Wednesday, May 19, 2010

By Terry Kilburn

I first met Raymond in 1951 at the Player's Ring Theater on Santa Monica Blvd. He had recently returned from Europe where he had been working for the Marshall Plan in Paris. He had gone back to USC for his degree and there he had met Al Herwitz (known as Boomie) who was an actor with the Player's Ring Theater; I also acted and directed at there. Raymond used to come to the theater a lot and after some time he started helping out with props and assisting the stage manager.

One day he discovered me sitting in my car, during a break, reading "Obscure Destinies" by Willa Cather, who was one of Raymond's favorite authors. Our enthusiasm for her led us to get the inspiration to write a screenplay together based on one of her most tragic and moving short stories "Neighbor Rosicky." It was to be a starkly realistic "art movie." So, we started work on our project one afternoon at Raymond's house where he was living with his parents. We started off seriously enough, but being young and pretty foolish we little by little began to see the funny side and pretty soon "Neighbor Rosicky" had become a musical with Busby Burkely style dance numbers and lot of flash!! One big number featured neighbor Rosicky driving his horse-drawn cart across a long stretch of the Nebraska plains--on each side of the road giant sunflowers were blooming and as he passed them each flower opened to reveal a platinum blonde chorus girl dancing and crooning in 1930's style. We were ashamed of ourselves, but couldn't stop laughing. So, we realized that we were not cut out to be screenwriters. But, it was the beginning of our friendship and through the years, although there were some rough spots, we continued to laugh--for as you know, Raymond loved to laugh--our friendship which began in 1951, lasted a lifetime. And even in his last hours, we shared laughter. How I miss that laughter.

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