Dynasty: Part I

FILMED April-November 1980

170 days after we wrapped production at the Newhall Airport on the unfinished two-hour movie/pilot, OIL, I was back at Filoli, filming scenes at the entrance of the mansion. I considered it a resumption of the OIL production, but so many changes had been made, was it really resuming production? The name of the now three-hour movie/pilot had been changed to DYNASTY. John Forsythe had replaced George Peppard in the role of Blake Carrington, and most importantly there was a major shift of focus in the script. The script for OIL had opened in an unnamed Arabic country with Matthew Blaisdell and a group of American oil field crew, in front of a screaming angry crowd, being escorted to a plane that will take them out of the country. The description of Matthew clearly presents him as being the hero of the film …



DYNASTY opened differently.

It was a change, I thought, influenced by the selection of Filoli to portray what proved to be another character in the drama, the Carrington mansion and estate. The oil fields and Matthew Blaisdel were still involved – they had just dropped down from the top spot. So I wasn’t really resuming production on the film — OIL. I was beginning production on a new film — DYNASTY!

The strength of the Shapiro script was the time it took to introduce in depth each of the major characters, as their complex interrelationships were revealed. I was very familiar with Linda Evans’ working class Krystle Jennings. She was the 1980’s version of Joan Crawford’s shopgirls of the 1930’s (i.e. 1931’s POSSESSED, SADIE MCKEE, MANNEQUIN). She wasn’t as clawing, she didn’t have their driving ambition to climb up the social ladder, she was a little fearful of how she would adapt to life in the upper strata, and she was genuinely concerned with the difference opulent wealth was going to make in her life.

The party was filmed at the 20th Century Fox studio in the spring. The POV shot of John Forsythe in the car was filmed in October in front of one of the administration buildings on the lot with the camera shooting down through a window in one of the offices.

After the film was completed, it was decided an added sequence was needed to precede the scene of Matthew Blaisdel leaving the Middle East. In earlier times the producers could have assigned any director to direct, but the Director’s Bill of Rights had changed that. The original director of the film, if he was available, had to be hired. As it turned out, I wasn’t available. I had moved over to CBS Studio Center in Studio City, where I was in preproduction for a Norman Rosemont pilot. Don Medford, who was directing an episode of the by then in production DYNASTY series, was assigned to direct the scene.

I thought Don’s direction of the scene was admirable. I did not feel that way about the scene itself. I was not sorry I hadn’t directed it. I thought it was gratuitous violence added to satisfy the network’s usual request for more action, and that it detracted from and trivialized the most important point of the scene – Matthew’s emotional reaction seeing the senseless, destructive burning of the oil wells.

DYNASTY was the fourth time I directed Peter Mark Richman (Andrew Laird). I first saw him when as Mark Richman he starred in the national touring company of A HATFUL OF RAIN.

When I view DYNASTY today, it is disturbing that thirty-four years later, the energy problems discussed in the film are still with us.

I made a major change in the staging and filming of the sequence when Blake, returning home, meets his daughter, Fallon, recently returned from Europe. In the version shot in April I had Fallon ride up on her horse to Blake’s limo, and their dialogue was exchanged with Blake in the limo and Fallon on horseback. Restaging the scene made for extra work, but I thought it was worth the time and effort.

We faced a problem at Filoli. In April when we filmed that sequence, the sides of the road were lined with green grass. In October the grass had turned brown. The resourcefulness of Hollywood crews! Greenery was brought in and laid on both sides of that long road, transforming it back to its previous verdant green.

We were scheduled to film for only six days at Filoli, so the traveling shots inside the limo of John Forsythe, Peter Mark Richman and Wayne Northrop were not filmed that day. In fact they weren’t filmed until we returned to Los Angeles. We had a day scheduled at the Disney Ranch, and it was on one of the roads there that we did our filming.

In addition to the fact that that sequence contained shots filmed at Filoli in northern California and the Disney Ranch in southern California, there was something else that tickles me to this day. The two close-ups of Pamela Sue Martin and Wayne Northrop …

Wayne’s  close-up was filmed in April; Pamela Sue’s was filmed in October.

I’m sure we could have found an area to stage the following sequence at Filoli. Again, it was a matter of time. It couldn’t have been done in the scheduled six days. It was more expedient and cheaper to rent the Disney Ranch for a day and film it there.

Incidentally those were stunt people riding in the chase. And now we come to the infamous scene filmed on our first day at Filoli back in April, the infamous scene that started the entire George Peppard brouhaha.

What had been so difficult — John made it look so easy! So many emotional layers! And Pamela, without the previous interference, was absolutely brilliant!

I was so busy doing my own preparation, and I always expected and knew that when I arrived on a set (especially at MGM, Warner Bros. or 20th Century Fox), that whatever was required would be there to the nth degree, so that I didn’t really think about the effort it took to make that happen. For example – dressing the Carrington mansion with furniture and furnishings was an enormous undertaking. Now I wonder how long it took the designers and crew to do it before we arrived to begin filming. There were the interiors of the home: the large entry way, the long corridors, the ballroom, the library, the music room, Krystle’s bedroom, Fallon’s bedroom, the kitchen and the carriage house. I’m sure items were brought from the furniture and prop departments at the studio, from Hollywood prop houses and from establishments in San Francisco. As I said earlier, Filoli truly became a member of the cast and was just as beautifully dressed as the Nolan Miller-gowned women.

One of my very favorite sets was the one for the dining room scene. I remember when I scouted the location and saw the dark wood-paneled room with the enormous fireplace, I knew I wanted a very long dining table sitting in front of it. For me the opening shot in the sequence with the three people seated at the table explicitly reveals the dysfunction in the family.

We filmed the scene in April with George Peppard, Pamela Sue Martin and Al Corley. In October I needed only three shots: the wide angle shot of the room with the three people seated at the table that would end with Blake’s exit, the single shot of John Forsythe and the single shot of Pamela Sue Martin for the opening of the scene until John exited. Everything else in the scene is from the April filming.

To be continued



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5 Responses to Dynasty: Part I

  1. John Dayton says:

    Ah-ha — I know what he’s done. I was there for the filming of the scene.

    This is television at its best.

    PS: That long, beautiful pause Al took – probably would be edited down today when everything is 2 frames long.

  2. GMJ says:

    Am I to assume that if the project were completed as scheduled, the pilot would have aired in the fall of 1980? I would guess with “Dallas” being a major hit for CBS, ABC was determined to broadcast their own version of “Dallas” with the help of Aaron Spelling.

    I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your “Dynasty” posts. On another matter, I just finished watching the first two seasons of “The Paper Chase” and I hope you will be able to write about your experiences directing that program.

    • Ralph says:

      I’m sure the fall airing in 1980 was planned. We would have completed filming on May 13, so there would have been plenty of time for it to be ready for a September airing. As for THE PAPER CHASE” I most certainly will be discussing it. It was my last Hurrah!

  3. Kevin says:

    Hi Ralph,
    Stumbled upon your page as someone who researches the production if Dynasty. Living this!! The material answers so many unthought of questions for me. Love these details, I would love to see George in snybif these scenes, only photos exist. Thank you for sharing

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