News from the Archive

See Them Now -- Interviews with Colleagues who worked on Edward R. Murrow's Exposé of Senator Joseph McCarthy

August 22nd, 2006

In recognition of the feature film Good Night, and Good Luck's release on HD DVD today, we're highlighting interviews related to Edward R. Murrow's stand against Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist witch-hunt.

Murrow provided the first expose of the hysteria surrounding McCarthyism with his 1954 See It Now broadcast "A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy," which weakened McCarthy's credibility by offering film clips of his own misstatements and half-truths. McCarthy recieved equal time on See It Now, only damaging himself further. In a related press conference at the time, Murrow said: "Who has helped the Communist cause and who has served his country better, Senator McCarthy or I? I would like to be remembered by the answer to that question."

Reporter/Producer Joseph Wershba worked on the See It Now piece which exposed Senator Joseph McCarthy. Wershba was played by Robert Downey, Jr. in George Clooney's film Good Night, and Good Luck.

This is Part 3 of Joseph Wershba's Archive of American Television Interview. Click here to access all interview segments. (Remember, if you'd like to watch the interview in the order in which it was conducted, select the parts in order (1,2,3...). In his 12-part interview Wershba talks about working with Fred Friendly and Edward R. Murrow on See it Now, producing for CBS Reports, and segment producing 60 Minutes for over 20 years.

As Wershba recounts in the segment:

"The right of reply was the key thing in the McCarthy broadcast. I know [Murrow] anguished over what right do I have to use this tremendous engine, engine of communication to go against one man. That bothered the hell out of him. What right did he have to do that? And he kept looking for a way. "Isn’t there another way that we can do this broadcast?" I think he solved it in his own mind. I never heard him say it directly but I think he solved it by recognizing that Senator McCarthy had enough weaponry at his command that he didn’t have to worry about Edward R. Murrow taking him on."

See It Now film editor Mili Lerner Bonsignori was also interviewed by the Archive of American Television. Access her interview segments here.

As Lerner Bonsignori recounts in her interview:

"Murrow was the greatest exponent of the Bill of Rights I have ever met. Everything we did, had to do with the rights of the individual under our constitution. And every show we ever did, if you examine it carefully, you will find within it, the Bill of Rights. And that was his function. And we were able to do it because we were independent.... We had no executives coming in to that cutting room to in any way see what we were doing. We never screened for them, not once. They wanted to see the show, even [CBS Chairman William S.] Paley, he saw it on the air."

Interview Description:

Lerner Bonsignori describes her transition from an editor in feature films to her extensive career in television. She talks about her work as an editor on the CBS documentary series See It Now, Small World, and CBS Reports; and her opinions on and relationship with the co-producers of these series, Edward R. Murrow (who also served as host) and Fred W. Friendly. She describes in detail such benchmark See It Now shows as "The Case Against Milo Radulovich AO589839," "A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy," and "A Conversation with Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer" and the CBS Reports program "Hunger in America." She discusses her later freelance work, such as that with Charles Kuralt and the two documentaries for which she won Emmy Awards, ...But What About the Children? and CBS Reports: The Defense of the United States: A Call to Arms. She also identifies the changes that have affected the field of editing through the years, such as the advent of videotape. The 3-hour interview was conducted by Michael Rosen on December 11, 1998.

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Inventor of All-Electronic TV Celebrates Centennial

August 16th, 2006

Celebrate the centennial of Philo T. Farnsworth's (1906-71) birth on August 19.

As described by Jeff Kisseloff in his book The Box: "That Farnsworth succeeded in becoming anything other than a poor Utah farmer is amazing in itself.... his college education ended midway through his freshman year with the sudden death of his father. To keep the family going, he worked as a radio installer, an electrician's trainee, and a janitor, without ever losing sight of his dream of perfecting a television system."

Les Brown's Encyclopedia of Television states that Farnsworth "independently demonstrated in 1927 a device similar to [Vladimir K.] Zworykin's iconoscope— the "dissector" tube or orthicon, capable of dividing an image into parts whose light values could be restored to form a reproduction of the original picture."

In the excerpt below, Philo T. Farnsworth's widow Elma "Pem" Farnsworth (pictured above) talks about the patent wars Philo fought with RCA over television technology, in part eight of her Archive of American Television interview...

“[Philo] wanted to finance his work by selling licenses to his patents. RCA was always coming out and saying that Vladimir Zworykin was the originator of television, and, so … no one was going to buy a license from Farnsworth if RCA had it, you know? …. So Phil went to the patent office and he said, we need a ruling on this. And so they were taking depositions [from] everyone that had anything on the subject. And this went on for quite while. It was 1934. They asked Phil if he had told anyone about his television ideas, because RCA said, no boy of fifteen could come up with that complicated a concept. So they found Phil’s old chemistry teacher… [who] produced a page of Phil’s notebook where Phil had made a drawing of the camera tube, and I guess from all we hear, he had shown that to every class he’d ever had…. This was in 1922, and it’s the last time they’d seen each other, and so RCA had to give in on that idea.”

Jeff Kisseloff conducted the Archive of American Television's 12-part interview with Elma Farnsworth (1908-2006) on June 25 & 26, 1996.

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Talk Show Host Mike Douglas Has Died

August 12th, 2006

Legendary talk show host Mike Douglas died today on his 81st birthday. The Archive of American Television interviewed him about his life and career for three hours in 2005. Below are some excerpts from that interview:

On voicing Prince Charming in the Disney feature, Cinderella.
I probably was in dire need of a job and an income. Suddenly, this agent called me, and he said – they’ve auditioned 500 people at Disney, and I got you an appointment. Disney himself is there listening. I walk in and I couldn’t see. It’s one of those glasses you can’t see the people through, but you know there’s somebody in there, he was in there. I sang “So This is Love.” He turned and said, ‘that’s him, that’s what I want. I want that voice.’ I just came out of the service. We had this little GI house, we had some furniture. We had twin babies. They paid me $100 a day. We needed it so desperately. The very beginning of our life and our first little home and all.

On finding the energy to tape multiple Mike Douglas Shows in one day.
We had two double tape days. Do you know what it’s like doing two 90-minute shows in one day? Just think about the preparation. I had the energy. I cannot tell you why. I think the show gave me the energy. I was 36 years old when I got the show. I used to work with a guy who’d say, ‘if you haven’t made it by the time you’re 35, forget it.’ That stayed in my mind. I just got in under the wire. I was so grateful. I put my entire being into that show. I worked harder than any of them did…. The trick is, making it look easy.

On what makes a great interview.
Liking the person makes it a lot easier. You don’t like everybody you talk to and some of them don’t like me. It’s easy to overcome that, if you know that going in. I did it for so long, your instincts become very important. Also, the chemistry, I feel the chemistry. I can tell you before a show, seeing the people who are booked, that it’s not going to work. The chemistry’s not right. It was tough to deal with, I want to tell you, because they’re already booked, the show’s happening.

On his on-camera style.
I didn’t invent anything. I didn’t try to be anybody that I wasn’t. A lot of them do. A lot of them try to do things they’ve seen other people do. I just said, ‘I’m going on, I’m going to be myself. If they like it, fine, if they don’t, next case.’

On how he would like to be remembered.
As a nice guy, who thought a great deal about other people. I love people. As someone who never abused anyone in his family. Who was a good, honest father. One that could be trusted. I never hurt anybody in my life, in the business, intentionally. Just a good guy who likes people.

The video interview is not yet available online, but can be screened at the Archive's headquarters in North Hollywood, CA.

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"Twilight Zone" and "Playhouse 90" Story Editor Del Reisman's Archive Interview is now online

August 5th, 2006

This video is Part 8 of Del Reisman's 12-part interview. In this segment, he talks about Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone. Click here to access the interview.

"I always knew when [Rod] came to the Twilight Zone offices because I’d hear the Coca-Cola machine going... he had a coke in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He needed neither of them. I mean, he was tremendously energetic on his own."

Del Reisman's six-hour Archive of American Television Interview is now available for viewing on EMMYTVLEGENDS.ORG

Interview Description:

Reisman begins by looking back on his early years growing up as a “studio brat” observing his mother at work as a secretary at Universal Studios in the 1930s. He describes his entry in television as a reader on the anthology series Four Star Playhouse. He details his most prolific period in television as an associate producer/ story editor on such television series as: the “live,” daily color anthology Matinee Theater, the prestigious ninety-minute anthology Playhouse 90, the classic filmed anthology The Twilight Zone, the popular crime series The Untouchables, the western series Rawhide, and the drama The Man and the City. He discusses his work as story consultant on the nighttime soap opera Peyton Place, for which he wrote the cliffhanging final episode (the series was canceled without a finale). He also talks about his later work as a freelance writer of such 1970s series as The Streets of San Francisco and Little House on the Prairie. Finally, Reisman describes his long service to the Writers Guild of America, west for which he ultimately served as President from 1991-93. Other subjects discussed include the Hollywood blacklist and the McCarthy era, as well as Reisman’s work (at the WGA) to restore the credits of blacklisted writers of feature films made in the 1950s-60s. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on October 28, 2003.

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Aaron Spelling's Interview Now Available on Google Video

August 5th, 2006

Aaron Spelling, who died at the age of 83 on June 23rd, was interviewed for three hours by the Archive of American Television in a two-part interview on November 18 and 24, 1999.

Interview Description:

During his interview, Mr. Spelling spoke of his early career as an actor before turning to writing. He described the role of a producer and discussed the creation of such programs as Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Beverly Hills 90210, and Melrose Place. He also discussed his role as producer of the films And the Band Played On and Mr. Mom. The interview was conducted by Henry Colman.

Click here to see Aaron Spelling's full interview.

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