Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Was A Trekkie

January 21st, 2013

(Reposted from MediaPost article by Archive Director Karen Herman with permission.)

As the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 21, it’s a good time to remember how television can play a critical role in challenging and changing public opinion. As the journalist Howard K. Smith said of the television news coverage of the Civil Rights movement in his Archive of American Television interview, “I think even people who were biased on civil rights saw these pictures every night at the dinner hour — people beating up blacks, siccing dogs onto them — and they said, ‘This has got to stop! Something must be done.’ I think that television really was a decisive fact. That and the powerful will of Lyndon Johnson to be a success in legislation and the wonderful eloquence of Martin Luther King.”

Not only did TV news bring the country (and the world) face to face with the day-to-day reality of the struggle, but entertainment television also played a subtle, yet important, role. One of my favorite stories in our archive is one that Nichelle Nichols,  famous for her role as Chief Communications Officer Nyota Uhura on “Star Trek,” tells of her moving encounter with Dr. King. (See the full 12-minute interview excerpt here):

I was going to leave “Star Trek,” and [creator] Gene Roddenberry says, “You can’t do that. Don’t you understand what I’m trying to achieve? Take the weekend and think about it.” He took the resignation and stuck it in his desk drawer….

As fate would have it, I was to be a celebrity guest at, I believe, it was an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills. I had just been taken to the dais, when the organizer came over and said, “Ms. Nichols, there’s someone here who said he is your biggest fan and he really wants to meet you.”

I stand up and turn and I’m looking for a young “Star Trek” fan. Instead, is this face the world knows. I remember thinking, “Whoever that fan is, is going to have to wait because Dr. Martin Luther King, my leader, is walking toward me, with a beautiful smile on his face.” Then this man says “Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am that fan. I am your best fan, your greatest fan, and my family are your greatest fans…. We admire you greatly ….And the manner in which you’ve created this role has dignity….”

I said “Dr. King, thank you so much. I really am going to miss my co-stars.” He said, dead serious, “What are you talking about?” I said, “I’m leaving Star Trek,” He said, “You cannot. You cannot!”

I was taken aback. He said, “Don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time on television we will be seen as we should be seen every day – as intelligent, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance, but who can also go into space, who can be lawyers, who can be teachers, who can be professors, and yet you don’t see it on television – until now….”

I could say nothing, I just stood there realizing every word that he was saying was the truth. He said, “Gene Roddenberry has opened a door for the world to see us. If you leave, that door can be closed because, you see, your role is not abBlack role, and it’s not a female role, he can fill it with anything, including an alien.”

At that moment, the world tilted for me. I knew then that I was something else and that the world was not the same. That’s all I could think of, everything that Dr. King had said:  The world sees us for the first time as we should be seen.

Come Monday morning, I went to Gene. He’s sitting behind that same dang desk. I told him what happened, and I said, “If you still want me to stay, I’ll stay. I have to.” He looked at me, and said, “God bless Dr. Martin Luther King, somebody knows where I am coming from.” I said, “That’s what he said.” And my life’s never been the same since, and I’ve never looked back. I never regretted it, because I understood the universe, that universal mind, had somehow put me there, and we have choices. Are we going to walk down this road or  the other? It was the right road for me.

As many programs have since shown (here’s a link to another of my other favorites  – Phylicia Rashad discussing how “The Cosby Show” broke barriers between Nelson Mandela and one of his guards on Robben Island ), television has the power to come into our homes and show people as they “should be seen every day.” A powerful and unforgettable message from perhaps the world’s most famous “trekkie.”

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To the Batmobile! Batman’s car is up for Auction!

January 19th, 2013

The Caped Crusader’s iconic car goes on the auction block today, January 19th, 2013 at Barrett-Jackson classic auto auction house in Scottsdale, Arizona. Watch Batmobile owner George Barris describe how he transformed a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car into one of the most identifiable automobiles of all time:

More details about the auction here and watch Barris’ full Archive interview here. How much do you think the Batmobile will sell for?

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Suze Orman: No Excuses

January 4th, 2013

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get your personal finances in order, you won’t want to miss this insightful interview with finance guru Suze Orman!

The Archive of American Television recently sat down with Suze Orman (television host, financial adviser, and yes, former roommate of John Belushi) for a three-hour interview, discussing everything from her family motto, “An Orman never gives up”, to suing Merrill Lynch; from becoming Vice President of Investments at Prudential Bache Securities, to creating The Suze Orman Show on CNBC.

Below are just a few highlights from the interview:

On winning her first Daytime Emmy Award:

On Kristen Wiig’s impersonation of her on Saturday Night Live:

On what sets her apart as a financial adviser:

Watch Suze Orman’s full Archive interview here.

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Remembering Jack Klugman

December 24th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report that legendary actor Jack Klugman died today, December 24th, at the age of 90. Klugman has made over 400 television appearances — in comedies, dramas, and even in a game show (well, sort of – remember the “Password”episode of The Odd Couple?) He played a blacklisted actor, a medical examiner, and perhaps most famously, sportswriter “Oscar Madison” opposite Tony Randall’s “Felix Unger” in the 1970’s sitcom The Odd Couple. One roommate was a neat-freak, one was sloppy and sarcastic: Klugman played the messy one.

Born April 27, 1922 in South Philadelphia, Klugman got his start in acting in the drama department of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon). Klugman soon moved to New York to pursue theater, securing roles in several off-Broadway plays and getting his big break in the 1948 Broadway production of “Mr. Roberts.” From there, Klugman began dabbling in the new medium of television, making appearances in the early 1950s on Actors Studio, (where he was directed by Yul Brynner), and on anthology dramas Studio One, Playhouse 90, and the 1955 Producers’ Showcase production of “The Petrified Forest,” opposite Bogey and Bacall. Klugman also wrote several scripts for Kraft Television Theatre in the late 1950s:

Klugman wasn’t restricted to theater and television, though. He appeared as “Juror #5″ in the 1957 film Twelve Angry Men, and continued to do theater, television, and film projects throughout his career. He was back on-stage in 1959’s “Gypsy” with Ethel Merman, and on TV again in the 1960s for four appearances on Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. In 1964, Klugman had a memorable role in “The Blacklist” episode of The Defenders, for which he won an Emmy:

Also in 1964, Klugman starred as the superintendent of a movie studio in his first sitcom, the short-lived Harris Against the World. Then in 1966, Klugman made his first appearance in Neil Simon’s stage play, “The Odd Couple:”

Garry Marshall was looking to make a television series of the play, which Klugman agreed to do after some initial resistance. He resumed his stage role of “Oscar Madison” for the sitcom, which ran from 1970-75:

CBS’ Fred Silverman tried to sell Klugman on a few other series after The Odd Couple ended, but it wasn’t until the chance to play muckraking medical examiner Quincy, M.E. came along in 1976 that Klugman agreed to helm another TV show. Quincy lasted eight seasons, through 1983:

Klugman appeared in the 1987 film I’m Not Rappaport with Ossie Davis and Walter Matthau, but was suffering from throat cancer and soon underwent surgery to remove his right vocal cord. His voice was quieted to just above a whisper, and Klugman worked hard to train his remaining cord to pick up the slack. He returned to acting at the urging of friend Tony Randall for a one-time stage performance of “The Odd Couple” in New York in 1991. The production was a huge success, leading to Klugman and Randall teaming up for productions of “Three Men On a Horse,” and “Sunshine Boys” on Broadway throughout the 1990s.

Klugman continued to act in small roles here and there, most recently as “Sam” in the 2010 horror film Camera Obscura. He was a proven success in film, television, and theater, and his perseverance in resurrecting his voice after surgery was an inspiration to his fans.

Watch Jack Klugman’s full Archive interview.

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December 7, 1941: A Date Which Still Lives in Infamy

December 7th, 2012

On December 7, 1941, Japanese warplanes attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The following day, The United States declared war on Japan, ushering in America’s involvement in World War II. Many of our interviewees recalled exactly where they were when they learned of the bombing of Pearl Harbor:

Leonard Nimoy on how he learned of the attack:

Ed McMahon on finding out about the bombing of Pearl Harbor from radio:

In the days after December 7, 1941, the federal government ordered 120,000 Japanese-Americans to leave their homes on the West Coast and enter internment camps. George Takei details his experience as a four-year-old boy, forced to leave his Los Angeles home to travel to multiple camps:

And Pat Morita, at nine years old and in the hospital with spinal tuberculosis, was escorted by FBI agents from the hospital to a relocation camp in Arizona:

December 7, 1941: a date that indeed lives in infamy, not only for marking the beginning of the United States’ involvement in armed combat overseas, but also for initiating a period of grave mistreatment of fellow citizens within our own borders.

Click to watch our full interviews with Leonard Nimoy, Ed McMahon, George Takei, and Pat Morita.

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Remembering Television Engineer John Silva

November 29th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of early TV engineer John Silva, who passed away on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at the age of 92. Silva started his television career at local Los Angeles station KTLA when it was still experimental station W6XYZ, pioneering technology for mobile units. He is best known for inventing the Telecopter, a helicopter mobile unit used for television reporting, which is still used today for capturing bird’s-eye views of stories down below.

Below are some selections from Silva’s 2002 Archive interview:

On his early fascination with television:

Somewhere in between the ninth or the tenth grade, I suddenly learned that television had been discovered.  And even though it was embryonic, the devices they were using at that time, it was transmitting pictures over the air and I just fell in love with it. I thought about it. I read on it and I saw pictures. And I decided right then and there that that’s what I was going to do with my life after I graduated.

On inventing the Telecopter:

I got that idea, as I mentioned before, one day driving in on the Hollywood freeway and then it came to me all of a sudden. ‘How can we beat the competition? Why, of course. If we could build a news mobile unit in a helicopter we could get over it all, get there first, avoid the traffic, and get to all the stories, before anybody in the competition and it’d be a wonderful thing.’ So then I drove back, and that was exciting. I got back to my office there and I sat down and I spent about an hour and a half or so writing things that might have to be done. I made a list of I think it was like 14 questions. I kept them. I logged them and I kept them for posterity.  And I needed them for reference. But we had all kinds of things to think about.  I spent actually two days developing that list and I still didn’t mention it to anybody because I knew it would have to be something that would have to be kept secret or the competition would probably think about it, too and try to beat us to the punch.

On the highlights of his career:

On the legacy of KTLA:

Watch John Silva’s full Archive interview and watch KTLA’s tribute to Silva.

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Celebrate Movember with TV Legends’ Best Mustaches!

November 29th, 2012

We’re nearing the end of Movember, a month when men around the globe raise funds and awareness for men’s health by seeking sponsors to support their mustache-growing efforts. Funds raised in the U.S. support prostate cancer and other cancers affecting men, and in the process, Mo Bros, as they’re called, sport some pretty fantastic mustaches. Inspired by all of the mustached men around, we’ve assembled the Archive of American Television’s Most Memorable Mustaches:

Host Geraldo Rivera

Actor Roscoe Orman

Actor Dennis Franz

Producer Quincy Jones

Actor Dick Van Dyke

Journalist Walter Conkite

Actor Eric Braeden

Cartoonist, and voice of Snoopy Bill Melendez

Executive Ted Turner

Writer/Show creator Vince Gilligan

Actor Pat Morita

Comic Book Creator Stan Lee

Actor Sherman Hemsley

Host Alex Trebek (although he was clean-shaven for our interview, he certainly had one of of TV’s most memorable mustaches)

To make a donation for Movember, click here.

- by Adrienne Faillace

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Remembering Publicist Esme Chandlee

November 27th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of publicist Esme Chandlee, who passed away on November 24, 2012 at the age of 94. Chandlee started her career at MGM in 1942, where she represented, among others, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and Grace Kelly. She also served as associate producer of the celebrity-interview show Here’s Hollywood, joined PR firm Cleary, Strauss & Irvin in 1958, and started her own PR firm in 1961. She’s credited with discovering Tom Selleck, whom she also represented.

Below are some selections from her 2001 Archive interview:

On how she got hired at MGM:

When the war was coming to a close and we could see the writing on the wall, my mother said to me, “you better start thinking about what you’re going to do next.” So she said, “I’ll call the studios and see what they have open.” She called, among others, Edith Farrell at MGM who was head of the script department. And Miss Farrell said, “Send her over.”  So I went over on an interview and she said to me, “I need somebody to take over the fan mail department.” She said, “Now Esme, if you take the fan mail department for me for six or nine months, I will see that you get a good job on the lot.”

On getting transferred to MGM’s publicity department:

WhenMiss Farrell, she had promised, and I had stayed longer than I said I would, so she said to me, “now if you want to be a producer’s secretary, I’ll be sure you can be. And I can call O’ Selznick right now,” who was not, of course, at MGM, but had his own studio. But she had known him when he was at MGM and she said he’s looking for a secretary. She said, I’ll tell you something; he’ll call you up at two o’clock in the morning and go into a long thing and then he’ll expect you to be on the job at nine o’clock in the morning.” So I wasn’t particularly thrilled with that. She said, “anyway, you belong in publicity.” She called Howard Strickland and I went over and Mr. Strickland said to me, “well at the moment I don’t need a publicist but I need someone who will do uh the billings.” I looked at him and I said, “what’s a billing?” He said, “The billings are the credits that you see on a film before you see the film and on all of the advertising.” And he said, “You will work closely with the producers and with the legal department.” So, what could I do? I wanted to get into publicity eventually so I said, “Fine, Mr. Strickland, I’ll be glad to do it.”  Actually it was fascinating. It turns out that my knowledge of billings and advertising to this day holds for my clients because I learned an immense amount.

On the studio’s influence over stars:

Well we didn’t tell them who to date, but if they came and said, “Gee I’m dying to go to that premiere, isn’t there somebody you could fix me up with?” We would always fix ‘em up. We never said, “now Janet” (to Janet Leigh) “Now Janet, you’re going with so and so.” That wasn’t the way it went. But if it was her picture and, for instance, if Janet wasn’t married at the time, if she didn’t know anyone, she would come to publicity and say, “Who can I go with?” And we would always suggest. Aometimes it wasn’t our star. Sometimes we’d suggest somebody from another studio.

On Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons:

I was very fond of Hedda. She was very fond of me. The point was with both those ladies, if you knew your job, that’s all they asked. They were both very fair that way.  Of course as far as Hedda and Louella were concerned, we had the problem that all the big stories went to Hearst. I used to have to go seeking around on the lot to get news of something that I could, without doing any harm to any picture, that I could give to Hedda without it first being given to Louella. Of course, Hedda used to write in her column, “You haven’t heard it, unless you read it in my column.” There was a big rivalry there and there is no doubt of the fact that the feelings were deep. But Hedda always said to me a number of times she said, “You know Louella is a writer. She’s a reporter and I’m not.” Hedda was basically in the beginning an actress and she was always an actress. So she wrote her column but she never thought of herself as being a writer per se.

On what makes a great publicity still:

The star has to, as they say, relate to the camera. In the beginning when you would get a young player in, they would be so stiff. They would know how to do it and you’d say smile and they’d “ha-ha” like that and finally the photographers would say, “okay, don’t smile, just do it.” Then they would try to make them laugh or to make something like that go and then after a while when they’d done it a few times, they got at ease. That camera wasn’t like the camera on the set and so they weren’t moving, they weren’t doing lines. It was very difficult. It still is for an awful lot of the stars today. They hate it. But when you learn how to do it, it makes an immense amount of difference.

On working for PR firm Cleary, Strauss & Irvin:

It was a shock in the beginning and they were a very nice group of men. I was an associate of the firm. I had my own clients and it was of course very different because at MGM everything was at hand. Uou could find out anything and so on and when you were by yourself, you had to do all the work and it was a whole different picture. I must say, they were very nice and very understanding while I learned my way around.

On being a publicist:

On the projects of which she’s proudest:

I’ve had a number, all connected with different people, because I’ve handled a lot of people in my career. I handled a lot of people after I opened my own office. At the time when you’re successful in doing something, it seems like a lot. But as my husband used to say to me every once in a while when I’d get carried away, he worked at Douglas, and a number of times, he was out to look at airplane accidents with people’s flesh all over everything. And at one time he’d wanted to be a writer and he used to say to me, “You know, Esme, the one thing you have to remember is you are in the entertainment business. Period.”  And I always remembered it.

Watch Esme Chandlee’s full Archive interview and read her obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

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Remembering “I Love Lucy” Editor Dann Cahn

November 26th, 2012

The Archive is sad to hear of the death of editor Dann Cahn, who passed away on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at the age of 89. Cahn edited I Love Lucy and several other Desilu productions, including Our Miss Brooks, The Untouchables, and The Loretta Young Show Cahn also edited The Beverly Hillbillies, Police Woman, and Remington Steele and served as head of Post Production at Glen Larson Productions.

Below are some selections from Cann’s 1999 Archive interview:

On acting when he was a child:

I went out on another set around nineteen-thirty-seven. These Dead End Kids were the rage, and we were in for a long series of tough kid pictures. They went from being the little tough guys to the Bowery Boys at Monogram. They went on and on and on making these tough kid movies. Well, I was out on the set and the producer had quite a close relationship with my dad. He’d cut several pictures for him.  nd he took a look at me – and I was the same age as the kids, or maybe a couple of years younger – and he said, “gee, Danny, you ought to be in the picture.” I looked at my dad and he said, “okay.”  So I went and joined the Screen Actors Guild. I still have my card.

On watching his father edit:

I’d watch my dad work in the cutting room and I’d learn how to, well actually, by the time I was in my teens I knew how to splice film. At that point the machine to put film together was what they called a foot pedestal hot splicer. It had two pedals like your brake and clutch on an old car, and you took these blades up and you put the film in and you brought it down with film cement, which splashed all over you. It was a mess. Smelled kind of like fingernail polish, but it was much more potent. Then you had to use acetone, which is a very strong chemical, to keep the machine clean because the cement would clog it up. It was a kind of dirty job.

On how he got hired on I Love Lucy:

A young fellow stuck his head in the cutting room door from his cutting room down the hall, and his name was Bill Asher. I had known Bill from before the war – when I was an apprentice he was an assistant editor – he’s a couple of years older than me. He showed me the initial ropes of how to splice and number film. The war had come and ten years had gone by. So he said, “Danny,” he said, “I just got offered a job to cut a thing with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz called I Love Lucy. It’s going to be for CBS. I’m directing and cutting some very short films that I’m trying to get going, and I wrote them too, and I don’t want to take an editing job; I want to make it as a director. So I’m going to pass but I can get you an interview with the producer, who I know, uh, if you’re interested.” I said, “well, yeah, I’m looking for new connections.  I’ll go if I can get the interview.” It was arranged and I went and I met Jess Oppenheimer.

On editing I Love Lucy:

Mark (Daniels) was so involved, he just said, “I’ll see you at the dailies.” I came to the show that Saturday night, the film went to the lab, came out Monday morning, and I said to Bud, “they’ve got this thing here, this multiple moviola, but I’ve never run it. I’m going to have to mark each moviola and take a guess when I make cuts, and it’s going to take time.” Al Simon, who had hired George Fox said, “well, you should try this multiple-headed moviola, and it’s going to save you time. George swears by it.” So they bring this thing over on a truck and it’s like three moviolas in a line with a sound head, and it’s in a big base.  And I said, “what are we going to do with this three-headed monster?”  Bud Molin, who at the time was my assistant, started to laugh, and he says, “yeah, it really is a monster.” We didn’t know where to put it. It wouldn’t fit in our tiny cutting room, where I had one moviola. So they put it in the prop room, where all the props for the show were kept, and the corner of the prop room was part of our sound stage, and that’s where we put the monster.” I had a little mini bleachers made for about four people so they could see the dailies.

On the reaction to his cut of the first episode of I Love Lucy:

The silence seemed an eternity to me. And then Lucy was sitting directly behind me. Desi didn’t open his mouth himself. And Lucy put her hands on my shoulders and she says, “Danny, it’s a good cutting job.” That broke the tension and everybody started talking. “Oh yeah, it’s going to be a hit. It’s going to be wonderful. It’s going to be fine.” They were all congratulating each other and themselves for coming up with this I Love Lucy.

On the transition of I Love Lucy to The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour:

On editing The Beverly Hillbillies:

I did the whole year of The Beverly Hillbillies. I did what two editors had done the year before. I did it all myself, except for the Christmas show. And they promised me certain things that for reasons I won’t go into, they didn’t deliver it. They wanted me to pick it up for the third season, just the way I did.  And I recommended a pal of mine, who, from the Republic days we had been assistant editors together, and his name was Bob Leeds, and I recommended him as the editor, and he signed up and took my job, which I gave to him. Some of us weren’t through cutting our competition. We were friends with it.  Paul liked Bob, and the guy he picked as third year director collapsed, and Bob Leeds became the director of The Beverly Hillbillies. If I just stayed I would have been the director of The Beverly Hillbillies. That’s timing, and I missed it again.

On editing:

Watch Dann Cahn’s full Archive interview and read his obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

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Remembering Larry Hagman

November 25th, 2012

The Archive is sad to hear of the passing of actor Larry Hagman, who died on Friday, November 23rd, 2012 at the age of 81. Hagman died of complications from cancer. He’s best remembered for playing two of the most iconic roles in television history, those of “Major Tony Nelson” on I Dream of Jeannie, and “J.R. Ewing” on Dallas.

Below are some selections from Hagman’s 2004 Archive interview:

On getting cast in I Dream of Jeannie:

On the special effects on I Dream of Jeannie:

On the infamous Dallas storyline, “Who Shot J.R.?”

On the final episode of Dallas:

Watch Larry Hagman’s full Archive interview and read his LA Times obituary.

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