|Dan Barton GALACTICA.TV interview|
|Saturday, 05 May 2007|
Mike Egnor caught up with actor Dan Barton, better known to the Battlestar Galactica 1978 fans as the Ducket Taker on the Canaris shuttle, who is charmed by Chameleon (played by Fred Astaire) in the episode "The Man with Nine Lives". Mike talks to Dan about his long career and working with Lorne Greene and Fred Astaire. He also talked about what Dan is currently doing.
Today I am speaking with Dan Barton, who played the Ducket Taker in the episode "The Man with Nine Lives". Mr. Barton, I want to thank you for taking the time for this interview.
It's great to hear your voice again. I was wondering if we could start off by telling us what got you started into acting? Where the bug hit.
Yeah, I accidentally got into radio in Chicago, when Chicago was really the hub of radio. Some of the people who were very active then, as adult actors, were Dom Machee and Les Tremayne, and I began in a program called Skippy, which was a very popular show at the time. I played the character Somerset Mohagan. How they ended up with that name, I have no idea. One of the other kid actors at the time - we were very friendly and working together a lot - was Mel Torme, surprisingly enough.
That was my introduction to the world of entertainment.
Did you go on to have any formal type of training or acting classes to get you on your way?
Yes I did. I went to California and I studied with Max Reinhardt, who was a very well known director from Europe. And I also studied with teachers in Chicago, and got into several groups.
IMDB lists your first TV or movie role as a Hollywood Producer in I'll See You in My Dreams. Is this correct?
Were you nervous?
No. I'll tell you how that happened. I had just arrived in California, and after a two year hitch in a play that was probably the biggest play in America at the time, Mr. Roberts, which was later made into a movie. I began working in television very quickly. My wife and I, [having] newly been married, came out to California to visit our folks, because both of our folks were visiting here. We had every intention of going back to New York, but we found out she was pregnant, after we got to California. We said "Lets give it a shot here." We both started working quite a bit. As a matter of fact, if you remember Leave it to Beaver?
She was Eddie Haskell's mother. She didn't appear that often. I would say there were 20-25 appearances.
I didn't know that.
Yeah, and when she passed away five years ago, the publicity that she received, was all centered around the fact that she had done Leave it to Beaver (laughing) which she would have thought was awful.
And then, I was called in one day with a very strange assignment. Michael Curtiz, one of the great directors, was directing a new picture with Danny Thomas. He was [screen]testing women, and he wanted somebody to do [a reading of] Danny Thomas's role. So I did Danny Thomas' role in the tests. After the first day, he said "You know I've been watching you, and I want you in the picture". That's how I ended up doing I'll See You in My Dreams.
Ok. Let's move on to 1978. Had you heard of the show Battlestar Galactica before you became involved in it?
I'd heard of it, I'd never seen it.
Dan Barton as Ducket Taker on Battlestar Galactica 1978
Ok. How were you approached, or how did you try out for this particular role?
Well, I was doing a lot of television. I did a great deal of television...for a long time playing the young leading man. Work was much easier then than it is today, because most of the shows were anthologies, with different stories every week. So they didn't have a hanging cast, of seven or eight people, with maybe one or two guest people. They had to really start their casting right from the bottom. There were many more roles to go around then there are today. How young people make a living, unless they get very lucky, in television today I have no idea.
Do you remember how the part came about? Did you try out for it? Did your agent get it for you?
I didn't try out. I think probably the casting director called my agent, asked if I was available for it, and that's usually pretty much the way, then, it worked. And then, it just ran out. It was interesting because if you did enough television work, you really weren't auditioning constantly. You were just waiting for calls.
Ok. Were you familiar with any of the other guest actors or regular cast members before you took the part of Battlestar Galactica?
I knew Lorne Greene.
Had you worked with him before?
I had. I had worked with him in a television show. [Playhouse 90 with Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright]
Can you tell us about that, or any anecdotes that you remember about him?
Yeah, I think probably it was before Bonanza, so it was his first show in America. He had been called "The Voice of Doom" as pretty much a reporter, in Canada. When he came here, this play...Playhouse 90 was the first thing he did, I'm quite sure. He said "If you don't mind divulging it to me, I'll tell you how much I make on this show, if you tell me how much you're making". And I said ok. So he told me a figure that was impossible, and I, in turn, made my figure higher than his. So we were both lying to each other. (laughing)
Do you remember [ever] working with Anne Jeffreys, who played the part of "Siress Blassie"?
Not really. That was...In Battlestar Galactica, that was the only time I had ever met her. No, I had never worked with her before. How did she seem? She seemed very nice, she seemed very professional. She seemed very anxious to talk to Fred Astaire all the time.
I can imagine that.
Yeah, it was very interesting, because it was Fred Astaire, it was shot at Universal, and the people who had very high positions, as producers, were all coming down to the set, just to look at the legendary Fred Astaire. Which was very unusual for television times.
So let me ask you this. What experience did you have working with him?
My experience was great. We began talking [and] we knew several people in common, which was a good diving off point. I had mentioned to him, that my kids were both young teenagers, were huge fans of his. And without my knowing it, he went to the assistant director, found out my address, and sent each of them a wonderful photograph, and a nice inscription.
Yeah, that was wonderful.
Did you have any conversations, that you remember anything from after talking to him? Was there anything that stood out?
Yeah, I asked him, I said "Why are you doing this show"? He was Fred Astaire. (laughing). He was doing Battlestar Galactica.
And he said: "Because, it's my grandchildren's favorite show".
Which I thought was a pretty good answer.
It is. Let me move on, the director for that show was Rod Holcomb. Do you remember what it was like to work for him, or how his directing techniques were?
If I remember Rod, because I had done a couple of things for him, he was very definitive in his directions. He didn't do too many takes, and he was very quick, and I think at one time he had been an actor. So he was really used to the conversation that an actor has to receive in order to have an idea come across to him.
Did he explain to you anything about what type of personality you were supposed to have, how you were supposed to act, any background?
Not really, this was a long time ago. I don't remember the specifics, but it seems to me that you would run through it, and the director, in this case Rod, would make suggestions or the actor would make suggestions, and you'd go from there.
Ok. In this episode, you have on this odd looking, yellow outfit with red trim and red patch. To me it either looked like pajamas or a rainsuit. Do you know who designed it?
I don't know who designed it. I remember that I had to go to Western Costume, which is a very large costuming company, which is still in service. They handed it to me, they had me stand up on a podium and they made adjustments so it fit me.
Do you know how long before you started shooting that you went for this fitting?
Yeah, probably about two or three days.
Dan Barton as Ducket Taker, Fred Astaire as Chameleon and Anne Jeffreys as Siress Blassie
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