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YOUR TIME MACHINE TO THE PAST!

Contact Us: Swapsale@aol.com

PEOPLE

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE COMMANDER!

ED KEMMER 

 (October 29, 1921-November 9, 2004)

TALKS ABOUT SPACE PATROL!

Kemmer was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, and served as a fighter pilot in World War II. He was shot down and sent to a POW camp. He briefly escaped from the camp for two weeks before he was recaptured.

Kemmer made his television debut in 1951, and starred in the live television science fiction action-drama Space Patrol between 1951 and 1956. Kemmer made his film debut in 1956 (Behind the High Wall). He was also a stunt pilot in the film, The Hot Angel (1958), but his big screen work was mostly small roles in low-budget B movies such as Giant from the Unknown (1958). The bulk of Kemmer's work was for the small screen.

MORE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Kemmer

Ed Kemmer at the August 6-8 1999 Monster Rally in Arlington, Virginia

It was the 1950's and we still believed in heroes.  They could be found in comic books and movies, on the radio and on the newest electronic marvel of the 20th century, television.  The heroes had names like The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and, yes, Buzz Corry of the Space Patrol.  For many of us who grew up in that era, those names still resonate, evoking a certain innocence, optimism and excitement.  Of those names, none resonate more than Buzz Corry's, a character played by a very young, very handsome and very heroic looking Ed Kemmer.  For many of us, he became a role model... 

Swapsale: I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.  Where were you born and what it was like growing up in the 1930's? 

Kemmer:  I was born in Reading, PA and a good deal of my growing up was during the depression. So we learned to do without a lot  of 'extras'. However I had a happy childhood with plenty of all things necessary. I had a paper route ($2 a week) and I 
bought a bicycle with my earnings. 

Swapsale: Did you listen to the popular radio shows of those days and how did they influence you, if at all?

Kemmer:  Of course we listened to the radio. I remember Amos and Andy followed by Lowell Thomas with the news. And I remember my sister 'swooning' over Rudy Valley's singing. Of course later: Fibber McGee and Molly, Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, et al.

Swapsale:  Your were a fighter pilot during the war.  How did that come to be?

Kemmer:  I learned to fly before WWII broke out. When it did, I took the test for Cadet Training in the Army Air Corps. Finished tactical fighter training in P-51 Mustangs in Florida and was sent to England as a replacement pilot in the 381st  Fighter Squadron, 363rd Fighter Group, 9th Air Force.

On June 17, 1944, 11 days after the invasion, I was hit by ground fire -- low level -- and my ship caught fire. I bailed out. When I hit the ground a rifle shot hit me in the leg -- superficial wound. I was captured immediately and sent to the main Air Officer's POW camp, Stalag Luft III, Sagan, Germany. After about 10 months, on a march to another camp, I escaped and headed for Switzerland. 10 days later I was recaptured and sent to another POW camp that was liberated a few days later by Patton's tanks, April 29, 1945.

                                    THIS IMAGE CAN BE SEEN IN 3-D WITH ANAGLYPH (RED AND BLUE) GLASSES

 

Ed Kemmer in 1945/Kemmer with the cast of Space Patrol wpe28.jpg (47507 bytes)

In the POW camp we put on shows and I did some acting and I kind of liked it so when I got back home I thought I'd give it a try. I enrolled in the College of Theatre Arts in Pasadena, CA. Shortly after graduation I got my first real acting job: Commander Corry, on Space Patrol, 1950-55. After that I did most of the nighttime TV shows shot in Hollywood. In 1964 a New York producer came to the West coast and cast me in the 'soap,' Edge of Night, in New York. I worked with a beautiful and talented young woman, Fran Sharon. Five years later we were married. I did soaps continually in New York until I retired in 1984.

Swapsale:  What was the College of Theatre Arts like?

Kemmer:  The school was a busy and exciting experience covering everything pertaining to the theatre: History, Manners and Customs, Speech, Makeup, Dueling, Shakespeare, etc., etc. We were continually doing plays, period and modern.  I didn't take a vacation so I finished a two year course in one and a half years. All this thanks to the GI Bill. I have great memories of the place and the people.

Swapsale:  Lyn Osborn, a classmate at that school, recommended you for Space Patrol when it became apparent Glenn Denning would have to be replaced. Were you and Osborn friends at the school?

Kemmer:  Lyn Osborn and I had totally different schedules so I don't think we even met at the Playhouse. Naturally I was surprised when he called about an interview he would set up with Mike Moser and Dik Darley when they were casting the Buzz Corry role. I'm sure glad he thought of me. I don't remember ever asking him, "Why?"

The meeting with Mike Moser and Dik Darley was very pleasant. I liked doing the show. All the people involved were friendly and fun to be with. No "star complex" to be found anywhere. As for salary, since Lyn and I were starred we each got the grand amount of $8.00 a show. Everyone else got $5.00 a show. This was before the union, AFTRA, was formed. We all did it hoping it would go network; that's where the money was. 

THIS IMAGE CAN BE SEEN IN 3-D WITH ANAGLYPH (RED AND BLUE) GLASSES

 

Ed Kemmer as Buzz Corry  wpe28.jpg (47507 bytes)

Swapsale:  What was it like, doing the show?

Kemmer:  The cast was together so much we became like a family and really cared for each other. It was my introduction to Sci/Fi. The budget was pitifully small, as reflected in our salaries. Doing it live with no teleprompters was a bit sweaty, but after a few dozen shows it got easier. So when we started the half hour show we were well prepared, even though we didn't have teleprompters or cue cards on that show either.

Swapsale:  I understand Osborn was a practical joker.  Is that true?

Kemmer:  Yes, Lyn was a dedicated joker and prankster and it really helped. Kept everyone loose and it also helped to keep you from taking yourself too seriously.

Swapsale:  What was the budget for the show?

Kemmer:  I don't know what the actual budget was except it was very small for a TV show. ABC wasn't noted for it's generosity. The scenery was designed and built at the studio. Most of the gadgetry was WWII surplus.

Swapsale: Is it true that you guys would write notes to yourselves or post pages from the script in the spaceship or elsewhere on the sets to help deal with the pressure of remembering your lines?

Kemmer: Yes, crib notes were utilized now and then. If someone had a really difficult speech or had a hard name to remember -- Norm Jolley had a great imagination -- like the name of a space object, you could hide a piece of paper. But it had to be where the cameras wouldn't pick it up and you could still read it. Not always a surmountable problem.

Swapsale: I've watched a number of the old shows where the guests actors would go blank and you'd have to step in to prompt them.

Kemmer: Yes, many times the guests went blank -- not used to the pressure of live TV -- and most of the regulars could pick up the scene and continue. Generally we would adapt the guest's line, cueing him in and he'd get going again.

Swapsale:  At one time you were doing both a weekly local show and a national show on weekends. How many shows did you do in a week?

Kemmer:  We did five 15 minute shows a week and there was an overlap when we started the half hour show. It didn't last long for which we were all grateful.  By the way, I believe the 15 minute show was seen in San Francisco and perhaps other cities as well.

Swapsale:  What do you know about Glenn Denning, the actor you replaced?  Nina Bara (Tonga) wrote in her Space Patrol Memories book that he once actually fell asleep during a live broadcast. Is that true?

Kemmer:  I don't believe I've ever met Glenn Denning. It's hard to  believe that anyone could fall asleep while under the pressure of doing a live TV show. Perhaps he was pretending, showing his cool?

Swapsale: I think Space Patrol director Dik Darly did an amazing job on the show.  What can you tell me about him?

Kemmer:  Dik Darley was a fine director. Intelligent understanding and imaginative. He had an excellent grasp of live TV and the TV camera. He often had cameramen do things they never thought they could do -- actors, too. His responsibilities were endless. A great amount of credit for the success of Space Patrol must go to him. He was fun to work with -- a man of taste and humor.  And a good friend.

Also a bunch of credit must go to Norm Jolley, a writer/actor with a prolific imagination and much talent. I'll never understand how he wrote so many scripts, good scripts, day after day and week after week.

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