Ohio66 presents an in-depth look at the circumstances surrounding the departure of George Maharis from route 66 in the middle of the third season.
With Martin Milner, George Maharis, David Janssen, Signe Hasso, Laura Devon
Producer: Mort Abrahams
Director: David Lowell Rich
Writer: Stirling Silliphant
60 Mins., Fri., 8:30 p.m.
CHEVROLET, PHILIP MORRIS, STERLING DRUG
(Campbell-Ewald, Leo Burnett, Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample)
A trade mark of "Route 66," continuing right into the new season, is that the show has always been a little kookie. It seems to have made its mark dealing with eccentrics, and thus it began the new season last Friday (21) night on CBS-TV with a script by Stirling Silliphant, who writes many and supervises most of these adventure hours.
Silliphant has a genius for writing murky morality tales, the moral sometimes escaping in a maze of symbols. That a telefilm production should even try symbolism is interesting, that the symbolism should not be clear - and yet the show remain successful - is even more interesting.
Marty Milner and George Maharis signed on as mates on a fishing trawler in the northwest, where they met beautiful Laura Devon, her wise, protective mother Signe Hasso and a throwback played by David Janssen. Janssen always started fights with Milner, hoping evidently to be killed. When the unregenerate heavy was finally tossed into the drink by hero Milner, he mysteriously came out a better man for all of it. Reason he became a rat in the first place was that he once let his whole unit be killed when he didn't have the nerve to knock-off a Nazi in cold blood; as a consequence he'd been symbolically killing people since. He got the girl after his inexplicable regeneration. Hardly a different story, as tv stories should go, but Silliphant has an ear for dialog that sometimes touches on the poetic and is almost always strong on story values. Milner and Maharis are both good actors, and they give his stuff a good reading.
Janssen - still with the offbeat ratchety voice which many women consider sexy - did a good job as the bully with brains. Signe Hasso's role was small, but she was appealing, and, as suggested before, Lara Devon was radiantly beautiful, quite believable as a onetime beauty queen with a penchant for stray people.
There is something notable in the way the cameras work for "66." Jack Marta, director of photography, gets a lot of flavor into his location shots, and Nelson Riddle's score (which hasn't changed a bit) is continually helpful. One of the Chevy commercials on Friday's preem was worth singling out: It was an aerial view of a '63 car, presumably taken from a helicopter.
Key to this show is not the fact that it stars travel (in a Chevy Corvette) and sees the country but that the plays they become involved in are so very intense. Even the humor, when there is some, is intense, Silliphant encourages milder forms of sex and that helps. Whether "66" has more than another season's mileage in it remains, of course, to be seen, but in the seeing this CBS telefilm's intensity should be a nice counterpoint to NBC's Mitch Miller, newly moved in at 8:30 on Fridays.
VARIETY - September 26, 1962