Archive for the ‘"Twilight Zone"’ Category

Writer/Producer William Froug Turns 90!

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Happy 90th birthday, William Froug! Froug started out as a radio writer at CBS, transitioned to television, and wound up producing some of the medium’s biggest hits. He served as a producer on The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, and Gilligan’s Island, among others. When he left production, Froug began teaching screenwriting at UCLA and authored several books on the subject, including The Screenwriter Looks at the Screenwriter and Screen-writing Tricks of the Trade.

Here are some selections from his 2011 Archive interview:

On the secret to writing for radio:

What’s the secret? I think the secret is just keep making it up as you go along. I really do. It’s one sentence at a time. I never had an outline for anything I ever did. Ever. Just start writing. If you can entertain yourself, there’s a chance you can entertain somebody else. That was my philosophy. I kept myself amused and I’m a short attention span guy. But each sentence would surprise me. I never knew what was going to happen next, and that kept me going. If I’d had an outline I would have dropped it long ago.

On working with Rod Serling as a producer on The Twilight Zone:

On why The Twilight Zone has continued to be a popular series after all these years:

I think Rod Serling. He wrote great scripts. That’s why. Stories were great. By and large they are great.

On being the Executive Producer in Charge of Drama at CBS:

It really meant I read all the scripts for dramatic series – met with the producers of dramatic series. Let them know I was going to be reading their material and make suggestions from time to time. I was greeted like cancer, you know. The blank stares “You think you’re going to tell us how to produce our series?” I’d been a line producer. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. But that was the job. So I read their scripts. Never said a word.  Never met with them. That was my job.

On why he began teaching screenwriting at UCLA:

It’s in my blood. I can’t explain that. Like what made me have to be a writer? I just knew I wanted to be a teacher. I just knew I had to do it and I love it. When I first started at CBS in radio, in the very beginning, I started a course one night a week in radio writing at CBS in one of their offices. Had about three or four people show up. But I had this urge to teach. It’s just in me. There’s no “what led me to it” anymore than what led me to be a writer.

On producing Bewitched:

I didn’t have anything to do because Bill Asher actually produced it and directed it and correctly took the credit and was married to the star. There was no role for me there, really. He just wanted somebody to be the titular producer, who he could then blame for anything that went wrong. He wasn’t interested in me as a producer. He was looking for a fall guy, basically. Because when he had battles with his wife, he didn’t have anybody to blame. Now he could blame me. That’s all right.

On his philosophy on screenwriting:

Basically, find a clear line. The key is to find a line. The storyline is king.  And Page 1, Line 1 is when the story must start. You pick up the script. Page 1, Line 1, the reader has got to know what kind of story he’s getting and what kind of genre to expect. Is it going to be a mystery? Is it going to be a comedy? What’s it going to be? I called it the opening signal: Page 1, Line 1. Then you’ve got to grab the audience within the first five pages, preferably the first two. That’s very important.

Happy 90th birthday, William! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Froug’s two-hour Archive interview here.

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.

Composer Fred Steiner, best known for the “Perry Mason” theme, has died

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Legendary composer Fred Steiner passed away on June 23rd at the age of 88. The prolific composer (and musicologist) worked on many series including Playhouse 90, The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Star Trek, The Bullwinkle Show, and Gunsmoke. He also received an Oscar nomination for his work on The Color Purple. Fred was interviewed by the Archive of American Television in 2003. Here are some excerpts from his 4+ hour interview:

On composing the theme for Perry Mason.

CBS Music Director Lud Gluskin assigned me to it…. I have found some old sketches for the Perry Mason theme, some old pencil sketches, and they have no resemblance to what I finally came up with it. So it’s a complete mystery to me.  But apparently he liked it.  The original title was “Park Avenue Beat.”  And the reason for that was that I conceived of Perry Mason as this very sophisticated lawyer — eats at the best restaurants, tailor-made suits, and so on — and yet at the same time he’s mixed in with these underworld bad guys, murder and crime.  So the  underlying beat is R&B, rhythm and blues. And for the crazy reason that in those days, even to this day, jazz or R&B, whatever, is always associated with crime.  You look at those old film noir pictures they’ve always got jazz going for some reason or other. So it’s kind of a piece of symphonic R&B.  But since then, it’s been known as the Perry Mason theme.

On the opening of Gunsmoke.

I came up with the logo where you see him with the low angle shot of Matt Dillon. Well, first you see him from behind with the legs, it’s a face-off with the villain, the bad guy.  I wrote that.  And it ends up with the two gunshots, [HUMMING], bang, bang.  I wrote that. Now it seems like an obvious thing to do, set up the gunshot.

On writing the second theme for The Bullwinkle Show.

The first theme was written by Frank Comstock. Frank had kept the copyright to that music, and it was probably some lawyer, excuse the expression, who advised [creator/producer] Jay Ward, “hey, you’re losing money by not keeping the copyright to the music.” That’s when I got called in, and I got assigned to write, not only a new theme, but also about an hour’s worth of incidental music, and that’s what he used in various segments. The music editor was Skip Craig, who was very good…. The only thing Jay Ward told me that he wanted what he called a show biz theme.  But I wrote several themes for it.  I wrote the first one that you hear with Rocky flying around, he’s going back and forth.  Then you got the other one with Bullwinkle and the top hot strutting.  But he told me he wanted a show biz theme.  Jay was a marvelous guy.

On composing for Star Trek.

I had a conference with [series creator] Gene Roddenberry, and he said I don’t want any “boops and beep stuff,” like I guess they were having on some of the other science fiction shows.  He wanted, I think the term he used was “Captain Blood in space.”  And oddly enough, that was exactly the kind of thing that I had thought of.  They had shown me the pilot film, which Alexander Courage had scored, and he was of the same mind, although he had a little bit of kind of strange sounding stuff in there.  So the first one I scored, wow, it was a weird assignment as I recall. But I got assigned to, instead of scoring a whole episode, because Star Trek was very heavily scored with library, Bob Justman, who was the line producer, associate producer, line producer, whatever you want –  had things rigged so they’d use mostly library in a sequence.  But whenever there was a certain new character on the screen, or some new twist of a story that would demand new music.  So my first assignment there was writing special music for three — three different episodes in one session.  That was quite a way to break in.

Watch his full Archive interview here.

Link to his New York Times Obituary.

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 .

TV Executive & Producer William Self Has Died

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

William Self served as an executive at 20th Century Fox where he oversaw such now-classic TV series as Batman, Julia, and M*A*S*H and was an Emmy-nominated producer of the 1991 Hallmark Hall of Fame production Sarah, Plain and Tall.  Self died on November 15 at the age of 89.

William Self’s Archive interview was conducted on March 27, 2001.

Interview description:

William “Bill” Self was interviewed for three hours in Los Angeles, CA.  Mr. Self started off discussing his early acting career in movies that led to his extensive television producing career.  He talked about producing the series: Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, The Frank Sinatra Show and the pilot of The Twilight Zone.  He then discussed his brief executive position at CBS and his executive producer position at 20th Century Fox Television.  Self talked about his promotions at Fox to the eventual positions of President of 20th Century Fox Television and Vice President of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, where he oversaw such shows as The Adventures of Dobie Gillis, Batman, Daniel Boone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Peyton Place, Lost in Space, M*A*S*H, Julia and Room 222, among others.  He ended the interview discussing his relationships with various producers and directors and his partnership with actress Glenn Close on the Sarah Plain and Tall movies.  The interview was conducted by Jeff Abraham.

Leonard Nimoy in the 1950s & early ’60s

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Leonard Nimoy was living hand-to-mouth in the 1950s and early 60s, as a struggling actor in TV and movies, before his stardom on Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. He landed the leading role in the feature film Kid Monk Baroni (1952) (photo, left), but spent most of his early career in TV in small roles, in such series as Dragnet (photo, center) and The Twilight Zone (photo, right).

“The work that I was useful for when I was hired– which was rare in those days– were always offbeat nasty guys. Ethnic characters of one kind or another. Guys who beat up people and that sort of thing. They were always in trouble. The good guys were guys that looked like Tab Hunter. The look at that time was a look that wasn’t me. They say, you have small eyes, or you have a crooked nose, or, you know, ‘No, no, no, no, no! Next. Next.’”

Several of Nimoy’s early parts are now viewable on his Archive of American Television Interview page (see Featured Content)— watch these early roles and hear Leonard Nimoy discuss his early career here.

The Monsters Were Due on Maple Street Fifty Years Ago Today

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

One of The Twilight Zone’s best remembered episodes— and a staple of Twilight Zone marathons— is the first season’s “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” Scripted by Rod Serling, it’s one of the series’ social commentaries– on how easily ones neighbors can turn against each other. It stars Claude Akins and Jack Weston, and among the supporting cast is young actor Burt Metcalfe. Metcalfe would become an Emmy-nominated producer (M*A*S*H) in later years. Watch what he had to say about this early acting foray along with Twilight Zone producer Del Reisman (who talks about how Rod Serling created The Twilight Zone specifically to tell these kinds of stories) on the Archive’s new page for “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

“The Twilight Zone” Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

The Twilight Zone debuted on October 2, 1959 and has become one of the crown jewels of classic television over the last fifty years. Series creator Rod Serling won two Emmy Awards for the series, for which he wrote a staggering 92 episodes.

The Archive of American Television has interviewed many of the contributors to The Twilight Zone, including writers Richard Matheson, Earl Hamner, Jr., and George Clayton Johnson; associate producer Del Reisman; directors Lamont Johnson, Richard L. Bare, Richard Donner, and James Sheldon; actors Cliff Robertson, William Shatner, George Takei, and Maxine Stuart.

To ring in the Zone’s 50th, the Archive premieres new pages for Rod Serling and classic episodes “Eye of the Beholder” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” to our website,, featuring clips from the Archive’s interviews.

Click on the links below to access our new pages:

Rod Serling page

The Twilight Zone: “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” page

The Twilight Zone: “Eye of the Beholder” page

60 Years Ago– "We, the People" Ushered in the Radio-Television Simulcast

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

In the early days of television as radio remained the dominant medium and television looked to make its foothold, several early shows were done as simulcasts on both mediums. We, the People was the first (on June 1, 1948) followed soon thereafter by such top radio radio shows as Arthur Godfrey Time. As described in Arthur J. Singer’s Arthur Godfrey: The Adventures of an American Broadcaster, Godfrey said at the top of his first simulcast (November 23, 1948): “This morning, we’ve got lights all around this place… and they’re driving us crazy. They said, ‘We’ll come in, Arthur, and you won’t even know we’re there.’ [He makes a face, thumbs his nose at the camera. The audience laughs. Then he addresses the radio audience.] For a penny postcard I’ll explain that laugh to you folks.”

We, the People began as a radio show in the 1930s known for its unusual testimonials of real people. When the show made its historic “first” as a radio-television simulcast, Variety, noted that the broadcast was preceded by a ten-minute ceremony in which CBS President Frank Stanton and reps from the advertising agencies that sponsored the show, cited the historic first of the simulcast. But, Variety griped: “In terms of depicting for home viewers how a radio show is run off, it could probably be classed as a success. But to call it a television show is a complete misnomer. With the single exception of a visual commercial midway in the program, no attempt was made at all to give the radio show a much needed TV Look.”

Archive interviewee James Sheldon talks about directing We, the People (six minutes into part two of his interview). He describes how he staged the radio show and Ralph Levy directed the television portion and how, eager to make the show better for television, Levy taught Sheldon how to stage a show for TV.

Click here to view James Sheldon’s entire six-part Archive interview.

James Sheldon’s Interview Description:

Sheldon spoke about breaking into the business as an NBC page, and after a few years in advertising, turning his attentions to directing for television. He described his work on several shows from the 1950s including such diverse fare as: sitcom Mr. Peepers, daytime variety series The Eddie Albert Show, military anthology West Point Story, and drama The Millionaire. He also spoke in great detail about working with then-budding actor James Dean in two “live” television productions of Armstrong Circle Theater and Robert Montgomery Presents. He discussed his work on the anthology series The Twilight Zone, for which he directed such classic episodes as “It’s A Good Life” starring Billy Mumy. Other series he discussed included Family Affair and My Three Sons.

Incidentally, Carl Reiner talks about how We, the People inspired the “2,000 Year Old Man” sketch on Your Show of Shows (at the end of part three of his Archive interview)!

Director Robert Butler’s Archive Interview is Now Online!

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Director Robert Butler was responsible for creating the look and feel for many classic television series in a career that spanned five decades. His full Archive of American Television interview is now available online, including detailed accounts of directing the first episodes of Batman, Moonlighting (pilot telefilm) and Hill Street Blues.

Click here to access Robert Butler’s entire five-hour interview.

Interview description:
Butler began by describing his early years breaking into the business as an usher at CBS. He described his experiences in various behind-the-scenes capacities on such classic “live” anthology series as Climax! and Playhouse 90. He described his first break in television directing on the comedy/drama series Hennesey. He detailed his many and varied assignments in series television in the 1960s on such series as The Detectives, Bonanza, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Dr. Kildare, Gunsmoke, The Defenders, The Fugitive, Hogan’s Heroes, The Twilight Zone, Batman, and Star Trek. Butler described his work in the 1970s on television movies (such as Columbo MOWs and James Dean) and feature films. He extensively described his groundbreaking work on the look of Hill Street Blues, for which he directed several of the initial episodes (including the pilot). He talked about his later work on such series as Remington Steele, Moonlighting (the telefilm pilot), Out on a Limb, Midnight Caller (which he also executive-produced), Sisters, and Lois & Clark. The interview was conducted by Stephen J. Abramson on January 14, 2004.