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"Run for Your Life" was one of those shows that Johnny Carson loved to joke
about, back in the sixties; with the premise that a wealthy 30-ish lawyer
had a fatal disease with only one or two years left to live, when the show
entered it's third season, did this mean the specialists were quacks, or
that the hero's globe-trotting adventures invoke some 'miracle cure'?
The joking aside, the series' novel premise gave star Ben Gazzara an opportunity to display his well-respected dramatic skills (he'd created the role of Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway, and, with Peter Falk, would make a major impact in John Cassavetes' innovative films of the sixties and seventies), and turn the routine plots into often engrossing character studies.
There could never be a truly 'happy' end to any episode; even when 'Paul Bryan' resolved the issues raised in a show, he could never enjoy the 'fruits' of his endeavors, or even promise to return to the people whose lives he'd changed. If he fell in love (which, naturally, happened), he had to either deny it, or pass the reciprocated love to someone else (unless the girl herself died), so 'bittersweet' was the best term to describe the show, a quality similar to "The Fugitive", as well.
As NBC required 'action' in their series, "Run for Your Life" had Bryan often "in harm's way", and each time he was treated by a doctor or hospital, there was the added tension of whether his exertions might accelerate his disease. Gazzara's Bryan was not trying to commit suicide, but was trying to live his remaining time to the fullest, so his anguish when facing risks had a very 'real' basis, and gave Gazzara some of his best series' moments.
Despite the 'backlot' feel of the 'international' locales (the show never went on location), and the casting of the same actors who appeared in many other Universal-produced series of the period, veteran producer Roy Huggins tried to keep each episode fresh and original, through the use of stock footage, music, and clever editing.
"Run for Your Life" was not a 'great' series, but was unconventional for it's time, and, as a showcase for Ben Gazzara, was definitely worth watching.
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.
It's obvious to me that early TV shows & movies formed much of who I am
today. This TV series is one example. It taught me that each day on
this earth is precious. The people you meet, the experiences you live
through, the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of life. All should be
consumed with passion. The good, AND the bad. As if you only had one or
two years left of your life. For after all, we don't know how much time
we have. But what ever length that is, it should not be wasted.
The theme of this series is provocative. And, always kept me anxious for next weeks show. The acting and production value is exceptional. I especially liked the recurring dreams (night mares really), or flashbacks that Ben Gazzarra's character would wake from, where he was being chased by Father Time (or was it he that was doing the chasing). I found these scenes to be very symbolic.
I do hope that this series becomes available on DVD soon. If you liked "The Fugitive" television series, you'll probably also like "Run For Your Life".
At one time, TV shows occasionally had an interesting premise. This one's a variant on the question of what you'd do if you had the means and perhaps the time. Time, though, this character doesn't have, and the threat of death is probably what gives the series its focus and urgency. "To cram thirty years of living into one or two" is the voiced-over premise at the start of an episode; we would all do well to remember it at the start of a day, and live as though it's the last one, not recklessly but deliberately.
This was a very clever concept. A lawyer, Paul Bryan, has been
diagnosed with an incurable disease and has been told he has just two
to three years to live. The idea put this lead character in the
position of living life to the fullest and the most responsible. There
is a message in that for all of us somewhere, isn't there?
While somewhat morbid straight off the top, the concept made for interesting viewing from my perspective. Ben Gazzara played the main character and each week he would resolve other people's problems, but at the end of the show he would still be facing the anguish of a limited time on this earth. One of an unnamed genre of shows like "The Fugitive" and "The Incredible Hulk", "Run for Your Life" was set in locales all over the world, but probably filmed on studio back-lots, renovated to look like the French Riviera, Hawaii and Rio. The idea was that Bryan was seeing the world with what little time and resources he had left. Each episode he would engage in new relationships, involving himself in new circumstances, resulting in high action and adventure.
This wasn't a great show, but was certainly a product of its time. Always reminded us of our own mortality, which all of us need occasional reminders of in life.
One of the most interesting dramatic shows that came from the
mid-1960's,the series "Run For Your Life" was a grand showcase with a
gimmick for the dramatic flair. The series was a showcase for actor Ben
Gazzara who provided some the astounding acting that this show gave and
then some. Produced by Roy Huggins(the creator of such classic TV shows
as "Maverick",and "The Fugitive")under his production company Public
Arts Productions and Universal Television for NBC-TV,the series
produced 86 episodes,all in color when it premiered on NBC-TV from
September 13,1965 until the final episode of the series on September
11,1968. The series "Run For Your Life" was one of the new shows that
NBC had on its schedule on the 1965-1966 season. When it premiered it
was on Monday nights where it was placed opposite ABC's "Ben Casey",and
CBS' "The Steve Lawrence Show". It was placed at the 10:00 hour after
"The Andy Williams Show". The series was based on an episode that aired
during an episode of "The Kraft Suspense Theater" that was telecast in
April of 1965 with Herschel Bernardi in the role as Paul Bryan
defending a client accused of murder.
Ben Gazzara was Paul Bryan-a very successful 35-year old lawyer who had everything a man could want-intelligence,good looks,popularity,and money. He also had something that nobody wants-an incurable disease. Told by his physician that he had only two years to live,Paul closed down his successful law practice in San Francisco and started traveling the world in the hopes of cramming a lifetime of adventure and excitement with the little time he had left. With money that was no problem(he was financially secured),he went from one exotic and fascinating place to the other and along the way encounter all sorts of people and the adventures he encountered in which just about every episode assisted those in need,and just that David Janssen's character of Richard Kimble in "The Fugitive" went from place to place helping those in need while getting into tight situations and along the way including meeting interesting people and after moving onward to the next great destination. However,with Ben Gazzara's character of Paul Bryan,he had to come to terms with the disease that he had,but instead of running away from the situation,he dealt with it,even in some episodes,had several medical conditions with he had to be checked out by a physician or have someone take him to the hospital in case the unexpected happened. The show was so good that it was nominated for an Emmy in 1966 with Ben Gazzara for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series(lost to Bill Cosby for "I Spy"). However,the show ran three seasons for NBC,even though he was supposedly to had only two years to live when it when off the air in 1968. During its final season,the show was moved from Mondays to Wednesdays in September of 1967 for the 1967-1968 season,where it was placed against the short-lived western series "Dundee and the Culhane"(produced by David Victor for CBS)and "The ABC Wednesday Night Movie",which fared very well in the ratings. When it ended its run in September of 1968,NBC had a show that replaced it...the short-lived series "The Outsider".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just saw my first (and hope not the last) Run For Your Life show. I'm a bit of a fugitive in my life, too, running from myself most of the time. I liked the Fugitive series almost too much, even writing three stories on the character and theme. I liked the Incredible Hulk and the A-Team, two other shows with a 'running' and hiding theme. All the main characters in these shows are pursued by a man (or by death, as in RFYL) who represents a strong authority, and who wants to destroy the characters in some way. What's stronger than death? An element of blame in these stories exists, too, where the innocent (a dying man, or criminally innocent men) face certain death & daily disruptions of their lives because of the authority figure (a metaphor for a strong government?). Watching the disruptions these characters must experience is a lot like watching our own times. We're innocents, under the strong authority of Others, running, hiding, trying to live out our lives decently, but always being chased into corners (try balking the tax man!).
I was in college when this first aired and I remembered this series as
being "important" and exciting to watch. When I saw it was scheduled on
Cozi TV, I couldn't wait to see it again. Yikes, what a disappointment.
Despite the charms of Gazzara, who was always better than the material
he got to perform, re-watching this series is embarrassing. I feel sad
for Gazzara who was a fine actor stuck in this drivel. I hope he made a
bundle though he probably didn't because it didn't have much
syndication, if any. Most of the people in these episodes are long dead
The scripts are generally awful, bordering on being sexist, somewhat racist at times, and downright preposterous. Yet, 40 years ago these plots seemed perfectly plausible.
Cozi hasn't yet rerun episodes of the "romance" Paul Bryan had with Claudine Longet (then married to Andy Williams). My sisters and I were completely enthralled when those first aired. They'll probably make me laugh out loud today.
Someone here has remarked on the poor production values and cheesy sets. True, but Star Trek first ran during the same period and had sets even cheesier, yet the writing was typically thought-provoking and reality-based, which is why it became a classic despite the overwrought acting of its star, William Shatner.
Cheesy sets and poor production values aside, Gazzara was 20 times the actor Shatner was. Shatner rested on good writing and is a TV icon. Gazzara rested on preposterous plot lines and was largely ignored except by us baby boomers who remember him.
Ah the adventure this presented when viewed at the tender age of 3 or
My classmates always called me "Austin" and other impolite variations of the bionic man, yet they did not know back then about the TV i watched before i met them. Now it is of little consequence; and so this is a show that i regard fondly. As seen through the experience of a 4 yr old this tv show was very exciting for it's day. Long before i knew of politics and history this show was fun to watch and get involved with. After 40yrs TV is and may never be so fun to watch as the shows of my childhood, the media may operate the same but my perception as influenced by education simply makes todays TV mundane and "directed"; Oh how advanced communication techniques jaded this boy to whom days of the week passed like an eternity unto themselves. Now I am sketchy as to the star.... I am thinking Ben Gazara, but I think it might have been Christopher George... I am very glad for IMDB: It provides me the access to my early memories, that 100 years ago would not have been possible. Here is another example I implore those who read these words and have the resources to make this show available, to do so in a historical style, with accuracy and full preservation of the original broadcast and even perhaps the "extra" perks we can in todays tech employ and excavate the treasures of a generation who were so filled with joy at these daily events.
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