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Chapter 5  -  A UNIVERSAL CONTRACT  (Nov 1951-Jun 1952)
    "The best friend's best friend"

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Janssen, now age 20, has spent most of the 2 years since high school graduation, looking for his acting break. A contract with 20th Century-Fox in early 1950 did not work out, and the 5 months doing summer stock on the East Coast later that year resulted in some good experience but no real work. So far in 1951, he's spent more time cleaning rugs with his stepfather than acting, but his luck is about to change….


Nov 3 Since July has lived in various rooms on his own. Since mid-October he's been in one at 1413 1/2 N. Alta Vista in Hollywood, but he's not living a fully independent lifestyle. He's borrowed $33.85 from his mother Berniece since moving out, and she brings him his clean laundry this day.
Nov 6 Has a 3pm appointment at Universal Studios. In August, Janssen participated in a screen test at the studio to assist an actress Camille Pickett, who he met in summer stock, but now it appears he's been attempting to get a test of his own.
Nov 7 Comes to his parents' home (at 7600 Keystonian, Burbank) for dinner and spends the night.
Nov 8 Mother Berniece takes Dave shopping and loans him another $14.13 ($2 for a haircut, and the rest for medicine and rent).
Nov 9

Took a year loan of $108.15 from Bank of America, the Melrose-Irving branch.

Nov 12 Sees film A PLACE IN THE SUN with mother and stepfather.
Nov 14 U-I contractA contract is prepared for a screen test which will occur the following day at Universal Studios.

If accepted as a "contract player", he'd be given practical work experience, combined with an education through the studio's Talent Program. The studio has 14 days to decide if they wish to execute the contract after the test. The contract calls for 6 months of guaranteed employment, followed by a series of options, renewable in increments, totaling 7 years:


option (a) 6 mo. term /guaranteed 20 weeks at $100/wk
option (b) 1 year at $150/wk 40 week guarantee
option (c) 1 year at $225/wk 40 week guarantee
option (d) 1 year at $325/wk 40 week guarantee
option (e) 1 year at $475/wk 40 week guarantee
option (f) 1 year at $625/wk 40 week guarantee
option (g) 1 year at $800/wk 40 week guarantee

Nov 15

Janssen films his screen test for Universal-International on Stage 15. It is supervised and directed by Sophie Rosenstein, the head of the studio's Talent Program. Others tested this day are Sandra White, Keith Larson, Helen O'Connell, Scott Brady, and Lisa Kirk. Filming starts at 10:10am and lasts until 7:05pm.

A simple lighting set up done by cameraman Harold Stine had the actors photographed full figure and then zoomed in closer as they turned for the camera. A large slate on a stand gave the actors' name, weight, height, age, hair and eye color and complexion.


David's mother Berniece picks him up after his test and takes to his rented room at 1413 1/2 N. Alta Vista where 'Jerry' (possible his roommate Jerry Elliot) and 'Melva' are there.
Nov 17

Dave takes the car and gets a haircut in Montrose where his stepfather works, and then goes to Universal.

Nov 21 Dave visits his parents at their Burbank house for dinner.
Nov 23

Janssen's mother drives Dave to an appointment with his agent Jack Donaldson at the Lita Grey Chaplin Chaplin Agency, located at 8750 Holloway Drive in Hollywood.


Sees the Mitzi Gaynor film GOLDEN GIRL in the evening with his mother and sisters.
Nov 24

U-I black & white logo

Universal-International decides to exercise Janssen's option and he's invited to join the studio and their roster of new talent at $100 per week starting Nov 26. Berniece picks David up at the studio at 2:30pm and takes him to his agent to sign the contracts.

He's given a script for a part in the film UNTAMED FRONTIER as the 'Young Man in Dance Hall'. Script pages 11 and 11A indicate his 1st line will be 'C'mon Lottie. How about shakin' a hoof?'. This is the first in a series of 18 films he'll do at the studio over the next 5 years, usually in very small walk-on parts. He'd later say of these roles:

'I was frequently cast as an agreer - the best friend's best friend.

The leading character would ask me, 'Don't you think so, Harry?'.

I would agree, then disappear.'

Nov 26 Moves to a new room for a little over a week--address unknown. Roommate was probably still Jerry Elliot. Berniece takes David his ironing to him here.
Nov 28

Untamed posterFirst day of work on UNTAMED FRONTIER, production #1692.

He is called to work at 7:30am on Universal Stage 21 on the INT. DANCE HALL set.

The film is directed by Hugo Fregonese and produced by Leonard Goldstein.

The Associate Producer is Ross Hunter.

Nathan Juran, who would eventually rent David and first wife Ellie their Cynthia Avenue apartment in the late 50's, was the Art Director.


At 11:05am, David is filmed saying his first line to Suzan Ball, 'Come on Lottie. How about a dance, huh?' (a variant of what was in the script). Janssen finishes for the day at 535pm.

Untamed wardrobeUntamed scene

Nov 29 Films again on UNTAMED FRONTIER on U-I Stage 21. He works from 8am to 5:45pm. After work, his mother Berniece buys him dinner at a restaurant called Roundup.                  
Nov 30

Third and final day filming UNTAMED FRONTIER. He works from 8am-11:30am on Stage 21.

His mother Berniece does extra work on SCARLET ANGEL, a picture filming nearby on Stage 6.


After work, David has dinner at his parents' house, then takes a family car to the studio for an evening Xmas program rehearsal.
Dec 1 Janssen spends the night at his parents' house.
Dec 2 Goes to friend Art 'Swede' Leon's house for a party.
Dec 4 David's mother takes publicity photos to him at U-I and later to dinner at Little Joe's. His debt to his family is now up to $167.29.
Dec 5

West Point haircutGets a short haircut for his upcoming FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT role.

A proration agreement at the studio adjusts his check amount to a steady $77 weekly, rather than receiving full $100 pay for his guaranteed weeks and no pay for his off weeks.

Dec 6 Janssen gets first U-I paycheck and gives his mother $10 towards his Barr Manufacturing clothing bill.
Dec 7 Goes to the studio at 12:30p and is driven by his mother. In the evening, borrows the Chevy to go on a date. Comes home 6am Sunday.
Dec 12 Participates in the 'Inside U-I' talent showcase at the studio. Other contract players performing in this event are Suzan Ball, Alice Kelly, Beverly Tyler, Piper Laurie, William Reynolds, Bodil Miller, Palmer Lee, Susan Cabot, Joyce Holden, Hugh O' Brian, Judith Braun (who later will co-star with David in a live TV episode of 'Matinee Theater'), Rock Hudson, John Hudson, Lori Nelson, Cindy Garner, Jack Kelly, and Yvette Duguay.
Dec 14

Has dinner with his mother, Suzan Ball, and agent Lita Grey Chaplin.    

Dec 15 Borrows his parents' car and takes a "Doris Barton" to a party.
Dec 16 David is visited by agent Jack Donaldson.    
Dec 19

West Point posterBegins his 2nd Universal-International film, FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT, production #1689.

Janssen is called to work at 9:15am and shoots his scenes on Stage 12 on the EXT. AREA & PORCH set.


Produced by Leonard Goldstein (from his first U-I film UNTAMED FRONTIER), this is David's first of 3 Francis the Talking Mule films and 1st of 2 with director Arthur Lubin.

From 9:40am-10:30am, shoots sc. 130, a full group shot (see photo below) including, L to R, Van Allen (William Reynolds), Ransom (James Best), Stirling (Donald O'Connor), Norton (Palmer Lee), and Thompson (JANSSEN).

West Point wardrobe West Point scene 1xx


West Point scene 2Then, Janssen films his introductory scene for the movie.

In it, he and a fellow corporal, played by James Best (from 70's TV's 'The Dukes of Hazzard'), harass a fresh West Point arrivee (called a 'plebe' in the film), played by Donald O'Connor.

Another 'plebe' (William Reynolds, who would in the 60's co-star in a Quinn Martin TV show 'The FBI') comes to O'Connor's rescue and helps to outwit the stern corporals.

Janssen blows an early take and the sequence continues after lunch until 4:20pm.

Upon completion, Janssen records a 'wild track', a sound-only performance, for his dialogue in sc. 39 and is sent home at 4:40pm.

Dec 20 Has a 'hold' day, a day off, from FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT shooting but most likely attends classes at the studio.    
Dec 21 Same as above.
Dec 22 Same as above.
Dec 23

On Sunday, a Children's Christmas Party is held at the studio on Stage 22. The program, featuring the Talent School and mail room girls, is directed by Sophie Rosenstein, who directed Janssen's studio screen test. It includes a production number called 'Eskimo Sue and Her Key of C'.

David's half-sisters, Teri and Jill, attend with their mother Berniece and Berniece's parents, W.D. and Vern Graf, who are visiting from San Diego.

Dec 24 Again, a hold day from FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT.          
Dec 25 Christmas Day. David receives a white robe from his family. His Graf grandparents and Uncle Floyd are visiting.
Dec 26

West Point scene 3Resumes shooting on FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT after having 5 days off.

Begins at 8:15am and shoots the INT. PLEBE ROOM scenes on Stage 17.

From11am-12:40pm, shoots scene 44 in which he and Ransom (James Best) further try to intimidate the new plebe arrivees with Janssen questioning Van Allen (William Reynolds). Janssen screws up on take 2 and it takes 18 to complete the shot.

After lunch, shoots scene 45 in which Ransom and Thompson (JANSSEN) learn from Stirling (Donald O'Connor) about how Francis the Talking Mule saved a defense plant.

Janssen is sent home at 5:20pm.

Dec 27

Another day's work on FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT, again on Stage 17. It's a short filming day for David who works only from 1:30pm-4:25pm. He is not featured in any of the scenes filmed this day.

Dec 28 A hold day on FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT. Mostly likely attends regular talent school classes and activities.
Dec 29

Last day of work for Janssen on FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT. He is called at 12:30pm and finishes work on this production at 5:20pm. His last work is a MESS HALL scene filmed on Stage 16. Process Projection is used. This scene appears to have been cut from the final version of the film.

West Point publicity

David sleeps at his parents' Burbank house this night.

Dec 30 Is at parents' home for dinner with maternal grandparents and family friends Marvel and John in attendence. Aunt Florence and Uncle George Allie also visit. David and the family plays cards.
Dec 31

New Year's Eve. David goes out to a party with his parents' station wagon at 11pm.


At year's end, David has earned a grand total of $488.



Jan 1
David's begins the year with a debt to his mother of $173.
Jan 2 Now between film castings at Universal, Janssen returns to normal Talent School classes and activities.     
Jan 5 David leaves the studio at day's end with his mother Berniece and joins his family for dinner in Burbank. Friends of his family, John and Marvel, join them.
Jan 6 Goes to Aunt Florence (his mother's sister) and Uncle George Allie's in the afternoon for a shrimp dinner and to play cards. Stepfather Gene and Berniece drive David back to his room at 11:30pm.       
Jan 8 Berniece takes Dave his ironing and laundry.        
Jan 16 Berniece drives him to Fairfax and Beverly Boulevard in Hollywood late in the day.
Jan 25 David's debt to his mother has increased to $194.59.           
Jan 29

David is picked up by Berniece at 10am and is taken to the U-I photo gallery. She has bought him a white dress shirt costing $5.10.

Feb 1 David goes apartment hunting with his mother in the evening.
Feb 3 Berniece again takes David his ironing and laundry.        
Feb 4

Receives a letter from his FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT director Arthur Lubin:      


My Dear Dave:

No not a valentine--just a much-delayed but very special thank you

note. It was most thoughful of you to remember me and I appreciated

very much your Christmas greeting. However--'Francis' and “Rhubarb'

do send Valentine greetings!


Arthur Lubin

(Lubin had directed another animal picture called RHUBARB,

a feral cat, before the FRANCIS film)

$24 rent is added to his debt. The running tally is now $218.59.

Feb 5 David moves to a new apartment at Norton and Fairfax in Hollywood where he will reside for 2 months.
Feb 6 David drives the family car to the studio today.
Feb 7

No Room posterDavid does a day's work on his 3rd U-I film, NO ROOM FOR THE GROOM (production #1697).

In it, he plays a soldier in a scene that will be cut out of the final release of the film and is now lost forever.

Called ALMOST MARRIED while in production, this film was directed by Douglas Sirk. Janssen will do a 2nd film with Sirk in 1955 called ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS.

It starred Tony Curtis as Alvah, who Janssen played his scene with, and Piper Laurie.


The script describes it as follows:


INT. PUP TENT - scene 24
Alvah and 2 other soldiers are huddled around a small fire built

on the ground, the smoke curling up the improvised stovepipe.

They look tired and begrimed. Their beards reveal that it has been

several weeks since they last touched a razor to their faces. One

soldier is writing a letter by resting the paper on his knee;

another is reading from a soiled pocket edition, while Alvah is

leaning back lost in reverie. He reaches into knapsack and removes

the perfume bottle. He lifts the top off and sniffs at it. His eyes

are full of longing and reverie. One of the soldiers nudges the other,

then grabs the perfume bottle and sniffs it, rolling his eyes with mock


           ONE SOLDIER
What's that--one of our new secret

           2ND SOLDIER
Wait'll the enemy gets a whiff of
this--they'll surrender by the

Alvah grabs it.

You grab this just once more and....

He stops as another soldier breathlessly hurries into the tent.

            THIS SOLDIER
Hey, fellas, I just got the latest
scuttlebutt. Any GI who's been in
a combat zone for over six months is
gonna be given a leave home. I got
this right out of the horse's mouth
-and the horse wears an oak leaf.

They whoop with delight and pound one another on the back:



It is believed Janssen did the lines of the "THIS SOLDIER” at the end of the scene.

Nicky BlairAnother bit actor, Nicky Blair, played one of the other two. Blair would become, in 3 months, Janssen's roommate for a short time, and would later appear with him in HELL TO ETERNITY. But it was Nicky Blair's namesake restaurant on the famed Sunset Strip, not his acting career, which would make his name well known in Hollywood in the 70's and 80's.

When Nicky Blair died in November of 1998, the funeral services were standing room only and populated by his many celebrity friends.

Tony Curtis flew in from his London honeymoon to attend the wake at Spago's Restaurant. Clint Eastwood sent a letter recalling his early Universal years when Blair would cook for him. Curtis and Janssen were often in attendance. The scene shot this day may have been the beginning of these friendships.

No Room wardrobeJanssen was called at 7:30a and filmed his scene in the morning on the backlot in an area at Universal called “Murphy's Point”.


He did not “wrap” until 4:45p, and thus may have appeared in the other scenes shot this day (which also were cut from the released film).


Also filming at “Murphy's Point” before lunch is a montage of quick shots showing the soldiers walking on a dusty, a muddy, and then a snowy road (scs. 20-22).


On soundstage 7, after lunch, soldiers are filmed go up the ramp at their port of embarkation (sc. 16), then going down another gangplank (sc. 17).

While he toils on the film at U-I, David's mother buys $3.50 in groceries and takes them to his new Norton and Fairfax apartment as well as “dishes, pans, silverware”.


That evening, she makes dinner for David and his agent Jack Donaldson.


38-year old Donaldson, who began his career as an actor in Broadway musicals in the 30's, is about to leave or has recently left the Lita Grey Chaplin agency to makes a go on his own. David defects with him, though only remains loyal until the William Morris Agency steals him at the end of his Universal contract in 1956. Donaldson continues to work as a talent agent throughout his life. Actor Ben Murphy ("Alias Smith and Jones") credits him with his "discovery" in 1966 after Jack sees him in a play in Pasadena. He last works for the Mary Ellen White Agency and dies in June of 1975 after suffering a seizure the month before.

Feb 13

David takes a “Ginny Jackson” to a movie preview.

Mother Berniece loans him $11, bringing the debt to $ 229.59, and stays at David's apartment so he can borrow the family car.

Feb 14 Berniece visits David after she finishes working as an extra on a film shooting at MGM Lot 2.               
Feb 15 David's telephone answering service tells Berniece they think he's sick when she tries to phone at 6:30pm.
Feb 21

Yankee Buccaneer posterDavid begins his 4th Universal movie in the role of "Beckett", his largest to date, on YANKEE BUCCANEER, production #1700. He will work a month on this film.

The director is Fred DeCordova who will become known in the 60's and 70's as Johnny Carson's producer on “The Tonight Show”. This film's producer is Howard Christie and the film is photographed by Russell Metty.

The film stars Jeff Chandler, Scott Brady, and Suzan Ball, though in his role Janssen plays many scenes with character actor George Mathews.


David is called at 7:45am and is dismissed at 5:40pm. He works today on the film's ship set, THE ESSEX, on Universal's stage 12.

Feb 22

David again films YANKEE BUCCANEER on THE ESSEX on stage 12 working from 7:45am-5:05pm.

Feb 23


David works from 7:45am-4:30pm filming additional scenes on the ESSEX.

Feb 24

Berniece takes her busy actor-son his laundry on his Sunday day off.    

Feb 25

An obligation to military service is beckoning. The 8am induction which had been scheduled for David today is deferred.

Back on stage 12 on THE ESSEX instead, David films his 4th day on YANKEE BUCCANEER starting at 7:45am and finishing at 3:50pm.

Feb 26

David has a day off from YANKEE BUCCANEER.

In the evening mother Berniece has dinner at David's apartment before she goes to a rehearsal for a play she is doing called “The Gay Deception”.

Feb 27

Back on YANKEE BUCCANEER, David shoots backlot scenes on the EXT. JUNGLE CLEARING set at an area of the studio backlot called “New Lake”. David works a short day from 11am-3:15pm.

Yankee Buccaneer scene 1

On the homefront, David increases his family debt another $13.28 up to $242.87.           

Feb 28


Works 9:45am-3:25pm on the EXT. JUNGLE VILLAGE-BEACH AND HUT set on "New Lake".

Feb 29 Hold day YANKEE BUCCANEER .
Mar 1


Works 8am-4:40pm back on THE ESSEX ship set on stage 12.

Mar 3

Yankee Buccaneer scene 2 small

Begins a solid 6-day workweek on YANKEE BUCCANEER.


Works 9:45am-4:45pm at the EXT. BEACH & JUNGLE set on the New Lake area of backlot.


Mother Berniece has dinner at David's apartment with Maxine Doviat before her rehearsal for the play “The Gay Deception” which opens in less than 2 weeks.

Mar 4

Works 11am-10:50pm on 2 sets, the JUNGLE at “New Lake”, and a new one—the CASTLE on the "Tower of London" set of the backlot. The filming goes on into the night.

Mar 5

Yankee Buccaneer scene 3 Again at the CASTLE for day and night filming, then to the JUNGLE set again.

Works 4pm- 9:35pm.

Amongst work done this night is scene 255 in which Link

(played by George Mathews), Farragut (Scott Brady), Beckett (JANSSEN), and other Navy men posing as pirates arrive at the castle in a cart.

Mar 6

Called at 9:35am and films to 5:25pm. Janssen works on scenes on the ESSEX SHIP utilizing rear projection photography, also know as ‘process', for the backgrounds of the ocean. This work is done on the Process Stage.

Mar 7

Works 8am- 4:30pm. Janssen begins the day on the Process Stage and moves at 9:55am to the Phantom Stage (built for 1943's “Phantom of the Opera”) to shoot the scenes of the TOWER CHAMBER.

Mar 8

Works 8am-5:15pm. Films all day on the Phantom Stage shooting the fight and escape from the TOWER CHAMBER.

Mar 10

Another full week on YANKEE BUCCANEER.

Works 8am- 5pm. Begins on the Phantom stage for INT. TOWER scenes, then moves to stage 12 for additional work on the ESSEX ship set.

Mar 11

Works 8:30am-5:25pm. The rest of the week filming takes place on the ESSEX ship set on stage 12.

Mar 12

Works 8am-4:40pm.

Mother Berniece has dinner at David's apartment this evening.   

Mar 13

Works 8am-5:05pm.

Mar 14

Works 8am-5pm.

Mar 15

Works 8am-5:10pm.

During shooting this day, Janssen jabs his finger in his eye. He is sent to studio hospital to have it treated and returns to work.

Mar 17

David's next to last filming day on YANKEE BUCCANEER. The call sheet shows him as needing to report at 8am and the shooting company will move around the studio a lot today. They begin on the ESSEX (stage 12), then move (unscheduled) to the New Lake on the backlot for a scene of the long boat coming forward towards the beach. They end the day on stage 16 for a scene in INT. FARRAGUT'S QUARTERS.  Janssen is released at 4:40pm.

Mar 18 David has a hold day on YANKEE BUCCANEER.       
Mar 19 Same as above.
Mar 20

Last day of work on YANKEE BUCCANEER. David is called at 8:45am and is dismissed at 12:15pm.

Mar 21

Resumes normal Talent School activities and classes at the studio.

Mar 23

Mother Berniece fixes tea and soup at David's apartment, then goes to do her performance at the recently-opened play “The Gay Deception” at the Hollywood Playhouse.

Mar 24

bio coverNow ensconced at Universal with 4 film credits under his belt, the studio files a questionaire Janssen has filled out to assist in the preparation of his official biography. Amongst the gems to be found in this document:

-He lies about his age making himself a year older than he really is. Unknown if this was suggested by Universal.


-David claims to be partially “of Jewish descent”. This is a fabrication. He had been confirmed as a Lutheran in 1946 and neither his mother, father, nor his stepfather were Jewish. There certainly was a large Jewish demographic at his high school. But David, who'd continue to say he was “half-Jewish” through his lifetime, probably at the time of this questionaire sensed that being Jewish in the film business was the cool thing to be. 


-He reveals his stepfather Gene Janssen works for Janssen Rug and Upholstery Cleaners in Montrose, a Los Angeles suburb, and praise for his mother (see below).

-His parents wanted him to be “an FBI agent, an actor, or a doctor”, but his first ambition was to be a pilot.

-He swims weekly at YMCA, hopes to go to Paris someday, and doesn't particularly like parties.

-His favorite actors are Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh.

-He enjoys collecting records-both modern and classical, and particularly likes Rogers & Hammerstein and the dance band led by Jerry Gray. He himself plays the piano accordian, the piano, and the uke.


-He reveals a superstition: “I do not like to wear rings or a watch or anything confining about my body” (His dislike of jewelry will stay with him throughout his life).

bio excerpt






Mar 27

David's 21st birthday.

Berniece goes to U-I to have lunch with him at 12:15pm. Gives him a dime tree and $5.

In the evening, after her play performance, mother hosts a birthday party at Allenbergers.

Mar 29

David's mother and 2 sisters move some of David's clothes home to Burbank.    

Mar 30

David has afternoon dinner with his parents and some friends at the Burbank house. Uncle Floyd Graf, Aunt Ruth and the Harwoods from San Diego are there. Mother gives David a St. Genesius medal (the patron saint of actors).

It seems David is also in financial arrears with agent Jack Donaldson. Jack comes to the house to settle with him. David pays him $65 in clothing.

David takes the family Chevy in the evening to see Ginny Jackson (see Feb 13).

Mar 31

David vacates his apartment and moves the last of his clothes back to the family home in Burbank at 7600 Keystonian. He will remain here until to May 8th .

Apr 1

David takes the family car today.

His Universal Studios contract is put on temporary suspension as his induction into the US Army has been rescheduled and is expected to happen this week.


The studio issues an internal progress report on Janssen this day outlining his progress during his first 3 months at the program. It is prepared by Sophie Rosenstein, the director of the Talent School who directed David's first screen test (see Nov 15, 1951). It is sent to James Pratt, the studio executive in charge:



  It was excellent until "Yankee Buccaneer".

General conduct and application:
  He is very co-operative, and helpful as well in assisting

on auditions with new people.

Present acting problem:
  He has a very keen sense of character and simply needs the

normal amount of training and experience. He needs finesse,

and needs to work for variety on characters with a higher

standard of living, such as "Bill" in "Voice of the Turtle".

(Note: Ronald Reagan played this part in a 1947 Warner Brothers movie)

  Busy in production the last month.

Diction (Daniel E. Vandraegen)
  Attendance for diction poor.

  Hal Belfer not available due to production.

Apr 2

David still goes to Universal today. 6-year old sister Jill has a 4pm interview at the Studio. Mother Berniece drives her, and takes David back to Burbank after the appointment. The family has dinner at home and Dave stays in the rest of the evening.

Apr 3

Mother drives David at 8am to his military induction at the Mode-O-Day Building, 155 W. Washington Boulevard in LA.

He is assigned a military ID # (56 102 952), is given a physical, and is put on a 6-day leave.

Apr 4

Mother Berniece drops David off in Hollywood in the afternoon and picks him up at 11pm after her play performance.

Apr 5 David is home all evening.
Apr 6 Family has a big dinner at home. David stays in all evening. His debt is now $252.62.
Apr 8 David stays home. Sleeps and reads all day. (Berniece's mother recalled many years later the he was depressed for several days after his military assignment).
Apr 9

David stays home during the day and reads, then takes the family Chevy and goes to the draft board. He learns that his X-ray reveals a slight shadow on his chest.

In the evening, he goes to a movie preview.

Apr 10

David sees Major Trudeau at the Mode-O-Day Building and is granted a 60-day deferment from the Army due to the uncertainty over his health.

He immediately reports back to Universal, and his contract there is reinstated, having been suspended 8 days due to the draft false start. This extends his initial 6-month contract to June 3rd, after which the studio can elect to renew an option, or drop him as a Contract Player.

Janssen takes the old family car out in the evening.          

Apr 11

At 1130am, David sees a family physician, Dr. Lowery of Dr. Mundell's office, and gets another chest X-ray. He is to go back at end of the day for the results. He takes the family car and returns to U-I for afternoon classes.

After returning to the doctor, David learns the X-ray is clear—no spot is evident. He now has ever reason to believe there is no health issue but the 2 month Army deferment stands.

Apr 12 Saturday night. Dave goes out with friends. Mother Berniece picks him up at Tiny Naylor's Restaurant at 1:30am and they get home 2am.
Apr 13 Janssen is home all evening with his family.
Apr 14

Janssen's return to the studio makes him available again for film castings and he is selected for a last minute role in BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE, already a week in production, which he will start in 2 days. It's the new film of director Fred DeCordova who he finished YANKEE BUCCANEER with less than a month ago.

Apr 15 Finishes his Universal duties at 6:15pm and is picked up by his mother.    
Apr 16

Starts BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE, his 5th U-I film. production #1689.

Bonzo ad

The film was a follow-up to the previous year's BEDTIME FOR BONZO which starred Ronald Reagan. This sequel, which still centered around the exploits of the chimpanzee of the film's title, sported a new human cast including Maureen O' Sullivan and Charles Drake. There was another well-kept secret; the original Bonzo of the 1st film had died and was also replaced for this film.

Janssen plays a football player (#40) on the lackluster Pawlton College team who discovers Bonzo's quarterback skills, and catches the chimp's first pass from the sidelines while the players are scrimaging on the practice field. Edmund Gwenn, Oscar-winning Kris Kringle from A MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, played the coach. Ted Richmond, who produced NO ROOM FOR THE GROOM, which left David on the cutting room floor, again assumes those duties.

Bonzo scene 1David's 1st day of work is on the INT. DREW HOUSE set on the studio's stage 20 for sc. 288.


As “Jack” (though he is not heard called that during the film), Janssen works from 9am-3pm.

David's stepfather Gene picks him up at the studio at 6:30pm and the family stays home all evening.

Apr 17

David has an unworked “hold day” on BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE.

Berniece is still performing in the play “The Gay Deception”. Gene sees the play this evening with their friends, Oscar and Kay Maier. Ironically Gene, who will divorce Berniece in a decade, will marry the then-widowed Kay Maier in 1966.

David meets up with his family at Allenbergers Restaurant after Berniece's performance for a ride home.

Apr 18


On set 8am-4:15pm on “New Park” (the backlot). The PRACTICE FIELD scenes scheduled today are hampered in the morning by a 3-hour fog delay.

Dave goes out in the evening and his mother picks him up at 11pm at Allen's Rite Spot after her play to drive him home.

Apr 19


Works 8am-5:25pm on stage 21. Scenes in the FOOTBALL STANDS are shot.

Apr 20

David spends his Sunday off at home all day.                  

Apr 21

Resumes work Monday morning on BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE.

Works 8am-1:15pm and films a different scene at INT. DREW HOUSE (sc. 230) than was shot last week. U-I stage 20.

Apr 22


Works 8am- 5:40pm, filming again EXT. PRACTICE FIELD scenes on the “New Park” area of the backlot.

Mother Berniece picks him up at U-I at 6:30p. Spends the evening at home.

Apr 23 Berniece drives her son to U-I at 7:45am for a call of 8:15am on BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE. Back on the PRACTICE FIELD set. Dismissed at 4:55pm.
Apr 24

David has a “hold” day on BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE. Mother takes Dave to U-I at 930a for a 10a class.

She and husband Gene Janssen decide to sell their Burbank house for $17,750.       

Apr 25

Another “hold day” on BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE.

Apr 26 Same as above.        
Apr 27

Stays in all Sunday evening to rest up for another week's filming on the BONZO movie.

Apr 28

Mother Berniece takes David to work at U-I at 8:15a in time for his call on BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE at 8:45am. Works to 3pm on the EXT. FOOTBALL STANDS and BENCHES set on stage 21.

In the evening meets his mother and her friend Charlotte at the Sartu Theatre where they'd read for a play. All had coffee together and then David helps pickup their rug at the Hollywood Playhouse (where Berniece had done the play “The Gay Deception”.

Arrive home at 10:20pm.

Apr 29

Berniece drives David to work at U-I at 8:30a for classes as he has a hold day on BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE.

In the evening, David takes the Chevy into Hollywood to see a show.

Apr 30

Last day of filming on BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE. David works 9:15am-5:40pm on the EXT. FOOTBALL FIELD set on the backlot at “New Park”. It's day 21 of production. The film will shoot an additional week without him.

Bonzo publicity

David stays home all evening with his family.

May 1

Good news. Janssen learns his Universal contract which will be up on June 3rd has been extended another 6 months as per option “A” of his original agreement (see Nov. 14, 1951). His pay will remain at the same--the paltry sum of $2000 for 6 months of work.

Berniece picks David up at U-I after classes at 630pm. He borrows the car to go into Hollywood.

May 2

David goes to a dance party at Arthur Murray's with his parents and their friends John and Marvel, the Banks, and the Houses.

May 3

Mother drives David to Saturday classes at U-I. He has horseback riding.

He borrows the Chevy to see the play “On the Town” at the Gallery Stage. Actress Jeanne Cooper (later to star in “The Young and the Restless”) was in this production (and Ruta Lee was in the chorus). David brings Cooper back to his parents' house after the show.

May 5

David drops his mother at WB for extra work, then takes the car to U-I for classes.

He is home for dinner this evening.

May 6

Takes his mother to a studio screening of FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT at 8pm in Projection Room 8.

This may be the first time he sees his name on the silver screen. In all his other previous completed films, Janssen worked in uncredited roles. His credit, as “Dave Janssen”, is 7th name on the 1st shared card.

May 7 Time to try some freedom again. David moves some of his clothes to an apartment with actor Nicky Blair (see February 7).
May 8

David officially moves in with Nicky Blair in a new room thought to be at 840 N. Hudson in Hollywood (though Blair's “No Room For the Groom” contract 3 months earlier had him at 849-1/2 N. Hudson apartment #28)

May 10 David's debt to his mother keeps escalating. It's now at $ 258.76.
May 12

David hosts his parents at the new apartment for dinner and some TV, but he decides to return to their Burbank house after dinner.

May 13

Berniece drives David to U-I.

While he's there, she purchases a shower curtain for him and takes it and his clock and cologne to the new apartment.

May 15

A dry cleaning bill from Moore's rises David's debt to $268.21.

May 17

With the Burbank house sold, Berniece looks for a new apartment for the family.

She wrecks the Chevy Station Wagon in the process.

May 21

Back At the Front posterAnother film role, his 6th in 6 months at Universal. This is a one-day part on WILLIE AND JOE IN BACK AT THE FRONT (production #1707) in the uncredited role of a soldier.

Tom Ewell and Harvey Lembeck play the title characters based on Bill Mauldlin's comic strip.

The film had shot location scenes in Tokyo for two weeks with Ewell, Lembeck, and co-star Richard Long, but had been back working at the studio since May 3rd .

Janssen's bit with them comes in the last scene in the movie which films on a C-54 MILITARY PLANE MOCKUP on stage 12 (check). He completes his work in a little over an hour.

The script, then called WILLIE AND JOE BACK UP FRONT, describes his scene 250 as follows:

…a young, eager-beaver GI, hardly 20, comes out of the plane.

He pauses as he comes abreast of the two boys.


I heard Tokyo is a great furlough town.

What did you guys do for excitement?

     (winks very grownupishly)


Reporting for work at 11:30am, David isn't called to the set until the afternoon. From 2:23pm-3:16pm, a FULL SHOT is done of men filing in, taking seats, and Janssen asking his question. This is done in one take.

From 3:16p-3:35p it takes two takes to do the closer angle of “Willie” and “Joe” and Janssen. Janssen is released for the day after this shot. This is David's 3rd film produced by Leonard Goldstein, and the first of 2 he will do with director George Sherman.

watch the scene

May 28

Agent Jack Donaldson, now of his own Jack Donaldson Agency, is given written authorization by Janssen to receive checks on his behalf. David instructs the studio to mail payments to Jack at his 8745 Sunset Boulevard office on the Sunset Strip.

As the studio guarantees David's $100 weekly payment for only 20 out of each 26 weeks, a proration agreement is signed giving him a consistant $76/week during his forthcoming term.

May 31

David's family moves. Leaving the Burbank house, they go to an apartment at 4447 Finley Avenue in Los Angeles, not far from Griffith Park.

They will live here until June of 1956, and David will move in and out of this house several times, being absent for the first 22 months of this tenancy for reasons about to be clear.

Jun 3

Berniece fixes a big dinner for David and agent Jack Donaldson at the new apartment.

Jun 4 Janssen's June internal report card, again written by Sophie Rosenstein, is released summarizing his recent progress:


General conduct and application:

Present acting problem:
  This boy has a great flair for character, which I see

in the various roles he does in the classroom. In the right role

he can be spectacular, but unfortunately he's a little off-beat

looking, and it will not be easy to find the proper assignment

for him. However he is a valuable boy. He still needs to work

on roles with easy charm and finesse-a little straighter in type.

  Very satisfactory.

  Attendance only fair.

  Hal Belfer not available due to production.

Horseback riding
  Attendance fair.


But in bigger news, Uncle Sam calls.


The 60-day deferment from the Army has come to an end, and with David's clean bill of health, he's accepted, sworn in, and packed off to Fort Ord near in Northern California the same day. Janssen later relates to the base newspaper that the first his family or the studio knew of it was when he called from the base's Reception Center.


Janssen's Universal-International contract is put on a military hiatus with the stipulation that he must return to the studio no later than 90 days after his final release from armed services.

A role in a Tyrone Power film, MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER, that he was due to perform next will need to be recast.


David Janssen, in a year and a half, has turned himself into an employable actor with his Universal contract awaiting him after his term in the military. He's logged 6 film credits, had hours of classes and instruction, and is on his way. The Army time he's about to do won't see him off to harm's way in Korea, but will instead keep him in California, ironically allowing him to further refine his show business skills...

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