Even more than 24 years after that final episode of St. Elsewhere aired, dividing viewers and cast members on its meaning and whether or not someone had yanked a rug from beneath their feet in some way, it was foolhardy to think I’d pull off an appropriate anniversary tribute to the show in a single installment, even without access to about 82% of the episodes. Too many memories. Too much material. Too many characters. Once this concluding chapter ends, it still will feel incomplete, knowing how much I omitted. On the other hand, fortune allowed this tribute to stretch to today, so my necessary and welcome salute to Norman Lloyd falls on this astounding artist’s 98th birthday.
Welles. Dassin. Hitchcock. Milestone. Renoir. Chaplin. Weir. Scorsese. Those just include directors he's worked with (though several acted as well). He’s also been a director and producer himself. That list doesn’t include his co-stars on stage, screen and television. Lloyd appeared with Jane Wyatt in Milestone’s 1948 comedy No Minor Vices and later directed and became good friends with the actress before she eventually turned up as Katherine Auschlander on six episodes of St. Elsewhere, beginning in the second season. On both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, he produced installments featuring Geraldine Fitzgerald, who would turn up twice at St. Eligius as Dr. Daniel Auschlander’s former lover, who bore him a son he never knew he had. From here on out, I’ll be able to say that for about 25 minutes, I spoke with a man who worked with them all. The purpose of my call was to discuss the 30th anniversary of St. Elsewhere and his role as Auschlander, but I desperately wanted to say to him, “Let’s start with the Mercury Theater and work our way up.” Unfortunately, we couldn’t – he’s too busy. He just finished a role in the movie A Place for Heroes that filmed in Iowa, and he says there’s another film he’d like to make but it needs financing. Two years ago, it was a great surprise to see him pop up on an episode of Modern Family. “That was great fun,” he said. This year marks many significant career anniversaries: the 80th anniversary of his Broadway debut with Eva Le Gallienne’s Civic Repertory Theatre, the 70th anniversary of his film debut in Hitchcock’s Saboteur and the 60th anniversary of Chaplin’s Limelight. I hope none of the other talented people I interviewed take this as a slight, but of everyone I spoke with, Lloyd retains the best memory. “He can tell you what he paid for taxes in 1937,” Tom Fontana told me, and part of me doubts he was joking. “That’s what’s so astonishing about Norman. The stories he will tell. He doesn’t forget anything,” Blythe Danner said. “People half his age or not quite, but who have known him that long, never, ever could hold a candle to that mind.” To think that when the character of Auschlander appeared in the first episode, the plan had him dying of liver cancer by the fourth show instead of being felled by a massive stroke 136 episodes later. Jennifer Savidge shared the story of what Danner told her late husband, Executive Producer Bruce Paltrow, about Lloyd and his role. “(Danner said) ‘Don’t let him die, he’s too good a character on the show’ and so they kept him alive,” Savidge said. Savidge is married to the actor Robert Fuller, best known to me for playing Dr. Kelly Brackett of Rampart Hospital on Emergency! and for teaching me the first medical term I memorized, “Start an IV D5W with ringer’s lactate.” Don’t know what the hell it means (well, I do now), but I’ve had it memorized for about 35 years now. “Bob and I used to, after (St. Elsewhere) was over, have dinner with him and his wife, who we adored. There was a man on the set named Eric Harrison, one of the dressers on the show, and he was actually the dresser for Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud. He had these amazing stories,” Savidge said. “He would have a dinner party once a month, and invite all these people like Vincent Price and Coral Browne, and all these other actors. There was just a great group of characters that would be there. And Norman would be there, and he always had these fantastic stories. He had such a wealth of different experience behind him in different areas. It was just wonderful to work with him.” Lloyd’s wife, Peggy Craven Lloyd, passed away last year at 98. The Lloyds had been married for 75 years, which many believe sets the record for their business.