"Television is its own legitimate medium of art. I love the closeness of television, the intimacy, as opposed to the movies. This proscenium arch comes to the viewer and gives you the kind of attention you'd get from a reader. There is no audience better than an audience of one. There never will be."
About This Interview
In her three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Ellen M. Violett speaks about her early interest in acting and writing. She talks about writing for Theatre Arts Magazine, where she met early television producer Albert McCleery. She describes her first produced teleplay, an adaptation of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," which aired in 1950 on McCleery's anthology Cameo Theatre and was restaged in 1951 for Fireside Theatre. She notes that the reviews of "The Lottery" immediately led to work on the mystery anthology Suspense. She details several of the teleplays she wrote for the famed cultural anthology series Omnibus (including "The Duchess and the Smugs," and "Uncle Tom's Cabin"). She describes working with producer Fred Coe, director Vincent Donahue, and producer David Susskind, and recalls productions "Counterfeit," on U.S. Steel Hour, "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (with Katherine Cornell) on Producers Showcase, and "Rebecca" on Theatre '62. Violett outlines her tendency toward adaptations and her approach to both adaptations and originals. She describes in detail writing for the acclaimed law series The Defenders, including the episode "Drink Like a Lady" based on her own experiences with alcoholism (with a mystery twist). She talks about other episodes she wrote for The Defenders and the issues they tackled, and offers her impressions of series creator Reginald Rose. She comments frankly on the prejudice against women writers of her era, and outlines her work "The Experiment" for CBS Playhouse, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. She discusses the television movie Go Ask Alice, for which she received her second Emmy Award nomination, and speaks openly about her disappointment over her loss of both Emmys. She talks about about her work for WNET's Great Performances, expresses her admiration for the talented actors who appeared in her pieces, and recalls her final television credit Hallmark Hall of Fame: "Blind Spot." She describes several unproduced projects, including a teleplay that would have been one of the earliest television treatments of lesbianism. Stephen Bowie conducted the interview on December 13, 2008 in New York City.