Sunday, April 01, 2018

Auteur Watch - Robert Guillaume

Everybody wants to direct.  Yes, even Benson.  Now, these days anyone who can start a showbiz career in their 40s is a hero of mine, but this was not always the case.  Mostly because I was younger.  But I kinda never really got into his stuff before, nor was I peer pressured into doing so.  Yet another reason why I never got anywhere in this life... got, currently getting, will get in the future, etc.  Well, we're past tents at this point.  But you know what?  Neither did Robert Guillaume himself!  One minute, he's TV's biggest star, the next he's understudying the lead in "The Phantom of the Opera."  Doing both much? 
Clearly he won the sit-com game in the 80s, even going so far as to get a sitcom called " sorry, that's the hyperlink to it.  I mean, the sticom's ... sitcom's called "The Robert Guillaume Show."  Well, we were more tolerant of the French back then.  Hey, at least they weren't nuke-crazy Reds.  They just tested a few nukes on low-population areas like Tahiti, you know.  Unfortunately, the self-titled show just didn't have legs.  You know how hard it is for someone to get a show named after themselves?  Tom Arnold tried and tried, but he had to settle for one alias after another!  Take "The Jackie Thomas Show," for example... no, seriously.  Take it, and then burn it.  No one wants to see that... except the one with Chris Farley.  That one episode belongs in the Library of Congress.  Still, I can't help but wonder what went wrong with "The Bob G. Show."  Maybe the plot description will help: it says "To date, the only American series whose plot revolves around the growing romantic relationship between an African-American man and (a) Caucasian woman."  ...okay, that explains a little.  Well, we're a little less tolerant of that sort of thing.  It causes enough problems in real life, let alone on our television screens.
But after working with the best directors that Hollywood has to offer... Jay Sandrich, Paul Bogart, J. D. Lobue, what have you... the list goes on and on... well, like any actor worth his weight in jelly beans will do, Guillaume looked at these people and thought to himself "Well, HELL!  If those idiots can hold the most powerful position on a set, so can I, damn it... so can I."  But Guillaume is picky, as his résumé illustrates.  Not so picky as to be out of work, mind you, but picky.  Like George Harrison fussing over his first solo album, Guillaume's directorial debut has to be great.
Really great.
Really REALLY great.
And great it was... wasn't it?  If only on paper.  Who could go wrong with a modern-day adaptation of an old classic?  And so, something called "John Grin's Christmas" was born... don't let the title fool you!  Seriously, they said that in the TV ads for it... probably.  Or at least illustrated it.  It's an adaptation of Charles Dickens' tale that our society has deemed immortal: "A Christmas Carol."  ...well, one of them, anyway.  He was kinda the Stephen King of his day, at least when he got popular, and without the gore and bad jokes.  A Christmas Carol is definitely #1 when it comes to remakes.  David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Good Expectations, Fair Expectations 2: Expectation Boogaloo, The Pinkerton Diaries, The Redundant Dithyrambic Downfall and Public Flogging of Pennypinscher McGrabbass... not remade as much as the one about Christmas.  All beloved classes, and staples of comparative literature classes everywhere, but not remade as much.  Maybe because they were done so well in 1940, who knows.  Another reason I got nowhere in life: no Comp. Lit classes. 
But before I have to relieve myself because of all the Sunday tea I have, let me just observe that "John Grin's Christmas" was Robert Guillaume's one and only directorial credit, which nevertheless qualifies him for my Auteur Watch segment.  He also played the lead in said directorial debut.  But of course, right?  Visions of Citizen Kane swirling thorough through his head, no doubt.  But when the last day of shooting wrapped, I think Guillaume said, either to just himself or to the cast and crew gathered around him awaiting instruction, "I'M A CELEBRITY, GET ME OUT OF HERE."  Thereby shafting him of future residuals from that title.  And second, he said, either just in his head or to all within shouting distance... well, first he pointed to that stupid folding chair that directors sit in, that nevertheless bring fear, envy and reviling to all who work around one, especially if there's a name on the back of it... Guillaume pointed to his chair on "John Grin's Christmas" and said, at the top of his Juilliard-trained lungs "I NEVER WANT TO SEE ONE OF THOSE EVER AGAIN."

And never again he did... something like that.  Well, never sat in one again, anywho.

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