Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Great links: Terrific three-part "St. Elsewhere" retrospective

Indiewire's Edward Copeland recently published a superb three-part anniversary retrospective titled "Returning to St. Eligius: St. Elsewhere, 30 Years Later." Here are the links to the three articles (each of which is spread over multiple pages):1

The articles are full of fresh interviews and insider information that's especially geared toward fans of the show. There's a lot of stuff that I already knew (such as the fact that David Paymer was originally cast as Dr. Wayne Fiscus). But there are also a lot of tidbits that were new to me.2 Here are a few:
  • An unfilmed, proposed ending leaped 25 years into the future — to 2013 — with Dr. Daniel Auschlander, dying of liver cancer since the show’s debut in October 1982, still alive at age 101.
  • Producer/director Mark Tinker describes how the show would pull off single-take elevator shots that gave the illusion of the characters moving between floors:
    “We would also do things like walk into the elevator and then have a scene take place in the elevator that never stopped, that never had a cut. The characters were in the foreground and the doors in the background were facing out. While they were playing the scene, we’d switch out what was outside the elevator, so when they stepped out, it would look like a different place and make it seem like the elevator really worked.”
  • In Part 2, Copeland advances a fascinating (and plausible) theory for why Dr. Jack Morrison's character, portrayed by David Morse, suffered trauma after trauma during the course of the series. (It involves the short-lived NBC dog series "Here's Boomer.")
  • Actress Florence Halop, who played caustic long-term patient Mrs. Hufnagel, would apologize to actors after scenes in which her character was rude to their characters.3
  • Copeland details another behind-the-scenes trick: "The performers also had to learn complicated medical terms as well. When Stephen Furst first began playing Dr. Axelrod, he couldn’t wrap his vocal cords around some tricky words but, thanks to a very cooperative extra in an ER scene, Furst employed the old Brando trick and taped the lines to the side of the woman’s face where he could read them."
Copeland's article is also layered with numerous video clips from "St. Elsewhere," which is all the more reason to go check out all three parts.

I'm sharing one Vimeo clip here, though. Some readers have asked me about the series' final scene and where they can watch it. Here you go. This clip, in fact, includes the final five minutes of the final episode.

1. I am annoyed by web articles that are spread over multiple pages without offering a "Single Page" reading option. (The New York Times handles this well.) But it's not quite as annoying as my least-favorite web article — the slideshow that exists as a slideshow for no reason other than to drive pageviews. Those really burn my biscuits, as Dr. Craig might say.
2. My two previous posts on St. Elsewhere are:

3. My favorite Mrs. Hufnagel moment comes when fatherly Dr. Donald Westphall berates the hospital staff for neglecting her, and then goes to see her, only to find himself the subject of her acidic tongue. Actor Ed Flanders' reaction is priceless.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the praise. I believe the way the inner templates of Indiewire is set up that they have no choice but to spread things to another page because they have to do that with shorter articles also. I got so much crap because I write long (which they knew, based on my Larry Sanders anniversary piece on Roger Ebert's site), but they wanted me to do something in the way of an oral history -- what did they expect? Cliff Notes? Believe it or not, as insanely long as it ended up being, I cut a lot out myself just to try to appease them. I'd understand if it were in a newspaper or magazine with an actual limited newshole, but online space is theoretically limitless and if someone is interested in the subject, they'll read it. If they don't know or care about St. Elsewhere, they wouldn't have read it if I wrote a 500 word article. I'm glad you liked it and your stuff was great as well.