News from the Archive

Former CBS President Frank Stanton Dies at 98

December 26th, 2006

Dr. Frank Stanton, who served as President of CBS from 1946 to 1973, died Sunday, December 24th at the age of 98. He granted the Archive of American Television a rare 2-part videotaped interview in 2000 and 2001. Below are some excerpts from the three hour interview. The entire interview can be accessed by clicking here:

On joining CBS in 1935.
I got my doctorate in late August, 1935. We got in the car the next day and drove to New York and I think my first day at CBS was the 4th of September. I was just staff, nobody labeled me anything. I was a weird sort of a person because I was introduced to the sales force as somebody that might help them in market research. They were very skeptical of somebody who had a Ph.D. In those days, Ph.D.’s on Madison Avenue were not a dime a dozen. Today I think they are. In those days I think there were only two of us, George Gallop at Young and Rubicam, at 285 Madison and Frank Stanton at 485 Madison. CBS was very young. It was on a two or three floors in the building.

On bringing Ed Sullivan to CBS television.
You reached for stars wherever you thought there was a potential. For example, I went up to the Essex House hotel and sold Ed Sullivan to an advertiser for I think six weeks one summer with the idea that Ed Sullivan, certainly not telegenic -- Sullivan wasn’t very happy to even get in front of a camera. But Sullivan had, with his column in the Daily News, an enormous amount of contacts. And Sullivan could get those people on to interview them. That’s what we started out with, with Ed Sullivan on Sunday night. We had to frame it with some dancers in order to give it some entertainment flair, but Sullivan was that star on Sunday night. People said “well you’re not gonna keep that guy on Sunday night.” By the time his eight weeks were over, he had an audience and we said, let’s give him another 13 weeks. He ended up owning the first part of Sunday night for many years. That’s how Ed Sullivan came into television.

On his relationship with CBS Chairman William Paley.
We both had the same objective. We wanted CBS to be the best and we had perhaps different routes to getting there. So we started with that common goal. I devoted most of mine in terms of programming. I guess I gave most of my attention and support to the news side. He gave most of his attention to the entertainment side. Although a couple of the big things we had in entertainment, were things I brought in for example, Arthur Godfrey was my project. Playhouse 90 was mine. I had a strong hand in bringing Lucy to CBS.

On Ed Murrow’s taking on Joseph McCarthy on See It Now.
Fred Friendly and the producing crew and Ed Murrow, felt that the time was come to take the McCarthy record and put it all together and into a half-hour and what was it in See It Now. They developed it without talking about it much in the company, in fact, very little. I don’t think the head of news at that time, who was Sig Mickelson, knew that the program was in preparation. About 24 hours before it was broadcast, I got a call from Ed who said he had tried to reach Paley and could the two of us meet with, with Ed and Fred Friendly, late that afternoon. I said I couldn’t be sure we could get together. Maybe we could do it tomorrow. And Ed said no, it should be today. It turned out that about four o’clock that day, Ed and Fred came up and laid before us the idea of the McCarthy expose and offered to show us advance material from the broadcast. It was all on film in those days. Either Paley or I or both of us declined looking at it and said, it had to be fair and it had to provide for time for reply, if that was indicated on the basis of the content, which we damn well knew was going to happen. So that was built into the broadcast I believe at the opening or close or maybe both, Murrow indicated that time would be given to the Senator to respond to the broadcast. The broadcast obviously was a bombshell, it wasn’t that we didn’t expose anything that hadn’t been known because Look Magazine had done a very rough piece on McCarthy and others had done individual stories. But Murrow, with Friendly’s help, put together a See It Now broadcast that shook the whole journalism field. And it befelled to me to handle the Senator in terms of the reply. But we lived through it and it was a great coup for Murrow and Friendly.

On the Blacklist at CBS.
There was a supermarket man someplace upstate New York who began saying that he wouldn’t handle merchandise that was advertised by Communists and was specific about naming names. Some advertisers became very nervous. The chairman of General Food scalled me one day and said he really wanted to sit down and talk with me about this. We had The Goldbergs and a couple of other programs on for General Foods. He said that if certain people had were continued on that program, he would withdraw General Foods advertising from CBS. And a number of other advertisers took similar views. The FBI was making private comments to us about some of the people. We didn’t know what the facts were. We had no way of knowing what the facts were. NBC was in the same boat but we had more popular programs and somehow we had more people who were on the so-called Blacklist. At about that time, it got so complicated and so difficult, that we asked the employees to sign a loyalty oath. I don’t recall anybody refusing to sign the loyalty oath. People in News signed it. Ed Murrow signed it. Ed Murrow, I think at that time, was on the CBS Board and he supported it. None of us was happy.

On championing the repeal of Section 315 of the Communications Act.
Section 315 of the Communications Act, said that if one candidate got on the air, all of the candidates had to have access equal access to radio. This is long before television. As a result, if you put a Republican on, you had to put all the other Republicans on who were running for the same office if they wanted the time and it just destroyed the opportunity to use the medium effectively as a news medium. It became clear to me that the only way to resolve that was to get rid of Section 315. I think in the early ‘50’s I wrote a column in the then Herald-Tribune proposing debates between the presidential, presidential candidates and the relief from Section 315. And that became sort of a crusade as far as I was concerned. I was joined in by other broadcasters, eventually NBC came along and we got rid of Section 315 on a temporary basis in the election of 1960. It took that much time to get the right to put both candidates on at single broadcasts. We did the first televised debate, which was also done on radio, in 1960 and it originated in our studios in Chicago, with Kennedy and Nixon. That debate put them on so that the Republicans could see the Democrats and vice versa. It was an opening up of the air to political broadcasts. I thought, mistakenly, as it turns out, that doing those debates would bring more people out to the polls, certainly in the presidential year of 1960, I believe it did that.

On The Selling of the Pentagon.
I arrived at my house about 9:30, having missed dinner. And I’d worked at the office and I came in and my wife said, “don’t do anything. You get in and look at what’s on the air cause I think you’re gonna have trouble with it.” And I knew what was on but I hadn’t seen it. I had been told in general what it was. So I went in and watched the end of the program. And before the end came, I began getting calls about how dare we put that broadcast on. The next morning, Ted Koop who was in our Washington office as the Vice President called me and said, the Pentagon wants to see all the footage on The Selling of the Pentagon. I said send it over to them. So we had a tape in the Washington Bureau and we sent it over to the Pentagon and word came back immediately. “No we don’t want the broadcast, we want the tape that wasn’t used.” And the questioning came to me, what’ll we do and I said tell them to forget about it. We’re not releasing tape that we didn’t put on the air, those are the reporter’s notes. … I took the traditional position that these were the property of the news organization and I would not submit them to the government. And that began a whole series of things including the day when two armed uniformed guards appeared at CBS and wanted to see me to deliver a subpoena to provide this material. It was a little ludicrous because it was a serious move on the part of the government but it was silly because they could have delivered that subpoena to me in Washington where I had officers who could have accepted it on behalf of CBS. At any rate, we stood our ground and there were hearings. The committees, there were two subcommittees I believe, or maybe three, had hearings. I lost among each of the three, the vote was in favor of forcing me to give up the documents. It finally came to a vote of a full committee and we lost the vote with the full committee. I was cited for contempt of Congress and John Mitchell told me the morning after the vote that he was all prepared to send me to jail. It ultimately ended up on the floor of the full House and we didn’t squeak by but we didn’t have the majority I would like to have had. But we prevailed.

On the industry’s embracing the V-chip.
I’m embarrassed for the industry, of the leaders, for having done that but I think that’s just the beginning of things that’ll be worse. I think with the ownership now of the broadcast facilities and cable in the hands of big corporation, there will not be dedication to the First Amendment that we had when we were independently in quotes, owned ala NBC, a part of RCA and CBS being owned as it was. I don’t see that kind of leadership putting aside the impact it would have had on the stock prices in favor of a principle like the First Amendment. Newspapers are still standing their ground on the First Amendment. I don’t know what’s going to happen in broadcasting.

On his life’s satisfactions.
Public service. Architecture. Travel. The last eight years have been rather desolate years for me because I lost my wife eight years ago and that companionship had been with me from the time I was 12 years old, so it was like losing my arms, and legs and heart. I haven’t had any trouble keeping myself occupied. I think I’ve been on interesting boards. I’ve been identified with some interesting projects. I have no complaints. I was a lucky guy.

Interview description:
In this rare videotaped interview, executive Dr. Frank Stanton discusseshis early years at CBS and his eventual rise to the network’s presidency. He speakscandidly about CBS, chairman William S. Paley and the rise of CBS network television. Dr. Stanton retired from his post in 1973, but continued as a director of the company. He was interviewed by Don West on May 22, 2000 and May 14, 2001.

Link to The New York Times obituary of Frank Stanton.

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Spice of Life -- The Story of "It's a Wonderful Life" on TV

December 22nd, 2006

It’s a Wonderful Life shows that every human being on this earth matters—and that’s a very powerful message.” --Steven Spielberg

by guest blogger Stephen Cox

What was on the cover of Newsweek for the fledgling periodical's fifteen-cent December 30, 1946 issue? Answer: The cast of It's a Wonderful Life. Here we are, exactly sixty years later, and the Frank Capra motion picture--which was never intended to be a holiday movie at all--is being celebrated with more homespun enthusiasm than ever. Commercials feature clips from the film, George Bailey ornaments dangle on Christmas trees in homes across America. DVD's are stocked to sell. It has become a classic in the truest sense, even a family tradition in American homes from one coast to the other.

Television is the medium which made this movie a classic. When It's a Wonderful Life was first released during Christmas week of 1946 (primarily to make the deadline for Academy Award consideration), it merely broke even on its near $3 million budget. American critics heralded the film while British found it to be bloody awful. The film sank into relative obscurity and due to a clerical error, its copyright lapsed into public domain in 1973. Independent television stations across the nation took well advantage of this and began running it, and running it, over and over again during the holidays. Videotape distributors released it in any number of versions for home consumption in the 1980s...including a colorized version which infuriated director Frank Capra who felt it was "splattered with Easter egg colors." Fans were treated to an ultra-dose of this angelic tale of triumph, and a super classic was born. Capra, who died in 1991, was as surprised at its rebirth as anyone.

In the mid 1990s, Republic Pictures, who alleged ownership, set out to lasso this old warhorse back into their stable and found a way to do it by renewing the rights to the copyrighted music score for the film. It was a knot in the legal lasso which worked. NBC has since held exclusive network broadcast rights for the film.... stretching the two-hour movie into three hours with many commercial breaks.

Oddly, NBC decided to pass on a 60th Anniversary television special or commemoration for its powerhouse movie -- a TV flick that carries enough stock, enough emotional viewer support, to broadcast it twice each holiday season for the past ten years. The Wizard of Oz, and Gone With the Wind in their best ratings days, never received that kind of network reverence. The network was even approached early this year by producer Bob Anderson (who portrayed Young George Bailey in the movie) about a nostalgic special for this year's 60th anniversary broadcast.

But others in Hollywood say "Hee Haw!" and extolled the film with a fitting tribute. The motion picture was named the "most inspirational film of all time" this year by the American Film Institute.

It's a Wonderful Life airs December 24th on NBC.

--Stephen Cox is the author It's a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book (Cumberland House Publishing)

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Animation Legend Joseph Barbera Has Died

December 19th, 2006

Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame Honoree and Archive Interviewee Joseph Barbera has died at the age of 95. Barbera was interviewed by Leonard Maltin for the Archive in 1997.

Click here to access Joseph Barbera's entire three hour-plus interview.

Interview description:

Joseph Barbera discussed his start as a young animator at the Van Beuren Studios in New York, before his move to California and MGM's cartoon studio. He recalled working for executive Fred Quimby, and his eventual partnership with William Hanna at MGM. This collaboration with Hanna ultimately led to their own cartoon production company, and Barbera shared many stories about the creation of some of their more memorable characters and shows including: Tom and Jerry, Quick Draw McGraw, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Top Cat, The Jetsons, and The Smurfs.

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Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship Applications Are Now Being Accepted!

December 16th, 2006

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, in association with Ernst & Young LLP, is offering two scholarships in honor of Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The scholarships are intended to support and encourage aspiring upper division or graduate students to pursue careers in children’s media and further the values and principles of Fred Rogers’ work.

From 1967 to 2001, Fred Rogers produced his daily children's television program, celebrating imagination and play, exploring children's feelings and sense of self worth, and treating young viewers with love and respect. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood continues to air on PBS stations throughout the United States and remains the gold standard of how television can enlighten, educate and increase social consciousness and understanding. The Archive of American Television was very honored to conduct his four-and-a-half hour videotaped interview (puppets and all) in 1999. Click here to access Fred Rogers' Archive interview.

Two $10,000 scholarships are awarded annually to two qualified applicants. In addition to the monetary award, successful applicants are mentored by children’s programming professionals during the academic year.

The Fred Rogers Scholarships are made possible through the generous underwriting of Ernst & Young.

Entry deadline is February 15, 2007.

Click here for full Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship application information.

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Archive Mourns the Loss of Interviewee Peter Boyle

December 14th, 2006

Peter Boyle, who played Ray's Dad on Everybody Loves Raymond (and voice to the show's only catchphrase— "Holy crap!") has died at the age of 71. Boyle was also beloved for his role as the Monster in Mel Brooks' film Young Frankenstein. His other notable performances included the bigoted Joe and an Emmy-winning guest-starring role on The X-Files.

The Archive of American Television interviewed Boyle for one-and-a-half hours on November 8, 2005. Here are some soundbites from the interview:

On his first career break.
After going through a period of starvation and rejection for a couple of years, I did a few off-Broadway shows and then I got cast in the road company in a big hit play called, “The Odd Couple.” I played Murray, the cop and I understudied the Oscar.

On Young Frankenstein.
I had a big-time agent, named Mike Medavoy, who said to me, “I handle Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman and want to put the three of you guys together in a movie.” We had a conference call, and Gene said “I’ve been working on an idea of Young Frankenstein, a Frankenstein movie.” He went to Mel Brooks, whom Gene Wilder knew very well, and got him involved in directing it. I played a loving, tender, sweetheart of a guy. Just misunderstood.

On being cast on Everybody Loves Raymond.
I was out in California and my wife and my daughters were with me because it was Spring break from their school in New York. I got a call to come and meet with producer Phil Rosenthal and Ray Romano. We had to meet at Universal Studios and I drove over and took my whole family with me. My wife, my two daughters, Lucy and Amy and their friend. We had trouble getting on the studio lot, they didn’t have the proper information, then we had to find a parking place and we had to go find where the audition was and then when we got there, it had been changed. My wife kept saying to me, “do you know where you’re going?” Which of course I didn’t. So I walked in, and Phil Rosenthal came out and I said, “well you changed the place, blah, blah!” I barked at him. And I got the job because I was in character.

On working in front of a studio audience.
The hard part of doing Raymond was basically learning all the lines and doing everything in front of a live audience and four cameras. And also the great thing was doing it in front of a live audience. As the show went on, the audience became more and more tuned to our characters, basically they came to laugh. It was just a wonderful feeling. I just loved it and got a big kick out of it. I just treasure it.

On Ray Romano’s “real” family and playing the role of his father.
During the first years, when were struggling an unknown and everything, Raymond’s real family showed up on the set and there was his mother and his father and his brother the policeman and his other brother. Basically, it was us. It was amazing, just to see that. I spoke with his father, but I didn’t want to get too close with his father because I didn’t want to be tied into. Basically I took my character from Raymond’s eyes. Because Raymond would make eye contact on stage, which is a good quality for me and if I would try to come closer to try and hug him, he would freeze. Then I knew I was in the right territory. It confirmed, it confirmed to me what I as doing was right.

On the legacy of Everybody Loves Raymond.
I think it’ll be proof that basically ah, if you portray family life truthfully and you show that people can stick together even though they drive each other nuts, that there’s a lot of power to family life. I think it just reminds of people again of their childhood of brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers.

On Monster’s Ball.
That was a film I hesitated to do because the character was such a bigot. Then I decided to do it and I actually had a good time, and I was very pleased with the way it came out. It was a good part, it was a good script and I liked the director, Marc Forster.

On the highlight of his career.
The highlight of my career was meeting my wife on the set of Young Frankenstein, and having two wonderful daughters.

Interview description:
Boyle reminisced about growing up in Philadelphia, where his father performed on local children’s television shows. He described the brief tenure he spent as a monk, before embarking on his acting studies with Uta Hagen. He outlined his early career in improv and in films including Joe and Young Frankenstein. He then discussed acting in the television movie Tail Gunner Joe as well as his acclaimed work on the series NYPD Blue and The X-Files. He then went into detail about his work on the long-running sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. He described the audition experience, his character of “Frank Barone,” his co-stars, and various key episodes of the series. The interview was conducted by Allan Neuwirth.

The entire interview can be viewed at Academy Headquarters in North Hollywood.

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