December 2, 2020

Gailey for the Defense (and other concepts that never made it off the drawing board)

Fred Gailey and his most famous client

You may recall a Christmas story I wrote a few years ago; it was, I thought, a moderately humorous piece in which I imagned Fred Gailey, the attorney who cleared Kris Kringle of insanity charges in Miracle on 34th Street, as the Mystery Guest on What's My Line? After all, considering the publicity that Gailey received as a result of the trial, it was reasonable to assume that, New York being what it is, Fred would have become not only a well-known attorney, but a celebrity in a city that loves celebrities. He would have been the ideal guest for the show. And since John Payne, the actor who played Fred in the movie, had appeared on What's My Line? himself, the whole thing made too much sense.

Anyway, as we were watching Miracle on 34th Street on Thanksgiving Eve (for the 31st consecutive year*), it occurred to me that I'd really just scratched the surface of the idea's potential. After the panel had guessed his identity, I'd had him mention to host John Charles Daly that his agent was in negotiations with CBS to do a weekly series based on some of his more famous cases, and that Raymond Burr had been contacted to star in the show. Of course, the idea wouldn't have panned out, and the network would have turned to Erle Stanley Gardner as a result, but that wouldn't have been the only chance to turn Fred Gailey's story into a drama for the small screen. 

*And why not? It is, after all, the greatest Christmas movie ever made

They always say that when you're pitching a story, you'd better have Plan B and Plan C ready in case the suits don't like Plan A, so let's take a look at the other storylines Fred Gailey's representative had in his briefcase during that meeting.

The story of a father-daughter legal team. At the end of Miracle on 34th Street, it's strongly implied that Fred and Doris (Maureen O'Hara) will get married. Fred adopts her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood), who decides to follow in her stepfather's footsteps and go to law school. Each week, the Gaileys defend an unpopular cause or controversial issue, culminating in a courtroom scene that allows one of them to make a lengthy speech pointing out why those who disagree with them are not bad, just narrow-minded. Stars E.G. Marshall as Fred and Stefanie Powers as the grown-up Susan.

Fred becomes a jet-setting, high-profile criminal defense attorney in the mold of F. Lee Bailey and Percy Foreman, dressing in a cowboy hat and string tie and flying around the country defending unpopular causes and controversial issues. He's accompanied along the way by his young assistant Alfred, who works at Macy's during the day while going to night school to get his law degree. Stars Carl Betz as Fred, with Dom DeLuise as Alfred. 

A kindly, compassionate attorney defends various clients charged with murder, rape and other unpopular and controversial crimes, with the help of his young assistant, Thomas Mara Jr., whose father tried and failed to put Kris Kringle in a mental institution. Stars Arthur Hill as Fred, with Wayne Rogers as Tommy. Appears in occasional crossover episodes with another ABC series, Marcus Pierce, M.D., with Hugh Beaumont as a kindly, compassionate doctor who treats geriatric patients.

After a career of defending the downtrodden and displaced, Fred enlists the help of crusty New York City political boss Charlie Halloran and is elected to represent Greenwich Village in the state legislature. Each week, the series spotlights the travails of local politicians, while Fred continues to speak out on unpopular and controversial issues. Stars Richard Crenna as Fred and William Demarist as Charlie. Special appearance by Lucille Ball as Jane Jacobs.

Following the success of Miracle on 34th Street, the Gaileys move to Hollywood, where Fred is elected to succeed Hamilton Berger as district attorney of Los Angeles. Because of his involvement in unpopular and controversial issues, his career rides on successfully prosecuting the infamous Manson Family for a string of brutal murders. Stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Fred, wth Natalie Wood in flashbacks as Sharon Tate. Cameo by Quentin Tarentino as Charles Manson.

Fred is the star of a new reality series in which he arbitrates cases between people involved in disputes that are neither unpopular nor controversial. He rapidly becomes the most popular judge in America, and his motto: "Don't tell it to your neighbor, tell it to Fred" is soon a catchphrase. Stars John Payne as Fred, Richard Moll as the bailiff, and Nancy Grace as the court reporter. Things come full circle when, in the first case, a man is charged with producing and distributing bootleg copies of Miracle on 34th StreetTV  

1 comment:

  1. Well done! Entertaining and believable proposals!
    "Miracle On 34th Street" is my favorite Christmas movie as well.


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