Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Birthday Milestone

It wasn't so long ago that living 100 years was a rare accomplishment in the human experience.

Medical science has come up with drugs and other treatments that can extend lives that probably would have ended much sooner even 20 or 30 years ago. As life expectancy has increased, so has the number of centenarians.

When Richard Bare was born on Aug. 12, 1909, his parents probably had little reason to think that he would live to see the dawn of the new millennium, much less his 100th birthday. Reaching one's 100th birthday was not unheard of at the time, but it was more infrequent than it is today. There are more than 96,000 people in America who are at least 100 years old.

Bare joined that group today.

At this point, perhaps you are wondering, who is Richard Bare? Well, he is a director/writer/producer who spent most of his career working in television, but he did a lot of film work, too. He wrote, produced and/or directed more than 60 one–reel short subjects with titles that typically began "So You Want ..." from 1942 to 1956.

That series began with a film called "So You Want to Give Up Smoking," which was somewhat radical considering that it was made more than 20 years before the surgeon general linked smoking to cancer and respiratory disease and launched a public health campaign. Other self–help titles in Bare's "So You Want ..." series dealt with needing glasses, allergies, impending fatherhood and occupational goals.

As a writer, he was responsible for episodes for "Going My Way" and "Route 66."

But his most lasting legacy may be the work he did as a director. He was the director of some films and episodes of several TV series, including "Alias Smith and Jones," "Nanny and the Professor," "Lassie," "Maverick," "Petticoat Junction" and "77 Sunset Strip."

His most noteworthy directorial efforts, though, may have been for the original "Twilight Zone" and "Green Acres."

Bare produced some of the most classic "Twilight Zone" episodes, including "To Serve Man." And he directed virtually every episode of "Green Acres."

His career apparently ended in the early 1970s, but he announced in November 2007, at the age of 98, that he was working on a revival of "Green Acres."

Nothing has come of that planned revival, to my knowledge. And, even if Bare managed to launch a new incarnation of the series, the cast would be almost entirely different.

But the fact that he was working on it at his age should be an inspiration to us all.