Friday, May 21, 2010

AGE OF CONSENT - July 1963 (East Side/West Side)

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“On those occasions when the medium has taken a stab at limning the unhappy reality of what goes on in much of the world (e.g., East Side/West Side), the public has quickly tuned out.” These words were written in May 1968 by the sponsor of Julia, in an effort to justify the Diahann Carroll sitcom’s lightweight idealistic take on race relations and single parenthood in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. Four years after it was cancelled, East Side/West Side had come to exemplify within the television industry the kind of programming that was too dark, too controversial, too unglamorous, too depressing, or simply too good to catch on with a mainstream audience.


When it debuted as part of CBS’s 1963 fall lineup, however, East Side represented a milestone in the evolution of quality television. As the great anthologies of television’s Golden Age died off in the late nineteen-fifties and early sixties, independent producers like Fred Coe, David Susskind, and Herbert Brodkin quietly supplanted them with continuing dramatic series that offered equally challenging and intelligent content. East Side/West Side, Susskind’s chief contribution to this effort, proved the most challenging and confrontational of this wave of early TV dramas. Its unflinching commitment to addressing topical politics and real social issues did in fact manage to alienate its intended viewership in a big hurry.


Thus wrote Stephen Bowie in his fascinating behind-the-scenes reportage of the one year in the life of EAST SIDE/WEST SIDE, which you can read in its entirety on his Clasic TV History website at:

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


My involvement wiith EAST SIDE began in April, 1963. During my preparation period for COLOR SCHEMES LIKE NEVER BEFORE on NAKED CITY, one of my agents in the New York office took me to meet David Susskind. Now remember I was at this time still one of the new kids on the block; my entire filmography consisted of ten television films. But the recent assignments on ROUTE 66 and NAKED CITY certainly hadn’t harmed my growing reputation. I remember David describing his new series and then asking me if I thought I could handle the assignment. “Absolutely,” was my response. The agency then proceded to book me for four episodes on EAST SIDE to be filmed during the coming season. The first assignment would be in July, following an episode of THE NURSES, also being filmed in New York in June.


Scouting locations and casting were the first order of the day when I reported. Setting Carroll O’Connor to guest star was easy. Casting director, Alan Shayne, then paraded a long line of young players in to audition for the young lovers. I remember interviewing Mia Farrow for the role of Alice. Mia was lovely, like a fragile Dresden China doll. We decided on Penny Fuller for our grittier drama. And a young Robert Drivas to play Johnny. My friend Paul Bryar, of whom I have written about extensively, was in New York at the time. Allan was delighted to get a character actor with Paul’s Hollywood credits, and so we cast him to play Johnny’s father. At this time Paul and I had worked together on two stage productions; this would be our first screen collaboration.


Stephen’s history of EAST SIDE details a turbulent tale of a production where the drama behind the scenes totally overshadowed those stories being enacted before the camera. I’m not sure how early in the schedule AGE OF CONSENT fell, but that havoc hadn’t yet descended on the series as far as I was concerned. But one of the contributing factors to that havoc was scripts; and the script for AGE OF CONSENT, in two words, had problems. Now I was not shy about doing on-set revisions to scripts. This was frowned upon in most productions; but at this time George very early on made it a practice when starting a new scene to say, “Now what are we going to do about fixing this?” And the actors involved in the coming scene and I would sit down and do some on-set revising. Let me show you an example. Here is the script for the first scene between young Alice and her father, George Audette. (Start with Scene 19. And don't forget to tap to enlarge the page.)



And here is what we filmed.

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Paul Bryar came from a very theatrical family. His father was George Barrere, one of the leading flutist in the world; his mother was Michelette Burani, a distinguished French actress who appeared on Broadway and in Hollywood films. As was the custom of the time, Paul (which was his middle name; his first name was Gabriel and all his friends knew him as Gaby) anglicized his name of Barrere to Bryar. And the legacy has continued. His sons have all been involved in show business -- but this time retaining their original French names: Michel Barrere has worked in film in electrical and construction; Robert Barrere is a film editor; and the youngest, Paul Barrere is one of the founding members of the musical group, Little Feat. During the preparation period of AGE OF CONSENT, Gaby took me to the musical production of TOVARICH on Broadway which starred Vivien Leigh. Gaby’s brother, Jean Barrere, was the production stage manager for the musical.


What was it like working with George C. Scott? George was totally professional, but this show was filmed in six days; George worked five of those days. So you don’t really have time to form personal relationships in that short a time on sets that are that busy. He was charming, friendly, even funny. I have nothing but good memories of working with him. He was a giant talent! It would have been exciting to work with him on material that challenged that talent more.


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The script for AGE OF CONSENT really showed its debt to the writing of the live Golden Age of Television. Except for the opening sequence of the young lovers in the park, it could have been produced as a live drama of that period. That was true of all of the filmed television being produced in New York at that time. THE DEFENDERS and THE NURSES, both produced by Herbert Brodkin, also were interior show with little or no location shooting. I directed two episodes of THE NURSES without ever leaving the studio. That was not necessarily bad screenplay writing. But it did demand of the authors the talent to write meaty, confrontational material. Those same demands on the talents of actors provided them with the opportunity to exercise their craft.


Now let me show you another instance in the script where a major cut provided a more meaningful line of dialogue (half in the original script and half written on the set) by George Audette.



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AGE OF CONSENT provided me with a continuation of my association with director of photography, Jack Priestley, the cameraman on NAKED CITY. Jack was hired to bring the Emmy award talents for gritty, realistic photography that he had used on that recently cancelled series to the EAST SIDE.


On the first day that I staged a scene between Penny and Robert, I heard the camera operator mumble as he checked the setup through the camera lens, “She looks like his grandmother.” I, of course, did not agree with that opinion. Actually Drivas was two years older than Penny, and both young players went on to sterling careers. Drivas became a successful Broadway director and Penny played Eve in APPLAUSE, the Broadway musical based on the movie classic, ALL ABOUT EVE.


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In retrospect it is easy to see the flaw in selecting the role of a social worker for a series starring George C. Scott. George at that time and for the rest of his career was noted for his dominating explosive performances. In this series he was relegated to the background. When he did move into the foreground, it was usually as mediator.


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But if George was not using his explosive emotions before the camera, that didn’t mean they had disappeared. As Stephen Bowie relates in his Classic Television History website, the series aired in the fall to mixed critical reaction and low ratings. Jim Aubrey, the head of programming at CBS (and known as the “Cobra”) decided the program would have to be retooled to make it more accessible to a wide audience. And now let’s let Stephen’s fine account finish the story:


Aubrey’s attempt to remodel the show provoked perhaps the most famous explosion of George C. Scott’s legendary temper. David Susskind’s son, Andrew, recalled the incident:


My father got a call from Jim Aubrey saying, ‘I want you and

George C. Scott in my office now, right away.’ George had quit

smoking at this time, which only made him more ornery than

usual. As an oral substitute, he had taken up peeling and

eating apples. And he had a fairly impressive knife that he

used to carve an apple. So my father and Scott showed up in

Aubrey’s office, and Aubrey said, ‘You know, we get this

research, and it’s too depressing. I want these characters out

of Harlem and I want them on Park Avenue.’


Now Scott said nothing. What he did was, he sat there, and

he was carving the apple, and he would slice off a chunk of

it and [yank it off the knife and shove it into his mouth].

My father said, ‘Jim. They’re social workers. There are no

social workers on Park Avenue. Their problems are in Harlem,

or in Bed-Stuy, or in the rough, tough parts of the city. That’s

where the show is.’


Aubrey said, ‘I don’t give a shit. Get them out of Harlem. It’s

depressing. Nobody wants to see it.’


They went back and forth and [my father] said, ‘Jim, we can’t.

You know I promised George we would really do the series and

be true to it. It can’t be done. We’ll be a laughing stock if we

begin to do Park Avenue social worker stories.’


Back and forth and back and forth. And finally Scott, who’s been

carving the apple, takes the knife and jams it in Aubrey’s desk.

The knife is going, ‘Boioioioioioioinnnnnng,’ and he says, ‘The

show stays where it is. Let’s go, David’ And he left with the

knife vibrating in Aubrey’s desk. That I think, pretty much sums

up the relationship of that show with that network.


If George wasn’t given the opportunity to use his explosive emotions in front of the camera, there were still facets of his behavior he could use.


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Thirty year old Cicely Tyson was one of the people in Brock’s social worker office. She was hardly given a chance to use her extraordinary talents. In fact James Aubrey at the network (yes, the same one) offered George C. Scott a renewal of the series if he would replace her with a white secretary. Shameful! Cicely in 1963 was at the forefront of the “Black is Beautiful” movement. No more straightening of hair. She wore hers clipped short. And she was one of the shining examples that Black was beautiful! Six years later I would work with Cicely in slightly more challenging roles on the west coast. And she would go on to give some truly wonderful performances in ROOTS, SOUNDER and of course, as Jane Pittman.


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I wonder if this had been a story on an anthology whether the final verdict from the judge would have been the very dramatic sentencing of John to prison. But this was not an anthology. And the star of the series had gone to bat for the young man. Shouldn’t that have some effect on the final verdict?


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As I stated earlier, the turmoil that plagued the series later did not happen during this production. As booked, I returned to New York in the fall for another double header -- an episode of THE NURSES to be followed immediately by my second of four commitments to EAST SIDE/WEST SIDE. When I finished the assignment on THE NURSES, I was notified by my agents that EAST SIDE/WEST SIDE was behind schedule, and I wouldn’t be reporting for another week. As nice as it sounds to be granted a week’s vacation in New York, the plain truth is I just coudn’t financially afford it. Our salaries in those early days of television were not that flush, and that added week would have been without per diem payments. I asked my agents to cancal my next commitment to EAST SIDE. And while they were at it, I decided I wanted to be released from ALL of my commitments to the show. At this point I had directed eight productions on location (in New York and Texas) in the past nine months plus four more in Hollywood. I was tired. The agency was able to free me from the booking, and I returned to the west coast -- tired and without any employment in my future at that point. But things do have a way of working out for the best. Because I was suddenly available, it was not too long before I was booked to direct Mickey Rooney in an episode of ARREST AND TRIAL, an experience I am very grateful I didn’t have to miss.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

THE NIGHT OF THE BIG BLAST - May 1966 (The Wild Wild West)

Only three months had passed from the time I finished THE NIGHT OF THE DRUID’S BLOOD and when I reported to do THE NIGHT OF THE BIG BLAST. For my part I had worked in another (my third) episode of the new Quinn Martin series, THE FBI, but much more had happened out in THE WILD WILD WEST.


Gene Coon had left and former executive producer Michael Garrison was now the producer. As you will see in a moment his credit now read CREATED and Produced by Michael Garrison.


THE WILD WILD WEST had gone to color, another in the final admissions of defeat by CBS. Earlier NBC and CBS had conflicting color systems vying for approval by the FCC. NBC’s electronic system won. But for some time there were not enough color sets in the country to warrant the added expense of filming series in color. NBC of course was most anxious to further their cause, so they began programming series in color earlier than the other networks to encourage America to buy color sets (which they also produced under their RCA label). There was one week (and I’m afraid I don’t remember in which season it occurred) when NBC’s entire evening schedule was in color. The NBC series that were still filming in black and white shot one show in color to be shown during this special week. By 1966 it was inevitable that color was the future, so CBS joined the parade.


To save money during those early years of filming in color, not all of the daily rushes would be printed in color. For each sequence only one setup would be printed in color (it was usually the master shot for the scene). The rest of the takes for that sequence would be printed in black and white. Therefore the work print of the film would bounce back and forth from color master to black and white closeups. It wasn’t until the final answer print that we got to see the entire film in color. Each day a batch of film strips would be delivered to the director of photography from the lab. These film strips were 5 or 6 inches in length and there would be one strip for each setup filmed the previous day. The purpose of this delivery was so the director of photography could view those setups in color for his approval.


So hop on your horses and let’s travel west!

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Any similarity between this sequence and the lab scenes in FRANKENSTEIN was purely intentional.


I remember Bob Conrad saying, right after the shot of his body twitching on the gurney, “I studied acting at Northwestern University for this?”


There was a change made in the opening billboard for the show beyond adding color. Here’s the black and white billboard from Season One. Pay attention to the action between the Cowboy and the Dance Hall Lady.


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And now another look at the color version of the Second Season.


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In the black and white version she taps him with her parasol, and then as she attemlpts to stab him in the back he kisses her passionately, tips his hat and walks off as she swoons against a post. In the color version she knocks his hat off with her parasol, and as she attempts to stab him in the back he kisses her passionately, then he socks her to the ground as he picks up his hat and walks off. Now I wonder what genius at the network requested that improvement.


(A couple of days after publishing this posting I viewed some material at the beginning of THE WILD WILD WEST DVD for the first season. There was some information concerning the opening billboards that is too good to ignore. The series was originally called THE WILD WEST. The black and white billboard included the action later used in the color billboard. At the time the decision was made to rename the series THE WILD WILD WEST, it must have been decided the action of striking the girl to the ground was TOO violent and the more subdued action of her merely swooning was substituted. Now I wonder if Michael Garrison, who created the series, was the one to have overseen the more violent action in that first billboard. And since Michael Garrison was back at the helm at the end of the first season when the show converted to color, if he was the one who reestablished that violent sock in the new color billboard.)


The lab scene was the initial sequence shot on our first day of filming. The crew reported at the usual 7:30 am; filming was scheduled to begin at 8:00 am. Five minutes before 8, Ida Lupino reported to the set, in costume and makeup, ready to film. At 8:25 am our Miklos, MIchael McCloud, arrived; at 8:50 am Robert Conrad showed up and we were able to start filming. Allthough these late arrivals were not standard practice throughout the television industry, they also were not sole occurrences. And I think it was symptomatic of the change in Hollywood from the days of the studio system to the then present day of television production. A few years later David Frost interviewed the four stars of the then smash Broadway musical, FOLLIES. Helen O’Connell, who was interviewed first, was ecstatic in her praise of Alexis Smith, with the emphasis being on Alexis’ professionalism. Later when Miss Smith arrived on the stage, David Frost told her of O’Connell’s words. Alexis then told a story. She was very young, recently arrived at stardom, when she was cast opposite Clark Gable in a film. One morning with an 8:00 am shooting call, Alexis was not on the set; she was still in the makeup department. On the set Clark Gable looked at his watch, noted the time and announced to the director and crew, “Thank you, gentlemen. I’ll see you tomorrow.” And he left. Alexis said she was never late for a set call again.


There was a professionalism about the actors of that earlier time that I am sure was a result of the studio system. Young prospective talent was sought by studio talent scouts and put under a seven year contract -- with option periods every three months. The threat of having ones option dropped was sufficient to make the actor toe the line. That and the example set by the already established stars at the studio who had had that professionalism drilled into them on their way to the top. But studios and production companies, in the age of television were at a disadvantage. Once an actor was established as a bona fide star of a successful network series, they seemed to hold the stronger hand. If the studio fired Vince Edwards, how does BEN CASEY continue on the air? Or Peter Falk on COLUMBO? Or Robert Blake on BARETTA? It was a different world. I know of a show (which shall remain nameless) where the producer challenged one of the show’s stars. Guess who was the one dismissed! I remember the stunned look on the face of the show’s story editor when he came into the office of the production manager (I was present) and announced, “I’ve just been made the producer.”

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The following morning I invited Ida to come view the dailies of the first day’s work. She graciously declined, telling me that she could not bear to watch herself on the screen. Then she told me of the incident the year she won the New York Film Critics Award as Best Actress of the Year for her performance in THE HARD WAY. She and her mother were in New York and her mother said, “This is ridiculous. You’ve just won this award; you’re great in the film. You are going to go see it.” So Ida and her mother traipsed down to the Broadway theatre where the film was playing. Ida said she lasted about fifteen minutes; then she told her mother she would meet her in the drug store across the street. She left the theatre and drank coffee for the next couple of hours. She had not been able to bear watching herself on that silver screen, even in an award-winning performance.


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I filmed the fight sequence with two cameras. I tried to add the second camera whenever possible as a time-saving procedure. This was a fairly simple sequence. Conrad did his own stunt work, so it was just a matter of Bob and the three stuntmen working out the routine and then doing it. With the two cameras we only had to do the sequence once. Later sequences, involving Ross, Ida and Michael McCloud, were a little more complicated.


Ross Martin was very good for THE WILD WILD WEST and THE WILD WILD WEST was very good for Ross Martin. On the one hand he was the comedy relief, the inept partner of the show’s hero, sort of a handsome Chill Wills. But his wide range as an actor proved invaluable for Ross to assume many, various identities. In this episode he had the rare chance to be the romantic hero, since Jim West has allegedly been eliminated from the story.

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I think the casting for this episode was outstanding, reminiscent for me of the way PLAYHOUSE 90 was cast. Get as many star names as possible. I was one of the production supervisors on PLAYHOUSE, and one of my chores was to break down the scripts for casting director, Ethel Winant. Depending on the size of the role, I would chart when each character should report to the studio. Many was the time I would have a minor character coming in for the final few days of rehearsal, and Ethel would cast a star name and that actor would report on the first day. I remember that happening with Peter Lorre being cast to fill what was basically a minor role. All it took was a lot of imagination on Ethel’s part and the willingness of CBS to cough up the money.


In addition to Ida Lupino, Ross’ paramour for the show was Mala Powers, the lovely actress who had been Roxanne to Jose Ferrer’s CYRANO. Ida and Mala were close friends; Mala had appeared in the feature film, OUTRAGEOUS, that Ida directed. Unfortunately the two did not have any scenes together.


And then there was Patsy Kelly. What an original. Patsy had been in films at this point for thirty-five years, having come to Hollywood in 1931. Five years after this gig she would win a Tony on Broadway for her featured role in NO, NO NANETTE, the musical that brought Ruby Keeler back to the Great White Way. There is no other way to say it. They just don’t make them like that any more.


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Old comedy films taught me a valuable lesson: comedy should be played in masters and two shots, not closeups.


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When directing someone like Ida Lupino, you really don’t have to do much more than block in the action. But I couldn’t resist offering one suggestion. I thought Dr. Faustina, beyond her joy at the suitability of this corpse for the project she is about to do, she might also get an appreciative thrill as she feels his torso. Ida was delighted.


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Ross was not the stunt man that Bob Conrad was. So the following dueling sequence had to be filmed taking that into consideration. The first musketeer was Jerry Sommers, an actor-stuntman-fencer. The other two musketeers were stuntmen. And a fourth stuntman was a double (and I think a very good photo double) for Ross. The script called for only one of the musketeers to be eliminated on the balcony. Two musketeers fenced Artemus into the ballroom. I decided to eliminate the second musketeer on the balcony so that the final battle was just Artemus against one musketeer.


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I considered Ida Lupino one of the giants of the profession. Born in England to a show business family, she came to the United States at the age of sixteen and was signed to a contract by Paramount Pictures. At one point I believe she was set to star in their all star production of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, but that assignment did not happen. Hollywood lore has it that she donned the required wardrobe and stormed into William Wellman’s office and forced him to watch her perform a scene from his upcoming project, THE LIGHT THAT FAILED. She got the part and she was on her way. Signed by Warner Bros. she was the backup to their top woman star, Bette Davis. In fact she referred to herself as the poor man’s Bette Davis. Later she moved behind the cameras and became the only woman director in Hollywood, starting in the late forties and continuing for two decades. (Dorothy Arzner had been the sole woman behind the camera in the thirties, directing her last film in 1943). At this point Ida referred to herself as the poor man’s Don Siegel. She really was a terrific lady and I considered it an honor to have been able to work with her.


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Have you been thinking that, considering Robert Conrad’s behavior, CBS was taking a stand and was using this script as a way to eliminate the character of James West, that the series was about to become THE WILD WILD GORDON?


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The fight scene, unlike the dueling sequence at the ball, required MANY stunt doubles (for Dr. Faustina, Miklos, Artemus and the robot Artemus). Only Conrad didn’t have to be doubled. And I have to acknowledge the tremendous contribution to this sequence, in fact to all of the sequences in the lab, in fact to all of the sets for this production, of art director, Al Heschong.


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Michael Garrison wanted me to stay on and direct more episodes of THE WILD WILD WEST. I was not available; I had signed a contract with Quinn Martin Productions for the 1966-67 season for multiple assignments on THE FBI. MIchael pleaded with me. He said Sammy Davis Jr. was signed to guest star and I could have that assignment. I repeated that I was already contractually obligated. THE NIGHT OF THE BIG BLAST was my last THE WILD WILD WEST. And three months later Michael Garrison died after a fall in his home.



Monday, May 10, 2010

THE NIGHT OF THE DRUID’S BLOOD - February 1966 (The Wild Wild West)

Filmed television in the 1960’s sometimes made for strange bedfellows. How else to explain my being booked to direct an episode of THE WILD WILD WEST. My resume at the time was loaded with films about neurotic, suffering people. Lots of angst. I had been tagged in a great many circles as being a “sensitive” director. Let me explain that in Hollywood that was not a compliment. And the script I was handed was for a film that Robert Conrad in his commentary on the released DVD album for the first season states, “This is definitely one of the more bizarre episodes of THE WILD WILD WEST.” I personally think my being hired was due to the Wild Wild Michael Garrison. I am not a television historian. What I report is what I knew from the scuttlebutt of the time. Michael Garrison had created and sold THE WILD WILD WEST to CBS. I am a little vague about whether he started off producing the series and was removed from the project; or whether, at the onset of production, he was denied the right to produce it. But late in that first season he managed to get himself installed to take charge as executive producer. Michael Garrison was an individual, a renaissance man; he was not cut from the same bolt as most producers in Hollywood.


This was my introduction to the great Gene Coon, producer of the series and writer extraordinaire. (I’ve already extolled the talents of Gene in my postings on STAR TREK.) It was on this series that Gene told me that because of the uniqueness of the series, he rewrote most of the scripts; that he used the writer’s first draft submission as a frame for him to build on. So let’s take a gander at his work; let’s take off on this bizarre adventure.

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Professor Robey was acted by Don Beddoe. I did not realize at the time the extent of his experience. He was a true Hollywood veteran. At this time he had been in films for almost thirty years. He was a member of that vast army of talented performers I have spoken of who never achieved stardom, but whose face was recognizable because of the frequency of his appearances on the screen. With the advent of television he would continue to perform for almost two more decades. He died in 1991, just a half a year shy of his one hundredth birthday.


In the next clip Simon Scott was part of the new breed of Hollywood hopefuls, never a star but a formidable presence for many years on television and theatre screens. I had known Danny (his real name was Danny Simon) since 1955 when I did the lighting for a production of Maxwell Anderson’s SATURDAY’S CHILDREN at the Players Ring Theatre in Hollywood. Danny starred in the production. He was a superb actor and one I used very frequently in the following two decades.

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The first day of filming went swimmingly. Almost ten pages completed right on schedule. It was a double reunion for me. The director of photography was Ted Voigtlander, who had filled in for Harkey Smith four years before on an episode of DR. KILDARE. And the art director for the series was Al Heschong, one of the alternating art directors those many years before on PLAYHOUSE 90. We did a half day of exteriors on the lot filming day for night and then a long sequence on one of the stages. The excitement and fun began halfway through the second day with the arrival of Don Rickles to play our mad magician. Those final four and a half days seemed more like a session in a Las Vegas showroom than a film set. Don was always on, with his incredibly sharp wit and acute skills of observation. It seemed almost no one was safe. Robert Conrad was not the tallest creature on the planet, but according to Rickles he barely reached the height of Billy Barty. Rickles was merciless. -- but funny. He had us all in stitches except when the cameras were rolling.


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Rickles between shots was the funnyman in charge, but when it came time to perform for the camera, he was fanatically serious about his work.


This was my introduction to the great Rhys Williams, our Dr, Tristam. A few months later he would guest star in THE ASSASSIN, my favorite episode of THE FBI (see the archives to the right for that posting). And the following year he would guest star for me in the award winning THE TRAIN on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (again you can check the archives to the right).


That first day’s exterior filming was on the CBS Studio Center lot in Studio City. And we filmed it day for night, which under some circumstance I find not only totally acceptable but preferable. If you have any light sources visible (street lamps, lit building windows) night for night is very effective. But if there is to be no light source other than moonlight, I prefer day for night.


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I liked the way acts ended with the freeze frame that moved into a corner of the opening THE WILD WILD WEST billboard cartoon drawing.


The next sequence is an illustration of some fine detailed descriptive writing by Gene Coon. Let me show you the script for the sequence. (Again you can enlarge each page by tapping on it. To return click the black arrow in the upper left hand corner.)



Original scripts were printed on white paper. Revised pages were printed on colored paper with the revised date at the top of the page.


And now a look at how that was converted to film.

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I remember that Michael Garrison was very impressed and vocal in his appreciation for the silo sequence. He kept saying, “That long sequence and with no dialogue.”


Conrad did all of his own stunt work. However he did not make that high leap from the pail to the girder overhead. We filmed him hanging from the girder and then dropping. In the editing room we reversed the film.


And I must point out the enormous contribution to this sequence by the fine photography of Teddy Voigtlander and the art direction of Al Heschong. Al really had his work cut out for him on this series. Unlike most series, there was only one standing set, the train that was home for James West and Artemus. It was not a large set and not many sequences were assigned to it. But that set, like all of Al’s work, was beautifully designed visually and gave the director fine opportunities for staging.

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Have you noticed how literate this script is? So far there has been very little action -- a lot of dialogue, but good dialogue. Thank you, Gene Coon.


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I would hate to count the number of real graveyards I worked in during my career. This graveyard was created by Al Heschong on Stage 12 of CBS Studio Center. This studio incidentally was the old Republic Studio where John Wayne (before he became a superstar) was under contract in the thirties, and where Vera Hruba Ralston tried to duplicate on ice the stardom achieved by Olympic champion Sonja Henie at Twentieth Century Fox. She didn’t!


The film breakup in the next clip is not your computer’s fault; it’s due to the age of my copy of the show.


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Bob Conrad did all of his own stunt work in that sequence, in fact in all sequences. But we had a stunt double for Don Rickles. Don did do the closer angle shots, and I remember that he was not as adept physically as he was mentally. I especially remember the angle where he climbed into the chest and closed the lid. That bit of business as he did it, take after take, was almost as funny as some of his insulting dialogue. But we finally got it.


Did I say there hadn’t been any action? But good scripts shoud build. Sequences should get more exciting as the story moves along. And that’s what Gene Coon’s script did. Now let’s see how the action in that last sequence is topped by what follows.


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Since I told you that Rhys Williams and I worked together again in a few months, I obviously did not burn him up in this scene. The burning coat was added in post production in the lab.


THE NIGHT OF THE DRUID’S BLOOD was the last black and white film I would direct.


THE WILD WILD WEST was set to return for its second season and in color. I was set to return and again I was going to have to deal with a mad scientist. But this time a much prettier one -- Ida Lupino. Next on RALPH’S TREK.