John Saxon as an author who believes in life after death…
Remembering this actor in a TV leading role in a career where it appears no stone was left unturned.
The Ray Bradbury Theater – The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone – Birthday, Toby Marks
I am now giving the late John Saxon, the tribute he rightly deserves. This review is on one of his many TV guest star roles. Saxon appeared in The Ray Bradbury Theatre (1985-92), se3 ep 7 in the episode named The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone (1989). It’s just one of his many performances in his impressive acting CV, which lasted over seven decades with nearly 200 film and TV roles to his credit.
After his screen debut in the early 1950s, Saxon starred initially in a large number of film roles. These included as an extra with Judy Garland in A Star is Born (1954) and also in The Unguarded Moment (1956) with Esther Williams. He won a Golden Globe for Best Promising Newcomer for This Happy Feeling (1958), with Curd Jurgens and Debbie Reynolds.
In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, he added more movies including The Appaloosa (1966) opposite Marlon Brando. In this performance, Saxon won a Best Actor nomination at the Golden Globes. He also starred in Enter the Dragon (1973) with co-star Bruce Lee and in Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond the Stars (1980).
During these decades, Saxon also starred in a huge number of TV movies and guest star roles. These numerous TV performances included regular characters in two prime time soaps. He appeared in Dynasty (1981-89) for a six episode stint as a Middle Eastern business partner for Blake Carrington (John Forsythe). This character was also a love interest for Blake’s ex-wife Alexis Colby (Joan Collins). Saxon had a thirty two episode run in Falcon Crest (1981-99), this time in a role as a long lost husband.
Saxon appeared in small roles in episodes of The Bionic Woman (1976 -78), Magnum P.I. (1980-88), The Streets of San Francisco (1972-77), Murder She Wrote (1984-96), Glitter (1984-85), Hotel (1983-88) and Fantasy Island (1977-84). In the remainder of his career, he returned to more movies although he still appeared in a splattering of TV roles during this time. These later performances included Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk til Dawn (1996) and the 90s soap Melrose Place (1992-99).
The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone begins as a group of literary scholars meet to remember celebrated author Dudley Stone. Twenty years ago Stone disappeared and the celebrated author, John Kendall (Alan Scarfe) claims to have murdered him. This confession leads to shocked silence from the others.
Then it’s revealed through flashback, that 20 years ago Kendall, then a fledgeling author, attended Dudley Stone’s (John Saxon) book signing. Dudley Stone is a much lauded author, who writes novels, essays, plays and much, much more. His new book is believed to be another bestseller. Kendall gives him a note telling Stone he has come to kill him. Stone coolly and calmly invites him to his home, the next day to do just that.
On Kendall’s arrival, it turns out to be Stone’s 40th birthday. Stone is at home with his family. He invites Kendall into his office. There Kendall shows him the intensity of his jealousy in an intense fit of rage. He complains of Stone’s never-ending writing talents and then produces his gun. After calmly watching his bookshelves being emptied, Stone takes him round his clifftop house, showing Kendall all the reasons he wants to die and why Kendall should “bloody murder” him.
Stone tells Kendall of films he wants to see, books he’d like to read and pictures that he’d like to paint. Kendall is puzzled as he believes these are reasons to live, not die. After Stone shows him his latest writing works, he gives Kendall the only copies of his latest manuscripts. Kendall then accompanies Stone as they then walk to a clifftop nearby. Kendall brings out his gun and threatens him once more. Then he joins Stone as Stone throws his unpublished works into the sea, page by page and this act symbolising his “death”.
Then it’s back to the present day, and to the astonishment of the group, Kendall phones Stone. He asks Stone if he has remained “dead”. Stone says he has not written since their meeting. He then confides with Kendall that he did him a favour. Stone felt that the work that the pair destroyed, was not up to his usual standard and this “death” meant he could “die” at the top of his profession. Since then, Stone has lived the life he wants, with no further literary expectations. He has spent it with his family and doing all the things he’d wanted to do… (and there’s more).
This role shows Saxon in an enigmatic role and he’s completely credible as this author. Stone appears to see this “death” as a positive, life-changing event and he appears charming, easy-going and genial. These latter attributes are shown in Saxon’s natural performance which I imagine not far from the truth of Saxon’s off-screen personality.
Throughout his performance, he was completely unfazed by the possibly villainous actions of the tormented Kendall. Alan Scarfe, his co-star appeared to be channelling his inner Richard Burton for this flowery, dramatic script which is one of those great two-actor episodes.
I’m now going to seek out more of John Saxon’s performances in the movies, those TV soaps, 70s and 80s TV gold and 80s and 90s horror. I’ll start with another guest star role for this actor who starred with majors in a role in The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-78) as I re-enter the wonderful acting life of John Saxon.