Sunday, January 15, 2012

Simon alongside other actors

I’ve been pondering on what my next topic should be. I at last decided that perhaps I would highlight some of my favorite performances Simon made alongside other actors I especially like and/or actors who were quite in the big time—as well as bemoaning the lack of interaction between them in some cases where they appear in the same production but had no scenes together.

As mentioned repeatedly by both of us but especially by Crystal Rose, there is Simon and Darren McGavin. It would be sacrilege not to bring up their amazing chemistry! Crystal speaks of it so well I doubt I could ever hope to do better, but I want to add my voice to how wonderful their time together is. The strength, or at least one of the strengths, of Kolchak: The Night Stalker is their characters’ interaction. There must have been a reason why Simon was called back to play Tony again and again after the initial Night Stalker movie, first in The Night Strangler sequel and then in the TV series proper. No one else could bring that character to life as incredibly as did Simon.

I also greatly enjoy seeing Simon appear alongside Steve Ihnat, in their guest-spot from The F.B.I. Steve was an amazing actor we lost even sooner then we lost Simon. I first became acquainted with him through his performance in The Outer Limits and from there began to deliberately seek out other things he appeared in. I was excited to discover that he and Simon had worked together! Their characters are close friends and their scene, described in detail in my post for The Maze episode, is a joy to watch. Steve and Simon have appeared together other times too, including in the rare series The Name of the Game. I wish I could locate that series, for that reason among others!

In The Outer Limits Simon has several scenes of interaction with Don Gordon. Aside from this episode, I have only seen Don in another venture of The Outer Limits and in the movie Bullitt, which also featured Simon. He is a good actor and I enjoy stumbling across him while watching things.

Bullitt brought Simon in contact with two very well-known actors: Steve McQueen and Robert Vaughn. As the boss of Steve McQueen’s character, Simon portrays a gruff and serious police captain of the highest level of integrity. He trusts Frank Bullitt and tries to allow him the leeway he needs to bring the bad guys to justice. And he refuses to give Robert Vaughn’s character the time of the day when he’s tempted to play politics. Simon only has a handful of scenes in the film, but they’re very memorable. Simon was deliberately chosen for the role by the director, and it’s very easy to see why.

In West Side Story Simon has a scene where he interacts with both Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno. It’s one of my favorites, where we see his character Lieutenant Schrank doing a better job of keeping himself composed than he does when dealing with the teen gangs.

I wish there had been more of him interacting with his apparent police partner, Sergeant Krupke (played by William Bramley). Actually, he only addresses one or two lines to Krupke throughout the film and they have two silent scenes together. Interestingly enough, I think their first silent scene says more about both of them than it might have if they had spoken. It’s only a few seconds long, set during the Tonight Quintet sequence. Krupke is driving, looking for the gangs to try to stop the impending rumble. Schrank is going for a cigarette, agitated. Krupke gives him a worried glance. Their obvious concern shows how deeply they care about the kids and don’t want them to get hurt, a very different image than what they usually seem to project when they’re interacting with said kids. It takes really good actors to make a silent scene come off so well.

One of my earliest encounters with Simon is in Susan Hayward’s intense vehicle I Want to Live! Playing real-life reporter Ed Montgomery, he documents the arrest and trial of Barbara Graham. Although initially he believes her to be guilty of the murder she’s accused of committing, he comes to feel that she is instead innocent and works feverishly to undo the damage his previous stories caused.

He has many scenes with Susan Hayward. Their relationship is shown starting with the antagonistic and gradually developing. His sincere regret comes out very well later, although Barbara does not want to discuss it. By the end of the film she seems to have warmed up to him. She leaves him a last letter, which he reads in the final scene, after her execution. He then trudges back to his car, pulling out his hearing aid so as not to hear any of the busy sounds around him. It’s a very powerful and poignant scene.

Another favorite actor of mine appears in this film, but regrettably, he and Simon do not interact. At least, not that I recall. He is Wesley Lau, probably best remembered as Lieutenant Andy Anderson on Perry Mason. His role in I Want to Live! is small but important, as the deadbeat husband of Barbara Graham. I would have loved to have seen Wesley and Simon play off of each other.

They do both appear in the Gunsmoke episode Miguel’s Daughter, but I can’t remember the extent of their interaction. Wesley plays, I believe, one of the guys harassing Miguel’s daughter. I don’t know if he’s the one Miguel kills or if he’s the other one. I watched that episode before Wesley really meant anything to me. I need to watch it again.

And, according to, they also appear together in the TV movie Crosscurrent. I’ve been trying to get hold of that for some time. I have no idea if they actually have any scenes together in it or not. According to, Crosscurrent was a failed TV series pilot that became a TV movie instead. Were it to have been a series, Simon would have been a regular as the police captain. What a shame it didn’t work out. Then again, if it had, perhaps we wouldn’t have Kolchak: The Night Stalker, as Crosscurrent was made around the same time.

When it comes to main Perry Mason actors, the only other one I can affirm as having interaction with Simon is Raymond Burr. Sadly, they did not interact in either of Simon’s Perry episodes, but on Ironside they did. In the Puzzlelock episode, which I believe Crystal has spoken of, Simon plays a former policeman who is a friend of Ironside’s. He is also the villain of the episode. We have since seen one of his other two Ironside appearances, Love Me in December, in which he plays a reporter. This character initially comes across as a slimeball, but in his last scene his strong reaction to the truth behind the crime suggests that he really is a good person. I don’t recall that he interacted with Ironside in that episode. His other appearance, Lesson in Terror, we have not found yet.

Richard Anderson, Lieutenant Drumm from Perry, played the bad guy in The Night Strangler. He did not interact with Simon. They both appear in an episode of Burt Reynolds’ series Dan August. I have no idea whether Simon interacts with either Richard or Burt in that episode.

I most lament over the fact that Simon never interacted with William Talman, my other most favorite actor right now. They had no scenes together in the one Perry episode in which they both appeared. But I like to think that they met off-screen, on the set. I wonder what they thought of each other.

~Lucky Ladybug

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sgt. Tremaine: Noble to the Bitter End

Some postings ago, LuckyLadybug talked about the needless, tragic death of one of Simon’s characters: Captain Caldwell, from Perry Mason.  Not having seen the episode in question, I couldn’t quite grasp what it must have been like, to see that… until I saw a similar needless death befall one of Simon’s other characters: Stg. Austin Tremaine, from The Raiders.  And I found it just as heartbreaking as Ladybug found Caldwell’s death.

Sgt. Tremaine, much like Captain Caldwell, only appeared onscreen for a very little amount of time, but he was an incredible, morally strong and upright character.  He was a former Southern major in the Civil War, but joined the re-unified US Army after the war, apparently not minding too much that he had to be an NCO after being a major.  When one of his old colleagues from the war, Genera McElroy, starts causing trouble by leading a band of Raiders to pillage wagons and trains in Texas, Tremaine makes it clear to McElroy that, under no uncertain terms, he will have to fight against him if ordered to do so, regardless of their mutual past.

This is, of course, what inevitably happens; Tremaine’s acting commander, Captain Benton, soon has enough of McElroy’s raiding ways, and orders Tremaine to set up a deathtrap for McElroy---conceal a Gatling in what appears to be a lumber shipment to fire upon the raiders with.  Though Tremaine knows that McElroy has to be stopped, he is very much against such an underhanded trap, seeing it as murder.  Despite not wanting any part of it, Benton pulls rank on him, forcing him to go along with it.

When the time comes to spring the trap, however, McElroy has a counter-maneuver that will result in the death of everyone on board the train if Tremaine opens fire.  Benton assumes McElroy to be bluffing (he isn’t) and orders Tremaine to fire; Tremaine points out that McElroy did a similar trick during the Civil War, but Benton refuses to believe him and again orders him to fire—this time, at gunpoint.  When Tremaine again refuses to fire upon McElroy and the raiders, Benton cruelly shoots him, killing him on the spot.

Wild Bill Hickok arrives immediately after this to apprehend Benton, declaring him a murderer under no uncertain terms, and both Hickok and McElroy lament that Tremaine’s death was indeed needless, given the circumstances.  And those watching the movie will surely agree with them.  McElroy does stop his raiding ways, but the overall price is that of Tremaine’s life---a heavy price to pay indeed, given how Tremaine’s only thought had been to save the lives of those on the train.

Despite the role being a tragic one, Simon brings Sgt. Tremaine to life just as well as he does with any of his various other characters.  Due to his limited screentime, very little is known about him.  Did he have a family?  Friends?  Plans for the future?  And yet, with what little he has to work with, Simon clearly shows us how good a person Tremaine is---that he probably knew full well that Benton would kill him if he continued to refuse to open fire on McElroy, yet still willing to hold his ground to save the lives of innocents.  Simon also shows us that Tremaine is a man of honor; he was willing to follow orders up until Benton came up with his underhanded scheme, and even then continued to follow orders until the lives of others were at stake.

As needless as Tremaine’s death is, he did what he had set out to do---save those innocent lives.  And after that, McElroy’s raids stopped, restoring calm once again. 

At the very least, then, Tremaine’s sacrifice was not for nothing.

~Crystal Rose