Monday, January 20, 2014

Lisa Lu: An Authentically Asian Actress

While I was growing up, I used to be intrigued by Nancy Kwan and France Nuyen because, being an American of Chinese descent, I thought that it was cool that two Asian actresses during the 1960s, a decade I was intrigued by, found success working in Hollywood.  I enjoyed some of their movies and felt pleased that their success reflected how people of Asian background could indeed make headway in show business in the Western world.  However, as I've gotten older, I have become less and less intrigued by Kwan and Nuyen and more and more irritated and annoyed with them.  I think they found success in Hollywood because they represented what Hollywood felt Western cultures would consider acceptable and accessible about Asians, as I now realize that their screen images and off-screen personalities weren't necessarily representative of most Asians that I have known throughout my life.  It was not endearing to read interviews only to learn that Nuyen, whose mother was French and whose father was Vietnamese, really sees herself more as a French woman (which she herself told me in-person when I once met her), because she was born and raised in France and seems uninterested in her Asian heritage (even though she's made a living as an actress based on it).  Meanwhile Kwan, whose mother was English and whose father was Chinese and spent much of her childhood in English boarding schools, self-consciously sells herself as a representative of Chinese or Asian culture (remember her "Pearl Cream" TV ads?), even though most people I knew who paid more attention to Chinese-language films, than Hollywood films, really aren't that familiar with Kwan because she never made that much of an impact in the Chinese-language film industry.  In my humble opinion, both Nuyen and Kwan are more accurately described as Hollywood starlets who helped perpetuate Asian stereotypes than actresses who are truly representative of Asian culture or cinema.

The irony is that the one actress who found success in Hollywood, but who also has built a significant career for herself in Asian cinema and has been involved in other notable cultural activities, is someone I grew up personally knowing.  I think of her more as a family friend than as the accomplished actress that she is, and that's Lisa Lu, or "Lu Yan"/盧燕, as my father, and other Chinese language speakers, called her.  My late father was a Chinese Opera Musician, who passed away from lung cancer in November 2012, and he was friends with Lisa Lu and collaborated with her frequently on various Chinese Opera productions based in Los Angeles.  I often saw her while I was growing up as a child and remember visiting her home several times when I was very young.  (She was always very decent to my family, and I'll always appreciate how she attended my father's funeral at the last minute, even though she had just returned to the States right after traveling abroad, and helped me to understand that the reason why my father could sometimes be a tough man to deal with is because he had to fight and work hard to give his family better opportunities and to ensure that the respect remained the same from people he dealt with professionally.)  I vaguely knew that she had worked in films and television, but I thought of her more as my father's friend and colleague than as a movie actress.  I didn't realize as a child how extensive her career truly is.  It's only been later in life, as a grown up adult, that I've been able to discover Lisa Lu's significant accomplishments in films and TV that I realized how underrated her career is, and how her work as an actress was really more representative of Chinese and Asian culture than the roles of Nuyen or Kwan, who mainly played in English-language productions playing attractive, decorative roles meant to pander to Western impressions of what they expect Asian women to be like.  Don't misunderstand me: I realize that there are many Asian actresses successfully working in China, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, but few of them have managed to maintain careers on both sides of the Pacific the way Lisa Lu has.  I think this has to do with the fact that, no matter her Hollywood pedigree, filmmakers and directors in Asia still think of her as a viable actress who understands and accurately represents their culture and perspective. 

I think this is due to the fact that Lisa Lu had a more traditional Asian upbringing than either Nuyen or Kwan, whose upbringings were, as described earlier, comparatively more Westernized.  Lu was born and raised in China, studied Chinese opera when she was young because her mother (who was also a great mentor to my father and his career) was a renowned Chinese Opera performer, and emigrated to the United States in the 1950s when she was in her 20s.  She studied banking at the University of Hawaii and, as I understand it, even worked for a period of time as a Mandarin Chinese language instructor for U.S. military personnel, as she began formulating a strategy to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress.  She worked frequently in Hollywood guest-starring on various television programs, as well as playing the leads in a few feature films, most notably the World War II drama "The Mountain Road" (1960) opposite James Stewart.  She and Stewart had great chemistry together in that film, and it should have led to more leading roles in feature films during the 1960s.  Throughout this whole period, Lu got married and raised a family and I recall how my father liked and respected her husband very much.  But she found opportunities to make headway in the industry few and far between, as most of the leading Asian female roles in the 1960s in Hollywood, or English language, productions were being confiscated by the aforementioned France Nuyen and Nancy Kwan.  As such, starting in the late 1960s, Lu started branching out and appearing in Chinese language productions shot in either Hong Kong or Taiwan in order to demonstrate what she was truly capable of as an actress.  In so doing, even though she still faced challenges to continue working due to the dearth of good parts for Asian actresses, she broadened her career by creating opportunities for herself on both sides of the Pacific--in both Asia and Hollywood--that have helped her to continue working in more recent decades as Nuyen and Kwan sat back and appeared at autograph conventions and began drawing their pensions.

The first of these Chinese language films was "The Arch"/"董夫人" (1970) directed by Cecile Tang Shu Shuen.  Lisa Lu played Madame Tung, a wealthy widow and schoolteacher in 17th Century China during the Qing Dynasty who is about to have an Arch at the entrance of her village erected by the emperor in honor of her good deeds and her continued loyalty to her late husband.  Her life is turned upside down when she is asked to house a young military officer at her home who is assigned to her village to protect the crops from bandits, and finds herself more and more attracted to him, just as her daughter is attracted to him as well.  Madame Tung is challenged as she wrestles with her own romantic longings and desires for the young officer while she attempts to live up to her public image as plans continue to proceed to erect the Arch in the village in her honor.  Madame Tung is forced to abide by tradition to forego her own personal happiness in order to save face for herself and her family.

A languid, lyrical, low-key art film, "The Arch" allows Lisa Lu an opportunity to play a role requiring nuance and complexity that she was never able to in Hollywood.  Madame Tung is a good and decent woman deserving of romance and happiness in her life, but whose opportunities for it are constrained by societal expectations imposed upon her.  She longs to be with the handsome young military officer, particularly since he reciprocates her feelings, but decides to save face and avoid scandal by arranging instead to marry her daughter off to the officer when she expresses romantic interest in him as well.  Lu plays Madame Tung in a restrained, dignified manner that belies the passion she actively restrains from expressing.  She silently conveys Madame Tung's feelings with expressive eyes that show her longing and loneliness more effectively than high-pitched emotions and pages and pages of dialogue.  At the end of the film, as the village surrounds Madame Tung and celebrates the erection of the Arch, by lighting firecrackers in honor of the occasion, you sense the personal sacrifice and emotional loss that Madame Tung feels at what should have been her moment of greatest triumph.  She has given up the man she loves and, as she is surrounded by people honoring her, is more alone than ever.  Lu's moving performance won her her first Golden Horse Award in Taiwan for Best Actress. 

Lisa Lu's next great Chinese language film role was in the epic Shaw Brothers production "The 14 Amazons"/"十四女英豪" (1972).  She played Great Grandmother She Tai Chuan, the matriarch of the fabled Yang family, who must lead their female members into battle against an invasion by Northern Hsia Mongols after all the male members of the family have been killed while in action.  With limited resources, without benefit of reinforcements from the government, and with political corruption hindering her efforts, She Tai Chuan, her female family members, and loyal male volunteers, eventually mount an effective strategy and utilize whatever means and tactics are necessary to defend their country and drive out the Hsias.  A large-scale, big-budget, wide-screen color spectacular, "The 14 Amazons," provides fine entertainment and allows Lisa Lu to play the sort of assertive, heroic role that actresses of Asian descent such as herself were rarely given in Hollywood up to that time.  Because of the advanced, elderly age of her character, She Tai Chuan is not as active in the large-scale battle scenes as her younger family members.  Nevertheless, there's no question that Lu's character is the one in-charge, making strategic decisions and crossing verbal swords at numerous occasions with the opposition.

If Lu's eyes were notable in "The Arch," what's notable about her performance in this film is how calm and controlled she has modulated her normally gentle speaking voice into being.  As a trained and accomplished Chinese Opera singer, Lu deepens her speaking voice in "The 14 Amazons" to give She Tai Chuan gravitas, authority, and leadership qualities so that she can effectively command her troops.  I particularly like the scenes where Lu's character has to confront the traitorous government Minister who betrayed her, her family and her country by agreeing to allow the Hsia invaders in.  As her character verbally chastises the cowardly Minister, and reminds him of the contribution and sacrifice her family has made to their country, Lu is as heroic and cutting as her younger compatriots are throughout the film's many excitingly staged action scenes.  Also great is the scene where her character threatens to publicly cane and humiliate the very same minister for, not only betraying their country to the Hsias, but also for refusing to order government reinforcements to help the Yangs defeat the Hsias.  Lu projects the right air of rage and righteous anger throughout these sequences, and deservedly won the Best Supporting Actress award at Taiwan's Golden Horse Award that year.

Lisa Lu continued her Chinese language cinema winning streak when she played the title role in "The Empress Dowager"/傾國傾城 (1975), another Shaw Brothers produced Hong Kong widescreen and color historical epic.  The film dramatized the political intrigue surrounding the Empress Dowager Tzu-Hsi, who presided over the Qing Dynasty throughout most of the 19th, and into 20th Century, China.  The main thrust of the film concerned the internal power struggles the Empress Dowager has with her nephew, Emperor Kuang Hsu, for control of the country.  In contrast to her previous Chinese language films, Lu plays a much less sympathetic character in this film than she normally does.  Lu plays the Empress Dowager as ruthless, cold and calculating, with a decisively cruel streak that is positively chilling.  As with "The 14 Amazons," Lu modulates her usually warm and humane speaking voice but this time she develops it into a haltingly cold and precise, sharp and clipped, delivery that underscores the extent to which her character is completely in charge of those around her and rules the country with an iron fist.  As such the other characters in the film are both frightened and respectful of her.

What I like about Lisa Lu's interpretation of this character is the rigid precision with which she embodies the Empress Dowager.  She rarely walks in the film, but when she does it's in a proud and erect manner, and when seated she presides over her followers with a steely confidence and self-assuredness that allows viewers to quickly grasp that this is not a woman to be messed with.  I particularly like the breathtaking sequence early on in the film where the Empress Dowager is being carefully, and methodically, groomed and dressed for the day by all of her followers.  Throughout that sequence, it becomes apparent that nothing the Empress Dowager does, even getting dressed, is done casually and without forethought and consideration.  Lu's eyes, which normally project kindness and vulnerability, have hardened into an intense, cold gaze that look as if it can pierce into the heart and soul of those standing before her.  Lu brings an acerbic wit to the character to further emphasize how she's not someone who suffers fools gladly, but she seems to know just how far to take the character without allowing her to turn into something campy or broad.  Lisa Lu's obvious respect for the Empress Dowager helps to ensure that she never turns into a joke in the course of the story.  She again won another Golden Horse Award in Taiwan for her performance in "The Empress Dowager" as Best Actress. 

The saga of the Empress Dowager continued the next year when Lisa Lu reprised her role in the Shaw Brothers' equally impressive sequel, "The Last Tempest"/"瀛台泣血" (1976).  In "The Last Tempest," the struggle for power between the Empress Dowager and the young Emperor Kuang Hsu escalates to new heights as he attempts to implement progressive reforms throughout the country and thwart her power and influence.  In so doing, Emperor Kuang Hsu's efforts are unsuccessful and lead to severe consequences for himself and those closest to him that he cares about.  Lu is still as impressive as ever in this sequel, even though her screen time is comparatively more limited than it appeared to be in the earlier film.  Nevertheless, she makes us understand and even, at times, admire and like the character even as she demonstrates little patience or understanding of those around her, particularly the naive and idealistic Emperor Kuang Hsu.  My favorite scene in the movie occurs early on when, during an exhibition of the newly painted official portrait of the Empress Dowager, several naive western visitors from the United Kingdom thoughtlessly sit in the Empress's throne just as she enters the imperial courtyard with her entourage.  Lisa Lu effectively projects the quietly seething rage and sense of indignancy at the thoughtless disrespect for her title and authority being shown by her visitors.

Lu plays the scene with the Empress Dowager smiling warmly as she arrives on the scene, and then projects a frightening slow burn as her smile eventually turns into a frown demonstrating her rage when she realizes that the arrogant and entitled Englishwomen have condescended to her title and authority with their actions.  I love the fact that Lu's Empress Dowager smirks with disdain and indignation at the act, and then shows mercy to the stupid young women by not ordering them to be punished and executed, as she enters and has a whole courtyard of English people bowing before her--the older Asian woman--out of respect instead of it being the other way around as it would be in so many Hollywood movies.  The sequence ends with all of the western visitors from the United Kingdom surrounding her as she sits proudly atop her throne for the honor of having their picture taken with her.  That last moment perfectly sums up why it's so satisfying to see Lisa Lu in these Chinese language movies after years of toiling in thankless parts in Hollywood movies and TV shows.  For once, she's the whole show and she isn't playing second fiddle to anyone (the way Nancy Kwan and France Nuyen often played the "submissive Asian female" falling for William Holden or John Kerr or Laurence Harvey or Pat Boone or Rod Taylor in their movies).

But I don't want to give the impression that Lisa Lu's career is just limited to acting in period costume dramas made 40 years ago.  She continues to be a viable character actress in both Hollywood and Asian films.  A few years ago, she had a good featured role in the big budget Hollywood disaster epic "2012" (2009), playing an elderly Tibetan woman who is trying to survive a worldwide geological and meteorological natural disaster, and helps save the lives of John Cusack and his family.  She brought an earthy gravitas and presence to the movie so that her character didn't descend into typical silly stereotypes.  She also appeared in Sofia Coppola's film "Somewhere" (2010), co-starred in a lavish Chinese language production of "Dangerous Liaisons" (2012), and recently enjoyed a recurring role on the daytime soap "General Hospital."  In the recent "Apart Together"/"团圆" (2010), Lu played a contemporary elderly Chinese woman whose husband left her behind while she was pregnant in China in 1949 and fled to Taiwan when the Communists took over.  Her life is torn asunder when her first husband, who she still deeply loves, returns one day and wants to take her back with him to Taiwan.  Lu effectively conveys how age makes no difference where love is concerned and how one can still feel as deeply and hopefully and passionately for their first love as they did when they were young.  There's a touching vulnerability and humanity in Lu's performance that resonates throughout the movie.  She's a woman who has been deeply hurt, and who continues to hurt as her family pulls her in different directions and make it difficult for her to decide what would be best for her own happiness.  Lu is very believable wrestling with feelings of familial obligation and personal hope and desire.  What resonates the most with me about her performance is the look of sadness and resignation in her eyes throughout the movie.  She knows happiness is within reach, but is both afraid and constrained to be able to reach out and grab it.  It's an incredibly good part that any actress--no matter what age, ethnicity or nationality--would have been fortunate to have landed.

Throughout Lisa Lu's career, she has continued appearing frequently in Chinese Opera productions, often ones that my father provided musical accompaniment to, and theater roles.  If there might be gaps in her IMDB page, it should not suggest that she was inactive during those periods in between movie or TV roles.  She was always working on something, whether it was producing a documentary or appearing in a Chinese language television miniseries or soap opera that isn't listed on IMDB.  For example, in 2012, she appeared as Lady Bracknell in a Chinese language stage production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" at the National Theater in Taiwan.  These days, she continues to have tributes paid to her on Chinese and Taiwanese television as a legendary actress who helped pave the way for other Asian actress to find success and visibility in the Western world.  Even though there's no doubt that Lisa Lu is a proud and civic minded American, what makes her unique is how she stays in touch with her Chinese and Asian cultural heritage.  It is the reason why, I think, she continues to work as an actress while her former competitors languish in obscurity.  Now that casting directors are comparatively more precise and a little bit more conscientious about hiring actors who embody the culture in a much more genuine and legitimate manner, the work of Nancy Kwan and France Nuyen look more and more artificial and laughable through the years.  In contrast, Lisa Lu's performances have always seemed heartfelt, vibrant and realistic in terms of portraying real Asian women, with genuine and authentic feelings and emotions, instead of perpetuating stereotypes as was the norm in Nuyen's or Kwan's performances.  I've never seen a performance by Nuyen or Kwan that reflected the kinds of Asian women I grew up knowing, and have known, all my life.  I completely acknowledge that Lisa Lu has, at times, played roles in Hollywood productions that could be considered stereotypical, but I always sensed that she tried to bring some depth, nuance, or intelligence to those performances to allow them to rise above stereotypes that Kwan or Nuyen often failed to do.  For example, I recall an interview with Lu where she described her efforts to make suggestions to director Daniel Mann during the making of "The Mountain Road" on how he could bring subtle nuances to the Asian roles to make them more believable, only to have them fall on deaf ears.  To me, it demonstrates how conscientious she was about trying to get it right.  (I know it sounds like I am being overly critical of France Nuyen and Nancy Kwan, but I have become more and more impatient and fed up of hearing about how influential they supposedly were as Asian actresses in Hollywood, when I don't think they really were.)  In my humble opinion, having grown up in the Asian culture, Nuyen and Kwan played what Westerners believe Asians to be, while Lisa Lu continues to play them as they truly are. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Positive Memories and Impressions of Jacqueline Bisset

I was dismayed to see all the negative comments and ridicule directed at Jacqueline Bisset ever since she gave her admittedly unfocused, slightly profane, and eccentric acceptance speech at Sunday's Golden Globe awards for winning Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for the BBC drama "Dancing on the Edge" (2013).  A lot of people on the internet commented that they thought she was unintelligent, inebriated, haughty and crazy.  And I'm not here to criticize people who might have reacted that way because I certainly have negative reactions to the way other celebrities have behaved when they rub me the wrong way.  (But, usually, to evoke my ire, it takes more than just three minutes of rambling talk to get me to hate a celebrity.)  It just saddened me that, to a lot of people, that may be their only impression of Jacqueline Bisset because I dealt with her personally several years ago when I was working on a book interviewing actresses of the 1960s.  Because of the prolificacy of her career, having worked with some major directors and leading men, Bisset was probably the most successful of all the actresses I interviewed.  I sincerely appreciated that she agreed to let me interview her.  I also will never forget how she treated me with respect, always regarded me as a grown up adult, and never condescended to me the way other actresses did.

The thing about her, which I think the public may have forgotten or may have gotten the wrong impression of this week, is that she was one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, articulate individuals I have ever encountered in my life.  It took awhile before we could actually set up the interview.  She received my query letter in the mail and called me personally on the phone to chat about it.  After a few minutes of allowing me to explain who I was, what I was trying to accomplish, and who else I had interviewed, she agreed to do the interview.  I offered to send her some questions in advance, which other actresses had demanded so that they would know what I would be asking, but Bisset said that that was not necessary.  The impression I came away with was that, if there was a question I might have asked that she didn't like, she felt confident enough to be able to handle it by being direct with me about it and decline answering it.  It was a refreshing contrast to other actresses who seemed uptight with me about what subjects I might bring up that they gave the impression that they wouldn't be able to know how to deal with it and, as a result, they often acted in a weird, evasive manner with me concerning what topics I might pose to them.  I am sincere when I say that I've dealt with actresses who are truly weird, crazy, self-centered, narcissistic, airheaded, delusional, and pretentious...and Jacqueline Bisset was not one of them.

Over the next few months, she stayed in contact with me and let me know when she thought she would be in Los Angeles so we could try and schedule the interview.  One time, I received a voice message from her when she was staying in London.  She had finished a film in Europe, and thought she would be back in town by that point, but decided to stop over in London, if I remember correctly, to visit with her brother.  She apologized she had not returned when she had originally said she would, gave me an approximate date as to when she thought she would be back in town, and asked me to follow-up with her then.  This might not seem like much, but it was a stark contrast to some other actresses who would play games and not be forthcoming as to their intent and purpose with regards to trying to schedule time for me to interview them.

When I finally did schedule an interview with her, she called the day before we were to meet because she had come down with a cold and had laryngitis.  She apologized sincerely and asked me to get in touch with her in a week to reschedule.  Before we ended the call, I distinctly remember her barely being able to speak anymore, but she said, "Thank you for understanding.  Please forgive me."  I remember being surprised she even said that because other 1960s-era actresses I dealt with would never have bothered considering whether cancelling at the last minute might have caused an inconvenience.  Eventually, weeks later, we did do the interview at her home one afternoon, where she served me tea and I spoke with her for almost three hours.  What I remember most is the fact that she started the interview talking at length about her parents--her father was a Scottish doctor and her mother was a French attorney--and how she missed them and how they taught her strong values that have helped her hold onto the priorities that are important to her and not lose her identity while working in show business.

At one point, when we were discussing European film directors of the 1960s, she seemed surprised that someone my age had heard of them because I was so young.  I told her that my father--who passed away a year and a half ago from battling lung cancer but who was a Chinese opera musician--was kind of a renaissance man who instilled in his kids an appreciation for the arts and for politics and history and current events.  She asked me, "Don't you miss being able to talk with him like that?"  At the time, he was still alive so I told her, "I see him all the time!"  She responded by saying "You're lucky, you really are" and described to me how she misses her conversations with her father, how engaged he was about life and about other people, and she reminded me to always appreciate my parents and family.  After my father passed away, her words resonated with me even more deeply than before.  She was not narcissistic because she often talked about other people in her life who had made a great impression on her, in stark contrast to some other 1960s-era actresses who only talked with me about themselves.  At one point, she even sort of turned the interview around on me and started asking me about more of my life and background, my experiences in college, and asking about how young people now behave in social settings because she was fascinated with how the dating and courtship rituals have changed since when she was a teenager and in her 20s.  (I remember having to steer the conversation back to discussing her and her career, as I didn't want to use up my limited time with her by talking that much about myself!)

I found her to be a very substantial and thoughtful person, with no ego.  It was interesting that some people, who saw the speech, interpreted from her mannerisms and gestures that she was egotistical, which surprised me, because she was one of the least self-aggrandizing actresses I ever dealt with.  At one point, when I was telling her about dealing with other actresses who had a negative opinion about some of the actresses I already interviewed, and as a result didn't want to be associated with them by being in my book, she explained why she agreed to do the interview.  She explained that, even if she hadn't heard of everyone I had interviewed, she reasoned that she didn't know, or work with, or watched the work of, everybody who was working back in the 1960s, and it wasn't up to her to judge the career accomplishments of others.  Bisset fully acknowledged that, to a significant portion of the population, the other women I interviewed are indeed important and accomplished actresses.  She agreed to do the interview because she thought the subject I was writing about had merit, and she didn't let the fact that she wasn't familiar with all the actresses I had interviewed deter her from speaking with me (which other actresses had or, at the very least, made a fuss over).

I do admit that I was surprised that Bisset wasn't more prepared on Sunday night when she gave her speech, because she was always so articulate and thoughtful and insightful about not only her career, but also about how Hollywood has changed during the course of her career.  Bisset was someone who clearly understood the business aspect of show business, which I realized other actresses I dealt with rarely grasped because the others appeared flighty with regards to how they handled their careers and finances.  I always found her one of the shrewdest and most media savvy of any actress I dealt with because she definitely was conscientious about how the media had changed over the last several decades.  I also felt, based on my dealings with her, that Bisset is a realist who does not have any delusions about herself or her career.  So I don't know what to make of the speech she gave.  I think what happened on Sunday night could best be described as a "perfect storm" where, despite her best efforts, everything came together in a way that was less than ideal the moment her name was announced as the winner.  That being said, my impression is that Jacqueline Bisset is a very genuine human being.  There were no airs, calculation, or subterfuge about her and, whenever she spoke, it was always in a very sincere and honest and unaffected manner.  I think, if her speech struck people as "strange," it's because she wasn't putting on airs at all, and she was being completely unfiltered.  I think she was just surprised she had won and, according to her later statements, she hadn't expected her category to come up so soon in the program.  That, combined with the fact that they seated her so far from the stage, contributed to the "deer in the headlights" quality that people seem to be responding to.  I also believe that, the fact she didn't have a speech prepared, undermines the comments of some individuals who thought she was behaving like a diva.  Having known other frustrated actresses who are still waiting for that moment to be called to the stage to win their award (and how they appear to have already rehearsed in their minds what they plan to say once they get there), I think Bisset's speech demonstrates how she doesn't spend her life waiting for that sort of affirmation or acclaim because, if she had, she would've already known what to say that night.  (As a point of contrast, another actress I interviewed, in responding to my question regarding whether she was satisfied with all she had accomplished, said, "No, I still need to win the Oscar, because I've already won everything else."  Bisset never said anything as presumptuous or self-aggrandizing as that with me.)

I also remember how, with self-effacing candor and humor, Bisset recalled how she moved to Hollywood in 1967 after she signed a picture deal with 20th Century-Fox and that she worried for many years that she might end up "going Hollywood" and losing all the values that her parents had raised her with.  She said she used to wonder how it would happen with other actors that they changed drastically and negatively once they arrived in Hollywood.  She used to ask herself whether she had the strength of character to be able to live and work in Hollywood, and not pick up any bad traits from the environment, and have enough perspective to go back home to England if her career did not work out and earn a living at a regular job back there.  She told me that for years she used to ask herself if she had "gone Hollywood" yet.  She often concluded that she didn't believe that she had, but sensed that it could still happen, so she was always on guard about it in order to ensure that she held onto her sense of identity.  She acknowledged, while laughing good-naturedly about it, that she finally allowed herself to relax about it around the time she turned 50 years old because she figured she had been in Hollywood nearly 30 years by then, and that if she was going to "go Hollywood" it would have already happened by that point.

The other thing I remember about Bisset was that she appeared to have a lot of integrity.  Even though she had high standards with regards to what she considered a good film, she was also a realist.  She knew it was difficult to have any sort of success as an actress in as competitive an industry as Hollywood, and recognized how, despite best efforts, sometimes every actor ends up in a film that isn't very good.  There was no sense of entitlement about herself that I sometimes encountered with other actresses.  Despite her frustrations at the limited opportunities for mature actresses in Hollywood, I sensed that she knew she was fortunate to still be working.  She was one of the smartest actresses I ever met with regards to understanding the business end of Hollywood.  I learned a lot from her about maintaining a decorum of maturity and professionalism that I try to apply to my own life and career.  In particular, I recall an anecdote she shared about a boyfriend she had when she was a teenager in London who used to call her an "ignoramus" all the time.  She knew she wasn't an ignoramus, but when he called her that it really challenged her to prove to herself that she was not.  She said to me, "The odd insult, or criticism, really isn't so bad.  It can be very motivating and it's good to continually be challenged.  If people told you all your life that you're wonderful and brilliant, why would you ever bother improving yourself?"  I always remembered that statement.  It really made an impression on me, which is why I always try to be receptive to constructive criticism in all aspects of my life, because it can only help you improve.

What I also appreciated about Bisset was the fact that she didn't self-indulgently criticize the "bad" movies in her career.  She completely appreciated and recognized the acclaimed films she had appeared in, but concurrently didn't needlessly disparage the bad, or unsuccessful, ones because she felt that every professional experience--whether it was a TV movie or a flop feature film--was a worthwhile experience where she learned a valuable lesson, or made a lifelong friend, or was a particularly pleasurable working experience that was a happy time in her life.  I admired how she didn't take a bad movie in her career as somehow being a personal reflection upon herself, which other actresses self-indulgently do, and found value in flops like "When Time Ran Out..." (1980) or "Inchon!" (1982).  As I mentioned earlier, there was no sense of entitlement about herself and she often spoke about how lucky she was to have been in the films she has made, and worked with the directors and stars that she has throughout her career.

Which is why I thought it strange that people appeared to get the wrong impression of Bisset when they reacted to the portion of her speech where she said "I want to thank people who have given me joy, and there are many who have given me sh-t.  I say like my mother.  What did she say?  She used to say, 'go to hell or don't come back!'" because of the way they misinterpreted that remark to indicate she was someone who was bitter, had a chip on her shoulder, or had an axe to grind.  Hank Stuever of the Washington Post summarized that perception and reaction when he wrote, "At a loss for words, Bisset soon found some, reaching back across decades of apparent show-biz hurt and neglect, to the chagrin of the person at the control board tasked with muting out bad words."  The reason I interpreted that portion of her speech differently from others is that, in my experience, Bisset had the least-victimized mentality of any of the 1960s-era actresses I interviewed.  In contrast to others--who openly shared with me their hurt, hate, and resentment over losing out on key movie roles that they thought would have catapulted them to greater stardom; how they were treated cruelly by co-stars, directors, or the property master; or were cheated out of their life savings by unscrupulous agents, managers, or ex-spouses--Bisset had none of that "woe is me" attitude when discussing her life and career with me.

In fact, Bisset shared with me how she felt she was well treated by 20th Century-Fox when she had a long-term picture deal with them in the 1960s, and that they never put her into any movies she didn't want to do and always allowed her to work with other studios.  Bisset recalled how, many years later, a former Fox executive told her that the studio enjoyed working with her because she was always so polite with them that she brought out the best in people and, as such, they never wanted to force her into any movies she wasn't keen on appearing in.  Having dealt with her first-hand, I understood why the Fox executives responded positively to her civility.  This was in contrast to her contemporaries, who often complained to me about being under contract to the studios, and how they openly complained about it at the time, and how they resented being forced into films they didn't want to appear in, and not being allowed to work for other studios, as if it were some great tragedy.  Bisset's anecdote taught me how being civil, yet assertive, with people can help go a long way towards building allies and accomplishing goals, rather than creating turmoil and conflict and alienating individuals.  I got the impression that she's someone who knows how to take care of herself and hasn't done things to open herself up to being victimized.  I admit I'm not a close confidante of hers, but based on my experience with her I'd be surprised if she perceived herself that way, especially because of how she described her and her brother were raised by their parents to be mature individuals who took responsibility for their lives.  She did acknowledge one or two instances in her career where things did not go so well with specific people she worked with, but there was no hate or resentment on her part when she described them, and those anecdotes were nothing compared to the dozens and dozens of archenemies and perceived wrongs that other 1960s-era actresses shared with me.  My impression is that Bisset knows she is fortunate and I think she was just trying to make a joke when she made that aforementioned statement during her acceptance speech and people are reading more into it than is actually there.

I think Bisset's sensible outlook on her life and career was the reason why my late friend, the acclaimed production designer and producer Polly Platt, spoke so highly about Bisset.  Polly had big likes and big dislikes in terms of the people she worked with throughout her career.  Bisset was one of the few people--along with Ben Johnson and Lois Chiles--that Polly without reservation praised as a collaborative working professional and as a human being.  (Polly wasn't alone--almost every other 1960s actress I dealt with had only positive things to say about Bisset, which is amazing because so many of them were ready to criticize one another, but they appeared to reserve their criticism when it came to Bisset.)  I remember Polly telling me a story about how she worked with Bisset on "The Thief Who Came to Dinner" (1973) and how Bisset had no comprehension of how beautiful she really is, and the effect she had on people.  Polly felt that Bisset didn't have the narcissism or ego of other actors she worked with.  I think this has to do with something that Bisset shared with me--that her idea of beauty and perfection was the French film star Jeanne Moreau.  She really admires Moreau and how comfortable she is in her own skin.  Bisset said to me that she doesn't want to have a facelift and look plastic because, even though she realizes that one's appearance is important in the profession she is working in, she also wants to retain a sense of being genuine so that the people important to her in her personal life still respect her as an individual.

When the interview wound down, Bisset thanked me for the time and research I put into preparing for it and for asking detailed questions.  She said she enjoyed getting to know me and recognized that I had prepared at length for the interview and wasn't just asking her generalized questions.  I guess I was surprised because other actresses rarely thanked me for having prepared or researched to get ready for the interview.  It was as if they expected that I would have watched every film or TV appearance before I met with them--and they're correct to expect me to be ready--but few really took the time to make note of it as Bisset did.  I got the impression that day that she's a very decent, conscientious human being.  She didn't play games and never messed with me like some of the other 1960s actresses had, was always above board and direct, and was thoughtful and considerate.  I guess one thing that surprises me about the reaction to her speech was the level of schadenfreude and vitriol directed at Bisset.  Aside from saying the word "sh-t" in her speech, she wasn't cruel or offensive or really do anything to warrant the level of ridicule and derision expressed by columnists or people commenting online.  I wanted as much as anyone to see her hit it out of the park, but I think the reaction to the speech was completely disproportionate to what actually occurred.  I can sort of understand it if the vitriol was directed at someone who was consistently and vocally obnoxious, but that's not Bisset. 

I don't want to give the impression that I am bosom buddies with Jacqueline Bisset because I haven't been in touch with her for years.  I remember that, a week after I interviewed her, she called me at home to say that she had spoken with her friend Ursula Andress, who lived in Rome, and tried to persuade Ms. Andress to let me interview her.  Bisset said that, she wasn't sure Andress had decided to do it, but wanted to give me her phone number and contact information and said I was welcome to contact her directly.  (I did reach out to Andress, but was never able to connect with her.)  Nevertheless, it was a thoughtful gesure on Bisset's part considering she had already given me quite a bit of her time.  The last time I heard from her was several Christmases ago.  She had sent me a Christmas card and hoped I was doing well and asked what I was up to, and commented on a few things that had happened in her life.  Anyway, I'm not sharing this story to try and impress you that I was able to interview Jacqueline Bisset, or other 1960s actresses, when I was working on that book project, because I admit it sounds kind of obnoxious and self-aggrandizing.  (And if I am opening myself up for ridicule for sharing my positive memories and impressions of her, well so be it.)  I simply wanted to provide another perspective about her which appears to have gotten lost this week after her unforgettable acceptance speech at the Golden Globes.  What I regret the most is the fact that Bisset's Golden Globe win, which was richly deserved both for that performance and for her lengthy career, has been overshadowed by a lot of nasty comments that really aren't warranted in the larger scheme of things. 

If there is a bright side to this, it's that I got the impression in my dealings with her that Jacqueline Bisset is a strong, sensible person who is able to laugh at herself and I think she'll ride out this controversy in the long run.  (It's been more than 2 days since her speech--and to date she hasn't rushed out any press release out of any fear or concern for damage control--so it's entirely possible she's unfazed by the attention and I hope that that's the case.  But I also recognize that Bisset, like the rest of us, is a sensitive human being and I wouldn't blame her if some of the comments directed at her could be taken to heart.)  More importantly, if there's anything positive to be gained from this, hopefully it'll allow a lot of people who may not be familiar with Bisset to become more acquainted with her and her work.  I think one reason why the fallout from her speech appeared to be so negative is because, even though she remains a very prolific actress, especially in independent films and TV movies, she admittedly hasn't had a major hit movie in awhile.  It's possible that a lot of younger people in their 20s probably haven't seen her in Francois Truffaut's "Day for Night" (1973), or "Airport" (1970), or "Bullitt" (1968), or "Murder on the Orient Express (1974) or "Rich and Famous" (1981) or "Under the Volcano" (1984) and don't realize what a sophisticated, earthy, winning presence she is as an actress (and why so many of us who remember her heyday in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s have such a positive opinion about her).  Hopefully, they will now. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mark Harmon and Jo Ann Pflug Learn About Life While Patrolling in "Adam-12"

Growing up as a kid, "Adam-12" was one of my favorite TV shows.  It ran almost concurrently with my childhood years being raised in a Los Angeles that still had remnants of its past glories as it was about to embark in a new era marked by further urban development, mini malls, and ever expanding diversity.  Los Angeles is a great city and it was a great place to grow up.  I think growing up there taught me to respect and appreciate solid traditions while, at the same time, keeping my mind open to new and fresh perspectives.  Watching "Adam-12" now reminds of me those days as a kid in the 1970s when the city was on the cusp of new, exciting, and controversial developments.  In contrast to the equally great and iconic, but comparatively stage-bound and claustrophobic "Dragnet" (which was also produced by Jack Webb), what made "Adam-12" so great was how so much of it was shot on location on the streets of Los Angeles.  The early years of "Adam-12" were clearly shot in the North Hollywood/Studio City/San Fernando Valley areas that surrounded Universal Studios, the company that made "Adam-12."  But, as the show progressed, it seemed to gradually venture further and further beyond those locations so that other, notable areas of the city were also represented.  Anyone who wants to study the history of Los Angeles locations should watch "Adam-12."

What also made me love the show was the easy camaraderie between Martin Milner, as Officer Pete Malloy, and Kent McCord, as Officer Jim Reed.  Their friendship was simple and uncomplicated, but also completely genuine and believable throughout the seven years of this series.  There was no backstory involving their characters that would create tension between them as so many police or crime dramas would insert nowadays.  They just genuinely, and unquestioningly, liked and cared about each other and they completely understood each other on an instinctive level.  But that doesn't mean the show didn't occasionally allow us a sense of who they were as individuals outside of their profession.  Over the course of the series, we learn that Malloy is a confirmed, yet happy, bachelor who isn't looking to settle down in life.  He usually bristles at the suggestion that he should get married and have a family someday.  (Though by the end of the series he seems happily involved with a woman named Judy, played by Aneta Corsaut from "The Andy Griffith Show.")  He's a solid, "old school," kind of guy who would be the first to admit that he isn't particularly complicated, but has a calm, rational way of viewing the world so that he is able to interact effectively with the diverse group of individuals he encounters throughout his career as a police officer.

In contrast, Reed is a happily married guy, with a young son, who was fresh out of the Army at the time he joined the LAPD.  We learn that Reed's loving and devoted wife, Jean, dislikes hearing about police work because it continually reminds her of how her husband may be harmed in the line of duty.  Nevertheless, Jean still rises to the occasion and is supportive of her husband, especially in a second season episode entitled "A Rare Occasion," when she learns that one of her husband's fellow patrol officers has died and she immediately offers to go to the hospital to help comfort his widow.  Malloy and Reed become such close friends that Reed and his wife decide to make the acerbic Malloy their son's godfather, a gesture that clearly moves and touches Malloy.  I remember an episode in the middle of the run of the series where Reed casually mentions to Malloy that his son Jimmy is ill, and Malloy demonstrates how concerned he is about the boy's health, commenting that "There's nothing more important to me than my godson."  And that's about it in terms of "character development," but that's all right in the context of "Adam-12."  We learn just enough about Malloy and Reed to know that we care about them without allowing the show to lose sight of what it's supposed to be about.  (Don't misunderstand me.  The show did occasionally step outside its comfort zone, especially in episodes like 1970's poignant "Elegy for a Pig," a dialogue-less episode, told in flashback, as Malloy recalls his close friendship with a fellow police officer killed in the line of duty.  Such atypical episodes helped to heighten our appreciation of the series as a whole.)

Unlike other, later police dramas, which try to "develop" its characters by creating contrived conflicts and focusing too much on the trials and tribulations at home of the regulars, "Adam-12" kept its eye on the ball and focused on the police work.  It was kind of an unusual show in that most episodes were very loosely structured vignettes depicting a series of events in a day in the life of Malloy and Reed as they patrolled the streets of Los Angeles in their police unit with the radio call sign of "1-Adam-12."  It wasn't a typical police drama in that few episodes introduced a villain or conflict at the start of the episode that the heroes had to resolve or capture by the end of the segment.  Furthermore, unlike most other police dramas, "Adam-12" was a 30 minute television series, as opposed to a one-hour drama.  The comparative brevity of the episodes allowed the writers and producers of the show to retain its loose, almost plot-less storytelling technique so that the show wouldn't have to be padded with needless exposition in order to fill out a one-hour time slot.  I would argue that its short running time allowed the producers freedom to make most episodes as unstructured and relaxed as they were.  It wasn't needlessly melodramatic in its content, and its scenes of action and violence also seemed credible because they were staged matter-of-factly and never seemed contrived or outrageous.  In the course of a typical episode, Malloy and Reed could end up dealing with armed robbery suspects, but they might also become involved with attempting to locate a missing child, issue traffic citations, deal with quarreling neighbors, interact with individuals in the public that they have developed connections and friendships with, or whatever else might cross their paths during the course of their day.  Even though some would argue "Adam-12" was a "formulaic" show, I would wager that its relaxed, free-form style was in itself daring and innovative. 

When the show debuted, Malloy was already a seven year veteran patrol officer who was about to leave the force due to his guilt over his partner being killed several weeks earlier.  When he meets the rookie Jim Reed on what was supposed to be his last day with the LAPD, he seems rather impatient and stern with the young, wide-eyed neophyte patrol officer.  Malloy is wound so tight that, when he asks the rookie officer "Do you know what this is?" and Reed eagerly responds, "Yes, sir.  It's a police car," he gives Reed an admonishing description of their vehicle, and how he should learn to appreciate it, which is a brilliant monologue, that Milner delivers with ratatat precision, and has to be seen to be believed: "This black and white patrol car has an overhead valve V-8 engine.  It develops 325 horsepower at 4800 RPMs.  It accelerates from 0 to 60 in 7 seconds and has a top speed of 120 miles an hour.  It's equipped with a multi-channel DFE radio and electronic siren capable of emitting three variables: Wail, Yelp and Alert.  It also serves as an outside radio speaker and a public address system.  The automobile has two shotgun racks:  One attached to the bottom portion of the front seat, one in the vehicle trunk.  Attached to the middle of the dash, illuminated by a single bulb is a hot sheet desk, fastened to which you will always make sure is the latest one off the teletype before you ever roll.  It's your life insurance.  And mine.  You take care it, it'll take care of you."  In so doing, Malloy has already started to impart to Reed that nothing associated with their work, even the tools and weaponry that they rely upon to accomplish it, should be taken for granted. 

Over the course of their first day together, however, he recognizes both the skill, as well as the impetuousness, of the eager and brash young Reed.  Malloy, who recognizes qualities in the young Reed not unlike himself when he was a rookie, decides to stay on the police force so that he can mentor Reed and offer the benefit of his wizened perspective and experience to his new friend and partner.  As "Adam-12" progresses, you see how Malloy goes from being serious and uptight to becoming a more relaxed and warmer individual due to the enthusiastic presence of Reed in his life.  Martin Milner does a great job at allowing us to see the warmth and humanity of Malloy so that he becomes a character we both admire and care about.  Concurrently, you see how Reed goes from wide-eyed, naive, and eager, to becoming cool, controlled, and calm as he gains more experience on the streets.  Kent McCord has never been praised as a brilliant actor, but he does fine work playing Jim Reed.  What I notice as I watch "Adam-12" through the years is how McCord demonstrates to us how Reed continues to mature and develop confidence in his job as he recognizes the responsibilities that come with his position.  I particularly like how McCord's eyes grow tougher and more assured by the time the series ends in 1975, seven years after his character joined the police force in 1968.  As regular viewers of the show can attest, we've seen Reed grow up before our very eyes.

Towards the end of the show's run, the writers allowed "Adam-12" to step outside its regular format and produce two episodes that fully dramatized and demonstrated how Reed had come into his own and went from being the rookie trainee to becoming a training officer himself.  In the 7th Season episode entitled "Gus Corbin," which aired April 1, 1975, Malloy is assigned duty as acting watch commander for a day.  Reed is assigned to patrol with a young officer, Gus Corbin (Mark Harmon), who is already 9 months into his probationary period as a police officer.  Corbin is a Marine Corps veteran and a talented and conscientious young man, but one who is also insecure about his youthful appearance and how that might cause the public to perceive him.  When Malloy and Corbin pull over a mother and daughter who are driving recklessly in a green Chevrolet Vega Station Wagon, Corbin impetuously scolds the mother by telling her, "What are you trying to do lady, get yourself killed?"  They learn that the mother and daughter were chasing after a thief who had snatched the mother's purse.  When Corbin asks for a description of the suspect, the young daughter describes him as "sorta young, around your age, 18, maybe 19 (years old).  He has real long hair."  Later, back in their patrol car, Corbin sneers and whines as he mimics the young girl's description of the suspect as "About your age, 18 or 19."  Recognizing that Corbin is taking the girl's comment too much to heart, he tries to reassure his partner that "There's nothing wrong with being young.  You know most adults wouldn't look past the uniform or the badge."  Corbin self-pityingly muses aloud, "I'd rather grow a mustache."  Reed again tries to buck up his young colleague by sharing with him that "When I was 21, I didn't look a day over 18 either."  Corbin continues whining as he responds to Reed, "But I'm 24!"

Corbin's insecurity over his youthfulness, and how others might perceive him as a result of it, causes him to overcompensate for it later in the episode.  When Corbin and Reed apprehend the purse snatching suspect, Corbin is overly brusque with the suspect, who surrenders peacefully to both officers, and locks the handcuffs too tightly on him.  When the suspect complains about his handcuffs, Corbin coldly responds, "You should've thought of that before you stole the lady's purse, Ace."  Reed notices how the cuffs are indeed too tight on the suspect and loosens them.  Later on, after the suspect has been booked, Reed discusses with Corbin his overzealousness with the suspect.  Corbin glibly remarks, "He had it comin'."  Reed pointedly asks Corbin, "You tryin' to prove something'?"  When Corbin defensively asks "What have I got to prove?" Reed responds by telling him "Maybe it would be easier if you grew a mustache."  In so doing, Reed highlights to Corbin how his own insecurity, and need to overcompensate for it, is starting to affect his judgement and instincts in being able to make effective decisions with his job.

Later, Reed and Corbin investigate a break-in at a pharmacy that is meant to allow the suspects to rob the pawn shop next door.  While Reed is busy apprehending one of the suspects on the roof, Malloy and Corbin investigate the pharmacy and then the pawn shop.  Corbin impetuously suggests using tear gas to ferret out the suspects, who are in hiding, but Malloy vetoes Corbin because it's too premature to resort to such procedures.  As Malloy goes to call for backup, he orders Corbin to stay put and not search any further until he returns.  Corbin defies Malloy's direct order and begins nosing around.  Corbin is able to spot the remaining suspect, which leads to his arrest, but Corbin's defiance of Malloy's orders causes the senior officer to call the young rookie to the carpet.  Malloy asks Reed, while Corbin is present, "Jim how much do you figure it costs to put a man through the Academy?"  When Reed speculates it costs about $12,000 to $15,000, Malloy asks, "Did you know that Corbin?...So if you get yourself killed, the Department's out of a lot of money.  That would be quite a waste, wouldn't it?"

When Corbin tries to explain that he didn't think it would hurt to look around, Malloy continues dressing down the rookie, "I didn't tell you to go exploring."  Corbin makes the case that, if he hadn't been looking around, they wouldn't have found the suspects in hiding.  Malloy contradicts him by pointing out, "Yes we would, when SWAT got here."  Reed attempts to defend his young partner by arguing on his behalf, "Look, Pete, I know what his problem is.  He's just a little eager."  Malloy bluntly responds "There's a difference between being eager and being stupid."  Reed offers to point that distinction out to Corbin only to have Malloy respond, "So will I...Give me about 5 minutes" before dressing down Corbin further off-screen.  To his credit, Corbin acknowledges to Malloy later, "Phew, that Malloy's really hard nosed, isn't he?...The heck of it is, he's right.  Maybe I should grow a mustache."

Even though Corbin acknowledges his immaturity, he soon demonstrates how he still has much to learn when he and Reed soon afterwards find themselves pursuing a robbery suspect.  As Corbin leaps out of the car to pursue the suspect on foot, he loses his service revolver and is essentially walking into a dangerous situation unarmed.  Using his wits and determination, Corbin is able to bluff the suspect into believing he still has his weapon and apprehends him single-handedly.  A disapproving Reed soon comes upon the scene and returns the gun to Corbin in front of the suspect, who realizes he's been had.  As they place the suspect in the patrol car, Reed reminds Corbin that he needs to be more careful while on duty than what he has demonstrated so far.  A humbled Corbin acknowledges, "This just hasn't been one of my better days," which Reed responds by acknowledging "That's putting it mildly!"  Corbin continues by expressing how he realizes "I've been playing with the Academy's money again.  But I figured he wouldn't know I dropped my gun."  Reed points out to Corbin that "You've got a lot of confidence, but you've also got a lot to learn."  Corbin nods and acknowledges, "But I've got a great teacher."  What redeems Corbin in this storyline is that, despite his insecurity and immaturity and impetuousness, he's also intelligent and humble and self-aware enough to recognize his own faults and short-comings.  He might make the wrong call, but he's quick to realize his mistakes and own up to them.  Mark Harmon demonstrates his early promise and potential as an actor with this guest role on "Adam-12."  Harmon's inherent strength as an actor is his courage and willingness to play characters who are flawed and human, but who also demonstrate tremendous integrity and bravery at the same time.  He's not a one-dimensional hero as an actor and his performance as Gus Corbin prefigures the fine work that Harmon had to look forward to in decades to come.

Soon after the "Gus Corbin" episode, "Adam-12" aired on April 29, 1975 a similarly-themed episode entitled "Dana Hall," with Jo Ann Pflug guest-starring as a female patrol officer who is being trained by Jim Reed while Malloy is still serving as the acting watch commander.  In contrast to Gus Corbin, who had to deal with his own insecurities and immaturity while learning to become a good police officer, Dana Hall has to deal with condescension from male police officers who feel that she doesn't have what it takes to do the job.  As arrogant Officer Ed Wells (Gary Crosby) says aloud, within Dana Hall's earshot, "Well they better not put one in my car, that's all.  It's the dumbest thing I ever heard of.  Where is Super Chick anyway?"  An annoyed Malloy dresses Wells down by telling him, "Look, she's pickin' up reports and why don't you knock that stuff off.  You know, she's gonna have enough problems without you hasslin' her."  Wells condescendingly tells Reed, "You just watch yourself out there today, buddy boy.  Don't count on the Ladies Auxillary to back you up."  Reed ends the discussion by simply telling Wells, "Look, Ed, you take care of your unit and I'll take care of Adam-12, OK?"  As they walk out, Wells holds the door open for Hall, to condescendingly highlight she isn't one of them as far as he's concerned, to which she drily responds "You're sweet."

What I rather like about the episode is how Malloy and Reed neither condescend nor show preferential treatment to Hall during her first day as a patrol officer.  While they are both clearly getting used to the idea of working with a female patrol officer, they each handle the situation by dealing with it at face value and holding Hall to the same standards they would hold to themselves and other officers.  When Hall defensively asks Reed while they are on patrol, "Well...Shall we get those tired old questions out of the way, like 'What's a nice girl like me doing in a patrol car?,'" Reed simply responds by saying, "Well, I assume you like the job or the money."  Hall brightens up and says "Well that's a refreshing attitude.  You don't mind having a woman for a partner?"  Reed candidly responds, "Not unless you're gonna harp upon it all day long."  In so doing, Reed treats Hall with the same level of respect as he treated Officer Gus Corbin in the previous episode.  As with Corbin, he makes no assumptions about Hall and allows her an opportunity to prove herself while on the job.  Later, Hall shares with Reed that "When I finished college, I considered graduate school, even law.  I couldn't decide, so I took a job.  Do you know that I worked four years for my B.A. and the best job was as a secretary to a dirty old man?  Talk about your boring!  That's boring!  I was so anxious to do something that was really useful that when this job came along I just took it."  In so doing, we understand that Hall became a police officer after careful consideration of the options presented to her in life, and that she doesn't have any agenda outside of doing a good job. 

However, like Corbin, Hall has her own set of insecurities that occasionally mar her judgement as a police officer.  Whereas Corbin was insecure because of his youthful appearance, and how that would affect the way he would be perceived, Hall's insecurities stem from how people might perceive her as a female police officer.  After Reed and Hall arrest a teenage DUI suspect, they both speak with the young man's mother after she arrives at the police station to pick up her son.  When the mother admits to being permissive and allowing her son to drink occasionally at home, thinking that that would be better for her son than experimenting with illegal drugs, Hall scolds the mother for enabling her son and being a bad influence on him.  Hall bristles when the mother attempts to reason with her by making the case that "Surely, as a woman, you..." to which Hall cuts her off and reminds the mother "I am a police officer, Mrs. Bell.  I handle police problems.  Your family problems are your own."  When Reed asks to speak to Hall privately over a cup of coffee, Hall asks "Is this a conference...Man to Man?" to which Reed shakes his head and replies, "Cop to Cop."

When Reed points out that Hall came on too strong with the mother of the DUI suspect, Hall defensively responds, "Well, in another minute she would have had a crying towel on my shoulder."  Reed reminds her that "Sometimes that's part of the uniform."  Hall scoffs and asks, "For lady cops?" to which Reed explains, "No, for every cop.  You know what I think?  I think she was starting to get through to you and you were afraid of that so you started acting like you were tough.  But believe me that's not a departmental requirement."  When Hall asks, "You mean the other cops would have come in and listened to a sob story?" Reed responds, "Yes, most of them.  Even Ed Wells.  You don't like him, but at least he doesn't leave his feelings in the locker room when he puts on his uniform.  Now you try to do that and you're gonna end up a basket case and you're not gonna be good as a cop either."  As with Gus Corbin in the earlier episode, despite her insecurities, Hall is able to recognize sage advice when it's being offered to her and acknowledges, "You know the problem with you Jim is you're right."  In so doing, Reed underscores that Hall doesn't need to lose her humanity or sensitivity in order to prove to herself and others that she is a good police officer, and that those are assets that will come in handy in her line of work. 

As with Gus Corbin, Dana Hall proves throughout her episode that she is a talented and capable police officer who has much to learn, but who also much to offer on the job.  She relentlessly chases on foot a car stripping subject throughout a parking garage until he is out of breath and accidentally runs into a post and knocks himself out.  As Hall explains to Reed, the suspect hurt himself because "He was about ready to fall down anyway, he's not in good shape."  Hall further explains to Reed, "I used to hit the Hill with gusto at the Academy, I still do a couple of miles every morning," to underscore how her physical stamina wore out the suspect to such a degree that she was able to take him into custody.  Later, during a riot taking place at a rock concert, Hall single-handedly apprehends several suspects and is even able to save her nemesis, Ed Wells, from being clobbered by rioters.  When Malloy asks Hall to stay with the Command Post and help him process the suspects, rather than returning to where the rioting is taking place, Hall responds "But my partner's up there."

At that point, the show draws a distinction between Dana Hall's character, and the Gus Corbin character played by Mark Harmon in the previous episode.  In Gus Corbin's episode, when Malloy told Corbin to stay in place until reinforcements could arrive, Corbin disregards the order and searches the pawn shop without backup.  In Dana Hall's similar situation at the riot, when Malloy asks Hall to stand down and help at the Command Post, Hall requests permission to continue working with Reed to subdue the rioters.  In so doing, Hall demonstrates her comparative maturity to Corbin because of how she is able to see the bigger picture.  She respects the chain of command and doesn't show herself to be foolish and foolhardy the way Corbin occasionally was in his episode, which is why she is treated with more respect and as a genuine equal by Malloy and Reed, compared to the way Corbin was treated at times in his episode by Reed and Malloy as an immature kid.  I think this has to do with the fact that, even though Dana Hall demonstrates courage and assertiveness, she doesn't do anything to put herself, or others, in unnecessary danger the way Gus Corbin did in his episode.

People who might find some aspects of the "Dana Hall" episode dated should really watch it in the same context as the "Gus Corbin" episode.  Both involve rookie police officers being trained by Reed.  Hall has to deal with prejudice and condescension due to her gender, and some aspects of the episode might seem regressive such as when Hall files her finger nails in the patrol car and admits that she keeps her lipstick in her sock while in uniform, but compared to Gus Corbin, Dana Hall is portrayed much more competently and maturely.  Though she isn't perfect, she still doesn't make as many mistakes during her patrol with Reed the way Corbin does.  Jo Ann Pflug does a good job at demonstrating Dana Hall's intelligence and dedication to her job.  She's attractive and appealing, but also convincingly brave and athletic when dealing with the more physical aspects of the role.  Despite "Adam-12's" reputation as an old fashioned, conservative show, it is also in many ways a fair-minded program because it is willing to consider new ideas while at the same time upholding traditions.

By the end of the Dana Hall episode, even though Ed Wells still isn't completely convinced of the idea of women being police officers, the show demonstrates how she has started to prove herself to her other colleagues.  In the epilogue, Officer Jerry Woods (Fred Stromsoe), who was also skeptical of Hall, tells Wells in the locker room, "I'm telling you Buddy Boy, she saved your bacon.  No kidding, you should've seen the way she cleared that rail without breaking stride.  I'll bet you couldn't do it."  When Reed points out that Hall's 8 years of ballet training allowed her to develop athletic skills that helped her deal with the rioters, Woods continues ribbing Wells by telling him "She study ballet too?  See, that's your problem Wells!  Not enough Ballet!"  Wells remains unconvinced and insists, "Maybe Hall's an exception...Maybe she's one of those, what do you call 'em?, Amazons.  Freak.  All I know is this: no normal woman can handle this job and I don't care if you give her a gun, a baton, a whip and a chair.  The whole idea stinks, you know.  Because if you let one of them in, there goes the whole department."  Reed sensibly opines, "You're a reactionary, you know that Ed?"  As they run into Hall out in the hallway, attractively dressed in civilian attire, she cheekily holds the door open for Wells, to demonstrate to him that she's no longer intimidated by what he, or anyone else, thinks of her as a police officer.

Even though these two episodes are atypical in that Malloy and Reed are not patrolling together in "Adam-12," the episodes are satisfying because they help underscore the extent to which their working relationship has matured throughout the seven years we've been watching them.  Malloy feels confident and assured that he has taught Reed everything he needs to know that he is able to start taking other leadership assignments that will allow him to continue progressing in the LAPD.  Meanwhile, Reed has gone from being the wide-eyed neophyte to the wizened mentor, ready to dispense helpful insights to new police officers who are about to embark on a new, exciting phase in their lives.  Even though they aren't working together in these episodes, I never get the feeling that Malloy and Reed are ever in danger of drifting apart and losing that friendship that is the hallmark of the series.  This is because Reed continually confers with Malloy with regards to working with both Corbin and Hall, and Malloy continues to be present to help offer helpful insights to Reed as his partner has now become a mentor to others and begins to take on new roles and assignments on his own.  "Adam-12" would continue for just two more episodes, when the series finally ended with an episode where Reed is awarded the LAPD Medal of Valor for saving Malloy's life.  I always found these last episodes rather poignant because, even though it's not clearly stated, they do suggest that Malloy and Reed are on the brink of going in new directions in their careers that would, in essence, end their partnership patrolling together in Adam-12.  Nevertheless, I always found the series finale of "Adam-12" extremely satisfying because I always feel like I have experienced something special watching the burgeoning friendship and partnership of two men who enriched their lives, and ours, by demonstrating qualities of courage, leadership and integrity week-after-week.