Charles Templeton
An Anecdotal Memoir

Foreword

Chapters
Beginnings
Sports
Evangelism:
Toronto
Graham
Princeton
TV:
CBS & CTV
The CTV
Toronto Star
Politics:
Begin
Liberal Party
After
Maclean's
Inventing
Radio
Books
Etc. Etc.
Postscript


Charles Templeton Home

Jesus


Brad Templeton Home
Brad's Photo Pages

Brad's Panoramic Photos

RHF Home

   
 

INSIDE TELEVISION - CBS & CBC (Templeton Memoir)

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INSIDE TELEVISION
CBS & CBC

My first job in television was as host of my own weekly series on the CBS network. The year was 1953 and I was living in Manhattan, where I was Director of Evangelism for the Presbyterian Church USA. The new medium of television was just getting established, and programming was in living black and white. The big names were Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan, Arthur Godfrey, Jack Paar, Dave Garroway, and that most unlikely television star, a Roman Catholic priest, Monsignor (soon to be bishop) Fulton J. Sheen. Berle was "Mr. Television" then, and it seemed pointless to mount an expensive show in opposition to him, so the Bishop was dumped into the 8:00 p. m. Sunday time-slot. He became the sleeper of the year and was soon challenging "Uncle Milty" in the ratings.

The National Council of Churches, while not unhappy that religion was primetime television, was anxious to snatch a piece of the pie for Protestantism. With the active cooperation of CBS, it was decided to present a religious program aimed at a secular audience, and a search was begun for a host. I had demonstrated an ability to attract large audiences, so they settled on me. But churches (and television networks) are not given to risk-taking, so it was decided to try out the show Sunday mornings at 10:30. In this slot - chosen because the religious would be in church or on their way - the program's appeal to secular listeners could be tested and it might develop a form that would justify a move to prime-time.

The name of the show was Look Up and Live, and the concept was simple: make the target audience "Unchurched" young people, eschew the look of religion, let the music be contemporary, bring in "name" entertainers as guests and let the sermon be rather a brief talk: conversational in manner, modern in its allusions and addressed to the mind and the will of the listeners rather than to the emotions.

They put under contract a beautiful blonde pop-singer, Betty Cox. She had subbed for Jan Murray during her frequent absences from the Arthur Godfrey show and had been featured in a network series, Broadway to Hollywood. A vocal quartet was formed and named The Foursome: two black and white to make the point of racial integration. On each program, show business celebrities were featured: artists such as Sidney Poitier Maria Tallchief, Ethel waters, Shepperd Strudwick, the actor, George shearing the Dave Brubeck Quartet and others. They danced or sang or played a brief scene, after which I would interview them. At the end of the program in a simulated study, I perched on the edge of a desk or worked at an easel while I delivered a six-minute sermon.

Variety reviewed the program in typical style: "look Up and live shapes up as a natural facet of religious programming and the show smacks of smart programming from the tele (sic) and from the religious standpoint...." The New York Daily News carried a feature under the heading, TV TO FIGHT JD: "A Protestant pastor has gone before the cameras to battle juvenile delinquency in a quiet but effective way. He's Charles Templeton, a football player and syndicated sports cartoonist, whose approach is a far removed from the hellfire-and-brimstone school of preaching...."

The show proved to be a success (twenty-five years later it was still running) but didn't cause Berle or Bishop sheen to lose sleep. The transition from the public platform to the television studio wasn't easy. At the first rehearsal for the initial show, I took a cue and began my talk; thirty seconds into it the director broke in on the studio intercom: "Ten minutes, everybody. Mr. Templeton, I'd like a word with you. I'll be right down."

On the set he said, "How many people do you think will be listening to you?"

"I'm told two to three million."

He shook his head."No"

"A million?"

"No."

"I give up. How many?"

"One"

"One?"

“You're used to speaking to crowds," he said, "but television is an intimate medium. The audience may be in the millions but nobody hears as a crowd. Each person hears you as an individual. Talk to that one person."

It was the best advice a neophyte could receive.

I did the show for three years. In my last season I was joined by Merv Griffin as co-host. Merv was at the time a band singer who wanted to expand his opportunities and add to his versatility. He was easy to work with, amiable, no camera hog, and quickly became a witty and skilful interviewer. My most vivid memory is of the two of us perched on high stools bantering until we broke up in laughter - neither of us able to remember the name of the guest we were supposed to introduce.

As 1957 dawned I faced a dilemma. I had made the decision to leave the ministry and, in doing so, to quit look Up and Live, but I didn't know how I might support myself. When I left the Globe and Mail I knew where I was going - into the ministry -but now I had no idea how I would make a living. I knew I wanted to return to Canada, but what would I do there? Who would hire a forty - two-year-old former evangelist?

By chance I read on the front page of Variety that Jackie Gleason, one of the biggest stars in a television and then at the height of his popularity, was looking for a story for his first venture into motion pictures. He had been reading scripts for months, the story said, but hadn't found the right vehicle. Gleason made no secret of his plans: he would make a big-budget technicolour film specifically designed to establish him as a major motion-picture star. I decided at that moment - without considering how improbable it was - that I would write a motion-picture Outline for Gleason.

Over the next three weeks I drafted a twelve-page Outline, giving it the title King. It was the story of a successful television comedian, a mercurial man, restless in his job of making people laugh .One night he interjects a note of political comment into his monologue and ,by luck, touches a national nerve. The response is phenomenal. In subsequent weeks he makes political comment a part of his shows. His influence mushrooms and he begins to dream grandiose dreams. In a series of swift developments he becomes the focus of a people’s revolt against the traditional political parties and, in a bold move, tries to take over the leadership of one of them, only to be publicly humiliated. Blinded by ambition, he is driven to acts of near madness, and it is only his responsibility for the accidental death of his estranged son that restores him to rationally and to the realization that he should return to being what he is….. a comedian.

I had an acquaintance who was a sometime theatrical agent. He assured me that he knew Gleason and would get my outline to him. Six weeks passed and nothing happened: the manuscript had been resting, undelivered, in a desk drawer. Apologizing, he said, “Why don’t you get Merv Griffin to get it to Gleason? They both have the same manager, a guy by the name of ‘Bullets’ Durgom. “I asked Merv if he would read the outline, and if felt comfortable about doing so, pass it to Durgom. His response was an immediate yes.

A few days later I was entering an auditorium in Columbus, Ohio, for a speaking engagement, when I called to the telephone. “It’s urgent. A Mr. Durgom calling from New York City.”

On the telephone he offered me five thousand dollars for the outline. I hesitated, knowing that if I accepted the money, that would probably be the end of it. I reasoned that, if Gleason liked the outline enough to buy it, he might let me try my hand at writing the screenplay. I told Durgom that I would be in New York City the following Monday and would prefer to discuss the matter then.

My instructions were to be at the Park Sheraton hotel on Broadway at 56th Street at 11:00 sharp on Monday morning. Gleason lived in and his entourage occupied the entire penthouse floor and most of the floor below. A receptionist told me to wait. I sat in the anteroom for better than half an hour, my nervousness growing with each minute, while cronies came and went and red-jacketed waiters passed through carrying trays laden with Bloody Marys. Finally, Durgom ushered me into his tiny, cluttered office.

He was an intense, skinny man, balding, stooped and wearing a harassed look. I learned later that he earned the sobriquet “Bullets” in a Brooklyn schoolyard, where he seemed always to be ricocheting from one point to another. He treated me with courtesy – bemused that I was a clergyman – talked about Merv with affection, and then turned to business. He had taken my reluctance on the telephone as bargaining tactic and opened the discussion by offering to pay me ten thousand dollars for all rights to the outline. I was tempted but demurred, saying that I would like to try my hand at writing the screenplay.

"Have you ever written a screenplay?" he asked.

"No," I said. "But then I'd never written an outline before, either.”

He sighed wearily. A buzzer interrupted and we went in to meet The Great Man.

Gleason was in his shirtsleeves, seated behind a massive desk, a Bloody Mary in one hand, a cigarette in the other. He looked more youthful than his image on black-and-white television. He put down his drink to shake hands, and without any feigning or caution, told me that he was "nuts" about the outline. Durgom sighed wearily. For five minutes Gleason talked about the plot with unrestrained enthusiasm; it was, he said, exactly the story he'd been looking for. Then, suddenly, he turned to Durgom. "Have you worked out a deal?" Durgom, obviously intimidated by Gleason, assured him that everything was under control. "Chuck's guy and I are going to get together in the next couple of days and work out the details".

"Well, get on it right away," Jackie said. "I don't give a damn what it costs, get it".

The only agent I Knew was the man in whose desk drawer the outline had rested for some six weeks. When I told him what had happened, he chuckled and said, "We’re gonna want fifty thou for the outline.” I told him that I wanted to write the screenplay (vision of Hollywood danced in my head) but that Durgom had asked me first to expand the outline, which I did.

The agent and Durgom had a number of meetings over the next few weeks without resolving the matter. Durgom finally offered a flat thirty thousand dollars for the expanded outline. Counselled by my agent, but with much trepidation, I turned it down. I was working twelve to fourteen hours a day on the screenplay, basing the style and shooting instructions on some borrowed scenarios.

By June, Durgom was due to depart for a vacation on a tramp steamer: he would be out of touch for two months. Gleason was leaving for Poughkeepsie, New York, where he would spend the summer. His lawyers were tied up in negotiating a ten-year contract with CBS and Buick. Durgom made a proposal: he would pay me three thousand dollars for right-of-first-refusal on the property and we would conclude our negotiations in the fall. I had just delivered the screenplay and was anxious to return to Canada

for the summer, so I agreed.

In mid-August a major motion picture was released. It was called A Face in the Crowd, directed by Elia Kazan, and was based on a story by Bud Schulberg. It starred a newcomer to films, Andy Griffith, who would go on to television stardom. I read the reviews with growing concern. While the plot and the principal characters were unlike mine, the protagonist was an entertainer who gets involved in politics. In late August I received a letter from Durgom notifying me that, for precisely these reasons, Jackie would not be exercising his option.

I retained the three thousand dollars, of course, but lost the thirty thousand. More important, I lost an opportunity. My brief dream of Hollywood faded.

Look up and Live had many unlikely fans. One of them was Harvey Schwartz, vice-president of the music publishing firm, Bregman, Vocco and Conn. He called the studio and asked me to come and see him, but wouldn’t tell me why.

His office was in the Brill Building, a scruffy ten-storey office building on Broadway at 49th Street. There was little evidence that this was now the locale of the fabled "Tin Pan Alley" and the heart of the popular-music business except for the knots of musicians hanging about on the street outside the entrance and the sounds of music filtering from behind many of the office doors.

Schwartz was a man in his middle years, conservatively dressed in a dark blue pin-stripe suit. He greeted me cordially, told me that he watched Look up and Live each Sunday, and was convinced that I should write song lyrics. Had I ever tried it? Would I like to?

It was 1956 and the music hit of the year was the socalled inspirational song, "I Believe.” I accepted Schwatz's invitation and, over the next few weeks, wrote a dozen or more lyrics, taking to him what I judged the best. He liked one especially, a song titled "True Happiness," a sentimental thing about God and marriage and children for which I had written both words and music. He suggested a few changes and agreed to publish it.

Schwartz was convinced that he had a potential hit and put his organization to work. One of his arrangers prepared it for publication in sheet music. A "demo" was cut, with Stuart Foster doing the vocal, backed by a full orchestra. Promotion materials were prepared, and Bregman, Vocco and Conn's song-pluggers went to work.

There was highvoltage flurry of excitement when Perry Como's A and R (Artist and Repertoire) man, the scout responsible for recommending new songs, became interested. The excitement peaked when Como, his A and R man and Schwartz made an early Saturday morning golf date to discuss the song. But no commitments were made, and that was the end of it.

I had been required to join ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and at the end of the year I received a royalty payment from them. As I recall it, my first cheque was for seventy-eight dollars, and the royalty was smaller each year. However, I learned an interesting thing about ASCAP; it is a real brotherhood. The tiny royalties I received each year, for a period of years, didn't reflect the earning of my one published song - which, so far as I know, earned nothing after the first year. ASCAP has a "pool" into which a portion of the earnings of all its members are put, and then disbursed to each member using certain criteria that do not necessarily reflect that member’s output and earnings. The seventeen dollars I received in 1960, for instance, included a share of the earnings of such men as Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael and Burt Bacharach.

After returning to Canada I transferred to CAPAC, The Com posers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada, in which I continue as a member. Over the years I have written dozens of lyrics but have done nothing with them.

I spend the summer writing television plays, living in a two room log cabin on Georgian Bay near Lafontaine. The late fifties was television drama's best period; fine writing being done by Paddy Chayefsky, Tad Morgan and others. Spurred on by the apparent success of the Gleason venture I'd decided that I would try to make television and screenwriting my new vocation.

In three and a half months I wrote five plays; in mid September, I drove to Toronto to submit them to the script department at the CBC. They bought three of them: Absentee Murderer, a half-hour suspense thriller that was directed by Robert Christie and starred Joseph Furst, Barbara Hamilton, Peggi Loder and James Doohan (who later came to fame in Star Trek) and A Matter of Principle, a one-hour play superbly acted by John Drainie, Lloyd Bochner and Kathryn Blake and directed by Charles Jarrot. The third play, the title of which now eludes me, endured many script changes but finally went unproduced. Both of the others were subsequently shown on the BBC in England and on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Garfield Weston, one of Canada's great entrepreneurs and head of the multifaceted Weston's Limited, had decided to confront his opponents and enhance his own fortunes in a single bold stroke. To do so, he needed a documentary film made almost overnight. He handed the problem to the head of his Canadian supermarket operation, George Metcalf, president of Loblaws Limited; Metcalf hired a Toronto film company, Meridian, and they hired me.

Weston had not long before introduced North American style supermarkets to Britain. The venture had been widely attacked, most vigorously by the tens of thousands of greengrocers whose small neighborhood stores were threatened. The supermarkets bought in carload lots, sold with small mark-ups and depended on volume for profit. No corner grocer could compete with that.

With typical daring, Weston asked to be invited to address the greengrocers at their annual convention, aware that he would face an angry audience and might be booed from the platform. There, he would spring his surprise. He would offer the green grocers the opportunity to compete with his supermarkets by introducing to the United Kingdom a Canadian innovation, the co-op. To make his presentation graphic he needed a film that would show how Canadian independent grocers had made themselves viable by pooling their purchasing power. It was Garfield's plan to sell to the new U. K. co-op.

But time was short. I would have to produce a shooting script over a three-day weekend. Two of Weston's vice-presidents would fly to Toronto on the Monday to approve the script and to authorize the start of production. Knowing it would mean three days with little or no sleep. I demanded a high fee. Early Monday morning I delivered the script to Meridian and went to bed.

That afternoon at 1:30 I sat in the downstairs reception room at Lowblaws with the two vice-presidents awaiting the summons from Metcalf's office. An hour passed, two and then three. The vice-presidents were becoming increasingly nervous, interpreting the delay as bad news. As the time passed their faces grew grey with fear. Coffee cups rattled on saucers. Ash-trays filled with butts. Curious, I asked if Weston was a demanding taskmaster, and was told a series of stories.

When Weston was a young man, he was fired from a job. Not many years later he bought the company from which he had been discharged, hiding his identity through proxies. On the day the deal was consummated, he walked into the president's office, brushed past his secretary, went to a corner, undid his fly and urinated against the wall. Then he turned to the man who had fired him and ordered him out of the office, not permitting him so much as to empty his desk.

A Weston subsidiary in the English midlands was consistently losing money. Head-office personnel and various experts were dispatched to correct the problem, but the company continued in the red. Out of patience, Weston stated that he would turn the company around within six months and went personally to visit it. Accompanied by the personnel manager carrying a clipboard, he went on a walking tour of the plant. When he saw an employee idle or involved in casual conversation, he had the name listed. Regardless of the employee's ability or length of service, he was fired. Within six months, I was told, the company moved to the black.

By five o'clock the only word from Metcalf's office was that he had been on the telephone to London for extended periods. The tension in the waiting room was palpable. I looked at the manifestations of fear around me and suddenly decided that I would have no part of it. I announced that I had a dinner engagement, which was true, although the appointment was not until seven. It was unthinkable they said. I couldn't just leave. What if there was a problem with the script?

It was no act of courage. I was reacting to rudeness that had kept us sitting there for three and a half hours without any word. Beyond that, I refused to be a part of the object vassalage I was witnessing. No job, no fee was worth that. If the script needed reworking, I would stay up all night if necessary. If that wouldn't do, to hell with it.

As it happened, the film went forward without a hitch and was delivered on time.


In early September, 1957, I was leaving the CBC building on Jarvis Street, when I was intercepted by a tall, somewhat awkward young man with a round face, heavy horn-rimmed glasses and a mound of wavy hair. In a verbally fastidious way he introduced himself as Ross McLean, told me that he was the producer of a program called Tabloid, and asked about a book of mine that had just been published in New York. (I was surprised that he would know of it; was a series of lectures on evangelism, The Stone Lectures, I had given at Richmond Theological Seminary in Virginia.) McLean had lost a guest on that evening's Tabloid and wondered if I would be willing to appear and be interviewed by Percy Saltzman. A taxi was sent for a copy of the book, and I scribbled some questions for Percy.

After the show, Ross followed me into the hallway and finally onto a staircase, where we held an extended conversation. That fall, he informed me, he would be producing a program called Close-up, a Sunday-night primetime public-affairs show: he offered me a job as one of two interviewers on the show. (Pierre Berton, whom I hadn't met, would be the other.) I affected some reluctance, as playwriting held a greater attraction for me, but called him back in almost unseemly haste the following day to accept the job.

Close-up was a new and exciting venture by the CBC. It was the first important public-affairs show and blazed a trail for This Hour Has Seven Days, The Way It Is and Sunday. Frank Willis was host. Patrick Watson was associate producer and Douglas Leiterman story editor. From time to time, Joyce Davidson, a prot’eg’ee of Ross's, came over from Tabloid for a particular segment. The show sought to entertain as it informed, mostly through interviews and mini-documentaries, and to break from the self-consciously serious and sometimes pompous patterns of the past. The first interview I did was with George Chuvalo, a then-young boxer who went on to hold the Canadian heavyweight title and fight, among others, Muhammad Ali. During the entire interview, Ross had Chuvalo skip rope. In the end, I joined him, and ended up breathless.

Berton and I ranged much of the world for stories. He was at the time the featured columnist on the Toronto Star and was not as free to travel as I; as a consequence I got most of the plum assignments.


The world of public-affairs network television into which I had been so suddenly precipitated was a sweatbox of fearsome tension. The medium was new in Canada and the people in charge, despite a brave air of savoir faire, were pioneering. There were few precedents and no rules. Except for some brief filmed segments, programs such as Close-up were assembled as they were broad-cast, interviews were done "live to air" and mistakes were irrevocable.

On the night of the slow, after a rough run-through, Ross McLean might inform you that, "You have 8. 47 for your item.” In those few minutes you were required to get the issue before the viewer, extract the relevant information from your guest, keep him or her from wandering or fudging, put questions designed to elicit interesting and pertinent replies and, even more importantly devise ways to get your guest to reveal something of him or herself. All the while, there is frantic and often unrelated activity in other parts of the studio, cameras swinging into and out of position, the floor-manager signaling for you to speed up or stretch until his final countdown -"Thirty seconds. . . fifteen. . . ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one," and a motion of his hand as though slitting his throat.

It was a peculiarly threatening time for me because I had been away from Canada for ten years and was out of touch with what had been happening. How many times, on Court of Opinions or Close-up, did my ignorance rear like a specter behind my chair threatening to expose itself before the nation.

A more fundamental problem was that I didn't know who I was. I had lost an identity and had not yet found a new one. In the ministry, I moved if familiar surroundings, comfortable with the people, the customs. Now, suddenly, I was in unfamiliar territory. The natives were friendly but foreign. I didn't speak their language not they mine. I had, overnight, to learn how to join easily in casual conversation (sometimes punctuated with obscenities); to go out on dates, to order a drink, to dance. Seeking protective coloration, I began to smoke, and it was a dozen years before I was able to quit. It was as though I had been returned to my teens. I was in a twilight world, a creature of neither the sun nor the night. It was almost two years before I walked with any assurance.


Early on, I was sent with a crew to Europe for a series of interviews, one of the first being with novelist Evelyn Waugh. Waugh was notoriously difficult; he specified in his acidulous way that the fee would be five hundred dollars for the first thirty minutes, an additional five hundred if we went one minute beyond the half hour and five hundred more if we went one minute beyond the hour. We had hoped to record the interview at his home, but he quickly scotched that: “A BBC crew was here last week," he said. "They trampled the flower bends, mucked about on the lawns and left the premises like a pigsty.” It would be done at our hotel, he said, or not at all, and at a time of his choosing. All his demands were hastily agreed to - anything to get Evelyn Waugh.

I prepared for the interview carefully and with much trepidation. I'd read four of his books; I bought another three in paperback and holed up in my hotel room. In the course of my preparation, someone told me a story about Waugh's irascibility, thinking that it would provide insights into the man. It only added to my uneasiness.

The story had it that Waugh was on the executive of a London literary society that had decided to honor a writer with whom Waugh had clashed and whom he detested. Waugh asked to be excused from the head table but acquiesced when it was pressed on him as a duty. On the night of the tribute, he arrived carrying a large copper ear trumpet. As the business of the evening began, he put the trumpet to his ear, and listened through it during all the preliminary speeches. When his hated rival was introduced and rose to respond, Waugh, with elaborate deliberateness, removed the trumpet from his ear, placed it on the table before him, crossed his arms, closed his eyes and, with a beatific expression on his face, sat back in his chair.

He arrived for the interview punctually, dressed in impeccable Saville Row style. He was shorter than I'd expected and a bit corpulent. He had the face of a kewpie-doll, the rosy nose of a drinker and round, robin's-egg-blue eyes. He moved immediately to introduce himself; first, to Bob Crone and his wife, Vi, our 109 camera crew. Bob, an amiable fellow, when asked what his job was, said he was a cameraman. Then, reaching for some contact with the author of The Loved One, He added that he had once been an undertaker's helper. "Ah," said Waugh. "Capital. Undertaker's helper - surely you mean mortician's assistant?" Crone nodded vigorously, eager to please. "Why, then," Waugh continued, "having done such important work, have you descended to working as a journalist?"

I was by my chair, at a table, microphone attached, waiting for him. He ignored my outstretched hand, said nothing, at down and didn't so much as look at me. The lights were turned on, the sound man called out, "Speed," someone banged the clapper and read the data on the slate, the director said, "Action, "and I, my voice a trifle unsure, began.

Waugh responded to my opening questions with only a word or two, and seemed in no mood to expand on them. After we'd been going a few minutes, he fixed me with his cold, unblinking blue eyes and asked, "Me. Templeton, have you read any of my books?" I said that I had and continued my questioning. A few minutes later, he said again. Are you sure you've read my books?" Yes, I said, mentioning some of the titles. He shook his head as though puzzled and said, "Very well, then. Continue." In posing a question, I referred to his being a satirist. He stopped me short. "I, a satirist? Whatever would give you that idea? Are you certain, Mr. Templeton, you have actually read my books?” At one point I asked him about his children. He responded by saying that "Once a day I allow them into my presence for ten minutes. Just after tea.”

So it went, a protracted agony. By the end of the interview I was in a rage that led me to refuse his preferred hand. Doubtless that pleased him.

It appeared at first that the day would end as badly as it had begun. After the Waugh ordeal we went backstage at the Hay-market Theatre in London to interview Ralph Richardson. Sir Ralph is one of the most eminent of English actors, famed equally for his contributions to the theatre. I expected arrogance, but found instead an astounding insecurity. He came from the stage and went with hardly a word into the shower. Ten minutes later he was back in a white terrycloth robe begging off. He paced the small confines of the dressing room, cluttered with our lights and cameras, wringing his hands. "Look, chaps, you really don't want to interview me. I'm a dull stick. I have nothing to say. Can't we just forget the whole thing? I'd much rather not go through with this.” This celebrated, gifted man was, quite obviously, nervous and frightened. After perhaps ten minutes of entreaty, he assented. He proved a fascinating subject.


From London, we went off to the Riviera for an interview with novelist Somerset Maugham. Maugham lived with his male secretary-companion on a magnificent estate at Cap Ferrat, near Antibes, in an embittered loneliness, soured by the judgments of the critics and his peers. On our arrival, we were shown to a flastone patio adjoining the great house. When our tangle of cables, lights and cameras was ready, Maugham joined us. He was eighty-four then, with dessicated skin, sparse straight hair, hooded eyes and a wide down turned slash of bloodless lips, but was undiminished in intellectual vigour. He greeted us with warm cordiality.

A frequent problem in filmed interview is the subject's nervousness. Often, a guest is at his or her best while the lights are being adjusted, sound levels checked ant technical problems resolved. Knowing that the cameras aren't yet rolling, he or she is relaxed, ready with quips and observations and full of sprightly small talk. But once the interview begins, that ease may disappear and the public persona will take over - guarded, controlled and dull.

We had heard that Maugham Tended to tighten up during an interview and planned to begin filming without his knowledge. I began with casual conversation and Maugham made his first response. As he did, he paused. in mid sentence, his jaw set and there was a pause. The pause was broken only when he whacked the palm of his hand on the arm of the chair. For a moment, I was dumbstruck: the man obviously suffered from a severe stammer. As we continued, I glanced at director, who rolled his eyes skyward, shoved his fists deep in his pockets and turned away. There was nothing to do but to go ahead and, between pauses and whacks, try to get the story .

Television interviews are not as they seem. Most are heavily edited. The interview may take as much as an hour, but after an editor has pieced together the newsworthy and interesting statements, it may be reduced to as little as five to twenty minutes. If the editing is skillfully done, viewers are not aware that what they are seeing is no more than snippets and patches of what was originally recoded.

As the conversation with Maugham continued, it became obvious that the stammer and the banging on the arm of the chair would make the interview virtually impossible to edit. In a counsel of despair while a film magazine was being changed, we decided that we would not use close-ups, and that Maugham should be seen in the setting in which he lived. He and I would be filmed at a distance as we walked through his estate. Later, the sound portions of the interview would be overlaid and it would seem that the conversation was taking place as we went.

Three hours later, the shoot was completed, delayed by the inevitable technical problems that are a part of working with film. We were full of apologies as we packed our gear. We said our good-byes and there was a general round of handshaking, but Maugham didn't leave. He stood to one side, frowning, apparently puzzled.

I went to him and said, "Thank you again, Mr. Maugham. You've been marvelously patient and we appreciate it.”

He looked at me and said, almost pathetically, "Don't you even want to see where I write?"

In our preoccupation, we'd forgotten to ask.


The following day we were scheduled to interview Minou Drouet, a most extraordinary child who, at the age of eight, was being hailed by the leading literary figures in France as a prodigy. Hers was an astounding story.

Minou Drouet's mother was a prostitute and her father a field hand. As an infant she was taken into the home of a middle-aged woman, whose ambition to write well exceeded her talent. She adopted the child and raised her with love, surrounding her with music in a home dedicated to literature. It appeared that Minou was retarded. At six she hadn't spoken a word. The judgment of four doctors was that she would never be normal.

One day, her mother played a recording of a Brahms symphony for her. Minou swooned. When she was revived, she spoke perfect French in complex sentences. Shortly thereafter she began to write poetry. Some of the poems were published and immediately provoked debate. It was said that no child of six could possibly have such thoughts, much less express them so profoundly. It was argued that, unlike music, poetry demands an experience of life, experience that no child so young could have had. It was charged that her adoptive mother - a poet herself who aspired to recognition but had been judged second-rate - was the author of the verses.

The controversy became a cause celebre. The French Academy of Arts and Sciences decided on an experiment to validate or to dismiss the claims made for the child. Minou was placed in a room behind one-way glass. She was provided with paper and pencil, and after she was alone and incommunicado, given three subjects to write about. She did as she was instructed and the results were scrutinized. There could be no question; the poems were the product of a prodigious talent. Jean Cocteau, the eminent writer and film-maker, commented: "She's not an eight-year-old child, she's an eight-year-old dwarf.”

For my interview with Minou Drouet, a picnic hamper had been purchased and a colourful blanket found. Minou and I were filmed under the Riviera summer sun at an idyllic location over looking the Mediterranean. She was an extraordinary child: beautiful, outgoing, animated, aware, coquettish serious. There was one problem: no one our team had troubled to find out if she spoke English. She didn't, and I retained only the residue of two years of high-school French.

The camera a followed us to the spot selected. I spread the blanket and together we laid out the food. Minou thought it great fun and was especially delighted when she discovered that some "Co-ca Co-la" had been included. She chattered on animatedly and I responded gauchely, straining for the appropriate words, often to her outbursts of laughter. Fortunately, there was enough communication to get us by, and my lack was more than compensated for by her unspoiled charm and vivacity.

When it was time to end the shoot, I took her hand and said a halting good-bye. She kissed me and said. "Bon jour mon ami du soleil," and went off with her mother, leaving me enchanted for days.

There were other interviews abroad:

I spent an afternoon with writer and critic Rebecca West, who talked with me on the terrace of her country home on the outskirts of London. Pointing off toward the city, only visible on the far horizon, she described watching bombs erupt soundlessly on Loudon as the Battle of Britain was fought in eerie silence above the barrage balloons. To this day, I see it happening as though I had been there.

Of another stripe was a session with Lady Iris Docher, a wealthy and wildly eccentric Englishwoman, whose strawberry pink eyelashes and uninhibited escapades were scandalizing the nobility and delighting the feature writers on the Fleet Street tabloids. We interviewed her on the deck of her yacht where, to the delight of our film crew, she refused to proceed unless I personally pinned the hidden microphone on the inside of her well-filled sweater. I demurred, and finally Vi Crone did the loners.

Bernie Braden welcomed us to his handsome home; surrounded by the evidence of his enormous success in English television. He talked nostalgically of Canada and the CBC, hinting that he might give it all up to return home. But, in the meantime, there was a party for Lauren Bacall at the Milroy night club in Hamilton Place, hosted by Sir Laurence Olivier and Lady Vivien Leigh, with 150 of London's show-business nobility in attendance; a new sports car to be picked up and a successful new television season underway. Braden was a talented and charming guest.

Not so charming was Lucky Luciano's number-one lieutenant, whose name I can't recall. He had been deported to his native Italy with Luciano and was managing to make out with a few little "deals" he had going. I spent most of two days with him in Rome, much of it hanging about in a sidewalk espresso-bar open to the street. In all that time, I don't think he ever looked directly at me. His eyes searched the passing traffic, and every once in a while he would interrupt our conversation to go into the street, and with a sleight of handshake, pass narcotics to his customers.

I spent much of a day and an evening with Madame Antonina Olivetti, an international beauty and the estranged wife of a member of the wealthy Olivetti typewriter family. In Roman Catholic Italy in the 1950s, she was valiantly and almost single handedly fighting for birth control and abortion. On the evening of the interview she showed me the Rome tourists don't see: some of the great homes and estates of her friends; unexpected enclaves of crumbling beauty, redolent with history; smoky, hole in-the-wall nightclubs where American jazz was played. Two days later, as we waited for the plane that would return us to Londone, her chauffeur presented me with an Olivetti portable typewriter.

While in Rome, an invitation came from the Canadian ambassador to the Vatican: "Would I like a private audience with the Holy Fater, Pius XII? If so, it was possible.” I leaped at the chance. Vi Crone pleaded to be included, and the arrangement was made.

We went at the appointed hour to a massive wrought-iron gate beneath Bernini's colonnade. One of the Swiss Guards ushered us through marble halls to a magnificent upstairs room. It was Renaissance in style: square, with a lofty ornamented ceiling, crystal chandeliers and pilasters of pale green marble. The walls were hung with enormous, intricately wrought tapestries.

I was surprised to see others there. In my ignorance I hadn't known that " a private audience " isn't necessarily private – we were two of a group of fourteen. Viand I stood to one side, talking in nervous whispers. The others were doing the same, looking about, ill at ease. They seemed to be mostly Europeans. A priest came and arranged us in a line that turned at a ninety-degree angle, placing me near the end, and telling us that the Holy Father would soon arrive.

I found myself in a ridiculous dilemma: how should I greet the Pope when I was introduced to him? My parents were Protestant Irish and, while not anti-Catholic or bigoted, were not kindly disposed toward the church. In my childhood, my father had regaled me with stories of his childhood in Ireland. He was the son of a Methodist clergyman who as was the custom of the Methodists, was moved to a different parish every three years. Dad described in detail the pitched battles on "The Glorious Twelfth," when men and boys fought in the street with paving-stones, pickets ripped from fences, any weapon that came to hand. When I was a boy in Regina we called some of our schoolmates Catlickers and Dogans and Arsies, and sometimes threw stones through the windows of the parish hall at Holy Rosary cathedral. We didn't know why; it was simply something we did. Moreover, my father (and later, the New Testament) had drummed into my head that you "Bow the knee to no man.” And now I was about to meet the Pope.

There was a sudden ringing of bells and, preceded by a half dozen cardinals and others in full regalia, the Holy Father swept into the room and began to move along the line. I had ample opportunity to observe him for he took two or three minutes with each person. The women dropped to a deep genuflection and kissed his ring; the men went to one knee and did the same. I was torn by a mounting anxiety: how should I react when the holy Father reached me? I felt respect for the man, for what he symbolized, and for his personal accomplishments (among other things, he spoke a dozen languages), but all my upbringing was warring with my reason. Surely, on the ground of simple civility, I should follow the example of the other men and go to one knee. But I knew I couldn't do it, and the Pope was drawing near.

Now he had reached the woman to my left. I was surprised at how small he was, almost diminutive. He looked was and tired and liver spots speckled his skin, but his face was full of animation. He was speaking fluent French, looking directly into the woman's face.

Now he came to me. Involuntarily, I put out my hand. Without a moment's hesitation he shook it, holding it for just a moment, and I knew that I had been a fool for debating the matter; obviously it had happened hundreds of times before.

Without reference to a note and without being prompted by the cardinal who hovered at his elbow, he called me by name, as he had those who preceded me. But he had been mistakenly briefed and took me to be a teacher. I didn't correct him. In slightly accented English, he spoke about the importance of teachers, about the trust imposed in them and about the fact that they write tomorrow's attitudes on the minds of their charges. He urged me to take the calling with great seriousness, made the sign of the cross and passed on. Afterwards, we were each given a medal to commemorate the audience.

Some months later, in Windsor, Ontario, I was guest at a small, private party in the home of a couple who were devout Catholics. I slipped out of the party, went to my hotel room and got the medal. As I was leaving I called the couple aside and gave them the souvenir, explaining the circumstances under which I was given it. The husband took it in his hands and examined it, his eyes shining. His wife looked at it closely, sat down abruptly and put her hands to her face to cover her tears.


Back in Canada there was good news: the prime minister's office had approved a CBC request to be permitted to do an extended interview with the prime minister at home at 24 Sussex Drive. Mr. Diefenbaker had agreed that I do the interview with him and that Joyce Davidson talk to Olive, his wife. The broadcast would be done live on New Year's Eve.

Television cameras had never been allowed to originate a broadcast from the official residence, and so far as I’m aware, have never been since. The arrangement was that Mrs. Diefenbaker would show Joyce about the house, pointing out things of particular interest; after twenty minutes she would hand off to me for the remainder of the hour. There was one specification, the prime minister insisted on knowing in advance what my questions would be. Normally, this was an unacceptable condition, but because of the unprecedented nature of the opportunity it was agreed to.

I went with Ross McLean, Joyce and a lighting-technician to 24 Sussex Drive to meet with Mr. Diefenbaker. We conferred in a pleasant sitting room on the lower level. Olive was there, as was Diefenbaker's political mentor, now a senator, Allister Grosart. One by one I read the questions I intended to ask, twenty-four in all. One by one Diefenbaker objected to them: "No, I've told that anecdote too often.” I don't think we ought to get into that.” No, no, that's too long a story; we won't have the time.” I think not; the facts don't reflect well on the people involved.” Buy the end, he had vetoed all but three of my questions.

I was about to remonstrate when Olive - who hadn't said a word but had been perched on the back of a small sofa - interjected. "Now, John, she said, "Just stop that!" Her voice was sharp but the tone wasn't. It had been obvious in our conversation that there was a loving relation between the two of them. Diefenbaker immediately accepted the reproof.” Read the question again," he said.

He restored all but three and the telecast went without a hitch.


After a few weeks back in Toronto doing less exotic interviews, I was dispatched with a crew to Los Angeles. The prospect was exciting. Among those scheduled were Oscar Levant, Zsa Zsa Gabor, James and Pamela Mason, Hermione Gingold, Aldous Huxley, Art Linkletter and, possibly, Bugsy Seigal, the Hollywood and Las Vegas hood. And there were plans to beam to Canada a live telecast that Ross McLean ironically titled “Maturity in Hollywood.” I bought a new sports jacket and slacks and packed my bag time for the interview with Levant approached. Having talked to him on the telephone a number of times, Ross convinced himself that he was the person to do it, a judgment not entirely vindicated when he and Levant sat down to talk.

The interview was done in the living room of Levant's home, a sprawling, ranch-style house, designed - as so many are in southern California - in a kind of bastard Spanish. While the crew was setting up, Levant and I fell into conversation. He was a major celebrity at the time. A prominent concert pianist, he had become a film star of sorts - as he put it, the guy who always loses the girl - through his work in such pictures as An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue. He was best known to the general public as the enfant terrible on the popular radio and television show, Information Please, where his encyclopaedic knowledge and caustic wit had made him popular.

An autographed photograph of Harry Truman sat alone on top of his grand piano, and when I ventured the view that Truman was demonstrably one of the three greatest American presidents, he immediately agreed and we got into an extended conversation.

Afterwards, back at the hotel, there was a message from Levant to telephone him. Did I Know any women? "No," I said, "I'm a stranger here. This is your territory.” He sighed and said, "Ah well. Come out to the house and we'll talk. Next to women, conversation is best.”

We talked for about two hours, when he suddenly seemed to tire. During the afternoon filming session he'd shown the same sudden fatigue and, during a break to reload a camera, he had excused himself "to get a glass of milk for my ulcer.” He returned a few minutes later, bright-eyed and visibly revived. I learned later that he was heavily on drugs. Now he returned to suggest that he call Zsa Zsa and that we drop over to see her. (She was his next-door neighbor. ) But Zsa Zsa had a date for the evening. Another phone call and he announced that we were going to James Mason's. It proved to be a most eventful evening.

James Mason was married at the time to Pamela Kellino, no mean actress herself and, like her husband, a lover of cats; they were frequently pictured in the press surrounded by half a dozen or more Siamese. (Which commended them to me. I've had Siamese and Himalayan cats continuously for thirty-seven years. ) I Was disappointed when I discovered that, in all of their sprawling, luxurious home, there wasn't a cat in sight.

Pamela and Oscar fell immediately into an animated conversation that ranged from small talk to contentious banter to the trading of amiable insults to the latest Hollywood gossip. I was drawn into the conversation from time to time but mostly listened. What I heard was an astounding recital of recent love affairs among the famous, of assignations, of marriages in trouble and of studio machinations.

While all this was going on, James Mason was seated to my left, cross-legged on a couch, looking handsome, listening impassively and saying absolutely nothing. He spoke no more than a few dozen words through the evening. Every once in a while he would stir himself to enquire in that extraordinary voice if my drink needed freshening. He would then provide the same service for Pamela and Oscar and resume his seat and his silence.

For some time, I'd been aware of a noisy banging from downstairs at the rear of the house. Now there was also the sound of a man's voice, angry, shouting. Pamela said off-handedly that it was a lover of hers she had just cast aside. I recognized the name. He was a six-foot-three, red-haired Irishman, who had been a prominent sportscaster in Chicago during the early 1950s. He was a volatile, controversial broadcaster, a reckless commentator who had drawn the ire of Frank Norris, then-owner of the Chicago Stadium, the Black Hawks and a stable of prizefighters. It was commonly rumored that some of Norris's friends were in the Mafia; and the story went around Chicago that Norris had had the sportscaster run of town. For whatever reasons, he'd departed for Los Angeles, where he soon found another job on television and became enamored of Pamela.

She told a detailed story of the affair, while James sat sphinx-like, listening. All the while, the man downstairs was trying to kick in a door. But no one seemed perturbed, no one called the police, and no one went down to send him away. After perhaps ten minutes the din ceased.

In bed I found myself wondering: could the entire evening have been a kind of charade? Was it possible that the conversation - with all its salty details, startling candour and outrageous gossip - was simply a show put on to shock the hinterlander, a gleeful acting out of the "wild and wicked Hollywood" legend? I’m certain that it wasn't.

In the morning Oscar was on the phone. It was planned to beam the live telecast to Toronto that evening. It would feature Zsa Zsa, Hermione Gingold, Pamela and James Mason. Oscar wanted to be part of it and pressed me to urge Ross to include him; "Mason's hopelessly dull. I'll liven things up.” He might have been in need of money and he was insistent. I spoke to Ross, who was at first reluctant (perhaps because of his budget), but then changed his mind. I went to the studio that afternoon anticipating a lively time.

Zsa Zsa was first to arrive. She was at time a Grade-A celebrity and known to be difficult. I had watched the director lighting the chair in which she would sit. There were endless adjustments, a sitin and live cameras to assure him that all was ideal. Zsa Zsa entered, looked at the set and crossed to sit down. "Not there, Miss Gabor, but here," the floor manager said, sychophancy oozing. "I'll sit here," Zsa Zsa said and sat.

The director came from the booth and introduced himself to Gabor, who seemed not to notice him. He explained how the lighting had been carefully prepared and how he was certain she would be happier with the result if she sat in the chair prepared for her. "I'll sit here," she said, examining herself in a large hand mirror passed to her by the make-up girl-in-waiting. There were sideways looks of dismay and shrugs of despair. Not five minutes later, as a lighting-man was at work rearranging things at the top of a ladder, Gabor got up and, without a word, moved to the chair first prepared for her.

I took the moment to study Zsa Zsa who, preoccupied with her preening, was indifferent to everything else. Conceding that she looked like a glossy and expensive confection, I must say also that she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I was told that she took three hours to prepare herself to go out in public; however long, it was worth it. Under the lights her skinn waas flawless and seemed almost transparent. Her hair was carefully fashioned, soft and shining. Her eyes were a startling blue. She continued to work with the mirror - touching her hair, stroking her eyebrows, cheeks and jaw line, turning her head this way and that. She spent at least five minutes flouncing her skirt so that it fell pleasingly and, in doing so, leaned forwards to reveal a more than generous decolletage. At one point Ross passed behind my chair to say sotto voce," Charles, we're all worried about you, so recently out of the ministry.”

The other participants joined us, and as the floor manager shouted, "Thirty seconds!" the tension - as was common in live television - grew almost palpable. I took my opening cue, introduced the guests, put my first question and became almost immediately redundant. Sparks began to fly, with Levant striking the flint. When Zsa Zsa spoke grandly of the growing maturity in Hollywood, Oscar interrupted to suggest that she was indeed an authority on the subject: "More than anyone in Hollywood, Zsa Zsa, darling, you've discovered the secret of perpetual middle age.” This kindled a continuing argument between the two of them. Hermione Gingold, an English comedienne famous for her abrasive wit and comically flexible voice, tried a number of times to enter the discussion. Finally Oscar turned to her and said, "Yes, Herman" emphasizing the male name - "We've all admired your boyishness across the many years.” Fireworks. Shouting. I tried to guide the discussion from time to time but little attention was paid.

Then, suddenly, the time had expired and the floor manager was counting me down to a wrap-up. I turned to camera, muttered something about our having witnessed a sample of the level of maturity in the film capital, and spoke my out cue. Even as I was doing so, the battle was being rejoined behind me. Off the air, Hermione proclaimed her umbrage and then took a strip off me for allowing it. Oscar and Zsa Zsa adjourned to the corridor outside where they exchanged insults for another ten minutes. It was not television's finest hour but it was a good show.


Aldous Huxley lived on top of a Hollywood mountain, and I approached our appointment with him beset by something approaching awe. Grandson of the celebrated scientist and educator, Sir Thomas Henry Huxley, brother of brilliant biologist and writer, Julian, half-brother to the research scientist and Nobel winner, Andrew, Aldous Huxley had himself achieved international renown through his novels and social criticism. His best known book, Brave New World, made Shakespeare's phrase part of every-day language. From the time he was eighteen he had engaged in a fight against blindness. In his later years he had grown cynical and disillusioned about western society. Gearing our cars up the road that led to the peak of the mountain, we were all worried about how the interview might go. It didn't go at all.

It was not Huxley's fault; he greeted us cordially and offered the crew every possible help. He was a tall, gaunt man with a shock of wiry grey hair and thick-lensed glasses that greatly magnified his eyes. For all his sixty-four years, there was about him an intense, brittle vitality and an almost childlike interest in the cameras and sound equipment.

When all was ready, he and I took our places. He had only begun to answer my first question when the sound-man interrupted: "Sorry, Sir, there's a buzzing on the line. Shouldn't take more than a minute to clear it.” It took, as I recall it, better than an hour and a half.

There developed a mystery. Each piece of equipment was carefully checked, but there remained a constant, overriding buzz. The master switch controlling the house's lighting was thrown; it made no difference. The sound-man put earphones on Huxley, explaining that unless the source of the interference was found and eliminated it would be on the sound track and would make the interview inaudible. But the reason for the buzzing couldn't be found. There was a KXLA transmitter tower not three hundred yards from the house; that must be the problem. But it wasn't. When a technician pointed a live microphone at the tower and passed it through an open window, the buzzing stopped. When he drew it back into the house it began again. The problem was inside the house.

Huxley had been watching with growing interest and evident excitement. Finally, he pulled me aside, and whispered, "You've got a poltergeist.” (Those who investigate the occult hold that a poltergeist, literally, a "rapping ghost", is a mischievous spirit, which manifests itself by various knockings, tossing crockery about and moving furniture. It is commonly believed that a poltergeist is active only when children or teenagers are present. ) In his later years, Huxley had become much interested in the occult, and now seized upon it as the reason for our difficulties. He drew my attention to a young lad who had been hired to help carry the equipment. "There's the problem," he said flatly.

In the end, having tried every solution short of banishing the boy, we had to abandon the interview. Huxley was gracious, promising an appointment in New York City three weeks later. His last word to me as we went out the door was a whispered, "Poltergeist.”

It was some time later that we learned what the actual cause of our problems was. Huxley's house, though refurbished, was an old one, and unused wire, circling the living room behind the baseboards, formed an inductive coil and produced the interference our sound equipment had picked up. I was disappointed that the solution was so prosaic.


In New York City some weeks later, I interviewed William ("Call me Bill") Zeckendorf, the man who built the spectacular Place Ville Marie in Montreal. Zeckendorf was the entrepreneur's entrepreneur, and energetic, ebullient, tough-minded pragmatist with a talent for showmanship. His very going to work each day was a production. His offices were the penthouse of the Chrysler Building, which he had recently purchased. Each day, he drove from his home in the country to Manhattan in a chauffeured limousine, license ZECK-1. As he went, he kept his office alerted as to his exact whereabouts in traffic, lined up his schedule for the day and dictated to his secretary. The doorman was poised for his arrival. A private elevator was standing by to convey him nonstop to the top where his staff stood in readiness.

It had been arranged that we would do part of the interview during a lunch in his office. A table was elegantly laid, gleaming with linen and silver and imported china. From the rooftop patio that surrounded his office, Zeckendorf pointed out the sights of the city and their height relative to the Chrysler Building. He took me into his office to show off a lighting system he'd installed in a cupola above his massive desk.

"Watch this," he said, putting his fingers on a small console. "When somebody comes to see me and he's trying to sell me something, I change the lighting so that the office is predominantly blue or green - some cold colour.” He pushed a few but tons. The feeling of the room changed. "Now, if somebody's coming in who I want to sell, I go to the yellows and the oranges. It sets the mood.” He gave a pleased, boyish laugh. "Why not?"

The interview went well. Even more interesting was a story he told me off camera before he left. He had wanted to buy the entire block between Macy's and Gimbel's, New York City's two bestknown department stores. His plan was to refurbish the street floor and lease it to Woolworth's, so that when shoppers went from Macy's to Gimbel's, they would pass through Wool worth's, and this would surely be good for business. Using proxies to hide his intention, he bought the space needed. Only one obstacle remained: and old and decrepit fire hall in the middle of the block, which the city refused to sell. It seemed the entire project was going to founder on this one roadblock.

Undeterred, he bought a piece of property one block away and build a modern fire hall, complete with sleeping quarters, a recreation room and showers for the firemen. He then offered it to the city for one dollar. They took it, of course, and Zeckendorf completed the deal for, as he put it, "the biggest damn Woolworth store in the world.”


My first two years back in Canada had been pleasant, filled with hard work made enjoyable by its variety. In addition to doing Close-up, from 1957 to 1959, I filled in frequently on Tabloid and on a long-lived CBC radio program, Court of Opinions, a quiz show moderated by Neill Leroy and featuring panelists Lister Sinclair, Pierre Berton and Dofy Skaith. Four of my television plays were produced. I had written and narrated a documentary on sports cars for Meridian Films, made a film for the government introducing OHIP to Ontario, and come summer, would go overseas with a Close-up crew to make a one-hour documentary, Sweden's Morality, an expensive project that would never be shown to the Canadian public because of prohibition in the Broadcast Act – a concession to the Roman Catholic church by the Liberal party forbidding the discussion of abortion and birth control. In the first year, I won the Maurice Rosenfeld Award for Best Newcomer to Canadian Television. The following year, belatedly, I won the Liberty Award for Best Newcomer to Canadian Television. I sent it back.

During the trip to Sweden I had received a telegram from Connie telling me that our divorce would be granted later that day. We had been married eighteen years. It was like receiving the news that a very dear friend had died. I cancelled the filming, unable to work, and went for a long, aimless walk through the streets of Stockholm. It was a chill, dark day with grey layered clouds cutting off the tops of the buildings and seeming almost within reach. I walked for an hour or more, drenched but uncaring, my mind seven thousand miles away in a tiny courtroom in Juarez, Mexico.


I had hankered to try my hand at acting, not with any intention of pursuing it as a career but simply "to have a go.” Consequently, I was intrigued to receive a telephone call from Paul Almond, already recognized as one of Canada's premier film directors, asking me to read for the lead in a one-hour television play he was directing for the CBC's G. M. Presents. I read for him and he hired me, informing me that the female lead would be played by the featured singer on the Jack Kane's Musicmakers show, Sylvia Murphy.

I learned later why he had cast the two of us - I who had never acted and Sylvia who had no experience beyond high school. The play was A Face to Remember - as Almond described it later," a dog he'd been handed by the drama department.” Even a superb production would not hide the fact that it was a mediocre property, so Almond had decided to cast it with performers whose work in real life was similar to the protagonists' work in the play: I played a television newscaster; Sylvia, a girl singer.

The cast first met in a barren rehearsal hall on Sumach Street in downtown Toronto. There were no sets, no lights, no cameras; just masking tape on the floor to indicate the general layout. After introductions and a walk around the "set," Almond called me and another member of the cast onto the floor, scripts in hand, and said, "Act One Scene Three. Give it a try and see what happens.”

I looked at him. "No instructions? No direction?"

He shook his head.” Just start in. See how it feels.”

"You're not going to tell us what to do?"

He grinned and said, " Maybe later. Just read your lines and we'll see what develops.”

It was a difficult play, even for a professional. The performance would be live (videotape was still in the future) and I was in every scene save one. At the close of each scene I was required to leave one set and race to the next, sometimes removing a jacket and tie or putting on a topcoat en route. After a day or two, Almond began to guide the performances, and when we moved onto the actual set for final rehearsals, there was a growing confidence.

In one scene, Sylvia was seated in a Corvette convertible. I was to kiss her, getting lipstick on a handkerchief, which would later betray me. (Yes, the plot was that bad. ) There were problems with the lighting, and it was necessary to run through the scene a number of times. Almond was aware that Sylvia and I had been having dinner together after rehearsals, and each time I bent to kiss her, he yelled, "Cut!" I obeyed, of course, but after he'd done it a half dozen times, I said, "The hell with you Paul," and kissed Sylvia for the first time. Within six months we were married.

On the day of the performance, I awoke with a head cold. It wasn't enough to incapacitate me, but it posed a problem. Either I had to blow my nose frequently, which removed the make-up from the area, or I had to sniff a lot. It didn't improve my sanguinity or my acting.

The performance went smoothly. The nightmare that I would freeze or forget my lines didn't come true, but when the credits had rolled and the screen went to black and I knew the ordeal was over, I was surprised by a rush of tears. Everybody kissed and hugged everybody else and called each other by endearing names common practice among actors - and we all piled into cars and went to a cast party.

The reviews were favorable but restrained. Bob Blackburn wrote in the Ottawa Journal: "Charles Templeton's performance in the lead will have somewhat less impact on the theatrical world than, say, Barrymore's Hamlet. "In the Toronto Star, after some faint praise, Gordon Sinclair wrote, "If Charles intends to do more of this kind of thing, he's going to have to learn to act below the eyebrows. "I wasn't sure what he meant but knew it wasn't a rave.

There was an amusing footnote. When we met, Sylvia was engaged to a Montreal man but had decided to break it off. However, she hadn't yet removed the ring when she was interviewed on Close-up by Joyce Davidson. Joyce saw the diamond and asked about it. Sylvia hadn't notified her fiancé and had no option but to say, yes, she was engaged, and when Joyce pressed her for the details, had to chatter on coast to coast about the man whose ring she was about to return. He was watching the show, and it made her task no easier when, later that night, she called to tell him that the wedding was off.

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