"Extra' Extra!!! The Life and Career of Mike Lally"
See also Who is Mike Lally?
very little information was available about Mike's personal life' or
about the people and events behind his long and remarkable career in
Hollywood - until now.
Michael Edward Lally' the son of Mike Lally.
Recently' we were extremely fortunate to speak with Michael Edward Lally' the son of Mike Lally.
Edward Lally also works in motion pictures - credited as Michael Lally'
the Guild name which his father officially "deeded"to him upon
retirement' or more often as Mike Lally. In fact' his career includes a
number of "Columbo"episodes. For example' in
"Swan Song'"he can be seen as the
television cameraman' who is trying to film the federal investigator at
the scene of the plane crash' and who complains about Columbo wandering
into camera range.
Edward Lally was extremely gracious in sharing his personal and
professional reminiscences about his father. We discussed a wide range of
topics' from his father's childhood and early careers' to the amazing
story of how his parents met' and the moving account of the relationship
between father and son. We are most thankful to Mike' for his time and for
his generosity of heart' and for the way that he has given us such insight
and enlightenment about his father' in a way that only a son could do.
this interview' at long last we begin to answer the question: "Who Is
thanks also to Neal Silverman' for his invaluable research and
wonder if you can tell us something about your dad's life.
Except for his accent' I'm not even sure where he's from.
was born in Manhattan. And
his mother was a Democratic ward heeler.
His godfather was Al Smith. They
gave the house in Manhattan to the city as a neighborhood house and bought
a new house in Brooklyn. He
had four brothers younger than he' and he could have gone across the
street to the public school' but he had to go to the Catholic school. So
he had to fight his way from the Irish block to the German block to the
Scandinavian block to the Puerto Rican block to the black' you know' all
the way to the church.
be interested to know his birthday.
was born on the 1st of June' 1900. Although
his driver's license shows 1902. When my grandfather died' I found the
marriage certificate in which the children were listed and my grandparents
were married in 1899 in November' December something like that' and my
father was born in June of 1900.
be sure to have a special tribute to him on the 100th anniversary of his
birth; that's one of the reasons I was curious.
right. It's June 1' 1900.
And he was raised in Brooklyn.
He knocked a priest down the stairs last day of the sixth grade.
He used to get whipped for fighting his way to school. He'd load his brothers and his cousins and his friends up
with rocks and books' and when he got to school he'd get beaten for
fighting' and he'd get caned. The
last day of school he got caned by the priest' and he said' "That's the
last time you'll do that to me."The priest said' yeah' you had a tough
time' Michael. But next year
you'll be in a new form and a new school' and maybe it won't be so bad
because in spite of it all you've done really well' and I'm sure you'll do
better as your schooling goes on.
they went to go out the door' and the priest hit him across the back of
the legs with the cane and said "Don't walk in front of me Michael'
you know better than that." My
father stepped back and held the door open for the priest and shut the
door' and as they went down the stairs' my father hit him in the mouth and
knocked him down the stairs. The
priest was lying there with something broken' and my old man said' "I told
you you'd never do that to me again."
went home' and by the time he got home' the monsignor's car was in front
of his mother's house. So he didn't go home until the next day; instead of
going home' he took a guy up on taking over a newspaper corner.
"Extra extra read all about it" - he sold newspapers.
Within a year he had all four corners' and had his younger brothers and
cousins working all four corners for him.
he took a job as a runner on Wall Street. Actually it was before Wall Street' when the curb in the
market was really the curb of the street' and they used to bid up to the
offices on the second floor. And
instead of going up and down the hallways they would go bid out into the
street. They would send
signals to the runners' and the runners would go down from one window to
bid on stocks to another. The curb of the stock market was originally the
curb on the streets' and they finished Wall Street with curbs on the
floor' which the bidders use in a manner similar to the curbs outside –
changes have happened in bidding' but the curb remains.
father didn't stay on the floor long: Somebody liked him and didn't like coming into the office' so
he was running a seat on the Exchange before he was sixteen.
did he go from there?
his mother died about then' and he went to Chicago. He met up with a guy
named Lou Cody' who was Mabel Normand's husband' and they were both
drunks' because my grandfather was in the booze business.
Mike had met him when my godmother' Ruby Keeler' was one of the
neighborhood kids. She had
gotten into Tin Pan Alley to do a show' then she got my father in to sell
booze' and he was selling two cases a week to Marilyn Miller' and Lou Cody
was one of his customers. Lou
liked him' and he went to Chicago with Lou' and then he went around the
world a couple of times with Lou Cody' as Cody's manager.
played London' and one of the places that turned out to be important was
Seattle' where there was a chain of theaters where they did matinees and
stage shows on Saturday. There was a family named Rogel that owned those
theaters. My father and the
old man got along really well' and Sid Rogel' one of the sons' came down
here to work in the picture studios.
Lou Cody married Mabel Normand' and vaudeville was over' and he
came out to California and my father came with him' and he worked for
Mack Sennett for a minute' and then he went to work for RKO with Sid
Rogel and my godfather Eddie Killy' who directed Robert Mitchum's first
picture' ”West of the Pecos." Eventually'
my father moved to Warners.
this all still while he was in his teens?
that was 1927' the end of 1926 or 1927' so it was late twenties' early
then he got into the movies?
was a company manager' a studio manager and . . .
he did acting?
used to stand in and everybody did everything.
When you used to go to the studio for a job' they said what do you
want to do' do you want to be an editor' you want to be a cameraman?
And they put you in that place' and I'm literally talking the kind
of language that they would use.
father started as a company manager' and he also had a delicatessen on
Vine Street' between Hollywood and Vine and where the Brown Derby used to
be. The Brown Derby wasn't
built then. He had a partner
named Hymie Miller. He had
gone to each of the studios and made agreements to unionize with one union
that was a motion picture union. You
know how they said' "I work in pictures?"
Well' that's what they said. Then
they'd say what do you do? Well' I used to do this' play this.
Everybody in this system who worked in pictures belonged to the
same union' and it didn't matter what your specialty was. Everybody was in one union because they thought it would have
somebody didn't want that. My father was on location' and they went into
the delicatessen' and somebody shot Hymie Miller in half in the cold box.
And then my father came back from location' and the police
questioned him' and said we think you have contracts for a union' and we
think there's some kind of organized crime behind this.
And my father said' "What union?
I don't know what you're talking about."
He said' maybe Hymie was involved.
He said he seemed to remember delivering some papers for Hymie' but
said he never had anything to do with it.
But he had the contracts in a safe deposit box. He left them there'
and six months later' when he knew he wasn't watched anymore' he went in
and got them out of the safe deposit box and burned them.
that was the end of one union in the motion picture business.
He knew when to fold them.
did his career go from there?
was a point at which he was the founder of the Directors' Guild. They
wanted to bring in the assistant directors as well so he was a founder of
the Directors' Guild. And at
the same time he had put together a deal with Reagan and Fairbanks Jr. and
Jean Hersholt' and a bunch of those people had gotten together' and he
helped put the package together for the Actors' Guild.
When they announced the formation of the Actor's Guild' there was
my father and Fairbanks and Reagan....And my father said' listen' you guys
don't want a guy like me in here. You
guys are contract players' that's important for your career' it doesn't
mean anything to me. Why
don't you put Polly [my mother] in there' you need a girl in there. So the photograph in the newspapers for the announcement of
the Actors' Guild showed Reagan' Fairbanks' and my mother as being
founding members of the guild.
she go by the name Lally?
she was Pauline Wagner' and they met at an RKO studio picnic.
She was doing westerns and she was wearing a cowgirl outfit like
Dale Evans. And she didn't
know my father' and some guy threw a firecracker and it went down her
cowboy boot. And my father
ran over and shoved his hand down her cowboy boot to pull the firecracker
out. He grabbed it and as he
pulled it out it blew up. Of
course it burned a hole in his hand and burned a hole in her leg.
She kicked him and knocked him on the ground.
he rolled over he saw the guy running through the crowd' getting away.
So he jumped up and took off after him' and she jumped up and took
after my father' thinking he was some kind of crazy guy.
My father tackled the guy and started beating on him' and my mother
was on top of my father's back' and said this guy's crazy' and was
beating on him. Finally my
father turned around and said "Jesus Christ' lady' what the hell's
the matter with you? This guy
threw a firecracker down your cowboy boot. I'm just trying to get
even." She said' "Don't get even for me' just get out of the
way." My father backed
off and she beat him up herself.
the way their life was. Neither
one of them would take anything from anybody.
technically he became an actor when the Screen Actors Guild was formed.
But he always was...if you go back to early' early pictures' you'll see
him in anything in the early Paul Muni stuff.
He started doing it when he was a company manager: he'd also be
standing in. He went from RKO during the strike' I think it was 1932' at
Warner Brothers' And they brought in strikebreakers and they did all kinds
of stuff' and my father went to work for Warner's' and was like a
commando. They were running
firehoses on the strikers. And
it was at that point that he began doing both jobs' and then they said if
you wanted to be in the Directors' Guild you couldn't be in the Actors'
Guild. So he relinquished his
Directors' Guild card. In the
meantime he had also become a founder of the Extras' Guild.
He would stand in for Paul Muni' and during the show he would also do a part if they didn't have somebody. If you looked at "Body and Soul" you see him doing the timer at the end. He worked on that whole picture because his father had fighters' and he knew what fighters were' and had put together a lot of the fight people and the fight atmosphere' and helped with all of that stuff. And so he was standing in for Garfield in that picture. He did "Golden Boy'""The Set-up'"both "Kid Galahads"(1937 with Edward G. Robinson' and 1962 with Elvis Presley)' "The Champion..."
"Twilight Zone - "To Serve Man" (1962)"
you see him in "Now You See Him" he was working extra in the
bar. Even though he was
working extra' he was technically Peter's stand-in.
But he rarely ever stood in because he was always hanging out with
Peter. There were several
other guys who actually were paid to be stand-ins' they were utility
stand-ins and they just would use them.
worked for Paul Muni when Muni first came out.
If you look at the Muni pictures you'll see him in the background.
I don't remember what year that was.
But I know that he was at Warner's almost all the time from then
on. If you look at "Wake Island"he's the guy that runs the
siren during the first attack' and at that time he was standing in for
Brian Donlevy. In "Gunga
Din"my godfather Eddie Killy was the production manager' and my father
was working both as an assistant and working in the picture as a hindu. That's the first job I ever tried to get and got sent home
old were you then?
was three or four. My father'
before he went away for several weeks' I was being prepared for him to go
away on location. They were
going to be gone eight or ten
weeks' a long time. One of
the things he kept saying was water boy' because the story was about Gunga
Din' who was a water boy for the elephants.
And I said' well I'd like to be a water boy for elephants cause I
really liked elephants. I'd been to the circus a couple of times and I
thought elephants were fabulous. So
I schemed and talked to my mother into going to Hollywood to take the bus'
because then my father could get a better seat.
I don't know if they put me up to that or if that was my idea.
he could get a better seat if he had his family with him?
he could get a better seat by going to Hollywood to catch the bus instead
of catching it in North Hollywood. So
I went in the garage and I took nails and I put them under my mother's
tires. I talked him into
letting me ride the bus to North Hollywood.
I rode the bus to North Hollywood.
Naturally my mother had a couple of flats and didn't make it.
bunch of guys who were stunt guys were on the shoot.
My uncle Tim' my father's kid brother' was there. They put me
with the luggage in the back of the bus' under a blanket.
We were going across the desert from Palmdale to Lancaster which is
about 60 or 70 miles' and a bee flew in and stung me and I started
screaming. They stopped the
bus and they got out and put a band-aid on it.
My godfather said what the hell is this kid doing here' he
shouldn't be here. They said he stowed away on the bus.
So they left me at the fire station in Lancaster.
The only way they could get me to stay there was with the siren' if
I could play with the fire engine. I
was still playing with the siren when my mother got there to pick me up.
bet they were glad to get rid of me. But they didn't – I wound up
going to High School in Lancaster.
your dad's scene at the bar in "Now You See Him'" do I
understand correctly that at the time that scene was shot' the plan had
not yet been written for him to have his great scene later on?
scene hadn't been written. He
didn't know. He thought he
was just standing in at the bar' filling in a seat.
He didn't know that that scene was going to happen at all.
When Jack Cassidy goes over to him' it was a complete surprise to
Cassidy goes over to him and says' "Mike Lally!
My God' I haven't seen you in"- and used his name. That's
the scene that Peter wanted to link up with the scene he knew they were
going to have later. But they
didn't have time to write it' they didn't know what they were going to do.
They just did it for a plant in the club on that day.
And then they used my father again to draw attention to him.
your father didn't know what the plan was' but Peter had it all laid out?
he had most of it. They
hadn't figured out what the scene was going to be yet' but they knew that
was how they were going to have to catch him - through somebody that knew
him. But they didn't know what the scene was going to be' they had no idea
how they were going to do it. They just knew they needed a plant that
Peter would go to later and find out what the secret was.
But they didn't know what the secret was' either' because it
Mike Lally sequence or boarding house sequence was directed by Peter Falk
five months after completion of principle
photography on that show. Because
my father was converted from
SEG to SAG they had to pay him every day until they re-shot'
and in addition' they had to pay him $1500.00 for the use of his
name. This was Peter's intent as he had run out of gifts to give my
it may be the best scene in the whole history of the series.
an interesting scene' but that first shot where Cassidy goes over to him:
He was very embarrassed by it. He said they double crossed him at the bar.
I said they didn't double cross you' they converted you.
He said' it's worse than that.
I have to do a scene now with Peter and they haven't even written
it. He said' I'm trying to talk Peter into getting you do to it
cause it's a big scene. I
said' Too goddamn bad' you're on your own!
He said' Well' I understand it's going to be a lot of dialogue. Cause my father didn't like a lot of dialogue.
He liked one liners and liked inventing stuff.
looks real because he is real. Guys
that are trained actors' like Finnegan' for instance' is a guy who comes
out of the theater.
John Finnegan is a trained actor' meaning he did theater and
studied acting. My father
never studied acting. He
thought that was for dummies. That
was for guys that were impressed with themselves.
So when he does something in a scene' it looks real because it is
real. As a trained actor'
I realize year after year how important that is. To try to get back
to being real' is extremely difficult.
father worked with Peter for nine years on that show' from the first one.
The only Columbo's out of the original ones that my father didn't
do' were the last two.
didn't go to work one day' and didn't go for a week or so' and Peter's
secretary called me' and wanted to know what was going on. I said have
Peter call me and I'll see if I can explain it. She said well' explain it to me.
I couldn't explain it to her because it was a secret. So
Peter called and said what's up' and I said' he just doesn't want
to work anymore. Some stuff
happened and I can't really talk to you about it.
He said really? and I said no.
[Cassavetes] called me about 45 minutes later' and said what's the matter
with your father' I hear he's not going to work.
I said OK John' I told him I wouldn't say anything to Peter' but I
can tell you. It's got to do with the fact that he found somebody stealing
money. He can't rat a person out' but he can't work with him anymore
either. So he's not going
back. And that was the end of
one of Peter's cronies' but my father never went back – he had moved on.
far back did your father go with Peter Falk?
don't know. I know that he
started the series with Peter' and I don't know whether he started the
series before "Woman [Under the Influence]"- I think he did.
I think he did "Woman" because he had been in the series.
Peter might remember but I don't.
I know that he started the show with Peter.
It may have been somebody working production on the show at the
beginning that put them together' or they might have worked together on
Donnelly was the original production manager on "Columbo'"and he
always had my father working with him when he could' so maybe that's how
didn't know whether your father was on camera in "Woman Under the
know that he was one of Peter's co-workers in the storm scene in "Woman."And in
"Opening Night"there's a funeral and going in
the door . . where they tear the cloth and pin it on the jackets. It's a Jewish funeral. And
my father is one of the funeral goers in that sequence and at the dinner.
then in "Columbo'"did a routine develop where your father would
report to Peter's house at six in the morning?
car would pick my father up in Burbank - he didn't live too far from
Universal. The car would pick
my father up. Then my father and the driver would go and' depending on
what time the call was' they would either go to Peter's house' or they
would go get some breakfast and then go to Peter's house.
They'd pick up Peter and then they would either go to the set' or
they would go and get some breakfast and then go to the set.
That was every morning.
it's fair to say that he was there every day of
yeah. Every day on every one.
And then he'd see that the trailer was in a good place' and see
that the transportation department kept it stocked' and see that the
wardrobe was right.
course Peter didn't have any problems with wardrobe because he always wore
the same thing. The wardrobe
man was an Irish guy named Killen. They had lots of duplicates for Peter'
but they only had one pair of shoes' so Killen had to have the shoes back
father would see that Peter had the right scenes and had the breakdown
right' and that his money hadn't rolled out into the street.
Peter couldn't remember where he'd put things because he focused
his entire attention on the show.
is a Virgo and very precise' and Peter rarely makes a move that he hasn't
worked out. He rehearses on
his own and he's very focused on his characters' and his work may look
sloppy but if it looks sloppy it's on purpose.
He's very precise about everything; he doesn't do anything he
doesn't intend to do.Any
actor who stays focused like that' is in another world. I was always very
careful when I was on the set' never to get involved with Peter until the
day was over. If it wrapped
late at night' I'd talk to Pete' but I stayed away from him during the
day' because he was busy' getting his work together.
he involved with things like the writing' directing' things like that'
apart from strictly his acting?
was enormously involved in the show. It was a number one show' and he had script approval' and
getting the scripts right was important and very difficult sometimes.
Bringing in actors' who the directors were' all of that' Peter had
a lot of input in. And
sometimes he was right and sometimes he wasn't.
He wanted to try to take that show as far' artistically' farther
than it was quite able to go. Although it was a tremendous commercial success' and
artistically successful as well. But
Peter was always struggling to get a better show. He was always fighting
with "The Tower”.
a famous story about Peter. They
sent him up to the desert in an old limo that the air conditioning broke
down on' in the middle of the summer.
When he got back to the studio (I don't remember whether he just
said the hell with this' we're going home' or whether he waited and
finished the work)
Next day he walked into the Tower' right past the secretaries' you know'
"You can't go in there'"that old routine' and he walked right in.
And he pulled Lew Wasserman or somebody over the desk' and said You
sonofabitch' this is a number
one show and you've got to pay more attention to it. You spend nothing on
the show and it's making you a fortune -
can't remember whether Peter told me the story or my father' but Peter was
hot. When Peter got mad
everyone ran. Except my old man.
know' that was true of his characters also. And Neal Silverman has
commented on this' that your father's characters always seem to be the
only guys who can push Columbo around' talk wise to him. Was there any of
that in their real life relationship? Because you've indicated that your
dad was the only guy around who wasn't afraid of Peter.
had tremendous respect for one another and I think that I told Peter once
that if I ever get to the place where you are' I hope I have a guy as good
as my father to work for me. You
do. You're really lucky to
have him and he's lucky to have you' because he really cares for you.
There was - not a father-son thing' kind of older brother
relationship between Peter and my dad.
My stepfather told me once when I was having trouble - you know' "The
Playboy of the Western World"is about the problems between Irish
fathers and sons - and I was having trouble with my father. My stepfather sat me down one day and said I want to tell you
something. I know you're
having trouble with your father. He said' it's normal for Irish people
like us. I have to tell you
that your father is probably one of the smartest people I've ever met in
my life. It's a crime that he
didn't have a greater education. But
when push comes to shove for you' the difference between what you do and
what you don't do' is going to be the intelligence that you inherited
from your father. As you get
older you're going to thank him every day for that.
My stepfather was the Presiding Judge of Los Angeles County and an
appellate court judge when he died. He was no slouch.
That was support' interestingly enough' from an unexpected place.
my father was smart' and he usually was right when he would come forward
with something' and he knew when to keep his mouth shut and he knew when
to speak up. And he didn't hesitate to speak up if he was right. And
he was an underdog protector too' meaning that if somebody was getting
pushed around' he'd step in. But
if two people were having a legitimate argument he'd listen.
sure that Peter would listen to my father's counsel' not about artistic
things but about problems' and I'm sure that my father probably helped him
in many cases get done what had to get done without blowing up. Because
when Peter blew everyone would run. Peter has a smile when he's happy
that's like FDR' it warms your body when he's happy about something.
I remember after that first night on Woman we were both ...he was
leaving John's office at AFI' which was up at the Doheny estate then' and
I was just coming in. He
stopped and said Hey Mickey' that was really something the other night.
I said yeah it was' and here was this big warm smile' like the sun
coming up. But when he gets
mad' it's beware the wrath of the patient man.
Everybody would run. My
father knew when to leave him alone but he was there in case there was a
problem' in case he needed somebody.
He was backup.
have a bracelet' you know those World War II aviator ID bracelets that the
marines and the flyboys wore - I
have one of those that Peter gave to my father' in gold.
Not in silver' in gold. It's
got "Mike Lally"on the front. And
on the back it's engraved to say "After 41 Columbo's on your 75th
birthday my gratitude and my love. Peter
father fell out of bed at the Country Home one day and I happened to be
out of town. I got a message
on my machine that he was in the hospital so Monday morning I went out
there and he was in bed. Over
the weekend' oddly enough I had put together a bunch of photographs in one
of those picture frames with the cut-outs for him to have in his room.
And he said yeah leave that over in my room' I said fine' cause
they say you'll be back there by Thursday.
My father looked at me and said "Who the hell do you think
you're kidding?" I said
what do you mean pop' the nurse said your X-rays are fine' and you'll
probably be back in your room by the end of the week. He said' "Mick'
this is the last bed I'll ever have in my life.
I'm going to die right here. In this bed."
I said' how do you figure that' what's up. He said' cause that's
what I want to do.
said' look' I had to fight my way to school every day when I was a kid'
and I had to fight my way every day in the stockmarket and in vaudeville'
and in this business I had to fight my way every day to go to work and to
make money. Now I have to
fight myself just to get out of bed.
I'm tired of fighting' and I don't want to do it anymore. It's time
for me to die and that's what I want to do' and I want to do it now.
I said' Is this some kind of gag?
And he said' No' it's what I want.
I don't want your mother out here or my brother or any of my
friends to come out here. I
don't want you to bring Michelle or David out (his grandchildren' my two
kids; David was then five). The only person I care about being here is
you' and if you can't handle it' get the hell out of here and don't come
back' and it's all right' I'll understand.
I would go out every day. One
day it's like he wasn't made out of skin anymore' like he was made out of
porcelain' like a funny luminance'he
was radiant. The light was
coming as much from inside him as from outside. He was asleep with his head over to one side and his arms
folded in a saint's position on his chest.
And I went over and I put my right hand underneath his hands and my
left hand on top of his hands. He
woke up and opened his eyes' and he looked up at me and said' "Where
the fuck are we?" And I
said' Jesus' what do I tell him? I
just said' in order to give him some reassurance because he seemed to be
disoriented' I said "Pop' I think we're still on Planet Earth' but I'll be
with you anywhere you want to go."
the blink of an eye there was a darkness that I was falling into' and I
didn't know' it was like a huge chamber' and I could feel parameters to
it. Next thing I knew I was being pushed out of my father' and I was
looking in his eyes again. In another blink of the eye it went dark again
and I could feel inside myself with the same movement that I had felt in
my own darkness
moving... and my father' as our eyes focused again in another blink of an
eye' came out of me. We had mixed' almost - the feeling was that I had
been inside him and that he had been inside me.
was still looking at me' and he got that funny twinkle that you've seen a
hundred times' that he had in his eyes...They used to call him
"Laughing Eyes" in the old days.
Finally' he said' "Good."His eyes closed and he went back to
sleep' and I felt his hands relaxing under mine' and that was the last
conversation. That was the
end of my father.
I walked out of that hospital two feet off the ground.
I was so thrilled that I had said something right.
And it was the moment that I realized how important it is for a
child to be praised by his parents. That
word "good" just lifted me right up off the deck.
It's motivated me' it taught me how to deal with my own kids and
with people. That
encouragement is an enormously valuable thing and to be able to do it is a
in the poem "Ode To William Butler Yeats”' said: "Intellectual
disgrace stares from every
human face' And the seas of pity lie' locked and frozen in each eye
In the deserts of the heart' let the healing fountain start. In the wisdom
of his days' teach the free man how to praise."I've always thought
that was interesting' and that is what my father taught me' at the end.
were a few things that I've learned from my father and they've all stuck.
How to drive a car' how to corner a car' things like that.
I'm sure that if he had that effect on me' even though I was
receptive to it because I was his son' that he had that effect on other
people. In fact that's been
fairly well verified to me by things that people have told me about my
father. All of my buddies'
from the time I grew up' all wanted my father to be their father.
have some memorial printings left' of a sketch of a picture.
There's a guy named Johnny Patterson who was an assist director on
"Columbo"for a long time. John took a picture of my father one day and it's a terrific
picture. I had it resketched
by a sketch artist. After he
died I had it printed along with a saying that he always carried in his
wallet that I put in his hand in the box because he always carried it. I actually had it printed on his headstone.
It's that old Irish thing "May the wind be always at your
back." I had the whole
thing printed on his headstone and I have it on the memorium.
did your father feel about his career as he looked back.
You told me how he characterized his life' fighting his way the
whole time' and you've mentioned that he didn't really think of himself
as an actor' even though you've
observed that in a real sense he was a great natural actor.
What was it about his work or his life that he was most fond of as
he looked back?
a hard one.
was he proud of?
did so many things. I'm
curious how he thought of himself' with all the things that he had done.
I'm the wrong guy' in a way' to answer that question because my point of
view is my own and as long as I can remember' I remember hearing from
everybody that regardless of what anybody anywhere thought' my father
loved me and I was the most important thing in his life.
At the end when he said I don't want anybody here but you' that
idea was reaffirmed.
I had always thought that my father was tough because he had to be'
because it was a kind of self-protection thing that he had to act tough.
But he was really tough. That's
when he finally was able to show how tough he was.
To just up and decide to do it and not care' to do what you have to
was my father. He got that job on the four newspaper corners to pay his
mother back the $5'000 that it cost to buy back his soul. That's what they
gave the church so that we wouldn't be condemned for knocking the priest
down the stairs. And my
father was' you have to remember he's a Gemini' he's a tremendously
supportive person. Being
there to stand up for someone was what made my father tick. That was the
important thing' was to be there and stand up for something' and do
time when I was having some problems with my father' I was so mad at him I
wanted to kill him. We were
at the house of a guy that used to be my roommate in Montecito' that my
father knew' and who thought my father was the greatest thing in the
world. He really thought my
father was great' he said he's a great father' and I wish I'd had a
father like that - you know' it was the same old story everywhere I went.
This guy was my first roommate in college and is now a painter.
went outside the house onto the deck and I was gripping the railing and I
was shaking. I was so mad I wanted to rip the railing off and I was really
angry. I heard the door slide
open and I said' if that's my father coming out here' I'm going to throw
him off this deck into the ocean' because it was right on the beach and
the tide was up. And there was this great big hand that came on top of my
shoulder. It was my Uncle Tim
who was about 6'3" and he was big. He put his arm on my shoulder and
And he put his elbow down on the rail and he looked out to sea with me.
soon he said you know' when I was about 12 years old' one day I was so mad
at your father I wanted to kill him. Your grandmother came up to me and she put her arm around me
like I've got my arm around you. (And my grandmother was 6'1”' and I
could identify with him because he was skinny at 12.)
Your grandmother said to me Timmy' if you're ever going to learn to
get along with your brother' you're going to have to remember that he's
the cow who gives a bucket of milk and then kicks it over.
the sky opened up. After that
moment I never had problems with my father any more' ever.
I started at that moment to try to really get along' and finally in
the last few years of his life we were pals' and it was a great thing for
me. I don't know whether I'm
telling you my story or his story' but it was important to him to be that
Falk tells the story of how when my father died' he and John [Cassavetes]
went to visit my father at the mortuary' and how John climbed into the box
with him. It is intended to
demonstrate John's point of view on death' but John had told me of this
event before he died' and claimed that he did it to keep Peter from
don't know who to believe' but even in the box my old man was able to get