Archive for the ‘"Matinee Theatre"’ Category

Legendary Costume Designer Ray Aghayan Dies at 83

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

We’ve just learned that noted costume designer Ray Aghayan has passed away at the age of 83. He began his work in television designing costumes for Matinee Theater, while on staff with the NBC wardrobe department. He worked on many live shows of the time (often requiring much artistry to accommodate quick costume changes during live broadcasts). He also won the first-ever awarded Emmy for costume design (along with his longtime professional partner Mackie) for Alice Through the Looking Glass. Among his other work, he designed costumes for The Judy Garland Show, many Academy Awards telecasts, and the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics.  Below are some excerpts from his 1997 Archive of American Television interview.

What do you think makes an excellent costume design?
I think an excellent costume design is that which serves its purpose to the best possible degree.  Gives the actor the character.  Helps the actor grow into that human being.  And to be able to, it helps the audience to be able to look at that and know what the hell it is they’re looking at.  That is the best costume.  When it really serves as that complete thing that you, gives you all the information you need to have.

What makes an excellent costume designer?
Having talent obviously helps.  Beyond that I think, unfortunately you have to also be a good politician.  You have to be able to keep the people below you and the people above you happy.  But basically, anybody will put up with talent.  If you can really do it that’s what it’s all about.

What to you constitutes bad work?
When it’s ugly.

What advice would you give a young person about going into the profession?
I would think that you have to be sure that you’re very good.  I would think that you should be able to draw and draw well.  And have an enormous amount of tenacity, because they’re coming out of the woodwork, there’s so many.  And it’s, there are more costume designers than there are jobs.  So the only way, you have to be very good.

Ray Aghayan and Judy Garland

How has television influenced the fashion industry?
There were 52 million homes watching The Carol Burnett Show, so you take it from there. Obviously Cher caused everybody to go naked.  There was a while that you could never buy a halter top, for example.  Seriously. And then suddenly she happened – it was an accident – four or five weeks in a row she had a halter on. The halter top became the thing to wear.  It’s just like that.

Are costume designers aware of that when they’re creating?
No.  I don’t think so. I don’t think they sit down and say now I’m going to draw something so that when it’s on camera everybody will see it and therefore they will copy it. I don’t think anybody does that.

What knowledge do costume designers need to bring to the table?
Basically they should bring a great knowledge of history, of costume, which most of them don’t.  And be able to read and understand the character.  And help the actor to realize the character visually, that she has, or the director has, in their mind.

Watch the full interview at http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/ray-aghayan

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 .

Producer/Director Alan Neuman’s Interview Is Now Online

Friday, May 4th, 2007


Producer-director Alan Neuman directed innumerable “live” on-location dramatic, variety, and documentary productions, including NBC’s first televised presidential election coverage and the first show that ever linked four countries together.

Click here to access the entire six-part videotaped interview.

Some interview excerpts are as follows:

On Kate Smith (from part 3):
Kate Smith was a wonderful, remarkable talent. She was a great performer for the theater. When they were traveling she would cut the boys’ hair— she was a barber as well. But I remember the transition. The show became enormously popular. But I remember the girl who cut hair…. Every Friday show, she would sing “God Bless America.” And I’ve probably heard it more than any other person I know has heard it. She had this great voice— big belting voice. And when she sang she filled a room, she filled a hall, she filled anything. She was the one who was always recognized with “God Bless America.” …. In those days, if she walked down the street, they followed her. And she was no beauty. She was not a Marilyn Monroe. But she was Kate Smith. And that meant a great deal.

On the Blacklist (from part 3):
The ad agency would say, the cheese company, or the car company doesn’t want to be in the position of pushing Communism in any shape, manner, or form. They’re out here buying entertainment and we don’t want that. And I could understand their perspective but I wasn’t sympathetic to it…. Who cared if they were a Communist when they were sixteen? It never made much sense…. It literally kept people from functioning, from earning a living…. I found it an abhorrent thing.

On Wide Wide World (from part 4):
I was the first one to do a show in which we linked four countries together— Canada, Mexico, Cuba, and the United States. It was Christmas and we sang “Adeste Fidelis.”…. I had a DC-10, a plane, between Miami and Havana, circling overhead relaying the signal, because that’s what was needed. …. I gave [the Emmy the show won] to the technical supervisor who was responsible for it.

On working with President Herbert Hoover (from part 4):
[NBC President] Pat Weaver called me and said I want you to do [a certain series]. I said I never heard of [that] series. He said that’s why I want you on board— jazz it up a little bit. I said “who’s the guest?” He said Herbert Hoover. I said, “Jazz him up?!”…. But I got Hoover to laugh on camera, I got him to tell stories about himself… This is a man that never smiled on camera. I got him to tell the story about the little girl at Mark Hopkins who came over to him and said, “Mr. Hoover, may I have twelve of your autographs?” And he said, “Twelve? Why do you need twelve?” “Because twelve of yours is worth one Willie Mays.” To get him to tell that story on himself on camera was I felt an accomplishment.

On Maurice Chevalier’s interview for Person to Person (from part 5):
Chevalier had not been permitted to visit this country. He had performed before the German officers. The truth was [he had been given an ultimatum]— “Mr. Chevalier you want to appear before the Frenchmen that we’ve captured, you’ve got to appear before a German camp.” So they gave him that, and he appeared before the Germans, so he could appear before the French. Now we were holding up his visa. He’s a famous French entertainer and we weren’t permitting him to come in. This was during the McCarthy time. I hope that by the story being explained when I did it on Person to Person, it helped, because he was permitted to attend the Academy Awards the following year. [In 1959, producing Person to Person abroad] I informed New York that I was gonna do an entire half-hour [on Chevalier]. They said no. The only ones that ever took a half-hour were Kennedy and Nixon. You’re not gonna take a half-hour— it would break precedent. Why are you taking a half-an-hour? I said because I can’t tell the story in just fifteen minutes. I had visited Chevalier where he had a home. And as I walked up the steps he had a photograph of every woman he had ever been with, all these major stars going on up, ending up with a shrine to his mother that he had outside his bed. And I knew there was no way I was gonna get to any of this without a half-hour at least! He was extraordinary, he was very funny, and it was a delightful half-hour. So what I did is, I shot a half-hour. There was no room for a commercial break in the middle. CBS, when they got the material, was stuck with what I sent them…. There was no commercial break in the middle, they had to give me the whole half-hour— if the man is walking up a staircase you can’t cut away.

Interview description:
Alan Neuman talked about joining NBC as a page in 1947 and his rise through the ranks as stage manager and then director. He described the studios at Rockefeller Center and the early camerawork on such series as Kraft Television Theater. He recalled directing NBC’s first televised presidential election coverage in 1948, anchored by Ben Grauer, which lasted so long that he had Grauer doing calisthenics on the air. He talked about serving as director on such early series as The Three Flames, Mary Kay and Johnny, and Broadway Open House (the forerunner to the Tonight Show). He spoke in detail about his work with Kate Smith and her manager Ted Collins on The Kate Smith Hour. Neuman discussed his work as a producer/director on programs that featured several Presidents of the United States, including Presidents Hoover, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. He talked about the first color remote broadcast done by NBC, for Matinee Theater. He spoke in detail about the series Wide Wide World and Person to Person, for which he served as a producer. Additionally, he talked about the era of the Hollywood Blacklist. B-roll consisted of several photos of Neuman with the presidents he worked with and a photo from the premiere episode of Adlai Stevenson Presents. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on February 15, 2006.

Archive Interviewee John Conte Has Died

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

Actor/ Host/ TV Station Owner John Conte has died at the age of 90.

Conte was interviewed by the Archive of American Television on July 27, 1999. His interview can be viewed in the Archive’s Los Angeles offices and will be available online in the near future.

Interview description:
John Conte was interviewed for four-and-a-half hours in Malibu, CA. Conte talked about his early professional career as an announcer for network radio on such programs as “The Screen Guild Theater” and “Burns and Allen.” As the “Singing M. C.” on radio’s “Maxwell House Coffee Time,” Conte described his role as a straight man for the comedy of Frank Morgan. He talked about his brief appearance in movies as an actor, notably in the Abbott and Costello film Lost in a Harem, before his entrance into the service in World War II. Conte detailed his work after the war as an actor and singer on Broadway and in “live” television. Among the series in which he appeared were Studio One, The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, and Musical Comedy Time. Conte detailed his work as a regular on Van Camp’s Little Show (1950-1; 1953) which through his association became known as John Conte’s Little Show. This music show featured Conte and various musical guests and regulars. Conte also discussed in detail the Matinee Theatre anthology series, an ambitious undertaking which offered a different “live” production every afternoon for three straight years (1955-58); Conte appeared as the host on every show (and occasionally appeared as an actor on the series). Conte described his appearances on four productions of Max Liebman Presents, elaborate musical specials on NBC. He talked about his numerous other appearances in television series as a regular and as a guest actor, including numerous appearances on Perry Mason. He described in detail the creation of the Palm Springs television station KMIR-TV, an NBC affiliate, and his 30-year service as its president, general manager, and owner.

UPDATE: JULY 1, 2007 JOHN CONTE’S INTERVIEW IS NOW ONLINE.
Click here to access John Conte’s full interview.