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 IMDB.com, 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 TCM.com, 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.