The first episode of Dennis the Menace opens with Gloria Henry tidying Dennis’ room before bed. This episode was filmed in late 1958 which would have been several months before the actual show aired. In this episode, Dennis has much more of a baby face and voice than he did later. Joey is also a great deal smaller than he was a few episodes into the first season because he was a younger chap already.
Gloria Henry said in a bonus interview on the first season of Dennis (see below to click through and order a copy from Amazon) that people were disturbed with Dennis’ more devious mischief in this episode and complained to the point that Dennis was made a lot more innocent in later episodes.
In this first appearance, Dennis sets out to fix a table in the kitchen and takes off the leg leaving Joey to hold up the table with his head. His mother then has Joey move and the entire table collapses on the floor. Dennis then attempts to help Mr. Wilson paint his house which leads to a slightly painted window and Mr. Wilson stepping down off the ladder into a bucket of paint which ruins his shoes.
Alice also mentions his having buried the water hose to create an automatic sprinkler system. She says that she is exhausted and asks Mitchell to take her to a movie tonight. She wants to see Glenn Ford!
And also lays out this ready quote: “Today is a day much like any other day except you are here.”
When Dennis finds out that they are going to the movies, he whines that he has wanted to see that picture his entire life and that “poor kids have seen it; orphans have seen it.” Since he can’t see it because it is the last night the Western will play, he mischievously asks who will watch him. The scene where the Mitchells are trying to find a baby-sitter in this episode is probably what inspired the “Don’t Hang Up” sequence in the Dennis the Menace movie with Mason Gamble and Walter Matthau.
The real coup de gras in this episode in terms of naughtiness is Dennis recruiting Joey to pretend to be him for the baby-sitter so that he can sneak out to the movie. He tries to storm in on his tricycle once. The second time he attempts to enter with two torn halves of ticket stubs. His third try is successful because he lures another kid onto his tricycle and enters with his parents who had already purchased a ticket. Dennis then proceeds to bother three different movie patrons and a harried projectionist before sneaking home and tearing down the drainpipe, dropping his cap gun, and borrowing Mr. Wilson’s ladder to climb up instead. When Mr. Wilson comes over, Mrs. Porter thinks he is a burglar and he ends up arrested.
The Mitchells are ultra-confused because Mrs. Porter says Dennis was an angel. How could he have caused all the trouble?