When The Bough Breaks

Filmed July 1964

When the 1964-65 season started, I was booked to return to MGM to direct my fourth DR. KILDARE (MAYBE LOVE WILL SAVE MY APARTMENT HOUSE), and then an episode of a new half hour series starring Dennis Weaver, KENTUCKY JONES. While I was prepping the DR. KILDARE one of my agents called to tell me they had an offer from QM Productions for me to direct an episode of THE FUGITIVE, the smash hit of the previous season. I was reluctant to accept because there was a conflict. In that same time period I was already committed to KENTUCKY JONES and I had reservations about walking away from that commitment, which was being produced by director Buzz Kulik, whom I knew from the first year of DR. KILDARE when I was the assistant producer. The agent persisted. He felt the introduction into the Quinn Martin company was very important to me. And he was so right. I agreed to have them get me out of the KENTUCKY JONES and accept the assignment on THE FUGITIVE.

Quinn Martin Productions was based at the Samuel Goldwyn Studio on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, which is where THE FUGITIVE was filmed. Goldwyn had been one of the triumvirate involved in the creation of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924, but he soon left that company (leaving his name behind) to go into independent production at space rented at the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio, which was this same Santa Monica Boulevard studio, but then known as the United Artists Studio. In 1940 Goldwyn renamed the studio the Samuel Goldwyn Studio, although at that time he only owned the facilities; Mary Pickford still owned the land on which the studio stood. It wasn’t until 1955 that Goldwyn was able to claim ownership of the land.

The studio was small, a fraction of the size of MGM or Universal. As a result the sound stages were conveniently close to the production offices; and there was no back lot to speak of, which meant the exterior scenes would be filmed on locations away from the studio The normal schedule for an episode of THE FUGITIVE was four days filming on location, three days filming interiors at the studio. Normally location work would be scheduled first, but since there was going to be night work at the old apartment house, the railroad yard was scheduled for Friday, the fourth day, after which we then moved to the apartment house for day and night filming. Our first day of filming was the interior of the boxcar. You know, I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but I remember that forty-seven years ago my writer friend, Max Hodge, brought his two very young visiting nephews to the set the day we did the boxcar interiors. Years later Max told me the boys, now grown men, still talked about that visit and their excitement when the boxcar shook, simulating movement of the train.

One of the bonuses in viewing television from half a century ago is the visual presentation of the mores of the period. How many people ride the rails today? A whole way of life that was part of the fabric of living that has disappeared.

I think THE FUGITIVE is one of the most classic of those early television shows now referred to as “classic television”. It was an exciting concept to turn Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean of Les Miserables into a modern day doctor on the run from the law. I liked the anthology aspect of the series; each episode was a separate, individual story. The location could be any part of the country. Kimble was chameleon-like; his name and identity changed weekly according to the needs of the script. Each week he would become involved with people in trouble, his basic humanity preventing his turning away. And this involvement would then jeopardize his own safety with the threat of exposing his true identity as a convicted wife killer on the lam.

This was my first collaboration with Diana Hyland, a beautiful and talented actress. I’ve already written about my unsuccessful attempt to cast her the following year in the SUSPENSE THEATRE production, THE EASTER BREACH. It would be almost a decade before we worked together again, first on an episode of DAN AUGUST, then on THE FBI and finally on BANYON. In 1977 I was signed to direct an episode of EIGHT IS ENOUGH. Diana was playing the wife of Dick Van Patten and the mother of the eight kids. I didn’t know until I arrived at the studio that Diana would not be involved in the filming; she was ill with cancer. To keep the character alive, they had the mother away, but each episode she would telephone home. The studio was sending a sound crew to Diana’s home each week to record her end of the conversation. I spoke to Diana once by telephone during my prep period. I didn’t know that would be our last conversation; she died a few days later, just before I commenced photography. She was forty-one years old.

The role of Richard Kimble was extremely demanding. There were no other running characters to lighten the load for David, except those few episodes when Barry Morse was in pursuit. There were sixty pages of script for this episode; David was involved in scenes on forty-seven of those pages. And the usually scheduled four days per episode of location work were physically demanding, many times requiring difficult physical activity on rough terrain. I personally feel that although the series had very fine writing and was one of the most elaborately produced series on the air, David was the main reason for its popularity. I found him to be an aloof man, but he was very attractive and on screen he was enormously charismatic. I suspected that, like Mickey Rooney, he had a photographic mind.

Rock-a-bye baby on the treetop

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall

Down will come baby, cradle and all.

 

WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS was the first THE FUGITIVE I would direct. The following season my fourth and final assignment for the series would be WHEN THE WIND BLOWS.

This was the first time I would be confronted with the problems when filming with a baby. The rules were very strict. Not only limited time on the set, but there were strict limitations on how long a baby could be in front of the camera. Because of the size of the baby’s role the baby was played by a set of twins.

Although I said there was no backlot to speak of, there was a small exterior business street set in the studio that could be used for scenes of limited scope.

Because Richard Kimble’s flight took him to all parts of the country, Southern California was an ideal  place to film THE FUGITIVE. Within reach from the studio were locations that could stand in for any coast, the dessert, the plains of the midwest and the mountains. Some television series of this era had the freedom of the anthology, even though they were not anthologies. I wrote of the diversity of style in the stories I did on NAKED CITY. That was also true of the four shows I would direct on THE FUGITIVE. This episode was film noirish, a style I particularly liked, but one I too seldom got to do. And film noir stories took place at night. One of Quinn Martin’s rules was that exterior night scenes had to be filmed at night, not the cost-conscious method of so many who shot day-for-night.

I was concerned with placing the baby on the floor in that dirty environment. I had to remind myself that it was a set and was not as filthy as it appeared. I also remembered the legendary story of Samuel Goldwyn who on that very lot came down to inspect the new set for his feature film, DEAD END. He started picking up trash that littered the set and angrily gave instructions to the crew to clean it all up before they began filming. What he was picking up was the set dressing necessary for the river front locale that the set depicted.

I also was concerned about the scenes with the baby and the cat.

John Conwell, an actor turned casting director, who had cast PRINTER’S DEVIL, the TWILIGHT ZONE I directed, was the casting director for Quinn Martin Productions. He was as big a movie fan as I was with the same respect and fascination with the players of the past, both big stars and lesser ones. I was delighted that he cast June Vincent to play Carol’s mother. June had starred in many feature films in the forties and many more television shows in the fifties and sixties.

Eddie Guardino, Harry Guardino’s kid brother, had appeared in my Equity Library Theatre West production of Clifford Odets’ GOLDEN BOY. Later he was in the cast of THE BULL ROARER on BREAKING POINT, working under the name of Danny Gardino. Soon after his appearance in this episode he seemed to disappear. Why? He was personable, bright, a distinct personality. What was there about Hollywood that it chewed up talent and spit it out!

Kimble’s involvement each week when he attempted to help some person always threatened his own safety. The more he was threatened and the more dangerous his predicament became, the more exciting that episode would be. The problem then was to find a way to extricate him so that he could face the same dilemma next week.

Quinn Martin productions were usually scheduled to be filmed in seven days. I don’t know why, but this episode was scheduled to film in six. Probably because the location work was not as extensive as usual. But it took seven days to finish. I contacted my agent after completing the show and told him I was due an added day’s salary for the overtime. He said he would check. He called back to say, yes I had the added day’s pay coming but he suggested I not pursue the matter. I said, why not; I worked for it. I guess he thought asking for the $250.00 (and that’s all it amounted to) would jeopardize my chances to work again at QM Productions. This time he was wrong. I was booked immediately to return to direct another episode of THE FUGITIVE.

The journey continues

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17 Responses to When The Bough Breaks

  1. Marlyn Mason says:

    Great chapter! I, too, have a Diana Hyland story though I never met her; if my memory serves me correctly it was one of the writer’s who wanted me to play the “mother”. My manager felt it would be a negative career move for me so with my permission “we passed”. No point in wondering “what if I had said yes”. Reminds me of when I turned down a 3rd Johnny Carson show; that decision was made on my own and I’ll always know that was the dumbest decision of my career. No one to blame but myself for that one. But life is good and at 71 I have no regrets. What is is!

  2. Marlyn Mason says:

    I wasn’t clear re Hyland story…it was the role of the “mother” in Boy in a Bubble with Travolta.

  3. Les says:

    Thanks for one of the most memorable episodes of the Fugitive series. Brilliant Cast, even greater plot and tons of subtle film noir elements and touches. Often copied, but never duplicated, well done!

  4. detectivetom says:

    Thanks for the insight and to Marlyn for her insight also.

  5. Lindycarmel says:

    Whew! We were sweating bullets over that baby left in the abandoned apartments that was going to be bulldozed! Thanks for saving him…

  6. Phil says:

    By my unofficial count, Diana Hyland did 16 Q.M. episodes!

    What’s particular valuable about ‘The Fugitive’ clips Ralph posted here is that they have the original music. Apparently, it was very difficult to secure the rights to the original music for many of the episodes when they were released on DVDs. The whole episode can be found elsewhere on the internet, but it has jarring synthesized music that is out of place.

    There’s a scene where Kimble first enters downtown Fargo by bus during the day. I assume this is the SGS small exterior street set Ralph mentioned and it’s one of the most realistic-looking street sets I’ve ever seen. Then we see a familiar R.S. trademark: Kimble and Carol are seen crossing the street in the reflection of a store window. I must admit I’m looking for goofs in your mirror/window shots, but you do them too well!

    Ralph, there’s a scene where Kimble first finds the dilapidated housing complex during the day. Where was that?

    Finally, I’ve heard that whenever animals are in a scene, each one has a trainer on the set directing it. I don’t know if that’s always true. Was anyone else helping you direct the cat?

    • Ralph says:

      Regarding the music, Phil: when CBS released THE FUGITIVE on DVD, they opted to redo the music with public domain tracks to save paying the original composers the fees they would be due. There was such a huge outcry of objection from the public that eventually CBS reissued another set of DVDs with the original tracks. The clips I posted with the original music were from inferior tapes that I had made when the series ran in syndication.
      As I remember the neighborhood for the dilapidated housing complex was an area near the Goldwyn studio. And the cat did indeed have a trainer, as did all animals when being filmed.

  7. Mark says:

    A classic episode, beautifully shot and wonderfully acted. I’ve always been impressed by the noir atmosphere you evoked here. Thanks so much for posting such detailed information!

  8. John B. says:

    Thanks once again for all the memories, Mr. Senensky.

    I had a problem with the “look” of Diana Hyland in the episode, which I felt ought to have been more natural a la Collin Willcox. She wore too much makeup, especially around the eyes. This was fine for a TV series of the period but it lead to disbelief suspension issues with me vis a vis credibility.

    David Janssen was fine, as usual. He struck me as an instinctive actor with real talent who might have benefitted, early on, from elocution lessons. It’s sometimes difficult to understand what he’s saying. It sometimes sounded like he was slurring his words; and not because he was drunk but due to a need for speech lessons.

    I’ve read that Robert Lansing was under consideration for Richard Kimble on The Fugitive but Janssen won out. I can’t show succeeding with Lansing, a more classically trained actor than Janssen, he was too wholesome in looks and personality to credibly play a man on the run and at the same time elicit sympathy in the viewer. Janssen, with that furtive, almost cryptic way about him, managed the part beautifully.

    I felt that Lin McCarthy delivered a solid performance as the local/sleptical lawman who may or may not carry his suspicions about this dark stranger and look into background, take his fingerprints. Like Barry Atwarer, he was a solid actor who never got the credit (or the breaks) hew deserved.

    John B.

  9. Joe says:

    Another great story & flashback. I wasn’t born till Nov 64 (ouch) but I love watching The Fugitive. I was just curious as a director & with inside knowledge of the show do you think the show better was better suited for black & white versus color? I’ve watched all episodes and the show seemed so much better (and, heavier) in black & white. Not to say that the show became a cartoon (like when Lost in Space went to color) but it didn’t seem as epic. I was just curious as to your thoughts. BTW! I love this site and the stories. I could talk to you for hours about television and its heyday!

    • Ralph says:

      There was something magical about film in Black and White. Color is not to be discounted. GONE WITH THE WIND is better for being in color. But there are classic films — STAGECOACH, CAMILLE, THE INFORMER, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, the first season of 12 O’CLOCK HIGH and yes THE FUGITIVE that I think would lose by being in color.

  10. Adrienne says:

    I’m a big fan of The Fugitive and was able to see many episodes this past month on a new cable station called Decades; where it was over three (yikes!) solid days of The Fugitive. I really enjoyed When the Bough Breaks and have to say, that little baby (or babies) were the best behaved little ones I’ve ever seen. All in all, the scene with the cat and the box car scene was the best shots I’ve seen in all the episodes. I found your site after watching Detour on a Road Going Nowhere and was delighted to see your rememberances! Thanks so much! ($225 dollars a DAY? Hit me with a feather!) Adrienne

  11. Dear Mr. Senensky,
    Thank you for sharing your memories of your first Directorial assignment of “THE FUGITIVE”.

    I did not meet David until October of 1965, and shared his friendship for the last fifteen years of his life. I am very curious to know if your opinion of David being an “aloof man” changed over the subsequent three episodes you Directed him in. I know David was a very shy and humble man, but he never appeared to me as being aloof. I know David was very concerned that in each scene, he put forth his very best – for his fans, and to feel he had succeeded, he relied on the Director to be “satisfied” with his work.

    Now, I am compelled to read your entire BLOG, including your Archieves. You have certainly enjoyed an admirable career as a Director on many memorable Television series. I can not believe that in the “Golden Age” of television, Directors, who made a series episode REAL, were paid such a paltry sum! You have gained a true and appreciative fan.

    Thank you.

    Mike Phelps
    Miami Shores, Florida

    • Ralph says:

      Maybe I used the wrong word when I said “aloof”. Maybe it was his shyness. And if you read my current “Latest Post”, I wrote, “I’m remembering the actors I worked with, and I’m realizing I didn’t get to know most of them personally. Because of the pace of television, the time I spent with any one of them on the set was NOT with him or her, it was with the character he or she was portraying.” I never felt any adverse feelings from David. We both worked in our respective professional grooves. And I have stated repeatedly that I considered David’s performance the primary reason for the success of the series.

  12. Good Morning Mr. Senensky,

    Thank you for your kind words. I have watched your clips of each episode you directed David in “THE FUGITIVE”. I had not met David prior to the four episodes you directed him in. As we developed our friendship, I knew by instinct not to pepper him with questions about his work, first I learned he did not really like discussing details, and second because I really had no interest in the TV-film industry. I do know that David gave tremendous credit to first; the Writers, second to the Directors, third to his fellow actors and last, but not least – the camera, lighting, set decorators and all others who made the show a success. I know Dave (having been a child actor himself) loved working with kids, and dogs/cats as well.

    I appreciate your being candid in responding that you and David were intent in “both worked in our respective professional grooves.”

    You have worked on some of my favorite Television series, and you made them “real”.

    Thank you for your keen memories of a true Television Classic.

    Best regards,

    Mike Phelps

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