Planet Of The Apes Tv Series Trivia (From Simian
Bobby Porter appeared twice in the TV series, but was
no stranger to the ape make-up—he'd already played the ill-fated Cornelius
in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
Woodrow Parfrey ("Escape From Tomorrow")
also had a previous ape credit on his CV, having played Maximus in the
Mark Lenard (Urko) was of course well known for
donning other famous SF make-up—he played Sarek, Mr Spock's dad, in Star Trek.
The spaceship seen in the opening episode of the
series is the very ship used in Escape
from the Planet of the Apes.
Anthony Wilson was a little more successful—as well
as developing the Planet of the Apes
concept for TV, he also wrote the first episode of Irwin Allen's Land of the Giants.
Fans of "The Legacy" take note—although
other episodes are also covered in the series, this episode is featured
prominently in the old series of trading cards put out by Topps in the
Michael Conrad (Janor in "The Tyrant") was
one of the first people to wear the Ape make-up on screen. In one of the
last few episodes of Lost in Space (Fugitives
in Space) he wore parts of the ape make-up from the original movie. The
episode aired in early 1968, shortly before the premier of Planet of the Apes
Early treatments for the series had come from the pen
of Rod Serling, creator of The
Twilight Zone (on which many of the Apes cast and crew, including
Roddy, had worked) and co-writer of the original Apes screenplay. Serling's
version owed more to the movie series than the final product, but some
aspects still made it into the series.
The make-up for the TV series was supervised by Dan
Striepeke—he had also supervised make-up on the first four Apes movies.
Apart from the five main characters, sci-fi veteran
John Hoyt's Prefect Barlow was the only character to appear twice.
Following the series' cancellation, the episode
"The Liberator" was not aired in the original US run of the
series (but was added in subsequent re-runs).
Many actors appeared more than once, since the ape
make-up would make it impossible for the audience to tell. Although several
actors appeared more than once, special mention must be made of Ron Stein.
While not a name you would immediately think of as a series regular, he
appeared in all but two episodes—in three episodes, he even appeared as two
separate characters! He makes a rare appearance as a human in "The
At the end of "The Trap," watch carefully
when Urko's henchman finds the San Francisco Zoo poster—first we see the
poster in his hands and then we cut to another angle to see him angrily
tearing up. ..a blank sheet of paper! Presumably Urko wanted to keep the
poster for his bedroom wall.
Five pairs of two episodes were stitched together several
years after the series finished and resold as TV movies. The titles are: Back to the Planet of the Apes;
Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes; Treachery and Greed on the Planet
of the Apes; Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes (!),
and Farewell to the Planet of the
Apes. In some areas, these movies featured opening and closing segments
with Roddy reprising his role as Galen, this time as the aged ape recounted
his past adventures. To the best of my knowledge, these scenes have never
made it to the UK.
Interviewed by Jeff K on July 27, 1997.
Mostly it deals with his prior career, but also some interesting POTA
comments (it was quoted in Joe Russo's book "POTA Revisited").
JEFF: Can we start with
the early years of Ron Harper?
JEFF: You wanted to be a
RON: That's right. I was gonna be a lawyer. Well, actually, I wanted to be a
cowboy. But I had a scholarship to Princeton.
Thank goodness, what a wonderful school. While I was there I thought, well,
I don't want to waste my college education on acting (little did I know),
so I thought I'd go to Harvard Law and become an attorney and, you know,
live that kind of life. But Princeton
was wonderful. I'd always loved acting. In high school I was in the senior
play, the junior play, the high school play. And when I got to Princeton,
I was in some theatrical productions there. Theatre On Team, which is a
little theatre there. And Triangle Show, which is a musical comedy show.
So as a scholarship
student I was required to work during the summer and make $400 - 500 to
supplement the rest of my income. Then the producer of the summer theatre
there called the University Players invited me to come and join the summer
theatre company there, which did about 10 plays, one a week. Rehearsed one
during the day and put another play on at night. We'd always end with a
Shakespeare and usually started with a Tennessee Williams. So I thought
about it and I said, "I'd love to but I'm supposed to work and earn
some money." And (the theatre) didn't pay us any money, I think we got
a daily allowance for food and we stayed in one of the clubs there so we
didn't have to pay any room and board. So I went to the Dean of Admissions
and I told him the situation. He said, "Would you like to do
that?" I said, "Yeah, but I won't be able to earn any
money." So he said, "Well, here the purpose of a college
education, at least how it should be, is to learn how to best enjoy the
rest of your life. That's to help you find out. And so, if this will help
you find that out, how to best enjoy the rest of your life, we'll consider
it part of your curriculum, we'll increase your scholarship, and if you
need a student loan after that, you'll be entitled to it." So I
thought that was wonderful. I did a season of University Players,
everything from Tennessee Williams, "Camino Real" and ended up
with "The Tempest," Shakespeare, and did all these plays in
between and it was terrific. The following summer I came back and did
another season of summer stock, we were about 45 minutes from New York,
various people came down and saw me in productions, encouraged me to come
to New York. And I went to New
York, started studying with
Lee Strasberg. And had an offer to go to Harvard
for a law fellowship, decided I wanted to be an actor,
that was it. I studied with Strasberg for
about a year and a half, was drafted into the Navy, came back out of the
Navy, studied with him a couple of more years.
JEFF: It was the '50's?
RON: Yeah. Late '50's.
Well, that's how I got out of being a lawyer.
JEFF: What did you like
about acting as opposed to being a lawyer? Did anyone pressure you into
being a lawyer?
RON: No. It was just
something I thought I would probably do, you know? I was on the debating
JEFF: It's pretty close to
RON: Some parts of it
certainly are. Yeah. But there was nothing like the thrill of being on
stage doing a play. No matter what, I loved it. So that did it. I've played
some lawyers but I don't regret it. I've had a wonderful time being an
actor over the years.
JEFF: What was it like
working on "Sweet Bird of Youth" (the play, starring Paul Newman
and directed by Elia Kazan)?
RON: Wonderful. EliaKazan directed it.
JEFF: I hear he's going
to do a movie soon. He's going to come back and do a movie.
RON: You're kidding. He's
about 80 years old, isn't he? Is he going to direct another movie?
JEFF: That's what I
RON: That'd be great. He
was a wonderful director.
JEFF: He was a legend for
the time, the '50's.
RON: Oh yeah! The best
interpreter of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller that we ever had.
Wonderful director. I was cast in a small part - - Luke, one of the town's
boys down in St. Cloud.
Rip Torn played Tom Jr. and understudied Paul Newman. And after a couple of
weeks, Rip talked to them about replacing Paul he Official POTA 2001's
movie magazine from SFX featured two articles about the tv
series. Newman when he left the production and they said no. So he wasn't
interested in continuing to be the understudy. So they had an open call for
understudies. And I read for it. And I was really amazed because I think I
read for it about 4 times, the last time was like on a Sunday afternoon.
And I came into the theatre and there was just Kazan, Sheryl Crawford the
producer and Tennessee Williams, and I read for them. And I got the part as
an understudy. I understudied him (Newman), and when it was time for Paul
to leave they interviewed as many actors as they could find, including some
from the West Coast who would have enough name to "fill the
balcony", as they say. And they interviewed Tab Hunter and John Ericson and various other actors who really couldn't
quite cut it. So they gave the part to Rip. I understudied him and I went
on the road with it, came to Hollywood
and we played out here, MCA saw me in it and signed me.
JEFF: How many times did
you get to play it (the lead)?
RON: I guess about a
dozen times. So, that was it. Kazan,
I was very fond of Kazan.
I thought he was a terrific director.
JEFF: Were you in
"Splendor in the Grass" (1961, directed by Kazan)?
RON: Yep. He cast me in
that because of my work in "Sweet Bird of Youth". It was about
the high school kids, you know, and I was the boyfriend of Sandy Dennis and
I worked on it for about 3 or 4 weeks. And when the film came out, I couldn't
see myself. And I talked to Kazan
about it and I said, "What happened? How bad was I?" And he said,
"No, it wasn't that. It's better to be cut out of your first film so
the next one will say, "Introducing Ron Harper," instead of a
small part like this. You'll be better off."
JEFF: Yeah, I watched
that because I heard you were in it and I didn't see you.
RON: You didn't see me
either, huh? No, they cut me out.
JEFF: And you've done
several series since then. What would you say makes a good series?
RON: There's no question
about it: the writing. Writing and the casting. First the writing.
"87th Precinct" was my first series (one season, 1961-'62). It
was a superb series.
JEFF: What's your opinion
of the "Apes" series?
RON: That's exactly the
point. I don't think the writing was good enough. It's just not
interesting. The basic plot was one of us would be captured by the apes and
the other two would rescue him. We took turns week after week seeing who
was captured, who was rescued. And after 16 repetitions of that, it was no
longer fresh or interesting. They needed some more imaginative writers to
go some other direction, give us more of a scope. And eventually, it just
bored itself out, is what I think.
JEFF: What were the
producers like? Usually a good series comes down to who the producer is and
how much interest they have in it.
RON: I think you're
right. I liked our producer. Stan Hough, who's no longer with us, was a
pretty good producer. And I don't know if it was him or the network that couldn't
find more imaginative writers for the series. The basic premise of the apes
ruling the world was almost totally exhausted with the 5 movies that proceeded us.
JEFF: You heard recently
that Mark Lenard died?
JEFF: Do you have any
memories you can share with us about working with him?
RON: I was very fond of
Mark. He was a very good actor, had a beautiful voice. He was in my
voiceover agency, too, after that. Well, the other funny thing is, you
know, I never knew what he looked like until the show was over. We went to
our wrap party or something. I hardly knew what any of the apes looked like
because by the time I got in around , they'd been in makeup since about . So I could hardly see
him. I loved his voice. I thought he was a very good actor.
Back to what you were
saying, Jeff, "87th Precinct" was a wonderful series. It was
based on the novels by Ed McBain. He was a
mystery writer, perhaps you've heard of him?
JEFF: Not of him, no.
RON: He also writes under
the name of Evan Hunter, he wrote "The Birds" and "Strangers
When We Meet", but he writes at least one, sometimes two, "87th
Precinct" novels a year. At the time when we did it there were about
30 already. All of which we adapted. And they were full novels adapted into
a 1-hour time frame and they were EXCELLENT. Also he wrote 3 original
scripts, one of 'em I did, about this young
detective I played killing his first suspect and it was a young girl. That
was excellent writing. And that was a wonderful series that got on long before
"NYPD Blue" or any of these other ones. And the writing for
"Garrison's Gorillas" (one season: 1967-'68), a Second World War
series that I did, that was also good writing. Good stories, good plots.
The "Apes", I'm afraid, didn't have the good writing. "Wendy
and Me" (his one season 1964- '65 series) had very good writing, that
was a comedy.
JEFF: You said one of the
times I talked to you that you didn't like the James Naughton
RON: Well, the Naughton character, Pete, was conceived of more or less
as a comic foil to Alan Virdon, who was the hero,
the straight hero theoretically. And I read with, I guess, about 10 or 12
actors for the part that Jim did, who's a very fine actor.
JEFF: He's won a couple
RON: Yeah, well, he's a
good singer. He's a very good singer. But he doesn't have that much of a
light touch. So instead of having something that we could have bounced off
of each other, it was really like 2 heroes and it was less interesting.
Pete Burke when it was originally conceived was a very reluctant hero. He
didn't want to risk his life for anybody, including apes. He just wanted to
get back into his spacecraft and get back to Earth and leave the heroics to
somebody else. Pete Burke as it evolved was very heroic and I think we missed
some opportunity to take some lighter touches. I always try to find humor
in drama and drama in humor. I did not dislike him, we're not very close,
you know, we worked together, we never saw each
other after socially or anything.
JEFF: Do you have any
favorite episodes that you did?
RON: I liked "The
Horse Race". That was my particular favorite because I got to ride a
horse instead of running over all those boulders and rocks that we had to
JEFF: Did you like the
physicality of the character?
RON: It was exhausting,
to tell you the truth.
JEFF: You seem to be in
good shape, do you work out a lot?
RON: Yeah. I still work
out about 5 times a week. Thank you. But it was physically exhausting. Our
director would say, "OK Ron, go up there about a half a mile and run
into the camera". He'd say, "We're a little short on the script
this week". (Groans) And, you know, the apes were the only ones who
were allowed to ride. And they were always chasing us on the horses and Jim
and I were falling over the rocks and twisting our ankles! (Laughs)
JEFF: Well, they would
have sweated up all that makeup. They had a lot of makeup so they couldn't
RON: Yeah, that's right.
JEFF: Any others besides
"The Horse Race"? How about "The Legacy"?
RON: Yes. My particular
acting ones were "The Legacy", where they had me in the castle
with the blonde who represented my wife, and the little boy. That was
probably my favorite acting one. And "The Good Seeds", which is
the first one we shot, where
I'm teaching this farm
family about farming. Because, you know, Virdon
was a rancher and a farmer. That didn't go anywhere. (Laughs) CBS wanted
that action, get those apes shootin' at those
boys! Put some sharks in the water. So that's where they wanted to go.
JEFF: The Nixon
resignation happened around that time. Do you remember if you were filming
anything in particular on that day? In August (1974).
RON: The only thing I
remember was I was at the studio and they announced that he was going to
make a very important...I think they suggested resignation speech. This is
archaic, because I can't remember having a TV in my room, which is strange.
Usually I do. But I went over to my ex-girlfriend's house, who lived right around Culver
City, to watch the
resignation. That's all. I was delighted that S.O.B. was finally out of
office because I didn't care for him at all.
JEFF: One last thing:
What do you think they should do with the new ("Apes") movie? The
big stumbling block seems to be the script.
RON: It is, isn't it?
Yeah, of course, as we said, the writing.
JEFF: They lost Oliver
RON: He didn't like the
script? And then some other director came in?
JEFF: Chris Columbus went
in and out. And maybe James Cameron now.
RON: James Cameron, right.
Oh, I'd love to see Cameron do it. I'd love to get on it. Probably take a
year to shoot it.
JEFF: Or more.
RON: It'd be interesting.
JEFF: It'd cost $200
RON: I know, like the
"Titanic". I would also like to see Oliver (Stone) do it because you know he'd give it a very interesting
spin. It would be much weightier. It would look like the original book,
which was much heavier than the lighter touches that they put into the
movie, I guess to make it more palatable. I wish he would. I wish somebody
would do it so I could do a cameo.
JEFF: I know you want to
go, so thank you.
RON: Jeff, it's always a
pleasure. Thank you. Good luck with this.