Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Alexander Courage's 'Marvelous Malarkey'

Alexander Courage in the 1960s
When it comes to books written by people who actually worked on the original Star Trek television series, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story is probably the most authoritative example. Having said that, it isn't a definitive volume, and there are some inaccuracies that are worth pointing out. In this post, I want to address some of the book's errors concerning the program's music.

Robert H. Justman, who worked tirelessly on the series as assistant director ('The Menagerie'), associate producer ('Where No Man Has Gone Before' and the first two seasons), and finally co-producer (the first two-thirds of the third season, after which he left the program), was an integral contributor to the music of the series. After the two pilots, he took over the role of hiring composers to work on the series, and was a consistent presence during spotting sessions, often tasked with handling those key meetings with the composers himself. Alexander 'Sandy' Courage had been hired to score both pilot episodes, and Justman recalled the composer's subsequent work on the series:
Owing to his involvement at Fox arranging the music for the film Doctor Dolittle, Sandy could do only two of the first season’s episodes [‘The Man Trap’ and ‘The Naked Time’]. Nevertheless, owing to the ‘royalty’ issue, it’s no wonder Sandy Courage lost all enthusiasm for the series and liking for Gene Roddenberry. Despite my efforts to convince him to score second-season episodes, Sandy never returned to Star Trek
--Bob Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.185
Thanks to the detailed liner notes by Jeff Bond accompanying last year's Star Trek: The Original Series Soundtrack Collection released by La-La Land Records, we now know this version of events isn't correct. Although it is true that Alexander Courage didn't return to score any individual episodes during the second season of Star Trek, he did record thirty minutes of library music for it -- some newly composed -- on June 16, 1967. And, during the program's final season, Courage returned to score two more episodes: 'The Enterprise Incident' (recorded August 5, 1968) and 'Plato's Stepchildren' (recorded October 25, 1968). Bob Justman had left the series by the time the score for 'Plato's Stepchildren' was recorded, but he was definitely around during the recording sessions for 'The Enterprise Incident.' Nearly thirty years after the fact, his memory must have been a bit foggy.

In regards to the royalty issue, it was the cause of some friction between Courage and Roddenberry, but the book overstates the effect it had on their working relationship. Inside Star Trek: The Real Story does reprint a tense October 3, 1967 letter from Roddenberry to Courage reminding the composer of their contractual arrangement, which allowed the executive producer to receive fifty percent of all royalties to the Star Trek theme music as long as he wrote a lyric (whether it was used or not didn't matter). However, unless that letter was sent months after the issue first arose, it is unlikely that it had any impact on Courage's absence during the program's second season. By October 3, 1967, more than half of the season had been filmed and all of the year's complete original scores had been recorded (four partial scores were recorded later). More than likely, Courage was unavailable for the same reason he couldn't score the entirety of the first season: he was still busy with his arranging duties on Doctor Dolittle and other commitments at Fox.

In an interview recorded four years after the Solow/Justman book was published, Courage downplayed any rift between him and Roddenberry over the theme music royalties:
There wasn't any rift, really, with Gene. What happened with Gene was a I got a phone call once…it was Gene’s lawyer, [Leonard] Maizlish. He said, ‘I’m calling you to tell you that since you signed a piece of paper back there saying that if Gene ever wrote a lyric to your theme that he would split your royalties on the theme.’
Gene and I weren't enemies in any sort of way. It was just one of those things…I think it was Maizlish, probably, who put him up to doing it that way, and it’s a shame, because actually if he’d written a decent lyric we could have both made more money.
--Alexander Courage, Archive of American Television Interview (February 8, 2000) 
Future Star Trek vocalist Loulie Jean Norman in 1941
There's one other error related to Alexander Courage's music in the Solow/Justman book worth pointing out, this one from Herbert F. Solow, who was Star Trek's Executive in Charge of Production from the first pilot until the penultimate episode of the second season. Solow writes:
Business Affairs had prepared a rerun cost schedule indicating who must be paid additional money every time an episode was repeated. It was pointed out that while no musicians would receive rerun fees under the agreement with the American Federation of Musicians, the soprano singer, Loulie Jean Norman, having been hired under a Screen Actors Guild agreement, had to be treated as an actress. She would receive rerun fees. 
The money was small, but the issue was huge. If money could be saved for the rest of Star Trek's life by replacing a human sound with an electronic sound, why shouldn't a reasonable management make the change? It was a good argument. 
I called [Robert Justman] and told him not to hire the soprano again for the new [second] season. He wasn't happy, but the change was made. Since Sandy Courage never watched the series after the first season, he was totally unaware of the change until we informed him twenty-seven years later.
--Herb Solow, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.351-352
Solow's memory of this decision (which he reiterates and laments in his May 26, 2008 interview with the Academy of American Television) is at least partially incorrect. Five different versions of Star Trek's familiar theme music were recorded during the original run of the series.  Three of them featured soprano vocals from Loulie Jean Norman; two of them did not.

1. The first version of the theme was recorded for 'The Menagerie' on January 21, 1965,  conducted by its composer, Alexander Courage. This version reflects Courage's original conception of the theme, which mixed Norman's soprano voice roughly equally with a muted trumpet, flute, vibraphone, and an organ. (For the second pilot, Courage wrote an alternate main title theme for the series, but this went unused in favor of the original theme when "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was broadcast as part of the first season).

2. The second version of the theme was recorded on August 19, 1966, during the scoring sessions for 'The Man Trap,' and was arranged and conducted by Alexander Courage. This version replaced the soprano vocals with an electric violin. It was used during the first batch of episodes to be aired on NBC, although I haven't been able to determine precisely how many.  Although I had hoped they would present an answer to this question, apparently the LaserDiscs feature the original mono soundtracks for everything except the main title music (despite being advertised as such, the otherwise superlative Blu-Ray sets do not actually have the show's original broadcast audio).

3. The third version of the theme was recorded on September 20, 1966, during the scoring sessions for 'The Corbomite Maneuver,' 'Balance of Terror,' and 'What Are Little Girls Made Of?' and was arranged and conducted by Fred Steiner, who would become the program's most prolific composer. It was used during the rest of season one and featured a cello.

4. The fourth version of the theme was recorded on June 16, 1967 and was arranged and conducted by Alexander Courage. This version was extended to accommodate DeForest Kelley's title card and, at Gene Roddenberry's behest, was rearranged as a soprano solo performed by Loulie Jean Norman. This performance was used during the second season.

5. The fifth and ultimately final version of the theme was recorded on June 25, 1968.  This was the same arrangement that Alexander Courage had done for the second season, but union rules required a new recording, which Wilbur Hatch conducted. Loulie Jean Norman again was the soprano vocalist.

Based on this information, we can correct a few items in Solow's version.  The soprano was dropped when the production began on the first season, not the second.  If this came as a surprise to Alexander Courage in 1996, it was because he had forgotten after thirty years had passed, not because he had never been told (he arranged and conducted the electric violin version) or didn't watch the series after the first season (he scored two third season episodes and wrote library cues for the second season).  If Loulie Jean Norman's vocal was dropped after 'The Menagerie' to avoid paying rerun fees, the issue must have been resolved, because the singer was re-hired to perform the theme and other cues for seasons two and three.

Thanks to Trek BBS user and author Christopher L. Bennett for helping me get the various versions of the main title straight.

Historian's note: The title of this post comes from an interview in which Courage was asked about science fiction and he said, "I have to confess to the world that I am not a science fiction fan. Never have been. I think it's just marvelous malarkey, so you write some marvelous malarkey music that goes with it."

Update (7/10/2013): Blog reader Scott has informed me in a comment below that, unfortunately, the LaserDiscs don't have the original main title audio from the first season, either.  I've updated the content of this post to reflect this information.  Thanks for answering my question, Scott!

Update (1/17/2015): Blog reader and Star Trek music expert Neil B. recently pointed out the correct recording session in which the third version of the main title was recorded. This post previously indicated the third version was recorded on August 29, 1966, with the score to 'Charlie X,' but that information was incorrect. Thanks for the correction, Neil!


Inside Star Trek : The Real Story (Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, 1996)

The Music of Star Trek: Profiles in Style (Jeff Bond, 1999)

Alexander Courage Interview, Archive of American Television (February 8, 2000)

Herbert F. Solow Interview, Archive of American Television (May 26, 2008)

Star Trek: The Original Series Soundtrack Collection (Liner Notes by Jeff Bond, 2012)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Exit Jeffrey Hunter, Stage Left

It's a matter of common knowledge that NBC rejected Star Trek's pilot episode, 'The Menagerie,' in 1965. It's also well-known that the network followed that decision with the unusual move of ordering a second pilot episode, 'Where No Man Has Gone Before,' which was produced that same year. What's perhaps less clear is why would-be series star Jeffrey Hunter departed the series after 'The Menagerie' failed to sell.

Unfortunately, Hunter died in 1969, taking the answer to that enigma with him. What can be cleared up, however, are the circumstances of the actor's departure from the series, which have been the subject of various and contradictory accounts over the years.

In 1993, William Shatner (with co-writer Chris Kreski) published his remembrances of the production of the original Star Trek television series. He had this to say about Hunter's departure (which, of course, took place before he was hired to be Hunter's replacement):
In truth, Hunter wasn't so much "unable to commit to the series" as he was fired.

Apparently there were problems with Jeffrey. Not while he was shooting or on the set or anything like that, but afterward. They started when the go-ahead came in for the second pilot, and Hunter's wife, who was an ex- model, suddenly started coming to production meetings. Evidently she hated the first pilot, and as a result she began to frequently storm into Gene's office, loudly making demands like "from now on, my Jeff must only be shot from certain angles," and apparently it became "Jeff wants this" and "Jeff demands that." Gene later told me that he'd much rather be dealing with Jeff and his agent, or even Jeff and a gorilla, than Jeff and his wife. He continued that there were so many tantrums, restrictions and ultimatums being laid out on the table that he finally thought, "Well, I can't possibly do an entire series like this. They'll drive me nuts."
--William Shatner with Chris Kreski, Star Trek Memories (1993), p.70
In 1995, Leonard Nimoy published his own Hollywood memoir, with a particular emphasis on Star Trek. Although less elaborate than Shatner's version, the principal details of his account of Hunter's departure are very much the same:
In fact, [Spock] became the only character to survive from the first pilot to the second, because Jeff Hunter was let go when his wife began to represent him and made what Gene [Roddenberry] considered excessive demands.
--Leonard Nimoy, I Am Spock (1995), p.32
Contrary to the version told by Shatner and Nimoy is the one found in 1996's Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, which was co-written by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman:
We had an option on Jeff Hunter for a series, but not for another pilot film. The idea of a network financing a second pilot film after the first one failed to result in a "sold" series was unheard of, so there was no reason for such a contract provision. We therefore had to devise a plan that would enable us to keep Jeff Hunter in the fold.
In the eyes of the New York and Los Angeles television world, Star Trek was already a failure. But we knew differently and looked forward to running the completed pilot for our star, Jeff Hunter. We hoped it would convince him to do another pilot. Gene and I waited in the Desilu projection room for him to arrive. He never did. Arriving in his stead was actress Sandy Bartlett, Mrs. Jeff Hunter. We traded hellos, and I nodded to Gene. He flicked the projection booth intercom switch. "Let's go."
And so it went. As the end credits rolled, and the lights came up, Jeff Hunter's wife gave us our answer: "This is not the kind of show Jeff wants to do, and besides, it wouldn't be good for his career. Jeff Hunter is a movie star." Mrs. Hunter was very polite and very firm. She said her good-byes and left, having surprisingly and swiftly removed our star from our new pilot.
--Herb Solow, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (1996), p.63 
Jeffrey Hunter and Gene Roddenberry during production of 'The Menagerie'
Which version is correct? In this case, the story as told by Solow and Justman is almost certainly the correct one.

Although Jeffrey Hunter's contract doesn't survive in the Star Trek television series collection held by the University of California, Los Angeles, the contracts of all five of his co-stars in 'The Menagerie' are publicly accessible there.  The financial details of the contracts with Majel Barrett, Peter Duryea, Laurel Goodwin, John Hoyt, and Leonard Nimoy have slight differences, but their broader agreements are all the same.  Each actor was contracted for a pilot episode (in this case, 'The Menagerie') and each had an option for five years worth of regular episodes (a contract which could be renewed or terminated after every thirteen episode production cycle).  None had a provision for the possibility of a second pilot episode, which is why Leonard Nimoy had to sign a new contract on June 2, 1965 when the producers brought him back as Mr. Spock in 'Where No Man Has Gone Before.'  In other words, there's no way Roddenberry could have fired his original leading man. Hunter was a free agent, and fully within his rights when he walked away from Star Trek.

An April 5, 1965 letter to Hunter from Roddenberry confirms that it was Hunter's decision to not continue with the program:
I am told you have decided not to go ahead with Star Trek. This has to be your decision, of course, and I must respect it.
You may be certain I hold no grudge or ill feelings and expect to continue to reflect publicly and privately the high regard I learned for you during the production of our pilot.
--David Alexander,  Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry (1994), p.227 
It is unclear if Joan 'Dusty' Bartlett (not Sandy, as reported by Solow and Justman) influenced Hunter's departure from Star Trek, or if she was just the messenger. Whatever Bartlett's role in that decision, her say over Jeffrey Hunter's career wouldn't last. By late 1966, Hunter told the fan magazine Modern Screen he was pressing for a divorce, and in February of 1967 their marriage was over. Unfortunately, so was Jeffrey Hunter's career as a movie star. After his work on Star Trek, Hunter starred in a few B-movies and made a handful of guest appearances on television, but he never approached the heights of his career during the late fifties and early sixties.  In 1969, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, fell, and died during surgery.

Historian's Note: At some point in the seventies, fans began referring to the first pilot by its pre-production title of 'The Cage' to differentiate it from the two-part, season one episode, 'The Menagerie,' which incorporated footage from the unsold pilot.  The earliest example of this I have been able to find is David Gerrold's book, The World of Star Trek, published in 1973, although it's possible the tradition began earlier, when Gene Roddenberry began screening the episode during speaking engagements on the college lecture circuit.

Update (6/24/2013): Thanks to Trek BBS user Gary7, I have added the letter from Roddenberry to Hunter, which can be found in David Alexander's biography of the writer-producer, as well as the Roddenberry papers at UCLA.

Images courtesy of Trek Core.


The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)

'He Wanted a Divorce for Christmas,' Modern Screen (1966)

The World of Star Trek (David Gerrold, 1973; Revised 1984)

Star Trek Memories (William Shatner with Chris Kreski, 1993)

Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry (David Alexander, 1994)

I Am Spock (Leonard Nimoy, 1995)

Inside Star Trek : The Real Story (Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, 1996)