The Archive is sad to learn of the death of Bob Finkel, who passed away of age-related complications on April 30, 2012. Finkel produced numerous hits of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Eddie Fisher Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, and The Andy Williams Show, along with multiple broadcasts of The People’s Choice Awards, Oscars, and Emmy Awards. He also produced Elvis: The ‘68 Comeback Special.
Here are some selections from Finkel’s 1997 Archive Interview:
On directing Natalie Wood in Pride of the Family:
There was a scene in which Natalie couldn’t go to the high school graduation, she couldn’t get a date. Paul, her father, ultimately goes with her. When she didn’t get the date she had to look at her father and cry. So we rehearsed that sequence on a couple of occasions, and never did she cry. Normally when you rehearse those things you don’t ask performers to cry, until they get ready. We now got to like the last rehearsal, and I said to Natalie, “I would like to see this scene how it plays, and I want you to cry.” And this little bitty thing looked up to me, and she said, “Mr. Finkel, when I see that camera turn over, then you’ll see my tears.” That’s the way it was. When we rolled the camera, she cried and went all over the floor.
On following key light:
I developed the idea of following the key light. I did my scenes wherever the key light was. “Is this a key light?” I would do every scene where that key light was, so that they didn’t have to re-light the sequence. I would even go very much out of order. I was saving time by following the key light. I did that.
On The Dinah Shore Show:
I must tell you that everybody on the staff had to drive Chevrolets. They gave us Chevrolets. That was the good old days, and each year we got a different one. Because if you were a member of the staff of The Dinah Shore Show, you couldn’t be seen in a Ford. So they gave us the cars; they leased them to us. The format was not unlike the formats that I used in most of these musical variety shows. It was some big production number to get started, and a welcoming from the star, and talking about her guests. Maybe in Dinah’s case, a sketch about a luau in Hawaii, because she was there the last week on a little vacation. The word that we devised for that kind of thing was “true lies.” We based those things on something that happened to her, but then we lied it up a little bit. They were “true lies.”
On the Osmond Brothers first appearance on The Andy Williams Show:
I remember vividly the night that the father of the Osmond Brothers had been pestering us to listen to their barbershop quartet winners: The Osmond Brothers. It was very hard at the end of evening, after you finished taping, to stop and go into another studio and listen to four kids sing “Danny Boy.” Finally the father got to me, and I told Andy, I said, “let’s do this guy a favor and listen to the kids,” which we did. The kids’ barbershop stuff was brilliant, and Andy was terribly impressed. We bought them that evening for, I think three performances. They just became big smash hits. They were so cute. We even had the mother and father on a couple of times. The father played saxophone; the mother sang. They were just endearing. Andy used to sit with them on the stairs in the audience and talk to them. They had these wonderful little faces and they sang so great with him, and they were big hits. Their career just accelerated, and they became big stars.
On winning an Emmy for The Perry Como Show while producing the Emmy broadcast:
I was in the truck, about a block away from the stage. I’m sitting in there, and the guy said, “the outstanding achievement goes to The Perry Como Show. Bob Finkel, producer.” I couldn’t believe it. I ran out of the truck, and ran down the street to go into the theater. A guy that I knew said, “hi, Bob.” Passing me I said, “I can’t talk to you now, I just won an Emmy Award.” I went into the theater, went up on stage, got my Emmy, took it in my arm, and I started to come back, and the guy was still waiting for me. He said, “I thought you were lying to me. I’ll be dammed. Congratulations.” I said, “I can’t talk to you right now,” and I went back to the truck.
On his Peabody-winning Julie Andrews special:
MCA came to me and said, “you know, there’s a girl we’re bringing over from England that’s been a big hit, by the name of Julie Andrews. We want to do a special with her.” I said, “well I don’t want to do a special with her right away.” I said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll put her on The Andy Williams Show as a guest and let’s see what happens.” Of course she was just as adorable as she always is. She was wonderful. She then went to New York and did “My Fair Lady.” Then we were going to do a special with Julie Andrews, because she proved that she could handle a special. I got a hold of Alan Handley, another legendary name in television. Alan was a producer-director for NBC, and together we designed a show for her. We got Gene Kelly to be on the show.
On Elvis: The ‘68 Comeback Special:
Colonel Parker, Elvis’ manager and mentor, wanted to do a special in order to hype Elvis’ record sales. I was introduced to Elvis at Paramount, and to the Colonel, and we had a great many meetings before it was decided among all of us that I was the guy and that Elvis would do the show. Colonel Parker wanted a concert show, and I didn’t want to do that. I did what now is called The Comeback Special. In order to execute the ideas that I had, which was more or less what I had been doing in musical variety, with the exception there was less talk – there were production numbers and audience participation that Elvis did in that arena situation – in order to accomplish that I hired Steve Binder, who was another up-and-coming creative director, and I gave him producing and directing credit. We formed what became The Elvis Presley Special … Elvis was truly professional. Very, very nice man. Very respectful of a director, respectful of a producer. Expressed his opinion. He never hid his feelings about things, but listened. He was a pleasure to work with. It was a wonderful, marvelous experience, and we knew that we had a great show. It wasn’t very long into the rehearsal that we knew we had something.
On his friend, Bing Crosby:
Bing was colorblind, but really colorblind. There are different stages of colorblindness. He said to me one time, “do you want to go to the track?” Now most guys when they go to the track they have their driver, they have a car. Bing’s got this old Toyota. Just him in the car and me. We’re driving along, and we come to the stop light. And I said, “Bing, how do you know when to stop?” He said, “Bob, it’s simple. When the top is on that means it’s green, when the bottom is on – no, wait a minute. When the bottom is on… no, when the top, now the middle one…” I said, “let me out of the car, Bing. If you don’t know which one it is, I don’t want to be driving with you.” He would get on the stage with a blue sock and a white sock.
Watch Bob Finkel’s Full Archive interview.