30 December 2003 | cariart
Drama "with a Gimmick" Showcased Ben Gazzara...
"Run for Your Life" was one of those shows that Johnny Carson loved to joke about, back in the sixties; with the premise that a wealthy 30-ish lawyer had a fatal disease with only one or two years left to live, when the show entered it's third season, did this mean the specialists were quacks, or that the hero's globe-trotting adventures invoke some 'miracle cure'?
The joking aside, the series' novel premise gave star Ben Gazzara an opportunity to display his well-respected dramatic skills (he'd created the role of Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway, and, with Peter Falk, would make a major impact in John Cassavetes' innovative films of the sixties and seventies), and turn the routine plots into often engrossing character studies.
There could never be a truly 'happy' end to any episode; even when 'Paul Bryan' resolved the issues raised in a show, he could never enjoy the 'fruits' of his endeavors, or even promise to return to the people whose lives he'd changed. If he fell in love (which, naturally, happened), he had to either deny it, or pass the reciprocated love to someone else (unless the girl herself died), so 'bittersweet' was the best term to describe the show, a quality similar to "The Fugitive", as well.
As NBC required 'action' in their series, "Run for Your Life" had Bryan often "in harm's way", and each time he was treated by a doctor or hospital, there was the added tension of whether his exertions might accelerate his disease. Gazzara's Bryan was not trying to commit suicide, but was trying to live his remaining time to the fullest, so his anguish when facing risks had a very 'real' basis, and gave Gazzara some of his best series' moments.
Despite the 'backlot' feel of the 'international' locales (the show never went on location), and the casting of the same actors who appeared in many other Universal-produced series of the period, veteran producer Roy Huggins tried to keep each episode fresh and original, through the use of stock footage, music, and clever editing.
"Run for Your Life" was not a 'great' series, but was unconventional for it's time, and, as a showcase for Ben Gazzara, was definitely worth watching.