The Tarrytown Diaries of Professor Stokes




Saturday opened with breakfast in the Hudson ballroom, after which we spent two more hours crowded outside the grand ballroom and in the dealers’ area until the doors opened.  The first guest of the morning was Roger Davis, who had finally arrived in Tarrytown.

Addison Powell as Dr. Lang

Addison Powell as Dr. Lang

I was surprised that he didn’t show us the infomercial for his housing development that he had presented at the Festival.  Instead, he very cheerfully greeted us and began to share a few of his memories from DS.  One of the first things Roger mentioned was working with Addison Powell as Jeff Clark and Dr. Lang.  "He could never remember his lines, so he used to tape them around the set and on me. He’d say, ‘Stand right there and don’t cross your arms.’  (If he did it, it would cover the cheat sheet.)  So of course I would purposely cover the line and put him on the spot.  ‘Now, as you know, Dr. Lang…and as you were saying…Explain it to me again, Dr. Lang.’  All the while, he was pulling at my hand, trying to move it so he could see his lines.  I was a real cut up on the set. 

Loosing One's Head

I remember the scene where I played Charles Delaware Tate and my head fell off.  I couldn’t stop laughing, and they had to stop the tape."  Roger told how he’d never been able to keep a straight face even in his early days of acting.  "At Columbia, we performed Edward II with Don Briscoe playing Edward."  Roger played a knight who was to present Edward (Briscoe) with a severed head.  "In the middle of my line, I burst out laughing because I knew it was really just a cabbage in a sack that I was offering him."  Roger also brought up the DS Sciography that was screened at the last Festival, stating that "it was all in fun" and implying that everybody had taken it too seriously. Soon, Roger appealed to the audience for questions.


Roger Davis


One of the ladies in the audience begged him to do the voice over for the Leggs stockings commercial, claiming that it was what she had lived to hear during its original run.  Roger attempted the voice over several times but none of the microphones would cooperate with him. However, this did give him an opportunity to discuss how he’d become involved in voice overs in the first place.  Roger had been involved in a play called MacBird in which he’d played Bobby Kennedy.  Later, he was invited to do a voice over for Anacin using the Bobby Kennedy voice, but the effect didn’t work very well, as Roger demonstrated for us.  "The guy in charge finally said, ‘Just forget it.  Why don’t you read in your own voice?’  They had already fired me—this was just for the heck of it.  So I read the lines…and the guys in the studio all huddled together and whispered for a little while.  Then, one of them said to me, ‘Did anybody ever tell you that you sound like Henry Fonda?  Can you try to make it sound more like Henry Fonda?’"  Since then, he’s made a fortune with voice overs.  Another fan in the audience asked Roger to share a memory of Gloria Swanson, with whom he’d worked in the film Killer Bees.  He spoke highly of her and said that she’d once told him, ‘If you had been around a few years earlier, you would be a famous movie star by now instead of a television actor."


Roger Davis in Alias Smith & Jones

Roger Davis in Alias Smith & Jones


This brought Roger around to speaking of Alias, Smith and Jones and its rotten luck with scheduling.  One day after filming the show, he was riding in the elevator with the president of Universal Studios.  "To break the ice I said to him, ‘Look, Sid, I got a new hat!’  He looked at me and said, ‘Roger, you don’t need a new hat.  You need a new time slot.’  Roger’s current pet project is a film called The War Magician, which his studio is co-producing and in which Tom Cruise is supposed to star.  "There was a major bidding war for this film some years back," Roger explained, "and my little studio managed to get a hold of it.  Now I can’t wait to have lunch with Dan Curtis.  I can just imagine what he’ll say."  In a gruff voice, Roger imitated Curtis, giving us a sample conversation.  "He’ll tell me about all of his projects and then ask, ‘So what’s new for you, kid?’  ‘Well, I’m co-producing Tom Cruise’s next movie, The War Magician.’ ‘Bull****!’"