The Death Of Simon Jackson

TAPED April 1969

After four days of rehearsal, we taped THE DEATH OF SIMON JACKSON on Saturday, April 19, 1969. The sixties, a decade of civil unrest, had reached an apex a year and fifteen days earlier on April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Again it was INSIGHT in the forefront, presenting an outspoken drama by Robert Goodwin, one of the first Blacks to write for national television. Unfortunately and as usual I never met the author of the teleplay I was directing.

Funny, when I turn on the TV now, and I come across these ‘religious channels’ with someone preaching to thousands in the audience, I really feel that Insight made it’s message almost subliminally, and made its point of view with far more clarity than these yelling (and of course asking for money!!) “Preachers”.

That was a Comment left on one of my recent INSIGHT posts. I don’t think any INSIGHT presentation better exemplifies a far-reaching and in this case far from subliminal message and point of view than the words spoken by our poet, Simon Jackson.

And a Comment from another reader of my website:

I could not even begin to explain the effect Insight had growing up as an Irish-Catholic kid on the Southwest Side of Chicago in a large Roman Catholic parish.

The shows explored religion and morals from a new perspective from those Catholic films we watched in school. It was modern. It made you think about the problems of the day. It was a coming-of-age in an American society, which in the early 70′s was still reeling from the protests of the 60′s.

Ironically the first Insight I watched was your first directed episode, “The Death of Simon Jackson.”

Actually THE DEATH OF SIMON JACKSON was my second  directed INSIGHT.

I worked with Joel Fluellen (Bubba) the first time in 1961 when he appeared in the stage production I co-directed with John Houseman of Eugene O’Neill’s THE ICEMAN COMETH. In 1964 we worked together again when he guest-starred along with Diana Sands, Terry Carter and Rex Ingram in NEVER TROUBLE TROUBLE, TILL TROUBLE TRROUBLES YOU, an episode of BREAKING POINT.

Joel was emotionally disturbed when he saw The Black Thing printing office setting, with large photos of Malcolm X hanging on the walls. Malcolm X at one time had been one of the leaders of the Nation of Islam, a group espousing black supremacy, advocating the separation of black and white Americans and scoffing at the civil rights emphasis on integration. But in 1964 Malcolm had grown disillusioned with the Nation of Islam and had repudiated its teachings. Joel felt the photos on the wall of the set for this militant paper continued to associate Malcolm X with militancy. I calmed Joel and said the set designers had not realized what they were doing; there had been no negative intentions, and the photos would be immediately replaced. I really admired the passion of Joel’s feelings — and all for a scene in which he did not appear.

THE DEATH OF SIMON JACKSON was taped at my old stomping grounds, CBS Television City. For the above scene of the confrontation with the policeman, we moved after dark out of the studio and taped that scene and the following demonstration scenes on the grounds outside of the building.

A final word about Robert Goodwin’s script! In its brief twenty-seven minutes he presented the portrait of a young black man estranged by white society, wavering between responding militantly or peacefully. And finally at the end of Simon Jackson he mirrored the real life deaths of Dr. King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. A truly daunting accomplishment!

The journey continues

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3 Responses to The Death Of Simon Jackson

  1. Larry Wilde says:

    Another beauty. Keep it up.

  2. Scott Weaber says:

    “Insight” was a show that I recall viewing as a child, in the early morning hours of the weekend before everyone would wake up. Not once did I think that it was a religious program, but a venue for a moral tale. It, along with “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”, were stories where I could find meaning and both left a big impression on that kid. Thank you for sharing this Ralph. God bless and take care.

  3. detectivetom says:

    Another fine job. Thank you.

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