Saturday, September 24, 2022

Godspeed Louise Fletcher

Actress Louise Fletcher, best known for playing the cruel Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and who also played Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, died yesterday, September 23 2022, at the age of 88.

Louise Fletcher was born on July 22 1934 in Birmingham, Alabama. Both of her parents were deaf and she would learn sign language while young. As a little girl Louise Fletcher was very shy and her parents sent her to live with an aunt in Texas, who helped teach her how to speak. She attended Ramsay High School in Birmingham, and then the University of North Carolina where she received a bachelor's degree in drama. She and some friends made a trip to Los Angeles and Louise Fletcher decided to stay there. She worked as a reception while taking acting classes at night under legendary character actor and acting teacher Jeff Corey.

Louise Fletcher made her debut in an episode of the single season, syndicated anthology series Flight. In the late Fifties she guest starred on the shows Playhouse 90, Bat Masterson, Yancy Derringer, Lawman, Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, The Untouchables, One Step Beyond, Markham, Wagon Train, The Millionaire, Sugarfoot, Tate, and Perry Mason.

In the Sixties Louise Fletcher guest starred on The Best of the Post and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. She made her film debut in A Gathering of Eagles in 1963. It was following the birth of her two sons that she took a break from acting in order to raise them. She returned to acting after nearly ten years. She guest starred on the TV series Medical Center in 1973 and in the Seventies went onto appear in the television movies Can Ellen Be Saved? and Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery. She received acclaim for her role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1976), for which she also won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Louise Fletcher also appeared in the movies Thieves Like Us (1974), Russian Roulette (1975), Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Cheap Detective (1978), The Lady in Red (1979), The Magician of Lublin (1979), Natural Enemies (1979), The Lucky Star (1980), and Mama Dracula (1980).

In the Eighties Miss Fletcher appeared in the movies Strange Behavior (1981), Talk to Me (1982), Strange Invaders (1983), Brainstorm (1983), Grizzly II: The Predator (1983), Firestarter (1984), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Invaders from Mars (1986), The Boy Who Could Fly (1986), Nobody's Fool (1986), Flowers in the Attic (1987), Two Moon Junction (1988), Best of the Best (1989), Shadowzone (1990), and Blue Steel (1990). She appeared in the TV movies Islands, A Summer to Remember, Last Waltz on the Tightrope, Second Serve, J. Edgar Hoover, The Karen Carpenter Story, Final Notice, and Nightmare on the 13th Floor. She guest starred on the shows Worlds Beyond, The Twilight Zone, and In the Heat of the Night.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She also had regular roles on the TV shows The Boys of Twilight and VR.5. She guest starred on two episodes of Picket Fences as the mother of Laurie Bey (Marlee Martin). She also guest starred on the shows Tales from the Crypt, The Ray Bradbury Theatre, Civil Wars, Profiler, The Practice, Fantasy Island, Brimstone, and Any Day Now. She appeared in the mini-series In a Child's Name and The Fire Next Time. She appeared in the movies The Player (1992), Blind Vision (1992), On Deadly Ground (1994), Giorgino (1994), Tryst (1994), Tollbooth (1994), Virtuosity (1995), Return to Two Moon Junction (1995), Mulholland Falls (1996), Edge & Pen (1996), Frankenstein and Me (1996), 2 Days in the Valley (1996), High School High (1996), Gone Fishin' (1997), The Girl Gets Moe (1997), Hollywood Salome (1998), Love Kills (1998), Cruel Intentions (1999), A Map to the World (1999), The Contact (1999), Big Eden (2000), Very Mean Men (2000), and More Dogs Than Bones (2000).

In the Naughts Louise Fletcher appeared in the movies After Image (2001), Touched by a Killer (2001), Manna from Heaven (2002), Silver Man (2003), Finding Home (2003), Dancing in Twilight (2004), Clipping Adam (2004), Aurora Borealis (2005), Fat Rose and Squeaky (2006), The Last Sin Eater (2007), and The Genesis Code (2010). She guest starred on the shows It's All Relative, Joan of Arcadia, Wonderfalls, 7th Heaven, ER, Heroes, and Private Practice.

In the Teens she had a recurring role on the TV show Shameless. She guest starred on the show Girlboss. She appeared in the TV movies Of Two Minds and Bad Girls. She appeared in the movies Cassadaga (2011) and A Perfect Man (2013).

Louise Fletcher was an incredible actress. Her performance as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is among the greatest in movie history. Indeed, Nurse Ratched ranked no. 5 in AFI's 2003 list "100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains." As well known as Louise Fletcher was as Nurse Ratched, she played many other roles in her career. As Kai Winn Adami she went from an overly zealous religious leader in the beginning to a major villain on the show towards its end. Her talent was on display very early in her career. In the Bat Masterson episode "Cheyenne Club" she played a woman whose father calls upon Bat to make sure her fiancé doesn't cheat at cards. In the Eighties version of The Twilight Zone, in the episode "The Hunters," she played an archaeologist investigating a cave in which something seems to be moving around. In Firestarter she played the wife of a farmer who kindly takes Andy and his pyrokinetic daughter Charlie in when they are running from The Shop (officially called  the Department of Scientific Intelligence ). Throughout her career Louise Fletcher played a wide variety of roles and played all of them convincingly.

Friday, September 23, 2022

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)

This post is part of the Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon Hosted by Taking Up Room)

In the Sixties, as is still the case now, Broadway musicals were often adapted as films. As to the Broadway musicals themselves, they might spring from original concept (such as Stop the World I Want to Get Off), based on earlier play or plays (A Funny Thing Happened on the Forum, based on Plautus's  Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus, and Mostellaria), or a book (Oliver!, based on Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist). One would not expect to see a Broadway musical based on a parody of self-help books. Even so, that is exactly the case with How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

The musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying  was based on the book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune by Shepherd Mead, published in 1952. It is a satire of self-help books, popular then as now. In the case of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune, it satirizes office work of the sort done for large companies by dishing out often outrageous advice on how to get ahead at work. To some degree How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune owes something to The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship: Or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating by Stephen Potter, a parody of self-help books which sought to advise the reader on how to win games. Stephen Potter would write further self-help book parodies, including Lifemanship: With a Summary of Recent Researches in Gamesmanship (1950) One-Upmanship: Being Some Account of the Activities and Teachings of the Lifemanship Correspondence College of One-Upness and Games Lifemastery (1954), and Christmas-ship; or, The Art of Giving and Receiving (1956).

Although it was a parody, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune did have some basis in reality. It was based on Stephen Mead's career at the advertising agency Benton & Bowles. He joined the agency in 1936, working in the mail room, and eventually became a vice president. It was while he was working at Benton & Bowles that he wrote the book in his spare time.  How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune proved to be a best seller. It attracted the attention of Willie Gilbert and Jack Weinstock, who wrote a play based on the work in 1955 that went unproduced for five years. It was talent agent Abe Newborn who came up with the idea of adapting the book as a musical. To this end, he brought his idea to producers  Cy Feuer and Ernest H. Martin, who had been responsible for Guys and Dolls. Abe Burrows worked on the musical's book with Willie Gilbert and Jack Weinstock. The legendary Frank Loesser, who had written "Once in Love with Amy" for Where's Charley? and several of the songs for Guys and Dolls, wrote the lyrics and music for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Willie Gilbert was the director, while Bob Fosse was responsible for the choreography, with the choreography in "Treasure Hunt" sequence having been created by an obscure choreographer named Hugh Lambert.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying opened on October 14 1961 at the 46th Street Theatre. It proved to be highly successful. It opened to largely positive reviews and won eight Tony Awards (it was nominated for nine). It ultimately ran for 1417 performances, finally closing on March 6 1965.

As the original book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune was a parody of self-help books, it has neither plot nor characters. When Willie Gilbert and Jack Weinstock wrote their original play and then when they turned it into a musical with Abe Burrows, they had to provide it with both a plot and characters. To do so, they used author Shepherd Mead's career as inspiration. The plot centres on J. Pierrepont Finch, a young window washer who picks up the book How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Using the book as a guide, he then gets a job in the mail room of the World Wide Wicket Company and then proceeds to use the book to work his way up the corporate ladder.

Given the success of the Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, it should come as no surprise that it would be adapted as a movie. United Artists paid $1 million dollars for the film rights to the musical. For the most part the movie version use the cast of the Broadway play. Robert Morse (J. Pierrepont Finch) Rudy Vallee (World Wide Wicket Company president J. B. Bigley), and Ruth Kobart (Mr. Bigley's secretary Miss Jones) all reprised their roles from the Broadway production. Michele Lee had replaced Bonnie Scott on Broadway as Finch's love interest, the secretary Rosemary Pilkington, and played the role in the film. Maureen Arthur replaced Virginia Martin as Mr. Bigley's mistress Hedy LaRue on Broadway, and played the role in the movie.

Some changes were made from the Broadway musical for the movie. In the original Broadway musical, J. Pierrepont Finch is a much edgier character, and so the character was softened a bit. The songs Love From a Heart of Gold," "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm," and "Cinderella Darling." were all cut for

the film. A portion of the song "Coffee Break" was included in the movie. As it appears on the movie's soundtrack album, some think the song may have been filmed, but the scene scrapped for whatever reason. In the case of "Paris Original," its music is simply heard in the background.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967) was released on March 9 1967 to largely positive reviews. Unfortunately, it failed at the box office. It made its television debut on NBC Saturday Night at the Movies on November 25 1972. It would be through repeated showings on television that it would develop a following. It was released on DVD in 2003 and is available on various streaming services.

Even today How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967) holds up well. Quite simply, the comedy in the movie is so good that it would work well even without the songs and musical sequences. Indeed, while most of the comedy in the film is centred on work in an office, it also takes shots at such things as college sports rivalries. And while many of the situations in the film are exaggerated for humorous effect, anyone who has worked in an office, particularly one for a large corporation, will recognize many of them as true to working in an office. The characters are also enjoyable. Even when J. Pierrepont Finch is at his most devious, one can't help but root for him.

One can see echoes of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in such workplace comedies as The Secret To my Success (1987) and Working Girl (1988) . And while How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a comedy with somewhat exaggerated situations, it may well have had an influence on the TV drama Mad Men. Indeed on Mad Men Robert Morse (J. Pierrepont Finch himself) played Bert Cooper, the senior partner of the advertising agency Sterling Cooper. Bert would recommend the works of Ayn Rand to others from time to time. One had to wonder if he didn't recommend the book How to Succeed in Business by Shepherd Mead as well....

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Irene Papas Passes On

Greek actress Irene Papas, who appeared in such films as The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Z  (1969), died on September 14 2022 at the age of 96.

Irene Papas was born Irene Lelekou on September 3 1926 in the village of Chiliomodi, Greece. She was seven years old when her family moved to Athens. She was 15 when she began studying acting, dance, and singing at the Royal School of Dramatic Art in Athens. She graduated in 1948.

She began her acting career on stage before making her film career in 1948 in Hamenoi angeloi. In the Fifties she appeared in the films Nekri politeia (1951) and Le infedeli (1953) before appearing her first English language film in 1953. She appeared in the movies Una di quelle (1953), Vortice (1953), Teodora, imperatrice di Bisanzio (1954), Attila (1954), The Missing Scientists (1955), Tribute to a Bad Man (1956), Psit... koritsia! (1959), I limni ton stenagmon (1959), and Bouboulina (1959). She made her television debut in the episode of Italian TV show I tre moschettieri (The Three Musketeers). For the remainder of the Fifties she appeared in the TV shows Studio One, Kraft Television Theatre, Matinee Theatre, and Climax!.

In the Sixties Irene Papas appeared in the movies The Guns of Navarone (1961), Ilektra (1962), The Moon-Spinners (1964), Alexis Zorbas (1964), Zeugin aus der Hölle (1966),Roger la Honte (1966), Ta skalopatia(1966), A ciascuno il suo (1967), The Desperate Ones (1967), The Brotherhood (1968), Z (1969), Ecce Homo (1969), A Dream of Kings (1969), and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). She made her Broadway in That Summer - That Fall in 1967. On television she played Penelope in the mini-series Odissea.

In the Seventies she appeared in the movies The Trojan Women (1971), N.P. il segreto (1971), Un posto ideale per uccidere (1971), Roma bene (1971), Non si sevizia un paperino (1972), Piazza pulita (1973), Sutjeska (1973), Le farò da padre (1974), The Message (1976), Ifigeneia (1977), Noces de sang (1977), L'uomo di Corleone (1977), Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (1979), Bloodline (1979), Un'ombra nell'ombra (1979), and Lion of the Desert (1980).  On television she appeared in the mini-series Moses the Lawgiver. She appeared on Broadway in Medea and The Bacchae.

In the Eighties Irene Papas appeared in the movies L'assistente sociale tutto pepe (1981), Sarâb (1982), Eréndira (1983), Il disertore (1983), Afghanistan pourquoi? (1983), Into the Night (1985), The Assisi Underground (1985), Sweet Country (1987), Cronaca di una morte annunciata (1987), High Season (1987), and Island (1989). She appeared in the mini-series All'ombra della grande quercia, A Mala de Cartão, and Oceano.

In the Nineties she appeared in the movies Pano, kato kai plagios (1992), Lettera da Parigi (1993), Party (1996), Inquietude (1998), and Yerma (1998). On television she appeared in the mini-series L'ispettore anticrimine and The Odyssey.In the Naughts she appeared in the movies Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001), Podzimní návrat (2001), ...kai to treno paei ston ourano (2001), Um Filme Falado (2003), and Ecuba - Il film (2004). She guest starred on the TV show Short Cuts.

Irene Papas was an incredible actress who could say more with her eyes than many actors could with words.She was impressive as resistance fighter Maria Pappadimos in The Guns of Navarone. What might have been her best performance was the grieving widow of a political activist in Z. She gave easily the best performance, playing Catherine of Aragon, in Anne of the Thousand Days. In The Trojan Women she held her own against Katharine Hepburn. Irene Papas was a great actress with an incredible range that few other actors have.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Godspeed Henry Silva

Henry Silva, who appeared in such films as Ocean's 11 and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), died on September 14 2022 at the age of 95.

Henry Silva was born on September 23 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Italian and Puerto Rican in descent. He grew up in Spanish Harlem, and quit school when he was only 13. He supported himself as a dishwasher and later a waiter while taking drama classes. He made his television debut in 1950 in an episode of Armstrong Circle Theatre and also appeared in episodes of Lights Out, and Goodyear Television Playhouse. He made his film debut in an uncredited role in Viva Zapata! (1952). He made his Broadway debut in Camino Real in 1953.  In 1955 he auditioned for the Actors Studio and was accepted.

In the late Fifties Henry Silva appeared in the movies Crowded Paradise (1956), The Tall T (1956), A Hatful of Rain (1957), The Law and Jake Wade (1958), The Bravados (1958), Ride a Crooked Trail (1958), Green Mansions (1959), The Jayhawkers! (1959), and Cinderfella (1960). He played Roger Corneal in Ocean's 11 (1960). He appeared on the TV shows Producer's Showcase, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, West Point, Suspicion, Climax!, Alcoa Theatre, Adventures in Paradise, Hotel de Paree, and The Untouchables . He appeared on Broadway in A Hatful of Rain.

In the Sixties Henry Silva appeared in the movies Sergeants 3 (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), A Gathering of Eagles (1963), Johnny Cool (1963), The Secret Invasion (1964), Je vous salue, mafia! (1965), The Reward (1965), The Return of Mr. Moto (1965), The Plainsman (1966), Un fiume di dollari (1966), Matchless (1967), Assassination (1967), Quella carogna dell'ispettore Sterling (1968), Never a Dull Moment (1968), Probabilità zero (1969), and The Animals (1970). He guest starred on the TV show The Untouchables, Dr. Kildare, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Stoney Burke, The Outer Limits, Arrest and Trial, Breaking Point, Insight, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Wagon Train, Daniel Boone, Run for Your Life, Tarzan, Laredo, Cimarron Strip, The Danny Thomas Hour, The High Chaparral, I Spy, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, It Takes a Thief, and San Francisco International Airport.

In the Seventies Henry Silva appeared in the movies Man and Boy (1971), La mala ordina (1972), L'insolent (1973),  Il boss (1973), Les hommes (1973), Zinksärge für die Goldjungen (1973), Quelli che contano (1974), Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare (1974), Fatevi vivi, la polizia non interverrà (1974), Zanna Bianca alla riscossa (1975), L'uomo della strada fa giustizia (1975), Shoot (1976), Poliziotti violenti (1976), Il trucido e lo sbirro (1976), Napoli spara! (1977), Woo fork (1977), Love and Bullets (1979), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979), Thirst (1979), Day of the Assassin (1979),   Fukkatsu no hi (1980), and Alligator (1980). He guest starred on the TV shows Night Gallery, Bearcats!, The Sixth Sense, The Streets of San Francisco, The F.B.I., Switch, and Quark.

In the Eighties Henry Silva appeared in the movies Sharky's Machine (1981), Wrong is Right (1982), Trapped (1982), Megaforce (1982), Chained Heat (1983), Fuga dal Bronx (1983), Razza violenta (1984), Cannonball Run II (1984), Lust in the Dust (1984), Cane arrabbiato (1984), Code of Silence (1985), Killer contro killers (1985), Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986), Bulletproof (1987), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), Above the Law (1988), Fists of Steel (1989), Trained to Kill (1989), La via della droga (1989), Cyborg - Il guerriero d'acciaio (1989), and Dick Tracy (1990). In television he appeared in the TV movie Happy.

In the Nineties Mr. Silva appeared in the movies L'ultima meta (1991), South Beach (1993), The Harvest (1993), Il silenzio dei prosciutti (1994), Fatal Choice (1995), Drifting School (1995), Mad Dog Time (1996), The Prince (1996), The End of Violence (1997), Unconditional Love (1999), and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. On television he was the voice of Bane on Batman: The Animated Series, The New Adventures of Batman, and 1990s animated Superman series. He guest starred on Buddy Faro. His last appearance on screen was a cameo in the movie Ocean's Eleven (2001).

Henry Silva was a remarkable actor. He was the last surviving member of Ocean's 11, and he stood out as Roger Corneal in the film. He gave a solid performance in the title role in Johnny Cool, an expatriate American in Rome who finds himself involved with the Sicilian mob. He was also impressive as the trigger happy Chink in The Tall T. While it might seem as if Henry Silva always played tough guys, he was capable of other roles. In L'uomo della strada fa giustizia, he played an average man who takes revenge when the law fails to get justice against his daughter's killers. In Canonball Run II he parodied his earlier characters playing Slim a henchman of  Don Don Canneloni (Charles Nelson Reilly). Henry Silva was a very talented actor who gave a number of great performances throughout his career.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The 60th Anniversary of the TV Series The Virginian

Today ninety minute television shows are unknown on American broadcast network television. Long ago the networks appear to have settled on a half hour with commercials for comedies and an hour with commercials for dramas as acceptable lengths for TV shows. That having been said, there was a time when shows that were ninety minutes in length were not unknown on American broadcast network television. The successful anthology show Playhouse 90, debuting in 1956, was ninety minutes in length. In the Seventies, NBC Mystery Movie was ninety minutes and later even two hours in length. In between those two shows was The Virginian. The Virginian was not only the first ninety minute Western, but one of the most successful ninety minute shows ever. It ran for nine seasons and spent eight of those seasons in the top thirty highest rated shows for each year. It debuted on September 19 1962, making yesterday its 60th anniversary.

The TV series was loosely based on the novel The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains by Owen Wistler. The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains was set on the Sunk Creek Ranch outside Medicine Bow,Wyoming in the 1890s. It centred on the title character, who is only known as the Virginian. Starting out as a cowboy, the Virginian eventually became the foreman of the Sunk Creek Ranch. Among other things, the Virginian comes into conflict with Trampas, a cowboy and gambler. The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains is counted as one of the earliest Western novels and it would have a lasting influence on the genre. What we today consider Western cliches originated with The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains. The line "Smile, when you say that" stems from a line in the novel, "When you call me that, smile!" The trope of the mysterious stranger who wanders into town or onto a ranch originated with the Virginian, a man with no name if there ever was one. It was in The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains that a schoolmarm first appears as the hero's love interest. It even features the first classic "showdown" in the history of Western fiction.

Given the impact of The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains, it should come as no surprise that it has been adapted to film and television multiple times. It was twice adapted as a movie during the Silent Era, first in 1914 and then in 1923. It would be adapted again as a talkie in 1929 with Gary Cooper in the title role, establishing him as a Western star. It was adapted again in 1946 with Joel McCrea as the Virginian.

Indeed, as early as the late Fifties there was a proposed TV show based on The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains. Television writer Frank Price then an analyst and story editor at Screen Gems, suggested The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains as the basis for a possible TV series. He realized that the novel had gone into public domain, so Screen Gems would have to pay nothing for it. A half hour pilot was then shot, written by Leslie Stevens, who would go onto create The Outer Limits. In the title role it starred a young actor James Drury, who would play the Virginian in 1962 series. Despite the fact that James Drury played the role, in many ways the Virginian of the pilot was very different from the Virginian of the 1962 series. In the pilot the character was a bit of a fop, dressed in a frilly shirt with lace cuffs. NBC did not pick up the pilot, but but it for this proposed series based on The Virginian; Horseman of the Plains was shown on the anthology series Decision on July 6 1958.

The origins of the 1962 series The Virginian can be traced back to Jennings Lang, vice president of MCA TV Limited. As vice president, he was involved in the development and sale of television shows and worked with MCA's production company Revue Productions. In the early Sixties not only was Wagon Train Revue's most successful show, but for the 1960-1961 season it was the no. 2 show on the air. For the 1961-1962 show it was the number 1 show on the air. With NBC about to renew Wagon Train, Jennings Lang figured he could make twice as much money by selling it to another network. While perpetually third rated network ABC had seen some success with such Warner Bros. shows as Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip, the network's fortunes were in decline by the early Sixties and they desperately needed a hit series. Jennings Lang then sold Wagon Train to ABC.

NBC's executives were hardly happy and wanted something to replace Wagon Train. Jennings Lang then proposed television's first ninety minute Western, The Virginian to NBC. To write the show's format, Jennings Lang assigned Frank Price, who had written Screen Gems' failed pilot for The Virginian. Frank Price would serve as an executive producer on the series. Charles Marquis Warren, who had produced both Gunsmoke and Rawhide, served as a producer early in the history of The Virginian and largely shaped the series. He left after only 10 episodes. He was followed for a time by Roy Huggins, who had produced Maverick.

Several actors were considered for the role of the Virginian (Frank Price thought Steve Forrest was among them), but the role ultimately went to the actor who had portrayed the Virginian in the Screen Gems pilot, James Drury. The character of Trampas on the television series would be completely different from the character in the original novel. In the series Trampas was a fun-loving, easy going cowboy who was friends with the Virginian. Doug McClure was the only actor considered for the role, having impressed MCA with his performance was one of the leads in the short-lived show Overland Trail.

Beyond a complete change in Trampas's personality, the TV series would differ from the novel in other ways. In the novel the ranch was named the Sunk Creek Ranch and its owner was Judge Henry. It was renamed Shiloh Ranch for the show. Cast in the role of the Judge, Lee J. Cobb wanted to change the character's name, so he became Judge Henry Garth. Another difference from the novel was that in the TV series Judge Garth is given a young daughter, Betsy, played by Roberta Shore. The character of Steven Hill, played by Gary Clarke, was based on the character of Steve from the original novel. As in the novel, he was a friend of the Virginian.

While The Virginian was a ninety minute show, NBC still expected the producers to deliver one episode a week. For this reason it had a more gruelling schedule than other shows. Each episode took eight days to shoot and they were often shooting multiple episodes at once. Of the schedule, star James Drury commented to True West on the occasion of the show's fiftieth anniversary, “A logistical nightmare, with as many as four shows shooting at the same time. But we got it done." Many of the cast wore the same clothing much of the time, That way any footage could be used again in other episodes.

Over time The Virginian would see several changes in its cast. Among the first changes in its cast was the departure of Gary Clarke, who played Steven Hill. The character of Steve was simply phased out during the second season, with no real explanation ever given by the producers or NBC. It was during the second season that the character of young ranch hand Randy Benton was introduced. Played by Randy Boone, he remained with the show until its fourth season. It was in the third season that the character of Deputy Sheriff Emmett Ryker was introduced. He was played by Clu Gulager. By season four, Deputy Ryker would become the sheriff. With a brief interruption during season five, Clu Gulager remained with The Virginian until its sixth season.

The biggest changes in the cast of The Virginian up until that time would occur with the fourth season. It was during the fourth season that Roberta Shore left the show. Betsy was written out of the show when she married a former minister and moved with him to Pennsylvania. To a degree this reflected Roberta Shore's real life, as she left the show to focus on her marriage. The role of the ingenue on the show was then filled by Diane Roter as the Judge's niece Jennifer Sommers. She remained with the show until its the end of its fourth season.  It was also with the end of the fourth season that Lee J. Cobb left The Virginian. Mr. Cobb was none too happy with the show and as a result he left The Virginian.

The character of Judge Garth would be replaced by a new character named Morgan Starr. played by John Dehner. Judge Garth had been appointed Governor of Wyoming, and so the Judge hired Morgan Starr to run the ranch. Unfortunately, the character of Morgan Starr was not well received and John Dehner did not remain on the show long. He was replaced by Charles Bickford as John Grainger at the start of the fifth season. John Grainger had two grandchildren, Stacey Granger played by John Quine and Elizabeth Granger played by Sara Lane. Unfortunately, John Bickford died from pneumonia and a blood infection at the age 76 on November 9 1967.

After Charles Bickford had died, both Don Quine and Sara Lane remained with the show for a time. Don Quine left with season six, while Sara Lane remained with the show until its eighth season. Their grandfather, John Grainger, would be replaced by his brother, Clay Grainger, played by John McIntire. Clay Grainger had a wife, Holly, played by John McIntire's real life wife Jeanette Nolan. The two characters would remain with the show until the end of its eighth season. It was with the eighth season that The Virginian would undergo dramatic changes.

It was with the eighth season that The Virginian did not rank in the to 25 for the first time in its history. It didn't even rank in the top thirty. It was perhaps for this reason that The Virginian was entirely retooled and even given a new title, Men From Shiloh. This was the result of a joint decision of Sid Sheinberg, then head of Universal TV, and Herb Schlosser, head of NBC programming. To a large degree, the retooled show, now titled The Men From Shiloh, would be patterned after Universal's successful series The Name of the Game. Like The Virginian, The Name of the Game was ninety minutes in length. Like The Virginian, The Name of the Game aired on NBC. Unlike The Virginian, The Name of the Game was a drama that rotated among three leads. One week viewers might tune into see Tony Franciosa as crusading reporter Jeff Dillon, then the next week they might see Gene Barry as publisher Glenn Howard, and then again the following week they might see Robert Stack as crime reporter Dan Farrell.

The Men From Shiloh
utilized the same format of rotating leads as The Name of the Game. Clay and Holly Grainger were replaced by a new owner of the Shiloh Ranch, Colonel Alan MacKenzie (Stewart Granger).  Colonel MacKenzie was a retired British Army officer who even had his own valet (Parker, played by John McLiam). Another new character was cowboy Roy Tate, played by Lee Major (fresh from his run on the Western The Big Valley). These two characters would rotate as leads along with James Drury as the Virginian and Doug McClure. One major difference in the cast of The Men From Shiloh with earlier casts of The Virginian is that there were no girls or women among the leads whatsoever.

The title and the format were not the only things that were changed. A new title sequence, not unlike those used on The Name of the Game, was created by Jack Cole, who had also provided the title sequences for Ironside and The Name of the Game. Percy Faith's original theme for The Virginian was replaced by a new theme composed by Ennio Morricone, who had composed the scores for A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966). Even the costumes of the Virginian and Trampas were changed. After eight seasons of wearing essentially the same thing, the two characters were given all new wardrobes.

Even production of the show would change, with different executive producers handling different characters. Col. MacKenzie and Tate were handled by Herbert Hirschman and Edward J. Montagne. Leslie Stevens and Glen Larson handled the episodes featuring Trampas, while Norman MacDonnell took care of the episodes featuring the Virginian. If the name "Norman MacDonnell" sounds familiar, it is because he co-created the radio show Gunsmoke.

The Men From Shiloh improved in the ratings from the eighth season of The Virginian. In fact, it did very well, ranking at no. 18 for the year. Unfortunately, the 1970-1971 season was the last season before the Prime Time Access Rule took effect. The Prime Time Access Rule was a regulation created by the FCC, who were concerned about the dominance of the broadcast networks in television programming and production. Among other things, it cut several hours in prime time each week from the network schedules. The networks then had to cancel many more shows than they ever had before. It was with the 1970-1971 season that NBC's archrival, CBS, performed what was soon known as the Rural Purge, cancelling every single show that appealed to an audience that was too rural or older. Quite simply, CBS wanted to attract the younger 18-49 demographic desired by Madison Avenue.

CBS was not alone in cancelling show that whose audiences were either too rural or too old. Both ABC and NBC cancelled shows that did not appeal to the 18-14 demographic as well. The Men From Shiloh was among the shows that NBC cancelled because its audience was too old. Having come in at no. 18 for the year, it was among the highest rated shows ever cancelled.

The Virginian had a lasting influence. It proved that a ninety minute show could be successful. It was because of the success of The Virginian that during the 1963-1964 season Wagon Train was expanded to ninety minutes and also made the change to colour. At ninety minutes in length, Wagon Train did not prove to be successful, and it returned both to being an hour long in length and being shot in back and white in the following season. That same season the TV series Arrest and Trial debuted. Ninety minutes long, the first part of the show followed a police detective trying a case, while the second part of the show featured a defence attorney defending the individual arrested by the detective. It lasted only one season. CBS tried its own 90 minute Western with Cimarron Strip. Debuting at the start of the 1967 season, it only lasted one season. The Name of the Game, debuting on NBC in 1968, proved to be somewhat successful. It ran three seasons. Of course, following the cancellation of The Men From Shiloh, NBC would debut The NBC Mystery Movie. Also produced by Universal, the umbrella title may be the most successful ninety minute show of all time.

The Virginian would also be responsible for another NBC Western produced by Universal TV. The 1965 episode "We've Lost a Train" was a backdoor pilot for the comedy Western Laredo. Laredo debuted on September 16 1965 and ran for two seasons.

While The Virginian ended its run in 1971 as The Men From Shiloh, it was hardly gone. It would have a successful run in syndication. and has aired on Encore Westerns, Insp, and Cozi TV. The entire series, including its final season as The Men From Shiloh, is available on DVD.

At nine seasons, The Virginian is tied with Wagon Train as the third longest running broadcast network Western TV series. It has also persisted in syndication ever since it left network airwaves. The show still maintains a large following of fans, many of who weren't even born when the show debuted. It seems likely people will be watching The Virginian sixty years from now.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Thank You for a Successful 9th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon

I want to thank everyone who participated in this year's 9th Annual Rule, Britannia. We had a wide range of entries early Hammer films to Sixties spy movies to British rock musicals. There is still time if you want to submit an entry to the blogathon (I meant it to be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but it seems I set the end date as today, Monday). I will get around to reading everyone's entries this week. And, for those who are wondering, there will be another Rule, Britannia Blogathon next year (the 10th one!).

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Ipcress File (1965)

(This post is part of the 9th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon, hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts)

The debut of the TV shows Danger Man in 1960 and The Avengers in 1961 would mark the beginning of a spy craze in the United Kingdom. In 1962 Dr. No, the first movie in the James Bond series, would bring the spy craze to the United States. On both sides of the Pond there would be a plethora of TV shows and movies capitalizing on the craze for secret agents. Many of the Bond imitators that sprang up during the spy craze were nearly superhuman, battling larger than life villains and boasting expense accounts that would put Jed Clampett to shame. There was one spy from Sixties movies who broke with the rest. Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) was decidedly working class. He was so near-sighted that he was nearly blind without his glasses. Although he was a formidable opponent, it was not unusual for him to come out on the losing end of fights. He was also cynical and somewhat disillusioned with life. Harry Palmer made his film debut in The Ipcress File (1965), which would be followed by the movies Funeral in Berlin (1966) and Billion Dollar Brain (1967).

The Ipcress File was based on the novel The IPCRESS File by Len Deighton. It was Mr. Deighton's debut novel. The novel centred on an unnamed, cynical, working class intelligence officer who finds himself investigating the disappearance of several important figures. The investigation ultimately involves American testing of a neutron bomb and mind control. Len Deighton was hired by Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, producers of the James Bond movies, to write the screenplay for the second James Bond movie, From Russia with Love (1963). When Len Deighton failed to make any headway on the script, he was let go from the movie. Regardless, he sold the film rights to The IPCRESS File to Eon Productions.

That The IPCRESS File should appeal to Harry Saltzman should come as no surprise. He had produced some pivotal kitchen sink dramas before producing the Bond movies, including Look Back in Anger (1958), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), and The Entertainer (1960). Indeed, Sir Michael Caine: The Biography by William Hall quotes Harry Saltzman as having said, "Let me explain: James Bond had spawned a lot of stupid clones of Superman secret agent heroes. But Deighton had created a spy who was a loser. A real person. He doesn't get up and have champagne and caviar for breakfast, and he doesn't hop into bed with every beautiful woman that comes by. He worries about how to pay the rent at the end of the month."

Indeed, in the film The Ipcress File Harry Palmer is a very different sort of spy from James Bond. While Bond had an upper class upbringing and attended Eton, Harry had a working class background. While Bond was a Commander in the Royal Navy, Harry was a mere Sergeant. While Bond has an extravagant expense account, Harry receives a modest pay cheque. While Bond had an array of gadgets provided to him by Q, all Harry has is his gun and his wits. Indeed, while Bond drives an Aston Martin, Harry drives a blue Ford Zodiac. It is perhaps Harry's superior Major Dalby who sums up Harry best when he reads from Harry's B107 in The Ipcress File, "Insubordinate. Insolent. A trickster. Perhaps with criminal tendencies." Indeed, the only reason Harry became a spy was to avoid being put in military prison for theft.

Harry Saltzman gave a copy of the novel The IPCRESS File to screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, best known for his work on such Hammer Horrors as The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958--known in the US as Horror of Dracula), and The Mummy (1959). It was Jimmy Sangster who suggested  that Mr. Saltzman take a look at the movie The Leather Boys (1964), directed by a young director named Sidney J. Furie. Previously Sidney J. Furie had directed the horror movie Dr. Blood's Coffin (1961) and the Cliff Richard vehicles The Young Ones (1961) and Wonderful Life (1964). Producer Walter Shenson had offered Mr. Furie what would become A Hard Day's Night (1964), but he declined it. The cinematographer on The Ipcress File was Otto Heller, who had earlier shot such classics as The Lady Killers (1955) and Peeping Tom (1960). Others who worked on The Ipcress File were veterans of the James Bond movies: Ken Adam, who had served as production designer on Dr. No and Goldfinger (1964); composer John Barry, who composed the scores for Dr. No, From Russia with Love; and Goldfinger; Peter R. Hunt, who had edited the James Bond films; and yet others.

With regards to the screenplay, Jimmy Sangster very much wanted to write it, but he and Harry Saltzman could never come to an agreement on the time frame as to when it would be completed. Ken Hughes, who had written several screenplays since 1953, wrote a screenplay for The Ipcress File that Harry Saltzman rejected. In the end the screenplay was written by Bill Canaway and James Doran. Bill Canaway was a  novelist who also wrote the screenplay for the movie Sammy Going South (1963). James Doran had worked primarily in television.

While it might seem odd to think of anyone else but Michael Caine as Harry Palmer, Christopher Plummer was initially considered for the role of the protagonist of The Ipcress File. Christopher Plummer turned the role down as he had received a higher paying offer to star in The Sound of Music (1965). Harry Saltzman had seen Michael Caine as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead in Zulu (1964). It was only a few days after seeing the movie that he met Michael Caine in a restaurant. In sharp contrast to his upper crust character in Zulu, Mr. Caine wore a polo-neck sweater and spoke with a Cockney accent. He had found his working class spy.

It would ultimately be Michael Caine who would choose the name of the protagonist of The Ipcress File. In the novel The IPCRESS File, the protagonist is never given a name, although he is called "Harry" once and cannot remember if he ever used that name. Of course, for the movie the production team felt that their hero needed a name, something common and unremarkable. Michael Caine told Harry Saltzman about a dull boy he had known at school named "Palmer." Harry Saltzman then asked Michael Caine about a first name (according to some accounts he asked, "What is the dullest name you can think of?"). Inadvertently and meaning no insult to Harry Saltzman, Michael Caine blurted out, "Harry." Michael Caine realized he had made a bit of a faux pas, but fortunately Harry Saltzman was amused rather than insulted. Len Deighton's unnamed working class spy then became "Harry Palmer."

Making The Ipcress File did not always proceed smoothly. Director Sidney Furie and producer Harry Saltzman had a number of clashes while making the film. Mr. Furie was not particularly fond of the movie's script, so much so that he set fire to it on the first day of shooting. Harry Saltzman hated Sidney Furie's framing technique so much that he banned him from the editing room. At one point, while on location at Shepherd's Bush in West Londin, Sidney Furie was convinced he was going to be fired from the picture and hopped on a bus. Fortunately, he was persuaded to return to the set.

Despite any difficulties that arose during The Ipcress File, the film proved to be a success. It received mostly positive reviews on both sides of the Pond. It also did very well at the box office, guaranteeing there would be a second Harry Palmer movie (Funeral in Berlin in 1966). It won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film and Ken Adam won the BAFTA Award for Best British Art Direction, Colour.

The key to the success of The Ipcress File may well be the character of Harry Palmer himself. In contrast to the many James Bond clones, not only is Harry Palmer strictly working class and far from superhuman, but he is an intellectual who loves cooking, books, and classical music. About the only thing he has in common with James Bond is, to paraphrase fellow spy Jean Courtney (Sue Lloyd) in the film, that he likes girls. Harry Palmer was a much more human character than many of the superspies so prevalent during the spy craze of the Sixties.

Not only is Harry Palmer a very different character from other fictional spies of the era, but overall The Ipcress File is a very different movie. The Ipcress File looks more like Harry Saltzman's earlier kitchen sink dramas than a Bond movie. The London of The Ipcress File is not Swinging London, but a darker, seedier London,complete with smog and rundown buildings. Harry's flat is a far cry from the bachelor pads featured in other spy movies of the time.

While The Ipcress File looks like a kitchen sink drama, it feels very much like a film noir. Harry Palmer exists in a world of espionage where it can be difficult to know whom to trust and whom not to. Even Harry's co-workers can be suspect. And just as many of the best film noirs are police procedurals, The Ipcress File could be described as an "espionage procedural." Indeed, much of Harry's time is spent on leg work and paper work. Even the various intelligence departments sometimes find it difficult to cooperate with each other. For Harry Palmer, being a spy is hardly glamorous.

The Ipcress File would have a lasting impact. It differed from the Bondian spy dramas that were dominant at the time and set a precedent for a more realistic spy drama. It led to two sequels, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain, in the Sixties, followed by the TV movies Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in St. Petersburg in the Nineties. A six part mini-series, The Ipcress File, debuted on ITV this year, with Joe Cole playing Harry Palmer.

Today The Ipcress File is considered a classic. In 1999 it ranked at no. 59 on the BFI's list of the Top 100 British Films. Its influence would also prove to be far reaching, from television shows such as Callan to movies such as The Bourne Identity (2002). Harry Palmer may not be as influential as James Bond, but in many respects he would also have a huge impact.