In the olden days of early sixties television (and I’m positive at this late date that’s what they should be called) the producer and story editor of a dramatic series were the ones responsible for producing scripts. There were no large writing staffs such as I believe exist today. They interviewed free lance writers who came in to pitch story ideas. The rules of the Writers Guild were that the pitch should be no more than a long sentence. (I was not a member of the Writers Guild, so this is what I learned from writer friends and what I remember today of what I gleaned then.) If the pitch seemed potential, the writer would be given the go ahead to develop the idea into a full story. If the story proved satisfactory the writer would be given the go ahead to write the script. I bring all of this up because I think that is one of the reasons that a series like THE FUGITIVE could veer off into so many interesting and different directions. Sure there would be many of the usual variations on Les Miserables; but then occasionally someone would show up with an idea for an unusual relationship for Richard Kimble. I think that’s what happened to produce the story I’m presenting on this posting. So let’s go back to Piru, the location where I filmed part of my last posting, THE FAMILY NOBODY WANTED. But this is Piru nine years before that; this is Piru the first time I filmed there.
I consider film directing to be more complex than just putting the actors in their positions, shooting a wide angle master to establish where everyone is and then covering each actor with his close-up. My theatre training taught me to at least give the star an “entrance”. Plays in the past were written to do just that. I will never forget Katharine Cornell’s entrance in THAT LADY about sixty years ago. There was a large archway up center stage and after the exposition had been established in the first part of Act I, Miss Cornell swept into the archway opening, stopped and turned upstage to look over the balcony, then turned back to come into the archway, begowned to the hilt and with a black patch over one eye. THAT was an entrance! I couldn’t quite do that with David in this piece. But I didn’t want him to be seen as just a part of the establishing master shot. So he was conveniently seated hidden behind the cash register. The second shot in the sequence was from behind him to the cook. Finally his “entrance” into the story was the next shot -- a closeup of Richard Kimble.
Did you notice that cash register? And eggs, toast and coffee only cost sixty-one cents!
After my blog published the first two THE FUGITIVES, I received the following e-mail:
Looking forward to your 1965 episodes.
Passed thru Piru today with my wife.
Thought you'd like this photo comparison. Funny to note that a small film crew was toiling around the same intersection as you put Janssen thru his paces almost 45 years ago.
The suspension bridge from the episode is still there but is now blocked off and detoured around.
And now we meet the reason this was an unusual episode.
And it was different in another way; my first two episodes had both been very dark -- in character and in the look of the films. This one was definitely lighter -- at least for now.
And now we have the final element in our story. In the absence of Barry Morse’s Lieutenant Gerard in pursuit of Kimble (and I never did get a chance to do an episode that involved Gerard), we have this story’s arm of the law in pursuit of him, this week's version of the original Javert from Les Miserables.
Those who have followed these postings astutely should recognize the cook, Don Hanmer. He was the dog trainer in SHADOW OF A STARLESS NIGHT on BREAKING POINT. The deputy is Harry Townes, another fine actor whose resume is almost a history of Classic Television -- live and film. Watching these two veterans can be a lesson in screen acting; notice their interplay BETWEEN the lines of dialogue.
According to the Internet Movie Data Base this was only Johnny Jensen’s fourth or fifth screen appearance. He worked as a child actor for a few more years and then disappeared from the profession. There is a Johnny Jensen on that data base listed as a current director of photography, but a little research showed they are different Johnny Jensens.
David deserves a lot of the credit for the believability in Johnny’s performance. When dealing with child actors, the goal is to keep them from acting. Just be yourself. Just say the words like you would say them. And LISTEN to the other actor. David’s overpowering charisma in a scene I think reenforced the youngster’s listening.
When working with child actors I did the same thing I often did with adult performers. In filming a closeup if the actor’s performance didn’t come alive emotionally until midway through the scene, rather than calling “cut” at the end and doing the next take, I would keep the camera rolling and have the actor start at the beginning. It worked for adults and it worked with the kids. One time on another production I did that while filming the closeup of the young boy. The adult man in the scene (who was playing off camera) questioned the necessity. He didn't like the extended take. I told him I wasn’t doing it to accommodate him, I was doing it for the boy. David never questioned that procedure.
The next plot requirement was when the law started closing in, someone had to justifiably help him.
And now the lighter look, both thematic and visual, starts to darken. Kenny’s cave was the conduit to make the transition.
The fourth day of filming started at the Highway Bus Stop sequence (it’s coming up) where we filmed two and an eighth pages. We moved back to Lois’ living room at the Goldwyn studio for two and seven eighths pages. There was an additional short scene of deputy Russ on the phone that didn’t get filmed that day. We ran out of time. The next day was a heavy scheduled shoot -- nine pages, which ended with a short night sequence off the lot. I remember I had Fred Ahern, the wonderful production manager, totally perplexed. The final sequence on stage was the following scene (the part in Kenny's cave), which was the longest scene of the day. The problem was we finished too early. There was too long a gap before it got dark, and Quinn refused to shoot day for night. I wrote before that I thought David, like Mickey Rooney, had a photographic memory. I remember before we started this sequence, David took the script and quickly looked it over. Then he and Georgann Johnson proceded to do the master and the two closeups in one take each. Fred’s perplexity came from the fact the day before we couldn’t finish six and a half pages in a full twelve hours and this day we finished almost nine pages in about seven hours.
Then we got to the part where young Johnny Jensen had to do some fairly difficult physical activity.
Have you ever wondered when viewing a scene like this, how did that young boy know the exact moment to open the door? There was a cue light right beside him. The wire of that light ran (out of the eye of the camera) right into my hand. When the proper moment arrived, I clicked on the button at my end of the wire, the light lit up at Johnny’s end and Kenny opened the door.
No, that wasn’t young Johnny Jensen jumping off of the moving truck. It was a stunt double.
The original script called for there to be a shack nearby that Kimble and Kenny would enter. When we scouted the location I saw the nearby abandoned gas station and saw that it was a more convenient substitution for what the script requested. The interior of course was constructed back at the studio. The interior of the abandoned station and the approaching nightfall provided the needed visual darkness for the rest of our story.
I’m afraid my references to the producers of the shows I did were not always favorable. That may have been a built-in factor of the director-producer relationship. But let me do a little straightening out of the facts here. Producers of television series had a tremendous responsibility. They not only had to feed the scripts into the pipeline, they were responsible for seeing that the scripts met the requirements of the series’ needs. One of the needs for this series was that once the snare around Richard Kimble seemed to insure his eventual capture, a reasonable escape from that entrapment had to be provided. I don’t think anyone fulfilled his overseeing of a series’ needs better than Alan Armer.
Ages ago I wrote: “It was said of Irving Thalberg: He didn’t make movies for people to see. He made movies for people to feel. Boy, do I believe in that!”
That was about my first television film direction in 1961. Four years later I had not changed my mind.
Johnny Jensen, wherever you are, you are now a man in his mid-fifties. Just know you still have a very devoted fan.