An Apple A Day

Filmed July 1965

I can’t be totally positive, I’m just 99% sure that THE FUGITIVE was the only Quinn Martin series that used a climactic scene from late in the show for its teaser.

Oddly, this was a rare episode that had an opening sequence that, with some minor tweaking and followed by THE FUGITIVE billboard, would have been a strong teaser, I think more powerful than the one that was used.

It was early in the 1965-66 season and I returned to the Goldwyn lot for the first of two more  commitments to THE FUGITIVE. The script, AN APPLE A DAY, was a return for me to the subject of quack medicine, a subject I had dealt with two years earlier on THE NURSES. When I read it, I was disappointed. I felt the script had interesting characters  but was bland, lacking the dark elements of danger that the first two episodes I directed had had, but that was the luck of the draw in episodic television and so I went to work on it. Although the setting for the show was Colorado, we were able to film it in southern California in Topanga Canyon, an area at the west end of the San Fernando Valley.

This was the first production in which I directed Amzie Strickland (Mrs. Crandall), one of my closest friends. She and I arrived in Los Angeles at almost the same time in the fall of 1954. I met her in January, 1955, when I was in rehearsal for MY THREE ANGELS at the Players Ring Theatre. She and Claudia Bryar, who was in that production, had been schoolmates in Oklahoma, and Amzie came to the Players Ring that day to audition for their following production of PICNIC. She, the Bryars and I lunched at the famous Barney’s Beanery just down the street from the theatre. It had been interesting to observe Amzie’s development as an actress. While Claudia left Oklahoma to travel west and work in theatre and film in Hollywood, Amzie had traveled to New York, where she had a successful career acting in radio. Amzie got the part of Rosemary that she auditioned for in PICNIC and I remember being disappointed in her performance when I saw it. It was broad and technical and I felt unbelievable. One summer in the late fifties she and I both enrolled in Sandy Meisner’s acting seminar, she as a participating actress, I as an observing director. And in the intervening decade Amzie had made many adjustment in her acting as she adapted to performing before the camera.

Being a transplanted New Yorker, Amzie didn’t know how to drive, and we all know you cannot survive in Los Angeles without being able to drive. So a friend from her days on the east coast, writer Richard Breen, graciously agreed to teach her. And he did. Amzie bought a car and came the day when she took her test for her driver’s license. When she finished the test, she hopped in her car and sped over to Breen’s home, where she crashed through the fence surrounding his house. He, hearing the noise of the collision, came rushing out of his house to hear Amzie proudly proclaim, “Dick, I PASSED THE TEST.”

By this time I recognized that directing THE FUGITIVE combined filming exciting locations as I had done on Bert Leonard’s ROUTE 66 with filming studio sets created to the high production standards of MGM. The interior of the ground floor of the Adams’ house was an example. At any other studio I’m sure there would have been a set for the living room with a small foyer and a separate set for Josephus’ medical office. The set provided for me was one large connected set — the entrance area with a large stairway to the second floor, then the large living room with a fireplace and connected to that was the outer and inner rooms of the office where patients were seen. That high quality existed in all Quinn’s productions. That was what he demanded.

Earlier in the month of July, Kim Darby had her eighteenth birthday. This was the first time she did not need an adult accompanying her to the set. Two years before she had had her first film assignments. A mere four years later she would appear opposite John Wayne in his Oscar-winning performance in TRUE GRIT.

Sheree North was such a good actress, an underrated actress. She was under contract to 20th Century Fox in the fifties, mainly as the studio’s backup for their recalcitrant Marilyn Monroe. Later in television she was given the chance to reveal the breadth of her talent. At the time we did this film, she had a slight quivering reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn’s affliction. I don’t remember whether she and I discussed it; but I do remember I was very careful in checking to be sure that no take was infected by it. There were takes where the shaking would appear and I would look at her knowingly and say, “Let’s do it again, Sheree.” And she did. What a pro. As written I considered her role the standard cliche film femme fatale. Sheree avoided playing just the sexuality of Marianne; she implied it with a fine sense of teasing humor.

We filmed the exterior of Josephus Adams’ residence at Nine Pines, the Bob Hope Ranch in Topanga Canyon. It was obviously called Nine Pines because there were nine tall pine tress on the property. And we chose it as our location not only for its beautiful scenic values, but it was  a honey-producing establishment with all of its honey-making equipment available for us to use in our filming.

My first contact with Arthur O’Connell was thirteen years prior to this in 1952 when I had my first professional job as assistant director at the Chevy Chase Summer Theatre in Wheeling, Illinois. The very first production was CHARLEY’S AUNT starring Robert Q. Lewis. Now if one were to ask, “Who is Robert Q. Lewis?” I would understand. But I don’t think there would be any such question regarding the supporting cast for that production: Arthur O’Connell, Tom Poston and Tom Bosley.

Real bees were on the combs in the scenes we filmed. Between takes once, when Kim had taken off her gloves, a bee landed on her finger. She got slightly excited, I might even say a bit hysterical, but the bee was encouraged to fly away before doing any damage.

The bees did prove to have an even more disturbing presence. A major plus to working for the QM production company were the meals served while filming on location. There were several catering services in Hollywood, but hands down the best was Millie’s. And QM had her sewed up for all of his companies when they filmed away from the studio. She always had a variety of entrees, several salads and fantastic desserts, usually home made pies to die for. The problem? While shooting at the Hope Ranch the bees seemed to feel they had an equal right to dine. They left their combs and descended on the long tables set up for cast and crew and it was a constant battle between hungry humans and buzzing bees as to who had the right to the food.

As we rehearsed this scene, Amzie said to David, “Dr. Kimble, how about a little mouth to mouth resuscitation?”

Actor Murray Hamilton stopped by the set one day to visit Arthur O’Connell. That was not an unusual occurrence. Sets had many drop by visitors. And I was a fan of Hamilton’s, having seen him many years before when he appeared in the national company of THE MOON IS BLUE when it played in Chicago. But I have to say his visit that day annoyed me; it proved to be very distracting. Rehearsals for setups were difficult and the pair’s ongoing bantering disturbed the job at hand. Why do I bring this up? Am I repeating the reactions of Quinn Martin when he found fault with Paul Bryar’s behavior on the set of THE UNTOUCHABLES. No, that is not my intent. I tell it to bring out a point. When the camera finally rolled, Arthur’s performance showed no evidence of what had preceded. I marvel at the differences in how actors approach their task. Many like Beulah Bondi stay in character from the moment they arrive on the set until their departure at the end of the day. Others like Arthur can turn it on in an instant.

I am aware now that a key scene was missing from this script. But I also realize the reason for the script going where it went. After all Richard Kimble was the main character in the drama and his return to the Adams’ house later had to be explained. The result was two talky scenes of exposition (which I’m not including in clips) between Kimble, first with a patient of Josephus and then with the county coroner. The scene not written or filmed, both for time and I’m sure budgetary reasons, was the funeral service where Sharon broke down emotionally as described by Marianne when they returned home.

As I’ve written, Quinn had a standing rule that all sequences in moving vehicles must be filmed in process. I knew that I wanted a shot from inside the cab of the truck, shooting across Kimble to see the police car pulling up beside him. The simplest and cheapest way to do that was to film it live. Since there was no dialogue in the scene, I managed to arrange to do the entire sequence live. I liked it and no one complained.

In my first two outings on THE FUGITIVE, the final shot in the epilog of Kimble continuing his escape from the law had been one tacked on to a scene involving other characters in the episode. In one case that final shot was not even the one that I filmed; it was something out of stock footage.

This time Kimble was involved in the epilog and I filmed his final exit. It was a nice feeling. I felt I had a hand in aiding this poor fugitive.

The journey continues

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5 Responses to An Apple A Day

  1. John Dayton says:

    What a wonderful cast. I often think of Amzie, I’ve not visited with her since your retirement Ralph. Kate (Hepburn’s) condition was a familial essential tremor inherited from her paternal grandfather Reverend Sewell Snowden Hepburn, not Parkinsons as is often reported (I should know, she was my friend, and I produced her last 3 television movies) – it was thoughtful and kind of you to take the time to accomodate Sheree’s condition Ralph – but I heard via Jerry Finnerman that even if it meant taking the blame for falling a little behind, you placed the quality of the production and the concern for your actors above your own. I was saddened to see we lost Jerry in April – what a brilliant talent.

  2. GMJ says:

    Re: Opening show teasers

    Who was usually responsible in deciding which footage to use for teasers. The producers? ABC?

    I’m looking forward to reading about your other projects.

  3. Ralph says:

    When the teaser was a scene selected from later in the show, the producer and the film editor were the ones who did it. The network involvement in a show pretty much stopped after they approved the shooting script. Unless of course they later found some fault with the final cut submitted for their approval.

  4. John B. says:

    I saw An Apple A Day this past Sunday and found it moderately suspenseful, but its central theme, that mainstream medicine is superior to alternative medicine of any kind, that phrases like “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” are old hat, that honey cures nothing, that vitamins and botanicals are of little or no use against disease, might have been underwritten by the AMA of that time.

    The way Richard Kimble behaved was rude. I don’t think he even thanked the kindly doctor for the help and hospitality he received. He should have got down on his knees and thanked God to have found such a kind person so willing to look after him, take him in, offer him food and shelter. Instead, Kimble pulls rank every chance he gets. His points were well taken but he might have been more humble, more receptive to new ideas. Indeed, a honey based cough medicine is no cure for congestive heart failure, yet while Dr. Adams didn’t rate as a real physician by modern standards, there WAS another side to his story. We got a little of it from some of his patients, but it wasn’t nearly enough for me.

    None of this was, of course, the fault of director Senensky. The acting was fine. David Janssen was, as usual, credible when he moved into doctor mode, as he did often in this episode. Of the supporting players, I liked Arthur O’Connell’s performance the best. He played a gentle soul who knew that he was in over his head, would have been wiser, as Kimble would have been, to have looked at the other side of the coin (as each could have benefited from the knowledge of the other, though admittedly this would have been outside the scope of this particular series). Kim Darby was fine in her part, and cuter than I remember her from later on (if that makes any sense!). Sheree North, on the other hand, seemed to get better with age for a while there. She was a gorgeous and talented woman, sexy as hell, well into middle age, was still a babe as late as Charley Varrick.

    Nowadays alternative,–or as many now prefer to call it, complementary–medicine, has moved into the mainstream. I’ve used herbs, vitamins and food for healing with great success, don’t need NSAIDs thans to the addition of ginger and curcumin to my diet. They even have a complementary medical doctor at the largely Harvard run Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I’ve met with him. Dr. David Rosenfeld is a nice man, and a first rate doctor. I think he’d be amused by An Apple A Day, as in “we’ve come a long way, baby”.

  5. Phil says:

    Your story about Amzie’s driving test could be used for a sitcom!

    An inconsistency has occurred to me. Let’s assume the actors playing Josephus and Marianne are about the same ages as the characters they play (which I admit rarely happens in Hollywood!). That makes Josephus 56 and Marianne 32 in 1964. Josephus got his natural medicine “diploma” at age 30 in 1938 (4th video), and we later learn that Marianne was the driving force behind it…except she was only 6 at the time!

    The 7th video has the escalating argument between Kimble and Sharon in the bee field. I don’t like how Kim Darby did this scene. She has an attractive smile, but it bugged me to see it when she describes her father’s death in the hospital…and I don’t want to see it when she asks Kimble why he didn’t just die out on the roadside. Sorry!

    Bill Quinn played the county coroner in one of the scenes you did not post here. That guy was in everything!

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