Mission: Impossible’s human computer

Barry Crane (1927-1985)

Barry Crane (1927-1985)

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

When it debuted in 1966, Mission: Impossible was unlike other television series. Its pilot involved a covert team of operatives stealing two atomic bombs. The question was whether such a show could be sustained on a weekly basis.

One of the people who ensured it would was Barry Crane. His official title when the show began was associate producer. Crane helped break down M:I stories into shooting schedules which could be filmed efficiently. M:I was always going to be an expensive show. Crane helped the production get the most bang for its buck.

“To make it simple, he was a walking computer,” Stanley Kallis, one of M:I’s producers, told author Patrick J. White in 1991’s The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. “He had perfect recall and could juggle in his mind eighty facts at any moment.”

Before joining the M:I crew, Crane (born Barry Cohen) had been production manager for a number of series at Four Star, including Burke’s Law. Crane came aboard M:I after the pilot had been made and production was ramping up on the series.

M:I executive producer Bruce Geller sold another series a year later with Mannix, the private eye drama with Mike Connors. Geller shifted Crane to that series, where he also directed an episode toward the end of the first season. For the 1968-69 series, Crane held the associate producer post on both series. Along the way, he ended up directing 15 episodes of M:I and six episodes of Mannix.

Before the end of M:I’s seven-year run, Crane was promoted to producer of that series. By this time, the show was under more pressure to control costs. The last two seasons focused on the Impossible Missions Force doing battle with “The Syndicate,” a reference to the Mafia. According to White’s book, Crane “was effective at designing good-looking shows on a practical basis.”

During his television career, Crane was also a noted player of Bridge. Here’s an excerpt of a Crane bio on an unofficial website about the history of the Amercan Contract Bridge League.

Crane became ACBL’s top masterpoint holder in 1968, a position previously held only by Oswald Jacoby and Charles Goren. Crane amassed points at an astounding rate until, at the time of his death, he had 35,138, more than 11,000 ahead of any other players.

By the mid-1970s, Crane primarily was a director, working on various television series. His credits included helming the final episode of Hawaii Five-O, “Woe to Wo Fat,” in 1980.

Crane’s story, however, would not have a happy ending. He was found at his home, “apparently the victim of a bludgeoning,” according to a July 7, 1985 story in the Los Angeles Times.

The murder was never solved, according to Crane’s entry on Wikipedia.

 

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One Response

  1. Very interesting fellow. I wonder if they ever considered using Crane’s bridge mastery into one of the MI episodes? He could certainly have added some dynamism into the plot …. Reminds me of Bond’s card play in the novels. And don’t remind me of Craig’s Texas Hold-em, most un-Bond-like. Terribly sad and strange about his murder.

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