Archive for the ‘"Philco - Goodyear Playhouse"’ Category

TV Writer & Historian Max Wilk Has Died

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Max Wilk, who wrote for and about the “Golden Age of Television,” has died at the age of 90.  Wilk contributed to such early TV series as Philco TV Playhouse, Starring Boris Karloff, and Mama.

Max Wilk’s Archive Interview was conducted on November 15, 2000.

Interview Description:

Max Wilk (1920-2011) was interviewed for two-and-a-half hours in Westport, CT.  Wilk briefly described his beginnings as a writer in radio, touring with Irving Berlin’s “This Is the Army” during World War II, and his entrance into writing for early television.  He talked about writing for such anthology and variety shows as: The Ford Television Theatre (1948-50), The Victor Borge Show (1951), and The Imogene Coca Show (1954-55).  Finally, he described working on the critically-acclaimed and long-running series Mama (for which he wrote from 1952-53), as well as the Emmy Award winning special The Fabulous Fifties (1960), a look at the decade.  As a television historian and author of the seminal book The Golden Age of Television: Notes From the Survivors, Wilk also described the “live” era of television (and the actors, writers, and producers of the day) and the cloud of the 1950s blacklist and how it affected people he knew (including Zero Mostel).  The interview was conducted by Michael Rosen.

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.

"Philco TV Playhouse" Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008


The Philco TV Playhouse, which ran from 1948-55, establishing itself as one of the shining examples of the best of the dramatic anthologies during the Golden Age of Television, aired its first production on October 3, 1948. That production was an adaptation of the famed “Dinner at Eight,” and Variety raved: “It can be hailed as one of tele’s major achievements to date, not only in rich, warm-bodied acting, but in the whole concept.”

The credit to the success of the series is attributed to legendary producer-director Fred Coe (pictured above with actor Jose Ferrer as “Cyrano”). Coe was known for his cultivation of top writers and directors, many of whom were interviewed by the Archive of American Television in its early efforts to document this period— such as writers Tad Mosel, Horton Foote, JP Miller, David Shaw; and directors: Delbert Mann and Arthur Penn. Other notable Philco writers included Paddy Chayefsky, Robert Alan Arthur, and N. Richard Naish.

Delbert Mann said of Coe in his Archive interview, “he was my guardian, he was my father figure, he was my mentor, my guide, my teacher. Everything I learned about directing I learned from Fred Coe.”

Philco would go on to stage many notable shows (and in 1951 would alternate with Goodyear TV Playhouse, which likewise staged quality productions, such as “Marty”). Among Philco’s most significant productions were: “An Inspector Calls” with Walter Abel (aired: 11/21/48), “Cyrano de Bergerac” with Jose Ferrer (aired: 1/9/49), “What Makes Sammy Run?” with Jose Ferrer (airdate: 4/10/49), “Macbeth” with Walter Hampden (aired: 5/1/49), “The Trip to Bountiful” with Lillian Gish (aired: 3/1/53), “A Young lady of Property” with Kim Stanley (aired: 4/5/53), “The Rainmaker” with Darren McGavin (aired: 8/16/53), “Othello” with Torin Thather and Walter Matthau (aired: 9/6/53), “The Mother” with Cyril Ritchard (aired: 4/18/54), “Middle of the Night” with Steven Hill and Eva Marie Saint (aired: 9/19/54), “The Death of Billy the Kid” with Paul Newman (aired: 7/24/55), and “A Man Is Ten Feet Tall” with Sidney Poitier (aired 10/2/55).

Director Delbert Mann Dies at the Age of 87 — Archive Interview Online

Monday, November 12th, 2007


Delbert Mann who helmed “Marty” for television and film died on Sunday. Mann won an Academy Award for the feature film adaptation of Marty (1955) that originated as a “live” television presentation in 1953.

Click here to access Delbert Mann’s entire nine-part interview.

Interview Description:

Delbert Mann talked about studying at Yale Drama School and his transition to television following his service in the Air Force during World War II. He spoke of his days during the war, and his further inspiration to pursue theater after seeing various productions at the Old Vic in London as well as realizing the temporality of life. He talked about joining NBC in the summer of 1949 as a floor manager and described working his first show as a director shortly thereafter on the series Theater of the Mind. Mann related how his experiences as a pilot during the war prepared him for television, comparing piloting a B-24 to sitting in the hot seat of a live television show. He spoke in great detail about working with producer Fred Coe and their association on Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, one of the preeminent “live” television anthologies of the day. He described his celebrated production of “Marty,” written by Paddy Chayefsky, originally produced for Philco and later made into an Academy Award-winning feature film. He spoke about several of the actors he worked with in television including Grace Kelly, E. G. Marshall, and Laurence Olivier. Lastly, he discussed several of his most notable made-for-television movies including David Copperfield and All Quiet on the Western Front. The interview was conducted by Morrie Gelman on May 20, 1997.

Sidney Lumet’s Interview Is Now Online

Friday, November 2nd, 2007


With Sidney Lumet’s critically praised film “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” now in theaters, the Archive of American Television has posted his three-hour interview online in which he discusses his career that started in the theater and in the “Golden Age of Television.”

Soundbites from Sidney Lumet’s six-part interview.

On “live” television:
The pressure was wonderful. And because it wasn’t insane, the pressure was, can we do it? Because nobody knew what we could do and what we couldn’t do. And nobody could say no to you because nobody knew. It was literally learning to walk. Ah, so there was nobody to say no….. From a technical point of view, anything we wanted to try, we could try. The lighting [was] very flat, just pan lighting, just scoops in ever set. And slowly, like everything else, became more and more refined and interesting…. It was quite extraordinary how much mood you could get in my still staying within the general perimeters. Also, the cameras needed a certain basic level of light simply to function…. The amount of noise in the studio was enormous. The cameras carried behind them cables about that thick. And those would just slide on the floor. And you could hear it. So if a pot wasn’t being used, it had to be closed and opened on a cue. It was out of this that all of these developments came. The same thing was true of the boom mikes, which started out– the old RCA ribbon mikes, which movies had been using for years. But they picked up everything. And so, slowly [there] developed highly directional mikes, which are being used in movies today. All of the technical advancements, which came in movies, television brought them, because movie companies never gave a damn, they never invested the money in them. The networks had to. They started with old movie equipment…. If you put a cable into this wall, for this camera, and put a cable into this wall, for this camera, you’d better not wind up like that, because if you got your cables twisted, the cameras wouldn’t be able to move. All these things had to be figured out in meticulous detail. The greatest leap forward, I must say, belonged to me when all of a sudden, I got so tired of being limited by where I could move my cameras, because there were cables coming out of walls, I thought, aha! I know what we do. We’re going to run them up the wall into the grid, and drop them down the middle.

On using blacklisted writers in the 1950s:
It’s one of the great romantic stories. Arnold Manoff and Walter Bernstein and Abe Polonsky were a triumvirate. They were close friends— close personal friends, close political friends. And all three of them had been writing for ah, fairly openly on “Danger”…. When blacklisting hit and the three of them were immediately knocked out of the box. They said, look, we don’t know which of us will get hired, again, if ever. Why don’t we set up a co-op? And ah, let’s find fronts…. what we will do is if one of is hired, we all three split the check. If things go good, and there’s a lot of work– you may have to do the first act, and I’ll do the second act, and Abe, you do the third act if we’re on deadlines, and things like that. So they set up that kind of a co-op. This was all done through the wonderful [“You Are There” producer] Charlie Russell, who didn’t have a political bone in his body. He was just a sweet, open guy from the Midwest, who thought this was too fucking unfair, and he was going to do anything he could to break it, or fight it, [and] hopefully, not putting himself in any jeopardy. He also was very careful, not only trying to protect himself, but he wanted to protect me, and if I ever wanted to talk about [the script], he would say, give me your notes, and I’ll bring them to the writer. So I didn’t know, for a number of months, about this arrangement that the guys had. Charlie was protecting me. And also, that way, protecting himself because if I ever got called, he didn’t want me in the position that I would say what I knew or didn’t know.

On using politically subversive scripts for “You Are There”:

They were deliberate choices because of the situation…. And in fact, I remember when we did “Salem Witch Trials,” we hired, for the prosecutor, I believe his name was Vince Harding. [Editor's note: according to our research, Vinton Hayworth is the actor's name.] And Vince, who was a very good actor, was one of the guys who gave names to the Red Channels.

On his reputation of being an “actor’s director”:
I think because I was an actor myself, I know what they’re going through. The process of acting is extremely painful. I know that doesn’t sound logical to most people, but all good work is self revelation. And that’s true for performing artist as well. And actors, the only instrument they’ve got, it’s not a violin, it’s not a piano, ah, it’s not just their bodies, the way a dancer is, there’s no disguise. That’s them up there. And the better they are, the most of themselves they’re using. That process of self revelation is extremely painful. I understand that process. Ah, if I can help them to feel any more secure, and any more ah, unafraid of releasing whatever part of themselves, they have to, I understand that I can help them that way.

On the 1960 television presentation “The Sacco-Vanzetti Story”:
Steve [Hill] did the great Vanzetti address to the Judge, you know, that you get in every lit class in college. And he was just brilliant. It was just underplayed and so simple, and so direct. And [producer Robert Alan Aurthur and writer Reginald Rose] both wanted more. Feisty and more angry, and I said, no, no, no, the speech is so great, it’s simple and better. “Will you try it? Just try it the other way?” I said I’m not going to try it the other way because then when we edit it, once I’ve left, you’ll have the editor put the– the way you want it in there, so no, I’m not going to do it another way. And Bob Aurthur, one of the sweetest men that ever lived, and sensitive, a writer, a wonderful man, said: “look.” And he took some back page of my script and said– he was the producer– “Sidney Lumet has final cut on this show.” Signed, Robert Alan Aurthur, producer. Wouldn’t have been worth anything, but that did it, and I did it the other way, and when it was over, Bob and Reggie said, no, you were right. But ah, it was the first time I had ever gotten into this discussion about final cut, which then became a big thing in my own movie career.

On the feature film “Network”:
It’s a peculiar movie. Everybody keeps saying, oh, God, what a brilliant satire. [Writer] Paddy [Chayefsky] and I keep saying, what satire? It’s sheer reportage. Everything that was discussed about television in that movie has happened, except we haven’t killed anybody on the air yet. That’s the only thing that hasn’t happened. Deliberately. But other than that, everything has happened, news as entertainment. I mean, ah, could anything be sillier than the way poor Dan Rather has to stand up there on 48 Hours, or whatever that silly show is, and try to make believe that he’s a magazine editor, or what have you, and be serious about this nonsense that they put on night after night? Ah, and you know, it may have been a little much to have the prognosticator– he came around on a revolving stage, tell you what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I don’t think it’s too far fetched.

On the highlight of his career:
It’s all one piece to me. I’m not being coy, I’m not avoiding it. There’s a continuum that’s just so sensible to me, I like it. I like it all.


Interview Description:
Lumet spoke of his work as an actor on the stage before he became a director in television. He recalled his work on the television series Danger (1950-55), and You Are There (1953-57) both “live” dramatic shows of the time. He discussed the use of blacklisted writers on these shows and how the material they wrote often reflected the era of McCarthyism. He also discussed other television dramatic anthology series he directed for including Omnibus, Goodyear Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour, Studio One, and Kraft Television Theatre. He described his direction of the well-known television special The Sacco-Vanzetti Story and The Play of the Week: “The Iceman Cometh” both of which aired in 1960. He spoke of his transition to a feature film director with 12 Angry Men in 1957 and his work on such other feature films as the Paddy Chayefsky’s Network (1976).

Prolific Writer David Shaw Dies — Archive Interview Online

Monday, July 30th, 2007

David Shaw has died at the age of 90. Shaw was one of the most prolific writers during television’s “Golden Age,” nominated for an Emmy Award for his adaptation of “Our Town” for Producers Showcase. He was interviewed by the Archive of American Television on August 31, 2004.

Writer David Shaw’s five-part interview is available for viewing on Google Video. Click here to access David Shaw’s entire interview.

In part 2 of his interview, David Shaw talks about his work as a writer on Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, one of the key dramatic anthology series of the “Golden Age,” for which he wrote the most teleplays of any single writer.

From Part 3:

Q: There was a term called “kitchen sink” dramas. What did that refer to?

A: It referred to many of the Philcos that are family dramas. With family problems. They weren’t shoot ‘em ups, they weren’t crime, they weren’t sexy. They were just family dramas…. They’re not too far away from soap operas, really. But they’re easy to produce and didn’t call for big sets or lavish outdoor production.

Q: What is the legacy of Philco-Goodyear Playhouse?

A: I think that it was the beginning of good drama on television.

Q: How important do you think [Philco-Goodyear Playhouse producer Fred] Coe was to what is referred to as the “Golden Age of Television”?

A: How important? He was it! Fred was it. There was nobody like him.

Interview Description:
Shaw discussed his prolific career as a television writer that began in 1949 for the ABC “live” dramatic anthology series Actors Studio. He spoke in great detail about his work on the series Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, for which he contributed the most teleplays of any writer. For Philco-Goodyear, Shaw commented on several of his individual teleplays and talked about working with legendary producer Fred Coe. Shaw described knowing and working with other such figures of the “Golden Age of Television Drama,” as director Delbert Mann, writer Paddy Chayefsky, and actress Eva Marie Saint. Shaw discussed several series for which he served as a story editor including Mr. Peepers and The Defenders. He described his teleplays for Producer’s Showcase (including his Emmy-nominated adaptation of “Our Town”) and the six shows he wrote for Playhouse 90.

David Shaw’s Archive Interview Is Now Online!

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

Writer David Shaw’s five-part interview is now available for viewing on Google Video. Shaw was one of the most prolific writers during television’s “Golden Age.”

In part 2 of his interview, David Shaw talks about his work as a writer on Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, one of the key dramatic anthology series of the “Golden Age,” for which he wrote the most teleplays of any single writer.

From Part 3:

Q: There was a term called “kitchen sink” dramas. What did that refer to?

A: It referred to many of the Philcos that are family dramas. With family problems. They weren’t shoot ‘em ups, they weren’t crime, they weren’t sexy. They were just family dramas…. They’re not too far away from soap operas, really. But they’re easy to produce and didn’t call for big sets or lavish outdoor production.

Q: What is the legacy of Philco-Goodyear Playhouse?

A: I think that it was the beginning of good drama on television.

Q: How important do you think [Philco-Goodyear Playhouse producer Fred] Coe was to what is referred to as the “Golden Age of Television”?

A: How important? He was it! Fred was it. There was nobody like him.

Interview Description:

Shaw discussed his prolific career as a television writer that began in 1949 for the ABC “live” dramatic anthology series Actors Studio. He spoke in great detail about his work on the series Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, for which he contributed the most teleplays of any writer. For Philco-Goodyear, Shaw commented on several of his individual teleplays and talked about working with legendary producer Fred Coe. Shaw described knowing and working with other such figures of the “Golden Age of Television Drama,” as director Delbert Mann, writer Paddy Chayefsky, and actress Eva Marie Saint. Shaw discussed several series for which he served as a story editor including Mr. Peepers and The Defenders. He described his teleplays for Producer’s Showcase (including his Emmy-nominated adaptation of “Our Town”) and the six shows he wrote for Playhouse 90. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on August 31, 2004.

Click here to access David Shaw’s entire interview.

Ira Skutch’s Archive of American Television Interview Is Now Online

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

This video is Part 1 of Ira Skutch’s 6-part interview. Click here to view the entire interview.

Producer/Director Ira Skutch’s three hour Archive of American Television Interview is available for viewing on Google Video.

Ira Skutch started working at NBC in 1942 as an NBC Page.

Interview Description:

Skutch talks about his early years as a page and later manager of guided tours at NBC. He describes in detail the layout of the NBC building, listing the various studios and the radio series that were produced in each, as well as which were modified to bring in television production. Skutch talks about his work as a stage manger on NBC’s earliest television series including NBC Television Theater, You Are an Artist, Face to Face, Kraft Television Theater, and the big budget variety series Hour Glass. Skutch discusses his work in technique and production as a director of “live” television commercials for television series as well as the 1952 political conventions. He chronicles his work as a director on such shows as Disc Magic (a 1946 precursor to music video), The Swift Home Service Club (one of network television first daytime series), and Philco TV Playhouse. Lastly, Skutch speaks in detail about his 26 year tenure as director, then producer at Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, where he worked on such series as Beat the Clock, Play Your Hunch, and Match Game. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on January 29, 2004.