REVEAL SHOT

A SOPHISTICATED LOOK AT FILM AND TELEVISION

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The original Ironside (Part VII): Cy Chermak remembers (conclusion)

Cy Chermak.

Reveal Shot presents the conclusion of a multi-part interview with Cy Chermak, the executive producer of “Ironside” from 1968-1974. Here, he discusses his final years with the series, and offers his views on the upcoming NBC remake starring Blair Underwood, debuting Oct. 2.

Read the first installment here.
Read the second installment here.
Read the third installment here.

Ironside” sailed through Season 3 (1969-70) as the No. 15-ranked show of the year according to the Nielsen ratings, finally topping time-period nemesis “Bewitched,” before jumping all the way to No. 4 in its fourth season (1970-71), with a 25.7 rating and 39 share, bolstered by its new lead-in, “The Flip Wilson Show,” the second-most watched program on the air (trailing only ABC’s “Marcus Welby, M.D.“)

Barbara Anderson decided to leave the show after Season 4. In Season 5 (1971-72), NBC moved “Ironside” to Tuesday nights at 7:30 p.m. Eastern against ABC’s “The Mod Squad” and “The Glen Campbell Show” on CBS. In “Ironside’s” fifth new episode, “The Gambling Game,” which aired Oct. 5,  Elizabeth Baur was introduced  as Officer Fran Belding, who helped Ironside’s team to nail the gamblers who murdered her father — a cop accused of having worked with the gang. Baur would remain with the series for its remaining three seasons.

The main cast of “Ironside” from Seasons 5-8 (clockwise from left): Don Galloway, Raymond Burr, Don Mitchell, Elizabeth Baur.

Chermak recalls:  I loved Elizabeth, but Ironside used to beat her up a little on the screen. I finally had to take her aside and coach her on how she should react to his sarcasm and intimidation. I did it in two sentences. What I said remains between the two of us. You might ask her. 1

During this period, Chermak was also the executive producer of “The New Doctors” segment of “The Bold Ones,” starring E.G. Marshall, John Saxon and David Hartman. To begin Season 6 of “Ironside,” he produced a two-part crossover episode called “Five Days In the Death of Sergeant Brown.” In Part 1 (aired Sept. 14, 1972), Ed Brown (Don Galloway) is shot in the back by a sniper, naturally triggering painful memories and special concerns for Ironside. Part 2 aired Sept. 19 as a “Bold Ones” episode, with the doctors debating the merits of a dangerous operation that could either save or kill Ed. (For some reason, although Hulu generally only makes the first three seasons of “Ironside” available, it offers both parts of “Five Days In the Death Of Sergeant Brown” — but it calls them “Ironside Pilot, Parts 1 and 2.” Since Seasons 5-8 are not available on DVD in North America (at least as Region 1 releases), it’s a nice, if odd, video opportunity for fans of the show, at least until someone at Hulu realizes the error.)2

Chermak’s schedule became even more hectic when he took on the development of a third show, “Amy Prentiss,” a spin-off from “Ironside” created by his wife, Francine Carroll, who had written scripts for a number of shows including “Ironside.”

The unsold two-hour pilot, “Amy Prentiss, AKA The Chief,” from a story by Carroll and teleplay writers William Gordon and James Doherty, aired during “Ironside’s” seventh season, on May 23, 1974. Jessica Walter guest starred as Prentiss, a police investigator who becomes chief of detectives in the San Francisco police department by having the highest score on a test. Boris Sagal directed. The episode got a very positive review in Variety, which said Walter was “ideally cast,” and that the script provided a “fine showcase” for her talents. It also generated a solid 22.3 rating and 39 share, encouraging NBC to add it to the “NBC Mystery Movie” wheel for the 1974-75 season.

Season 7 would be Chermak’s last on “Ironside.” 3

He recalls: By then Raymond and I had pretty much burned out our relationship, and Frank [Price, head of Universal Television] had a wildfire burning on another stage by the name of “Kolchak, The Night Stalker.” The turmoil on that show has been pretty well documented.4

Joel Rogosin returned to the series as executive producer for the eighth and final season (1974-75).

I had forgotten this when I asked Chermak for his reaction when the show was canceled, abruptly, by NBC in November 1974. The last episode aired on Jan. 16, 1975. Three additional episodes were completed but did not air until the show entered syndication.

Chermak: I was off the show at the time, and this is the first I heard that there were three unaired episodes. I wouldn’t have known because I never saw even one of the episodes [in that final season]. All I ever heard about them was that they didn’t have “my touch.” Which gives me an opportunity to allow my narcissism and egotism to get in a little pitch. On several occasions in my career, I had such a well-oiled machinery going that some untrained executives thought the man at the top didn’t matter. They thought if the machinery is that well-oiled, and running that smoothly, that anyone could do it. Especially someone who thought they knew me well. Surprise!

Reveal Shot: What are your thoughts on the upcoming remake of “Ironside?”
Chermak: I have no problems with them re-making the show, or the star [Blair Underwood]. Based on what I have seen recently, I think it will be more of a shoot-em-up than a cerebral family hour. Remember that the role has [essentially] been played at least once in a feature with Denzel [Washington, who played quadriplegic police forensics expert Lincoln Rhyme in Universal’s “The Bone Collector” in 1999] . Now it will be coming back to TV.

I will leave you with the story that Borden Chase’s son Frank used to love to tell.

Borden’s fame came as the writer of “Red River,” and he freely acknowledged that it was a rip-off of “Mutiny On The Bounty.” The fun started when some people tried to rip-off “Red River” and to get as far away from the cattle drive as possible they set the scene at sea! Then, even though the people doing the second generation rip-off were copying “Red River,” they were sued by the people who controlled “Mutiny on The Bounty.”

 — David B. Wilkerson   

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The original Ironside (Part VI): Cy Chermak remembers

Cy Chermak

Presenting the third installment of a Reveal Shot exclusive: an interview with former “Ironside” Executive Producer Cy Chermak. Through e-mail correspondence, Chermak offered his fascinating recollections of working on the show, and the ups and downs of being a television producer during the 1960s and ’70s.

Read the first part of the interview here.
See the second installment here.

Other outstanding Season 2 episodes included:
An Obvious Case of Guilt,” (aired Nov. 14, 1968) by Brad Radnitz and directed by Abner Biberman, in which Anne Baxter plays one of Ironside’s old flames, who is accused of killing her husband. Throughout most of the episode, Ironside uses his powers of deduction to find reasons to exonerate her, while Ed, Eve, Mark, and the D.A. (Warren Stevens) insist that she’s guilty, and that she’s using Ironside as a shield. Radnitz throws us a curve at the finale, which has fascinating dialogue.

Puzzlelock,” (aired March 13, 1969) by B.W. Sandefur and directed by Allen Reisner, Simon Oakland plays a former cop who kills his wife and creates an alibi so foolproof that Ironside, who knows he did it, cannot prove his guilt. By all appearances, Oakland was having dinner with Ironside at the time of the murder. Ironside must use any means — fair or foul — to trap him.

“Reprise,” (aired Nov. 21, 1968), by Albert Aley and directed by Don McDougall.  Eve is shot, and everyone reminisces about their early encounters with her. It’s a nice reference to what Eve describes in the pilot, about Ironside noticing her powers of observation when she’s a witness to a robbery. We also see, not for the last time, Ed Brown’s mean streak, when he seeks cold-blooded revenge (at least at first) for Eve’s shooting. Douglas Benton produced.

Mark and Ed get spotlight episodes, as well.

In “Rundown On a Bum Rap” (aired Jan. 30, 1969), directed by Allen Reisner from a Sy Salkowitz script, law student Mark takes a real-life dilemma to his class when he tries to prove this former boxing coach is innocent of a murder he is alleged to have committed, and has to overcome the resistance of his attractive African American professor (Janet McLachlan).

Ed isn’t sure what to believe when he tries to exonerate a cop buddy (Linden Chiles) accused of involvement in a drug ring and murder, in “Moonlight Means Money” (aired Feb. 27, 1969), written by Sy Salkowitz and directed by directed by Don Weis.

Reveal Shot: What were the pros and cons of using freelance writers?
Chermak: There are no cons to using freelance writers. I used them exclusively. They are some of the best we have. The main reason freelancing died was because young writers were made low paid producers and either wanted the writing money for themselves, or the studios / networks mistakenly thought or insisted the new Writer/ Producer could do it all.

Additionally, no one is willing to walk into the boss’ office and tell him that his script stinks.  It just doesn’t happen. So the new producer shoots his first draft. And good scripts aren’t written, they are re-written.  But it takes a real pro to be able to re-write himself, and to understand how to get the best out of another writer and still protect the concept of the show.

I think I mentioned earlier that if you didn’t ride close herd on the writers and directors they would unconsciously think of their episode as if it were an entity of its own, standing alone, without a thought of keeping the show on Frank Price’s tracks.

Actors hated me because they spent time learning their lines only to come to the set at 6:00 AM and find new pages with new thoughts and new words. I felt we had to work to improve the script right up until the director said “action.”

Without Frank or me or the others maintaining eternal vigilance the show would not have lasted half a season. That having been said, if I had a show today I would still use that vast store of talent that is going to waste. Not knowing how to use the writing talent available is the great disgrace of the current crop of execs.

Reveal Shot: Can you discuss some of the ways you worked to keep Ed Brown and Eve Whitfield interesting when their story arcs were not as inherently dramatic as those of Robert Ironside and Mark Sanger?

Chermak: Not really. Frankly, all three characters were second bananas.  We tried to dramatize their roles every once in a while, and Ray was the star, so he got most of the good stuff.

Reveal Shot: You had the Academy Award-winning cinematographer Lionel Lindon working on the show. What were the advantages of having someone of that caliber handling those duties? (Also, I understand he was kind of a character. Are there any amusing anecdotes that come to mind?)

Chermak: Curly Lindon and Bud Thackery were both characters, but they knew their business. Lindon hated working with inexperienced directors, and Bud hated working with everyone. I remember once that Bud shot a close-up of a beautiful actress and there was a black triangular shadow on her cheek. I took a clip down to the set and I told him I would like it re-shot. Bud looked and the clip, looked at me, and said there was nothing wrong with that shot. (He didn’t add “sonny-boy” but his tone implied it.)

“Don’t you see the black triangular shadow on her cheek?” I asked. Very patiently, he explained that the source was coming from her profile, and the shadow was of her nose. A perfectly acceptable shot. I asked if he could do a shot with the light coming from the same source, but without the shadow. “Oh well,” he sighed. “Now you are asking for feature film photography. I can do it but you won’t like the time it will take.” “Re-shoot it,” I said. “I’ll give you the extra time to make my stars beautiful and give you back the time somewhere else.” He said we had a deal. Right then was the beginning of our relationship.

 

Ironside (TV series)

Here is an interesting UPI wire story from Nov. 5, 1968 about the atmosphere on the set during the second season.

Season 2 brought improvement for “Ironside” in the Nielsen ratings. The series ranked No. 16 for the 1968-69 season, with a 22.3 rating and 34 share. ABC’s “Bewitched,” airing opposite the Raymond Burr show in the 8:30 time slot, finished 13th — but “Ironside” was the clear winner among network programs during its second half hour, starting at 9:00, outgunning the CBS movie. 567

Early in Season 3, “Ironside” presented another two-hour episode, “Goodbye To Yesterday,” (aired Sept. 25, 1969) by Sy Salkowitz and directed by Barry Shear. In the first season, Vera Miles, had guested as Barbara Jones, a former love interest of Ironside’s who turns out to be an amnesia victim who has forgotten her husband (Phillip Carey) and children, but finally reconnects with them.

In “Goodbye to Yesterday,” Barbara’s daughter is kidnapped, and she calls on Ironside for help.

Chermak remembers: Wasn’t “Goodbye To Yesterday” a great title?

You know, rumors were always swirling around Raymond’s sexual orientation so I thought it was a good idea to have him involved with a woman whenever possible. I thought he played that role to the hilt.

It was like the rumors that started swirling about him really being paralyzed. People looked me in the eye and told me that they knew for sure that he was paralyzed. So I did an episode [the aforementioned “Reprise”] in which his thoughts flashed back to days when he could walk, and we showed him walking. You know what? That didn’t even help to squelch the rumors.

Barry Shear was one of my favorites. His work on live TV with Ernie Kovacs remains classic.

Next: The final installment in Reveal Shot’s interview with Cy Chermak.

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The original ‘Ironside’ (Part V): More of Executive Producer Cy Chermak’s recollections

Cy Chermak

Presenting the second installment of a Reveal Shot exclusive: an interview with former “Ironside” Executive Producer Cy Chermak. Through e-mail correspondence, Chermak offered his fascinating recollections of working on the show, and the ups and downs of being a television producer during the 1960s and ’70s.

Read the first part of the interview here.

“Ironside’s” second season began in September 1968 with a new executive producer, Cy Chermak.

 

Reveal Shot: When you were promoted to executive producer in the summer of 1968, what were some of the goals you had for the series now that you had a stronger voice?

Chermak: When I became exec … my only goal [was to] keep the show on track, and if that meant holding the studio off with one hand and the network off with the other, that is what I did. It also meant holding the star off with one hand and his entourage off with the other.

Raymond Burr opted to make extensive use of teleprompters on the “Ironside” set, rather than have to memorize the large number of lines he had in almost every episode. Some directors found this problematic because the machines had to be strategically placed out of camera range in various places where the actor could see them. Others complained that the job of directing was complicated by Burr’s refusal to work on location, because they had to match shots of a stand-in with shots taken of Burr on the Universal lot.

According to Michael Seth Starr’s controversial biography, “Hiding In Plain Sight,” Burr complained of eye trouble because, from a wheelchair, he almost always had to look up at his fellow actors, which forced him to look directly into the blinding studio lights.

Reveal Shot: I have heard different things about how his mood was affected by this. It was said that he never became extremely close to the cast and crew, though he had been on “Perry Mason.” For now, let me just ask, how was he on the set during that first year that you were exec?

Chermak: I don’t remember Raymond developing eye trouble. I remember him arriving with complaints about light sensitivity and location work. Of course, my memory might, after all these years, have become self-serving. I don’t think he was close to anyone in the cast but Don Galloway , although he was always very protective of Don Mitchell.

On the set he was the consummate pro, except for his refusal to stand behind the camera and read lines for other actors’ close-ups. You have asked what logistic problems Ray’s use of teleprompters created for me. The quick answer is “none.” I simply told the unit managers and the directors that I wanted every accommodation made to Raymond’s needs. I never had to ask twice.

From left to right: Don Mitchell, Barbara Anderson, Don Galloway, Raymond Burr, of “Ironside.”

The first few episodes shown during Season 2 were still credited to the previous exec, Frank Price. One of them was the two-hour “Split Second To An Epitaph,” (100 minutes minus commercials, it aired Sept. 26, 1968, the second new show of the season) in which Ironside may have a chance to walk again if he has a risky operation. In the meantime, because he is the only witness to a murder, the detective is targeted by the killer while he awaits surgery in the hospital.

It has been speculated that the network and Universal Television were toying with the idea of restoring Ironside’s ability to walk (presumably to take away limitations that had to be imposed on the scripts), and that “Split Second” was to be the episode that revealed the miracle.

Chermak: Malarkey. These speculations were written by people who did their research by reading other articles that were also badly researched. Unless these conversations took place outside of my knowledge, there is no truth to them at all. “Split Second” was a TV drama that underwent some dramatic changes. That is all, folks.

The extended episode finished the week ended Sept. 29 as the No. 22 show according to Nielsen’s 30-city survey, with a 20.4 rating — beating out rival “Bewitched” that Thursday night and outpacing the first half hour of the (black-and-white) CBS movie, “The Night Of The Iguana” (1964), starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner. In the New York market, “Ironside” was the highest-rated show of the evening, with a 27.4 rating.8

The fourth episode in airdate order, and the first to be shown that listed Chermak as the top producer, was “Robert Phillips Vs. The Man,” (aired Oct. 10, 1968) written by frequent contributor Sy Salkowitz and starring Paul Winfield as a black militant who is falsely accused of murder. Commissioner Randall (Gene Lyons), sensitive to the possibility of accusations by the black community that Phillips is being railroaded by racist cops, assigns Ironside to the case to make sure the truth is uncovered.

This was a period during which several shows — “The FBI,” “The Mod Squad,” “Dragnet 1968,” and others — featured episodes that depicted the militant wing of the African-American civil-rights movement.

Mark’s part is modulated while we are in the familiar enclave of Ironside’s office; he never explicitly tells Ironside what bothers him about the situation. “It’s getting to me,” is the closest he comes to discussing it with his white colleagues. Mostly, the script is content to let Don Mitchell express his feelings with facial expressions and other body language during his scenes with them.

However, when some of Phillips’ friends accuse Mark of being an Uncle Tom for pushing Ironside around (and working with the police in general), he bristles, briefly coming to blows with his most bellicose opponent (Arnold Williams).

Again, other than Bill Cosby’s Alexander Scott on “I Spy” (which had left the air weeks earlier) and, starting in this same 1968-69 season, “Mod Squad’s” Linc Hayes (Clarence Williams III), it is hard to think of another black male regular on television during this era who could display genuine anger. Not that there were very many, in any case. 9

*** SPOILER ***

Phillips is exonerated, and has to admit, in spite of his trepidations about him, that Ironside has proven to be a man of honor. It is, of course, a gratifying moment for Mark, as well.

Reveal Shot: You [and the show] won an NAACP Image Award (1968) for the way that the Mark Sanger character was portrayed. How closely did you collaborate with Don Mitchell to keep Mark grounded in reality as an angry young black man during a time when race relations in America were so strained? 

Mark ends up being kind of torn in the episode, between the values of the militant wing of the civil rights movement and the things he’s learning as an aide to the police. This goes to my query about how you kept Mark authentic, as well as his interactions with other black people on the show. Winfield learns something at the end when he is exonerated …

 

Chermak: Your comment about the Paul Winfield character learning something at the end goes to one of the aspects of the show of which I am most proud. While staying true to Frank’s concept of the show, I made sure that in every episode, every single one, there was at least one character who was better off because of his interaction with Ironside …

How did we keep Mark authentic? …  At that time the Hollywood Chapter of the NAACP gave me a complimentary membership. And I spent a great deal of my “off duty” time in the African-American environment. I socialized with Don and his friends, and many of them became my friends. So I was somewhat in touch with the community’s feelings.

There was no collaboration [with Don on scripts], but there was a lot of socializing. I listened and learned. Some of what I learned ended up on the screen.

Director Don Weis (1922-2000), who directed 58 episodes of “Ironside.” Cy Chermak remembers him as the perfect television director.

Chermak knew the value of using people he could regularly count upon to do solid work. One example was Don Weis, who directed 58 episodes of “Ironside.”

Chermak: Don Weis was the perfect TV director. He came prepared, he did his job, he never complained. He understood what I wanted and he gave it to me.

He was also the epitome of the old joke in which the director says to the actor, “If you don’t tell me how to direct, I wont tell you how to act.”  He knew I didn’t want the audience dazzled or bedeviled by artistic angles and flashy camera moves. I wanted him to tell them a story and he set up his cameras and let the actors work. A lesson that should be taught in film school.

Among writers, a favorite, as alluded to earlier, was Sy Salkowitz, who penned 35 episodes of the series.

Chermak: Sy Salkowitz was used more than any other writer on the show because he was a different version of Don Weis. Sy was always prepared, and he always understood what I wanted. I could talk to him in shorthand and he always got it. If I got in trouble I would call Sy. If I needed it on Monday he would take it home on Friday and bring it back on Monday. There were times when he wrote an entire script from scratch for me over the weekend.

Sometimes I would have the director and staff prepare a script I didn’t have, based on a spitball idea. They always assumed it would be a disaster, but Sy always brought the script in when he was supposed to.

And he required the least rewriting of any of the other writers because he knew, without asking, what I wanted and what I would throw out if he wrote it. In the early days I needed network approval of a story before I put it into work, but on several occasions I spit-balled the idea to the network and sent Sy right to work on the teleplay without an outline. I can’t explain how dangerous that was, but Sy always came through. There was many a time when Sy made me a hero.

Chermak’s Season 2 producing staff included Paul Mason, Douglas Benton and Jeannot Szwarc. Szwarc is credited as an associate producer  for some shows, and as producer on others.

Reveal Shot: How did you distribute the work among yourself and producers Joel Rogosin, Douglas Benton, Albert Aley and others? Were they each assigned a certain kind of story to supervise?

Chermak: The assignment of episodes was sort of catch as catch can. Sometimes a producer would bring me a writer and his story, and if we went with it, I would try to save that script for the producer who originated it.

That didn’t always work. A producer prepped for six days, shot for six days, and did what post-production he could before it was his turn again. Like a detective at the working desk he caught whatever script was ready to shoot. If there was more than one script ready I would let the producer and/or the director make the choice.

I can only remember one instance in which a producer refused to do a script I assigned him. That was Albert Aley, and I believe it was the last script I ever offered him.

One of the high-profile shows of the 1968-69 season was “I, The People” (aired Oct. 31, 1968). Comedian Milton Berle, who shared a writing credit with Stephen Lord, plays an obnoxious talk show host (perhaps modeled on then well-known host Joe Pyne) who is supposedly receiving death threats. Meanwhile, he has an icy relationship with his alcoholic wife (Julie Adams), who wants a divorce. Barry Shear directed.

Chermak: [Berle] was a personal friend of Stephen Lord, and no one will ever know if Milton actually did any writing on the script, but since Stephen wanted to share a credit with his friend, I didn’t see why I should object. I did the same thing for Sy and his wife some years later.

The thing about Milton Berle that was so interesting was his intelligence. He could converse with you on any subject, as long as it was one-on-one and there were only two people in the room. But the minute a third person arrived, he had an audience — and the show was on.

In the next part of Reveal Shot’s interview with “Ironside” Executive Producer Cy Chermak: More on Season 2; working with two great cinematographers; the use of freelance writers; trying to give Ed Brown and Eve Whitfield something to do, and more.

— David B. Wilkerson

 

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The original Ironside (Part IV): An interview with former executive producer Cy Chermak

Cy Chermak

I’m pleased to announce a Reveal Shot exclusive: an interview with former “IronsideExecutive Producer Cy Chermak. Through e-mail correspondence, Chermak offered his fascinating recollections of working on the show, and the ups and downs of being a television producer during the 1960s and ’70s.

After working in the business as an actor and writer, Chermak joined Universal Studios in 1963. Universal was the last of the majors to maintain the old system, in which actors, writers, directors, producers and crew members were under contract to the studio.

When he became a story editor on Universal’s 90-minute Western series “The Virginian,” Chermak reported to Frank Price, that show’s executive producer. He soon became one of Price’s producers on “The Virginian,” as well as the short-lived 1965 World War II drama “Convoy,” one of the last shows to air on NBC in black-and-white.

Lionel Lindon, A.S.C.

Lionel “Curly” Lindon, A.S.C. (1905-1971), who won an Academy Award for his work on “Around The World In Eighty Days.” (1956) He worked on many Universal productions during the 1960s, including “Ironside.”

Chermak on learning production at Universal, writing Westerns as a kid from Brooklyn, and working with Frank  Price: When I came out from New York I had nary a thought about writing or producing a Western. The real reason it took me so long to make a mark in Hollywood was that the people in charge saw me as a hot young writer from Brooklyn who didn’t know anything about Westerns, which were the TV rage. I was a New York writer.

Well, I broke in with a few Warner Bros. Westerns, and then went to “The Virginian.” After a short time, I was a Western writer, and people wondered if I could do a straight drama.

Story about how I got into production: Frank Price was looking for a story editor — sometimes known as a rewrite man. He called a colleague, Anthony Spinner, for whom I had just written an episode of “The Dakotas.” Spinner told Price that he had this new writer who just got finished doing a brilliant re-write on a “Whitey” Parsons script. Frank asked his name, but Tony Spinner wouldn’t tell him He said he had this writer chained to a desk in the basement, and no one will ever know who he is. So Frank hung up. And what did he do? He called “Whitey” Parsons and asked “How are things going?”

” Terrible, “Whitey” said. “I just had my script butchered by some kid from new York named Cy Chermak.”

Frank called me the next day and offered me a job.

… I don’t think [the studio system] meant much to writers, except to confuse them every once in a while about who is talking to them. It was great for young writers the studio wanted to turn into low-paid producers. I found myself in a highly protected learning environment. They caught my mistakes and helped me correct them. Production experts like [“Virginian” producer] George Santoro and [unit manager] Abby Singer helped me to understand budgeting. Then it became my job to make sure that the money we spent was going to show up on the screen.

(Once Abby Singer, famous for ” just this shot and one more,” warned me that we were about to go into Golden Time. I said “Abby, just what is Golden Time?” He said “I don’t know, but it’s terrible.”)

Department heads like Richard Belding in Editorial ran interference between myself and more experienced editors, and so it went all the way down the line…through the music department, sound, wardrobe. These department heads knew their workers knew more than I did, but they also realized their job was to help me understand the process so that I could fully utilize my own talents. [Cinematographers Lionel] “Curly” Lindon and Bud Thackery could have ignored me but they didn’t. If I asked for things they just couldn’t do in the time we had to make a show, they were patient and generous with their time. In that regard, the studio system was great. That’s why sports franchises have farm teams. You can’t learn the business in film school.

The major drawback was that it engendered split loyalties. The A.D. is not really the director’s assistant. He works for, and reports to, the production department. That’s true of every crew member and department head. In my first year as a producer, I asked a hell of a lot more questions than I gave orders. But when my crew realized my ideas were sound and my intentions were only to make the show better, the split loyalties became a “non factor.”

How would I characterize Frank Price as an exec? Quite simply the best. I don’t know about others under his aegis, but he allowed me a great deal of latitude, and he had the best story mind I had ever seen.

A cute example concerned a writer who shall remain nameless … who was late bringing us a story for “The Virginian” when I was the story editor. [He] said the story got lost when he had to make a wheels up landing in his Beechcraft Bonanza. We all knew [this writer] was fudging the truth a bit, and that he had nothing on paper, or even in his head.

Frank called in his secretary, myself, and Joel Rogosin who was slated to produce the episode. Frank then led [the writer-pilot] and the rest of us through the story from the opening to the ending. The secretary transcribed the story and [the writer] went home and wrote the script.

The cuteness was when I (also a pilot) asked him how he could have made a wheels-up landing. Didn’t he have a warning horn on the plane that told him his gear was not down? [He] said “Yeah, but the damned thing was making so much noise I couldn’t concentrate.”

With the successful “Ironside” TV movie in Nielsen’s ratings books as a hit, Universal Television ordered work on the first six regular episodes. On Thursday Sept. 14, 1967, the first series installment Americans saw was “A Message From Beyond,” which was seventh in production order. NBC slotted the series at 8:30 Eastern time, opposite the popular ABC sitcom “Bewitched” and the final half hour of CBS’s Western drama “Cimarron Strip.” The new show would also face the first half hour, at 9:00, of “The CBS Thursday Night Movies.”

NBC was less than thrilled with the first batch of shows, and creator and executive producer Collier Young took the  blame.

When Young was fired six shows into the first season’s production schedule, he was replaced by Frank Price.  Price brought Chermak over from “The Virginian” as one of his producers.

Chermak: Frank didn’t tell me what he wanted [when I came to “Ironside.” ] He knew that I knew. He wanted it honest. He wanted it truthful. It is the same thing he brought to “The Virginian.”

Let us be very clear about one thing. I ran “Ironside” [after being promoted to executive producer in July 1968]. But the genius behind the Stanislavsky-esque concept of honesty and truth belonged to Frank. He changed “The Virginian” from a musical Western like “Oklahoma” into something that became copied. No black hats. No bad guys simply for the needs of the script. People behave like decent human beings with sincere differences. You bump into a guy, you don’t go for your gun. You say excuse me and move on.

He did the same thing for “Ironside.” I think it interesting that Robert Butler acknowledged that dressing Vince Gardenia up like a “Batman” villain 10 made a viewer have to suspend his disbelief. Frank knew it instinctively. He didn’t want Ironside to become a comic strip.

I did it his way for many years because he was the boss. Then I started doing it his way because I realized Frank was right. He brought Stanislavsky to television writing. And yes, perhaps Frank did tell me what he wanted of me. Honesty and Truth. I think I gave it to him.

Later in the season, Chermak’s colleague Paul Mason produced “All In A Day’s Work,” [airdate Feb. 15, 1968] written by storied crime novelist Ed McBain (Evan Hunter), best known for his 87th Precinct police procedurals. In this episode, Eve has to kill an armed robber who turns out to have been a teenager, and is plagued by guilt.

Chermak: Here is a story you won’t believe. Ed McBain/Evan was probably my favorite fiction writer at the time — excepting only Norman Corwin — and I can’t for the life of me figure out why he chose to do a television episode … I believe the show was written for Raymond. He said he was tired and needed a rest and we should give it to Ed Brown (Don Galloway). We re-did it for Barbara instead. And yes, it was the episode I submitted to the Emmys on her behalf. And yes, she did win.

Sometimes, a very good writer might only work on the show once. This proved to be the case with Luther Davis,  a highly respected TV writer who penned the script for Season 1’s “A Very Cool Hot Car” (aired Nov. 30, 1967), with Chermak producing.

There are a couple of situations that are handled with some finesse. An embittered ex-cop played by Jay C. Flippen  has been forced into retirement after failing to solve one case, the burglary ring of the plot. When he talks to Ironside about it, he can’t help but refer to the black man who replaced him on the case (Bernie Hamilton) as a “college boy from Africa.” The point isn’t dwelt upon, aside from a look of general disdain from Ironside. It’s just a realistic aside that someone his age at that time, in that situation, might have said.

Also, although Mark is concerned that Hamilton is being unfairly maligned — for racial reasons — by the police department for not stopping the burglaries, Hamilton treats Mark as an outsider until he happens to prove himself in the heat of battle. Other shows might have shown portrayed the two of them as fast friends, doing “soul shakes” and the like.

Chermak: I remember the Luther Davis script very well. I don’t believe I was the exec at that time, but I was thrilled to have a writer of Luther Davis’ caliber on the show. Sadly, Luther didn’t like being re-written, even to the smallest extent, so he gracefully and graciously bowed out of future commitments.

“Ironside” finished its first season as the No. 26 program on the air in 1967-68, according to Nielsen, with a 20.5 household rating, a very strong showing considering its formidable competition. “Bewitched” ended the year at No. 11 with a 23.5 rating. Though “Cimarron Strip” finished out of the top 30, and was not renewed, “The CBS Thursday Night Movies” finished No. 23, with a rating of 21.1.

In July 1968, Frank Price was promoted, becoming the head of current programming at Universal, reporting to Sid Sheinberg, then senior vice-president in charge of television production. Chermak became the executive producer of “Ironside.”

Chermak: It was Sid who announced to me that he was making the choice, and I’m sure it was tough for him because he and Paul [Mason] were close personal friends. But I’m sure Frank made the suggestion. Why? You would have to ask him.

But I had been his story editor and then his producer on “The Virginian.”  Then when he went to “Convoy” he took me with him. I am guessing that he had seen enough of my work to think I would stick closest to his framework and give him the least trouble. He was only right about the first part of that sentence. I know that Sid had to, or chose to, run it by Raymond before firming up the decision.

One Thursday after shooting, Raymond asked me to his dressing room for a drink. We sat on opposite sides of a coffee table and Ray opened a bottle of Courvoisier, dramatically threw the cork over his shoulder, put the bottle in the middle of the table and sat down. I looked at the bottle, then at Ray and said, “That is all very well and good, but what are you going to drink?”

“Oho,” responded Raymond. He got up, took a fresh bottle, threw that cork over his shoulder, and placed the bottle in front of himself. Now we each had our own bottle, and we rolled out of the studio at about three in the morning.

The next night Sid called me and told me I was the new exec on “Ironside.”

In the next Reveal Shot post, Chermak remembers the two-hour “Split Second To An Epitaph” and other Season 2 episodes; the series’ 1968 NAACP Image Award, and speaks more broadly about how producers were assigned to each show, which writers could be counted upon when the chips were down, and working with Milton Berle on a dramatic role.

— David B. Wilkerson

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The Original ‘Ironside’ — Quincy Jones, Steven Bochco and others remember (Part III of Reveal Shot’s Ironside series)

[UPDATE: Videos now fixed to start when the subject begins to discuss “Ironside,” as intended.]

If you’re a fan of television shows of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, you really should acquaint yourself with the Archive of American Television, a truly remarkable collection of more than 700 video interviews with actors, directors, writers and others who were active in the medium throughout its history.

In these excerpts, various people recall their experiences on “Ironside.” Oddly, none of the series regulars are included among the archived interviews, which began in 1997; Raymond Burr died in 1993, and Gene Lyons (Commissioner Randall) died in 1974. But everyone else could have been interviewed for the archive, including Don Galloway (Ed Brown), who died in 2009.

The pioneering African-American composer Quincy Jones discusses his work on the show’s theme song:

 

 

Steven Bochco, later the producer of “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law,” discusses one of his early writing credits, a brief stint on “Ironside” in the 1967-68 season.

 

 

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25 Great Warner Bros. films on DVD/Blu-ray, 1926-1967

Cover of "The Adventures of Robin Hood [B...

Here are my picks for 25 must-own Warner Bros. films on DVD and Blu-ray, in chronological order. Films were eligible from 1923 to 1969, when Jack L. Warner stepped down from the studio to become an independent producer. Let the debate begin.

I’ve denoted cases in which I’ve reviewed the films mentioned here in earlier entries. Sometimes a film is listed without further comment; this is not meant to diminish them in any way. I will probably deal with them in more detail in future posts, or update this one.

All films are available separately or in boxed sets  from Warner Bros. Home Video or its Warner Archive unit unless otherwise noted.

1. “Don Juan” (1926)
Available at Warner Archive
John Barrymore stars as the titular lothario in this silent film, the first to have a synchronized music score and sound effects on disc, using Warner’s Vitaphone system. Possibly an ideal entry point for someone new to silent drama, with memorable characterizations by Barrymore, Estelle Taylor as Lucrezia Borgia, and a very young Mary Astor as Adriana della Varnese, the woman who finally captures Don Juan’s heart. Great sword fight at the end.

2. “Little Caesar” (1930)

3. “The Public Enemy” (1931)
See Part I and Part II of Reveal Shot‘s Warner Bros. Gangster series for analysis of these two films. They are available separately or as part of the Ultimate Gangster Collection: Classics on Blu-ray, along with “White Heat” (see below).

4. “I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang” (1932)
See Part III of the WB Gangster series.

5. “The Mystery Of The Wax Museum” (1933)
The 3-D remake of this film, ‘House Of Wax” (1953) would certainly be a big draw at the TCM festival after the popular screenings of 3-D classics “Hondo” and “Dial M For Murder” this year, but I prefer the original. Lionel Atwill stars as the wax museum sculptor disfigured in a fire who goes insane and begins to tomb living women in wax. Glenda Farrell is the archetypal wisecracking female reporter who uncovers the horrific facts.

6. “G-Men” (1935)
Warner Bros. does an effective reversal of its gangland dramas, showing one of the roughest of them from the side of law enforcement. Cagney plays a hood who goes straight, first as a lawyer, and then, when a friend is murdered, as an FBI agent. Features strong supporting work from Barton MacLane as the main bad guy, and Ann Dvorak as Cagney’s one-time girlfriend who can’t escape the criminal milieu. One of the most brutal movies of this period.

7. “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” (1936)
In Errol Flynn Signature Collection, Vol. 2. Also available separately.
I’m mysteriously drawn to tales of British colonial rule of India and other areas in that part of the world. No serious attempt was made to explain the rationale for the infamous charge at Balaclava; it’s set up here as the by-product of sibling rivalry, unrequited love and revenge. Max Steiner’s score plays an unusually big part in the film’s success, and the titular charge is very well done by director Michael Curtiz, despite the deaths of several horses and a stunt man.

8. “The Adventures Of Robin Hood” (1938)
2-Disc Special Edition
The definitive swashbuckler, just ahead of some of Twentieth Century-Fox’s Tyrone Power classics. Flynn vs. Basil Rathbone’s Sir Guy of Gisbourne can hardly be topped as a screen duel. An eye-opener to anyone you encounter who is skeptical about the glories of three-strip Technicolor  (though I guess that would have to be someone who hasn’t seen “The Wizard Of Oz” in a while).

9. “Angels With Dirty Faces” (1938)
See Part IV of the Warner Gangster series.

10. “The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse” (1938)
A stellar adaptation of a clever play, featuring Edward G. Robinson as a doctor who is fascinated by crime, and decides to join a group of thieves on a series of jewel robberies to test his theories. When there is mutual attraction between he and the female member of the gang (Claire Trevor), her erstwhile boyfriend (Humphrey Bogart) starts trouble. See this review at Pretty Clever Films.

11. “The Roaring Twenties” (1939)
See Part V of the Warner Gangster posts.

12. “The Sea Hawk” (1940)
The best of Flynn’s pirate movies. Here he’s Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe, leader of “The Sea Hawks,” a group of English pirates who seize Spanish ships during a time when Queen Elizabeth is ostensibly trying to avoid war with Spain. Thorpe ends up having to fight the Spaniards and a traitor on the Queen’s court. If Rathbone had played the traitor, rather than Henry Daniell, the film would have been even better. As it is, only Fox’s “The Black Swan” ranks as a better pirate saga.

13. “The Letter” (1940)
You can’t have a list of great Warner classics without including Bette Davis. In “The Letter,” set on a British rubber plantation, Davis plays Leslie Crosbie, a married woman who shoots her lover to death. She claims self-defense, but that testimony is jeopardized by an incriminating letter she wrote to the dead man that same day, inviting him to her home. When that letter falls into the hands of the victim’s wife, Leslie must somehow get it back. The melodrama sometimes seems to be veering out of control, but director William Wyler manages to rein it in, abetted by James Stephenson as Leslie’s suspicious lawyer and Herbert Marshall as the cuckolded husband. Davis is fascinating, as usual.

14. “The Maltese Falcon” (1941)
See my entry on this hard-boiled detective story.

15. “Casablanca” (1942)
I can’t imagine the trouble I’d be in if I left out this one.  Rather than try to summarize its importance here, I defer to this essay from Bright Lights Film Journal.

16. “Mildred Pierce” (1945)
Ann Blyth, who appears here as the title character’s evil daughter Veda, was interviewed by Robert Osborne during the TCM Film Festival this year. Raquel Stecher at the Out Of The Past blog covered the event here.

17. “Key Largo” (1948)
18. “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” (1948)
19. “White Heat” (1949)
20. “Strangers On A Train” (1951)

21. “Giant” (1956)
I wrote up my review of this one after a screening at the TCM Film Festival, and spoke to Warner Home Video’s George Feltenstein about the film’s restoration.

22. “Rio Bravo” (1959)

23. “The Great Race” (1965)
One of my suggestions for next year’s TCM Film Fest.

24. “Up The Down Staircase” (1967)

Along with “The Blackboard Jungle,” one of the best movies about teaching. This adaptation of Bel Kaufman’s 1965 best-seller about the experiences of young Sylvia Barrett (Sandy Dennis), whose first teaching assignment out of grad school lands her at a tough New York City high school. There are lots of intriguing story threads: A fellow English teacher (Patrick Bedford) is brilliant but unable to connect emotionally with a shy girl who has a crush on him; Sylvia gets anonymous notes from an admirer in the class suggestion box; a black kid wants to drop out because he feels overwhelmed by racist attitudes; a gang member interprets Sylvia’s kindness to be some kind of sexual proposition. The location photography by the unheralded Joseph Coffey is very good, truly creating the sense of time and place that makes older films so fascinating for audiences decades later. Fred Karlin’s music score is contemporary and yet, in pointing to Sylvia’s idealism, takes on a baroque sensibility at times.

25. “Cool Hand Luke” (1967)

— David B. Wilkerson

 

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The original ‘Ironside’ — Part II of a Reveal Shot series (NBC Tuesday Night at The Movies, March 28, 1967)

[With the Blair Underwood remake officially slated for NBC’s 2013-14 lineup, Reveal Shot continues with Part II of a series on the original “Ironside” with more on the two-hour made-for-TV movie that served as the pilot, as well as a wrap-up of the 1966-67 network ratings race. SPOILERS are present in this installment.]

Read A look back at NBC’s original ‘Ironside’ — the pilot (NBC Tuesday Night At The Movies, March 28, 1967) —  Part I.

With Ironside’s three assistants Ed Brown (Don Galloway), Eve Whitfield (Barbara Anderson) and Mark Sanger (Don Mitchell) established as characters, Don Mankiewicz‘s teleplay gets to the nuts and bolts of the investigation.

Ironside goes back to Commissioner Randall’s farm, where he was shot. It seems that the shell casings used in firing six rifle shots were never recovered. When the detective notes that six acorns have been spotted in the immediate vicinity, he deduces that a pack rat must have taken the shells and replaced them with the acorns. (Sigh.) In a rather lengthy sequence involving Wally Cox as the head of a Boy Scout troop, the rat’s lair is found — along with the casings. Apparently someone suggested that comedy relief was needed here, and alas, Mankiewicz ends up hanging one of the main plot threads on this development.

The shell casings are traced to a troubled Metropolitan Military Academy student named Tony Emmons (naturally, an expert marksman) who threatened to kill Ironside for arresting him after he fired a rifle shot into the window of a moving train. He was placed into a psychiatric hospital for juvenile offenders, but was released just days before Ironside was shot, by doctors who assumed he had been cured. Here, it seems, is our villain.

Throughout the pilot, director James Goldstone uses frequent, rapid-fire cuts. As the heroes look at slides of Tony’s mug shots projected onto a screen, Goldstone keeps cutting back to them, from the front, from the side, every time Ironside gets to a crucial part of the boy’s story.

Ironside finds out that Tony has a girlfriend, another former patient at the hospital named Ellen Wells (Kim Darby). He was very close to an art instructor at the academy, an attractive woman more than 10 years his senior, Honor Thompson (Geraldine Brooks).

The increasingly irritable detective is most anxious to speak to Ellen, but Ed has a hard time locating her. Ironside rides him about it until Ed, in Don Galloway’s most important scene in the film, has had enough. Read More

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A look back at NBC’s original ‘Ironside’ — the pilot (‘NBC Tuesday Night At The Movies,’ March 28, 1967) Part I

[With the Blair Underwood remake officially slated for NBC’s 2013-14 lineup, Reveal Shot begins a series on the original “Ironside” with a look at the network landscape as it existed when the pilot aired, and examines the two-hour made-for-TV movie itself. No spoilers in this entry.]

In March of 1967, NBC, for the 12th year in a row, as network affiliates gathered for their annual meeting, was trying to figure out a way to catch CBS, the perennial ratings leader. It almost happened, partly on the strength of made-for-TV movies such as “Ironside.”

NBC President Don Durgin told the station owners that NBC was the only network to have increased its audience in each of the last five years11.

He unveiled a 1967-68 schedule that Broadcasting magazine found remarkable in its relative lack of half-hour situation comedies — and 30-minute shows in general. “There are only six half -hours of any kind on next season’s [NBC] schedule, compared to 16 hour series, two two-hour movie nights and one 90- minute program [‘The Virginian’],” the magazine reported12.

By the time of the affiliate meeting, NBC had aired 18 of the top 40 movies shown in primetime that season, including four that had been made for television by partner Universal. “Doomsday Flight,” the story of a plane in jeopardy written by Rod Serling, got the best ratings among the TV flicks, with a 27.5 rating and 48 share, followed by “Fame Is The Name of The Game” — which later morphed into the series “The Name Of The Game — at 26.7 and 4413.

At midseason, the network found a new hit in a revival of Jack Webb’s “Dragnet,” made distinct from the ’50s original by its color photography, a new partner for Joe Friday in Frank Gannon (Harry Morgan) and the decision to place the year in the title as “Dragnet 1967.”

‘Ironside’ debuts

Just over a week after the Broadcasting item appeared, on March 28, 1967, “NBC Tuesday Night At The Movies” featured the made-for-TV “Ironside.” The network hoped that viewers would be intrigued to see Raymond Burr, who had just completed a nine-year run as Perry Mason, in a different role.

San Francisco Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside (Burr) is vacationing at Commissioner Randall’s remote farm. We see him in the opening scene, complaining about some bothersome chickens. “I don’t even like eggs,” he says. As he prepares a stiff drink for himself, shots ring out, hitting Ironside, who drops out of camera range. As the credits roll, Ironside is on his way to the hospital in an ambulance, as Quincy Jones’ rather hysterical first version of his famous theme blares. The trumpeters on the track seem to be using their tongues to get a kind of trilling effect.

Gradually we get reactions from co-workers and others, who have been led to believe that the chief is probably going to die from his wounds. Sgt. Ed Brown (Don Galloway) is seen in a police locker room, chatting with a colleague. “You know what he told me? He said the only excuse for a policeman taking a day off is death — his own,” Ed says, slamming his locker. Read More

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Remembering Jean Stapleton and ‘All In The Family’

Saturday’s news that Jean Stapleton, the actress best known as Edith Bunker on the CBS sitcom “All In The Family,” has died at the age 90, is the latest reminder of what an important show it was, and of a television era that is fading further away from us every day.

I wrote a story and sidebar on “All In The Family” last November, shortly after Shout! Factory released a deluxe, 28-disc DVD box set of the entire series. As I explained, the show still works on three brilliant levels: as an uproarious comedy in the classic sitcom tradition, as a blistering social satire and as a first-rate character study.

“All In the Family’s three levels of brilliance”

The 10 best ‘All In The Family’ episodes”

 ********************

With so much of the innovative energy of the show going into the characters of Archie Bunker and Mike Stivic, the main protagonists, it must have been difficult to work in some nuance for Edith. The easiest thing was to have her character engage in a sort of Gracie Allen patter with Archie, or run to the kitchen to get his beer while he and Mike went toe-to-toe on some issue of politics, race or culture.

However, “All In The Family’s” writers managed to do much more with Edith. She is, from the beginning, the only person who can readily see the goodness in Archie, which only emerges gradually over the long run of the series. And she is usually the only one who can prevail upon that part of her husband’s nature when he has crossed the line.

My favorite Edith episodes are those in which she stands up to Archie and admonishes him. In “Archie The Gambler,” from Season 4, Archie bets on the horses, even though gambling is the one sin that almost forced Edith to walk out on him years before when Gloria was a child. Jean Stapleton is riveting in the scenes when she finds out about it and slaps Archie. All is well in the end, of course, but not before Archie apologizes (and Edith apologizes for hitting him).

From Season 8, there is the one-hour season premiere “Archie Gets The Business,”  in which he forges Edith’s signature to get the loan he needs to buy Kelcy’s Bar. In that case, not only does Edith shame Archie into an apology and an acknowledgement that she is part-owner of the bar, but she brings up his misdeed in subsequent episodes. Edith was no doormat, and Jean Stapleton’s performance assured that the character would not be one-dimensional.

“All In The Family” ratings history

The show is one of television’s great success stories, finishing No. 1 for five straight seasons. It began as a midseason replacement in January 1971, getting off to a slow start but catching fire during the summer, when people caught up with it in reruns.

In this table, I’ve included, in the last column, the network that had the highest overall ratings that year.

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— David B. Wilkerson

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TCM Film Festival Managing Director Genevieve McGillicuddy reflects on this year’s event

Genevieve McGillicuddy, managing director of the TCM Film Festival, poses at the April 26 screening of “It” (1927) with Robert Ziegler, left, who conducted Carl Davis’ score for the film, and David Stenn, right, author of “Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild.” (Photo credit: TCM/Edward M. Pio Roda)

Genevieve McGillicuddy, managing director of the TCM Film Festival, was gracious enough this week to answer Reveal Shot‘s questions via email about this year’s event and the implications of the renovation planned for the TCL Chinese Theatre, where so many of the biggest screenings have taken place since the festival’s inception in 2010.

Special thanks to Heather Sautter of TCM Publicity, who arranged the interview.

Was there some logistical challenge that came up unexpectedly in 2012 that you were able to resolve this year? If so, can you explain how you resolved it?

Logistically, it’s always a juggling act to produce an event of this scope, especially considering the fact that each year, we have added new venues and increased the number of events and special guests who are able to join us. We’ve learned so much since our first Festival in 2010, and that has enabled us to produce events like the wonderful cast reunions we hosted this past year, with “Deliverance” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” among others.

We’re really fortunate in that we have built a broad team to produce and support the festival, and that team has remained fairly consistent since day one. That consistency has meant that we’ve worked together each year to learn how we can improve and build on past successes.

There are always very tough choices for attendees when two especially popular attractions are screened at the same time, such as “Hondo” and “On The Waterfront.” Is this mostly dictated by the availability of guests and other logistical considerations? Or does it just add to the excitement?

Good question. It starts with programming considerations from TCM’s senior vice president of programming, Charlie Tabesh. He carefully considers the type of program and genre to try and counterbalance the offerings. For example, if we’re screening “Hondo,” you will likely not find another western or 3-D movie playing opposite it.

Other considerations are the talent in attendance, the size of the audience that we anticipate for an event and finally the logistical challenge of the format. Some of our theatres are only equipped for digital formats (which is how many new restorations are screened), and others are only 35mm theaters (reel-to-reel). It’s a complicated puzzle.

TCM13-logoThe open TBA slots on Sundays seemed to work quite well for people who missed certain screenings earlier. Beyond screenings that were sold out, is there anything else that goes into deciding which films to place into those slots?

Those slots are reserved primarily to repeat films that are in-demand by audiences and would benefit from a second show. We also have to keep in mind that the venue reserved for TBAs is format restricted. For example, this year, the theatre used for TBAs could only screen 35mm prints, so that limited to a certain degree what we could show again in that theatre.

With Grauman’s [The TCL] Chinese Theatre undergoing renovation, is there any one theater that has emerged as the most viable substitute in 2014 for the kinds of screenings you would otherwise hold at that venue?

We have every intention of returning to the TCL Chinese Theatre in 2014. We are working with current management, keeping apprised of the renovations, etc. In addition to returning to the Chinese, we look to continue to use many of the venues that we have utilized in recent years. The Egyptian Theatre, the Cinerama Dome, the El Capitan Theatre and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel have all been great venues and a terrific fit for our festival.

Lastly, did you have a favorite screening at the festival this year? If so, what made it special?

The biggest surprise for me this year was the screening of “Cinerama Holiday.” I had never seen the film prior to the screening we did at the Cinerama Dome, and we were lucky enough to have two of the stars of the film in person at the event. The film is a genuine time capsule of what the U.S. was like in the mid-1950s, from a pre-Rat Pack Las Vegas to an extended tour of my home state, New Hampshire.

And I was blown away at how gorgeous a travelogue it is. This was a recent digital restoration, and it’s not hard to see why the film was the second top-grossing release of 1956, as Leonard Maltin related in his introduction. “Cinerama Holiday” was truly a discovery, and screenings like that are one of the many reasons it has been such a joy to work on this festival.

— David B. Wilkerson

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