Monday, October 24, 2011

Rare Gems: News Articles and Ready for the People

A little over a week ago, Crystal and I made a thrilling discovery, one that we had hoped we would make for months. We immediately linked it up with our site. What was it? Articles about Simon.

Just as we had gleaned from the scant information we had managed to turn up before, we found that Simon was a warm, friendly, funny guy. He had a lovely sense of humor and saw the gentle amusement in such oddball situations as people insisting they recognized him, but thinking they had personally met him somewhere, as opposed to having watched him on television.

To our excitement, we also confirmed how Simon approached his characters. He studied each one individually before starting to act out the part. Sometimes scripts were even altered because of Simon’s interpretation of a character! That article mostly described his villains, but I’m sure it applied equally to his heroes as well.

It’s thrilling that Simon put so much time and heart into even his oneshot guest characters. Of course, we could clearly see that he had, but I wasn’t sure if the sympathy we often felt was deliberately introduced by Simon or the writers or if we were picking up on hidden nuances as Simon’s true self shone through even the darkest of scoundrels. Now I know it was most likely both.

I am excited to realize that the more human side of characters such as Howard Walters and even William Poole were brought out on purpose by Simon’s marvelous, professional skills. He wanted every character he portrayed to be three-dimensional, to have both good and bad sides. That is, I’m certain, one of the many reasons why he is still so beloved today.

As previously mentioned, it’s just a misconception that Simon usually played villains. He himself said in one of the articles that it isn’t true, it only seems that way. Sadly, many of the heroes he played are not easily accessible for us to view today. There were many of them on anthology and other shows that are simply not available now, likely because of both not being as well-remembered as other shows and simply because there is no one to re-release them.

I believe the one role of Simon’s that I would like to see more than any other is the prosecuting attorney Murray Brock in Ready for the People. From the information I have found, it was a failed pilot for a television series that was turned into a theatrical movie. Would the series have featured Simon as a regular? We don’t know. For all we know, it could have been an anthology series or one with a rotating cast, such as the later The Name of the Game. All we know for certain is that Simon was heavily involved. It is a great shame that this series failed.

There is something about Ready for the People that makes it highly unique and sets it apart from every other known movie or television series that Simon worked on. As far as we can tell, at least in the failed pilot, Simon was the star. He was not playing second banana to anyone, as he did in every other television series in which he was a regular. Even in movies where he had a large role, such as I Want to Live!, he still was not the first-billed (nor was he the true star even if billed lower). In Ready for the People, Murray is the main character. It’s his character that advances the plot, attempting to uncover the truth about the case he is currently trying. He believes the defendant is innocent and strives to find this out.

(Perry Mason aficionados should find it of interest that Murray’s assistant is played by Karl Held, who portrayed eager law student David Gideon in nine episodes over seasons 4 and 5. Was it because of his role as David that he was chosen for Ready for the People?)

Is there any way to view this relic of the past? Both Crystal and I have searched high and low. I had hoped that, since it was released as a theatrical movie, it would not be as difficult to locate it. But so far we have not had any luck. I believe I was told that it is available on a file-sharing network, either Kazaa or LimeWire, but Crystal and I do not use such sites. I am assuming that the copyright long ago ran out, rendering Ready for the People in the public domain and therefore, legal grabs for anyone. If this is true, I wish it could be located and placed online for all to see. If instead the copyright is still valid, I wish the holder would release it.

This is such a unique role of Simon’s. It should not be lost to time. I of course wish that everything he acted in would be made available. If only two rare productions could resurface, I wish it would be this one and his first collaboration with Darren McGavin, The Problem Child episode of the Purex Summer Specials anthology. Such gems should be viewable to all as examples of classic television, as well as rare and amazing performances by some very talented people.

~Lucky Ladybug

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