Lee Rich

Executive / Producer


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, television executive and producer Lee Rich (1927-2012) talks about starting out in television at the advertising agency Benton & Bowles, where he worked to package and sell The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Danny Thomas Show. Largely serving as an additional producer on the shows during those early days of television, when advertising agencies enjoyed almost total control over programming, Mr. Rich recounts how he left the agency in 1965 to form his own production company, Mirisch-Rich Productions. The company produced such television programs as The Rat Patrol and one of the first Garry Marshall/Jerry Belson shows, Hey, Landlord. Mr. Rich discusses in detail the formation of the hugely successful production company Lorimar in 1969, which generated television hits The Waltons, Dallas, Eight is Enough, Knots Landing and numerous television movies including Sybil and Helter Skelter. Jeffrey Glaser conducted the interview on April 12, 1999 in Los Angeles, CA.

"Providing a home for creative people and people to be happy and enjoying coming to work everyday. That gave me a great deal of joy."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Lee Rich on how his production company, Lorimar, got its name
Lee Rich on the "House Divided" episode of Dallas which generated the question, "Who Shot J.R.?"
Lee Rich on the Hollywood Blacklist
Lee Rich on the control that advertising agencies had over programming in the early days and how the Quiz Show Scandals changed things
Lee Rich on Fred Silverman's plan for airing Roots
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences
On his first jobs after college; on his time in the Navy; on getting into the advertising business
On his impressions of television; on heading the media department of advertising agency, Benton & Bowles
On the involvement of advertising agencies in early television programming and shows that he packaged

Chapter 2

On working with Grant Tinker at Benton & Bowles
On his involvement with The Dick Van Dyke Show
On leaving Benton & Bowles to create production company, Mirisch-Rich Productions; on the Hollywood Blacklist
On joining the Leo Burnett agency; on his involvement with the shows The Rat Patrol and Hogan's Heroes

Chapter 3

On his involvement with the shows The Rat Patrol, Hey Landlord, and Sheriff Who?; on returning to the advertising world for one year 
On forming the production company Lorimar and on early Lorimar productions
On movies of the week; on movie of the week, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which inspired the series The Waltons

Chapter 4

On The Waltons and the series' subsequent TV movies
On Lorimar's television movies and miniseries (The Blue Knight, Sybil, Helter Skelter) and on films
On being an executive producer at Lorimar; on working with the networks 

Chapter 5

On departments and procedures at Lorimar; on Eight is Enough
On Lorimar's hit show Dallas
On the Lorimar show Knot's Landing and its comparisons to Dallas

Chapter 6

On Lorimar getting into first run syndication and partnering with Telepictures; on leaving Lorimar for MGM-UA
On selling Lorimar to Warner Brothers; on his time at MGM-UA
On forming his own company, Lee Rich Productions; on movies he's produced
On some of his television favorites; on his respect for writers

Chapter 7

On the impact of cable television; on how audiences have changed
On his regrets and his legacy; on people he's worked with 
Shows

Ally McBeal

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Lee Rich on shows he likes

Andy Griffith Show, The

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Lee Rich on shows he packaged - The Andy Griffith Show

Blue Knight, The

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Lee Rich on the Lorimar production, The Blue Knight

Dallas

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Lee Rich on getting Dallas off the ground
Lee Rich on getting Dallas on the air
Lee Rich on the origins of Dallas
Lee Rich on the "House Divided" episode of Dallas which generated the question, "Who Shot J.R.?"
Lee Rich on Patrick Ewing leaving and returning to Dallas - the season was all a dream
Lee Rich on going on Tom Snyder's show to deal with criticism from a reverend about Dallas
Lee Rich on staying home to watch TV shows

Dallas: "House Divided"

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Lee Rich on the "House Divided" episode of Dallas which generated the question, "Who Shot J.R.?"

Dallas: "The Return to Camelot: Part 1"

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Lee Rich on Patrick Ewing leaving and returning to Dallas - the season was all a dream

Dallas: J. R. Returns

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Lee Rich on the TV movie Dallas: J.R. Returns

Danny Thomas Show, The aka Make Room for Daddy

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Lee Rich on wanting Danny Thomas to be involved with television

Detectives, The

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Lee Rich on packaging Detectives Starring Robert Taylor

Dick Van Dyke Show, The

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Lee Rich on shows he packaged - The Dick Van Dyke Show
Lee Rich on his involvement with The Dick Van Dyke Show

Edge of Night, The

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Lee Rich on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected daytime programming

Eight Is Enough

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Lee Rich on producing Eight is Enough

Gomer Pyle - USMC

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Lee Rich on CBS President Jim Aubrey's doubts that Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. would ever make it to air

Guiding Light

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Lee Rich on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected daytime programming

Helter Skelter

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Lee Rich on the successful television movie Helter Skelter  

Hey Landlord!

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Lee Rich on Hey Landlord!, the first program produced for him by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson
Lee Rich on his involvement with the show Hey Landlord!

Hogan's Heroes

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Lee Rich on his involvement with the show Hogan's Heroes

Homecoming, The: A Christmas Story

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Lee Rich on how he kept Lorimar afloat by doing movies of the week like, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which inspired the series The Waltons

Knots Landing

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Lee Rich on trying to sell Knots Landing and creating a night time soap opera
Lee Rich on producing Knots Landing

NYPD Blue

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Lee Rich on shows he likes

Pink Panther, The

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Lee Rich on producing the animated show, The Pink Panther

Rat Patrol, The

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Lee Rich on The Rat Patrol, the first show he produced for Mirisch-Rich Productions
Lee Rich on his involvement with the show, The Rat Patrol
Lee Rich on his involvement with the show The Rat Patrol

Rifleman, The

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Lee Rich on packaging The Rifleman

Roots

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Lee Rich on Fred Silverman's plan for airing Roots

Sheriff Who?

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Lee Rich on the cult show, Sheriff Who? - a Belson/Marshall show
Lee Rich on his involvement with the show, Sheriff Who, in which a sheriff was killed every week

Sopranos, The

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Lee Rich on staying home to watch TV shows

Sybil

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Lee Rich on the successful television movie Sybil
Lee Rich on his favorite TV show, Sybil

Waltons, The

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Lee Rich on casting Ralph White for The Waltons
Lee Rich on his involvement with the show The Waltons
Lee Rich on promising to never give distribution rights away again after doing so with The Waltons
Lee Rich on Eight is Enough as the modern day version of The Waltons
Lee Rich on his favorite series, The Waltons
Topics

Advertising and Sponsorship

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Lee Rich on how the advertising agencies worked with the television networks and sponsors during early television

Classic TV series episodes

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Lee Rich on the "House Divided" episode of Dallas which generated the question, "Who Shot J.R.?"
Lee Rich on Patrick Ewing leaving and returning to Dallas - the previous season was all a dream

Criticism of TV

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Lee Rich on criticism about Dallas

Diversity in Television

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Lee Rich on the episode of The Waltons that dealt with race

Hollywood Blacklist

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Lee Rich on the Hollywood Blacklist

Industry Crossroads

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Lee Rich on the Hollywood Blacklist
Lee Rich on the Quiz Show Scandals and the subsequent impact on the networks and advertising agencies

Media Consolidation

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Lee Rich on the changing media landscape and consolidation

Memorable Moments on Television

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Lee Rich on the "House Divided" episode of Dallas which generated the question, "Who Shot J.R.?"
Lee Rich on Patrick Ewing leaving and returning to Dallas - the previous season was all a dream

Network Creation

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Lee Rich on the network creators: David Sarnoff (NBC), William S. Paley (CBS), and Leonard Goldenson (ABC)

Quiz Show Scandals

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Lee Rich on the Quiz Show Scandals and the subsequent impact on the networks and advertising agencies

Technological Innovation

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Lee Rich on the 3-camera system used at Desilu studios
Lee Rich on the advantages and disadvantages of cable 

Television Industry

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Lee Rich on how the advertising agencies worked with the television networks and sponsors during early television
Lee Rich on the Hollywood Blacklist
Lee Rich on the Quiz Show Scandals and the subsequent impact on the networks and advertising agencies
Lee Rich on the network creators: David Sarnoff (NBC), William S. Paley (CBS), and Leonard Goldenson (ABC)
Lee Rich on the changing media landscape and consolidation
Lee Rich on criticism about Dallas
Professions

Advertising Executive

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Lee Rich on his path to heading the media and programming departments at the advertising agency Benton & Bowles
Lee Rich on the role of producer versus that of advertising executive

Executives

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Lee Rich on his path to heading the media and programming departments at the advertising agency Benton & Bowles
Lee Rich on the role of producer versus that of advertising executive

Producers

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Lee Rich on forming Mirisch-Rich Productions
Lee Rich on the role of producer versus that of advertising executive
Lee Rich on forming the production company Lorimar
Lee Rich on being an executive producer at Lorimar
Lee Rich on his management style at Lorimar
Genres

Comedy Series

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Lee Rich on his involvement with The Dick Van Dyke Show

Daytime/Primetime Serials

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Lee Rich on Dallas

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Lee Rich on the Lorimar production, The Blue Knight
Lee Rich on the Lorimar production, Sybil
Lee Rich on the Lorimar production, Helter Skelter, the Charles Manson story
People

Danny Arnold

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Lee Rich on Danny Arnold

John Astin

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Lee Rich on his involvement with the show, Sheriff Who, in which John Astin starred as a villain

James T. Aubrey

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Lee Rich of CBS President Jim Aubrey's doubts that Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. would ever make it to air
Lee Rich on working with Jim Aubrey, President of CBS
Lee Rich on working with Jim Aubrey to keep Benton & Bowles programming at CBS
Lee Rich on James Aubrey

Jerry Belson

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Lee Rich on his respect for writers
Lee Rich on Hey Landlord!, the first program produced for him by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson
Lee Rich on his involvement with the Garry Marshall/Jerry Belson show, Hey Landlord!

William Blinn

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Lee Rich on bringing in writer/producer Bill Blinn for Eight is Enough

Betty Buckley

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Lee Rich on casting Betty Buckley in Eight is Enough after Diana Hyland's death

Fielder Cook

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Lee Rich on Fielder Cook's direction of The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, the movie that inspired the series The Waltons

Ellen Corby

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Lee Rich on Ellen Corbin, Grandma Walton

Michael Dann

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Lee Rich on Michael Dann

Jim Davis

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Lee Rich on casting Jim Davis in Dallas

Barry Diller

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Lee Rich on keeping Lorimar afloat by doing movies of the week for Barry Diller at ABC

Patrick Duffy

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Lee Rich on casting Patrick Duffy in Dallas
Lee Rich on casting Patrick Duffy in Dallas
Lee Rich on Patrick Duffy leaving and returning to Dallas  

Dick Van Dyke

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Lee Rich on actor Dick Van Dyke and how Benton & Bowles got The Dick Van Dyke Show
Lee Rich on concerns about Dick Van Dyke for The Dick Van Dyke Show
Lee Rich on Dick Van Dyke

Michael Eisner

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Lee Rich on Michael Eisner

Sally Field

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Lee Rich on casting Sally Field in Sybil

Barbara Bel Geddes

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Lee Rich on casting Barbara Bel Geddes in Dallas

Will Geer

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Lee Rich on Will Geer's death on The Waltons

Leonard H. Goldenson

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Lee Rich on working with Leonard Goldenson, Founder of ABC
Lee Rich on the network creators: David Sarnoff (NBC), William S. Paley (CBS), and Leonard Goldenson (ABC)
Lee Rich on Leonard Goldenson

Bud Grant

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Lee Rich on Bud Grant writing the first 5 scripts of Dallas

Andy Griffith

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Lee Rich on Andy Griffith

Larry Hagman

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Lee Rich on casting Larry Hagman in Dallas
Lee Rich on Larry Hagman's salary on Dallas
Lee Rich on the TV movie Dallas: J.R. Returns

Earl Hamner, Jr.

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Lee Rich on Earl Hammer, creator of The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, the movie that inspired the series The Waltons

William Holden

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Lee Rich on the Lorimar production, The Blue Knight

Diana Hyland

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Lee Rich on casting Diana Hyland for Eight is Enough

David Jacobs

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Lee Rich on Dallas creator David Jacobs
Lee Rich on David Jacobs

Leonard Katzman

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Lee Rich on Leonard Katzman taking over for David Jacobs on Dallas
Lee Rich on Leonard Katzmann writing the famous Bobby's back on Dallas idea: the previous season was all a dream

George Kennedy

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Lee Rich on the Lorimar production, The Blue Knight

Michael Learned

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Lee Rich on casting Michael Learned for The Waltons
Lee Rich on Michael Learned leaving The Waltons

Sheldon Leonard

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Lee Rich on wanting trusted people like Sheldon Leonard to work on new television shows
Lee Rich on producer/director Sheldon Leonard and how Benton & Bowles got The Dick Van Dyke Show
Lee Rich on his efforts with Sheldon Leonard to prevent The Dick Van Dyke Show from getting dropped by sponsor Procter & Gamble
Lee Rich on Sheldon Leonard

Karl Malden

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Lee Rich on Karl Malden's role in the film Twilight's Last Gleaming
Lee Rich on Karl Malden

Garry Marshall

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Lee Rich on his respect for writers
Lee Rich on Hey Landlord!, the first program produced for him by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson
Lee Rich on the cult show, Sheriff Who? - a Belson/Marshall show
Lee Rich on his involvement with the Garry Marshall/Jerry Belson show, Hey Landlord!
Lee Rich on Garry Marshall

Donna Mills

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Lee Rich on the women of Knots Landing

Harold Mirisch

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Lee Rich on producing partner, Harold Mirisch

Leslie Moonves

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Lee Rich on Leslie Moonves heading Movies of the Week at Lorimar
Lee Rich on those who wanted his position at Lorimar once he left for MGM
Lee Rich on Leslie Moonves

Patricia Neal

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Lee Rich on how he kept Lorimar afloat by doing movies of the week like, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, with Patricia Neal (the movie that inspired the series The Waltons)

William S. Paley

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Lee Rich on working with William S. Paley, Founder of CBS
Lee Rich on William S. Paley's involvement with the movie of the week, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story - the movie that inspired the series The Waltons
Lee Rich on the network creators: David Sarnoff (NBC), William S. Paley (CBS), and Leonard Goldenson (ABC)
Lee Rich on William S. Paley

Dick Van Patten

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Lee Rich on casting Eight is Enough

Daniel Petrie, Sr.

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Lee Rich on Daniel Petrie directing Sybil

Victoria Principal

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Lee Rich on casting Victoria Principal in Dallas

Carl Reiner

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Lee Rich on his respect for writers
Lee Rich on writer/show creator Carl Reiner and how Benton & Bowles got The Dick Van Dyke Show
Lee Rich on Carl Reiner

Reginald Rose

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Lee Rich on Reginald Rose

David Salzman

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Lee Rich on those who wanted his position at Lorimar once he left for MGM

David Sarnoff

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Lee Rich on the network creators: David Sarnoff (NBC), William S. Paley (CBS), and Leonard Goldenson (ABC)

Rod Serling

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Lee Rich on the Lorimar production, The Blue Knight, written by Rod Serling
Lee Rich on Rod Serling

Fred Silverman

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Lee Rich on Fred Silverman wanting him to cast a big name for The Homecoming: A Christmas Story - the movie that inspired the series The Waltons
Lee Rich on Fred Silverman's plan for airing Roots
Lee Rich onFred Silverman

Tom Snyder

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Lee Rich on going on Tom Snyder's show to deal with criticism from a reverend about Dallas

Aaron Sorkin

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Lee Rich on his respect for writer Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Spelling

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Lee Rich on Aaron Spelling as a writer over at Desilu Studios

Steven Spielberg

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Lee Rich on meeting with Steven Spielberg

Frank Stanton

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Lee Rich on Frank Stanton

Brandon Stoddard

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Lee Rich on Brandon Stoddard

Brandon Tartikoff

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Lee Rich on Brandon Tartikoff

Danny Thomas

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Lee Rich on wanting popular people like Danny Thomas to have a television show
Lee Rich on producer Danny Thomas and how Benton & Bowles got The Dick Van Dyke Show
Lee Rich on Danny Thomas

Richard Thomas

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Lee Rich on how he kept Lorimar afloat by doing movies of the week like, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, with Richard Thomas (the movie that inspired the series The Waltons)
Lee Rich on Richard Thomas ("John Boy") leaving The Waltons

Grant Tinker

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Lee Rich on working with Grant Tinker at Benton & Bowles advertising agency
Lee Rich on how Grant Tinker thought he was crazy for starting Lorimar
Lee Rich on Grant Tinker

Sylvester L. "Pat" Weaver

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Lee Rich on Pat Weaver

Ralph White

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Lee Rich on casting Ralph White for The Waltons

Larry White

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Lee Rich on working with Larry White at Benton & Bowles advertising agency
Lee Rich on the Lorimar production, The Blue Knight

Joanne Woodward

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Lee Rich on Joanne Woodward in Sybil

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