Tribute By Monica Sullivan
Given a choice between interviewing a huge star or director who's contractually committed to chat about his or her latest, project-AND NOTHING ELSE-and a character actor or indie filmmaker who'll talk about anything under the sun, there really is no choice for me. There is NOTHING more frustrating than a discussion about a so-so flick that is dead on arrival when you REALLY want to ask about an intriguing body of prior work. That's why meeting Paul Mantee was such a thrill for me. As a child, I was under the impression that "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" was considered a major classic. By the standards of conventional wisdom, it wasn't. But when I first saw it on the small screen, I thought it was. Ditto Paul Mantee, then 28, who starred as an astronaut in Paramount's 1964 psychotronic film in which Death Valley doubled for Mars. It was existentially & economically scripted &, like Grant Williams in "The Incredible Shrinking Man," Paul Mantee was practically the whole show.
In a couple of well-worn copies of TV Guide from the year 1982, I learned that my hero, then 46, led a hard life, auditioning for and playing crime show villains and earning most of his bread & butter as a "crusty but sensitive" character on a daytime drama. You can see him on TV Land & elsewhere in vintage episodes of "Mannix", "The FBI", "Simon & Simon" & "The Blue Knight". You can also see Mantee & another of my heroes, Elisha Cook, in "Blood On The Arrow", in "American Dream" with George Takei, in "A Man Called Dagger" with Terry Moore, in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" with an all-star ensemble cast, in "Framed" with Gabriel Dell & others, in the Charles Bronson action flick "Breakout", in "Day Of The Animals" with Leslie Nielsen, in "Wolf Lake" with Rod Steiger, in "The Manitou" with yet another all-star cast, in "The Great Santini" with Robert Duvall, in "The Greatest" with Muhammed Ali, in "Lurking Fear" with Vincent Schiavelli &, more recently in 1998's "Memorial Day". Writing the TV Guide articles, filled with humor, wit & irony, led to a second career for Paul Mantee as a professional writer: he continues to act & write in his sixties, & he's just as much fun to meet as he is to watch & read.
© 2000 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 5/24/00
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