Never Trouble Trouble Till Trouble Troubles You

FILMED February 1964

My last booking for the 1963-64 season was my third and final BREAKING POINT: NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE TILL TROUBLE TROUBLES YOU. The author of the teleplay was Lorenzo Semple Jr. Three and a half years earlier I had directed a production of the play GOLDEN FLEECING by Lorenzo Semple Jr. on the main stage of the Pasadena Playhouse. I’d never met Lorenzo, but then I’d never met most of the authors whose teleplays I directed.

When I did a post in 2009 of NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE TILL TROUBLE TROUBLES YOU for my blog, RALPH’S TREK, I wrote:

NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE TILL TROUBLE TROUBLES YOU was the most conventional of the three scripts that I directed for BREAKING POINT.

Boy was I wrong!

True, NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE… didn’t have a sensational subject like homosexuality in THE BULL ROARER, my first BREAKING POINT, a subject till that time not accepted by network program practices. It didn’t have a chronicle like the one in SHADOW OF A STARLESS NIGHT that presented the difficult recovery of a medical doctor, blinded in an automobile accident, which ended with him returning to practice medicine, but as a blind physician. But NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE… was far from conventional television.

George Lefferts had told me during the summer when I directed THE BULL ROARER that he had accepted ABC’s offer to develop and produce BREAKING POINT only if he would be allowed to do some scripts on verboten subjects not usually permitted on the network. Homosexuality on THE BULL ROARER was a groundbreaker. When I returned after the first of the year for my final two assignments, George was no longer associated with the series. Associate producer Richard Collins was now producing, so I didn’t have an opportunity to ask George if the subject covered in NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE… had been on his verboten list. It easily might have been.

Weeks later I was in the editing room one day when film editor Dan Nathan was preparing the short clip that would appear at the end of the previous week’s episode as a preview of NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE… . He had included part of the love scene. One of the other editors on the series was in the room at the time, and as the lovers separated after they kissed, he gasped, “They’re colored!” This was indeed a rarity, if not a first. It was only five years before in 1959 that A RAISIN IN THE SUN opened on Broadway. It was the first play written by a black woman (Lorraine Hansberry) to be produced on Broadway, as well as the first play with a black director (Lloyd Richards) on Broadway. The cast was black except for one minor white character, and the play about a black family was particular to black experiences. Two years later the play would be transferred to the screen with the Broadway cast (Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Ivan Dixon, Louis Gossett, Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands, our Sara in NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE).

But television was still dragging its feet. It was about this time that Black is Beautiful was supplanting ‘Negro’ and ‘Colored’ when referring to people of color. One of the exponents of this new identity was Cicely Tyson, appearing in a recurring role as one of the social workers on George C. Scott’s staff in the dramatic series EAST SIDE WEST SIDE. Television legend has it that James Aubrey, president of the CBS television network, the network airing the series, held a special meeting with George C. Scott. He offered him a renewal of the series for a second season if a white actress would replace Cicely. To his credit, George turned the offer down, and the series was cancelled at the end of its first season.

There were three older male characters in NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE… . I knew immediately that I wanted Joel Fluellen to play T-Bone Palmer, Rosie’s dad. I had worked with Joel four years earlier when he was in the cast of one of my stage productions. I also knew I wanted Rex Ingram to play C.K. Harris, Sara’s dad. I knew of Rex from his performances as Lucifer, the Devil, in CABIN IN THE SKY, as Jim, the runaway slave, in THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN with Mickey Rooney, but mostly that he had played De Lawd in the Warner Brothers’ filming of Marc Connolly’s THE GREEN PASTURES, a role he had also played in the original Broadway production. Frederick O’Neal I knew by reputation. His primary work was on the east coast, with only an occasional foray to Hollywood, usually to recreate on screen a role he had played on Broadway. He was cast as Matty Howard.

Do you realize this film could have been cast with white actors? Oh some of the background references to race would have had to be changed, but basically it was not a negro-themed story. It was a story about people, and the fact that those people were black was coincidental. Seeing a story with black characters behaving just like white people was a very unusual occurrence in any of our theatre – stage, screen and now television!

There were flashbacks in our story. We needed an adult Rosie and a seven-year old to play Rosie as a child. Now under ordinary circumstances the adult Rosie would be cast, then a child Rosie would be matched to him. But this was episodic television. Everything was worked on at the same time. So while the search for the adult Rosie went on, casting director Lynn Stalmaster brought in three seven-year old Black boys. Our plan was that we would see the children, but hold off making any decision until we had our adult Rosie, when we would cast the young boy who most closely resembled him. One of the boys who came in, Mark Dymally, was the son of Los Angeles Councilman Melvin Dymally. The fact that he was a Councilman’s son didn’t mean anything to us. The fact that the child was beautiful and absolutely enchanting did. He was light-skinned with light auburn wavy hair. His whole demeanor was angelic and sensitive. He had the qualities we were looking for in the youngster’s scenes. We decided not to wait; we cast him on the spot. We hoped our adult Rosie would match him, but if he didn’t, make-up would have to solve the problem. We then cast a New York actor, Terry Carter, as Rosie. Terry was a handsome dark-skinned Sydney Poitier look-alike. It was now up to make-up

The day young Dymally was to shoot arrived. He reported to make-up, where I had given instructions on what I wanted. I could not stay in the make-up room to oversee, as I had to continue filming. When his make-up was completed, the make-up man brought him to the set for my approval. I took one look and said, “No. His dark hair is fine, but his skin needs to be darker.” They returned to the make-up room, and a short while later returned. “No,” I said again. “He needs to be darker.” Again back to the make-up room, and again a return to the set. He was still too light. I took the boy and the make-up man over to where Terry Carter was seated. “He is still too light,” I said. “He needs to be darker. He is playing Terry as a child. His skin needs to be the same color.” The make-up man looked at me quizzically, as if I had lost all my marbles. “Well don’t they get darker as they grow older?” he asked. Now many years later that was a funny line, but at the time it was shocking to me. Ninety-nine years after the end of the Civil War it was inconceivable to me that anybody with any intelligence could ask that question.

You know, I think that voice from the front of the bus telling T-Bone to shut up was me. I was beside the camera, and said the line at the appropriate time. They just kept it in the film and didn’t bother to hire an actor to come in and redo it.

The film THE GREEN PASTURES was released in 1936. Rex Ingram was De Lawd in the film after playing the role in the Broadway production of the play. I was thirteen years old, and I will confess that getting to work with actors that I remembered seeing in those juvenile years always had a special appeal for me. I wanted Rex Ingram for the role of C.K. Harris, Sara’s father. So our casting director Lynn Stalmaster had Rex come into our office. We had a nice chat, after which I handed him a script. “You mean, I got the job?” he said. I responded, “You had the job when you came in. I just wanted to meet you.” I never get over bemoaning the cruelty of this profession, that older performers who should be revered for their talent and experience are so casually shunted aside. And all of this compounded in Rex’s case by the color of his skin.

Five and a half years later in the summer of 1969 I worked with Rex once again. IMDB (the Internet Movie Data Base) includes the following in its bio of Ingram: Although in ill health, the 74-year-old Ingram took on his last role, on a Christmas episode of “The Bill Cosby Show,” because star/co-producer Cosby, a long-time fan, personally asked him to. I directed the show in which Rex’s character was hired to play Santa Claus. Two weeks after filming ended, Ingram passed away on September 19, 1969. The episode was aired a little over two months later, on December 21, and earned the show some of its highest ratings to date.

BREAKING POINT was the first time I worked at Desilu Studio, formerly RKO Radio Studio where Katharine Hepburn began her film career and spent the first decade, where Fred and Ginger danced through eight films, the home of the films that the French christened film noir. It was smaller than MGM and Universal, where I spent most of my first three seasons directing. I really liked it. It was relaxed and comfortable, and I was very much at ease, as one should be when aspiring to be creative.

NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE TILL TROUBLE TROUBLES YOU was filmed entirely on the sound stages of Desilu Studio. It was completed in six days.

As you watch the end credits, notice the credit: Set Decorator,,.Darrell Silvera. Silvera had been at that studio way back to the thirties when it was RKO Radio. He had been the set decorator on those Hepburn, Astaire-Rogers, film noirs I mentioned.

Wouldn’t it be great if some enterprising soul would go into the vaults and let this great series see the light of day again. I remember the episode JAMIE WAS A VERY SMALL SNAIL, an episode guest starring Akim Tamiroff, another with Glenda Farrell and one guest starring Cliff Robertson in a story that later became Warner Beatty’s SHAMPOO. As little Brandon Wilde said backstage the opening night of MEMBER OF THE WEDDING when the stage manager had called places: “IT’S TIME!”

The journey continues

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3 Responses to Never Trouble Trouble Till Trouble Troubles You

  1. Jim says:

    Very enjoyable episode Ralph – I especially liked the action sequence at the end – the camera work going in between the punching bags was very innovative and suspenseful.

    Diana Sands was one of my favorite actresses – her performances just seemed so natural. I can remember how surprised and saddened I was when I heard she passed away – much too young…….

  2. Phil says:

    I haven’t seen this much diving since the Summer Olympics. But, outside the ring, this viewer got kayoed by a well-crafted script…first, a thumb to the eye from Paul Birch (Lt. Gerard’s boss in ‘The Fugitive’) at 4:38 of the 6th video, followed by an all-out pummeling from Rex Ingram. Then Frederick O’Neal went in for the kill with an uppercut that came out of the Devil’s backyard (“It’s more like I’m telling ya”). The folks who watched ‘Sing Along with Mitch’ on NBC (3/30/64) really missed out.

    Yes, Mark Dymally was quite charming. Per IMDB, his next acting job was an episode of ‘Hazel’ called “Never Trouble Trouble”!

    BTW, there’s Mickey Golden again (aka Ida Lupino’s favorite corpse in ‘The Wild Wild West’) at 3:30 of the 10th video.

    I assume the current owners of Bing Crosby Productions are satisfied with the ocean of money coming in from ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ and don’t see a need to risk any of it on resurrecting ‘Breaking Point’. That’s too bad because it has a few gems worth displaying. Some of them were posted on Youtube earlier this year (with vintage commercials) and can be found easily by the episode titles. The Cliff Robertson ep. is one of them, along with “the snail” ep. James Daly did a good one…Edmond O’Brien did one, but I didn’t care for it. Telly Savalas, Martin Balsam, and Arthur O’Connell are in a few I haven’t watched yet.

  3. detectivetom says:

    Kudos to you for doing this at a time when African-American actors and actresses were not given a fair shake. You were ahead of the times. Thank you.

    Any chance you’ll something on the two “Insight” shows you directed that you have not written about? I remember “The Whole Damn Human Race” with Barbara Hershey.

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