Archive for the ‘"Mary Kay and Johnny"’ Category

Producer/Director Alan Neuman Has Died — Archive Interview Online

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008


We’re sorry to report that Archive interviewee, producer-director Alan Neuman passed away on November 23rd, at the age of 84. Alan 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.

"Mary Kay and Johnny," American Network TV’s First Sitcom, Celebrates its 60th Anniversary! Archive Interviews Now Online

Thursday, November 15th, 2007


Mary Kay and Johnny was a live domestic comedy that centered around a young couple that lived in Greenwich Village: he worked at a bank and she was a homemaker. It debuted on November 18, 1947. Mary Kay and Johnny (1947-50) originally ran on the Du Mont network (for nearly a year), then (except for a brief stint on CBS) spent the rest of its run on NBC.

Among the true-to-life storylines used on the show: Mary Kay got stuck in an elevator; Mary Kay left the apartment with a cake in the oven, leaving the “culinary-challenged” Johnny to finish the task; and, most importantly, Mary Kay’s pregnancy and birth to son Christopher William (on December 19, 1948: that night’s episode was done thirty minutes after his birth and showed an “expectant” Johnny Stearns pacing the waiting room floor). At the age of ten days, Christopher William made his debut on the show, and became a regular, years before there was a “Little Ricky.”

Variety’s October 13, 1948 review opined: “Much of the show’s charm is traceable directly to the femme half of the team, who displayed a pleasant personality that prototyped the average conception of a young American housefrau…. Storyline picked them up with Mary Kay making plans for her first baby, which is due in a couple months, and her difficulties in buying the right baby carriage. It was that simple, but also that good. Whether the gal is actually going to have a baby wasn’t made clear, but it would be a neat idea for the series…”

The Archive of American Television interviewed both Johnny Stearns (creator/writer/co-star) and Mary Kay Stearns (co-star) of this pioneering program. Click here to view their entire 4-part joint-interview (parts 1 through 4).

Interview Excerpts:

Mary Kay on breaking into television:

I went back to New York to start looking for work, and I got a call from an agent saying that there was a television job that I should go and see about. And of course, at that time, I didn’t know that much about television. But you know, a job is a job. So, I went down into the garment neighborhood of New York, and had an appointment with a man named J. Jostle, who owned a junior dress company. And he said, “yes, I’ll– it’s fine, you can do it.” And I said, okay, so I went at the appointed time to Du Mont studio, which was downtown in New York, in what was Wannamaker’s Department Store… And so it was a fifteen minute program [modeling dresses] and during the 15 minutes, I think we had something like five dresses so it was quite hectic.

Johnny Stearns on convincing the sponsor of Mary Kay’s previous show to consider a sitcom:

So I want up to this garment district and up in the elevator, and met J. Jostle, a very nice man, and he said, “you know,” he said, “we’re all madly in love with your wife. She’s the cutest thing we ever saw. But I’m going to get out of TV, because the only sets in New York City are in bars, and I don’t think I’m going to sell too many J. J. Junior dresses to fellows drinking beer in a bar.” And I said, well, I think you’re absolutely right. And I said, however, if you’re going to go off of the air, how about letting us have one performance, because there’s something I’d like to try. And he said, “what is it?” I said, well, in radio, there’s a great many domestic comedies and comedies, I mean, The Jack Benny Show, and The Easy Aces and Henry Aldrich, and you know, all of these… but there’s never been anything like it on TV. So, I’d like to try it. He said, “well, I’ll tell you what. I have a friend who manufactures compacts that have a flashlight in them so that women can powder their nose in the dark.” And he said, “I’m going to give you 200 of those.” And if you can do anything you want to on the air, and just offer these to the viewers, and if you can get rid of all 200 of them, give them away free, maybe I’ll continue.” So, we went home to our little apartment, and I wrote a script about a young married couple– well, we hadn’t been married very long. And so we did the program, and at the end of the 15 minutes, Mary Kay said, “and now, in honor of our first performance of the Mary Kay and Johnny show, we want to give you these–” And then we went home and prayed all night, because we thought, how embarrassing it’s going to be if no one likes them. And about 11 o’clock the next day I called up Mr. Jossel and I said, are you getting mail? And he said, “come on down.” And I said, but did you get any– and he said, “come on down.” Wouldn’t tell me, so I went down there, climbed up to the office in the warehouse district, and he had something like 8000 letters, telegrams, over night mail, and a contract this long for Mary Kay and Johnny show, to sign. And which flabbergasted us. And I said this was the start of Mary Kay and Johnny show.

Johnny Stearns on the show’s plotlines:

I can remember an episode that we did, and the reason I remember it, I also used it as an audition for U.S. Steel when they were considering hiring us. And it consisted of the two of us in the living room. I was reading the paper and Mary Kay was at a writing desk, writing a letter. And she said: “Darling.” And I’m lost in the paper. She said, “Darling.” I said, “hum?” Not looking up, the paper’s around. She said, “how do you spell ‘scrumptious?’” And I said, ‘scrumptious’? Just they way it sounds.” And Mary Kay went, “No, that isn’t one of the words you can do that. How do you spell it?” I said, “s-c-r-u-m-p– shush.” And she says, “shush?” And I said, “yes.” And she said, “are you sure that’s right?” And I put down the paper and I said, would I have any reason to lie to you?” And she said, “well, I’ll take your word for it. It looks funny, but I’ll take your word for it.” I said, “well, you are you writing to?” She said, “I’m writing to the president of U.S. Steel.” And I said, “oh, how long have you two been carrying on a correspondence?” She said, “Not long. This is my first letter.” I said, “well, what are you writing him about?” And she said, I’m writing about our stainless steel flatware that we just bought.” And I said, “well, what are you saying?” She said, “I’m saying it’s ‘scrumptious’.” And, you know, it went on kind of– so this was kind of little bit of the flavor of the thing that ah– generally the situation was that because of Mary Kay’s big generous heart, she would create a situation that would put me in a real bind, but then by the time the half hour was over, she either intentionally, or unintentionally would get me out of the bind. That was kind of basically what would happen. But there were all sorts of things done.

Johnny Stearns on getting revenge on a critic:

I remember one we did where I was returning some glasses to a neighbor across the hall because we had had a party. And Mary Kay said, “be very, very quiet, because I’ve finally gotten Christopher asleep. So I went out the door, to return the glasses, and when I came back, she inadvertently had put the chain on the door. So I you know, “Mary Kay, Mary Kay,” which obviously she couldn’t hear, and Christopher couldn’t hear. So I was stuck. I was outside, couldn’t ring the bell. So went down the hall and climbed out a window and went along a ledge, you know, a little tiny ledge and we had– this was on film, so you could shoot all this kind of thing. It’s perfectly safe, but it looked great, and while this was going on, Mary Kay had the radio on very low, and an announcer was saying, “there’s a cat burglar in such and such an area of New York, has been spotted, so we just want to warn people. So at this point, I was pulling the window up from the outside, and Mary Kay was, you know– so she got a vase, and as I– because the room was dark. And she got a vase, and as I came in, she hit me over the head, and boom, I went down. And so Mary Kay ran to the phone and asked information, the number for the police station. And at this point I began groaning, and so she said to the information, “oh, hold the line a minute,” she went back and hit me again.” And finally, she got off the phone and she turned on the light, and she said, “oh, it’s you, darling.” Well, we had gotten a bad review from a columnist by the name of Harriet Van Horn. And you know, when someone writes a bad review, there’s no way you get back. You can’t write a bad review about them. So when Mary Kay said, “oh, it’s you, darling.” I said, who were you expecting, Harriet Van Horn?

Interview descriptions:

John (“Johnny”) Stearns (1916-2001) talked about growing up with a theatrical background, as his mother founded the “Petersborough Players,” in Petersborough, New Hampshire. This town was the model for Thorton Wilder’s “Our Town” and Stearns described how Wilder staged “Our Town” there himself, making this theatre the first summer theatre to do the play after its Broadway run. Stearns described his days in the theatre on the New York stage and his entrance into television on the experimental Philadelphia station WPTZ-TV. He described his work on stage and in film (Boomerang) with Elia Kazan. Stearns described how he became the creator, writer, producer, and star (along with his wife) of the very first television situation comedy, Mary Kay and Johnny (1947-50). He described the week by week production of the show, storylines used, and a description of its run on three different networks (Dumont, NBC, CBS). He also talked about his several year stint in the 1950s as the spokesperson (along with his wife) for U.S. Steel, appearing in commercials during the U.S. Steel Hour. He talked about other series he produced and directed such as: The Steve Allen Show (the WNBC show which would later become the Tonight show), Faye and Skitch (1953-54), Make Me Laugh (1958), Music Bingo (1958-59), and Seven Keys (1961-64). He also described in detail producing the long running agricultural program AG, USA, which began in 1961.


Mary Kay Stearns described her stage debut at age 2 and a half at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. She talked about her appearances on stage and in film on the West Coast before moving to New York to appear on Broadway. She described her television debut on the Dumont network on a show called J.J. Juniors, in which she modeled junior fashions. The timeslot was then taken by the Mary Kay and Johnny show (1947-50), television’s first situation comedy in which she described her co-starring role with her husband. She later found herself on television in Mary Kay’s Nightcap, in which, from 1951-52, she “signed-off” for NBC by telling the viewers what would be on television the following day and doing occasional interviews. She talked about appearances on “live” television shows such as the Armstrong Circle Theatre and Kraft Television Theatre. She also talked about her several year stint in the 1950s as the spokesperson (along with her husband) for U.S. Steel, appearing in commercials during the U.S. Steel Hour.

Producer-director Garry Simpson’s Interview Is Now Online

Friday, May 18th, 2007


Garry Simpson worked on some of American television’s earliest productions in the pre-World War II era, and then continued following the war. He directed the 1946 Joe Louis-Billy Conn World Championship boxing match, episodes of American television’s first sitcom: Mary Kay and Johnny, and the famed 1949 production of Macbeth by “The Players.”


In Part 5 of his interview Garry Simpson talks about
All Star Revue and working with such stars as Jimmy Durante. Click on the arrow above to watch.

Click here to view the entire 8-part interview. Some sound bites from the interview:

On demonstrating television to the public (from Part 1):
RCA was hiring a crew to go out in the field and demonstrate television to the general public. So they hired about eight or nine people, and all of us had had some theatrical backgrounds. And we comprised some demonstration units, and we would go to various department stores in different cities and demonstrate television. Some of the sets at that time were only eight or nine inches wide, the television screen. The following year they brought out a screen that was eight-by-twelve inches in size. And they would take these sets to a department store and put them in one end of the department store and then at another end of the department store they’d set up a studio, and we’d hire local talent, and we’d put on comedians and musicians and little sketches. And people would see us with the bright lights in the studio and then they would walk around to the other end of the store and go in a darkened room and watch the television on the screen. And that was our job, to travel to the larger cities in the east, and we went as far west as Chicago, and we did these demonstrations.

On NBC’s television studios in the early years (from Part 2):
3-H was the only studio that NBC had for television. It was an old radio studio. And they took over 3-H. And 3-G, the studio next to it, was a vacant studio, so we made that our prop room, and we put furniture and draperies and effects that we needed in there and props. The third floor and the eighth floor of NBC were occupied at that time with radio studios, but the floors in between were not. They hadn’t been finished yet. Radio City was built in the late 30s. And they hadn’t expanded radio to use up all that space, so television came in and took over that empty space and [NBC] installed television studios in those empty areas. So, the sixth floor became a very active studio floor for television, and eventually we took over the eighth floor as all television. Then we outgrew the building and we had to go outside and start renting space, and we started renting empty theaters around New York City. And the first theater we rented was the International Theater, Columbus Circle, and that’s where Show of Shows came from, and the [Ford Festival] with James Melton, and many other variety shows came from there. Later we took over the Ziegfeld Theater. And each theater became sort of one show’s possession— The Tonight Show came from one theater that we rented.

On NBC’s post-World War II schedule and the stars he worked with (from Part 2):
Well, in the beginning remote programs filled up most of our schedule, because we didn’t have to build those shows. So we took advantage of all of the sporting events and special events. [When] we started building shows, the Chevrolet Tele-Theater [1948-50] was one of our first dramatic series, half-hour dramas. And those were weekly programs with stars. We started using well-known actors who hadn’t appeared on television before — most of them. And we spent the money to get those stars. I enjoyed working on those programs, and they were well received. [I worked with] Paul Lukas, Luise Rainer, Tallulah Bankhead, Brian Donlevy. Edward Everett Horton, Charlie Ruggles, Jackie Cooper. There’s a whole list of several hundred names. We started using actors then that were not known, who were beginning their careers, who [later became] big stars. I used Jack Lemmon when he first got out of college. I used Grace Kelly, giving her some of the first shows that she did. And I became very friendly with Grace, and she invited me up to her apartment in New York, and I intended to use her some more but Hollywood picked her up in 1950. She went out and made High Noon. We discovered James Dean and gave him a chance to appear on television. And he was a fascinating personality. Sort of an offbeat character. But I enjoyed working with him and had planned to use him more but Hollywood picked him up too, and you know the rest.

On covering the Joe Louis-Billy Conn World Championship boxing match [in 1946] at Yankee Stadium (from Part 3):
That was a big event for television. First of all, it was difficult for us to get the rights to televise, because the promoters were afraid we’d cut into the gate. But they finally came through and said we could do it. Yankee Stadium was just abuzz – it was so crowded, jammed, and the excitement was very high. And people had never seen television cameras at ringside like we had it. And those type of things really brought in an audience to television in those early days.

On the early documentary series Eye Witness [1947-48] (from Part 3):
This was to inform the public about television and how television had been developed scientifically. And we had on our team, RCA, Vladimir Zworykin, who was the inventor of the iconoscope, which was the first tube to turn a picture into electronics. And RCA had a laboratory in Princeton, and at that time Zworykin was working out of the Princeton labs. So I got the idea for this program, and I went down to see Zworykin, and we talked. He gave me the history of television as he knew it. I asked to see some of the early equipment that he’d developed. And he couldn’t put his hands on them, those early things that he had made. But after a few hours search he went out to a shed in back of the main building and there were some of these early tubes that he had worked, he had many prototypes before he finally developed a tube that would please him. He pulled out some of these old pieces of equipment and we brought them back into the main building, and we arranged the stuff all together, and it was quite an impressive set of pieces. And he brought in some of his assistants who’d worked with him. And we put on this program and afterwards all these pieces of equipment were displayed in cases…. And Zworykin was the main narrator of this whole thing. And at the end of the program we brought on General Sarnoff, Chairman of the Board of RCA. [In other shows] we would take people to the transmitter and explain the transmitter and show what it does. And we were in the studio and showing how you put on the makeup and rehearsing a show and the camera movements.

On directing the 1949 NBC production of Macbeth (from Part 4):
The Player’s Club cooperated with NBC to put on a special show. The Player’s Club is a club for actors in New York. Actors of renown. You’re invited to join the Player’s if you’re a very important actor…. and every part in the play, even the ladies-in-waiting and the servants were great Broadway stars. And Walter Hampden played the part of Macbeth. He, of course, had played the part all over the world for many, many years. And I was chosen to be the television director on it. I didn’t tell Mr. Hampden how to read his lines because he knew more than any of us about that…. It’s a very compact drama. And with the miracle of television and theatrics you can do great things with the witch’s scene in the castle and the murder scenes and it came off very well. And it was fun. All of the Player’s lit into it with great glee. They loved doing it, and for many of them, it was their first appearance on television…. It received a great deal of publicity. And it was sort of the first of its kind. It was the first Shakespeare play on television, American television. And it brought a lot of the curious art lovers to television who had not been regular viewers. So, “[television] spectacular” is a [term] that was developed after that.

On Jimmy Durante who Simpson worked with on All-Star Revue [1950-53] (from Part 5):
Jimmy was always hit up for money. He’d go out on the street and down-and-out actors and singers would go up to him, Jimmy, you know, can you help me out. And he’d pass out money to them. I observed his manager, after a show was over, the manager would go to Jimmy’s dressing room and say, “Jimmy, let me see your roll of money.” And Jimmy would hand his roll of money to the manager, and the manager would give him another roll of money. And instead of twenties and fifties that were in Jimmy’s roll, there’d be fives and tens in this other roll that the manager had given him, because he would give it all away, to whomever he met on the street. And these out-of-work people knew that he was a good touch.

On Jackie Gleason (from Part 5):
Jackie Gleason was developed on the Dumont television station in New York. …. [When Dumont ended] Jackie Gleason was available, and he went to the networks, NBC and CBS, to get a spot to do a show. So NBC said they would let him do a trial show, and if his ratings were good they would sign a contract with him. So he was brought to NBC and I was assigned as the director of the show. He had his staff of writers. So we started on the show and I called rehearsals, and the first day of rehearsal all the cast – and there were about fifty people in the cast, his regulars – came, but Jackie was not there. And he had a stand-in and I gave all the moves to the stand-in, who wrote them down on the script. They said, maybe tomorrow Jackie will come. And second day Jackie didn’t come to rehearsal. So I said, what’s going on here, and they said, well, it’s hard to reach Jackie. He’s not at his apartment and we’ll get hold of him. We’ll see he comes. The third day he missed rehearsal, and so I went to NBC management and I said, we’re not going to have a show because Jackie is not coming to rehearsals. And so they got in touch with the manager and on the fourth day Jackie appeared at rehearsal, and he really looked like he’d been in a wreck. He smelled of booze, and a real floozy blonde came with him. And I understand he shacked up in a hotel with this girl for a period of days. And anyway, he was very polite, first time I met him. And his agent had given him the script and he had the script, but he hadn’t even read it. We rehearsed the whole thing through and he was very courteous and receptive and we left after the rehearsal. And the next day, when we came to rehearsal, he was there and he knew every line of his one-hour show. He didn’t have to study, he just had a photographic memory. And it was no problem with him. He was very amenable to any changes in anything that would improve the situation. And he had some very difficult things in his program. In one skit he was a wallpaperer, and he climbed up the ladders and he’d get wallpaper all over himself. And he fell off the ladder and he’d drop the bucket of paste and everything. It was all written in the script, he had to do. So he had some tough things to do, as well as other skits he appeared in. But anyway, we went on the air, and he was letter perfect. He hit all of his marks. He made all of his entrances, all his costume changes, and said all the lines, and it was a fabulous show. So the people at NBC said, wow, this is good. NBC’s going to get him a contract now. So the vice-president of NBC met with the manager of Jackie’s and said, NBC will give him a contract. Let’s make an appointment and sit down and work out the details. And the manager said, sorry, we just signed a contract yesterday, before the show, with CBS. So NBC lost him and CBS got him. And he did his musical variety show for the first year at CBS, and then they developed The Honeymooners.

Interview description:
Garry Simpson was interviewed for four hours in Vergennes, VT. Mr. Simpson started in television directing live demonstrations of television around the country. He later directed some of the first sporting events, mobile events, and went on to direct the informational series
Eye Witness and direct and produce Wide Wide World (created by Pat Weaver). In the period before the war in the 1940s, Simpson was NBC’s only television stage manager. Simpson described his other directorial efforts on such programs including Chevrolet Tele-Theater, Mary Kay and Johnny (television’s first sitcom), All Star Revue, Ford Festival, and Campbell’s Soundstage. Among the actors he recalls working with are: James Dean, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn, Jackie Gleason, Jack Carter, and Olivia de Havilland. He later left NBC to head the formation of Vermont public television. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on October 18, 1999.

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.