Jump to: navigation, search

Herald Tribune (10/Apr/2008) - Who Norman Lloyd is, and more

(c) Herald Tribune (10/Apr/2008)

Who Norman Lloyd is, and more

Film fans may best remember Norman Lloyd falling off the Statue of Liberty in Alfred Hitchcock's film "Saboteur."

Younger audiences will recognize his face and distinctive voice from his 2005 role opposite Cameron Diaz in "In Her Shoes." And even more will know him as the kindhearted and sometimes crusty Dr. Auschlander from the 1980s medical series "St. Elsewhere."

If Norman Lloyd's name isn't as familiar as Gregory Peck or Henry Fonda, then you can understand why a new documentary about him is called "Who Is Norman Lloyd?"

He wasn't crazy about the title at first.

"Initially, it concerned me. Now it doesn't. It's like other things that trouble you, eventually you get used to them," the actor, director and producer said in a telephone interview from his California home. He was concerned that the film might make it look like he was "an unknown who was posturing, but they had a different view of it, which is that I should have been better known and an actor always says 'Yes' to that."

As 93, Lloyd is still active and looking for new projects to produce. He is realistic about the demands of directing.

"You have to be up at 5 in the morning and you're still going at midnight with preparation, looking at dailies, and you have to have strong legs," he said.

Besides, all those hours cut into his tennis game, which he plays several times a week. Two years ago, at 91, he won the Directors Guild's doubles tournament. "Last year, I was runner-up, but I don't count that because they brought in a ringer to play opposite me."

Lloyd was born in Jersey City and grew up in New York City. When the acting bug bit, he took elocution and voice lessons to join Eva LaGalliene's classical theater company.

He learned his lessons so well that many people think he is British. "If I go to England, they know I'm not an Englishman, but most Americans think I'm English," he said.

His career touches almost the entire history of the film business. He worked with Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles in his Mercury Theatre and French director Jean Renoir. He also enjoyed a long association with Alfred Hitchcock as actor, director and producer.

"I am proud to say that the easiest work I ever did in this business was with these men," he said. "You knew you were working with an artist."

But he holds a special place for Hitchcock because he helped to rescue Lloyd from the blacklists that destroyed many careers in the 1950s.

The film glosses over that time, but the blacklist "put me out of work for seven years. What I term the 'grey list' became known as the blacklist."

He discovered he was a target when John Houseman tried unsuccessfully to cast him in a film of "Julius Caesar." He returned to the theater, directed and acted in a few plays.

But it was Hitchcock who got him back working in television on his hit show "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and a spin-off series they called "Suspicion."

Lloyd was later told by an agent that when his name was presented to the networks, they said no. "But when Hitch found out, he just said, 'I want him,' and that was it, and I went to work. He had that kind of power."

Lloyd said he can't think of any particular role he took or didn't take that might have led him to be better known.

But he is happy to be recognized from his years on "St. Elsewhere."

"I think it is one of the best series ever done about anything. The writing, which in my view was the star of the show, was superb. The subject matter, not only the dramatic aspect of it, but the surrealistic quality of it, was extraordinary, and we had a superb cast."

The series, which ran from 1982 to 1988, helped to make stars of many of its cast members, including Denzel Washington, Howie Mandel, Alfre Woodard and Mark Harmon.

"It was one of the very finest experiences that I've had," Lloyd said.