Norman Lloyd's Interview Is Now Online!
Norman Lloyd, best known for portraying St. Elsewhere's kindly "Dr. Auschlander," was also a producer and one of the directors of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and directed the famous "Man From the South" episode in which Steve McQueen bets Peter Lorre that he can light his Zippo lighter ten times in a row or else loose a finger for each misfire! Click here to access part 5 where the episode is discussed.
Some interview excerpts are as follows:
On appearing in Orson Welles and John Houseman's "Mercury Theater":
The very first production of the "Mercury" was "Julius Caesar," and I played the role of Cinna the poet in it. Orson was Brutus. Caesar was an actor, Joe Holland.... [and] it turned New York on its ear.... And in my view, Orson never did work at the level subsequently. The work never equaled what he did with Houseman. They were a perfect creative team.
On the falling out between Orson Welles and John Houseman:
I forgot the restaurant, where Orson accused John of stealing "Julius Caesar" for his Metro production. And that was in togas, [Orson's was] modern dress, I don’t know what, you know, but I guess Orson thought he wrote the play. And it’s like I always say, I was in the original production of "Julius Caesar," you know what I mean? And Orson threw, at John Houseman, in this restaurant, a can that was heating something, you know, a sterno can or something. Threw it at him. Would have been a very serious result if it had hit him. It was sad. It ended, unfortunately, that way.
On working with film director Jean Renoir:
What can I tell you about Jean? Because I don’t have the words lavish enough to describe my feeling about Jean. Chaplin and Welles said he was the great director of their time.... If you want to know what France was like in the twenties and the thirties, because he came over here in the early forties, you have to look at a Renoir picture.... He was the most intellectual of all the directors. He was almost avant, he was avant-garde. His mind. ....He was really a world figure, of great humanism. Great humanity. Great feeling for the human race. Look at the pictures. The people. There are no villains. You know, he wrote probably the greatest single individual line ever written in a movie, which is, "everyone has his reasons" [from Rules of the Game]. And that you can be thinking about forever. So Jean, uh, extraordinary, big individual. Didn’t speak English too well at that point. And he never lost the very thick French accent. But he was with one, of one with the great artists, particularly those in France. Not only movie people but whatever the art. And to work with him you had a sense that you were now working on a level that was above anything that you could possibly encounter in the run of things.
On Alfred Hitchcock's advice on directing for television:
There was one thing though, that was to be observed in regard to his directing television. He cautioned us all that it is a close medium. Get your establishing shot and get in close as quickly as you can. And he adhered to that. So he never got involved in any complicated shots that involved a lot of staging. He just set it up and then he got in close as fast as he could. And that’s the way he did it. But you see, he had a great storytelling gift so he could tell the story that way.
On St. Elsewhere:
The style was interesting in that the equipment that finally arrived at the point-- like Panavision hand held-- you could do wonderful things. We used to say that the strength of the show was in the corridors of the hospital. As soon as it went away from the hospital it got, in my view, a little shaky. But as long as it was in the hospital it was dynamite, because they dealt with subjects that had never been dealt with before. And in the corridors, particularly, with these hand held cameras, the moving shots, and then going into these rooms and out of the rooms gave the [show] a very alive style.
Norman Lloyd discussed his entrance into theater as a child actor and then as an apprentice to Eva La Gallienne. He talked in detail about his involvement with “The Mercury Theater” and described its first production, a modern dress adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” He spoke of his entrance into feature films in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur, in which he played the title role. Mr. Lloyd detailed his extensive career in television, which began with two 1939 NBC experimental productions. He recounted his work at MCA’s Revue Productions, as a director for such series as The Gruen Theater, which then led to his long association as an actor, director, and producer of Alfred Hitchcock Presents/The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He recalled his work as executive producer and director of KCET’s Hollywood Television Theater. Finally, he discussed the role for which he is most identifed, that of “Dr. Daniel Auschlander” on the critically-acclaimed television series St. Elsewhere. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on September 7, 2000.