Saturday, April 10, 2010


Along with the chapter of 'Roots: The Next Generation' and the episode of 'Bachelor Father', I also saw a tele-play by Rod Serling while I was at the Paley Center for Media yesterday. And it was because Robert Culp was one of the stars.

"A Slow Fade To Black" was presented by 'The Chrysler Theater', hosted by Bob Hope. Hope also appeared in the production near the end, a serious variant of his televersion as he emceed a Hollywood awards dinner.

The story was of movie mogul Mike Kirsch (Rod Steiger, playing far older than his years) as he fought to retain control of Globe-Kirsch Studios, which he had built from nothing forty years earlier. (As this production was from 1964, Kirsch had been in the business since the silent flicks.)

Robert Culp played Kirsch's assistant, Peter Furgatch; Oscar winner James Dunn was a company "yes man", Dabney Coleman was a movie director; Sharon Farrell a temperamental movie star, Anna Lee (Lila Quatermaine of 'General Hospital' and god-daughter of Conan Doyle!) as Mike's wife, and "introducing" Sally Kellerman as their daughter Jerrie.

This was originally broadcast in NBC's "Living Color", but the only print that the Paley Center could find is in black and white. Still, considering it was one of Rod Serling's plays about the human condition, that seemed appropriate.

Serling's script was florid at times, but perhaps to be expected from a man who loved words so much:

"You couldn't come up with an honest cry if you stuffed an onion in your mouth."

"I have enough on you to burn you from Hell to breakfast."

"You look like Elmo Lincoln after a hard day on the vines." (By 1964, there were plenty of Tarzans after Elmo Lincoln. The reference by Culp was to highlight how old James Dunn's character was, I think.)

In a way, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were in the show as well. They could be heard on the TV delivering the news. Whether it was a real news story or fabricated for the piece, I couldn't say. Not enough details were provided in the sound bite to investigate.

If you're a fan of Rod Serling's other tele-plays like "Patterns" and "Requiem For A Heavyweight", I'd suggest checking this out as well.

Toobworld-wise, the Globe-Kirsch Studio may still exist in the TV Universe but by now under a different name.....

(The picture of Robert Culp is a studio portrait. Rod Steiger is seen here in "The Loved One", but it's as close an approximation to Mike Kirsch I could find. He had buzz-cut white hair and glasses with thick black frames. If it wasn't for the weasely little mustache, he might have looked like Spencer Tracy.)



Brett said...

Wow! That's so cool that you were able to see this version, even if it was in B&W and at the Paley Center. I'll plan to do the same, as the L.A. center is close to my house. Thank you very much for writing about this forgotten gem...It has such a great cast, and with Serling's involvement, it baffles me that it isn't commercially available.

Toby O'B said...

Let me know what you thought of it when you do, Brett!