Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore Set to Star in 'The Gin Game' for Kcet/Hollywood's "PBS Hollywood Presents"
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - July 26, 2002 - Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore will star in "The Gin Game" for KCET/Hollywood's acclaimed drama series PBS HOLLYWOOD PRESENTS. Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of PBS, made the announcement today at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena. Arvin Brown (Just Ask My Children, The Inspector General) will direct the drama, which begins production July 29 at the KCET Studios in Hollywood.
Produced by KCET/Hollywood in association with Executive Producer Ted Hartley, chairman and CEO of RKO Pictures, Inc., and Emmy Award-winning Executive Producer Ellen M. Krass. "The Gin Game" reunites Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore in their first acting performance together since "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-66), the classic comedy series for which both stars earned multiple Emmys.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by D.L. Coburn, who will adapt his work for television, "The Gin Game" is a powerfully bittersweet comedy, focusing on the relationship that develops between nursing home residents Fonsia Dorsey (Moore) and Weller Martin (Van Dyke) during a series of gin rummy games. Though Weller is the much more seasoned player, Fonsia consistently beats him and the more they play, the more frustrated Weller becomes. As the games progress, their ailments, misfortunes and losses are exposed in funny, honest and increasingly heated moments. What begins as a tentative friendship quickly turns into a battle of wills, but their need for companionship keeps the game going until all their cards are laid on the table.
"This is a significant event in television history," said Ms. Mitchell. "Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore are two of America's most beloved television icons and we are thrilled to reunite them in a production that will showcase their legendary chemistry in ways we've never seen before."
"'The Gin Game' is a superbly crafted play about winning and losing - about friendship, loneliness and loss," said Mary Mazur, executive producer of PBS HOLLYWOOD PRESENTS. "Dick and Mary are masters at both comedy and drama, which makes them the perfect pair for this production."
Dick Van Dyke was tapped to star in The Dick Van Dyke Show following his Tony Award-winning performance on Broadway in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, which he reprised in the hit movie. During the series' five seasons on the air, he earned three Emmy Awards for his role as TV comedy writer Rob Petrie, one of the most cherished characters in television history. He went on to star in such feature films as Mary Poppins, Divorce American Style, Fitzwilly, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Comic before returning to series television in The New Dick Van Dyke Show and the subsequent Van Dyke and Company, for which he received his fourth Emmy Award. Van Dyke's critically acclaimed and Emmy-nominated dramatic performance in The Morning After was followed by roles in a number of other television movies, including Drop-Out Father, Found Money and Ghost of a Chance. In 1990, Warren Beatty cast Van Dyke against type as the corrupt district attorney in Dick Tracy. In 1992, he starred as doctor-sleuth Mark Sloan in the TV movie The House on Sycamore Street, which launched the successful weekly CBS drama Diagnosis: Murder in 1993. The series, which also starred Van Dyke's son Barry, was a favorite on CBS for eight seasons and served as the basis for this year's CBS movies Town Without Pity and Without Warning.
Mary Tyler Moore rose to stardom as Laura Petrie, Dick Van Dyke's on-screen wife and perfect foil, in The Dick Van Dyke Show. Awarded two Emmys and a Golden Globe for her work in the classic sitcom, she went on to star as single career woman Mary Richards in her own groundbreaking comedy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, earning four additional Emmy Awards and another Golden Globe during the series' seven-year run. A string of acclaimed dramatic roles followed, beginning with Moore's Emmy-nominated performance in the television movie First You Cry. She received a special Tony Award for her Broadway debut in Whose Life Is It Anyway? and earned an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for her performance in Robert Redford's film Ordinary People. Moore was Emmy-nominated for her portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln in the NBC miniseries Gore Vidal's Lincoln, won an Emmy for her performance in Lifetime's Stolen Babies, and has earned critical praise for her work in such television movies as Heartsounds, Finnegan Begin Again, Stolen Memories: Secrets from the Rose Garden and Like Mother, Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny Kimes, which she also executive produced. Her many additional credits include the series Mary, Annie McGuire and New York News, and the feature film comedy Flirting with Disaster.
Executive producer Ellen M. Krass was one of the original executive producers of the AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE production of "The Gin Game," which aired on PBS in 1981. Starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, who starred in the production initially staged on Broadway by Mike Nichols, this first televised version was directed by Terry Hughes and taped in front of a live theatre audience in London. "The Gin Game" ran on Broadway for more than 500 performances, earned four Tony nominations, in addition to the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and subsequently toured the country with its original cast of Cronyn and Tandy. The 1997 National Actors Theatre revival of the play, which starred Charles Durning and Julie Harris, ran for 20 weeks on Broadway, received four Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations including Best Revival, and completed a 30-city tour across the United States. Ms. Krass's last production for PBS, Sweeney Todd In Concert, was recently nominated for a 2001 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Classical Music-Dance Program.
"The Gin Game" will be shot in high definition at the KCET Studios in Hollywood and is expected to air on PBS during the first quarter of 2003.
PBS HOLLYWOOD PRESENTS features top actors and behind-the-scenes talent in original teleplays and is part of PBS' ongoing American drama initiative. The series premiered in April 2001 with the critically acclaimed production of The Old Settler, starring Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen. Its second offering, Collected Stories, starring Linda Lavin and Samantha Mathis, aired on PBS in January 2002 and also earned rave reviews. The third production, Michael Frayn's Tony Award-winning drama Copenhagen, starring Stephen Rea, Francesca Annis and Daniel Craig, will premiere on PBS Sunday, September 29, 9:00-11:00 p.m. (Check local listings.) Mary Mazur, senior vice president of programming and production for KCET, is the series executive producer. Karen Hunte is the series producer.
Major funding for PBS HOLLYWOOD PRESENTS is provided by PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Ahmanson Foundation. Additional funding comes from the Michael J. Connell Foundation and Lovelace Family Trust.
PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. Serving over 100 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the Internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at PBS.org, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet.
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Leah Krantzler, The Lippin Group/LA
Michael DiPasquale, Unit Publicist
Philip DeGirolamo, KCET