Sunday, May 24, 2009

To Space and Back by Mark Goddard

Mark Goddard. To Space and Back. New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2008.

The author was born Charles Havey Goddard in 1936. This autobiography present a self-described life that has been “almost” good which failed to achieve a better status due to quitting, including abandoning an acting career, marriage, and his Catholic religion. Yet he brought his life around and is now a college graduate who is happily teaching students.

Goddard joined the Dramatic Society during his junior year at Holy Cross College. He decided to spend a year seeing if he could have an acting career. He entered the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in 1957.

Goddard wanted to follow in the footsteps of his idol, James Dean. He stayed in the same hotel and went to the same barber as did James Dean. He even met Dean’s agent, who explained that every actor must create a unique career. Goddard stopped trying to be James Dean and started becoming himself.

Goddard found a job as a summer stock theatre apprentice in Sarasota. He worked on lighting and set construction as well as acting. He later got a job with a summer stock theater in Massachusetts, yet he felt he had had few good acting opportunities. He turned to alcohol to relieve his frustration.

Goddard traveled to Hollywood and use connections he had made previously in life to find an agent and obtain work on the TV series “The Rifleman”. Since the show starred Chuck Connors, and the author then went by the name Chuck Goddard, and since both were represented by the William Morris Agency who didn’t like the similarity of the names, Goddard changed his acting name to Mark Goddard.

During early filming, he lied about being a good horseman, which became evident during filming when he couldn’t get the horse to behave as did the other riders.

Aaron Spelling liked his work and invited him to test for a TV series he was created, “Johnny Ringo”. During his audition, he attempted an over the shoulder gun catch trick that failed and instead splattered a coffee cup. Still, he got the roll. Yet, he was then drafted into the Army. This blow to his acting career led him towards depression. He was hospitalized in a military section 8 hospital. Although he admits his conditions for hospitalization were part real and part acting, he was given an honorable general discharge. He was then able to return to be on “Johnny Ringo”.

A voice specialist taught Goddard to use a more general American accent and to drop his Boston accent. He also learned to ride a horse.

Goddard befriended the producer Aaron Spelling. They spent weekends together. The studio publicity staff arranged for Goddard to go on dates for publicity’s sake. He was photographed out with Connie Stevens and Sandra Dee. During a publicity tour, he was arrested in Boston, for real, when he went out in public in costume with his gun, which led to front page publicity when the network hadn’t planned.

Goddard next performed on a TV series “The Dectective”. He feared for his future when it was cancelled. Yet, his next show, “Lost in Space” brought him much fame. He first turned down the role as he wasn’t a fan of science fiction. He assumed filming the pilot would be a one time job. The pilot took 21 days to film and enjoyed the work, Yet, he didn’t want to be in the series when CBS bought it. Yet, as he learned in life, one should make the best of things and make them work as well as possible.

Guy Williams and June Lockhart were signed to be the stars of the series. CBS and the producer Irwin Allen thought a series about a family in space needed more conflict. Jonathan Harris was brought on as a villain trouble maker. This created some resentment from the stars who felt they were suddenly upstaged by an added character.

“Lost in Space: aired from 1956 to 1968, An episode where characters turned into vegetables was listed by “TV Guide” as one of the 100 most memorable shows ever. Goddard feared having appeared on the series would finish his acting career. He appeared on a few shows in guest appearances, but that wasn’t enough for him. He took on a job working for a loan shark for awhile. His acting career was revived when he receive a role on the soap opera “One Life to Live”.

Goddard experienced the pressure of live television while being on “One Life to Live”. He felt “the sweats”, which is an actor’s term for perspiring in fear of making a mistake. He dealt with acting with about 20 pages of dialogue a day, five days a week. He admits his hands shook. Yet, he knew his acting in a villainous role was resonating when people in public began assuming he was that character. He was berated on the street and a waitress refused to serve him.

Once, Goddard and some of the actors got tipsy ordering drinks before a shoot. They did fine except for one actor inverted a line “hold your horses, don’t be jumping to conclusions” which instead came out “hold your conclusions, don’t be jumping on your horses.”

Goddard spent two years on “General Hospital”. He then reevaluated his life. He was divorced with no girlfriend, his children were drown and had left home, and he had saved no money. He decided to return to college. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Bridgewater State College. He now teachers school in Massachusetts.

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