October 17, 2009
Recently, as you may have read or heard somewhere, the film director Roman Polanski was recently arrested in Switzerland and may soon find himself back in the United States to face sentencing on a statutory rape charge to which he pled guilty thirty-one years ago. This development reminded me that I still hadn’t seen Marina Zenovich’s Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, a fascinating, well-researched documentary about the Polanski rape case that was released last year.
I have no editorial comment whatsoever to make on the subject of Polanski’s crime. However, the Polanski case does contain one intriguing connection to the subject of this blog. Susan Gailey, the mother of the thirteen year-old girl with whom Polanski had sex in 1977, was an actress. Gailey played bit parts in episodes of Police Woman, Starsky and Hutch, and (according to some internet sources) L.A. Law. I’d bet that she can be found in other shows from the mid-seventies, too. The credits of many small-part actors, especially in obscure series, have not found their way into any on-line resource yet.
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired includes a brief clip from Gailey’s appearance in a 1976 segment of Police Woman. The image above is taken from the documentary. Note that, instead of pillarboxing the clip to preserve its correct 4:3 aspect ratio, the filmmakers have cropped the footage to shoehorn it into the 16:9 frame of their film. This is a deplorable practice that’s all too common in documentaries these days.
That episode of Police Woman is not commercially available on DVD, but Gailey’s Starsky and Hutch episode is. Here she is, billed as Suzan Gailey, in the first season’s “The Deadly Impostor,” from 1975.
Does anyone out there know of any more Susan Gailey appearances? Gailey declined to be interviewed for the Polanski documentary. Zenovich claims that Gailey changed her mind after seeing the film, but Zenovich opted not to record an interview and add it to the film for its DVD release. I’d love to hear what Gailey – who has been accused by some of essentially pimping her daughter to Polanski – has to say. But for now, we’ll have to settle for her fleeting appearances in a few bad old cop shows.
UPDATE: Susan Gailey was also a fixture in some long-running TV ad campaigns in the seventies – the kind of television history that’s often lost to those of us who weren’t around to witness it firsthand. For more on Gailey’s post-Hollywood years, see the Washington Post and the Virginian-Pilot (which gallantly omits any mention of l’affaire Polanski).