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Monday, April 15, 2013

That Is Yet Even More My Desire.

In 2009, when I first started this blog, I wrote about watching a rerun episode of "Make Room For Daddy" in 1976.
The episode was first shot in 1959.
It made a major impact on my life at the time.
I have been watching and writing a lot about "Make Room For Daddy" recently, since I rediscovered it on MeTV.
With Annette Funicello's recent passing, MeTV did an entire Sunday afternoon tribute to Annette Funicello.
She appeared in a chunk of episodes of "Make Room For Daddy", and I think that yesterday, they may have shown all of them.
The episode in question that I saw in 1976 was one of those episodes.
She played a foreign exchange student who lived with Danien and his family.
And I took the opportunity to watch this episode again.
Thirty-seven years later.
And it had even more of an impact yesterday than it did thirty-seven years ago.

Here's the original article.

That Was My Desire:

I'm going tell you a story about the casting of "Laverne and Shirley" that no one involved in the production of that show, or anyone else, has ever been aware of.

Because I've never told anybody about it before.

As most of you who are familiar with the series know, we cast the wonderful comedian Phil Foster as Laverne's father, Frank DeFazio.
We knew it would be a good idea to have an interesting actor to play Laverne's gruff father.
Someone, ideally, who would bring out Laverne's softer side, by being much tougher than she was. Someone who had a certain earthy charm, too.

And most important, someone who was really funny.
He'd fit in nicely as the owner of the local hangout, the pizza parlor-bowling alley, the Pizza Bowl.
It would help give us a funny place to go outside of the girls' apartment, and their work.

Garry Marshall and I both had Phil Foster in mind.
Garry was always very loyal to comedians who helped him get started writing comedy.
Phil was one of those.

There were other powers-that-be that were more resistant to the notion.
And not without decent reason.

Garry and I both thought Phil had all the necessary qualities.
He certainly was interesting.

I think "interesting" is what differentiates a good actor from an ordinary one.

I know a former actor who has now carved a modest niche in other areas of show business who pontificates about how you're not really an actor unless you always know your lines inside and out, never miss your blocking, and always hit your marks.
I've seen this guy's work. He claims to have always known his lines inside and out, never missed his blocking, and always hit his marks. I’ll take him at his word.
But that didn't prevent him from being continually, relentlessly boring whenever on stage and screen.
I'm pretty sure that's why he's a former actor.

Phil Foster never knew his lines, never knew his blocking, never hit his marks.
And he constantly mumbled. But he was relentlessly interesting.
To me, that's much more important.

Billy Wilder, describing working with Marilyn Monroe on a couple of great movies, acknowledged that she never knew her lines and never hit her marks.
He said "I've got an Aunt Minnie, who could come in here, know all her lines, and always hit her marks. But nobody would pay good money to see my Aunt Minnie. 'Cause she's not so interesting".

Jackie Gleason's idea of "Blocking" when he was shooting "The Honeymooners", was to tell the director "Just tell the guy on Camera One to point it at me, and follow me wherever I'm going."
And it didn't matter where he went, because he was INTERESTING.

Phil's mumbling was the cause of everyone else's misgivings.
It was a little daunting.

He had mumbled his way through an episode of the Odd Couple, and I found it and him adorable, though a little scary.

I knew Garry needed support on this one, and I campaigned hard for Phil.
The others involved in the decision had pretty high regard for my casting sense.
And there wasn't really a good second choice.

We saw some lulus along the way.
One was former Heavyweight contender Lou Nova, who was once knocked out by Joe Louis.
He plowed through his audition with a grin on his face, as if he owned the room.
But he had nary a clue about what he was doing, or where he was, for that matter.
As if Joe had just punched him in the head.
And he was one of the finalists.

Phil was looking better and better.
I went to the mat for Phil. "I know he mumbles. We'll make it work for us", I half-believed.

We signed him, and I think he was a major asset to the show.

About a week and a half after we signed Phil, I was at home, watching TV.
There was a rerun of an old episode of Make Room for Daddy on, from the late 50's, starring Danny Thomas.
I used to watch that show every week when I was a kid.
The guest on the show that night was Frankie Laine, the great singer.

You know, "Mule Train", "That's My Desire", "Jezebel". Frankie Laine.

He appeared as himself.
He was wonderful.
He had a lot of dialogue.

Funny, charming, enormous presence, Italian, like Laverne, maybe not all that gruff, but INTERESTING.
In the mid 1970's, he was about the same age as Phil. And he didn't mumble.
He wasn't doing all that much those days.
And he was a 50's icon.
"Laverne and Shirley" took place in the 50's.

He would've been great. We missed a bet.

Timing is everything.
If I'd seen that episode of Make Room For Daddy two weeks prior, I would have yelled "Stop the Presses!" no matter how much I'd campaigned for Phil Foster.
But the boat had sailed.
It was a done deal.
No point in even bringing it up.
So I never did.
Until now.

Getting Frankie Laine to play Laverne's father.

That was my desire.

My unrequited desire.


*****

Watching this episode yesterday, I was struck by just how wonderful Frankie Laine was doing comedy with impeccable timing.
And how right I was to begin with about regretting not having the opportunity to cast him as Laverne's father.
He was really great.
Far better than I originally remembered.
And would have been really great on "Laverne and Shirley"
A fat lot of good it does sometimes to be right.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not
e-books. But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one. If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at macchus999@aol.com.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.

******

6 comments:

  1. I thought he was funny on L&S.
    Anything to this old rumor:
    http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1986/NBC-Correspondent-Links-Late-Actor-to-Drugs/id-3040f8432c953351ae31f410458258ae

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. One brief scene with Phil Foster has stayed with me to this day. For some reason Laverne had a high-watt light bulb in her refrigerator. So every time someone opened the refrigerator they would be blinded by the intense light. Phil opened it and said, "Are you trying to get the food to confess?" Hilarious line and a hilarious delivery.

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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at macchus999@aol.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."