The Seven Minute Life Of James Houseworthy

TAPED April 1969

Oh oh! The ultimate oversight!


Edmond O’Brien’s name was misspelled in the credits, both at the top of the show and in the closing credits. The “U” in his first name should have been an “O”.

I like when people leave Comments on my posts. The following was left on a recent one:

Youtube has the first 10:49 of “The 7 Minute Life of James Houseworthy”, which emulates ‘The Twilight Zone’.

I must admit I never made that connection of this script to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but I think I agree – it is an apt one. However the writer’s Comment that the You Tube clip was the first 10:49 of the teleplay is inaccurate. The above clip is the opening prologue of the show, leading into the billboard and Fr. Keiser. Now you will see what he thought was the opening of the show – the introduction of the wake of vultures, a group of aspiring heirs and heiresses.

For the taping I broke the script down into eleven sections. During the early part of the following scene, we encountered a very unusual problem. After blocking and rehearsing, as we were running a final dress rehearsal before taping, the technical director complained that there was a sound disturbance. He checked his board – nothing. The sound engineer checked his controls – nothing awry there. It was the stage manager on the floor who finally solved the problem. Edmond O’Brien, lying in the coffin, had fallen asleep and was snoring.

Edmond O’Brien’s snoring was not our only sound problem. Late in the morning during a taping our technical director reported that there was a bird chirping on the sound track. We realized that a bird had probably flown into the studio when the loading doors had been open to bring in the scenery and was now flitting about in the upper reaches of the soundstage. Attempts to eliminate the bird sounds by adjusting the volume controls did not work. It was decided that we would break early for lunch. Miraculously when we returned to the studio after lunch, the bird problem had been solved. I knew that the solution had been an air gun, but felt that at least a priest had been present for the last rites

I had worked with Edmond O’Brien four years earlier when I directed an episode of THE LONG, HOT SUMMER, a series in which he starred. He was one of the most-respected character actors in Hollywood, a giant talent. He entered film at the age of twenty-four in a major role in the Charles Laughton starrer, THE HUNCHBBACK OF NOTRE DAME. He had made his Broadway debut at the age of twenty-one. He told me an interesting story of one of his Broadway experiences. He was appearing as Mercutio in the Laurence Olivier production of ROMEO AND JULIET. During his long periods offstage he would exit his stage door and enter the stage door across the way, where Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were starring in a production of THERE SHALL BE NO NIGHT. There he would stand in the wings and watch the much-admired couple act onstage. Because of Eddie’s costume Lunt realized he was a member of the ROMEO AND JULIET cast. One evening as they stood side-by-side in the wings, Lunt asked him, “What do you do when you’re getting ready to enter a scene?” O’Brien explained that he closed his eyes and worked to emotionally prepare himself for the scene he was about to perform. Lunt said, “Really? I just …” and he moved away as he entered the stage, uttering his entering line of dialogue.

Edmond O’Brien was plagued by bad eyesight. When we worked together earlier, he told me a great story about the early sixties when MCA bought Universal Studio. Eddie had worked at Universal so often, the guards at the gate knew him, and he would just wave to them as he drove in. But with the new owners, there were new guards at the gate and new rules. Eddie did say that because of his bad eyesight, many times he wore very thick glasses that changed his appearance. One time when Eddie reported to Universal after the change of ownership, he waved as usual as his car entered the gate, but the guard (probably a new one) yelled at him and demanded that he stop to be identified. Eddie complied and said, “O’Brien,” and started to drive on in. The guard again stopped him as he came over to the car with his clipboard. Checking the lists he said, “Hugh?” Eddie said, “No.” The guard checked his list again. “Pat?” Eddie said, “No.” The guard again checked. “George?” Eddie was fuming as he said, “No.” The perplexed guard then said, “Well who?” Eddie yelled out, “Margaret, you son-of-a-bitch,” as he stepped on the gas pedal, and his car raced onto the lot.

Twenty-three year old Bruce Davison was the new kid in town. He had very recently made his big-screen debut co-starring with Richard Thomas in the sleeper hit, THE LAST SUMMER. I can’t be sure, but I think the role of William in THE SEVEN MINUTE LIFE OF JAMES HOUSEWORTHY may be have been his first television gig. What I found so exciting was the pairing of the old pro and the young tyro.

The journey continues

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6 Responses to The Seven Minute Life Of James Houseworthy

  1. don wooster says:

    So glad I found your page! I’ve really been enjoying the Insight episodes. I used to watch this as a kid on sunday mornings, after Davey and Goliath. Even though I was only about 11 or so, my tv viewing became a little more spiritual on sunday morning! I don’t recall seeing the “7 minutes” episode. Enjoyed it very much. Funny, I didn’t recognize Lee Meriweather until the credits ran. Knew Fiedler right away. I’ve seen him in so many things, and that voice, any kid would know as “piglet” from winnie the pooh. anyway, just wanted to let you know how much i enjoy reading your behind the scenes, and watching the shows. You certainly have directed and worked with the best. thanks again for having a great site!

  2. 2 minutes and 47 seconds into the second clip we see Mr. O’Brien’s hands and chest move as he breathes. That’s where I thought you were going with, “Oh, oh. The ultimate oversight.”

  3. detectivetom says:

    I wonder if the writer choose seven minutes because of the signification of that number in the Bible and Catholic Church? Seven of course meaning perfect in the Bible, as well as, Jesus telling us to forgive our brothers seven times 77 times. In the Catholic Church there are seven Sacraments, seven virtues, and seven deadly sins.

  4. Thank you so much for this fascinating website and the full episode! I tried watching it on YouTube and was frustrated to only find a clip.

    Your anecdotes are very interesting! Do you have any filming memories of working with Christopher Cary? I looked up this episode in the first place because of wanting to see him; I’m rather nuts about him! I’d kind of like to open a website dedicated to him, as well to some of my other favorite character actors, and I’d like to have some thoughts from people who knew them or worked with them.

    Thank you so much again. I will definitely be browsing your website some more!

  5. Jon Reeves says:

    Thanks for posting this. I love the show. Remember waking up to it at dawn on Saturday or Sunday mornings when I was very little. Some time before or after Davey and Goliath. Before my parents were up, actually. Being a child, I often found it difficult to understand some of the meaning of these episodes and always wanted to one day watch again from my now grown perspective as a man. This is good stuff and television will never make them quite like this, again. Would there ever be a modern version? Thus far, the movie K – Pax has done well for such a theme. Needless to say, I’m enjoying this. Have a great day, and thank you once again.

    Jon Reeves

  6. Phil says:

    They also goofed on the spelling of Lee Meriwether in the closing credits…no “a” in her last name.

    Speaking of corpses and the supernatural, Franken & Fiedler played morgue attendants in separate episodes of ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’.

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