Ray Didsbury and Richard Basehart confer on script.
     The 104 Voyages  of Ray
   SSRN Seaview
                          By Michael Bailey  Copyright 2001

     The October 2000/January 2001 issue of FILMFAX featured an article by Mark Phillips focusing on Hollywood veteran Ray Didsbury's stint aboard submarine Seaview.  During the four-year run of Irwin Allen's TV version of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Didsbury served as stand-in for star Richard Basehart, and later as dialogue coach.  As an extra, he appeared in over 100 episodes of the series.
     After reading the FILMFAX article, I was lucky enough to network through (God bless the Internet) to Mr. Didsbury.

     What follows was compiled from a series of interviews conducted early this year.  The FILMFAX article had not directly addressed how he had come to work in the film industry in the first place, so we got into that, and the story unfolded from there.

     "Well, you asked for it. I was discharged from the Navy in 1952 and went to live in New York City.  My place of birth is Connecticut.  During the time I lived in New York City, I decided that I wanted to become an actor, took classes, starved, auditioned, worked temp jobs and all of the usual things a starving actor does.  I couldn't get arrested or cut the mustard, so I gave up the idea and started modeling.  That too was short lived, since just at that point in time pretty boy types like me were on the way out, and models with craggy faces and lots of character were in.

     "I moved to Santa Monica, California in 1961, and a friend of mine who was a free-lance writer came to town to do an article on Richard Chamberlin (then TV's popular Dr. Kildare).  Kildare was shot at MGM, and my free-lance writer friend took me there and then the next day to 20th Century Fox to interview Gardner McKay, who was having his fifteen minutes of fame with Adventures in Paradise.  It was while visiting with him on the set at 20th that I was discovered by a studio talent scout named Pamela Danova.  She had me come to her office, and when I got there she was busy with a young actress.  She asked the actress to wait in the outer office while we talked and she assigned me a scene to prepare for a live test (not a screen test, that would have been far too expensive) and I left.

     "By the way, that young actress was Ann-Margaret, who was just getting started in the business.  As I said, this was eons ago. In any case, I just wasn't that good, and consequently I didn't get signed to the proverbial seven-year contract.  Funny how things work out.  At the time, I was devastated, but looking back on it, the clouds had a silver lining.  For the time being, I went out and got a job at Dunn & Bradstreet.


Ray Didsbury modeling shot, Flaire Agy., New York

Ray Didsbury,
Flaire Agency,
prior to move
from NYC.

     "Shortly after that, I rented an apartment in Hollywood, and across the hall from my apartment lived a single mother of three.  She worked at anything that would allow her to raise and feed her children.  I sometimes babysat for her after she landed a spot as the weather girl on a local TV channel.  Over coffee one day, she said, why don't you become an extra in the business?  She knew that I was extremely unhappy with my job as a mercantile credit salesman with Dunn & Bradstreet.

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            "I didn't know what to think.  I'd seen her phoning in daily for work and saw how much rejection was involved, which I didn't think I could handle.  Also, I was 31 years old, and in those days it was legal to discriminate against age; Central Casting was not accepting anyone over 25.  But she eventually pulled some strings with friends, and I lied a bit about my age (I could pass for 25 at the time, and with all humility, I don't look 71 today).  Anyway, I was accepted, but I did very poorly those first few months because it's important to be known, which I wasn't.  Central Casting had their favorites.  Assistant directors usually requested extras that they knew they could depend on, extras being held in very low esteem.  I noticed that the stand-ins worked steady, had the ear of the assistant director and could be helpful to new extras.  I got a few jobs through that route, and one was as an extra here in Palm Springs on a Richard Basehart movie called The Satan Bug which was filmed in early spring, 1964.  I was more or less offered a brass ring, caught it and held on tightly. The rest is history."

          Didsbury's work as an extra on The Satan Bug was originally to have lasted just three days.  This was extended when the assistant director [AD] asked if he would stay on as Richard Basehart's stand-in.  "Extras did not like to stand in.  When an AD would ask extras to do so, most would do it for perhaps one set up and then disappear, or they'd intentionally do a bad job, all to ensure never being called on again.  When asked to do it just for that day, I jumped in with both feet."  As a result, Didsbury was asked to stay for the rest of the indoor shoot at Goldwyn Studios long after the other extras had been sent back to L.A.  It was during this filming that he became friendly with Basehart, and that friendship would soon unlock the door to steady employment on Voyage.

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Ray Didsbury and series star
David Hedison caught check-
ing over a Voyage script.
   Work proceeded on The Satan Bug, and one day Didsbury noticed an item in a trade journal about a new series picked up by ABC that was to feature Richard Basehart in one of the leading roles.  He broached the subject with Basehart and expressed interest in helping out with stand-in chores.  It wasn't long before he landed the position.  Shooting on Voyage began a few months thereafter, and his diligence and hard work eventually led to more responsibilities.

     On the one hand, Didsbury notes, "At the time, (Voyage) was just a money cow ."  On the other hand, he admits, " . . . when we started Voyage I had only been in the business (not too successfully) for about one year and knew very little about filmmaking.  So every day was a wonderful learning process, and since I was [on the set] identified with the star I was treated a bit differently."

     From the start, Didsbury took his work seriously, and was always willing to tackle anything new that came along.  But it wasn't Voyage producer Irwin Allen who initially expanded Didsbury's role in the ongoing production.  "Irwin's only interest in me was my voice and as a liaison to Richard [Basehart]. He did not give me the added responsibility--it came from Joe DeAgosta who was in casting at the time, and from the on-set assistant directors. A.D. Jack Stubbs allowed me lots of leeway as far as "gaffing" the background extras as well as positioning myself in the scenes."

     It was Irwin Allen's interest in Didsbury's voice that led to his earning additional exposure and income from Voyage doing voice-overs.  "We had a female script supervisor and Irwin could not stand hearing her voice in dailies even though she was a relative.  He did not like her voice and told the assistant director to do it.  The AD did not want to be bothered, plus when a scene is being shot he has other things to be responsible for.  I got tapped by Jack Stubbs, our AD, and the powers liked what they heard in dailies.  Later, along came the job of Dialogue Coach, and once again it was mine."

bluebul.gif - 266 BytesGo to Ray Didsbury, Page 2 for info on Richard Basehart
and the rest of the Voyage cast.

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