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Ben Gazzara plays a successful lawyer who is told by his doctor in the first episode that he will die in one to two years. He decides to do all of the things he has never had time for. The program becomes a series of plays in which he meets a wide variety of people from bums riding the rails, to gigolos, to orphans and becomes a man who has little fear of death and everything but time. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
During seasons one and two, Roy Huggins was credited as Executive Producer during the opening credits after the program's episode titles. During season three, for unknown reasons, Huggins was not clearly credited as Executive Producer. In addition, Huggins was nominated for an Emmy as Executive Producer for the show's final season. The end credits state the following: A Roncom Films-Roy Huggins Production. See more »
A brilliant Ben Gazzara in a classic Roy Huggins series
The great writer/producer Roy Huggins created and produced "Run For Your Life". Roy Huggins had already developed "Cheyenne", "Maverick", "Colt 45" and "77 Sunset Strip" while he was at Warners Brothers. Huggins also created "The Fugitive", but sold the idea to ABC because he was planning to go back to college to get his Ph.D. in Political Theory. (Huggins was fed up with TV after a bad experience as head of TV production at 20th Century Fox around 1960-61.) Huggins Ph.D. plans fell through, and he wound up a producer at Universal.
"The Fugitive" with David Janssen premiered in 1963, in which year Huggins was producing (without credit) "Kraft Suspense Theater", a fine anthology series. David Janssen had worked for Huggins on "Conflict", "Adventures in Paradise" and "Follow the Sun". It must have hurt Huggins to see how successful Janssen's portrayal of Dr. Richard Kimble was for competitor producer Quinn Martin, who ABC had assigned the property to.
One episode of "Kraft Suspense Theater" featured Herschel Bernardi as a small town attorney dying of leukemia who is defending Dean Stockwell on a murder charge. This may have given Huggins the idea for "Run For Your Life". Huggins may have also been influenced by a "Naked City" episode where David Janssen played an advertising executive dying of cancer who tries to get Adam Flint (Paul Burke) to take over his firm. (Huggins' hero is named Paul Bryan which is pretty close to Paul Burke.) And Huggins had earlier worked on a Warner Brothers pilot about Doc Holliday, who would have been played by Adam West. Doc Holiday was a man who knew he was dying and chose to live his last days adventurously and recklessly. And finally the movie "DOA" might have provided some inspiration.
"Run For Your Life" was Huggins sly rip-off of "The Fugitive", his own creation. Paul Bryan is a 35-year old attorney (and former assistant district attorney) with political ambitions. He is a Stanford graduate who lives in San Francisco. He was a jet pilot during the Korean War. Bryan is living his life planning for the future when he suddenly learns that he has only one or two years to live. (He won't feel ill till near the end.) Bryan tells his doctor he plans "to squeeze 30-years of living into one or two." Paul Bryan's idea of "living" is sky diving, competitive skin diving, race car driving, and chasing fascinating women. He is constantly looking for ways to make time feel fuller. Paul Bryan is always willing to help out his fellow man as he hedonistically travels around the world. He even does a little reluctant free lance spying for a friend in U.S. intelligence. And Bryan's lawyer background sometimes becomes central. Paul Bryan refuses to tell anyone he is dying, since he doesn't want to see the look of pity in their eyes.
Elia Kazan had once said that Ben Gazzara was one of the three finest American actors alive. Kazan didn't say who the other two were. One must have been Brando. Maybe the third was George C. Scott. Kazan said this when Gazzara was in his early glory days on Broadway ("Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", "A Hatful of Rain", "End as a Man"). Gazzara's film career got off to a great start with "The Strange One" and "Anatomy of a Murder" but petered out quickly. Years later when Gazzara was doing "Run For Your Life", an interviewer asked Gazzara if he thought Kazan would still say he was one of the country's three finest actors. Gazzara said no one would.
In 1963 Gazzara had starred as a cop in the ambitious but failed series "Arrest and Trial" (which later inspired "Law and Order").
Ben Gazzara's performance in "Run For Your Life" as existential romantic hero Paul Bryan was superb. He gave the character a depth, compassion, and a restrained sadness that probably weren't in the writing. Gazzara made Paul Bryan an extremely strong, inner directed, thoughtful character. His desire to reach out and grab life seemed admirable, even if I doubt many people would react that way in his situation.
Gazzara was twice nominated for an Emmy, but lost each time to Bill Cosby of "I Spy". The show was also nominated twice as best drama series.
Gazzara had major battles with producers Roy Huggins and Jo Swerling, Jr. over the quality of the show. But the result was the series seemed to get better.
This "rip-off" of "The Fugitive" was even better executed than the original in many ways, and each episode wasn't tied to a somewhat tedious formula.
Roy Huggins and Ben Gazzara were both in top form here. This was my favorite show when it was on.
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