Steven Spielberg On Directing “Night Gallery”

Long before “Jaws”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” made him a household name, Steven Spielberg was just another unknown director with hopes for fame and fortune. And the first step toward that goal took him through a shadowy museum known as … Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.

Steven Spielberg and Joan Crawford

The pilot movie, to be specific. The 21-year-old director would helm the middle segment of three dark-edged tales written by Serling himself. It premiered on November 8, 1969, and was a ratings success, leading to the Night Gallery series a year later.

While Spielberg was a novice, however, his star was anything but. The part of Claudia Menlo, the predatory blind dowager in “Eyes,” was to be played by none other than Joan Crawford.

Crawford, then 65, had already starred in more than 90 feature films, dating back to the silent era. “Directing Joan Crawford was like pitching to Hank Aaron your first time in the game,” Spielberg later remarked.

Steven Spielberg and Joan Crawford2

He got a chance to relate the details of their memorable first meeting (when Crawford had blindfolded herself in an effort to get into character) in an interview when a little film called “E.T.” was about to come out.

It’s only about five minutes or so. Enjoy:

 ***

Photos courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or PinterestYou can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. WordPress members can also hit “follow” at the top of this page.

Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Hard-working, hard-playing fan of all pop culture, especially the Twilight Zone. Which led to a Twitter page. And then to a blog. And then to ... stay tuned. Yes, that's a picture of Rod Serling, not me. You can find the real me under the "Your Host" tab on my blog, along with biographical details that, while 100 percent accurate, sound kind of boastful and braggy. Sorry.

Posted on 08/15/2014, in Night Gallery and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Johnny Monster

    On another note, TZ fans mourn the recent loss of the beautiful Arlene Martel. I will never forget her captivating eyes and that knowing smirk when she said, “Room for one more, honey.”

  2. Okay, so I put off posting a comment here because I hadn’t yet seen the “Eyes” segment. But I remedied that today and so now I can actually have some idea of what I’m talking about!

    I’m not a huge Spielberg fan, and sure, there were some weird shots in this episode, but all in all, I think he did a pretty good job. Joan Crawford is so incredibly intense in this role, and in real life it sounds like. So I definitely applaud Spielberg for taking this on.

    The script is clearly Serling. I mean *spoiler alert* that ending? Had a definite “Time Enough at Last” vibe, don’t you think? Much like the third segment “The Escape Route” (and I’m not surprised you like that one so much!), we get a definite Serling-type serving of justice in the end. This miserable woman who robs a man of his sight just so she can see for a few hours… gets stuck in the middle of a blackout. I mean, it’s Henry Bemis all over again! Only this time, the character seems much more deserving of her fate.

    What a wonderful pilot for what should have been a much more successful series. It’s not The Twilight Zone by any stretch, but I think people need to remember that it wasn’t supposed to be. Apples to oranges. Or as we might say in the Fifth Dimension… Kanamits to Venusians. ;)

    • I’m glad you got to see the segment, and that you enjoyed this post. You’re so right — you don’t have to be a Spielberg fan to appreciate the job he did on this one. And for this to be his maiden directorial effort makes it all the more impressive.

      And yes, this is Serling-type justice indeed! You can see the author of “Judgment Night” and “Deaths-Head Revisited” at work here — producing characters and situations we remember long after the credits roll. It’s a terrific pilot, one that I hope everyone watches, even if they never see a single episode of the series that followed.

      Night Gallery isn’t for everyone, but as dark corners to the fifth dimension go? I’ll take it. :)

  3. Didn’t He also Direct “Duel” With Dennis Weaver and maybe the Original “Assault on Precinct 13”?

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