Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Past chats with our guests.

Moderators: Sue Sue Applegate, movieman1957, moira finnie, Lzcutter

User avatar
Sue Sue Applegate
Administrator
Posts: 3325
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 8:47 pm
Location: Texas

Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by Sue Sue Applegate »

Actor, author, and physical fitness advocate Denny Miller is our guest for the weekend of July 27th!

Image

A veteran performer appearing in 237 television programs and 20 films, Miller has been an advocate of healthy living for most of his life. Earning a degree in physical education from UCLA has helped the former Duke Shannon of Wagon Train fame advocate for active lifestyles, and inspired his book, Toxic Waist...Get to Know Sweat! Miller also penned a compilation of his memories in the 2005 text entitled Didn't You Used To Be What's His Name?, and is preparing to release his next venture entitled Me Tarzan, You Train! to help aging Baby Boomers learn how to exercise, have fun, and avoid injury.

In August, as the oldest living actor to appear as Tarzan on the big screen, Miller will attend the U.S. Postal Service ceremony in Tarzana when it formally issues an Edgar Rice Burroughs /Tarzan U.S. Stamp to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the first publication of Tarzan.

In Didn't You Used to Be What's His Name, Miller reveals that his father, Dr. Ben Miller, Professor Emeritus at U.C.L.A. for 28 years, was one of his heroes, and was on the President's Council For Physical Fitness under President Eisenhower and President Kennedy. When Miller earned a scholarship to U.C.L.A. as a basketball player coached by the famous John Wooden, he pursued his dreams of being a professional ball player, but that wasn't in the cards for Miller. He was discovered delivering furniture to a talent agency while working his part-time job, and during the course of unloading furniture at the agency, he was given several cards from agents who encouraged him to call. One agent, Robert Raison, was unusually persistent, and became Miller's representative for fourteen years. "Life is what happens to you while you're on your way to do something else," says Miller, and he certainly did do something else. His screen test for a contract with MGM was directed by none other than the great George Cukor.

As a veteran of more than 200 commercials, Miller most recently has been popular as the Gorton's Fisherman, and has written and directed his own relaxation video.

He has worked with Cornel Wilde, Lee Majors, Jack Lord, Tom Selleck, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Joan Rivers, Bette Davis, Dennis Weaver, Rock Hudson, Stephanie Powers, Robert Wagner, Brian Kieth, Karl Malden, Michael Douglas, Robert Fuller, Bill Smith, and many others. As a regular cast member of Wagon Train from 1961 to 1964, he was able to work and learn from some of Hollywood's greatest actors.

Some of his directors include Sydney Pollack, George Cukor, Vincent Minelli, and Sydney Poitier.

We hope all the SSO members are excited about his visit as we are! Start thinking about any questions you might have for Denny Miller and his days on Wagon Train, as Tarzan, or about physical fitness!
User avatar
Sue Sue Applegate
Administrator
Posts: 3325
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 8:47 pm
Location: Texas

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by Sue Sue Applegate »

Dear Mr. Miller,

Let me say that we are so happy to have you visiting us here at The Silver Screen Oasis!

The Summer Olympics are gearing up in London, and I was just wondering how you felt about following in the footsteps of Olympic Gold Medal Winners Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe when you were informed that you would be recreating the role of Tarzan in the 1950s. How did you feel knowing that you would be part of the screen legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Olympic athletes?
Blog: http://suesueapplegate.wordpress.com/
Twitter:@suesueapplegate
TCM Message Boards: http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/ ... ue-sue-ii/
Sue Sue : https://www.facebook.com/groups/611323215621862/
Thelma Ritter: Hollywood's Favorite New Yorker, University Press of Mississippi-2020
Avatar: Ginger Rogers, The Major and The Minor
User avatar
movieman1957
Administrator
Posts: 5509
Joined: April 15th, 2007, 3:50 pm
Location: MD

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by movieman1957 »

Welcome to our little playground.

First let me say you are in one of my favorite comedies. "The Party" is a riot from beginning to end and you are a trip. Is it tough or just a lot of fun playing that kind of character?

Also, with your imdb catalog being as broad as your shoulders I wondered if the shooting of such diverse TV shows was all that different or pretty much the same?

Thanks.
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."
User avatar
Denny Miller
Posts: 15
Joined: July 3rd, 2012, 11:19 pm

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by Denny Miller »

Christy,

It was an honor to play the same role as Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe - both Olympic Gold Medal winners in swimming. Also, not generally known, Glenn Morriss won Gold in the 1936 Oympics held in Berlin with a sad Hitler in the stands. Herman Brix, another Tarzan, won the Silver medal in the shot put in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Having been an athlete, on scholarship, at UCLA these men were already my heroes.

Boris Karloff was in one Tarzan film playing a native with a bone in his nose and another actor playing a very bad guy, Sean Connery, was to become one of the biggest stars in film history. Sean is one of my favorite actors to this day!!!!

I was a contract player at MGM when I was picked from their stable of actors. Upon hearing the news I recommended Bill Smith for the role. I thought he would make a much better Tarazan. Bill and I had gone to UCLA at the same time.

It is not unusual to find that many actors have been athletes before their acting careers. Some actors mentioned above, that have been chosen to play the role of Tarzan, have been the best athletes in the world in their chosen events.

Sincerely, Denny
User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8176
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by moira finnie »

Hi Denny,
Thanks so much for visiting us. Could I ask you for your impressions of some of the directors you worked with, such as George Cukor, Vincente Minnelli, Blake Edwards, Sydney Pollack, and Sidney Poitier?

Moira
Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks
User avatar
mongoII
Posts: 12345
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 7:37 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by mongoII »

Hi Denny. Welcome to the Oasis. It's nice to have you here.
I'm gonna go back over 50 years when you had the part of Dewey Cole in "Some Came Running".
Do you recollect mingling with any of the huge cast (stars or character players) and how was Vincente Minnelli who directed you?
I appreciate it.

Joe
Joseph Goodheart
User avatar
Denny Miller
Posts: 15
Joined: July 3rd, 2012, 11:19 pm

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by Denny Miller »

Moira, Hi. George Gukor directed my screen test for MGM. I was under contract at Review Studios which soon became Universal Studios. MGM eventually bought my contract from Review. When George Cukors' name appears on the screen test as Director, there is little chance that lucky actor will not pass the test. Mr. Cukor chose a scene from "VOICE OF THE TURTLE". He assigned a drama coach for me. The actress I was to do the screen with, Joan Elan (English),
already knew what she was doing. I was a misplaced basketball player from UCLA.

We rehearsed in Mr. Cukors' home, in his office and on stage at MGM studios. I don't remember what film he was working on at the time. He had me go back to my childhood and experiance the highs and lows,the dramatic times I could remember. I had no idea what that had to do with acting. I didn't know who George Cukor was. His name never came up in the gym where I had spent most of my waking hours. Please excuse my spelling and typos. My wife has read and reread editing my 3 books and she is very good at making me look like I know what I'm writing.

The day to shoot the scene, I was as nervous as I had ever been. The first shot was of me was entering the girl's (Joan) apartment. I had taken 3 or 4 steps and started my first line when Mr. Cukor yelled cut. He walked into the scene and got right up in my face and said,"Do you see that bowl of wax fruit on the table?" I nodded yes. "If you don't relax, if you don't stop looking so nervous ,I will throw the whole bowl at you !" Then he said,"Come on. This is more fun than basketball."

The shoot went well because one of the best directors in film history directed the test. I enjoy watching all his films. Especially the ones with Kate Hepburn. She is my favorite actress. Mr.Cukor introduced my brother Kent and I to Kate and she gave us lunch in her beach house and let us use the dunes in front of her place for a photo shoot.

Oh, MGM bought my contract from Review. Vincente Minnelli was or appeared to be, as nervous as I was. He was uncomforable probably because he had to direct such a novice. I couldn't seem to get his message. On the other hand, the scene I did with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine was really fun. The character I played, IN SOME CAME RUNNING was bringing a warning to Dean that so and so was in town and was going to kill him. The first rehearsal I race into the eating place and slide in the seat opposite Dean and Shirley and give Dean my first line. Dean keeps looking down at his breakfast playing with the egss. I wait and wait and wait and finally Dean looks up at me and says,"I got lines?" Someone better let me look at the script." Now that's a relaxed actor!!! I don't remember Mr. Minelli saying a word. We shot from sunset to sunrise in a carnival for two weeks. The first night the real Carnival guys had just finished.
User avatar
Denny Miller
Posts: 15
Joined: July 3rd, 2012, 11:19 pm

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by Denny Miller »

Moira continued - Directors -- building their Ferris Wheel. Director Minelli came out walked around the wheel and then it took him a half an hour to convince the assistant director to tell the guys to take it down and move it a foot to the left. Sinatra and Martin showed up to work and found out what was going on and rented a jet and flew to Vegas for the night. The only people to work that night were the Ferris Wheel guys. Not too happy guys. I've heard other stories about Mr. Minnelli - similar stories. Never got to work with him again. Not surprising because I think I drove him crazy.

In response to Movieman1957: Blake Edwards --In my 53 year career, "THE PARTY" Staring Peter Sellers was the most enoyable 12 weeks. I think Peter was a comic genius. After shooting just one day Blake gathered the actors around and told us he was throwing the script away and that we were to follow that guy - pointing at Peter Sellers. From then on we made up the whole movie. And we all followed Peter. No one knew what we were going to say. One time we were doing a scene involving all the actors at the dinner table. The scene in the back ground was of the swinging doors to the pantry and kitchen beyond. Blake said action and we all, making it up, started to in. We went and went and at one point the swinging door opened and showed the head waiter choking Steve Franken, the drunk waiter. We continued until one by one we dried up. We all looked around and waited for Blake to yell cut. It got quiet and finally someone heard a muffled laugh coming from under the table. Blake was under there too out of breath from laughing to yell cut. I have never worked on another set that the actors, knowing they would probably not work that day, were there on the set.The only reason for them to be there was to watch a genius create. I think that one of the most important responsibilities of a director is to create a relaxed atmosphere where the actor can feel he can create knowing the director will be his or her safety net. The actor can go way out on a limb with his part providing he moves the story forward. Blake Edwards did that - he allowed the happy accident to happen. What a joy those 12 weeks were.
User avatar
Denny Miller
Posts: 15
Joined: July 3rd, 2012, 11:19 pm

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by Denny Miller »

Moira - time for lunch! I'll be back with Sydney Pollack and Sidney Poitier. Denny
User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8176
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by moira finnie »

Omigosh! Your answers are so wonderfully detailed, Denny. Thanks so much and I look forward to more. I had read that Cukor was one of the directors at MGM who did the best screen tests with people, and your reply certainly bears that out. It is telling that someone at that professional level would take such care to help you prepare for this moment in your young life--I suspect that few others would be so fortunate. (BTW, you would have been great playing the role of the young soldier in The Voice of the Turtle).

I love the laid back Dean Martin story too! You have confirmed what several people (including Lauren Bacall and Susan Strasberg) mentioned about working with Mr. Minnelli--he was brilliant about the setups of scenes but sometimes too shy or preoccupied to help the actors much.

Please don't worry about spelling, etc. We all make them, believe me! Thanks, again, Denny.
Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks
User avatar
Sue Sue Applegate
Administrator
Posts: 3325
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 8:47 pm
Location: Texas

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by Sue Sue Applegate »

Denny, these stories are wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing. I can't wait till you return to hear more! :lol:
Blog: http://suesueapplegate.wordpress.com/
Twitter:@suesueapplegate
TCM Message Boards: http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/ ... ue-sue-ii/
Sue Sue : https://www.facebook.com/groups/611323215621862/
Thelma Ritter: Hollywood's Favorite New Yorker, University Press of Mississippi-2020
Avatar: Ginger Rogers, The Major and The Minor
kingrat
Posts: 2207
Joined: August 20th, 2009, 2:46 pm

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by kingrat »

When she spoke at the 2011 TCM Film Festival, Leslie Caron had similar stories about how inarticulate Vincente Minnelli was.

I love hearing your stories about the people you worked with. More, please!
User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by JackFavell »

Hi, Denny! It's such a pleasure to have you here at the SSO, to be able to talk to you.

I'm a big fan of The Party as well. The relaxation on the set makes for one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, my whole family watched it together and we were just like Blake Edwards, on the floor laughing so hard we couldn't breathe.

I hope my questions aren't too general... but here goes:

Did you get to work with Ward Bond? I've heard a lot of stories about him, mostly because I love John Ford movies and have read about the Ford stock company. How about some idea of how Frank McGrath and John McIntire were to work with?

Also, can you tell any anecdotes about your time on Mona McCluskey? Specifically, do you have any George Burns stories? Did you ever meet Gracie?

Did you eventually get the acting bug, even though you say it was a happy accident that you got into acting in the first place?

Did you have any favorite guest stars you worked with? It seems to me you must have met all of Hollywood at some time or another.

Any thoughts on William Bendix? Richard Boone?

Was your training in basketball and fitness a help to you in acting?

Did you like working with animals?

What was your favorite role?

Sorry, I think I've gone overboard with the questions. :oops: :D
clore
Posts: 73
Joined: November 6th, 2011, 4:21 pm

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by clore »

First, thank you for participating. It's very gracious of you. I've enjoyed many of your performances and thought that you were especially effective in the episode of THE FUGITIVE that you made.

Two questions if you don't mind...

First - most of your contemporaries hopped a flight to Europe and made at least one Western or Adventure film over there in the 60s. Was it by choice that your filmography doesn't include any such films, were there any that you passed on making?

Second - I was certain that I spotted you in an episode of HOUSE CALLS, one that aired around Christmas time in 1981. I was helping someone decorate a tree and the show was on in the background. The IMDb doesn't have anything other than the regulars listed for that episode.
User avatar
MissGoddess
Posts: 5108
Joined: April 17th, 2007, 10:01 am
Contact:

Re: Welcome to Denny Miller, Our Guest Star for July 27-29!

Post by MissGoddess »

Let me add my welcome, Mr. Miller! So glad to have you with us.
My questions would be pretty much in line with JackFavell's, I'm a "Wagon Train" fan, having gotten to see this series for the first time only in the past two years (thanks to Encore Westerns and DVD). Did you get to work at all with Bond before his untimely death, whether on this show or in one of the scads of movies he did? And how was it working on a western, was the atmosphere any different, better, worse than, say, something sophisticated like The Party? I love Richard Boone, too, tell me he was as smart and charismatic as he seems, pretty please. :D

I'm also curious to know if you knew or worked with another athlete-turned-actor, Woody Strode?

Thanks so much for being here, I love it!
"There's only one thing that can kill the movies, and that's education."
-- Will Rogers
Locked