Radio, Film & TV Reviews
by Lisa Oldham
I came to appreciate PR way too late. But, the modern marvels of cable television,
eBay have brought me up
to speed on his acting oeuvre.
One thing I quickly learned is: Whatever he appeared in, Paul Richards was always a little better than he needed to be. He never just "phoned in" a role. He did his best, even when portraying a whip-cracking wacko in a grade-Z western, or a man with a ridiculous metal fist on Get Smart.
Below are my reviews (some contain spoilers) of selected Paul Richards radio, film, and television performances, illustrated with stills and lobby cards.
Escape was sort of like a radio version of The Twilight Zone, spinning tingly tales of "high adventure" that all seemed to open with a similar teaser: "You are trapped on a burning boat in the middle of the Pacific, and with you on the boat is an insane accountant who is determined to cause your death, and from whom there is no... escape!" Actually, though, the writing and acting on these shows was usually excellent. Paul Richards acted in at least a couple of episodes of Escape. In Diary of a Madman (1953), he plays one of three German soldiers who unwisely follow their deranged general across the sizzling Sahara. And, in Heart of Kali (1954), he stars as a thief who finally gets the priceless ruby he's been obsessed with (but there's a catch....)
Fixed Bayonets! - 1951
Paul Richards made his feature film debut in Samuel Fuller's tense drama about a motley platoon that's sent to clear the way for elite troops during the Korean War. Richard Basehart excels as an inexperienced corporal who suddenly inherits leadership of the platoon when all of his superiors are killed. PR plays "Ramirez", a minor character who's there mostly for comic relief (he's always asking, "What'd he say?"). In 1960, PR would appear in the similarly themed film All the Young Men (see below). Incidentally, James Dean supposedly has an uncredited role as a soldier in Fixed Bayonets!, but I didn't see him (maybe he was the kid in the leather jacket... ;->)
Fixed Bayonets! is now available on DVD from sites such as Amazon.com and eBay.
Demetrius and the Gladiators - 1954
PR makes a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance near the end of this sequel to The Robe as a shackled prisoner who is murdered by the megalomaniacal Caligula (Jay Robinson).
Tension at Table Rock - 1956
You won't see Paul Richards' name in the credits of this ho-hum western, but he enlivens the first few minutes of the film as "Sam Murdock," the villain whose demise sets the plot in motion. Richard Egan shoots Sam in self-defense, but Sam's trampy wife (played by a brunette Angie Dickinson) lies to the authorities and gets Egan sent to the hoosegow.
PR (with Angie Dickinson & Richard Egan) in Tension at Table Rock (1956)
The Black Whip - 1956
Yee-haa: PR is "The Man With the Whip." That's how he's listed in the credits of this offbeat western. His character's name is actually "John Murdock," and he whips up a heap of trouble as he and his murderous mob invade an inn and plot to kidnap the governor when he passes by. When they're not busy plotting, the gang terrorizes the innkeeper (Hugh Marlowe), his younger brother, a quartet of saloon girls and handyman Strother Martin. Marlowe finally whips into action and saves the day (and the governor), while PR and pals get a free trip to the pokey. Incidentally, I don't know if "John Murdock" is any relation to "Sam Murdock" (see above), but Angie Dickinson appears in this film, too, as one of the saloon girls.
"The Man With the Whip"
The Houston Story - 1956
Houston nightclub owner "Gordon Shay" (PR) is syndicate boss Edward Arnold's right-hand man, until hot-shot "Frank Duncan" (Gene Barry) shows up with a plan for hijacking oil from Texas wells. Duncan steals Gordie's place in the organization, and even steals his girl (Barbara Hale of Perry Mason, as a tough-talkin' blonde!). But, crime doesn't pay, and everyone ends up either dead or in police custody by the end of the picture.
Hot Summer Night - 1957
Although it doesn't sound like much on paper--"Leslie Nielsen vs. backwoods bank robbers"--this obscure thriller is surprisingly good.
Nielsen, now best remembered as a white-haired comedic actor, was a dark-haired dramatic actor when he
starred in Hot Summer Night. He portrays a recently fired newspaper reporter
named "Bill Partain." While honeymooning in the Ozarks, Partain learns
that a notorious gang of bank robbers is holed up in the hills. Desperate to win
back his job, Partain devises a daring plan to
infiltrate the gang's hideout: he offers to interview the gang's leader. The
leader (who is considered the local "Robin Hood") is eager to
publicize his exploits. But, his gang soon decides that the snoopy scoop-hound might be more
valuable as a hostage, and holds Partain for a $50,000 ransom. It's up to
Partain's plucky young bride and the local deputy to rescue him.
Hot Summer Night is chock-full of talented character actors. Edward Andrews, who usually played bespectacled fussbudgets in sitcoms, plays it straight here as the lawman. James Best (who would later portray the befuddled sheriff in TV's Dukes of Hazzard) is the youngest member of the gang. Jay C. Flippen portrays the oldest (and wisest?) member of the gang. Robert Wilke (perennial villain on Gunsmoke and other westerns) portrays the gang leader. And, Paul Richards portrays treacherous triggerman "Elly Horn." Unfortunately, this Horn usually plays "Taps." You don't want to make any sudden moves around him. As one character observes, "Elly panics." And, he never fires just one shot when three or four will do!
Incidentally, a poster for Hot Summer Night pictures a dark-haired man clutching a pistol and a blonde. I once saw it advertised on eBay, and the ad proclaimed, "Leslie Nielsen is barely recognizable on this poster!" (Um, that's because it's actually Paul Richards on the poster...) ;->
A Mormon woman wants to deliver medicine to her people, but to do so, she needs to cross some treacherous land. No one will help her make the dangerous journey, until she offers wages of gold.
One of her hired helpers is
"Brill" (PR), a small-time gambler who dreams of hitting the big-time.
He believes the woman knows the location of a fabled gold mine and thinks she will lead him
to it at the end of his errand. Well, the woman knows the location of a gold
mine, and when Brill learns the truth, he gets cranky and tries to steal the
medicine. But, big 'ole Scott Brady saves the day, and the medicine.
Blood Arrow is an exasperating film. At times, it seems like a kid-safe Saturday matinee, but then it jarringly veers off into "adult" territory (there's an attempted rape, and a character has his eyes gouged out--off-screen, thankfully). Plus, Paul Richards is a far better actor than anyone else in the cast, and he's certainly better looking than pudgy "hero" Brady, who appears to be wearing Buffalo Bob's costume from Howdy Doody. So, why is PR stuck playing the bad guy, again?! :0
All the Young Men - 1960
A motley bunch of Marines is about to capture a mountain pass during the Korean War, when their lieutenant is mortally wounded in combat. Before dying, he orders a black sergeant (Sidney Poitier) to take command of the platoon. This doesn't sit well with all the young men, especially the resident redneck, bigoted "Bracken" (PR). But even Bracken comes to respect "Sarge" when he comes through in a crisis. Poitier and Alan Ladd were the nominal stars of this gritty little war film, but the unconventional supporting cast probably attracted more attention: teen idol James Darren, satirist Mort Sahl, and Swedish boxer Ingemar Johanssen are among the other platoon members (I told you they were a motley bunch). PR manages to stand out in the ensemble cast, especially in his tense scenes with Poitier.
TRIVIA: According to a 1959 Los Angeles Times article, Paul Richards beat out 27 other actors for the role of Bracken. And, according to a Eugene (OR) Register-Guard article, the snowy exterior scenes in All the Young Men were filmed in November 1959 on Oregon's famous Mt. Hood. The cast and crew came to Mt. Hood after the weather in Montana's Glacier National Park (the original exterior location) turned bad and made filming nearly impossible. Unfortunately, the weather on Mt. Hood wasn't much better. Clouds, snow and fog settled into the area after only a few scenes had been filmed and caused expensive delays as the actors and crew waited for conditions to improve.
The Sweet and the Bitter -
(filmed 1962; released 1967)
Although I'd come across references to The Sweet and the Bitter in my early research on Paul Richards, it almost seemed to be a "lost" film. The IMDb has an entry for it (under the title Savage Justice), but it's apparently never--or rarely-- shown on US television today. (According to old TV logs it aired on local stations during the late 1960's and early 1970's.) The program for a 1964 summer-stock production of The Sound of Music in which PR starred mentions the film. The IMDb gives it a release date of 1967, which I later learned is when it was briefly exhibited in Canada. I haven't seen any posters or photos from The Sweet and the Bitter, not even on eBay. After a bit of searching, though, I was able to purchase the film on grainy B&W VHS from an online movie site.
The plot: A young Japanese woman (Yoko Tani)
travels to Canada to take revenge against the wealthy businessman (Torin
Thatcher) she blames for her father's death. She schemes to humiliate the
businessman by seducing his son (Paul Richards). However, her plan unravels when
(a) she learns that her father is actually still alive, and (b) she realizes
that she truly loves the son.
The first part of the film drags slightly--it takes a while to sort out the relationships and motives of
all the characters. Following a shocking plot twist, the second part flows much
Paul Richards plays "sweet" to Ms. Tani's "bitter". He may have been a tad mature to play an idealistic youth standing up to his domineering father, but he does well with the role. It's a pleasure to see him portray the romantic lead rather than the villain for once.
The Sweet and the Bitter was written, directed and produced by novelist and screenwriter James Clavell. However, this was light-years before Shogun, and The Sweet and the Bitter was shot on a shoestring (although PR drives a snazzy Jaguar convertible as scion "Rob MacRoy"). Some of the supporting actors are obviously amateurs, making the film feel like an indie production--which, in fact, it was.
Sweet and the Bitter was stuck in legal limbo almost from the beginning,
which may explain its obscurity.
Sweet and the Bitter was stuck in legal limbo almost from the beginning,
which may explain its obscurity.
I did some digging in
Canadian newspaper databases and learned that The Sweet and the Bitter
was made in Vancouver, British Columbia, by the fledgling movie company Commonwealth Films Ltd. It wrapped
one day ahead of its 28-day schedule and for under $1,000,000 in late
spring/early summer 1962. The plan was to have the film edited and ready for
worldwide release by September 1962.
James Clavell was enthusiastic about the movie's BC setting, since the locations he used hadn't been commercially filmed before. He received substantial financial backing from Canadian millionaire F. Ronald Graham, whose mansion serves as the MacRoy home in the film. (In return, Clavell gave Graham's actress daughter Helen a small speaking part in the movie.)
after The Sweet and the Bitter wrapped, production was to begin on a
second Commonwealth film titled No Hands on the Clock, which would also
star Paul Richards. Sadly, this was not to be. No Hands on the Clock was
never made and The Sweet and the Bitter remained on the
Just a few years
later, James Clavell found far greater success as a filmmaker with big budget
productions such as King Rat and To Sir, With Love. In 1966, he
told a Toronto Star interviewer that The Sweet and the Bitter had
been tied up in litigation while it was being filmed and as far as he knew it
remained in litigation. Clavell explained, "I was shooting blind, since we
didn't have the facilities to print the rushes. On top of that, I was trying to
find the money to pay the actors every Friday. The people who hired me said they
had the money, but it was never there when we needed it."
Clavell washed his hands of the snakebitten project. But, there was still some sweetness in this bitter saga. In June 1967 a veteran Canadian showman named Ivan Ackery exhibited The Sweet and the Bitter at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, mainly to give local residents who'd participated in the film a chance to finally see themselves on screen. Ackery gave The Sweet and the Bitter a glamourous Hollywood-style premiere on June 23, 1967. None of the film's Hollywood leads (including Paul Richards) or James Clavell attended, however. It was probably just as well. The Vancouver Sun's movie critic mercilessly drubbed the picture the following day.
At last, a poster for The Sweet and the Bitter...sort of. This is a portion of an ad
for the film published in the Vancouver Sun on 6/23/1967.
(And, see there IMDb, it was not titled Savage Justice ;->)
In December 2009, The Sweet and the Bitter--along with COLOUR behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew!--was screened at the Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver (I wish I could have been there).
Hopefully, The Sweet and the Bitter can be released on DVD some day. Sure, it's still an obscure film, but it's still worth watching.
TRIVIA: Torin Thatcher, who does a great
job of portraying Paul Richards' father in the film, also played PR's
father-in-law in The Giant Killer episode of The Untouchables. And,
Dale Ishimoto, who played an
important role in The Sweet and the Bitter, later appeared as ball-cap
wearing "Mr. Nissan" in a series of automobile ads.
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre - 1967
PR plays Al Capone's second cousin, Charles "The Fixer" Fischetti, in this true-life gangster tale told in semi-documentary fashion, complete with Untouchables-style narration. PR is joined in the huge cast by just about every other character actor who was working at the time (Jason Robards, Jr., stars as Capone). Surprisingly, the film was directed by low-budget horror king Roger Corman.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes - 1970
PR is busted!
In the first sequel to The Planet of the Apes (1968), PR plays
"Mendez," a mutant "priest" who worships a weapon of mass
destruction. When their subterranean civilization is endangered by apes, Mendez
and his telepathic team decide to destroy the pesky primates with their beloved
bomb. Unfortunately, when the mutants start monkeying around with the nuclear
warhead, they don't realize that other things--like the entire planet--will go
"boom" as well! Mendez almost presses the
doomsday button, but Charlton Heston does the dreaded deed instead.
Just one question: If the Earth was destroyed in this installment of the Apes saga, then how did they come up with three more sequels, a TV show, a cartoon series, and several "reboots" (e.g. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)?! ;->
TRIVIA: The book Planet of the Apes Revisited (by Joe Russo, Larry Landsman and Edward Gross) explains that the actors playing mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes started out wearing full-head appliances that resembled their own faces. These masks were later peeled off to reveal the mutants' "true" appearance. This meant that Paul Richards and his fellow actors had to endure extensive make-up sessions to achieve the ghastly look of Mendez and his pals. In the book, Natalie Trundy (who portrayed the mutant "Albina") remembers the process: "All that [makeup], every little piece, was put on...one by one. My makeup man would say 'Shut up' when I tried to talk, because the minute I moved my face, he'd have to do something over again. I had to drink with big long straws--once that stuff is on you, you can't eat."
MORE TRIVIA: Mendez, PR's character from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, was immortalized by Sideshow Collectibles as a (now-discontinued) limited edition 12-inch high statue, complete with removable mask and ceremonial robe. It's da bomb... :->
"If Max Is So Smart, Why Doesn't He Tell Us Where He Is?" -1973
Banacek (pronounced "Ban-a-chek") is an independent insurance investigator portrayed with sophisticated panache by George Peppard. His specialty is "impossible" mysteries, usually involving a closely watched treasure (or person) that somehow goes missing. In this case, a $2.5 million experimental medical computer called "Max" inexplicably vanishes, despite elaborate security measures such as an electric fence topped with barbed wire. (And, no, someone didn't just walk off with the hard drive--this was 1973, so the computer takes up practically an entire building.)
Max is owned by a wealthy hypochondriac named "Leslie Lyle" (played in way over-the-top fashion by Anne Baxter). "Dr. Richard Kenter" (Paul Richards), the director of a clinic Lyle bankrolled, stands to gain financially if any mishap befalls the computer. But, did the doc make Max disappear? (Frankly, my money was on either David Copperfield or Bill Gates, but they weren't on the official list of suspects. ;->)
On Banacek, things are seldom as they appear--or disappear. So, the answer to Max's mystery is actually very simple. So simple, in fact, that you may find yourself yelling at the TV, "That's it?! Maxwell Smart could have solved this case"
Fortunately, though, Banacek doesn't take itself too seriously (how can it, with the hills of Los Angeles looming on the horizon of Boston, where the show is supposed to be set!) And, the story is entertaining enough that you probably won't feel cheated by the "slight"-of-hand solution.
PR displays flashes of dry wit as the put-upon Dr. Kenter. And, he even manages to look stylish in those hideous Seventies
clothes (although he wears the same jacket in all of his scenes). Poor Richard
Jordan, as Ms. Baxter's young gigolo, is stuck wearing the worst fashion
Incidentally, Anne Baxter's character is obsessed with the idea that she won't live past the age of 50. (Ironically, just over a year after this episode first aired, Paul Richards was gone...at the age of 50.)
UPDATE! (2/3/08) - This episode is now available on the Banacek -The Second Season DVD now available from Amazon! Which is where I got all these nifty screen captures of PR....
Casey - "For This Relief, Much Thanks" - 1963
The character that Paul Richards would play on his series Breaking Point (see below) was introduced in this episode of Ben Casey. A disturbed youth has taken to parading around in a Nazi uniform, so his enraged father decks him. When Dr. Casey tries to patch up the son's wounds, he learns there is far more wrong with his head than just a few contusions. He calls in psychiatrist McKinley Thompson (PR) to examine the young man's mind. Frankly, I don't think even Sigmund Freud could help this kid, but Dr. Thompson gamely gives it a try. (The case was continued on the premiere episode of Breaking Point.)
"The Lonely House" - 1961
When I first glimpsed Paul Richards as a bank robber named "Trock" in "The Lonely House," I was sure he'd be pushing up daisies by the final scene. But, thankfully, scriptwriter Frank Chase was a little more imaginative than that.
Trock is wounded during a bank robbery. However, he manages to invade the home of embittered widow "Lee Bolden" (played by Faith Domergue). "Little Joe" Cartwright (Michael Landon) is also there, because he'd planned to return some money to Mrs. Bolden, until it was stolen by Trock and his men. (Joe was present during the bank robbery.)
Mrs. Bolden's late husband was a doctor, and she often assisted
him during surgeries. She knows that Trock's gunshot wound is infected and that
he'll die if the bullet isn't removed soon. However, she has little sympathy
for the surly bandit, until Joe reveals that Trock could have shot the bank
teller during the robbery, but didn't (the teller panicked and shot Trock anyway).
Trock agrees to let Mrs. Bolden operate, but only if he can dull the pain with some whiskey first. And, he's hardly grateful for her help: "No tricks," he warns Lee and Joe, "...or I'll kill you both." (He insists on holding his gun during the procedure.)
As Joe steadies the tipsy Trock, Lee probes for the bullet in his shoulder. She also probes Trock's background: "I've never met your kind before--the kind who takes things by force. Does that make things easier?"
"My whole life history--is that what you want, lady?" Trock sneers back. He tells her that he was raised in an orphanage after his parents died. When Lee asks if there's a woman in his life, he says that he once loved a girl named Sue, but admits, "it went sour--it was probably my fault."
He looks up at Lee and continues, "[Sue] was just like
you...awful pretty..." Then, he looks at Lee again, and suddenly, he no
longer sees her, but Sue. He plaintively begs, "Sue, kiss me good night,
like you used to..."
Lee is confused, but Joe urges her to kiss Trock as he takes over probing for the bullet: "It'll keep him quiet."
Lee kisses Trock, and Joe removes the bullet. Trock becomes unconscious, and Lee suddenly becomes conscious of what's been missing in her life.
All goes well, until Trock's creepy cohorts, "Gavin" and "Poochie," show up. Unlike Trock, they don't have hidden hearts of gold--they just want their share of the robbery money, now.
Trock hid the money in Lee Bolden's barn. However, unknown to him, Joe
found it and re-hid it. When Trock's men fail to find the loot in the barn, they turn
against Trock and threaten to kill him, Joe and Lee if the location of the money
isn't forthcoming. Finally, Joe confesses to
moving the money. But, he refuses to disclose its exact location, arguing that
it was earned by hard-working farmers and ranchers, and he's not about to
give it to "pigs" like Trock's gang.
Gavin forces Joe to retrieve the money at gunpoint. However, Joe manages to fight back.
When Joe returns to the house with the money, Lee tells him he can turn it in, but he must let Trock go free. Trock asks Lee to come with him so they can make a fresh start with the robbery money. She refuses, admonishing Trock that the stolen money would make "a rotten foundation" and that they would ultimately come to ruin. Although she desperately wants him to stay, she orders him to leave and never come back.
Trock leaves, but soon returns. He explains, "I couldn't
think of anywhere to go, or what to do once I got there..."
He knows he must pay for his crime, so he asks Lee: "Do you think this place could use a reformed gunman in about five years?"
"I think he could have a job that could last him all his life," she warmly assures him.
Trock, grateful for a second chance at life and love, rides off to serve his sentence.
I don't remember watching Bonanza much when I was growing up, although I did sometimes watch it later in syndication. I thought it was a good western, but not as good as Gunsmoke or Have Gun--Will Travel. This episode changed my mind.
Paul Richards is electrifying as "Trock." He makes the robber a convincing character with inner conflicts, not just a cardboard "bad guy." When Trock looks up at Lee and "sees" Sue, silly camera tricks are unnecessary--we can tell by the anguished look on his face that he sees his lost love.
I must admit, before I saw Faith Domergue in "The Lonely House," I knew her only as a name on B-movie posters. However, she gives an outstanding performance as "Lee Bolden," a bitter, lonely woman who is changed forever by her chance encounter with a wounded thief. Bonanza producer David Dortort told an interviewer in 1961, "We took a chance on the casting. We knew Paul [Richards] would give a fine performance--he always does--but Faith, she's never really been used right with a role she could really dig into. We think she's great--they're great together."
Years later, Ms. Domergue stated in an interview that The Lonely House was her "most favorite show of all time" and considered her role in it "the best acting I've ever done".
And, of course, there's Michael Landon as Little Joe. Unfortunately, he mostly serves as a punching bag for Trock's cohorts in this episode!
But, the episode really belongs to PR. TV critic Dwight Whitney described his portrayal of Trock as "superb." David Dortort concurred: "Paul Richards possesses a combination of pure acting talent and visual appeal that would be envied by almost every other actor in Hollywood or New York!"
Incidentally, I've viewed "The Lonely House" on both PAX TV and TV Land, and naturally, it was edited to accommodate tons of commercials. However, each network made different edits, and some scenes that didn't appear on PAX appeared on TV Land, and vice-versa. Unfortunately, these trims robbed some scenes of their full dramatic impact. Some scenes even ceased to make much sense, if one wasn't already familiar with the episode. (I'm hoping it will be released intact on VHS or DVD someday.)
The widow Bolden has "Faith" in Trock
UPDATE! (7/17/12) Yay! The official third season of Bonanza including "The Lonely House" has been released by CBS Home Video! It can be purchased as a complete season or in two parts. Order at Amazon now! :->
"A Woman in the House" - 1967
Despite the similar title, this Bonanza episode is not a sequel to "The Lonely House." In fact, a better title for this episode would be, "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" Kindly Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) takes in "Mary Wharton" (Diane Baker) after she's roughed up by her drunken cowhand husband, "Russ" (Paul Richards). Ben thinks of Mary as a daughter (he's known her family for years), but she mistakes his fatherly concern for luv. Oops! Mary's rarin' to dump Russ, but Ben urges her to wait. Fortunately, Russ cleans up his act, and wins back his bride in the end--with a little help from Ben Cupid, er, Cartwright.
Although this episode isn't as intriguing as "The Lonely House," Paul Richards creates a convincing portrait of a man whose wounded pride nearly costs him everything he holds dear in life. Diane Baker is fine as "Mary," and she and PR are both very moving in their tender reconciliation scene. However, I laughed whenever Mary referred to Ben's sons "Hoss" (Dan Blocker) and "Little Joe" (Michael Landon) as "boys"--sheesh, they were in their 30's by that time! ;->
"Catch as Catch Can" - 1968
Ben, Hoss, Little Joe and Ponderosa foreman Candy Canaday travel to the town of Tin Bucket to sell some cow hides to a man named Amos Parker. Everything goes wrong, though: Candy is accused of cheating at cards; Hoss is slipped some hooch and crashes a wagon full of hides (which somehow turn out to have another ranch's brand on them); Little Joe is falsely arrested as a pickpocket; and, a rumor is spreading that the Cartwrights are broke. It seems like someone is orchestrating these mishaps, but, who would do such a thing? Hmmm...could it be...Paul Richards?! Well, he plays "Parker," and Parker is so mean, it's scary.
Breaking Point (Series) - 1963-'64
After his appearance as a reformed outlaw on Bonanza won critical acclaim, Paul Richards reportedly told his agent that he didn't wish to play "heavies" anymore, only heroes. He felt that playing villains was too "easy" and that he wouldn't really be a successful actor until he played a hero, preferably on a TV series of his own. (Apparently, PR didn't stop to consider the careers of Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and other actors who were quite successful playing both heavies and heroes!) Unfortunately, by the time he issued this edict, PR was pretty much typecast as a bad guy. And, according to TV Guide, he nearly went broke until the starring role of "Dr. McKinley Thompson" on Breaking Point came along.
Dedicated "Dr. Mac" practices in the psychiatric clinic at York Hospital in Los Angeles. Like Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey, he regularly gets advice from an older mentor, "Dr. William Raymer," played by Eduard Franz. (As mentioned above, Breaking Point was spun-off from an episode of Ben Casey.)
Unlike most TV shrinks, Dr. Thompson doesn't encounter many "weirdos" in his practice. Instead, his clientele consists mainly of everyday people who have, for one reason or another, reached their personal breaking point (e.g., a suicidal old codger, a rabbi who's lost his faith, a publisher with a "Don Juan" complex). It's Thompson's job to help them pick up the pieces of their broken lives.
However, Dr. Mac is so good at his job that his clients practically heal themselves. After Thompson points them in the right direction (usually with some sage guidance from Dr. Raymer), the patients become the focus of the stories as they work things out on their own. For example, the depressed old man meets a lonely widow and learns to enjoy life; the rabbi begins to believe again while helping a dying Jew; the randy publisher gets his comeuppance when he's rejected by one his conquests.
In other words, even though he's the "star," Paul
Richards really doesn't get to do much in Breaking Point. The guest
actors get most of the good lines, while Dr. Thompson is mostly left to spout psychiatric jargon and
Dr. Raymer if he was right to tell his patient to face reality. In fact, I've
even seen a few episodes where Thompson hands the patient off to Raymer at
the beginning and then disappears!
Which is too bad, because Richards' portrayal of Dr. Thompson is very thoughtful and sincere. He told an interviewer in 1963, "I've listened to hundreds of...recorded sessions between a psychiatrist and a patient. I've read scores of case histories. I've sat behind one-way glass windows in clinics watching psychiatrists at work. This is the way an actor prepares for a role. "However, because the role of "Dr. Mac" is so limited, PR gets to reveal little of the complexity and vitality that he displayed as a guest-star on Bonanza or Gunsmoke. He seems to be acting in--pardon the expression--a strait-jacket.
here for a more
in-depth look at Breaking Point.
TRIVIA: Paul Richards wasn't the first choice for "Dr. Mac". Veteran television producer Meta Rosenberg stated in an interview that she originally approached Peter Falk, Cliff Robertson, and newcomer Robert Redford for the role. However, none of them wanted to star in a television series at that point (although Robertson and Redford eventually guest-starred in Breaking Point). Ms. Rosenberg didn't mention Paul Richards by name in the interview, but she crassly dismissed him as "an unsuccessful actor" who ended up with the part. She felt the series probably would have succeeded with someone like Redford in the lead. Maybe so, but the fact remains that Paul Richards did an outstanding job as Dr. McKinley Thompson, and viewers protested loudly when Breaking Point was canceled after only one season.
MORE TRIVIA: Jack Kelly of Maverick fame was another actor mentioned for the role of "Dr. Mac", when the series was still under the working title Doctor X.
EVEN MORE TRIVIA: One evening while channel surfing, I landed on the last few minutes of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The "master of suspense", standing in front of a painting which resembled a Rorsach blot, joked that he had created a new "psychiatric series". In what was surely a reference to Breaking Point, Hitchcock explained that the blot wasn't made of ink, but of blood, and his new TV series was titled The Bleeding Point.
The opening, previews, and closing credits to the Breaking Point episode "There Are the Hip and There Are the Square":
Broken Arrow -
"The Desperado" - 1957
In 1870's Arizona territory, Apache Chief Cochise (Michael Ansara) sees a man (Paul Richards) point a gun at him. Cochise shoots the man in the leg with an arrow. But, the man was actually aiming at a cougar that was about to pounce on Cochise. Oops! The guilt-ridden Chief takes the man back to the reservation so his wound can be treated. However, it turns out the man is Bret Younger, a ruthless killer sought by government Indian agent Tom Jeffords (John Lupton). Oops! Nevertheless, Cochise tells Jeffords he won't surrender Younger until his wound heals. Unfortunately, Younger isn't wild about Apache medicine (he strenuously objects to being confined in a sweat lodge). In fact, he even kills the medicine man. Then Cochise gets mad. And, Jeffords gets to escort Younger to an appointment with the hangman.
Although Lupton is about as animated as a saguaro, Ansara does a nice job of playing Cochise. Paul Richards steals the show, though, as the crafty, cantankerous Bret Younger.
"Who Killed Merlin the Great?" - 1964
This snazzy whodunit series starred Gene Barry as "Amos Burke," a suave LAPD police captain who makes his rounds in a chauffeured British motorcar. (Burke must have worked lots of overtime to afford such luxuries.) When "Merlin the Great" is found shot dead after performing his famous "underwater coffin" trick in a hotel swimming pool, Burke must conjure up the killer. Luckily, there's a magician's convention underway at the hotel, and Burke quickly finds some suspects who wanted to make Merlin disappear. Burke investigates several eccentric illusionists, ending with "The Great Grindle" (Paul Richards), a hilariously haughty knife-thrower who takes his "Great" sobriquet a little too literally. He calls himself an "artiste" and insists on rehearsing his act (complete with terrified assistant!) while being interrogated by Burke's associates. He's also way too obvious a suspect to be the culprit (the killer turns out to be a real "square" fellow). Even though he's onscreen for only a few minutes, Paul Richards is a gas as "Grindle." (And, he looks great in that satin shirt...which you can see in color here ;->)
Enjoy PR's amusing appearance as "The Great Grindle":
Killed the Rabbit's Husband?" - 1965
Well, it wasn't Paul Richards, who plays another red herring in his second Burke's Law appearance. PR portrays "Leonardo," a phony hypnotist, or as Burke sarcastically describes him, "a quack of all trades." The captain's career is jeopardized when Leonardo threatens to reveal that Burke is actually an ex-con from Houston named "Frank Duncan"...just kidding! :->
F.B.I. - "The Payoff" - 1973
I have fond memories of watching this series as a child on Sunday nights. My dad called it The F.B.I Story, which was actually the title of a Jimmy Stewart film.
In The Payoff, Paul Richards portrays "Bert R. Powers", a silver-tongued sycophant working for a Detroit mob boss named "Gilford" (Joseph Wiseman, who would later play virtually the same role as a regular in Crime Story). Gilford traffics in illegal aliens and is being investigated by the Feds. After a dock worker (Earl Holliman) witnesses the near-murder of an undercover agent by Gilford's henchman, Powers pays off the man so he'll leave town. However, Gilford would prefer the witness be bumped off, and wants Powers to do the deed. When Powers protests that killing isn't his line of work, Gilford gets mad: "You have a nice voice on the telephone--maybe you should sell it to a radio station or read bedtime stories!" He orders Powers to "get your hands dirty", or the witness won't be the only one who has to worry. Of course, the F.B.I. guys arrive just in time to foil the would-be hitman. (Funny, though--it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys in The Payoff, because they both drive Ford LTDs! ;->)
PR is very watchable as Powers. Although Powers is yet another villain, he's somewhat conflicted. You get the feeling he's bad, but not that bad, until he agrees to go gunning for the witness.
Fugitive - "The Chinese Sunset" - 1966
You know the drill: Although innocent, Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen) is sentenced to death for the murder of his wife. En route to his execution, Kimble is freed by a train wreck and becomes (all together now): "The Fugitive." Kimble furtively moves from place to place, working at odd jobs under different aliases. All the while, he desperately searches for the one-armed man who actually killed his wife, and tries to elude the relentless Lt. Gerard (Barry Morse), who's determined to recapture Kimble.
In this episode, Kimble uses the name "Jack Fickett" while doing virtually every job at the Chinese Sunset, a motel on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. It's the sort of joint where a fur coat worn over a swimsuit is de rigueur poolside attire for the ladies.
Kimble/Fickett meets bookie Eddie Slade (Paul Richards) and Slade's um,
"secretary," Penelope (Laura Devon), when they check into the motel. Slade is up to his cuff-links in
debt, and while he's off trying to raise some cash, Kimble/Fickett plays
"My Fair Floozy" with Penelope. (Penelope wants to impress Eddie by
becoming more educated and hires Kimble/Fickett to tutor her.) In addition to
teaching Penelope proper grammar, Kimble/Fickett also teaches her that You Don't
Have to be a Hustler Like Eddie to Get Ahead in Life. When Eddie returns, he warns Kimble/Fickett to quit messing
with Penelope's head--he prefers his blondes dumb!
An undercover cop (Wayne Rogers) also shows an interest in Penelope, hoping she'll lead him to Slade. Of course, he doesn't realize that a far bigger catch is right under his nose. And, just as the cop figures out who Kimble/Fickett is, enforcers arrive to collect Eddie's debt. Eddie is injured fighting with the enforcers, which gives Kimble the perfect opportunity to slink away unnoticed as the police show up. And, he's on the road again, with a somber send-off from narrator William Conrad.
This is an almost light-hearted episode of The Fugitive, and everyone (including hangdog Janssen) seems to be having a good time. Paul Richards (the official "special guest star") is great as the cynical, self-assured Slade.
PR has his hands full with sassy Laura Devon in this ABC press photo
for "The Chinese Sunset" (1966)
Get Smart -
"Ironhand" - 1969
In one of his strangest roles, Paul Richards appears in this spoofy spy sitcom as "Ironhand," a ruthless industrialist who takes over KAOS. He's called "Ironhand" because, instead of a normal right hand, he has a huge iron fist that he uses to smash things. And, he wants to rule the world with an--well, you know. CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) tries to put the kibosh on him, but Ironhand ends up kiboshing himself. And, that's about the only genuinely funny moment in this otherwise, um, heavy-handed episode.
On the other hand...
I must have been having a bad day the first time I watched "Ironhand." I recently saw it again, and it was really much better than I remembered. It had been one of the first Paul Richards performances I'd viewed after "discovering" him in 2002. All I could think at the time was "Huh?!" But, this time, I noticed things that I didn't before. Like, PR is a scream as Ironhand, and the reason he's so funny is because he's so serious. Impeccably attired in a three-piece suit, Ironhand looks like any captain of industry--he just happens to have a big metal hand. And an ego to match: Informed that Congress won't permit his airline to fly across the Pacific, Ironhand vows to build a freeway to Japan. The rest of the episode is pretty funny, too, especially "Operation Baby Buggy Switch" (don't ask me to explain--it's complicated). Here's some interesting trivia: "Crawford," Ironman's henchman, is played by Edward G. Robinson...Jr., that is. And, during his climactic showdown with Ironhand, Don Adams (as "Maxwell Smart") apparently flubs a line. Laughing at Ironhand, Max apologizes, "Excuse me for laughing in your hand, Mr. Ironface..." But, the talented Adams was probably too busy directing the episode to notice.
At the present time (2014), Get Smart airs on Me-TV.
Gunsmoke "Mr. and Mrs. Amber" - 1956
"Matt Gets It" - 1955 (Premiere episode)
Here, Paul Richards plays dastardly "Dan Grat," who just wants the law to leave him alone so he can do what he feels like doing. Unfortunately, what Grat feels like doing most of the time is shooting people. As the title says, Marshal Matt Dillon gets it, and Grat also gets it--but good--at the end of the episode. Reviewing this episode for the New York Times, TV critic Jack Gould noted that PR gave "an uncommonly good performance as a psychopathic killer."
Portrait of a badman: Paul Richards as "Dan Grat"
In his second Gunsmoke/Marshal Dillon appearance, PR gives a moving performance as "Neil Amber," an impoverished farmer who is finally pushed over the edge by his overbearing in-laws.
"Mr. and Mrs. Amber" - 1956
"Joe Phy" - 1958
PR plays a sheriff who isn't all he's cracked up to be.
"The Jackals" - 1968
Marshal Matt Dillon relentlessly pursues Mel Deevers (PR) and his gang into Mexico after they murder his friend, a sheriff who once sent Deevers to prison. Deevers is one mean hombre: In addition to shooting the sheriff, he finishes off a wounded member of his gang, and then runs off and leaves the rest of the gang to face the wrath of Matt Dillon. But, Deevers doesn't make a clean getaway. He's nearly killed by a wily bandito (played by Tige Andrews, whom PR would meet again in The Mod Squad). And, Matt Dillon finally catches up with him.
This is another fascinating Paul Richards performance. Deevers is a cowardly, cold-blooded killer, but PR still manages to make him into a believable, watchable character rather than a caricature.
UPDATE: The first season of Gunsmoke (including "Matt Gets It") is now available on DVD.
Have Gun - Will Travel
"The Chase" - 1959
Paul Richards plays "Breck," who's part of a posse that reluctantly lets Richard Boone's Paladin join them in the hunt for an alleged murderer. Paladin suspects that someone in the posse is the real culprit. His hunch proves correct--and how.
"Beau Geste" -
Paladin comes to the aid of "John Dobbs" (PR), who's retiring after spending 15 years as a sheriff. Dobbs has many enemies and a secret that could get him--and Paladin--killed. PR is reunited with his Bonanza co-star, Faith Domergue, who plays his worried (and smitten) servant.
Five-O - "Twenty-Four Karat Kill" - 1968
Something fishy is going on: a bar of 24-karat gold has turned up in a tuna's tummy. It's not Charlie's latest bid to impress Starkist--it's part of a smuggler's murderous scheme. And, crooked lawyer Paul Dennison (Paul Richards) is involved in it up to his gills. And, yes, Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) actually barks, "Book 'em, Danno!" as Dennison and pals are busted. Before he books 'em, Danno advises Dennison to find "a real good lawyer." (Yuk, yuk.)
Eye - "With This Ring" -
Kong - "Murder by Proxy" - 1961
This was a series I'd never seen until recently. Aside from its stereotypical view of the natives, Hawaiian Eye isn't too bad. Especially this episode, since it features Paul Richards as the guest baddie. In "With This Ring", Paul robs as "Peter Hughes." Hughes accidentally shot a man while stealing a cache of jewelry, and the heat is on when the man dies. Hughes goes on the lam with his wife, Stella (Ruta Lee), and their small nephew, Stevie (Roger Mobley). As they set sail on a borrowed boat, Hughes discovers that a key piece of jewelry--a diamond ring that can tie him to the killing--is missing. He's unaware that Stevie gave the costly bauble to his little friend, Patty (Terry Burnham), as an "engagement" ring. As the Hughes hightail it back to their former rental home to search for the ring, Patty "hires" one of the Hawaiian Eye detectives to find Stevie. She ends up leading the police to Stevie, and to Hughes.
Not only is Peter Hughes a thief and a killer, he's a grouch, too. But, as usual, Paul Richards makes Hughes a watchable, human character. Plus, he has a great wise-cracking chemistry with Ruta Lee. And, the kids are awfully cute.
But, beware of the show's outlandish theme song. Hear it once, and it's stuck in your head forever: "Hawaiian EYE-YEE!!!"
Highway Patrol - "Blast Area Copter" - 1956
Wow, this show is a lot better than I expected it to be. I'd never seen Highway Patrol before watching this episode, but I knew about it because it was a long-running family joke. When my older brother was little, he mispronounced the title as Highway Fatrol, and that's what my dad called it forever after that. Dad also imitated Broderick Crawford's gruff "10-4!"
So, I wasn't expecting too much from "Blast Area Copter". But, as usual, Paul Richards is, uh, dynamite as a desperate robber who takes a woman motorist hostage smack dab in the middle of a blasting zone. This terse, taut little drama really conveys the suspense of the situation. By the way, the feisty lady hostage is played by an actress named Helene Stanton, who according to the Internet Movie Database, is the mother of celebrity psychiatrist Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Ah-so...Paul Richards play suspect (but not killer) in Hong Kong. This series stars suave Rod Taylor as correspondent "Glenn Evans", and it's filled with action, "Oriental" intrigue and places with names like "The Shark Fin Cafe" where shady characters lurk. PR plays "Perry Beaumont," the owner of an escort, er, "modeling" agency. He talks like Orson Welles at times. And, series regular Lloyd Bochner sounds just like "Higgins" on Magnum, P.I. (which is weird, because Magnum didn't debut for another 20 years...)
Kong - "Murder by Proxy" - 1961
Spy - "The Spy Business" - 1968
There's no business like the spy business, especially when the spies are portrayed by super-cool Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. In this episode, Culp and Cos shadow an East German defector who may need protecting from his protectors, a pair of U.S. Army intelligence officers (played by Dane Clark and Paul Richards) assigned to debrief him in Mexico. There are also hitmen stalking the defector, and one of the intelligence officers seems to be making it awfully easy for them to find their target. PR's character is named "Chanetsov," which automatically makes him the prime suspect, but Culp fears Clark's character (his old friend) may be the traitor. In the end, the whole thing turns out to be a silly game that turns deadly serious when one of the Army agents is killed.
Lassie (a.k.a. Jeff's Collie) - "Blind
Soldier" - 1955
Titled Jeff's Collie in syndication, this was the first version of the Lassie TV series. It focused on the rural Miller family: widowed Ellen; her young son, Jeff; and "Gramps," Ellen's father-in-law and Jeff's grandfather. And, oh yes, Lassie.
In this episode, Lassie is killed by a truck. Not the Lassie, of course--another collie with the same name. The deceased dog belonged to a soldier named Dick Barton (Paul Richards), who is returning to his parents' farm after being blinded in the Korean War. Dick's parents were afraid to tell him that his dog died. Now, they fear that when he returns and his Lassie isn't there, he'll be unable to cope with blindness and the loss of his beloved collie. The Bartons borrow the Miller's Lassie for two weeks, so Dick will think she is his dog and won't fall to pieces.
However, Dick quickly "sees" through their well-meaning deception. When he learns the truth about his dog, he isn't shattered by the news, as his parents feared he would be. Having the "substitute" Lassie around has helped Dick adjust to his new circumstances. But, he knows he really needs a seeing-eye dog, and he returns Lassie to the Millers.
Paul Richards gives a warm, natural performance as Dick Barton. Dick isn't fearful or embittered about his blindness. He's a brave young man who's far more resilient than his overprotective parents realize.
Law and Mr. Jones - "Unbury the Dead" - 1961
This talky drama could just as well be called The Law is Mr. Jones, because attorney "Abraham Lincoln Jones" (James Whitmore) acts like he's the world's sole defender of justice. Everyone else is just too indifferent, corrupt, or busy to care, so, ta-da, it's Mr. Jones to the rescue whenever someone desperately needs a lawyer.
Even if they're a wartime deserter like "Tom
Chambers" (Paul Richards). Chambers has just been released from prison and
claims that his brother stole his inheritance (the family farm) while he was in
the stir. Jones takes the case and travels with Chambers to his hometown to
confront the brother. Due to his deserter status, Tom Chambers is about as popular as malaria
in his hometown, and he's promptly greeted with a rock to the head. The town
doctor is called, and he turns out to be "Jim Chambers" (Harry Townes)--uh
Jim explains to Jones that he'd considered Tom to be dead all these years because of the pain he'd caused. Jones learns that Jim wanted the farm so he could build a badly needed hospital on the land, but Tom wouldn't let him have it. Jones is angered that Tom didn't tell him this, until he discovers that Tom actually has an altruistic idea of his own--he wants to sell the farm and give the money to the families of the National Guard unit he deserted in Normandy on D-Day.
There's really not enough of PR in this episode, but at least he's sharply dressed and gets to ride in Mr. Jones' cool 1961 Thunderbird (as the pic below illustrates).
The Lawless Years - "Louy K" -
Careening black sedans! Blazing tommy guns! A stone-faced crimefighter! Sound like The Untouchables? Well, actually, it's The Lawless Years, a similar series that slightly pre-dated TV's more famous gangster drama. Its plots were loosely based on the exploits of Barney Ruditsky, a real-life New York lawman during Prohibition who is played in the series by James Gregory.
While I've never seen any episodes of The Lawless Years, I know that Paul Richards starred in a five-episode "arc" on the series about a fictionalized crime boss named "Louy K." It would be great if a nostalgic TV channel like Me-TV dusted off The Lawless Years so these episodes could be seen by PR fans.
While that probably won't happen, the first two seasons of The Lawless Years were released on DVD in 2006. But, that didn't help PR fans--he doesn't show up until the third season! :0
Actually, I read on some websites that the third season of The Lawless Years would be released on May 20, 2008. That didn't happen.
But, what's this? A YouTube video posted by "Timeless Media" on April 29, 2009, that shows a snippet of Paul Richards as Louy K! Does this mean we'll finally get to see the Louy K saga?! (SEE ANSWER BELOW...)
12/27/12 - THE ANSWER IS YES! Timeless Media has FINALLY released The Lawless Years - The Complete Series on a 6-DVD set. While it is actually incomplete (it's missing the Mad Dog Coll episode), it does include the entire five-part Louy K saga and the episode Romeo and Rose which also stars Paul Richards! My set is on order and I'll post a review as soon as it arrives. Coincidentally, I also just found an original shooting script for one of the Louy K episodes and will include it in my review.
In the meantime, you can
click here to
read about Paul Richards' acclaimed performance as Louy K on The Lawless
The Lloyd Bridges Show - "Testing Ground" - 1962
No, not Sea Hunt--this is the short-lived series Bridges did after hanging up his scuba gear. Here, he plays "Adam Shepherd," an intrepid reporter who really gets into his work--literally. Whenever Shepherd covers a story, he envisions himself as one of the main characters, and the story becomes the plot of the episode. In "Testing Ground," Shepherd attends a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral, and wonders what it would be like to travel into space. He imagines himself as the commander of a four-man expedition to a barren planet. The story starts out as a Twilight Zone-ish sci-fi tale and then becomes a Christian allegory. The explorers discover that the planet is one big diamond, and are overcome with avarice. All except for "Doc" (Paul Richards), who remains the voice of reason and ends up becoming a martyr. The writing is a little heavy-handed, and the cheesy outer space set makes the original Doctor Who look like Star Wars. But, the performances of Bridges and especially PR make "Testing Ground" worth watching. And, perhaps the plot wasn't so far-fetched: in 2014, it was reported that astronomers had discovered a cooling white dwarf star which was basically an Earth-sized diamond!
Loner - "One of the Wounded" - 1965
Another Lloyd Bridges show. This one was created by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. But, don't look for any bizarre creatures or ironic twist endings here. The Loner concerns a "rootless, restless" veteran who searches for meaning in the post-war west. The post-Civil War west, that is.
As "One of the Wounded" begins, Colton arrives at the farm of Colonel and Mrs. John Phelps. And, not a moment too soon. Mrs. Phelps (Anne Baxter) needs a lot of help with the place, because the Colonel (Paul Richards) was traumatized by the war and can now do little but sit around and--well, look traumatized.
becomes the Phelps' hired hand. This earns him the derision of the local yokels,
who've nastily nicknamed Mrs. Phelps "The Widow." After Colton stands up to
the yokels, they attack the farm by night. Colonel Phelps suddenly regains his senses after
he's nearly hit by a bullet, and is able to defend his home. No
longer needed, Colton bids the Colonel and Mrs. Phelps "adios"
and continues on his rootless, restless way west.
Paul Richards does a fine job with what little he's given to do. Unfortunately, he doesn't get to talk much (he says just one word--"blue"--before the Colonel fully regains his ability to speak at the end of the episode). But, he's able to convey Colonel Phelps' inner immobilization with only a melancholy gaze.
PR's melancholy gaze on The Loner (1965)
McMillan and Wife - "Night of the
Wizard" - 1972
Shades of Breaking Point: Paul Richards plays a solicitous psychiatrist in this episode of McMillan and Wife. But, he's "Dr. Eli Spake," not "Dr. Mac." Actually, Rock Hudson plays "Mac" (Stuart McMillan) and he's not a doctor, he's a police commissioner in San Francisco. Susan Saint James plays "Sally," Mac's ditzy wife. (Did you get all that? There's going to be a quiz. :->) This extremely silly "mystery" concerns a dead man who may still be alive, his emotionally fragile widow (wife?), and a maniacal magician. Hudson looks bored, Saint James looks like a proto-Annie Hall, and the special effects look like they cost about $1.98. (And, if McMillan is the police commissioner in San Francisco, how come he never runs into Karl Malden and Michael Douglas on the streets?) ;->
Mannix - "Who Killed Me?" - 1969
Suave aviation executive Bradley Everett (PR) is killed in a plane crash. Or, so everyone thinks. Then, Everett turns up at the office of P.I. Joe Mannix (Mike Connors), very much alive. He claims his plane was sabotaged and hires Mannix to find out who "killed" him. However, Mannix gets suspicious when Everett's enemies start dropping like flies. Is Everett involved? Well, here's an old Armenian proverb: "When Paul Richards acts innocent in a 1960's action series, watch out..." ;->
PR, looking innocent in Mannix
"The Healer" - 1969
In his first of three Mod Squad appearances, Paul Richards portrays "Asa Lormer," who is sort of a more sinister version of "Leonardo," the quack PR played in Burke's Law (see above). Lormer is a greedy mind-over-matter practitioner who can't really heal anyone--including himself. One of his hapless clients is a wheelchair-bound veteran winningly portrayed by former Dobie Gillis star, Dwayne Hickman.
When PR faces off with Tige Andrews (as "Captain Greer"), it's interesting to see these two talented actors as completely different characters than the bandits they'd portrayed on Gunsmoke a year before.
"The Price of Love" - 1971
I haven't seen this episode yet, but PR appears as "Frank". The plot involves "Squad" member Linc being held hostage with a kidnapped 10 year-old in a desert town. Pics from "The Price of Love" can be viewed here.
"A Gift for Jenny" - 1972
In this episode, Paul Richards plays "Dan Logan," a shifty ex-race car driver who's switched from burning rubber to stealing furs. Logan also kidnaps a model named Jenny and has her fiancé bumped off because he gave Jenny one of Logan's stolen furs. However, Jenny just happens to be a friend of Linc. So, you know Logan's gonna get busted. But, PR has a little fun before that. He (or maybe his stunt double) gets to zoom around in a Porsche (what, not a GTO?) while wearing "mod" sunglasses. Solid...
City - "Strike a Statue" - 1962
"There are eight million stories in the naked city..." In this thought-provoking story, Paul Richards plays "Joseph Irona," a disillusioned poet and freedom fighter determined to stop a famous sculptor (George C. Scott) from finishing a statue which glorifies a once-beloved revolutionary leader who is now a murderous tyrant. Irona even offers the sculptor a large sum of money to destroy the image, but the sculptor refuses the cash and continues his work. So, Irona tries to destroy the statue himself. And, when that doesn't work, he tries to destroy the sculptor...
New Perry Mason - "The Case of the Cagey Cager" - 1973
Actually, there wasn't much wrong with the "old" Perry Mason, but CBS went ahead with this unnecessary remake anyway. If they'd tried something more original, then this series might have been a perfectly adequate legal whodunit along the lines of Matlock. But, calling it The New Perry Mason inevitably prompted comparisons to the original series. After all, Raymond Burr had spent nearly a decade playing Mason, and he and his supporting cast nailed their roles to perfection.
Here, Mason is played by stalwart Monte Markham, who seems to be trying to channel Gregory Peck as "Atticus Finch" in To Kill A Mockingbird. Mason's associates, "Della," "Hamilton Burger," "Lt. Tragg" and "Paul Drake" are present, too, but they're a pretty bland bunch (although the guy playing "Drake" is kinda cute, and Brett Sommers of Match Game fame all-too-briefly perks up the proceedings as a wisecracking secretary).
In "The Case of the Cagey Cager," a former basketball star is hired by "Jules Barron" (Paul Richards), the unscrupulous president of a spurious sports charity. When the cagey cager discovers he's been cheated by the phony fundraiser, he slam-dunks Barron out the window of his high-rise office. The crime is captured on tape, so not even Mason can help the hot-headed hoopster, right? Well, this is still "Perry Mason," so you know the real killer will confess in the courtroom.
The New Perry Mason was quickly sentenced to television oblivion, and when NBC brought back Mason in a successful series of films a decade later, they wisely recast Raymond Burr in his signature role.
PR rides again (1970)
"The Case of the Startled Stallion" - 1959
Paul Richards impersonates an elderly ranch owner at the beginning of the episode and then vamooses. You know they weren't going to waste him in a bit part, though. Sure enough, he re-appears near the conclusion of the episode. I won't give away the ending, but here's a hint: Perry Mason wins!
"The Case of the Melancholy Marksman" - 1962
Harried industrialist Ted Chase (PR) is accused of shooting his wife, Irene. But, no one could really blame him if he did: not only was Irene an adulteress, a wicked stepmother and a blackmailer who was scheming to take over Ted's company--she also killed Ted's first wife. And, poor Ted was about to become her next victim. Although Ted did aim a rifle at Irene, he's not certain if he fired the fatal shot. So, enter Perry Mason...
- "Incident at Barker Springs" - 1959
This episode of Rawhide inspired this website. I happened to catch part of "Incident at Barker Springs" on TV one day and was very impressed by Paul Richards' performance. Although I'd probably seen him in many other TV guest roles over the years, this was the one that finally made me realize what a fine actor PR was. (It only took me, oh, about 30 years to notice!) Afterward, I surfed the web to find out more about him. What I found out is that there wasn't much about him on the web. So, I did some research off-line and...here you are.
I finally saw the entire episode. PR plays "Brazo," a hired gun who wants to leave his violent past behind and become a rancher. Unfortunately, the past catches up to him when he learns his kid brother, "Lance," may be following in his footsteps as a gunfighter. Lance has joined a cattle drive headed up by "Gil Favor" (Eric Fleming) and "Rowdy Yates" (Clint Eastwood), but intends to travel only as far as Barker Springs, where he plans to work as an enforcer for evil town boss "Slate Prell" (played by DeForest Kelley--yep, the real McCoy).
Brazo signs on to the drive to try to dissuade Lance from joining Prell's gang (Brazo had steadfastly refused to work for Prell). Lance argues that gunfighting is about the only work left for him. His face (which he keeps partially hidden behind a bandana) was scarred in a fire, and his overwhelming self-consciousness has made it almost impossible to keep a "normal" job. He heads off to Barker Springs.
Brazo, Favor and Yates ride into town to keep an eye on Lance. They stop at a hotel run by "Rainy Dawson" (where did they get these names?!), played by June Lockhart. Brazo takes a shine to Rainy, a spirited widow whose husband was murdered by Prell. When Prell and his men show up to order Brazo and the drovers to leave town, Rainy chases them out at gunpoint.
Rainy tries to persuade Brazo to stay on in Barker Springs and help the townspeople oust Prell. He tells her that he's through fighting. And, his brother has joined Prell's gang. So, Brazo goes back to the drive.
However, Brazo's outlook changes after Lance rides into the drovers camp, hunched over in the saddle. He's been shot in the back, and dies after telling Brazo that Prell's gang is responsible.
Brazo calmly packs his pistol and returns to Barker Springs. He stops at Rainy's first. Over coffee, she begs him to resolve matters peaceably.
But, Brazo feels he must avenge Lance's murder. He picks off Prell's gang one by one. When he learns that Lance was shot by Prell himself, he fatally blasts Prell with a rifle.
Although he's avenged his brother's death and rid Barker Springs of Slate Prell, Brazo is disgusted with himself. He realizes that he's still a gunfighter at heart.
"I promised myself that the killing would stop--but, it
didn't," he tells Rainy before riding out of town.
Favor warns Rainy that Brazo will never change--he'll just keep moving on, in search of a peace that he'll never find. Rainy disagrees. She believes that Brazo is "hurt," and once he gets over the hurt, he'll return.
Reportedly, "Incident at Barker Springs" was the pilot film for Rawhide, and Paul Richards' performance as Brazo helped sell it as a series. PR brings a quiet, matter-of-fact dignity to his role. Brazo isn't a thoughtless, hair-triggered hothead. He knows what he should do, but still ends up doing exactly the opposite. And, it bothers him.
PR's scenes with June Lockhart are very moving. After all the heartache Rainy had been through, a viewer might wish that, yes, Brazo did change and return to her.
UPDATE: The first season of Rawhide (including Incident at Barker Springs) is now available on DVD.
"The Boss's Daughters" -
In this episode of Rawhide, Paul Richards plays "Vance Caldwell", a rancher returning to the West after a five-year absence. He happens to share a stagecoach ride with Gil Favor's daughters and their aunt, who are also heading west to visit Favor on the trail.
Caldwell can resolve a major delay facing Favor
and his herd. However, he's more concerned with the girls' aunt. He's very fond of the girls, too, and is eager to share his life with the trio. After all, he can offer them a beautiful ranch to live on, horses to ride...and the food is certainly better than Wishbone's cooking.
Caldwell tells Favor he plans to marry the aunt. But, when Favor learns Caldwell also intends to adopt his daughters, he puts his foot down.
Finally, Caldwell realizes he's still mourning his deceased wife and daughter and has been trying to replace them with Favor's daughters and their aunt. He determines to sort out his feelings, and learns he still may have a chance for a new life and love...
I really enjoyed watching Paul Richards in "The Boss's Daughters". He plays another complex character and gets to show his softer side. He also looks very dashing in his rancher duds. :)
Rifleman - "The Trade"
In "The Trade", Paul Richards (looking remarkably like young Johnny Cash) plays reformed outlaw "Sam Morley." There's still a $500 bounty on Morley's head, and he offers an unusual deal to old friend Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors): he'll let Lucas turn him in for the reward, if Lucas will loan him $300 of the money to send Morley's ailing fiancée to St. Louis for medical treatment. McCain agrees to the transaction, but it nearly falls through, thanks to a nasty bounty hunter who's hot on Morley's trail and the fact that Morley's fiancée is actually terminally ill. But, true love (and Lucas' rifle) wins in the end.
"The Trade" is a a nice change for PR. He gets to play a "good guy" and even gets the girl--for a while, anyway. (But he doesn't sing "I Walk the Line." ;->)
Rod Serling's Night Gallery -
"The House" - 1970
Submitted for your approval: Rod Serling's "other" spooky show. I saw NG when it originally aired. I recall that it came on right before my elementary school bedtime, and there was one story in particular that made sleep difficult: a man rejected by his girlfriend exacts his revenge via a monstrous brooch. (Yipes!)
Viewing Night Gallery today, however, I find that most of
its stories aren't very chilling. In fact, some of them are downright silly.
Take "The House." Willowy Elaine Lattimer (played by willowy Joanna Pettet, who used to guest star in everything) is being released from a mental hospital after a bout with depression. She confesses to her psychiatrist (no, not "Dr. Mac") that she's been plagued for years by a recurring dream. In the dream, Elaine is driving in the country and chances upon a house. She knocks on the door of the house, but no one ever answers. Whatever does it mean? Probably nothing, Elaine's shrink assures her, and wishes her good luck.
Now free, Elaine takes a drive in the country. She chances upon a house. She knocks on the door, and--hey, isn't this just like her dream? Yep, except this time, someone calls to her from the trees.
Is it the Sandman? Is it the Boogey Man? No, it's Mr. Peugeot (Paul Richards), the real estate agent. And, guess what? Elaine's "dream" house is for sale! So, she decides to buy it on the spot, even after Peugeot explains that the house is rumored to be haunted.
And, Elaine lives happily ever after, right?
Not exactly. (This is Night Gallery, after all.) Elaine settles into the house, but whenever she falls asleep, she's awakened by a knock at the front door. She rushes (in slow motion) to answer the door, but no one is there! Until she finally meets the "ghost". And, then Elaine presumably keeps having the same dumb dream, over and over...and misses meeting herself at the front door, over and over. The end.
As Count Floyd would say, "Oooo, that's really scary,
Since Paul Richards usually played a bad guy (and since this is Night Gallery), you expect him to do something sinister in The House. In fact, after what seems like the 500th shot of Pettet driving or running to the door, you wish PR would do something sinister, like steal her car or foreclose on the mortgage. But, no, he's simply a harmless real estate agent. Incidentally, this story was directed by John Astin. You'd think he'd know more about haunted houses, since he starred as "Gomez" in the original Addams Family sitcom!
NEW! - Watch The House on hulu.com!
Route 66 - "An
Absence of Tears" - 1961
Although I've always dug the show's jazzy theme song, I'd never seen a single episode of Route 66, until recently.
In An Absence of Tears, newlywed Donna Stevens (Martha Hyer) is widowed when her groom is gunned down after witnessing the murder of a gas station attendant. Donna vows to catch her husband's killers. Which may not be easy: Donna is blind.
But, she's hardly helpless. After Donna returns to her job as a dance instructor, Tod (Martin Milner) and Buz (George Maharis) park their Corvette to take cha-cha lessons from her. They are touched by her story, and she asks them to buy her a gun (for "protection," she insists). They do, and then regret it when they realize how determined Donna is to avenge her husband's death.
Donna also contacts a former student, Rudy (Paul Richards), a gambler with "connections." Rudy wanted to marry Donna, but she turned him down. She says she'll give him another chance at romance if he can find the names of the men who murdered her husband. Rudy eagerly gets the names for Donna, but when he eagerly tries to collect his payment from Donna, Tod and Buz show up to save the day. Meanwhile, Donna slips out and confronts the killers.
But, I wondered why Donna didn't just have "Rex," her
seeing-eye dog, track down the culprits--after all, he was played by Rin Tin
Paul Richards is great as the sensual yet sentimental Rudy. Incidentally, he's shown getting a massage in his first scene, wearing only a towel, but, alas, remains fully clothed for the rest of episode. ;->
film) - 1973
Savage was the pilot for a proposed TV series. Judging from its 90-minute length and similar production design, I'm guessing that it may have been considered for NBC's Mystery Movie anthology (home of rotating whodunits such as Columbo, McCloud, et al.). In any case, Savage was reportedly deemed "too controversial" to be picked up as a series, because it dealt with political scandal, and this was the Watergate era. However, I think Savage was probably too good to be a series.
After being forgotten for years, Savage aired in 2003 under the now late and lamented Trio cable network's "Brilliant But Cancelled" banner (although in this case, shouldn't that be "Brilliant But Rejected," since Savage was never a series?) Semantics aside, the film stars Martin Landau as "Paul Savage," the crusading anchor of a 60 Minutes-like TV news magazine. Barbara Bain (then Mrs. Landau) portrays the show's producer. Of course, Landau and Bain had previously starred in Mission Impossible and would go on to star in Space: 1999.
But, that wasn't the main reason I enjoyed watching Savage.
Savage was directed by a gifted young man, who, at the time, had been helming TV films for only four years. You may have heard of him: Steven Spielberg. (Savage was the last TV film Spielberg directed at that time, and I'm told he went on to have some success with theatrical films. ;->) As he did in Duel, Spielberg uses creative cinematic and lighting techniques to heighten the suspense in Savage.
But, that wasn't the main reason I enjoyed watching Savage.
No, the main reason I enjoyed watching Savage was because Paul Richards plays a suave villain who is captured by a candid camera.
Incidentally, PR's slyly sleazy boss is played by Will Geer (goodnight, Grandpa!) Plus, as a bonus, Pat Harrington, Jr. (another of my favorite actors) briefly appears as a federal agent.
Paul Richards gives another finely shaded, multi-layered
performance as Harry. And, he actually gets quite romantic here--too bad he's a
baddie! This episode is also a cut above because it was directed by Robert
Another interesting fact: This series was produced by Desilu!
"City Without a Name" - 1961
Paul Richards guest-stars as "Sebastian," a suave mob enforcer with a penchant for gambling. He almost lives to the end of the episode, but it wasn't in the cards. (Too bad--he looked cool in that fedora...;->)
"The Giant Killer" - 1963
In his second Untouchables appearance, PR portrays "Lou Sultan," a slick hood married to the daughter of his former boss, a mobster named "Ed Monte." When Monte delivers some counterfeit money, someone squeals to the Feds, and "Daddy" ends up in prison. Everyone suspects the informer was Lou--especially Monte, who breaks out of prison seeking revenge. (However, it turns out the informer was actually someone even closer to Monte.)
Paul Richards is marvelously entertaining as Sultan. His scenes with Robert Stack's deadpanned "Eliot Ness" are classic. Another stand-out actor in this episode is Karl Lukas as Monte's luggish but loyal bodyguard.
Virginian - "Strangers at Sundown" - 1963
"Judge Henry Garth" (Lee J. Cobb) and his daughter "Betsy" (Roberta Shore) are among the passengers aboard a stagecoach that's waylaid by outlaws. After the driver is killed in the ensuing gun battle, Judge Garth guides the stage to a remote way station where he and the other passengers take refuge. But, the outlaws are lurking outside. Their leader, "Pauk" (Paul Richards), insists that there'll be no trouble, as long as a passenger named "George Wilson" surrenders to him. And, if he doesn't surrender, there'll be big trouble.
Just one problem: there is no passenger named George Wilson. The judge parleys with Pauk and learns that one of the stage passengers betrayed the gang and is now traveling under an assumed name. Is it the garrulous salesman (Harry Morgan)? The mysterious man from Philadelphia (Richard Anderson)? The young husband (Skip Homeier)?
When "George Wilson" finally reveals himself, there's another problem: Pauk told Judge Garth he intends to kill Wilson after he surrenders, to avenge the gang members who were killed when he betrayed them. Although it endangers their own lives, the other passengers refuse to send Wilson to his death. So, Pauk and his gang decide to come in after him...
This is an interesting episode of The Virginian. It contains lots of rip-roaring western action, but it also contains lots of ruminating about life and death. (Sort of like "Owen Wister meets Clifford Odets.") As usual, Paul Richards is excellent as the evil but eloquent "Pauk," and the rest of the cast (including Arthur Hunnicutt as the loquacious station master) is also first-rate. It's also interesting because "The Virginian" (James Drury) doesn't appear at all in this episode (aside from the famous opening credits!)
The Westerner - "Mrs. Kennedy" - 1960
The Westerner is a fondly remembered series that lasted just 13 episodes. Created and produced by the legendary Sam Peckinpah, The Westerner may have been doomed by its "adult" nature (it was violent, and characters said "hell" and "damn", which was pretty daring for a TV show in 1960). And, it was regularly outgunned in the ratings by The Flintstones.
At any rate, The Westerner is different than most TV westerns of the time. Its protagonist, "Dave Blassingame" (played by a laconic Brian Keith), more or less drifts through life. Unlike Paladin or Marshal Dillon, Blassingame doesn't ride in to save the day. In fact, it would probably be better for all concerned if Blassingame just kept on riding.
Blassingame tries to make everything turn out right, but everything usually turns out wrong. For instance, in one episode he tries to rescue a former love from prostitution, only to find out that she doesn't want to be rescued! Plus, Blassingame's dog, "Brown" (the same mutt who starred in the film Old Yeller), is dopey and disloyal, and sometimes makes things even worse.
In "Mrs. Kennedy", Blassingame is hired to help out at a decrepit ranch owned by "Marsh Kennedy" (Paul Richards). Marsh tells Blassingame that he only hired him because he's a friend of his wife Margaret's wealthy uncle, who is visiting. As soon as the uncle leaves, Marsh wants Blassingame gone, too. However, Margaret Kennedy is immediately enthralled with "Curly Head Dave" and insists that he stay on.
Mrs. Kennedy's uncle, Henry, wants to take "Margie Lee" back to "civilization". He offers a meager handout to Marsh, which the needy rancher accepts. However, when Uncle Henry refuses to invest in the failing ranch (dismissing it as "460 acres of sand"), Marsh insults him. Uncle Henry angrily demands that Marsh return the money he gave him.
Then, to make matters worse, Margaret informs Marsh that their marriage is over, and she intends to leave him.
The prospect of losing his wife and home unhinges Marsh. He dispatches the uncle, and almost dispatches Blassingame, too, but his pitchfork is no match for Blassingame's quick draw. Before dying, Marsh tells Blassingame to take care of Mrs. Kennedy. And, that's just what he does. Blassingame reminds Margaret that Marsh was her man, and even though he may not have seemed like much of a husband, he cared about her, and his corpse deserves better than "being stepped over so you could get to my horse." Blassingame and Brown ride away without her.
"Mrs. Kennedy" is a dark and disturbing tale. Although he's stuck playing yet another husband who comes undone (shades of his roles in "Mr. and Mrs. Amber" on Gunsmoke and in "Catch as Catch Can" on Bonanza), Paul Richards turns in a riveting performance as Mr. Kennedy.
Zane Grey Theater - "The
Scaffold" - 1958
John Hart (Paul Richards) drunkenly guns down an innocent man, and the sheriff (Dick Powell) of Spanish Gap has his hands full trying to keep the town from angrily lynching Hart.