We’re sad to hear of the passing of actress Jean Stapleton, who died yesterday, Friday May 31, 2013, at the age of 90. Stapleton died of natural causes in her home in New York City. She’s best know for portraying the lovable “Edith Bunker” on All in the Family, but also enjoyed success on the Broadway stage with “Damn Yankees” and “The Bells Are Ringing,” and with several television movies.
Below are some selections from her 2000 Archive interview:
Her thoughts on how All in the Family dealt with bigotry:
Her description of “Edith Bunker”:
She was a very compassionate individual, had a peculiar way of arriving at things and thoughts. Not very bright, not well educated, but a great sense of wisdom and heart. I guess I would describe it that way. And also fun, a sense of joy about her and great, just great love for everyone, and a perception about people that was instinctive, intuitive, but certainly not intellectual.
And how she’d like to be remembered:
To be remembered? I don’t think about that uh very much, frankly. I don’t think anybody’s remembered too well, after awhile… I really don’t think it’s one of my goals or projects to decide that. I hope that my work stands up, if it’s ever seen in the future.
Carol Brady was not going to wear an apron….Everyone wanted to be a Partridge….June Cleaver wore heels for a reason….and “Mrs. C” knows how to get what she wants! In honor of Mother’s Day, the Archive of American Television highlights quotes and clips from 10 interviewees best-known for their roles as iconic sitcom TV moms.
Jane Wyatt on playing Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best
I did understand wife and mother because I was a wife and mother. Margaret was much nicer than me. I can say that. But then she had all her lines written for her. I was much more independent than she was. She was a very nice person, I enjoyed playing her. And, she had a wonderful rapport with her children.
Barbara Billingsley on playing June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver
Some people think she was namby-pamby. But no, she used to get teed off with the children. She didn’t always refer to the father as far as punishing is concerned. She was a loving, happy, stay-at-home mom, which I think is great. I’m not for every woman having to be out in the workplace. I had two children at home and I was working. But I think the one that stays home, if she’s doing a good job, it is the best job she’ll ever have, the most important.
Interview clip: Barbara Billingsley on June Cleaver’s wardrobe, high-heels, and pearls
Marion Ross on playing 50s mom Marion “Mrs. C.” Cunningham on Happy Days Between my childhood in Minnesota, and the 50’s, it’s easy for me to relate to the kind of woman who gets everything she wants, but in a very charming, feminine way, because it’s just easier! That’s kind of the way I was raised and that’s what I saw in my own childhood how women love their husbands and protects her husband from the children. “Be good to your father.” He’s the head of the family, but he really isn’t, of course. She is the head of the family. But that’s the artifice. This is all pre-women’s lib. Now, I still think it’s a kind of a handy way to get things done. We conceal our strength.
Florence Henderson on playing Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch
I know that there were certain things that I brought to the role. I think it was my experience as a young parent and the fact that I understood kids. I felt close to them. I was really the only one on the set that was married, that had children and an ongoing relationship…. I would never wear an apron. I wanted to wear sexy nightgowns. I wanted to make her as human as possible.
Interview clip: Florence Henderson on playing Carol Brady
Mary Tyler Moore on playing Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show The sponsors had a good deal more to say back then. We had to sleep in twin beds even though we were a married couple. We had to wear pajamas with the little pockets and a shirt. We were not allowed to say pregnant. You had to say “expecting a child” or “expecting a baby.” The big objection was the pants that I wore in The Dick Van Dyke Show. I had seen too many housewives on television who were vacuuming in high heels and a floral printed frock. I said, wait a minute, that’s not the way it really is and I wanted to be real. I wanted to represent something of me. And I was married and a mother, and I’ve walked around barefoot as I still do, and wore pants. So I brought that to the show. I also brought my sense of honesty, my sense of truth.
Diahann Carroll on playing single-mother Julia Baker on Julia
On television, Julia was the first non-conventional, educated, single mother who was outspoken. She dated. She raised her child…But no Black male was the argument. No father. No image for the children to relate to a father. That was a very loud criticism. It’s not that Julia and her son didn’t talk about situations. It may not have been his life, but we did talk about situations. Also, mother dated, and we brought the male into the house to say hello to the son. And, usually it was another professional Black that the young man was exposed to. So, I think that as we look back, that we’re very proud of that, that piece of work. It represented a new thought. It represented something that was subject to a great deal of criticism.
Interview clip: Diahann Carroll discusses Julia
Jean Stapleton on her favorite Edith Bunker “mother” moment on All in the Family The anniversary episode was one was one of my favorites. Edith was to give marital advice to her daughter. That was great. She and Gloria felt that they should have a mother and daughter talk now that Gloria’s getting married. So of course Edith said nothing. Gloria supplied all of the issues and answered them while Edith would nod in approval “yes, yes of course.” Edith was very, very shy, very timid about discussing such things. It is very funny and very much in character.
Video clip: watch the brilliant scene Jean Stapleton references here:
Shirley Jones on being TV music group mom Shirley Partridge on The Partridge Family
She was a working mom, but wanted her children to have values. The show business thing was secondary. And they made a point of that, because the first couple of shows, the pilot in particular, they were dealing very much with the show-business angle, “where are we going to perform? Let’s rehearse every day.” And finally [producer] Bob Claver said, “we’re going to tone down the show business angle. We’re going to make them real people. We’re going to have stories about teenage sweethearts in school, and we’re going to have stories about Shirley maybe dating one of the local guys. There will always be a song, but the show won’t be built around that performance.” I think that helped because it made us real people. And it also got every teenager in America thinking that they could do this. “We can go to school and we can have a band. And we can get a bus.” The sad part is that every once in a while, I would find some young 16, 15, 14-year-old, sitting on my lawn, just off a bus from Iowa or Michigan or someplace, saying, “I’ve come to be in The Partridge Family. I can play the instrument.” They’d literally run away from home. I just had to tell them the truth and say, “listen, this is a television show. We don’t have a band. It’s all make-believe.”
Interview clip: Shirley Jones on Shirley Partridge
Phylicia Rashad on playing Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show She had a very normal relationship. She understood the difference in all their personalities. It was a very loving relationship, and there was discipline. She was very, very patient, but very disciplined. She understood the value of discipline. And they, as parents, understood the importance of being on the same page with those people.
Interview clip: Phylicia Rashad on working on The Cosby Show
Patricia Heaton on playing Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond Debra’s a horrible homemaker, that was what was so wonderful about her is that she couldn’t cook, and a lot of times with the kids it was just like “whatever.” I think there’s a whole movement in our country since Martha Stewart came on the scene of being a perfect and making every small daily task a work of art, which there’s some benefit to trying to lift the mundane out of its mundaneness and making it something because every act of care that you do for your family is actually sort of a sacred thing. But when you’re packing a lunch every morning, you’re not going to cut the sandwich into smiley shapes and starfish, you just throw in that prepackaged crap in their bag and stick it in their backpack. So, I think she tried, but she was like every mom that has it up to here with everything. …But I think she was a good mother, yeah, definitely.
Interview clip: Patricia Heaton discusses the Everybody Loves Raymond family dynamic
The Archive is sad to learn of the passing of actress Jeanne Cooper, who died this morning at the age of 84. Cooper was best known for playing “Katherine Chancellor” on the hit soap opera The Young and the Restless. She also had guest roles on The Twilight Zone, M Squad, and Perry Mason, and appeared opposite her son, Corbin Bernsen, on L.A. Law.
Below are some excerpts from her 2009 Archive interview:
On the set of her character’s house on The Young and the Restless:
My set, “Katherine Chancellor’s,” was the most expensive set ever built for daytime at that time. Which, in 1973, at $175,000 plus, was a lot of money because that was the budget for some shows. What it did was change all of the other shows and bring them out of the dark into a more updated presentation and it elevated daytime. That’s when they took on serious scripts and what have you. But we had sets. We had places, we had towns. People could identify. It was no longer, “My Girl Sunday,” Marion Lord, and old mining towns in West Virginia.
On whether she feels there’s a stigma associated with daytime television:
You’re not really looked down upon by, let’s say, prime time or motion pictures, because they’ve all been watching daytime. But you’re just not considered in their league. And that is the sadness, for anyone who thinks like that. Because we have people that could get out there and probably outdo so many of them, more talented. Again, do you want to be an actress or do you want to be a movie star? You have a chance to be an actress on daytime. I’ve proved that as the only media that allows you to get older. My character started 36 years ago. So there’s a big difference between me 36 years ago and today. I sort of helped say, “it’s okay to be over 50.” I helped, saying, “it’s okay to have a nip and a tuck here and there, if you need, what have you.” I’ve made it okay and strange enough, there’s a commercial that says, “I want to grow up to be an old woman.” I think back, then maybe the creators of women [characters] will be able to be older, allow the girls, after the cosmetic surgery and what have you, after the admission of age, come out and say, “hey, I’m not dead at 50. I’m just starting to live at 50.”
On having the first facelift on television in 1984 as “Katherine Chancellor:”
Well, I personally was going to have a facelift and I knew if I looked any better, “Katherine” was bound to have a few changes in her life. So I talked to Bill Bell about, “can I have some time off, if I needed it?” – my vacation was coming up. But if I needed another week, so he said, “well yeah, I’m sure.” But he came down to the dressing room one day and he said, “Jeanne, how would you feel about if we sort of put ‘Katherine’ through this?” I said, well, “it’s a very good idea, since I’m going through it and I am ‘Katherine.’” … They filmed the surgery. Most amazing thing. The next day I was to go to Dr. Glassman’s office to remove the bandages. He said, “if it’s too messy, if she bleeds a little bit too much, I want to be able to clean her up and we will rewrap it. I said, “I promise you, I won’t bleed.” So it was filmed. And Jack Wellman, who was my doctor, was doing the voice, but you would see Harry Glassman’s hands doing all the work. We had 52% of the viewing audience of television that day; one of the highest ratings that CBS has ever had. Fifty-two percent of the people watching television were watching The Young and the Restless and this operation. It was so successful that it broke cosmetic surgery wide open.
On playing the mother of real-life son, Corbin Bernsen, on L.A. Law:
On winning a Daytime Emmy:
On how she’d like to be remembered:
Oh gosh, how would one like to be remembered? I think possibly to be remembered, that… I made things possible. I made things happen. So that’s an impact on life. That I’ve impacted life somehow. Whether it’s better or worse is not for me or anyone else to say, I don’t think. But I think I’d like to be remembered as someone who loved doing what she did.
We’re sad to hear of the passing of director Jack Shea, who died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease on Sunday, April 28th, 2013 at the age of 84. Shea directed many of Bob Hope’s television specials, as well as several series, including The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Waltons, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Ropers, Silver Spoons, and Designing Women. Shea also served as a three-time president of the Directors Guild of America and was active with The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences when it split ties with The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1977.
Below are some excerpts from his 2002 Archive interview:
On directing Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis in their respective television shows:
Somebody on the Hope Show – they were changing directors – remembered my work and said, :we ought to hire Shea.” It was a tremendous thrill. I had this chance to direct one of the big live shows in those days. I got that opportunity and I did it. Everything worked. It was a wonderful time, but I remember doing that and then I suddenly got a bid from Jerry Lewis to work on one of his shows. He called me in and he said, “You’re doing the Hope show, huh?” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “I also want you to do my show.” And I said, “okay.” Then I realized that Jerry was watching anybody that did the Hope show – that was the leading show at that point. So I had the great opportunity of doing the Bob Hope shows and also the Jerry Lewis shows. That was all live, you know, and it was wild times. I mean they both were very interesting characters, totally different personalities, because Bob was very in control and he had the writers that did his material for him and he was always the same character that you see you now. Rarely, rarely got terribly upset. And Jerry, of course, was frenetic. I liked both of them and enjoyed working with both of them.
On Bob Hope’s legacy:
I mean he’s just one of the most outstanding characters. I think he will be thought of for many, many, many years, because I think he was just such a dynamic character. When he walked in a room, you know, he did that little walk that was so very specifically Bob Hope. I think he will be remembered for a long time. He’s so identified with helping the troops by being there and supporting them. And the troops knew that, too. The marvelous receptions that he got when he’d be going out for the troops… He’s quite extraordinary.
On how he began directing Sanford and Son:
I had been doing something else for Normal Lear at that time. That was one of Norman’s shows, he and Bud Yorkin. I was doing some other shows for them at that point and when they got that show, they had a few problems when they were getting started. Redd Foxx and the directors were having problems, and I think that in the first four or five shows they had four or five directors. I came in with great trepidation, and I got along fine. I think I had one fight the whole long time on the show. When I say fight, one disagreement. It was a tough one to do, because you had a lot of people who had specific ideas about how they wanted their material, but as I remember, it worked out pretty well. It was a funny show. Redd was really something else. Every rehearsal was hysterical. It took a long time to get work done, but we had a lot of laughs and laughs are important.
On directing The Jeffersons:
I honestly can’t remember exactly how I became involved with it, but I just know that it was a great experience and I think I had done so much work with Norman Lear and the other people there, that when it came up I was the guy they felt would be comfortable with it. And I certainly was. We just had a wonderful association. We worked together for a long time and had a great time. When you start a show and you’re not sure how it’s going to go, you always feel sort of uncomfortable… And then suddenly when you hit, boy you really hit it. The way I know a show was really making it – when my kids would come home and tell me that the kids in class were doing “The Jeffersons” and walking like George. Then I knew we had a hit. And we did have a hit. Boy it was just great. Such a great combination of people.
On his approach to directing actors:
I like to use the instincts that actors have. Now when I lay out my work, I know that sometimes an actor has to be at a certain spot at a certain time in order to make something work that has to be there. And I have to find justification for getting that actor to that place without just saying, “get up and move, Charlie.” I just find I just try to talk to actors same way I like them to talk to me. I tell them what I’m looking for and what I think they ought to do in a particular case. If they disagree and have another opinion I listen to it. Then I make up my mind as to which way it’s gotta be, and I just try to make the case going and will listen to anything they have to say. But it’s going to be my decision, because it’s my responsibility.
On his involvement with what would become the Directors Guild of America:
When I started my career, for some reason I always felt that good union representation is important, in our business especially, because I think it protects the actor, the director, the writer and I think we all need that protection. I think the director needs that protection. When I started in the business, I got interested in trying to be part of that protection, because I saw directors being misused or abused in some cases, and for the sake of not only the individuals but for the sake of the whole craft, I think we need to be able to protect people so that they can do their jobs as well as they can do them. In some cases that wasn’t occurring. And I think I was anxious to see if I could help in allowing people to direct who wanted to direct. That’s why I got involved.
On how he’d like to be remembered:
As being a good or capable, honest director. That’s about all I can ask for.
There are things that happen in this world that we sometimes just don’t understand. The attacks on 9/11. The tragedy at Newtown. The recent bombings at the Boston Marathon. Lives are lost, questions go unanswered, and it’s easy to lose faith in humanity when such heart-breaking acts of violence continue to occur.
As we seek to make sense of what we’re seeing on the news, many have referred to Mr. Rogers’ sage advice to “look for the helpers” in times of tragedies. In his 1999 Archive interview, the man who taught us to embrace the world of make-believe also taught us how to hold on to hope when bad things happen in the real world:
We’re sad to hear of the passing of comedian Jonathan Winters, who died last night at the age of 87 of natural causes in Montecito, California. Winters had a prolific career in television and film, and was known for many of the memorable characters he created, including “Maude Frickert”, “Elwood P. Suggins”, and “King Kwasi.” He made several appearances on The Tonight Show over the years, had his own program, The Jonathan Winters Show, and won an Emmy for his role on Davis Rules.
Below are some selections from Winters’ 2002 Archive interview:
The Archive is sad to report the passing of film critic Roger Ebert, who died today at the age of 70. Ebert announced yesterday that his cancer had returned and he would be scaling back from reviewing films. He’s best known for not only his newspaper (and later online) reviews, but also for TV shows Siskel & Ebert (alongside fellow critic Gene Siskel, who passed away in 1999), and Ebert & Roeper (with critic Richard Roeper). Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1975, penned an entertaining and often inspirational blog, and also authored several books including his 2011 autobiography “Life Itself.”
We were honored to interview Roger Ebert in 2005. Here are some selections from his ninety-minute interview:
On “Two Thumbs Up”:
On film criticism:
On Gene Siskel’s legacy:
I think that Gene and I created a format on television that had an influence on people that watched the show. The show has been on the air in one form or another for 30 years. I have talked to directors who are 40 years old who were watching the show when they were kids. What people got from the show, especially young viewers, were two ideas: movies are deserving to being taken seriously and it’s okay to disagree about them. Which is to say, “it’s okay to have an opinion about them.” And Gene always was very proud of the fact that he took his girls to see a movie once and they came out and he said,”well, girls how did you like it? And one of them said, “Daddy I didn’t like it.” And he said, “you just made me the proudest papa in the world.” Because you see, kids always say that everything is fine. How did you like it, “oh it was fine.” For at least some kids, watching our show, suddenly you would hear that in grade schools, they were doing Siskel and Ebert, where Jones and Smith would debate the new movies. The idea of having an opinion and disagreeing with somebody was interesting.
On winning the Pulitzer Prize for criticism:
I guess I was the first film critic to win for criticism. Two years earlier, Ron Powers, the television critic of the “Sun-Times” had won. Then there wasn’t another film critic who won for criticism for ages until about 2002, when Stephen Hunter of “The Washington Post” won. And then last year, Joe Morgenstern of “The Wall Street Journal” won.
(Reposted from 2/13/13 MediaPost article by Karen Herman with permission)
In time for Valentine’s Day, the Archive of American Television opens its vault to find out what our interviewees had to say about some of TV’s classic relationships:
Writer Sam Denoff on “That Girl” – Here were these two people who were in love, which made the show work. People remember more about Donald and Ann Marie than all the things that she got into, which is the secret of all the great shows. “All in the Family,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Honeymooners,” “I Love Lucy” were all love stories….
I don’t think any episode mentioned, “Shall we do it?” It wasn’t if they did or didn’t — it wasn’t important.
There was a responsibility to each other that made for the comedy. “I want to do something, but will he or she be mad?” That’s why marriage works, because it’s a comedy.
Actress Jean Stapleton on “All in the Family” — On the surface, Archie was that incredible, ignorant bigot — but Edith saw more than that. Edith was in love with this man. We had some tender moments that were dramatized, perhaps more off-camera…The whole substance of their marriage is something that was probably very sweet.
Producer Aaron Spelling on “Starsky and Hutch”– We said many times, it was the first heterosexual [all-male] love affair on television. Paul Michael Glaser’s character loved hamburgers, all that jazz, and David Soul liked French food. They disagreed about everything, but they were really terrific together. It was their relationship more than the cases. It had lots of humor in it. It wasn’t just car chases.
Actress Isabel Sanford on the love between “The Jeffersons” — Louise kept George in tow. That’s how it lasted that long. George really loved Louise. He was hotheaded, but he listened to her. Whether he thought he had the last word or not, she had the last word. That’s how that marriage lasted as long as it did. Nobody would put up with George like Louise!
Actress Suzanne Pleshette on the mature love of “The Bob Newhart Show”– Bob and Emily Hartley were a unique couple, something that had never been on television. First, we were a married couple who loved each other. We did not denigrate each other. We were partners; we were equals. We were smart and both working. There were no children to teach us lessons. Howard, our next-door neighbor, was our child, in effect.
We were obviously sexual. I’m very demonstrative, [and] Bob hates that [but] he was obliged to endure it, and that became something wonderful about our relationship.
When we analyze it, what does keep a couple together? I think what… keeps us with that other person more than anything, is not the physical; it’s the common sense of humor. It’s that you laugh at what I say and I laugh at what you do and we both find the same things funny….
I feel like it’s never really mentioned, but Debra loves Ray because he’s fun…. Comedy’s conflict — but every once in a while, he makes her laugh. And you get it.
Sometimes a couple just has chemistry. You can’t always define exactly why two people fit together so perfectly, but you can almost see the sparks fly when halves so seamlessly make a whole. Luckily for all of us, television has provided many of these terrific twosomes over the years — couples that we can’t wait to see argue and make up, scheme and fall flat, or visit with nosy neighbors. TV’s power couples make us want to tune in week after week, or daily if applicable, to watch magic happen over and over again.
Throughout the years The Archive has been privileged to interview some of television’s favorite couples. And although their on-screen romances didn’t carry over into real life, these couples still displayed an awful lot of love and respect for each other when out of character. Have a look for yourself:
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Hall of Fame Committee has selected actor/director/producer Ron Howard, sportscaster Al Michaels, executive Leslie Moonves, journalist Bob Schieffer, and producer Dick Wolf as the newest inductees into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame. Inventor Philo T. Farnsworth will also be inducted posthumously. The group will be honored at the 22nd Annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 11, 2013.
Additionally, this year’s Hall of Fame will benefit the Archive of American Television! As Jerry Petry, Chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation (parent organization of the Archive ) stated, “Each of this year’s honorees has had their achievements and personal stories chronicled in our Archive, and we can’t think of a better way to honor them than to perpetuate the good work of the Foundation.”
As Petry alluded, the Archive of American Television has conducted interviews with all but one of the new honorees – Philo T. Farnsworth passed away before the Archive’s inception, but we did interview his wife, Elma “Pem” Farnsworth. Below enjoy selections from Archive interviews with or touting this year’s Hall of Fame inductees: