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An Interview with Director and Actress Joan Darling, Pioneer of the 70’s

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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:
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R.I.P. James Rebhorn: Greg & Cody’s Thoughts

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Greg DeLiso: Why are all of these cool people dying?  Harold Ramis right after Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bob Casale from Devo, and now, a guy I’m ashamed to say I did not know the name of.  But, his face, his voice, and his performances were a huge part of my childhood.

Independence Day was a huge theater going experience for me as a kid.  My mom took me one Summer afternoon when I was ten years old, and it was like my The Day the Earth Stood Still or The Blob—a fun excursion into the bigness of movies, the kind of stuff Spielberg and Scorsese talk about from their youth.
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