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 Posted:   Feb 18, 2024 - 12:23 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

After the cancellation of “Baretta,” Robert Blake returned to feature films. COAST TO COAST was a road film in which “Madie Levrington” (Dyan Cannon), a wealthy neurotic woman, escapes from a New York mental asylum, and hitches a ride back to California with “Charles Callahan” (Robert Blake), a moody down-on-his-luck cowboy trucker. They fall in love with each other while on the run from bounty hunters and a repo man.

Joseph Sargent directed the 1980 film. Stanley Weiser’s script was supposed to be a drama. But Robert Blake felt that the film should be a comedy instead. So, the script was rewritten during production to make it funnier.

Cannon and Blake received training as truck drivers from instructor Frank Santhuff at the Federal Truck Driving School. The actors learned to drive GMC 5-Star General tractor-trailer trucks equipped with thirteen gears, with a weight of more than thirty tons when fully loaded.

Robert Blake in COAST TO COAST



Animal actors included fifty goats and sheep, as well as cows, steers, and a bull, comprising a herd loaded into a trailer bound for the West Coast. The bull was actually played by three bulls, two of which were used for close-ups because of their tamer dispositions, while a 1,550-pound, Brangus bull named Bumper was used in a chase sequence with Blake. After filming, the cattle returned to the rodeo circuit.

A mansion set was built on Stage 30 at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. The set was also used for the film’s climactic cattle stampede, which could only be shot once due to the damage incurred. The stampede sequence utilized six cameras.

California locations stood in for Pennsylvania; the Rocky Mountains; Kansas City, MO; hills in the Midwest; and southern waterfronts. The filmmakers initially chose Stockton because they received great cooperation from local authorities, in filming a section of freeway. However, even as the sequence was written out of the script, Stockton became a double for Kansas City. Location manager Mike Meehan said that the filmmakers might have spent more on per diem costs and transporting the production in and out of the city, but it was balanced by having local cooperation and flexibility, which made for a faster filming schedule.

The film received lukewarm reviews. In her 3 October 1980 New York Times review, Janet Maslin characterized the film as a pleasant diversion but faulted it for its television comedy laughs. None of Charles Bernstein’s score appeared on the song-track LP released by Full Moon Records. The LP has not been re-issued on CD. The film grossed a below-average $4.5 million.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 18, 2024 - 12:40 PM   
 By:   Indy1981   (Member)

Season 3 (1976-77) saw “Baretta” facing new competition: the tail end of the “NBC Movie of the Week” and CBS’s powerhouse series “All In the Family” (the #12 series that season) and “Alice” (the #30 series). But “Baretta” bested them all, finishing in the #8 spot of the most popular series.

In Season 4 (1977-78), ABC moved “Baretta” to the 10 PM slot on Wednesdays, to make room for its second-season blockbuster “Charlie’s Angels” at 9 PM. Despite the fact that “Charlie’s Angels” was a strong lead-in (the #4 series of the season), “Baretta” dropped out of the top 30 shows, even against the moderate competition of “The CBS Wednesday Night Movies” and the soon-cancelled new NBC series “Big Hawaii.” “Baretta” itself was cancelled after 82 episodes.


It's strange how one year the show would finish in the top 10, and in the next drop out of the top 30. Perhaps it's a combination of (rapidly!) changing tastes and changing time slots? I wonder what other shows from the 1970s and '80s suffered the same severe ratings drop in successive years like "Baretta."

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 18, 2024 - 4:05 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

It's strange how one year the show would finish in the top 10, and in the next drop out of the top 30. Perhaps it's a combination of (rapidly!) changing tastes and changing time slots? I wonder what other shows from the 1970s and '80s suffered the same severe ratings drop in successive years like "Baretta."


One source says that "Baretta" ended up in 61st place in the ratings during its last season. Its competition, The CBS Wednesday Night Movie and NBC's "Big Hawaii", ended up in 48th place and 99th place, respectively. The Movie survived, Big Hawaii and Baretta did not.

Only four series with ratings lower than Baretta's were renewed for the 1978-79 season: CHiPs (63), Operation Petticoat (68), The Hardy Boys Mysteries (69), and Wonder Woman (71). CHiPs was the only one that prospered, jumping up to 25th place. The other three were cancelled.

You are probably right about the changing tastes. The tough crime dramas of the early 1970s (Kojak, Baretta, Mannix) were losing favor. The only top 30 shows that could be considered crime dramas in 1977-78 were Charlie's Angels (#4), Barnaby Jones (24), and Hawaii 5-O (26). Six of the top 10 shows were sitcoms.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 18, 2024 - 11:03 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Screenwriter Charles Eastman wrote the screenplay for SECOND-HAND HEARTS, then titled “The Hamster of Happiness,” in 1969 with the intention of making his directorial debut with the film. Warner Bros. made a deal with Eastman to direct, which included a second script by Eastman, THE ALL-AMERICAN BOY (1973). However, the Warner Bros. deal put THE ALL-AMERICAN BOY in first position, and Eastman made his directorial debut on that modestly budgeted film starring Jon Voight. Eastman went over budget, and the studio, unhappy with the rough cut, removed Eastman from the project. Warner Bros. recut the film, and eventually released it in New York in October 1973, where it quickly died.

Eastman’s deal with Warner Bros. had him directing “The Hamster of Happiness” as his second film, and the studio wanted to cast Jon Voight and Goldie Hawn. Eastman had revised the screenplay, and principal photography was scheduled to begin in late February 1970. However, due to the problems with THE ALL-AMERICAN BOY, the studio’s enthusiasm for “The Hamster of Happiness” cooled. Eastman decided to break with the studio and offered to buy back the script. He later claimed that the studio made $14,000 on the deal.

Eastman repeatedly attempted to set up the project with himself as director, but repeatedly ran into resistance with his insistence on directing. By early 1978, Eastman was in debt, exhausted by the struggle, and ready to move on to other projects, when he was approached by actor Robert Blake and his producing partner, James William Guercio. He accepted their offer, and the script was optioned through Guerico’s Caribou Productions. They brought the film to director Hal Ashby, who had first been interested in “The Hamster of Happiness” in 1971, but had backed off when he learned Eastman wanted to direct.

In the film, Robert Blake leads the cast as “Loyal,” an alcoholic car-wash attendant who, on his most recent bender, married a saloon singer named “Dinette” (Barbara Harris). Loyal's new wife is a widow with three kids who are currently in another Texas town staying with her in-laws. Even though Loyal loses his job, Dinette won't let him out of the marriage. Instead, she compels him to take her to get her youngsters, and then to drive them all from Texas to California. SECOND-HAND HEARTS is a road film that spends its running time looking at the oddballs they meet on the way.

Robert Blake and Barbara Harris in SECOND-HAND HEARTS



Hal Ashby had recently signed an agreement to direct several films for Lorimar Productions, and was scheduled to begin production on BEING THERE (1979) in fall 1978. Ashby decided to speed up the production process of his films, and suggested shooting “The Hamster of Happiness” and BEING THERE back-to-back, with a six-week hiatus between the two films. And then he would simultaneously edit both films in 1979. Ashby wanted to experiment by putting one film aside to obtain distance and objectivity while he filmed the second project.

The project was budgeted at $4.5 million and principal photography began 18 July 1978 in El Paso, TX. Reportedly, the tight shooting schedule resulted in a strained production. The 5 September 1979 Variety announced that United Artists, which was handling distribution, changed the title to SECOND-HAND HEARTS.

United Artists was contracted to distribute Lorimar’s productions through the end of 1981, but the companies terminated the agreement early, in July 1980. United Artists had planned to release the long delayed SECOND-HAND HEARTS in fall 1980, but its release was now in limbo as Lorimar considered distribution options, including setting up its own distribution unit.

The 10 September 1980 Variety reviewed the film at the 1980 Montreal World Film Fest, noting it was a last-minute addition and one of a group of American films having trouble getting distribution deals and release dates. The review noted the audience was “unenthusiastic” and many attendees walked-out during the showing. The film was finally released by Paramount on 8 May 1981 to negative reviews. An article in the December 1981 Rolling Stone, titled “Big Bucks, Big Losers – Twenty-four films that bombed in 1981,” reported the production budget was $7 million and domestic film rentals were less than $10,000. The film’s score, by Willis Alan Ramsey, has not had a release.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 4:20 AM   
 By:   Indy1981   (Member)

You are probably right about the changing tastes. The tough crime dramas of the early 1970s (Kojak, Baretta, Mannix) were losing favor. The only top 30 shows that could be considered crime dramas in 1977-78 were Charlie's Angels (#4), Barnaby Jones (24), and Hawaii 5-O (26). Six of the top 10 shows were sitcoms.

While not to the extreme of Baretta's fate, some years later, the highly-rated Magnum, P.I. and Simon & Simon would drop from the top ten into the lower depths of the ratings in no small part due to the rise of another group of sitcoms which changed the TV landscape.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 3:30 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

While not to the extreme of Baretta's fate, some years later, the highly-rated Magnum, P.I. and Simon & Simon would drop from the top ten into the lower depths of the ratings in no small part due to the rise of another group of sitcoms which changed the TV landscape.


Here's the top 10 (pre-strike) shows of 2022-23:

1. NFL Sunday Night Football (NBC) 18,136 (audience in thousands)
2. Yellowstone (Paramount Network) 11,550
3. NFL Monday Night Football (ESPN) 10,138
4. NCIS (CBS) 9,833
5. FBI (CBS) 9,524
6. NFL Thursday Night Football (Amazon) 9,446
7. Young Sheldon (CBS) 9,287
8. Chicago Fire (NBC) 9,253
9. Blue Bloods (CBS) 9,242
10. Ghosts (CBS) 9,085

Three crime dramas, 2 other dramas, 3 sports, 2 sitcoms.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 3:32 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

After two feature film flops, Robert Blake returned to television in a character he created. Blake created the private eye character “Joe Dancer”, and, after considerable haggling, negotiated a deal with Filmways Television and NBC for three two-hour made-for-television films, with an option to develop the character into a series if it was successful. Blake wanted to have a say about scripts and direction and a lot of other not-so-incidental details.

The first film, “The Big Black Pill”, was written by Michael Butler and directed by Reza Badiyi. In the film, Joe Dancer, a slightly seedy, smart-alecky detective, is given a big-money case by “Tiffany Farinpour” (JoBeth Williams), whose family includes powerful politicians. Tiffany needs Joe to find her younger brother “David” (Kevyn Major Howard) who has left the family under a cloud.

The film aired on NBC on 29 January 1981. It was scored by George Romanis. The film did OK in the weekly ratings, landing among the top 30 shows aired that week.




Less than two months later, Joe Dancer was back in his second case, “The Monkey Mission”. The film had Joe Dancer teaming up with a chimpanzee, named “Gregor,” and the trainer “Jimmy Papadopolous” (John Fiedler), who happens to be an expert sneak thief, against an electronics genius of questionable repute, named “Stump Harris” (Keenan Wynn), to steal back a priceless vase looted from a family collection during World War II.

Burt Brinckerhoff directed a script by Robert Crais. The film, which was again scored by George Romanis, aired on NBC on 23 March 1981.




The second Joe Dancer film wasn’t as well-received as the first, and NBC decided not to make a series offer to Blake. The third film was kept on the shelf while Blake went off to make two unrelated television films. Joe Dancer finally returned for his third outing in “Murder 1, Dancer 0” (aka “The Big Trade”), when NBC decided to play off the film in early summer (5 June) of 1983.

The story, written by Ed Waters, found Dancer framed for manslaughter while trying to uncover a Hollywood scandal that could ruin a studio and destroy a top star's career. Reza Badiyi again directed and George Romanis scored the film.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 3:39 PM   
 By:   Indy1981   (Member)

Here's the top 10 (pre-strike) shows of 2022-23:

1. NFL Sunday Night Football (NBC) 18,136 (audience in thousands)
2. Yellowstone (Paramount Network) 11,550
3. NFL Monday Night Football (ESPN) 10,138
4. NCIS (CBS) 9,833
5. FBI (CBS) 9,524
6. NFL Thursday Night Football (Amazon) 9,446
7. Young Sheldon (CBS) 9,287
8. Chicago Fire (NBC) 9,253
9. Blue Bloods (CBS) 9,242
10. Ghosts (CBS) 9,085

Three crime dramas, 2 other dramas, 3 sports, 2 sitcoms.


I don't watch ANY television and haven't for about 20 years, so it is shocking to me to see these paltry viewing numbers...mere thousands?!?

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 3:49 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

I don't watch ANY television and haven't for about 20 years, so it is shocking to me to see these paltry viewing numbers...mere thousands?!?


When it says: "18,136 (audience in thousands)" that means 18,136,000 (18.136 million) viewers. But you still have a point about declining audiences. Twenty years ago, the average episode of "Friends" pulled in about 22 million viewers. Today's best sitcoms do fewer than 10 million.

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 4:54 PM   
 By:   Viscount Bark   (Member)

Is this thread ever going to die?

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 9:54 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Is this thread ever going to die?

You've given it additional life.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2024 - 10:22 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Robert Blake was the star and executive producer on the 1981 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN. In the film, set during the Great Depression, Blake plays “George Milton,” an intelligent but uneducated man, and Randy Quaid plays “Lennie Small,” a bulky, strong but mentally disabled man. These two migrant field workers are on their way from Soledad, California to another part of the state. They hope to one day attain the dream of settling down on their own piece of land. Lennie's part of the dream is merely to care for and pet rabbits on the farm, as he loves touching soft animals, although he always accidentally kills them by petting them too hard.

Much of the creative talent on the made-for-television film came from Blake’s “Joe Dancer” films. This was understandable, since part of the deal that Blake struck with NBC to get them to finance OF MICE AND MEN involved him making the three “Joe Dancer” movies. “OF MICE AND MEN was the door prize for me,” said Blake. “It turned out better than all three of the ‘Joe Dancer’ shows combined.”

“I got a licensing fee from NBC, which was $1.7 million, and made the picture without a studio. My administrative costs included three producers who contributed greatly to the film. The rest of the money was put right up there on the screen, and it shows. The whole thing cost only $2 million. It couldn’t be made for that at a studio, which would take 40% off the top for administrative expenses,” said Blake.

“I even put up the money for the completion bond, for overages, and $250,000 from my own pocket to add the extra half-hour to the original two-hour deal. If NBC liked what it saw, they would pay for the half-hour. Thank God, they liked it.”

“I didn’t take a salary myself,” said Blake. “But after the second showing on the network, I own this production. I can sell it to cable TV or sell it abroad as a feature.”

Robert Blake and Randy Quaid in OF MICE AND MEN



Blake had been toying with the idea of adapting the novel for many years, going back to his long-time friendship with the late director Lewis Milestone. Milestone had directed the first movie version of OF MICE AND MEN, starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney, Jr., in 1939. He later befriended Blake. Before Milestone’s death in 1980, he gave Blake his original shooting script, including margin notes.

Blake bought the TV rights and proceeded to shoot the film directly from that 42-year-old script, including some scenes which Milestone omitted. Before beginning his own version, Blake watched Milestone’s film several times. An earlier television version had been produced in 1968 by David Susskind, starring George Segal and Nicol Williamson, but, according to Blake, the tape was later destroyed.

Said Blake: “Milly told me, ‘Remember, let John Steinbeck do his job.’ I passed that along to our director, Reza Badiyi, and the actors when we started production. I told them not to get fancy, no gimmicks, no tricky camera angles. And that’s the way it turned out. We couldn’t improve on Steinbeck. We allowed his presence to be felt and told the story his way, without frills.”

A major difference between the two films is the look. Milestone shot his film in black-and-white, primarily in a studio, using rear projection backgrounds. Blake took his color production to the farm country of Texas.

Lou Ferrigno was originally supposed to play Lenny Small, but was forced to back out of the project because he had to return to work on “The Incredible Hulk” earlier than expected. Art Carney had originally been cast as ailing ranch hand “Candy,” but when he took ill, he was replaced by Lew Ayres.

Despite the minimal changes made to Eugene Solow’s original 1939 script, E. Nick Alexander won a Writer’s Guild Award for Best Adapted Drama Anthology. George Romanis scored the film, which aired on NBC on 29 November 1981.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 20, 2024 - 12:21 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Robert Blake starred as Jimmy Hoffa in the two-part made-for-television film BLOOD FEUD, which told the story of the decade-long battle between Hoffa, leader of the powerful Teamsters Union, and Robert Kennedy (Cotter Smith), with Kennedy first as chief counsel for a Congressional committee led by Sen. McClellan (Philip Bruns) in the 1950s, and then as Attorney General in his brother’s Administration. Sam Groom played John F. Kennedy; Ernest Borgnine was J. Edgar Hoover; and Forrest Tucker was Lyndon B. Johnson.

Robert Blake in BLOOD FEUD



Robert Blake was said to have wanted the part of Jimmy Hoffa so badly, that he made a deal that if he acted up during production, they could fire him without pay. Mike Newell directed the film, which was syndicated to local stations as part of Operation Prime Time. The initial airing was on 25 April and 2 May, 1983. Fred Steiner provided the unreleased score.

Robert Blake was nominated for an Emmy award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special, and for a Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television. He lost the Emmy to Tommy Lee Jones, playing Gary Gilmore in THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG and the Golden Globe to Richard Chamberlain playing "Ralph de Bricassart" in THE THORN BIRDS.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 20, 2024 - 2:46 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

His comments on Of Mice And Men bespeak tremendous appreciation for adaptation heritage on both literary and motion picture levels. I must see it as a huge fan of the original. Was just thinking of the latter per Charles Bickford western link with The Big Country that TCM re-aired just a few days ago.

 
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