What Gets To Me?

I guess most of us have one thing or another that gets to us no matter how many times we see or hear about it. I mean it’s difficult for me to keep from tearing up when the nightly news comes on and we see a group of returning soldiers being greeted by wives, girlfriends, mothers and children. An athlete openly thanking a parent for their help along the way is another of those moments. Emotional sincerity is the deciding factor.

In my mind there isn’t anything that can rival the sincerity of a genuine thank you. That’s not to say each time I receive a thank you note, or an in person thank you, or just a quick phone call of thanks, I begin to cry like a baby. Some offers of thank you have a greater impact on me than others. Usually these are the ones received unexpectedly.

It was close to thirty years ago. I had the position of being the in-house voice casting director for “Sullivan Bluth Animation”. At the time they were a major player. I considered myself to be a lucky man to have the job. Of course, anytime I’m able to work in this subjective creative world I’ve chosen to exist in, I consider myself lucky; make that read “very” lucky. It worked out to be three years of almost complete enjoyment for me. It was a creative, exciting, and extremely challenging organization to be involved with. Some of my many assignments were more challenging then others. For me, as a professional, the most difficult assignments are those where the completion and project budgets are always in doubt. It’s almost exactly like building a house. Nothing is more expensive than making changes while in progress, or shifting from one project to another. The possibility exists for never completing anything. Having a series of films being worked on, without a supposition in place regarding a final outcome, can and will most likely spell disaster. There was a short period of time at Sullivan Bluth, when I do believe I had my hand in three projects at the same time. One incident will remain etched in my memory bank.

The late actor “Buddy Hackett” had been cast to play a lead role. We recorded him. In my opinion Buddy had done a superlative job. He was paid handsomely for his efforts. A few days later, I thought they were kidding me when I was asked to bring Buddy back, at full pay to redo his entire role. All concerned parties, (far too many of them), seemed ecstatic with his work on the second go around. Inwardly, I felt his first recording session was equally as good. The way it turned out none of it mattered. ” Hackett’s work never made the screen. For whatever the reason, we recast the role with Charles Nelson Riley as the replacement. Even though I was the casting director, no mention was made of why Don Bluth and his cohorts were dissatisfied. And the strangest part of the entire incident was the film in question was placed on hold after it was nearly complete, in favor of another film they felt would do better at the box office. In either case, management or lack there of, was horribly mistaken. Everything they tried during the era in question failed miserably at the box office. It certainly all boils down to the same old cliché, “the audience will let you know what you have.” Without exception my colleagues at “Bluth”, yours truly included, felt we had a far better product than the gate receipts provided.

Four best moments remain in my minds eye, which occurred during my tenure at Sullivan Bluth Animation.

1. Early on the New Years day morning following our working together, I received a phone call from Buddy Hackett; very short, sweet, and to the point; “Hello Harvey, this is Buddy. I just wanted you to know you’re one of the nice guy’s I worked with this last year. Thank you,” he said, and hung up abruptly.

2. Larry Dobkin, at age eighty-three, after telling me of a first hand experience with Cecil B. Demille while filming “The Ten Commandments”, then taking my hand and saying “Thank you for bringing me in to audition Harv. It means a great deal to me.”

3. Hans Conreid, during the month before he died making it a point to come by the office for no other reason than to say, “Thank you Harvey.”

4. And finally from a little boy, who remains unknown, but not unthought-of .

It was at Sullivan Bluth, when against my better judgment; I complied with management’s wishes, and proceeded to conduct field auditions of little children. Along with my production assistant we dragged our recording equipment to nursery schools around the city. After three weeks of sheer drudgery, management relented to my wishes and we began bringing kids in to audition in house at our studios. These were five and six year old children being submitted by way of agent representation. Two weeks, and four hundred children later I was ready for the “looney bin”. Finally the in-house auditions came to a merciful end, I thought. Somehow we had missed a few kids who still remained in our outer reception area. I dutifully went out to where they were waiting and told the parents we’d be bringing their children in to record in a few minutes. The first two kids were in and out unceremoniously. The third and final child to audition for me, created far more than I had anticipated. When he entered the recording area, I felt a smile come across my face. Here stood a six-year-old little boy, dressed in slacks and a smart looking shirt and tie. His very blond hair was perfectly cut in a crew. This kid was destined to become a football line backer. I could tell from his lantern jaw, broad shoulders and overall countenance, this was a young man who had future hero written all over him. His audition went well enough. I dismissed him and he was gone in a flash. Thank God it was over. I was totally exhausted. The amount of extra talking it takes in order to direct most children can take it’s toll; especially when you’ve had weeks of it without a break. I was leaning against a wall taking a breather when out of nowhere here comes the kid, running down the hall like a linebacker straight at me. He stopped directly in front of me. I leaned over in order to hear what he had returned for. Now I was at his eye level. Without warning this little guy puts his very strong little right arm around my neck and kisses me on the cheek, and says all in the same motion, “Thank you for the help mister.” He was gone in a flash. At the end of the hall he turned as he stood at his Mothers side and waved goodbye to me. It was an overpowering incident. It caught me off guard as well as in a state of complete exhaustion. I turned away from my production assistant, but not before catching sight of him showing how he to was touched by the genuineness of this little boy.

And so on and so forth, through the years I have discovered more than I probably deserve,the many ways a thank you can be rendered. A wink of the eye; a quick smile, a handshake, and in some instances a tear being shown by the head of state, for the entire world to see unashamedly.

A Favorite Thank You

It was the beginning of the war for Great Britain. They found themselves at the mercy of Adolph Hitler and his band of Nazi tyrants. While the USA had not yet entered the conflict Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been in contact and both were aware of the dire circumstances, which existed for the world’s future.

In August of 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt met secretly for their great “Atlantic Conference”, off the coast of Newfoundland. “The Atlantic Charter” was conceived, seventy years ago. And to further implement the ever-growing bond between our two countries, FDR dispatched his personal envoy to Britain, Harry Hopkins, during a special dinner with Churchill, took the floor and quoted from the Book Of Ruth:

“ Whither thou goest I will go, and whither thou lodgest I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God,” he declared, dramatically adding “even to the end”.
Churchill wept openly.

As do I whenever I reread of the incident.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *