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Rob and Laura: 1963

Rob and Laura: 1963

1963. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show with Jerry Paris directing in front of the studio audience that served as their unbilled co-star. Photo by Earl Theisen for Look magazine. View full size.

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"I Love Lucy" was the model

I was in the audience for a "Here's Lucy" back in 1971. I was a guest of a great friend and mentor of mine, Madelyn Davis (nee Pugh) who was one of the creator/writers of "I Love Lucy". The show I saw them shoot at Universal, had 3 Mitchell BNC's with 1000 ft. magazines. The would simply stop between scenes and reload while everything was being moved from one set to another. Didn't take much more than 5 minutes between setups, and they had a band playing as a distraction. The point to be made though, was that there were NO retakes in front of the audience. They did it once, didn't miss a cue, and we were out of there between an hour and an hour and a half later. If there were any pick-ups, and they were few, they were done after the audience was gone. "I Love Lucy" was the same way. They had great respect for the studio audiences time, and confidence in their material, so they didn't need to stop for conferences, and the actors knew their lines so there weren't a lot of flubs. Since Sheldon Leonard learned 3 camera at Desilu, I am going to make an assumption that they didn't spend hours on that show, either. Once through and pick-ups. It wasn't until the advent of video tape that they started shooting the show twice. By the time Madelyn Davis and her partner, Bob Carroll, Jr. were Executive Producers on "Alice" they were taping the dress-rehearsal without an audience, and then the air show with an audience. Because Madelyn and Bob learned from Desi and Lucy, they too had great respect for the audience, and that show was in and out in an hour and half, too.


I've been in the studio audience to see the taping of a few sitcoms, and the repetition and delays between takes do tend to take the edge off the material a bit. Many times they'll shoot a scene or even just a single line over and over several different ways, then huddle with the writers between takes and make adjustments to the script on the fly while the actors sometimes wander away, chat with their entourage, or whatever. Of course they have people whose job it is to keep the audience into it, and who coach the audience to react as if it's the first time they've heard the material when in fact it may be the tenth. Many times the audience isn't able to see or hear very well what's going on, and they end up watching the monitors more than the live action. It's an interesting process to see, especially when months later you finally get to watch the aired finished product that you were there to see taped.

Need to reload those cameras

Those sound-blimped Mitchell cameras look like they have 1000 foot film magazines, which are only good for about 11 minutes continuous running. I wonder how they worked the reload logistics, you'd need three for a 25 minute script. Takes a good camera assistant a couple minutes to reload. So there must have been at least three mandatory timeouts in the production which would have been useful for discussions and quick rehearsals.

Anybody ever go to one of those shoots? Would be interested to know how they handled those reloads.

Dick Van Dyke Show

This is by far a really terrific photo from Shorpy, I used to watch reruns of the show back in the '70s & '80s and just loved it. There was a really funny scene in the bedroom when Laura was pregnant and Rob was so hyper he slept with his clothes and suit on and his hat was at the head of the bed ready to go on at a moment's notice. Every time time Laura would say something, he would jump out of bed, grab a suitcase and help Laura out of bed when all she wanted was a drink of water, it was hilarious. Does shorpy have any more TV or movie snapshots? I'd love to see them.

[Stay tuned! - Dave]

Retakes with live audiences

One strategy for dealing with the problem of reshooting a scene after the live studio audience has already heard the joke is to shoot the show twice with different audience, then edit together the best of both.

This tactic was in place at least by the time of "All in the Family" in the 70's

Coats and Ties!

On the men in the audience.

Somewhat related, I think I read once that the reason Van Dyke was always wearing a sportcoat, sweater or suit jacket on the show was that he was a very heavy perspirer.

Da De Da Da Da Da Da-Dah, Da Da-dah ...

On NPR's "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me", Dick Van Dyke revealed that Morey Amsterdam wrote lyrics to the theme song.

Fascinating Photo!

I was born in 1963, so I've been watching this show in reruns all my life and can't stop dwelling on this photo. As cozy as Rob & Laura's home and bedroom appear on TV, it's startling to see the expanse of the studio set and live audience.

Oh, Rob!

This was and still is one of my favorite shows of that period of time.


I watched the show faithfully, but it wasn't until seeing this picture that I realized Jerry Paris, the director, was also the actor who played Jerry Helper, Rob and Laura's next-door neighbor.

Ann Morgan Guilbert, who played Jerry Helper's wife Millie, later turned up as Evelyn, Jerry Seinfeld's parents' Florida neighbor. THAT I did notice.

Can't Get It Out Of My Head

Although it had no lyrics, the Dick Van Dyke theme is one I will always remember. Both opening and closing themes, which were different.

[There were two closing themes, normal and long. I always liked "long." -Dave]

Look for the other cast and crew members

Director John Rich is also in the photo (to Jerry Paris' right). And if you look closely at the right hand side of the photo you can see Morey Amsterdam and Richard Deacon on the outside fringe of the set.

[Actually Morey Amsterdam is behind the leftmost camera. - Dave]

Carl Reiner

That's the "meathead's" father there in the cardigan sweater.

[Not quite. That's Jerry Paris. - Dave]

Rob & Laura's today

Formerly Desilu-Cahuenga Studios, later Ren-Mar Studios, 846 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood.

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A great picture!

This is a really cool picture, even though it destroys the image of a cozy bedroom, even if it had two beds, eh? I have many happy feelings associated with the Dick Van Dyke show. Things were confident, optimistic, and fun. But that's why I enjoy Shorpy so much, too!


I'd imagine there was quite a bit of attention paid by that audience as to how their favorite show was filmed and came to life rather then just in the performance of these two future TV icons. Neat photo. The illusion of reality revealed.


Yet they still couldn't sleep in the same bed!

Three camera sitcom

Three cameras shooting 35mm film in front of a live audience, a technique pioneered in the production of I Love Lucy. Contrast to the single-camera, closed set method - like that employed for feature film production - used by such contemporaneous shows such as Leave It to Beaver and Andy Griffith.

One take is all you got

It is even more amazing to see the studio audience and the film cameras that were used to shoot the series. Once the crowd was seated and the film rolling, there was no time for retakes or missed cues. A far cry from how today's television situation comedies are made.

[On the contrary, the use of film made retakes not only possible but standard operating procedure. It was pre-videotape live broadcasting that necessitated non-stop, no-going-back performance, and by 1963 that was already a thing of the past. -tterrace]

I don't know which is more amazing

That this show was as good, and timeless, as it was, or that it was 50 YEARS AGO.

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