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Jane Merrow October 08
There was a truly historic and thrilling week in the history of the United States in November with the nomination of Barack Obama as the next President of the USA. I feel a special connection as all my immediate family are American and live there and I am proud to have that connection. My Uncle and Grandparents lived there as refugees from Nazi Germany and my Uncle had made a considerable contribution as the first neurosurgeon to take surgery on to the battlefield, the first ‘Mash’ surgeon I guess, in Korea.

I was quite choked up watching Obama’s acceptance speech and felt so proud that America had sufficiently worked its way out of prejudice, to elect a black President. There was a very good film last year ‘Amazing Grace’, about William Wilberforce and his struggle to abolish the slave trade in this country. There is a scene, in which Albert Finney as an ex- captain of a slave trading ship, gives the most heart breaking speech about his shame of his participation of the slave trade. I do not easily cry in films, but I did in this one. Watch it if you can.

America is an extraordinary country and hard to describe, unless you have actually lived there, it is so often a contradiction of itself. The people are generous, enthusiastic and kind to a fault and yet they can be tough, hard-headed and generally very street-wise, more practical and self confident than many English people.

I had a great time working there. I usually played guest starring roles, which attracted great billing and fairly mediocre money. I did two Westerns, “Alias Smith and Jones” having a great time riding around the California desert on a real coyboy horse (dressed as a nun) and a 1900 journalist riding around the New Mexican desert in a Stutz Bearcat.

Appearing in an episode of "The Incredible Hulk", I was rescued from a burning building by the sweet Lou Ferigno, who was in reality deaf and dumb. We were expected to do our own stunts, (up to a point) and on one occasion I found myself wobbling around the rafters of a disused aircraft hangar with Lee Majors in “ The Six Million Dollar Man”. I have vertigo, but he was terrific, an ex stunt man, and very supportive (not literally!) He was a big Television star at the time, married to the gorgeous Farrah Fawcett ( who apparently cooked his dinner every night, so he told me).

I found most of the actors in Hollywood to be professional and generally good news. Very few were "starry" and they remembered where they came from and where they could go to again. There were only a few damaged souls who were still living the ‘dream’ and one was fearful about where and how they would end up.

The rest had their feet well on the ground and respected each other and their craft. Their work ethic was amazing and actors and crew would work uncomplaining from 6am often till the early hours of the next day.
I think I really learned about Hollywood, when my agents stopped escorting me to interviews and left to fend for myself (not a problem, as far as I was concerned) and I found myself going in to an interview with another actress for a commercial. We sat on a couch side by side, in the interview and after giving our names and agents, we had a Poloroid photograph taken of us together, which was carefully cut in half and each half stapled to the sheet of paper with our details. Ah the glamour, the extravagance!

Most casting calls were indeed what we might call cattle calls now. A friend of mine was outraged and stood up and said so when a bored secretary called out the name ‘Sid Charis’. “Do you know who this lady is?” he yelled, one of the most wonderful legends in this town, Cyd Charisse”. The secretary was still unimpressed.

Still this is the reality of the business and the saying goes that you are only as good and remembered as your last job. T’is true, but I still love it. One must not take it or more importantly yourself too seriously.

All content copyright Jane Merrow