Ben Starr

Writer / Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Ben Starr (1921-2014) talks about writing for radio stars Al Jolson, Dean Martin, and Jerry Lewis. He speaks of his start in television, writing for live programs like Climax!, and explains what it was like to write for the popular show Mister Ed. Starr also talks of writing two episodes of The Brady Bunch, one of which was "The Personality Kid" in which "Peter Brady" delivers the famous "pork chops and applesauce" line. He speaks of writing for Norman Lear's All in The Family, and details developing the series Diff'rent Strokes. He discusses writing the pilots for television shows Perry Mason and The Thin Man, but not staying on to write for the rest of the series runs. Starr also describes co-creating The Facts of Life and Silver Spoons. He outlines his writing routine, and shares details of his regular lunches with pals Sid Caesar, Hal Kanter, and other television legends. Dan Harrison conducted the interview in Los Angeles, CA on November 9, 2009.

"All you have to do is say to anybody who was a teenager at that time, 'pork chops and applesauce' and they know what you're talking about."

Highlights
Ben Starr on coming up with the catchphrase "Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?" for Diff'rent Strokes
00:38
Ben Starr on spinning off The Facts of Life from Diff'rent Strokes
02:33
Ben Starr on how the horse "talked" on Mister Ed
00:41
Ben Starr on writing the episode of The Brady Bunch ("The Personality Kid") which includes the famous line "pork chops and apple sauce"
02:55
Ben Starr on how he'd like to be remembered
00:29
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his early interest in writing; on moving to Los Angeles in 1938; on graduating from UCLA
08:48
On serving in World War II as an Air Force Navigator and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross
12:54
On his start in radio writing on "First Nighter"; on his involvement with the Radio Writers Guild and helping to form the Writers Guild of America (for TV and radio writers)
10:22
On his early memories of television; on his first television job, writing for The Jack Carter Show; on getting a contract with CBS and writing for Climax!
12:04
On writing the pilots for Perry Mason and for T he Thin Man; on his love of writing; on writing several pilots
14:01
On his recollections of the Hollywood Blacklist
02:11

Chapter 2

On writing the screenplay "Our Man Flint"; on how he got involved with Mister Ed; on writing plays and screenplays
23:07
On working with George Burns and the other producers of Mister Ed; on how "Mister Ed" talked; on leaving Mister Ed to write movies
07:22
On writing television specials and films for Bob Hope
15:14
On writing for The Brady Bunch, including penning the episode "The Personality Kid" with the famous line "pork chops and apple sauce"
07:02
On co-writing the TV movie My Sister Hank starring Jodi Foster
02:14
On writing for the Norman Lear shows All in the Family and Maude
05:10

Chapter 3

On the creation of Diff'rent Strokes and coining the phrase "Whatchu talking 'bout, Willis?"; on working with the lead actors
21:17
On spinning off The Facts of Life from Diff'rent Strokes; on writing plays
06:06
On co-creating Silver Spoons
01:43
On his thoughts on people with whom he's worked over the years, including Sid Caesar, Jack Benny, and Larry Gelbart
22:05
On his writing routing; on how he'd like to be remembered
07:41
Shows

All in the Family

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Ben Starr on writing for All in the Family
04:29
Ben Starr on writing the All in the Family episode in which "Gloria " has a baby
01:38
Ben Starr on writing the All in the Family episode in which "Gloria " has a baby
01:38

Bob Hope Specials

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Ben Starr on writing for Bob Hope
02:37

Brady Bunch, The

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Ben Starr on writing the episode of the Brady Bunch ("The Personality Kid") which includes the famous line "pork chops and apple sauce"
03:34
Ben Starr on writing two episodes of the Brady Bunch and the legacy of "The Personality Kid" episode
03:07

Climax!

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Ben Starr on how he came up with the idea for a Climax! episode "Thin Air"
02:39

Diff'rent Strokes

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Ben Starr on the creation of Diff'rent Strokes
02:48
Ben Starr on writing and casting the pilot of Diff'rent Strokes
06:07
Ben Starr on coming up with the catchphrase "Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?" for Diff'rent Strokes
00:38
Ben Starr on Todd Bridges and Dana Plato's difficulties on Diff'rent Strokes
03:33
Ben Starr on the production of Diff'rent Strokes
05:31
Ben Starr on becoming a producer and working with writers on Diff'rent Strokes
01:46

Facts of Life, The

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Ben Starr on spinning off The Facts of Life from Diff'rent Strokes
02:33

Jack Carter Show, The

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Ben Starr on his first television job, writing for The Jack Carter Show; on the show's intense production schedule
07:27

Maude

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Ben Starr on writing freelance for Maude
00:33

Mister Ed

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Ben Starr on how Mister Ed came about
04:39
Ben Starr on treating the character "Mister Ed" as a grown-up
01:31
Ben Starr on writing for Mister Ed
00:38
Ben Starr on production and the cast of Mister Ed
02:47
Ben Starr on why he left Mister Ed - to write movies
00:33
Ben Starr on working with George Burns and the other producers of Mister Ed
03:10

Perry Mason

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Ben Starr on writing the pilot for Perry Mason
05:14

Silver Spoons

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Ben Starr on co-creating Silver Spoons
01:43

Thin Man, The

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Ben Starr on writing the pilot for The Thin Man
04:42
Topics

Advice

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Ben Starr on advice to aspiring television writers
01:10

Characters & Catchphrases

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Ben Starr on coming up with the catchphrase "Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?" for Diff'rent Strokes
00:38

Historic Events and Social Change

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Ben Starr on serving in World War II as an Air Force Navigator and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross
12:54

Hollywood Blacklist

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Ben Starr on his recollections of the Hollywood Blacklist
02:06

Industry Crossroads

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Ben Starr on his recollections of the Hollywood Blacklist
02:06

Memorable Moments on Television

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Ben Starr on writing the episode of the Brady Bunch ("The Personality Kid") which includes the famous line "pork chops and apple sauce"
03:35
Ben Starr on writing the All in the Family episode in which "Gloria " has a baby
01:38

Pop Culture

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Ben Starr on coming up with the catchphrase "Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?" for Diff'rent Strokes
00:38

Television Industry

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Ben Starr on his recollections of the Hollywood Blacklist
02:06
Ben Starr on advice to aspiring television writers
01:10

War

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Ben Starr on serving in World War II as an Air Force Navigator and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross
12:54

We Laughed

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Ben Starr on writing the episode of the Brady Bunch ("The Personality Kid") which includes the famous line "pork chops and apple sauce"
03:35

World War II

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Ben Starr on serving in World War II as an Air Force Navigator and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross
12:54
Professions

Writers

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Ben Starr on his love of writing
00:49
Ben Starr on his writing routine
02:20
Ben Starr on advice to aspiring television writers
01:10
Genres

Comedy Series

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Ben Starr on working with George Burns and the other producers of Mister Ed; on how "Mister Ed" talked; on leaving Mister Ed to write movies
07:22
Ben Starr on writing for The Brady Bunch, including penning the episode "The Personality Kid" with the famous line "pork chops and apple sauce"
07:02
Ben Starr on writing for All in the Family
04:29
Ben Starr on the creation of Diff'rent Strokes and coining the phrase "Whatchu talking 'bout, Willis?"; on working with the lead actors
21:17

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Ben Starr on writing the pilot for Perry Mason
05:14

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Ben Starr on his first television job, writing for The Jack Carter Show; on the show's intense production schedule
07:27
People

Steve Allen

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Ben Starr on casting Steve Allen on the television pilot of "First Nighter"
01:56

Conrad Bain

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Ben Starr on Conrad Bain's lucrative deal on Diff'rent Strokes
00:39

Jack Benny

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Ben Starr on working with Jack Benny
01:37

George Burns

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Ben Starr on working with George Burns while writing for Mister Ed
02:37

Sid Caesar

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Ben Starr on working and socializing with Sid Caesar
02:02

Gary Coleman

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Ben Starr on Fred Silverman not liking the original pilot script for Diff'rent Strokes, but liking Gary Coleman
00:15
Ben Starr on Gary Coleman's talent and how he was ripped off on Diff'rent Strokes
02:34
Ben Starr on Gary Coleman's agent demanding more money and stopping production on Diff'rent Strokes
00:22

Bill Dozier

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Ben Starr on meeting CBS executive Bill Dozier
02:06

Verna Felton

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Ben Starr on casting Verna Felton on the television pilot of "First Nighter"
00:36

Jodie Foster

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Ben Starr on co-writing the TV movie My Sister Hank starring Jodi Foster
02:14

Larry Gelbart

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Ben Starr on working with Larry Gelbart
02:51

Cary Grant

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Ben Starr on working with Cary Grant
02:13

Arthur Hiller

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Ben Starr on working with Arthur Hiller and his regular lunches with his writing buddies
02:04

Bob Hope

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Ben Starr on writing TV specials and movies for Bob Hope
14:50

Al Jolson

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Ben Starr on working with Al Jolson in radio
04:21

Milt Josefsberg

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Ben Starr on writing the All in the Family episode in which "Gloria " has a baby
01:38

Norman Lear

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Ben Starr on working with Norman Lear while writing for All in the Family
01:15

Jerry Lewis

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Ben Starr on working with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin in radio
04:35

Frank Loesser

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Ben Starr on working with Broadway's Frank Loesser
12:32

Martin Manulis

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Ben Starr on how he came up with the idea for a Climax! episode "Thin Air"
01:50

Dean Martin

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Ben Starr on working with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin in radio
04:35

Dana Plato

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Ben Starr on Todd Bridges and Dana Plato's difficulties on Diff'rent Strokes
03:33

Charlotte Rae

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Ben Starr on writing and casting the pilot of Diff'rent Strokes - Charlotte Rae
02:59

Fred Silverman

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Ben Starr on Fred Silverman not liking the original pilot script for Diff'rent Strokes, but liking Gary Coleman
00:15

Doris Singleton

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Ben Starr on casting Doris Singleton on the television pilot of "First Nighter"
01:45

Jack Valenti

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Ben Starr on working with Jack Valenti
02:12

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