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by Craig Reid


Henry Sharp wrote some of the best episodes of THE WILD, WILD WEST and was the only writer to survive all four seasons and work with all the major producers. At the time Michael Garrison approached him to write a script he was already involved in TV but was mostly as a commercial artist where he could take his ideas and sketch out the gimmicks and give them to the construction department. After creating some of the first's season most memorable shows, such as his first script "TNot Assassin" (for Freiberger), "TNot Puppeteer" (for Mantley) and "TNot Druid's Blood" (for Coon), when Bruce Lansbury took over the reins, he made Sharp story editor.

Sharp relates, "The show had obviously been running a while before I came on as story editor and I think by working with so many of the different producers, I knew the show better than anybody else. But off all the ones I did, my favorite one has to be "Puppeteer." The actor who played the puppet master (Lloyd Bochner) was great and the idea of the big switch at the end was beautiful. Of course the fight scene with Bob earlier on against the puppets, a caveman and joker were also marvelous. And then when he realizes that someone else is in charge and he makes his way to this wonderfully constructed stairway to the tip of the spider's web, so to speak, where our friend was pulling the wires that controlled the controller. It was a good show and actually quite colorful and it's a pity that the audience will never get to see that. And that final scene where they are racing for the door with the onrushing ocean behind them was an effective shot."

The stock footage they used for the gigantic blasting ocean shot was the same one used in the fourth season's "TNot Kraken." In his second written episode, "TNot Howling Light," we are introduced to a Dr. Arcularis who use Pavlov's newly discovered conditioned response experiment on humans to modify there behavior to do what he wants when there is a bright light or bell rung. A Dr. Occularis uses Sharp's mind controlling technique in season four's "TNot Winged Terror." DP Photography Ted Voigtlander received an Emmy Award nomination for "Howling Light." Sharp also makes a poignant statement on the plight of the Indians and their eventual ousting to small reservations.

As a writer, Sharp admits that he was heavily influenced by the English play "The Inspector Calls" stating, "It had a certain aura about it that I have never forgotten. It has a wonderful blend of the unexplainable, inexplicable and it's a show involving a group of people and how they destroy one another on their way to the truth and at the end you're still not quite sure who was the madman. Take my Count Manzeppi episode ("TNot Feathery Fury"), it has a lot of science fiction in it but he's so wonderfully blasé and a good example of the play. It's also one of my favorite episodes. What stands out in that show is when he says "lights" and the light just flared up in is domain. I forget where it was but it was wonderful in that period of time for the light to respond to his order and flair up and illuminate the whole place. I also just love that mystic quality about it."

After writing "TNot Druid's Blood" for Gene Coon, a story that spoke of spontaneous combustion and an evil scientist's method of keeping brains alive in an aqueous solution and using that brain's intelligence for his own purposes, he next wrote "TNot Golden Cobra" which starred Boris Karloff and saw West use the "Corbomite Maneuver." Sharp reflects on Karloff, Conrad and Martin. "Karloff hated kids but I loved this guy. He played a sultan in the United States. Wonderful guy.

"Ross was eager to try something new and would measure up to whatever was written for his new characterization. Bob didn't want to do that, Bob felt that this show was as he put it, "his (Martin's) accent box" and he wanted to do it just the way he had always done it, with fighting and kicking.

"I must tell you parenthetically. When CBS called us in, there was a big to do about an exaggerated degree of violence in all the shows and so we all thought what can we do about it. For my part it's possible to devise scenes that are not so much violence as a clever way of getting around and defeating the villain facing you. Bob didn't like giving up his fight scenes and thought this is what he did well and wanted to continue doing it. But as much as possible I tried to devise methods and shticks where he could defeat odds against him not with his fists but with clever ways of undermining the opposition. I write the action scenes and Bob would want to extend them. It was his show and you didn't argue with him because he was happy with his stunt team and they're always together and they would always work on bits to stick into the show."

In the second season he wrote a great script for Ricardo Montalban to play a wheelchair ridden anti-villain who had the power to use his mind to transport people through time warps. Regarding the origins of "TNot Lord of Limbo" Sharp relates, "There has always been a ferment of ideas that I've always been playing around with that could do well on the show. I was amazed that Garrison gave me the go ahead for that one because it involved science fiction of the highest order, H.G. Wells and time travel. Artemus and West had a dueling scene in an earlier era and it worked well. Ross did his own fencing. He had immaculate acting credentials that Bob with all his abilities didn't have. But that was okay because Bob did what he did best and Ross was capable of chameleon changes.

"But you know with the character for Ricardo, it's an absolute necessity to create characters you care for, doesn't mean you like them though, but it's a quality we try to infuse into the show. Just like for my Loveless story ("The Night Loveless Died") and the one show he did where he errected a knight and he operated that and in this way he was on more even terms or actually had the advantage so he could now finally engage in hand to hand combat with West ("TNot Murderous Spring"). It was his way of saying "I want to kill him but to kill him on equal terms. You can respect that in him even if he is bad.""

In the final season, Sharp wrote 2 scripts, one "TNot Gruesome Games" which guest starred William Schallert who would later appear a replacement for Martin during his illness and the other, "TNot Avaricious Actuary" where West and Gordon tackle a villain who has invented a giant destructive tuning fork. One of his great lines in that episode sums up the Secret Service in a nutshell. West and Gordon charge into a rich man's home who yells, "What the devil?" Gordon politely replies, "No, Secret Service."

Sharp recalls watching his episodes as well as the shows, "I watched each show with a great deal of pain because I felt they were directed badly. They weren't the best directors (33 different ones) and it seemed most were obsessed with getting things done under budget and fast, so it suffered. I don't think a lot of them quite read the script and were amazed they didn't quit know what they knew it was about. Directors are always thinking of their next assignment. On occasion when I watched the show in progress I'd walk out of the screening room not understanding what was going on."

Sharp's fondest memories of the show? "What was really delightful about the show though was that Garrison said to do what I wanted and he'd say, "Make my show the best in the world." He wasn't happy with the way the show was going which is why he had me come in. It was the custom when I was story editor to write as many as I could but I really didn't have time, but I tried to rewrite a lot of the episodes not because the material was bad but just to give the show a consistent quality. If I had any suggestions for casting it was a done deal. It wasn't my job to be a producer but he would listen to new ideas and was delighted with changes that gave the show color. I don't think he was well liked by CBS. He had this battle with them all the time but in spite of it, he had a good show going for himself."

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