Thanks to a tip from author Jim Rosin, I’ve done some checking and verified the death of producer Richard Goldstone, on March 7, 2007.  Goldstone was born on July 24, 1912, so he would have been 94 at the time.  As far as I know, his death has not been reported anywhere until now.

Goldstone was a veteran screenwriter turned producer whose early career coalesced in MGM’s short subjects department during its heyday.  After that his name appears on some good films noir, including Robert Wise’s The Set-Up, Gerald Mayer’s Dial 1119, and Anthony Mann’s The Tall Target

In the fifties, Goldstone moved over to Twentieth Century-Fox and into television.  He is credited as the producer of Adventures in Paradise during most of its first two seasons, but seems to have left less of a creative mark on the show than some of the other members of the show’s large staff (which included Dominick Dunne and later William Self).  In his memoirs, Paradise producer William Froug depicts Goldstone as a passive personality, willing to defer to Froug on key story matters; he may have handled mainly the physical production. 

The same arrangement seems to have been in effect on Peyton Place, another Fox show, which Goldstone produced during its first season.  But no one I’ve talked to from Peyton Place remembers Goldstone, and the executive producer, Paul Monash, kept tight control over the story content and casting.  Goldstone also filled in for Gene Levitt as producer of a few Combat segments during the 1963-1964 season.

I never know quite what to do with these belated obituaries when I come across them.  I’ve run a couple on the blog over the past year and a half.  They’re not exactly news, but it seems to me that the information should be recorded in some reliable spot on the internet.  It used to be that the trade papers, or just Variety at least, would report the deaths of every small-part actor, assistant director, or makeup man in the industry – and very often, the spouses, parents, or children of same.  But the filmmaking community isn’t a community any more.  Now if you’re an industry veteran and you die, and a member of your family thinks to fax over a press release, the trades might reprint it, albeit without any further reporting, proofreading, or fact-checking.  If you’re lucky.

Story editor Earl Booth died on December 3 in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, at the age of 89.

Booth, like Nina Laemmle (whose obit has been updated), was one of a handful of people in early television who worked primarily as a story editor without also spending a large part of their careers as freelance writers.  It was a skill similar to that of a book editor, one without an equivalent in movies or in the modern television. 

Booth honed his talent for working with writers and shaping their material with near-consecutive stints on more than a dozen series, on both coasts, over the course of his twenty-five year career: Appointment With Adventure (1954-1955), Justice (1954-1956), Brenner (1959), The Asphalt Jungle (1961), Adventures in Paradise (1961-1962), The Nurses (1962-1965), The Doctors and the Nurses (1964-1965), Coronet Blue (1965), Hawk (1966), Judd For the Defense (1967-1969), Storefront Lawyers (1970-1971), Cannon (1972-1973), and finally Marcus Welby, M.D. (1974-1976). 

I had hoped to interview Booth for years before I tracked him down in Ohio in October.  Booth was already ill with lung cancer and unable to speak on the phone for more than a few minutes at a time.  His daughter, Laurie, very kindly volunteered to help facilitate an interview by e-mail, and Earl passed along a witty, precise essay in response to my first set of questions.

With Laurie Booth’s permission, I am reprinting Earl’s remarks verbatim here:

I’ll begin by providing you with a very uneventful biography.  I was born in Chico, California September 2, 1919.  Just in time to watch my entire family – father’s side and mother’s side, get crushed by the ’29 crash.

I began to weather the depression by joining the Dramatic Society in Chico High School which began an interest that shaped my life.

After graduation I was given a scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse which I attended three years.  Along came the Draft and World War II.  There also went 5 years of my life: Infantry, Military Police and eventually “Air Force” – I was a radio gunner on a B-24 in India.

Following my discharge I returned to the Playhouse, re-met old pals and we were soon off to New York City.  One of the above friends was a girl named Ethel Winant who had already gone to New York.

In the meantime I had begun to write mostly one-act plays and eventual television half-hours.  It was through Winant’s position at a talent agency that I made a sale.  Further attempts to sell were fruitless.  One day Ethel Winant called to tell me there was a job at Talent Associates if I wanted it.  The title was assistant story editor – the job really was script reader for the editor Jacqueline Babbin.

A few months went by and Jackie handed me the show Justice – starring Gary Merrill – so, I began to learn while I was producing.

Justice was followed by Appointment with Adventure – a very misguided attempt to do an action series on live TV. 

You may know that although these shows were produced by Talent Associates and broadcast on NBC, the real power was the ad agency Young and Rubicam.  You really answered to them.  Justice ran to the end of its contract and was cancelled.   Appointment with Adventure was soon in very deep trouble and cancelled.  After several months looking for material, I was also cancelled.

This happened at the moment I was moving into the Dobbs Ferry, New York house my wife Jean and I had built.  I spent months landscaping while waiting for the next call to duty.

Brenner was that call, from Arthur Lewis.  The exec was Herb Brodkin.  The show had originally been a Playhouse 90 that Herb had created called “The Blue Men.”  The experience was fun even though my relationship with Lewis took weeks to turn positive.  Jim Aubrey at CBS cancelled the show I think because it wasn’t “pretty” enough.  But I continued my contract with Brodkin by working now and then on various projects.  One of which was helping John Gay who was developing another Brodkin Playhouse 90

Arthur Lewis called from California asking me to be script editor on a TV version of The Asphalt Jungle.  This lasted the minimum 13 week run and I was stranded in California. 

Another writer friend, Art Wallace, had become producer of Adventures in Paradise.  I hated the show, liked Wallace and accepted the editorship.  The show eventually drew to a merciful end and I was back gardening on a new house in California Jean and I had bought.

Soon, Arthur Lewis called again to say he and Brodkin wanted me to work on The Nurses as editor.  I refused.  This went on for about 3 months.  The show eventually went on the air sans me.  Then I got a frantic call that they needed me and they were firing the present editor.   I could do it any way I wanted.  I accepted, flew to New York to find there were no scripts ready for the next shooting and very little promise of any thing else very soon.  Also, Arthur Lewis disappeared regularly and no one could find him.  So I was the producer with Brodkin’s help.

Unfortunately, that was as far as our interview got.  Booth’s illness took a rapid turn for the worse before we could cover the second half of his career. 

During my brief conversation with Earl, I focused mainly on the uniqueness of the craft of story editing.  I asked how, exactly, one became a success in that role.

“I spent a lot of time searching for new writers,” he replied.  “Writers with different and rewarding ideas, rather than the usual humdrum A, B, C writer people.  Most of those people went on to become very, very successful as screenwriters.”  Booth mentioned Alvin Sargent (Paper Moon, Julia, Ordinary People), who wrote for him on The Nurses, as someone whose talent he nurtured at a young age. 

“I was only able to do it because I worked for people who realized that it was how I got my best results,” Booth added.  “I eventually began to work only with two or three producers that completely understood how I worked.” 

One of those producers was Herbert Brodkin; another was Harold Gast, whom Booth had hired as a writer for Justice and Appointment with Adventure.  A decade later, Booth became Gast’s story editor on the acclaimed Judd For the Defense, and followed the producer to Storefront Lawyers and Cannon.

When I interviewed Gast shortly before his death in 2003, he echoed Booth’s praise, calling him “a very good story editor” and “a close personal friend.”

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