Garry Simpson

Producer / Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, Director Garry Simpson (1914-2011) discusses directing live demonstrations of early television technology around the country in the 1940s. He talks about directing some of the first televised sporting events, mobile events, and the informational series, Eye Witness. He describes directing and producing Wide Wide World (created by Pat Weaver), and chronicles the period before the war in the 1940s, when Simpson was NBC's only television stage manager. Simpson also details directing Chevrolet Tele-Theater, Mary Kay and Johnny (television's first sitcom), All Star Revue, Ford Festival, and Campbell's Soundstage. He recalls working with performers James Dean, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn, Jackie Gleason, Jack Carter, and Olivia de Havilland, and recounts leaving his position at NBC to spearhead the formation of Vermont public television. Karen Herman conducted the interview in Vermont on October 18, 1999.

"When I first went to New York, Olivia de Havilland gave me $500.  We'd played in summer stock out in California, and  she knew I was coming to New York. The night before I was to go to New York. she invited me over for dinner and said, "take this. When I started someone did that for me, and I'm doing it for you. You can pass that along to somebody."

Highlights
Garry Simpson on the NBC television demonstration at the 1940 New York World's Fair with Burr Tillstrom
03:13
Garry Simpson on directing Grace Kelly on Chevrolet Tele-Theater
01:15
Garry Simpson on directing James Dean
00:41
Garry Simpson on directing Jimmy Durante in Four Star Revue
03:12
Garry Simpson on directing sports
02:17
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on acting in plays in high school and college; on getting accepted to West Point, but going to Stanford to study theater instead; on getting a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York; on working in experimental television for NBC in the late 1930s
On the first time he heard about television; on the NBC television demonstration at the 1940 New York World's Fair with Burr Tillstrom; on Tillstrom's puppets; on the pavilion at the Fair; on technical challenges with early television; on audience response to the NBC television demonstrations; on directing the demonstrations and becoming the NBC studio stage manager in NY; on directing mobile units

Chapter 2

On directing mobile units for NBC; on NBC Studio 3-H; on his role as NBC stage manager; on working with nitrate film; on selecting films for television; on showing civil defense films during World War II; on serving as a test engineer for the Navy during the war
On returning to NBC and how TV technology was advanced during the war; on old image orthicon cameras
On post-war programs he directed - Chevrolet Tele-Theater; on directing Grace Kelly, Jack Lemmon, James Dean, and Gertrude Berg

Chapter 3

On directing actors Chevrolet Tele-Theater; on early makeup for television and the intense lighting; on covering the Joe Louis- Billy Conn fight in NY and Rocky Graziano's fights
On covering Jackie Robinson's first televised game; on directing sports; on political coverage; on covering President Truman and President Eisenhower; on the documentary series Eye Witness, and in particular an episode which featured TV pioneer Vladimir Zworykin; on the low budget variety series Television Screen Magazine

Chapter 4

On directing Paris Cavalcade of Fashion; on directing inaugural broadcasts from Boston and Washington, D.C. (before coaxial cable connected cities); on directing Barney Blake, Police Reporter; on Red Channels and advertiser control over early TV programs
On directing the sitcom Mary Kay and Johnny; on directing Macbeth for NBC- considered NBC's first "spectacular"; on working with NBC's Pat Weaver; on changing the look of the original Tonight Show; on directing Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn, Johnny Carson, and Danny Thomas on Four Star Revue

Chapter 5

On directing Four Star Revue; on seeing Jimmy Durante's last show in Las Vegas; on directing Jimmy Durante in Four Star Revue; on working with Ed Wynn and Jackie Gleason
On directing Jack Carson on Four Star Revue; on live television mishaps and a motorcyclist getting killed during a rehearsal

Chapter 6

On directing the Ford Festival; on Armstrong Circle Theatre; on working on Campbell's Summer Soundstage; on directing The World of Mr. Sweeney
On innovate shots he directed on Wide Wide World; on Robert Frost and Frank Lloyd Wright appearing on Wide Wide World; on directing Kitty Foyle

Chapter 7

On directing Tic Tac Doug h; on his preference for directing dramas; on working in videotape and how color affected television production; on getting fired from NBC in 1958; on directing commercials and directing Breck Golden Showcase for CBS in 1962;
On becoming Director of Programming for Vermont PBS; on staying in touch with friends from NBC; on his demeanor as a director on set and working with writers

Chapter 8

On a picture of Sarah Bernhardt; on advice to an aspiring director; on how acting informed his directing; on what he believes represents the best of television; on Olivia de Havilland being somewhat of a mentor to him; on how he'd like to be remembered
On people with whom he's worked: Morey Amsterdam, Fred Coe, James Dean, David and Robert Sarnoff, Tony Randall, Lorne Green, Roger Muir and Bob Keeshan; on his wife, Kathleen
B-roll of pictures from his career: on NBC stages and at the 1977 Emmy Awards
Shows

Armstrong Circle Theatre

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Garry Simpson on working on Armstrong Circle Theatre
03:37

Barney Blake, Police Reporter

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Garry Simpson on directing Barney Blake, Police Reporter
02:50

Breck Golden Showcase, The

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Garry Simpson on directing Breck Golden Showcase for CBS in 1962
02:54

Campbell Playhouse, The

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Garry Simpson on working on Campbell's Summer Soundstage
01:41
Garry Simpson on James Dean
04:58

Chevrolet Tele-Theater aka Chevrolet on Broadway

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Garry Simpson on directing Chevrolet Tele-Theater
09:29
Garry Simpson on directing actors on Chevrolet Tele-Theater
02:51

Eye Witness (1947-48)

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Director Garry Simpson on the documentary series Eye Witness, and in particular an episode which featured TV pioneer Vladimir Zworykin
05:27

Ford Festival

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Garry Simpson on directing the Ford Festival
07:59

Four Star Playhouse

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Garry Simpson on directing Four Star Revue
03:05
Garry Simpson on directing Four Star Revue
03:56
Garry Simpson on directing Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn, and Jackie Gleason on Four Star Revue
16:48

Kitty Foyle

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Garry Simpson on directing Kitty Foyle
01:50

Kukla, Fran & Ollie

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Garry Simpson on the NBC television demonstration at the 1940 New York World's Fair with Burr Tillstrom
03:13

Mary Kay and Johnny

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Garry Simpson on directing Mary Kay and Johnny
03:14

Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse

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Garry Simpson on directing Melvyn Douglas on an episode of Philco Television Playhouse
00:59

Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse: "Macbeth"

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Garry Simpson on directing Macbeth for NBC- considered NBC's first "spectacular"
05:16

Television Screen Magazine

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Director Garry Simpson on the low budget variety series Television Screen Magazine
00:41

Tic Tac Dough

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Garry Simpson on directing Tic Tac Doug h
01:36

Tonight Starring Jack Paar aka The Jack Paar Show

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Garry Simpson on changing the look of the original Tonight Show
01:41

Wide Wide World

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Garry Simpson on directing Wide Wide World
10:05

World of Mr. Sweeney, The

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Garry Simpson on directing The World of Mr. Sweeney
03:45
Topics

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Garry Simpson on covering President Eisenhower
00:51

Emmy Awards

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Garry Simpson on winning an Emmy at the 1977 Emmys
00:20

Harry S. Truman

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Garry Simpson on covering President Truman
00:41

Historic Events and Social Change

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Garry Simpson on serving in the Navy as a test engineer
01:41
Garry Simpson on showing civil defense films during World War II and NBC not broadcasting television during the war after 1942
03:21

Hollywood Blacklist

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Garry Simpson on Red Channels and advertiser control over early TV programs
02:53

Memorable Moments on Television

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Garry Simpson on Frank Lloyd Wright appearing on Wide Wide World
01:52

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

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Garry Simpson on broadcast standards for early television
00:48
Garry Simpson on directing Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn, and Jackie Gleason on Four Star Revue
16:48

Technological Innovation

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Garry Simpson on the evolving technology for early experimental television
00:54
Garry Simpson on working in videotape and how color affected television production
03:09

War

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Garry Simpson on serving in the Navy as a test engineer
01:41
Garry Simpson on showing civil defense films during World War II and NBC not broadcasting television during the war after 1942
03:21

World War II

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Garry Simpson on serving in the Navy as a test engineer
01:41
Garry Simpson on showing civil defense films during World War II and NBC not broadcasting television during the war after 1942
03:21
Professions

Directors

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Garry Simpson on directing the NBC television demonstrations at the 1940 New York World's Fair and directing in the studio and for mobile units
03:44
Garry Simpson on directing mobile units for NBC
03:40
Garry Simpson on directing actors on Chevrolet Tele-Theater
01:28
Garry Simpson on his demeanor as a director on set, working with writers, and
03:58
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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Garry Simpson on directing Chevrolet Tele-Theater
09:29

Comedy Series

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Garry Simpson on directing Mary Kay and Johnny
03:14

Drama Series

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Garry Simpson on directing Breck Golden Showcase for CBS in 1962
02:54

Game Shows

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Garry Simpson on directing Tic Tac Doug h
01:36

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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Garry Simpson on directing Macbeth for NBC- considered NBC's first "spectacular"
05:16
Garry Simpson on directing Four Star Revue
03:05
Garry Simpson on directing Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn, and Jackie Gleason on Four Star Revue
16:48
Garry Simpson on directing the Ford Festival
07:59

News and Documentary

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Garry Simpson on directing Wide Wide World
10:05

Sports

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Garry Simpson on covering the Joe Louis- Billy Conn fight in NY and Rocky Graziano's fights
02:03
Garry Simpson on covering Jackie Robinson's first televised game
01:39
Garry Simpson on how he called the shots for sports
02:04
People

Morey Amsterdam

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Garry Simpson on Morey Amsterdam
00:33

Tallulah Bankhead

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Garry Simpson on directing Tallulah Bankhead on Chevrolet Tele-Theater
01:14

Gertrude Berg

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Garry Simpson on directing Gertrude Berg
01:57

John Carradine

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Garry Simpson on directing Macbeth for NBC- considered NBC's first "spectacular"
05:16

Jack Carson

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Garry Simpson on working with Jack Carson
00:53

Johnny Carson

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Garry Simpson on directing Four Star Revue
03:05

Fred Coe

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Garry Simpson on Fred Coe
00:53

James Dean

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Garry Simpson on directing James Dean
00:41
Garry Simpson on James Dean
04:58

Melvyn Douglas

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Garry Simpson on directing Melvyn Douglas on an episode of Philco Television Playhouse
00:59

Jimmy Durante

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Garry Simpson on directing Four Star Revue
03:05
Garry Simpson on seeing Jimmy Durante's last show in Las Vegas
04:09
Garry Simpson on directing Jimmy Durante in Four Star Revue
03:12
Garry Simpson on directing Jimmy Durante in Four Star Revue
00:29

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Garry Simpson on covering President Eisenhower
00:51

Jackie Gleason

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Garry Simpson on working with Jackie Gleason
06:20

Lorne Greene

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Garry Simpson on Lorne Green
02:05

Olivia de Havilland

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Garry Simpson on Olivia de Havilland being somewhat of a mentor to him
01:25

Arthur Hungerford

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Garry Simpson on his role as NBC stage manager
02:33
Garry Simpson on Arthur Hungerford's Metropolitan Educational Television
00:47

Bob Keeshan

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Garry Simpson on Bob Keeshan
00:47

Grace Kelly

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Garry Simpson on directing Grace Kelly on Chevrolet Tele-Theater
01:15

Jack Lemmon

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Garry Simpson on directing Jack Lemmon on Chevrolet Tele-Theater
00:04
Garry Simpson on directing Jack Lemmon
00:32

Paul Mooney

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Garry Simpson on Paul Mooney forgetting his lines on Chevrolet Tele-Theater
01:23

E. Roger Muir

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Garry Simpson on Roger Muir
02:28

Tony Randall

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Garry Simpson on Tony Randall
01:06

David Sarnoff

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Garry Simpson on David Sarnoff and his son, Robert
02:33

Dick Smith

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Garry Simpson on makeup for early television - Dick Smith's work on early anthologies
02:40

Mary Kay Stearns

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Garry Simpson on directing Mary Kay Stearns in Mary Kay and Johnny
03:14

Johnny Stearns

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Garry Simpson on directing Johnny Stearns in Mary Kay and Johnny
03:14

Danny Thomas

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Garry Simpson on directing Four Star Revue
03:05

Burr Tillstrom

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Garry Simpson on the NBC television demonstration at the 1940 New York World's Fair with Burr Tillstrom
03:13

Arturo Toscanini

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Garry Simpson on directing the Ford Festival with Toscanini's symphony
03:20

Harry S. Truman

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Garry Simpson on covering President Truman
00:41

Sylvester L. Weaver

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Garry Simpson on working with NBC's Pat Weaver
02:55
Garry Simpson on directing Wide Wide World
10:05

Frank Lloyd Wright

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Garry Simpson on Frank Lloyd Wright appearing on Wide Wide World
01:52

Ed Wynn

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Garry Simpson on directing Four Star Revue
03:05
Garry Simpson on working with Ed Wynn
02:48
Garry Simpson on working with Ed Wynn on Four Star Revue
02:29

Vladimir Zworykin

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Director Garry Simpson on the documentary series Eye Witness, and in particular an episode which featured TV pioneer Vladimir Zworykin
05:50

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