The White Star Garage

TAPED June 1982

THE WHITE STAR GARAGE was filmed almost 32 years ago. Regarding our country’s immigration problem, medical problems and our situation with the poor, the series INSIGHT was not only current — regarding the future, it was uncannily prescient.

One of the exciting occurrences in directing was launching new talent, There was a trio of young aspiring performers (Maggie, Mark, Fausto) that I met through Peter White (the bank executive in this production). All were graduates of the University of California in San Diego with majors in theatre. I cast Fausto Bara to play the leading role of Jose in our drama. It was Fausto’s FIRST screen performance.

And then there was the other side of the coin. Seventy-eight year old Elisha Cook made his first screen appearance over half a century before in 1930. At that time he was already a veteran performer, having debuted on stage at the age of fourteen. He appeared in over 200 films and television shows, appearing in such classics as PIGSKIN PARADE, playing opposite a very young Judy Garland in her first major screen role, THEY WON’T FORGET, Warner Bros. searing drama based unofficially on the Leo Frank murder trial with Lana Turner playing the sweater-clad murder victim, SERGEANT YORK with Oscar winner Gary Cooper, and in the screen appearance that proved to be his admittance into screen immortality, his role as the whining weasel in the Humphrey Bogart classic, THE MALTESE FALCON. He is truly one of the screen immortals.

I remember during the three days of rehearsal in the rehearsal hall, being concerned. I felt Fausto was perfect casting for the role of Jose. I felt he had the talent to play the role. I thought he was conscientious and committed to his craft. But he was slow learning his lines. I was used to and a believer in Beulah Bondi’s approach to her craft – she had the entire script committed to memory before her first rehearsal. I’m not sure, but I think I may have voiced my concerns to Fausto. It may have been his first encounter with a professional company. By the time we hit the cameras on the soundstage, everything was in place. Fausto was a perfect professional during the difficult shoot. And I found he had a powerful screen charisma.

Peter White (the bank executive) was the only member of this cast that I had directed before. Peter had played Alan in the acclaimed film, THE BOYS IN THE BAND. I remember that I was working for Quinn Martin Productions at the time, and that film proved to be a veritable gold mine for fresh talent. Since Quinn did not object to our hiring New York actors, which meant in addition to their salaries there was the expense of round-trip transportation plus per diem during their stay in Los Angeles, I cast Laurence Luckinbill in an episode of DAN AUGUST, followed by casting Peter in my next outing on that show, BULLET FOR A HERO. Peter broke his back filming his last sequence on that film. You can read about that by visiting my post for BULLET FOR A HERO at http://senensky.com/bullet-for-a-hero/

I had planned and had rehearsed for a spotlight to flash across the windows indicating an arriving automobile before the crash sound, but during the take the light didn’t happen. The rest of the take was very acceptable, so I didn’t see the necessity to redo the long scene for that one effect.

Have you put two and two together? Christmas Eve! The name of the leading lady is Maria. Her husband is Jose. There are 3 strangers. The setting is not a stable, but it is a rundown garage. I do believe we are viewing a modern nativity.

As I recall, this was the only INSIGHT I directed that was strongly religiously oriented.

I’ve said this before, I say it again: the elimination by the networks of the anthology format from their schedules was artistically unfortunate. True there were still some series that managed to produce provocative dramas – i.e. THE WALTONS, STAR TREK – but those series still were restricted by their continuing series format. I think that is an additional reason why INSIGHT was such an important part of American television programming.

THE WHITE STAR GARAGE was the last INSIGHT I directed. What I didn’t know at the time was that the series would soon be closing down.

The journey continues

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7 Responses to The White Star Garage

  1. David Laurence Wilson says:

    Dear Ralph –
    I’m a first-timer to your blog and enjoyed your recollection of Mr. Cook, one of my favorite character actors. Maltese Falcon and Phantom Lady were alone enough to cement this appreciation. No one, other than Peter Lorre and Mickey Rooney, seemed to be able to go crazy quite as effectively as Cook. Maybe it had something to do with height. Anyway, I wonder if you have any specific memories of the stunt performers you were able to work with. Tops of my list would be Harvey Parry and Davey Sharpe. I had the last conversation with Harvey before his death, in fact, I woke him up from an early sleep that night. He’d been ill, he’d had a couple injuries — at age 85 — and his last words were: ”
    Dave, don’t anyone know that I’ve been sick!” Only a couple of hours left for my dear friend, and he was still thinking about that next job. My hero forever.

    Regards,
    David

    • Ralph says:

      There were so many stuntmen. Max Klevin on NAKED CITY and STAR TREK; Hal Needham on DAN AUGUST; Ronnie Rondell on HART TO HART. Mostly I remember that my wish always was that the stunt work should be REAL. I remember on TO TASTE OF TERROR, an episode of THE ROOKIES,, the final action sequence involved cars at a race track with Andy Robinson trying to kill Sam Melville by forcing him to crash. I didn’t want it ever to look like STUNTS, for the stunt work to take precedence over the personal emotional interactions of the pursuer and the pursued.

  2. detectivetom says:

    You hit the nail on the head, as you have stated previously, it is tragic the way networks have eliminated certain types of shows. Hope to see soon an Insight piece.

  3. John Dayton says:

    Ralph – any chance you will cover “I Want to Die” – it was the late 70’s, Grant Goodeve and I were pals he was working on Stage 27 “Eight Is Enough” and we were on 26 with “The Waltons”. Grant played a college student home for Thanksgiving and he pulled out a little brown bottle, placed it on the table and announced he was going to kill himself. It was POWERFUL! Jeanne Cooper was his mother, Walter Burke his father and Laurie Walters (who played his sister on “Eight Is Enough”) played his sister. I can still see Grant placing the bottle on the table, and Jeanne’s reaction.

    • Ralph says:

      I am working on it right now. Even as I write this, I am completing the film clips. I shouldn’t be tooting my own horn, but I can’t wait to get it posted. John, it is more than POWERFUL!!!!

  4. John Dayton says:

    PS: I meant to type Walter Brooke not Burke. I’m the world’s worst typist.

  5. Phil says:

    While attempting to look up any available videos of ‘Insight’ on Youtube (and there’s not much there), I found a similar series done by the Lutheran church called ‘This is the Life’, which I never heard of before. Youtube has two episodes. One from 1965 was called “The Devil’s Freckle”, which starred Walter Sande, Virginia Gregg, and Bartlett Robinson & directed by William Claxton. The story was just blah, and the religious message was almost in-your-face. It was done on film, but the end credits didn’t mention a studio. The other was from 1962 and called “Side by Side “, which starred Robert Shayne, Tyler McVey, and Brenda Scott & directed by Lee Sholem. It was a better story, even with a stronger religious angle than the other episode. It’s safe to say that neither episode had a single element that would remind me of ‘The Twilight Zone’.

    The series ran from 1956 into the 1980s, but it appears to be way more “lost” than ‘Insight’. UCLA has eighteen episodes, almost all from the ‘70s and most of them were directed by J.M. Lucas. By this time, I wonder if this series had changed for the better: more imagination and less heavy-handedness.

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