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The Director
Underlying Themes
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From Stage to Screen
Playwright D.L. Coburn
Dick Van Dyke
Mary Tyler Moore
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From Stage to Screen

Directing The Gin Game 


The Gin Game is the kind of play that television does best, this kind of one-to-one, very intense, intimate personal situation. You can go into great close-ups, you can go into character detail, and you don't have to interrupt with obligatory action sequences every two minutes.

In turning the play into a film, I designed the set with enough space so that there would be room for camera maneuverability. While I was trying to make this piece as visually interesting as possible and allow the camera to tell the story in a detailed way, I never wanted the camera to call attention to itself.

One of the challenges of directing a two-character play is that all you have is two characters to engage an audience for 90 minutes. In the hands of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, that was no problem.
 


The Look 


I loved Johnny Simmons from our first meeting, when he started talking about Edward Hopper and a lot of great visual artists. I'm always thrilled when a Director of Photography has a background in visual art. There's a real sense that they're really good craftsmen, but they're also aware of the larger world of visual realization.

Edward Hopper influenced our work with the Costume Designer, Christopher Lawrence, who did a superb job. So did the Set Decorator and the Production Designer, John Iacovelli. They all worked in tandem to create that stark, slightly pallid color palette that's also warm at the same time. It's warm because the play is very funny in the first half, and I didn't want to do anything visually that would kill the delightful wit and one-upmanship.

We see just enough so that we alter the structure and look of the original play. In a sense, our setting seems less claustrophobic. Yet in the long run, it's every bit as claustrophobic as the original locale of the play. You still realize that it's a circumscribed world from which there really is no escape.
 


Working with Public Television  


The Broadway version of The Gin Game was initially produced at the Long Wharf Theatre, where I was artistic director for many years. So I was, in a sense, one of the producers of the original production. Since my career has gone into television in such a major way, it seemed like a natural meeting of my past and my present for the producer, Ellen Krass, to come to me with the project.

The concept of the "PBS Hollywood Presents" series is marvelous. It's specifically a television event. Working on The Gin Game, one felt that the network trusted the artists to do the kind of work that they wanted to be a part of, and there was never a moment of interference in any way. Essentially we were working in complete freedom - which I admire and respond to well.
 

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