This is the thirtieth in a series of examinations of legends about television and the people involved in TV and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous TV urban legends.
TV LEGEND: The producers on Cagney and Lacey kept Sidney Clute’s name in the credits after his death to earn his family some royalties.
Reader Ben M. wrote in awhile back to ask:
I have a question that I would enjoy seeing investigated.
It’s to do with Sidney Clute, a supporting actor on the TV show Cagney & Lacey. I think he played a detective named LaGuardia. I recall when I was watching the show years ago that he continued to appear on the credits of the program long after he stopped appearing in the program itself. I believe that I later heard that he had actually died, but that perhaps he was kept on the credits out of some sort of respect? If I recall properly, he continued to appear even after another actor (Carl Lumbly) who left for conventional reasons was removed from the opening titles in the normal fashion. I always found this to be odd.
Is this something you could check out?
But of course, Ben!
Cagney and Lacey was a popular police drama during the 1980s that followed the adventures of two female detectives (Cagney and Lacey, natch) played by Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless, respectively.
Sidney Clute did, indeed, play Detective Paul La Guardia from 1982 until 1985, when the actor passed away.
However, even after his death, his name continued to play in the opening credits…
Ben’s question is the same that many fans have had, and in fact, a very popular theory was that his name was kept in the credits to perhaps keep the actor earning money from the show when it hit syndication.
Someone asked Cagney and Lacey producer Barney Rosenzweig on his blog a year and a half ago, and he answered it pretty plainly…
Yes, Sidney Clute was a great friend of mine and I kept the character of La Guardia alive through the main titles and in script references for the life of the series and long after he had passed away from a particularly virulent cancer.
This gesture did not have any particular financial impact, but that would have been very secondary issue at any rate. Sidney was a life-long bachelor and his only family at his demise was a sister who, as I remember was, along with her husband, just fine financially.
So there you go, Ben!
Thanks to Ben for the question to me, thanks to someone named Kristy for asking Barney on his blog and, of course, thanks to Barney for the helpful reply and, also, thanks to Barney for such a classy gesture!
TV LEGEND: Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Emmy Award for an appearance that lasted fourteen seconds.
In the Summer of 2006, Ellen Burstyn received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for the HBO film Mrs. Harris (about the murder trial of a Scarsdale, NY socialite).
The film was an acclaimed drama (it received twelve Emmy nominations as a whole), so an acclaimed actress like Burstyn getting a nomination would not seem like much of a surprise.
Here’s the catch, though – it was basically just a quick cameo!
You see, back in 1981, Burstyn played the title role herself in a TV movie called The People vs. Jean Harris.
She was nominated for an Emmy back THEN for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
So clearly, when she appeared in the 2005 film for fourteen seconds, it was just a cute nod to her earlier work.
For whatever reason, though, her fourteen second performance netted her an Emmy nomination.
As you might imagine, this caused quite a bit of controversy, with most folks presuming that it was simply a matter of name recognition, and when the voters saw the name of such a great actress like Ellen Burstyn as a choice (she has been nominated for an Academy Award many times, winning one for Best Actress), they just thought, “sure, that makes sense.”
HBO deflected the ire of complainers on to the producers of the movie, who sent in the personnel that they wanted to be considered for a nomination.
Through it all, Burstyn handled it with grace (and humor), telling the Associated Press:
I thought it was fabulous. My next ambition is to get nominated for seven seconds, and, ultimately, I want to be nominated for a picture in which I don’t even appear. The brouhaha around it, you know, they tried to reach me for a statement. I said, ‘This doesn’t have anything to do with me. I don’t even want to know about this. You people work it out yourself.’
Before the next year’s Emmys, the rules changed so that any performer seeking an Emmy nomination must appear in at least 10% of the finished movie/show.
TV LEGEND: A plot line on Glee about a character not being considered for a “girl” song actually happened to one of the cast members in real life.
Glee is one of the most popular new series this television season, following the exploits of a high school glee club and their teacher…
One of the main cast members is a teen named Kurt, played by Chris Colfer….
Kurt’s coming out to his father was one of the most touching moments so far in the first season of the show (and his unrequited crush on his fellow Glee club member Finn is one of the better subplots).
Back in November, Glee aired an episode that surrounded Kurt being irritated at not being considered to perform the song “Defying Gravity” from the 2003 Broadway musical, Wicked.
The song was originally performed by Idina Menzel (who will appear later this season on the show) and it has some very high notes in it, so it’s mostly considered a song that would be sung by a woman.
Of course, Kurt felt that this was unfair, and after challenging his Glee club teacher (with support from his father), he is given a chance to compete with the lead female singer of the group for the “right” to perform the song.
It was an interesting plot, but a plot made even MORE interesting when you hear that it was based on an ACTUAL incident in Colfer’s life!!
When speaking to People’s Blaine Zuckerman, Colfer explained:
When I was in high school, every year we would have a talent show. Every year I would beg the teachers to let me sing “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. And every year they turned me down because I’m a boy and it was ‘a girl’s song.’
He told the story to Glee creator Ryan Murphy, who then based an episode around that story.
Luckily for Colfer, just like how his father stood up for him in the episode, in real life his family also showed him support, as Zuckerman and Colfer further detailed…
When his grandmother, a reverend, heard that the school wouldn’t let him choose his own song, she let him sing “Defying Gravity” in her church. “I was fifteen,” he explains. “I think I could have juggled and they would have loved me.”
Isn’t that just such a great story?
Thanks so much to Zuckerman and Colfer for sharing it with us, and to Ryan Murphy, for translating that great story to the airwaves!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org