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.