Season 1 episode 7
I can’t truly understand what’s happening in “The Good Life.” George Maharis plays Harry Lorimer, an oil well wildcat driller. He’s a likeable rogue, a slick fast-talker and free with his money. He lives inside a fancy country club, throws lavish parties, and hires Sonny and Will for an exorbitant salary because they bring him luck. True, they do rescue Harry (while all the members of his crew stand and watch) after Harry gets an electric shock atop his oilrig. But the jolt occurs immediately after Sonny and Will arrive – so, good-luck, bad-luck, it’s open to interpretation.
Robert Merrill plays Paul, Harry’s dad. He’s alternately silent and talking trash about his son, the opposite of a supportive father. Being a geology teacher, he thinks he knows more about the oil business than his successful son. Paul manages to convince everyone that his son will never strike oil, though Harry is convinced he will and makes a wonderful little speech about faith. Harry is the dreamer, the optimist; dad is a dubious naysayer. I want to root for Harry in this episode but he is so slippery and Paul is much more likeable.
I think Sonny and Will have the same problem. They are thrown into this odd father/son dynamic and don’t know who to trust. They like Harry’s money and want to believe in his dream but Dad’s negativism wins out and the boys help talk Harry into making a questionable deal with the lovely oil investor, played by Laraine Stephens. Sonny gets some one-on-one time with the lady and everyone goes away happy when the well does strike oil. But for some reason, Sonny, Will, and Paul don’t want any part of the good life. All three walk away from the money, or rather are carried away in a big green Kenworth!
“The Good Life”… an early show from our first year was a fun episode in several ways. We had a very nice script by George Kirgo and a wonderful location that our director, Dick Benedict used to perfection. Once we had the script in hand we decided that Gary Merrill would be great as the father of the exuberant wildcatter George Maharis. Gary’s rugged good looks and superb acting talents were a lovely balance to Maharis’ smooth, “oily character” and vibrant acting.
I remember meeting George and his immediate reaction to the script. He loved it! Wanted to do it! And wished he could have done this type of show on his series. You may remember that he starred with Martin Milner in Route 66. Well, we continued to banter about the quality of Movin’ On versus “66”, and of course he thought that he had invented the road show formula. As you can imagine, I would have none of that. I pointed out that it was far easier to move a Chevy Corvette from town to town as opposed to our beautiful Kenworths!! Over the course of shooting the episode, George saw our crew in action. He recognized the talent and commitment of our team and reluctantly conceded that Movin’ On went where “66” would never have imagined going.
After recently rewatching “The Goodlife” I recalled a “behind the scenes” prank I pulled involving our lead actress, Laraine Stephens. Laraine was married to a friend of mine, David Gerber, the Executive Producer of Police Story, a series also airing on NBC. When Laraine came into the office, her beauty, her easy personality, and her sense of fun enthralled our director, Dick Benedict. That was when the idea for the prank struck me. The script called for a love scene between Laraine and Sonny. Yup, there’s smoochin’ goin’ on!!! Well, I just could not resist. I asked Laraine if would be OK if we sent the dailies of the love scene over to her hubby’s studio and have them added to David’s Police Story dailies. Laraine absolutely loved the idea. Before filming that particular scene, I again spoke with Claude, Laraine, and Benedict and made sure that all were still OK with the plan. They were! It’s a lovely scene, and Laraine and Claude pretended to go a bit beyond the requirements of a 9 pm television love scene. Then, just when we imagine husband David will be good and steamed, with smoke pouring from his ears, they turn to the camera and Lorraine said something about how difficult life is on location and Claude said what a lucky man David was.
Our editors handled the next step, bringing the Police Story editors into the plot. Our editors carried the film to the Police Story editors who secretly slipped our scene into the Police Story dailies. Gerber called me from his screening room saying he hadn’t laughed so much in years – and various executives from Columbia Pictures, who were there, teased David for weeks afterward. If you can’t have fun shooting a TV series, what good is it? And we sure did have fun on Movin’ On.