The Law

FILMED September 1970

A car chase! A shooting! A car rollover! A corpse! I was back! Two years after THE THOLIAN WEB I was again calling the shots that fired to start a story. I was back at the Goldwyn Studio on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood for the first time since five years before when I watched THE FUGITIVE board a bus, and I waved goodbye to Dr. Richard Kimble on my final association with him. Never again could David Victor dismiss me as a sit-com director.

This was my first time working with Burt Reynolds, but we could have worked together eight years earlier. In 1962 I was directing a production of Clifford Odets’ GOLDEN BOY for Equity Library Theatre West, and Burt’s agent submitted his name for the leading role of Joe Bonaparte. That was the only time during the seven years I was directing theatre in Hollywood that an agent interceded on behalf of a client. And it was a big agency (as I recall, it was Famous Artists) and the thought of a “big star” (Burt was a regular on his second series, and it was a biggie, GUNSMOKE) and the very limited physical production I would be able to mount (the budget for my show was $50.00) caused me to stupidly resist even speaking to the agent. I have few regrets in my life; that is one of them.

The usual allocation of four-days of location filming for a QM production was extended to five days. There was not enough to shoot on the exterior of the Judge’s mansion for a full two days work, and rather than scheduling a company move to another exterior to fill that second day, it was decided to stay at the site selected for the Judge’s residence and film the interiors there, filling that second day and adding a third day. A large estate was found in West Los Angeles, and that is where I spent the first three days, filming twenty-six pages of both exteriors and interiors. This also saved the expense of building the many interior sets required by the script.

I had met Walter Pidgeon casually seven years earlier at a Christmas party at Mickey Rooney’s house. Edd Byrnes, whom I had worked with earlier that year on THE JACK IS HIGH on SUSPENSE THEATRE, was teasing Walter. Edd said that although Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy may have had the reputation of being the Casanova of MGM, he knew that Walter probably had more conquests than the two of them put together. Walter smiled and nodded his head appreciatively, and there were no denials.

Walter Pidgeon reached his 73rd birthday during production, and we had a cake laden with many candles to commemorate. There was always a special excitement for me working with screen legends like Walter. Besides his total professionalism, his complete preparedness, his lack of pretentiousness because of his rich background, there was an uncanny aura that surrounded the man. I had witnessed it before in other legends I had been privileged to work with: Barbara Stanwyck, Pat O’Brien, Mickey Rooney, Ida Lupino, Ralph Bellamy. Unfortunately our country does not have a means of honoring them by knighthood as England does. There is that select few of notable performers that I personally consider as being our American royalty

Larry Hagman, his star shining brightly, was fresh off his successful five-years on I DREAM OF JEANNIE, which had recently completed its network run. The son of Mary Martin, Larry was six years away from establishing his own claim to being a legend with his performance as J.R. Ewing in DALLAS. Larry told me a classic show-biz story. He and his wife were visiting in Las Vegas with his mother. One night the three of them attended one of the Vegas floor shows. At one point in the evening the emcee announced to the audience that they were privileged to have in the audience the legendary Mary Martin, and as a spotlight swung around to light their table, Mary stood up to thunderous applause. The emcee continued, “Perhaps we can induce Miss Martin to come up here and do a number for us.” The applause was even more thunderous. Miss Martin graciously nodded her acceptance, and as she started to move toward the stage, she turned back to Larry and with a big smile on her face she said, “Broadway!” As they were leaving the club later, the doorman, seeing them, hailed a cab, rushed over to Larry and taking his arm, he steered Larry and his wife towards the cab. They got in, and as they pulled away Larry leaned out of the window and with a big smile on his face he called back to his mother, still standing in front of the club, “Television!”

Larry’s home was in the Colony in Malibu. A major fire erupted in Malibu during production, and Larry left early that day to hurry home. He told me the next day that when he arrived in Malibu, the highway into the Colony was blocked off to traffic. Not to be deterred Larry found a young kid with a bicycle in the assembled crowd of onlookers and convinced him, with the aid of some green bills, to lend him the bike. Larry took off, a lone figure bicycling up Highway One at night. He said he had a bottle of wine, and as he cycled north on the highway he would intermittently take a sip out of the bottle and then splash some on his face. I’m not sure what he did once he reached his home, but the fire didn’t reach his house, and Larry was back at work the next day.

That interior sequence with its two levels was an added benefit gained by filming on a live location rather than building a set at the studio.

I knew that Walter Pidgeon had appeared on Broadway in the 1959 musical, TAKE ME ALONG (he was Tony nominated but lost to his co-star, Jackie Gleason), but I did not know that his early career in films had been primarily in musicals. When the public grew weary of filmed musicals in the early thirties, he concentrated on straight dramatic roles. In 1936 he turned down the role of Gaylord Ravenal in Universal’s production of SHOW BOAT starring Irene Dunne (the role went to Allan Jones) because he did not want to be typecast in musicals.

I had worked with Lee Merriwether earlier that year on an episode of INSIGHT, and we would work together several more times in the future. In 1954 at the age of nineteen she was crowned Miss America. Lee was the second Miss America I had known. Much earlier I knew Jo-Carroll Dennison, who was married to Russell Stoneham when I was his secretary on PLAYHOUSE 90. I’m not totally sure, but I don’t think any other Miss America has had the successful career as an actress that Lee has had, and the lady is still working.

Burt did his own stunts. He had been an all-star college athlete, headed for a career in professional football until a knee injury and car accident put an end to those aspirations. With his changed goal of an acting career, he managed to incorporate that earlier talent into his work. In a sequence such as the one that follows he choreographed the action of the fight with all the knowledge of a professional stuntman.

The setting for the one and three-eighths page epilogue was a cemetery. The cost of moving the company to a real cemetery would have been prohibitive and would have added a part of a sixth day for location filming. We decided we would build a cemetery set, so with a few flat grave markers we did and planted the judge alongside the grave of his wife right on the grounds of his own estate.

I wondered if producer Tony Spinner had a cemetery fetish. I stayed on at the Goldwyn studio and directed four more episodes of DAN AUGUST. Every one of the four had a scene in a cemetery.

The Journey Continues

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11 Responses to The Law

  1. drummerman harry says:

    They just don’t build them like they used to!! What a fantastic production, and Walter pidgeon, Burt Reynolds and Larry Hagman………ALL terrific!!

  2. Kathy Tasich says:

    This was a great, exciting episode.As usual, your commentary was most insightful. It really kept me wondering who was tricking the judge, and the motive. All the actors were great. Ralph, could you please tell me the name of the young actor who played Julian? He looked so famiiar. I am almost sure he went on to greater fame.

    • Ralph says:

      Hi Kathy: I’ve missed you. The young actor was Jared Martin. We worked together a bit later on THE WALTONS. I haven’t posted that show yet, but I think I will. Like so many really talented young people, I feel he didn’t achieve the heights he was due.

  3. Kathy Tasich says:

    Thanks so much, Ralph for now I recall where I saw him. I absolutely had a tremendous crush on him when he played Sue Ellen’s boyfriend, Rusty Farlow, on DALLAS. I’ve been busy doing a play, but I’m back! Also, I am going to Petrolia, Canada tomorrow to see Ralph Waite and Michael Learned in the play LOVE LETTERS. It’s nice to know they are still going strong just like their former director! What a wonderful memory you have!

  4. Phil says:

    Ralph, did you ever discuss the origins of the ‘Dan August’ series with the show’s executives? Specifically, I’m referring to the ABC TV-movie that aired on Jan. 11, 1970 called ‘House on Greenapple Road’. The movie and TV series had the same characters in the police department, but almost a completely different cast. The only actor in both was Ned Romero.

    The movie (which is on Youtube) starred Janet Leigh in a series of flashbacks. Unlike the TV series, the Dan August character was not front-and-center the whole time. IMDB (which is NOT always accurate) says ‘HOGR’ was originally made for the cinema, but then cut by 30 minutes and sent directly to TV. If true, would that make the TV series more of an afterthought, or did QM plan for it all along? Thanks.

    • Ralph says:

      I don’t know the whole history, but HOUSE ON GREENAPPLE ROAD was produced by QM Productions with Christopher George playing Dan August. I don’t think it was considered a pilot at the time of production, but after the response to its airing, it was decided that it could be a series. By that time Christopher George was already committed to RAT PATROL and was not available, and I have read how Burt met with Quinn and was convinced to come aboard. And that’s how DAN AUGUST was born and died.

      • Mark Speck says:

        According to Jon Etter’s book about Quinn Martin and his shows (which you were interviewed for), Lynda mentioned that Quinn wanted Chris for the part, but he already committed to doing The Immortal (he had done three pilots that season which sold, but chose The Immortal to star in). Chris then told Quinn, ‘You’ve gotta get Burt!’ and handed the producer some 16mm episodes of Hawk so Quinn could check him out. Quinn told Chris, ‘All right, we’ll look at him and see what he has to offer’…but I’m surprised that Quinn didn’t remember Burt from previous roles on 12 O’Clock High or The FBI, but allegedly, Quinn was not a big fan of most actors, so maybe it wasn’t a surprise after all.

  5. Phil says:

    Small correction: Chris George’s new ’70 series was ‘The Immortal’, which was mortally wounded after fifteen episodes.

    • Ralph says:

      I stand corrected. And I should have remembered. In 1965 I directed Christopher George when he tested for the lead role in the series, LONG HOT SUMMER. He fortunately was not selected and it was the following year that he starred in the more successful series, RAT PATROL.

  6. Mark Speck says:

    In addition to Lee Meriwether, I think Mary Ann Mobley would also qualify as a Miss America who went on to a successful acting career.

  7. Phil says:

    Ralph, you forgot to mention one of your favorites in the 5th video, Don Hanmer (as Jenkins). He was also in your ‘Mannix’ ep.

    I spotted him at the beginning of the movie ‘The Great White Hope’ as a reporter. He had a speaking role, but went uncredited. In fact, there are numerous familiar faces who were uncredited in that flick. IMDB lists some of them, but they missed Don and a few others.

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