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Volume 4558

Denny shares anecdotes from his long career in show business
1. Tall Tales
2. Tarzan vs. Tarzan
3. From Chimp to Shrimp

Denny and Nancy

"Denny Miller Flashbacks" is an ongoing feature in ERBzine
in which Denny will share a different anecdote each week.
Readers are reminded to join us each Friday for a new Miller flashback.


As a bad guy, on MAGNUM P.I., I wore lifts in my shoes so the star, Tom Selleck (like me, was 6'4") would look better/tougher beating me up.  It is difficult to tell an actor's height on the big screen.  There are all kinds of "tricks" used to make actors look taller – smaller furniture, short supporting cast, smaller props, shoe lifts...

I was surprised by a recent list compiled by John "Bridge" Martin giving the height of 22 Tarzans. To be on-screen, shirtless and scantily clothed, certainly required an athletic body.  Several were Olympic Medal Holders and others played sports in college.  Eleven of the twenty-two were 6'3" or taller.  Fitness was important!

It is not a prerequisite to be tall to be a successful Hollywood actor.  In the past, so many of the "tough guys" were huge successes, but short in stature.  Remember Edward G. Robinson, Mickey Rooney, and Dick Powell?  Today, Al Pacino, "Iron Man" Robert Downey, Jr., Daniel Radcliff, Elijah Wood, and Tom Cruise are big stars and are 5’9” or shorter.

Years ago, a friend of mine had a part in an Alan Ladd Western.  The film was shot on location, not on a sound-stage.  The day before his scene with Mr. Ladd, he walked over to the where it would be filmed and there was a guy digging holes and using the dirt to make a mound.

“Excuse me, what are you doing? asked my friend. 

“Well the two holes over there are for you to stand in.  And, the mound is for Mr. Ladd to stand on.” explained the workman.  And the four other holes are for Mr. Ladd's horse.”

I have done several commercials where I was supposed to be a “larger than life” guy – BIG WALLY was one.  And there was a beer commercial where everything was scaled down in the bar and my “leading lady” girl friend was under five feet tall.

I have also had to appear smaller because the leading man was shorter.  I learned to lean, stand several steps beneath him, or sit down.  Sometimes it’s what don’t see on screen that helps tell the story! 


"Three Minus Two" (1 Apr. 1982)  Season 2, Episode 21:  Jan Kona and her two partners operate a very successful fashion company. When one of the partners is murdered, Jan asks Magnum to protect her.
Denny's Role: Ox
"A Sense of Debt" (1 Dec. 1983) ~  Season 4, Episode 8: Magnum is in Detroit and TC is using the Ferrari. While driving the car, TC has an accident and injures a bare knuckles fighter and he has to take his place in the ring.

Denny's Role: Leon Platt
"Photo Play" (10 Apr. 1986): Season 6 ~ Episode 20: A woman who is writing a book about road signs hires Magnum because someone is following her and attempting to steal something but she does not know what it is.

Denny's Role: FBI Agent Longdon

During my career, I had two screen fights with Ron Ely.  He played the hero in both episodes which made me one of the “bad guys.” 

He was the star in a two-hour pilot called “THE SEAL.” As one of the bad guys, we had a fight on The Queen Mary. 

They had converted the luxurious, historic ship into a hotel, anchored in concrete, in Long Beach, CA. 

Ron vanquished four of us bad guys, me included.  I do not recommend this ocean liner as a place for a fight – there are no soft places to fall!

The second time we worked together was on Vancouver Island, BC.  Beautiful location but the beach sand was NOT soft... all pebbles. 

By the end of the shoot I was black and blue all over!

Maybe Hollywood would consider Ron and I for a sequel to Sylvester Stallone’s new release “GRUDGE MATCH.” 

Photo Caption: 
Denny Miller and Ron Ely
The two Tarzan "combatants" have a more peaceful dry-land meeting 
at the 2012 Tarzana Dum-Dum.
Denny and Ron are displaying portraits created by artist Uwe Reber

Queen Mary

The Beaches of Vancouver Island, BC
From Chimp to Shrimp
We could make out the New England coast through the porthole. Gloucester was off the port bow. The seas were calm but the boat has a steady roll, a consistent rock. Not a coffee cup-grabbing roll but a "feet-wide-apart when you're walking the deck" roll. 

I was at the helm. I'd just been given a higher rank and felt proud to have the responsibility.

The director yelled "Cut, take five." I stepped off the rocking set and walked right into the make-up man. I was the new GORTON'S FISHERMAN, and I was seasick. Maybe not seasick, just a little bit dizzy. After all, we were filming on a sound stage in the middle of Manhattan.

It wouldn't do to have a sea captain suffering from mal de mer in the  middle of New York City, on dry land. Gorton's future 
TV commercial shoots would be done at sea.

No one seemed to notice. No one offered me pills or a bucket, not even an ice pack. My spokesman job was safe, at least for the moment. 

They never asked me at the audition if I was a good sailor. It slipped my mind to mention that I got seasick on a car-ferry on Lake Michigan, a half an hour out of Chicago.

I had tried Dramamine on the troop ship coming back from duty in Germany. It knocked me out. I was in a deep sleep in half an hour. That wouldn't help when it came to dialogue.

Two marezine pills and I could sail through a hurricane on a cork and not get seasick and not nod off. I had just forgotten to take them. Well, that's not quite true. I didn't think a gently rocking set would get to me. Surprise.

Since my Manhattan Project, we've done over fifty commercials, some in Tampa Bay in forty-knot winds. Darn -- I forgot to mention the boat was tied to the wharf. We worked in the Straights of Juan De Fucha out of Vancouver, B.C.. Marezine was there. We went out of San Pedro Harbor, Los Angeles. . . no problem. After fifteen years you could call me an old salt. Well maybe just old.

There was only one hitch. Around my seventh year, Gorton's was purchased from General Mills, by Unilever. It was a hostile takeover, at least as far as I was concerned. Unilever owned a fish company in Europe, and they had been using a European actor for their TV spots. So it was bye-bye for me.

Most actors love to act, whether it's on the live stage (legitimate) or the TV and film stage (illegitimate). It's the time between jobs that is tough. I had teaching to fall back on, and did need its support financially and psychologically, many times. Some actors get lost in their down time. Many just throw in the towel.

When I lost the Gorton's contract, I taught school Six months after my release, Gorton's called my agent and asked if I'd be interested in having my old job back. Does a sea captain need Marezine? Where do I sign?

It seems that when Gorton's tested the European fisherman's television sots, the results were less than positive. I was told he played a jolly "Pied Piper of Hamlin" character; a roly-poly guy with lots of children dancing along the wharf with him. The spots didn't go over big with the mothers out in TV land.

So I got a new supply of Marezine. Several years back, Gorton's was bought from Unilever by a Japanese company. This time it was a friendly take-over and the good friends in Gloucester, Massachusetts (Gorton's headquarters) kept me along for the ride. 

It was a good company to work for. I made many friends there.

Fish is good for you and me, Gorton's sells twice as much fish as their nearest competitor. The Gorton's Fisherman has been catching fish for over 160 years and he knows all the best places to fish. TRUST ME.

Denny's Gorton's Fisherman in Pop Culture
Statues ~ Legos ~ Celebriduck ~ Bobbleheads ~ Collectibles ~ Dolls
Golf Balls ~ Teddy Bears  ~ Toys ~ Puppets ~ Block Figures

Fisherman Football ReferreeStacking Dolls

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