Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Missing Mrs. Muir

I woke up this morning with much on my plate. Four more rehearsals until the crowds show up in La Mancha, and though all the words, all the lyrics, and all the notes are in my brain, they are having a hell of a time getting out. In the correct order. And on time. And I have yet to seriously address my technical issues, which will consist of passing out swords, gloves, armor, hats, helmets, staffs, pots, pans, scarves, as well as moving stools, tables, buckets, and horse heads. In the correct order. And on time. While wearing a bugle.

Want to make an actor complain? Give him a job.

With rehearsal this evening, I have a full day to address some of these issues on my own. Instead, I awoke thinking about The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Remember that show? It only lasted two seasons, back in the late 60s when primetime was peppered with a witch, a genie, and a car that was really your mother. Based on a film of the same name, it concerned a widow who moves into a haunted house. Hijinks ensued.

Except they really didn't, at least not much. Instead, the show turned into a rather tender love story between a ghost and a lady. With only a two season run, the show can't be counted a big success, but it contained a luminous performance by film star Hope Lange as Mrs. Muir. She brought a calm dignity to a show which was meant to be full of hilarious hocus-pocus; she snagged Emmy awards for both seasons.

Oh, and here's a story I love, which I'm not sure is true, but I hope it is. I've heard that Charles Nelson Reilly, who played the ghost's slimy nephew, was hired only for the pilot episode, in which he swindles the widow into renting the haunted house, site unseen. While shooting the pilot, Hope Lange alerted the writers and producers that Reilly's performance as the character was much too good to be dropped, and must make return appearances during the series. And that's what happened.

Here's the first scene of the pilot, which Reilly carries on his own. It proves Lange was right:

Two years ago last week, I wrote about Charles Nelson Reilly's death.

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