Wednesday, February 24, 2010

OBSESSION - October 1967 (Star Trek)

Some time near the end of filming BREAD AND CIRCUSES, Herb Solow, executive in charge of production for Desilu Studios, and John Meredyth Lucas, the new producer of STAR TREK (replacing Gene Coon), came to me to check my availability to stay on and direct another STAR TREK. My preparation period would begin the day following completion of the current show. I regrettably had to decline. I never worked on the Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur), and they were going to fall right in the middle of the next show’s schedule. Not to be deterred, Herb got out a calendar to see whether the conflict could be resolved. Rosh Hashannah would fall on the last two days of preparation. No problem, he said. I could have my preparation completed by then, so that it would not be necessary for me to come to the studio on those two days. The fifth day of filming would be on Friday, October 13. Yom Kippur began at sundown on that day. Again no problem he said. I could leave the studio late afternoon, and John, a director in his own right, would finish directing the day’s work. And that’s the way it worked out. And John from then on always referred to himself as my Yom Kippur director.

So let’s beam up to another of Jerry Finnerman’s colorful planets.

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I was asked by one of the followers of this blog, how could the character Jerry Ayres played in an episode of the first year (ARENA) who was killeld, show up in this episode. I have since read an interview Jerry gave in which he said there was a scene filmed that explained that, but that scene ended up on the cutting room floor. I don’t think so; at least I didn’t direct that deleted scene, and I know it wasn’t one of the Yom Kippur scenes directed by John Meredyth Lucas. Another thing, the characters played by Jerry in the two productions have different names. I find all of this an unusual happening, since I know how careful the production was NOT TO BRING BACK ACTORS unless they were playing recurring characters. I’ll have an interesting story to tell on this same topic in a later posting.

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This was the fourteenth time I directed Stephen Brooks. Our first two encounters were when he had a recurring role on the New York based THE NURSES. Two years later he was Jim Rhodes, Efrem Zimbalist’s sidekick on QM’s THE FBI. Stephen left that series after only two seasons. I never questioned why. Was it his choice to walk away because of the limited opportunities his role gave him, or did Quinn or the network want someone older? (Stephen when he started THE FBI was only twenty-three years old. The original story plan had been that Jim Rhodes was the fiance of Efrem's daughter, a character who soon disappeared from the series.) Or could it have been a request from Mr. Hoover’s FBI office in Washington? They were very careful to protect the image of their agents. Did Stephen’s youth make him too immature to fit that image? His replacement on that series was William Reynolds, an older version of Stephen, eleven years older.

I didn’t know Stephen away from the movie set. And on the set I knew Jim Rhodes (THE FBI), Ensign Garrovick (STAR TREK) or the twenty-one year old interne on THE NURSES. Why did his career end so early? There was a barber shop in Toluca Lake that many of the men on THE FBI went to. It was a barber shop, not a ladies hair salon. Its owner was Eleanor, and the barbers were all women. Beverly at the second chair cut Pat Sajak’s hair. Eleanor told me some time in the mid-seventies that Stephen was an unhappy, disturbed young man. He left Hollywood in his early forties and died of a heart attack in Seattle, Washington at the age of fifty-seven. Why do I bring this up? Because we are inundated ad nauseum with news about those in Hollywood who ‘make it’, many with a minuscule talent. There are so many more, talented like Stephen, whose star doesn’t shine, it only flickers. He was a sensitive and attractive young actor. WHY? To do a variation of the closing line of NAKED CITY, “There are eight million stories in Hollywood; the Stephen Brooks story is one of them.”

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This was my first STAR TREK without Gene Coon as producer (and of course as writer). He stated he was leaving because he was burned out. I’ve wondered if Paramount’s purchase of Desilu Studio, with the subsequent shortening of the shooting schedule (and whatever other restrictions the new regime brought) could have contributed to Gene’s burnout. I for one certainly missed him.

The following scene I think is an example of how the shorter shooting schedule affected the creation of the screenplay. Remember my telling you that the usual length for a scene in a television script was about three minutes. The following scene runs almost seven minutes. The scene starts with a strong confrontation between Dr. McCoy and Kirk, but after Spock enters, we get two and a half minutes of pure exposition. And those two and a half minutes covered the same material that had just been presented in a two minute scene between Spock and McCoy that I have not included. There is a big difference between having your characters EXPLAIN a situation or DRAMATIZING IT. With exposition just set up a closeup and let the actor talk. The advantage of talk to the money men is that it required less movement and fewer camera setups and thus could be filmed faster.

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I cannot speak for the other directors and the other productions, but I can definitely say that there was a drop in quality from THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, METAMORPHOSIS and BREAD AND CIRCUSES to the other two episodes I directed the second season. And I ascribe the reason for this drop to be partly caused by the lack of Gene Coon’s stewardship of the scripts and the rest to the impossible expectation that the episodes in this series could be filmed in five and a half days.

Now, have you finally realized you are watching Captain Ahab and Moby Dick battling it out in space?

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As I bemoan the loss of Gene Coon, I don’t mean to dismiss John Meredyth Lucas. His was a formidable task. In one of my early postings I described what it felt like as a director coming to direct a long running series for the first time. It was like a Captain taking new command of a ship in battle. For John, taking over as producer of STAR TREK, I felt, it was like an Admiral being reassigned to command of an entire fleet. And to do it midseason -- a monstrous assignment. Filling Gene Coon’s shoes ... use your imagination.

John came from Hollywood royalty. His mother was Bess Meredyth, noted screenplay writer dating back to the silents. She wrote the screenplays for many of Garbo’s films and was twice nominated for an Academy Award. When John was ten, his mother married Michael Curtiz, who I think is one of the great underrated directors in filmdom. A total studio director who has never achieved an auteur status, but what a resume! What a range! CASABLANCA, CAPTAIN BLOOD, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, MILDRED PIERCE, ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, THE SEA WOLF, WHITE CHRISTMAS and on and on. He directed his first film (in Europe) in 1912, his last in 1961.

Now back to our story; and finally we’re past most of the exposition and into some drama.

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And into the final battle between Captain Kirk and his white whale. Will he become lashed to the whale as Ahab was? That could promote Spock to Captain of the Enterprise and Leonard Nimoy to top star of the series. Wanna bet?

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NO NAKED LADIES IN FRONT OF GIOVANNI'S HOUSE - March 1963 (Naked City)

After wrapping ALIVE AND STILL A SECOND LIEUTENANT, I flew back to the west coast, packed some fresh laundry, picked up my next script (a COMPLETE one again) and flew back to New York to start work on my third production for Herbert Leonard, another NAKED CITY titled NO NAKED LADIES IN FRONT OF GIOVANNI’S HOUSE. I arrived the morning of Saint Patrick’s Day. I checked into my hotel, and the production people picked me up to scout locations. There was only one major location to find, but we needed to do it before the day’s big Parade took place. That location was Benvenuto’s house, but why don’t I let the author’s script tell you what we needed.



After the turmoil of the search for the isolated house in Corpus Christi for ROUTE 66, it was a relief to find what we needed fairly quickly. As I was being driven back to my hotel, I asked where the company was shooting that day. I was told they were in midtown Manhattan. I decided I would be dropped off at the location, say hello to the crew and then walk back to the hotel. Little did I realize what I was letting myself in for. The company was shooting at a construction site, a new building going up. And when I say up, I mean UP!. Sixty-two stories up. And they were filming on the sixty-second floor. But having committed myself, there was no backing out. They dropped me off at the site, and I was escorted over to the outside elevator that was going to take me up to where the company was filming. I am being generous when I call what I got into an elevator. I swear it seemed like a piece of flooring attached to four tall vertical poles at the corners with horizontal bars about waist high to discourage (but not prevent) anyone thinking of jumping off on the ascent. As we went up, it did not seem as if we were rising; rather that the surrounding skyscrapers were dropping so that we were looking down on them. That ride stopped at around the fifty-second floor. The final ten flights had to be walked. The stairs for those last ten flights hadn’t been completed yet. The structural framing for the risers was in place, but the treads had not yet been built, so loose planks of wood were laid across the openings. I finally reached the top where the company was shooting. Totally open, with a nice cold breeze, no a not-so-nice cold wind blowing. I greeted everyone -- Paul Burke, the crew, stunt man Max Klevin and then found a box dead center where I could sit and watch. Paul Burke was at one end of the building, leaning over to see what was going on down on the street below. I feared at any moment the wind blowing would give him the chance to see it close up. They were doing a fight scene; Max and another stunt man had safety ropes attached to their waists as they struggled at the very edge of the building. I was already wondering if there might be the possibility of my sitting there until they finished the building so I wouldn’t have to get back into that elevator. And then they called lunch, and everyone started leaving. Well I wasn’t about to stay up there alone. Besides I was tired (I had traveled all night) and hungry. So I started down those improvised stairs to the fifty-second floor, where I had a decision to make. It was not a difficult decision. I WALKED down the remaining fifty-two flights, staggered back to my hotel, giving thanks all the way that I had not been assigned the script I had just visited.


The strange things that can happen. On ROUTE 66 when we didn’t have a completed script and had difficult locations, we started filming anyway. This time I had a completed script, a show that was going to film mostly in the studio, and my few locations already selected. I was ready to go, but I sat around for several days waiting, because the current show starring Piper Laurie was behind in its schedule. But even difficult shows finally wrap, and the one waiting in the wings goes into action.


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No, you haven’t made a mistake and logged onto a COMEDY CENTRAL blog. That is the opening of NO NAKED LADIES IN FRONT OF GIOVANNI'S HOUSE, my ninth film and my first comedy (on film that is). My stage work had been close to fifty percent in comedy.


The interiors were filmed at NAKED CITY’s New York studio, which was unlike any studio I had ever shot in on the west coast. As I remember, I think it was located on 3rd Street in lower Manhattan. As I further remember, it was not really a film studio. I thought it was an old three story house that had been gutted to provide a couple of large pseudo sound stages; one stage housed the permanent police headquarters set, the other sound stage was for the swing sets, in this case the hallway and the apartment interiors. There was nowhere near the height of the west coast sound stages, so all overhead lighting was from lamps attached to the top of the set walls.


That is Al Lewis as tenant Carrari. The following season I wanted to cast him in the DR. KILDARE episode, MAYBE LOVE WILL SAVE MY APARTMENT HOUSE, but could not get him approved by NBC. So now sit back and enjoy a very funny actor at work, backed up by some fine talent provided by casting director Marion Daugherty.

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This was a reunion for me with Harry Guardino. The previous September we had worked together on DR. KILDARE where Harry played an aphasiac. He had one WORD of dialog to memorize for that role -- “Wife.” He had considerably more lines this time around.


I think the influence of live television from the Golden Age of Television of the fifties was still being felt. This script by Abram S. Ginnes could have been produced on any of the New York hour-long live television programs of that era. I appreciated the quality of the writing when I filmed it; I appreciate it even more today when I compare it to the dearth of literate dialog being heaved at us from our screens -- large and small.


And as before, filming exteriors in New York city was an exciting experience. There is a visual energy that not only provides an exciting background to the action, there is another energy that seems to permeate the actors and add an extra coating of reality to their efforts.

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The challenge of this script was to reconcile the very broad farcical events with the realism of the series. But then, isn’t that the secret of good comedy? When I was on staff of PLAYHOUSE 90, they did a production of James Thurber’s THE MALE ANIMAL. PLAYHOUSE 90 aired on Thursday night. Friday morning across the country newspapers would carry reviews, people at water coolers would discuss and critique the previous evening’s airing as if it had been a Broadway opening. The response to THE MALE ANIMAL was not good. The reviews were almost totally negative. It was the alternating show, so I had not worked on it. Lenny Horn, the assistant director on the production, was in the office the next morning, totally surprised and confused by the response to the show. He told me he had thought they had a fine production, a very funny show. He asked me what I thought of it. I said I didn’t think it was very good. He wanted to know why I thought that. I said, “Because it wasn’t real.” His response: “But it’s a comedy.” Get my point?


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I don’t remember whether we shot the following sequence at a street market or whether we had to create our own market in the street. Strangely of all the sequences in the film, I remember this one most strongly during the editing session. Before I continue I think I should describe the usual procedure for editing a film. When the yards and yards (sometimes it seems like miles and miles) of film arrive, the editor puts together his first assemblage. This then is screened in a screening room for the producer, who will give the editor his requests for changes and cuts. (I am skipping over at this point the matter of the director’s cut. In the early days of television, as I described for you in my dealing with Quinn Martin, this did not exist.) The editor makes the requested changes, and the film is again screened for the producer. Any further changes the producer may ask for, plus the matter of editing the film to the specified length required by the network are made. Then the film is shipped off to the other departments -- sound effects, music, possible special effects -- before it is sent to negative editing. But Bert Leonard didn’t do it that way. During the few days I was back in Hollywood before leaving for Texas for another ROUTE 66, I went to the studio one afternoon. That afternoon at the studio turned into a late night event for me. Bert took me with him to the editing room where he had not one but three (maybe four) editors at work. Each editor had a reel of the picture that he was cutting. The room buzzed with the sound of the several moviolas. When an editor had completed assembling his reel (about ten minutes of filml) Bert looked at it, not in a screening room but right there in the editing room on the moviola. He had his hand on the moviola’s brake so that if he saw a place where he wanted a change made, he stopped the film and gave the editor his instructions, which the editor made note of. When he had viewed the entire reel, the editor went to work on the requested changes while Bert moved to another editor, another moviola. When Bert was satisfied with a reel, he said, “Ship it.” That’s the way he worked his way through the six reels. Never did he look at the film from beginning to end. Never was the matter of the length of time discussed. And for a director it was encouraging to see the care he took to make each moment in the scene work, his fearless intercutting of closeups for reactions with never a thought or care to “speed it up.”


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Remember what I wrote earlier about Harry having more lines this time than the last time we had worked together. Now we get to the big climactic scene -- the confrontation between Benvenuto and his father. And Benvenuto has ALL THE LINES. (And I am giving you an abbreviated version.)


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The final scene in Benvenuto’s house was in his basement. Somebody got the bright idea that if you needed the basement of a New York house for a set, why not use the real basement of a real New York house. So I was shown the basement of the building which housed the studios for NAKED CITY. It was great. Atmospheric. Sinister. But then some wiser heads prevailed. In the sequence we were to film, Benvenuto starts a fire in the basement. Even with the greatest precautions this posed a dire risk. There was one narrow stairway out of the basement. If a stray spark were to cause a major fire, there would have been 7 cast members, a minimum of 3 camera folk, me and the first assistant director, the sound boom man (the mixer could have been upstairs), at least 2 special effects men to tend to the fire in the scene, at least 2 grips and 2 gaffers and the script supervisor all rushing for that lone stairway. That’s a grand total of 20 people. As I said, some wiser heads prevailed, and it was decided to create a basement set in the upstairs studio.


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There were two sequences in our script that took place at the docks; the first when Francesca arrived on the ship (which you’ve already seen) and the final one with the ship sailing away. Well obviously we couldn’t schedule two trips to the docks; that would have been too expensive. So I filmed the second sequence the same day as the first. But all film angles had to exclude the ship. We found out what date the ship would be leaving, and on that day a second unit (just an arriflex camera, no sound) was sent with Harry and Marisa to film two shots involving the departing ship. By the time the film editors put it all together, you would never have known it was not all filmed on the same day if I hadn’t told you.


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At the time the three month period with Herbert Leonard Productions seemed to be my entry finally into a film directing career. Within a month after I completed my final NAKED CITY I was booked for ten more assignments, a full season's work. But looking back I realize that three month period was much more than that. The five scripts I had just directed were as varied as could be hurled at any director and placed challenges the likes of which I would never have demanded of me again. I don’t think it was that as I became more experienced, I was better equipped to deal with what was asked of me. NAKED CITY was finished; ROUTE 66 would return, but for its final season. I truly believe that this was the beginning of the homogenization of television. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. Oh, there would be surprise pockets of creativity that crept onto schedules. Four years later STAR TREK beamed into space, and we all know what Paramount and NBC did to it; that it survived and became a classic in spite of, not because of them. A decade later THE WALTONS bloomed. But these were the exceptions, not the norm. Oh television made more money, but creative decisions were no longer being made by visionaries like Bert Leonard; now they were being made by General Electric and Rupert Murdoch.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

ALIVE AND STILL A SECOND LIEUTENANT - February 1963 (Naked City)

I have to confess - I am not a New York type person. My first brush with the big city was a very brief stay in 1952, so my return to New York in 1963 to direct my first NAKED CITY was really my introduction to it. During 1963 I spent a great deal of time in New York, where I directed five more productions.


NAKED CITY was the first police story I directed. It was my follow-up production for Bert Leonard to IN THE CLOSING OF A TRUNK on ROUTE 66, and it was the first time in my career that I knew what and when my next job would be before I completed the current assignment. That was a nice heady feeling. There were just a few days at home between shows, and this time I had the complete script when I flew from Los Angeles to the east coast. Robert Sterling, who had guest starred in PRINTER’S DEVIL on TWILIGHT ZONE was set to guest star in the production.


My New York adventure started on West End Avenue, turning onto either 94th or 95th Street (I can’t remember everything) on a very, very cold winter day (that I remember). It’s the first scene in the film, and it was the first scene I shot.


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It is said that the way to teach a person to swim is to toss him into the water and then it’s ‘sink or swim.” My five-picture stay at Herbert Leonard’s Productions was like that. I considered myself very proficient at staging and directing interior scenes on sound stages. But going outdoors for exteriors -- well I was getting a crash course in location filming; it was ‘sink or swim’ time. The wondrous thing was that I was given the opportunity by Leonard. Earlier I had been escorted by my agent to a meeting with Norman Lloyd, producer of television’s ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. Mr Lloyd said to me, “Our next production is a mystery with an advertising agency background. What have you directed like that that you can show me?” I at that point only had a couple DR. KILDARE episodes that were neither mystery nor advertising agency. I didn’t get the assignment. As to how I ended up on the streets of New York after a stint in Texas, you can read about my first interview with Herbert Leonard in the archives to the right of this column. (Just go to September 2009 - IN THE CLOSING OF A TRUNK.) It was now up to me to swim, not sink.


I had already succeeded in Texas, but I was more familiar with that kind of drama. It was theatrical and focused almost totally on actors' performances. It also had a very fine script (even though I received the script in an unconventional manner). New York was a whole new ballgame. There was a gritty reality to the material and to filming on the street that was a new directing experience for me.


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Yes, that was twenty-four year old Jon Voight as the son of the slain man. I have to say I didn’t think he was very good. According to the Internet Movie Database this was his first film appearance. The following summer I went down to the Globe Theatre where he was appearing in two Shakespeare plays. Again he was not very good. When I say that, I am not demeaning the actor. I am complimenting him. I give him credit for going out and learning his craft. I also give credit to casting director Marion Dougherty. She was remarkable. Three of the five shows I directed did not have completed scripts when we started filming. I’m not sure what communication there was between her and Leonard, and what was the basis for her casting choices. But she knew actors, she recognized talent. She cast actors who were right for the parts they were assigned, and they turned in fine performances. If this seems to contradict what I wrote about Jon Voight, I disagree. Marion had obviously seen Jon in some off-Broadway production and recognized a blooming talent that deserved a chance. It was only six years later that he exploded on the screen with a magnificent performance in MIDNIGHT COWBOY. He indeed had gone out and learned his craft. And he is still a working actor.


Why do I bring this up? Because I think the rush to stardom for young people barely out of their teens does them harm. Acting is a craft, an art, to be learned and developed. Great stars are not born. They need a place to work and be bad in order to learn their craft. Gable, Cagney, Tracy -- all of them debuted in movies after they had passed the age of thirty. Bogie didn’t become a big star until he had reached his forties. And they are still with us as true screen legends. Where are those big stars of the Brat Pack: Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall et al. They had talent, but I think the early stardom without the major studios' supervision of the earlier years harmed them.


In Texas I had my first experience when filming a moving car sequence of using the tow car method. Here I was having my first time use of the camera IN THE CAR. I did prefer both methods to filming sequences with rear screen process. (Strangely the following season when I started working for Quinn Martin Productions, Quinn insisted on rear screen process for such scenes.)

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During that crazy ride the camera operator and the camera were in the back seat. So was I.


I think NAKED CITY was one of the great television series of all times. And for me the reason was that Bert Leonard, when it came to editing (and I will be going into a detailed description of my experience with that in the next posting) had the courage to take his time telling the story; he didn’t edit to speed up the action that had been filmed; if anything he enhanced and embellished with the use of the coverage that had been shot.

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Jack Priestley was the director of photography for NAKED CITY, and his style of lighting was different from the cameramen on the west coast. But it was a style that certainly worked for the series. Jason’s office set, if done on the west coast, would probably have been built at the studio. The New York studio for NAKED CITY was not nearly large enough to accommodate such construction, so we filmed on a live location. The result was a larger set than a television budget could have allowed for, and it was lit with very naturalistic lighting. I think there is almost a documentary feel to the filmiing which adds to the reality of the series.

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but the writing of the police in this series was far more realistic than I was going to encounter in my future cop-infested career. This incidentally was the only time I worked with Nancy Malone. But it was not the last time I was in contact with her. Two years later I was booked to direct the first episode of LONG HOT SUMMER, a series at 20th Century Fox based on the classic Paul Newman movie. A pilot had been filmed in which Nancy played the Joanne Woodward role. The pilot was scrapped, and a whole new cast was assembled. Since I was directing the first episode, I also was assigned the task of directing the tests of the replacement actors being considered for the series. All of the roles were cast except the Joanne Woodward role. The tests for that role did not produce an actress that the powers at the studio and the network found acceptable. They then decided they wanted Nancy after all and made the offer to her through her agent. Nancy was properly offended that she had been overlooked all of this time and turned them down. Frank Glicksman, who was producing the series and for whom I had directed TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH the previos season, knew of my association with Nancy on NAKED CITY. He had me contact her to try to influence her to accept the offer of the series. I telephoned her; we had a nice conversation, and I guess I convinced her that she should accept the series, which she did. The series turned out to be a big bomb. I’ve never seen or had contact with Nancy since that time. I wonder if she has ever forgiven me.

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NAKED CITY was the first time I filmed a sequence in a cemetery. It wasn’t the last. A decade later I directed five episodes of DAN AUGUST starring Burt Reynolds. All five episodes had a sequence in a cemetery.


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This was the second show in less than six months that I worked with Robert Sterling. I think he is a perfect example of Hollywood’s way of developing talent and then wasting it. His work in films reveals a very attractive young man hired for his looks, but the studios never utilized his developing talent. He and hes second wife, Anne Jeffreys, moved over to television in 1953 as the stars of the series, TOPPER. I can’t resist -- Robert Sterling had developed into a sterling performer.


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In the follolwing scene Bert Leonard was not happy that I had Jason kiss Paula (which was not in the script stage directions). He interpreted it as a romantic moment, a love scene. I felt it was part of Jason’s desperate attempt to keep Paula under his control, to protect himself because of his crime. I still think I was right.


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I started this piece by saying I was not a New York type person. That applied only to living in New York. Once I reported to the set to function as director, New York ceased to be a place to live. It became a movie set. And no art director ever provided me with a better place to film. I think there is no direction you can point a camera in New York and not get a wonderful picture (unless you’re aiming your camera directly into the wall of a building).


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For me the power of this script was that it was an ordinary man, a common Joe, involved in a crime -- not a criminal. That was Hitchcock’s formula -- to involve some common man in his nefarious undertakings. Unfortunately there would not be many of these guys in my future adventures in crime.


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I never saw Robert Sterling again. There are eight million stories in Hollywood; this was one of them.







Tuesday, February 2, 2010

BREAD AND CIRCUSES - September 1967 (Star Trek)


























This posting can also be viewed
(extended and revised) on the other RALPH'S TREK at www.senensky.com

When I was interviewed by Dave Rohlf for the Star Trek History website, he and I surprised each other. I surprised him when I told him that I did not remember BREAD AND CIRCUSES with any great affection; that it was not on my list of shows of which I was proud. He surprised me when he told me that BREAD AND CIRCUSES ranked as a very popular episode of STAR TREK.

I was surprised later by a follow-up question. They wanted to know where I had filmed the sequences of the arrests being made. The locations were right on the studio lot, utilizing entrances to offices and sound stages.

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And I was beaming back to STAR TREK after a busy four months during the summer directing a western, a court room drama, an episode of I SPY and my first INSIGHT which was live on tape. I discovered it had been a busy summer at Desilu Studios as well. Gulf Western, owner of Paramount right next door, had purchased Desilu. The wall separating the two studios had been torn down and it was now just one big unhappy family.

When I first came to STAR TREK, Gene Coon told me that although the shows were supposed to be scheduled for a six day shoot, actually it was averaging out to six and a half days per episode. The edict from the new owners was that ALL SHOWS MUST BE COMPLETED IN SIX DAYS. But there was more. A normal shooting day had a crew call of 7:30am for an 8:00am shoot. Actors’ calls were based on the amount of time needed for makeup and hair to have them ready for the 8:00am shoot. The day ended at 7:00pm. Another order from the new management was that filming must end at 6:12pm. That was 48 minutes less per day; 48 minutes times 6 is 288 minutes; 288 minutes divided by 60 is 4.8 hours, just 12 minutes less than 5 hours which is a half a day’s shooting time. In other words it was now being demanded that STAR TREK be filmed in five and a half days. As you saw in the clip, I was now challenged with putting a SPARTACUS-like saga on film on a schedule that would have satisfied the executives at Ziv Studios in the fifties.

To start this impossible venture we returned to Bronson Canyon where I had filmed the idyllic THIS SIDE OF PARADISE. But it was a part of Bronson Canyon new to me. I had previously filmed in the forest section of the canyon. I did not know about the cave.

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Septimus was portrayed by the highly respected character actor, Ian Wolfe. Ian at this time was seventy-one years old. He had come to Hollywood in 1934 after a successful career on Broadway. I collect old movies (my library at the present time includes around 2400 titles), and there are times when I wonder if any movie back in the thirties and forties was made without Ian in the cast. His final screen appearance (and there were over three hundred of them) was in Warren Beatty’s DICK TRACY in 1990.

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I had one major concern with the script. The early version I felt telegraphed the ending of the story. But I had TWO Genes working this time. Both Roddenberry and Coon divided up the scenes to be revised so as to establish the slaves’ religious belief in the Planet Sun..

And again Jerry Finnerman has to be commended. The interior of the cave was shot at the location in Bronson Canyon. When filming an interior away from the studio, everything had to be lit from the floor. There wasn't the advantage of lighting from above. Filming within the confines of the cave just added to the difficulty. But Jerry still managed to do more than just get it photographed. In the cave as in his work back at the studio, there was an artist at work.

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And once again Bill ‘Honey, you wanna ride on my bulldozer’ Bramley (from THE BULL ROARER) ended up in front of my camera. He’s the leader of the police group making the arrest.

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STAR TREK was Jerry Finnerman’s first assignment as a director of photography. He had been Harry Stradling’s operator for several years and Stradling was one of the giants of the profession. He was the one who urged Jerry to take the STAR TREK assignment. Jerry, like so many gifted artists, was not the most confident human being on the planet. In fact at the beginning of the first season of STAR TREK he wanted to be let out of his contract. Fortunately wiser heads at the studio prevailed and he was persuaded it was better for his career if he stayed on. He did and I believe he is due a great deal of credit for the look of the show. Again as in the cave he didn’t settle for the drab gray of the jail cell walls and bars. Jerry, although he had a fine crew of gaffers, set all of the lights. He painted with light. And the amazing thing was how fast he was.

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Television scenes at this time rarely ran longer than three minutes. The following scene was more than twice that. The actual page count for the sequence was eight and an eighth pages. And it was not a scene that allowed for any movement once the five people entered and were seated. Plus which any movement would have required additional camera setups and time to light them. The scene was a lot of talk. It was on days like this that I was grateful and appreciative of the five talented actors who comprised the cast. I must put in a word here about leading actors in episodic television. Bill Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley after a long twelve hour day such as the one to complete this sequence (and I think there would have been an additional scene; I do not have my call sheets for this episode, but with a sixty-five page script, each day averaged out at at least ten pages), they would then go home with the requirement to work on the scenes for the following day’s work. To do it at all was an accomplishment. To do it with such skill --I bow my head in admiration.

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The sequence in the arena is that part of our story most harmed by the time restrictions imposed by the new management. It was literally put together on the run. The second gladiator in the arena with Flavius was a very fine stunt man, Max Klevin, whom I had worked with in New York on NAKED CITY. I knew what he was capable of. The satiric look at live television was there; the spectacle of the Roman arena was less than it should have been. There was so much more that could have been done that would have been exciting and entertaining, but it needed time to stage and rehearse, with care taken to avoid injury to the actors involved. It should have been the breathtaking set piece of the production. But those wolfhounds in the black suits were nipping at our heels.

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The role of Spock was both a starmaker and a cage for Leonard Nimoy. The unemotional character was an unusual creation and added substance and even comedy to the series. But for an actor of Leonard’s capabilities, most of the time it was limiting. Whenever there were ways to release him from these strictures (as in THIS SIDE OF PARADISE) it was edifying and entertaining. I’m not sure which Gene was responsible for the following scene between Spock and Doc (although I have my suspcions) but I think the scene is a winner.

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Gene Roddenberry was doing a rewrite on the final climactic scene before the trio beam back up to the Enterprise. It was so last minute that I left the studio the evening before without the script in hand. Gene promised it would be waiting for me at the studio early the next morning. I arrived at the studio at 6:00am and, as he had promised, the script was there. While I was in the jail cell set planning my day’s work Ted Cassidy (Lurch on THE ADDAMS FAMILY television series) came into the set. He was guest starring on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE on an adjoining sound stage. I didn’t know him but either Leonard or DeForest was on the set and did. We planned a little prank to get the day off to a happy start. We filmed it; everyone knew what was going to happen except Bill Shatner. You may have seen it on one of the blooper reels that has been around for a long time. But here it is!

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And here’s the sequence including the scene Bill thought we were doing before he was abducted.

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As I wrote before, my early concern about the script was my fear the ending was being telegraphed. Both Genes worked on various scenes to establish the Roman slaves’ religious belief centered on the planet Sun. Now here’s our farewell to that week’s planet.

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You can hear my telephone interview on this episode by going to the Star Trek History website at:

http://www.startrekhistory.com/interviews.html