Thursday, August 25, 2022

It's "August!"

August is nearly always a hugely busy time for me and this one was even more hectic than usual. I took part in a large work convention last week, had many goings on before and after my birthday on the 19th (#doublenickels!) and that's only part of what's kept me away from posting. As a result, the 13th birthday of Poseidon's Underworld nearly slid by without fanfare. It was on August 24th, 2009 that I launched this little venture and in that first post, I took note of how much I love TV guest stars, especially on shows that depict each one in the opening credits. Not long ago, I had the great pleasure of obtaining the series Dan August on DVD. A Quinn Martin production, it features his typical approach in which the cast is shown and announced during the opening credits. So it seemed an appropriate way to mark our anniversary here. I couldn't highlight every guest (though it may seem like it!), but I have picked ones that seemed to mean something to me for one reason or another.

The seed for the program was sewn with the 1969 novel House on Greenapple Road by Harold R. Daniels. It was swiftly turned into a 1970 TV-movie, House on Greenapple Road, produced by Quinn Martin and featuring a large cast of familiar faces. 
A pre-The Brady Bunch Eve Plumb kicks things off by coming home from school and looking for her mother.

What she finds instead is an unholy mess in the kitchen with blood everywhere!

It's up to intrepid detective Dan August (in the novel it was Dan Nolan) to figure out what has happened to the poor woman. August is played by Christopher George, not long after The Rat Patrol and during his brief series The Immortal.

George and his partner Keenan Wynn have no shortage of suspects to interview, including Peter Mark Richman, Burr DeBenning, Tim O'Connor and Laurence Dane, each of who was involved with the lady in question, O'Connor being her put upon husband.

The lady, revealed in flashbacks, is played by Janet Leigh in a showy role, photographed beautifully.

She is depicted looking for love in several wrong places, such as with lifeguard Debenning...

...and shady businessman Richman (who later played Blake Carrington's trusty lawyer on Dynasty.)

No less than Julie Harris appears as Leigh's neighbor/sister-in-law who cares for Plumb during the ordeal.

Among the sizable cast are others such as Geoffrey Deuel, Barry Sullivan, Walter Pidgeon, Joanne Linville and William Windom. Paul Fix and Ed Asner are in it, too.

Most startling of all was seeing Linda Day as a mouthy, drug-addled receptionist. She would wed George soon after this and henceforth be Linda Day George. It's a snazzy, adult TV-movie that really made an impression on viewers. It can be seen right here.

When the series Dan August premiered in the fall of 1970, only one cast member from the movie was retained.

Wynn and George's roles were now essayed by Norman Fell and Burt Reynolds.

At this point, Reynolds had been kicking around Hollywood for a decade. He'd (unhappily) costarred on Riverboat, appeared in 50 episodes of Gunsmoke and had his own short-lived detective series Hawk along with several movies of varying degrees of quality.

With George still involved with The Immortal, Reynolds was approached about the part and had precious little interest in it. But... the paycheck was good. He acquiesced on one condition. He wanted to also be the stunt coordinator to ensure a gritty authenticity to any of the action scenes in the show. And on that account he scored beautifully, constantly hurling and flailing himself around when he wasn't jumping off of something! 
The opening credits of the show featured a snazzy theme song by Dave Grusin and a hilarious selection of shots of Burt in action. I mean he's all over the place! These types of show intros are beloved favorites of mine. God bless Quinn Martin.

Fell, later a TV icon for his deadpan comedy on Three's Company, was remarkably effective in a serious role on August. He'd previously played a detective on a 1961 series called 87th Precinct opposite Robert Lansing, so it wasn't wholly unfamiliar territory.

Movie actor Richard Anderson took over the role of police chief from Sullivan. Anderson had begun to work more frequently on TV, having been a regular on 1961's Bus Stop and a guest on many other shows. He would become very well-known from his role on both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.

Ned Romero was the sole carry over from the telefilm as one of the city's detectives. Portraying a Mexican character, Romero was actually of Spanish, French and Native American descent. He had long been working on TV westerns and would often, before and after August, play Native American characters.

As the police department secretary/assistant, Ena Hartman provided a bit of flirty feminine appeal. This ought to have been a boost for the fledgling actress, but not one of the 26 episodes capitalized on her assets besides one in which her body was seen in silhouette in an effort to trap a suspect. She had just been seen as a stewardess in the blockbuster Airport (1970) and later did the hooty Terminal Island (1973), but was soon out of the business.

Dan August got off to a fairly provocative start with Robert Wolders frantically driving his car on a windy road and ultimately down a hill into the ocean!

He was revealed to have been driving nude (!) prior to the accident. I began to think we were in for a whole season of seamy situations like this, but in truth the show became quite a bit more conventional after this.

For this inaugural episode, Reynolds (looking devilishly handsome) was clad in a casual turtleneck and jacket.

He also wore some flimsy tan slacks that caught the eye. But, sadly, this turned out to be mostly a one-off.

Almost always thereafter he reverted to the formal shirt, tie and jacket that George had worn in the TV-movie.

Among the guests in episode one was Miss Anne Francis. She had been Reynolds' leading lady in Impasse (1969) not long before this, so they had an instant comfort level in their scenes together.

Also appearing (in an entirely different role than he'd played in Greenapple Road) was DeBenning, who weakens under the spell of Reynolds' interrogation... Other actors from the TV-movie who appeared later in the series in different parts include Tim O'Connor, Barry Sullivan and Walter Pidgeon.

As the series progressed, there were always a couple of known entities (such as Janice Rule or Ricardo Montalban), but you never knew who else might turn up. Here we find one Richard Van Fleet eyeing Jane Elliot. Van Fleet would later become a daytime star for his role as Dr. Chuck Tyler on All My Children while Elliot emerged as a daytime legend for her vivacious and outre work as Tracy Quartermaine on General Hospital.  

Here we find Fell and Reynolds questioning a young lady about a missing priest (played by Bradford Dillman.) The lady turns out to be another then-soap opera actress...

Donna Mills was at the time portraying the saintly Laura Donnelly on Love is a Many Splendored Thing. Reynolds' pal Clint Eastwood, perhaps based on this appearance, would select Mills to play his girlfriend in Play Misty for Me (1971) directly after this. A decade later, Mills perfected playing a devious troublemaker on Knots Landing.

For me, this period was Reynolds' MOST handsome and it's a pleasure to gaze upon him in every episode. But beefcake was not generally part of the equation. Thankfully, there were occasional examples, though.

His character was portrayed as being highly active in a variety of hobbies. One time he was seen playing a spirited game of water polo with some pals. Can you guess who his bulging buddy is whose hands are covering his face in these snaps?

How about now? Judging by the farmer's tan (set off by that neckerchief!), we know he wasn't known for being shirtless out of doors very much.

That's one Dabney Coleman, well before his work on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and 9 to 5 (1980) helped shoot him to fame.

In this instance it was Anderson who doffed his shirt to display his Slim-Jim physique.

Anderson was later noted for constantly sunning himself in between takes during The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.

In this scene, beautiful Burt questions a receptionist with a Dairy Whip up-do.

She turns out to be none other than Joan Van Ark, later to find great success on Knots Landing.

We always get a little tingle when Ray Danton appears on a show.

His wife, the omnipresent Julie Adams popped up on the show as well. You can read more about these two right here.

Stage, film and TV actor Michael Tolan essayed an intriguing role. As a secretive political figure, he was haunted for most of the episode.

For nearly the entire program, as he struggled with his wife Beth Brickell over his torment, I expected to discover that he was gay. Turned out he was half-black (!) and was fearful of the backlash from both races over his decision to pass as white.

Check out a young Martin Sheen. Even at this point, he was a decade-long veteran of TV.

Then there is Laurence Luckinbill, just off a stint on The Secret Storm and having played gay in The Boys in the Band (1970.)

I point these two out together because after my suspicions about the Michael Tolan episode, this one actually did present gay characters. They were lovers in this one! (Referred to, not depicted.) That was fairly heady for 1970-71, I should think. Luckinbill played gay several times (including on stage in The Shadow Box, with Mandy Patinkin as his lover) and Sheen did, too. He played Hal Holbrook's lover in the groundbreaking 1972 TV-movie That Certain Summer

This episode even had Reynolds dragging Fell into a gay bar (!) in order to question the owner about some details of a case.

Although not playing gay, Monte Markham was in this ep, too, as the husband of the murder victim. He'd later go on to memorably portray Blanche Devereaux's homosexual brother Clayton Hollingsworth on two installments of The Golden Girls.

It was interesting to see former Tarzan Mike Henry play an ex-football hero in one ep. He would proceed to work with Reynolds again on The Longest Yard (1974) as Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Smokey and the Bandit II (1980.)

Henry's wife on the show was played by a still fit and lovely Vera Miles, who sported a two-piece swimsuit and enjoyed canoodling around with the strapping Henry.

Robert Fuller (of Laramie and Wagon Train) made a guest appearance. He'd begin a nice run on Emergency! in 1972.

Anyone recognize his pretty wife on the show?

At the time a young actress finding her way in movies like Loving and Rio Lobo (both 1970), she would act only twice more in episodic TV before segueing behind the scenes. She went from a story editor at MGM to president of 20th Century Fox in 1980, the first woman ever to head a major movie studio. Sherry Lansing also produced several successful movies, not the least of which was Fatal Attraction (1987.)

I enjoyed seeing these two as a married couple, Larry Hagman and Lee Meriwether. She would go on to success on another Quinn Martin production, Barnaby Jones, in 1973.

Hagman, at the time of this 1971 episode, had just finished up his run on I Dream of Jeannie and would play all sorts of parts (including working on two more short-lived sitcoms) until hitting it big again. In 1978, he kicked off his iconic role of J.R. Ewing on Dallas.

Playing his nephew-in-law here was Jared Martin, who would later turn up on Dallas as well as the lover of J.R.'s wife, Sue Ellen! Martin sported some enjoyably distressed jeans in the episode.

Recognize the boy in the middle of these teens in a swimming pool? (Michael Lembeck is on the left.)

It's young Jan-Michael Vincent! He'd already worked on TV shows such as Lassie and Bonanza and was a regular on the glitzy Lana Turner failure The Survivors prior to appearing on Dan August.

This Canadian child actor was at the dawn of his adult career in the U.S. He'd only done an episode of Ironside prior to this, but in 1972 Michael Ontkean would costar on The Rookies, which lead to a career in movies.

Another actor near the start of his career was John Beck. He'd been doing Days of Our Lives, episodic television and small movie parts. Right after this, he worked on the obscure James Garner series Nichols, then was leading man in a few movies and is yet another person who would later work on Dallas.
Do we recognize the shirtless interviewee seen here? Not someone noted for his beefcake scenes.

It's Gary Collins, fresh off Airport (1970) and not long before his own 1972 series The Sixth Sense. His gal pal in the scarf was special guest star Joan Hackett.

TV veteran Hackett was also a viable film actress, having done Will Penny (1967) and Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) behind her and The Last of Sheila (1973) and The Terminal Man (1974) on the horizon, along with many others. Ovarian cancer claimed her in 1983 at only age 49.

Along those same lines we find Diana Hyland. Another TV veteran who also made film appearances, she was so pretty in 1966's The Chase, but was rocking some really icky hair by this time, which did her no favors. Success seemed inevitable in the mid-1970s with The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976) followed by Eight is Enough in 1977, but breast cancer took her just as the hit series was beginning. She was only 41.

This actor had been kicking around since the mid-1960s on TV and in the occasional movie. He finally caught a break in 1977 with the debut of CHiPs. Robert Pine eventually gave the world a rather substantial movie star in the form of his son, Chris!

Reynolds character seemed to know many of the victims and suspects in the (fictional) town of Santa Luisa and had occasional ex-girlfriends show up, but there was really only one shot at romance during the show. This was with Tina Chen as the Vietnamese widow of a soldier.

The interracial romance was, like other aspects of Dan August, rather progressive, though at the time Burt was involved in real life with Japanese actress Miko Mayama.

I assure you nothing happened between Burt and Ellen Corby! LOL She appeared as a bit of a busybody landlady in one ep. The following year, she'd hit the TV jackpot by being cast as the grandmother of The Waltons, a long-running success.

This was the episode I mentioned earlier in which Ena Hartman got undressed in front of a window in order to entice a lip-smacking Paul Hampton. (Hampton was also a songwriter, penning the country hit "Sea of Heartbreak.")

TV tough guy William Smith made an appearance on the show. Having costarred on Laredo and worked in many low-budget flicks, he would memorably play a baddie in 1976's Rich Man, Poor Man.

Don Stroud had a not dissimilar career, busily working on TV while also popping up in down & dirty drive-in movies. He worked tirelessly in Hollywood, though I don't know if he ever really obtained a signature role. (In 1973, he collected $10,000 to pose for Playgirl magazine, though he was understandably unhappy with most of the shots that wound up published.)

Admittedly, it's on purpose for the blowsy character, but Carolyn Jones was about as far from Morticia Addams as she could get in her guest spot. Heaven help those "wook mommy, I cut my own" bangs. Jones, a versatile and enthusiastic performer is another one who was taken from us early by cancer. She was 53 when she died in 1983.

Former teen idol Sal Mineo popped up as a convicted sex offender and underwent some in-your-face interrogation by Reynolds.

These are not actors one would normally think of as having acted together (though that could be said in quite a few instances in this post.)

At one point they were so close I wondered if we were going to have another Elizabeth Taylor-Montgomery Clift A Place in the Sun (1951) moment!

After his career as well-meaning, but troubled youths, Mineo developed into a versatile, though often gritty performer. Like many actors who had to bridge a teen career to an adult one, it was a struggle, but he had an entrepreneurial spirit and developed a striking stage career for himself. But sadly he was robbed and murdered very randomly in 1976 at only age 37.

The final episode I am going to focus on was really something. (The 22nd one out of the 26 produced.) The principal guest star was diminutive Mickey Rooney. But get a load of the run-down of names who managed to pop up alongside him.

There was humpy former Laredo star Peter Brown.

Then there was David Soul of Here Come the Brides (and soon to become a household name from Starsky and Hutch.) His politician father was played by one-time movie hunk Keith Andes.

Soul, never shy about appearing shirtless (or under the nozzle), was shown in the shower and in a towel.

Even two bit players playing protesters were names-to-be. Witness Gary Busey in one of his earliest on-screen appearances and Tony Geary, who would later become one half of the legendary Luke and Laura super-couple on General Hospital.

But, wait, there's more. Also on hand is Billy Dee Williams.

And what about this guy?

As a guitar-playing hippie who is under suspicion of murder after having harassed a young lady...'s none other than Harrison Ford! Talk about actors you don't typically associate with one another.

Though, sadly, they don't share any scenes together, how fun is it to know that Ford and Billy Dee Williams worked together in Dan August years before their collaboration on The Empire Strikes Back (1980!)

You may have read about Ford's lean early years in which he supplemented acting gigs with various jobs in construction. Few knew when this scragglepuss showed up with a hammer and saw that he would ultimately emerge as one of the most popular and bankable movie stars of the 1980s and '90s. And that wraps up this parade of TV faces.

I had such a good time discovering Dan August and it's procession of guest stars. Going in blind, I was able to take each installment with an element of surprise as to who would be on display. When you worked on a Quinn Martin show, you got to know scads of people and Reynolds clearly did just that. (If the series ran for a long time, you ultimately wound up knowing 75% of Hollywood!) But even with all that, Reynolds was the center of the program and brought his unique charm to the situations at hand. He was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor in a Television Series, but it went to Peter Graves of Mission: Impossible. Cancelled after its only season, he soon skyrocketed career-wise with amusing appearances on The Tonight Show, a centerfold in Cosmopolitan magazine and the lead in the exceptional adventure movie Deliverance (1972.) As a result, August was rerun to great ratings a couple of years after its premature cancellation. Though I wish the DVD was restored, picture-wise, the episodes are complete, which is not always the case. Just about the best $20.00 I ever spent. Which brings us, finally, to...

The End!