Monday, February 27, 2006

Showbiz deaths supposedly come in threes: yesterday was proof positive, with the deaths of Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver and Darren McGavin. Interesting that all three attained their greatest fame on television.

Exhausted after the first day of panel, but sworn to secrecy so no comments. Can't imagine how it's going to be by Friday!

Larry and i indulging in our favorite Monday night pasttime: watching the old detective series "77 Sunset Strip" and "Bourbon Street Beat". On the episode of "Bourbon Street Beat", the guest star was Shirley Knight. This was in 1960, after her first Academy Award nomination for "Dark at the Top of the Stairs". Shirley Knight did a lot of TV in those days: we caught her on an episode of "Johnny Staccato" and we saw her on an episode of "Hawaiian Eye". Strange to think she won a Tony Award for being in a Robert Patrick play.

Shirley Knight was notorious for driving people crazy who work with her. Poor Francis Ford Coppola! He had planned to do "The Rain People" with his favorite actress, Elizabeth Hartman, who had just found out she was pregnant. So that's where the idea of a (semi-improvised) movie about a pregnant woman came in. But Hartman lost the baby (miscarriage) which actually spiralled her into depression and (ultimately) suicide. But Shirley Knight became the fast replacement... and Knight turned out to be pregnant at the time.

But she terrorized people on the set, especially James Caan. She did everything to upstage him, as she would do on the set of "The Group". I remember running into a friend, a famous playwright-director, who had just done a play with her. He hated the experience so much, he refuses to allow that play to be done in New York City (even though his career has since undergone a revival), because, under the Equity contract, Knight has the right of first refusal, and he'd rather that play never see a New York City staging. I told him about Francis Ford Coppola's experience on "The Rain People" and my friend said, someone should have warned me!


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