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Dick Van Dyke
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Mary Tyler Moore
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Dick Van Dyke

The Play

First Impressions 


I saw Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy do The Gin Game, oh it must be 30 years ago - and you can't get better people than that. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I said to Mary, "Someday we're going to be old enough to do that, and I'd like to do it." And she said, "I'd like to take a crack at that, too." So this last year I called her up and said, Mary we're old enough now. [Laughs] And she said OK. We had trouble trying to sell it, for some reason. I don't know whether it was because it's dated material, or Mary and I are dated, or what. Finally PBS said why don't we go ahead and do it.

Weller and Fonsia meet as two strangers and in practically no time at all they build into what is essentially a marital relationship. They're talking to each other and arguing like two married people! They've only known each other a few days, and I was fascinated by how that relationship grew and how, as married people do, they suddenly became aware of each other's faults, each other's failings, fears, anxieties. Then they begin to pick at each other, the way it builds, the way a marriage does, over a very short period of time. And I just felt that that was something that Mary and I could handle.
 

Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore
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Dick Van Dyke & Mary Tyler Moore talk about The Gin Game, Part 1
 
View Part 2 of the interview in the Mary Tyler Moore section.

 
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Facing A Tragedy 


As we did it, I slowly came to realize that Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy found humor that wasn't there in the writing. Mary and I kept saying, This is very heavy! When I watched it I didn't think it was this heavy. But it's a very very heavy play.

Arvin saw the play for what it really was. I kept thinking, some light bulbs in here are missing. He kept saying the arc of the play is that you have to face a tragedy, and he was absolutely right.

It's very sad, very depressing, and it's very well-written. I don't know why it's so universal. I guess the suspense of knowing where these two people are going and what's going to happen to them. You have no clue as to where it's going.
 


The Ending 


The ending was always to me a little in the air. It left you kind of "the lady and the tiger" kind of thing. I asked the playwright, who came around a few times and helped us out, about the ending and he said, Nobody knows this but the original ending was he kills her. [Laughs] He beats her to death with his cane! And I said, thank god you didn't do that! It won a Pulitzer Prize, but for me the ending has always been a little bit... [does the so-so hand gesture]. I had an idea... you know, he just walks away at the end and you don't know what's happened. Over the credits I just wanted to see pictures from the outside of the two of them, not together, staring out the window, just staring. I thought that would've been a nice way of opening it up a little bit. But nobody bought my idea. I still think it was a good one.
 


A Caveat to the Viewer 


I only have one misgiving about the play going on the air, and that is the language. My character swears like a... Oh my gosh, all the way through. And I fear that because it's Mary and because it's me, people are going to think it's family entertainment, and I'd like to get the word out that it is not. There's no violence and no sex or anything, but the language.. People I think trust me to bring them family entertainment. I always have. So this experiment was for us a great exercise, but I would like parents to know that, I would like them to watch, but it's not for the family.


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