David L. Wolper

Producer/ Documentarian


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his nearly five-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Producer David L. Wolper (1928 - 2010) talks about forming his first company, Flamingo Films, with father and son friends Joe and Jim Harris. He discusses many of his documentaries, including the "Race For Space," "Hollywood: The Golden Years," and "The Making of a President," among others. Wolper fondly recalls working with his long time friend Mike Wallace, as well meeting and working with oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau. He talks about two classic sitcoms, Chico and the Man and Welcome Back, Kotter, as well as the many television movies and specials he produced.  Wolper also discusses in great detail his three highly acclaimed ABC mini-series, Roots, The Thorn Birds, and North and South. Morrie Gelman conducted the interview in Los Angeles, CA on May 12, 1998.

"I got my philosophy of filmmaking from making 'The Race For Space' and I never changed it from that first show. I want to entertain and inform, not just inform and not just entertain. I want to do both in the same piece."

Highlights
David Wolper on the success, criticism, and impact of Roots
07:55
David Wolper on the genesis and production of The Race for Space
05:15
David Wolper on fighting for key scenes in Roots
02:15
David Wolper on why he thinks Roots was right for the time it came out, and its impact
04:10
Producer David Wolper on the development of The Thorn Birds
09:21
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years, influences, and education
11:36
On transferring to USC; befriending Art Buchwald; leaving school to start a film syndication company
16:50

Chapter 2

On working in early film syndication
13:59
On working on the syndication and sponsorship (by Kelloggs) of Adventures of Superman
09:41
David Wolper on the genesis and production of The Race for Space
05:15

Chapter 3

On making The Race for Space; on the documentary genre
29:05

Chapter 4

On developing The Making of the Presidency, National Geographic Specials, and developing his company
28:27

Chapter 5

On some of his 1960s docudramas
28:12

Chapter 6

On producing Sandburg's Lincoln, Chico and the Man, Welcome Back Kotter.
On first hearing of Alex Haley's Roots
03:07

Chapter 7

On developing and producing Roots
28:40

Chapter 8

On censorship issues with Roots; on Roots: The Next Generation; on The Thorn Birds; on North & South
28:33

Chapter 9

On producing North and South; on his involvement with the Olympics throughout his career; on other events he produced including Liberty Weekend; on his then-current projects

Chapter 10

On the impact of cable and the then-current status of the industry; on how he would like to be remembered; on some of the people he worked with over his career

Chapter 11

On some of the people he worked with in his career (continued); on his family
Shows

Academy Awards, The

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David Wolper on befriending Art Buchwald at USC; on a prank they played at the 1948 Academy Awards
02:49

Adventures of Superman

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David Wolper on working on the syndication and sponsorship (by Kelloggs) of Adventures of Superman
04:27

Chico and the Man

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David Wolper on executive producing Chico and the Man; the casting of Freddie Prinze
05:45
David Wolper on the cast of Chico and the Man
02:55

Divorce Hearing

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David Wolper on the syndicated series Divorce Hearing
02:15

Making of the Presidency, The

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David Wolper on developing The Making of the President, National Geographic Specials, and developing his company

North and South

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Producer David Wolper on North and South
01:11

Race for Space, The

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David Wolper on the genesis and production of The Race for Space
05:10
David Wolper on making The Race for Space; on the documentary genre

Roots

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David Wolper on first hearing about Alex Haley's Roots
David Wolper on the origin of Roots and finding out about Alex Haley's book, and the development of the hit miniseries
28:40
David Wolper on the success, criticism, and impact of Roots
07:55

Sandburg's Lincoln

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David Wolper on producing Sandburg's Lincoln
04:32

Thorn Birds, The

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Producer David Wolper on the development of The Thorn Birds
09:21

Welcome Back, Kotter

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David Wolper on selling Welcome Back Kotter to ABC
02:08
David Wolper on Welcome Back Kotter
05:20
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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David Wolper on fighting for key scenes in Roots
02:15

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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David Wolper on seeing television for the first time at the 1939 Worlds Fair
01:16

Minorities

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David Wolper on the origin of Roots and finding out about Alex Haley's book, and the development of the hit miniseries
28:40

Moon Landing

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David Wolper on the genesis and production of The Race for Space
05:15
Genres

News and Documentary

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David Wolper on the genesis and production of The Race for Space
05:15

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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David Wolper on the origin of Roots and finding out about Alex Haley's book, and the development of the hit miniseries
28:40
David Wolper on why he thinks Roots was right for the time it came out, and its impact
04:10
People

Jack Albertson

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David Wolper on the cast of Chico and the Man
02:55

Art Buchwald

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David Wolper on befriending Art Buchwald at USC; on a prank they played at the 1948 Academy Awards
02:49

Redd Foxx

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David Wolper on how comedian Redd Foxx almost was cast as a slave on Roots
00:56

David Gerber

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David Wolper on the syndicated series Divorce Hearing
02:15

Freddie Prinze

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David Wolper on executive producing Chico and the Man; the casting of Freddie Prinze
05:45
David Wolper on the cast of Chico and the Man
02:55

John Travolta

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David Wolper on Welcome Back Kotter
05:20

Mike Wallace

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David Wolper on the genesis and production of The Race for Space
05:10

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