Ends Of The Earth

FILMED  February 1973

And now we get to a television series that I’m sure the majority of people today do not remember.

Robert Justman, the first producer of the series, in his interview for the Archives Of American Television said:

“It (SEARCH) was a show almost sci-fi. It had three revolving stars –Tony Franciosa, Doug McClure and … Hugh O’Brian, and each one of them alternated. … It was a show that puzzled me at times, and I think it was kind of empty …”

Tom Palmer (Austin, Slater’s lawyer) was the only one of my close circle of friends who appeared in my very first television directing assignment, JOHNNY TEMPLE on DR. KILDARE. Born in Canada, he moved to New York to pursue his theatrical career. One of the high points was his appearance with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in the 1941 production of Robert E. Sherwood’s THERE SHALL BE NO NIGHT, the play that won the Pulitzer Prize for drama that year. Also in that production was twenty-year old Montgomery Clift. In the years that followed, whenever the Lunts visited the west coast, they always spent time with their “Tommy.”

Anthony Spinner, the producer who took over when Robert Justman left, once told me that in creating a series, the object was to create something old with a difference. I think SEARCH managed to do that on a couple of levels. Five years earlier Paramount Studios debuted MANNIIX, the adventures of a private eye who worked for Intertect, a detective agency that relied heavily on computers and a large network of operatives. That format lasted for just one season. The following year Mannix opened his own agency, and the series stayed on the air for seven more seasons. World Securities on SEARCH was an international high-tech private investigation company with operatives who were equipped with technical equipment of sci-fi capabilities. To do a little imitating further of something old with a difference, on their 1968 ninety-minute series, THE NAME OF THE GAME, Universal instituted a groundbreaking concept – they used three rotating stars. One of those stars was Tony Franciosa.

ENDS OF THE EARTH was a reunion for the actress playing Ellen Slater and me. Eighteen years earlier I directed seventeen-year old Judy Lewis in a showcase scene at the Players Ring Theatre – the soda fountain scene from Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN. One day when she, Jimmie Hayes and I met at the theatre to rehearse, we discovered there was no available rehearsal space. Judy quickly suggested that we go to her house and rehearse. I questioned where that was. She said it was just up the street, so she, Jimmy and I traipsed the long block up to the corner of Fountain Avenue, where we entered an imposing building, and I found myself standing in what felt like a set for an MGM movie. Marble floors! Tall white columns! I had never seen anything like that in Mason City, Iowa.. And then I saw an Academy award statuette up on a shelf.

“Whose is that?” I asked.

Judy replied, “My mother’s.”

“Who’s your mother?”

“Loretta Young.”

And I don’t know why, but I blurted out, “But you don’t look like her.” (Although actually she does.)

And Judy said, “I’m adopted.

After the rehearsal I returned to the theatre, eager in my naivete to tell anyone who would listen about this exciting news about the young girl helping out at the theatre. That was when I learned that Judy was not adopted, she was really Miss Young’s daughter, the child of a liaison between Loretta Young and Clark Gable during the making of the film, CALL OF THE WILD. Many years later when I read Judy Lewis’ wonderful book, UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE, I discovered that I knew the facts of her parenthood before she did.

I must admit, ENDS OF THE EARTH was another of my shows that I was not intending to write about on my website. Recently I had correspondence with a friend and in discussing SEARCH he wrote:

Field investigators in constant contact with Mission Control via miniaturized electronics” was a neat idea for a TV series.  I always thought that they bit off more than they could chew.  It was a neat idea, but 1972 technology just wasn’t up to the task of providing the proper optical effects to do justice to the idea.  I think that it was a show that was ahead of its time.

Somehow that spurred me to screen ENDS OF THE EARTH again. And here we are!

ENDS OF THE EARTH was the sixth and final time I worked with Diana Muldaur. It goes without saying that the best collaborations were our two STAR TREKs, and the better one of those two was IS THERE IN TRUTH NO BEAUTY, filmed during the tumultuous third season. Diana and I have different memories of that show. She said during a TV archives interview on the internet, “The whole script was thrown out as we’re sitting there about to start shooting, and hour-by-hour we would get pieces and none of them were in order.” It is true the first scheduled day of filming was a day created in hell. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy objected to a long dinner table scene in in which Spock wore an Idic, a pin that Gene Roddenberry designed. They felt Gene was using the scene as a promotion, a commercial launching to sell it to the public. Gene vehemently denied their accusation, but the guys were adamant in their refusal to play the scene as written. The final result of the long morning’s angry combat was that Gene agreed to rewrite the scene. Looking for something to replace the scene on the day’s schedule, I suggested we do a dramatic three-page scene between Diana and David Frankham. I checked with them, and they both said they had memorized the words, although both also added they were not as prepared to film it as they would like to be. And that was what we did that first day. I want to commend those two professionals. Their work was impeccable; the scene was great. The whole script was NOT thrown out. That was the ONLY major change in the script that was made. Diana in that same interview did say that when the show aired, she was surprised to find she thought it wonderful.

Jay Robinson (Mr. Johansen) was the only guest star in ENDS OF THE EARTH with whom I had not worked before. Jay was an unusual performer. He began his acting career in summer stock, graduated to Broadway and finally film, where he made an auspicious (some said outrageous) debut playing the notorious Emperor Caligula in THE ROBE, the first production filmed in Cinemascope.

ENDS OF THE EARTH was the second time I worked with Sebastian Cabot, but I can’t say I knew the man. The two times were eleven years apart, the first time being when he was one of the regulars on CHECKMATE in 1962. SEARCH could have been another reunion for him – but he wasn’t cast in an episode starring another of the CHECKMATE stars – Doug McClure.

The hood seated to the right of Franciosa in the car was Max Kleven, one of the premier stunt men in films. I had worked with Max in New York on NAKED CITY and later when he transferred to the west coast he appeared as one of the gladiators in BREAD AND CIRCUSES on STAR TREK. He did double duty in ENDS OF THE EARTH – playing one of the hoods and later he will appear as a stunt double in a fight scene.

When I saw Burgess Meredith on the set of ENDS OF THE EARTH, it was the first time we met since we wrapped PRINTER’S DEVIL on TWILIGHT ZONE in 1962. The first thing he told me was that the night PRINTER’S DEVIL aired, he received a telegram from director John Huston. I had mixed feelings about seeing him in the role of Cameron. Producer Robert Justman in his interview on Archives Of American Television said, “Burgess Meredith was in every episode … he was the brains back at headquarters. Burgess Meredith –- fabled actor.” But I only got to work with him one day. We shot all of his scenes the first day of filming. I’m sure he was being paid a respectable sum for his services. The fact that his scenes were confined to the headquarters set and could be filmed in one day did leave him free to accept other offers. But what a waste of a supreme talent!

No, I didn’t get a trip to Africa. We didn’t go there for our location work; we brought Africa to southern California partly by driving our company up to Lake Sherwood and completing the operation with stock footage of a giraffe and some racing zebras. The exterior of the Compound was also at Lake Sherwood. The interior of the Compound was Stage 18 back on the Warner Bros. lot.

For those of you who follow this website post-to-post, did you recognize Simon Scott who played the villainous Slater as the same actor in my last post (THE MAN WHO WENT MAD BY MISTAKE) who played the upstanding lawyer, John Goddard?

My unfavorite question when being interviewed is, “What was it like working with… and then the name of the actor: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, David Janssen, Raymond Burr, Bill Cosby and on and on? Since nobody is questioning me here, I guess I’ll have to ask the question: What was it like working with Tony Franciosa? Let me start by returning to Robert Justman’s Archives of American Television interview where he also said,

“…there were some idiosyncrasies in most of the cast.”

Using my imagination I can draw some conclusions from that. Then returning again to the correspondence with my friend about SEARCH, he wrote:

“James Garner tells the story that Tony Franciosa was abusing the stunt men on a certain production. If I recall correctly, Tony wasn’t pulling his punches. Garner told Franciosa to stop, but Tony wouldn’t, so Garner punched him. I always heard that Tony was a bit of a firecracker, and could only be tolerated for just so long.”

There was one oddity; before doing a scene we would hear the sound of Tony behind one of the flats, retching. I didn’t know if he was ill, or if it was some activity to get him emotionally prepared to do the scene. Having said all of that, I found him very professional. Always prepared. Always on time. And always very inventive in what he did. But just a couple of nights ago I rescreened A HATFUL OF RAIN. I had not seen it in a very long time, and I was very moved. Playing against powerful performances by Don Murray, Eva Marie Saint and Lloyd Nolan I thought as Polo, the brother, Tony stole the show. He was the character I empathized with the most. I admired the simple sensitivity in his acting. And that was what I find missing in his Bianco. He’s so glib, so surface, but I don’t think he is the one solely at fault. The material didn’t allow for a sensitive performance, and that was a condition that pervaded television. Gone were those great days of the early 1960s when I went from DR. KILDARE to TWILIGHT ZONE to ROUTE 66 to NAKED City to ARREST AND TRIAL to BREAKING POINT to SUSPENSE THEATRE to EAST SIDE WEST SIDE to THE FUGITIVE to 12 O’CLOCK HIGH … I miss those days!

For the fight scene in the lobby of the compound there were stunt doubles for all three actors: Tony Franciosa, Simon Scott and Diana Muldaur. Max Kleven, who played the hood earlier, doubled Simon Scott.

The journey continues

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14 Responses to Ends Of The Earth

  1. The StarWolf says:

    Count me as one who not only remembers the series, but remembers it fondly. It wasn’t perfect, no, but quite a bit of fun. Meredith’s performance being a big part of it, regardless of how little screen time he had. Moments such as the end of this episode where it’s made clear he may be the boss and work in control, but he really isn’t IN control once the mission is underway almost made the series all on their own.

    And, yeah, the tech was great to a geek-to-be (me) to the point where I regret never having found a knock-off of those rings in a dealer’s room in all the sf conventions I’ve been to over the years.

    I suppose it’s too much to hope for a DVD set, hunh?

  2. Jeff Burr says:

    Hello Ralph and thanks for this post! I remember seeing the pilot TV movie directed by Russ Mayberry called PROBE, but for the life of me I dont remember ever seeing any of the episodes of SEARCH. Always thought Tony Franciosa was very very talented, but somehow never reached his full potential as an actor, even though he had by all estimation a very successful career. And to work with Burgess Meredith again, how lucky can a director get? And Sebastian Cabot and Diana Muldaur, etc etc. Just a thought… I wonder how many times Tom Palmer got confused for William Prince throughout his career? And if you are a fan of Jay Robinson, check him out in an Allied Artists movie from 1975 called THREE THE HARD WAY. He plays a Bondian supervillian and he has some truly outrageous moments in it. And there is a great interview with him in one of the John Boorman-edited series of books PROJECTIONS. Did you have any dealings with Leslie Stevens on SEARCH? And were you an admirer of THE OUTER LIMITS? I always thought that the rotating lead in a series was an interesting idea, as with NAME OF THE GAME, but at least for my brother and me, watching TV in the late sixties/early seventies as kids, there was always the moment when you found out who the star that week was, and for us, if it was Gene Barry in THE NAME OF THE GAME, there was a sigh of disapointment, as he usually presided over the more ‘dramatic” episodes, where Tony F. got most of the action and the flash. Thank you Ralph, for another terrific post, and I get such a kick out of seeing these, and your recent ones on INSIGHT have been inspirational and so informative. Keep up the great work and I hope the screenings of THE RIGHT REGRETS are going great too.

    • Ralph says:

      There was no communication with Leslie Stevens. I don’t think I ever met the man. The first producer Bob Justman in his Archives Of American Television interview said that he thought the series would have been helped if Stevens had stayed with it longer. As for the rotating star leads, my assumption is that it was brought on by necessity. I think that Universal learned a few years earlier with ARREST AND TRIAL that producing a WEEKLY 90 minute presented some problems in meeting air dates. By having multiple leads they could have more than one script in front of the camera at all times.

      • Robert Dahl says:

        Regarding the rotating leads, Hugh O’Brian, in his Archive of American Television interview, said that, after having spent six years starring in his Wyatt Earp TV series, he did not want to be the sole lead in another series.

        Your point also makes sense, Ralph, in that they could have more than one script in front of the camera at the same time.

        I always thought that it was a shame that Hugh O’Brian did not want to be the sole lead, as I thought that his Lockwood character was more polished and articulate than either Franciosa’s or McClure’s characters. It was a pleasure to tune in and discover that the evening’s episode was a Lockwood ep, rather than a Bianco or Grover episode.

        • Ralph says:

          And now that you have come out of the dark, I can announce that you are the friend I referred to as being the instigator for me to do this post.

  3. detectivetom says:

    I too remember fondly this series, as well as, the pilot movie “Probe.”

    Perhaps it was because Angel Tomkins was in the pilot and the first episode of the series. I, for some reason, thought she was in all 23 episodes. Alas, a check of IMDB shows she appeared in only two episodes. Oh well, I was still in love.

  4. Phil says:

    Well, 10 PM on Wednesday nights was past my bedtime, so I missed this series. I reviewed this posting with my Dad, who had never heard of ‘Search’ before. When he saw Burgess Meredith in the opening credits, he blurted out “What the h*** is he doing here?!”

    I agree with the first comment that this series works best when the rotating leads annoy, irritate, and defy the alleged puppeteer (Meredith). There’s a low-quality video of one episode on Youtube where Doug McClure makes a tactical deviation of plan, which prompted several quick cuts to the boss: “Grover…you’re taking the wrong plane…the wrong plane…you’re supposed to go to Milan, not Zurich…of all the incompetent exponents of congenital stupidity!”

    Nice article on ‘Search’, which includes the reason why it was renamed from ‘Probe’:

    Looks like you had Tony F. during a good week. In IMDB, someone posted a comment under the 1975 series ‘Matt Helm’, which says he had a punch-up with one of show’s directors, Richard Benedict. Don’t know if that’s true or not.

    A couple of small corrections: you put down too many years between ‘Search’ and ‘Checkmate’ for Sebastian Cabot. Also, you said this show and your last two ‘FBI’ postings were taped…must be all those consecutive ‘Insight’ postings that caused that. We know what you meant!

    • Ralph says:

      Small corrections noted and fixed!

    • The StarWolf says:

      And, ten years later, give or take, there was another series called PROBE, this one co-created by Isaac Asimov about the reclusive, super-genius brain behind a think-tank who kept being dragged out from behind the scenes to solve impossible puzzles. I loved it. Too bad the writers’ strike brought it to an early end after only about eight episodes.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Ralph. I fondly remember SEARCH (was 12 when it debuted) and have been enjoying the Warner Archive’s DVD release of the series.

  6. Just watched “Ends of the Earth” this evening, Ralph. To my mind, SEARCH slipped substantially in quality in the second half of the first (and only) season; basically, when they turned the lights on in PROBE Control and dismissed half of the regular cast of data specialists, it got less interesting. But there are two standouts from the second half, “Moment of Madness,” and your episode, “Ends of the Earth.” Both had superior scripts, and your directing was much less static — much more dynamic — than what we’d seen in most of the second half of the series. Congratulations!

  7. frank denardo says:

    I remember Sebastian Cabot from a show called “Family Affair” He was Mr.French the butler for Bill Davis played by Brian Keith.

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