Monday, August 28, 2017

"The Alternative Factor" — What The Hell Happened? (Part 2)

Still from "The Alternative Factor" (1967)
Part One of this piece, first published in December of 2016, can be read here. Please note that all passages from the revised edition of These Are The Voyages - TOS: Season One (2013), by Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn, have been italicized. All other sources are cited in the endnotes of this post.

Part Two begins in the second week of November, 1966. John Drew Barrymore had just been cast in the role of Lazarus. With a production start date rapidly approaching, a staff rewrite attempted to turn Don Ingalls' work into a script that was ready to go before the cameras.
John Drew Barrymore, now signed to play Lazarus, had more going for him than his legendary family name -- he had achieved stardom in his own right. This Barrymore had shared the lead on the big screen with Steve McQueen in 1958's Never Love a Stranger, and with Julie London in 1959's Night of the Quarter Moon. He then traveled to Italy to top the bill in numerous films there, such as 1960’s I’ll See You in Hell and, as Ulysses, opposite Steve Reeves' Hercules, in 1961's The Trojan Wars. Between films in the early and mid-Sixties, Barrymore was always given choice television guest star roles, in series such as Gunsmoke, Rawhide, The Wild, Wild West, and now, tentatively, Star Trek.
No credit for Steve McQueen (1958)
These Are The Voyages significantly exaggerates the star power John Barrymore, Jr. brought to Star Trek when he was cast in "The Alternative Factor." To begin with, John Drew Barrymore and Steve McQueen did not share the lead in Never Love a Stranger (1958). Made early in McQueen’s career, the film arrived before Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958-61) and The Magnificent Seven (1960) turned the actor into a star. Not only was McQueen fourth-billed, but his name did not even appear on the film’s theatrical poster in the United States. (When the film was eventually released in Italy, McQueen was billed above the title, an indication of just how high his star had risen in a short time). None of these details should come as a surprise to Mr. Cushman, who for several years has claimed to be preparing a biography of Steve McQueen.

Cushman and Osborn also overlook the fact that Never Love a Stranger and Night of the Quarter Moon were harshly dismissed by major film critics. Writing about Never Love a Stranger for The New York Times, Richard W. Nason said, "The consistency of good style that lent dignity to Harold Robbins' novel...is sadly missing from the film version."1 Mae Tinee complained in The Chicago Daily Tribune that, "[the] film has as much sparkle as a wet match...Many of the characters, including the star, also behave as if they were very, very stupid."2  Variety's review was also harsh, describing the movie as, "so ineptly and unprofessionally done, especially in its handling of such volatile subjects as race and religion, that it has nothing else to recommend it except a vague topicality."3
No credit for Steve McQueen here, either (1958)
The notices for Night of the Quarter Moon (1959) weren't much better. Variety declared that the picture was "fairly well premised but burdened with a trite story."4 Howard Thompson of The New York Times called it a "misguided film."5 Mae Tinee of The Chicago Tribune dismissed it as "one of the most inept films I’ve ever encountered."6 The film was a box office failure that reportedly lost MGM $146,000.7

In regards to Barrymore's subsequent career in Italy, Cushman and Osborn make a number of errors in their brief summary of this period. John Drew Barrymore did not have top-billing in 1961's The Trojan Wars (released outside of Italy as The Trojan Horse); he was second-billed to Steve Reeves, who played Aeneas, not Hercules. Barrymore was billed second in I'll See You In Hell (1960), too — Hungarian actress Eva Bartok had first billing. In fact, of the thirteen films Barrymore made while he was in Italy, he received top-billing in only three: A Game of Crime (1964), Arms of the Avenger (1963), and Natika (1963).
Barrymore second-billed for The Cossacks (1960)
These Are The Voyages presents Barrymore's roles in Italy as the next step in the career of an actor who had already achieved stardom. Other accounts are far less generous. In Myrna Oliver's obituary for the actor in The Los Angeles Times, for example, she presented a much dimmer view of Barrymore's Italian career:
Hoping to improve his image, in 1958 he changed his name to John Drew Barrymore, substituting one family name, Drew, for the other of Blythe. 
He employed the new billing in the films "High School Confidential!" and "Never Love a Stranger," but the new name did not seem to help. So he went to Italy for six years and played leading roles in a dozen low-budget, equally low-quality films.8
By 1964, even Barrymore himself did not reflect positively on his Italian film career:
Five years ago he left for Rome's dolce vita. His billing became John Drew Barrymore, possibly an escape from his father's overwhelming shadow. John, now home town, 32, is back in his perhaps to stay. What has he been doing in Italy? 
"Sixteen or seventeen pictures," he reported. Any of them good? He shook his head sorrowfully. "They started out that way," he said. "But unfortunately the Italian directors don't know how to cut. Well, Fellini knows what he is doing; he envisions the film while he is shooting it. Perhaps one other. But the rest don't know how to put a picture together."9
    Earlier in their chapter about "The Alternative Factor," Cushman and Osborn state that, "Roddenberry knew who the right actor was. He suggested John Drew Barrymore for the role...Where John Drew went, free publicity followed." While it’s certainly true that Barrymore often found his name in the press, the kind of coverage the actor often received was probably not what Roddenberry wanted to be associated with Star Trek. Consider the following stories about Barrymore that were printed in both national newspapers and the Hollywood trade papers:
    • In 1953, "Barrymore pleaded guilty to failure to appear on three old traffic citations-having no driver's license, changing lanes in traffic unsafely and having no registration for his automobile."10 The young actor was only 20 years old at the time of the incident.
    • In 1954, Actors' Equity considered charges against Barrymore for "conduct unbecoming an Actors' Equity member," citing him for "insubordination and the use of obscene language."11 As a result of never appearing before the union to answer these charges, Barrymore was ultimately "suspended from Actors' Equity for a year" in 1957.12
    • In 1958, Barrymore spent three weekends in jail, "after pleading guilty to charges of disturbing the peace and being drunk in a public place."13 Police found the actor loudly arguing with his then-wife, Cara Williams, after several local residents "complained of hearing a woman screaming."14 When officers arrived on the scene and attempted to restrain Barrymore, the actor "struggled violently and abused the Beverly Hills air with unseemly language," according to police reports.15
    • Later that same year, Cara Williams filed for a decree of separation, custody of their 4-year-old son, and alimony. Her suit alleged that Barrymore, now 26, had inflicted "grievous mental cruelty" upon her.16
    • In 1959, Barrymore "was released on $1500 bail...after being booked on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and drunk driving."17 The actor, according to police reports, had “smashed his new white sports car into the rear of [another vehicle]."18
    • In 1960, Barrymore received a year-long suspension from Actor's Equity for the second time in five years, and was "slapped...with a $5,000 fine for his walkout...on a co-starring stint in the touring production of 'Look Homeward, Angel.'"19 Barrymore had blamed illness for breaking his contract with the production, but Actors' Equity was unconvinced, since Barrymore began working on a motion picture in Europe only shortly thereafter.
    • Later that same year, Barrymore spent eight days in an Italian jail after being found, "guilty by Rome court of resisting and insulting the police" (he had been sentenced to eight months in prison, but this sentence was suspended).20
    • According to The Los Angeles Times, "In 1962, after being involved in a series of street brawls in Rome, [Barrymore] told [the] Associated Press: 'I'm not a nice, clean-cut American kid at all. I'm just a human being. Those things just happen.'"21
    • That same year, Weekly Variety reported that Barrymore had been picked up by police "on drunk charges."22
    • Finally, on October 15, 1966 — only a few weeks before agreeing to appear in "The Alternative Factor" — Barrymore and twelve other people were arrested during a narcotics raid. Barrymore was released on $3,300 bail.23
    Janet MacLachlan in a still from "The Alternative Factor" (1967)
    Getting back to Star Trek...
    For the part of Lt. Charlene Masters, Joe D’Agosta and Gerd Oswald liked the idea of hiring an up-and-coming black actress -- Janet MacLachlan. 
    There's nothing in the files at UCLA indicating who selected MacLachlan for the part; Cushman and Osborn's statement here appears to be purely speculative. Moreover, a memo from Gene Roddenberry to Joe D'Agosta (the show’s casting director) dated November 3, 1966 — just prior to when casting was done for "The Alternative Factor" — suggests that Oswald probably was not the one who chose MacLachlan:
    Particularly I want more of your suggestions and help on supporting roles. I do not believe in leaving these selections up to directors and this has been happening quite a bit lately, and we almost invariably get hurt by the director's choice. If I had my way about it, I would have almost a positive rule that we never use a supporting actor suggested by a director.24
    Regardless of who picked MacLachlan to appear as Lt. Charlene Masters, the 33 year-old actress was hired to play the part, for which she received $750.25 To read more about the significance of MacLachlan being cast in the part, which was not specified by ethnicity in the script, this blog post by Robert J. Sawyer is worth reading.
    ...in 1966, MacLachlan was mostly known for her work on the stage. She had yet to achieve any standout recognition on television, so there was no real name value in hiring her, only color value.
    For roughly two years (from 1964-66), MacLachlan was a contract player for Universal TV, appearing on such programs as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Chrysler Theatre, Run For Your Life, and The Fugitive.26 From 1961-1964, she had appeared on and off-Broadway alongside "such acclaimed and established actors as James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett, Jr., Maya Angelou and Roscoe Lee Browne."27 Although she was not a "name" when she was cast in "The Alternative Factor," it strikes me as rather insulting to dismiss her as having "only color value" in the way that Cushman and Osborn do here.
    But the attitudes within the Star Trek buildings and stages were not representative of all of America in 1966, and the domino effect which took most of the good out of "The Alternative Factor," began first with Coon’s decision to trim back some of the romance, now intensified with the casting of Janet MacLachlan to play opposite John Drew Barrymore. It was still one year before the release of the controversial Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, in which black Sidney Poitier and white Katherine Houghton fight for their right to be married - and win. As NBC became aware of the casting, the network programmers expressed misgivings. Even with the success of I Spy and its equal-status casting of Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, and the love story in “The Alternative Factor” now pushed into the background, many were nonetheless wondering how the affiliates in the South might react to this interracial pairing. With only a few days left before the start of production, Gene Coon began receiving off-the-record phone calls suggesting that either Janet MacLachlan be replaced with a white actress or that the script be changed to remove the remaining scenes depicting sexual or romantic interest between Lazarus #1 and Charlene Masters. The simplest solution would have been to pay MacLachlan a “kill fee” with the promise of future work. Coon, however, zigged when he should have zagged. 
    The paragraph above is not supported by the evidence I have found to date. Consider the following:
    • No archival documentation is cited or referenced in These Are The Voyages in which any "network programmers" express misgivings — or opinions of any kind — about the casting of Janet MacLachlan in "The Alternative Factor." In my own research, I have been unable to find any primary sources that support this claim.
    • Moreover, it is unclear who Cushman or Osborn mean to identify when they refer to "network programmers." This title is used sparingly in These Are The Voyages, and never in reference to a specific person. For the sake of argument, I have assumed it could be anyone at NBC with input regarding Star Trek's place on the network’s schedule.
    • Between Don Ingalls' November 7, 1966 second draft and the staff re-write completed between November 14-18, 1966, no intermediate draft was written. These Are The Voyages claims that Gene Coon completed a revised final draft teleplay on November 14, 1966, but the files at UCLA do not support this. Some page revisions were completed on that date, but many contained only minor changes, and there is no record of a revised final draft on November 14, 1966.
    • Additionally, the page revisions at UCLA confirm that neither Gene Coon nor anyone else on staff produced a version of the script in which the love story between Masters and Lazarus was "pushed into the background." Every version written by Ingalls had the Masters/Lazarus romance; all of the pages rewritten by the staff removed it entirely (see part one of this piece for memos from Gene Roddenberry and Stan Robertson on this issue).
    • I have been unable to locate any evidence documenting phone calls from NBC to Gene Coon (or anyone else on the Star Trek staff) urging the replacement of Janet MacLachlan with a white actress or the elimination of the Lazarus-Masters love story following MacLachlan being cast. Cushman and Osborn do not cite a single source in support of this claim.
    • Indeed, it is unclear what "off-the-record phone calls" is supposed to mean in this context. While a journalist may receive phone calls from sources that are on or off the record, in the context of a television production, phone calls are by their very nature off-the-record.
    • Finally, despite publicly blaming NBC for a multitude of sins for years after Star Trek was cancelled, Gene Roddenberry did not once describe what Cushman and Osborn allege about NBC in the quoted passage.
    Still from "The Alternative Factor" (1967)
    With Coon’s November 14th Revised Final Draft, the last traces of the love story were removed. Lazarus #1 had lost all his charismatic traits and, because of this, was now intolerably annoying.
    Again, no revised final draft for "The Alternative Factor" was completed on November 14, 1966; only 48 individual page revisions were completed on that date. Some of these were newly typed, but many were taken from Don Ingalls' November 7, 1966 draft, with scenes crossed out and dialogue revisions (both major and minor) made by hand. Gene Coon may have completed these pages, or it may have been someone else on the Star Trek staff — the archival record does not indicate the author of the revisions.

    Cushman and Osborn argue that Lazarus went from being charismatic in the Don Ingalls version of the script, to "intolerably annoying" in the staff rewrite. In truth, the staff rewrite retained much of Lazarus' dialogue from Ingalls' second draft teleplay. Although the revised version eliminated a few pages that constituted a half-baked romance between Lazarus and Lt. Masters that was present in Ingalls’ second draft, the substance of Lazarus' character was largely the same in both versions.
    The character of Charlene Masters, no longer a chemist but instead a member of engineering, became pointless. She was left with so little to do that one has to wonder why she is even in the story, representing the engineering section in place of Scotty. 
    Masters was never described as a "chemist" in any version of the script. Instead, she was identified as a "chemoscientist," an odd description, but one that appears in every draft of the script. In Ingalls' first draft teleplay, she had worked in the ship's "energizing lab," but Bob Justman recommended changing her workplace to engineering, a change Ingalls made in his second draft.28 In addition, Gene Roddenberry disliked presenting another female scientist on the show, suggesting in his comments about Ingalls' revised story outline that he’d prefer to do something different with the character:
    We have had lady scientists on this show galore. Let's have her in some other job. Cartographer...communications...how about a lady navigator or engineer?29
    Thus, Masters' workplace became engineering. Ingalls made this change in his November 7, 1966 second draft — it did not happen in the staff rewrite, as suggested by Cushman and Osborn.30

    As for why Lt. Charlene Masters was is in the final script rather than Scotty, it's possible James Doohan was simply unavailable. During the first season of Star Trek, Doohan was not a regular, and his deal was on "a non-exclusive basis subject to his availability."31 At the time, he was still booking gigs on other programs, including a recurring role on Peyton Place.32 It's also possible that by the time the Masters-Lazarus romance was being written out of the show, MacLachlan had already been booked for the role. To be fair, I can only speculate on the matter; the archival record does not have any clear-cut answers.
    With filming due to start in two days, the new script was sent to the director and the regular cast members. John Drew Barrymore was not scheduled to work that first day of filming. For the moment, he was unaware of the drastic story changes. 
    According to a memo written by Joe D'Agosta during the filming of this episode, the account above is not true. In that memo, D'Agosta states that, "Mr. Barrymore received script changes on November 14."33 What D'Agosta recorded at the time seems only logical. Why would the production withhold script revisions from a principal guest star scheduled to begin filming in just a few days?

    I must also dispute the claim presented in These Are The Voyages that the staff rewrite of "The Alternative Factor" contained "drastic story changes." The Star Trek staff doesn't appear to have viewed the changes as considerable. Don Ingalls received a solo "written by" credit for the episode, and there's no record of the producers challenging that credit through arbitration with the Writers Guild of America (the same cannot be said for "A Private Little War," Don Ingalls' other Star Trek effort — that episode did go through WGA arbitration, which split credit between Ingalls and Roddenberry, leaving Ingalls to use a pseudonym on the finished product).

    Stay tuned for the next part of this piece, which will take a closer look at the seven turbulent days spent filming "The Alternative Factor" in late November of 1966.

    (To Be Continued in Part 3)

    Certain images courtesy of Trek Core.

    Endnotes:

    1 Richard W. Nason, "Local Theatres Offer Story of Rackets," The New York Times, November 22, 1958

    2 Mae Tinee, "Tho the Novel Sizzles, Film Just Sputters Out,"  Chicago Daily Tribune, October 24, 1958, p.B7

    3 Daily Variety, June 27, 1958, p. 3

    4 Weekly Variety, February 11, 1959, p.6

    5 Howard Thompson, "Racial Love Story," The New York Times, March 5, 1959

    6  Mae Tinee, "Inept Movie Tells Sexy, Sordid Tale," Chicago Daily Tribune, June 15, 1959, p.39

    7 The Eddie Mannix Film Ledger, Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study

    8 Myrna Oliver, "John Drew Barrymore, 72; Troubled Heir to the Throne of the Royal Family of Acting," Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2004

    9 Bob Thomas, "New Barrymore—With Profile," The Lincoln Star, November 1, 1964, Page 59 (this profile was syndicated in dozens of newspapers; Bob Thomas, who died in 2014, had a long career covering Hollywood for The Associated Press)

    10 "Young Barrymore Pays Traffic Fine," Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1953, p.A1

    11 "Equity Mulls Charges Against Barrymore, Jr.," Daily Variety, August 11, 1954, p.2

    12 "Barrymore Given Suspension by Equity," Weekly Variety, May 29, 1957, p.68

    13 "Barrymore Jr. Turns Shy on Jail Week End," Los Angeles Times, January 5, 1958, p.2

    14 "Barrymore Jailed In Row With His Spouse," Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1958, p.6

    15 "Barrymore Jailed In Row With His Spouse," Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1958, p.6

    16 "Barrymores Again Strike Marital Storm," Los Angeles Times, September 27, 1958, p.B1

    17 "John Barrymore Jr. Held in Hit-Run Case," Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1959, p.32

    18 "John Barrymore Jr. Held in Hit-Run Case," Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1959, p.32

    19 "Equity Suspends, Fines Barrymore," Weekly Variety, July 13, 1960, p.57

    20 "Barrymore Convicted," The New York Times, October 16, 1960, p.83

    21 Myrna Oliver, "John Drew Barrymore, 72; Troubled Heir to the Throne of the Royal Family of Acting," Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2004

    22 Weekly Variety, January 10, 1962, p.54

    23 "Dope Raiders Seize Actor Barrymore," Chicago Tribune, October 17, 1966, p.3

    24 Memo from Gene Roddenberry to Joe D'Agosta, November 3, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 5

    25 Cast Sheet for "The Alternative Factor," November 15, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 10, Folder 3

    26 Daily Variety, December 14, 1965, p.6

    27 Steve Ryfle, "Janet MacLachlan dies at 77; prominent African-American actress in film, TV since 1960s," Bright Lights Film Journal, October 18, 2010

    28 Memo from Bob Justman to Gene Coon, October 19, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 10, Folder 4

    29 Memo from Gene Roddenberry, undated (approximately September 14, 1966), Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 10, Folder 2

    30 "The Alternative Factor," Second Draft Teleplay by Don Ingalls, November 7, 1966, From a Private Collection, Also Found in the Donald G. Ingalls Collection of Scripts, Box 4, Folder 16

    31 Memo from Joe D'Agosta to Gene Roddenberry, May 19, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 35, Folder 6

    32 Stephen Bowie, "Who Are Those Guys #3," The Classic TV History Blog: Dispatches From the Vast Wasteland, May 13, 2011

    33 Memo from Joe D'Agosta to Herb Solow, November 18, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, Box 10, Folder 4

    2 comments:

    1. Thanks so much for digging into this and finding out the truth. Lots of us have scratched our heads over how "The Alternative Factor" came to be so much worse than other episodes made at about the same time, and I wish Cushman were more scrupulous about telling us when he's relying on fact and when he's speculating.

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    2. It always amazes me just how much Robert Brown resembles John Drew Barrymore in The Alternative Factor. I used to think it actually was him until I bothered to read the credits! I recently saw Brown in The Other Image, an episode of Shane that must have been shot around the same time, and couldn't see the resemblance at all.

      Shane is a really good show, by the way, and it's been fascinating to watch another intelligently-written show from the same era as Star Trek.

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