The studios MUST interview stars of classic TV for future season sets while they can!

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Charles Ellis, Feb 8, 2006.

  1. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    I found out today from the Variety website that actress Jean Byron, who played Natalie Lane (the mother of Patty and Ross Lane) on The Patty Duke Show died last Friday at 80. Sony (which owns the series) lost a chance to interview her before she died for any DVD release of the show.

    It astounds me that during the past few years, we've been losing more and more stars of classic TV to the Grim Reaper even as legndary shows from the 50s-80s are being released. Last year we lost to major TV icons in Bob Denver and Don Adams. It would've been nice if HBO (which is supposedly releasing the first season of Get Smart this year) had gotten an interview with Mr. Adams, or commentary on a few episodes.

    Paramount missed a major opportunity with The Odd Couple- heaven knows it's one of its most popluar titles, and they should've forseen its probable release in the next few years by interviewing Tony Randall before his death, likewise with Beverly Hillbillies star Buddy Ebsen.

    It's another story with vintage films on DVD- some studios are doing interviews with film legends in advance for far-off releases of certain films. At Warner Home Video, George Feltenstein has been doing this for years! At least he and other people at WHV had the foresight to talk to Fay Wray at length before she died a few years ago, and some of her on-camera comments on the making of King Kong have been added to the recent DVD release with a partial audio commentary by her. If you watch TCM, you've probably seen these little interviews with film legends which are sometimes used as filler between film showings. Many a star from the MGM/Warner Bros./RKO films held by WHV have been interviewed this way for archival reasons, and some of these interviews have ended up on DVD as extras. With the passing in recent years of stars like Janet Leigh, Roddy McDowall, Claire Trevor, Howard Keel, Gene Kelly- all of whom gave filmed interviews about their careers and certain films for TCM/WHV, this stresses the point that the same treatment must be given to the stars of classic TV!!

    OK- Warners- star interviewing James Garner Maverick, Clint Walker Cheyenne, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. 77 Sunset Strip and The FBI, Roger Smith and Edd "Kookie" Byrnes 77 Sunset Strip, Robert Conrad and Connie Stevens Hawaiian Eye, Larry Storch, Ken Berry, Melody Patterson and James Hampton F Troop, Brandon Cruz Courtship Of Eddie's Father, Richard Chamberlain Dr. Kildare, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

    Paramount: ALL of the surviving stars of Mission: Impossible, James MacArthur Hawaii Five-O, Mike Connors Mannix, Leslie Nielsen Police Squad!, Penny Marshall & Cindy Williams Laverne & Shirley

    Universal: Martin Milner & Kent McCord Adam-12, Susan St. James Mc Millan & Wife and The Name Of The Game, Kevin Tighe, Randolph Mantooth and Robert Fuller Emergency!, Peter Falk Columbo, Edward Woodward The Equalizer, Dennis Weaver McCloud, Kevin Dobson Kojak.

    Fox: David Hedison Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea , Dorothy Malone, Mia Farrow, Ryan O'Neal, Barbara Parkins, Tim O'Connor, Lee Grant, Ed Nelson Peyton Place, Denise Nicholas and Karen Valentine, Michael Constantine Room 222, Gary Conway, Deanna Lund, Don Marshall, Heather Young, Don Matheson, Stefan Arngrim Land Of The Giants, Stepthen Young Judd For The Defense

    Sony: Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen The Donna Reed Show, John Astin The Addams Family, Sally Field The Flying Nun, Bobby Sherman, David Soul, Robert Brown and Bridget Hanley Here Come The Brides

    - you get the idea. I only hope that my pleas aren't falling on deaf ears!!
     
  2. Bob Hug

    Bob Hug Screenwriter

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    I think it comes down to the individual studio. Universal doesn’t seem to have much interest at all in involving former cast members of its shows, i.e., Jerry Mathers on its “Leave It to Beaver” release and Kent McCord on “Adam-12.” But both James Arness and Dennis Weaver were actively involved in Paramount’s recent “Gunsmoke” releases; I do suspect, however, that this may have come about largely due to Paul Brownstein who executive produced the “Gunsmoke” DVDs, and who was behind the great “The Dick Van Dyke Show” releases, i.e. he understands the value of involving cast members, guest stars, etc. on DVD releases. On a smaller scale, the independents are doing a reasonably good job on this with “Combat!” (Pierre Jalbert, Tom Lowell, Conlan Carter) from Image Entertainment, “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” (Hugh O’Brian, Mason Dinehart) from Rhino, and “Lotsa Luck!” (Dom DeLuise) and “Good Morning World" (Ronnie Schell) from S’more Entertainment.
     
  3. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    Another indie to mention is MPI- it has done great work with cast members of Dark Shadows, The Doris Day Show, and Petticoat Junction. Some of the majors still have a lot to learn and time is of the essence!
     
  4. FrancisP

    FrancisP Screenwriter

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    There's no doubt that independents are doing the best job.
    I loved Image's decision to integrate the recordings Rod Serling made for his college tours into their Twilight Zone sets. MPI has been mentioned. I also enjoyed Hudson Leick's commentary in AB's Xena sets.

    The majors are a disappointment. With Universal, be thankful
    you get a decent set. Universal's shoddy work is a reason why a lot of series don't get to a second season. Paramount
    is spotty. Occassionally they do one. Even Warner disappoints. Three seasons of Gilligan's Island was released
    with no commentaries from the original cast. While
    Sherwood Schwartz's commentaries were nice but none of the surviving cast members which would have included Bob Denver
    at the time they were made.
     
  5. Garysb

    Garysb Cinematographer

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    The Warner Bros. movie star interviews that you see on TCM and sometimes on DVD is an ongoing project that Warner did to chronicle the history of Hollywood by those who were there. It was not done so that the interviews could be used on future DVDs though that has been done and it is great to see.

    It may not be kind but how much can TV stars say about their shows other then they all loved each other, they had no idea they were making a classic when they were doing it, they are surprised that there is still interest in something they did 40 or 50 years ago, and they don't get paid anything any more since their residuals ran out 30 years ago. If you had someone who was involved in the creation of a classic who was also an actor such as Desi Arnaz, Donna Read, or Elizabeth Montgomery that would be interesting. Actors for hire I think there is limited interest. It is also expensive to produce. Most people want season sets for under $30 . There have been threads complaining about the cost of Star Trek, Twilight Zone, and Dick Van Dyke Show with people saying they would buy if the price was cheaper.

    Here is a link to article about the death of Imogene Burhart aka Jean Byron - Natalie Lane on the Patty Duke Show
    http://www.al.com/news/mobileregiste...000.xml&coll=3
     
  6. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    I already know that the TCM stuff was originally done as a "living history" project, but with the rise of the DVD over the years, the more recent interviews are also steered towards certain films awaiting DVD release. George Feltenstein was a genius to see the viability of these interviews as extras on classic film DVDs. It gives the viewpoints of those who helped create these films. A similiar treatment should be given to TV series releases. For historical reasons alone, we would get the viewpoints of those who were there. They have a right to tell us their own stories as related to their professional efforts.

    Just because a TV cast regular isn't involved as a producer like Arnaz or Montgomery doesn't lessen their importance to the show or its fans. Do not belittle thier hard work- even if they didn't think that the show in question was a classic in the making.

    For instance, the Star Trek series releases have interviews with people in front of and behind the scenes. In the case of the recent Gunsmoke collection, both James Arness (who actually owned the show for a few years) and Dennis Weaver gave various commentaries. Mr. Weaver even donated color home movies on the set from 1963 with commentary- and the show was in B/W then. A longtime CBS executive gives a great interview about her involvement with both the TV and radio versions of Gunsmoke and how she didn't have the heart to notify the show's cast & crew about its immiment cancellation in 1967 (it turned out that CBS chairman Bill Paley wasn't told about it, and was furious as it was his favorite show- in order to put it back on the schedule for the '67/68 season, Gilligan's Island was sacrificed).

    Another example- Dark Shadows. Each set has four interviews with people connected to DS in various ways- major and minor players, producers, writers, even former ABC-TV exceutives and publicists who tell great stories about how the network promoted the series and other backstage lore. The latest volume has one of the original cameramen on the show, and even he can give new info about the show fans didn't know about. Garysb, it takes more than a big-name star to make a TV show a hit, it takes writers, cameramen, directors, hair/costume/makeup personnel, film/tape editors, network executives, and yes, even diehard fans who attend conventions decades later (yes, I'm in this category for Dark Shadows!) that makes a show a hit, and with the passage of time, a classic. So, yes- every little voice should be heard!
     
  7. RoryR

    RoryR Stunt Coordinator

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    It would be great if they made the effort to license some of the Archive of American Television Interviews for some DVD's but atleast some people can see them via Google.
     
  8. Bob Hug

    Bob Hug Screenwriter

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    Those wanting to see/hear what Charles is talking about should check out the Combat! DVDs from Image. In addition to commentaries/interviews with cast regulars and guest stars, Image was able to round up a few of the writers and a number of the directors, including Robert Altman (who was fired from the show during the first season), Richard Donner (who only directed one episode of the series, but provides an enthusiastic commentary), Ted Post, Sutton Roley and Georg Fenady (I'm probably forgetting one or two). To listen to these commentaries from the people behind the scenes is a great education about television production in the 1960s. Despite time compression issues with the Combat! DVDs (seasons 1-4), Image did a fantastic job with the extras for this series and, at least for me, really enhanced the viewing experience.
     
  9. Garysb

    Garysb Cinematographer

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    The thing is a lot of stuff is available on line .
    Many older TV stars have websites run by themselves and their families where they are happy to sell you an autographed picture and other mechandise. These sites include information on their shows and what it was like being on their shows as well as what else they have done.
    There usual is a place for you to E-mail them.

    I know there are sites for Clint Walker(Cheyenne),Gale Storm, Ty Hardin (Bronco) and I am sure many others. These actors also make personal appearances at autograph shows
    around the country . If you are interested there is information available to you.
     
  10. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    How sad but true. I've always felt that way about this. Supposedly, Paramount has THE ODD COUPLE coming this year, but there's still nothing official. It is THE number one title on my Want List.
     
  11. Tony J Case

    Tony J Case Cinematographer

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    Does anyone else find this amazingly creepy and in exceptionaly bad taste? "Would you please hurry up and record this commentary before you die so we've got something to include on the DVD?"
     
  12. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    Well, you can't phrase it that way but that would be the gist of it. [​IMG]
     
  13. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    Tony, obviously you have no sense of history at all!
     
  14. Jeff Willis

    Jeff Willis Producer

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    Agreeing with Bob on the Combat! DVD's. The extras are very-well done with this series. Tom Lowell is another cast member that was interviewed for that set (played "Nelson" in the series). Pierre Jalbert ("Caje" in the series) is also on the interviews. Isn't Conlan Carter ("Doc" in S2-5) also interviewed?

    I'd like to see (if they ever get released on R1) interviews with Richard Anderson and Lindsay Wagner, also Kenneth Johnson for the two bionic series from the 70's.
     
  15. Bob Hug

    Bob Hug Screenwriter

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    Conlan Carter is interviewed on at least one of the DVDs (can't remember on which season/set this occurs). In addition to on-screen interviews, both Tom Lowell and Pierre Jalbert also did some episode commentaries. Frankly, given the fact that this series completed its prime-time run in mid-1967, it's impressive to me that Image Entertainment was able to round up so many people associated with the show to share their "Combat!" memories.

    Another recent vintage TV-on-DVD release that brought back some of the surviving cast members is Warner's "The Adventures of Superman." Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen) and Noel Neill (the second Lois Lane) were interviewed. Again, it's impressive to include these actors, considering that the series ended it's first-run in the late 1950s.
     
  16. Tony J Case

    Tony J Case Cinematographer

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    I may not - but I do have a sense of tact. This is way too morbid for me to give the thumbs up to.
     
  17. todd s

    todd s Lead Actor

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    Interviews like this are being done now with Veterans of World Wars I and II to get their personal experiences before they die and are lost forever. Spielberg is also behind a project that is interviewing holocaust survivors for the same reason. Is it morbid...a bit. But, I think that these peoples experiences (even a benign as doing a movie or tv show) is a priceless and irreplaceable piece of history. And I am sure most of the interviewees would agree.

    On a similar note. Around 10years ago my grandfather gave me over a 100 photos from his time on a merchant ship in World War 2. For years I would look at them and since nothing was marked on the photos. I had no idea the stories behind them. I kept procrastinating about speaking to him. Finally, I sat down with him and on video discussed each of the pictures and asked him about other things he did. He explained how he joined, his first assignment and some stories of battles and life on his ship. Not 3 weeks later my grandfather passed. I am very glad I did. I put the 50 best pictures together with music and gave it to my Mom and Aunt as a gift. I also take the video into my kids school and show it to their classes every year on Veterans day. Its amazing how different kids react when they see pictures and hear stories live and not in a book.

    Sorry for the rant. [​IMG]
     
  18. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I guess it's a matter of personal opinion but if I had been the star of a TV show in the 1960's and someone wanted to interview me because they were working a DVD release, I wouldn't mind. However, if it was a matter of "We want to interview you just in case you croak before we decide to release the show on DVD", I would mind. I would find the idea of trying to beat the clock before I die fairly disgusting. That doesn't mean that everyone has to see it that way but I do.

    And in the case of historical events, that's somewhat different to me. I find more educational value in interviewing a guy who fought at Guadal Canal than interviewing someone who was in My Mother, The Car.
     
  19. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    Thank you, Todd! TV is a relatively new art form and a great deal of the people who made and starred in TV shows from the first 25 years of TV are aging, and with their passing valuable history regarding early TV may be lost. If anyone doesn't agree with this thread, they can always go elsewhere......
     
  20. MattSav

    MattSav Stunt Coordinator

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    I know the folks over at the restoration team in the UK for Doctor Who have been doing this for some time. They have a number of commentaries "in the can" so to speak, including one for "The Keeper of Traken" that supposedly features Anthony Ainley, who has since passed away.
     

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