Tag Archives: duel
Joan Darling (bottom left), part of the cast of Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (1971-1973)
Joan Darling entered show business as an actress on the New York theater scene in the 1960s, then became a fixture of early 70’s television. In 1974, she made the leap from acting to directing and quickly made history as one of the first and most successful women directors in television. She had an instant knack for it—her debut, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, a soap opera parody, has become an enduring cult classic for its dark-edged humor and deep understanding of the desperation and sadness of the American home.
Highlights of her career include a Mary Tyler Moore episode, Chuckles Bites the Dust, which, for its deft tightrope-walk between comedy and pathos, TV Guide calls the greatest television episode ever; a classic M*A*S*H episode, The Nurses, which revolutionized the way the show portrayed women; and a leading role in an episode of The Psychiatrist, directed by a pre-Jaws, pre-Duel Spielberg.
These days, Joan teaches acting and directing classes at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab. She agreed to a phone interview, and in about an hour, I learned more about the arts of acting and directing than I ever thought possible:
I’m not really sitting with you right now, Steven Spielberg, but I want to be. There’s really nothing I could think of that would be more of an achievement. To be honest, I don’t think about your movies enough anymore, and I don’t reference you enough in my pieces on this site. It’s because talking about you is kind of old hat. You are unequivocally the most successful, and the most household name-y of any movie director in history. You created my childhood, and millions upon millions of other childhoods. Your name had as much market value in the 80s and 90s as McDonald’s and Reebok. (I made that last sentence up but it sounds real!)
So anyway, yeah, I’m sitting here (not really) with the most iconic living legend filmmaker of all time, Steven Spielberg:
I’ve told this story a billion times so this time I’m going to try to include some more details. When my late grandpa, Tom Easton, was ten years old, he saw Fantasia in the theater. He always wanted to be a cartoonist but his dad was cold and distant and thought cartoons were for kids and no way to make a living. But despite that lack of encouragement, Tom did some cool things. He avoided combat in the Korean War by teaching art on base and drawing army posters.