John Frankenheimer

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his six-hour Archive interview, John Frankenheimer (1930-2002) gives a vivid description of his early television work as an assistant director on You Are There, Danger and Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person. He speaks about his first directorial assignments on You Are There and Danger and recalls making a name for himself directing live anthology dramas ("The Comedian" and "Days of Wine and Roses") on Climax! and Playhouse 90. He discusses his feature film work and his return to television to direct the acclaimed programs Andersonville for TNT and George Wallace for HBO. Michael Rosen conducted the two-part interview on March 21 and April 13, 2000 in Century City, CA.

"I knew that I wanted to have something to do with the camera. I didn't know whether I wanted to be a cameraman, or whether I wanted to direct. Directing, in a sense, was some crazed thing you never thought about. I mean, yeah, it would be great, but it was like trying to be President of the United States."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
John Frankenheimer on knowing he was good with a camera
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on his signature shot
John Frankenheimer on advice for aspiring directors
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on playing tennis and racing cars; on radio shows and movies he enjoyed; on the 1939 World's Fair; on attending Williams College
On entering the Air Force (Korean War) after college; on getting into acting and the Air Force motion picture squadron; on getting transferred to Burbank; on writing for Harvey Howard Ranch Roundup for Channel 13 Los Angeles
On making documentaries for the Air Force; on filming Chuck Yeager break the sound barrier; on getting a job with John Ford and getting into television

Chapter 2

On visiting the set of The Dennis Day Show; on moving back to New York an applying for associate director jobs
On his start as an associate director at CBS; on working on Lamp Unto My Feet; on getting promoted to assistant director; on observing The Garry Moore Show and working on Douglas Edwards and the News
On becoming associate director and the format of You Are There

Chapter 3

On working as associate director on You Are There and on Danger; on working on Person to Person and elections with Edward R. Murrow
On getting into directing while working on Danger

Chapter 4

On Hubbell Robinson asking him to direct at CBS; on the Hollywood Blacklist; on going to the theater
On staging, directing and casting You Are There
On directing Danger; on CBS' first color television broadcast

Chapter 5

On directing Danger
On moving to California to direct Cllimax!; on sponsor interference on Climax! and the directing style he developled; on his setup in the studio

Chapter 6

On directing Climax! and how he staged scenes; on a typical production day and week at Climax!; on the challenges of the color episodes of Climax!; on the stress of directing live television
On identifying other directors' styles and competing with each other to get better; on specific episodes of Climax!

Chapter 7

On directing the "First and Last" episode of Climax!
On directing the "Deal a Blow" episode of Climax!; on the accomplishment he felt from directing

Chapter 8

On directing the very first episode of Playhouse 90
On the production schedule for Playhouse 90; on directing tips from mentor David O. Selznick

Chapter 9

On techniques he used for directing Playhouse 90; on staging and blocking Playhouse 90
On run-throughs and notes from producers on Playhouse 90; on specific episodes of Playhouse 90

Chapter 10

On Mickey Rooney in "The Comedian" episode of Playhouse 90; on casting; on directing "The Last Tycoon," and "Clash by Night" episodes of Playhouse 90
On the introduction of videotape; On directing "The Days of Wine and Roses" on Playhouse 90

Chapter 11

On directing Playhouse 90's "The Days of Wine and Roses"; on producers Fred Coe and Martin Manulis; on episodes "The Old Man" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
On leaving Playhouse 90; on directing The Dupont Show and the final episode of Playhouse 90
On signing on to direct Breakfast at Tiffany's; on directing films

Chapter 12

On meeting Ingrid Bergman; On directing The Manchurian Candidate
On meeting and filming Bobby Kennedy; on returning to television for HBO's The Rainmaker
On how directing Against the Wall for HBO turned his life around; on directing Andersonville and George Wallace

Chapter 13

On advice for aspiring directors; on how technology and director's commentary can add value to films; on how television has changed over the years
On how important it is for him to keep working; on his favorite projects
Shows

Against the Wall

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John Frankenheimer on directing HBO's Against the Wall

Andersonville

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John Frankenheimer on directing Andersonville

Best of Broadway

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John Frankenheimer on turning down producer Martin Manulis to do camera work on an episode of Best of Broadway

Climax!

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John Frankenheimer on directing Climax!
John Frankenheimer on directing live television for Climax!
John Frankenheimer on directing Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!
John Frankenheimer on directing specific episodes of Climax!
John Frankenheimer on directing "Deal a Blow" episode of Climax!
John Frankenheimer on directing "First and Last" episode of Climax!
John Frankenheimer on getting a phone call from David O. Selznick and going over to critique episodes of Climax! with him 
John Frankenheimer on how actress Mary Sinclair stayed so composed on live television

Climax!: "Deal a Blow"

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John Frankenheimer on directing "Deal a Blow" episode of Climax!

Climax!: "First and Last"

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John Frankenheimer on directing "First and Last" episode of Climax!

Climax!: "Portrait in Celluloid"

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John Frankenheimer on winning an Emmy with Martin Manulis for Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!  
John Frankenheimer on directing Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!

Danger

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John Frankenheimer on working on Danger
John Frankenheimer on getting into directing while working on Danger
John Frankenheimer on directing Danger
John Frankenheimer on the risks he took directing the live show Danger

Danger: "Knife in the Dark"

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John Frankenheimer on directing an episode of Danger, written by newcomer Rod Serling and starring an unknown actor named Paul Newman

Danger: "No Passport for Death"

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John Frankenheimer on the "No Passport for Death" episode of Danger

Dennis Day Show. The

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John Frankenheimer on visiting the set of The Dennis Day Show

Douglas Edwards with the News

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John Frankenheimer on working on Douglas Edwards and the News

DuPont Show of the Week, The

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John Frankenheimer on directing The Dupont Show

Ford Startime

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John Frankenheimer on directing Ford Startime

Garry Moore Show, The

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John Frankenheimer on observing The Gary Moore Show

George Wallace

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John Frankenheimer on directing Gary Sinise in George Wallace

Lamp Unto My Feet

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John Frankenheimer on being associate director for Lamp Unto My Feet
John Frankenheimer on Lamp Unto My Feet

Person to Person

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John Frankenheimer on working on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person

Playhouse 90

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John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on not getting to direct the "Requiem for a Heavyweight" episode of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on Mickey Rooney in "The Comedian" episode of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on casting Playhouse 90 with Ethel Winant 
John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on Playhouse 90 directors and how videotape affected shooting
John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "The Days of Wine and Roses"
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "The Old Man" and videotaping the whole show
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's final episode "Journey to the Day"
John Frankenheimer on the end of the Golden Age of Television

Playhouse 90: "Clash by Night"

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John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90

Playhouse 90: "Days of Wine and Roses"

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John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "The Days of Wine and Roses"

Playhouse 90: "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

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John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

Playhouse 90: "Journey to the Day"

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John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's final episode "Journey to the Day"

Playhouse 90: "Requiem for a Heavyweight"

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John Frankenheimer on not getting to direct the "Requiem for a Heavyweight" episode of Playhouse 90

Playhouse 90: "The Comedian"

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John Frankenheimer on directing the Emmy-winnig episode of Playhouse 90 "The Comedian" 
John Frankenheimer on Mickey Rooney in "The Comedian" episode of Playhouse 90

Playhouse 90: "The Last Tycoon"

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John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90

Playhouse 90: "The Old Man"

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John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "The Old Man" and videotaping the whole show

Rainmaker, The

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John Frankenheimer on returning to television for HBO's The Rainmaker

See It Now

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John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now

See It Now: "A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy"

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John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now

You Are There

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John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There as Sidney Lumet's associate director
John Frankenheimer on working as associate director on You Are There
John Frankenheimer on his first directing gig on You Are There
Topics

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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John Frankenheimer on directing tips from mentor David O. Selznick
John Frankenheimer on the influence of movie directors on him

Emmy Awards

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John Frankenheimer on winning an Emmy with Martin Manulis for Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!  
John Frankenheimer on directing the Emmy-winnig episode of Playhouse 90 "The Comedian"

Hollywood Blacklist

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John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and the blacklisted writers of You Are There
John Frankenheimer on sponsor interference on Climax!  

Runaway Production

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John Frankenheimer on getting into directing while working on Danger

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

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John Frankenheimer on the end of the Golden Age of Television

Technological Innovation

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John Frankenheimer on the challenges of color television
John Frankenheimer on every 3rd episode of Climax! being in color
John Frankenheimer on videotape

We Considered

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John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now
Professions

Directors

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John Frankenheimer on knowing he was good with a camera
John Frankenheimer on the differences between associate director and assistant director
John Frankenheimer on his directing style on Climax!
John Frankenheimer on losing weight on show day while directing live television
John Frankenheimer on being able to identify directors by camera work
John Frankenheimer on the sense of accomplishment he felt from directing
John Frankenheimer on directing tips from mentor David O. Selznick
John Frankenheimer on techniques he used for directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing big movie stars - Ingrid Bergman
John Frankenheimer on directing movies
John Frankenheimer on advice for aspiring directors
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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John Frankenheimer on directing Climax!
John Frankenheimer on directing live television for Climax!
John Frankenheimer on directing specific episodes of Climax!
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90

News and Documentary

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John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There as Sydney Lumet's associate director
John Frankenheimer on the Hollywood Blacklist and The Senator McCarthy episode of See It Now

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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John Frankenheimer on directing Gary Sinise in George Wallace
People

James T. Aubrey

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John Frankenheimer on the end of the Golden Age of Television

Lauren Bacall

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John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90

Tallulah Bankhead

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John Frankenheimer on working on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person

Ingrid Bergman

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John Frankenheimer on directing big movie stars - Ingrid Bergman
John Frankenheimer on meeting Ingrid Bergman 

Humphrey Bogart

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John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90

Yul Brynner

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John Frankenheimer on Yul Brynner's directing days on Danger

Ned Calmer

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John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There  

John Carradine

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John Frankenheimer on directing "First and Last" episode of Climax!

Fred Coe

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John Frankenheimer on visiting the set of The Dennis Day Show
John Frankenheimer on Martin Manulis leaving and Fred Coe joining Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on producers Martin Manulis and Fred Coe
John Frankenheimer on Playhouse 90's "The Old Man" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's final episode "Journey to the Day"

Charles Collingwood

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John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There  

Bob Cooper

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John Frankenheimer on directing HBO's Against the Wall

Walter Cronkite

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John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There  

Bill Dozier

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John Frankenheimer on Bill Dozier wanting Martin Manulis and Frankenheimer to do "South of the Sun" for Climax!  

Dominick Dunne

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John Frankenheimer on talking to Dominick Dunne about getting a job in television

Douglas Edwards

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John Frankenheimer on Douglas Edwards

Horton Foote

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John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90

John Ford

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John Frankenheimer on meeting and getting a job with John Ford

Don Hewitt

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John Frankenheimer on working on Douglas Edwards and the News

George Roy Hill

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John Frankenheimer on fellow directors and renegotiating contracts

John F. Kennedy

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John Frankenheimer on meeting Robert F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy

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John Frankenheimer on meeting Robert F. Kennedy

Burt Lancaster

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John Frankenheimer on directing movies with Burt Lancaster, and not getting along with him well

Piper Laurie

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John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90

Peter Lorre

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John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90

Sidney Lumet

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John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There as Sydney Lumet's associate director
John Frankenheimer on working as Sidney Lumet's associate director on You Are There
John Frankenheimer on producer Martin Manulis wanting him to direct Climax! after not securing Sidney Lumet
John Frankenheimer on Sidney Lumet's preparation

James MacArthur

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John Frankenheimer on directing James MacArthur in "Deal a Blow" episode of Climax!

Martin Manulis

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John Frankenheimer on turning down producer Martin Manulis to do camera work on an episode of Best of Broadway
John Frankenheimer on producer Martin Manulis wanting him to direct Climax!
John Frankenheimer on Martin Manulis' optimism and contriubtions to the "First and Last" episode of Climax!
John Frankenheimer on "Deal a Blow" and "The Gay Illiterate" episodes of Climax!
John Frankenheimer on Martin Manulis wanting him to direct the first Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on notes from producers on Playhouse 90  
John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on Martin Manulis leaving Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on producers Martin Manulis and Fred Coe

Lee Marvin

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John Frankenheimer on working with a difficuil director when he was an associate director
John Frankenheimer on directing Lee Marvin in "The American"

JP Miller

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John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on JP Miller's writing style

Paul Monash

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John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90

Edward R. Murrow

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John Frankenheimer on working on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person

Ralph Nelson

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John Frankenheimer on competing with other directors to get better

Paul Newman

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John Frankenheimer on directing an episode of Danger, written by newcomer Rod Serling and starring an unknown actor  named Paul Newman

Clifford Odets

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John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90

Jack Palance

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John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90

William S. Paley

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John Frankenheimer on CBS' first color variety show

Arthur Penn

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John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90

Sydney Pollack

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John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

Lee Remick

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John Frankenheimer on "The Last Tycoon" episode of Playhouse 90

Jason Robards, Jr.

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John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

Cliff Robertson

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John Frankenheimer on the "The Days of Wine and Roses" episode of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on Cliff Robertson's performance in rehearsal versus live television

Hubbell Robinson

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John Frankenheimer on Hubbell Robinson asking him to direct Danger

Mickey Rooney

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John Frankenheimer on directing the Emmy-winnig episode of Playhouse 90 "The Comedian"
John Frankenheimer on Mickey Rooney in "The Comedian" episode of Playhouse 90

Robert Ryan

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John Frankenheimer on directing Robert Ryan in "Snows of Kilimanjaro"

Mark Rydell

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John Frankenheimer on getting into directing while working on Danger

David O. Selznick

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John Frankenheimer on getting a phone call from David O. Selznick and going over to critique episodes of Climax! with him 

Rod Serling

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John Frankenheimer on directing an episode of Danger, written by newcomer Rod Serling and starring an unknown actor named Paul Newman
John Frankenheimer on winning an Emmy with Martin Manulis for Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!  
John Frankenheimer on directing Rod Serling's "Portrait in Celluloid" episode of Climax!
John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90
John Frankenheimer on directing the Emmy-winnig episode of Playhouse 90 "The Comedian" 

Eric Sevareid

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John Frankenheimer on working on You Are There  

David Shaw

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John Frankenheimer on writers of Playhouse 90

Frank Sinatra

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John Frankenheimer on directing Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate

Mary Sinclair

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John Frankenheimer on how actress Mary Sinclair stayed so composed on live television

Gary Sinise

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John Frankenheimer on directing Gary Sinise in George Wallace

Kim Stanley

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John Frankenheimer on the "Clash by Night" episode of Playhouse 90

Maureen Stapleton

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John Frankenheimer on directing Playhouse 90's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

Inger Stevens

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John Frankenheimer on directing actress Inger Stevens

Mike Wallace

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John Frankenheimer on CBS' first color variety show

Ethel Waters

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John Frankenheimer on working on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person

Ethel Winant

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John Frankenheimer on casting Playhouse 90 with Ethel Winant 
John Frankenheimer on working with Ethel Winant again on Andersonville

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