28 Sep 2008
This year I made it my goal to share all of my on-set photos with all of you via my Flickr account. The most recent batch of photos I’ve uploaded are from an ABC made-for-TV movie originally titled “Saratoga Summer” (released as “A Horse for Danny“). Shot in Lexington, Kentucky and Evansville, Indiana, the movie tells the heartwarming tale of a spunky girl named Danny (a spunky young Leelee Sobieski) and her horse-training Uncle Eddie (Robert Urich) as they struggle to make their mark in the hurly-burly world of horse racing. Young Leelee was delightful to work with, and while I experienced no problems with Robert Urich, the man seemed to go out of his way to give my friend, Propmaster Joe Connolly, a hard time.
On that first day we shot a breakfast scene with Urich, he was complaining about his watch, complaining about his prop food, twitching about resets and generally grinding in his heels with whatever Joe brought him.
People are funny.
We tend to form stereotypical images of people based on their face, their skin color, their teeth, their hair, their demeanor, their names, their clothes… anything characteristic you can imagine. Sometimes, through no fault of our own, stereotyping can bleed across from people we resemble…. people can treat you strangely because you remind them of a childhood bully, or a girl who dumped you, or the weather lady, or a scary character from a television show.
As crazy as it sounds, there are instances on film sets when you can run across these types of prejudices based entirely on a person’s role on the film crew. You’ll find an actor who doesn’t like sound people, production designers who have it out against prop guys, directors who don’t respect their hair and makeup departments. It was never worth trying to get to the bottom of these tiny vendettas, and in the case of Robert Urich, there may have been mitigating circumstances.
He was often slow to get to set, and didn’t like to be there until things were really close to being ready to shoot. Word was that he was suffering from really bad arthritis. Unfortunately, as we learned several years later, it was revealed to be an unusual form of cancer that attacks the body’s joints, leading ultimately to Urich’s death.
As frustrating as Urich’s behavior toward Joe was, I know that Joe felt terrible when we eventually learned of Urich’s passing.
I can’t help but remember the last day that Urich worked with us on the show. He was particularly run down that morning and we’d been awaiting his arrival on set for fifteen minutes or more. I can’t remember the exact wording, but chatter on the radio indicated that he was having trouble walking. Without hesitation, Joe leaped up into the back of the prop truck and grabbed a furniture dolly, some tape, some rope and his fireman’s boots.
Lashing the boots to the furniture dolly in an upright position and tying the rope to the front of that rig, Joe raced onto set, tossed the “boot sled” down and demonstrated how he could PULL Urich through the shot… he was that eager to have the weight of Urich’s constant nagging lifted!!