Voices From the Studio

January 27, 2009

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One of the great things about Koch’s Studio One DVD set, which I wrote about last month, is its wealth of bonus material.  Several interviews and documentaries, of different lengths and formats, offer an intimate portrait of how the eleven-season anthology series was produced. 

If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that, out of these featurettes, only one – a brief 1987 interview with the director Paul Nickell – offers any information specific to the production of the Studio One segments in the DVD set.  This set me to wondering: would it be possible to supplement the ample DVD extras with some new stories about the seventeen episodes that many new viewers will now be discovering? 

So as I watched these Studio Ones, I contacted some of the surviving individuals whose names I recognized in the credits, and asked them what they remembered.  Here are some of their answers.

*

Charles H. “Chiz” Schultz is a television and film producer of some renown; he produced The Judy Garland Show and one of the great American independent films, Ganja and Hess.  Schultz began his career in the mailroom at CBS, and after working as a production assistant on a couple of shows (including Mama), he was promoted to “assistant to the producer” on Studio One.  It was a job that included budgets, schedules, casting, or, as Schultz put it, “a little bit of everything.”

During the live telecasts, Schultz was stationed in the control booth and charged with timing the show using a stopwatch.  “My hands were always perspiring,” Schultz remembered.  “I would always have to be careful not to drop the watch, because the sweat just poured, out of nervousness.”  If the broadcast appeared to be running long or short, Schultz would relay this information to the director and a decision would be reached: trim a scene, revise the script on the spot, or instruct the actors to speed up or slow down their delivery.

If something went wrong on the stage, Schultz and the others in the booth would look on helplessly.  “An actor would just blow his lines,” he recalled.  “Some of them would just go up.  There was just this stillness in the control room, hoping that another actor would jump in.  Which they always did.  They were always terrific professionals.”

Schultz worked on Studio One in 1955 and 1956, during the tenure of Felix Jackson, the anthology’s most talented producer.  Schultz greatly admired Jackson, an early mentor, as well as Florence Britton, the story editor who was essential to Jackson’s success. 

“Both she and Felix had a terrific story sense,” Schultz recalled.  “Florence was a great character, right out of the twenties.  She was a blonde and had a dutchboy haircut.  She always, at her desk, wore this incredibly large, wide-brimmed hat, and had a cigarette holder.  I was just in awe.  As a kid from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, I had never seen anything like her.”

Schultz praised Felix Jackson’s strength as a producer, particularly when he clashed with the blacklist.  Schultz recalled:

After I had been working at Studio One for a while, I was in the casting director, Jim Merrick’s, office, and he said, “I want to show you something.”  And he opened up the bottom right drawer of his desk and there was a telephone in there.  I said, “What the hell’s that?” 

He said, “Every time we get ready to cast Studio One, I have to pick up the phone, and I just push zero, or dial zero, and I hear a woman’s voice say, ‘Read the names.’  And I read her all of the names of the people that we’re about to cast, and after each name she either says yes or no.”  No one knew who was at the end of the phone.  And it was just a horror show.

There was a wonderful actress-dancer named Valerie Bettis, and we cast her in a show.  It was announced.  And we got this frantic call saying that we had to immediately get rid of her.  She was listed, she was obviously a communist.  All of this was crap.  It wasn’t true. 

Felix was so upset, and he wanted to clear her name.  So what he did was, he called the head of CBS and he said, “Oh, I’ve made a terrible mistake.  I cast a woman and I’ve just found out that she’s on the Red Channels list.  So I’ve just called a press conference and I’m going to let all the reporters know that Red Channels has blacklisted her.” 

The head of CBS said, “No, no, for Chrissake, don’t do anything like that.  Nobody knows there’s a Red Channels!  Go ahead, put her in, put her in, and we’ll take care of it.” 

So Valerie Bettis appeared on Studio One, and her name was cleared from that point on.  Felix tried to do that in every way he could.  He was passionate about justice.

Though Schultz’s duties never brought him in close proximity to Studio One‘s writers, he did get to know the show’s primary alternating directors well. 

“Frank Schaffner always dressed in a suit and vest, ramrod straight, almost like an army general.  Like Patton, in a way.  Very stern,” Schultz said. 

“But he had a crazy, wonderful sense of humor.  I had been there maybe three weeks when he came into my office, he didn’t say a word, he walked up to me, reached out, took my tie, pulled out scissors, and just cut it in half.  And walked out of the room.  That was Frank.  You never knew what to expect.”

Schaffner went on to become an Academy Award-winning movie director, not only of Patton, but also of The Best Man, Planet of the Apes, and Papillon.  Paul Nickell, by contrast, fell into obscurity following his Studio One decade.  Nickell had a minor career as an episodic television director (Ben Casey, Sam Benedict) before moving into academia.

“Paul Nickell was a very nice man,” Schultz told me.  “I never knew Paul too well.  I always had a feeling he was sort of out of the loop in a funny way.  A very quiet person, and I think he had his own personal problems.” 

Schultz pointed out the intriguing fact that Schaffner and Nickell divided the Studio One scripts in a way that matched their personalities.  Nickell “went for the love stories, softer stuff.  He was kind of a soft person himself.” 

Schaffner, on the other hand, “was wonderful with war stories.  Men’s stories,” said Schultz.  “He never wanted to do a love story, he never wanted to do a comedy.  He wanted to do serious dramas, and particularly with a male cast.”  Indeed, while Nickell and Schaffner split Reginald Rose’s many Studio One plays, all of the Rod Serling segments were directed by Schaffner.

*

It’s a bit harder to find actors who remember single performances they gave more than a half-century ago.  It might seem that a live broadcast would so jangle the nerves that the memory would be retained forever – but then, some actors appeared in scores or even hundreds of live shows.  And perhaps the most terrifying ordeals before the live cameras tended to blank out memories instead.

Helen Auerbach was the ingenue in “Dark Possession,” the bright young woman who initiates some amateur sleuthing into the identity of a blackmailer who seems to be tormenting her older sister (Geraldine Fitzgerald).  Auerbach didn’t remember anything about “Dark Possession” – not even after I told her about the new DVD collection, and she watched the show again. 

“That’s the kind of part I got,” Auerbach said of her “Dark Possession” character.  “I was thin and sort of wimpy, and I generally got what we called at the time ‘second sad’ parts.”  That was “second” as in second lead, or second-billed: never the juiciest role in the script.

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Helen Auerbach in “Dark Possession”

Auerbach, who gave up acting professionally after she moved to Europe with her family in 1961, did remember that she had appeared opposite her “Dark Possession” leading man, Leslie Nielsen, in another Studio One from two years earlier, “The Hospital.” 

Even more than Nielsen, Auerbach remembered the director of both those shows, Franklin Schaffner.  “He was absolutely the most stunning guy, and very, very nice.  He was gorgeous, with his beautiful leather jackets,” Auerbach said. 

Method-actor leather jackets, like Brando in The Wild One, I wondered?  “No,” Auerbach explained, “Very soft, like suede.  Pale-colored suede, like a shirt, almost.  He seemed to wear that a lot.  And as far as being a good director, I couldn’t possibly know whether he was or not, I was so young!”

Auerbach also described her technique for avoiding those nerves that plagued live television actors.  “The most curious thing about it that I keep remembering is putting a couple of chairs together backstage, and going to sleep,” she explained.  “Somehow it was the way I controlled being nervous: I used to take a nap very shortly before we went on air.”

“In subsequent acting things, the very idea of that is so astonishing, because the nerves just got worse and worse.”

*

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Chester Morris and Frances Sternhagen in “The Arena”

Frances Sternhagen became famous well past middle age, for her roles as Cliff Claven’s possessive mother on Cheers, and John Carter’s patrician grandmother on ER.  But she was only in her mid-twenties when she appeared on Studio One, as a no-nonsense, seen-it-all Washington secretary in Rod Serling’s “The Arena.”

For Sternhagen, “The Arena” was an instance a particular actor’s nightmare: missing a call.  “I was about two hours late for the shooting,” she told me.  “I was pregnant and I was sick, and my husband had thought that I needed to sleep and had turned off the alarm.”

The stagehands dressed Sternhagen “as quickly as they could” and she made it onto the air without missing a cue.  “But I was so mortified that I couldn’t even apologize to Frank Schaffner, and of course he didn’t speak to me,” Sternhagen recalled.  “I wrote him a letter after it was over and never heard anything.  But I thought, ‘Oh, that’s probably why I haven’t gotten another job from Frank Schaffner.'”

Sternhagen recalled her co-stars, Wendell Corey and Chester Morris, as old hands, swapping stories at the table where the actors read and rehearsed the script.  “They were very kind when I finally arrived,” she added.

*

When a live TV broadcast ran longer than it was timed in rehearsals, one thing that often got sacrificed was the closing credits.  (Conversely, if an end credit roll lasts for four minutes, it’s safe to guess that the show ran short.)  Rod Serling’s “The Strike” was such a show, but fortunately the DVD liner notes include a long list of supporting actors – some of them very familiar faces – to fill in for the missing screen credits.

One of those supporting players was Cy Chermak.  Then a young New York actor struggling to make a living, Chermak would soon turn to writing and then producing.  At Universal in the late sixties, he oversaw a succession of hit shows, including The Virginian, Ironside, and The Bold Ones.  Later Chermak was the show-runner of CHiPs for most of its lengthy run.

In “The Strike,” Chermak plays one of several radio operators in the stranded platoon commanded by James Daly’s Major Gaylord.  “It was a nice part,” Chermak recalled in an e-mail.  “I worked the radio with an actor named Fred Scollay.  I pretty much keep repeating the same lines over and over as I was trying to contact another unit.”  Tasked with contacting the unit’s out-of-range headquarters, Chermak’s radio man repeats a call sign that becomes a sort of nerve-wracking chorus as tension in the icy cave mounts.  One of Rod Serling’s biographers, Gordon F. Sander, singled out Chermak’s refrain – “Razor Red, this is Razor Blue CP, come in, Razor Red” – as the most effective detail in “The Strike,” a device that drew upon Serling’s use of “aural details” during his radio writing days.

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Cy Chermak (left), James Daly, and Fred J. Scollay in “The Strike”

Like Chiz Schultz, Chermak recalled the physical effects of the stress of performing live.  “The final camera shot [in "The Strike"] was a close-up of me as the camera moved in,” he recalled.  “As it did I got nervous and developed a tic in my face.” 

After the broadcast, the director, Franklin Schaffner, told Chermak that he loved this touch.  Schaffner had assumed that the young actor’s tic was a clever improvisation rather than an involuntary spasm.

“The Strike” wasn’t the first time that Studio One had cast Chermak (who had in fact served in the army, as a drill instructor, from 1951-1953) in the specialized role of a battlefield technician.  Six months earlier, also for Schaffner, he had appeared in the famous 1953 segment “Dry Run,” with Walter Matthau as a submarine commander, a show for which the entire studio was flooded.  “I played a bow planesman,” Chermak wrote.  “Simply repeated commands given me like, ‘Up ten degrees,’ and ‘Dive, dive, dive!'”

*

“If you’re talking about Studio One, my goodness, that was one of the benchmarks of the drama series of television,” said Kim Swados, who alternated as the series’ set designer from 1952 until about 1954.  Swados, assigned to director Paul Nickell’s unit, worked on every other show.  Willard Levitas, whom Swados praised as “a brilliant designer,” created the sets for Franklin Schaffner’s segments.

According to Swados, the two-week process of creating an entire set for a show began with a reading of the script, then consultations with Felix Jackson and Nickell.  Once the producer and director approved of his ideas, Swados said, “my responsibility was to draw them up and get an okay on the budget and from the director, and then supervise them in the shop and then the setup.”  The stage crew erected the sets on Saturday, and Swados remained on hand to make changes during Sunday’s technical and dress rehearsals.  During the broadcast, Swados often watched from the control booth, seated behind the director.  

“We never had any sets fall down, thank goodness, but sometimes a door would stick,” Swados said of the on-air gaffes that made live television an adventure.  A more common mishap, he recalled, would be a camera failure, which would require the director to change his original plan and cut to one of the two other cameras while the third cameraman worked frantically to repair his machine.

Among the shows he designed, Swados’ favorites included period pieces with a continental flavor starring Michele Morgan (1953’s “Silent the Song”) and Claude Dauphin (1954’s “Cardinal Mindszenty”).  For the Morgan segment, Swados created an all-white set and outfitted the actors in white gloves, so that they appeared as disembodied figures against his backdrop.

But Swados’ sharpest memories were of the Studio One superproduction, also cited by Paul Nickell (in the DVD interview) as a turning point for both the series and his own career: the September 1953 adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984.” 

“It’s the one I am very proud of,” Swados told me.  “It was done as a stark, documentary-like, very frightening attempt to explore the anxiety that Mr. Orwell had about fascism and about how terrible it was to [live in] that kind of evil society.”  Swados added that

One of the big problems that we had was with Big Brother.  I was asked to design a poster for him, which I did, and they had a marvelous idea, the director, Paul Nickell.  We made twenty or thirty copies of the poster that I had done in charcoal, with “Big Brother Is Watching You.”  They were used as cards or shields, very much like what Hitler did with the swastika.  It was quite frightening and unnatural when you saw ten or fifteen or twenty of these things in confrontation. 

I remember that the worst thing that a person was frightened of, which is taken of course from the text of the book, was a door that had 101 on it.  That was the door that you were sent through to confront the worst fear of your life.  We had a big discussion about what the door should look like.

Swados went on to become the art director on The Deer Hunter and The Amityville Horror, as well as the television series Dallas.  A production injury left him disabled and forced him to retire in the mid-eighties.

Now living in Kansas, Swados looks back on his live television days with unbridled fondness.  “It was a brand new discipline, where nobody really knew what was right to do and what wasn’t right to do,” he told me.  “That was indeed the age of what was referred to as golden days of television.”

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Kim Swados’ Big Brother sketches surround Eddie Albert in “1984”

*

Thanks to David Kalat, Stuart Galbraith IV, Frank Marth, and of course to the individuals interviewed for this piece.  For more stories from Chiz Schultz (and from Kim Swados’ counterpart, the late Willard Levitas, among others), take a look at the most essential of the interview segments on the Koch DVD, a ninety-minute recording of a Museum of Broadcasting panel discussion on Studio One.

It’s been a terrible couple of weeks for early television-related deaths: Sydney Pollack, Dick Martin and Harvey Korman, theme music composer extraordinaire Earle Hagen, and the incredible Star Trek trio of Joseph Pevney (director), Robert H. Justman (producer), and Alexander Courage (composer).  In the wake of all that, it’s possible that the news this week of another TV director’s death might be overlooked.  Georg J. Fenady, a reliable action specialist whose work dates from the mid-sixties through the late nineties, died in Los Angeles on May 29.

Fenady was the younger brother of Andrew J. Fenady, the screenwriter/director/entrepreneur who created The Rebel while barely thirty years old.  Georg (who at that time spelled his name “George”) worked on that series as a casting consultant, and then served as an assistant director and eventually associate producer on Combat.  He made his directing debut on Combat in 1965 and continued to work almost exclusively in the same vein of hard, muscular, male-centric adventure series.  (Which was fortunate, because within a decade that would seem to be the only kind of hour-long show one could find on American television.) 

Fenady enjoyed long stints of a half-dozen or more episodes on Garrison’s Gorillas, Emergency, Quincy M.E., Knight Rider, Jake and the Fatman, the 1980s revival of Dragnet, and finally Baywatch.  He directed a pair of horror movies, Terror in the Wax Museum and Arnold, both in 1973.

After a pretty public battle with cancer during the past year, Sydney Pollack left us on May 26 at the age of 73.  That’s not exactly young but it comes as a bit of a shock still, because Pollack had been so robust in recent years, so visible within the industry, and so active (and marvelous) as a character actor in movies like Eyes Wide Shut and Michael Clayton.  Word of Pollack’s illness first emerged last August when he dropped out of Recount, the HBO movie about the 2000 presidential election that premiered a day before he died.  (Jay Roach of Austin Powers replaced him.)  Pollack had sworn off television the second the had enough clout to do so, after he won an Emmy for directing a Chrysler Theatre segment called “The Game” back in 1965.  Recount would have been the first thing he directed for television in 43 years.  Obituarists like me would be remarking about what a long path he’d taken to come full circle.

I wish I could say something positive about Pollack the man, who I found rather smug and standoffish during my only encounter with him, or about his movies.  Pollack’s films tended to garner praise for their “adult” good taste and their classical, old-fashioned style.  I thought they were banal and middlebrow, and that none of them excepting a few of the earliest ones did anything to stimulate the senses or the intellect.

But Pollack was an ideal episodic television director, and for a short time, a tremendously important one.  Between 1961 and 1965, Pollack enjoyed a meteoric rise from assignments on a few journeyman westerns (Shotgun Slade and The Tall Man) through the top episodic dramas (Ben Casey, The Fugitive, The Defenders) and into the handful of remaining anthology hours (Kraft Suspense Theatre and the Chrysler Theatre, both shot on film, not staged live) still on the air in the mid-sixties.  That wasn’t as unusual an accomplishment as it sounds.  In television at that time, one tended to either get stuck in the episodic rut for a long haul, or make the leap to features quickly; ambitious young directors and their agents understood that the clock was ticking.  Stuart Rosenberg, Elliot Silverstein, Robert Ellis Miller, and Mark Rydell were the Big Five along with Pollack who vied for the top TV jobs throughout the early sixties and then got their first important movies between 1965-1967; if one compares their television resumes, the chronologies and the shows that crop up look a lot alike.  But Pollack was younger than any of them and among his contemporaries he may have the record for the smallest number of TV segments done before the pole-vault into the big leagues was achieved.

Pollack in a rare leading role (he began as an actor, but mostly in supporting parts) in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents segment “The Contest of Aaron Gold”

And how does the early work stand up today?  Energetic, inventive, youthful, far livelier than the most TV episodes of the time, but notably devoid of personality.   The shows are kid-in-a-candy-store exercises in technique, all tracking pull-backs and crane shots, most of it just restrained enough to complement the material rather than overwhelm it.  Pollack’s Cain’s Hundreds and “The Black Curtain,” a flavorful, seedy Cornell Woolrich adaptation for The Alfred Hitchock Hour, are experiments in noir lighting and composition, deliberate studies in a particular style.

The film critic Scott Foundas, one of the few to write about Pollack’s TV period, describes a “dazzling … cubistic montage of bustling street scenes to suggest the disorientation felt by a timid Native American boy ill at ease in the big city” in the Ben Casey “For the Ladybug … One Dozen Roses.”  “Karina,” a Frontier Circus, begins with an abstraction, a harlequin against blackness, walking straight into the camera.  A moment later a shot of Elizabeth Montgomery’s gartered legs glimpsed in a crystal ball ripple-dissolves into the real thing.  Then a shot of her as a black-clad wraith, cape swirling, running into and over the camera.  That’s all in the teaser – and everything after the opening titles is routine.  These sound like gratuitous, indulgent flourishes wedged incongruously between whole acts of standard rhythmic shot-reverse shot framing that Pollack couldn’t vary and keep to his tight production schedule – and that’s exactly what they are.  But the truth is that so much of television looks so monotonous, one tends to take the visual pleasures where they come without dwelling too much on how unmotivated or immature they might be.

Since Pollack was working on the best TV shows in Los Angeles, the material was very good – the writers Pollack worked with, Howard Rodman and Stirling Silliphant and S. Lee Pogostin, put more of a personal stamp on the episodes than he did – and so were the performers hired to guest-star.  That was Pollack’s saving grace: he was good with actors.  “King of the Mountain,” a Cain’s Hundred, is a fine three-character piece with Edward Andrews as a corrupt cornpone bigwig and Nashville‘s Barbara Baxley as his sullen, suffering wife.  Robert Duvall, not always his subtle, reliable self this soon, has key early roles in that segment as a crooked, slow-moving sheriff’s deputy who finds the buried vestiges of his decency, and in Pollack’s Arrest and Trial (Rodman’s “The Quality of Justice”) as a child killer.   There are delicious riffs from Pat Hingle as a smiling, straight-out-of-Jim Thompson psycho lawman (Cain’s Hundred‘s “The Fixer”) and a Vegas high-roller in a string tie (Kraft‘s “The Name of the Game”); and Cliff Robertson, going from broken-down fighter pilot on Ben Casey (“For the Ladybug … One Dozen Roses”) to a compulsive gambler on the Chrysler Theatre (“The Game”).  And, of course, there’s “A Cardinal Act of Mercy,” the Ben Casey tour de force in which Pollack coaxed perhaps the finest of Kim Stanley’s few recorded performances out of the fragile actress.  She won an Emmy.  Already Pollack was forming, not a stock company of character actors, but a model in miniature of the succession of crucial star relationships (with Robert Redford, famously, but also Jane Fonda and others) that would drive his movie career.

Dutch angles, not dated at all: Piper Laurie in “Something About Lee Wiley”

As one of the top-of-the-heap young directors, Pollack enjoyed a certain amount of control over the material he worked on, a considerable rarity.  It was during the anthology period that he first connected with David Rayfiel, later the most important of his screenwriters, and I’m guessing that Rayfiel’s TV scripts for Pollack bear the director’s clearest thumbprint out of all his small-screen work.  “Something For Lee Wiley,” a lush twenties melodrama about a female singer blinded in a riding accident, was a 1963 Chrysler with a terrific star turn by Piper Laurie and some gorgeous color photography (Pollack’s first).  Foundas wrote that its “air of dreamy fatalism and a jagged use of flashbacks . . . directly anticipates They Shoot Horses Don’t They?”  That gets at another influence that Pollack’s work begins to show around this time, an influx of dutch angles, freeze frames, interpolated stills, and tricky edits.  Perhaps Pollack merits another award: as the director who imported the biggest undigested European New Wave influence into sixties television.  The obvious contemporaneous reference point is Arthur Penn’s Mickey One, the mid-sixties American cinema’s boldest attempt to grapple with the New Wave form in the raw; Pollack’s most avant-garde TV efforts hold the same fascination as the Penn film, more fascinating objects than real successes.  Oh, and there’s the jazz music, another New Wave signpost that Pollack appropriated with as much constancy as possible in episodic TV: “Lee Wiley” was scored by Benny Carter, “The Watchman” (the second Rayfiel script, for Kraft) by Lalo Schifrin.  Early harbingers of the inexcusable Dave Grusin muzak to come.

The Pollack-Rayfiel collaboration curdled on “The Watchman,” a talky, pseudo-existential mess that limned the thirty-year relationship between a Spanish guerrilla (Telly Savalas), his Boswell (Jack Warden), and the woman they shared (Victoria Shaw).  Pollack pulled off some stunning beauty shots, stumbled over a clumsy expository gimmick (Warden addresses a psychiatrist who remains off-camera), and emphasized the romance between Warden and Shaw.  It was the same trick he would fall back on in The Way We Were: duck the half-baked ideas in the script and pour on the emotion.

(There’s at least one more Pollack-Rayfiel effort, an unsold pilot called “The Fliers,” starring John Cassavetes, that I’ve been unable to see.)

Pollack would’ve blanched at my assessment of his film career; he disowned his early films, like the earnest, urgent The Slender Thread, and most especially his TV work.  I can guess why: he probably felt there were too many camera moves, too many crude cuts, in comparison to the smooth style of his features.  In his book Female Brando: The Legend of Kim Stanley, Jon Krampner got some good, specific quotes from Pollack about that Ben Casey segment, so the memories were there if Pollack chose to dredge them up.  But in virtually every other interview I’ve read, when he was asked about his TV work, Pollack copped a superior attitude, putting down both the shows and his own contributions to them.  Which is fine if you’re, say, Robert Altman and your style really did evolve into something revolutionary; conversely, if your career has instead yielded sentimental, brain-rotting slop like The Way We Were (which is the blacklist rendered as a Hallmark card) and Out of Africa, then curt dismissals of the rambunctious, promising early impulses might be taken as snooty and ungracious.

I don’t make that comparison arbitrarily, for Altman was another contemporary of Pollack’s who moved up from TV into features in the late sixties.  Altman worked on Kraft Suspense Theatre, too – got fired off it, actually; he had a hard head and his ten-year trudge through TV had a lot more detours and tangents than Pollack’s.  Altman’s TV segments are eccentric, personal, audacious, while Pollack’s are clever, imitative, pretentious, and ultimately writer- and actor-centric.  You can see the blueprint for their film careers right there in the television resumes.  Altman, for what it’s worth, seemed to cherish his TV work in his later years, took pride in it alongside his films (almost to a comic extent, considering how powerful some of those are), even recorded audio commentaries for DVDs of his Combat episodes.

In mid-1965, Pollack directed “The Game,” a Chrysler Theatre which was, like his earlier Kraft piece “The Name of the Game,” a taut, claustrophobic gambling story set entirely within the interior of a casino.  It’s a remarkable work that I’ll write about in another context later.  Even before “The Game” won him an Emmy the following year, Pollack had run into some sort of conflict with the suits at Universal and turned the final editing over to his writer, S. Lee Pogostin.  The statue clenched Pollack’s ability to flip the bird to TV for good (he’d already finished The Slender Thread).  Robert Altman’s exit from TV came around the same time, when he told Variety that Kraft’s Suspense Theatre was as bland as its cheese (it wasn’t, but no matter) and necessarily had to clean out his office at that enterprise; it was a long winter before MASH.  Pollack wafted out of TV on the golden wings of his Emmy.  He was 31 – the same age I am now.

Jack Warden (note how skillfully Pollack integrates his shock of red hair into the mise-en-scene) and Telly Savalas in “The Watchman”

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