TV has a psychic nanny now on “Nanny & the Professor” (article from 1970)
by Edgar Penton, Hollywood
“What’s a ‘nanny’?”‘
To find out, tune in ABC’s new Wednesday nighter, a half-hour comedy, starring British actress Juliet Mills in her first video series, and Richard Long, costar in ABC’s “The Big Valley” for four seasons.
“This series provides, we feel, a distinct appeal in two directions, with children relishing the idea that Nanny can talk to animals, and older members of the audience following the line of her employer, Professor Everett, a ‘Come on, Nanny,’ pragmatist when she is up to something.” So says Charles B. FitzSimons, producer of the show.
Indicating that Phoebe Figalilly, or Nanny, as she is better known, bears no relationship to Mary Poppins, Samantha, Dr. Dolittle or any other character, FitzSimons says: “Nanny is psychic. She cannot do magic. She cannot fly. Ours is not a witch, but a flesh-and-blood woman, a very sensitive lady. She plays her role for the fun of it, and there’s a lot of put-on involved.
“If you want to search for an explanation of Nanny’s ability, there are many. We will sometimes explain, sometimes not, how her psychic powers work.”
From the moment that Nanny, young and lovely, breezes in, unannounced from Britain to take charge of Prof. Harold Everett’s three motherless children, life is charmingly unpredictable.
The question: Does she really converse with pets, read minds and cause convenient little happenings?
Juliet, daughter of actor John Mills and playwright-novelist Mary Hayley Bell, and elder sister of actress Hayley Mills, is delighted with, as well as delightful as, Nanny.
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SHE HAD TURNED DOWN THREE SERIES
“This is fun,” she smiled, “something that one can see oneself doing for a long time, because it is not one-dimensional. It is gay and offers a lot of possibilities. The series offers a wonderful opportunity.”
Adding that she wouldn’t do just any series, and had turned down three prior to “Nanny and the Professor,” she said, “They don’t write very good parts for women in series with a few exceptions like ‘Bewitched.’ This is very well-written and should have great appeal.”
Although Juliet made her motion picture debut at the age of eleven weeks in “In Which We Serve” with her father, and her stage debut at 14 in “Alice Through the Looking Glass” at London’s Chelsea Palace, her first ambition was to become a ballet dancer.
She attended ballet boarding school from age 9 to 16, when she was cast in the play “Five Finger Exercise” directed by Sir John Gielgud. After 18 months in London, Juliet continued in the role for nine months on Broadway.
HER DAD URGED HER INTO ROLE
When David Gerber, executive producer, flew to London to sign Juliet, she wasn’t too sure about uprooting herself and son Sean, 5-1/2, for an indefinite stay in the United States.
She says that her father helped to convince her that it would be good for her career. “He told me, ‘Grit your teeth and smile all the way to the bank.'”
THIS IS LONG’S FIRST COMEDY SERIES
Juliet termed Richard Long “excellent” in his starring role of Everett, a university professor of mathematics and related sciences. “We have a very ‘good professional relationship,” she said, “and he has a nice, wry humor as Everett.”
Her series charges, David Doremus, 12, as Hal; Trent Lehman, 8-1/2, as Butch; and Kim Richards, 5 going on 6, as Prudence, she termed “very good.”
Although Richard Long has proved adept at comedy heretofore, “Nanny and the Professor” is his first comedy series.
“It’s an interesting combination of magic and logic, of fantasy and reality,” said Long, who enjoys the fact that his alter ego is king of his castle, even if things do happen according to Nanny’s psychic whims.
Long, a native of Chicago, had no intention of becoming an actor when he enrolled in the senior drama class as a student at Hollywood High School.
“I signed up because it was a snap course, and I needed the credit for my senior English requirement. Acting seemed a lot easier to me than writing compositions,” he recalled.
After a typical day of coping good-naturedly with his three series offspring, Long goes home to Encino to his actress-wife Mara Corday and his own three youngsters. They are Carey, 12; Valerie, 11, and Gregory, 9.
“At least,” he commented, “here on the set all my problems of fatherhood are neatly resolved by the script or with the word ‘cut.’ At home, I get involved in three rounds of homework and problems of every kind. And there is no such word as ‘cut’ that works there.”
SHOW’S CHILDREN DRAW PRAISE
Pamela Danova, working as a dialogue coach on a television series. for the first time is enjoying being with children again.
Referring to David, Trent and Kim, she said, “Each one has a unique little personality and that should not be changed. They are extremely intelligent, sparkling, unspoiled children and have become like brothers and sister.
“They don’t seem to have any envy, and that is also true of their mothers. All of them are pulling for the show.”