Louise Lasser on the phone as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Calling for Help
On a Land Line
by Jamie Jobb
This is the caption for a video that runs here
on The Internet Archive, the library of the Internet.
(the scene runs eight minutes, 17 seconds)
"Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" was a broadcasting breakthrough created by Norman Lear and his team in the 1970s for a late night network that snubbed the three-network rule of the time. Lear's "network" had only one show, five nights a week for 30 minutes each night.
Lear relied on word-of-mouth to create an audience that understood the sensational absurdly satiric sendup of daytime soap operas. But the show wasn't always funny as it played out slowly through each scene. Some scenes were brutally futile fare for the tame late-night home entertainment of this time before VCRs and HBO.
Louise Lasser played Mary Hartman and her reputation as Woody Allen's costar and soulmate helped build a loyal audience. But what propelled the word-of-mouth were the ridiculous story lines.
Woeful as Mary's plight seems as presented in this scene, it fails to account for further woes involving her neighborhood teenaged mass murder, slaughtered goats and chickens, getting tied up with a cop in a Chinese laundry, overtures to open marriage and S.T.E.T., getting the brushoff from the Lackawanda Institute and an eight-year-old evangelist, not to mention Coach Fedders and the chicken soup!
No ... Mary's troubles are so overflowing she barely knows where to begin seeking help. Fortunately, Mary had a land line in her kitchen which connects her to the Help Line Lady.
Veteran tv actor Beverly Sanders plays the Help Line Lady in this scene. Sanders was born in Hollywood and destined for a long career as a tv actor herself. This is a nice scene for young actors to study, if only for clues of comic timing.
Also note each actor is acting without another actor present in her shot, so it's a different kind of "listening"
... For further research, see Sanford Meisner: http://hhsdrama.com/documents/07WebSanfordMeisneronActing.pdf
This episode, No. 106, aired on 31 May 1976.