Monday, April 12, 2010

Wambaugh, war and other bloody messes

         Joseph Wambaugh probably had no idea what a love affair he was creating when he wrote The New Centurions, published in 1970. The LAPD cop-turned-novelist gave us some interesting crime and good and bad guy stuff in the day. But the thing Wambaugh did that generates the most devotion isn't in his resume. 

       The Police Story, first aired in 1973, still has the hearts and minds. It was a collaboration between script writers and Wambaugh and stars Vic Morrow in the lead. But it has quite an ensemble cast in Ed Asner, Chuck Connors, Harry Guardino and Ralph Meeker. Over its long run, actors of both genders took the lead and supporting actors came and went but the show stayed strong.

       I have a DVD of 1973's The Police Story pilot show in top-flight condition, and a slew of happy customers to prove it. The show provided the formula for all those cop serials to come: it was realistic and gritty. Maybe Vic Morrow's gruesome death adds to the mystique. Morrow and two youngsters, as you all know, was killed in the helicopter crash while filming a scene for Twilight Zone, The Movie. He was 52, and on the verge of a come back after he fell off the face of the Earth. It had to be tough to take after Morrow's success in the 1960s World War II show Combat!  
      Morrow's real talents were behind the camera. Some of Combat's best episodes were directed by Morrow: The Pillbox, and more. Innovative camera angles, smart story lines and ground-breaking approaches to war shows. Who knows what might have been. No one was held accountable for those deaths during the filming. Want an intriguing read and penetrating view into the hidden side of Hollywood? Read Outrageous Conduct: Art, Ego, and the Twilight Zone Case

    Here is a scene from The Police Story pilot, Slow Boy. Please check out my YouTube channel I just added a second season episode on Aug. 18, 2011 called Love, Mabel. It aired in 1974 and starred William Shatner and Dean Stockwell. In the first five seasons the main characters changed quite often, with bad guys coming back in later shows as cops.

        I read a few years ago that Combat co-star Rick Jason shot himself. He was at home with his wife. He woke up, got up, and shot himself (if what I read was accurate.) Jason never had the fame or acclaim of Morrow, but to watch him on youtube at Combat! reunions, in interviews, he never seemed disappointed or unhappy. Outward appearances are deceptive. No one knows what goes on in a person's head. Did anyone out there in cyberspace know him? Know of him? Have any insight into what might have been going on? Was he ill?  I was a fan of his.
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