Charles Wickham’s House


For a change the weather forecaster delivered what he had predicted, and on our third day of filming, Thursday, April 4, the rains came. The brutal fact that the contretemps of permission to film at the lake was not resolved had little to do with our change in plans. The rains were an even more forceful reason for us to assemble that morning at our only cover set, my friend Dino’s house. That location had been an easy one to select. I knew the house well, having been in and out of it many times in the past two decades. I had watched the addition of a family room that Dino and his partner, Richard (now deceased) had added. It was a room with a floor-to-ceiling bookcase that could have been designed for the home of our Charles Wickham.


Five telephone calls! When I read Marlyn’s script, it brought back memories. Fifty years before in April, 1963, I had directed COLOR SCHEMES LIKE NEVER BEFORE, an episode of NAKED CITY, that had a telephone call that really concerned me. It was long and much more involved than the telephone calls I had staged for DR. KILDARE. I knew I had to do more than just photograph two close-ups of people holding a phone to their ear. I also planned ample coverage, because I was sure the scene would be shortened later in the editing room.

When COLOR SCHEMES aired, nothing had been eliminated.

But here I was faced with FIVE telephone calls! Almost five and a half pages of the first seventeen and a half pages of the script, just under a third of those pages, had the two principals in a developing love story miles apart and communicating holding that gadget to their ear.

Speaking of telephones that was the way Maxwell Caulfield and I first met. Once he had been cast, his manager, Budd Moss, gave me his phone number, and I called him. In our discussion of the script and his role, Maxwell said he felt there should be a sense of danger, an aura of evil about Charles Wickham. I agreed and likened this role to the one played by Joseph Cotton in Alfred Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT, a role coincidentally named Uncle Charlie. But I added that that aspect of the role should not be his responsibility. He must provide the charm; it would be up to me to create the evil, and I knew exactly how I wanted to achieve that. It would start with how I staged Maxwell’s first phone call in the story. For that I was going to need a large wingtip leather chair. In the script all of Charles’ telephone calls were in his den, but the room we had chosen at Dino’s for the den didn’t have a wingtip leather chair. I set off and explored the rest of the house. In one of the bedrooms I found a blue leather wingtip chair, but to move it to the room we had selected for our den entailed carrying it (and it was large and heavy) down a narrow winding stairway. To film it showing the bedroom where it sat was also not a possibility. The room, charming as it was, just didn’t look like it belonged in Charles Wickham’s house.


We solved the problem by pulling the chair into the middle of the room and confined the shot to close on the chair and Maxwell, never showing any part of the room.

Since we were only filming Maxwell’s part of the phone conversations that day, Marlyn was not on call to work. But being the trouper that she is, and also the film’s producer, she was there the entire day playing her end of the phone scenes off-camera with Maxwell.

That still left four more phone calls to film in the den. Director of photography Brandon Fraley (who had earlier filmed two promos with Marllyn in that room for her website) had requested, and I agreed that we film only the part of the room with the tall bookcase. I didn’t want to film so many scenes with the same background. One of the scenes in the film had Marlyn’s character receiving a phone call in her home while she sat up in bed needlepointing. The other bedroom in Dino’s house was perfect for Charles Wickham …


… and so I moved his end of that conversation to his bedroom.

Knowing how to keep a’goin’ when strange things happen, like losing your location at the last second is a challenge … (but) there’s always a way, and sometimes it works out even better!

John Dayton left that COMMENT on The Second Day Contretemps. And he was so right. Our third day ended early. It had been an easy and uneventful day, which actually was a blessing after the first two hectic days we had put in at the Big Sur Lighthouse, Garripata Beach and the cabin. And tomorrow was going to be another tough one, filming the dramatic opening and closing sequences of our story, next as …

The journey continues

As usual THE RIGHT REGRETS’  photographs
and  film clips are by
David Potigian
owner of GALLERY SUR in Carmel, CA.
David was with us as set photographer for
eight of our nine days of filming.
He shot close to 1,500 stills (all candid),
plus many video clips.


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2 Responses to Charles Wickham’s House

  1. maxwell caulfield says:

    Wonderful re-living the experience of our collaboration maestro. I’m hooked! MaXwell

    • Ralph says:

      You ain’t seen nothing yet. Tomorrow our edited copy goes to New York for music scoring, while our two editors go to work here on the audio tracks and the colorization of the visual. I am so proud of the performances of the five of you.

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