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Volume 5016

Denny shares anecdotes from his long career in show business
1. Critics
2. What's His Name
3. Legs

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.
 We thought it might be fun for our readers 
to write anecdotes about the first time they met Denny 
- either via the screen or in  person.
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Fan Anecdotes

The movies and TV shows I like to watch are comedies. They are becoming an endangered species. War is not fun entertainment. Blood and body parts are for the true grit crowd. I agree with people that say violent films can teach us that violence is so painful, so ugly that no one in his right mind would want to go there. But I already know that. Took me a long time, but now that violence is not a part of my amusement package, I plan to stay on that diet the rest of my life.

Feel-good films, TV shows and plays are important to my well-being. They make me feel healthy. Norman Cousins called laughter, "inner aerobics." I'll buy that. Give me a giggle, guffaw -- chuckle or chortle -- and I'll pay gladly for the ticket. 

The two reasons I search for that "make me cry" are : one, because I'm laughing so hard I can't stop, and the second reason is when I experience beauty . . . so much beauty that my whole being is filled with it -- the beauty of a sunset or sunrise, the beauty of a kind gesture . . . the beauty of a glorious view of Mother Nature. Like the new the young cavalry lieutenant saw when he discovered Yosemite Valley. He burst into tears, overwhelmed by so much beauty.

These are the things I look for in a film. Now there's a group of people called CRITICS. I'm sure most of them are nice folks. It's their job to get between you and a film, and tell you what you're going to see before you see it. A lot of them get wrapped in the process. Some compete with other critics to see who can sound the mot witty, informed  and knowledgeable about how to make movies. Sadly, according to most of them, the movie they have just seen hasn't been made up to their standards.

There have been lots of bad movies made and more stinkers will be made. But critics paint an awful picture about most pictures. 

There have been good critics. Charles Champlin was one for over twenty-five hears for the Los Angeles Times. His column of criticism usually went like this. "These are my thoughts about this film. Go see it and see what you think." Constructive criticism, not destructive.

TV film critics are my favourite. I have one in mind whose TV personality comes across like that of a not-so-friendly Casper the Friendly Ghost. Only he wears tweeds. His shirt collar is two inches too big for his pencil neck. His tweedy sport coat shoulders are three inches two big fore his pencil neck. HIs tweedy sport coat shoulders are three inches too big for his bony frame, and his voice is so meek, I have to turn up my hearing aid to hear him. 

Out of this mousy creature comes a verbal attack on most of the movies he's seen kinda like that of a crazed giant with a machete in both hands and a bottle poison between his tobacco-stained teeth. He's a mean critter with a poop-eating grin on his face. He absolutely loves his job.

The irony on top of irony is that he's the film critic for The Wall Street Journal. That's kinda like being a sportswriter for Vogue.

Here's a suggestion. Turn him off. Or watch him for a few laughs and then go see the film and make up your own mind.

I don't know who said this, but somebody did. Our responsibility when looking at a work of art, whether it's a film, painting, play, dance or sculpture -- is not to UNDERstand it, but just to be able to STAND it. 

Critics should be treated like the king's and queen's food tasters. Don't pay any attention to them until one of them drops dead after sampling a performance.



What's His Name?
Every time you turn on your TV, you invite an actor or a bunch of actors into your home; right into your living room, rec. room, kitchen, back porch, bedroom, even into your bathroom at some hotels. it happens all over the world. Granted they are in a box, they're flat, sometimes black and white  . . . but there they are.

Day after day, night after night, for hours at a time they're there. This has been going on for many years. Some of these actors are practically members of your family. You spend more time in their presence than with your kids. In the U.S., the average time spent watching TV is somewhere between four and seven hours a day. Between soap operas, the news, unreal reality shows, sit-coms, sporting events, documentaries, detective series, home repair, cooking shows, interview programs, kids programs and movie reruns, who has time for much else?

It's no surprise that when you see these actors at the grocery store thumping a watermelon, or pumping gas next to you or sitting behind you at a ball game you recognize them. They've been in your home almost every day for years. 

In person, they may be shorter than you thought, or have no beard or are bald as banister, or have lost their limp or gained one, or are not as snappy a dresser as they are on screen. But there they are; round not flat and in color, with moles and nose hairs and all the other imperfections that make-up hides.

There's your old friend that you've had lunch with, that you have listened to from another room while you ironed a shirt, that you've fallen asleep with . . . but what the hell is his name? He's played so many different characters. I liked him years ago on that Western and in that Gorton's Popcorn Fish TV commercial  . .  What IS his name? 

Here he comes -- don't  be shy -- say hello -- thank him for all the laughs, "AAAAAA -- Pardon me . . . didn't you used to be what's his name?"

~ Denny



Juliet Prowse

Denny and Juliet in "Mona McCluskey"
Legs are good. Well, some legs are. I like legs. Chicken legs are up there on my list, right next to turkey legs. I'm not much interested in any other animal legs. Horse legs seem too skinny for all that weight and speed. You can tell I'm not a real cowboy. Dogs' legs are usually too hairy to get a good look at. Turtle legs are special. Retractable, that's special.

Human legs get my full attention. I look with envy at a trackman's legs -- muscular, limber, well formed from ankle to hip, built for speed and jumping and vaulting. I've accused God of putting my legs on backwards. How can I be bow-legged, knock-kneed and have knobby knees all at the same time and not have my legs on backwards? On top of that, or I should say on he bottom of that, my feet are three sizes too big for my body and I'm pigeon-toed. People have told me I walk around with my nose in the air. It's just to avoid looking down. 

Ladies' legs, gams, stems, wheels -- long, shapely dancers' legs can be a distraction. They have caused me much pain. I've walked into lampposts, walls, other people, almost everything you can name while ogling at a pair of beautiful legs. 

Juliet Prowse. Does that name bring the vision of the Olympics of legs? I had to play her husband in a TV series called "Mona McCluskey" created by writer, producer, actor, and director Don McGuire. He also wrote the classic film about prejudice, "Bad Day at Black Rock" and the original script for "Tootsie."

I know playing Juliet's husband in a sitcom for twenty-six weeks was a dirty job but somebody . . . Anyway, the first day of rehearsal for the pilot arrived. The cast was there; Juliet and me and Elena Verdugo and Robert Strauss who played "Animal" in Stalag 17", and Herb Rudly.

The cameraman was there with his assistants. Roy Stork from make-up was there. Interesting guy, he had been on the "Dolittle Raid" in WWII. The prop department was well represented along with the sound department and the grips.

We were seated at a long table in the middle of a large sound stage. Two rather harsh lights provided enough light for everyone to read their scripts and take notes. Two rather harsh lights provided enough light for everyone to read their scripts and take notes. This oval of bright light dropped off in all directions so the group was surrounded by darkness. 

No Mr. Don McGuire, our director/producer and lead. Five minutes went by, ten minutes -- he was ten minutes late. People began to fidget in their seats.

The stage door opened off in the darkness and let a streak of light slice the black in two. We could see Don's silhouette in the doorway. The door closed behind him and he disappeared. We could hear his footsteps. He was in no hurry. He walked into our light and everyone sat up to greet him and begin.

He walked right by us. No hello, no nod. It was as if we didn't exist. And he walked into the dark beyond, We heard him stop and out of the silence., . . "Fudge!!!!!!!!!!!!" It bounced off the walls and us. 

Don appeared out of the darkness with a big smile on his face. 

"Now we can get started."

Don was like that. He used humour, which is based on surprise, to break the tensions in life. I miss him very much.

For twenty-six weeks it was a joy to come to work. George Burns. Right, the one and only George Burns, took over as producer. Richard Whorf, of the Orson Wells Actors' Group, directed every show. And Robert Strauss, "Animal," kept us laughing from morning till morning.

The show was up against "Thursday Night At The Movies." What a time slot. On our opening night , we were up against "Manchurian Candidate." We could sense the TV audience out there. "What will we watch tonight, Frank Sinatra in a classic film or an $80,000 episode of an unknown sit-com?"

We were ranked sixty-seventh out of sixty-four shows that night and never got any higher. Mom and Dad watched and my brother stood in for me. But everybody in the show had a great time.

We even broke the twin bed barrier for sitcoms. Up until then, even married couples were filmed ONLY in twin beds. I guess when you know your show is going to be canceled -- what the heck, bring on the king-sized bed. 

Legs? Juliet danced all over Europe on hers. She danced in Vegas in her own show. She danced in musicals and summer stock all over the U.S. She even danced in the pilot episode for "Mona McCluskey." When old guys sit around and praise ladies' legs and no one mentions Juliet Prowse, you know you're with a bunch of amateur leg watchers or old geezers in need of guide dogs. 

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