Sun Aug 17 1975

Television: On Allen Set

'Swiss stars interviewed after tiki fire

Byline Joan E. Vadeoncoeur



Smoke was billowing from a tiki when the 60 television editiors arrived on the set of Swiss Family Robinson.

"Wonderful effect," praised one.

"Real effect," retorted the 20th Century-Fox tv publicity chief. "We just had a fire. A lamp overheated and the celluloid caught on fire."


What else? The tv version of the Defoe novel is being produced by Irwin Allen, king of 'disaster' moives whose latest is 'The Towering Inferno'.


If the fire was short of disaster, the press conference with Allen and the series' stars Maring Milner, Cameron Mitchell, and Pat Delany wa not. It went like this:


Why tv?


Why are you going back into tv when films are so much more lucarative and otherwise rewarding?


Allen: Televeision is the most exciting. It takes a year and half to do a picture (movie) so there's not the same sense of immedicacy. Besides, I'm just crazy enough to want to do it.

Milner (interupting as he sipped a drink): Neither Irwin or I need the money but Cam (Mitchell) needed a series to pay back tgaxes (Editor's Note: More truth than joke. Michell is repaying creditors.)

Mitchell: (gulping drink) :Irwin added the character 'cuz he knew I couldn't† pay my taxes otherwise.


Question: Why is the series called Irwin Allen's Swiss Family Robinson.


Allen (sharply): Is your name at the head of your column? Same reason.


Question (to Miss Delany): How did you get the role?


Late Arrival


Miss Delany: I have a thing; I can't go anywhere without washing my hair. So I was late getting to the studio for my apointment and I'd forgotten my glasses. In the distance, coming onto the lot, I saw a man and almost† ran over him. His face was red from anger and he shouted, 'How dare you drive that fast?" It was Mr. Allen, I found out when I got to his office. But he let me have the part. I guess he likes danger.


Question: Haven't you changed all the children since the movie pilot?

Allen: Yes. We needed better chemistry between the three children. They either spark or do not spark. The others didn't. Why don't you ask some questions of my actors?


An effort was made. To Mitchel: Were you offered other series?


Drunk at Noon


Mitchell (slurring his words): I could have done a couple of cop shows

Milner (interrupting): Cam, you've had too many.

Mitchell: I resent that. I was drunk at noon and I was the only one who didn't flub any lines.


Back to Allen: Don't you have a desire to do something besides these commercial 'disaster' movies?

Allen (growing angry but sill joking): I have a desire to do 'Private Lives'. I'm attacted to disaster. There's something wrong with us because we all are. It's a missing link in our own ids. If that's commercial, so be it.


Question: What about your next motion pictures? I've heard your'e working on two.

Allen (snapping): We're here to discuss my tv series. I don't think ABC wants us to waste their time. We'll discuss that afterward.

ABC publicity executive with false heartiness: That's all right Irwin. We donít mind.


Called Halt


But Allen, realizing his 'name' and story were more important to the interviewers and seeing his stars in dissarray, called a halt after two more questions.

Restored to better humor with the conference pressure off, Allen chatted wth the several editors† also involved in motion picture coverage. He insisted on introducing his bride of three months, a jovial, large woman. Mitchell leaned over his shoulder and insited on doing the same for his Southern belle wife.

Next, he reported, he will do "The Swarm," story of the killer bees invading the US. Specifically, they will cover Atlanta, necessitating a burning at least equal to the one in "Gone With the Wind."


"I read the book a year ao. It had a pretty good sell,"he said. "Stirling Silliphant (his "Poseiden Adventure" adaptor) will do the screenplay at my request."

"Then comes "Poseiden 11" explained the producer, "It's my own idea about the surviors of the first film caught on a train in an avalanche in Sqitzerland. It hasn't been written yet. I have four different screenwriters working on it.

And therey's a property called "The Typhoon" grinned Allen, "I'm tempted to do it."


With Swiss Family Robinson, Allen must fight for ratings directly opposite Walt Disney's longtime hit.

"Don't forget I had a little ditty called Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which did damned good against Disney for this network," he pointed out. "I think we'll be on the air five years with this."e