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.
The Archive is sad to report that director/producer William Asher passed away on Monday, July 16, 2012 at the age of 90. Asher got his big break at Desilu, first directing episodes of Our Miss Brooks, and then becoming a regular director of I Love Lucy (he directed the famous “Job Switching” episode where Lucy and Ethel work in a candy factory). Asher went on to direct episodes of The Danny Thomas Show, co-created The Patty Duke Show with writer Sidney Sheldon, and created Bewitched for then-wife Elizabeth Montgomery. Asher also directed JFK’s Inaugural Ball and the President’s famous Birthday Special with guest singer Marilyn Monroe.
Here are some selections from Asher’s 2000 Archive interview:
On how directing Our Miss Brooks led to directing I Love Lucy:
I had a contract to do the first ten if Our Miss Brooks sold, and it did. And Lucy and Desi and everybody wanted me to come on and do their show. So everything happened at once. I found myself doing both shows at the same time. That was a challenge, because they overlapped during the week. I’d work the first couple of days rehearsing Our Miss Brooks and then I’d start with Lucy. I don’t remember quite how it worked, but I did those first ten shows and broke in Sheldon Leonard as the director.
On directing the “Job Switching” episode of I Love Lucy:
It was one of the most memorable of the shows, actually. It was where she and Ethel got a job, dipping candy, chocolates. The boys would take care of the house, do all the home work, and the girls would go out and make a living while Ricky and Fred made dinner and cleaned up the apartments. It didn’t work either way. We did scenes with Desi and Fred messing up the house and dinner and everything, while we were cross-cutting with Vivian and Lucy screwing up dipping the chocolate. It was quite a wild scene or scenes, I should say – both sides of it. They came home a wreck and the guys were a wreck, then everything got back together again.
On working with William Frawley on I Love Lucy:
On directing three cameras at Desilu (the first studio to use three):
The cameras came in and they were rehearsed and they were all marked on the floor what the scene was – little tapes – and what number it was in terms of their movement. They would follow the A, B, C, whichever letter, and go from one, two, three, four, five, six – whatever the numbers were and the character. We had no trouble at all with that and it seemed to baffle people. I don’t know why, but people would come and ask, “how do you do this?” It was really very simple.
On Lucille Ball telling Desi Arnaz that she was pregnant with Desi Jr., during the taping of I Love Lucy:
When she was pregnant with Desi, little Desi, we wrote it into the story so that she was actually pregnant. One of our best shows was when she told Desi she was pregnant. She kept trying to tell him and he just didn’t hear it. She went down to the club, she sat there on the chair and he had a song he was going to sing to someone who was pregnant in the audience, and she set it up. I forget exactly how we did that, but he went around the room singing this song, “We’re Having a Baby,” and he came to her and she said “yes,” then he went on and two people later he had his double-take that she had nodded yes. He ran back to the table and he said, “really?” and she said, “yes.” And he sang to her. It was very moving. It really was.
On directing JFK’s Inaugural Ball:
It was a fabulous show. We had a cast of people that you could never, ever achieve. Closed two Broadway shows with actors who came in to do the show. The weather was terrible. Just awful. The show went on about two hours late because people couldn’t get there. I know we picked up a couple of people who were stranded. But when everybody got there, at the armory, the show went on and it was wonderful.
On being scheduled to have dinner with Peter Lawford and Marilyn Monroe the night Monroe died:
The night that she killed herself Peter Lawford called me. We were going to have dinner with her, and Peter called me and said, “I can’t get her on the phone. I’ve been calling.” I had been down at the beach with her and Peter, and she left with her publicity girl, whose name escapes me. He said, “I can’t get her on the phone, the line’s busy. Why don’t we cancel dinner and I’ll keep trying to get her, and if I can you can come on down to the beach (where he lived).” I said, “fine,” and he called me again, then he called me again about twelve o’clock, and he said, “I’m worried about her. I think we should go over and see what’s happening at the house.” I said, “Peter, I don’t think we should do that. I think she’s probably asleep with pills and she’ll be fine.” He said, “well, I’m worried.” I said, “I tell you what you do. Call Joe Kennedy.” Joe Kennedy and I had become very friendly, and I said, “you call Joe and ask him what to do.” He did and Joe told him, “under no circumstances go there.” There’s just nothing to be gained. It was about three or four o’clock he called me, and he said that Mrs. Murphy, her maid, had called her doctor, who came over and broke into her bedroom, and she was dead. Whether or not Peter and I going there earlier would have saved her life, I don’t know. That haunts me.
On shooting The Patty Duke Show:
United Artists had a deal with me to do a pilot, and they selected Patty… We did the pilot here and she played two characters, and playing two characters took a lot of time. We’d have to stop it and she would change and it was a hard show to do. Under the children’s labor laws of California, there was a limit of only, I don’t know, eight hours or something when she could work. When the show sold we went to New York where there were no rules. The little boy who played her brother – their family didn’t want to go to New York, so we were in New York and we recast the little brother, and he was playing “Oliver” in the show “Oliver.” He was in the show ’til midnight and on our set at eight o’clock in the morning. Nobody complained about it. It was fine.
On creating Bewitched:
Liz and I had done a movie together, Johnny Cool, and we started going together, and we got married, and I was busy doing television and so was she. She made up her mind she didn’t want to work anymore. She insisted upon it. She had an offer of some kind and she turned it down, and she just wasn’t going to work anymore. I said, “this is not right. This isn’t fair. You’re too good. You just don’t belong retired.” We’d had a baby, and she said, “I don’t want to leave the baby, and I don’t want to be away from you. I just don’t want to work.” I suggested, “what if we do something together, how would you feel about that?” She said,”I would do that. If you can find something.” So I wrote something. I was doing a pilot with Paul Lynde, and I wrote something for us to do and submitted it to Columbia, and they liked it, but they said it’s close to something else that we have. My script was about a young girl, like a Gidget character, who was going with a boy on the beach, and there were no last names on the beach. The beach kids all had only first names. They were in love and they got married and on the night of their marriage she tells him that she’s the daughter of J. Paul Getty or the equivalent. He was furious. He said, “that’s something you tell him after you marry him? You tell before!” They had quite a scene about that. He said, “your family’ll be interfering all the time.” They had a house at the beach on stilts, and he worked at a gas station, and when the surf was up, he was out there with her. That was the basic idea… Columbia said, “we have something here that was written for Tammy Grimes and we like it and want you to read it. Well, I read it to Elizabeth and she liked it very much. The problem with it was it was dark, it was very witchy. It was boiling cauldrons and cobwebs and quite witchy. I didn’t like that. I thought she should be the girl-next-door, what she ultimately became. I went back to Columbia and I said, “let me do a rewrite on this,” and they said, “if we like it we’ll do it.” I did the rewrite. Elizabeth typed it, they liked it and we did it. It was all very quick.
On “Samantha’s” nose twitch on Bewitched:
That was something that I saw Elizabeth do. I was looking for something that was inherent in her to motivate the witchcraft, and I didn’t want to do any abracadabra stuff. She had done that, and when I first realized that would make a good motivator for the witchcraft I told her about it, and I tried to show her what it was, and she said, “I’ve never done anything like that.” I said, “you have, and I want to use it.” She said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I kept after her and as we got closer and closer to doing the show, I kept pushing on her to try and remember it. The night before we did the show she was at the bar making a drink and she spilled something or did some kind of a mistake, and she did it, and I said, “that’s it, that’s it!” She did it, “that?” I said, “that’s it. That is it.” She said, “I don’t want to do that.” I said, “yes, you do. That’s it.” That’s how it was born.
On directing 1960’s beach party films:
The idea came from American International Pictures. Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson came to me to do a beach concept, and they had a script and it wasn’t right at all. It was like all the others. It just wasn’t very good, or at least I didn’t think so. I felt that the beach pictures should be about young people having a good time, with no heavies, no parents, no last names, no sex. Just fun. When I told them that they said, “well, what would it be about?” I said, “just what I said – it would be about having a good time.” I’d have comedy heavies in it and I’d have a bike group, which would be the Von Zipper and his gang, and treat it all comically. It would just be fun. They accepted it.
On advice to an aspiring director:
Directing is an instinctive thing. It’s knowing the material, understanding it, getting that character out of the actor. There are no tricks to it. You’re in charge of everything. You’re in charge of the cameramen, the photography is in your hands, the casting, the art direction… The whole package is the director. Even though there’s a producer, it’s in the director’s hands. It’s a very taxing job. It’s hard work. It really is. You get there early, you’re the first one there, and you’ll be the last one to leave. It’s a lot of work. Very tough. I don’t know how you’d break someone in. I’ve done it, but I did it just in the way I explained it to you. You’ve got to be prepared to do that and know how to do it. A lot of people have that and a lot of people don’t.
On being executive producer of the landmark dramatic anthology series Playhouse 90 in 1959, when the sponsor censored the word “gas” in “Judgement at Nuremberg”
The producer was Martin Manulis, Herb Brodkin, a couple of others. The network [CBS] did want me to have somebody overall in charge, and so I’d make comments to the producer and I would follow through with it. On the “Judgement at Nuremberg” teleplay, the gas company was a principle sponsor and they said they said they would pull out if we used the word “gas” on the show. Because how you told the story of Judgment at Nuremberg and Holocaust without using the word seems– Herb Brodkin, who was the producer — ridiculous, and I felt the same way. The network tried to get me to do something about it. I said, “there’s nothing that can be done about it.” They said, when they got close to air time, “we can’t give up the gas company. We promised them that we will take out the word.” It was all live. Herb Brodkin believed that we were going to do it, and I said, “Herb, I’ve got to tell you that that’s what they’re going to do and I can’t do anything about it. If it’s going through where we are, I might be able to get to the guys who are supposed to bleep that word out, but they tricked me, II don’t know if I could have done anything and they’re sending an engineer over here with someone and if the word is used we’ll bleep it.” And that’s what happened. And he was furious. I said, “I warned you that that was going to happen.” There was nothing that I could possibly do. It was the worse thing for the gas company. It got the worse publicity it could possibly have when it came out that the word was bleeped out…. We didn’t have people telling us what to do until the advertisers came along.
On the creation of television’s Dr. Kildare
I wanted to do a medical show. I hadn’t been able to do it because at CBS they said, as the other networks did, who wants to go to a hospital? That’s the last place – a person comes home from their job and they’re going to turn on television and see sick people? But in radio, I did plenty of them. I did a series of a medical nature, and I did in Chicago, while I was in radio for the AMA. I didn’t latch onto any property. [Another company had done a failed pilot featuring Dr. Kildare.] The reason it was called Dr. Kildare was after-the-fact they turned me down. They didn’t want to do another one. They didn’t want to do anything medical. I said, “well, I want to do one, and I did. It was a very successful pilot. E. Jack Neuman was a fine writer. I said I want to do a medical show, and we had two or three discussions and one, he said, “I got a good idea, this is the story. I know it has to be set in a hospital. There are two gangsters who had a fight between them, and but one is on one floor and another is another floor of the hospital and they still are enemies.” I said, “Jack, before we do anything, why don’t you take a week off, go to a hospital, go around there. That’s what I want you to do for the next week. I don’t want to see you around here. Don’t come on the lot. Go to a hospital.” So he did. And when he came back, I never heard about those gangsters again. He said, “it’s terrific! I followed an intern and what they go through, and how they operate is just terrific with patients, and themselves and– so I said go ahead, and write it. It was a half hour script. Because that’s what my contract at that time, was, we expected a half hour. I went over to NBC with it and they liked it to much they said, “we’ll make you a deal.” When the word got out that I sold this, then I think somebody in the board in New York said,” is it going to be Dr. Kildare?” Bob [Whiteman] said, “no, it’s not like those old movies at all. It’s the story of an intern.” And they said, “can’t he be called Dr. Kildare?” He pointed out, as did the network, that it was a valuable title to get started with, the people would opt to tune it in. So, that’s how it got its name, is after-the-fact.
Video: On the genesis of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
On the appeal of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
In the sixties, there were a lot of just unrest in the family. It was an escape. It was good against evil. And also, the thing that they liked was it was different nationalities. At I cast two men in the leads who were short and not big husky men because, on business on Dr. Kildare, I was in London for a meeting, and when I was leaving, a lady, who was a comptroller, came to me and said, “why is it in America that you always have leading men who are big tall, sexy– so called– looking fellow, and why are they always American?” I said, “I don’t know. I guess because that’s what people seem to like when they see them.” But the more I thought about it, as time went on, when it came to do the Man From U.N.C.L.E, I’m not going to do it. And that’s what made me like David McCallum and Robert Vaughn. They were slim and they were not big, as they used to say, ballsy men. That’s the expression that was used. So it worked. I think today, some of the kids say that’s something that they really can identify more with, because they’re younger than most of the heroes were in the western shows.