Dispatch From the Archives

January 16, 2011

The silence of recent weeks is because I’ve been away on location, so to speak.  Digging around in the archives is one of my favorite things to do, in part because I always come across reams of trivia that’s fascinating even if it’s not relevant to what I’m researching.  For instance:

  • Roxie Roker, who played the female half of the Willises, the interracial couple on The Jeffersons, worked behind the scenes at NBC before she succeeded as a performer.  Roker turns up in the 1954 NBC staff directory as a secretary to one Edward A. Whitney, Supervisor of Broadcast Operations at 30 Rockefeller Center, the network’s New York headquarters.  I’ll be she was one of a very small number of African Americans manning a desk at 30 Rock in the year of Brown v. Board of Education.
  • According to the daily production reports of George Roy Hill’s Hawaii (1966), the busy television actors Antoinette Bower, Dennis Joel Olivieri, and Madlyn Rhue spent a day looping voices during post-production.  As was customary at the time, they did not receive screen credit.  Next time you watch the film (and I’m sure you’re going to get right on that), try to pick out their voices.  Hawaii, incidentally, emerged from the ashes of an ambitious attempt at a two-part historical epic that would have reunited the director Fred Zinnemann and the writer Daniel Taradash, who had been responsible for the cinema’s best-known depiction of the fiftieth state, From Here to Eternity.  I don’t know why the project collapsed, but Zinnemann and Taradash spent most of 1961-1962 working on the script for it.
  • The pilot script for Rod Serling’s western series The Loner was actually “The Vespers,” which was the second episode broadcast during the show’s original network run in 1965.  Neither Tony Albarella’s Filmfax article on the series nor either of Serling’s biographers point out that fact.   It makes sense that Serling’s meaty, message-y story of a clergyman (Jack Lord) whose pacifism is tested in a most heinous way is the script that sold the series.  It’s one of the last glimmers of greatness in his oeuvre.  I’m not sure why the network chose a slightly less distinguished episode, “An Echo of Bugles,” to premiere the series.  Probably, it had more “action.”

As to what archive yielded these various factlets, and what subject I’m researching, I can’t yet say . . . but look for more substantive reportage soon.


6 Responses to “Dispatch From the Archives”

  1. Neville Ross Says:

    Incidentally, Roxie Roker is the mother of rock musician Lenny Kravitz.

  2. Stephen Bowie Says:

    And a clarification … “The Vespers” was the pilot script, but “An Echo of Bugles” was in all likelihood the first episode of The Loner to be filmed. I had surmised as much, but a reader has supplied persuasive evidence from the show’s production records.

  3. Toby Says:

    All of a sudden I’m dying to see The Loner, a show I knew almost nothing about two weeks ago.

  4. Allen Glover Says:

    Stephen, not to dispute your research, which is stellar as always, but most contemporaneous accounts of The Loner’s production history (as well as Sanders and Engel’s biographies, for what they are worth) establish the project as having originated with a one-hour pilot scripted by Serling sometime in 1960 (and then shelved until the TZ had finished its run). The Rod Serling Archive at Ithaca appear to hold thirteen separate drafts of “An Echo for Bugles,” at least one of which is (mistakenly?) titled “The Vespers.” Their first dated draft of “Bugles” is March 19 1965, preceded by several undated earlier drafts, suggesting considerable re-writing. I’d be curious to know how you established “The Vespers” as the (one-hour?) pilot script, especially in view of the focus given Colton’s backstory in “Bugles.”

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Allen, thanks for commenting. Maybe you’re right and I’m wrong. I found some materials in Serling’s papers at the University of Wisconsin that clearly denoted “The Vespers” as the pilot script, but perhaps I misunderstood what I was reading. My notes are inaccessible at the moment but I’ll take a look at them when I can, and add a clarification or correction if necessary.

  5. Allen Glover Says:

    Ah, Wisconsin. Between there, Ithaca, and UCLA (and a few other places that have related papers), it would seem the paper trail for The Loner is a transcontinental one. No one’s ever really done a book on Serling’s writing process. It would be interesting to see how a show like The Loner evolved from conception to production. especially considering its troubled history. For example, the sales film that CBS did for The Loner (with Serling as host, of course) contains scenes from “One of the Wounded” which appear to have been re-shot (less violence) by the time the episode aired.

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