Remembering Lucille Bliss

November 12th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of Lucille Bilss, who passed away on Thursday, November 8th at the age of 96. Bliss was a voiceover artist, best known for voicing “Smurfette” on the animated hit, The Smurfs. Bliss was also the voice of one of the wicked stepsisters, “Anastasia” in the Disney movie Cinderella, the voice of early television’s Crusader Rabbit, and of “Ms. Bitters” on the Nickelodeon series, Invader Zim.

Below are some selections from Lucille Bliss’ 2005 Archive Interview:

On recording Cinderella:

I played the part of “Anastasia,” the redhead. “Oh your Grace, I’d love to dance. Cinderella!” She was a raucous Brooklyn-ese gal. I was the stepsister part. It was more of a comedy part. Every morning Walt Disney himself would come in and talk to us. And we were working on records. Walt Disney was the last producer to go to tape. Everybody else was on tape, but Walt always said, “the quality of acetate is far superior to the quality of tape and I care about the quality.” He said, “you have to be very careful. Rehearse and know your parts because if you make a mistake, everybody has to do the part over again.” You cannot edit an acetate record. You can clip tape but not that. Winston Hibler coached us and we rehearsed and then we did it. We did very well. We had very few take overs. Very well. Walt Disney also came back and said, “every evening I take all the records down to my suite and I listen to you. I listen to your voices every night in your parts and if there’s any suggestions or anything, your director Winston Hibler will tell you the next day. And they were very careful about our diet. We had a dietician and we ate only certain foods, like vegetables and fruit. Nothing greasy and nothing that would upset the vocal chords. One wonderful thing that Mr. Disney did say was, “Lucille has a gift for ad libs, and if she comes up with some funny little sounds, I want them recorded because we can use them. So you have to stay after, Lucille. When the session is over when everybody goes you stay and we rehearse.”

On auditioning for Crusader Rabbit:

They told me about the rabbit and they told me what kind of voice we had. They didn’t tell me what kind, they asked me what kind of a voice was I going to use for it. I said, “okay” and he said, “let’s do it.”  So we did it. I didn’t hear anything, but then a few, I don’t know, weeks later or something they said I had the Rabbit.

On how she lost the role of “Elroy” on The Jetsons:

The Jetsons came along and everything was going wonderful. They loved me.  But… who was the director on that?  Oh God. He was the son of this movie actor.  I can’t think… it may come to me before the end of the show. I never thought of bringing it up so I didn’t think of it. But he said to me, “they think you’re a little boy, Lucy. Madison Avenue wanted a real little boy and we sent your tape in and we called you Little Lou Bliss.  L-O-U, Little Lou Bliss. You should see the letters. They’re all crazy about this apple-cheeked little 6 year old boy, little Lou Bliss. But you must never, ever, ever divulge your name. You’ll lose your job.”  “My God,” I said. “I’ll never divulge. I’ll never go to New York anyway for the show, but I won’t divulge. Not to my best friend.” So, what happened is Myles (my agent) said, “what the hell is this Little Lou Bliss crap?” He says, “you’ve made your name as Lucille Bliss. What are they doing to you calling you Little Lou Bliss? He’s going to get big and famous and who the hell is he? It’s you. That can’t go on.” I said, “Myles, please, Myles, just leave it alone. I’ll lose my job.” “Ah, you won’t lose your job.” “Yes,” I said, “I will. I heard it from the director himself. He said it must be a secret and Hanna-Barbera’s keeping it a secret. Don’t tell them, please.” He said, “no, that’s ridiculous.” I said, “Myles, I want to work. I don’t want to lose the series. I got a lead in it, for God sakes, leave it alone.” He didn’t. He went to Hanna-Barbera and said, “first of all she gets more money. Secondly, I want to see Lucille Bliss on there.” I got the pink slip two weeks later. It broke my heart.

On getting the role of “Smurfette” on The Smurfs:

The agent said you can go on an audition at Hanna-Barbera. They’re looking for a new character. So when I went there, they didn’t have a picture, nothing. They described her a little bit, and they said, “how do you think she’d be?” And you had to answer questions.  What kind of a person she’d be and so forth. I did what I could and then I got a callback and I said to my agent, “I got a callback.” I remember the agent said, “yeah but there’s only one female character in it so don’t hold your breath.”  Well I said, “I’m going to do the same thing again. I don’t care. I did it once and they liked it; I’m going to do it twice.” Cause I believed in her. This time they had moods. They wondered how she was happy. How she’d be scared. No pictures yet. How she would be angry and so forth and so on. Then came the third audition. This time they had a little picture, kind of. “What do you think she’d sound like? Tell us what she’d say or what she’d do under different conditions.” So we did that and that’s how I got it.

On “Smurfette”:

She felt so real to me. ‘Cause I created her voice so I could feel her emotions. It may sound strange, but it’s true. If you do something for a long time and you created it, you begin to feel the emotion. We have to think like the character and talk like the character, and it takes over. That’s what I tell my students, too. You must lose yourself if you want to be successful in animation and be the character. Then if they don’t like what you’re doing, it’s the character and you can change it. But if it’s you, you go home brokenhearted, “oh my God, why did I goof up?”

On Invader Zim:

Johnen Vasquez created this series of an alien character who tries to get into Earth and destroy Earth. It’s Invader Zim and the people up there don’t like him either so they say, “yeah, you can go down to Earth. Try to do things, because they say it’s a rotten place, you can’t do anything else, send him down there.” It’s crazy, it’s funny, very modernistic drawings; the drawings are fantastic. I play “Ms. Bitters”, the mean schoolteacher and she’s mean and talks to kids like this, “What’s the matter with you? You’re late again.” You know what I mean? Ooh, horrible person. But a far cry for me. I don’t usually do it with parts, but I enjoyed it.

On her proudest achievement:

It’s hard to say. I must say because it’s my favorite character, the two, “Smurfette” and “Crusader Rabbit.” Because after all, Crusader was the first national animated cartoon. He was the crusader in more ways than one. He was the first one to crack the national animation field. That was way back in 1949 or ’50, and the first one. And “Smurfette” because I love the character, I do. She was on for 10 years. But I love her.

On how she’d like to be remembered:

God, I never thought of that. How would I like to be remembered? As a nice and also as a famous person. Because I have never done any mean… I’m not the best Pollyanna, please. But I’ve never knifed anybody, taken false credits, or done something to hurt someone. Never. Because somehow I have that feeling that when you go upstairs, if you go upstairs, something that goes around comes around.

Watch Lucille Bliss’ full Archive interview.

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Veterans Day: Honoring Those Who Served

November 11th, 2012

“Television brought the war home in a way that had never been done before. I can remember the Korean War as a kid, and I didn’t see this [Vietnam War] on television that way. I mean there it was, every night in your living room. You are forced to confront the reality of what is going on there. When you would see Cronkite on Friday give the death toll for that week … I think it certainly raised questions because it provided information in a way that had never been done before.  And I think that an informed public shapes opinion.  I think television helped to shape that opinion by shining the light on what was going on there.” – Journalist Ed Bradley

Archive Interviewee Ed Bradley spoke eloquently on how television helped inform public opinion about the Vietnam War. He was not alone in discussing the impact of wars and television war coverage on his life and on the lives of others. Many of the Archive’s interviewees served in the United States Armed Forces, were journalists reporting alongside the troops, or were actors portraying servicemen and women on television. As we honor our veterans this November 11th, here are some selections from interviewees reflecting on times of service in the Armed Forces :

Writer/Performer Sid Caesar on organizing dances to boost troop morale during World War II:

Writer/Producer/Director Larry Gelbart on research for M*A*S*H and learning from those who served in the Korean War:

Actress Barbara Eden on Bob Hope’s unwavering energy during USO Tours:

Journalist Dan Rather on how meeting the Servicemen and Women in Vietnam shaped his news reporting:

Host Pat Sajak on serving as a DJ in the Armed Forces Radio Station in Vietnam:

Producer David Wolper on the importance of the GI Bill:

Thank you to all of the Veterans of the United States Armed Forces for all that you do.

For more reflections on times of service, click here

- by Adrienne Faillace

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Remembering TV Producer (and Archive Interviewer) Henry Colman

November 9th, 2012

The Archive is very saddened to hear of the death of noted television producer Henry Colman, who passed away on Wednesday, November 7th at the age of 89. Not only was Henry an Archive interviewee, but he was also one of the Archive’s main interviewers — having completed over 33 oral history interviews for the Archive of American Television’s collection. We will miss his warmth and enthusiasm.

Henry began his career in television just as it was beginning — as a production coordinator on a local musical show, Easy Does It. In 1951, he became an assistant to the director on Kraft Television Theatre and then worked on other programs including Robert Montgomery Presents and Colgate Comedy Hour. He then became a television executive, overseeing the pilot of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and working on programs such as Green Acres and Hawaii Five-0. He later worked on the development of The Love Boat, where he became line producer, and went on to produce the series Hotel. Beginning in 1987, he produced a number of TV movies including Body of Evidence, Parent Trap III and The Rape of Dr. Willis.

Below are some selections from his 2001 Archive interview:

On the genesis of The Love Boat:

On his advice to aspiring producers:

On being an interviewer for the Archive of American Television:

On how he’d like to be remembered:

I’d like to be remembered as being generous and kind and with enough talent that I got the job done, and did it well.

Henry himself was interviewed for the Archive on March 16, 2001.

As a tribute to his work and love for the Archive of American Television, donations in his memory are being accepted. (Email archive@emmys.org for more information.)

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50 Years of Sabado Gigante!

October 27th, 2012

In 2003, The Guinness Book of World Records declared Univision’s Sabado Gigante the longest-running variety show in television history. Today, on October 27, 2012, the program turns 50, and host Mario Kreutzberger, perhaps better known as “Don Francisco”, has been there for every one of those fifty years.

Kreutzberger on what the show’s milestone means to him:

Congratulations/Felicidades to everyone at Sabado Gigante! Learn more about the program and Mario Kreutzberger in his full Archive interview.

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Remembering Andy Williams

September 26th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of singer/performer/host Andy Williams, who died yesterday at the age of 84. Williams had been battling bladder cancer and passed away at his home in Branson, Missouri. Williams was already a successful singer by the time he began hosting The Andy Williams Show, which celebrates its 50th anniversary tomorrow, September 27th.

Below are some selections from Williams’ 2005 Archive interview:

On starting his show business career



On The Andy Williams Show theme song (“Moon River”)

On his many Christmas specials

On his advice to aspiring performers

On how he would like to be remembered

I’ve been asked that before and I don’t really have a good answer but,  I would like to be remembered as a great singer. That’s about it.

The entire interview is online at http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/andy-williams

About the interview:

In his one-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Andy Williams discusses his early career working in his brothers’ singing group on stage and in radio, before embarking on a solo career. He speaks about his early appearances on television, including being cast as a regular singer on Steve Allen’s Tonight Show. He then details hosting his own series, The Andy Williams Show, and talks about the production schedule, some of his favorite guest stars (including the Osmond Brothers, whom he is credited with discovering), and the show’s segue into a series of Christmas specials. In conclusion, he discusses establishing his own theater in Branson, Missouri. Karen Herman conducted the interview on September 19, 2005 in Branson, MO.

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The Fonz Jumps The Shark!

September 20th, 2012

35 years ago today, on September 20, 1977, Happy Days aired an episode in which the gang travels to California for Fonzie’s screen test. The Fonz is challenged to waterski over a shark, and dressed in swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, he accepts the challenge:

Here’s the pivotal “jump the shark” scene:

The episode marked the beginning of the show’s fifth season, and Happy Days remained on air for an additional six. In 1997, web guru/radio personality Jon Hein created the site www.jumptheshark.com, using Happy Days’ “jump the shark” moment as the ultimate indicator of when a TV show begins to decline. The website pointed out such moments in hundreds of television shows, and the phrase “jump the shark” quickly became pop culture lingo, essentially meaning the beginning of the end, or utilizing gimmick over quality. (The site now connects to TV Guide’s list of “jump the shark ” moments.)

Here’s what the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, had to say about jumping the shark:

Learn more about Happy Days at our show page and watch Henry Winkler’s full Archive interview.

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Sid Caesar Turns 90!

September 8th, 2012

He double talks, he pantomimes, and he plays a mean saxophone. Today, Mr. Sid Caesar, the man who gave us “The Professor,” “The German General,” and “From Here to Obscurity,” turns 90!

Born Isaac Sidney Caesar on September 8, 1922, Caesar grew up in Yonkers, New York. His father owned a restaurant, and one day brought home a saxophone a patron had left behind. He asked his son if he wanted to learn to play, and young Sid answered in the affirmative. Caesar soon mastered the instrument and began to play in local bands and shows. He spent summers playing at hotels in the Catskills, where he also started honing his comedic skills. Several comics on the circuit needed additional people to assist with sketches, and with his great sense of timing and talent for sound effects, Caesar fit right in.

Caesar served in the Coast Guard during World War II, largely performing in musical revues. He was a big believer in the power of shows and dances to boost troop morale:

During one of the Coast Guard revues, Caesar met civilian director Max Liebman, who selected Caesar to perform in the “Tars and Spars” production down in Florida. Caesar subsequently toured the country with the show and appeared in the film version. He began writing with Liebman and was soon performing in clubs like the Copacabana. He appeared on Broadway, and Liebman then suggested that Caesar work in television. In 1949, the pair met with NBC’s Pat Weaver and Caesar began starring in Admiral Broadway Revue, a live sketch show. The show was cancelled within the first season, but in 1950, Caesar headlined a live, ninety-minute sketch show with fellow performers Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard MorrisYour Show of Shows:

Writers Mel Brooks, Mel Tolkin, Larry Gelbart, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, and Lucille Kallen produced a plethora of material, and castmates perfected memorable sketches including “The Professor,” the ever-arguing couple,”The Hickenloopers,” and skits featuring double talk, movie satires, and pantomimes:

Here’s Caesar and Coca in one of their famous pantomimes:

Caesar won his first Emmy for Your Show of Shows in 1952. In 1954 he transitioned to yet another live, sketch comedy show, Caesar’s Hour, featuring Nanette Fabray, and pal Carl Reiner.

Videotaped shows soon begun to permeate the television landscape, and after nearly a decade of live television comedy, Caesar was exhausted. Caesar’s Hour ended in 1957, but Caesar re-teamed with Imogene Coca in 1958 for the short-lived TV series, Sid Caesar Invites You. Over the next decade he appeared on Broadway and starred in several films, including the 1963 comedy, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World alongside Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Edie Adams, and Buddy Hackett.

In 1967, Caesar reunited with the Your Show of Shows gang for the Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special. Caesar made a memorable turn as “Coach Calhoun” in 1978’s Grease, and appeared in several film and made-for-television movies throughout the 1970s and ’80s, including Silent Movie, Found Money, and 1985’s Alice in Wonderland.

Caesar published an autobiography, Where Have I Been? in 1983, and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1997 he made a memorable guest appearance as “Uncle Harold” on Mad About You, and in 2004 published his second autobiography, Caesar’s Hours. Caesar was given the Pioneer Award at the 2006 TV Land Awards, where he performed double talk for roughly five minutes. In truth, Caesar speaks only English and Yiddish, but the man certainly makes you believe he speaks every language out there.

Happy 90th, Sid! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Sid Caesar’s full Archive Interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

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“Sesame Street’s” Sonia Manzano Launches Young Adult Novel!

September 1st, 2012

The talented Sonia Manzano has a new book out! Sesame Street’s “Maria” not only wrote for and acted in the popular children’s program, but is also an established novelist. Her latest book, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, is set in 1960’s New York City and follows a young girl’s coming of age in the midst of the Latino Civil Rights movement.

Read more about The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano here and be sure to check out Sonia Manzano’s Archive of American Television interview!

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Tuesday, August 29, 1967: The Day The Running Stopped for “The Fugitive’s” Richard Kimble

August 29th, 2012

45 years ago today, The Fugitive’s Dr. Richard Kimble finally got justice. Falsely accused for the murder of his wife, Kimble (played by David Janssen) spent four years on the run, pursuing his wife’s true killer, the One-Armed Man, while also being diligently pursued himself by Lt. Gerard. In the two-part series finale (“The Judgment” Parts I and II) Kimble learns the One-Armed Man is in Los Angeles, but before Kimble can make his move, Gerard finally catches up with Kimble. Kimble tells Gerard of the most recent developments in his pursuit of the One-Armed Man, and Gerard grants him 24 hours to gather the evidence he would need to exonerate himself. 24 hours come and go, but just as Gerard is about to take Kimble to prison, the two are led to an amusement park where the one remaining witness to Mrs. Kimble’s murder, Lloyd Chandler, is attempting to murder the One-Armed Man for blackmailing him.

Here’s the pivotal showdown:

But viewers almost never got a chance to see Kimble find retribution. According to ABC’s Leonard Goldberg, when David Janssen did not want to return for a fifth season of the series, The Fugitive was supposed to end in May of 1967, with the last episode being simply what had been shot as the conclusion of the fourth season when production still anticipated a fifth. There was no resolution to the series at that point – Kimble was still chasing the One-Armed Man. Goldberg describes how he fought for a real series finale (a two-parter, as it turned out), which would give viewers a satisfying end to The Fugitive. “The Judgment:Part II” earned the highest TV rating ever at that time – a whopping 45.9 and a 72 share, meaning that of all the television sets in use at that time, 72% of them were tuned to that episode. “The Judgment:Part II” was watched by over 78 million people that Tuesday night:

Kimble got his man, viewers got satisfaction, and ABC got huge ratings. And “The Judgment:Part II” remains one of the most memorable series finales of all time. Win win.

Learn more about The Fugitive at our show page.

- by Adrienne Faillace

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Comedienne Phyllis Diller dies at 95

August 20th, 2012

The Archive is truly sad to report that legendary comedienne Phyllis Diller has died at the age of 95. She was the first female comedian to headline a Vegas Club, the first woman to sneak into the all-male Friar’s Club (in drag!), and one of the first successful female stand-up comics. She also appeared on more Bob Hope Specials than anyone except Bob Hope. Phyllis Diller was not only a television pioneer, but a pioneering force for women in entertainment, as well.

Born Phyllis Aida Driver On July 17, 1917 in Lima, Ohio, Diller wanted to be a pianist as a young girl. She attended college at the Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago for three years, but left to finish her studies at Bluffton College back in Ohio. She eloped in 1939 with Sherwood Diller, the brother of a classmate, and moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan and then to Alameda, California, where her husband worked at the Naval Air Station. Diller first got a job writing gossip and shopping columns for a local San Leandro newspaper, then as a fashion writer for Conn’s department store, moved on to writing for KROW radio in Oakland, and then to KSFO San Francisco as head of merchandising and press relations.

Her husband encouraged Diller to move to the talent side of the business, which she did by creating her “Phyllis Dillis, the Homely Friendmaker” persona:

Diller and a few friends put together an act, and she soon became the breadwinner of the family. She began a five-year run performing at the Purple Onion night club, toured the country, and in 1958 made her TV debut on You Bet Your Life with host Groucho Marx. She had just begun to comprehend the importance of theatricality and slowly started crafting her signature look: bleach-blonde hair, colorful costumes, and exposed “chicken-legs”:

Two additional items became part of Diller’s persona – her laugh:

And her ever-present cigarette holder:

One of Diller’s most memorable creations was “Fang”, the mythical husband-figure she often complained about in her act, who wasn’t actually based on her real-life husband:

In 1962 Diller made her first hugely successful appearance on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. She soon secured her first movie role, as nightclub hostess “Texas Guinan” in Splendor in the Grass, and appeared in several regional theater plays including “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” with co-star Blythe Danner. In 1961 Diller became the first female comic to headline in Vegas, at the Flamingo. Of her Vegas act she told us, “I wrote my own material, and no one had ever heard it from a woman’s angle. Now the mother-in-law is his mother… I did a lot of housewife stuff. My first bit was stuffing a turkey. Now you think, well, this isn’t going to interest men, but it did because they’re interested in women. It became funny. If it’s funny, it’ll sell.”

Diller published her first book in 1963 and in 1964 made the first of many appearances on Bob Hope Specials. Diller felt she instantly clicked with Hope:

Throughout the 1960s Diller appeared on numerous talk and game shows, including: The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, I’ve Got a Secret, and Match Game. She traveled to Vietnam to entertain the troops with Bob Hope, and in 1966 starred in The Pruitts of Southampton, later retitled The Phyllis Diller Show – a half-hour sitcom about a wealthy family who suddenly becomes poor (“the opposite of The Beverly Hillbillies” as Diller described it.) She also appeared in a series of films including That Spy, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number (with Bob Hope), and The Mad Monster Party.

1968’s The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show started out as a 90-minute special that blossomed into a season-long variety show (one of the writers of which was a young Lorne Michaels), and in 1970 became the sixth Dolly in Broadway’s “Hello, Dolly.” In the late ’60s and early ’70s she enjoyed a semi-regular role on Love, American Style, and debuted her “Dame Illya Dillya” concert pianist persona in 1971, which kicked-off a series of symphony shows around the country and allowed her to utilize her piano skills. She very publicly underwent a face-lift in 1972, appeared as judge on the premiere episode of The Gong Show in 1976, and in 1983 became the first woman to dress in drag to sneak into the all-male Friar’s Club (for Sid Caesar’s roast):

Diller suffered a heart attack in 1999, and hadn’t done stand-up since being fitted for a pacemaker. However, she played “Gladys Pope” on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful from 1999-2004, and continued to make talk show appearances. She was also active in voiceover work, voicing the Queen in A Bug’s Life, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nuttiest Nutcracker.

Phyllis Diller on her legacy:

Watch Phyllis Diller’s full Archive interview.

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