Lady Director a Rare Breed on Television
By Linda Crawford
April 3, 1966
GLORIA MONTY is one of a rare breed--the female television director. It's not hard to figure out why they're so scarce.
"You have about 40 men working for you," Miss Monty points out. "You have to keep a happy balance between being just one of the boys and being just a woman. Also, the hours aren't the best.
Miss Monty's working day as director of CBS-TV's soap opera, THE SECRET STORM, extends from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and it's perpetual motion all the way.
We looked in on her one day just as the show, offered live, went on the air. She sat in the control booth, one hand holding her omnipresent cigaret, the other snapping out a directive every few seconds. At the end, exasperated with a slip-up, she briefly reprimanded an assistant, introduced herself, and said she could spare 15 minutes before beginning rehearsals for the next day.
Before singing as director of STORM in 1954, when it began, most of Miss Monty's experience had been in the theater.
"When I first saw a television show being produced," she recalled, "I said 'That is not for me--the clock and the cameras.' Then I took a year to learn the craft, working as an assistant director on a 'soap.'"
Soap opera buffs invariably praise the acting on THE SECRET STORM. Miss Monty attributes this to the theater experience she and most of the her actors have had.
"We try to combine our dramatic training with television techniques," she said. "I like to get actors on the show who haven't done too much TV.
"We work primarily on character, trying to understand every facet. And we try to hit in depth, and never play merely the surface dimension."
To get beneath the surface of the show's current focus on narcotics addition, Miss Monty read books and consulted doctors at a New York hospital. She gained further help when a police lieutenant on the narcotics squad saw the first few episodes dealing with addition, and called her.
"He said some of the things we'd done were very good but others weren't true," Miss Monty said. "One day he brought an addict to the studio who was under the influence of heroin. We spent four hours with the addict and the lieutenant, and it gave us additional insight, added dimension."
With the exception of "some older people who feel it's unpleasant and the people who always want just more love stories," there's been little adverse reaction to the show's portrayal of addiction.
Miss Monty is quick to defend her audience, and wishes someone would do a "public relations job" to change the image of the typical soap opera watcher.
"The old stereotype simply isn't valid," she said vehemently. "I'm especially pleased with our audience reaction to acting qualities. You know, you can work so hard on something, something very intricate, and then you wonder if it's all going to be lost on the audience. But they notice the subtlest things. They're quite an intelligent group.
"We've gotten many letters recently mentioning that the story has a Faustian theme--a man in search of his soul."
Miss Monty admitted her job can be grueling--"At the end of a strong story line, like this one, I need a week off"--but said she never tires of it.
"The story line changes, and the actors change," she said. "It's not a static thing."
As for how her show measures up to other soaps--no comment.
"I can't compare what we do with other shows," Miss Monty concluded. "When I have a day off, I certainly don't sit home and watch soap operas."