14 October 2005 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Laconic? Yes. Iconic? No.
I saw three episodes of 'The Family Holvak' in 1976, at an industry screening in London, when a Yank television producer was trying to sell the U.K. syndication rights to this series. I disliked it even before I saw it, because I was put off by that pretentious inversion in the title. Why do these characters have to be 'the family Holvak'? Why can't they be 'the Holvak family'? Maybe someone thought it sounded too much like the Addams family.
The usually reliable Glenn Ford plays Tom Holvak, a jackleg preacher in Depression-era Tennessee. He's trying to make a go of it as a farmer and as a man of the cloth, abetted by his wife and two children. We get the usual sub-'Waltons' bathos about earnest down-home country folk.
I well and truly dislike TV programmes in which the recurring cast members have the same forenames as the actors who play them, as this is usually a warning that the series is going to cater for the actor's self-indulgence at the expense of quality. In 'The Family Holvak', the main character has a wife and daughter named Julie and Elizabeth, played by actresses named Julie and Elizabeth. The catch is that the character named Elizabeth is played by the actress cried Julie, and vice versa. Elizabeth Cheshire, the child actress who plays Holvak's young daughter, was quite good in the three episodes I saw, and I regret that she never had a better acting career. As for Lance Kerwin's performance as Holvak's son ... the less said, the better.
I didn't save the press kit that I received at this screening, but I recall some of the material in it. There was a quote from Glenn Ford, apparently genuine, in which he stated that he refused to speak any piece of dialogue that ran more than four lines on the page. In standard television script format, four lines would be about 20 words of dialogue. I did notice that Ford's character in this series -- and elsewhere -- is indeed taciturn and laconic, but he never quite brings it to Gary Cooper proportions ... and indeed, in his film career, Ford never achieved the iconic level of Cooper or Gable or Bogart. There's one great movie actor named Ford, but his forename is Harrison. 'The Family Holvak' didn't much impress me.