Berle Adams

Agent


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Berle Adams (1917-2009) talks about his early career in the music industry as a band booker, working with artists such as Louis Jordan, and then as a founding executive at Mercury Records. He describes in detail his work as a talent agent in MCA's television department. He talks about working with MCA heads Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman, and describes MCA's rise to dominance in the entertainment industry. He speaks of MCA's famous "uniform" for executives, and its methods for signing top-level clients. Adams explains the process of packaging clients with television shows and his technique in structuring a deal. He recalls many of the programs he represented, including The Jack Benny Program, This Is Your Life, The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, and The Colgate Comedy Hour. He speaks about his career after his acrimonious departure from MCA, creating a sports department at the William Morris Agency, and later distributing the Emmy Awards show internationally. Henry Colman conducted the interview on November 13, 2003 in Beverly Hills, CA.

"We were selling quality and we were selling MCA. We not only had quality, we had the best writers, the best directors, and the best producers."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Berle Adams on secretly replacing scripts written by The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show staff writers with better ones written by Danny Arnold and Roland Kibbee
Berle Adams on his understanding of why Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis broke up their act
Berle Adams on the MCA "uniform" for agents
Berle Adams on Ronald Reagan, President of the Screen Actors Guild, granting a waiver allowing MCA to function as both an agency and a production company, creating the first residual payments for actors and writers
Berle Adams on signing Arnold Palmer as a client and creating the show Challenge Golf
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on booking bands in Chicago and becoming the Chicago distributor for Varsity Records
On becoming an office boy and later an agent at General Artists Corporation; on representing musician Louis Jordan

Chapter 2

On forming Mercury Radio and Television Company; on becoming an agent at MCA
On packaging television shows and actors as an agent at MCA; on his impression of various MCA executives

Chapter 3

On MCA's various business dealings; on how he came to work in television as an agent at MCA
On the Hollywood Blacklist; on packaging television shows as an agent at MCA

Chapter 4

On selling television shows to networks; on working with Jack Benny
On working with Ralph Edwards; on signing Arnold Palmer and the American Football League as MCA clients

Chapter 5

On working with Tenneesee Ernie Ford; on working with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
On An Evening With Fred Astaire; on creating an international television division for MCA; on the end of MCA's agency business

Chapter 6

On leaving MCA and his brief time at William Morris and at Motown Industries; on co-founding Ultra Films
On distributing the Emmys internationally; on advice to aspiring agents
Shows

Alfred Hitchcock Presents aka The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

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Berle Adams on the impact of Alfred Hitchcock appearing on television in Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Colgate Comedy Hour, The

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Berle Adams on his clients Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis breaking up their act before fulfilling a four-episode contract to appear on The Colgate Comedy Hour, and how he convinced them to appear on the show anyway

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Berle Adams on the controversy over Fred Astaire winning the Emmy for Best Actor for An Evening With Fred Astaire
Berle Adams on distributing the Emmys internationally

Evening With Fred Astaire, An

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Berle Adams on how the television special An Evening With Fred Astaire came to be
Berle Adams on the controversy over Fred Astaire winning the Emmy for Best Actor for An Evening With Fred Astaire

Jack Benny Program, The

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Berle Adams on solving problems on the set of The Jack Benny Program
Berle Adams on negotiating Jack Benny's contract for The Jack Benny Program on CBS and bringing Rosemary Clooney on to tour with Benny
Berle Adams on working with Jack Benny on The Jack Benny Program

Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, The

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Berle Adams on secretly replacing scripts written by The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show staff writers with better ones written by Danny Arnold and Roland Kibbee

This Is Your Life

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Berle Adams on negotiating deals for Ralph Edwards for his shows Truth or Consequences and This Is Your Life

Truth or Consequences

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Berle Adams on negotiating deals for Ralph Edwards for his shows Truth or Consequences and This Is Your Life
Topics

Advice

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Berle Adams on advice to aspiring agents

Emmy Awards

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Berle Adams on the controversy over Fred Astaire winning the Emmy for Best Actor for An Evening With Fred Astaire
Berle Adams on distributing the Emmys internationally

Hollywood Blacklist

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Berle Adams on how he dealt with the Hollywood Blacklist

Industry Crossroads

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Berle Adams on how he dealt with the Hollywood Blacklist

Pop Culture

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Berle Adams on his understanding of why Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis broke up their act

Ronald Reagan

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Berle Adams on Ronald Reagan, President of the Screen Actors Guild, granting a waiver allowing MCA to function as both an agency and a production company, creating the first residual payments for actors and writers

Sports

View Topic
Berle Adams on selling professional wrestling to local Los Angeles television stations
Berle Adams on signing the American Football League as an MCA client
Berle Adams on signing Arnold Palmer as a client and creating the show Challenge Golf

Television Industry

View Topic
Berle Adams on Ronald Reagan, President of the Screen Actors Guild, granting a waiver allowing MCA to function as both an agency and a production company, creating the first residual payments for actors and writers
Berle Adams on how he dealt with the Hollywood Blacklist
Berle Adams on how he structured deals for clients while an agent at MCA
Berle Adams on packaging television shows as an agent at MCA
Berle Adams on advice to aspiring agents

Television and the Presidency

View Topic
Berle Adams on Ronald Reagan, President of the Screen Actors Guild, granting a waiver allowing MCA to function as both an agency and a production company, creating the first residual payments for actors and writers
Professions

Agent

View Profession
Berle Adams on packaging actors and television shows as an agent at MCA
Berle Adams on the MCA "uniform" for agents
Berle Adams on how MCA agents went after new clients
Berle Adams on packaging television shows as an agent at MCA
Berle Adams on how he structured deals for clients while an agent at MCA
Berle Adams on creating an international television division for MCA
Berle Adams on advice to aspiring agents

Representatives

View Profession
Berle Adams on packaging actors and television shows as an agent at MCA
Berle Adams on the MCA "uniform" for agents
Berle Adams on how MCA agents went after new clients
Berle Adams on packaging television shows as an agent at MCA
Berle Adams on how he structured deals for clients while an agent at MCA
Berle Adams on creating an international television division for MCA
Berle Adams on advice to aspiring agents
Genres

Awards Shows

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Berle Adams on distributing the Emmys internationally

Classic Anthology Series

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Berle Adams on the impact of Alfred Hitchcock appearing on television in Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Comedy Series

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Berle Adams on solving problems on the set of The Jack Benny Program
Berle Adams on negotiating Jack Benny's contract for The Jack Benny Program on CBS and bringing Rosemary Clooney on to tour with Benny
Berle Adams on working with Jack Benny on The Jack Benny Program

Game Shows

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Berle Adams on negotiating deals for Ralph Edwards for his shows Truth or Consequences and This Is Your Life

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Berle Adams on secretly replacing scripts written by The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show staff writers with better ones written by Danny Arnold and Roland Kibbee
Berle Adams on his clients Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis breaking up their act before fulfilling a four-episode contract to appear on The Colgate Comedy Hour, and how he convinced them to appear on the show anyway
Berle Adams on how the television special An Evening With Fred Astaire came to be
Berle Adams on the controversy over Fred Astaire winning the Emmy for Best Actor for An Evening With Fred Astaire

Reality TV

View Genre
Berle Adams on negotiating deals for Ralph Edwards for his shows Truth or Consequences and This Is Your Life

Sports

View Genre
Berle Adams on signing Arnold Palmer as a client and creating the show Challenge Golf
Berle Adams on selling professional wrestling to local Los Angeles television stations
Berle Adams on signing the American Football League as an MCA client
People

Danny Arnold

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Berle Adams on secretly replacing scripts written by The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show staff writers with better ones written by Danny Arnold and Roland Kibbee

Fred Astaire

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Berle Adams on how the television special An Evening With Fred Astaire came to be
Berle Adams on the controversy over Fred Astaire winning the Emmy for Best Actor for An Evening With Fred Astaire

James T. Aubrey

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Berle Adams on a contentious negotiation with CBS President James T. Aubrey

Jack Benny

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Berle Adams on negotiating Jack Benny's contract for The Jack Benny Program on CBS and bringing Rosemary Clooney on to tour with Benny
Berle Adams on working with Jack Benny on The Jack Benny Program

Rosemary Clooney

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Berle Adams on negotiating Jack Benny's contract for The Jack Benny Program on CBS and bringing Rosemary Clooney on to tour with Benny

Ralph Edwards

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Berle Adams on negotiating deals for Ralph Edwards for his shows Truth or Consequences and This Is Your Life
Berle Adams on working with Ralph Edwards as his agent

Tennessee Ernie Ford

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Berle Adams on working with Tennessee Ernie Ford as his agent
Berle Adams on secretly replacing scripts written by The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show staff writers with better ones written by Danny Arnold and Roland Kibbee

Alfred Hitchcock

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Berle Adams on the impact of Alfred Hitchcock appearing on television in Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Louis Jordan

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Berle Adams on representing musician Louis Jordan
Berle Adams on musician Louis Jordan's packed schedule

Roland Kibbee

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Berle Adams on secretly replacing scripts written by The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show staff writers with better ones written by Danny Arnold and Roland Kibbee

Jennings Lang

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Berle Adams on his impression of agent and MCA executive, Jennings Lang

Norman Lear

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Berle Adams on a deal he negotiated for his clients Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin for the Neil Simon play, "Go Blow Your Horn"

Jerry Lewis

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Berle Adams on his clients Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis breaking up their act before fulfilling a four-episode contract to appear on The Colgate Comedy Hour, and how he convinced them to appear on the show anyway
Berle Adams on his understanding of why Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis broke up their act

Dean Martin

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Berle Adams on his clients Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis breaking up their act before fulfilling a four-episode contract to appear on The Colgate Comedy Hour, and how he convinced them to appear on the show anyway
Berle Adams on his understanding of why Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis broke up their act

Marilyn Monroe

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Berle Adams on booking Marilyn Monroe on The Jack Benny Program

Arnold Palmer

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Berle Adams on signing Arnold Palmer as a client and creating the show Challenge Golf

Ronald Reagan

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Berle Adams on Ronald Reagan, President of the Screen Actors Guild, granting a waiver allowing MCA to function as both an agency and a production company, creating the first residual payments for actors and writers

Neil Simon

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Berle Adams on a deal he negotiated for his clients Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin for the Neil Simon play, "Go Blow Your Horn"

Jules Stein

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Berle Adams on how Jules Stein came up with the name of his company, Music Corporation of America (MCA)
Berle Adams on his relationship with Jules Stein, co-founder of MCA

Jimmy Stewart

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Berle Adams on booking Jimmy Stewart on The Jack Benny Program

Lew Wasserman

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Berle Adams on his first impressions of MCA President, Lew Wasserman, and accepting a job offer from Wasserman
Berle Adams on his impression of President of MCA, Lew Wasserman
Berle Adams on the role President of MCA, Lew Wasserman, played in the company
Berle Adams on the impact of Lew Wasserman convincing Alfred Hitchcock to appear on television in Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Berle Adams on creating an international television division for MCA - after Lew Wasserman almost didn't let him do it
Berle Adams on rumors that MCA President Lew Wasserman had connections with the mob

Bud Yorkin

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Berle Adams on a deal he negotiated for his clients Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin for the Neil Simon play, "Go Blow Your Horn"

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