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MICK DU RUSSEL- The Showbiz Wizard
From an early age, show business has always been my main interest. As a child, I would write to many of the oldtime movie stars and to my amazement, they would write back! After years of letter writing, my collection of autographed photos and letters took up a good part of my bedroom. Stars like John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby, Mary Pickford to people like Norman Rockwell, President Lyndon Johnson, cartoonist Carl Schulz, etc...
Today, I am an entertainment writer based on Long Island. My specialty is interviewing celebrities and some of the most interesting people in the world. I have a knack for being able to find almost anyone! My success is based on being persistant without being obnoxious!
Five years ago, I founded 'Sound Success For ALS", an annual music fund raiser featuring some of the world's top musicians. I've also hosted two art shows wih part of the proceeds going to ALS reseearch.
He will be forever known as "Chip Douglas", the third son of Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) on the long running TV series "My Three Sons". But Stanley Livingston has accomplished much more in his long career that is still going strong. The multi faceted actor recently released a revolutionary DVD series " the Actor's Journey Project" , which he produced and directed, as an insider's guide to breaking into the industry. I had the great pleasure to speak with Stan about this and his amazing career...
MICK: How did you get the role of Chip on "My Three Sons"?
STAN: I'd been working for about five years in the industry by that time. At that point, I had a little bit of a reputation in the industry. I'd done a whole bunch of "Ozzie and Harriett" shows. I started my career there in 1955 as the neighborhood kid. Did a lot of TV shows back in those days and started doing movies too. I did "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" with Doris Day and David Niven, "Rally Round the Flag Boys" with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and a few other feature films. By that point in time, the producers asked to see me. I came in and was cast almost right on the spot! I was the first one hired besides Fred MacMurray. They had to put the rest of the cast together and that took another six months. They finally had William Frawley, Tim Considine, and Don Grady to complete the original cast.
MICK: When "My Three Sons" first went on the air in 1960, ABC got Fred MacMurray to play the dad Steve Douglas. He was a big movie star at that time. How did he adjust to TV work?
STAN: It probably doesn't resonate as much now but when Fred MacMurray came to do "My Three Sons", it was unprecedented, to be truthful about it, that a movie star of that caliber would actually come and do the daily grind of a TV series. Most of the big movie stars, if they did TV at all, would maybe do a Bob Hope special or an episode of Lucy. They weren't up to doing the 36 episodes we did in those days that would curtail their movie careers. Fred had just adopted twins, Katie and Laurie. They were pretty young then and he wanted to stick close to home and not go off for months doing a movie. It sounded like a good thing for him. He was half owner of the show with Don Fedderson. It was a nice little gig he had going!
MICK: How was veteran actor William Frawley on the set?
STAN: He was great! He was probably my favorite person/character on the set. We kind of bonded because I didn't have a grandfather and he never had any kids. I don't think he liked kids. I looked up to him because at that point in time I was a big fan of "I Love Lucy". I used to play hooky from school to watch "I Love Lucy" at 9:00am and then have a miraculous recovery at 9:30am! My parents got wise to that one! He was great. He was a crusty old guy, always cursing four letter words. Taught me every four letter word I know!
MICK: After William Frawley, there was William Demarest!
STAN: Yes, Demarest came in the fourth year. Frawley was having some health problems and the studio basically couldn't get him insured. They had to let him go and needed to replace that character. Fred MacMurray worked with William Demarest quite a bit. Somehow he came to their attention as he was so much like Frawley. So he was cast as Bub, the brother to the grandfather on the show. He continued with the cooking, cleaning and vacuuming. He made a great domestic maid! Wish I could find one of them myself!
MICK: Do you have a favorite episode?
STAN: I like the one with the lion [Season 6 Episode 5 There's a What in the Attic]. That was a cute episode. A circus is in town and a lion gets loose. Everybody has a near miss with the lion. We had another one called "Happy Birthday World" [1966 Season 7 Episode 9]. In that one, we had pie fights like the Keystone Kops. that was fun to shoot. My favorite episodes are the ones shot in black and white. There was a different style of writing for those. They were really heartfelt and portrayed the family values that struck a chord with American families.
MICK: You started out on "The Ozzie and Harriett Show". They were a real family. Was that different from working with a make believe family?
STAN: There really wasn't much difference from working with the surrogate family I had on "My Three Sons" except they were actually a real family. The Nelson kids were great. We came into the show when the Nelson boys were getting a little older. Ozzie, in his infinite wisdom, decided to get some younger people on the show as neighborhood kids. We did all kinds of episodes. Ozzie was a gentle director to work with. That fostered my interest in the business. I was pretty lucky there and I've worked with some monsters too. The movie "How The West Was Won" is another story. Henry Hathaway and John Ford, living legend directors of that era, were really tough guys.
MICK: They were tough to work for?
STAN: They were very temperamental, yelling and screaming at everybody. They had a pretty tense set going, not just for the actors but the entire crew. They didn't take any guff from anybody. They would scream and curse you out even if you were a six year old kid!
MICK: Your brother Barry Livingston was on the show with you. Do you have any other brothers or sisters in the business?
STAN: Barry and I actually did one episode of "Ozzie and Harriett" together. It was the very last episode I did because I found out I'd been hired for "My Three Sons". We actually worked together one time before that in the film "Rally Round The Flag Boys". Barry got fired from that because he wasn't paying attention. We were suppose to be watching TV when Paul Newman walked in and starts talking to us. My brother didn't look like he was looking at the TV set and by noon, the director was really frustrated with him. He said "This kid has crossed eyes!" and decided that no son of Paul Newman's was going to have crossed eyes. So by One O'clock, we had a new brother on the set and Barry was fired! My younger brother, who is ten years younger than me and my sister is thirteen years younger. When they were younger they did a few things. My sister did commercials and did a movie with Elliott Gould called "I Love My Wife". My younger brother did a few
"Waltons"episodes but he wasn't really cut out for it. At that point, my mom wasn't up to fostering another career!
MICK: Do you keep in touch with Don Grady?
STAN: Yes, we used to see each other a couple times each year. We email and phone each other. The same thing with Tim Considine, who played my older brother Mike. I see him quite often, maybe three or four times a year. He's older than me and he's like a real older brother. Don is like a real older brother too! And my younger brother on the show is my real younger brother!
MICK: Please tell me about The Actor's Journey Project!
STAN: After "My Three Sons", I got involved in production. I started producing small stuff like industrial educational films and I worked my way up to producing a feature. Having been in the industry for most of my life, I recognized that many people went to acting school and tried to get in the business. The fact is that there's over a 99% failure rate of people who are trained. What happens is that you graduate and then try to get a job in the business and within a year or two, most of these people are gone! There's this thing called the business that's in show business and that's not taught to you in acting class. So we put this program together. I'm the guy who organized this whole thing and brought 100 people together from within the industry that includes actors, directors, producers, executive producers, casting directors, talent managers. It also included the president of the Screen Actors Guild and the Screen Directors Guild at that time. This
program was put to together for actors that is totally dedicated to getting them into the industry and teaching the business skills that they need to know to actually facilitate a career. It was no small task. It took around three years to get the entire thing shot and another couple years to edit. There are two different programs because we realize there wasn't one program that fits all. There's one program for the adults 18 years and older. This is people who come into the industry just after they graduate and they're usually doing it for themselves. It's pretty easy to get lost in this industry. Nothing happens and there's nobody there to help you. You may get a job or two but it's how you sustain the whole thing is another story. There's no information out there, not even on the internet. This program is a ten hour program called "The Actor's Journey". At the same time, we shot another program for parents who want to involve their children in the
industry. That's for children from infancy to seventeen years old. The parents really need to know what's going on to stay in the business. The child may have the talent but it's the parents who are fostering the career. They need to know what they're involved in.
We have cottage industry of scam artists in this industry. They recognize your desire to get in but they also recognize that you are pretty naive on the business side of it and they exploit that. The second project is called "The Actor's Journey For Kids" and it's not really for kids, it's for the parents of children and teens who want to get in the business.
One of the criteria's for people involved with the project is that they must be in the industry for at least twenty years or more. They all have huge credits. The information they share is something you can't find anywhere else. I produced and directed the project. It was done through my company "First Team Productions". The information we have here is timeless and it doesn't matter where you live.
MICK: Where is "The Actor's Journey Project" available?
STAN: If you go to the actorsjourneyproject.com, that will send you to the two websites, one is "theactorsjourney.com" for adults and the other is"theactorsjourneyforkids.com" for children 17 and under. On the website, you can read about the project and see the 100 people involved with it. Their list of credits is unbelievable. We involved and engaged people of the highest level to make sure this information is more than accurate. You are getting it straight from the horse's mouth instead of the junk that's on thInternetet.
MICK: You are also an accomplished glass artist. How did that come about for you?
STAN: That resulted from spending a lot of years on a sound stage and trying to entertain myself while not making a lot of noise. I was always interested in art. I certainly had the time to do it! Oils, watercolors, pen and pencil, ink, I did it all. I eventually got interested in stained glass. You're not only working on a canvas, you're working on a glass canvas which means you're working with light as well. I have a website for my art "Stanleylivingstonart.com". I really haven't done anything in a while because I've been busy with production. You can see when I've already done and hopefully may do iagainan in the future. Tiffany glass has always been a favorite of mine. When you see that, you realize what actually can be done or the degree to which glass can emulate paint. They were amazing at putting these windows together with the highlights and the shadows. It's not like what most people think of stained glass. Around 1980, I had some time off and
decided to do my art for a while. That's when I got into glass art. I wasn't really looking to sell anything but I was starting to get commissions to create some pieces.
MICK: Do you still paint?
STAN: I haven't had time. I went back into production about ten years ago. We did a feature, a TV series that I directed, and the Actor's Journey thing that took up a good chunk of my life. I thought it would be a four or five year thing but it took much longer. The economy slowed things down. I have a production company that I'm involved as a producer and director. I'm doing a project right now with a guy named Steve Railsback. He's the guy that played Charles Manson in the movie "Helter Skelter". I'm producing a movie that he is directing. We are hoping it goes into production later this year. I have another script that I've been working on for over a year that deals with the Beatles.
MICK: "My Three Sons" ended in 1972. Your character had got married at that point. As the character of Chip, what do you think would have happened to him?
STAN: I probablwouldn'tnt have stayed married to Polly! I think everybody got a divorce in those days. I think Chip might have become a photographer or something creative. It's funny because we actually talked about that at one point of time. We decided Ernie would have become an engineer, Don would have definitely become a musician either with a rock band or writing jingles for commercials.
MICK: Is your daughter in the entertainment business?
STAN: No she's not.
MICK: What are your future plans?
STAN: My future is getting shorter and shorter! I will be 61 this year. I wanted to do this project for the acting community. I wanted to put something back into the industry along with the 100 other people that helped me. If this is the last thing I do, I can say I did at least two great things to be remembered by. Not matter what I do, I will always be remembered from "My Three Sons". And this other thing, I'd like to think it has some merit. Everybody that has seen it has been blown away. I'm really proud that I did this and took the time off to do it. My main indenture right now is to push ahead with production work, either as a producer or a director. I have about four or five different things on my plate right now. Hopefully, that is what I hope to be doing until I fall over! I don't want to be locked up somewhere doing nothing so I hope I'm on a movie set when I croak!
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