Posts Tagged ‘producer’

Remembering Irving Fein

Monday, August 13th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of manager/producer Irving Fein, who passed away on August 10, 2012 at the age of 101. Fein was manager to both Jack Benny and George Burns. He started out in publicity at Warner Brothers, Columbia, and MGM, then forayed into managing and producing.

Here are some selections from his 1998 Archive interview:

On his first job at Warner Brothers:

I started off in the mailroom. I sorted the mail, delivering it and putting captions on pictures, delivering to the newspapers the daily news stories. Delivered to the New York Times and the Herald Tribune and the Daily News, the trade papers, all the news of the day. Publicity guys used to write out these stories and we would grab them and we’d deliver them. That was my job. While I did that, I submitted a lot of ideas for advertising and publicity and after two months they got me in the Publicity Department to do publicity.

On working in studio publicity:

You got ideas, wrote publicity stories about the pictures, about the stars — biographies — and distributed them to the newspapers and called the Associated Press and columnists and planted items with the columns and came up with ideas. I remember the first one, I was very young. I came up with an idea – Bette Davis was the young star at Warner’s and we were trying to build her up. I came up with an idea. There was a lot of publicity in those days. Every year they would do the 10 best dressed women. I made a tie up with the hairdresser’s union, and they agreed to do it. I came over there; I did the 10 best hair-tressed women. The 10 best-tressed women. I remember I put some famous person first and Bette Davis second or something and therefore we got her name into the papers. That was a long time ago.

On leaving Warner Brothers to become assistant to Samuel Goldwyn:

Samuel Goldwyn brought me over to Goldwyn’s and I did two pictures there. I did “Ball of Fire” with Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper, and then I did “The Pride of the Yankees” which was the life of Lou Gehrig with Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright. I was the Publicity Director of those two pictures.  I did a lot of good stuff on those stuff pictures.

On running publicity for The Jack Benny Show:

On Jack Benny’s persona vs. his real-life personality:

He was not a stingy fellow at all; he was a very generous man. The average person would tip, in those days, you’d get your hat at a hatcheck stand; they’d tip a quarter. He’d tip a dollar or two dollars or three dollars. A cab ride would be a dollar, most people would tip 50 cents; he’d give them a $5 bill and say, “keep the change.” He was that kind of a guy … We took a cab to New York some place. We both got out of the cab and he thought I paid and I thought he paid. So we both left and we started to walk to the building and the cab driver yelled, “oh, it’s true about you, Mr. Benny.” Jack laughed and came back and gave him a $5 bill or something. For a 40 cent ride.

On managing George Burns:

What happened was George hadn’t done well for about 10 years. He worked very little. He hadn’t worked Vegas in seven years. He worked very few places. His income was very little. Jack got sick once in October. He had a job in Miami; a one-nighter. I had to cancel Jack and I called a fellow and I said, “I’ve got a good idea. George Burns will substitute for him.” George had just had about six, eight weeks before he had a triple bypass. George was the oldest person in the world then (he was 78 ½) to have a bypass, and he came through fine. I called George, I said, “George, do you think you’re well enough to do a one-nighter in Miami Beach?” He said sure.  I said, “you’d better ask your doctor.” The doctor said okay, so I got him the job.I had gotten Jack “The Sunshine Boys” movie with Walter Matthau at MGM. Jack was going to do that starting in February. Jack said to me, “why don’t you take on George? Look, I’m going to do the movie. I’ll have you do that while I’m doing the movie for three or four months and then I want to take six months off and rest a little bit and take vacations and then I want to play more concerts.” He would still do those concerts for me, but he said, “you don’t have to come on the road with me. I’ll get somebody, we’ll get something to go with me. Why don’t you take George on?” So I said okay. I said, “George, you want to?” He said, “oh, I’d love it.” He called Abe, the last fellow who was head of William Morris and asked for his release. Fine. He said an hour later, a letter was delivered giving him his release.  So I became George’s manager. Then two months later, Jack died. I got George “The Sunshine Boys” job that Jack had had. He was great in that picture and then I got him Vegas again and I got him a few other things and a couple other movies and before we knew it, George was running.

Watch Irving Fein’s full Archive Interview

Read his Deadline.com obituary

Director/Producer Bob Finkel Dies at 94

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

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.

Writer/Producer William Froug Turns 90!

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Happy 90th birthday, William Froug! Froug started out as a radio writer at CBS, transitioned to television, and wound up producing some of the medium’s biggest hits. He served as a producer on The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, and Gilligan’s Island, among others. When he left production, Froug began teaching screenwriting at UCLA and authored several books on the subject, including The Screenwriter Looks at the Screenwriter and Screen-writing Tricks of the Trade.

Here are some selections from his 2011 Archive interview:

On the secret to writing for radio:

What’s the secret? I think the secret is just keep making it up as you go along. I really do. It’s one sentence at a time. I never had an outline for anything I ever did. Ever. Just start writing. If you can entertain yourself, there’s a chance you can entertain somebody else. That was my philosophy. I kept myself amused and I’m a short attention span guy. But each sentence would surprise me. I never knew what was going to happen next, and that kept me going. If I’d had an outline I would have dropped it long ago.

On working with Rod Serling as a producer on The Twilight Zone:

On why The Twilight Zone has continued to be a popular series after all these years:

I think Rod Serling. He wrote great scripts. That’s why. Stories were great. By and large they are great.

On being the Executive Producer in Charge of Drama at CBS:

It really meant I read all the scripts for dramatic series – met with the producers of dramatic series. Let them know I was going to be reading their material and make suggestions from time to time. I was greeted like cancer, you know. The blank stares “You think you’re going to tell us how to produce our series?” I’d been a line producer. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. But that was the job. So I read their scripts. Never said a word.  Never met with them. That was my job.

On why he began teaching screenwriting at UCLA:

It’s in my blood. I can’t explain that. Like what made me have to be a writer? I just knew I wanted to be a teacher. I just knew I had to do it and I love it. When I first started at CBS in radio, in the very beginning, I started a course one night a week in radio writing at CBS in one of their offices. Had about three or four people show up. But I had this urge to teach. It’s just in me. There’s no “what led me to it” anymore than what led me to be a writer.

On producing Bewitched:

I didn’t have anything to do because Bill Asher actually produced it and directed it and correctly took the credit and was married to the star. There was no role for me there, really. He just wanted somebody to be the titular producer, who he could then blame for anything that went wrong. He wasn’t interested in me as a producer. He was looking for a fall guy, basically. Because when he had battles with his wife, he didn’t have anybody to blame. Now he could blame me. That’s all right.

On his philosophy on screenwriting:

Basically, find a clear line. The key is to find a line. The storyline is king.  And Page 1, Line 1 is when the story must start. You pick up the script. Page 1, Line 1, the reader has got to know what kind of story he’s getting and what kind of genre to expect. Is it going to be a mystery? Is it going to be a comedy? What’s it going to be? I called it the opening signal: Page 1, Line 1. Then you’ve got to grab the audience within the first five pages, preferably the first two. That’s very important.

Happy 90th birthday, William! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Froug’s two-hour Archive interview here.

Game Show Creator Bob Stewart Dies at 91

Friday, May 4th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of game show creator/producer Bob Stewart, who passed away at the age of 91. Stewart began his association with producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman (Goodson-Todman) in 1955 and created fan favorites Pyramid, The Price is Right, To Tell the Truth, and Password.

Here are some selections from Stewart’s three-hour Archive interview from 1998:

On the genesis of The Price is Right:

On Fiftieth Street and Seventh Avenue in New York there used to be a store which auctioned silverware, glassware, watches, jewelry … and everyday during the lunch hour that place was packed. People would just walk in and bid for the goods. I used to stop by there and watch the stuff and I thought to myself, ‘anybody who pays a nickel more than the retail price has been taken, but anybody who gets it for even a nickel less has got a bargain.’ And that became the core of The Price Is Right.

On how celebrity panelists were selected for To Tell The Truth:

In its original form, we had different visions of making this cross examination more than just entertainment. So as a consequence, we had a couple of reporters whose names escape me right now but they were literally reporters that people knew about. One guy was sort of an entertainment writer for one of the big New York newspapers. We also brought in people like Ralph Bellamy because he was doing Man Against Crime, a fictional detective, but at least he was cross-examining … We ended up with people like Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle and the classic panelists Peggy Cass, who were there to have some fun and make a good time of it.

On how the Quiz Show Scandals changed game shows:

They brought in what they called Standards and Practices. The first guys hired back in 1958 or ’59, whenever it was, they brought in some ex-FBI men … an FBI guy came in and he oversaw the shows to make sure that nothing crooked was going on. The new thing that was innovated was that all contestants and all producers had to sign certain waivers of sorts saying you wouldn’t cheat and so on. There was that. The physical setup between contestants and production help had to be completely separate. We now had to have contestants briefed in another building at one time, couldn’t be in the same building. And in the studio, the quarters were set up so that there could be no contact except for the person who was the contestant getter, nobody else could be near a contestant.

On creating Password:

On creating Pyramid:

That had a strange development. Originally, we had a pilot that we made for CBS and it was called On The Line. There was a pyramid shape with a series of lines across the pyramid. I think there were ten lines. The bottom row had ten squares, then nine, eight, seven, six, on up to one. It was a different kind of game but we played a game with it. We made the pilot and it was just a so-so pilot. Fred Silverman, who has been said ’shoots from the hip,’ looked at it, didn’t care for it, and said, ‘we’ll do something else.’ I was trying to take advantage of the fact that they needed a show and I brought in some run-through of another show which he liked, and we were working on that in different run-throughs and then one day I got an idea of how to convert that pyramid of ten into another kind of show of quick communication. Although we were scheduled to run-through this new idea I showed Silverman this new version of the old pilot. ‘I kind of like it,’ he said, ‘but I don’t like the front game, the end game is okay.’ So I change that — the network guys do this, they don’t know what they’re looking for and they don’t recognize it so they’re not sure, so they keep sending you back to do it again, again, and again. Finally, one day I show him these two pieces together. Matter of fact, Bill Cullen was helping me demonstrate it, he was one of the players. The next thing I knew I walked into Bud Grant’s office. Bud was the head of daytime television, Silverman was the head of nighttime. I was hanging around CBS to find out whether we’re going to make the schedule and then I noticed in Bud Grant’s office where they have this board of shows, it said ‘Ten Thousand Dollar Pyramid.’ I said, ‘what the hell is that?’ He says, ‘you’re on the air.’

On how game show production changed since he began his career:

Since I haven’t been in it for a few years, I don’t know exactly, but I’ll tell you how part of it changed. The part that’s changed is … I’ll use the word respect. There was a certain respect that the network people or syndicators had for the producers of game shows. In other words, they dealt with them on a rather, even equal keel and said, ‘you have something that has some value, let’s talk about it.’ What I hear today is that when you go to a network or to a cable operation or to a syndicator, they couldn’t care less about the idea of the show. ‘You do business our way or we don’t do business.’ There are stories of syndicators and especially cable operators who say, ‘okay, we’ll take this show we own, we’ll give you some money.’ It’s all gone. Where’s the entrepreneur? What‘s the point in trying to be creative if it doesn’t belong to you? So the business part has changed a lot.

Watch Bob Stewart’s Full Archive Interview.