Saturday, April 3, 2010

WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS - July 1964 (The Fugitive)

When the 1964-65 season started, I was booked to return to MGM to direct my fourth DR. KILDARE, then an episode of a new series, KENTUCKY JONES starring Dennis Weaver, a return to Universal for a second SUSPENSE THEATRE and then another DR. KILDARE. I was to be gainfully employed starting in June through September. While I was prepping the DR. KILDARE (MAYBE LOVE WILL SAVE MY APARTMENT HOUSE) one of my agents called to tell me they had an offer from QM Productions for me to direct an episode of the smash hit from the previous season, THE FUGITIVE. I was reluctant to accept because there was a conflict. In that same time period I was already committed to KENTUCKY JONES, which was being produced by director Buzz Kulik, whom I knew from the first year of DR. KILDARE when I was the assistant producer. The agent persisted. He felt the introduction into the Quinn Martin company was very important to me. And he was so right. I agreed to have them get me out of the KENTUCKY JONES and accept the assignment on THE FUGITIVE.

Rock-a-bye baby on the treetop

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall

Down will come baby, cradle and all.

One of those crazy coincidences we bump into in our lives. The script for my first THE FUGITIVE was WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS. The following season my fourth and final THE FUGITIVE assignment would be WHEN THE WIND BLOWS.

I had another exciting first on this production: the first time I filmed at that most exciting of locations -- a railroad yard.

We filmed all of the interior scenes in the boxcar at the studio on the first day. The exterior scenes at the railroad yard were filmed on the fourth day. You know, I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but I remember that forty-six years ago Arthur Fellows, the very knowledgeable executive in charge of postproduction, commented on the sequence where Kimble knelt by the boxcar and the next shot was his point of view of a guard walking on the other side of the train. He was impressed that the point of view panned and ended up back on the crouching Kimble. I also remember that my writer friend, Max Hodge, brought his two very young visiting nephews to the set the day we did the boxcar interiors. Years later Max told me the boys, now men, still talked about that visit and their excitement when the boxcar shook, simulating movement of the train.

I think THE FUGITIVE is one of the most classic of those early television shows now referred to as “classic television”. It was an exciting concept to turn Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean of Les Miserables into a modern day doctor on the run from the law. I liked the anthology aspect of the series; each episode was a unique, individual story. The location could be any part of the country. Kimble was chameleon-like; his name and identity changed according to the necessities of the script. Each week he would become involved with people in trouble, his basic humanity preventing his turning away. And this involvement would then jeopardize his own safety with the threat of exposing his true identity as a convicted wife killer on the lam.

This was my first collaboration with Diana Hyland. I thought she was terrific -- beautiful and talented. I’ve already written about my unsuccessful attempt to cast her the following year in the SUSPENSE THEATRE production, THE EASTER BREACH. It would be almost a decade before we worked together again, first in a DAN AUGUST and then in THE FBI. In 1977 I was signed to direct an episode of EIGHT IS ENOUGH. Diana was playing the wife of Dick Van Patten and the mother of the eight kids. It wasn’t until I arrived at the studio that I found out Diana was not involved in the filming; she was ill with cancer. To keep the character alive, they had the mother away, but each episode she would telephone home. The studio was sending a sound crew to Diana’s home each week to record her end of the conversation. I got to speak to Diana once by telephone during my prep period. That was our last conversation; she died just before I commenced photography. She was forty-one years old.

I did not have the close relationship with David Janssen that I had later that year with Robert Lansing on TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH. I found David to be an aloof man, but very professional. Like Mickey Rooney, I suspected that he had a photographic mind. The role of Richard Kimble was extremely demanding. There were no other running characters (except those few episodes when Barry Morse was aboard) to help carry the load. I just checked my script for this episode. There are sixty pages in the script. David was involved in scenes on forty seven of those pages. I personally feel that David was the most powerful force in the popularity of THE FUGITIVE. He was very attractive and enormously charismatic. He was a very fine actor -- and he LISTENED!

That was Jud Taylor at the piano. Jud had been one of the recurring internes on DR. KILDARE. It wasn’t too long before Jud moved behind the camera and became a successful film director.

Here is the first page from my director’s script of the next scene followed by the page with my camera instructions.

Incidentally, If there is a wavy vertical line on the shot, that means it was successfully filmed. If there are just a series of horizontal lines through the shot (as in 41x4) that means I eliminated the setup.

An interesting fact for you civilians and young aspiring directors: the opening shot of this last sequence showing Kimble coming down the street and then panning up to see through Carol’s window was really two shots filmed at different locations. Kimble coming down the street was filmed on the Goldwyn backlot and as it panned up it ended on the dark wall. The second part of the shot was filmed on the soundstage and started on the dark exterior wall of the set and panned up to see through the window. The two pieces of film were then connected in the editing room. I think I learned that from watching Hitchcock films -- he did that often.

The baby was actually a set of twins. That was usually done when babies were used and in this case was necessary because of the size of the baby’s role. There were strict limitations on how long a baby could be in front of the camera.

Many television series of this era had the freedom of the anthology, even though they were not anthologies. I wrote of the diversity of style in the stories I did on NAKED CITY. That was also true of the four shows I would direct on THE FUGITIVE. This episode to me was film noir, a style I particularly liked, but one I too seldom got to do. One of Quinn Martin’s rules was that exterior night scenes had to be filmed at night, not the cost-conscious method of so many of shooting day-for-night. That enhanced the noirish look of this production. And Meredith Nicholson’s photography certainly rose to the occasion.

The brash young man in the next scene was Eddie Guardino, Harry Guardino’s kid brother. Eddie had been in THE BULL ROARER on BREAKING POINT and had before that been in my Equity Library Theatre West production of Clifford Odets’ GOLDEN BOY.

There was a built-in trap to the format for this series. Kimble’s involvement each week when he attempted to help some person always threatened his own safety. The more he was threatened, the more dangerous his predicament became, the more exciting that episode would be. But of course each week had to find him at the end of the episode still free to continue his journey (and keep the series running on the air).

The show was scheduled for a six day shoot; it took seven days to finish. I contacted my agent after completing the show and told him I was due an added day’s salary for the overtime. He said he would check. He called back to say, yes I had the added day’s pay coming but he suggested I not pursue the matter. I said, why not; I worked for it. I guess he thought asking for the $250.00 (and that’s all it amounted to) would jeopardize my chances to work again at QM Productions. This time he was wrong. I directed five more productions during the 1964-65 season and a total of thirty-five productions in the next decade.


  1. It was especially intriguing to watch Kimble trade his white collar for a blue one. He'd head off down Kerouac's road where anything could happen and might find himself digging a ditch or washing dishes--but always some lovely Suzanne Pleshette-type was nearby ready to risk everything she had to help him! I love Royal Dano's boxcar preacher, although he later finks out on our hero. What was it like working with him?

  2. First off, didn't the lovely girl usually help Kimble because Kimble had helped her? As I noted in the posting, somebody had to help him or the entire production staff would have been out of a job. Royal Dano was a total professional. We only worked together three days out of the seven (railroad yard, interior of the boxcar, and the police station). I liked the Preacher's finking out. It was so true to life. We all have two sides to ourselves.

  3. True enough. It was Kimble's kindness and unassuming manner that won him supporters--lovely or otherwise.

    Great to hear of talented Dano. His appearance as yet another minister in Philip Kaufman's film of Wolfe's THE RIGHT STUFF springs to mind. There he was a dark, menacing figure continually poised to deliver the news of the test pilots' deaths to their young widows. Memorable, but hardly as much fun as the delightful hobo in your story.

  4. Dear Ralph,

    Thank you for this 1st of your posts on your THE FUGITIVE work.

    A couple of comments/production questions:

    I believe you shot a Kimble epilog tag on the backlot, possibly a bus exit, but it was replaced with location footage that you did not shoot, yes?

    A piece of trivia for others who read. In this used tag footage, Kimble walks past a storefront with a sign which reads "SINDLER TELEVISION". It's a nod to the show's propmaster Irving Sindler.

    Goldwyn appears to have had a limited but usable smalltown-USA backlot T-intersection. I'm surprised by the amount of day material that was filmed on this episode on the backlot. I'd have thought with QM's penchant for realism there would have been another exterior day on this show earmarked for off the lot. I'm guessing your tag might have been scraped to end on a more realistic note...

    I'm sure you also did not shoot the bus runby prior to the Janssen-Hyland process scene.

    My call sheet copy for DAY 2 says Janssen did an Allstate Insurance promo at the end of that day's stage shooting. Were you involved in that?

    The train depot I believe was the now demolished Southern Pacific "Taylor Yards" near San Fernando Road in Cypress Park. The train environment was such a iconic backdrop for the Kimble character with many series stills showing him with suitcase in a trainyard. Some might even have been taken between setups on your episode.

    I don't know where the abandoned house was.

    So enjoying these recollections...

  5. 1st question: My director's script shows that I shot a sequence of Kimble getting off a bus. Since that is not what is in the film, I guess they resorted to something in stock.

    I think there was not enough day location work to warrant another day off the lot. The fourth day of filming started at the railroad yard, then moved to Belmont and 2nd Street for the exterior of the old house, which we filmed both day and night.

    You are correct. My records do not show filming of the bus runby. Again that would have necessitated a long move or a second unit.

    I do not remember doing the Allstate Insurance promo. I'm sure I didn't do it. AndI think you are correct about the railroad yards. My call sheets for the fourth day say location is Taylor Yards.

    Thank you Chris, for your interest

  6. Interesting what you say about David Janssen. He came in for a lot of personal criticism about his lifestyle, however like you, Barry Morse and Anthony Zerbe have both commented on how professional he was to work with. He certainly seemed to be a workaholic with other work commitments after his days of filming The Fugitive. No wonder he wanted it to stop.

    The night time filming in black and white were spot on for the mood of this very moving episode. I loved the William Conrad voice overs too just as I loved the David Janssen voice overs in the wonderful Harry O series.

    That was very sad about Dyana Hyland. She was an actress we saw a lot of here in the UK in the sixties and seventies, in US TV productions such as Cannon and Kojak. I remember her in a Harry O episode too. As you say she was a very good actress, I hadn't realised she died so young.

    Thanks so much for the opportunity to see these great sequences and your wonderful information about the filming process.

    Here in the UK we have very little opportunity to view the really great classic telly programmes like The Fugitive and Harry O. Don't think they were ever repeated on telly, well definitely not on terrestrial TV. I keep hoping we'll get them all on DVD one day. They did release Season 1 of The Fugitive here but I was hoping to get a boxed set. I wonder whether we'll ever see Harry O which I feel was David Janssen's great character part.

  7. Royal Dano was terrific in this role. Yet another of his roles as a preacher was in "The Preacher" segment on Gunsmoke. He was splendid in everything he did.