Fred de Cordova

Producer / Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Fred de Cordova (1910-2001) talks about his early life and experiences in New York City working for the Shubert Organization which led to him eventually moving to Hollywood and becoming a director. He describes directing several feature films including "Bedtime for Bonzo" starring future president Ronald Reagan. He discusses producing and directing The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, as well as his personal relationship with stars George Burns and Gracie Allen. He outlines his time producing and directing The Jack Benny Program, and details his long friendship with Benny and his wife Mary Livingstone. De Cordova recalls directing several television sitcoms including The George Gobel Show, December Bride, Bewitched, and over one hundred episodes of My Three Sons starring Fred MacMurray. He talks about his twenty-two year association with The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson  where he first acted as producer and later executive producer. He recalls the many guests of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, the guest hosts, the sketches, Carson's nightly monologue, and the enduring popularity of the show. He concludes by speaking of the many notable people with whom he's worked in his career. Morrie Gelman conducted the interview on November 7, 1997 in Burbank, CA.

"People say to me all the time, 'Please bring Johnny Carson back.' If I could, I wouldn't. He just belongs where he is. Right on top."

Highlights
Fred de Cordova on his personal relationship with Johnny Carson
03:33
Fred de Cordova on his many Emmy Awards
01:25
Fred de Cordova on the 1950s Golden Age of Television 
05:41
Fred de Cordova on the talents of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:30
Fred de Cordova on the format of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
02:08
Fred de Cordova on what makes a good talk show and career highlights
02:26
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his favorite performers growing up and his early education; on his first show business job working for the Shubert Organization
14:54
On living through the Great Depression; on discovering Jackie Gleason and working with Milton Berle; on establishing himself as a director first in New York and later in Hollywood
14:06

Chapter 2

On his experiences in World War II; on early features he directed; on the difference between directing theater and directing features
08:49
On directing Ronald Reagan in the feature "Bedtime for Bonzo" and directing various other Universal features; on how he came to produce and direct The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
10:48
On directing December Bride and The Bob Cummings Show; on how he came to produce The Jack Benny Program
08:10

Chapter 3

On working on The George Gobel Show; on producing The Jack Benny Program and working with Jack Benny; on Jack Benny's wife Mary Livingston on The Jack Benny Program
09:22
On the marriage between George Burns and Gracie Allen and the death of Gracie Allen; on the friendship between George Burns and Jack Benny, and Benny's feud with Fred Allen
06:17
On the differences between directing features and directing television; on the 1950s Golden Age of Television; on television's perceived second class status in the '50s
13:17

Chapter 4

On producing and directing several series for Screen Gems including The Donna Reed Show, The Farmer's Daughter, and Bewitched; on directing Mr. Adams and Eve and The Doris Day Show; on the importance of casting
12:29
On directing My Three Sons and on Fred MacMurray's shooting schedule; on My Three Sons producer Don Fedderson and on working with William Demarest as "Uncle Charlie"
07:38
On meeting Johnny Carson; on becoming the producer of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
08:34

Chapter 5

On his duties as producer on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on the format of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on the talents of Johnny Carson on the show
08:27
On his personal relationship with Johnny Carson; on his daily routine on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson including Johnny Carson's monologue; on getting guests and guest hosts for the show
13:08
On Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on Bobby Quinn as the director of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and on various coordinators; on David Letterman and Jimmy Stewart as guests on the show
07:06

Chapter 6

On the non-celebrity guests and comedians on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on the sketches of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on the commercial breaks on the show
06:56
On The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson moving from New York to Burbank and the studio audience; on choosing the guest hosts for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and the show's relationship with NBC executives; on Joan Rivers and Jay Leno guest hosting the show
09:36
On Johnny Carson's retirement from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; on consulting for The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno; on what makes a good talk show and career highlights
08:32
On the then-future of television and how he'd like to be remembered; on his many Emmy Awards
03:29

Chapter 7

Fred de Cordova on various people he worked with in his career
14:57
On b-roll pictures from his career- on the set of My Three Sons; with Spring Barrington on the set of December Bride; with George Burns; with Jack Benny; with Rod Serling; with Gracie Allen; with Ida Lupino; holding an Emmy Award; with Ed Sullivan; with Bing Crosby; with Jack Benny and Bob Hope; with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon
02:55
Shows

Bewitched

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Fred de Cordova on producing and directing several series for Screen Gems including The Donna Reed ShowThe Farmer's Daughter, and Bewitched
06:28

Bob Cummings Show, The aka Love That Bob

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Fred de Cordova on directing The Bob Cummings Show and working with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope
05:45

December Bride

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Fred de Cordova on directing December Bride
01:24

Donna Reed Show, The

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Fred de Cordova on producing and directing several series for Screen Gems including The Donna Reed Show, The Farmer's Daughter, and Bewitched
06:28

Doris Day Show, The

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Fred de Cordova on directing Mr. Adams and Eve and The Doris Day Show
03:48

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Fred de Cordova on his many Emmy Awards
01:25

Farmer's Daughter, The

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Fred de Cordova on producing and directing several series for Screen Gems including The Donna Reed ShowThe Farmer's Daughter, and Bewitched
06:28

George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, The

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Fred de Cordova on how he came to produce and direct The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
04:31
Fred de Cordova on the format of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
02:07

George Gobel Show, The

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Fred de Cordova on working on The George Gobel Show
04:19

Jack Benny Program, The

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Fred de Cordova on how he came to produce The Jack Benny Program
00:59
Fred de Cordova on producing The Jack Benny Program and working with Jack Benny
04:05
Fred de Cordova on Jack Benny's wife Mary Livingston on The Jack Benny Program
00:57

Mr. Adams and Eve

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Fred de Cordova on directing Mr. Adams and Eve and The Doris Day Show
03:48

My Three Sons

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Fred de Cordova on directing My Three Sons and Fred MacMurray's shooting schedule 
04:57
Fred de Cordova on My Three Sons producer Don Fedderson and working with William Demarest as "Uncle Charlie"
02:41

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Fred de Cordova on becoming the producer of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
05:51
Fred de Cordova on his duties as producer on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:48
Fred de Cordova on the format of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:07
Fred de Cordova on the talents of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:30
Fred de Cordova on his personal relationship with Johnny Carson
03:32
Fred de Cordova on his daily routine on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson including Johnny Carson's monologue
04:18
Fred de Cordova on getting guests and guest hosts for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
05:16
Fred de Cordova on Ed McMahon and Doc Severneson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:34
Fred de Cordova on Bobby Quinn as the director of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and various coordinators
01:54
Fred de Cordova on Johnny Carson's fondness for having Jimmy Stewart as a Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson guest
01:42
Fred de Cordova on David Letterman as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
00:53
Fred de Cordova on the non-celebrity guests on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:04
Fred de Cordova on comedians on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:13
Fred de Cordova on the sketches of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:54
Fred de Cordova on the commercial breaks on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
00:45
Fred de Cordova on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson moving from New York to Burbank and the studio audience 
02:29
Fred de Cordova on issues with standards and practices on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:21
Fred de Cordova on choosing the guest hosts for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and the show's relationship with NBC executives
03:36
Fred de Cordova on Joan Rivers and Jay Leno guest hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:10
Fred de Cordova on Johnny Carson's retirement from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:08

Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The

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Fred de Cordova on consulting for The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno
02:58
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Fred de Cordova on issues with standards and practices on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:21

Emmy Awards

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Fred de Cordova on his many Emmy Awards
01:25

Historic Events and Social Change

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Fred de Cordova on his experiences in World War II
03:21

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

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Fred de Cordova on the '50s Golden Age of Television 
05:40

Television Industry

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Fred de Cordova on television's perceived second class status in the '50s
03:01
Fred de Cordova on the then-future of television and how he'd like to be remembered 
01:10
Fred de Cordova on issues with standards and practices on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
01:21

War

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Fred de Cordova on his experiences in World War II
03:21

World War II

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Fred de Cordova on his experiences in World War II
03:21
Professions

Directors

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Fred de Cordova on the differences between directing features and directing television
03:46

Producers

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Fred de Cordova on his duties as producer on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:49
Genres

Comedy Series

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Fred de Cordova on producing and directing The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
06:40
Fred de Cordova on directing December Bride
01:24
Fred de Cordova on directing The Bob Cummings Show
05:45
Fred de Cordova on how he came to produce The Jack Benny Program
00:59
Fred de Cordova on working on The George Gobel Show
04:19
Fred de Cordova on producing The Jack Benny Program
05:03
Fred de Cordova on producing and directing several series for Screen Gems including The Donna Reed ShowThe Farmer's Daughter, and Bewitched
06:28
Fred de Cordova on directing Mr. Adams and Eve and The Doris Day Show
03:48
Fred de Cordova on directing My Three Sons
07:37

Talk Shows

View Genre
Fred de Cordova on producing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
05:51
Fred de Cordova on producing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (Part 2)
28:43
Fred de Cordova on producing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (Part 3)
22:38
People

Fred Allen

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Fred de Cordova on the friendship between George Burns and Jack Benny, and Benny's feud with Fred Allen
02:49

Gracie Allen

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Fred de Cordova on how he came to produce and direct The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
04:32
Fred de Cordova on the marriage between George Burns and Gracie Allen and the death of Gracie Allen
03:28

Jack Benny

View Person Page
Fred de Cordova on how he came to produce The Jack Benny Program
00:59
Fred de Cordova on the friendship between George Burns and Jack Benny, and Benny's feud with Fred Allen
02:49

Milton Berle

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Fred de Cordova on working with Milton Berle early on and the first shows de Cordova directed
03:15
Fred de Cordova on Milton Berle
00:55

George Burns

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Fred de Cordova on how he came to produce and direct The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
04:32
Fred de Cordova on the marriage between George Burns and Gracie Allen and the death of Gracie Allen
03:28
Fred de Cordova on the friendship between George Burns and Jack Benny, and Benny's feud with Fred Allen
02:49

Johnny Carson

View Person Page
Fred de Cordova on meeting Johnny Carson
02:15
Fred de Cordova on the talents of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:30
Fred de Cordova on his personal relationship with Johnny Carson
03:32
Fred de Cordova on his daily routine on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson including Johnny Carson's monologue
04:19
Fred de Cordova on Johnny Carson's retirement from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
03:09
Fred de Cordova on Johnny Carson
00:46

Bing Crosby

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Fred de Cordova on directing The Bob Cummings Show and working with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope
05:45
Fred de Cordova on Bing Crosby
00:58

Bob Cummings

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Fred de Cordova on directing The Bob Cummings Show and working with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope
05:45

Doris Day

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Fred de Cordova on directing Mr. Adams and Eve and The Doris Day Show
03:48

William Demarest

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Fred de Cordova on My Three Sons producer Don Fedderson and working with William Demarest as "Uncle Charlie"
02:39

Jimmy Durante

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Fred de Cordova on Jimmy Durante
00:39

Don Fedderson

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Fred de Cordova on My Three Sons producer Don Fedderson and working with William Demarest as "Uncle Charlie"
02:39

Jackie Gleason

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Fred de Cordova on discovering Jackie Gleason 
02:13
Fred de Cordova on Jackie Gleason
00:40

George Gobel

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Fred de Cordova on working on The George Gobel Show
04:19

Bob Hope

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Fred de Cordova on directing The Bob Cummings Show and working with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope
05:45
Fred de Cordova on Bob Hope
01:28

Danny Kaye

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Fred de Cordova on Danny Kaye
00:43

Jay Leno

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Fred de Cordova on Joan Rivers and Jay Leno guest hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
16:33
Fred de Cordova on consulting for The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno
02:58

David Letterman

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Fred de Cordova on David Letterman as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
00:53

Mary Livingstone

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Fred de Cordova on Jack Benny's wife Mary Livingston on The Jack Benny Program
00:56

Fred MacMurray

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Fred de Cordova on directing My Three Sons  and Fred MacMurray's shooting schedule 
04:57

Ed McMahon

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Fred de Cordova on Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:35

Ronald Reagan

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Fred de Cordova on directing Ronald Reagan in the feature "Bedtime for Bonzo" and directing various other Universal features
04:08

Joan Rivers

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Fred de Cordova on Joan Rivers and Jay Leno guest hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:09

Doc Severinsen

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Fred de Cordova on Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
02:35

Jimmy Stewart

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Fred de Cordova on Johnny Carson's fondness for having Jimmy Stewart as a Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson  guest
01:42

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