TV GUlDE OCTOBER 30, 1971
REVIEW by Cleveland Amory
Writers seem to have a thing for violence happening to blind
people. The Broadway play "Wait Until Dark" was a particularly
frightening example. Frankly we don't happen to like it -- but
then, we would have said we didn't much like the idea of a
detective in a wheel chair, and by now surely you know what we
think of Ironside. In any case, this new series stars, as
insurance-investigator Michael Longstreet, Mr. James Franciscus --
a man you may remember from the fine job he did several years ago
as the school teacher in Mr. Novak.
Longstreet's misfortunes began in the TV movie which begat this
series. At the beginning of the movie he was a recently married
insurance investigator. At the end, it bombed -- or rather, there
was a bomb. And when the smoke cleared away, his wife was dead and
he was sightless. He was understandably bitter for quite a while -
- and, as a matter of fact, Mr. Franciscus plays the part so
coolly that he could be accused of coldness. But he is good, and
he also has two very good things going for him. One is a fine
executive producer and chief writer named Stirling Silliphant and
the other is scripts which don't sound as if they were -- well,
scripts. These are no small virtues, and they succeed in
overcoming our initial negative feelings about the premise of the
series. If the credits go to Silliphant, to story editor Mark
Rodgers and to producer Joe Rogosin, the benefits go direct to
The premier episode was a good example of these virtues. It
started with Longstreet getting a brutal beating from the leader
of a dock gang and two accomplices. It ended, after he had learned
"jeet kune do" (look it up; a word looked up is a word
remembered), with his beating up his beater-upper. If this sounds
trite and untrue, it wasn't, not only because of a fine script but
also because of some tried and true acting by Bruce Lee, as a
Chinese jeet kune do-er. In another episode, Longstreet learned to
shoot a gun. In the end, he had it out with the bad guy in a
garage and, shooting to the sound, managed to get his man to call
it quits. It sounds awful, doesn't it? But it wasn't, because the
script was a well-rounded and well-charactered story which gave
realism to a variety of robberies and, wonder of wonders, even
managed a fine satire of a rich cocktail party without letting the
story get away.
Mr. Franciscus also has some fine scenery here. And all of it
isn't New Orleans either‹although it's a fantastic city and a new
and different place to shoot a show. At least part of the good
scenery is Marlyn Mason. She plays understandingly -- but not too
understandingly -- Longstreet's girl friend, Nikki. Then there is
Longstreet's friend and business associate, Duke Paige (Peter Mark
Richman). He also is understanding, but only up to a point.
Finally, there is Pax. Who is Pax? We'd like to tell you, but we
can't. If we did, some sorehead would write in and say the only
reason we like the show is that Pax is in it.
[Note: Cleveland Amory is an author whose works include "The Cat
Who Stayed for Christmas."]
The television listings for Thursday November 4 at 9:00pm read:
LONGSTREET -- Crime Drama (C)
Join Longstreet on the trail of a stolen Rembrandt. Your only
clue: a ski mask found at the scene of the crime. Longstreet:
James Franciscus. Duke: Peter Mark Richman. Nikki: Marlyn
Mason. (60 min.)
Dr. Franklin............Tim O'Connor
Marianne Franklin....Shelley Fabares
Mrs. Franklin.............Nan Martin
Minneapolis Tribune TV week, October 31 - November 6, 1971
Minneapolis Tribune TV week
October 31 - November 6, 1971
By Irv Letofsky
Hollywood, Calif. As one of those rare Hollywood successes
who doesn't have a business manager and handles his own
checkbook, James Franciscus brings a certain wisdom to the
At the Yale Drama School he first wanted to write, "but I
discovered that it's too lonely a profession for me," he
said. A Walt Disney talent scout saw him and put him in
"Four Boys and a Gun."
In the interim between then and now, the fairhaired
Missouri boy did "Naked City" and "Mr. Novak," two
applauded series, and several films, including six in the
last three years.
"After 'Novak,' I wanted to leave television," he said.
"You just cannot discuss adult things, nothing relevant...
The average network gives up at the 12-year-old mentality.
It can have quality and maturity in dealing with themes; it
can be oblique; it can be more subtle."
On this day he was stabbing into a monster salad in a back
restaurant room at Paramount Studios and discussing his new
ABC-TV series, "Longstreet," in which he plays a blind
insurance investigator ostensibly in New Orleans (but
mostly on the Paramount set).
"They tested some people for it and they talked to me and
sent me a script and I liked it," he said with simple
"And I love working with Stirling again," he added in
regard to creator-writer-producer Stirling Silliphant, the
brilliant dramatist from "Naked City," as well as "Route
66" and the Oscar winning "In the Heat of the Night."
(You might recall the name from a proposed film for which
he interviewed Minneapolis Mayor Charles Stenvig about a
policeman who becomes mayor. No word yet on the disposition
of that project.)
"I had some other series offered, but you always look for
something different," Franciscus said. "There's never been
a series about a blind person. There's never been a show --
or very few -- where week after week the story is basically
about your point-of-view lead rather than your guest star.
"I don't know any more about Marcus Welby than I did from
the first show. I don't know any more about Mannix than I
did from the first show, or 'Hawaii 5-0'... but this show
you learn more and more about Mike Longstreet, his growth,
his failures, his successes...."
Whether or not "Longstreet" will suffer the same ratings
anemia that killed "Mr. Novak" remains to be seen.
Franciscus, alluding to the 15 million weekly viewers who
favored "Mr. Novak" and lost, is not a devotee of the
"I know that everybody says that's all we got and we have
to make do, but we know there are better techniques that
are possible and have been demonstrated.
"The fallacies of some of these rating techniques! You
recall the FCC hearing (Federal Communications Commission)
learned that the lady who was one of the Nielsen homes went
out to dinner every Thursday night but her dog was alone
and she left Ch. 3 on so her dog would feel that somebody
"The conclusion was that that dog represented 500,000
After "Mr. Novak," Franciscus went into a partnership
called Omnibus Productions, which subsequently made
"Heidi," "David Copperfield" and "Jane Eyre" for TV and is
completing the classic "Kidnapped" with Michael Caine, Jack
Hawkins and Trevor Howard for theatrical release, possibly
early next year.
But this type of diversion is not to be constituted as the
usual type of arrangement to promote James Franciscus: "I
mean why get yourself stuck with Jim Franciscus when you
could get Bob Redford?" he told one reporter.
Do you want to get out of acting? "Acting is by far and
above my first love," he said.
Although he spouted the usual cliche about his newest and
most challenging role, Mike Longstreet might be.
Franciscus talked with blind people, read books, worked
with guide dogs, stumbled around with a blindfold. He will
wear sunglasses on infrequent occasions, "to give the
audience a different look," but the added device of
blindness is just another burden on acting the scenes,
"like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the
The TV highlights for Thursday at 8:00pm Central read:
8:00pm -- Longstreet follows a tangled trail leading to the
theft of a Rembrandt painting. Tim O'Connor and Shelley
Fabares on "Longstreet." Ch. 9 (ABC).
TV Guide Fall Preview issue, September 11-17, 1971
TV Guide Fall Preview issue
September 11-17, 1971
Mike Longstreet (James Franciscus) functions brilliantly as a New
Orleans insurance investigator, despite the fact that he is blind.
As conceived by producer-writer Stirling Silliphant (Route 66, "In
the Heat of the Night"), Longstreet's loss of sight has enhanced
his other senses to the point where he is able to "see" things
other investigators have overlooked. There's no place he fears to
tread, guided by a white German shepherd called Pax, cheered on by
his girl Friday (Marlyn Mason) and undeterred by the chronic
apprehensions of his insurance-company friend Duke Paige (Peter
Mark Richman). In one show there has been an epidemic of robberies
in a luxury apartment house. Mike: "We're getting nowhere, right?"
Duke: "Don't rub it in." Mike: "Too tough to cover from the
outside, right?" Duke: "Practically impossible." Mike: "Duke, what
about from the inside?" Duke: "Mike, you could get killed!" Debut:
ABC, Sept. 16. Pictured: James Franciscus and Pax.
The television listings for Thursday September 16 at 9:00pm read:
LONGSTREET -- Drama (C)
Debut: "The Way of the Intercepting Fist" pits blind insurance
investigator Michael Longstreet against a hijack ring grabbing a
million dollars a month in merchandise from the New Orleans docks.
Longstreet's solution involves challenging a dock-yard bully to a
brawl. Bet on Longstreet (James Franciscus). Mikki [sic]: Marlyn
Mason. (60 min.)
Li Tsung...........Bruce Lee
Sergeant Cory....Lou Gossett
(The episode title is a translation of jeet kune do, a Chinese
form of improvisational combat taught by actor Bruce Lee. The
script is by executive producer Stirling Silliphant, one of Lee's
TV Times cover story, September 26-October 2, 1971
Los Angeles Times Daily TV Listings
week of Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, 1971
BY CECIL SMITH
Franciscus: Some thoughts on a difficult role
James Franciscus came blinking out of the glittering sunshine into the cool
dimness of his dressing room, closing his eyes and holding his hands over them,
touching them gently with his fingers and saying: "They're not so bad yet, but
by 4 o'clock each afternoon they are like balls of fire."
"They hurt from not seeing?" I asked.
"From seeing that I don't see," said Jim and shook his head and grinned. "It's
the concentration, I suppose," he said. "Like turning your head. A sighted man's
eyes move first when he turns his head; a sightless person moves his head first
and his eyes follow.
"It's the concentration on not focusing with your eyes. The other actors are
used to it now. Anytime I bring my eyes into focus on Marlyn Mason, she blows
sky high . . ."
We'd come in from the set of Longstreet where Franciscus is starring in Stirling
Silliphant's new series about a blind detective launched a couple of weeks ago
by ABC on Thursday.
So many detectives are roaming the networks this semester that I'm beginning to
feel sympathy for the crooks, the brigands and rascals and ersatz murderers -- I
don't see how a man can get away with anything. I do think with Longstreet he
has a fighting chance. You should get odds to outmaneuver a blind man.
But Mike Longstreet is not your ordinary run of detective or, for that matter,
your standard breed of series, at least not to the mind of author Silliphant or
actor Franciscus, the Mr. Novak of a superior series of an earlier day.
Silliphant defined this series thusly: "Longstreet is an existentialist
statement based on the conviction that people who cannot suffer can never grow
up, never discover who they really are."
That's pretty heavy words for so ephemeral an art form as a television series.
Particularly when one faces the obvious that in a season swarming with
detectives you need a gimmick to get another one on -- so make him blind.
Silliphant will not deny the gimmick and that it sold the series, but he also
never puts down this medium that spawned him as a writer, not even when it
tossed him out to movies and he won his Oscar for "In the Heat of the Night" (he
has never won an Emmy). He has ever been steadfast in his belief that an adroit
writer can do significant and intelligent things in television no matter how
constrictive the series format, no matter how obvious the gimmick.
Thus, in the Movie of the Week "Longstreet," that served as the pilot and was
reshown earlier this month, Stirling explored the fascinating ways in which a
blinded man is made to function through his other senses, through developing
innate qualities that lie almost totally unused within him. And thus in the
script that opened the series two weeks ago, "The Way of the Intercepting Fist,"
there was within the melodramatic context that the playwright explored with
expert Bruce Lee the philosophic as well as the physical blending of mind and
body in the art (in Cantonese) of jeet kune do -- the intercepting fist. The
script has Mike Longstreet tell Lee that in getting his body and head together
"out of martial art, out of combat, I feel something peaceful, an absence of
hostility -- as if by knowing it I never have to use it."
This variation on karate was one of a long list of things Franciscus suggested
to make Mike a functioning human being within his dark world.
Franciscus is a cerebral actor despite his open-faced, blond good looks. After
Novak, he plunged into film production in partnership with Fred Brogger, forming
Omnibus Productions which made a series of classic movies, "Heidi," "David
Copperfield" and the recent "Jane Eyre" with George C. Scott and Susannah York.
All were shown on NBC in this country and in theaters abroad. Jimmy said the new
one, Stevenson's "Kidnaped," just completed, is strictly for theaters.
"What grabbed me with Longstreet," he said, "is that it's the only TV series I
know in which the hero is the most interesting character. This is not about
Longstreet's cases, it's about Mike Longstreet, how he functions, what he must
do in order to function.
"We deal with the way he lives in New Orleans, his hostility for the housekeeper
(Ann Doran) when she moves the furniture and he bumps into it, the humor and
humanity in his relationship with Marlyn as his associate Nikki and with his
friend and former boss, Peter Mark Richman as Duke. "It used to be Mark Richman,
but now that he's a famous painter it has to be Peter Mark . . ."
He grinned, then added: "But an actor's chief weapon in film is his eyes. That
and the voice are all he really has. Watch Ray Burr in Ironside, chained to that
chair he can still act the pants off anybody with those eyes and that voice.
Losing the eyes makes this so difficult. It cripples your acting.
"But it's become so convincing I think I've got the seeing-eye dogs fooled.
There are two of them, you know, who alternate -- Pax I and Pax II. Pax I is
calm but Pax II is a dingaling. But in the show that's on this week, I'm drugged
with LSD to keep me quiet. I stumble around with the dog until help comes. We
did the scene with Pax I. He wouldn't let anyone get close to me. We tried it
with Pax II. Even that dingaling bared his teeth and kept everybody away.
"It can get too real for comfort."
Black Belt Magazine November 1971
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 3-9, 1971
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21-27, 1971
Rona Barrett's Hollywood, November 1972
Rona Barrett's Hollywood, November 1972
James Franciscus: You Can't Cancel Him Out!
by Bill Royce
Even though Longstreet reached a dead end, Jim still has the most
important thing going for him -- his wife!
. . . When writer-producer Stirling Silliphant later suggested the
pilot of Longstreet to him as a possible starring vehicle, Jim
consented-possibly grateful to work once again with humans instead
of orangutan "apes," etc. At any rate, Jim returned to television
as Michael Longstreet, a blind insurance investigator combated
both crooks and his blindness with the help of (1) "confidante"
secretary Nikki (Marlyn Mason) and of (2) shifty sidekick (Duke
Peter Mark Richman).
Jim prefers to think of the show as ". . . a 26-chapter book,
showing my growth as a human being. The crime aspect of it is
peripheral. In the usual series, you get bored with the character.
This one's ahead of me.
"Ostensibly, the show was about a blind investigator, but actually
it was about a blind person who's trying to cope."
To cope with the grind of a series, Jim reportedly was paid
$15,000 an episode. In addition, he had it written into his
contract that his work day be no longer than 101/2 hours long.
"I see no reason for 12 to 14 hour working days," he says simply.
"That's what I used to do on Novak and that's dumb. An actor has
shot his wad after five anyway, and he has nothing to give you
after that." . . .