A Final Interview With Richard DeRoy

July 22, 2008

Fulfulling a promise I made a while back, I’ve added my interview with Richard DeRoy to the oral history archive on the main website.  DeRoy, who passed away in March, was a talented freelance television writer for close to forty years.  He should be, but is probably not, best known as one of the primary creative forces behind the TV version of Peyton Place, a huge popular hit of the sixties that has yet to earn the critical respect from historians that it deserves.

As a reader, I think of question-and-answer formatted interviews as easily digested morsels – informal, conversational, and usually without any big, blocky paragraphs.  As an author, I always expect to breeze through them as well.  After all, it’s the interview subject who does all the hard work, right?  In practice, it always takes a great deal longer than I anticipate to edit, annotate, and introduce these oral histories.  The usual delay has made a hash of my plan to upload Richard DeRoy’s interview, as a sort of tribute, right after I learned of his death in early April.

However, I can at least make some amends by pointing out that the piece has become timely again, in that the Sundance Channel will be screening DeRoy’s only significant feature film, Robert Wise’s Two People (1973), twice this month.  It’s playing on Tuesday, July 22 at 12:50AM ET and Monday, July 28 at 4:00AM ET (those are “night before” dates, so technically it’s July 23 & 29).  Because Two People was a financial failure it has been seen very rarely since its initial theatrical release, and I for one am eager to take a look.

A related aside: It’s worth noting that another key Peyton Place contributor, the character actor Henry Beckman, also died recently.  Beckman played the father of Barbara Parkins’s teen tramp Betty Anderson, a disgruntled factory worker who eventually slid into mental illness.  Like the contemporary Lost, Peyton Place was a show that skimped on the budget by mostly casting unknowns, then became a massive ratings success and began to add more expensive and better-known performers to its cast.  This gave Beckman, a supporting player both before and after Peyton, a great deal more screen time than he usually enjoyed.  And although the nature of the role encouraged a certain mastication of scenery, I think Beckman’s George Anderson is a lot of fun to watch.  Beckman, who ended his life in Spain and began his long career in Canada, travelled quite a journey.


5 Responses to “A Final Interview With Richard DeRoy”

  1. Brian Cuddy Says:

    Thanks for the fine interview with Richard DeRoy.

    I think I vaguely remember him having a credit on “The Bold Ones” on its final season, when it was produced by David Levinson (“The Senator”). But I can’t find any validation of the memory, so it’s probably wrong. One fine episode of that series was called “A Very Strange Triangle”. Series regular Dr. Marty Cohen (Robert Walden) is trying to “cure” an old friend (Donna Mills) of her lesbianism. His competition is a woman clinical psychologist who is in love with Mills. Mills is not terribly satisified when Walden finally makes love to her. Walden sheepishly tells her the earth doesn’t always have to move. The episode predates “That Certain Summer”, which was considered a ground breaking movie about homosexuality. The episode gave Mills the kind of strong woman’s role that DeRoy specialized in, but I’m probably way out in left field thinking DeRoy had anything to do with this episode.

  2. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Brian, Richard DeRoy does not have a credit on any of the 80 or so “Bold Ones” I’ve seen. However, you’re in the right ballpark. The story editor during the final season of “Doctors” episodes was Lionel E. Siegel, one of the “Peyton Place” writing staff during DeRoy’s tenure. And “A Very Strange Triangle” was written by Peggy O’Shea, who (under her married name Peggy Shaw) was also a “Peyton Place” staffer for a few months in 1965. Peggy is one of my more recent oral history subjects, so eventually an interview with her will turn up on the website.

  3. Brian Cuddy Says:

    Thanks a lot for clearing that up. I look forward to the Peggy O’Shea interview. The more I think about “A Very Strange Triange”, the more I realize how daring and ambitious the episode was.

    But just to be stubborn, there are apparently four of five episodes of “The Bold Ones” you haven’t seen. Maybe DeRoy wrote one of those, since you have established a Lionel Siegel connection.

    But seriously, thanks for the quick answer. I really didn’t expect one.

  4. Carol Sklenicka Says:

    I am writing a biography of novelist Alice Adams, who wrote the published novelization of TWO PEOPLE. I’d like to hear from anyone who could help me find out more about how Adams came to have that gig and her association with DeRoy.

  5. hondoharrelson Says:

    “And although the nature of the role encouraged a certain mastication of scenery”

    Boy, ain’t dat the truth. I don’t know whether it can be blamed on the role, but Beckman’s hamming sure stands out among the more natural styles of the rest of the cast.

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