Suspension of Disbelief

October 6, 2011

Rita Lee came back with a frozen Milky Way and some confession magazines and comic books.  She read about a miser duck called Uncle Scrooge, and his young duck nephews, whose adventures took place in a city where all the bystanders, the figures on the street, were anthropoid dogs walking erect.  Norwood read about Superman and the double-breasted-suited Metropolis underworld.  It was a kryptonite story and not a bad one.  He went through the book in no time at all and rolled it up and stuck it in his pocket.  “Did you ever see that dude on television?” he said.

Rita Lee looked up with annoyance from her duck book.  “Who?”

“Superman.”

“Yeah, and I know what you’re going to say, he killed himself, the one who played Superman.”

“It looks all right when you’re reading it.  I didn’t believe none of it on television.”

“You’re not supposed to really believe it.”

“You’re supposed to believe it a little bit.  I didn’t believe none of it.”

- Charles Portis, Norwood (1966)

I’m giving this post an atypical overhaul to add some links and note the death (on August 21) of Edward Denault, who accomplished a lot of other things in his career but who is probably most familiar to readers of this blog as an assistant director on a many episodes of The Twilight Zone.

I often hear people remark, in response to an obituary, “I thought he died a long time ago!”  I almost never have that reaction to an obit, because it’s my job to keep tabs on such things, but I confess that I thought Eddie Denault died a long time ago.  If I’d known otherwise, I would have sought an interview with him.  I’m pretty sure Martin Grams didn’t talk to Denault for his comprehensive Twilight Zone book, either.

In the fifties and sixties, assistant directors and production managers tended to be staffers at a particular studio, but Denault may have been a rare freelancer.  Checking my records, I find him credited not just on The Twilight Zone but also on some Revue shows and, for a few years in the early sixties, a lot of Four Star productions, like The Dick Powell Show and The Rifleman.  Later he was a production executive at Lorimar, on The Waltons, Dallas, and Knots Landing, among others.  Variety‘s obit is firewalled but it’s been copied here.

Ahna Capri was a really gorgeous ingenue, best known for two films released in 1973, one silly (Enter the Dragon) and one serious (Payday).  On television she was a child actress (Make Room For Daddy), a teenaged girlfriend for Eddie Haskell (Leave It to Beaver), a not-quite-A-list adult guest star on a lot of genre shows in the sixties and seventies (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, Banacek), and inactive after 1979 (Mrs. Columbo, not a good one to go out on).  I think Tom Lisanti broke the news on his blog and so far the Hollywood Reporter has the only obit, which reports that Capri never married (interesting) and died on August 19 after being wiped out by a truck and spending 11 days on life support (horrifying).

*

Screen and television writer Raphael Hayes died on August 14 at the age of 95.  Hayes was a live television playwright who earned an Oscar nomination for the independent film One Potato, Two Potato (1964) and then found an unlikely home on the Daniel Boone TV series before leaving the industry altogether.  There’s little I can say about Hayes that isn’t covered already in my 2003 interview with him.

News of the death of Jackson Gillis on August 19 just emerged today, but hopefully some real obits will follow in the coming days.  Gillis was a key writer for both The Adventures of Superman and Perry Mason, and also piled up credits on tons of other popular mystery and fantasy shows including Burke’s Law (two scripts in collaboration with cult pulp novelist Day Keene), Lost in Space, both U.N.C.L.E. series, and Mannix.  Gillis did not respond to several of my interview requests during the past decade (poor health or reclusiveness? I’m sometimes tempted to add “please check one” on follow-up letters) but there are brief biographies of him on this Superman site and this Mickey Mouse Club siteUpdate: Variety’s meager obit is reproduced here, and finally the New York Times has one here.

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