Aaron Ruben

Writer/ Producer/ Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Aaron Ruben (1914-2010) discusses his start as a radio writer for many popular stars including Dinah Shore, Burns and Allen, Fred Allen, Henry Morgan, and Milton Berle. He talks about the first time he worked in television on The Sam Levenson Show with writer Selma Diamond and his television directorial debut on The Phil Silvers Show. In 1960, he produced his first television show, The Andy Griffith Show. Mr. Ruben talks about other television shows he produced including Gomer Pyle, USMC (which he also created), CPO Sharkey, Sanford and Son and his work writing for Matlock. He also discusses his long-time philanthropic work with at-risk children. Morrie Gelman conducted the interview in Beverly Hills, CA on February 25, 1999.

"I'm certainly proud to have been at the beginnings of The Andy Griffith Show. Andy gives me more credit than I deserve because he's quoted about how I set the style for that show. I don't know. I'm just glad I was there and was an important part of the structuring of the show. I nurtured it and nursed it and I thought I took really good care of it. It was five of the best years of my life in the business."

Highlights
Aaron Ruben on his proudest career achievemet -- structuring The Andy Griffith Show
00:54
Aaron Ruben on the legacy of The Andy Griffith Show and on his favorite episode "Opie the Birdman"
04:01
Aaron Ruben on the multi-faceted skills of a good producer, what makes a good story "is a good story"
01:47
Aaron Ruben on first seeing Don Knotts' "nervous man" routine; how important he was for The Andy Griffith Show as Barney Fife
03:16
Aaron Ruben on why "Gomer Pyle" didn't go to Vietnam and why there were no African-American's in Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show
02:07
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years and education growing up in Chicago; on his interest in acting and comedy
17:43
On beginning his career in radio; writing for Wally Brown, Burns & Allen, and Fred Allen

Chapter 2

On writing for Fred Allen's radio show
12:00
On writing for Milton Berle's radio show
07:43
On his first TV writing job for The Sam Levenson Show
02:59
On transitioning to television writing from radio 

Chapter 3

On working with Selma Diamond; on working on Caesar's Hour with Sid Caesar, other writers on that show
13:24
On the Blacklist and being subpoenaed to testify
04:34
On working on The Phil Silvers Show with Nat Hiken

Chapter 4

On working on with Neil Simon
01:54
On first joining The Andy Griffith Show, which he saw as a pilot; on executive producer Sheldon Leonard; on first meeting Andy Griffith; on Don Knotts; on Ron Howard; on Jim Nabors
27:00

Chapter 5

On casting Jim Nabors on The Andy Griffith Show; the production of The Andy Griffith Show and its sponsors; on the legacy of The Andy Griffith Show
10:25
On creating and producing Gomer Pyle, USMC
14:10
On his one feature film The Comic; on starting on Sanford and Son

Chapter 6

On developing, casting, and producing Sanford & Son
19:36
On various projects for television
05:33
On creating and producing CPO Sharkey starring Don Rickles
03:28

Chapter 7

On CPO Sharkey; on dealing with networks; on Don Rickles
04:05
On various short-lived programs he worked on 
12:18
On producing The Ted Knight Show (Too Close for Comfort after it went to syndication); and Ted Knight's death
02:22
On writing for Matlock; looking back at the CBS "rural purge" when Mayberry was canceled; starting to volunteer with children

Chapter 8

On his charitable work; on his last pilot pitch
05:18
On his proudest achievement; on the changes in television since he began; his advice to aspiring writers; on his favorite episode of The Andy Grifith Show
24:58

Chapter 9

On "Opie the Birdman" (cont.); on how he'd like to be remembered; on helping children; on television writing as it was done on The Andy Griffith Show
13:11
On some of the people he worked with throughout his career including George Burns (and his genius at being a straight man), Ed Wynn, Dick Van Dyke, and others
15:14

Chapter 10

On his family
06:04
On some photos illustrating various highlights in his career
05:27
Shows

Andy Griffith Show, The

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Aaron Ruben on how he came to work on The Andy Griffith Show after working on Sgt. Bilko, as a producer
03:31
Aaron Ruben on working with Sheldon Leonard on the cast of the Andy Griffith Show, how the show was a spinoff from the Danny Thomas Show
01:11
Aaron Ruben on the legacy of The Andy Griffith Show and on his favorite episode "Opie the Birdman"
04:01
Aaron Ruben on The Andy Griffth Show episode "Opie the Birdman" (cont.)
01:08

CPO Sharkey

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Aaron Ruben on creating and producing CPO Sharkey starring Don Rickles
03:28
Aaron Ruben on creating the show CPO Sharkey ; his relationship with the networks
01:51

Caesar's Hour

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Aaron Ruben on working on Caesar's Hour with Sid Caesar, other writers on that show
09:50

George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, The

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Aaron Ruben on writing for George Burns and Gracie Allen's radio show
02:50

Gomer Pyle - USMC

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Aaron Ruben on creating and producing Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
14:10

Matlock

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Aaron Ruben on writing for Matlock
00:59

Phil Silvers Show, The aka You'll Never Get Rich aka Sergeant Bilko

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Aaron Ruben on working on the Phil Silvers Show with Nat Hiken
Aaron Ruben on the Phil Silvers Show ; Neil "Doc" Simon was a writer, who wrote "Come Blow Your Horn" during this period
01:54

Sam Levenson Show, The

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Aaron Ruben his first TV writing job for The Sam Levenson Show
02:54

Sanford and Son

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Aaron Ruben on how he came to work on Sanford & Son with Norman Lear; how he suggested the main characters be Black but the network wanted an Italian
03:58
Aaron Ruben on the difficulty of finding actors for Sanford & Son ; how Redd Foxx came to be cast
05:49
Aaron Ruben on producing Sanford & Son and working with the cast and crew
09:46

Too Close for Comfort

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Aaron Ruben on producing The Ted Knight Show (Too Close for Comfort after it went to syndication); and Ted Knight's sudden death 
02:22
Topics

Hollywood Blacklist

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Aaron Ruben on getting a subpoena to testify during the Hollywood Blacklist 
05:24

Minorities

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Aaron Ruben on why "Gomer Pyle" didn't go to Vietnam and why there were no African-American's in Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show
02:07
Aaron Ruben on developing, casting, and producing Sanford & Son
19:38

Television Industry

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Aaron Ruben on the critical role ratings played in show survivals
00:45

Vietnam War

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Aaron Ruben on why "Gomer Pyle" didn't go to Vietnam and why there were no African-American's in Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show
02:07
Professions

Producers

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Aaron Ruben on the multi-faceted skills of a good producer, what makes a good story "is a good story"

Writers

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Aaron Ruben on Sheldon Leonard's "seminars" which were held with The Andy Griffith Show writers
03:34
Genres

Comedy Series

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Aaron Ruben on why "Gomer Pyle" didn't go to Vietnam and why there were no African-American's in Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show
02:07
People

Gracie Allen

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Aaron Ruben on writing for George Burns and Gracie Allen's radio show
03:00

Fred Allen

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Aaron Ruben on writing for Fred Allen's radio show
12:00

Milton Berle

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Aaron Ruben on writing for Milton Berle's radio show
07:43

George Burns

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Aaron Ruben on writing for George Burns and Gracie Allen's radio show
03:00

Sid Caesar

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Aaron Ruben on the domineering presence of Sid Caesar
08:25

Selma Diamond

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Aaron Ruben on Selma Diamond's persona
02:06

Redd Foxx

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Aaron Ruben on how Redd Foxx came to be cast on Sanford & Son; the cast of All in the Family sat through the casting
03:54

Nat Hiken

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Aaron Ruben on working on the Phil Silvers Show with Nat Hiken

Ron Howard

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Aaron Ruben on noticing the talents of Ron Howard as a young kid on The Andy Griffith Show; his professionalism
01:31

Don Knotts

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Aaron Ruben on first seeing Don Knotts' "nervous man" routine; how important he was for The Andy Griffith Show as Barney Fife
03:16

Sheldon Leonard

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Aaron Ruben on the career of Sheldon Leonard, from actor to producer; how he conviced Ruben to become a producer
05:29
Aaron Ruben on Sheldon Leonard's "seminars" which were held with The Andy Griffith Show writers
03:34

Jim Nabors

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Aaron Ruben on how Jim Nabor's character "Gomer Pyle" was developed
14:10

Don Rickles

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Aaron Ruben on creating and producing CPO Sharkey starring Don Rickles
03:28
Aaron Ruben on why Don Rickles never achieved success in television; why his show CPO Sharkey never took off
00:40

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