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Boston Globe (28/Jul/1985) - Norman Lloyd, a survivor



Norman Lloyd, a survivor


Norman Lloyd, as the dying Dr. Auschlander on "St. Elsewhere," is playing what may be the most extended farewell performance on television.

Auschlander has been preparing to die since the series made its debut on NBC in 1982.

"I was hired to be in only the first four shows," Lloyd says. "Butsomehow the character caught on. He was suffering from cancer of the liver in the first show. The joke around the show is that he's got the longest remission in history. I was supposed to die in the fourth show.

"His illness has interested the public. I get a lot of mail from people who have a terminal illness or whose relatives do. It's like they're reaching out for an Auschlander."

That Auschlander should survive so long on "St. Elsewhere" is not surprising. The show is unpredictable. Unlike on other medical shows, the doctors are cranky and sometimes incompetent. The nurses went on strike.

"St. Elsewhere" is more in the tradition of "The Defenders" — with a little theater of the absurd thrown in. It's realistic, hard-edged, chaotic and darkly humorous.

The show takes place in a somewhat run-down Boston teaching hospital called St. Eligius, but which everyone calls St. Elsewhere.

The past season ended with Dr. Westphall (Ed Flanders) quitting the hospital. When the fall season opens he will be back with a vengeance after a summer spent working in Africa.

"He comes back determined to clean up the hospital and make everyone toe the line," Lloyd says. "His relationship with Auschlander will change. They've had a marvelous relationship. He's downright rude to Auschlander. But it's fascinating to see where it will go."

"St. Elsewhere" has never been big in the ratings, but it does have a loyal following. It has taken its viewers through some interesting areas. A critically ill child was refused treatment on a liver dialysis machine because a neighboring hospital feared she would die and cost them their grant. Dr. Craig (William Daniels) killed a patient through a surgical error.

The series is the first for Lloyd, but he played a major behind-the-cameras role in two other memorable series. He produced "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Hollywood Television Theatre" on PBS. He also produced movies, directed the Abraham Lincoln segments for the original "Omnibus" series and produced part of "The Name of the Game."

His association with Alfred Hitchcock goes back to 1942, when he played the title role in "Saboteur." Prior to that he helped Orson Welles and John Houseman found the Mercury Theater.

In "Saboteur," Robert Cummings chases Lloyd across the country for one of Hitchcock's most stunning climaxes. It ends at the Statue of Liberty.

"I think the Statue of Liberty sequence is more ingenious and more dramatic cinematically than the Mount Rushmore sequence in 'North By Northwest,"' he says. "I fell from the torch from a closeup to the base of the statue without a cut. It was one shot."

Lloyd also appeared in Hitchcock's "Spellbound" in 1945.

Despite an accent that sounds slightly English, Lloyd grew up in New Jersey. He says he had a "deze, dem and doze" accent that he had to shed to find work in the theater.

He spent eight years working with Hitchcock on the television series in the 1950s and 1960s. He began as an associate producer under producer Joan Harrison. He eventually became executive producer with four producers working under him.

"Hitchcock actually had a contract with NBC as an actor because he introduced every show," Lloyd says. "Those shows made him more famous than all his movies."

Lloyd's Hollywood Television Theater was one of the best dramatic anthologies during the late 1960s and early 1970s. But one show also got Lloyd into hot water.

That was "Steambath," in which God was a Puerto Rican towel attendant at a Turkish steam bath. There was some nudity.

"At the time, 254 PBS stations were carrying the series," says Lloyd, "but only 28 played 'Steambath.' I was immediately persona non grata at the PBS convention in Washington that year.

"But the other stations eventually played it. The reason was they found that those stations that aired it around fund-raising time got more money. So they all began to play it. Thus went their high moral objections."