Match Point

Filmed  April 1976

Wayne Rogers’ breakthrough role was Trapper John in the 1972 classic wartime comedy, MASH, but after three seasons, when his role had been lessened in importance to Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce, Wayne left the series. That three-year run on MASH made Wayne a viably valuable property in Hollywood, and he soon signed with Universal to star in a new series – a series without a co-star. He was going to follow in the footsteps of other actors leaving successful series. After THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES Buddy Ebsen shed his hillbilly ways and became private eye BARNABY JONES. James Garner switched from Bret MAVERICK to Jim Rockford in THE ROCKFORD FILES, David Janssen’s THE FUGITIVE stopped running from the law so he could become HARRY O, and Jack Lord got off his STONEY BURKE horse, sailed across the waters to HAWAAI FIVE-O. Yes, crime was in the airwaves. And Wayne?

Although it didn’t hurt, actors didn’t have to have a hit series in their past to end up as a private eye or a cop on tv. Without that on his resume Peter Falk became COLUMBO, Telly Savalas became KOJAK, Robert Blake became BARETTA and Robert Forster became BANYON. Wayne became a private eye in Los Angeles, but it was not current Los Angeles, it was the colorful and sometime corrupt Los Angeles of the 1930’s. Coincidentally just two years earlier the classic film CHINATOWN was set in Los Angeles in that same period. Its protagonist portrayed by Jack Nicholson was a private eye named J.J. Jake Gittes. Also coincidentally, Wayne was to play a detective named Jake Axminster.

The screamer was Renee Jarrett. She and I had worked together seven years earlier when she guest starred in SIBYL, an episode of THEN CAME BRONSON. Renee was another of the actors who started their career very early in life. If my memory does not fail me, she appeared on Broadway as one of the children of Burgess Meredith, who was THE REMARKABLE MR. PENNYPACKER, the man with two families totaling seventeen children. I’ve just checked via the computer, and Renee was not in the opening night cast. She probably was a replacement for one of the young daughters. I think she was seven at the time.

MATCH POINT was scheduled to be filmed in six days – 2 ½ days location, the balance at the studio. The big location was a tennis club in Pacific Palisades. We were there for our 3rd and 4th days of filming.

Television had come a long way in thirteen years. In 1963 we practically brought the wrath of the ABC Program Practices Department down on Desilu because of THE BULL ROARER, an episode of BREAKING POINT. We had the temerity to have one of the characters in the film utter the word “homosexual.”

The jail scene did not end there.

jail 1

jail 2

When Jake stood up and walked around the table to stand by Bill, I had him pat Bill on the shoulder as he said, “You’re still Big Bill Swindon. And with any luck you’ll still win the tournament.” Wayne then had a marvelous embarrassed reaction as he realized Swindon might misinterpret this action. It was an innocent comedy bit, a charming moment. After my director’s cut (and more about that later), that part of the scene was cut.

The exterior of Sarah’s house was a half a day’s work, scheduled for the morning of our 5th day of filming. It was in a North Hollywood neighborhood close to Universal Studio.

The young man in the scene was Robert S. Woods. This was his first film job, the assignment that got him into the Screen Actors Guild. I knew Bob from Tony Barr’s acting class, where I occasionally guest-taught. Soon after this assignment he was cast as Dr. David Spencer in THE WALTONS as the fiancé of Mary Ellen, soon to be her husband. But CBS had misgivings about him, and Mary Ellen met someone else, jilted David and married her newfound love. In 1979 Bob was cast as Bo Buchanan in the daytime soap opera, ONE LIFE TO LIVE. He stayed with the show the next 34 years, picking up an Emmy along the way.

We spent a half a day on Universal’s back lot. Once MGM sold off their back lots, Universal’s was the best back lot in the industry. The exterior of the restaurant was there, as well as the upcoming exterior of the German Consulate.

The German Consulate was originally scheduled as a day sequence. It was filmed on the last day and was one of two sequences that required a move to the back lot. We did that late in the day after filming three sequences on sound stages 6 and 16. By the time we got to the Consulate, the sun had set, so the D for day on the schedule was changed to N for night. The other scene on the back lot was the exterior to the Costume Company, but it never made it into the film because of length.

For the last part of the scene when Sarah and Jake rise, I felt the scene should be played with Sarah turned away from Jake, that the information she was giving was difficult for her to relate. Renee didn’t refuse to do it that way, but she felt she had to be looking at Wayne for the scene to work for her. It worked, but it would have been richer my way.

Did you notice in the opening credits the name Elaine Joyce as one of the regulars of this series? Have you been wondering when she was going to finally appear? Well it’s a combination of some of her scenes not making it into the film because of length or possibly some that did not survive when the film moved into syndication. That was when local stations would cut out additional material to make room for more commercials. Elaine was an attractive blond who played Jake’s secretary and filming her proved to be an experience. You see Elaine was very pregnant, but Jake’s secretary couldn’t be very pregnant. My instructions were to film her scenes concealing her condition. There was no problem when she was seated behind her desk. When she was standing, I had to frame shots so that a lamp, a chair or something would hide enough of her body to keep her pregnancy a secret from viewers.

Dana Wynter was an elegant beauty. She starred in one of the super-classic sci-fi films of all times, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. MATCH POINT was the only time that I directed Dana, but not the first time we had been involved in the same production.

She appeared in two PLAYHOUSE 90’s on which I was the production supervisor. We had no personal contact at that time, but I vividly remember incidents of both productions. The first one was THE GENTLEMAN FROM SEVENTH AVENUE with Robert Alda, Patricia Neal, Sylvia Sidney and Dana, and this memory doesn’t include Dana. I had to take something down to the rehearsal hall, probably script revisions. I remember walking in and seeing Robert Aldo standing off to side energetically involved in a discussion with the director about how to play a scene. (IMDB says the director was Allen Reisner; I remember the director as being Fielder Cook) The rest of the cast was seated around a long table. I was close enough to the table to hear Patricia Neal mutter, “I don’t know. I just do it.”

The other production was an adaptation of Henry James’ novel, THE WINGS OF THE DOVE. Dana was playing the starring role. The production was produced by John Houseman and directed by Robert Stevens and was being taped to air the following Thursday. It was an elegant production. Lovely sets! Great wardrobe. Dana looked absolutely ravishing. I was in the control booth watching a very dramatic scene. Dana was emoting as the camera followed her movements around the set, when in the middle of her emotional speech, she tripped over the electric cord of a floor lamp – she almost fell to the ground as the lamp tipped over. She wasn’t hurt, but the incongruity of that stylish lady involved in some Mack Sennett shenanigans had the group of us in the control booth convulsed in laughter.

CITY OF ANGELS debuted on NBC on February 3, 1976 as a mid-season replacement. An episode titled THE NOVEMBER PLAN aired the first three weeks as a three-part story. I suspect it was the two-hour pilot broken up into a three-part episode. Ten episodes followed with MATCH POINT airing on May 18, the 13th and final episode to air. By that time the schedule for the following season had been announced. CITY OF ANGELS was not on the schedule. It was canceled after half a season.

I completed photography on Thursday, April 28. I was anxious to fly to Iowa. My mother was scheduled for major surgery. I conferred with producer Phil DeGuerre, telling him that I would like to leave immediately, thus forgoing involvement in my director’s cut. Phil said he would like me to remain and oversee my cut, so I stayed over the weekend. I’m not sure when the editor had the first assemblage ready for me. I think was probably Tuesday. I do remember going to the studio and viewing it at 10:00 am. I gave the editor my suggestions for changes. The normal procedure was the editor would make those changes and then show the film to the producers. I was disturbed, no I was angry when he told me he was scheduled to show the film to the producers at 1:00 that afternoon. There would be no time for my requested changes to be made. I flew that afternoon to Iowa. My mother’s surgery had been a couple of days before my arrival.

The journey continues

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7 Responses to Match Point

  1. Jim says:

    Another superb post Ralph. I actually remember this series fairly well – I thought it was very well done; and the photography and production design did a much better job of capturing the 30s/40s ambiance than other period series, for example Casablanca. I didn’t remember though that it was created by Steven Cannell and Roy Huggins – this must be one of their few misses…….

    And Dana Wynter is one of my favorite actresses – as you mention she always brought a sophisticated elegance to her roles.

  2. Steve Z. says:

    Ralph,
    When you completed photography did you mean to say April 29th. April 28th in 1976 was a Wednesday.

    • Ralph says:

      I was just reading the date on my call sheet. It said Thursday, April 28. I guess that was another example of Universal trying to cut a day off the schedule.

  3. Steve Z. says:

    Ralph,

    I was curious about the date of the final day of filming. Match Point had three film editors working on it instead of one. The last episode filmed of Kojak’s third season also had three editors on it as well. That episode also aired about three weeks after filming ended on it. Your episode was the last show filmed as well as aired. Right after filming ended on Match Point, Wayne Rogers was supposed to start working on a movie called Matilda the first week of May 1976. The filming ended up being pushed back to the point where Rogers ended up not being in the movie.

    • Ralph says:

      The three editors, and I don’t remember that, was probably so they could make the air date. I did that once on PLANET OF THE APES. The show I directed wasn’t the last one, but the producers liked it and wanted to get it on the air as soon as possible. You can read about that in the post for THE TYRANT on PLANET OF THE APES.

  4. Phil says:

    I’d love to read a historian’s description of every vintage image in the opening credits. Wikipedia has some info on the Earl Carroll Theatre and the Brown Derby restaurant.

    Your post has many remarks about scenes being cut out during the final assemblage. I wonder if this was symptomatic of the production problems Wayne recounted in the audio interview below (‘City of Angels’ is covered in the last seven minutes of Segment Two):

    http://www.tvtimemachine.com/800/interview-with-actor-and-businessman-wayne-rogers-of-mash

    • Ralph says:

      Phil, you are a treasure. How do you find these things? Keep this up and we’ll have to change the title of the website to RALPH’S AND PHILS CINEMA TREK!

      Regarding scenes being cut: I found that the main reason were the scripts were TOO LONG. On some productions I was able to convince the producer to cut the scripts BEFORE we began filming. And of course the problem got worse as time elapsed and the time allotted for the film was shortened to make room for MORE commercials.

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