Archive for the ‘"Playhouse 90"’ Category

Remembering Producer Norman Felton

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Noted producer Norman Felton died Monday, July 2nd, at the age of 99 in Woodland Hills, CA. Best known for producing the hit series Dr. Kildare and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Felton began his television career in Chicago — during the medium’s first commercial years and worked on such groundbreaking series as Garroway at Large, and These are My Children. He then went to Hollywood where he worked on Robert Montgomery Presents, Playhouse 90, and Studio One and others, before starting his own Arena Productions company. He was interviewed for 4-1/2 hours by Lee Goldberg for the Archive of American Television in 1997. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On being executive producer of the landmark dramatic anthology series Playhouse 90 in 1959, when the sponsor censored the word “gas” in “Judgement at Nuremberg”

The producer was Martin Manulis, Herb Brodkin, a couple of others. The network [CBS] did want me to have somebody overall in charge, and so I’d make comments to the producer and I would follow through with it. On the “Judgement at Nuremberg” teleplay,  the gas company was a principle sponsor and they said they said they would pull out if we used the word “gas” on the show. Because  how you told the story of Judgment at Nuremberg and Holocaust without using the word seems– Herb Brodkin, who was the producer — ridiculous, and I felt the same way.  The network tried to get me to do something about it.  I said, “there’s nothing that can be done about it.” They said, when they got close to air time,  “we can’t give up the gas company. We promised them that we will take out the word.” It was all live. Herb Brodkin believed that we were going to do it, and I said, “Herb, I’ve got to tell you that that’s what they’re going to do  and I can’t do anything about it. If it’s going through where we are, I might be able to get to the guys who are supposed to bleep that word out, but they tricked me, II don’t know if I could have done anything and they’re sending an engineer over here with someone and if the word is used we’ll bleep it.” And that’s what happened. And he was furious.  I said, “I warned you that that was going to happen.” There was nothing that I could possibly do.  It was the worse thing for the gas company.  It got the worse publicity it could possibly have when it came out that the word was bleeped out…. We didn’t have people telling us what to do until the advertisers came along.

On the creation of television’s Dr. Kildare

I wanted to do a medical show.  I hadn’t been able to do it because at CBS they said, as the other networks did, who wants to go to a hospital?  That’s the last place –  a person comes home from their job and they’re going to turn on television and see sick people?  But in radio, I did plenty of them. I did a series of a medical nature, and I did in Chicago, while I was in radio  for the AMA. I didn’t latch onto any property. [Another company had done a failed pilot featuring Dr. Kildare.] The reason it was called Dr. Kildare was after-the-fact they turned me down.  They didn’t want to do another one. They didn’t want to do anything medical.  I said, “well, I want to do one, and I did.  It was a very successful pilot. E. Jack Neuman was a fine writer. I said I want to do a medical show, and we had two or three discussions and one, he said, “I got a good idea, this is the story. I know it has to be set in a hospital. There are two gangsters who had a fight between them, and but one is on one floor and another is another floor of the hospital and they still are enemies.” I said, “Jack, before we do anything, why don’t you take a week off, go to a hospital, go around there.  That’s what I want you to do for the next week. I don’t want to see you around here.  Don’t come on the lot.  Go to a hospital.”  So he did.  And when he came back, I never heard about those gangsters again. He said, “it’s terrific! I followed an intern and what they go through, and how they operate is just terrific with patients, and themselves and– so I said  go ahead, and write it. It was a half hour script.  Because that’s what my contract at that time, was, we expected a half hour. I went over to NBC with it and they liked it to much they said, “we’ll make you a deal.”  When the word got out that I sold this, then I think somebody in the board in New York said,” is it going to be Dr. Kildare?”  Bob [Whiteman] said, “no, it’s not like those old movies at all.  It’s the story of an intern.” And they said, “can’t he be called Dr. Kildare?” He pointed out, as did the network, that it was a valuable title to get started with, the people would opt to tune it in.  So, that’s how it got its name, is after-the-fact.

Video: On the genesis of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

On the appeal of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

In the sixties, there were a lot of  just unrest in the family. It was an escape.  It was good against evil.  And also, the thing that they liked was it was different nationalities.  At I cast two men in the leads who were short and not big husky men because, on business on Dr. Kildare, I was in London for a meeting, and when I was leaving, a lady, who was a comptroller, came to me and said, “why is it in America that you always have leading men who are big tall, sexy– so called– looking fellow, and why are they always American?”  I said, “I don’t know. I guess because that’s what people seem to like when they see them.”  But the more I thought about it, as time went on, when it came to do the Man From U.N.C.L.E, I’m not going to do it.  And that’s what made me like David McCallum and Robert Vaughn. They were slim and they were not big, as they used to say, ballsy men. That’s the expression that was used.  So it worked. I think today, some of the kids say that’s something that they really can identify more with, because they’re younger than most of the heroes were in the western shows.


Happy 90th Birthday, Jack Klugman!

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Jack Klugman celebrates his 90th birthday today! Klugman has made over 400 television appearances — in comedies, dramas, and even in a game show (well, sort of – remember the “Password”episode of The Odd Couple?) He’s played a blacklisted actor, a medical examiner, and perhaps most famously, sportswriter “Oscar Madison” opposite Tony Randall’s “Felix Unger” in the 1970’s sitcom The Odd Couple. One roommate was a neat-freak, one was sloppy and sarcastic: Klugman played the messy one.

Born April 27, 1922 in South Philadelphia, Klugman got his start in acting in the drama department of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon). Klugman soon moved to New York to pursue theater, securing roles in several off-Broadway plays and getting his big break in the 1948 Broadway production of “Mr. Roberts.” From there, Klugman began dabbling in the new medium of television, making appearances in the early 1950s on Actors Studio, (where he was directed by Yul Brynner), and on anthology dramas Studio One, Playhouse 90, and the 1955 Producers’ Showcase production of “The Petrified Forest,” opposite Bogey and Bacall. Klugman also wrote several scripts for Kraft Television Theatre in the late 1950s:

Klugman wasn’t restricted to theater and television, though. He appeared as “Juror #5″ in the 1957 film Twelve Angry Men, and continued to do theater, television, and film projects throughout his career. He was back on-stage in 1959’s “Gypsy” with Ethel Merman, and on TV again in the 1960s for four appearances on Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. In 1964, Klugman had a memorable role in “The Blacklist” episode of The Defenders, for which he won an Emmy:

Also in 1964, Klugman starred as the superintendent of a movie studio in his first sitcom, the short-lived Harris Against the World. Then in 1966, Klugman made his first appearance in Neil Simon’s stage play, “The Odd Couple:”

Garry Marshall was looking to make a television series of the play, which Klugman agreed to do after some initial resistance. He resumed his stage role of “Oscar Madison” for the sitcom, which ran from 1970-75:

CBS’ Fred Silverman tried to sell Klugman on a few other series after The Odd Couple ended, but it wasn’t until the chance to play muckraking medical examiner Quincy, M.E. came along in 1976 that Klugman agreed to helm another TV show. Quincy lasted eight seasons, through 1983:

Klugman appeared in the 1987 film I’m Not Rappaport with Ossie Davis and Walter Matthau, but was suffering from throat cancer and soon underwent surgery to remove his right vocal cord. His voice was quieted to just above a whisper, and Klugman worked hard to train his remaining cord to pick up the slack. He returned to acting at the urging of friend Tony Randall for a one-time stage performance of “The Odd Couple” in New York in 1991. The production was a huge success, leading to Klugman and Randall teaming up for productions of “Three Men On a Horse,” and “Sunshine Boys” on Broadway throughout the 1990s.

Klugman has continued to act in small roles here and there, most recently as “Sam” in the 2010 horror film Camera Obscura. He’s a proven success in film, television, and theater, and his perseverance in resurrecting his voice after surgery is about as inspirational as it gets. Happy 90th birthday, Jack! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Jack Klugman’s full Archive interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

How to Direct, Via Master Director John Frankenheimer

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

John Frankenheimer (1930-2002) directed some of television’s most acclaimed productions on Playhouse 90, Climax! and Danger. In his interview from 2000, Frankenheimer speaks in detail about his craft, techniques, and some of his favorite people to direct. He shares tales of working with Edward R. Murrow and in the clip below, describes the valuable lessons he learned from the legendary David O’ Selznick:

Watch John Frankenheimer’s full interview here:

About this interview:

John Frankenheimer (1930-2002) was interviewed for six hours (in two sessions) in Century City, CA. Frankenheimer gives a vivid description of his early television work as an assistant director on You Are There, Danger and Edward R. Murrow’s Person to Person. He speaks about his first directorial assignments on You Are There and Danger and recalls making a name for himself directing live anthology dramas (“The Comedian” and “Days of Wine and Roses”) on Climax! and Playhouse 90. He discusses his feature film work and his return to television to direct the acclaimed programs Andersonville for TNT and George Wallace for HBO. Michael Rosen conducted the two-part interview on March 21 and April 13, 2000.

Actor Cliff Robertson dies at 88

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Legendary actor Cliff Robertson passed away on September 10th, one day after his 88th birthday. The Archive of American Television interviewed him about his television work in 2005. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On his proudest career achievement

I would have to say, survived. I have survived. I’m not sure I’m proud, but I recognize that the dear Lord has helped.  Whether it’s surviving these airplane mishaps that I didn’t get on that crashed or whatever, whatever it is, he’s given me in spite of it… Maybe the fact that, I did confront corruption at the highest level and that’s what my dear friend, Congressman Udall, put me up in the Congressional Record for standing against corporate corruption in Hollywood at a time when it was very costly. I didn’t work for three years.  It’s a little perverse, but I’m  kind of proud of that.  Because I knew when I did it, people said, including my former wife, it’s the end of your career.  And somehow or other we survived. So, I’m just very lucky. I’m lucky to survive the traffic on the way over here.

On how television has changed since he started his career

Since I first started?  It’s fast. It’s five second, two second, one second shots, it’s accelerated, it’s almost bizarre, it’s so fast.  And along with that speed sometimes you sacrifice quality. I mean, it’s arresting, but like a shallow meal, it leaves you. I think if we had the courage to take time, I’m telling you a story and you have to have the courage to take time to let the reader or the viewer get involved so that he or she are not in a hurry, they’re willing to cover the words or the thoughts or kind of digest what you’ve just seen so it stays with them –  like a very memorable meal as opposed to this quick snack.

On his advice to aspiring actors

Lee Strasberg said to me when I went out to do my first film, he said, “Cliff, they’ll promise you everything.  You come in with your own homework.  You come in with having analyzed and thought about your character. You come in prepared emotionally as well as technically and don’t let the hollow promises infatuate you because although they may mean well, most of the time they’ll promise you everything and give you little” I tell my young students, give them a buck and a half for every dollar they pay you and maybe even more, not necessarily out of respect or love for them, but out of respect for your own profession, your own talent, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t come in and just walk through it, even though you know you can do it and pick up the check, just out of respect for your profession and yourself, give them more than they give you.

On his mentors

As an actor?   I think Henry Fonda.  But I had Olivier, I mean, certainly Marlon in his early days, but he was kind of a child. He’d be the first to admit it. He was child playing with this fabulous talent and letting it slip through his fingers. Maybe that was the way he wanted it, but as a mentor, I think they lost them all with Olivier and Richardson, people of that ilk.  I have such high respect. Willy Loman’s wife had that line in that wonderful Arthur Miller play, Death of a Salesman, “attention must be paid, attention must be paid!  And I think our attention span in this business is so short. We’re worried about some little starlet temporarily on all the covers of all the magazines, that’s kind of shallow. Attention must be paid to those talents that are real, that are viable, that are lasting.

On how he would like to be remembered

Spell my name right.

About the interview

Cliff Robertson was interviewed for two-and-a-half hours in Los Angeles, CA. Robertson talked about his training at the Actors Studio and his early career on the New York stage. He talked about working in anthology series during the “live” television era of the 1950s.  He discussed his role as mentally disabled “Charlie Gordon” in both television ( The U.S. Steel Hour’s “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon”) and film (Charly, which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor).  He spoke in great detail about his work with director John Frankenheimer on the Playhouse 90 show “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Robertson talked about being personally selected by President John F. Kennedy to play him in the feature film PT109.  He described his two appearances on the classic anthology series The Twilight Zone and spoke about series creator Rod Serling. Robertson discussed his blacklisting by the industry following “Hollywoodgate,” in which he accused Columbia Pictures head David Begelman of forging a check.  Robertson spoke about several of his television movie appearances as well as such television series as Rod Brown and the Rocket Rangers and Batman.  The interview was conducted by Stephen J. Abramson on March 1, 2005.

Writer Del Reisman Has Died– story editor for “Playhouse 90″ and “The Twilight Zone”

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Del Reisman, who served as the President of the Writers Guild of America, west from 1991-93, has died at the age of 86.  Reisman wrote for such series as Peyton Place and for many years served as a story editor on shows of the classic era of TV— Matinee Theater, Playhouse 90, and The Twilight Zone.

Reisman’s Archive interview was conducted on October 28, 2003.

Interview description:

Del Reisman (1924-2011) was interviewed for six hours at the Writer’s Guild of America, west in Los Angeles, CA.  Reisman looked back on his early years growing up as a “studio brat” observing his mother at work as a secretary at Universal Studios in the 1930s.  He described his entry in television as a reader on the anthology series Four Star Playhouse.  He detailed his most prolific period in television as an associate producer/ story editor on such television series as: the “live,” daily color anthology Matinee Theater, the prestigious ninety-minute anthology Playhouse 90, the classic filmed anthology The Twilight Zone, the popular crime series The Untouchables, the western series Rawhide, and the drama The Man and the City.  He discussed his work as story consultant on the nighttime soap opera Peyton Place, for which he wrote the cliffhanging final episode (the series was canceled without a finale).  He also talked about his later work as a freelance writer of such 1970s series as The Streets of San Francisco and Little House on the Prairie.  Finally, Reisman described his long service to the Writers Guild of America, west for which he ultimately served as President from 1991-93.  Other subjects discussed include the Hollywood blacklist and the McCarthy era, as well as Reisman’s work (at the WGA) to restore the credits of blacklisted writers of feature films made in the 1950s-60s.  The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski .

Writer Horton Foote Has Died– Archive Interview Online

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Horton Foote, whose playwriting spanned sixty years, and whose “The Trip to Bountiful” had celebrated productions in theater, television, and film, has died at the age of 92. He was an Emmy-winner for the miniseries Old Man and an Academy Award winner for his screenplays of To Kill A Mockingbird and Tender Mercies. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1995 for his play “The Young Man From Atlanta.”

His Archive interview, conducted in 1999, is available here (except part 1):

Tip: At the beginning of Part 4 of his interview he spoke about the inspiration for “The Trip to Bountiful.”

Interview Description:
Horton Foote discussed his work writing for “live” television dramatic anthology series. He talked about his relationship with producer Fred Coe who started him in television and later worked with him on the Goodyear-Philco Television Playhouse. Mr. Foote described in detail several of his benchmark television efforts during the “Golden Age of Television” including: Goodyear Television Playhouse: “The Trip to Bountiful,” Philco Television Playhouse: “A Young Lady of Property,” 1st Person Playhouse: “Death of the Old Man,” Studio One: “The Traveling Lady,” Playhouse 90: “The Old Man,” and Playhouse 90: “Tomorrow.” He spoke of the many talented actors who appeared in these productions including: Kim Stanley, Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish, Eva Marie Saint, Steven Hill, Sterling Hayden, and Geraldine Page; as well as the creative directors of these shows, including: Vincent Donehue, Delbert Mann, Arthur Penn, John Frankenheimer, and Robert Mulligan. He also talked about his later television work for PBS, including adaptations from his “Orphans Home Cycle” (series of 9 plays); his writing for cable television; his feature film work, and close association with actor Robert Duvall; and his continuous writing for the stage. Mr. Foote also fondly remembered his childhood in Wharton, Texas, which has had a lifelong influence on his writing.

50 Years Ago Today "Playhouse 90" Presented "Old Man"

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

On November 20, 1958, Playhouse 90, the preeminent dramatic television anthology of the day, presented William Faulkner’s “Old Man,” a program for which Variety wrote, “such a word as incomparable must be applied.” Archive interviewee Del Reisman, the series story editor, explained, “there were all kinds of stunt shows that were done. In the third or fourth season, John Frankenheimer directed ‘Old Man,’ it’s a wonderful show, but he virtually flooded the CBS studio.”

The show was about a convict (played by Sterling Hayden), who is ordered into a flat-bottomed boat to rescue a pregnant woman (Geraldine Page) during a flood. It was adapted for television by Horton Foote, produced by Fred Coe, and directed by John Frankenheimer.

Variety opined: “Much of the credit for this over-powering story of man’s humanity as well as inhumanity to man also must go to Geraldine Page, as the pregnant woman in the tiny rowboat, and Sterling Hayden, the monosyllabic convict who must fullfill his mission amid the swollen waters of the Mississippi.”

John Frankenheimer said in his Archive interview: “Fred Coe gave me the script because he loved ‘Days of Wine And Roses,’ and he said, ‘You know, I honest to God don’t know how to do this, but I love this script.’ And I read it, and I had been playing around with videotape with the editors. And I read it and I said, well, there’s only one way to do this, Fred. We’ll tape the whole goddamned show. And we got to do it scene by scene, and we got to have a huge [water] tank. Up to that time, nobody had ever cut videotape. So, the editor, a guy named Ross Murray and I just took arbitrary scenes and cut them together with a straight razor blade…. I was totally obsessed on how to do this show. I brought in a Chapman Boom. A Chapman Boom is a huge movie crane that goes 30 feet in the air. Has engines and everything on it. Brought that into the studio, that’s the first time that had ever been done. If fact, the Cameraman who worked the Chapman Boom, Pat Kenney put on a aviator’s helmet, you know, it was that, that kind of a thing.”

Click here to view John Frankenheimer’s entire Archive Interview.

Rod Serling’s "A Town Has Turned To Dust" Presented at Ithaca College

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Before Rod Serling was immortalized as the creator, main writer, and host of The Twilight Zone, he contributed teleplays to several of the “live” and filmed anthologies of the 1950s that defined the “Golden Age of Television.” Among his most significant teleplays were ones he wrote for Playhouse 90, a ninety-minute anthology series that is often considered the best of its kind. Serling wrote ten Playhouse 90 scripts, including “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “The Comedian,” and “The Velvet Alley.”

Also among Serling’s work for Playhouse 90 was “A Town Has Turned To Dust.” The story was based on the real-life murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi on August 28, 1955— one of the catalysts for the Civil Rights Movement. The sensitivity of the crime led to censorship of Serling’s script.

Last month, Ithaca College, where Rod Serling taught in the last several years of his life, presented a reading of Serling’s original script. Serling originally wrote the story for The U.S. Steel Hour and eventually it was watered down and shown as “A Town Has Turned To Dust” on Playhouse 90 on June 19, 1958, changing the setting from Mississippi to a town in Mexico.

Playhouse 90 script editor Del Reisman was interviewed by the Archive and talked about Serling’s “A Town Has Turned to Dust” a few minutes into part six of his interview.

Emmy® and Oscar®-winner Abby Mann Dies at the Age of 84– Archive Interview Online

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Writer Abby Mann who won an Academy Award for the screenplay of Judgment at Nuremberg and won three Emmys for writing (The Marcus-Nelson Murders, Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesnthal Story, and Indictment: The McMartin Trial) was interviewed by the Archive in August of 2004.

Click here to access his entire six-part Archive Interview.

Interview Description:

Abby Mann was interviewed for nearly three hours in Los Angeles, CA. Mann talked about his early teleplays, written during the Golden Age of Television Drama in the 1950s. He discussed such noteworthy teleplays as “A Child Is Waiting” (for Studio One) and “Judgment at Nuremberg” (for Playhouse 90). He also talked about the feature film adaptations of these teleplays. Mann discussed his writing of the television movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders, and the creation of the subsequent series Kojak. Mann talked in detail about two other 1970s projects, the series Medical Story and the miniseries King. He spoke about his more recent endeavors as writer and executive producer of such television movies as The Atlanta Child Murders and Indicment: The McMartin Trials. Throughout the interview Mann expressed his concern about the state of the American justice system and his lifelong passion to correct injustices through the written word.

Shirley Jones joins "Days of Our Lives" — Archive Interview is Now Online

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Iconic actress Shirley Jones has joined the cast of daytime soap Days of our Lives. She’s playing Colleen Brady (complete with Irish brogue), the “supposedly dead” great-aunt of Sami Brady. According to published reports, she’ll be on the the show throughout February.

Ms. Jones was interviewed by the Archive of American Television on December 7, 2005. Click here to access Ms. Jones’ 5-part interview.

Shirley Jones Interview Description:
Actress Shirley Jones speaks about her early career, her discovery by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and her television debut on Playhouse 90, which lead to her casting in her Academy Award-winning role in “Elmer Gantry”. She discusses working on the film “The Music Man” and other features. She talks in depth about her first series role as Shirley Partridge on The Partridge Family and discusses working with her stepson and co-star, David Cassidy. She then talks about the many made-for-television movies she has made including: The Children of An Lac, There Were Times Dear and Hidden Places. She also discusses her work on The Drew Carey Show, where she played Drew’s love-interest for three episodes.

In honor of her return to series television (this is her first soap role), we’re including the entire 25-minute pilot episode of The Partridge Family, which premiered in September of 1970. As far as pilots go, it’s one of the best!