Singing with Pernell Roberts by Tony Piazza
Roberts as Adam Cartwright (Bonanza)
This reminiscence is due to a wonderful biographical article that I read recently on the Turner Classic Movie site. It reminded me of the time when PERNELL ROBERTS was a guest star on “The Streets of San Francisco” in 1977. The episode was entitled “Breakup,” and he played a character called Charley Finn. For me, he would always be the oldest Cartwright brother, Adam on the long running “Bonanza” (1959-1973) series. Others may also recall him from the show “Trapper John, M.D.” (spin-off from the popular T.V. Show, M.A.S.H. (1972-1983)) which he did later (1979-1986) for CBS. My “Streets” remembrance of him takes place on the steps of San Francisco City Hall- one of the locations used for that episode. He had been cast to play Prof. Harold Hill on stage for the “Music Man”… his next job after filming this episode. During a break in filming he started singing the “Trouble in River City” number from the musical… well; I couldn’t help it, but joined in with him to the amusement of the crew… so you might say I performed with Mr. Roberts! I always loved that musical… it was my favorite and I couldn’t resist joining in.
Roberts as Trapper John, M.D.
As an aside I have an autographed copy of “The Music Man” book signed by Robert Preston (see below).
Some afterthoughts: My dad worked with Mr. Preston on a television series that featured cities around the U.S. When the film company came to San Francisco my father was assigned to assist. He and Mr. Preston became instant friends. My father presented my book to be signed by him, and he flipped through it, particularly interested in the photographs from the 1962 film. Mr. Preston related a story on that occasion- On production of the Warner’s film he was constantly being complemented on how well he knew his lines. His reply, ” if you had played it in the number of performances that I had on broadway it would be difficult NOT to remember!”
I found the television production (2003) starring Matthew Broderick a big disappointment. It was a good try, but Mr. Broderick was not convincing in the role…Robert Preston’s shoes are big ones to fill…He was Harold Hill! He defined the character.
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel, “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was released early 2012 and is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden. His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it where fine books are sold, or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.