“The reason I’m in show business is because I’m a 42 long.” An Oral History of Allan Burns

Allan Burns discovered that he was a pretty good writer early in life – his grades in English class were great, and he got no shortage of accolades from his teachers.

But he didn’t know he’d make a living from it, or co-create one of the most enduring and trailblazing TV shows in American history.

“My college advisor in high school – the guy who was helping me get into university – looked at my grades and looked at my art ability, and said ‘You’re gonna be an architect.’ He’d made up his mind,” Burns tells us in this two-part, two hour interview.

We don’t doubt that Allan – a longtime member of our board of directors – would have designed some killer structures. In a parallel universe somewhere, we’re all surely admiring some cityscape that includes an iconic Burns tower in its skyline. But that universe might not have THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, which Allan co-created with James L. Brooks. We’re willing to bet our universe got the better deal.

It’s all part of THE WRITER SPEAKS, our ongoing series recording the life stories of film and television writers who made profound contributions to our cultural landscape. In these two videos, Allan chats with Seth Freeman about how he broke into the industry, how he wound up creating Cap’n Crunch when he was 23 years old (“‘Stays crunchy even in milk?’ Stays crunchy even in acid.”), how he and Brooks crafted MARY TYLER MOORE.

Part One:

Part Two:

The Writer Speaks: John Gay

John Gay might be best known for writing RUN SILENT RUN DEEP, the classic submarine movie that inspired a half century of underwater dramas. But check out his body of work – in addition to RUN SILENT and the unforgettable ensemble drama SEPARATE TABLES, Gay wrote a plethora of televised adaptations of plays and novels throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Here’s Gay telling his life story as part of our THE WRITER SPEAKS series.

In Memoriam: Paul Mazursky

We’ve posted our extensive, exclusive life-story interview with Paul Mazursky a few weeks ago. But we’re re-posting it today in the wake of Paul’s recent death. We’ll miss you, Paul.

In addition, here are two pages from Mazursky’s incredible script, co-written with Larry Tucker, for BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE. The draft is dated September 5, 1968.

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The Writer Speaks: David Swift

Sure, maybe some of you saw TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION this weekend (and statistically, the numbers bear that out). Or maybe you’re saving your movie-going dollars for a screening of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES later in July. Because there’s nothing better in the middle of summer than hanging out in an air-conditioned movie theater to see the latest developments in visual effects.

But imagine it’s 53 years ago this week, and you want to see a special effects spectacular. What would you see?

How about THE PARENT TRAP?

That’s the one – written and directed by David Swift – where child star Hayley Mills played identical twins, using a series of in-camera techniques to make it look as though there were two Hayleys in one scene. The movie was remade in 1998 with a pre-DIU Linsay Lohan and a variety of more advanced approaches.

But in the original, Swift and his team didn’t have things like digital compositing and motion-control cameras to get the job done. Here’s Swift telling the story of his career as part of our series, THE WRITER SPEAKS, chronicling the lives of prominent film and television writers whose work permeated the 20th and 21st Centuries.

I Love Lucy: A Brief History with Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Davis

For over 50 years, Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Davis were a writing team, collaborating on roughly 400 television episodes and 500 radio episodes. Though they wrote for such stars as Steve Allen, Paul Lynde, Eve Arden, and Kaye Ballard, the two are best known for their work on the groundbreaking sitcom I LOVE LUCY. Carroll and Davis developed what would become the LUCY pilot after writing for Lucille Ball on her radio show, MY FAVORITE HUSBAND. Together they wrote over 120 LUCY episodes. They’re responsible for many of the show’s iconic episodes, from “Job Switching, in which Lucy and Ethel have a disastrous day of work at a candy factory, to “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” in which Little Ricky is born. The pair were not only writers on the show, they’re credited with the development of Lucy as a character, and the two went on to write for Ball on THE LUCY SHOW, HERE’S LUCY, THE LUCY-DESI COMEDY HOUR, and LIFE WITH LUCY.

Here are Carroll and Davis discussing their long career together as part of THE WRITER SPEAKS, our oral history series documenting the life stories of film and television writers in the 20th century.

Bonus: Below are three pages from a draft of the Season 4 episode “Hollywood at Last,” one of many episodes written by Carroll and Pugh set during the characters’ trip to California. In this scene, Lucy, Ethel and Fred go to The Brown Derby, ostensibly to eat lunch but really to spot celebrities. This famous episode culminates in an encounter between Lucy, William Holden and a melting putty nose.

 

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The Writer Speaks: Paul Mazursky

To some recent generations, Paul Mazursky might be best known as Sunshine, the aphorism-spouting poker dealer on THE SOPRANOS. And indeed, Mazursky’s career began in front of the camera, where he appeared in THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, FEAR AND DESIRE, and episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE UNTOUCHABLES and THE RIFLEMAN.

Later, he went on to write for THE DANNY KAYE SHOW, beginning a writing career that would generate cultural touchstones like BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE and HARRY AND TONTO – which, despite the similarity in their title structures, couldn’t have been more different thematically.

Here’s Mazursky talking about his life as a writer, in two parts. It’s part of THE WRITER SPEAKS, our oral history series spotlighting film and television writers in the 20th Century.