Born March 12, 1915, New York City.
Died August 14, 2010, Arlington, Virginia.
Fireside Theatre: “A Little Night Music” (7/17/51)
Fireside Theatre: “Make-Believe” (8/14/51)
Cameo Theatre: “Heart’s Choice” (1951)
Crime Photographer: “Brains” (1951)
Lights Out: “The Veil” (10/29/51)
Out There: “The Green Hills of Earth” (from a Robert Heinlein story) (12/2/51)
The Adventures of Ellery Queen: “A Christmas Story” (December 1951)
The Kate Smith Hour: “Incident in Paris” (1951)
Out There: “The Castaway” (from a story by Nelson Bond) (1/13/52)
The Adventures of Ellery Queen: “The Feminine Touch” (1952)
The Adventures of Ellery Queen: “Left Cross” (1952)
The Adventures of Ellery Queen: “Coroner’s Inquest” (1952)
The Adventures of Ellery Queen: “Prize Catch” (1952)
The Adventures of Ellery Queen: “Custom Made” (co-teleplay) (1952)
Suspense: “My Grandmother’s Leg” (aka “Night of Evil”) (4/15/52)
Suspense: “The Letter” (from the W. Somerset Maugham story) (4/29/52)
Suspense: “Remember Me?” (from a Gus Bayz story) (8/12/52) [DVD]
Suspense: “Her Last Adventure” (from a Marie Belloc Lowndes story) (8/19/52)
Danger: “Buttons” (from an E. M. Winch story) (10/14/52)
Suspense: “F.O.B. Vienna” (4/28/53)
Studio One: “End of the Honeymoon” (from a Marie Belloc Lowndes story) (7/13/53)
Studio One: “The Gathering Night” (from a Rudyard Kipling story) (8/24/53)
Big Story (two episodes, 1953)
Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson: “Portrait of a Lady” (1954)
The Unexplained (Samuel Goldwyn pilot) (1954)
United States Steel Hour: “The Rise of Carthage” (co-teleplay, from a Lawrence Williams book) (1/19/54)
Kraft Television Theatre: “The Man Most Likely” (6/30/54)
United States Steel Hour: “Goodbye . . . But it Doesn’t Go Away” (11/9/54)
Summer Video Theatre: “The Happy Man” (9/8/55)
Big Story: “Hit and Run” (syndicated, 1958)
Steve Canyon: “Operation Moby Dick” (teleplay only) (11/8/58)
United States Steel Hour: “Goodbye . . . But it Doesn’t Go Away” (restaged) (12/31/58)
Sugarfoot: “The Desperadoes” (1/6/59)
Sugarfoot: “The Mysterious Stranger” (co-teleplay) (2/17/59)
Sugarfoot: “Ring of Sand” (9/16/58)
Deadline: “The Two Ounce Trap” (story only) (1959)
Riverboat: “No Bridge on the River” (3/24/60)
Zane Grey Theatre: “Calico Bait” (3/31/60)
The Alaskans: “White Vengeance” (co-teleplay) (6/5/60) [unconfirmed]
Riverboat: “The Water at Gorgeous Springs” (co-teleplay) (11/7/60)
Riverboat: “The Quota” (co-teleplay) (11/28/60)
Riverboat: “Chicota Landing” (teleplay only) (12/7/60)
Checkmate: “Phantom Lover” (3/4/61)
Laramie: “Handful of Fire” (12/5/61) [unconfirmed]
87th Precinct: “The Pigeon” (co-teleplay) (1/29/62)
Ben Casey: “Legacy From a Stranger” (co-teleplay and story) (10/22/62)
Rawhide: “Incident at Quiriva” (12/14/62)
The Defenders: “A Man Against Himself” (1/12/63)
Breaking Point: “A Little Anger Is a Good Thing” (1/6/64)
Great Adventure: “The Colonel From Connecticut” (1/10/64)
Great Adventure: “The Special Courage of Captain Pratt” (2/14/64)
Great Adventure: “Plague” (2/28/64)
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: “Long Live the King” (12/21/64) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “The Aaron Burr Story” (10/28/65) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “The Thanksgiving Story” (co-teleplay) (11/25/65) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “A Rope For Mingo” (12/2/65) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “The First Beau” (co-teleplay) (12/9/65) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “The Gun” (2/3/66) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “Fifty Rifles” (teleplay only) (3/10/66) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “Cibola” (3/31/66) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “Grizzly” (10/6/66) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “The Williamsburg Cannon” (story and co-teleplay) Part One (1/12/67) and Part Two (1/19/67) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “Tanner” (10/6/67) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “The Spanish Fort” (2/15/68) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “The Bait” (11/7/68) [DVD]
Daniel Boone: “Three Score and Ten” (2/6/69) [DVD]
The High Chaparral: “The Brothers Cannon” (10/3/69)
Feature Films: Reprisal! (1956); No Time to Be Young (1957); Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959); Hey Boy Hey Girl (1959); One Potato, Two Potato (1964)
On January 12, 1963, the courtroom drama The Defenders broadcast what may have been its finest hour, at least up to that point: an episode entitled “A Man Against Himself.” It opens in Central Park, where a young black man named Daniel Ross is walking his girl home. One of a group of intoxicated men knocks Daniel’s hat into a puddle. Daniel hits him, and the man dies. Furiously, self-consciously proud, Daniel insists on defending himself against the ensuing manslaughter charge. A frustrated judge assigns Larry and Ken Preston (E. G. Marshall and Robert Reed), the series’ father-and-son team of defense attorneys, to sit with Daniel in court and provide legal advice, despite his vehement objections.
“A Man Against Himself” was written by Raphael Hayes, an outsider among the series’ clique of New York-based writers, many of them friends of the show’s creator Reginald Rose. Hayes’ teleplay was the first on The Defenders to confront the issue of racial prejudice, and it does so in a number of unexpected, provocative ways. Daniel Ross (as realized in a robust performance by Ivan Dixon) is a considerably smarter, angrier, bolder, and more sexualized African-American character than one is accustomed to seeing in a television show from the early sixties, even in a liberal drama like The Defenders or East Side / West Side. Daniel mocks the Prestons’ Ivy League background (“Harvard or Yale?” he sneers as a greeting when he gets his first glimpse of Larry). He quotes Lovelace on the experience of being in prison, and recites the New York state manslaughter statute verbatim. In Daniel’s scenes with his girlfriend (Ellen Holly), Hayes emphasizes the importance of his pride. Daniel tells her to get lost if she can’t be supportive, because “all I have is my confidence.”
But Hayes doesn’t make the mistake of turning his protagonist into a superman or the kind of idealized, holier-than-thou black man of the kind that Sidney Poitier was beginning to be criticized for portraying at that time. As the story unfolds, Daniel’s arrogance becomes self-defeating. It’s hard not to cheer when Daniel scores a point in his own favor, such as when he gets the dead man’s widow to refer to Daniel as an “animal” on the witness stand. But Hayes underlines the hard distinction between moral and legal victory. Cross-examining the widow, Daniel badgers her into admitting that her group was drunk and belligerent, and that they rather than a lone black man might more likely be perceived as dangerous. It seems like a triumph, but as Daniel returns to his seat Lawrence Preston tells him, “You’ve gone too far. You’ve gone out on a limb and now he’s going to cut it off.” Indeed, Daniel has opened the door for the prosecutor to elicit the information that Daniel struck the first blow and did not appear frightened of the man he killed.
During the testimony, one tends to identify with Daniel, and to perceive the Prestons as killjoys for pointing out the damage he’s doing to his case. To shift our sympathies, Hayes employs a dazzling rhetorical device, a meticulous mock cross-examination in which Kenneth Preston demonstrates how the district attorney will use Daniel’s ego to destroy him if he takes the stand. Shaken, Daniel finally sees the light and expresses his remorse for the killing, which, Hayes reminds us, was inexcusable no matter how outrageous the provocation. It’s significant, though, that Hayes’ moral compass does not require the complete annihilation of Daniel Ross’s pride. Daniel gets the last word: grinning, he lets Ken know that he knows that Ken used a trick in his mock cross – the introduction of Daniel’s prior convictions – the the judge would have ruled against in actual testimony.
The Defenders, which began in 1961, had gone through a middling first season, shying away from controversial subject matter due to the network’s lack of confidence in it. But good ratings had enabled Reginald Rose to bring the show around to address hot-button topics, and by the time “A Man Against Himself” aired, The Defenders was in the middle of a golden run of forceful stories that tackled issues like religious freedom (Stanley Greenberg’s “The Apostle,” December 15, 1962), phony evangelism (William Woolfolk’s “The Hour Before Doomsday,” February 2, 1963), and the death penalty (Greenberg’s “Metamorphosis,” March 2). Even in that company, Raphael Hayes’ teleplay stands out for its fiery brilliance and its crystalline precision. Consider Daniel’s first big speech, a classic Great Frontier-era manifesto that puts us firmly on his side for the duration:
Look, I’ve been defending myself ever since I was ten years old. That’s how I stayed alive . . . . Listen, nobody helps anybody but themselves. Now I learned that the hard way. Let me tell you something. I was born in a room where two families spent half their lives just trying to beat each other to the bathroom, you know what I mean? I was raised in the greatest city on this planet, and sixteen people lived in one room and fought each other for the food they ate. For the stinkin’ air they had to breathe. So I lived down on the street because at least you could breathe down there, but you had to fight down on the street too. You had to punch your way through a lot of other kids who didn’t have enough room to live either. So where were you then, Mr. Preston, where were you and your fine help then, when I needed it? And I don’t mean the kind of help like the relief checks that my father had to collect the last five years of his life. That’s the kind of help that kills. My father was a good man, Mr. Preston, but he was a fool. You know why? Because he kept expecting some, some change, some improvement. He kept expecting that great big hand to come down out of the sky and make everything right. When he closed his eyes for the last time, I never saw a more disappointed look on a man’s face. And that’s when I learned, never, never, never to expect anything from anybody. And I don’t. And I never will.
The puzzling thing about “A Man Against Himself” is that it is Raphael Hayes’ only contribution to The Defenders. Exactly why he did not return to write more is something that Hayes could not explain to me, but this pattern of iconoclasm is visible throughout his peripatetic television career. A poet and a wanderer by inclination, Hayes never settled into the usual pattern of an episodic television writer. Rarely lingering for more than one or two assignments on a show, he nevertheless managed to compile an impressive resume across a broad range of different series, often contributing one-off scripts that ranked among the best episodes of a given series. Just as “A Man Against Himself” is one of the finest Defenders, Hayes’ only Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and his sole Zane Grey Theatre outshine their peers by a wide margin.
Hayes began his television career writing for early dramatic anthologies like Cameo Theatre, Lights Out, and Suspense. Of the early efforts that survive, “F.O.B. Vienna” is a routine Cold War espionage piece, but “Remember Me?” shows promise. It’s a taut real-time story about a high-school basketball star (Martin Brooks), now broke and committing petty robberies, who kills an old man and hides out in the apartment of a woman (Cloris Leachman) who had a crush on him in school. Hayes’ teleplay lacks the emotional depth of his later work, but it evokes vividly a sweltering New York City night where, even at midnight, the sidewalks are crowded and the corner grocery is open.
Moving west for a stint as a contract writer at Columbia Pictures, Hayes resumed his television career within the popular genre shows of the late fifties and sixties. “Phantom Lover,” his only Checkmate, is a flimsy is-she-crazy-or-isn’t-she mystery, but it’s subtler, moodier, and more internal than most of that series’ outings. “Long Live the King,” a Christmas episode for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, was a buoyant fable, a story of a bratty child prince and the kind-hearted, flute-playing stowaway (Carroll O’Connor) who guides him toward maturity. Charming and not at all treacly, it too was a departure from that show’s usual fare, a welcome respite from weekly sea monsters.
Carroll O’Connor and Michel Petit in “Long Live the King”
Zane Grey Theatre’s “Calico Bait” chronicles the gradual allegiance that forms between an outlaw’s woman (Inger Stevens) and the deputy (Robert Culp) who uses her as bait to catch her bandit lover. It is an unadorned minimalist work of a piece with the films of Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher. The last line, spoken by Stevens, encapsulates the melancholy that lies just beneath the surface of Hayes’ script: “You look for something. Somebody. You look everywhere. All you find are strangers.”
“Calico Bait” was one of a number of westerns Hayes wrote for television. His favorite approach to this genre, almost a storytelling formula all his own, was to take a true historical incident as the basis of his plot, or to utilize a real-life historical figure as a foil for the show’s fictional characters. “The Desperadoes,” for instance, was a Sugarfoot concerning a plot to assassinate Mexico’s President Benito Juarez, and our own Abraham Lincoln (played by Sandy Kenyon) made an appearance in Hayes’ Riverboat episode “No Bridge on the River.”1
Great Adventure was perhaps the ideal venue for Hayes’ trademark nineteenth-century period pieces. Sort of an action-styled antecedent to Profiles in Courage, the series was an anthology that dramatized a real incident from history each week, with the National Education Association consulting to give the enterprise a schoolkid-friendly flavor. Hayes’ Great Adventure teleplays told the stories of, among others, Captain Richard Henry Pratt, a latterly controversial educator of Native Americans; and Colonel Edwin Drake, the first man to drill for oil in the United States.
After Great Adventure, the peripatetic Hayes finally came to rest on Daniel Boone. A similar show, also pitched toward children, Daniel Boone had a Revolutionary War-era setting that appealed to Hayes and his penchant for taking inspiration from historical lore. “The Gun” was a fast-paced, episodic adventure that credited Boone (Fess Parker) with the invention of the long-barreled Kentucky Rifle (the true origins of which are unclear). Hayes enjoyed drawing upon the larger-than-life legends associated with Boone, having the hero walk from Kentucky from Pennsylvania to collaborate with a renowned Dutch gunsmith on the project. The two-part “The Williamsburg Cannon,” equally action-packed, saw Virginia’s real-life governor Patrick Henry recruiting Boone to escort an uptight artillery expert (Warren Stevens) and his unwieldly cannon through hostile territory.
The best of Hayes’ dozen Daniel Boones may have been “The Aaron Burr Story,” an ingenious conceit that pitted Boone against Burr during the period in which the former vice president was a fugitive on the American frontier (involved in, among other things, the Louisiana Purchase). The children’s fable aspect of the series comes into play as Boone’s sidekick Jericho (Robert Logan), initially impressed by Burr’s wealth and fancy clothes, gradually realizes (at Boone’s urging) that Burr is a false idol. Boone’s innate skepticism of the gilded Burr yields some droll dialogue:
BURR: I can make you a rich man – an important, powerful man.
BOONE: Rich? Important? Powerful? Sounds like three thunderclaps, Mr. Burr.
The climax recreates Burr’s famous duel, with Jericho taking the place of Alexander Hamilton. Portrayed with restraint by Leif Erickson, Hayes’ Burr is an unusually complex character for a children’s western: intelligent, courageous, pompous, treacherous. In the last act Hayes shrewdly has the heretofore self-possessed Burr reveal a hidden bitterness over having been exiled and deprived of his legacy as a war hero.
After Daniel Boone, Hayes drifted out of television writing, and eventually out of Hollywood altogether. He travelled the world and in 1979 published a western novel, Adventuring, of which he remains proud. When I tracked him down, Hayes was living in a small town in Virginia, a place he’d first stumbled across when he “made a wrong turn one day and got lost.”2
How did you become a writer?
I wrote in high school, where I edited my school newspaper. I had an older brother, whose name was Alfred Hayes, [who wrote the novel] The Girl in the Via Flaminia. Al was going in one direction, and he gave me a kind of model to work toward. And I wanted to write.3
I got out of high school and looked for a job, and I went in the Army instead in the end. I came out and got a job in the WNEW radio station in New York, as what we called a continuity writer, which paid enough, I suppose, to eat. And at that time television was beginning, and I figured why not try it and see what I could do. I had a little story in my head and I wrote it. You know the phrase “throw it over the transom?” That’s what I did – to the slush pile over at NBC. “A Little Night Music,” it was called, and I think it was a Cameo Theatre. And, my God, the telephone rang one day when I was working at WNEW, and I picked up the phone and listened very carefully, and she said, “We want to do your script.” I was stunned. I hung up, and everybody else in the office looked at me with vengeance.4
That’s where it began, professionally, where I was able to make some money out of the craft. After that happened, I began to figure out that if I did one television script a month, and they paid me at least $500 for that month, I could quit this job and live that way, doing one script a month for things like Cameo Theatre and other things that were around. But there was a much more subtle thing that resulted, because what suddenly began to bloom was what dramatic writing meant, what a television show meant, what these dramas really were. I got interested and came up with my own theory, that every half-hour show that I could write was really the third act of a full-length play. I used that idea, and it worked for me.
I discovered that I could write. It was a new industry; they needed people who could write. As I began to realize, I knew what drama was. I began to understand it. And went from there. [There were] things I wanted to do. Plus the fact that I could sleep late in the morning.
So you didn’t begin writing until after World War II? You would have been in your early thirties.
Before I went in the army, I got one professional [writing] job. All right, you want the truth? I was a young poet on the streets, and had many friends among the literati in those days, who hung out in the cafeterias. There was a big cafeteria called Stewart’s, and we used to get together and talk. One of the other poets that I knew, Norman Rosten, came to me because we’d had some coffee together and he said, “Listen.” He’s got an assignment, and there’s another one he cannot do because of time, and would I take it for him? Take over. I said, sure, what was it? It was a radio show called Cavalcade of America. Norman had been writing for these people and said that he would tell them that I would do it. I was a promising poet. I said, “Go ahead, Norman. I love the idea to begin with.”5
I even remember what the show was, on Tom Paine, in which I wrote a full-length half hour poem. Later on Norman Corwin did more extensive work in that field. All I remember is the phrase I used, “Death complicates all strategy.” It still rings in my head, that phrase.
Anyway, that was the first professional job I did. On the night when I got my first check for that show, I came into the house and held it up in front of my mother: “Now you see? It’s not a waste of time. You can make some money out of it.”
Did you often attend rehearsals or broadcasts of your live TV scripts?
I wrote for Suspense, a couple of them, and they used to have a rehearsal somewhere on the west side of town, in some warehouse. When I was still young and a little stupid, I came up to a recital and I think it was Marie Windsor, an actress of some reputation at that time, playing the lead. During the rehearsal she was messing something up and it was not working, and I was on the side. I thought I was doing such a splendid job when I got close to her and I whispered, in a very low voice, what she might do for it, and she turned on me with a fury. I apologized immediately, and it was a tremendous lesson to me on how to work with others, particularly actors and actresses.
How would you get assignments?
How it worked in those days? I had an agent. Mike Weiss was his name. When whoever produced or directed a show needed some writers, they would call Mike Weiss: “Send up some writers.” They’re going to show a pilot. Mike would then call me and say, “Go up to here, they need a couple of scripts.” You’d go into the studio [with other writers] and we’d see the pilot. If we had some ideas, we’d call whoever it was and make an appointment to sit down and talk. You just had to be careful there wasn’t a thief around who stole the idea!
How did you come up with the stories you pitched?
I may have had an idea from reading a really fine piece of work and saying, yes, this concept of an experience is good to do a show. And sometimes it was just the same show which I sold them last week, and I knew that there was a way of rearranging things, and how close it was to time to pay the bills! You have to survive.
There was one, “The Happy Man,” which was based upon a news item of somebody who dropped their wallet inside a taxicab with a large amount of money in it. There was a law at that time that whoever found the wallet had to turn it over to the police, where they would hold it for ninety days. If there was no claim made, then the man who found the wallet got the money, or whatever was in there. That’s what led to the play. I said, “What about somebody who does find a large amount in the cab and turns it in? And everybody says the normal thing: ‘Are you an idiot? Keep it! Why give it back? Nobody’ll ever know the difference!’ They had to [ridicule] the honest man. That’s where the whole play came from.
When I was working with the Theatre Guild of the Air, [which] at that point decided to do a television show, an hour-long [anthology generally referred to as the United States Steel Hour], that was a wonderful experience, because the drive to write full-length plays really was given to me. I wrote two of them, which they repeated.
The most successful of those was probably “Goodbye ... But It Doesn’t Go Away.”
“Goodbye ... But It Doesn’t Go Away” was really a full-length play which could be cut for them. There were guys in New York who had these wonderful, splendid apartments. The only reason they could afford them was to have a sister-in-law living in the same apartment so her money could be added to their money. Now what would happen if she met a nice guy and wanted to get married and go to her own apartment? The brother-in-law says, “I can’t do that, that means I’ll go bankrupt. I’ll get thrown out of this place!” And he goes through a process that ends up causing someone to seduce her to make sure she stays there and pays her monthly rent. As I remember it was among the first plays for television which used that long kind of title.
Things which are any good came from within, not suggested. That came out of my own experience.
Did that story happen to you?
Well, the truth is I knew a family where a sister-in-law lived with them. I just felt they could afford where they were because her income helped. And from there you begin to embroider. Once in a while you get an idea which, as soon as you’ve got it, it keeps going on its own, it flows into incidents, into relationships.
Did you follow the TV industry out to L.A.?
Nah, I stayed in New York right till the very end. I had been writing steadily in New York. Not in the city precisely; I moved up to a little town in Westchester and was living up there and writing, following my idea of $500 month to live by. I was brought out to Hollywood, by Columbia Pictures. They had a custom over at Columbia: once a year, they would send out their story editor, who was Bill Fadiman, the brother of Clifton Fadiman. He used to come back east and sample what talent there was, offer them a salary to come out for a year’s contract and live in Hollywood and learn the trade.6
That year I had written two or three shows that were done on the Theatre Guild of the Air, and I had a good agent at that time, finally, and Bill Fadiman was impressed. He recommended that I come out to Hollywood, and gave me money for my fare and my family. Come out to Hollywood and be a screenwriter! By that time my older brother Al was out there already, so I wasn’t coming out into a strange world. He met me and showed me the geraniums that grew in January in Los Angeles. That’s how I got out to Hollywood.
So your relationship with your brother was a friendly one, or was there a rivalry?
We watched each other, let’s put it that way. We were two different kinds. Alfred was a poet, nationally known. Did you ever hear of the “Joe Hill” song? He wrote the lyrics. I was not that kind of a poet at all. I was a playwright by instinct, and I knew that structurally I was better than Alfred, or equal to him. It meant that I wasn’t in competition with Alfred.
He knew more people, had much more influence [than me]. Danny Mann, who was a movie director at that time, was a good friend of his. Danny at one time came up to Alfred and said he had a script which had trouble, and would Alfred do something about it and come to New York. Alfred, who probably had lost some money at the track, said yes.
The next thing I knew, the phone rang. Alfred said, “Listen, I’ve got to do this script, fix it up, and I’ve got to go to New York to do it. Would you come with me, all expenses paid?”
The trip back to New York, to the Drake Hotel, was worth it, so I went with him. We never could figure out what was wrong with the script until one day, walking up Fifth Avenue, it dawned on me, in structure, what was wrong. And I said to Alfred, “This is what was wrong,” and told him. The next thing I knew, about a week or two later, he sends me a check. This is the relationship, at that time, for him to realize how much I could do for him in terms of scructure.7
I miss Al very much. He was one of the few clear-headed critics and fine poets around. Al was a guy who fought; he wouldn’t take some of the junk that was spilled in front of him.
Were there other people you knew in television who were like that?
Some. I don’t think that I ever really did, except when I would come out on a short dip. Blake Edwards was at Columbia when I was there, and the one thing that I admired about Blake Edwards was his clothing. He had a marvelous sense of custom tailoring, believe me, and that was a pleasure. It didn’t have to be anything else but that.
I had two sessions with Harry Cohn at Columbia. I had a story conference when his tailors were measuring him for flamboyant vests in his office. He was quite a giant, that man, I have to admit that.
Harry Romm was a contemporary with Goldwyn, that whole group that was the first of the Hollywood moguls, who was involved as a producer [at Columbia]. His main achievement was to get films in which the word “prom” was in the title. He produced all those kind of films. He would come wandering into the office with an idea, and if he could find cheap writers he’d make it. I did two scripts for him which to this day I think were about the best I have ever done, which he could not get produced. He asked me to go and see various stars. No matter who they were, for some reason he never could complete a deal with them.8
At Columbia, I was in an office which had been worked in by Clifford Odets before me. The first thing I would do in all these offices was go through the drawers and see what they left behind. The only thing he’d left behind was hair tonic, things like that – cosmetics, for himself. One day there came a telephone call, and somebody asked, “Is this Clifford?”
I said, “No, not Clifford.”
It was [Sam] Goldwyn, trying to reach Clifford.
You wrote one film there that George Sherman directed, Reprisal!
It was a western, with Guy Madison. The last meeting we had, he turned to me and said, “You wrote a great line.”
I said, “What do you mean, I wrote a great line?”
“For the end of the movie,” he said. “It made me feel like a man.”
You did some uncredited writing on Walk on the Wild Side.
There was a long list of writers helping, and I was one of the chain toward the end. We shot for about a week in New Orleans, and Laurence Harvey was there. He was quite a guy. We’d all come down from the hotel for the morning’s shooting, and if he wasn’t there they would turn to me and say, “Rafe, you go up and get him.” I would go upstairs and knock on the door and Laurence Harvey would come out in his underwear. He was still getting dressed. I said, “Why do you want to do all these things, why are you such an intense actor?” He said something to the [effect] that it was so he could destroy himself. He had a sense of self-destruction. But that was true of all Lithuanians. He was a nice guy, who had some bad habits, like he would cut a slice of bread and only eat the insides – leave the crust all over the table. Only eat the soft parts.
I stayed at Columbia about three or four years, then cut loose on a freelance basis.
And then you moved primarily into television.
I began to write for Sugarfoot when I quit at Columbia, and I needed some weekly money, and I would do a couple. I think they only paid about $2,000 a script at that time. The producer was a fellow by the name of [Alex] Gottlieb, who had worked for Howard Hughes. As I recall the story, he was a kind of personal bodyguard of Howard Hughes’. He was a nice guy; he shared the jobs.
You contributed scripts to some of the top dramas of the period, including Ben Casey and The Defenders.
Who was playing Ben Casey? Vince Edwards. The Writers Guild had a gymnasium in Hollywood, with a swimming pool and all kinds of things. It was part of the amenities that you got. They used to have big mirrors on the walls. I remember Vince Edwards always standing in front of the mirrors, testing his muscles.
When I did one of the shows for The Defenders, I came up to get a copy of the script after the show had been done and discovered that they had gotten a fan letter from Henry Miller. I said, “On my show?!”
They said, “Yeah.”
I said, “Give it to me! I want that. I’m very flattered.”
And they said, “No, we’ll only give you a copy of it, we’re keeping the original!”
So they have the original and I have the copy of Henry Miller’s letter on that particular show.
You see, what Mr. Miller knew was that it was an existential play. That was the thing that occurred to him, and fascinated him. But he was still a very practical man: in a P.S. to his letter, he started to make a suggestion of an idea for a script that he had for The Defenders!
Leif Erickson as Aaron Burr in Hayes’ Daniel Boone segment “The Aaron Burr Story”
Your most prolific TV work was for the series Daniel Boone.
I did about twelve of them. They listened to me. I was interested in Americana, and I tried to use as much as possible in it. I researched all that, and had a great time. “The Kentucky Rifle” was one of the stories I did for them. George Sherman did most of the directorial jobs on it. We used to kid around because sometimes when the going got tough, I had to take an old script, reset it, redo it all over again in a different line, and they would do it again!
When I went into Daniel Boone, the relationship was so good I would come up to the office, give them the script, and that was it. There was no rewrite; they took it as is. I knew that each week they had to make a show, and I would go up and talk to whoever was the story editor at that time about an idea. I would say, “How about a show about gerontology, old age?” They’d say, “Good idea. Give us an outline.” So you went home and figured it out.
If you were fortunate enough to develop an idea which had echoes in it, it was fine. If the story was about an old man who’s lost far from home, it had an echo already in the story – an echo, a sound. And you went and wrote the thing.
At the same time, one of the goals that I would set for myself was to write [an episode] with the least killing in it as possible. Hopefully the entire script nobody gets killed, nobody gets shot, no violence. And I was pretty good at that, I have to admit. Because I think that people’s relationships are much more violent than the actual use of rifles.
Do you remember Laramie or Rawhide?
I just did one or two. You couldn’t live on that, in the sense that it was satisfying. They became mechanical after a while. Daniel Boone was more interesting to work on, because I could use all the research that was at hand.
Did you ever have any negative experiences as a writer?
Only one, in a funny kind of way. I received an Academy Award nomination for a film called One Potato, Two Potato. The director and one of the producers was a guy named Larry Peerce. Larry was the son of Jan Peerce, the opera singer. From that thing, we went on planning about something else. He came up with an idea from a story he knew about the New York subway. It was about the money train, the trains that collect the fares. I said, “That’s our next film,” and worked a little bit on it. Lo and behold, the direction of that one led his agent to suggest him for a film called 707: The Money Train, and he accepted the proposition.9
I hit the ceiling. How dare he do that, to drop what we were doing on this and go to the other. All the value of our work was in the planning of our own film, and now he was going to take it and just give it all to the new film that he was going to do. It was a kind of betrayal. It was about the worst experience I had [as a screenwriter]. I didn’t talk to Larry for the next thirty years.
You shared credit with Orville Hampton on One Potato, Two Potato.10
Orville Hampton. A hack, if you’ll pardon the expression. I never met him, never had a personal contact with him. Larry Peerce at that time was married to a gal who had a lot of money, I think it was [an] inheritance. He was using her money to buy material to do a film and he did a deal with Orville Hampton to pay him a certain amount for the rights to the story. Hampton was a hack, and turned [in] a very bad script. Larry got in touch with me and asked me to rewrite it, which I did. I was interested in the whole theme, about black and white intermarriage, and I sat down and wrote it. And that was the film that was done. The Writers Guild were the ones that make the decision on credit, and I said the credit had to be my screenplay based on his story, but they judged it otherwise. And I’m so glad he didn’t get anything. The film that won [the Oscar] in that particular category was something called Father Goose, with Cary Grant. They were showing it on television yesterday. I wouldn’t dare look at it! But I had no clout; he [Father Goose screenwriter Peter Stone] had the clout.
You now live in Virginia. How did you end up there?
Well, I wanted to come back east. I felt that that was where my roots were, really, and fighting the television demands just began to get me down. I left Hollywood and went to live in Taos, New Mexico. I spent ten years at six thousand feet above sea level, in Taos, which was the last world of a peasant society. It was an art colony also, but in its infancy. I worked there. It was close to Hollywood. If I had to go in, I just cut down to Santa Fe and got a plane to go into Hollywood. Then I came back in stages, as it were. I finally came back east, living in Connecticut, then in Virginia. Just kept moving and learning and seeing.
Did your work in television become less than fulfilling after a time?
It’s not that I had feelings of hostility toward it. That isn’t what I meant. It was a need for myself to keep moving. Ten years in a place is a long time, and you absorb as much of it as you can. At the same time, you’re getting older. You’re no longer that forty-year, that fifty-year-old whizbang. You’re something else. You begin to question what you’re doing and what the the themes are. I never felt myself as a television writer; I felt myself as a literary writer. I’m interested in writing not as a craft, but as an art.
1 According to film historian Boyd Magers, “No Bridge on the River” is an uncredited rewrite of the 1950 Republic western Rock Island Trail, written by James Edward Grant and directed Joe Kane.
2 Chillemi, Tom. “At Age 85, Former Hollywood Screenwriter Continues to Create.” Southside Sentinel [Urbanna, VA], c. 2000. Undated clipping provided to me by Raphael Hayes.
3 Alfred Hayes (1911-1985) earned Academy Award nominations for the first two films on which he had screen credit, Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan (1946) and Fred Zinnemann’s Teresa (1951). Hayes was a top screenwriter for most of the fifties (Clash by Night, Human Desire, A Hatful of Rain). His major television credit is on a half-dozen or so Alfred Hitchcock Hours, including the extraordinary premiere episode, “A Piece of the Action.”
4 Albert McCleery’s Cameo Theatre (1950-1952) was a half-hour dramatic anthology known for developing young writers, and for its formal minimalism.
5 Norman Rosten (1913-1995) was a playwright and the first Poet Laureate of Brooklyn, as well as a close friend of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe.
6 Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999) was a literary editor who enjoyed celebrity in the fifties as a resident intellectual on a succession of television panel shows. His brother William Fadiman (1909-1999) headed the story departments of various Hollywood studios from the forties through the seventies, and produced a few films including Jubal (1956).
7 Daniel Mann (1912-1991) was an Actors Studio founder and Broadway director who began making movies in Hollywood in the fifties. Alfred Hayes wrote the screenplays for two of Mann’s films, The Mountain Road (1960) and Lost in the Stars (1974).
8 Harry A. Romm (1896-1986) was a former talent agent (for the Three Stooges, among others) who did indeed end up at Columbia producing the likes of Senior Prom (1958) and Hey Boy! Hey Girl! (1959).
9 This may or may not be related to Peerce’s subsequent film, The Incident (1967), a claustrophobic story of hoodlums terrorizing subway passengers. It was adapted from a television play by Nicholas E. Baehr.
10 Orville H. Hampton (1917-1997) was an incredibly prolific writer of fifties B-movies (The Atomic Submarine, The Alligator People) and TV shows of equivalent stature (Sky King, Annie Oakley). The pinnacle of his career was probably a stint as a story editor and writer on Perry Mason in the mid-sixties.
All Text and Interview Copyright © 2007 Stephen W. Bowie
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