Monday, September 23, 2013

M*A*S*H



Between 1972 and 1983 the TV viewing public was treated to a unique new sitcom.  Set during the Korean conflict,  M*A*S*H appeared in millions of homes becoming a household word while enlightening us about the horrors of war.   And it was shot exclusively at the 20th Century Fox Studios and the Malibu Creek State Park in Calabasas, California.



The brilliantly talented Alan Alda was the show’s anchor.   While much of M*A*S*H’s longevity can be attributed to Alda’s contributions as the character of Hawkeye Pierce, I must credit the production’s casting prowess for reinforcing that longevity.   The supporting cast members filled out the series masterfully … especially one in particular.

If you were born in the1990s or later, then the name Harry Morgan may mean nothing (or little) to you.  He simply was one of the most versatile and prolific film actors of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Though he passed away in 2011 (at the age of 96), many of his film appearances can still be seen in re-run.   In 1915 he was born Henry Morgan, but in the 60s he wisely changed his name from Henry to Harry because of the great popularity of then comedian Henry Morgan.

Several weeks ago I tuned in to cable’sTV Land and was treated to the closing episode of M*A*S*H entitled  “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.”  What a great treat!  I had never seen that episode and for years I regretted having missed it until this chance viewing on TV Land.  Seeing it brought back memories of when I met  Harry Morgan in 1977 while portraying a policeman opposite Morgan's character in a made-for-TV thriller entitled MURDER AT THE MARDI GRAS.   Morgan was every bit the Col Sherman Potter character he portrayed in M*A*S*H.  He was warm, friendly and very personable.

God how I would have loved to have been a part of that series!

Before transforming into his Potter character, Morgan was introduced to the show via a cameo role as Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele.  His portrayal of Gen Steele was so well received, that the producers would bring Morgan back in 1974 as the M*A*S*H unit’s new commander, Colonel Sherman T Potter.  He would be replacing the outgoing character of Lt. Col Henry Blake played by McLean Stevenson who departed from M*A*S*H in March of 1975 to begin his own show.    McLean’s decision to leave  M*A*S*H was met with great sadness throughout the show’s cast and crew. 

Here’s an interesting footnote to Stevenson’s departure:  the producers purposely withheld from the cast the final script page of McLean’s exit episode which was entitled “Abyssenia Henry”.  They did this in order to capture a genuine look of shock among the continuing cast members when Cpl Radar O’Reilly (played by Gary Burghoff)  tearfully comes into the O.R. to read a wire revealing that Colonel Blake’s plane had been shot down and had crashed into the sea of Japan.  There were no survivors.  The shock that registered on the cast was indeed genuine.   Though his death was fictional, they knew that that announcement signaled McLean’s permanent departure from the show. That was one of the most moving scenes I had ever seen.   

McLean’s replacement would be Col Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan) who was very aware that he had a powerful act to follow.   But the Potter character as portrayed by Morgan won the day.   He delivered.   He fit right in.

I asked Morgan what role in his lengthy career did he most enjoy portraying.   Without any hesitation he said Col Sherman Potter from M*A*S*H.  He said of all the characters he had ever played, Col Potter most met his personal standard as a decent, loveable, charming and witty human being.  Sadly at that time I was not yet a fan of M*A*S*H and was embarrassed that I was not able to expand our conversation any further regarding M*A*S*H.  

When I told my now late son, Jerry III, that I had worked with Harry Morgan, he said “Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H”?  I said yes, then he insisted that I should become a M*A*S*H fan, which I did.  Gloria and I both became fans.  We look forward to any future re-runs.  


And God how I would have loved to have been a part of that series!


But I can at least enjoy the memory of having worked with two M*A*S*H cast members:  Harry Morgan and G.W. Bailey who played Supply Sgt Rizzo (See my May 2012 Dennis Hopper post).

 


Monday, September 16, 2013

Sam Shepard's RUFFIAN



Recognize that guy in the “clown” costume? Yep, that’s me in the 2007 Sam Sheppard made-for-TV film entitled RUFFIAN. I’m in the role of Lucien Laurin, the French jockey who trained Secretariat. I never saw this film.  Actually there are about 8 films I've been a part of that I've never seen.  

I only recently came upon this wardrobe shot of me in the character of Laurin.  When I performed the role I forgot what my wardrobe looked like.  My God, how could I have forgotten it?! I do remember that I was hurried into wardrobe, photographed, then ushered to the set.  I suppose that was because I was wearing it.  I really didn’t see it.



When I recently came upon this shot, I gulped. I don’t remember being casually photographed, but I do remember being photographed by the wardrobe mistress. Cast members don’t usually get copies of these production shots and I certainly didn’t request one. 



In 2010 Disney Productions released its feature film SECRETARIAT which starred John Malkovich as Lucien Laurin. The few snapshots of Malkovich in the role of Laurin show a very sedate, quietly dressed Laurin. Hmmm! Maybe someone on the Disney crew didn’t do their research.

My outfit would have surpassed anything being worn in a production of “Guys and Dolls”. I researched Laurin and found that he often wore plaid pants. But I never saw any pictures of him in a plaid coat. He did nevertheless have a very blind eye when it came to color matching. All I could say about his color matching was “AGAAH!” Some of the outfits he appeared in were painfully mismatched.

I remember that the costumer's name on RUFFIAN was Peggy. Let's see. How can I put this, Peggy?  How about "AGAAH!"




Saturday, September 7, 2013

NEVER FORGET


 An anniversary will soon be upon us .. not one that we will commemorate, but one that we will greet with loathing and disgust.

Who will ever forget that beautiful Tuesday morning -- September 11 2001?   I know I won't.

I was enroute to work while tuned in to WJBO's morning anchors Kevin Meeks and Matt Kennedy.   Kevin reported that a small plane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.   After a few minutes of discussion Matt then reported that another plane had crashed into the other tower.   Kevin said “these are no accidents.”  How right he was.


When I got to work televisions were ablaze in most of the offices.   Staff members were silently keeping vigil.  No one spoke a word.  No one could believe what was happening.  



News reports expanded to include the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania crashes.  More disbelief.   Then it was reported that one of our newest staff members was on her cellphone speaking to her husband who was in the top floor restaurant of one of the towers.  He told her he loved her, then said he had to find a way out.  She would never see or hear from him again.  A few days later she would be interviewed by NBC Television.


 
As national news media throughout all networks frantically dealt with this enormous evil event, citizens of the world's greatest superpower would be paralyzed with collective shock and horror.    Who could be so deranged and audacious as to attack the world’s superpower knowing that reprisals would be swift and harsh. 


And indeed we all came together with one United Front.  Stars and stripes began appearing on buildings, at homes, on cars.  In spite of our many social, religious and political differences, we would ALL ban together as one….
 
…..in service now to a new cause…

….that of defending our great homeland.


While we vow to never forget this evil deed,  we must be even more resolute in dealing with its implied future threats -- terrorism and the evil intentions of others.   The only forces that can succeed in confronting these threats are GOODNESS and VIRTUE provided these forces are WELL-armed.  


AND … we must NEVER FORGET what our enemies are capable of.