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The "Hollywood" episode of "Lou Grant" is, in my opinion, the best
piece of television I've ever seen. The story is wonderful, the
background theme music still rings in my years 25 years later.
I'm a journalist, a Los Angeles historian and a teacher. I've been using that episode as a journalism learning tool for all of these years. One of the most delicate and wonderful aspects of the episode is when Animal, the sort-of hippie photographer, takes on the task of winning the trust of a recluse widow who lives above the abandoned Baby Duarte's Cantina. His sensitive and disarming interview is a classic.
"What's that?" Mrs. Polk says when he takes out a small machine. "A tape recorder," Animal replies. "It makes it easier to listen." "Oh," she says, hesitatingly. "If you ask me how it works, I'm up a creek," Animal says. "Oh no. Mr. Polk once tried to explain radio to me and all it did was ruin our dinner."
Another wonderful thing is that when the staff of the Tribune goes looking for Hollywood people from the past, they first look at old photos of them. What's cool is that the photos are old stills of the very actors they'll eventually find and interview.
I'm so pleased that I was able to record a copy of this great story with a most wonderful ending.
Everything came together in "Hollywood," the writing, the music and the
locations. Lou is intrigued by a closed restaurant down the street from
his favorite diner, and sends in Rossi to investigate. Rossi just
antagonizes the owner of the restaurant, who lives in an apartment
above it. Animal courts the lady and eventually gets a chance to
photograph the long-closed restaurant as well as an exclusive interview
with her, but what he finds in his investigation will surprise
Unanimously considered the best episode of the series, "Hollywood" brings together an impressive cast of veteran celebrities from the golden age of the film industry. John Larch, Marie Windsor, Nina Foch, Howard Duff and many more great character actors give wonderful performances that enhance the ingenious script. The music has echoes of a 1940's film noir soundtrack, which give this story an incredible feel of old-time Hollywood. The use of locations is spot-on, from old buildings to film studios to historic cemeteries. If you only see one episode of "Lou Grant," make sure it's this one.
I have SO little to add to what Don Ray wrote at the top of this page. His original story about his search for the mystery of this restaurant is well worth the read here: http://www.donray.com/spanishkitchen.htm This episode hit such a deep note with me as I was a budding photojournalist when I first saw it. The fact that the "Trib" photographer was the one who dug up the facts to the story made this episode even better. There are so many elements to love about "Hollywood" including seeing all those stars of yesteryear. I couldn't believe how pretty Nina Foch was even then. It might have been a bit contrived for some people's taste, but even now when I watch it, I still feel like I'm looking into a window on the past.
I do not remember many of the episodes of this show that I watched regularly but this one stands out. At least I think it was this one. I remember Animal taking photos in the closed up restaurant with no dialog and the piano music that was played really fit the scene with the camera shutter clicking in the background as he took the photos. At the time I had no idea what the piece of music was but it was firmly entrenched in my mind. This was way before the Internet so I figured I would die ignorant of knowing anything about that music. I then heard it by chance on a BBC shortwave broadcast several years later so I wrote to the BBC asking what the name of the piece was that they played on that frequency at that time. They responded that it was Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor. I found a copy of it and played it and that was indeed the piece. I do not remember many of the details of the show but that scene will be with me forever and I am always reminded of it whenever I hear Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor. All in all it was a great show.
Writer Michelle Gallery (later of L. A. Law), director Burt
Brinckerhoff, and composer Patrick Williams join forces to do a
faux-film noir episode of LOU GRANT. It begins, of course, with an
off-screen narrator (Lou) setting up the story, accompanied by a sexy
saxophone. Unlike most episodes (which focus on a current social issue
investigated by the newspaper), this is a fairly traditional mystery,
with the newspaper gang trying to solve an old murder from the golden
age of Hollywood.
I can understand why people love this episode: it has loads of old Hollywood stars, and does a good job of sending up the traditions of film noir. But if you're honest, you have to confess that it's just a high-concept, contrived plot that doesn't really fit the mold of the series. You can almost imagine the writers' meeting: "HEY! How about this?" It's more like what they used to do on "Moonlighting."
Margaret "Wicked Witch" Hamilton (pushing 80 here) does a funny turn as a hard-boiled, retired columnist. Nina Foch and Marie Windsor still look lovely, and character actor George Chandler delivers the last of his over 400 screen roles.
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