Whitmore Credit

In his thirtieth year, Stanford Whitmore published a well-reviewed jazz novel called Solo, signed copies at a book party attended by Studs Terkel and Dave Brubeck, sold the rights to Twentieth Century-Fox for a movie meant to star Cary Grant, and spent part of the payday ($50,000 or $80,000; sources differ) on a European honeymoon with an MGM censor he’d recently married.

And like a lot of promising mid-century novelists, Stanford Whitmore never wrote another book, instead opting for the less heralded but more lucrative path of penning scripts for television and the movies.

Whitmore, who died on May 8 at the age of 88, was best known as the author of “Fear in a Desert City,” the pilot for The Fugitive, which was based on a premise written by the unavailable Roy Huggins.  Whitmore contributed three other excellent first season scripts to The Fugitive, including the crucial flashback episode “The Girl From Little Egypt,” which filled in the backstory of the murder and the trial that sent Richard Kimble to the death house.  Other significant Whitmore credits include the teleplay for The Hanged Man (based on the 1947 film Ride the Pink Horse), the first made-for-television movie, and a shared credit (with William Link and Richard Levinson) on the pilot telefilm for the long-running McCloud.

An aspiring writer since the age of eight, a high school basketball player and a post-collegiate night school teacher, Whitmore birthed Solo during a nine-month stretch of living with his father and working at a laundromat for $22.40 a week.  Jazz piano aside, the book was autobiographical, “the story of a misfit who never really hurt anybody trying to find out what he most wanted to do.”  Whitmore’s answer was using the movie payout to as a stake to “find some cave near Los Angeles and write.”  A cheerful sellout, perhaps, except that Whitmore succeeeded – for the most part – in taking on more quality-oriented projects, and turning out uniformly better work, than your average episodic writer.

Solo made Whitmore an inevitable fit for Johnny Staccato, the “jazz detective,” his first major screen credit.  Whitmore’s episodes were crudely structured and talky, the work of someone still mastering the form, but forceful and faintly political – the protagonists of “A Nice Little Town,” “Solomon,” and “Collector’s Item” were a Red-baiting victim, a pacifist, and a black jazzman.  Directed by John Cassavetes (the show’s star), the noteworthy “Solomon” was a minimalist three-hander that pushed television’s capacity for abstraction to its outer limits, with Cassavetes, Elisha Cook, Jr., and a dazzling Cloris Leachman haranguing their way through a convoluted anti-mystery on blackened, expressionist sets.

Whitmore followed Staccato’s producer, Everett Chambers, on to The Lloyd Bridges Show and wrote several of those scripts (also strange, if less successful).  His other episodic credits included Adventures in Paradise (a good one, with Dan Duryea and Gloria Vanderbilt), Channing (two episodes, including “The Last Testament of Buddy Crown,” a rewrite of an early script by David Shaber), 12 O’Clock High, Slattery’s People, The Wild Wild West, The Virginian, Night Gallery, and Police Story.  For Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre, Whitmore did a solid Ed McBain adaptation (“Deadlock”) and an original (“After the Lion, Jackals”) that featured a rare television appearance by the great Stanley Baker.

Whitmore’s career teetered between mediums.  He landed enough movie assignments to be selective about his television work, but never wrote the hit movie that would have lifted him into the ranks of top screenwriters.  War Hunt, his first film, was a proto-New Hollywood effort that assembled a lot of filmmakers who would dominate the industry a decade later – Robert Redford, Sydney Pollack, Noel Black, Tom Skerritt, not to mention Francis Ford Coppola as a gofer and Dean Stockwell shooting stills – but United Artists exec David Picker recut it from a would-be art film into a B-movie.  The Hank Williams, Sr. biopic Your Cheatin’ Heart followed, then Hammersmith Is Out (a modern take on Faust, made with Burton and Taylor but originally written years earlier for Everett Chambers), Baby Blue Marine (a stateside World War II story, likely derived to some extent from Whitmore’s own service in the Marines), and the awful The Dark.  My Old Man’s Place, a Vietnam-era updating of the 1935 novel by the blacklisted John Sanford, was meant to reteam Abraham Polonsky and Robert Blake as a follow-up to Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, with John Phillip Law and Cassavetes regulars John Marley and Seymour Cassel in support.  Instead it fell to director Edwin Sherin, with William Devane, Arthur Kennedy, Mitch Ryan, and Michael Moriarty in the leads (and, possibly, a rewrite by Philip Kaufman).

(By 1960, Solo had morphed into a Robert Wagner vehicle, with Dick Powell set to produce and direct.  In the same year Whitmore was hired to write a screenplay called The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Maryland, with Millard Kaufman and star Burl Ives slated to co-direct.  Neither film was made.)

Following The Hanged Man, Whitmore’s made-for-television movies included the gothic The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972), the Steven Bochco-produced Lieutenant Schuster’s Wife (1972), the all-star mini-series The Moneychangers (1976), the Donna Reed comeback The Best Place to Be (1979), and biopics on ex-con athlete Ron LeFlore and treasure hunter Mel Fisher.  Destiny of a Spy (1969) was a Bonanza-hiatus vehicle that placed Lorne Greene amid a powerhouse British cast; Los Angeles Times critic Cecil Smith compared Whitmore’s teleplay favorably to Waldo Salt’s Midnight Cowboy screenplay for their “skillful uses of the language of film as well as the language of words.”

Whitmore’s final credit was as the co-creator of the short-lived Supercarrier (1988).

Correction (6/13/14): Due to the author’s inadequate math skills, Whitmore’s age at the time of his death was originally incorrect above.  He was born July 23, 1925, making him 88 (not 89).

Ticket

Along with the legendary Clifford Odets, the writers who sold scripts to The Richard Boone Show included Robert Towne (Chinatown), James Poe (Lilies of the Field), Whitfield Cook (Strangers on a Train), Stanford Whitmore (The Fugitive), Howard Rodman (Route 66), and Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause).  Unfortunately for posterity, none of those scripts — apart from the two penned by Odets — were filmed.

This week The A.V. Club published my overview of The Richard Boone Show, an uneven but occasionally brilliant anthology series based around Boone’s pet idea of extending the theatrical tradition of the repertory company to television.  Perhaps half a dozen of the twenty-five episodes are masterpieces: not a bad track record, even if most of the others are disposable or, at best, memorably strange.

But one aspect of The Richard Boone Show that I only touched upon in passing was the unusual degree of chaos surrounding the acquisition of stories for those twenty-five segments (which were originally meant to be thirty, before the ratings tanked and the episode order was cut).  According to William D. Gordon, the series’ second story editor, 327 unsuccessful pitches were considered.  It’s worthwhile to take a closer look at what we know about the development of those stories and, in particular, the raft of unproduced scripts, many of which were penned by authors of some distinction.

The Richard Boone Show’s legendary story editor, Clifford Odets, was unaccustomed to the pace of television, and may have overbought and dawdled too much during the early months of pre-production.  NBC executives Grant Tinker and Ross Donaldson, interviewed by Jack G. Shaheen in 1969 for an unpublished dissertation on The Richard Boone Show, both claimed that Odets was “too slow” to function successfully as a television story editor.  Actor Guy Stockwell told Shaheen that had Odets lived, the network “would have phased him out.”

Odets’s death in August 1963, after about six months on the job, and the dismal ratings following the premiere in September were both events that triggered severe upheavals in the show’s content.  Odets’s replacement, William D. Gordon, was a relative novice — like most of the series’ directors, he had been an actor until recently — and he served as something of a figurehead for Boone, who made a concerted effort to fill the void left by Odets and exercise more control over the material.  There was ample evidence that Gordon was out of his depth: he shared credit with other writers on five episodes, two of whom responded to his rewrites by adopting pseudonyms; and Gordon’s sole original teleplay, which he also directed, was arguably the worst episode of the series.

If Odets’s death didn’t spell doom for some of the more far-out stories he developed, then the initial ratings likely did.  Though Boone never admitted it publicly, he appears to have capitulated to NBC’s desire for a more conventional, action-driven show in an (ultimately futile) attempt to earn a second-season renewal.  The September premiere appears to coincide with a dividing line in the script development, wherein most of the (many) stalled Odets-commissioned were dropped for good, and the remaining slots in the production schedule were filled with hastily-ordered, suspense-oriented scripts (likely everything after #4032 in the list below; a total of seven episodes).  Some other scripts that Odets bought, including “A Need of Valor” and likely “A Tough Man to Kill,” were rewritten in a more conventional fashion by Gordon and probably Boone.

Gordon’s justification for the mediocrity of the material he brought in was self-serving and rather dubious, but it did reflect the show’s tendency (which began under Odets) to recruit marginalized old-timers (John Fante, Louis Pollock, Joseph Petracca, Fred Finklehoffe) and relative novices (Paul Lucey, John Haase, Littlefield & Wehling) rather than the usual rank and file of in-demand television dramatists:

I got writers with the best reputations; their scripts were bad …. I could go up to $12,000 for a script.  This money brought out yesterday’s ideas from top guys of yesterday …. So I went to kids that hadn’t sold anything before.  They had the ideas.  It was the unknown writer who saved the Boone series.  They put the guts into the shows.

Following the show’s cancellation in January, the episode order was abruptly cut from the projected thirty to an uneven twenty-five.  (Twenty-six, a multiple of thirteen, was a more common cutoff for one-season shows at the time.)  It’s unclear which unproduced script, if any, was slated for the twenty-sixth slot, or whether any of the others had been approved by NBC and Boone had the order extended to thirty.

The production numbers, most of which are listed below, reveal the unusually high amount of waste in the series’ story acquisitions.  Production numbers were apparently assigned as scripts were purchased, not as they went before the cameras; and so the numbers on the produced episodes climb as high as 4045, with the twenty skipped slots belonging to unfilmed scripts.  An annotated list of episodes is below, followed by as much as I could compile on the unproduced scripts from published newspaper articles and archival sources (chiefly the papers of Odets and actor Lloyd Bochner, and production documents appended to Shaheen’s dissertation.)

After the first seven episodes, the sequence of filming is uncertain, but the sequencing below should be a close approximation.  Odets had sole story credit on the first seven episodes produced, then shared it with Gordon on three more; after that, Gordon alone was credited for “story supervision,” even on some episodes known to have originated under Odets’s tenure.  (Hollywood forgets quickly.)

NorthStar

PRODUCED EPISODES

Credited Story Supervisor: Clifford Odets

“Big Mitch” (#4003)

Aired December 10, 1963 (11th).

Written by Clifford Odets. Directed by Lamont Johnson.

Rehearsal: May 13-14, 1963.  Filmed: May 15-17, 20-22, 1963.  Originally titled “North Star” (a reference to the brand of freezer Mitch purchases as an ostentatious wedding gift for his daughter).

“Where’s the Million Dollars?” (#4017)

Aired December 31, 1963 (13th).

Written by Edmund Hartmann. Directed by Robert Gist.

Rehearsal: May 23, 1963.  Filmed: May 24, 27-29, 31, June 3, 1963.  Originally titled “One For the Money.”

“Statement of Fact” (#4008)

Aired September 24, 1963 (1st).

Written by E. Jack Neuman. Directed by Lamont Johnson.

Rehearsal: None.  Filmed: June 5-7, 10, 1963.  Neuman’s script was an expansion of a radio drama he wrote in 1950, which had been performed at least four times; Odets and Boone may or may not have been aware that it was not an original.  Note the truncated shooting schedule: this appears to have been designed as a “bottle show” to compensate for expanded schedules/budgets of other early episodes, which makes it an especially odd choice to open the series.

“Wall to Wall War” (#4010)

Aired October 8, 1963 (3rd).

Written by John Haase. Directed by Robert Gist.

Rehearsal: June 11-12, 1963.  Filmed: June 13-14, 17-21, 1963.  Haase was a Los Angeles dentist-cum-novelist, later known for Erasmus With Freckles (filmed as Dear Brigitte) and Me and the Arch-Kook Petulia (optioned by Robert Altman and ultimately filmed, as Petulia, by Richard Lester).  He probably connected with The Richard Boone Show via producer Buck Houghton; see below.

“The Mafia Man” (#4009)

Aired January 7, 1964 (14th).

Written by Clifford Odets. Directed by Lamont Johnson.

Rehearsal: June 24, 1963.  Filmed: June 25-28, July 1-2, 1963.  Originally titled “Only the Young,” then “Don’t Blow Bugles” (the latter referencing an expression said several times by Boone’s character, meaning don’t draw attention to yourself).

“Which Are the Nuts? And Which Are the Bolts?” (#4022)

Aired December 17, 1963 (12th).

Written by Fred Finklehoffe. Directed by Robert Gist.

Rehearsal: July 3, 1963.  Filmed: July 5, 8-12, 1963.

“All the Comforts of Home” (#4023)

Aired October 1, 1963 (2nd).

Written by Paul Lucey. Directed by Robert Gist.

Rehearsal: July 12.  Filmed: July 15-19, 22, 1963.  This was Lucey’s first sale to television.

“Stranger” (#4011)

Aired October 22, 1963 (5th).

Written by Dale Wasserman. Directed by Buzz Kulik.

Final draft dated July 16, 1963.  Probably filmed immediately after “All the Comforts of Home”; contains location work on the California coastline that was likely done back-to-back with the pine forest scenes from “Comforts.”

Credited Story Supervision: Clifford Odets and William D. Gordon

“Where Do You Hide an Egg?” (#4014)

Aired October 15, 1963 (4th).

Written by Joseph Petracca. Directed by Douglas Heyes.

Final draft dated August 1, 1963.  Original title was “An Embarrassment of Riches,” then “If You’re Born Square, You Can’t Die Round.”

“Don’t Call Me Dirty Names” (#4001)

Aired December 3, 1963 (10th).

Written by John Haase. Directed by Lamont Johnson.

Final draft dated August 14, 1963.  Producer Buck Houghton had developed this script for The Dick Powell Show during his brief period as a producer at Four Star Productions in 1962, and brought it with him to The Richard Boone Show (which may account for the early production number).  The controversial subject matter (unwed pregnancy, abortion, suicide, and adultery) may have blocked Haase’s script at Powell and delayed its production on Boone.  Likely rewritten by Odets.

“Sorofino’s Treasure”

Aired October 29, 1963 (6th).

Written by Joe Madison. Directed by Robert Butler.

Final draft dated August 20, 1963.  “Joe Madison” was a pseudonym for Louis Pollock, adopted as a result of the blacklist rather than objections to rewriting.

Credited Story Supervision: William D. Gordon

“Vote No on 11!” (#4025)

Aired November 5, 1963 (7th).

Written by Joe Madison [Louis Pollock]. Directed by Richard Boone.

Bochner retained drafts dated September 4 and September 23, 1963.

“The Fling”

Aired November 12, 1963 (8th).

Teleplay by William D. Gordon. Story by Het Manheim and E. Jack Neuman. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg.

Final draft dated September 17, 1963.  Intended for rehearsal on September 20 and filming September 23-27, 1963.  However, Richard Boone suffered “severe face and chest injuries” in a drunk driving accident on the night of September 19.  Production shut down for a week and resumed on September 30.

“Welcome Home, Dan” (#4037)

Aired January 21, 1964 (16th).

Teleplay by William D. Gordon. Story by E. Jack Neuman. Directed by Robert Ellis Miller.

Final draft dated September 18, 1963.

“Captain Al Sanchez” (#4028)

Aired November 26, 1963 (8th).

Written by John Fante. Directed by Paul Stanley.

Final draft dated October 4, 1963.  Odets commissioned the script from Fante, who had done some relatively undistinguished screenwriting in the fifties and early sixties. Ironically, given The Richard Boone Show’s emphasis on literary celebrity, Fante’s name was never promoted in connection with the series. Although his reputation may have since eclipsed even Odets’s, Fante (Ask the Dust) was not widely acknowledged as an important novelist until Black Sparrow Press reprinted his novels in the late 1970s.

“The Hooligan” (#4032)

Aired January 16, 1964 (15th).

Teleplay by Walter Brown Newman. From a play [The Boor] by Anton Chekhov. Directed by Lewis Milestone.

Final draft dated November 1, 1963.  An adaptation of Chekhov’s The Boor, which (like “Statement of Fact”) was recycled from an earlier radio script.

“First Sermon” (#4034)

Aired January 30, 1964 (17th).

Written by Joe Madison [Louis Pollock]. Directed by Richard Boone.

“Run, Pony, Run” (#4024)

Aired March 3, 1964 (21st).

Teleplay by William D. Gordon and J. R. Littlefield & Bob Wehling. Story by J. R. Littlefield & Bob Wehling. Directed by Robert Gist.

Final draft likely dated December 9, 1963.  Probably originally titled “The Fix” and “Man on Spikes.”  Blake brought the script to Boone’s attention via the actors’ workshop.

“Death Before Dishonor” (#4042)

Aired February 11, 1964 (18th).

Written by William D. Gordon. Directed by William D. Gordon.

Final draft dated December 19, 1963.

“A Tough Man to Kill” (#4029)

Aired February 18, 1964 (19th).

Teleplay by John Wry and William D. Gordon. Story by John Wry. Directed by Michael O’Herlihy.

“John Wry” was a pseudonym for Harry Julian Fink, who had been a prominent contributor to Have Gun – Will Travel.

“Occupational Hazard” (#4045)

Aired February 25, 1964 (20th).

Written by Gilbert Ralston. Directed by Harry Morgan.

“The Arena” Part I (#4040) and “The Arena” Part II (#4041?)

Aired March 10, 1964 (22nd) and March 17, 1964 (23rd).

Written by Harry Julian Fink. Directed by Richard Boone.

Final draft dated January 2, 1964.  An unsold pilot for a political drama that would have starred Lloyd Bochner as a tough district attorney (and possibly Michael Constantine, Mary Gregory, Michael Witney, and David Mauro, who play members of his staff).  A list of story material under consideration dated May 10, 1963 refers to a “Walter Doniger spinoff proposal” entitled “The Politician,” which probably became “The Arena”; why Doniger had no credited participation in the finished production is unknown.

“All the Blood of Yesterday” (#4043)

Aired March 24, 1964 (24th).

Teleplay by William D. Gordon and Mark James. Story by Mark James. Directed by Richard Boone.

Final draft dated January 26, 1964.  “Mark James” was a pseudonym for George Bellak.

“A Need of Valor” (#4020)

Aired March 31, 1964 (25th).

Written by Reuben Bercovitch. Directed by Harry Morgan.

Purchased as of April 8, 1963; final draft dated February 5, 1964.  Odets commissioned the script from Bercovitch, which was shelved for a time after Odets’s death.  Boone revived the script and requested a revision to enlarge his role; when Bercovitch declined,Boone himself (and possibly Gordon) did the rewrite.  Bercovitch sought to remove his name but was told (inaccurately) that he was prohibited from doing so because he’d already been paid for the script.

GreenRoom

UNPRODUCED SCRIPTS

The following were purchased for production on The Richard Boone Show.  The scripts by Poe, Cook, and Dozier were considered enough of a lock at one point that those writers’ names were used in advertising for the series; these scripts are the likeliest candidates as casualities of NBC’s loss of faith in Odets’s (and Boone’s) judgment.

  • Halsted Welles, “Blue Meteor” (accepted 2/19/63).  Approved by NBC and Boone.  “Revised draft in” and ready for “discussion” as of 5/10/63.  Probably retitled “The Descent.”
  • James Poe, “The Mouse” (3/1/63).  “Odets working with Poe for outline” as of 5/10/63.  Poe had adapted Odets’s play The Big Knife into a 1955 feature film.
  • Mann Rubin, “Sparrows of Summer” (3/19/63).  Approved by NBC, “qualified approval” by Boone.
  • James Menzies and [Lionel E.?] Siegel, “Pemmican” (3/19/63).  “Story in and being re-written” (presumably by Menzies and Siegel) as of 5/10/63.
  • Robert Towne, “Escape” (3/19/63).  Later retitled “The Dolphin’s Nose.”  A fictionalized version of Francis Gary Powers’s stint in a Russian prison camp following the U-2 incident.  “Story in and being re-written” as of 5/10/63; Towne recalled a fruitful collaboration with Odets.
  • Whitfield Cook, “There Are Five Cold Lakes” (3/19/63).  Retitled “Five Cold Lakes.”
  • Robert Dozier, “Separate Maintenance” (3/19/63).
  • Don M. Mankiewicz, untitled script (3/29/63).  “Started outline” on 5/10/63.
  • Richard Landau, “The Proud and Angry Dust” (4/4/63).  “Due” on 5/10/63.
  • George Zuckerman, “Game of Absurdities” (4/4/63).  First drafted approved by NBC and Boone on 4/16/63, in “discussion and revision” stage as of 5/10/63.
  • Stanford Whitmore, “Cougar, Bear and Calvin Play” (4/23/63).  In “discussion and revision” stage as of 5/10/63.

The following were retained in Odets’s files on the series, and were probably purchased during his period as story editor:

  • Irving Pearlberg, “A Boat Ride to Bear Mountain” (script, notes).
  • Leslie Weiner, “A Few Marriage Proposals” (script, outline, notes).  Weiner (1916-1999) was a minor playwright (In the Counting House) who had studied under Odets at the Actors Studio in the early fifties; to my knowledge he has no other television credits.
  • Nicholas Ray, “One in a Million” (script).  Ray and Odets had been friends since the Group Theatre period in the thirties; during the mid-fifties, they were neighbors at the Chateau Marmont, and Odets had done significant script doctoring and consulting on Ray’s films Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Bigger Than Life (1956).
  • Roland Wolpert, “Sing a Song of Success” (script, notes).
  • Clyde Ware, “Those Jackson Boys” (outline).

The following story material was “under favorable consideration” as of 5/10/63 but may have been rejected:

  • An adaptation of an unspecified Ernest Hemingway work by A.E. Hotchner (who was a friend of the novelist’s and had adapted many of his stories for live television).
  • A second play by Leslie Weiner and a play by Ruth Wolff, both unspecified by title.
  • Unspecified novels by Dolores Hitchens and Hillary Waugh.
  • Scripts or outlines by Howard Rodman, Gabrielle Upton, John Vlahos, Douglas Heyes, and Charles K. Peck, Jr.

The following writers were named in Variety as probable contributors to The Richard Boone Show, but likely fell into the category of wishful thinking on the part of Boone and/or Odets: John Steinbeck, Edward Albee, John O’Hara, William Gibson, Rod Serling, Julius Epstein, Alfred Hayes, and Tad Mosel (adapting James Agee, as he had with the hit 1960 play All the Way Home; it’s unclear whether Boone was attempting to secure the rights to that work, which was filmed in 1963, or more likely seeking to assign Mosel a different story of Agee’s).

Had all of these scripts come to fruition, we’d probably be writing about The Richard Boone Show as a lost masterpiece (or even an unexpected hit) instead of as an interesting footnote.

Borisoff

The Writers Guild of America has noted the death of television writer Norman Borisoff on April 21, just five days short of his 95th birthday.

Never especially prolific, Borisoff notched an odd grab bag of dramatic TV credits on both sides of the Atlantic: scripts for The Saint, Man of the World, and Herbert Brodkin’s spy anthology Espionage in England during the early sixties, then episodes of Ironside, Judd For the Defense, and I Spy (his only teleplay was also the only two-part episode) back in the States.  Prior to that, Borisoff – who had been the editor of UCLA’s campus newspaper The Daily Bruin in 1938! – wrote documentaries; afterwards, he became a young adult novelist.

Among the other odds and ends among Borisoff’s TV credits are one of the final, filmed episodes of the newspaper anthology Big Story, and an adaption of the F. Marion Crawford story “The Screaming Skull” (which had been filmed in 1958) into a TV special that aired early on in ABC’s late-night “Wide World of Entertainment” block.  Per Variety, it was one of four horror-themed telefilms, part of an effort to “adapt the techniques, pacing, and stylized acting of the daytime soap operas to the spooky genre.”   (Translation: Probably coasting on the success of Dark Shadows, some New York-based producers, in this case veteran ex-Susskind and Brodkin lieutenants Jacqueline Babbin and Buzz Berger, bid on those slots and filled them with low-budget videotaped programs.)  Alas, Variety declared The Screaming Skull (1973) “a complete, interminable bomb.”

Perhaps more distinguished than his fiction scripts were Borisoff’s documentary credits, which included the 1950 feature The Titan: Story of Michelangelo (an English-language reworking, supervised by Robert Flaherty, of an earlier German film);  Victor Vicas’s 48 Hours a Day (1949), a “proud tribute to the Hadassah nurse,” shot in Israel; segments of Conquest (a CBS News-produced, Monsanto-sponsored series of science-themed programs that alternated in a Sunday afternoon timeslot with See It Now and The Seven Lively Arts) in 1957-1958; and the Emmy-nominated NBC film The Kremlin (1963).

I contacted Borisoff in 2004, after I had a hunch – based on his credits abroad during the McCarthy era, and his return to the U.S. around the time the Red Scare cooled off – that the peripatetic Borisoff might have been blacklisted. But I was wrong: Borisoff informed me that his globe-trotting was all done by choice.  We never connected for a full interview, but I did enjoy seeing footage of Borisoff, then 89, walking the picket lines during the 2007 Writers Guild strike.

Gerry Day Credit

Her father played the organ to accompany the silent The Phantom of the Opera at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.  She watched Howard Hughes filming miniature dogfights for Hell’s Angels in a lot behind her house.  The “big sister” who showed her around campus when she started at Hollywood High was Lana Turner.  Orson Welles hypnotized her in his magic act at the Hollywood Canteen.  Gerry Day, native daughter of Los Angeles, child of Hollywood, and a fan who parlayed her love of the movies into a career as a radio and television writer, died on February 13 at the age of 91.

A 1944 UCLA graduate, Day got her start as a newspaper reporter, filing obits and reviewing plays for the Hollywood Citizen News.  A radio writing class led to spec scripts, and Day quickly became swamped with assignments for local Los Angeles programs: The First Nighter; Skippy Hollywood Theater; Theater of Famous Players.  The transition to television was natural, and Day became a regular contributor to the half-hour anthologies that tried, anemically, to ape the exciting dramatic work being done live in New York.  Frank Wisbar, the expatriate German director, taught her how to write teleplays for his Fireside Theater, and then Day moved over to Ford Theater at Screen Gems, working for producer Irving Starr.

A gap in her credits during the late fifties reflects a year knocking around Europe, drifting among movie folk.  Back in the States, Gerry’s mother was watching television, writing to her daughter that she’d like these new horse operas that had sprung up: Rawhide, Have Gun Will Travel, Wagon Train.  Ruthy Day meant that her daughter would enjoy watching them, but of course Gerry ended up writing them instead.

A city critter who loved horses and yearned to be a rancher, Day was fated to collide with television’s glut of Westerns.  In 1959 she connected with Howard Christie, the genial producer of Wagon Train, who gave her a lot of leeway to write what she wanted (and used her to doctor other scripts beyond the seven or so she’s credited on).  Her other key relationship was with Richard Irving, producer of the comedic Western Laredo.  Day loved doing the oaters: the light-hearted romp Here Come the Brides; The High Chaparral, with its Tucson location; Tate; Temple Houston; The Virginian; Big Valley; The Outcasts; finally, fittingly, Little House on the Prairie.

Although she specialized in Westerns, Day wrote in all genres, and notched credits on some respectable dramas: Medical Center; My Friend Tony; Judd For the DefensePeyton Place was not a particularly agreeable experience, nor was Marcus Welby (puckishly, she took a male pseudonym, “Jon Gerald,” for her episode); but Dr. Kildare and Court Martial were treasured memories.  It was for Court Martial, a forgotten military drama, that she wrote her favorite script, a euthanasia story called “Judge Them Gently.”

As for the name: It wasn’t that her parents wanted a boy.  It’s that there were venerated Southern family names to be preserved, and so the little girl became Gerald Lallande Day.  It fit the tomboy she grew into, even though there were draft notices from the Marines and invitations to join the Playboy Club that had to be gently declined.

Gerry lived with her parents for most of her adult life, in an old bungalow in the heart of Hollywood that – apart from the traffic blasting past the tiny lawn on busy Fairfax Avenue – hadn’t changed much since her father bought it in 1937.  Gerry already had cancer when I looked her up there in 2007, although it was in remission and she was feeling peppy.  When I first dropped by, Gerry was wearing a pair of white slacks that Dan Dailey had picked out for her – Dan Dailey, the song-and-dance man who died in 1978.

The reason Dan Dailey had been Gerry’s personal dresser back in the day was that for a time Gerry wrote with a partner, the actress Bethel Leslie, who was Dailey’s romantic companion toward the end of his life.  Day was good at writing for women, and managed on a few shows to write parts for her favorite actresses – Barbara Stanwyck, Vera Miles, and Bethel, who starred in an African Queen knockoff that Day wrote for her on Wagon Train.  Day found out that Leslie was working on a memoir, and thought she had talent.  They began writing together, on shows like Bracken’s World, Matt Helm, the new Dr. Kildare and the new Perry Mason, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Barnaby Jones.  On her trips out from New York, Leslie lived in Gerry’s studio.  They would split up the work: Gerry wrote in the mornings, Bethel in the afternoons, then they meshed the work together.  For two years, they were staff writers together on the daytime soap The Secret Storm.  “For our sins,” said Day, who detested the executive producer so much that she wouldn’t utter his name.

Day’s love for horses led her to the track.  She was an unofficial bookie for the Wagon Train clan, and eventually a part owner of a racehorse, which led her into a variety of adventures that would’ve made great subplots on David Milch’s racetrack opus Luck.  A devout Catholic, Day became a Eucharistic minister in her church; she also raised foster children and supported equestrian causes.  And remained ever under the spell of the movies.  “The other night,” she told me during my first visit, “I stayed up late to watch Rio Grande.  Talk about your romance, between John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.  That was a really good film . . . .”

Writer Gustave Field died on August 5 at the age of 95.  Field was a fairly obscure talent – at present, the Internet Movie Database believes inaccurately that he died in 1977 – with a smattering of television credits in the sixties and seventies: Wide Country, Gunsmoke, Combat, 12 O’Clock High, Then Came Bronson, The Bold Ones, The Six Million Dollar Man, and the early made-for-television movie The Sunshine Patriot.  Had I known some of what Philip Purser reports in this fascinating remembrance, I would have made it a much higher priority to seek Field out for an interview.  Field had been a photographer (of Einstein and the nuking of Nagasaki) and, in the late fifties, a story editor for British ABC network, where he mentored the young Alun Owen and Harold Pinter.  There’s also the matter of a phantom Lost in Space credit that’s being fussed over among fans; it could be an error in the obits, but also an assignment that was purchased but not produced, or a rewrite job too insubstantial to earn a credit.  Purser claims that Field liked to take his name off scripts; I’ll bet there’s another batch of credits under a pseudonym somewhere, but all of Lost in Space’s pen names seem to be claimed already . . . so it’s a subject we’ll have to revisit.

*

Writer David T. Chantler died on March 13.  Born May 24, 1925, Chantler got his start in television on the CBS newspaper drama Big Town, but was best known as one of the primary writers (of nearly three dozen episodes) for the fifties kiddie favorite The Adventures of Superman.  Though he was living in Marina Del Rey as of a few years ago, Chantler spent much of the sixties working in England, on television shows including Interpol Calling, Zero One, The Human Jungle, and Paul Temple.  He also wrote a pair of Hammer films, She and the well-received Cash on Demand, as well as the Paul Wendkos-directed western Face of a Fugitive.  His other American television credits include Lassie, Richard Diamond Private Detective, Daniel Boone, and The Invaders.  His last produced script listed on the Internet Movie Database was made in 1970, and I wonder what Chantler was doing in the forty years since.

*

Esther Mitchell died on May 30, one day short of her ninety-second birthday.  Mitchell was one half of a prolific husband-and-wife team; with Bob Mitchell, she wrote a dozen Land of the Giants scripts as well as episodes of Perry Mason, Cannon, S.W.A.T., and Charlie’s Angels.  (Bob Mitchell, who died in 1992, had been a busy solo writer, especially for Highway Patrol, for more than a decade before they began working together; the collaboration may have begun because he was getting more work than he could handle.)  The Mitchells’ most important series together was Combat, for which they were among a stable of generally second-rate writers brought in when producer Gene Levitt took over the show’s second season.  If there’s a standout among the Mitchell-scripted episodes, it’s probably “The First Day,” the story of a quartet of unusually youthful replacements who join the squad; a follow-up of sorts, “The Old Men,” focused on middle-aged draftees sent to the front lines as the supply of able-bodied men dwindled.

*

Also overlooked, perhaps, amid the unprecedented wave of beloved television veterans’ deaths this summer – Kathryn Joosten, Richard Dawson, Ray Bradbury, Frank Cady, Susan Tyrrell, Richard Lynch, Norman Felton, Doris Singleton, Don Grady, Andy Griffith, Ernest Borgnine, Celeste Holm, William Asher, Morgan Paull, Lloyd Kino, Sherman Hemsley, Frank Pierson, Lupe Ontiveros, Chad Everett, Norman Alden, Russ Mayberry, R. G. Armstrong, John P. Finnegan, Al Freeman Jr., Gore Vidal, Phyllis Thaxter, Ron Palillo, Rosemary Rice, Biff Elliot, Phyllis Diller, William Windom, Steve Franken, Claire Malis, Lance LeGault – were those of writer Don Brinkley (The Fugitive; Medical Center) and assistant director Charles Washburn (Star Trek).  There are good, detailed obituaries for each at those links.

Let us begin with the inevitable New York Times correction, since the “paper of record” rarely manages to get the early television facts right in its obituaries.  I hate to pick on the Times, since it followed up its coverage of the gifted screenwriter-director Frank Pierson’s unexpected death last week with a nice round-up of tributes from his colleagues.  But William Yardley’s original obit refers to Have Gun – Will Travel as a “1962 television series,” a date that is incorrect in any sense: the classic western debuted in 1957, and Pierson worked on it from 1959 through early 1962, departing late in its fifth season.  (The Times’s error has been predictably amplified elsewhere, as in this piece which claims that Pierson entered television in 1962, as Have Gun’s “story editor” – perhaps an accurate description, but never his actual title.)

We’ll come back to Have Gun, but first let’s examine another tidbit from the Times obit, which claims that Pierson (at the time, and already in his mid-thirties, a reporter for Time and Life magazines; here’s a sample, from 1953) sold his first teleplay to the Alcoa Theater/Goodyear Playhouse in 1958.  That’s probably accurate, although the finished episode – a Pierson credit you won’t find anywhere on the interwebs, until now – did not air until November 23, 1959.  “Point of Impact,” starring Peter Lawford and concerning an Air Force plane crash that kills American civilians, and judged as “labored” by Daily Variety, had over the course of a year passed through the hands of two other writers, Martin M. Goldsmith and Richard DeRoy, leaving Pierson with only a story credit.  (The episode was directed by Arthur Hiller, who like Pierson would one day serve as the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.)  By the time the Alcoa aired, Pierson was on staff at Have Gun and his first effort for that series, a rewrite of “Shot by Request,” had slid onto the air on October 10, beating out the Alcoa as his official television debut by six weeks.

Alcoa/Goodyear is an important show, perhaps the only filmed, Los Angeles-based anthology that came close to emulating its gritty, live-telecast New York counterparts.  It remains unheralded, probably because it’s so hard to see: I have an incomplete set, telecast decades ago on A&E and butchered to about 21 minutes per.  Pierson’s episode is one of the few that’s missing, so I cannot assess its quality.  From 1958 until 1960, Alcoa/Goodyear was executive produced by William Sackheim, an important shepherd of new talent who gathered an impressive roster of young writers (Stirling Silliphant, Howard Rodman, Adrian Spies, Leonard Freeman) and directors (Robert Ellis Miller, Walter Grauman, Elliot Silverstein).  Many of those names would crisscross with Pierson’s again during his early television years.

Have Gun – Will Travel was one of the first television shows to be wholly hijacked by its star.  It was already an offbeat western, its hero a black-clad dandy as well as a scary tough-guy, and Boone, beneath his rugged looks, aspired to serious art.  He ran an acting workshop on the side and cast most of his protégés in the show.  Have Gun’s success lent Boone the clout to influence its story material in directions that a network would usually not approve, toward comedy and bitter existentialism and allegory.  Pierson, hired as an associate, found himself elevated to the producer’s chair within a few months when the show’s creator, Sam Rolfe, ended his tenure on Have Gun in a fistfight with Boone.  Boone and Pierson were a good match, at least at first; Boone liked to encourage new talent, and Pierson shared his literary pretensions.

“I was reading a lot of French philosophers at the time and heavy into French cinema as well,” Pierson said in Martin Grams, Jr. and Les Rayburn’s The Have Gun – Will Travel Companion.  “I felt there was a sardonic attitude that I tended to bring to the show . . . We were always trying to do new things [and] the danger was that the audience who was tuning in every night was expecting to have a Have Gun – Will Travel experience.  The danger was we were taking them outside that experience.”  Pierson cultivated his own set of young writers (including Jack Curtis, Robert E. Thompson, and Rodman, who would cross paths with Pierson a number of times, falling out with him bitterly over a rewrite of the telefilm The Neon Ceiling).  He also penned some good episodes himself, including “The Campaign of Billy Banjo” (which brought politics to the Old West) and “Out at the Old Ballpark” (which brought, yes, baseball to the Old West).

Eventually the egos clashed – what Boone and his producer had there, you might say, was a failure to communicate – and Pierson exited Have Gun amicably, moving over to Screen Gems to produce an unusual show for the man who discovered him, Bill Sackheim.  Empire was a modern western, an Edna Ferber-esque family melodrama and a proto-Dallas, shot in vivid color and on location in Santa Fe.  Pierson and his associate producer, Anthony Wilson (another Alcoa veteran), alternated episodes with the team of Hal Hudson (late of Zane Grey Theater) and Andy White (soon to produce The Loner for Rod Serling).  Empire had the ingredients of a meaty, meaningful epic, but the network botched it, eliminating the female characters (played by Anne Seymour and Terry Moore) and adding two-fisted ranchhand Charles Bronson to vie for screen time with the original leads, Richard Egan and Ryan O’Neal.

Still, Pierson did some of his best early work on Empire, becoming a triple-threat (producer, writer, director) for the first time on “The Four Thumbs Story,” an elegy for a Native American war veteran (Ray Danton) whose propensity for violence makes him unfit for human companionship.  The forward-looking episode, an adaptation of a chapter from William Eastlake’s Go in Beauty (Sydney Pollack, who worked for Pierson on Have Gun, would turn an Eastlake novel into Castle Keep), anticipates the interest Hollywood would take in Native American affairs a half-decade later, and in particular Abraham Polonsky’s comeback film Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here.

Empire – still undervalued, and like Alcoa/Goodyear a casualty of anemic distribution, last glimpsed on the Family Channel almost thirty years ago – morphed into a shortened form, retitled Redigo, and died after half a season, evidently without Pierson’s involvement.  Pierson then aligned with Naked City and Route 66, writing two scripts for the former (“The S.S. American Dream” was nominated for a WGA Award) and one for the latter.  A generational saga, not altogether coherent (especially the ending) and wildly miscast (Pat Hingle and William Shatner as father-and-son Maine lobstermen, named Thayer and Menemsha!), “Build Your Houses With Their Backs to the Sea” begins with the line: “If it’s not too late, Papa, I want to apologize for my behavior during childhood, adolescence, and early manhood.”  Watching it today, one can only marvel that something so opaque could find its way onto network television.

Alvin Sargent, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Julia and Ordinary People, also worked on Empire, Route 66, and Naked City during this time.  Sargent told me yesterday that

we both worked for Billy Sackheim and Bert Leonard and we both admired and enjoyed them.  I was only beginning a career and had the good fortune to have an agent who got me jobs with these shows.  These men were my teachers, taking time to work with me in a way that felt as if I was in the hands and hearts of people who believed I could always make a script better.  Small offices, small meetings.  The scripts written fast, and quickly on a screen.  A writer could see their work a number of times a year.  I could learn from that.  I could make an adjustment in my mind about dialogue and behavior that could be written better.  Something of a screen test for a writer.

Frank Pierson’s screen test didn’t last long.  In 1965 he rewrote the parody western Cat Ballou, which won Lee Marvin an Academy Award, and moved on to a series of important features, including Cool Hand Luke and Dog Day Afternoon (for which Pierson won his own Oscar).  Pierson also directed three films – The Looking Glass War, A Star Is Born, and King of the Gypsies – all of which are confident, complex, and underrated.

In between, he continued to dabble in television, notably creating and producing Nichols, the James Garner flop that retains a bit of a cult following.  Although this, too, was a comic western, it was less an extension of Cat Ballou (or Maverick) than an attempt to bring the much darker, bolder genre revisionism of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or even The Wild Bunch to television.  Like The Wild Bunch, Pierson’s brilliant, devilishly funny pilot was set at the very end of the West, where the reluctant lawman (Garner, of course) rides a motorcycle and flirts with a local girl (Margot Kidder) who appears very, very stoned, and everyone seems quite dangerously confused and surly about the rapid social and technological changes surrounding them.  Unfortunately – and just as Pierson’s erstwhile friend Howard Rodman would do a few years later in his melancholy deconstruction of the private eye genre, Harry O – Pierson wrote in such a distinctive voice that nobody else could emulate it, and Nichols devolved into an uneasy and somewhat cartoonish updating of Garner’s old schtick from Maverick.

As many of his obituarists have noted, Pierson outwitted a relentlessly ageist industry and remained productive right up to the end, directing some terrific made-for-television movies (especially 2001’s Conspiracy) and recently spending two years on the staff of Mad Men, with a season of The Good Wife in between.  The danger with Mad Men, of course, is that Pierson might have been installed as a gray-bearded eminence, an oracle whom the youngsters could ask “what was it really like back then”; but Matthew Weiner seems to have genuinely valued him as a peer and “Signal 30,” the episode that Pierson co-wrote this year, was seen as perhaps the season’s high point.  I wonder whether anyone has noticed that the accomplishment of writing episodic television over a fifty-year span – and not just any episodic television, but some of the most acclaimed dramatic series of 1962 and of 2012 – is likely a unique and unrepeatable record.

Edward Adler, a television writer who lived in and wrote about New York City for most of his career, died on June 8, in Jenkinstown, Pennsylvania, at the age of 91.  Adler, who was born in Brooklyn on November 17, 1920, had suffered from dementia in recent years.

Adler’s early work ran the gamut of sixties New York dramas, from an initial feint on The Nurses to a quick pass at Mr. Broadway to significant contributions to East Side / West Side, Hawk, and N.Y.P.D.  Fittingly, he capped his career in the eighties with producing stints on two hard-boiled street shows, the vigilante drama The Equalizer and Night Heat (which was lensed in Toronto, but liked to pretend it was a New York cop show).

“He was the most lovable guy I guess I ever met in my life,” said Buck Henry, a friend for nearly fifty years.  “I don’t know anyone who knew Eddie that didn’t want to protect him, because he always seemed like an innocent.  Eddie was a great example of someone who always lived close to the ground, so to speak.  He wandered through life with his eye and his ear on a kind of New York that doesn’t exist any more.”

Past forty before he ever typed a script page, Adler was something of a literary sensation in the early sixties.  After a succession of odd jobs – short order cook, furrier’s assistant, Catskills chauffeur, numbers runner for a Brooklyn pool hall owner – Adler spent eight years as a New York City cab driver.  During that time, he produced a novel that was published in early 1962.  Notes From a Dark Street was a Joycean compendium of Lower East Side eccentrics, and it was mentioned in the New York Times, favorably or neutrally, no less than six times during the first half of 1962.  One review compared the book to Hieronymous Bosch; another declared it “a carnival of the senses” and proclaimed Adler “the literary find of the year.”

“Most of the greater New York writers of the twentieth century recognized how good it was.  Philip Roth was always ready to lay a quote on it, and Mailer read it and liked it,” recalled Henry.

Adler was not of the intellectual class – his parents were Eastern European immigrants and shopkeepers in Brooklyn, and Adler himself only had two years of college on the G.I. Bill – and the press made much of his self-taught talent, cultivated through avid wartime reading of Dante, Conrad, and Beckett.  Years later, Adler told me how ridiculous he felt when a Time magazine photographer posed him atop a Checker Cab – holding his typewriter.

Notes From a Dark Street sold fewer than three thousand copies and it looked like it was back to the garage for Eddie Adler, until television came calling.  Adler palled around with musicians and writers and Greenwich Village characters; two of his friends were George Bellak, a television writer who was then story editor of The Nurses, and beat scenester David Padwa, whose ex-wife, Audrey Gellen, was developing the new social work drama East Side / West Side for David Susskind.

The Nurses fizzled out – his script, “Many a Sullivan,” was rewritten by Albert Ruben, possibly among others, and the New York Times described Adler’s experience as “bitter.”  But he kept pounding the keys because, as he told the reporter, “Things were not going so good on the hack.”

Fortunately, Adler was a perfect match for East Side / West Side and, in particular, for its initial executive producer Arnold Perl, a blacklist survivor who wanted the series to be as bluntly progressive as possible.  Adler wrote three terrific, tone-setting scripts for East Side / West Side, all of which number among the most downbeat and street-literate tales mounted by that series.  “The Passion of the Nickel Player” covers the world of small-time numbers runners, which Adler knew well.  “One Drink at a Time,” about a pair of truly desperate, derelict Bowery binge drinkers, may be one of the most depressing and sordid hours of television ever made.  (That’s a compliment.)

But the most important was the first, “Not Bad For Openers,” which drew upon Adler’s inside knowledge of the hack racket.  Curiously, he bypassed this obvious subject for his novel and saved it for his first fully realized television story, a study of a cab driver (Norman Fell, probably an apt Adler surrogate) with a gambling addiction.  Adler, who hung around the Long Island City location (a garage out of which he himself had worked) as a technical advisor, was cagey about how autobiographical the script was.  “I knew a couple of people like the lead in the show,” Adler told me, but also conceded that much of his own experience made it into “Not Bad For Openers” (originally, and more vividly, titled “An Arm-Job to Oblivion,” an arm-job being a taxi ride for which the driver doesn’t turn on the meter).

Adler continued writing his slice-of-life stories for Hawk and N.Y.P.D., both late-sixties time capsules of the New York streets.  A fast writer, he served as an uncredited rewrite man on the first series and an official story editor on the second.  “Larry Arrick [a producer of East Side / West Side] used to say, ‘Here comes the fireman,’ which meant that I rewrote very fast, and that carried over into another series that Susskind did, a half-hour cop show called N.Y.P.D.,” Adler said when I interviewed him in 1996.

“There’s a goddamn episode [of Hawk] that I wrote over a weekend.  Paul Henreid directed this episode, and there wasn’t a script for him ready to shoot.  They called me up and I came in and I wrote a script in twenty-four hours,” added Adler.  But he had left his glasses at the summer cabin where his family was vacationing.  “By middle of the afternoon, I couldn’t take it anymore.  They ran me down to Delancey Street and I got an emergency pair of glasses in fifteen minutes.  And finished the sceenplay and was blind for about three weeks!”

“The big thing about Eddie was that he came through all the time,” said Bob Markell, the producer of N.Y.P.D.  “His writing was kind of Group Theatre writing.  He was the working man’s writer.  It was tough and gritty.  Great sense of humor; very biting.  I loved some of the things that he did.”

Adler left N.Y.P.D. at the end of its first season to work on a screenplay for Susskind’s company, a daring story about race and the police based on Paul Tyner’s novel Shoot It.  The film’s director and star would have been George C. Scott and Al Pacino, respectively, but it fell apart at the last minute.  In the early seventies, Adler partnered with his friend Buck Henry – whom he had met during East Side / West Side, when Henry and Mel Brooks were creating Get Smart in a nearby office – on two other movie projects, during the period after Catch-22 and Milos Forman’s Taking Off made Henry an especially hot property.  One, Seven Footprints to Satan (later renamed Cells), was a generally indescribable effort that the New York Times attempted to describe in 1970 as “a black comedy about kidnapping and assassination” (“more of a melodrama,” Henry says now); the second, Bullet Proof, was, as Henry told the Times,

about an 18 year-old boy and his relationship with his girl and with other citizens of a Long Island community – particularly the members of the local branch of the American Legion who give him a bang-up going away party when he’s drafted . . . . The title refers to the bullet-proof Bibles that are issued to G.I.’s.

“It was fun to write with him, because we spent an awful lot of time, like writers do, goofing off and laughing and watching the ballgame,” Henry told me yesterday.  “I’ve never had many partners; I don’t write well with partners.  But sometimes when we were working together, because we were both highly pretentious literature fans, we would stumble onto something that made us laugh for a day or two.  We wrote a script once in which we were really stuck for a series of pieces of pretentious monologues, so we just got a copy of [Sartre’s] Being and Nothingness, turned to whatever page our fingers went to and copied a paragraph from it.”

The “director of record” for Bullet Proof was Milos Forman, but neither that nor Cells was made.  In the end, Adler never had a feature credit, just the tell-tale gaps that turnaround projects and unsold pilots leave amid a writer’s credits.

“He was always going toward jobs that he was completely unsuited for,” Henry said.  “He got a job on a soap about ten years ago.  He came out here to L.A. to write the bible, as they say, on it.  The first day he was here he opened his car door into traffic and saw it ripped off and dragged a mile away.  Eddie never was able to figure out Los Angeles.  It was a mystery to him, as it is to many hardcore New Yorkers.”

Adler held out in New York as most of the other television writers moved west.  He made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles twice a year, to pitch stories, but drew the line at a permanent relocation – even when a lucrative offer to head-write a soap opera was made.  His credits from the seventies are thin – Gibbsville, a portion of the Benjamin Franklin miniseries, several unsold pilots, and Death Penalty, a made-for-television movie about Salvador Agron, the “Capeman” killer – in part because Adler devoted more and more of his time to his union, the Writers Guild of America, East.  Adler served on the Guild’s council for thirty-two years and was its president from 1983-1991.

Adler’s wife, Elaine Lipton, died in 2003.  (The main character in Death Penalty, played by Colleen Dewhurst, is named for her.)  He is survived by two sons, Tony (a first assistant director) and Joe, and one novel, which “should be always in print, but it isn’t,” as Buck Henry pointed out.  You can buy a copy of Notes From a Dark Street from Amazon for a penny.

And what of a second novel?  True one-book writers – as opposed to writers who wrote only one famous book, or one good one – are rare (and there’s a great documentary about them, in particular one named Dow Mossman, called Stone Reader, by Mark Moskowitz).  Edward Adler is a member of that small fraternity.  There were notes, scraps, various false starts, according to Joe Adler, but nothing ever came together.

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