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TV, Nourisher of New Talent


Palmerin
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One subject which obsesses Mankiewicz to the point that he is sure to mention it whenever he introduces an epic film from the 50s is the hostility that the movie industry felt toward the small screen at that time.

When did the movie industry discard such a myopic attitude? Steve McQueen, for ex., started his movie career not long after having cut his teeth on the TV of the 50s.

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Palmerin, on 27 Aug 2014 - 7:40 PM, said:

One subject which obsesses Mankiewicz to the point that he is sure to mention it whenever he introduces an epic film from the 50s is the hostility that the movie industry felt toward the small screen at that time.

When did the movie industry discard such a myopic attitude?

 

 

TV was competition. No one knew how it would affect moviegoing habits and box office receipts.

 

Disneyland premiered in 1954; Warners and MGM had TV series the next year. By that time the Davy Crockett phenomenon had taught the studios just what an extraordinarily powerful marketing tool TV was.

 

Steve McQueen, for ex., started his movie career not long after having cut his teeth on the TV of the 50s.

 

Even before McQueen WB was starring Clint Walker in western features. James Garner was also being starred in theatrical films by 1959.

 

Studios may have initially fought TV, but they certainly didn't object to using TV stars to make a buck. WB cast Milton Berle in Always Leave Them Laughing as early as 1949.

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McQueen is the key figure. He was a TV star who transitioned to film star, eventually becoming arguably the biggest in the world.

 

Jack Lemmon had actually starred in a couple of early sitcoms, but they were unsuccessful and he was never a TV name. It was McQueen who showed you could be identified as a TV star and still move successfully into features. 

 

In the '60s ex-TV series regulars McQueen, Garner, James Coburn, and George Maharis all tried their hands in features, with varying degrees of success.(Eastwood and Burt Reynolds are special cases)

 

IMHO the second most significant figure after McQueen is John Travolta. He was able to go from silly sitcom to Oscar nomination while he was still a regular. Goldie Hawn had actually done something similar earlier, but for me it was Travolta who showed their was no longer any onus to TV. By the time Bruce Willis moved from series to movies in the late '80s, so many people watched movies at home via VCR they may not even have noticed any difference.

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Maybe I misunderstand the POV here but I don't believe there was ever an issue with TV stars moving on to movies as long as those actors got their start mostly on TV (i.e. didn't have any 'major' parts in movies before getting a leading part on a T.V. show).

 

The stigma was when an actor was a major movie star and took a lead part on T.V. and tried to get lead parts in movies again after their T.V. show was canceled.

 

McQueen did start out in movies with bit parts and his only lead part was in a cheap sci-fi film (The Blob).  He than went on to TV made a splash and that opened up his movie career. 

 

So indeed TV was a 'nourisher of new talent' but isn't that fairly common?  Of course we have actors like Vic Morrow;  a household name as T.V. star but not as a movie star.    But I believe this was mostly by choice (he wanted a steady paycheck).

 

 

 What isn't so common is for an actor to be a major movie star,  leave films and do TV,  and then come back and get leading parts in major movie productions. 

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The question was more like, after audiences get used to watching these people at home for free will they still go out and pay to watch them?

 

Clint Walker was not able to secure film stardom. Garner was getting the buildup from WB with Up Periscope and Cash McCall when his contract dispute with the studio temporarily derailed his career. It was McQueen who was able to achieve true film stardom with The Magnificent 7 and then superstardom with The Great Escape, a film that did far more for his career than Garner's -- even Garner admitted it.

 

Interestingly Escape also featured two veterans of failed TV series, James Coburn and Charles Bronson.

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The question was more like, after audiences get used to watching these people at home for free will they still go out and pay to watch them?

 

Clint Walker was not able to secure film stardom. Garner was getting the buildup from WB with Up Periscope and Cash McCall when his contract dispute with the studio temporarily derailed his career. It was McQueen who was able to achieve true film stardom with The Magnificent 7 and then superstardom with The Great Escape, a film that did far more his career than Garner's -- even Garner admitted it.

 

Interestingly Escape also featured two veterans of failed TV series, James Coburn and Charles Bronson.

 

I would have to study a list of actors who had limited movie exposure before getting a lead part in a TV show and than review their movie career (or lack of), after their TV show ended.

 

But many of the movie stars from the later generation of studio-era stars (e.g. Newman, Redford,)  were first featured in TV before making it big in movies (but not a lead actor on a TV show). 

 

How many from this later generation went directly from Broadway right to movies (the more traditional way before TV)?   (Brando of course).

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You COULD take this in another direction, and pardon the pun!

 

In which I mean this...

 

One of the few saving graces of AMC is their penchant for showing what they call "cowboy" movies, and a full morning of "The Rifleman" series on Saturdays.  While watching one of them, I noticed the name SAM PECKINPAH in the credits as the director of one, actually a FEW of the episodes.

 

So, NOT only "Stars" getting their start on TV, but big name DIRECTORS.  BESIDES Ron Howard, who started out as an actor.

 

Sepiatone

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One of the few saving graces of AMC is their penchant for showing what they call "cowboy" movies, and a full morning of "The Rifleman" series on Saturdays.  While watching one of them, I noticed the name SAM PECKINPAH in the credits as the director of one, actually a FEW of the episodes.

 

Peckinpah created The Rifleman, but got aced out of the credit. He would later create (credited) a short-lived series called The Westerner, starring Brian Keith. One Westerner episode, "Line Shack", was written and directed by Tom Gries. Gries would later expand the script to feature length and direct it under the title Will Penny.

 

"Line Shack" is also notable for perhaps TV's first black cowboy (played by Hari Rhodes).

 

Robert Altman directed a few Bonanzas, though they show little of his style. More characteristic were his episodes for Combat, especially the classic "Survival", which follows a delirious Sgt. Saunders (Vic Morrow) after he escapes from a fire in a barn where he was being held prisoner. More that a third of this episode has no dialogue; Altman employs a handheld camera as well as occasional shots direct into sunlight, virtually unheard of in 1963 TV.

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This is an argument I always use when some hipster tells me to "kill my television".

 

Television is where not only actors, but writers, directors (Spielberg came from TV) costumers, make up artists, camera & lighting people can get work - and valuable experience- in the industry. They're all artists....does it matter if they are creating for television, movies or theater?

 

One of my friends, a costumer, currently works for a soap after years in opera theater. No, it's not great "art", but I'm still proud of her and feel like she's "made it" to a certain extent. 

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I'll have to look in a few other places. but even WIKI'S profile of Peckinpah doesn't have him reating THE RIFLEMAN.  THAT credit goes to a guy named ARNOLD LAVEN

 

Sepiatone

 

Wiki's profiles are often incorrect and they typically only focus on the obvious.   So if Kimble is correct and Peckinpah did create the series but was removed from the credits,  that fact could get passed those writing the Wiki profile.

 

For example,  I was reading the Wiki profile on Ida Lupino.  It says after her contract with Warners ended she sighed one with Columbia.   Well she did one movie with Columbia after her last WB picture but after that movies for other studios.   So did she really signed a multiple year or film deal with Columbia (which is implied when one says 'signed a contact'),  or not?     I have no idea but the point is that one has to check other sources, like you indicated,  to ensure accuracy.

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This links to relevant sections from the book The Rifleman by Christopher Sharrett:

 

http://tinyurl.com/o4fksjs

 

Briefly: in 1955 Peckinpah wrote a script for Gunsmoke about an expert rifle shot who throws a shooting match after pressure from the villain. Gunsmoke passed on the script, and three years later Peckinpah submitted it to Zane Grey Theatre, where it was filmed as "The Sharpshooter". This was so well-received that it was turned into a series, under the title The Rifleman.

 

Producer-director Arnold Laven was responsible for one crucial change: he suggested giving the sharpshooter a son, to create more sympathy when he is forced to throw the match. But Peckinpah was still the key creative force.

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This links to relevant sections from the book The Rifleman by Christopher Sharrett:

 

http://tinyurl.com/o4fksjs

 

Briefly: in 1955 Peckinpah wrote a script for Gunsmoke about an expert rifle shot who throws a shooting match after pressure from the villain. Gunsmoke passed on the script, and three years later Peckinpah submitted it to Zane Grey Theatre, where it was filmed as "The Sharpshooter". This was so well-received that it was turned into a series, under the title The Rifleman.

 

Producer-director Arnold Laven was responsible for one crucial change: he suggested giving the sharpshooter a son, to create more sympathy when he is forced to throw the match. But Peckinpah was still the key creative force.

 

The above story reminds me of the Honey West series and the creators of Honey West,  Gloria and Skip Ficking.   Gloria just had her 88th birthday last Friday in Laguna Beach CA where she lives.   The TV show Honey West was produced by Aaron Spelling but the show only lasted one season.   Gloria feels Aaron Spelling stole her and her husband's concept for the Charlie Angel's show,  with the 'crucial change' being adding 2 additional gals and a non-seen Charlie.       

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