Lamont Johnson

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his four-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Lamont Johnson (1922-2010) describes his work as an actor in network radio, which led to a career as an actor in television on series including Hallmark Hall of Fame in the 1950s. He discusses his period of being blacklisted from the industry, until producer Albert McCleery cast him. He speaks in great detail about the ambitious, daily, color "live" NBC television series Matinee Theater (1955-58) on which he appeared as an actor and directed dozens of productions. Johnson discusses his continued work in filmed television on series including Peter Gunn, Naked City, Dr. Kildare, Profiles in Courage, and The Twilight Zone (for which he directed such classic episodes as "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," "Nothing in the Dark," and "Kick the Can"). He describes his later work on the groundbreaking Levinson and Link television movies My Sweet Charlie (1970), That Certain Summer (1972), and The Execution of Private Slovik (1974), as well as the miniseries Wallenberg: A Hero's Story (1985) and Gore Vidal's Lincoln (1988), both of which won Johnson Emmy Awards for directing. Karen Herman conducted the interview on June 10, 2003 in Monterey, CA.

"I think the most important center for me has been to be able to do work about things that mattered. Things that had something to do with the real world, that bring the crisis in somebody's life where they make a fateful choice. Sometimes a fatal choice."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Lamont Johnson on acting in the Playhouse 90 episode "Forbidden Area"
Lamont Johnson on casting for NBC Matinee Theater, and on working with Zsa Zsa Gabor
Lamont Johnson on being on the Hollywood Blacklist, and on producer Albert McCleery disregarding it to hire him
Lamont Johnson on his winning an Emmy for Wallenberg: A Hero's Story
Lamont Johnson on the challenges of directing live broadcasts of NBC Matinee Theater, and on appearing in early televised Shakespeare adaptations
Lamont Johnson on how he'd like to be remembered
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on the first time he heard the radio, and on acting on network radio; on his early television work as an actor
On playing "Ishmael" in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "Moby Dick"; on acting opposite Ethel Barrymore on Climax!; on appearing as an actor on NBC Matinee Theater, and on making the transition from acting to directing

Chapter 2

On the process and limitations of the kinescope; on the challenges of directing live broadcasts of NBC Matinee Theater, and on appearing in early televised Shakespeare adaptations; on directing John Carradine in the NBC Matinee Theater production of "Dracula"
On the quick costume changes and makeup needed for live productions of NBC Matinee Theater; on selecting material to adapt for NBC Matinee Theater, and on the music and casting of the show
On casting for NBC Matinee Theater, on working with Zsa Zsa Gabor on the show, and on working with actors as a director; on various actors he directed; on the Hollywood Blacklist

Chapter 3

On being on the Hollywood Blacklist, and on producer Albert McCleery disregarding it to hire him; on directing the blacklist drama Fear on Trial; on dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist, and later directing many issue-oriented shows like My Sweet Charlie
On directing the groundbreaking gay drama That Certain Summer; on directing The Execution of Private Slovik; on directing Crisis at Central High
On dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist in regards to NBC Matinee Theater; on NBC Matinee Theater host John Conte, and on the sponsors and intended audience of the show

Chapter 4

On the curtain calls and end credits of NBC Matinee Theater, and on the show being in color; on working with actress Sarah Churchill on NBC Matinee Theater; on the producers and budget of NBC Matinee Theater
On directing Profiles in Courage, and on meeting with Robert F. Kennedy; on leaving NBC Matinee Theater to work on the Berlin Festival, and on directing Thornton Wilder as the "Stage Manager" in a production of "Our Town"; on directing several episodes of Have Gun - Will Travel and Naked City

Chapter 5

On acting in the Playhouse 90 episode "Forbidden Area"; on directing Peter Gunn, and on working with show creator Blake Edwards; on directing various western series and features
On directing Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlin, and The Execution of Private Slovik; on directing Judd for the Defense, and directing The Defenders for producer Herb Brodkin; on working with editors

Chapter 6

On directing The Twilight Zone episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," and on directing an episode of Felicity; on being brought in to direct The Twilight Zone, and on directing the episode "Kick the Can"; on working with Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone, and on Serling's vision for the show
On working with producer Buck Houghton and cinematographer George T. Clemens on The Twilight Zone; on working with makeup artists William J. Tuttle on The Twilight Zone, and the actor Andy Devine; on directing various The Twilight Zone episodes, including "Nothing in the Dark" with Robert Redford

Chapter 7

On directing various Twilight Zone episodes; on working with Bert Granet, and various other producers; on directing Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232
On directing Wallenberg: A Hero's Story, starring Richard Chamberlin, and on winning an Emmy Award for it; on directing Gore Vidal's Lincoln; on directing Paul's Case and Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter

Chapter 8

On directing Unnatural Causes and The Kennedys of Massachusetts; on directing Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase and The Broken Chain; on then-recent projects including several feature films
On the importance to continuing to work later in life, and on taking chances in his career; on advice to an aspiring director
On his directing style; on advice to an aspiring actor; on career highlights and regrets

Chapter 9

On how he'd like to be remembered
On b-roll footage from his career- on the set of NBC Matinee Theater; control booth of NBC Matinee Theater; on the set of NBC Matinee Theater; set of NBC Matinee Theater; backstage at NBC Matinee Theater; biblical set of NBC Matinee Theater; with Sarah Churchill on the set of Hallmark Hall of Fame; acting on NBC Matinee Theater; with Sarah Churchill; note giving session for NBC Matinee Theater; with Joseph Cotten and Carroll O'Connor on the set of Profiles in Courage; cast and crew of Have Gun, Will Travel; with Diana Lynn on the set; filming Losers Weepers in Watts; on set set of Losers Weepers; on the set of The Kennedys of Massachusetts; a card for a child; filming on location in Stockton, California; with Patty Duke and John Astin; the set of Paul's Case; getting an award; Directors Guild luncheon; DGA Awards; on the set of Fear on Trial; on the set of Felicity; on the set of Felicity; with Keri Russell on the set of Felicity; on the set of NBC Matinee Theater; relaxing outdoors
Shows

Broken Chain, The

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing The Broken Chain

Cameo Theatre

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on his early television work as an actor

Climax!

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on acting opposite Ethel Barrymore on Climax! in "The Thirteenth Chair"

Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232 starring Charlton Heston

Crisis at Central High

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Crisis at Central High

Defenders, The

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Judd for the Defense, and directing The Defenders for producer Herb Brodkin

Dr. Kildare

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlin, and The Execution of Private Slovik

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on his winning an Emmy for Wallenberg: A Hero's Story
Lamont Johnson on directing The Kennedys of Massachusetts, for which he won an Emmy Award

Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter

Execution of Private Slovik, The

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing The Execution of Private Slovik
Lamont Johnson on directing Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlin, and The Execution of Private Slovik

Fear on Trial

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on breaking the Hollywood Blacklist, and on the blacklist drama Fear on Trial

Gore Vidal's Lincoln

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Gore Vidal's Lincoln

Hallmark Hall of Fame

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on his early television work as an actor
Lamont Johnson on playing "Ishmael" in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "Moby Dick"

Have Gun - Will Travel

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing several episodes of Have Gun - Will Travel and Naked City

Judd for the Defense

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Judd for the Defense, and directing The Defenders for producer Herb Brodkin

Kennedys of Massachusetts, The

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing The Kennedys of Massachusetts, for which he won an Emmy Award

My Sweet Charlie

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist, and later directing many issue-oriented shows like My Sweet Charlie

NBC Matinee Theater

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on the kinds of roles he got as an actor, and on working with producer Albert McCleery on NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on the challenges of directing live broadcasts of NBC Matinee Theater, and on appearing in early televised Shakespeare adaptations
Lamont Johnson on directing John Carradine in the NBC Matinee Theater production of "Dracula"
Lamont Johnson on the quick costume changes and makeup needed for live productions of NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on selecting material to adapt for NBC Matinee Theater, and on the music and casting of the show
Lamont Johnson on casting for NBC Matinee Theater, and on working with Zsa Zsa Gabor
Lamont Johnson on being on the Hollywood Blacklist, and on producer Albert McCleery disregarding it to hire him
Lamont Johnson on dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist in regards to NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on NBC Matinee Theater host John Conte, and on the sponsors and intended audience of the show
Lamont Johnson on the curtain calls and end credits of NBC Matinee Theater, and on the show being in color
Lamont Johnson on working with actress Sarah Churchill on NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on the producers and budget of NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on leaving NBC Matinee Theater to work on the Berlin Festival, and on directing Thornton Wilder as the "Stage Manager" in a production of "Our Town"

Naked City

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing several episodes of Have Gun - Will Travel and Naked City

Paul's Case

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Paul's Case

Peter Gunn

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Peter Gunn, and on working with show creator Blake Edwards

Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on his early television work as an actor

Playhouse 90

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on acting in the Playhouse 90 episode "Forbidden Area"

Profiles in Courage

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Profiles in Courage, and on meeting with Robert F. Kennedy
Lamont Johnson on the episodes of Profiles in Courage

Studio One

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on his early television work as an actor

That Certain Summer

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing the groundbreaking gay drama That Certain Summer, starring Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook

Twilight Zone, The

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing The Twilight Zone episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," and on directing an episode of Felicity in the style of that episode at the request of J.J. Abrams
Lamont Johnson on being brought in to direct The Twilight Zone, and on directing the episode "Kick the Can"
Lamont Johnson on working with Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone, and on his vision for the show
Lamont Johnson on working with producer Buck Houghton and cinematographer George T. Clemens on The Twilight Zone
Lamont Johnson on working with the makeup artists on The Twilight Zone, and the actors Andy Devine, Ed Wynn, and Boris Karloff
Lamont Johnson on directing various The Twilight Zone episodes, including "Nothing in the Dark" with Robert Redford
Lamont Johnson on directing various Twilight Zone episodes

Unnatural Causes

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Unnatural Causes

Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase

Wallenberg: A Hero's Story

View Show Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Wallenberg: A Hero's Story starring Richard Chamberlin
Lamont Johnson on his winning an Emmy for Wallenberg: A Hero's Story
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on advice to an aspiring director
Lamont Johnson on advice to an aspiring actor

Anthology Drama

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on directing NBC Matinee Theater

Bloopers

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on acting opposite Ethel Barrymore on Climax!
Lamont Johnson on the challenges of directing live broadcasts of NBC Matinee Theater, and on appearing in early televised Shakespeare adaptations
Lamont Johnson on directing John Carradine in the NBC Matinee Theater production of "Dracula"

Civil Rights Movement

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on directing Crisis at Central High

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on directing the groundbreaking gay drama That Certain Summer starring Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on his winning an Emmy for Wallenberg: A Hero's Story
Lamont Johnson on directing The Kennedys of Massachusetts, for which he won an Emmy Award

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on directing Crisis at Central High
Lamont Johnson on directing the groundbreaking gay drama That Certain Summer, starring Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook

Hollywood Blacklist

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on working with Fay Wray, and on the Hollywood Blacklist
Lamont Johnson on being on the Hollywood Blacklist, and on producer Albert McCleery disregarding it to hire him
Lamont Johnson on dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist, and later directing many issue-oriented shows like My Sweet Charlie

Industry Crossroads

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on working with Fay Wray, and on the Hollywood Blacklist
Lamont Johnson on being on the Hollywood Blacklist, and on producer Albert McCleery disregarding it to hire him
Lamont Johnson on dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist, and later directing many issue-oriented shows like My Sweet Charlie

LGBTQ

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on directing the groundbreaking gay drama That Certain Summer, starring Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook

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

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on directing NBC Matinee Theater

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on the process and limitations of the kinescope
Lamont Johnson on the curtain calls and end credits of NBC Matinee Theater, and on the show being in color

Television Industry

View Topic
Lamont Johnson on working with Fay Wray, and on the Hollywood Blacklist
Lamont Johnson on being on the Hollywood Blacklist, and on producer Albert McCleery disregarding it to hire him
Lamont Johnson on dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist, and later directing many issue-oriented shows like My Sweet Charlie
Lamont Johnson on advice to an aspiring director
Lamont Johnson on advice to an aspiring actor
Professions

Actor

View Profession
Lamont Johnson on advice to an aspiring actor

Directors

View Profession
Lamont Johnson on casting for NBC Matinee Theater, on working with Zsa Zsa Gabor on the show, and on working with actors as a director
Lamont Johnson on working with editors
Lamont Johnson on advice to an aspiring director
Lamont Johnson on his directing style

Performers

View Profession
Lamont Johnson on advice to an aspiring actor
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

View Genre
Lamont Johnson on playing "Ishmael" in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "Moby Dick'
Lamont Johnson on acting opposite Ethel Barrymore on Climax!
Lamont Johnson on the kinds of roles he got as an actor, and on working with producer Albert McCleery on NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on directing NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on directing NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on directing NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on directing Profiles in Courage
Lamont Johnson on directing The Twilight Zone

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
Lamont Johnson on directing several episodes of Have Gun - Will Travel and Naked City
Lamont Johnson on directing Peter Gunn, and on working with show creator Blake Edwards

Legal Dramas

View Genre
Lamont Johnson on directing Judd for the Defense, and directing The Defenders for producer Herb Brodkin

Medical Dramas

View Genre
Lamont Johnson on directing Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlin, and The Execution of Private Slovik

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
Lamont Johnson on breaking the Hollywood Blacklist, and on the blacklist drama Fear on Trial
Lamont Johnson on directing the groundbreaking gay drama That Certain Summer, starring Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook
Lamont Johnson on directing The Execution of Private Slovik
Lamont Johnson on directing Crisis at Central High
Lamont Johnson on directing Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlin, and The Execution of Private Slovik
Lamont Johnson on directing Unnatural Causes
Lamont Johnson on directing The Kennedys of Massachusetts
Lamont Johnson on directing Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase
Lamont Johnson on directing The Broken Chain

Western Series

View Genre
Lamont Johnson on directing several episodes of Have Gun - Will Travel and Naked City
Lamont Johnson on directing various western series and features
People

Morey Amsterdam

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on working with Morey Amsterdam

Ethel Barrymore

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on acting opposite Ethel Barrymore on Climax!

Herschel Bernardi

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on breaking the Hollywood Blacklist to hire actor Herschel Bernardi, and on the blacklist drama Fear on Trial

Herbert Brodkin

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Judd for the Defense, and directing The Defenders for producer Herb Brodkin

John Carradine

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on directing John Carradine in the NBC Matinee Theater production of "Dracula"

Richard Chamberlain

View Interview Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlin, and The Execution of Private Slovik
Lamont Johnson on directing Wallenberg: A Hero's Story starring Richard Chamberlin

Sarah Churchill

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on working with actress Sarah Churchill on NBC Matinee Theater

John Conte

View Interview Page
Lamont Johnson on NBC Matinee Theater host John Conte, and on the sponsors of the show

Blake Edwards

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Peter Gunn, and on working with show creator Blake Edwards

Zsa Zsa Gabor

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on casting for NBC Matinee Theater, on working with Zsa Zsa Gabor on the show, and on working with actors as a director

Bert Granet

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on working with Bert Granet, and various other producers

Hal Holbrook

View Interview Page
Lamont Johnson on directing the groundbreaking gay drama That Certain Summer, starring Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook

Buck Houghton

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on working with producer Buck Houghton and cinematographer George T. Clemens on The Twilight Zone

Robert F. Kennedy

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on directing Profiles in Courage, and on meeting with Robert F. Kennedy

Albert McCleery

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on the kinds of roles he got as an actor, and on working with producer Albert McCleery on NBC Matinee Theater
Lamont Johnson on being on the Hollywood Blacklist, and on producer Albert McCleery disregarding it to hire him

Robert Redford

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on directing various The Twilight Zone episodes, including "Nothing in the Dark" with Robert Redford

Rod Serling

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on working with Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone, and on his vision for the show

Martin Sheen

View Person Page
Lamont Johnson on directing the groundbreaking gay drama That Certain Summer, starring Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook

All Interviews

Q
S