Before the internet and infotainment shows, it was tough to figure out what really happened when an actor vanished from a TV show. People relied more on rumors and half-baked memories to figure out why there were two Darrens on Bewitched, where did Ivan Dixon go on Hogan’s Heroes or what happened to the Little Rascals? A big mystery from my childhood was what the heck happened to Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace. During the third season, Joseph Kearns vanished from the show. Gail Gordon (The Lucy Show) moved into his house as Mr. Wilson’s brother. Had Kearns wanted too much money? Did he have it with the child actors? Did Gordon have him voodoo hexed? Thanks to the internet, it’s now easy to find out that Kearns died of a cerebral hemorrhage during an episode. Dennis the Menace: Season Three marks the end of Kearns and the arrival of Gordon.
“Trouble From Mars” gives us the simplest yet most effective of premises. Mr. Wilson gets his head stuck in Dennis’ space helmet. How will the old guy remove it without looking like a complete imbecile? Will Dennis (Jay North) be upset if the helmet gets cut off? How does he get out of a squeeze without looking like an idiot or a supreme jerk? “Haunted House” puts Mr. Wilson and Dennis’ Dad (Herbert Anderson) into the rental property business. They practically steal a house from Harvey Korman (Blazing Saddles). What he doesn’t tell them about the place is that it’s haunted. Sgt. Mooney (George Cisar) has to tip them into their supernatural investment. Dennis and Tommy (Billy Booth) are excited at the prospect of meeting spooks. Mr. Wilson swears it’s all lies. But there is something going bump in the night. It’s Harold Gould (Rhoda), the Dean of Hollywood Thespians. He’s a drifter that doesn’t want to lose his new digs. He serves up the scares when Mr. Wilson and the gang sleep over. The almost immortal Charles Lane (It’s A Wonderful Life) runs a contest at this drugstore for “The Fifty-Thousandth Customer.” Guess who ruins Mr. Wilson’s sure fire winning plan? “Mr. Wilson’s Inheritance” lets him dream he’s rich when an aunt dies and leaves him something in the will. Lennie Weinrib pops up without being the voice of H.R. Pufnstuf.
“The Fifteen-Foot Christmas Tree” reminds us why we should just go to the lot instead of chop down a pine for the holidays. “Mr. Wilson’s Uncle” turns out to be Edward Evertt Horton (Fractured Flickers). “A Quiet Evening” goes loud for Mr. Wilson and his coin collection. John Astin (Addams Family) plays a cop. “Mr. Wilson’s Housekeeper” is Jean Stapleton (All in the Family). She gets hired and changes everything in the Wilsons’ house.
“The Man Next Door” is Kearns final episode. Mr. Wilson swears his new neighbor is the notorious stocking bandit. Everyone thinks he’s nuts including the cops. His only help is Dennis. Even with the internet, the rumors swirl that Kearns received a fatal blow when he falls through a basement window and hits the floor head first. Looking at the scene in slow motion, it appears that the producers wisely hired a stunt double since the hair doesn’t quite match in the long shot of the tumble. Kearns was only 55 when he died although he looked 75 on the screen. Being Dennis the Menace’s neighbor would pack on the years.
“Dennis and the Dodger” is the first non-Mr. Wilson episode. Luckily nobody feels his absence since Sandy Koufax is the major guest star. The Hall of Fame pitcher is part of a scheme to get new uniforms for Dennis’ baseball team. “Dennis’ Lovesick Friend” brings back Edward Everett Horton as Mr. Wilson’s uncle. “John Wilson’s Cushion” marks the arrival of Gale Gordon as Mr. Wilson’s brother. What interesting is that Gordon looks more like the Mr. Wilson in the comic strip. He lacks the crotchety nature of Kearns. He does get to work on his flustered look which will come in handy with his nearly decade long work with Lucille Ball on The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. This unfortunate changing of the Mr. Wilson’s does go well. They make it sound like Kearns’ Mr. Wilson finally moved away and took Mrs. Wilson (Sylvia Field) with him. It’s good to know that thanks to the internet, Joseph Kearns’ vanishing from the show is no longer left to rumor. Dennis the Menace: Season Three was his final work.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers look fine. The detail can be seen in Jay North’s oversized overalls. The audio is mono. You might might want to turn down the volume when Dennis screams for Mr. Wilson.
No bonus features.
Dennis the Menace: Season Three are the final months in the life of Joseph Kearns. He had such a great grouchy demeanor on the series as he kept getting irritated by Dennis’ antics. There are plenty of entertaining episodes including the visits from Sandy Koufax and Harold Gould.
Shout! Factory presents Dennis the Menace: Season Three Starring: Jay North, Joseph Kearns, Herbert Anderson, Gloria Henry and Billy Booth. Boxset Contents. 38 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released on DVD: October 25, 2011. Available at Amazon.