Archive for the ‘Hollywood Blacklist and McCarthyism’ Category

Remembering TV News Legend Joseph Wershba

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Legendary news producer Joseph Wershba passed away on Saturday, May 14th at the age of 90. Wershba, who decided to become a journalist at a very early age, began his broadcast career in radio, and transitioned to television at CBS News, where he worked on See It Now (where he was part of the core team to expose McCarthyism), CBS Reports and 60 Minutes.

Here are a few excerpts from his 6-hour career-spanning Archive of American Television interview conducted by Jeff Kisseloff in 1997:

Joseph Wershba on the genesis of See it Now
It was what we had on the first broadcast.  Open with something that nobody had ever seen before, which was two oceans live in the same time frame; the Brooklyn Navy Yard where Eddie Scott was, and the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay, which was live. Murrow said, “Ed, will you give me the uh, the Brooklyn Navy Yard?”  And he said, “coming right up!  There it is.” Murrow said, “well, this is the first time we’ve ever seen two oceans live.”  You know, small potatoes today, but very big.  It was like the landing on the Moon.  The coaxial cable had just been opened for many of us to go by cable to the west coast.  Before that, it wouldn’t have been done.  And Murrow’s introductory line, “this is an old team on a new job.” Meaning, CBS, his colleagues and Fred Friendly using uh, and entirely new mode of communication, and we hoped to use it and not abuse it, which referred to his own feelings about what the news was about.

Joseph Wershba on preparing See It Now’s historic program on Senator Joseph McCarthy
We looked at the program, it was cut.  Ed [Murrow] went around the room, What do you think? The editors were all for it, scared.  The cameramen worried about their jobs and things like that.  My position was, it all depends on what you’re going to say at the end of this broadcast.  Because, if you just run what we have looked at, the people who think McCarthy is a great man, will think he is doing the Lord’s work.  And the people who are fearful of him and hate him will think he’s more fearful and more hateful than they ever knew.  What are you going to say?  And, instead of telling me to go mind my business, he said, “Well what I’ll say is that, if none of us ever read a book that was different, if none of us ever joined an organization that somebody thought should be outlawed, if none of us ever had friends who, who were suspect of something or other, we’d all be, all be just the kind of people that Joe McCarthy wants.  The whole country’d be that way.” But he said it even more, I don’t have it down word for word.  He said it powerfully, he’d been thinking about it all along.  And I said, “Well Mr. Murrow, it’s been a privilege to have known you.”….I felt that this was the greatest thing that I’d, in my personal life, had ever come across.  We’re standing at Armageddon, ready for war, and we could easily have been destroyed.  Just McCarthy coming back, ripping us apart.

Joseph Wershba on the legacy of CBS News president Fred Friendly
I don’t like what’s happened in recent years in an attempt to downgrade Fred’s contribution.  I will say to my last breath that without Fred we wouldn’t have had the impact that we had on See It Now.  That Fred helped give Murrow the means whereby Murrow could make the mark that he wanted to.

Joseph Wershba on his work as a producer on 60 Minutes
See It Now was the mother lode, it was the fount of all these magazine shows.  The first one to come along which I’m proud to say I also worked on. I spent twenty years with 60 Minutes, I was one of the founding producers.  That’s a title that is a showbiz title, but it meant a reporter who went out, got all the details, came back, conferred with the correspondent who was doing four other stories at the same time, wrote up the  outline, placed the questions, told them what answers he can expect, and if they got a different answer, how to approach the next question.  That’s what a producer does.

See his CBS News obituary here.

Remembering Sidney Lumet

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Director Sidney Lumet has died at the age of 86. The Archive of American Television interviewed him in 1999 about his work in television. The full interview is available at http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/sidney-lumet

Excerpts from the interview:

On 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.  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, 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. If I can help them to feel any more secure, and any more unafraid of releasing whatever part of themselves they have to, I understand that I can help them that way.  And they feel that.  I don’t even have to articulate it

On  directing the feature film Network

It’s a peculiar movie.  Everybody keeps saying, ‘oh God, what a brilliant satire.’  Paddy 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.

On his advice to aspiring directors

Work wherever you can.  It doesn’t matter what.  A documentary, a commercial.  Wherever you can get near a camera, especially if you’re a director.  You’re not going to be a director until you put your eye into that finder.  And it doesn’t matter what. There’s no such thing as good work or bad work.  There’s only work, at the beginning.  Until you’ve got enough under your belt technically, and have your legs under you.  It’s like learning to walk, you need all of it.  Learn those lenses.  To hell with the zoom lens, it’s not going to teach you anything.  Bad lens. Visually it doesn’t help you tell anything. And the zoom lens lies, because it doesn’t relate to the eye, you see.  Doesn’t do what the eye does.  Because, if you notice, on the zoom lens, the background moves as well as the foreground.  As well as me getting bigger, that’s getting bigger behind me. That doesn’t happen with your eye.  So it’s basically telling you a lie visually, to begin with.  That’s why prime lenses are still, in my view, the heart of any visual medium.

Full Archive interview description:

Sidney Lumet was interviewed for three-hours in New York, NY. Mr. 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 satire, “Network” (1976).  The interview was conducted by Dr. Ralph Engleman on October 28, 1999.

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).

60 Years Ago — October 20, 1947 — The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) Began Its Probe That Resulted in The Hollywood Blacklist

Friday, October 19th, 2007


“Television Responds to the Red Scare”
By Gary Rutkowski

American television production, halted in its infancy before World War II, continued full-force with the four networks— ABC, CBS, NBC, and DuMont— scheduling programs regularly. Soon after, in 1950, they also began consulting an independently published booklet entitled “Red Channels,” which listed alleged Communists or sympathizers who were not to be employed on television: a blacklist.

With the beginning of the Cold War a strong Anti-Communist wind blew into postwar America and it was exploited. The era would be defined by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, whose manipulation of public opinion intensified the “red scare.” The “scare” was rooted in two sets of hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947 and 1951 which targeted (but was not limited to) the Hollywood film, television, and radio communities. After the first, ten men (dubbed the “Hollywood Ten”), mostly screenwriters, were imprisoned for not cooperating with the committee, having not “named names” of other members of the Communist party of “leftist” organizations.

Many of these and other blacklisted writers found a safe haven in television— writing under pseudonyms and fronts. Others, such as performers and directors, found they could not work at all. Careers were ruined and lives were shattered in a time when any left wing political association, no matter how tenuous, could be considered subversive.

Television provided the first expose of the hysteria with Edward R. Murrow’s 1954 CBS “See It Now” broadcast “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy,” which weakened McCarthy’s credibility by offering film clips of his own misstatements and half-truths. McCarthy received equal time on “See It Now,” only damaging himself further. In a related press conference, Murrow said: “Who has helped the Communist cause and who has served his country better, Senator McCarthy or I? I would like to be remembered by the answer to that question.” Weeks later, ABC and DuMont aired the “Army-McCarthy Hearings,” further weakening McCarthyism’s stronghold.

The blacklist came to an end in the early sixties, after McCarthy’s death, when several producers insisted that writers from the “Hollywood Ten” receive screen credit under their real names again. In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of the first HUAC hearings, formal apologies were given to blacklisted artists by such organizations as the DGA, the WGA, SAG and AFTRA.

(Reprinted from The Vault: The Journal of the Archive of American Television, Winter 2000.)

Selected Soundbites from the Archive of American Television Collection:

Ring Lardner, Jr. (Writer, blacklisted, one of the “Hollywood Ten”)

“HUAC Chairman [J. Parnell Thomas] said: ‘That’s enough, skip to the $64,000 question. Go ahead.’ He turned it over to the committee counsel who then said: ‘All right, Mr. Lardner, are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?’ I said, ‘I can answer that question, too, but I’d like to explain.’ Thomas said: ‘Never mind explaining anything.’ I said one other thing, and he said: ‘Come on, answer the question, any real American would be happy to answer that question.’ And I said, ‘I could answer it the way you want it, Mr. Chairman, but if I did, I’d hate myself in the morning.’ He said: ‘Leave the witness chair. Take him away.’ I said, ‘I think I’m being removed by force.’ And I was indeed.”

Roy Huggins (Show Creator/Producer/Director, “friendly” witness)

“[HUAC] asking me for names that they already had was a violation of their mandate from Congress and so I felt that it was wrong for me to cooperate with them. I didn’t think it was wrong to give them names although I would rather not have. But giving them names they already had didn’t strike me as being a horrible deed. But cooperating with them, with this loose canon committee that was violating its mandate from Congress and violating my rights was, was really not the right thing to do. But I decided that I was going to cooperate with them and I was also going to state that I felt what they were doing was wrong.”

Abraham Polonsky (Writer-Director, blacklisted)

“I was subpoenaed [and] I stood on the Fifth and wouldn’t answer any questions…. I got a letter from a college here recently, and the letter said: “ what is the thing you’re proudest of?” And I wrote back and said, when the U.S. Government pushed me, I pushed back.” And the kid wrote back: ‘That’s why we love you!’”

Tony Randall (Actor)

“Everybody was cleared through that man [Vincent] Hartnett [“Red Channels” author]. He made a living from clearing people. People made money out of the blacklist. And the worst blacklisters were actors who turned in other actors and got their jobs. It was a devastating disclosure of human nature.”

Joseph Wershba (CBS News Reporter/News Producer)

“What Murrow did was to hurl the spear that broke open this whole boiling fear in the American body politic where it wasn’t a question of whether this was going to be constitutional or that was going to be, the question was going to be whether we have a government at all based on a constitution.”

Leonard Goldenson (Executive/Founder ABC)

“We couldn’t afford it. It cost us about $600,000 to run that [coverage of the Army-McCarthy hearings] gavel to gavel, but when that was over, that was good-bye Mr. McCarthy. The public turned on him. And properly so.”

Ring Lardner Jr.’s entire six-part Archive interview is now online.

Interview Description:

Ring Lardner, Jr. (1915-2000) described his work as a screenwriter and one of the most closely identified victims of the Hollywood blacklist. Mr. Lardner described his career as a writer on such films as A Star Is Born (1937), in which he contributed the movie’s famous ending; Woman of the Year (1942), for which he and co-writer Michael Kanin won an Academy Award; and Laura (1944), the classic film noir for which he contributed uncredited. He described the Hollywood “red scare” which halted his career and placed him on an industry blacklist. He described his testimony as an “unfriendly” witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) that landed him in jail as one of the “Hollywood Ten.” He spoke in detail about his work in television, which he did under pseudonym during the blacklist era, working on such series as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-58), The Buccaneers (1956-57), The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956-57), and Ivanhoe (1958). Mr. Lardner talked about his emergence from the blacklist in the mid-sixties that culminated with his win of the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for M*A*S*H (1970).

Casting Executive Ethel Winant’s Interview is Now Online

Sunday, July 1st, 2007


Casting Executive Ethel Winant’s interview is now online. Ms. Winant discusses her early years casting for live anthologies, her role as one of the first female network executives, and her experiences as a network casting executive for CBS and NBC.

Click here to access Ethel Winant’s entire 7-part interview.

Here are some excerpts:

From Part 4

Q You were one of the first female network executives. What was it like to be the only woman at the top?

I’d been the only woman for so long that I never thought about it. I mean there were things that you gotta do. Like, in the executive dining room there was a bathroom which had no door, no lock. So, for years,when I went to go to the bathroom, I would go outside, take the elevator, go down and go to the lady’s room. And, finally, I just said, well, I’m not going do this anymore. I figured out that if I took my shoes off and left my shoes outside the door that these guys, because they would all go in together, that they would know that I was in the bathroom. They wouldn’t walk in. I was always the only woman. For years, and years and years.

From Part 7

What advice would you give someone who’s starting out as a casting director?

It’s hard now, I think it’s harder to be a good casting director now because the world is so much bigger. I used to have this really simple advice which was to watch a lot of television, watch a lot of movies, start making lists for yourself and every time you see somebody that you like, write their name down. If you watch a television show, if you watch a movie, if every time you go to a play, keep lists, keep cards, do all that. It’s really what it’s about — seeing as many people as you can, going to as many plays, workshops as you can. I don’t think there’s any way to learn it.


Interview description:

In her 7-part oral history interview, Ethel Winant (1922-2003) discusses her start in television as a volunteer for Studio One, produced by Worthington Minor. Winant talks about her shift into casting and her job with David Susskind’s Talent Associates. Winant speaks about her experience as one of the first, high-ranking female executives in television, working for CBS and NBC as well as her encounters with the Blacklist. Winant’s fondest memories in television focus on her work as a casting director for Playhouse 90, and the talented people she worked with: John Houseman, John Frankenheimer, Martin Manulis, Fred Coe and Hubbell Robinson. Additionally she talks about casting such classics as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Shogun. The interview was conducted on August 7, 1996 by Sunny Parich.

David Pressman’s Archive of American Television Interview Is Now Online!

Friday, February 2nd, 2007


Director David Pressman was one of the key directors on the early anthology series Actors Studio which was the first dramatic series awarded the Peabody Award.

Actors Studio featured many of the young “method” actors who would come to prominence in later years including Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Julie Harris. Pressman himself appeared as an actor in the series very first production— Tennessee Williams’ “Portrait of a Madonna” starring Jessica Tandy and directed by Hume Cronyn.

Click here to access David Pressman’s entire 7-part interview.

Actors Studio switched networks from ABC to CBS in November 1949.
Here is a photograph of David Pressman in the control booth at CBS.

Interview Description:
David Pressman began the interview by recounting his arrival in the U.S. from Russia in 1922 and his early interest in acting. He talked about acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in the 1930s and his entrance into WWII in the early 40s (as well as describing the feeling of returning home from the war, seeing the Statue of Liberty from a porthole on his ship). He talked about the Actor’s Studio that was created in 1947, which he described as a “gym” for actors. He spoke in great detail about the “live” prestige ABC television drama series Actors Studio that started shortly after the Studio itself opened and which featured many of the emerging talent at the time. Pressman talked about appearing as an actor in the very first production of Actors Studio and then becoming one of the series primary directors. He talked about the process by which the productions were staged and directed for television. He listed the writers, performers, and other talent who worked on the show and the series’ struggle for sponsorship. Pressman talked about the excitement of working in “live” television and talked about other anthology series he directed. He detailed his struggle to work as a director in television despite the shadow of the Hollywood Blacklist, and how he ultimately switched careers to teaching until the end of the blacklist, when he returned to television, notably as an Emmy Award-winning director of the daytime serial One Life to Live. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on July 27, 2004.

Lee Grant’s Archive of American Television Interview is Now Online!

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007


Actress/Director Lee Grant’s interview is now posted on Google Video.

Click here to access all interview segments.

Interview Description:
In her seven-part (each 30-minute segement is posted separately) oral history interview, actress/director Lee Grant discusses her long and distinguished career in stage, television, and film. She describes her breakthrough role in the stage and film versions of Detective Story. She talks about her early television work in the anthology series The Play’s The Thing and Danger. She discusses her role as a regular on the daytime serial Search For Tomorrow. Ms. Grant describes in detail the Hollywood blacklist period which affected her and her husband of the time Arnold Manoff. She talks about her Emmy-winning role on the prime time serial Peyton Place and her work on the sitcom Fay, which followed her Oscar® win for the film Shampoo. She discusses her television directorial debut, for the special The Shape of Things and her work in front of and behind the camera for television movies and documentaries in the 1980s and 1990s. The interview was conducted on May 10, 2000 by Henry Colman.

Former CBS President Frank Stanton Dies at 98

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

Dr. Frank Stanton, who served as President of CBS from 1946 to 1973, died Sunday, December 24th at the age of 98. He granted the Archive of American Television a rare 2-part videotaped interview in 2000 and 2001. Below are some excerpts from the three hour interview. The entire interview can be accessed by clicking here:


On joining CBS in 1935.
I got my doctorate in late August, 1935. We got in the car the next day and drove to New York and I think my first day at CBS was the 4th of September. I was just staff, nobody labeled me anything. I was a weird sort of a person because I was introduced to the sales force as somebody that might help them in market research. They were very skeptical of somebody who had a Ph.D. In those days, Ph.D.’s on Madison Avenue were not a dime a dozen. Today I think they are. In those days I think there were only two of us, George Gallop at Young and Rubicam, at 285 Madison and Frank Stanton at 485 Madison. CBS was very young. It was on a two or three floors in the building.

On bringing Ed Sullivan to CBS television.
You reached for stars wherever you thought there was a potential. For example, I went up to the Essex House hotel and sold Ed Sullivan to an advertiser for I think six weeks one summer with the idea that Ed Sullivan, certainly not telegenic — Sullivan wasn’t very happy to even get in front of a camera. But Sullivan had, with his column in the Daily News, an enormous amount of contacts. And Sullivan could get those people on to interview them. That’s what we started out with, with Ed Sullivan on Sunday night. We had to frame it with some dancers in order to give it some entertainment flair, but Sullivan was that star on Sunday night. People said “well you’re not gonna keep that guy on Sunday night.” By the time his eight weeks were over, he had an audience and we said, let’s give him another 13 weeks. He ended up owning the first part of Sunday night for many years. That’s how Ed Sullivan came into television.

On his relationship with CBS Chairman William Paley.
We both had the same objective. We wanted CBS to be the best and we had perhaps different routes to getting there. So we started with that common goal. I devoted most of mine in terms of programming. I guess I gave most of my attention and support to the news side. He gave most of his attention to the entertainment side. Although a couple of the big things we had in entertainment, were things I brought in for example, Arthur Godfrey was my project. Playhouse 90 was mine. I had a strong hand in bringing Lucy to CBS.

On Ed Murrow’s taking on Joseph McCarthy on See It Now.
Fred Friendly and the producing crew and Ed Murrow, felt that the time was come to take the McCarthy record and put it all together and into a half-hour and what was it in See It Now. They developed it without talking about it much in the company, in fact, very little. I don’t think the head of news at that time, who was Sig Mickelson, knew that the program was in preparation. About 24 hours before it was broadcast, I got a call from Ed who said he had tried to reach Paley and could the two of us meet with, with Ed and Fred Friendly, late that afternoon. I said I couldn’t be sure we could get together. Maybe we could do it tomorrow. And Ed said no, it should be today. It turned out that about four o’clock that day, Ed and Fred came up and laid before us the idea of the McCarthy expose and offered to show us advance material from the broadcast. It was all on film in those days. Either Paley or I or both of us declined looking at it and said, it had to be fair and it had to provide for time for reply, if that was indicated on the basis of the content, which we damn well knew was going to happen. So that was built into the broadcast I believe at the opening or close or maybe both, Murrow indicated that time would be given to the Senator to respond to the broadcast. The broadcast obviously was a bombshell, it wasn’t that we didn’t expose anything that hadn’t been known because Look Magazine had done a very rough piece on McCarthy and others had done individual stories. But Murrow, with Friendly’s help, put together a See It Now broadcast that shook the whole journalism field. And it befelled to me to handle the Senator in terms of the reply. But we lived through it and it was a great coup for Murrow and Friendly.

On the Blacklist at CBS.
There was a supermarket man someplace upstate New York who began saying that he wouldn’t handle merchandise that was advertised by Communists and was specific about naming names. Some advertisers became very nervous. The chairman of General Food scalled me one day and said he really wanted to sit down and talk with me about this. We had The Goldbergs and a couple of other programs on for General Foods. He said that if certain people had were continued on that program, he would withdraw General Foods advertising from CBS. And a number of other advertisers took similar views. The FBI was making private comments to us about some of the people. We didn’t know what the facts were. We had no way of knowing what the facts were. NBC was in the same boat but we had more popular programs and somehow we had more people who were on the so-called Blacklist. At about that time, it got so complicated and so difficult, that we asked the employees to sign a loyalty oath. I don’t recall anybody refusing to sign the loyalty oath. People in News signed it. Ed Murrow signed it. Ed Murrow, I think at that time, was on the CBS Board and he supported it. None of us was happy.

On championing the repeal of Section 315 of the Communications Act.
Section 315 of the Communications Act, said that if one candidate got on the air, all of the candidates had to have access equal access to radio. This is long before television. As a result, if you put a Republican on, you had to put all the other Republicans on who were running for the same office if they wanted the time and it just destroyed the opportunity to use the medium effectively as a news medium. It became clear to me that the only way to resolve that was to get rid of Section 315. I think in the early ‘50’s I wrote a column in the then Herald-Tribune proposing debates between the presidential, presidential candidates and the relief from Section 315. And that became sort of a crusade as far as I was concerned. I was joined in by other broadcasters, eventually NBC came along and we got rid of Section 315 on a temporary basis in the election of 1960. It took that much time to get the right to put both candidates on at single broadcasts. We did the first televised debate, which was also done on radio, in 1960 and it originated in our studios in Chicago, with Kennedy and Nixon. That debate put them on so that the Republicans could see the Democrats and vice versa. It was an opening up of the air to political broadcasts. I thought, mistakenly, as it turns out, that doing those debates would bring more people out to the polls, certainly in the presidential year of 1960, I believe it did that.

On The Selling of the Pentagon.
I arrived at my house about 9:30, having missed dinner. And I’d worked at the office and I came in and my wife said, “don’t do anything. You get in and look at what’s on the air cause I think you’re gonna have trouble with it.” And I knew what was on but I hadn’t seen it. I had been told in general what it was. So I went in and watched the end of the program. And before the end came, I began getting calls about how dare we put that broadcast on. The next morning, Ted Koop who was in our Washington office as the Vice President called me and said, the Pentagon wants to see all the footage on The Selling of the Pentagon. I said send it over to them. So we had a tape in the Washington Bureau and we sent it over to the Pentagon and word came back immediately. “No we don’t want the broadcast, we want the tape that wasn’t used.” And the questioning came to me, what’ll we do and I said tell them to forget about it. We’re not releasing tape that we didn’t put on the air, those are the reporter’s notes. … I took the traditional position that these were the property of the news organization and I would not submit them to the government. And that began a whole series of things including the day when two armed uniformed guards appeared at CBS and wanted to see me to deliver a subpoena to provide this material. It was a little ludicrous because it was a serious move on the part of the government but it was silly because they could have delivered that subpoena to me in Washington where I had officers who could have accepted it on behalf of CBS. At any rate, we stood our ground and there were hearings. The committees, there were two subcommittees I believe, or maybe three, had hearings. I lost among each of the three, the vote was in favor of forcing me to give up the documents. It finally came to a vote of a full committee and we lost the vote with the full committee. I was cited for contempt of Congress and John Mitchell told me the morning after the vote that he was all prepared to send me to jail. It ultimately ended up on the floor of the full House and we didn’t squeak by but we didn’t have the majority I would like to have had. But we prevailed.

On the industry’s embracing the V-chip.
I’m embarrassed for the industry, of the leaders, for having done that but I think that’s just the beginning of things that’ll be worse. I think with the ownership now of the broadcast facilities and cable in the hands of big corporation, there will not be dedication to the First Amendment that we had when we were independently in quotes, owned ala NBC, a part of RCA and CBS being owned as it was. I don’t see that kind of leadership putting aside the impact it would have had on the stock prices in favor of a principle like the First Amendment. Newspapers are still standing their ground on the First Amendment. I don’t know what’s going to happen in broadcasting.

On his life’s satisfactions.
Public service. Architecture. Travel. The last eight years have been rather desolate years for me because I lost my wife eight years ago and that companionship had been with me from the time I was 12 years old, so it was like losing my arms, and legs and heart. I haven’t had any trouble keeping myself occupied. I think I’ve been on interesting boards. I’ve been identified with some interesting projects. I have no complaints. I was a lucky guy.

Interview description:
In this rare videotaped interview, executive Dr. Frank Stanton discusseshis early years at CBS and his eventual rise to the network’s presidency. He speakscandidly about CBS, chairman William S. Paley and the rise of CBS network television. Dr. Stanton retired from his post in 1973, but continued as a director of the company. He was interviewed by Don West on May 22, 2000 and May 14, 2001.

Link to The New York Times obituary of Frank Stanton.

Actress Jane Wyatt has Died

Monday, October 23rd, 2006


Jane Wyatt talks about working on Father Knows Best

Actress Jane Wyatt died at her home on Friday, October 20 at the age of 96. For six years, she starred on Father Knows Best, where she played Margaret Anderson, one of the most beloved television moms. The Archive of American Television interviewed Ms. Wyatt for two hours on November 16, 1999. Click here to access Jane Wyatt’s interview.

Interview Description:

Ms. Wyatt described her lengthy career in film, stage, and television. She talked about her feature film debut in 1934 in James Whale’s One More River and her subsequent film roles in such classics as Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon and Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement. She discussed the McCarthy era in which she found herself on an industry blacklist unable to work in film. She described her television debut on Robert Montgomery Presents in the title role of “Kitty Foyle” (1950) and her varied roles in “live” television. She described in detail her most memorable and enduring work for television on Father Knows Best (1954-63), in which she played the role of Margaret Anderson, a part which won her three consecutive Emmy Awards. She talked about her later television work on such series as the Bell Telephone Hour and Hollywood Television Theatre. She talked about her appearance as Mr. Spock’s human mother on the series Star Trek (a role she repeated in the feature film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). Ms. Wyatt also described her memorable recurring role as Katherine Auschlander on the medical drama St. Elsewhere. Ms. Wyatt was interviewed by Gary Rutkowski in Los Angeles.

"Omnibus" and "M*A*S*H" Director Charles S. Dubin’s Interview is Now Online

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006


This video is Part 2 of Charles S. Dubin’s 7-part interview. In this segment, he talks about his work on the 1950s cultural anthology series Omnibus. Click here to access all Charles Dubin interview segments. (Remember, if you’d like to watch the interview in the order in which it was conducted, select the parts in order (1,2,3…).

Charles Dubin directed more episodes of the landmark sitcom M*A*S*H than any other single director!

Interview Description:

Dubin begins by describing his lengthy career as a television director, which began in 1950 when he was hired at ABC as an associate director, and culminated in his long association with M*A*S*H. Dubin details his early work in “live” television for such series as Pulitizer Prize Playhouse (1950-52) and Opera Vs. Jazz (1953). He speaks in great detail about the over twenty segments of Omnibus (1955-58) that he directed, including celebrated pieces with choreographer Agnes DeMille and conductor/ composer Leonard Bernstein. It was his association with Bernstein in this capacity which led to his directing of the first three of the “Young People’s Concerts” which Dubin then talks about. Additionally, Dubin discusses his work as a director on the quiz show series Twenty-One, which became the center of the quiz show scandal, although Dubin was at the time unaware of the backstage practices that led to the show’s demise. Dubin discusses his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee, in which he plead the Fifth and was blacklisted from the industry for five years. He describes his later work, directing multiple episodes of The Defenders, Kojak, Ironside, Hawaii Five-O, and the Father Dowling Mysteries. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on September 9, 2003.