Remembering Jack Lord

Was Jack Controlling?

Hawaii Film Studio (Webmaster)

Through the years, Jack has been faulted for being controlling. Especially during the production of Hawaii Five-0, he cracked the whip. He was a stern taskmaster, insisting that things be done a certain way. One easily might assume that Jack was one pushy fellow. But was he – really? Let us take a look at a few facts:

Jack obtained interest ownership in the productions in which he starred. He owned 25 percent of Stoney Burke and 30 percent of Hawaii Five-0. Thus, he worked closely with Leslie Stevens, creator and executive producer of Stoney Burke. Then, his assistance was readily accepted, for Stoney Burke was Stevens’ first production, and he, no doubt, was glad to have Jack’s interest and input. Even so, guest stars sometimes faulted Jack for his participation in matters beyond reciting Stoney’s lines (Gill, Alan. Big! Big! Big! in TV Guide. Publication data unknown, 1962).

After Leonard Freeman, creator and executive producer of Hawaii Five-0, got that show off to a good start, he went on to create and either produce or executive produce three more projects: Men at Law (1970-71), Visions… (1972), and Cry Rape (1973). At that point, he essentially handed the management of Hawaii Five-0 off to Jack. As the co-executive producer, Jack was tasked to handle as many details for the show as possible. As such, Jack had both the authority and the responsibility to see that each episode was made well and on time. Jack’s authority and responsibility increased many times over following Leonard Freeman’s death in 1974.

So, why didn’t Jack’s name appear in the program credits as co-executive producer? Most likely, it goes to the fact that, in those days, actors generally did not produce, direct, write, or otherwise participate in a production for which they had been hired to act. Lorne Greene, who was the star of Bonanza, never served in any capacity beyond actor for that series. The same is true of Rock Hudson, who only acted on McMillan & Wife, even though he owned a production company (Gibraltar Productions) and produced other projects. Raymond Burr, who was the star of Ironside, directed two episodes of that series but did not serve as a producer or executive producer. Similarly, Mary Tyler Moore, star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, directed one episode but did not serve as a producer or executive producer, even though she and her then-husband established MTM Productions, which produced the series.

Even today, it is not every day that we see a star’s name also listed as executive producer or producer. Mark Harmon, for example, has served as both producer and co-executive producer of NCIS, and, yes, his name appears in the credits. Tom Selleck, on the other hand, has not served as more than an actor in Blue Bloods, although he served as writer, producer, and executive producer as TWS Productions II, Inc. for the Jesse Stone series of movies in which he starred.

Actors participating beyond the recitation of their lines simply was a new and rare event in Jack’s day. His level of participation might easily be said to have been ahead of its time. So was the establishment of Jack's Lord & Lady Productions in the early 1960s, when Jack wrote and sold five television scripts and his script for Tramp Ship was made into a pilot for a possible series.  Lord & Lady Productions would go on to produce M Station: Hawaii in 1980.

Jack's level of participation is more accurately attributed to the fact that, when Hawaii Five-0 began filming in Hawaii, no production personnel or facilities existed to support the show. There were few local actors and virtually none with formal training, no production crews, no film studio, and no post-production facilities. Nothing! Only a desire by Leonard Freeman and Jack Lord to produce a show in the Islands.

Jack helped to teach Hawaiians who appeared on the show – so well, in fact, that they were qualified to appear in an internationally broadcast series. He also helped to train locals to serve on the production crews in order that crews would not have to be flown out from California. He also worked to help Hawaii obtain a film studio. It is still being used today. He also worked with the governor and tourism board to help publicize Hawaii as a tourist attraction to viewers around the world. In 1968, when Hawaii Five-0 first aired, Hawaii attracted two million tourists each year. At the height of the show’s popularity, Hawaii attracted twelve million tourists each year. You don’t achieve those results by going in to recite your lines, then going back home to paint the Hawaiian scenery.

In short, Jack was like a corporate CEO (chief executive officer). He ran the business, delegating duties along the chain of command to ensure that, by the end of filming for an episode, when the last can of film had been sent to California for post-production work, all the I’s had been dotted and T’s had been crossed.

No one on the Hawaii Five-0 cast and crew saw the finished work until it aired on television. By then, it was too late to worry about post-production using inaccurate stock footage that showed McGarrett driving three different cars between the palace and a crime scene or that showed an ambulance driving in both directions on the Lunalilo Freeway, as well as across it, and on the wrong side of South Beretania Street to reach the Queen’s Hospital, as the Queen’s Medical Center was still called in those days. By then, matters rested in the hands of yet another of Hawaii Five-0’s interest owners, CBS Television.

In conclusion, although Jack was very active in the productions in which he starred, his participation beyond acting was both requested and authorized by the creators of those productions. In the words of Rose Freeman, widow of Leonard Freeman, in an interview with Emme Tomimbang [Emme's Island Moments, "Memories of Hawaii Five-0" (Emme, Inc. / KGMB-TV, 1996)]:

          Emme Tomimbang: Your husband died during open-heart surgery in the fifth season, but [Hawaii Five-0] continued 

          to live for six more years after that. That must say a lot about him for you.

          Rose Freeman: It says a lot about him, and it also says a lot about Jack Lord. Jack kept the show going. He is a 

          perfectionist, and I thank him for it.