Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Reunion With Old Friends: Hal Holbrook in "A Clear and Present Danger" and "The Senator" (1970-71, now on DVD)

I've unwrapped an early Christmas present.
I've started watching Hal Holbrook in The Senator, starting with the March 21, 1970 NBC TV pilot, A Clear and Present Danger," about air pollution, politics and righting wrongs.
Gripping, compelling script as alive as it was 45 years ago, in 1970, when I first saw it on television at age 13.
It aired one month and one day before the original Earth Day.
Yes, we can use the power of our God-given talents to right wrongs.
What's our alternative?
Tolerate wrongdoers, and then we die?
Been doing it for 40 years: Oak Ridge, Tennessee still remembers and dissembles at the thought of federal investigations of criminal pollution.
One of the facts I've learned on researching the series is that one of my mentors, Ms. Melody J. Miller, from Senator Ted Kennedy's office, helped Hal Holbrook and NBC in its research: she'd worked for RFK, and worked her way up from receptionist to Chief of Staff for EMK.
Melody was among some those who helped teach me how to make government responsive to the people, commencing when I was 17.5 years old, 4.5 years after Hal Holbrook's and E.G. Marshall's U.S. Senator characters danced across our black and white television screen in Mantua, N.J.  (Melody was on the one-hour CBS special about EMK after he died in 2009).
(Thanks to Melody, another EMK intern, from Santa Clara, California, sat in a Kennedy Center box and watched Hal Holbook perform "Mark Twain Tonight!")
(Some friends still accuse me of "black and white" thinking: yes, God, there is right and wrong, and one of the things that's wrong is putting filth in the sky, or in the case of the City of St. Augustine, Florida, putting a landfill in a lake).
Speaking of filth: those photo montages of Hal Holbrook walking around the city where his character's esteemed law professor died of asthma due to smog still resonate after 45: we're killing everything, a bit character says to an emergency room physician, holding a tiny dying bird in his hands.,
Yes we are.
Some of the most compelling scenes are with Holbrook's character (U.S. Senator's son) meeting with the City Attorney (Pat Hingle) of a city experiencing environmental problems killing people in a killer smog, resembling the Donora, Pennsylvania thermal inversion of the 1940s).
The series ran for one season: a pilot and eight rotating episodes, only to see NBC cancel it before it won record Emmy awards.  Later, a politics-based NBC series, The West Wing, ran eight seasons.
Spoiler alert:
A Clear and Present Danger shows: Yes, we can do something about it: it is not to late To Seek a Newer World, as RFK said in his 1967 book.
Thank you, Pope Francis, for recognizing this environmental consciousness and its consequences in your eloquent encyclical, Laudato Si, here.
One of the scenes in the denouement of "A Clear and Present Danger" was apparently filmed in Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel lobby, where the E.G. Marshall character (then-Senator, playing future Senator Hays' Stowe's father, because it is, well, older and cheaper).
That L.A. Biltmore Hotel lobby is like a one-acre version of our tiny Treasury lobby (former St. Augustine Exchange Bank Building lobby here in St. Augustine, which always brings back wonderful memories), at 24 Cathedral Place.
My memories:
The Biltmore lobby coffee shop was the locus of our successful settlement negotiations in the precedent-setting Gay right case in Rinde v. Woodward & Lothrop in 1990, during the ABA Midyear meeting.
Duane D. Rinde v. Woodward & Lothrop was the landmark Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland Gay rights equal discount benefits case that brought equal spousal discounts to GLBT employee partners (and other employees' designated recipients) at 30 stores in six states and D.C.
Hollywood screenwriters, keep working: you never know what sets or words will inspire future generations to right wrongs and do justice on our planet.

Image result for biltmore hotel lobby la

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