After seeing THE FABLEMANS, Steven Spielberg’s  only slightly fictional story of his early life, I was reminded that ,at the age of 22, Spielberg’s   professional debut as a director was at Universal Television and his star was Joan Crawford.


Steven Spielberg, Joan Crawford.

After his success with Twilight Zone, Rod Serling produced a new TV series called Night Gallery (1969-1973).

The show’s pilot consisted of three half hour stories, with “EYES”, the middle story which starred Joan Crawford, Barry Sullivan and Tom Bosley.


Joan Crawford

Steven Spielberg had become a Universal contract director in 1968. He had been signed by producer Sidney Sheinberg after making a short called AMBLIN’ (1968). AMBLIN became the name of Spielberg’s production company in later years.

It does seem rather extraordinary that Universal should choose a 22 year old novice director to direct the Oscar winning star, Joan Crawford , who was making movies 20 years before Spielberg was born.

The story goes that .initially , Joan objected to the choice of director but was persuaded to go ahead with the project.

Spielberg tells the story that he went to meet her at her home and found her with a blindfold on in order to get into the character of the blind woman she would be playing.

Spielberg also spoke of the show’s crew showing some resentment at this young man being in charge.

The director has said that Joan spoke to the crew and said:

”I’ve got great respect for this director and I want you to treat him as you would me – we are all professionals.”

Spielberg also said, “It was a great experience to be baptised that way.”

At the 2022 TCM  Classic Film Festival, Spielberg said:

“She was kind and understanding – and selling Pepsi-Cola left and right!”

Apparently Joan and Steven kept in touch after filming.

Tom Bosley was interviewed for Emmy, and said that the script was meant for Bette Davis and Martin Balsam.

He called his time on the show ( a 9 day shooting schedule), “ A wonderful experience.”


So what is EYES about. Joan plays a very wealthy woman who lives alone in a New York penthouse. Blind from birth, yet she is surrounded by paintings and special possessions which she has never seen.

She is single minded in wanting to see .even for a short time, at whatever cost.
Tom Bosley plays a gambler who is being pressured to pay his debts of $9,000 . He’s desperate , ( and ridiculous as it may seem),  agrees to Joan’s offer to pay his debt in exchange for his eyes!
Barry Sullivan is the doctor she blackmails into doing the operation. He does warn her she will only see for 12 hours.

There is of course a dramatic twist at the end.

Barry Sullivan, Joan Crawford.

(Joan and Barry Sullivan had costarred in 1955’s QUEEN BEE.)



I liked THE FABELMANS ,though it was overlong at two and a half hours. If it had been the real Spielberg story, I’d love the film to have continued to show us that historic filming of “Night Gallery.”

Steven Spielberg directed the very first COLUMBO episode , “MURDER BY THE BOOK” in 1971.
Only two years later he directed DUEL and in 1975 came JAWS. The rest,as they say, is history.

When the former head  of Universal ,Sidney Sheinberg died in 2019, Steven Spielberg said: “…..he gave  birth to my career – he gave me “Jaws” and “Schindlers List” – we were a team for 25 years.”

Steven Spielberg, Sidney Sheinberg.

”Eyes” can be seen on Season 1 of NIGHT GALLERY  on dvd.

15 responses »

    • I didn’t happen to see it until 1983 but remember it so well. Its companion piece (different director) starred Roddy McDowell I remember.

      • And the third segment of the pilot starred Richard Kiley. The other two directors were Boris Segal and Barry Shear.
        As in many other TV series of the 60s and 70s, many Hollywood stars from the classic era appeared in Night Gallery – Edward G. Robinson, Gale Sondergaard, Virginia Mayo, Raymond Massey, Vincent Price, Cornel Wilde.

  1. What an interesting post, Vienna! I’m a huge Joan Crawford fan, and I love Spielberg’s work as well, so this was right up my alley. I never really liked Night Gallery (unlike The Twilight Zone) because it seemed scary to me, but I would really like to see this episode. Is it available anywhere, do you know?

  2. Vienna, I enjoyed your good write-up about Joan Crawford on NIGHT GALLERY. I recall first viewing it on THE NBC SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES in 1969 and I liked it, especially the “Eyes” segment. I looked forward to the upcoming series for the 1970-71 tv season. The NIGHT GALLERY series was okay, but it was no TWILIGHT ZONE. The new series stories delt with the macabre and the supernatural for the most part and unfortunately Rod Serling didn’t have as much input as he did on the TWILIGHT ZONE.

    NIGHT GALLERY just didn’t catch on and didn’t do that well in the Nielsen ratings. In my neck of the woods, the third season wasn’t shown by the local NBC-TV affiliate WMC Chanel 5, Memphis, Tennessee. Channel 5 aired the syndicated game show LET’S MAKE A DEAL with Monty Hall and Carol Merrill, instead.

    Although, I still think NIGHT GALLERY is worth viewing, because some of the episodes are entertaining.

    Good news for fans of Joan Crawford. The silent classic THE UNKNOWN(1927) has now been restored to essentially its full length by the George Eastman Museum, with the missing shots and sequences, approximately 10 minutes of material, restored from a Czech Republic export print in the collection of the National Film Archive in Prague. Currently this movie is being shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Hopefully it will make its way to Blu-ray and dvd.

  3. I, too, preferred The Twilight Zone (1959-1964). By the second season, Rod Serling had grown tired of network interference and the exhausting demand to write a weekly script:

    “You argue, you fight, you try to protect what has been written, but you’re battling networks, advertising agencies, sponsors and pressure groups. I’ve been forced to make concessions in every television play I’ve written.”

    After five seasons, Serling walked away and sold the rights to the series to CBS.

  4. In the museum at Universal Studios Hollywood is a section dedicated to Steven Spielberg including a letter of rejection to his request for a summer internship. The letter was dated June 7, 1965 — Spielberg was 19 years-old. Three years later he wrote and directed the short film Amblin.

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