Archive for the ‘Obituaries’ Category

Remembering Kathryn Joosten

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Today the Archive remembers actress Kathryn Joosten, who passed away on Friday, June 1st, 2012 from lung cancer. Joosten was 72 and best known for her roles as “Mrs. Landingham” on The West Wing and “Karen McCluskey” on Desperate Housewives. She began her acting career late in life, at age 42, yet still managed to win two Emmy awards (for her role on Desperate Housewives). In addition to her career as a performer, Joosten was active in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, where she served multiple terms as a governor of the Performers Peer Group and served on various committees.

The Archive interviewed Joosten on May 9th of this year. Below are some excerpts from the interview:

On playing “Mrs. Landingham” on The West Wing:

On Desperate Housewives and how her character’s death would mirror her own:

On acting:

On her advice to aspiring actors:

On how she’d like to be remembered:

Watch Kathryn Joosten’s full Archive interview here.

Read her obituary here.

Remembering Richard Dawson

Monday, June 4th, 2012

The Archive remembers Richard Dawson today, who passed away on Saturday, June 2nd, 2012 at the age of 79. Dawson was the long-time host of the game-show Family Feud, where he coined the famous phrase “survey says,” and from 1965-1971 played “Corporal Peter Newkirk” on Hogan’s Heroes.

Here are some selections from Dawson’s 2010 Archive Interview:

On how he got into show business:

On the beginnings of Family Feud:

On kissing the contestants on Family Feud:

On the cancellation of Family Feud:

On Corporal Newkirk’s accent on Hogan’s Heroes:

Watch Richard Dawson’s full Archive interview here.

Read his obituary here.

Director/Producer Bob Finkel Dies at 94

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The Archive is sad to learn of the death of Bob Finkel, who passed away of age-related complications on April 30, 2012. Finkel produced numerous hits of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Eddie Fisher Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, and The Andy Williams Show, along with multiple broadcasts of The People’s Choice Awards, Oscars, and Emmy Awards. He also produced Elvis: The ‘68 Comeback Special.

Here are some selections from Finkel’s 1997 Archive Interview:

On directing Natalie Wood in Pride of the Family:

There was a scene in which Natalie couldn’t go to the high school graduation, she couldn’t get a date. Paul, her father, ultimately goes with her. When she didn’t get the date she had to look at her father and cry. So we rehearsed that sequence on a couple of occasions, and never did she cry. Normally when you rehearse those things you don’t ask performers to cry, until they get ready. We now got to like the last rehearsal, and I said to Natalie, “I would like to see this scene how it plays, and I want you to cry.” And this little bitty thing looked up to me, and she said, “Mr. Finkel, when I see that camera turn over, then you’ll see my tears.” That’s the way it was. When we rolled the camera, she cried and went all over the floor.

On following key light:

I developed the idea of following the key light. I did my scenes wherever the key light was. “Is this a key light?” I would do every scene where that key light was, so that they didn’t have to re-light the sequence. I would even go very much out of order. I was saving time by following the key light. I did that.

On The Dinah Shore Show:

I must tell you that everybody on the staff had to drive Chevrolets. They gave us Chevrolets. That was the good old days, and each year we got a different one. Because if you were a member of the staff of The Dinah Shore Show, you couldn’t be seen in a Ford. So they gave us the cars; they leased them to us. The format was not unlike the formats that I used in most of these musical variety shows. It was some big production number to get started, and a welcoming from the star, and talking about her guests. Maybe in Dinah’s case, a sketch about a luau in Hawaii, because she was there the last week on a little vacation. The word that we devised for that kind of thing was “true lies.” We based those things on something that happened to her, but then we lied it up a little bit. They were “true lies.”

On the Osmond Brothers first appearance on The Andy Williams Show:

I remember vividly the night that the father of the Osmond Brothers had been pestering us to listen to their barbershop quartet winners: The Osmond Brothers. It was very hard at the end of evening, after you finished taping, to stop and go into another studio and listen to four kids sing “Danny Boy.” Finally the father got to me, and I told Andy, I said, “let’s do this guy a favor and listen to the kids,” which we did. The kids’ barbershop stuff was brilliant, and Andy was terribly impressed. We bought them that evening for, I think three performances. They just became big smash hits. They were so cute. We even had the mother and father on a couple of times. The father played saxophone; the mother sang. They were just endearing. Andy used to sit with them on the stairs in the audience and talk to them. They had these wonderful little faces and they sang so great with him, and they were big hits. Their career just accelerated, and they became big stars.

On winning an Emmy for The Perry Como Show while producing the Emmy broadcast:

I was in the truck, about a block away from the stage. I’m sitting in there, and the guy said, “the outstanding achievement goes to The Perry Como Show. Bob Finkel, producer.”  I couldn’t believe it. I ran out of the truck, and ran down the street to go into the theater. A guy that I knew said, “hi, Bob.” Passing me I said, “I can’t talk to you now, I just won an Emmy Award.” I went into the theater, went up on stage, got my Emmy, took it in my arm, and I started to come back, and the guy was still waiting for me. He said, “I thought you were lying to me. I’ll be dammed. Congratulations.” I said, “I can’t talk to you right now,” and I went back to the truck.

On his Peabody-winning Julie Andrews special:

MCA came to me and said, “you know, there’s a girl we’re bringing over from England that’s been a big hit, by the name of Julie Andrews. We want to do a special with her.” I said, “well I don’t want to do a special with her right away.” I said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll put her on The Andy Williams Show as a guest and let’s see what happens.” Of course she was just as adorable as she always is. She was wonderful. She then went to New York and did “My Fair Lady.” Then we were going to do a special with Julie Andrews, because she proved that she could handle a special. I got a hold of Alan Handley, another legendary name in television. Alan was a producer-director for NBC, and together we designed a show for her. We got Gene Kelly to be on the show.

On Elvis: The ‘68 Comeback Special:

Colonel Parker, Elvis’ manager and mentor, wanted to do a special in order to hype Elvis’ record sales. I was introduced to Elvis at Paramount, and to the Colonel, and we had a great many meetings before it was decided among all of us that I was the guy and that Elvis would do the show. Colonel Parker wanted a concert show, and I didn’t want to do that. I did what now is called The Comeback Special. In order to execute the ideas that I had, which was more or less what I had been doing in musical variety, with the exception there was less talk – there were production numbers and audience participation that Elvis did in that arena situation – in order to accomplish that I hired Steve Binder, who was another up-and-coming creative director, and I gave him producing and directing credit. We formed what became The Elvis Presley Special … Elvis was truly professional. Very, very nice man. Very respectful of a director, respectful of a producer. Expressed his opinion. He never hid his feelings about things, but listened. He was a pleasure to work with.  It was a wonderful, marvelous experience, and we knew that we had a great show. It wasn’t very long into the rehearsal that we knew we had something.

On his friend, Bing Crosby:

Bing was colorblind, but really colorblind. There are different stages of colorblindness. He said to me one time, “do you want to go to the track?” Now most guys when they go to the track they have their driver, they have a car. Bing’s got this old Toyota. Just him in the car and me. We’re driving along, and we come to the stop light. And I said, “Bing, how do you know when to stop?” He said, “Bob, it’s simple. When the top is on that means it’s green, when the bottom is on – no, wait a minute. When the bottom is on… no, when the top, now the middle one…”  I said, “let me out of the car, Bing. If you don’t know which one it is, I don’t want to be driving with you.”  He would get on the stage with a blue sock and a white sock.

Watch Bob Finkel’s Full Archive interview.

Producer Lee Rich Dies at 85

Friday, May 25th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the passing of Lee Rich, best known as one of the founders of Lorimar Productions. Rich served as executive producer on The Waltons, Eight is Enough, Dallas, and Knots Landing. Earlier in his career, he worked for advertising company Benton & Bowles, where he helped package The Danny Thomas Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. He left advertising to form Mirisch-Rich Productions, where he produced Rat Patrol and Hey, Landlord; briefly returned to advertising at the Leo Burnett Agency; and then formed Lorimar where he remained until 1986, when he became Chairman of MGM/UVA.

Here are some selections from Rich’s 1999 Archive interview:

On packaging shows at Benton & Bowles:

We had to explain to clients what television was all about. We had to explain to them what would happen to their sales, and it wasn’t as easy as everybody thought. It was fine to say, “hey I’ve got a great show,” but if it doesn’t do well, forget it. The Dick Van Dyke Show was that far from being canceled… We would try to get clients into television spots before we got them into programming. Because then we could prove to them that their market share was going up. And then it was like a child growing up. Everybody had to learn; everybody had to make mistakes. Everybody was extremely competitive. But the end result was an advertiser had to feel comfortable and his sales had to be up.

On the relationship between Benton & Bowles and the networks:

Well in those days we were the largest place; we placed the greatest amount of television of any advertising agency in the country and had tremendous clout over the network. Really tremendous clout. Our clout came from obtaining time periods that were advantageous to us. For example, on Monday night from eight-thirty to ten o’clock was all General Foods: Danny Thomas, Andy Griffith, and Gomer Pyle, they were all General Food shows. Then Procter and Gamble had time periods of their own, on NBC and on ABC. But that was where the strength came in, that was the clout that we had in placing the television shows.

On how The Dick Van Dyke Show was brought to Benton & Bowles:

Carl Reiner did a pilot, which he starred in it and it was basically The Dick Van Dyke Show. He then brought that pilot to us and we all recognized that the idea was a great idea, but Carl was not right for it. We talked to Carl and Carl recognized that he wasn’t the star for it, but he did write it. We talked about doing it and finding somebody else to play the lead, and we talked about a lot of people, and we finally came down to Dick Van Dyke. They flew into New York, met me, we watched Dick Van Dyke in “Bye, Bye Birdie,” and we then met with him after the theater, and that was it. We hired Dick Van Dyke.

On the origin of Dallas:

On the storylines on Knots Landing:

In many ways Knots was, except for Larry Hagman, Knots was a better show than Dallas. More real story lines, and we had female villains. We had Donna Mills. I remember when we cast her, I said to her, “you want to be a villain?” And she said, “Great!”

On his proudest achievements:

Watch Lee Rich’s full Archive Interview here, and read his obituary in Deadline here.

Game Show Creator Bob Stewart Dies at 91

Friday, May 4th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of game show creator/producer Bob Stewart, who passed away at the age of 91. Stewart began his association with producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman (Goodson-Todman) in 1955 and created fan favorites Pyramid, The Price is Right, To Tell the Truth, and Password.

Here are some selections from Stewart’s three-hour Archive interview from 1998:

On the genesis of The Price is Right:

On Fiftieth Street and Seventh Avenue in New York there used to be a store which auctioned silverware, glassware, watches, jewelry … and everyday during the lunch hour that place was packed. People would just walk in and bid for the goods. I used to stop by there and watch the stuff and I thought to myself, ‘anybody who pays a nickel more than the retail price has been taken, but anybody who gets it for even a nickel less has got a bargain.’ And that became the core of The Price Is Right.

On how celebrity panelists were selected for To Tell The Truth:

In its original form, we had different visions of making this cross examination more than just entertainment. So as a consequence, we had a couple of reporters whose names escape me right now but they were literally reporters that people knew about. One guy was sort of an entertainment writer for one of the big New York newspapers. We also brought in people like Ralph Bellamy because he was doing Man Against Crime, a fictional detective, but at least he was cross-examining … We ended up with people like Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle and the classic panelists Peggy Cass, who were there to have some fun and make a good time of it.

On how the Quiz Show Scandals changed game shows:

They brought in what they called Standards and Practices. The first guys hired back in 1958 or ’59, whenever it was, they brought in some ex-FBI men … an FBI guy came in and he oversaw the shows to make sure that nothing crooked was going on. The new thing that was innovated was that all contestants and all producers had to sign certain waivers of sorts saying you wouldn’t cheat and so on. There was that. The physical setup between contestants and production help had to be completely separate. We now had to have contestants briefed in another building at one time, couldn’t be in the same building. And in the studio, the quarters were set up so that there could be no contact except for the person who was the contestant getter, nobody else could be near a contestant.

On creating Password:

On creating Pyramid:

That had a strange development. Originally, we had a pilot that we made for CBS and it was called On The Line. There was a pyramid shape with a series of lines across the pyramid. I think there were ten lines. The bottom row had ten squares, then nine, eight, seven, six, on up to one. It was a different kind of game but we played a game with it. We made the pilot and it was just a so-so pilot. Fred Silverman, who has been said ’shoots from the hip,’ looked at it, didn’t care for it, and said, ‘we’ll do something else.’ I was trying to take advantage of the fact that they needed a show and I brought in some run-through of another show which he liked, and we were working on that in different run-throughs and then one day I got an idea of how to convert that pyramid of ten into another kind of show of quick communication. Although we were scheduled to run-through this new idea I showed Silverman this new version of the old pilot. ‘I kind of like it,’ he said, ‘but I don’t like the front game, the end game is okay.’ So I change that — the network guys do this, they don’t know what they’re looking for and they don’t recognize it so they’re not sure, so they keep sending you back to do it again, again, and again. Finally, one day I show him these two pieces together. Matter of fact, Bill Cullen was helping me demonstrate it, he was one of the players. The next thing I knew I walked into Bud Grant’s office. Bud was the head of daytime television, Silverman was the head of nighttime. I was hanging around CBS to find out whether we’re going to make the schedule and then I noticed in Bud Grant’s office where they have this board of shows, it said ‘Ten Thousand Dollar Pyramid.’ I said, ‘what the hell is that?’ He says, ‘you’re on the air.’

On how game show production changed since he began his career:

Since I haven’t been in it for a few years, I don’t know exactly, but I’ll tell you how part of it changed. The part that’s changed is … I’ll use the word respect. There was a certain respect that the network people or syndicators had for the producers of game shows. In other words, they dealt with them on a rather, even equal keel and said, ‘you have something that has some value, let’s talk about it.’ What I hear today is that when you go to a network or to a cable operation or to a syndicator, they couldn’t care less about the idea of the show. ‘You do business our way or we don’t do business.’ There are stories of syndicators and especially cable operators who say, ‘okay, we’ll take this show we own, we’ll give you some money.’ It’s all gone. Where’s the entrepreneur? What‘s the point in trying to be creative if it doesn’t belong to you? So the business part has changed a lot.

Watch Bob Stewart’s Full Archive Interview.

“Dark Shadows” Star Jonathan Frid Dies at 87

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The Archive just learned of the death of actor Jonathan Frid, who passed away on April 13, 2012. Frid was best known for playing vampire “Barnabas Collins” in the gothic melodrama Dark Shadows, and also held an M.A. in Directing from the Yale School of Drama. Frid’s final acting role was a cameo in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie (out May 4th) in which Johnny Depp tackles the role of “Barnabas.”

Here are some selections from his 2008 Archive interview:

On playing a psychiatrist on As the World Turns and how the role differed from “Barnabas Collins:”

It was maybe a couple of weeks, about three or four, maybe half a dozen episodes. I was pretty good at it. On Dark Shadows I was intimidated by the character, in a sense, although it fit me perfectly. I didn’t know that at the time, and I thought, “Oh, how do you play a vampire?” I was very unsettled about that one, but the doctor, other than just being nervous, like any other actor for his first crack at it, it was not that difficult, and I fit into it very well.

On getting his Masters in Directing at the Yale School of Drama:

I was a directing major there, but we all had to do parts anyway. Everybody had to do acting at one time or another. I’d already gone through acting, all kinds of teachers, and I was a perpetual student. I was going to everybody in those days. I had to go through it again and they gave me all these huge roles to play at Yale and it led to getting into the American Shakespeare Festival where I worked with Katharine Hepburn, and John Houseman was the director at the time. We had some very good people there at that time. That was 1956 or ‘57.

On getting cast on Dark Shadows:

That was through a friend of mine, Ron Sproat, who was at Yale with me, and he was a play-writing student. We knew each other and we were friendly and so forth and so on, and it turned out that he was one of the writers for Dark Shadows, so when they were searching for somebody he suggested that they get me.

On “Barnbas Collins:”

I was pretending I was an Englishman, going back to the original family in England, if you remember. The very first scene: “Tell Mrs. Stoddard that her cousin from England…” And I was just in the cemetery down the street, (laughter) been there for two centuries, but I said I was from England. My English accent is really kind of a fake stage one, perfect for the part, because he was lying anyway, and I was pretty good at it as a liar.

On his makeup for “Barnabas:”

It got down to a routine, but of course when I was an old man I had to go in at 4:00. They played me as an old man in my real age, supposedly, a couple of times. Dick Smith came in and I had to be there at 4:00 in the morning. It took four or five hours, at least, to get this makeup on. I had to do it for three or four days, too.

On Dark Shadows short run on television:

Dark Shadows had a short life, one of the shortest-lived of all of the great soap operas. It just had incredible reruns. But it never kept developing. It was a very short run. If it weren’t for the fact that they recorded it, it would’ve been long forgotten by now. It was just fortunate … That was what saved Dark Shadows was the fact that they had the tape, because actually, in fact, it was very short lived. There are soaps I can remember as a child when I had my appendix out listening to a soap. They’re still going! 60, 70 years ago. Imagine Dark Shadows if it were still going 70 years! Gosh.

On what he tapped into to play “Barnabas:”

I was supposed to be somebody who had been chained in jail for 25, 30, or 40 years. That’s as far as our imaginations go anyway. A person that’s been put away for 45 or 50 years or whatever in a prison and they come back into your life, I mean it’s pretty scary. They were just let loose, and it’s scary for them. It’s somebody that’s been tortured by a coffin … I remember the big scene with my father and all that business and, “You’re a vampire, you’ve got to do this, do this…” But I was put in, buried, and so the only way you can get the feeling from it is from scenes in your own life that happened that are similar, and it’s knowing people who had been so evil or been so screwed up that they’re ugly. There’s always ugly people in our lives. But I tried to be a nice guy, good guy.

Watch Jonathan Frid’s full Archive Interview.

Read his obituary in USA Today.

Remembering Dick Clark

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of beloved producer/host Dick Clark. Clark passed away today at the age of 82 from a heart attack. Best known for hosting American Bandstand and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, Clark also hosted $10,000 Pyramid, and produced the American Music Awards and several television movies.

Here are some selections from Clark’s 1999 Archive interview:

On his on-air radio personality:

That started in radio and I learned it from Godfrey.  Just be yourself. I’m of English heritage, the English are not known for a great sense of humor.  Second only to the Germans, maybe. They don’t come by it natural. So all I could do was be myself.  I did pretty well doing that.

On the music on American Bandstand:

I was raised on jazz, a little bit of rhythm and blues and mostly big band, so a lot of it was very unfamiliar to me. The day I walked in, “Stranded in the Jungle,” by the Jayhawks was number one on our Top Ten. I said, “strange,” so I did a quick education of what it was, and I soon realized it wasn’t alien to me because I loved rhythm and blues. I was a Country Music disc jockey ten years before that, so I knew country and this was an amalgamation of those two, so it was a fast learn. In those days you learned by the seat of your pants. We didn’t have any surveys, we didn’t have any electronic media to speak of. We talked on the phone to fellow disc jockeys, that’s how we determined what was hot.

On the genesis of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve:

Fittingly, here’s what he had to say about his legacy:

The nicest thing that has happened to me in the last probably ten years, people of all ages… say “thank you very much for being part of my life,” or “I grew up with you,” or “thank you for all the good times.” If that was my legacy, that’s pretty good. I touched a lot of people. Only rarely have we gotten them to change their thoughts politically, or morally, or uplifted them, but I took them away. I let them escape and that’s pretty good.

New Year’s Eve won’t be the same without you, Dick.

Watch Dick Clark’s Full Archive Interview.

Director Paul Bogart Dies at 92

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

The Archive of American Television is sad to report that director Paul Bogart passed away on Sunday, April 15th of age-related causes. He was 92. Bogart started his career in live television in New York, directing episodes of Kraft Television Theatre, and Armstrong Circle Theatre. From there he went on to direct films and several TV dramas and comedies. He directed over 20 episodes of The Defenders and more than 100 of All in the Family, winning one of his many Emmys for “Edith’s 50th Birthday,” in which Edith Bunker fends off a would-be-rapist.

Here are some selections from Bogart’s three-and-a-half-hour interview:

On being hired as an NBC Floor Manager:

They now call it stage manager. At the time it was floor manager, but they want a little more dignity now so it’s a stage manger. You herded the cast around. You made sure they were there, like a stage manager. You relay instructions from the director over a headset to them if you were on the air, if not you spoke to them over the studio address system, and you cued them went to start, and timed them – you had to figure out hand signals. I had no idea. I made them up … Everybody was making up his job at the time. The directors were making up their time, there were people that had some experience in radio or some minor experience on Broadway, but television was a mystery to everybody. I never learned how a television camera works, and I never want to. And I never learned how a film camera works. I’m not interested in the mechanics of the job. I just want to know what I can do.

On his process for learning how to direct:

Do. I just did it. I used to watch other people’s work; I did it to enjoy it. I’m a great audience, I’d just sit there. I’ll believe anything you tell me, if you tell it right.

On working with writers:

I work with writers always – if they were there – sometimes they would grab the money and run to Bermuda or something. But if the writer was around, I would meet with them and we’d talk about the script, we’d have script sessions … Some of them hated me because if I didn’t like the work, I would direct it away from me, from the way it was written … if it called for heavy emotion, tears, weeping and wailing, and the situation didn’t warrant it, I couldn’t ask an actor to do that. I’d say, “this is not that serious,” so we would adopt a different way to deal with it, and some writers didn’t like that. I think one or two of them wanted to kill me.

On how videotape changed directing:

As soon as you could start making mistakes everything changed. At first you would videotape the whole show straight through as a live show. Then they would play the tape on the air. Then you would have a dress rehearsal, you’d have an air show, you want to combine them … they wouldn’t let you do anything but black to black. When they figured out mechanical systems where you edited electronically by assembly, adding shot after shot instead of literally cutting the tape, you didn’t have to cut anymore, you just had to shoot us. Then the world opened up.

On his favorite episode of The Defenders that he directed:

I used to beg them to do a comedy, cause I was so tired of serious stuff, so I did a comedy called “The 700 Year Old Gang” which was about an old Jewish man who makes wine in his basement and gives it to his friends. Jack Gilford played that and then is I think sued by the government. That became a two parter. That was two hours. That won Emmys.

On returning to directing for television after directing films:

I don’t love television more than films; I never got to same material in films that I got in television. In films, somebody else would get the good scripts before they came to me, and I knew I wasn’t getting top material. Also, I made some mistakes, I turned down things I shouldn’t have done, and missed a couple. We all make mistakes. I made some loo-loos.

On directing the All in the Family episode “Edith’s 50th Birthday:”

On working in front of a live audience on All in the Family:

It’s elevating. It really sparks up the material. Everybody responds to an audience, everybody. Later on when we dropped the audience for the last few shows, I forget how many, I think Carroll just didn’t want to put up with the tension of the performance. Anyway, it just was insane because that audience told you when you went wrong, they taught you what you didn’t do right, they taught you what was good. They made the most of what you didn’t expect they were going to like at all. So you learn a lot. I miss them.

On advice to aspiring directors:

I think an aspiring director should read a lot, expose himself to music, art … because later on he’s going to draw on that knowledge. I draw on everything I ever knew about – painting, music, any kind of art. I use it all the time. I think that’s what a director needs, a good liberal arts education. Instead they learn how to load a camera.

Watch Paul Bogart’s full Archive interview here.

Read his obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Journalist Mike Wallace Dies at 93

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report that journalist Mike Wallace passed away last night, on April 7, 2012 at the age of 93. Wallace suffered from heart problems in recent years and retired from his long-time role as a regular correspondent on 60 Minutes in 2006. He was producer Don Hewitt’s first hire at 60 Minutes in 1968 and contributed to the program for 40 years, conducting occasional interviews even beyond his retirement.

Here are some text and video selections from his 1998 Archive interview:

On Don Hewitt hiring him on 60 Minutes and developing the show’s format:

On selecting stories for 60 Minutes:

On what makes a great interview:

A great interview comes from a chemistry of confidentiality. If the interviewer can establish that chemistry of confidentiality with the interviewee, if he or she has done sufficient research, and I mean a lot of research which will make the interviewee respect the interviewer … If the interviewer listens and picks up things – if he’s done enough research, he always will pick up because he or she knows what the next question should be. You can get interviews with honey and sometimes with vinegar and there are those who do it both very, very well.

60 Minutes will dedicate a special program to Wallace next Sunday, April 15th.

Watch Mike Wallace’s full Archive interview here, and read his obituary in the New York Times.

Remembering Neil Travis

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The Archive just learned the sad news of editor Neil Travis’ passing. Travis died of natural causes at his home in Arroyo Grande, CA on March 28, 2012. He was 75 years old. He began his career as an assistant editor at Paramount and left to work on several television series, including Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and Kung Fu. Travis edited three parts of the groundbreaking miniseries Roots and edited numerous films, including Patriot Games, Clear And Present Danger, and Dances with Wolves, for which he won the Academy Award.

Here are some selections from Travis’ two-hour interview:

On his philosophy on editing:

On meeting John Wayne when editing the film The Cowboys:

John Wayne was like the Statue of Liberty. Meeting John Wayne was one of the high points in my life. He’s John Wayne. Can you imagine, “Neil, I’d like you to meet John Wayne.” It’s unbelievable. It’s like, “I’d like you to meet God.” It was fantastic. He was getting a little on in age by that time. I think he made only one or two more movies. And as a matter of fact, at that time he was breathing very hard.  He had, I think, lung cancer and you could hear him wheeze. I was standing on the set and saw him lose control of a horse and I thought he was going to get killed; he couldn’t stop the horse. He didn’t have enough strength and the horse ran right through the set and I thought it was going to go right through the house. But he finally was able to turn it around and he had wranglers chasing him and everything. It was funny. But at that point in his life, he was transitioning from middle age to old. But it was amazing to meet him. I’m star struck with some people like that.

On how being on the set of Roots influenced his editing choices on the project:

It was enjoyable to me because I went on location and that’s very unusual – my first editing location. To be right there when it was being shot was good. A silly word to say but it helped me, for some reason or another. I was involved in the scenes where the slaves were brought over on board ship. That was brutal to watch. I really became affected by going on the set, which was the slave ships and seeing the conditions in which they were brought to this country. It moved me. I mean, I don’t know how to tell you. It was kind of devastating in a way. I think that mood helped me function on the picture. I gained so much sympathy for them.

On editing Part 1 of Roots:

On editing 1983’s Cujo and learning how to scare an audience through editing:

Cujo was a lot of fun. We were on location up in Santa Rosa. As I recall, Cujo was originally directed and edited by someone else and they brought in Lewis Teague who directed and hired me. It was a switch in that we started all over again. But working with Lewis was fun. He had a good appreciation of what I was doing and I of what he was doing. It’s where I developed a skill of learning how to really scare people. I mean it’s very simple: the skill is to never have something happen where the people expect it to happen. It has to happen either at a different time or from a different direction. As simple as that. You’re looking at a window and you expect the rabid dog to be coming through the window and it comes right here. That’s all that is.

On winning an Academy Award for editing Dances with Wolves:

Oh my heavens, what a great moment for that, winning the Oscar. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. People who poo poo the Oscar, I don’t think they get it. The fact is that the Oscar is the Pulitzer Prize of motion pictures. It’s difficult, for example, to pick the best actor or the best actress or something like that because they’re all good. It was difficult for me to feel that I deserved it. As a matter fact, Thelma Schoonmaker was up for Good Fellas that same time, and the editor of Ghost was up at the same time, and they were all well edited. I felt good about Dances With Wolves because I felt that it was a movie that grabbed the audience’s imagination probably more than the others. Good Fellas was a brutal movie about gangsters fighting and killing one another, and so it’s not as much fun as to watch a white man turn into an Indian. That movie captured people’s imagination; there were people who would come up to me and tell me they’d seen the movie forty, fifty times. They’ve seen the movie as much as I have, it’s amazing. That made me feel like I had a good chance, but I told my wife at the Oscars, I said, “hang on to me, because people have been telling me that I’m going to win, and if I don’t win, I’m liable to stand up anyway. So pull me down will you? Don’t let me stand up.” But I was so nervous up on stage, I screwed up. That night was my wife and my 30th wedding anniversary and I failed to mention her. I didn’t mention her at all, I didn’t mention any member of my family. What happened was, they tell you that you’re only supposed to take like a minute and a half or two minutes and a half or whatever it is for your acceptance speech. But they don’t tell you that there’s a TV monitor facing the stage in the audience, the size of New Jersey, that starts flashing “out of time, out time, out of time,” and that just blew me away. I saw that and I was I lost and my script went right out the window. I did the wrong thing, I tried to remember the speech that I had memorized instead of just remembering the people and saying whatever came to my mind. So I was standing up there just totally lost and what I wanted to say was, “thanks finally to Kevin Costner, who molded us all into a unit and gave us a picture that we can remember for the rest of our lives. Thank you Kevin for trusting me with your first born,” which is a very sort of eloquent way of saying it. What I ended up saying to Kevin Costner, to whom I owe a lot, was that it is a lot of pressure up there on the stage when  it pops into your mind that a billion people are looking at you. It really blows you away.

On how technology changed over the course of his career:

I walked onto the Paramount lot in 1959 a long time ago – I arrived simultaneously with the butt splicer. The butt splicer was a new invention for the editors then, also magnetic tape, magnetic sound. They were used to cutting optical sound. It’s come a long way since then. The editors that I worked with were always very suspicious about butt splicers; they thought that should be used only for sound and they were very suspicious about magnetic sound itself because they couldn’t see the sound. In optical sound you can actually see the striations; you can see where a word starts – it’s just like a graph. They couldn’t see it, so they didn’t like it. The same sort of reaction has repeated itself through history, like when the first flat bed editing system came everybody was very suspicious about that and the first electronic editing system came in and everybody was suspicious about that. It takes a long time for things to get in place. From where I started, spending hours and hours in the splicing room, scraping the emulsion on the film and putting glue on it and gluing it together and doing it again, pulling paper clips off the film that the editor has put on and throwing them at a target on the wall … it’s come a long, long way. We’re up to Avid and I have no idea where we’re going to go after this. I think the envelope is going to be pushed a lot more. 3D is going to be a big deal.

On receiving the ACE Lifetime Achievement Award:

It’s the most exciting experience since I won the Academy Award. I was less nervous than when I won the Academy Award because I knew it was coming. I was called months ago to be told that – it’s like the Irving Thalberg award – you know ahead of time and you can prepare a speech. As I said at the time, it was really cool to be able to get my favorite actor and my favorite director and my favorite producer all to introduce me and to present the award to me: Morgan Freeman, Phil Alden Robinson, and Mace Neufeld were all in my corner and that was a great, great feeling.

On the highlight of his career:

I had a friend who died recently, Dom Deluise, who was a very funny man. He said, ‘if you ever find a million dollars in a purple elevator, you’ll never get into a green one.” I found a million dollars with Dances With Wolves. I got my Academy Award. For that reason and for another reason: Dances With Wolves was a very familiar kind of movie, not a family movie, not meaning G-rated, but that the people who worked on the movie felt like a family. We gave each other Indian names, we all played around with each other out on location. We had softball tournaments, we had water ski tournaments, Kevin Costner’s wife at that time was very helpful at arranging things – we had a bowling night at the bowling alley, we had a night at the pool hall; she always was throwing parties. My Indian name by the way, was “Over The Hill.”

Watch Neil Travis’ full Archive Interview.

Read Travis’ obituary here.