News from the Archive

Yes, Yes, Nanette!

October 27th, 2017
Nanette Fabray

The great Nanette Fabray turns 97 today! Her show business roots go deep. She tap danced at age three as “Miss New Years Eve 1923” at the Million Dollar Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. In 1939, she made her feature film debut opposite Bette Davis in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (she told us Davis tried to have her fired.) She won a Tony Award in 1949, and appeared in a string of MGM musicals, including the classic “The Band Wagon,” opposite Fred Astaire. 

Her long second act, this time in television, actually began in 1942. She was enlisted to perform in a series of live tests of RCA’s color television system - she was told she had the "perfect" skin tone for testing color. She told us she was basically on call to General David Sarnoff for those tests for ten years. For this, TV Guide dubbed her, “The Original Live-Test Pattern Girl.”

Nanette replaced Imogene Coca as Sid Caesar’s female sidekick for Caesar’s Hour in 1954. But to me her most interesting work came later. She’d overcome a significant hearing impairment problem in her youth, and later became a life-long advocate for the deaf, hard of hearing, and physically challenged. Maybe her finest performance came in 1977 when she portrayed a stroke victim on Maude.

What I really love about our interview with Nanette is that she really tells it like it is. She was quite honest with us about her two most famous roles from the ‘70s. She played the mother of both Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) on One Day at a Time. True to form, she let us know what worked, and what didn’t quite work as well as she’d hoped.

Nanette’s interview is one you can watch from start to finish and be completely entertained. Her story is like a history of entertainment in America from the ‘20s to the ‘90s. Join us in wishing her a very Happy Birthday.

- John Dalton

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Remembering Robert Guillaume

October 24th, 2017
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We’re sad to learn that actor Robert Guillaume has passed away at the age of 89. Guillaume grew up in St. Louis, MO and joined the Army in 1945. He began his acting career in the theater before he began appearing regularly on television in sitcoms including Julia, All in the Family, and The Jeffersons. His character on Soap, “Benson DuBois” was spun-off into his own series, Benson. He won Emmys for his appearances as “Benson” in both shows. In later years, Guillaume co-starred on the Aaron Sorkin series, Sports Night

Below are some selections from his 1999 interview:

On playing “Benson DuBois” on Soap:

On spinning off Benson from Soap:

On Sports Night:

Watch Robert Guillaume's full interview and read his obituary in Variety.

 

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55 Years ago, on October 22, 1962, President Kennedy addressed the nation about the Cuban Missile Crisis

October 22nd, 2017
John F. Kennedy

Fifty-five years ago, the U.S. and the Soviet Union nearly went to war over the placement of missiles in nearby Cuba.

On October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation, telling the American people in a televised address that he would, "...regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." The crisis was abated when an unconditional Soviet withdrawal was negotiated.

Our interviewees share their experiences of those tense days:

Max Schindler (News Director)

“We all knew that something was happening because people were being called away from parties here in town. Very high placed government officials were being called away. We knew it was serious when they started showing pictures of missile silos opening, we thought Washington would be, probably a prime target because it was very serious. Here was this young President Kennedy facing off with Nikita Khrushchev. And I guess he wanted to push to see how hard he could get this young president to back off. Kennedy said the missiles had to be taken out of Cuba, Khrushchev said nyet, no way. And there were Russian ships steaming toward Cuba, or as Kennedy used to say ‘Cuber.’ It was kind of a scary time, and I don’t know how it was around the rest of the country, but in Washington it was very scary. My daughter had just been born a couple of months earlier, and because of a death in the family, she hadn’t been baptized and I came home one night and my wife said to me I baptized Maggie in her crib, she was that scared that we were going to have a nuclear war at that time. So it was a very scary time here in Washington… The coverage was all kind of secretive. We followed a lot of government officials around and tried to get information from them, but it was very hard. It was a very trying time, but they didn’t want to give any information out so, even though we had camera crews at the White House, and State Department, and the Pentagon and all over, we didn’t really get much out of them. They played it pretty close to the vest during that time and I can’t say as I blame them.”

Bill Monroe (Moderator/Producer)

“We didn’t quite know what was going on… Gradually it came into view. We took what we could find out from the White House and Kennedy used the media to get across the points he needed to make as the thing developed.”

“One time I was at the White House as a producer of a speech that Kennedy gave that was on all three networks. And he told us to give him at the end of the speech a one-minute cue… He was going to improvise the last minute. He felt that reading something, although he was good at it, is not as effective as if he talk[ed] to [the viewer] directly. And he wanted to finish one minute improvised. Most presidents don’t have the nerve to do that… He was supremely confident about his articulateness and his ability to handle television.”

Robert MacNeil (Journalist)

“I really began to feel it was serious when I was sitting with Herb Kaplow, who was the NBC correspondent covering the Pentagon with Peter Hackes. We were in  the Pentagon pressroom, just waiting for briefings and handouts. And we were shooting the breeze and Kaplow said, ‘Excuse me. I just got back from agonizing about this. I’ve just gotta make this call.’ And he turned to one of the press phones and he called his wife. And he said, ‘Honey, I want you to get the station wagon and put some blankets and a mattress in the back.  And fill up a lot of bottles with fresh water and put the kids in and just drive west and call me every evening until I tell you to stop.’ Herb Kaplow - very funny guy, sane, level-headed guy. I thought if this guy is as scared as that and he’s in as good a position as any American citizen except the inner circle of Kennedy to know what’s going on, this is serious.”

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October 20, 1947: The House Un-American Activities Committee Hearings and the Start of the Hollywood Blacklist

October 20th, 2017

“They never found one un-American activity in the United States. But they went after and destroyed careers of many people.” - Charles Dubin, Blacklisted Director

On October 20, 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee began its hearings focusing on the supposed Communist influence in Hollywood. These hearings led to an era of suspicion, paranoia, and destruction in the entertainment industry, affecting film and television, Hollywood and New York.

The Blacklist barred people from working, a system held up by zealous politicians like Joseph McCarthy and J. Parnell Thomas and publications such as Red Channels, which listed supposed Communists and which, in the television industry, networks, advertising agencies, and advertisors used to weed out actors, directors, writers, and others who they deemed to be "subversive."

As agent Ruth Engelhardt says, "Everybody caved. The advertising agencies caved, the networks caved, the sponsors caved."

But all of that began with the hearings of October of 1947, when a group of men who became known as the Hollywood Ten were called to testify before Congress. 

In our interview with him, writer Ring Lardner, Jr., a member of the Hollywood Ten, describes his experience testifying before HUAC in 1947, including his famous line when the Chairman insisted he respond to the question, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?":

"I could answer that question the way you want, but I’d hate myself in the morning."

Learn more about the Hollywood Blacklist in the video below and visit our Hollywood Blacklist page to see interviews with dozens of those who lived through the era.

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Remembering Bob Schiller

October 10th, 2017
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We’re sad to learn that writer/producer Bob Schiller has passed away at the age of 98. Schiller began his career in radio, writing for the radio versions of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and The Jimmy Durante Show. With his writing partner, the late Bob Weiskopf, he began writing for I Love Lucy in 1955, and continued working with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and The Lucy Show. The pair continued writing together throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, with major highlights including their work on Maude, All in the Family, The Red Skelton Show, and Archie Bunker’s Place.

Below are some excerpts from his 2000 interview:

On Lucille Ball:

You start with saying she was the most brilliant comedienne we ever had. And there’s no comedienne who’s ever approached her talent. So, consequently, anything she did was pretty funny. She was never embarrassing, she always knew her lines, she was a task master and particularly of herself. She rehearsed a lot more than anybody else because she wanted to get it perfect, almost down to the how many eye blinks she would have. You know, it was just remarkable, her concentration. 

On thinking like a comedy writer:

Ed Gardner was asked how do you find comedy writers. He says, “I look for people who think crooked.”  … That’s the way I think. If you say something, I’m not thinking for a normal response, I’m thinking about how can I make that funny. You can’t always do it, obviously, but that’s a mindset that is either a gift or a curse, depending on if you want to be something else besides a comedy writer.

On what he'd like to be remembered by:

Maude. I think Maude is the best. See, we can’t take the credit for Lucy, although we get a lot of it, ‘cause we didn’t create it. We shaped Maude from the beginning. We came on Lucy late and the fact that we stayed on a long time is neither here nor there. It was there when we got there. Maude was just beginning, Maude was being shaped and I loved that show even more than All In the Family because it was about things that I was aware of.

Watch Bob Schiller’s full interview and read his obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

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