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."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Fred de Cordova on his personal relationship with Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on his many Emmy Awards
Fred de Cordova on the 1950s Golden Age of Television 
Fred de Cordova on the talents of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on the format of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
Fred de Cordova on what makes a good talk show and career highlights
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
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

Chapter 2

On his experiences in World War II; on early features he directed; on the difference between directing theater and directing features
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
On directing December Bride and The Bob Cummings Show; on how he came to produce The Jack Benny Program

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
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
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

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
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"
On meeting Johnny Carson; on becoming the producer of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

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
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
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

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
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
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
On the then-future of television and how he'd like to be remembered; on his many Emmy Awards

Chapter 7

Fred de Cordova on various people he worked with in his career
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
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

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

December Bride

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Fred de Cordova on directing December Bride

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

Doris Day Show, The

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

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Fred de Cordova on his many Emmy Awards

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

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
Fred de Cordova on the format of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

George Gobel Show, The

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Fred de Cordova on working on The George Gobel Show

Jack Benny Program, The

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Fred de Cordova on how he came to produce The Jack Benny Program
Fred de Cordova on producing The Jack Benny Program and working with Jack Benny
Fred de Cordova on Jack Benny's wife Mary Livingston on The Jack Benny Program

Mr. Adams and Eve

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

My Three Sons

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

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Fred de Cordova on becoming the producer of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on his duties as producer on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on the format of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on the talents of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on his personal relationship with Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on his daily routine on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson including Johnny Carson's monologue
Fred de Cordova on getting guests and guest hosts for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on Ed McMahon and Doc Severneson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on Bobby Quinn as the director of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and various coordinators
Fred de Cordova on Johnny Carson's fondness for having Jimmy Stewart as a Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson guest
Fred de Cordova on David Letterman as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on the non-celebrity guests on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on comedians on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on the sketches of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on the commercial breaks on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson moving from New York to Burbank and the studio audience 
Fred de Cordova on issues with standards and practices on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on choosing the guest hosts for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and the show's relationship with NBC executives
Fred de Cordova on Joan Rivers and Jay Leno guest hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on Johnny Carson's retirement from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The

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

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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

Emmy Awards

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Fred de Cordova on his many Emmy Awards

Historic Events and Social Change

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Fred de Cordova on his experiences in World War II

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

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

Television Industry

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

War

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Fred de Cordova on his experiences in World War II

World War II

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Fred de Cordova on his experiences in World War II
Professions

Directors

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Fred de Cordova on the differences between directing features and directing television

Producers

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

Comedy Series

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Fred de Cordova on producing and directing The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
Fred de Cordova on directing December Bride
Fred de Cordova on directing The Bob Cummings Show
Fred de Cordova on how he came to produce The Jack Benny Program
Fred de Cordova on working on The George Gobel Show
Fred de Cordova on producing The Jack Benny Program
Fred de Cordova on producing and directing several series for Screen Gems including The Donna Reed ShowThe Farmer's Daughter, and Bewitched
Fred de Cordova on directing Mr. Adams and Eve and The Doris Day Show
Fred de Cordova on directing My Three Sons

Talk Shows

View Genre
Fred de Cordova on producing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on producing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (Part 2)
Fred de Cordova on producing The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (Part 3)
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

Gracie Allen

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

Jack Benny

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Fred de Cordova on how he came to produce The Jack Benny Program
Fred de Cordova on the friendship between George Burns and Jack Benny, and Benny's feud with Fred Allen

Milton Berle

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Fred de Cordova on working with Milton Berle early on and the first shows de Cordova directed
Fred de Cordova on Milton Berle

George Burns

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

Johnny Carson

View Person Page
Fred de Cordova on meeting Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on the talents of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on his personal relationship with Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on his daily routine on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson including Johnny Carson's monologue
Fred de Cordova on Johnny Carson's retirement from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on Johnny Carson

Bing Crosby

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

Bob Cummings

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

Doris Day

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

William Demarest

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

Jimmy Durante

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Fred de Cordova on Jimmy Durante

Don Fedderson

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

Jackie Gleason

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Fred de Cordova on discovering Jackie Gleason 
Fred de Cordova on Jackie Gleason

George Gobel

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Fred de Cordova on working on The George Gobel Show

Bob Hope

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

Danny Kaye

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Fred de Cordova on Danny Kaye

Jay Leno

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Fred de Cordova on Joan Rivers and Jay Leno guest hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Fred de Cordova on consulting for The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno

David Letterman

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

Mary Livingstone

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

Fred MacMurray

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

Ed McMahon

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

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

Joan Rivers

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

Doc Severinsen

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

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

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