Leon thought, as did I, that USC had the finest cinema program in the world. As we got acquainted, we learned we had the same goal. We wanted to take all the classes offered that would help us learn film production. Moreover, we didnít want to make grand theatrical productions. Leon was interested in motivational and industrial films. Since I had been a music education major and a music teacher, my goal was to make music education films.
We hadnít worked together in Production I class very long before we had greater ambitions. We wanted to make films on our own that we might even be able to sell.
I told him of my dream of making a series of instructional films on the instruments of the orchestra. He agreed to help me.
I selected the clarinet first because I thought it was most needed. The title I used was "The Assembly and Care of the B-flat Clarinet." I wrote the script and directed it, and Leon produced and edited it. He added a little twist to the production credits by asking Irvin Blacker, a well-known writer of industrial materials, for his input on the script. He thought that Blackerís name would help sell the film. That sounded like a good idea to me, so I agreed. I just wanted to make the film and I didnít care who got the writing credit.
While I was spending my time preparing the shooting script, scene by scene, Leon was busy finding actors and a studio where we could shoot our film. We selected a fellow USC student in whom we had confidence as our cameraman.
Making that film was a terrific experience. Since neither the cameraman nor the actors knew anything about clarinets, I had to check each scene carefully before it was shot. You can bet I was particular that the clarinet was handled exactly right and that the narrator gave the proper instructions. I wanted everything to be perfect.
"The Assembly and Care of the B-flat Clarinet" was our first McMurry-Gold Production. Although making that film was a dream come true, it didnít take long for us to learn that selling it wasnít going to be easy. We listed it in the USC film catalog for sale and rental, and the results were very disappointing, to say the least. Therefore, although I still feel it is a good training film for clarinet players, it was my first and my last music education film. Perhaps, if I had been able to finance a whole series on orchestra instruments, there would have been a better market. Who can tell?
Our next McMurry-Gold Production was a film for the Fellowship of Reconciliation. It was a film talk by the noted pacifist, A. J. Muste, called "Not By Might." They paid us enough to cover production costs.
One day Leon offered me a chance to edit some footage for an elderly lady friend of his. "Sheíll pay for the job," he said.
When I agreed to take that job I had no idea what I was getting into. There were hundreds of feet of film about a park in Copenhagen. After trying to do something with the mess, I finally gave up and gave the job back to Leon. I knew then that I was no good as a film editor. Iíd better stick to scripts and directing.
I had obtained a tape of some music by the a cappella choir of my alma mater, Bethel College, to use at the beginning and end of the "Which Way to Peace" film which I had produced for the Methodist Church. That gave me an idea for another film, and Leon agreed to help me.
I asked for a tape of the choir singing the hymn "Now the Day is Over." We used the music as background for scenes of a fisherman and his son at the close of day as they were coming into harbor. The final production was a simple 5-minute inspirational film.
I might add that both the cameraman and I got seasick during the filming of "Now the Day is Over." We had to film the fisherman from another boat. The whole experience reminded me of one of my wartime experiences. Several of the guys decided to rent a boat one day and go fishing off the east coast of Australia. I was never so sick in all life as that day. I lost everything in my stomach and the guys claimed I turned absolutely green. Thank goodness, the day of filming off Redondo Beach wasnít that bad, but it wasnít good.
We decided to distribute "Now the Day is Over" under the name "Star-Cross Films." It seemed an appropriate name for a partnership between Leon, a Jew, and me, a Christian.
Another Star-Cross Production that was fun to make was for the annual Marineís Christmas toy collection project. We donated our time and the production costs to make a 3-minute TV spot urging people to donate toys. Our daughter, Jean Frances, who was about six years old at the time, was the star of that little film. She sang "Toys for Tots," a parody on "Jingle Bells," as she accompanied herself on a toy piano. This spot was shown over and over on television.
So far, nothing Leon and I had produced had made any money and we realized we couldnít get far in the film business that way. One day Leon decided that the way to make money with films was to make something to sell where the money is. He said, "You know, money is in industry, not in non-profit religious organizations or schools."
I thought that sounded reasonable. We decided to ask Dr. Nick Rose to team up with us. Nick, who was on the cinema staff, was a psychologist. He was also an industrial consultant.
His reaction to our idea was, "Communication is the big Ďiní thing right now. Iím convinced that the time is right for a good film on the subject. Iíll be happy to join with you on such a production."
I knew Darlene and I didnít have cash to invest in a major project. We had all we could do to pay the rent on our spot for our trailer. Leon, handling the business side of things figured such a film would cost about $1500 dollars. That meant Iíd have to commit $500 to the project.
"Donít worry, Glenn," Leon said. "Weíll worry about the money later."
After several discussions about various formats, we came up with a rough plot outline, which would show communication problems between a boss and his employee. I was given the job of writing the first rough script, and after much revision, we were ready to shoot the film.
Leon made the business arrangements for the studio and actors. There were only two actors in the film, making it less expensive to produce. Then Leon persuaded a company of the filmís value and got a pre-production commitment from them to purchase a certain number of copies of the completed film.
The title given the finished film was "Person to Person Communication," and we produced it under our original name of McMurry-Gold Productions. We distributed it through the university and it actually began to make money.
Encouraged by the success of "Person to Person Communication," Leon wanted us to become real partners in a film production company. He was convinced we could make more training films that would sell.
After we made the "B-Flat Clarinet," Leonís father had insisted, "Just one film wonít sell. You need to make a series of films on other instruments."
It all sounded good and logical, but our problem was start-up money and money to live on until the company became profitable. Since Leon came from a wealthy family, that wasnít a problem for him.
Reluctantly, I stayed at the university and Leon started his own company called Roundtable Films. He made and distributed various types of training films, with emphasis on communication and motivational skills. His company was very successful, and became well known, not only in the United States, but also abroad.
After we moved to the Washington, DC, area, Darlene worked for him for about a year. She attended conventions and did telephone selling.
Leonís company took over the distribution of "Person to Person Communication," and the profits were shared with Nick Rose and me for years. In fact, we got several hundred dollars a year in royalties for a long time. In the late Ď80ís the checks dwindled to less than $100 yearly. Finally the last one came in 1989 when Leon decided to retire and sell his company. We often thought we should go through our income tax statements and see just how much we got from that film. However, we never did think it was worth our time and effort just to satisfy our curiosity.
Leonís wife, Toby, often teasingly chided us, saying, "If you had stayed with Leon, you would be a millionaire."
However, Darlene and I never really regretted our decision. The university gave me many opportunities and experiences I wouldnít have had just being in the film production and distribution business for myself. Having lots of money is not always the secret to a happy life. True, we havenít been really wealthy in terms of dollars and cents, but we have been truly blessed in many other more important ways. We have never lacked any of the necessities, and we have been blessed with many "unnecessary" material things. Above all, God has blessed us with many friends and a loving family, and given us many opportunities to share with others.
Mr. Gold, Leonís father, owned a ladiesí clothing store on Hill Street in Los Angeles. Above the store was a garment factory where they made fine quality ladiesí clothing. Toby Kay, who later became Leonís wife, managed the store for Mr. Gold.
Incidentally, through the years, Toby often brought leftover material from the garment factory and gave to Darlene. Such material was always of a fine quality. Darlene was able to make nice dresses and blouses for both the girls and herself.
Leon was unmarried when we first met. Toby, who was his girl friend then, would stay with our girls, Glenda and Jean, while we worked on films and Darlene was at work at Curries. She adored our kids. Although they were Jews, Leonís family always celebrated Christmas. After Toby and Leon were married, they always had a huge Christmas tree in their home and gifts for many children they knew. Sometimes we were invited to their home and sometimes they came to ours delivering gifts for our children.
When Darlene and I arrived at the temple, we were surprised to find no one there. Finally, Leon and Toby came, and we went into the Rabbiís office. The Rabbi greeted us, and continued to exchange pleasantries for some minutes. Iím not sure whether he thought we were waiting for others to come or not. Finally, I decided it was time to get the ceremony going.
"Donít you think we should get this wedding going?" I asked when there was a pause in the conversation.
The Rabbi agreed, but didnít give any directions. So as the best man, I thought maybe it was my job to organize things.
"Leon, you and Toby stand here. Darlene and I will stand on either side of you."
"Now I guess we are ready," I said when we had arranged ourselves in front of the Rabbi.
The Rabbi then took out his little book and performed the ceremony. It was our first experience at a Jewish ceremony and our first time at a ceremony with only four people in attendance. However, Iím sure they were just as married as if they had been in the temple with many attendants and witnesses. In fact, they always seemed very happy together.
Later, we invited several of the cinema staff members and their spouses to a shower at our home in Leon and Tobyís honor. In addition to regular gifts, we asked each one to bring a can of food minus the label. What Leon and Toby didnít know was that all those cans contained pork-and-beans.
Tony and Leon remained our dear friends and they often expressed thanks to us for the shower, and especially for the beans!
When Greg and his wife, Rhonda, moved to California, while we were still in Maryland, Leon and Toby were very helpful to them. They insisted Greg and Rhonda live with them until they could get a home. Consequently, Greg and Rhonda continued a friendship with Leon and Toby that had started with our family during my days at USC.
I guess Iíll never know just why Leon selected me for his partner that fall we both enrolled in our first cinema classes, or why I so readily agreed to work with him. All I know was that it was the beginning of many exciting hours we shared during our filmmaking days together.
It was also the start of a true friendship that grew to include both our families.
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