Bernard Girard

Active - 1948 - 2004  |   Genres - Drama, Crime

Share on

Biography by Bruce Eder

Bernard Girard was never regarded as a great stylist, either as a screenwriter or a director, in feature films or television, but he did earn awards and nominations in the latter field and was involved in a brace of interesting and, occasionally, notable productions in both areas. He was also a relative rarity in his time, in either industry, as someone who was actually born in Los Angeles in 1918, when the film business was still in the process of taking over the town. Born Bernard Goldstein, he used the name Bernard Girard when he entered the industry as a screenwriter in 1948 with the Warner Bros. B picture The Big Punch. He followed this up with the noir-ish Waterfront at Midnight (1948), made by Pine-Thomas Productions at Paramount. By 1950, he'd begun working on bigger-budgeted movies such as Breakthrough at Warner Bros., and in 1952 he provided the screen story for the Joan Crawford vehicle This Woman Is Dangerous. Television was already beckoning, however, and over the next two decades Girard divided his time between the two media, devoting most of his energy to small-screen works, broken up by the occasional low- to medium-budget feature film.

Girard's most visible work of the 1950s was in the medical drama series Medic, starring Richard Boone, which earned him a Sylvania Award. He also received Emmy nominations for his work on Playhouse 90 -- for which he directed one of their rare, filmed (as opposed to live performance broadcast) offerings, Four Women in Black -- and the CBS docu-drama series You Are There. Girard's other television credits, which carried over into the 1960s, include Alfred Hitchcock Presents, R.C.M.P., The Thin Man, Rawhide, Bat Masterson, M Squad, The Lone Wolf, Mr. Novak,The Virginian, and Alcoa Premiere. His film output during the late '50s was heavily weighted toward delinquency and troubled youth stories, including The Green-Eyed Blonde (1957), The Party Crashers -- the latter a notoriously doom-laden work, featuring Bobby Driscoll and Frances Farmer in the twilight of their respective careers -- and As Young As We Are (co-starring a young Majel Barrett, later of Star Trek fame) in 1958. And he wrote the screenplay for The Rebel Set (1959), a caper film involving restless young men directed by Gene Fowler, Jr., which was later immortalized (after a fashion) on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Around those were also a pair of very interesting, off-beat westerns, Ride Out for Revenge (1957) and The Saga of Hemp Brown (1958), both starring Rory Calhoun (and the former made by Kirk Douglas' production company). Apart from The Party Crashers (which Girard also wrote), none of these were above the level of B movies in terms of budget or exposure, but all were well made features that were worth a second look.

In a different reality, Girard might have followed a parallel career to that of his younger contemporary Buzz Kulik, doing interesting and mostly well-reviewed feature films in between his bread-and-butter television work, but he never quite built up the same kind of momentum Kulik did in theatrical films. In 1966, Girard made a brief jump to A features with Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round, a stylishly made thriller starring James Coburn that was, perhaps, a little too ambitious in its plotting. After that, Girard seemed to turn to thrillers, including an uncredited contribution to the direction of Lee H. Katzin's chiller Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969), and directed The Mad Room (1969), the latter based on the Edward Percy stage thriller Ladies in Retirement (which had previously been filmed 29 years earlier under its own title with a young Ida Lupino). That picture, co-starring Shelley Winters and Stella Stevens, seems mostly remembered today for the presence of Todd Rundgren's band the Nazz on the soundtrack in its original release. Girard's last important movie was an early made-for-television feature Hunters Are for Killing (1970), starring Burt Reynolds, Suzanne Pleshette, and Melvyn Douglas, and shot in California's Napa Valley, which seemed to hark back -- albeit in late-'60s terms, and on a more mature level -- to Girard's crime and delinquency movies of the late '50s, as well as his westerns. His 1970s output was somewhat less distinguished, apart from The Mind Snatchers (1972), notable as Christopher Walken's debut, and by the middle of the decade he had retired. Girard passed away in 1998 at age 79.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography