Working on "The Fugitive" with the Original Dr. Kimble
The first time I met David Janssen was in the summer of 1965, on Stage One at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood, California. I was 22-years old and had just been hired as the set costumer for The Fugitive Television Series. Though I wasn’t brand new to the Motion Picture Business (I had acted in a few movies and TV Shows as a child; worked as a mail-room messenger, then as an assistant to a producer at Columbia Pictures), working as a costumer was a brand new experience for me. My wardrobe career was just six working days old when I was summoned to the set phone during a rehearsal for The Lucy Show (co-starring Gale Gordon) on which I had been hired as extra help. Receiving phone calls on the set was an unusual occurrence for a lowly, class four, day-check, studio set worker like me. It turned out to be the business representative for the costumers local on the other end. He almost begged me to go over to the Quinn Martin Productions Wardrobe Department at the Goldwyn Studio for a quick interview with The Fugitive’s Costume Supervisor, Elmer Ellsworth. It seemed their regular costume set man had shown up for work that morning just a little too drunk for his own good and the production manager had fired him. The Lucy Show’s Key Costumer gave me permission to leave, so I raced to my car and drove as fast as I could over to Goldwyn which was only a few blocks away from the Desilu Studio where The Lucy Show was rehearsing.
The Samuel Goldwyn Studio, situated on the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue, was pretty small, considering some of the wonderful movies filmed on the sound stages behind its dull, stucco-covered walls. The lot was also known to some as the United Artists Studio because it had belonged to United Artists before Sam Goldwyn took over; plus, UA still kept its offices on the premises. Like most of the studios, Goldwyn didn’t offer public parking, so after a few nerve-racking trips up and down Formosa, a space finally opened up directly across the street from the main entrance, right beside a little restaurant I would come to know and love called The Formosa Café.
Once I began working at Goldwyn, I would be using the studio’s main vehicle gate (where the time-clock was located) as my regular entrance; but for the initial interview, I was told to go to the main desk where I was given directions on how to find the QM Productions Wardrobe Department. Like I’ve said, it wasn’t a very big lot; but it was a confusing maze for me as I wound my way around the narrow alleyways separating the two executive buildings. I finally came out on a long street lined on each side with parked cars that took me down a constricted passage with sound stages on my left and production offices on my right. I eventually ended up in front of two connecting sound stages: Stage One and Stage Two. There was a red light glaring outside the heavy door. I smiled. I knew that had to be where The Fugitive was filming. I had been told there would be a stairway across from Stage Two leading up to Elmer Ellsworth’s office. I drew in a deep breath then started up the steps. Once I was on the second floor landing I turned left as I’d been instructed. The QM Wardrobe Department was the third door I came to. I stopped once again, drew in another deep breath, then I stepped into the world I would be living in for the next several years.
My interview with Elmer Ellsworth consisted more of his showing me around the department than the usual questions and answers. The QM Wardrobe Department was a many-windowed, L-shaped room, with the longest section separated crosswise by several wooden cases with sliding glass doors which held the principal costumes as well as David Janssen’s special wardrobe. Behind those cases were what seemed like row upon row of non-descript clothing that hung on rack after rack.
Near the door I’d come in, in the corner of the L, sat Elmer’s desk. It faced another desk used by the women’s costumer. I was told to sit in her chair while I filled out my employment papers and W2 Form. There was an ironing board nearby to my left and I could see a seamstress working furiously with needle and thread in a small room off to one side. Elmer fidgeted while I filled out the papers. He was a slightly built, red-faced man in his middle-sixties, with well-groomed, wavy, white hair and a small, well-manicured mustache. He was dressed immaculately in an expensive suit and tie. I would find out later suit and tie was Elmer’s usual attire – even when he was using oiled rags and dust bags to dirty down an actor’s outfit or when aging an old wool jacket. Elmer had started in the movie business as an extra back in 1919. He’d written several silent movies produced in the 1920s, but finally settled in as a camera operator, until he was knocked off the top of a moving train while filming “The General,” a Buster Keaton silent. By the time he’d healed up and was ready to go back to work his old job was no longer available. Instead of crying over spilled milk, Elmer took a job in the Warner Brother’s Wardrobe Department and he’d stayed in the costume end of the business ever since. His greatest achievement, he liked to boast, was working as the men’s costumer on producer David O. Selznick’s “Gone with the Wind.” Elmer also had a hand in starting Costumers’ Local 705 of the IATSE. That’s the studio worker’s union. Elmer excused himself for a moment and left the room. I took that as an opportunity to make myself familiar with David Janssen’s, Dr. Richard Kimble wardrobe. As I stood in front of the glass case housing David’s costumes, it never occurred to me then just how familiar I would become with the brown herringbone-tweed coats and rust colored slacks he wore in almost every episode. When Elmer returned he said, “Let’s go down to the set, I’ll introduce you to David. I want you to get to know him since you two will be working quite close.”
The red light in front of stage door was off as we approached. We entered through the heavy door. This opened up into a small vestibule, bare except for a cigarette machine and some benches. Two thick doors on the opposite wall were designated Stage One and Stage Two. We opted for Stage One.
It was dark inside, with an intense glow emanating from the other side of several wooden walls that appeared to be held upright by slanted metal shafts that were nailed on either end to the walls themselves and the stage floor. I could hear subdued voices coming from the same area. Elmer nodded for me to follow. We walked around to the other side of the three walls where the brightness turned out to be The Fugitive shooting set. A number of crew members were rolling small lights on stands while others rearranged furniture in the small set that was supposed to be a veterinarian’s office. Two people I didn’t recognize (stand-ins) were positioned under the lights while the cameraman and the chief electrician (gaffer) took readings with their light meters. “Uh, Steve...” It was Elmer trying to get my attention. I turned; there was a nice-looking, older woman smiling at me. “This is Karlice,” he said. “Karlice is our women’s costumer.” I told Karlice I was pleased to meet her and shook her hand. “Steve’s going to be our new set man,” Elmer told her; then he said: “Since you have everything under control here for the rest of the day, Karlice, Steve will start work tomorrow, when the new episode begins.”
Karlice nodded then moved away. About that time, the lighting was complete and a second assistant director was sent to get the actors. Everything had quieted down more or less when David Janssen appeared. He looked great: his movie star tan complementing his winning smile; the twinkle in his deep brown (sometimes sad) eyes; his well groomed hair; his winning personality – ever so much the star. I noticed immediately he wasn’t wearing the tweed coat and rust colored pants for this scene. Instead he had on a pair of moss-green corduroy Levis, a blue chambray work shirt, and a light green windbreaker. I could sense the crew’s respect for their star as several members shook his hand while others patted him on the back. Another man smiled and spoke softly to him as he walked the gauntlet to the well lighted set. An actress, a guest star whose name I have long forgotten, stood waiting for him in front of the camera. David took his place opposite the woman and they joked with one another while the last minute adjustments were made before the camera would actually roll. I remember chuckling to myself when the cameraman put his light meter directly under David’s nose and Janssen said, “Some relatives from Nebraska came to visit me on the set one time and they all wanted to know what it was you guys gave me to smell just before every take.” The crew laughed, and when they had quieted down, the director had a few final words for his actors then filming began.
After several takes the scene was over. As David headed back to his on-stage dressing-room, Elmer got his attention and we went over. “David,” said Elmer. “This is Steve Lodge. He’s going to be your new wardrobe set man.”
Janssen looked me up and down. I knew he was measuring not only my youth but my character. Then he said in a serious tone: “I sure hope you can hold your booze better that the last guy.” I told him I could. He went on, “Because this crew is the hardest drinking crew in the business, and I expect them all to be able to hold their liquor as well as I do.”
Then he was gone. I turned to Elmer, “What was that all about?”
Karlice had joined us again having overheard my question. “It means,” she said, “that you bring a bottle of your favorite hooch and hide it somewhere on the stage. We all do that. Then, around five o’clock every day, when our gaffer starts to sing, we all break out the booze for our regular cocktail hour. But,” she warned. “If Fred Ahern, our production manager is around ... there’ll be no singing. You got the idea?” I nodded. I got the idea. On my first day shooting in the studio, I would come to fully understand what Karlice had meant by the gaffer singing. At five o’clock, on the dot, the melodious strains of O’ Solo Mia echoed throughout the stage, courtesy of our gaffer, Vaughn Ashen.
So began my days working on The Fugitive – days that, before I knew it, had turned into years. I was with the show as the men’s set costumer from October, 1965, until the two-part finale in 1967. For a guy who’d been classified 4-F by the US Army, I sure had my share of military life working on The Fugitive set. There was the chain of command, from director down to crafts service; the grueling locations, with the many moves made riding on the fender of a camera car, the back of a prop truck, or hanging onto the side of some other mode of transportation. We shot The Fugitive rain or shine; and I was the one in charge of the foul weather gear. If there was water or mud around, the director, thinking he was being original, put the actors right in the middle of it – in my wardrobe – which meant lugging around a ton of wet clothing and footwear until I could get them back to the studio and send them out for a good cleaning. My friend, Bob Rubin (the second assistant director) and I, calculated we both worked an average of 80 hours per week – that was because our jobs required our being there before and after the regular shooting day.
David didn’t have it any easier. The Fugitive was not an ensemble show. It had one lead actor; and that one actor was David Janssen. He was in almost every scene; which meant he was on the set just about as much as any other member of the crew. For an actor, working hours like he did can be arduously severe; especially when you take into consideration a Star of David’s stature was required to attend many other functions after the shooting day was over: personal appearances; awards dinners; guest shots on other television shows; plus, his personal activities. All of those things while memorizing eight to 12 pages of dialogue every single night.
Since The Fugitive was what the critics called a quality show, top of the line writers had been hired. Quinn Martin required perfection. Re-writes came down to us workers on the stage like multi-colored snowflakes. We were lucky if we got our next shooting script a day before a new segment began. Most of us who worked on the show in somewhat creative positions: makeup, hair-dressing, myself, Karlice and Elmer included, needed time to break down the script into day by day divisions because characters do change costumes and hair-styles; plus there may have been a makeup problem like a fight, or gunshot wound that more than likely would be filmed out of sequence. David was no exception; he was also one of the last to get a new script. For an actor like David who really cared about the show, he didn’t want to just memorize lines and shoot scenes. He wanted to know the intricacies of the story he was filming before he stepped in front the camera. It got so bad, and David got so tired of this practice, he eventually demanded the producers write a detailed synopsis for each show then attach it to every script – including ours.
After I had a few shows under my belt, I decided I’d test David’s sense of humor. He played jokes on me and other members of the crew all the time – especially his makeup man, Jack Wilson. There was one prank David would pull almost every day. When he was sitting in the makeup chair with Jack concentrating fully on making him up, David would casually reach over, out of Jack’s line of sight of course, and flip over the box of makeup powder Jack had just used to powder him down. Then, after Jack was done and David ushered off to the set, a very loud commotion would be heard coming from around the makeup table, always followed by loud, unprintable expletives. The entire crew would break into uproarious laughter. We all knew Jack had picked up the powder box and having been turned upside down by David, all its contents had been scattered everywhere imaginable – sometimes all over Jack, himself, making the fuming makeup artist look like he’d been on the losing end of a Keystone Kops flour fight.
My little test of David’s understanding went something like this: We had filmed a scene on location wherein a stuntman doubling David drove a pickup truck into a lake. Now we were on the stage to do the closer shots that featured David sitting in the cab of the truck right after the accident. It was my job as wardrobe man to have a bucket of warm water standing by; then, with water-soaked sponges, I would wet David’s wardrobe down thoroughly before each take. We shot the scene from various angles which gave me time to substitute the warm water with some that was not. By that time David was used to the warm water, so when I reached in and squeezed my sponges, dousing him with the ice-cold water, he dove out of the truck’s cab and chased me around the set until we were both worn out from running and completely out of breath from laughing so hard. The crew loved it. After that incident, David allowed me to stick around in his dressing-room more often, even when he was having conversations with others. On other occasions, might be invited to ride in his motor-home (The Silver Bullet) back to the studio after a long day of filming.
As the months rolled by I got to know David even better, as my job required going to his in-studio dressing room every night to pick up his cast off wardrobe. When one has access to another’s personal sanctuary, one learns a great deal by just listening and keeping their eyes open. I won’t go into detail because I’m not one to gossip; but I surmise David had a pretty interesting life off the set.
I did get to know him pretty well over those two years. I found him to be a class act. He was more like a member of the crew than a star. He joked with us all the time. He made working on a demanding television series a pleasure getting up in the morning; even when getting up was usually between three and four A.M.. We were together through all kinds of situations, good and bad; we spent times drinking together. On one location in Crestline California, it was just David and me left in the bar after the entire crew had stumbled off to their rooms for the night. We had a lot of fun – a lot of good, clean fun. You know, the day I heard David had passed away, I was stunned. By then I’d worked with a multitude of Hollywood’s top Stars. Yet, there wasn’t one of them who measured up to David Janssen. God bless you, David – wherever you are.