In Harm's Way:
Vic Morrow's death on the set of the Twilight Zone movie
by Dick Peabody
From the Mountain Democrat--Placerville, California
In 1971, I hosted a talk show from Universal Studios in Los
Angeles over KFI (NBC radio). I had little to do with selecting the guests. Twenty-five
percent of them were chosen by Universal's publicity department and 75 percent were booked
by a public relations firm the station had retained for this purpose.
Thursday, May 23, 1991 (reprinted with permission from Dick Peabody)
Occasionally, I would suggest someone and arrangements would be
handled by either Universal or the PR company. Vic
Morrow, with whom I had worked on the TV series Combat! was one of my
Knowing how reluctant he was to do interviews, I had to cajole him
into it. I told him we would just reminisce about how much fun we had playing soldier.
During the interview, Vic made what turned out to be a poignant
point. He said we had the best special effects team in the business, headed by A.D.
Flowers, the first special effects man to win an Academy Award (Tora! Tora! Tora! ).
Thanks to A.D. and his team, all of the actors felt secure,
despite potentially dangerous explosions going on around us. Vic praised A.D. Flowers and
our directors for never putting us in jeopardy during the five years of production.
Ten years later, Vic was dead because he worked on a movie in
which key personnel were either drunk or stoned on coke, or both. He was decapitated by
the rotor of a helicopter which contained, besides the pilot and a camera operator, a
He was in jeopardy from the moment he agreed to do an
irresponsibly dangerous shot for a director (John Landis) who had no regard for Vic's
safety or for the safety of two illegally hired children. A director, who some crew
members say, was out of control and kept screaming at the helicopter pilot over the bull
horn, "Fly lower. LOWER!" over the heads of Vic and the children and the massive
explosions that were being detonated.
All of this carnage was shot under the supervision of a producer
(Steven Spielberg) who, despite eyewitness statements of crew members to the contrary,
maintains that he was not on the set that night.
Vic's last words in life, while holding two children and waiting
for the director to say "action," were, "I've got to be crazy to do this
shot. I should've asked for a double."
John Landis at Vic Morrow's Funeral
The next day Barbara Turner called. She was Vic's first wife and
the mother of his two daughters, Carey and Jennifer (actress Jennifer Jason Leigh). Even
though divorced from Vic for 16 years, Barbara felt obliged to guide her children, who
were in their teens, in arranging Vic's funeral.
She asked me to be a pallbearer and to help the girls in any way I
could. Carey and Jennifer wanted Rick Jason and myself to give the eulogies.
I rode with them to the funeral and sat with them in the section
of the chapel reserved for family. Moments after we arrived, an audible shock wave of
reaction from Vic's friends and co-workers who come to pay their respects, grabbed my
A thin, bearded man was coming down the aisle, seemingly unable to
walk without assistance. He was supported by a woman and another man (Mrs. John Landis and
George Folsey, Jr., the production manager of the "Twilight Zone" movie). The
bearded staggerer was "Twilight Zone" director, John Landis.
His stooges helped him to the lectern and he began a rambling
eulogy --unplanned, unrequested, unwanted and shocking to Vic's family and friends. His
mere presence at the funeral was offensive to them. He did this, presumably, on the advice
of his attorney.
The most obnoxious remark he made, among many, was that he was
"proud to have directed Vic in what Vic, himself, considered the best performance of
Vic's girl friend and his ex-wife Barbara both said Vic thought
the movie was a piece of s..., and he was ashamed to be connected with it.
John Landis' eulogy sounded more like a promo for the film.
The following day, I called the Los Angeles Country District
Attorney's office and told them I had a tape from my radio show in which Vic expressed his
confidence in the Combat! special effects team. My thought was that having worked
for five years with pros, he was lulled into a false feeling of security. He had expected
the same professionalism on the "Twilight Zone" set. The D.A.'s office sent out
an investigator that afternoon to pick up the tape.
Everyone I know who knew Vic hoped Landis and Folsey would get at
least a year in the slammer. After all, they were responsible for the deaths of three
They were tried and acquitted of manslaughter and their careers
have escalated since.
As hard as I try, I can muster no charity for these butchers.
by Dick Peabody
Books about Vic Morrow's
More about Vic Morrow - bio, screen credits,
Read online article:
Recollections about Vic Morrow and Combat!
by Dick Peabody