After 15 years of acting in television. Bruce Kirby made his feature film debut in 1970’s CATCH-22. The paradoxical term “Catch-22” is defined in Buck Henry’s script for the 1970 film as follows: Bombadier “Captain John Yossarian” (Alan Arkin) says to “Doc Daneeka” (Jack Gilford) “Let me get this straight. In order to be grounded I have to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded—that means I’m not crazy anymore and I have to keep flying.” The doctor replies, “You got it. That’s Catch-22.”
In 1966, Columbia Pictures, which had bought the film rights to Joseph Heller’s best-selling 1961 novel, CATCH-22, a year-and-a-half earlier for $150,000, sold the property to producer Martin Ransohoff at Filmways, Inc. During the time Columbia tried to develop the project, actor Jack Lemmon wanted to portray Yossarian, and directors Richard Brooks and Richard Quine separately worked on pre-production, but none of these men were involved after Filmways took over the project. Heller was reportedly unhappy with Brooks and Quine because he felt them “incapable of pursuing the wildly satirical (and anti-military) point of view of his novel.”
Filmways had already attached director Mike Nichols to the project at the time of purchase. Buck Henry, in his second collaboration with Mike Nichols, wrote the screenplay, working on it for two years. Bruce Kirby played an unnamed doctor in the film. The film’s budget, according to the Los Angeles Times, was $15 million.
CATCH-22 debuted in Westwood, CA, on 24 June 1970 to record opening grosses. Reviews were mixed, however. Variety called it “the most expensive Cinema-of-the-Absurd film ever made,” while the Los Angeles Times found it “awfully good, and also a disappointment” because of its “chilly detachment.” A month later, Variety praised CATCH-22 as Paramount’s “heftiest breadwinner…with gross to date of approximately $2,500,000 from 22 first engagements.” The film ultimately grossed $38 million, making it the 10th highest grossing film of 1970.
Although Andre Previn had been mentioned as a possible composer for the film’s score during pre-production, the film was released without an original music score.
Wow. Had no idea he was still around. It's funny, too, when you think about "TV actors" like him, Bing Russell and James Broderick and how they were outshined by their sons. Rance Howard, too, for that matter. Anyway, Bruce K's small role in Stand By Me has always stood out for me.
In 1971’s HOW TO FRAME A FIGG, Don Knotts plays “Hollis Figg,” a dim-witted city bookkeeper who is being set up to take the fall for the city commission’s corruption. Bruce Kirby plays “Dale Groat” in the film. This comedy was directed by Alan Rafkin and scored by Vic Mizzy. The film’s main title was released on a 2001 Mizzy compilation CD from Percepto Records.
After losing 9 years, 9 months, and 13 days to prison, cowboy J.W. COOP (Cliff Robertson) is released to return to life as a professional rodeo cowboy in the 60's. Determined to make up for the lost “prime” years of his career, he doggedly goes forward, and learns that not only has the business of rodeo changed during his incarceration, but society as a whole has made dramatic changes as well. Bruce Kirby had a small part as a “diesel tanker driver” in the film.
Cliff Robertson, wrote, produced, and directed the 1971 film in addition to starring in it. Don Randi provided the unreleased score. The production was shot in just 35 days for a low $736,000 and grossed $2.2 million at the box office.
In ANOTHER NICE MESS, two bumbling friends, “Richie” (Rich Little), who is President of the United States, and “Spiro” (Herb Voland), who is his Vice-President, become involved in a series of misadventures in Washington, D.C. While Richie deals with peace demonstrations and other tribulations of his presidency, Spiro lusts after his secretary. As the two men watch the television program “ABC Wide World of Sports,” they get high eating cookies laced with marijuana. Meanwhile, an elderly, Hawaiian-shirt wearing Adolf Hitler (Bruce Kirby) disguises himself as a mailbox and is killed when someone throws a bomb inside. Bruce Kirby received his first poster credit for the film.
This was the first film to be directed by Bob Einstein, who had been one of the writers on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” the late-1960s CBS television series. Comedian Tom Smothers financed the film's production with his company, Smo-Bro International Productions, on a budget variously reported in news items as between $250,000 and $1,000,000. The 1972 film barely played outside of Los Angeles. Bob Emenegger provided the unreleased score.
In THE MARCUS-NELSON MURDERS, New York homicide detective “Lt. Theo Kojack” (Telly Savalas) begins to suspect that the black teenager accused of murdering two white girls is being framed by his fellow detectives. Bruce Kirby had a small role as “Sgt. Dan McCartney” in the film.
This 1973 CBS television movie was the pilot film for the series “Kojak.” (The “c” in the character’s name was removed for the series). Telly Savalas' real-life brother George Savalas appears in this film, but playing a different character than the “Det. Stavros” character he would play throughout the later “Kojak” series. Bruce Kirby would appear in six episodes of the series as “Sgt. Al Vine.”
Joseph Sargent won an Emmy for his direction, as did Abby Mann for his teleplay for this film. Mann had originally written the piece as a theatrical film, but no studio wanted to produce it due to its negative portrayal of the police force. Billy Goldenberg was Emmy-nominated for his score. The film was released as a theatrical feature overseas.
Bruce Kirby had his first regular television series role playing a captain of detectives in the action comedy series “Holmes and Yoyo”. As “Capt. Harry Sedford,” Kirby paired hard luck police detective “Alexander Holmes” (Richard B. Schull) with an android partner, “Gregory 'Yoyo' Yoyonovich” (John Schuck).
Andrea Howard and Bruce Kirby in “Holmes and Yoyo”
ABC premiered the half-hour series on Saturday, 25 September 1976 at 8 PM. The timeslot was dominated by “The Jeffersons” on CBS (the #24-rated series of the season) for the comedy crowd, and “Emergency!” on NBC, for the action crowd. The fanciful “Holmes and Yoyo” couldn’t find any space and was cancelled after 13 episodes.
In 1979’s FYRE, when a young woman (Lynn Theel) travels from her Midwestern home town to the fast-paced streets of Los Angeles, she gets sucked into the dark world of prostitution. Bruce Kirby played the girl’s father in the film.
Lynn Theel and Bruce Kirby in FYRE
Richard Grand directed and co-wrote the film, which had an unreleased score by Jesse Frederick. The film had scant theatrical release.
In THE MUPPET MOVIE “Kermit the Frog” (Jim Henson) and his newfound friends trek across America to find success in Hollywood, but a frog-legs merchant is after Kermit. Bruce Kirby played a “Gate Guard” in the film.
James Frawley directed the 1979 release. The film received two Academy Award nominations in the categories of: Music (Original Song Score and Its Adaptation-or-Adaptation Score) for the song score by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher and adaptation score by Paul Williams, and Music (Original Song) for “The Rainbow Connection,” music and lyrics by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher.
Williams and Ascher lost the scoring Oscar to Ralph Burns for ALL THAT JAZZ and lost the song Oscar to David Shire and Norman Gimbel for the song "It Goes Like It Goes" from NORMA RAE. The MUPPET MOVIE soundtrack was released on an Atlantic Records LP. It was re-issued on CD by Jim Henson Records in 1993 and by Walt Disney Records in 2013.
THE MUPPET Movie cost $8.8 million to produce, with another $6 million being spent on advertising and promotion. The film came in as the 13th highest grossing film of 1979, taking in $65.2 million in the U.S. alone.
Det. Jack “Shannon” is a New York cop and a single father. He decides to move to San Francisco so that his late wife's parents can help him take care of his son. So, he calls in a few favors to get a job with the local police. His new boss, “Lt. Rudy Maraga” (Michael Durrell), doesn't welcome him warmly because he doesn't like the fact that Shannon got a job that should go to someone local and that he pulled some strings to get his job. Bruce Kirby plays “Det. George Schmidt,” one of Shannon’s colleagues.
This series was CBS’ and Universal’s reward to Kevin Dobson for his 5-year-long role as “Det. Bobby Crocker” on the popular series “Kojak” (1973-78). CBS premiered “Shannon” on Wednesday, 11 November 1981 at 10 PM. The show competed against another crime drama, “Quincy, M.E.” on NBC, and against “Dynasty” on ABC, the #19-ranked show of the season. “Shannon” couldn’t find an audience, and was cancelled after seven episodes, leaving two more unaired. John Cacavas provided the series’ theme music.
SWEET DREAMS was a 1985 biopic of country singer Patsy Cline (played by Jessica Lange). In 1957, Cline made her first national television appearance on the variety show “Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts.” Bruce Kirby played Arthur Godfrey in the film. Karel Reisz directed the picture. None of Charles Gross' score appeared on the MCA soundtrack CD, which was made up exclusively of early 1960s recordings of Patsy Cline. The film grossed a below-average $9.1 million.
In STAND BY ME, “Gordie Lachance” (Wil Wheaton) tries to cope with the death of his brother (John Cusack) as he spends the last few days of the summer before middle school with his friends “Chris Chambers” (River Phoenix), “Teddy Duchamp” (Corey Feldman), and “Vern Tessio” (Jerry O’Connell). When Vern learns about where a missing boy’s body is, the group sets out to be the heroes and find it on a trek through the Maine countryside. Unfortunately, the town thugs led by “‘Ace’ Merrill” (Keifer Sutherland) also know the location of Ray Brower’s body and intend to claim it themselves. Bruce Kirby plays store owner “Mr. Quidacioluo” who has a last name that is nearly identical to Kirby’s own real birth name (Quidaciolu).
Bruce Kirby in STAND BY ME
Rob Reiner directed the 1986 film. None of Jack Nitzsche’s score appeared on the Atlantic Records song-track CD. The $8 million film was a big hit, coming in at #14 at the domestic box office, with a $52.3 million gross.
In ARMED AND DANGEROUS, fired cop “Frank Dooley” (John Candy) and useless lawyer “Norman Kane” (Eugene Levy) sign up as security guards, and find they've joined a corrupt union. Bruce Kirby played a Police Captain in the film.
Mark L. Lester directed this 1986 comedy. Harold Ramis wrote and executive produced the film, but asked to have his name removed from the producer credits because he did not like the final cut of the film. Bill Meyers’ score claimed one of the ten tracks on the Manhattan Records song-track LP. The album has not been re-issued on CD. The $12.5 million ARMED AND DANGEROUS made it into the top 50 films of the year, with a $20 million domestic gross.
1987’s HAPPY NEW YEAR was adapted from the 1973 French film “La Bonne Annee,” directed and co-written by Claude Lelouch, about a jewelry heist in Cannes, France. In adapting the screenplay for American audiences, writer Warren Lane set the tale in the wealthy town of West Palm Beach, FL. (“Warren Lane” was a pseudonym for writer Nancy Dowd.) In the film, small time crooks “Nick” (Peter Falk) and “Charlie” (Charles Durning) have an elaborate plan to rob an exclusive jewelry store. Claude Lelouch makes a cameo appearance in this film as a man on a train. Bruce Kirby plays a taxi driver in the film.
The producers planned to shoot the movie on location in West Palm Beach, but the city refused to issue filming permits. The city council voted unanimously in May 1985 to ban all commercial filming, saying they did not need the traffic jams and tourists associated with filming. However, bowing to pressure from state officials, the city council ultimately did permit the production to film shots of star Peter Falk arriving at the ritzy Breakers Hotel and also of the city’s exclusive shopping district, Worth Avenue. However, the Worth Avenue footage could only be shot from a moving vehicle. Producer Jerry Weintraub instead spent almost $1 million building a set duplicating Worth Avenue in a Fort Lauderdale, FL, warehouse.
Columbia Pictures planned to release the film in fall 1986, but studio officials were not pleased with the final product. A 25 March 1986 Los Angeles Daily News item reported the film might never be released. Ultimately, HAPPY NEW YEAR received a limited release in the summer of 1987, opening on 7 August 1987 in New York City, Los Angeles, and a few other cities.
John G. Avildsen directed the film, which grossed only $41,000 at the box office. The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Makeup, but otherwise has fallen into obscurity. Bill Conti’s score has not had a release.
THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN was a comedic take-off on Alfred Hitchcock’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. In the film, bitter ex-husband “Owen” (Danny DeVito) wants his former spouse “Margaret” (Kate Mulgrew) dead. At the same time, put-upon momma's boy “Larry Donner” (Billy Crystal) wants his mother (Anne Ramsey) dead. Who will pull it off? And how? Bruce Kirby had a supporting role in the film as “Detective DeBenedetto.”
When producer Larry Brezner offered Danny DeVito the role of “Owen,” DeVito agreed only if he could direct the picture, which marked his feature film directorial debut. David Newman’s score was released by Intrada in 2007. The 1987 release was #13 at the box office for the year, with a $57.9 million gross.