Gone Fishin’

August 24, 2008

Back in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, looking at that image reminds me of a game I used to play with a friend. 

Back in the late nineties, when it seemed that every sixties sitcom was being remade as a lousy film nobody had asked for (Dennis the Menace, My Favorite Martian, McHale’s Navy, etc.), Stuart and I used to pass slow afternoons at the archive by speculating on who they’d cast in the inevitable The Andy Griffith Show: The Movie.  Judi Dench as Aunt Bee?  Adam Sandler as Barney Fife?  Bruce Dern as Floyd the barber?  Donald Sutherland as Briscoe Darling?

Anyone who wants to play along is invited to do so in the comments.

Herbert Kenwith, a busy episodic television director, died on January 30.  I’m not sure why the news has taken so long to surface, but a paid obit (reprinted below) turned up in the LA Times only on Sunday, followed by a notice in Variety

I can’t add much to what his survivors wrote, except to point out that Kenwith was one of the last (perhaps the last) of the original group of New York-based live TV directors to transition into a successful career in filmed & taped shows on the west coast.  (He may be best remembered for directing one of the really incoherent third-season Star Trek episodes, “The Lights of Zetar,” but Kenwith found his niche in half-hour sitcoms, especially for Norman Lear.)  And that if I’d known Kenwith had taken six years off his age, I might have approached him for an  interview before it was too late…. 

Herbert Kenwith, a director and producer for both television and Broadway, died Wednesday, January 30, 2008, at his home in Los Angeles, of complications from prostate cancer. He was 90.

Kenwith, born in New Jersey, started his career as an actor and appeared in several Broadway productions. His last Broadway appearance was in “I Remember Mama” with Marlon Brando, produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The first theatrical play he produced and directed was “Night Must Fall” starring Dame May Whitty. As Broadway’s youngest producer, Kenwith produced “Me and Molly,” which was voted “One of the season’s ten best plays.”

Kenwith, for six extremely successful summers, produced and directed all 65 productions for Princton University’s McCarter Theater. Leads included Lucille Ball, Mae West, Charlton Heston, Shelly Winters, Cesar Romero, Walter Matthau, Maureen Stapleton, Eve Arden, Constance and Joan Bennett, Paul Muni, Miriam Hopkins, Gloria Swanson, Jeanette MacDonald, Zazu Pitts and Nancy Davis.

Thereafter, CBS hired Kenwith as an asscociate director, and within seven weeks he was assigned to direct the soap opera, “Valiant Lady,” followed by “Lamp Under My Feet,” “Suspicion,” “The Investigator,” “The Polly Bergen Show,” and Jonathan Winters in his weekly show. He also directed “The Doctors” at NBC for the first three years, starring Ellen Burstyn. His TV Special credits include stars such as Danny Kaye, Billy Eckstein, Sidney Poitier and even Rose Kennedy.

Within three weeks upon his arrival in Hollywood, he was directing episodes of “Death Valley Days,” “Name of The Game,” “Marcus Welby,” “Star Trek,” “Daktari,” and “Mister Deeds,” along with TV pilots for all the networks.

Norman Lear signed Kenwith to a seven year contract as producer/director on “Different Strokes,” “Facts of Life” and “All That Glitters”. He directed “Good Times,” “One Day At A Time,” “Sanford and Son,” “Joe’s World,” and numerous other primetime sitcoms.

Friends and family will miss his unique sense of humor, unflinching loyalty and dedication to his craft. Survivors include his niece, Lori Low-Schwartz, and nephews, Arnold Winick, Richard Flexner and Gary Low.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on 3/2/2008.

Jack Gross, Jr., sitcom writer, died on December 14.  Writing with partner Michael R. Stein, Gross had a brief flurry of activity in the mid-60s, penning two scripts for “Gilligan’s Island” as well as episodes of “Valentine’s Day,” “My Favorite Martian,” and “Tarzan.”  Alone, Gross contributed to the screenplays for the 7os schlock films Clay Pigeon and Welcome to Arrow Beach

That’s fairly thin list of credits, and I have no idea what else Gross may have been doing during his screenwriting career, although there’s some evidence from the IMDb that he (along with Fred De Gorter, another sometime writing partner) may have written for UPA’s Mr. Magoo series, or possibly other cartoons.

The paid death notice in today’s Los Angeles Times has a few biographical details: 

GROSS, Jack (78), of Murrieta Hot Springs, CA, passed away Dec. 14, 2007. Jack was born Feb. 4, 1929 to parents Jack O. Gross and Loretta Glazer Gross. He graduated from Pt. Loma High School in 1947. His father founded KFMB, which was the first television station in San Diego, in 1949. Jack lived abroad in Europe for several years before graduating from San Fernando Valley State College (now known as Cal State Northridge). He later earned a master’s degree from the USC School of Cinema in 1973. Jack was best known as a television writer who wrote for many of the classic situation comedies of the 1960s and 1970s, including Gilligan’s Island, My Favorite Martian, Tarzan, and Diff’rent Strokes. He will be remembered for his never-ending sense of humor and his laid back attitude towards life. He was predeceased by his brother Laurence. He is survived by his wife Joan, and son Josh, publisher of Beverly Hills Weekly. Services were private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Writers Guild Foundation.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on 12/18/2007.


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