Sunday, March 22, 2009

Oklahoma City Dolls, The (1981) TV Movie

Tonight's made-for-television movie on ABC, at 9 P.M., is an odd little concoction called "The Oklahoma City Dolls." The scene opens on the assembly line of a valve factory. All of the workers are women, asked to double up on production because the men workers are off somewhere playing football for the company. Obviously, the situation is ripe for feminist rebellion.

Sure enough, Sally Jo Purkey, played perkily by Susan Blakely begins balking. She confronts the male chauvinist boss, played to a delightfully nasty turn by David Huddleston, and demands to know why the women don't get equal time off. Fortunately, a representative of the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Robert Hooks) happens to be inspecting the factory at the time.

The boss relents but, thinking himself clever, announces that the free time can be used only for playing football. Not to be deterred, Sally Jo sets about assembling a women's football team. At first the menfolk are merely amused. But when Sally Jo and her sisters show no signs of losing interest, things turn nasty - to the point where one player, Valene (Ronee Blakley) is severely battered by her resentful husband.

Much of "The Oklahoma City Dolls" is not subtle. In case anybody misses the point, Sally Jo states it bluntly: "This whole thing ain't about football. It's about being a person - about being treated like one."

There are predictable comic turns in a posh restaurant, Sally Jo loudly laces into her suddenly stuffy man friend (Waylon Jennings). The team's reluctant coach (Eddie Albert), an irascible drunk and trouble maker, is inevitably won over to the energetic cause of his charges. When the Dolls get to play a real game, it's against a group called the Minneapolis Maids, who appear to be formidable lesbians.

But on its own unpretentious terms, "The Oklahoma City Dolls" scores its points nicely. The cliches are spiked with dashes of keen observation. Sally Jo is protecting her young son from the clutches of an estranged husband who, while refusing to meet support payments, shows up with a flashy present of a pony. Sunny (Sierra Pecheur) has been conditioned to being ashamed of her considerable physical bulk and cannot participate uninhibitedly in football. Again Sally Joe delivers the message, "Be who you are, use what you got."

We know, of course, that the husband who declares, "Women's lib is O.K. with me as long as I get fed," will eventually be told by his linebacker wife to go and fix his own meals. We know that the big game, nicely directed by E.W. Swackhamer, will eventually end in favor of the good gals. But, with Miss Blakely's determined and convincing performance as Sally Jo, none of these reservations matter too much. "The Oklahoma City Dolls" sets out to say something about women and, whatever its flaws, it does. Like Sally Jo's man friend, most male viewers are likely to wind up admitting, "I love a quarterback."

The Oklahoma City Dolls  (1981) TV Movie
Cast: Art Lund, David Huddleston, Eddie Albert, Heather Lowe, Lynne Moody, Robert Hooks, Ronee Blakley, Sarah Cunningham, Susan Blakely, Waylon Jennings

No comments:

Post a Comment