Season 1 episode 1
The Time Of His Life is the very first episode of Movin’ On and Michael J. Pollard the very first guest star. Considering the nature of the series, it’s appropriate that the guest star is a young, very talented character actor with an atypical Hollywood look. No one would say MJP is a classically handsome leading man but many were recognizing his great talent, which is on display here.
The opening shot sets the tone and lets us know where this television show is going. A green big-rig crossing a lone steel bridge over a wild river somewhere in the Pacific Northwest puts us squarely on the road in rural America and introduces us to the vehicle at its heart, a Kenworth W900. The human stars, Sonny and Will are heard making small talk on the sound track. They talk of women in a nearby city and tease each other the way friends spending a lot of time together do. It’s a show about working on the road and friendship. Soon we will learn that it’s also about doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult.
A small truck passes the Kenworth and immediately we see a high production value crash. Sonny and Will run to the wreck and out pops gnomish, Michael J. Pollard. They take him to a hospital where a doctor confides that MJP has cancer and wants Sonny and Will to tell him. That’s a tough job for a pair of strangers. Being good guys, Sonny and Will decide to be kind to MJP despite his being very obnoxious.
Sonny and Will spend a lot of time with MJP. They get to know him, understand him and even start to like him. In the end, all are better off for it.
It’s 1967 and I’ve been invited to visit the set of Bonnie and Clyde, which was shooting in Texas. It’s an incredible cast with Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard and Gene Hackman. The director is Arthur Penn, an extraordinary talent who has surrounded himself with a stellar cast. I was fortunate enough to be there at the making of an American Classic and felt the high level of energy that everyone was bringing to the film.
I stood on set watching magnificent work being done every day and in one scene in particular with Michael J. Pollard. Pollard plays a member of the gang of bank robbers, the mechanic who can fix anything. As I watched Penn direct Pollard, I recall thinking what a delight it would be to work with Michael. So…. under the heading of, anything worth having is worth waiting for – cut to 1974.
We are in pre-production for Movin’ On. I’m in my office at MGM when our casting director, Lou DiGiamo, comes in with the script of episode one, “The Time of His Life”, tucked under his arm ready to discuss casting options. I recall saying, “If you don’t mind, let’s not go over possible names for this episode. The role screams, Michael J. Pollard. Let’s try to get him as guest star. Our director, Walter Doniger agreed and this wonderful George Kirgo script was sent to Pollard. He loved it and we immediately cast him.
The very small role of Michael’s father is played by Elisha Cook, Jr., another brilliant film actor who appeared in The Maltese Falcon, Rosemary’s Baby, The Killing, and many other movies and TV episodes.
When I visited the set and stood there watching Doniger direct Akins, Converse, Pollard, and Cook, I was enormously pleased. I believe this particular episode, our inaugural offering, contains some of the best acting, writing and directing of our first year. Take note of the almost dialogue-free scenes with Pollard and Cook. See if you agree.