Ellen M. Violett

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Ellen M. Violett speaks about her early interest in acting and writing. She talks about writing for Theatre Arts Magazine, where she met early television producer Albert McCleery. She describes her first produced teleplay, an adaptation of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," which aired in 1950 on McCleery's anthology Cameo Theatre and was restaged in 1951 for Fireside Theatre. She notes that the reviews of "The Lottery" immediately led to work on the mystery anthology Suspense. She details several of the teleplays she wrote for the famed cultural anthology series Omnibus (including "The Duchess and the Smugs," and "Uncle Tom's Cabin"). She describes working with producer Fred Coe, director Vincent Donahue, and producer David Susskind, and recalls productions "Counterfeit," on U.S. Steel Hour, "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (with Katherine Cornell) on Producers Showcase, and "Rebecca" on Theatre '62. Violett outlines her tendency toward adaptations and her approach to both adaptations and originals. She describes in detail writing for the acclaimed law series The Defenders, including the episode "Drink Like a Lady" based on her own experiences with alcoholism (with a mystery twist). She talks about other episodes she wrote for The Defenders and the issues they tackled, and offers her impressions of series creator Reginald Rose. She comments frankly on the prejudice against women writers of her era, and outlines her work "The Experiment" for CBS Playhouse, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. She discusses the television movie Go Ask Alice, for which she received her second Emmy Award nomination, and speaks openly about her disappointment over her loss of both Emmys. She talks about about her work for WNET's Great Performances, expresses her admiration for the talented actors who appeared in her pieces, and recalls her final television credit Hallmark Hall of Fame: "Blind Spot." She describes several unproduced projects, including a teleplay that would have been one of the earliest television treatments of lesbianism. Stephen Bowie conducted the interview on December 13, 2008 in New York City.

"Television is its own legitimate medium of art. I love the closeness of television, the intimacy, as opposed to the movies. This proscenium arch comes to the viewer and gives you the kind of attention you'd get from a reader. There is no audience better than an audience of one. There never will be." 

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Ellen M. Violett on adapting "Rebecca" for NBC's Theater '62
Ellen M. Violett on the difference in processes between writing adaptations and writing original works
Ellen M. Violett on writing for the series Hawk
Ellen M. Violett on writing the sitcom Jamie and working with producer David Susskind
Ellen M. Violett on being a pioneer for women in television
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her early life and influences; on studying at The Actors Studio
On becoming a television writer; on adapting Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" for television; on writing "Breakdown" for Suspense
On adapting "The Duchess and the Smugs", "Brewsie and Willie", "Salome", "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Dear Brutus" for Omnibus
On adapting "Rebecca" for Theater '62; on adapting "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" and "The Skin of Our Teeth" for Producer's Showcase; on writing "Counterfeit" for The U.S. Steel Hour

Chapter 2

On writing the sitcom Jamie; on her agent, Flora Roberts; on writing the Broadway musical "Copper and Brass" for Nancy Walker
On adapting "Rebecca" for television; on the craft of adapting works for television; on writing for The U.S. Steel Hour
On her experience with the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s; on the role of the writer in live television
On becoming involved with writing The Defenders; on the autobiographical elements of her first script for The Defenders; on writing other episodes of the series

Chapter 3

On writing scripts for The Defenders; on writing for the series Shane; on her time in Hollywood
On writing for the series Hawk; on writing "The Trap of Solid Gold" for ABC Stage '67 and "The Experiment" for CBS Playhouse; on adapting Go Ask Alice for television
On her Emmy nominations; on acting as Executive Story Consultant for Nurse; on adapting Big Blonde for PBS
On writing Closed Set for PBS; on various scripts she wrote that never got made; on the made-for-television movie The Burning Bed

Chapter 4

On writing her novel; on what she likes about writing for television; on writers' attitudes toward television
On sexism she faced in her career; on how being a lesbian affected her career; on her proudest career achievement and advice to aspiring writers; on television fulfilling its potential
Shows

ABC Stage 67

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "The Trap of Solid Gold" for ABC Stage '67

CBS Playhouse

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "The Experiment" for CBS Playhouse
Ellen M. Violett on her favorite script "The Experiment" for CBS Playhouse

Cameo Theatre

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Ellen M. Violett on how she became a television writer
Ellen M. Violett on adapting Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" for Cameo Theater

Defenders, The

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Ellen M. Violett on becoming involved with writing for The Defenders
Ellen M. Violett on the autobiographical element of her first Defenders script
Ellen M. Violett on writing scripts for The Defenders
Ellen M. Violett on writing The Defenders episode "Conflict of Interests"
Ellen M. Violett on writing The Defenders episode "Nobody Asks What Side You're On"
Ellen M. Violett on writing The Defenders episode "Only A Child" and her feelings about the series

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Ellen M. Violett on her Emmy nominations

Hallmark Hall of Fame

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "Blind Spot" for The Hallmark Hall of Fame

Nurse

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Ellen M. Violett on acting as executive story consultant on Nurse

Omnibus

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "The Duchess and the Smuggs"  for Omnibus
Ellen M. Violett on the format of Omnibus
Ellen M. Violett on writing "Brewsie and Willie" for Omnibus
Ellen M. Violett on working with Alistair Cooke on Omnibus
Ellen M. Violett on adapting "Uncle Tom's Cabin" for Omnibus
Ellen M. Violett on adapting "Salome" for Omnibus
Ellen M. Violett on writing "Dear Brutus" for Omnibus

Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse: "Marty"

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Ellen M. Violett on Paddy Chayefsky and The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse production of "Marty"

Producers' Showcase

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" for Producer's Showcase
Ellen M. Violett on writing "The Skin of Our Teeth" for Producer's Showcase

Shane

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Ellen M. Violett on writing for the series Shane

Suspense

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "Breakdown" for Suspense
Ellen M. Violett on adapting "Whatever Happened to Daisy Lord?" for Suspense

United States Steel Hour, The

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "Counterfeit" for The U.S. Steel Hour
Ellen M. Violett on remaking "The Duchess and the Smugs" for The U.S. Steel Hour
Ellen M. Violett on writing "The Many Ways of Heaven" for The U.S. Steel Hour

West Wing, The

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Ellen M. Violett on what she likes about writing for television
Topics

Anthology Drama

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Ellen M. Violett on writing Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" for Cameo Theater
Ellen M. Violett on writing "Breakdown" for Suspense
Ellen M. Violett on writing for Omnibus
Ellen M. Violett on writing for Producer's Showcase

Civil Rights Movement

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Ellen M. Violett on writing The Defenders episode "Nobody Asks What Side You're On"

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Ellen M. Violett on writers who influenced her early in life

Emmy Awards

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Ellen M. Violett on her Emmy nominations

Hollywood Blacklist

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Ellen M. Violett on her experience with the Blacklist of the 1950s

Industry Crossroads

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Ellen M. Violett on her experience with the Blacklist of the 1950s

LGBTQ

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Ellen M. Violett on how her lesbianism affected her career

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

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Ellen M. Violett on writing Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" for Cameo Theater
Ellen M. Violett on writing "Breakdown" for Suspense
Ellen M. Violett on writing for Omnibus
Ellen M. Violett on writing for Producer's Showcase

Women

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Ellen M. Violett on sexism she faced in her career
Ellen M. Violett on being a pioneer for women in television
Professions

Writers

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Ellen M. Violett on the craft of writing adaptations for television
Ellen M. Violett on the craft of adapting works for television
Ellen M. Violett on what she likes about writing for television
Ellen M. Violett on advice to aspiring television writers
Genres

Awards Shows

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Ellen M. Violett on her Emmy nominations

Classic Anthology Series

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Ellen M. Violett on writing for Omnibus
Ellen M. Violett on writing for Producer's Showcase

Drama Series

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Ellen M. Violett on writing The Defenders
Ellen M. Violett on writing for The Defenders

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Ellen M. Violett on adapting Go Ask Alice for television
People

Paul Bogart

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "The Trap of Solid Gold" for ABC Stage '67

Paddy Chayefsky

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Ellen M. Violett on Paddy Chayefsky and The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse production of "Marty"

Fred Coe

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Ellen M. Violett on working with producer Fred Coe

Alistair Cooke

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Ellen M. Violett on working with Alistair Cooke on Omnibus

Ossie Davis

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Ellen M. Violett on writing The Defenders episode "Nobody Asks What Side You're On"

Vincent J. Donehue

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Ellen M. Violett on working with director Vincent J. Donehue

Nina Foch

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Ellen M. Violett on adapting "Rebecca" for NBC's Theater '62

Helen Hayes

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "The Skin of Our Teeth" for Producer's Showcase

Dustin Hoffman

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Ellen M. Violett on writing "The Trap of Solid Gold" for ABC Stage '67

James Mason

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Ellen M. Violett on adapting "Rebecca" for NBC's Theater '62

Albert McCleery

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Ellen M. Violett on producer Albert McCleery

Robert Reed

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Ellen M. Violett on writing The Defenders episode "Only A Child" and her feelings about the series

David Susskind

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Ellen M. Violett on writing the sitcom Jamie and working with producer David Susskind

Nancy Walker

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Ellen M. Violett on writing the Broadway musical "Copper and Brass" starring Nancy Walker

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