David Pressman

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his over three-hour Archive interview, David Pressman (1913-2011) recounts his arrival in the U.S. from Russia in 1922 and his early interest in acting. He talks about acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in the 1930s and his entrance into WWII in the early 1940s (he describes returning home from the war, and what it was like to see the Statue of Liberty from a porthole on his ship.) He discusses the Actors Studio that was created in 1947, which he described as a gym for actors, and details the live prestige ABC television drama series Actors Studio featuring emerging talent at the time. He recalls appearing as an actor in the very first production of Actors Studio and then becoming one of the series' primary directors. Pressman discusses the process by which the productions were staged and directed for television, lists the writers, performers, and other talent who worked on the show, and tells how the series struggled for sponsorship. He outlines the excitement of working in live television and talks about other anthology series he directed. He then chronicles his struggle to work as a director in television under the shadow of the Hollywood Blacklist. He explains how he ultimately switched careers to teaching until the end of the Blacklist, and eventually returned to television, notably as an Emmy Award-winning director of the daytime serial One Life to Live. B-roll consists of photos of Esso Repertory Theater, Prudential's On Stage, the CBS control room during a production of The Play's the Thing, and Pressman's appearance as an actor in a small role on One Life to Live. Pressman also shows off his daytime Emmy Awards and talked about receiving them. Karen Herman conducted the interview on July 27, 2004 in New York, New York.

"An unprepared director who comes to rehearsal not fully prepared is a disaster. Don't depend on improvisation.... Like a conductor of an orchestra, you have to know your instruments and how they work and what can they do. Otherwise, the musicians will find you out. And so will the actors."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
David Pressman on studying acting with Sanford Meisner 
David Pressman on his first television job (and his first use of videotape) after being blacklisted: directing Esso Repertory Theatre  for David Susskind
David Pressman on directing One Life to Live  
David Pressman on the Hollywood Blacklist happening again
David Pressman on how being blacklisted affected him
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on getting into acting; on his schooling
On learning acting from Sanford Meisner; on his early acting career

Chapter 2

On his service in World War II; on his time in the Actors Studio; on acting in the NBC series Actors Studio
On acting and staging for live television; on early television's relationship to live theater

Chapter 3

On casting and directing Actors Studio; on various actors who appeared on Actors Studio; on learning to be a television director
On the cancellation of the series The Play's the Thing; on directing Cosmopolitan Theater and Prudential Family Playhouse; on directing Treasury Men in Action and being blacklisted

Chapter 4

On what he did while he was blacklisted; on his first television job after the Blacklist; on Elia Kazan and the Hollywood Blacklist
On directing Phillip Morris Playhouse; on directing The Nurses; on directing The Defenders, NYPD and Another World

Chapter 5

On directing Another World; on directing One Life to Live
On the producers of One Life to Live; on how technology changed the production of One Life to Live over the years; on the storylines of the show

Chapter 6

On his acting role on One Life to Live; on the audience for One Life to Live; on the casting of the show
On the actors of One Life to Live
On the guest stars of One Life to Live; on leaving One Life to Live; on directing Loving

Chapter 7

On working with his camera crew and editing; on career achievements and regrets and how he'd like to be remembered
On B-Roll pictures from his career - Esso Repertory Theater; Esso Repertory Theater's production of "The Dumb Waiter"; The Prudential Family Playhouse production of "This Town Will Never Be the Same Again" with E.G. Marshall; E sso Repertory Theater with Donald Moffit and David Susskind; in the control room at CBS with Donald Davis; as "Bernie", his character on One Life to Live with Robert Woods; with his son Michael Pressman; his collection of Emmy Awards
Shows

Actors Studio

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David Pressman on acting in the early NBC series Actors Studio
David Pressman on acting and staging for live television
David Pressman on the people involved in creating the series Actors Studio and its relationship with the real Actors Studio
David Pressman on casting and directing Actors Studio
David Pressman on the change of Actors Studio to The Play's the Thing on CBS and comparing the rules for directors on ABC vs. NBC vs. CBS

Another World

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David Pressman on directing Another World live-on-tape
David Pressman on directing Another World 

Cosmopolitan Theater

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David Pressman on directing Cosmopolitan Theater

Defenders, The

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David Pressman on directing one episode of The Defenders

Esso Repertory Theatre

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David Pressman on his first television job (and his first use of videotape) after being blacklisted: directing Esso Repertory Theatre for David Susskind

Loving

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David Pressman on directing Loving

N.Y.P.D.

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David Pressman on directing NYPD

Nurses, The

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David Pressman on directing the soap opera The Nurses

One Life to Live

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David Pressman on directing One Life to Live  
Director David Pressman on the production details and producers of One Life to Live  
David Pressman on the writing on One Life to Live  and how technology has changed the production process
Director David Pressman on some of the social issues covered on One Live to Live
David Pressman on storylines of One Life to Live  
David Pressman on acting on One Life to Live
David Pressman on the audience of One Life to Live
David Pressman on the casting of One Life to Live
David Pressman on the actors of One Life to Live
David Pressman on the guest stars of One Life to Live
David Pressman on leaving One Life to Live
David Pressman on preparing to shoot a soap opera
David Pressman on communicating with his camera crew
David Pressman on editing One Life to Live
David Pressman on his proudest career achievements

Philip Morris Playhouse, The

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David Pressman on directing The Philip Morris Playhouse while he was blacklisted

Prudential Family Playhouse

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David Pressman on directing Prudential Family Playhouse

Treasury Men in Action

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David Pressman on directing Treasury Men in Action
David Pressman on learning he was blacklisted and on being fired from Treasury Men in Action
Topics

Anthology Drama

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David Pressman on early television's relationship to theater

Health and Medicine

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Director David Pressman on some of the social issues covered on One Live to Live

Hollywood Blacklist

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David Pressman on learning his was blacklisted and being fired from Treasury Men in Action
David Pressman on being blacklisted; on teaching at Boston University from 1954-1959 during his unemployment; on then running the Neighborhood Playhouse; on the end of the blacklist; on trying to get jobs in television during the blacklist period; on David Susskind hiring him for television
David Pressman on how being blacklisted affected him
David Pressman on "secretly" directing The Philip Morris Playhouse while he was blacklisted
David Pressman on the Hollywood Blacklist happening again

Industry Crossroads

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David Pressman on learning his was blacklisted and being fired from Treasury Men in Action
David Pressman on being blacklisted; on teaching at Boston University from 1954-1959 during his unemployment; on then running the Neighborhood Playhouse; on the end of the blacklist; on trying to get jobs in television during the blacklist period; on David Susskind hiring him for television
David Pressman on how being blacklisted affected him
David Pressman on "secretly" directing The Philip Morris Playhouse  while he was blacklisted
David Pressman on the Hollywood Blacklist happening again

Minorities

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Director David Pressman on some of the social issues covered on One Live to Live

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

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David Pressman on early television's relationship to theater

Technological Innovation

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David Pressman on his first television job (and his first use of videotape) after being blacklisted: directing Esso Repertory Theatre for David Susskind
David Pressman on the writing on One Life to Live  and how technology has changed the production process

Television Industry

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David Pressman on learning his was blacklisted and being fired from Treasury Men in Action
David Pressman on being blacklisted; on teaching at Boston University from 1954-1959 during his unemployment; on then running the Neighborhood Playhouse; on the end of the blacklist; on trying to get jobs in television during the blacklist period; on David Susskind hiring him for television
David Pressman on how being blacklisted affected him
David Pressman on "secretly" directing The Philip Morris Playhouse  while he was blacklisted
David Pressman on the Hollywood Blacklist happening again

World War II

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David Pressman on his service in World War II
Professions

Directors

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David Pressman on acting and staging for live television
David Pressman on the change of Actors Studio to The Play's the Thing on CBS and comparing the rules for directors on ABC vs. NBC vs. CBS
David Pressman on a director's relationship with producers
David Pressman on advice to an aspiring director
David Pressman on communicating with his camera crew
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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David Pressman on casting and directing Actors Studio and The Play's the Thing
David Pressman on his first television job (and his first use of videotape) after being blacklisted: directing Esso Repertory Theatre  for David Susskind
David Pressman on "secretly" directing The Philip Morris Playhouse  while he was blacklisted

Daytime/Primetime Serials

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David Pressman on directing Another World 
David Pressman on directing One Life to Live
David Pressman on directing One Life to Live

Legal Dramas

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David Pressman on directing one episode of The Defenders
People

Jocelyn Brando

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David Pressman on casting and directing Actors Studio

Phil Carey

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David Pressman on the actors of One Life to Live: Phil Carey 

Sammy Davis, Jr.

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David Pressman on the guest stars of One Life to Live: Sammy Davis, Jr.

Laurence Fishburne

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David Pressman on the actors of One Life to Live: Laurence Fishburne 

Lee Grant

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David Pressman on casting and directing Actors Studio

Ellen Holly

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David Pressman on the actors of One Life to Live: Ellen Holly 

Kim Hunter

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David Pressman on casting and directing Actors Studio

Elia Kazan

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David Pressman on Elia Kazan's rationalization for naming names during the Blacklist era

Grace Kelly

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David Pressman on working with Grace Kelly and other actors

Judith Light

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David Pressman on storylines of One Life to Live
David Pressman on the actors of One Life to Live: Judith Light 

E. G. Marshall

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David Pressman on casting and directing Actors Studio

Agnes Nixon

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David Pressman on working with One Life to Live creator Agnes Nixon 

Irna Phillips

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David Pressman on Irna Phillips

Nat Polen

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David Pressman on the actors of One Life to Live: Nat Polen 

Doris Quinlan

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Director David Pressman on the production details and producers of One Life to Live  

Little Richard

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David Pressman on the guest stars of One Life to Live: Little Richard  

Clint Ritchie

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David Pressman on the actors of One Life to Live: Clint Ritchie  

Jason Robards, Jr.

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David Pressman on his proudest career achievements

Erika Slezak

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David Pressman on directing Erika Slezak on One Life to Live
David Pressman on the actors of One Life to Live: Erika Slezak 

Rod Steiger

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David Pressman on casting and directing Actors Studio

Robin Strasser

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David Pressman on the actors of One Life to Live: Robin Strasser 

David Susskind

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David Pressman on his first television job (and his first use of videotape) after being blacklisted: directing Esso Repertory Theatre for David Susskind

Ruth Westheimer

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David Pressman on the guest stars of One Life to Live: Dr. Ruth 

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