Sunday, March 28, 2010

THE RAID - October 1966 (The FBI)

video

THE RAID was not one of my favorite productions. As I think I’ve made conclusively evident, I liked scripts that generated their emotional heat from the relationships of the characters involved. In the case of scripts for THE FBI that meant focusing on the criminals. In THE RAID those characters were strictly cardboard; this was a production where the main focus was on the actions of the institution of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


video

video

Our first and most important task was to find the location where we could stage the raid. Our needs were very complex. We had to have a building for the Lodge with a real estate office across the street. The Lodge had to have a courtyard and a rooftop where scenes in the script took place. To further complicate the situation we were going to need a rooftop close by for scenes that involved the roof top at the Lodge. Plus a site nearby where the killing you just witnessed could be committed. Now Los Angeles is a very large city -- that shouldn’t have been difficult to find. Wrong! After days of location scouting we finally found a large apartment building that would serve as our Lodge and there was a small office building across the street (it wasn’t real estate, but signs could fix that). The Victory Drive-in Theatre nearby completed our triangle and I was going to be able to visually tie the three sites together. An added advantage: the Lodge and office building were on a cul-de-sac that avoided the problem of automobile traffic.


video

You’ve already met one of the members of the gang -- Ralph, the Iceman. It was so nice to have a character named Ralph who wasn’t the nerd of the plot. Now let’s meet Scott Martin and Linda. Martin was Ralph Meeker, in our third and final outing together. Unfortunately the two follow-up roles came nowhere near the caliber of our first collaboration, THE BULL ROARER on BREAKING POINT. Linda was Nita Talbot, an actress I had long admired since she appeared in the production I co-directed with John Houseman of Eugene O’Neill’s THE ICEMAN COMETH.

video

When the characters on the page are cardboard, it sure helps to have strong, talented personalities like Meeker and Nita to portray them.


video

George was portrayed by Rudy Solari, an actor I had met nine years before when I was preparing and casting a production of THE IMMORALIST at the Horseshoe Stage in Hollywood (the production where I also met Rachel Ames.) I was having trouble finding an actor to play Bachir, the young Arab boy James Dean had portrayed in the Broadway production. Then Rudy came in. He solved my problem and, as it turned out, I solved his. At the time he had been working as a UPS driver, but had decided it was time to pull up stakes and leave Hollywood. THE IMMORALIST kept him in town, and once it opened to very good reviews I cast him (at the same theatre) in their next production of Robert Anderson’s ALL SUMMER LONG in the role John Kerr had played on Broadway. Rudy never left Hollywood. He had a fine career in both film and stage.


What I see now but I don’t think I saw then is that this was basically a caper film. The usual caper film followed with meticulous detail the execution of a crime. This caper film focused its attention on the side of the law, the FBI, as it pursued the task of apprehending the criminals. Caper films are not too involved with emotional relationships, which was where I tended to concentrate. And with that in mind, a lot of this script was not as deficient as I thought.

video

video

Most of the scenes you’ve seen so far (excluding the opening killing sequence) were filmed during the final four days on sets back at Warner Bros. studio: the interior of Martin’s suite at the Lodge, the interior of the real estate office, the interiors for the FBI offices. Our first three days were at the Lodge/Real Estate Office/Drive-in Theatre location. The length of the script had been pared to fifty-one pages, a low page count by usual standards. The page count for the location days was eighteen and two eighths pages, a normal expectation for a normal location filming day. But let’s look at the shooting schedule for day three.






As you can see there is only one scene in front of the real estate office of any length, and it was only six eighths of a page of dialog. Every time the scene is a different location, that means moving camera, lights, shiny boards, sound --the whole kit and caboodle. I’ll talk more about this third day a bit later. For now, let’s look at some of that location film.

video

video

Our original intention was to find a roof for the roof to roof action. The Victory Drive-in was an inspired replacement. And it also provided a more interesting place to stage the killing in the prolog.


video

video

William Kline was now the director of photography for THE FBI. Billy Spencer left the show to photograph Quinn’s first (and onlyI) foray into feature film production, THE MEPHISTO WALTZ. This was my second show with Kline and I really liked him. I had directed one production after Spencer’s departure with their first replacement and that one I didn’t like. ( I would give him a setup of an over the shoulder shot and return to find he had moved the actors into an easier to light fifty-fifty two shot.) This was my second show with Kline. It was to be my last. I never knew why, but he was replaced before my next assignment.


video


I had known DIck Gallegley, our production manager, from the time he was a second assistant director. In a relatively short time he had worked his way through being a first assistant director, a location manager, and now a production manager. He was a first class act. We squeaked through our first two days at the location and managed to stay on schedule. The third day was ominous. Dick was out at the location early that Friday morning, assessing the situation. The page count for the day was heavier than either of the first two days, and the action was spread over more areas of the location than on those days. Dick suggested we bring in a second camera and he further suggested I pick out those setups that did not require sound and treat them as second unit. I had scenes to shoot in front of the Lodge and at the real estate office. There was also a sequence down the street. Then there was the inner court with the wounded Shooter. That was where we decided to use the second camera. I would stage a shot with Shooter; Bill Kline, the cameraman, would light it and when it was ready, he and I would leave while Dick oversaw filming it. We would return to the front of the Lodge where we did the same thing with the sequences requiring sound, but those shots I stayed to oversee the filming. We bounced back and forth that way the entire day. I was directing two units at once, the cameraman was lighting two units. At the end of the day we moved over to the Victory Drive-in to film the sequence with Jim Rhodes behind the Victory sign. We were losing the light but that sequence could be lit, and as I remember, Kline also gave instructions to force the film in the developing. At the end of the third day we had completed everything and were right on schedule. That was when DIck Gallegley thanked me and told me that Howard Alston, the executive production manager for QM Productions, had told him that if he couldn’t bring this show in on schedule, he would no longer be a production manager. Dick had not told me that earlier in the day. He had not come to me that morning and said, “You’ve got to do this or I will lose my job.” He had not put the pressure he was under onto me. As I said earlier, DIck Gallegley was a real class act.


video

video


The scene with Rhodes and Jobie on the roof -- I’m sure that was a scene added in postproduction because it looks like a studio shot, and that scene is not in my archival script. I don’t remember directing it, but I could have because I was still with the company for another month filming another episode.


As I stated at the beginning of the posting, this was not one of my favored episodes. But I realize now, that was what made it so exciting to be a part of television at this time. I couldn’t just do those scripts that were comfortable for me. I was challenged to stretch. And THE RAID was sort of preparation for an assignment four months later -- THE TRAIN on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, which won an Emmy.

For you Trekkies and anyone else interested, another segment of my interview for the Star Trek History website has been posted at: http://www.startrekhistory.com/interviews.html#SENENSKY




Wednesday, March 24, 2010

FUNNY MAN WITH A MONKEY - Part Two

Samuel Goldwyn once said, “Pictures are for entertainment, messages shoud be delivered by Western Union.” It’s a funny line, but I’m afraid I don’t agree with it. I don’t like propaganda. I don’t like preaching. But I do like to work with material that has something to say. Jerome Ross, in writing this piece, had plenty to say.


As Stephen Bowie pointed out in his great ARREST AND TRIAL posting at:


http://classictvhistory.com/EpisodeGuides/arrest_and_trial.html


“The corner into which the writers inevitably found themselves painted was the schism between the motives of the two leads. Arrest and Trial put Anderson and Egan on opposite sides of the judicial process: Anderson’s job was to catch the criminals and Egan’s was to turn them loose. Allowing the principals to be wrong “occasionally” might have seemed like a good idea on paper, but it meant that every week one of them would have to make a fool of himself — either Anderson arrests the correct perpetrator and Egan loses his case, or Egan sets his client free by proving that Anderson busted the wrong guy.”


In the two episodes I directed that corner did not seem to be that confining. Martin Burnham, who had accidentally pushed someone off a tall building when he was trying to commit suicide, was saved because he was emotionally unstable. In this episode Jerome Ross stayed out of that corner by sending some of those messages Samuel Goldwyn railed against.


video

THE TRIAL


video

Milton Shifman, the film editor for this production, used a splicing instrument I had not seen before. The prevalent method used at the time was the hot splicer. Two strips of film to be spliced together were laid in a splicer connected electrically to heat up, the film ends were scraped with a razor, glue was applied, and the ‘lid’ of the splicer was clamped down as heat was applied. Milt had a special splicer (I think it was foreign made) and he TAPED the two strips of film together. Since tape for splicing was not being made at that time, Milt’s splicer punched sprocket holes in the tape to match the film’s sprocket holes. In not too many years the hot splicer was eliminated, special tape with sprocket holes was produced, and tape became the way films were assembled.


Milt was an excellent editor, but he did something that at the time was irksome. Now forty-seven years later I find it very disturbing. When I shot the coverage angles of Mickey, I always made sure the ‘look’ (does he look camera right or camera left?) matched the look of the person on the stand. I also varied the size (how close is the camera to Mickey?). As the story progressed, Mickey’s closeups became larger and more dynamic. Well Milt especially liked a close-up I shot for one of the later, more dramatic testimonies, and he used it almost exclusively for the entire courtroom sequence, including something I have recently discovered. When Mary Murphy is in the witness stand testifying, that shot of Mickey reacting has Mary Murphy seated behind him in the courtroom.


video

The over-used closeup


ARREST AND TRIAL was my first lawyer film; it was my indoctrination into courtroom staging. There is always something fascinating and dynamic about such sequences. But they do have to be well written because those scenes are made up of questions and answers -- total dialogue. And the only person moving about is the attorney doing the questioning. I don’t remember from whom I learned it, but one of the tricks attorneys use is to stand by the jury, so that the witness on the stand is looking at him AND THEM as he testifies.

video

The judge in this episode (and several other episodes of ARREST AND TRIAL) was Bill Quinn. a close personal friend. Bill had been acting since beginning his career at the age of six as a child actor on Broadway. You may recognize him as Mary Tyler Moore’s father on her long-running television series or as the Blind Man on ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE.


Mickey Rooney was a marvel to watch. And he had a ball during the courtroom sequences. You see, he had a captive audience. During the time a new setup was being lit, Mickey would entertain the fifty people who were the audience in the court. Stories. Jokes. When the set was ready and the assistant director called places, MIckey would finish his routine, and as the audience gleefully responded, he would turn around, sit down at the defense table and by the time I called “Action”, he was totally in character, tears streaming down his cheek if the scene called for it. During one of these takes I was standing by Judge Bill Quinn and I heard Bill mutter, “That son-of-a-bitch, how does he do it?”


You may not recognize him, but Roland Winters, who played Linda’s father, was the third Charlie Chan. He was cast when Sidney Toler, Charlie Chan #2, passed away. Roland was forty-three years old at the time, almost the same age as Keye Luke who played Charlie Chan’s son.


video

Jerome Ross’ script, beside being filled with information relating to the world of the drug addicted, was also very well written dramatically. He gave the actors material they could really sink their claws into. And more importantly, his script was not without dramatic surprises.


video

There was a long standing belief that acting in films was easy because the actor only had to do llittle bits at a time, and these bits would be cut together in the editing room to make the performance. Not always true. You saw it in the extended takes Mickey Rooney did in Part One. Now see what Mary Murphy did when she took the witness stand..


video

In the summations to the jury, Ross’ script really attacks not only the problem of drugs, but the ineffectiveness of the way the problem has been addressed.


video

He wrote this nearly a half century ago. Nothing has changed. He could have written it today.


video

Stephen Bowie also wrote on his blog: "The episode that most Arrest and Trial staffers remember, and the one that may rank as the best of them all, is “Funny Man With a Monkey.” Nominally the story of Hoagy Blair, a heroin-addicted nightclub comedian who plans to challenge existing narcotics laws in court after his arrest on a drug-related homicide charge, “Funny Man” is actually a semi-documentary tour of the nightmarish world of chemical dependency."


Monday, March 15, 2010

FUNNY MAN WITH A MONKEY - November 1963 (Arrest and Trial)

October, 1963, I returned to New York for the fifth time that year (three times for NAKED CITY and once for a double header of THE NURSES and EAST SIDE WEST SIDE). That trip was for another double header with THE NURSES again being the lead-off show. I completed THE NURSES on October 21 and was notified that EAST SIDE WEST SIDE, which had been booked to start immediately upon my completion of THE NURSES, was behind schedule and I should not report for another week. A return to the west coast for that short period of time was a little daunting (factor in the travel involved in the two episodes of ROUTE 66 I had filmed in Texas) and frankly I coudn’t afford financially to stay on in New York for that period. I asked my agent to get me out of the commitment; I also asked them to have me released from the two future commitments which so far had not be scheduled. At that point I just wanted to go home and get my life out of the suitcase. All of this was arranged and I returned to the west coast. There was no work on the horizon, but I was ready for a rest. I had filmed twelve shows in nine months, eight of them on location in Texas or New York. I wasn’t home very long before I had a call from my agent. Director Jack Smight had just had to bow out of a commitment to direct an ARREST AND TRIAL because he had been booked to direct a feature film. Did I want the assignment? I said absoutely. It was to direct an episode titled FUNNY MAN WITH A MONKEY and Mickey Rooney was already in place to guest star.


video

THE ARREST


Six years earlier in 1957 I had met Rachel Ames when I cast her in a stage production of THE IMMORALIST at a small Hollywood theatre. Her stage name at that time was Judith Ames. Actually she was Rachel Foulger, the daughter of Dorothy Adams and Byron Foulger, two legendary character actors of the silver screen.


How did Rachel Foulger (a lovely name) become Judith Ames? Paramount Studios renamed her when she was one of a dozen young performers signed by the studio in the very early fifties for their Golden Circle, a group being groomed for stardom. After we did THE IMMORALIST, Rachel compromised; she kept the Ames but went back to the Rachel. We did three more plays together, but this was to be our only film collaboration. The following year Rachel joined the cast of GENERAL HOSPITAL, where she played Audrey and has the distinction of being the longest-running performer on that show. As a warm-up for that gig, meet her here playing a doctor’s wife.

video

The Rembrandt Motel exterior set was on the Universal backlot, but it had been renamed. It was originally the Bates Motel, the infamous setting for PSYCHO. And just up a hill to the left of the motel was the Bates house. Don’t think it wasn’t eerie having that gloomy structure hovering over us. And to complete the picture, my director of photography was John Russell, the man who had photographed that Hitchcock classic.


video

When Robert Osborne interviewed Mickey Rooney on TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES, he told him that Cary Grant, when asked once who was the best actor in Hollywood, responded without hesitation -- Mickey Rooney. It would be difficult, no impossible for me to refute this. The man could do everything. One of his entourage took me aside at the beginning of this venture and explained the best way to work with Mickey. Before each scene it was suggested I sketch in for Mickey what had come before and what we were about to do. I did this. Then Mickey would glance at the script, move into the set and proceed to bring those words on the page to life. To this day I still don’t know whether Mickey had prepared before or whether he was literally photographing the script as he scanned it.


video

The script by Jerome Ross was excellent -- scrupulously researched and beautifully dramatized. He had obviosly visited some narcotics division.


I in turn visited Synanon, an establishment at the beach, which at the time was a “half way house” for drug addicts. Those who came there could stay, but they had to be “clean” and they had to work to maintain the home. They cooked, they cleaned, they repaired. The rule of law was “tough love”. I was emotionally moved with the feeling of family I got from the residents. They were truly all there to help each other. I was even more impressed with the fact that if I had met, outside of Synanon, any one of the addicts with whom I came in contact, I would not have known they were addicts. I was determined to try to bring that sympathetic but documentary feel to the project ahead, in the casting and in the performances.


video

Ben Gazarra’s character, Nick Anderson, was a different kind of detective -- more intellectual, more sympathetic. Jerome Ross cleverly used the difference between Nick and Gregson, the head of the Narcotics division, to delineate the law’s approach to the problem of drug addicts.


video

Although this was a case where I very much respected the screenwriter and the script, there were still instances where I chose to stage just a little differently. I didn't veer from the writer's intent; I didn't change any dialog. Here is the script for the following sequence.


Incidentally Harry was played by Joe Mantell. Joe in 1955 had appeared as Ernest Borgnine’s best friend in the Oscar winning MARTY.

video

Mary Murphy made her first screen appearance in 1951 in an uncredited role in a Bob Hope film. Her last film appearance was in 1975. A decade before her appearance in this film as Mickey Rooney’s wife she had been Marlon Brando’s leading lady in THE WILD ONE. A part of another one of the eight million stories of Hollywood.


video

The joy for a director when working with someone like Mickey Rooney. I did as his assistant had advised; I would locate him with where we were in the script and tell him what the oncoming scene was. Then I just had to say: “Action”, ”Cut”, “Print”.


There was a very interesting story I read somewhere at this time. Mickey was doing a scene in a film television show where he had been shot. Camera rolled, action was called and Mickey proceded to emote. He stumbled about the room, struggling with his pain until after his final line of dialogue, he dropped to the floor, dead! The director called “Cut”. Then he said to Mickey, “That was wonderful. But you don’t die in this show.” Mickey’s surprised reply was, “I don’t?” I don’t know if that actually happened, but again, if there’s a difference between truth and the legend, print the legend.


video

The third day of filming was a Friday, and we were scheduled to shoot on location. The first location of the day was the skid row section of downtown Los Angeles. For reasons I will disclose in a moment, we never got to our second location. That location was rescheduled and filmed later. Here is that scene.


video

On Friday morning we arrived early on skid row so that we would be set up and ready to film as daylight broke. Mickey was immediately recognized by the homeless inhabitants of the street, and he was wonderfully accessible. He encouraged everyone who came up to him to get their act together. “You can do it,” he repeatedly assured them. He was minister, priest, rabbi rolled into one short stature. And when it came time for the camera to roll, he immediately reverted to being Hoagy Blair.


As we neared the end of the work in that area, I had planned a shot from the top of a six story building. I was up there with the camera crew, looking down at the street below. When the camera was set up, I called down to the assistant director that we were ready. But no one paid any attention to me. I called down again. Again I was ignored. Getting a little impatient I yelled, “Come on, let’s get this show on the road.” No response. “What’s the matter with you guys. Come on! Let’s do it!” One of the second assistant directors started to call something to me when I heard Eddie Dodds, the first assistant director, say, “Don’t say it.” I immediately ran down the six flights to the street. I was told President Kennedy had just been shot.


I remember sitting in the back seat of one of our cars, squeezed in between two of the crew; Mickey sat between two bodies in the front seat. And the car windows, which were open were filled with the faces of the poor souls of the street as we listened to the radio report of what had happened in Texas. I felt like I was in church.


There was just the shot from the top of the building and one additional shot of Mickey running to complete our work at this location. MIckey, devastated as he was, agreed to do them.


video

The rest of the day's location filming was abandoned. Mickey, having completed the final two shots went home. Universal may have been the only studio that didn’t suspend production for the day. Our company returned to the studio and spent the afternoon trying to film a sequence between Ben Gazarra and John Larch. It was a difficult afternoon.


I spent the weekend preparing my work for the following week. Sunday morning my mother phoned to ask me what I thought of the most recent event. I told her I had not had my television set on, I was too busy working on the script. She told me that Lee Oswald had just been shot. I immediately turned on my television, and spent the rest of the day dividing my time between the news on the screen and getting ready for filming on Monday. The Kennedy funeral was scheduled for Monday, but as far as I knew, I would be back at Universal rolling the camera. Ten o’clock that evening I had a call from the studio telling me the Monday filming was cancelled. They had been trying to reach me to notify me of this all day. But they didn’t realize I was a resident of Los Angeles; they thought I was a New Yorker and they said they had been calling hotels all over the area trying to find me. So Monday, like the rest of America I sat glued to my television watching the funeral, and I’m not ashamed to say I shed a great many tears.


Tuesday we returned to work. There were still six days of filming ahead of us. I always marvel at the ability of show people to bounce back. You know, the old “the show must go on” thing. And bounce back we all did.


The filming of the final sequence of THE ARREST section of our story was a wonder to behold. Again I oriented Mickey on where we were coming from and what we were about to do. He looked at the script. The taped confession part of the scene was a page and a half long. In one take Mickey did his closeup and it was more than three solid minutes of pure gold.


video


To be continued