GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Friday, May 25, 2012

Michael Chanslor: The Jerry Fairfax Show

Upon my return from living in Paris, I began making independent films--'thinking man's cop dramas' was how I referred to them--that examined the fascinating and complex inter-dependence between law enforcement, organized crime and politics. I had intended to return to Paris as I only came to Los Angeles in order to market the TV pilot I'd shot in France (The French Chef starring Philippe Léotard) and to spend time with my father and sisters. I had been engaged by J. Walter Thompson in Paris to do a film for Tropicana Orange Juice and would need to be back in Paris to shoot it.

Although everyone seemed to love The French Chef, cable TV was still in its infancy and the show (featuring a French movie star and a girl from the Crazy Horse Saloon) did not fit into the limited and preconceived ideas of what cable should be offering. While I was making the rounds trying to sell the pilot, I was approached with an offer to do a feature film which I gladly accepted. That film was Desert Center and I shot it on and around El Mirage, the dry lake bed near Victorville where I'd worked on the CBS TV movie Sole Survivor as a teen. Completing the film, I was asked to do a second film by the same individual, which I did but only after returning to Paris for three weeks to fulfill my obligation to J. Walter Thompson and Tropicana. The second film took us back to El Mirage with a new story and a new cast with the exception of Gérard Ismael who starred in both films and more recently taped a segment of (Interview) version française with me. Gérard and I went on to do a third film together, Fait Accompli, which like the first two fell into the New Wave, French-style 'film policier'. My brand was emerging.

Enter the repertory company. I formed a group patterned after the old Hollywood movie studios and we went about producing movies and TV shows using the actors in the group. We branded, managed and promoted them in addition to creating products in which they could work. Given that we had about a hundred actors in the group at any given time, we had a wide variety of personalities--brands--with which to populate our movies and TV shows. The more interesting 'brands' inspired us to create a movie or show based on the actor's persona. One such was Michael Chanslor.

Although The Jerry Fairfax Show, which was conceived specifically for the persona and talents of Michael Chanslor, would seem to be an off-brand exercise for me, the common thread was that of irony. Jerry was a marvelous character. He was a never-wozzer who failed with his drive-time radio show in a small town somewhere in the midwest and had returned to Hollywood where he first knew fame. That taste of fame had come in the form of a small role on the TV series Name of the Game wherein the fictional Jerry had one scene with Tony Franciosa. That Tony was in his trailer while Jerry did his half of the scene was not taken by Jerry as a slight but, rather, as Tony's trust in Jerry to do an fine job without Tony's assistance. Irony, you see.

The fictional Jerry Fairfax Show was filmed in the San Marino mansion of the fictional Dorothy Bloomingdale-Smith (played by Kathi Carey's mother Teddy Carey). Jerry was constantly striving to maintain semi-professional standards on the show in spite of a technical director (Dave Manship) who never knew if they were in or out for commercial--or if he did know, saw no need to inform Jerry--various girlfriends (one played by Kathi Carey of Marilyn Howell-Becker fame) competing for air time on the show, a disgruntled staffer (Kevin Courtright) who would just as soon see the show fail and an ensemble of characters sourced from our repertory company. I've never had such fun shooting a show.

Michael would improvise not only dialogue based on my suggestions, he was capable of improvising musical riffs on the piano from blues to jazz and rock 'n roll. A complete performer is Michael. More recently, Michael has worked with me on the Ferrari GTO videos and was the post production supervisor on Carrera Panamericana (1950-54). His music has graced many of my projects including The Jerry Fairfax Show, Clip Joint, Point of Departure and Elysée Wednesday: Drive!

Michael and I have been working together since 1997. I don't know what I would do without him.

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