in to an earlier show.

On the other hand, The Snoop Sisters was a show that I don't believe received its due. It could certainly be reworked for another stellar team of actresses, perhaps Octavia Spencer and fill-in-the-blank. If Octavia reads this, don't worry about the age thing. Little old ladies aren't quite what they used to be, if they ever were.

Bonus picture: Ernesta and G rocking their caftans like nobody since Karloff in The Mummy!


  1. This. Is. Fabulous! What a treat to read! I have got to see this show!

    1. It's a fun show with great casts and a nice energy.

  2. I don't think I've ever heard of this one, but it sounds like fun. Impressive cast!

    1. A lot of the fun comes from the casting. A "comfort food" series.

  3. I watched NBC Mystery Movie when the circulation was Mc Millan and Wife and McCloud and Columbo. I don't remember this line-up. Probably it was on my sister's night for the TV. (some damn show with a "hunky" guy, I'm sure, that's the only reason she watched anything.) We had to share and she got one night and I'd get the next. Mildred Natwick's name got noticed by me because she was the widow in The Quiet Man, anarticle about which I wrote for tomorrow's posting for the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

    1. We used to share weeknights in our family as well. The TV Guide was marked up with different coloured pencils. As I recall, NBC first had the show's on a Wednesday. They switched them around which probably accounts for their lack of success.

      The Quiet Man is a favourite movie of mine. I look forward to your piece with interest.

  4. What a lovely tour of "The Snoop Sisters," a series that deserved a better fate. Thankfully, a complete collection is available. Amazing!

    Mildred Natwick has a brief bit in "Corpse and Robbers" that just tickles me. When she is put on the spot while Snooping around at the toy factory, "G" announces that she is an inspector for the phone company. What she does with this is priceless, pure and classic Mildred Natwick.



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