From Marta Kauffman and fellow executive producers Jennifer Aniston, Paula Wagner, Kristin Hahn, Kevin Chinoy, and Francesca Silvestri, comes Five, an anthology of five short films “exploring the impact of breast cancer on people’s lives.” Known primarily for her comedies (she and writing partner David Crane co-executive produced Dream On, and co-created Veronica’s Closet and Friends), Kauffman shared a few words about incorporating humor into Five in her Archive interview:
“I’m working on a project for Lifetime … with Jennifer Aniston – she’s also executive producer. We’re doing five short films about breast cancer that will all air in one night, which I am very excited about. They’ll bring humor to a pretty dark subject … It’s a drama because it’s breast cancer, but there will be comedy in it.”
Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore, Patty Jenkins, and Penelope Spheeris directed the films, and Patricia Clarkson, Rosario Dawson, Kathy Najimy, Tony Shalhoub, Jeffrey Tambor, and Archive Interviewee Bob Newhart are among the stars. Five airs tonight at 9pm/8c on Lifetime.
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.
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.
Noel Taylor was the first person acknowledged by the Emmy Awards for costume design in 1965 for the Hallmark Hall of Fame production “The Magnificent Yankee”— the first year that costume design was honored; Taylor has died at the age of 97. Noel Taylor began his career on Broadway (“The Teahouse of the August Moon,” “Auntie Mame”) before his celebrated work for television, that began with his long association with Hallmark Hall of Fame (from the ’50s to the ’70s). Among his additional costume design for TV included The Turn of the Screw (a 1959 production starring Ingrid Bergman), docudrama The Sacco-Vanzetti Story, several productions of KCET’s The Hollywood Television Theater, TV film Right of Way (with Jimmy Stewart and Bette Davis), and several of Katharine Hepburn’s late career TV movie vehicles. In total he received four career Emmy nominations.
Noel Taylor talked about his early experiences in the theater as an actor and writer before turning his talents to costume designing. He discussed his entrance into television working under NBC contract, primarily on the anthology series Hallmark Hall of Fame. He talked about several of this series productions including “Hamlet,” “The Green Pastures,” “The Magnificent Yankee,” and “Barefoot in Athens.” He discussed such aspects of the craft as creating a shade of white that could be read on camera and painting “embroidery” on costumes as a moneysaving technique. He talked about being recognized by the Emmy Awards for costume design for “The Magnificent Yankee,” in the first year costume design was cited. He detailed his continued work in television including the 1970s KCET series The Hollywood Television Theater, which earned him a second Emmy Award. Lastly, he discussed his long association with Katharine Hepburn on all of her later work, including Mrs. Delafield Wants To Marry. B-roll consisted of photos and costume sketches from Hallmark Hall of Fame, Turn of the Screw, Hollywood Television Theater, Antony and Cleopatra, Eleanor First Lady of the World, and Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski.
WWII miniseries The Pacific comes out on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow. The Pacific received the most nominations (24) and wins (8) for any program at this year’s Emmy Awards. Its eight wins included: Outstanding Miniseries; Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie; Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special; Outstanding Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Non-Prosthetic); Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special; Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special; Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie; and Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special.
Legendary producer David Wolper, whose many documentaries and notable TV projects include Roots and The Thorn Birds — has died at the age of 82. Wolper was one of the co-founders of the Archive of American Television and was interviewed about his career on May 12, 1998. His full Archive interview is currently available online.
In his Archive interview, David Wolper talked about forming his first company, Flamingo Films, with father and son friends Joe and Jim Harris. He discussed many of his documentaries, including the “Race For Space,” “Hollywood: The Golden Years,” and “The Making of a President,” among others. Wolper fondly recalled working with his long time friend Mike Wallace, as well meeting and working with oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau. He talked about two classic sitcoms, Chico and the Man and Welcome Back, Kotter, as well as the many television movies and specials he produced. Wolper also discussed in great detail his three highly acclaimed ABC mini-series, Roots, The Thorn Birds, and North and South. The five-and-a-half-hour interview was conducted by Morrie Gelman.
“The Thorn Birds”, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this week, debuted on March 27, 1983 and ran four nights. The miniseries was based on the Colleen McCullough novel that followed several decades in the lives of the Austrailian Cleary family and starred Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. Variety called the miniseries a “fast-paced grabber” and in addition to its high ratings, it scored several Emmy nominations, with wins for actors Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Kiley, and Jean Simmons as well as wins for art direction, make-up, and editing.
WATCH THIS EXCLUSIVE CLIP of then-President of ABC Motion Pictures and Senior Vice President of ABC Entertainment Brandon Stoddard talking about the miniseries in his recent Archive of American Television Interview:
25 years ago, on February 28, 1983, the celebrated series M*A*S*H ended its 11 year, 250 episode run with a 2-1/2 hour special episode, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” (written by many of the show’s writers and directed by Alan Alda) The bittersweet special garnered the largest audience to ever watch a single episode of a television show, with a share of 77% of all Americans watching television that night.
Click here for an excellent summary of that classic episode from Wikipedia.
In the Archive of American Television interview segment below, Alan Alda (who played “Hawkeye Pierce”) recounts the filming of the last episode. Click on the arrow to play.
Alan Alda Interview Description: In his 6-part (3 hour) interview conducted on November 17, 2000, actor/director/writer Alan Alda spoke about his early years, which included a serious bout with polio as a child. He detailed his training as an actor, which included time at Paul Sills’s Improvisational Workshop at Second City and the Compass School of Improvisation, both in New York. He described his early appearances on television, including as a regular on That Was the Week That Was (1964) and the syndicated What’s My Line? In great detail, he described his role as actor, director, and writer of the critically-acclaimed and long-running series M*A*S*H (1972-83), in which he played “Benjamin Franklin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce,” and for which he won multiple Emmy Awards. He talked about his later work as a writer-director of feature films including “The Four Seasons,” which he also produced as a series in 1984. He also talked about his work as an actor in feature films, notably several directed by Woody Allen. Finally, Alda discussed such recent acting work in television as the telefilms … And the Band Played On and Neil Simon’s Jake’s Women (reprising his Broadway performance), as well as series guest star on ER, for which he received his 29th Emmy nomination.
Actress Ruby Dee won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for American Gangster and has received her very first Oscar nomination for the role as well. Dee’s acting career spans over sixty years. The Archive interviewed both Dee and her late husband (and frequent) co-star Ossie Davis.
Interview description: Ruby Dee talked about her start as an actress in feature films and on Broadway. She described the experience of being an African-American lead actress working in series television— a rare sight in the 1950s and 60s. She described her early work in television, such as her regular role in the 1955 soap opera This Is Nora Drake. She talked about her continued work in television in the 1960s on the anthology series Actor’s Choice, Camera Three, and Play of the Week, as well as the drama series The Nurses, East Side/West Side, and The Defenders. She talked about her regular roles on the series The Guiding Light (as “Martha Frazier”) and Peyton Place (as “Alma Miles”). She talked about her numerous roles in television movies and miniseries in the 1970s including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Roots: The Next Generations. She spoke of her collaborations with her husband of many years Ossie Davis, including their radio show With Ossie and Ruby (1981-82).
Iconic actress Shirley Jones has joined the cast of daytime soap Days of our Lives. She’s playing Colleen Brady (complete with Irish brogue), the “supposedly dead” great-aunt of Sami Brady. According to published reports, she’ll be on the the show throughout February.
Shirley Jones Interview Description: Actress Shirley Jones speaks about her early career, her discovery by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and her television debut on Playhouse 90, which lead to her casting in her Academy Award-winning role in “Elmer Gantry”. She discusses working on the film “The Music Man” and other features. She talks in depth about her first series role as Shirley Partridge on The Partridge Family and discusses working with her stepson and co-star, David Cassidy. She then talks about the many made-for-television movies she has made including: The Children of An Lac,There Were Times Dear and Hidden Places. She also discusses her work on The Drew Carey Show, where she played Drew’s love-interest for three episodes.
In honor of her return to series television (this is her first soap role), we’re including the entire 25-minute pilot episode of The Partridge Family, which premiered in September of 1970. As far as pilots go, it’s one of the best!
We’re sad to report that Archive interviewee Suzanne Pleshette, the actress best known for her role as Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show, died last night (Saturday, January 19th) at the age of 70. She was interviewed in February, 2006 and the interview is now available online.
Interview description: In her 5-part oral history interview, actress Suzanne Pleshette talks about her early years as an actress in film (The Geisha Boy), television (Playhouse 90, One Step Beyond), and Broadway (“The Miracle Worker”). She discusses her friendship with Alfred Hitchcock that began on the feature film The Birds. She spoke candidly and in detail about her television work, including The Bob Newhart Show, in which she played Newhart’s wife “Emily Hartley,” including her surprise re-appearance in the series finale of Newhart. She talks about several of her other appearances on television including Columbo, Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean (in which she played the title role), and 8 Simple Rules and recounted, with honesty, the personalities of many of the people she worked with throughout her career.