Leonard H. Goldenson

Founder of ABC Network


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, the first Archive of American Television interviewee, Leonard Goldenson, (1905–1999) recalls his early days working for Paramount Theaters and talks extensively about the formation of ABC. He details ABC's programming, and the competition it faced from NBC, CBS, and the Hollywood studios. He fondly recalls ABC's eventual rise to become one of television's formidable powers, despite doubts from CBS' William Paley and NBC's David Sarnoff. Goldenson also discusses ABC's long partnership with Walt Disney, and outlines his television deal with Jack Warner. He speaks of the creation of ABC Sports, the popularity of ABC's news anchors, and the very first broadcast of a television miniseries. He outlines several of ABC's hits, including The Fugitive, Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, Roots, and Monday Night Football. B-roll consists of photos from his life and career - including pictures from events for the organization he helped found, United Cerebral Palsy. Marvin Wolf conducted the interview in Long Boat Key, FL on May 14, 1996.

"When I acquired ABC, everyone in the motion picture companies had refused to deal with television, but Walt Disney wanted to build Disneyland and he needed money. I made up my mind that I was going to do everything in our power to bring Disney into television. If I could crack Disney, then I could maybe crack the other motion picture companies."

Highlights
Leonard Goldenson on getting into the movie business - working for Paramount theaters
01:25
Leonard Goldenson his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC
05:48
Leonard Goldenson on his programming ideas for ABC and making a deal with Walt and Roy Disney
02:13
Leonard Goldenson on Roone Arledge's impact on ABC and sports
05:40
Leonard Goldenson on merging with Capital Cities and Disney acquiring ABC
02:48
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his interest in movies and radio; on attending Harvard University at 16 and going to law school
On getting into the movie business - working for Paramount Theaters; on becoming head of Paramount Theaters
On seeing television for the first time at the 1939 World's Fair; on Paramount's early association with DuMont; on seeing the potential of television; on ABC making a deal with Walt Disney
On his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC

Chapter 2

On acquiring ABC and conversations with NBC's David Sarnoff and MGM's Nicholas Schenck; on convincing Paramount's board members to buy ABC; on the state of ABC when he purchased it
On ABC not merging with DuMont; on his programming ideas for ABC and making deals with Walt Disney and Jack Warner; on hiring talent
On his relationship with NBC's David Sarnoff and CBS' William Paley; on Frank Stanton's unsung achievements at CBS; on his relationship with Walt Disney; on others' attempts to take over ABC
On making a deal to merge with ITT (which fell through); on hiring young executives that would become instrumental to the television industry
On ABC's success with Westerns and Action-adventure shows; on success with comedies and medical shows; on ABC's deal with Jerry Lewis

Chapter 3

On ABC's The Fugitive and The F.B.I.; on several other ABC hits and ABC's success with miniseries and movies of the week
On changing the sponsorship model for television; on Oliver E. Treyz's contributions to ABC; on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety
On the success of American Bandstand; on the payola scandal; on his management style, executives he hired, and grooming a successor; on ABC becoming the number one network
On Roone Arledge's impact on ABC, sports, and news; on the success of Monday Night Football

Chapter 4

On his most important decisions at ABC; on his career regrets; on his close relationships with several American Presidents
On ABC news being the last network to switch from 15 to 30 minute broadcasts; on Peter Jennings becoming news anchor; on the ABC anchor team of Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters; on changes in network news
On ABC's successful Movies of the Week; on Roots; on believing in Aaron Spelling and shows he produced; on "jiggle television" at ABC
On getting into cable television; on acquiring ESPN and starting A&E and Lifetime; on the future of network television; on merging with Capital Cities and Disney acquiring ABC

Chapter 5

On what represents the best of television and television at its best; on the network aftermath of JFK's assassination
On thoughts on colleagues
B-roll footage of photos from his life and career

Chapter 6

B-roll footage of photos from his life and career - at ABC, at events supporting fundraising for Cerebral Palsy, at school, and playing high school football
B-roll footage of photos with Richard Nixon, Dick Clark, Walt Disney, Eleanor Roosevelt, Adolph Zukor and others

Chapter 7

B-roll footage of photos from his life and career, contd. - on photos with Richard Nixon; on his working relationship with Nixon and the Nixon-Kennedy debates; on photos with John F. Kennedy, Rupert Murdoch, and others
On his access to and relationships with American Presidents; on his paintings; on photos of awards and letters
Shows

77 Sunset Strip

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Detective/Action Adventure shows and Westerns
01:02

All in the Family

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Leonard Goldenson on asking Norman Lear to adapt the British show 'Til Death Do Us Part, in what became All in the Family, and passing it up
00:43

American Bandstand

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Leonard Goldenson on the payola scandal surrounding American Bandstand
02:10

Batman

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Batman
00:48

Charlie's Angels

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Leonard Goldenson on "jiggle television" at ABC, personified by Charlie's Angels
00:45

Cheyenne

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Westerns, particularly Cheyenne
01:08

FBI, The

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's The F.B.I.
00:50

Fugitive, The

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's The Fugitive
02:09

Hollywood Palace, The

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with The Hollywood Palace
00:19

King's Row

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Westerns, particularly Cheyenne  
01:08

Love Boat, The

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Aaron Spelling's The Love Boat
00:55

Marcus Welby, M.D.

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's Marcus Welby, M.D.
00:13

Mod Squad, The

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Aaron Spelling's Mod Squad
00:42

Monday Night Football

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football
01:40

Roots

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Leonard Goldenson on the decision to air Roots on consecutive nights
01:22

Soap

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Leonard Goldenson on approving ABC's Soap
00:17

That Girl

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's That Girl
00:17

United States Steel Hour, The

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Leonard Goldenson on changing the sponsorship model for television
02:09

Wonderful World of Disney, The aka Magical World of Disney, The

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC making a deal with Walt Disney to air "Disneyland" on Walt Disney's The Wonderful World of Color
01:33
Topics

Coverage

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football
01:40

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Leonard Goldenson on seeing television for the first time at the 1939 World's Fair
00:34

Diversity in Television

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Leonard Goldenson on the impact of Roots
00:35

Hollywood Blacklist

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Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC
01:16

Industry Crossroads

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Leonard Goldenson on changing the sponsorship model for television
02:09
Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC
01:16
Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC
01:16
Leonard Goldenson on his most important decisions at ABC
03:26

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Leonard Goldenson on the network aftermath of JFK's assassination
00:52

John F. Kennedy

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - John F. Kennedy
01:36
Leonard Goldenson on the network aftermath of JFK's assassination
00:52

Lyndon B. Johnson

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Lyndon B. Johnson
03:24

Media Consolidation

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Leonard Goldenson on acquiring ESPN and starting A&E
02:09
Leonard Goldenson on merging with Capital Cities
02:04
Leonard Goldenson on Disney acquiring ABC
00:29

Memorable Moments on Television

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Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC
01:16

Minorities

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Leonard Goldenson on the impact of Roots
00:35

Network Creation

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Leonard Goldenson his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC
05:48
Leonard Goldenson on convincing Paramount's board members to buy ABC
03:06
Leonard Goldenson on acquiring ESPN and starting A&E
02:09

Richard M. Nixon

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Richard M. Nixon
02:46

Sports

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football
01:40

Television Industry

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Leonard Goldenson his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC
05:48
Leonard Goldenson on convincing Paramount's board members to buy ABC
03:06
Leonard Goldenson on his programming ideas for ABC and making a deal with Walt and Roy Disney
02:13
Leonard Goldenson on making a deal with Jack Warner
00:40
Leonard Goldenson on changing the sponsorship model for television
02:09
Leonard Goldenson on his most important decisions at ABC
03:26
Leonard Goldenson on getting into cable television
02:01
Leonard Goldenson on acquiring ESPN and starting A&E
02:09
Leonard Goldenson on merging with Capital Cities
02:04
Leonard Goldenson on Disney acquiring ABC
00:29

Television and the Presidency

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - John F. Kennedy
01:35
Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Lyndon B. Johnson
03:24
Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Richard M. Nixon
01:13
Leonard Goldenson on the network aftermath of JFK's assassination
00:52

We Considered

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Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC
01:16
Professions

Executives

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Leonard Goldenson on his management style at ABC
01:10
Leonard Goldenson on his most important decisions at ABC
03:26

Network Founder

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Leonard Goldenson on his management style at ABC
01:10
Leonard Goldenson on his most important decisions at ABC
03:26
Genres

News and Documentary

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Leonard Goldenson on putting Roone Arledge in charge of news
01:09
Leonard Goldenson on changes in network news due to network ownership
01:01

Sports

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football
01:40

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with miniseries and movies of the week
02:37
Leonard Goldenson on the decision to air Roots on consecutive nights
01:22

Western Series

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Westerns
05:03
People

Roone Arledge

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Leonard Goldenson on Roone Arledge's impact on ABC and sports
01:48
Leonard Goldenson on putting Roone Arledge in charge of news
01:09
Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football
01:40
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
00:04

Barney Balaban

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Leonard Goldenson on Paramount head Barney Balaban and his early association with DuMont television
02:45

Jack Benny

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Jack Benny
00:34

Ted Bergmann

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Leonard Goldenson on DuMont head Ted Bergmann and ABC not merging with DuMont
00:37

Dick Clark

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Leonard Goldenson on the payola scandal surrounding American Bandstand
02:10
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Dick Clark
00:34

Howard Cosell

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football
01:40
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
00:23
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Henry Kissinger and Howard Cosell at a United Cerebral Palsy event
02:16

Barry Diller

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Leonard Goldenson on hiring young executives that would become instrumental to the television industry
01:05
Leonard Goldenson on heading up ABC's movies of the week
01:07

Roy E. Disney

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Leonard Goldenson on his programming ideas for ABC and making a deal with Walt and Roy Disney
02:13

Walt Disney

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC making a deal with Walt Disney
01:33
Leonard Goldenson on his programming ideas for ABC and making a deal with Walt and Roy Disney
02:13
Leonard Goldenson on his relationship with Walt Disney
00:56
Leonard Goldenson on Walt Disney telling him he wanted to be number one
00:26
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues - Walt Disney
00:05
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Walt Disney and his wife
00:44
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Walt Disney and others after ABC's deal with Disney
00:36

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife
01:26

Michael Eisner

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Leonard Goldenson on hiring young executives that would become instrumental to the television industry
01:05
Leonard Goldenson on his management style at ABC and managing Michael Eisner
00:30
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Michael Eisner
01:15

Billy Graham

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Billy Graham
01:59

Alger Hiss

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Leonard Goldenson on Howard K. Smith wanting to do a story on Nixon
01:46

Bob Hope

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo of an award presented to Bob Hope
00:35
Leonard Goldenson on a photo of a Christmas card of Bob Hope; on Hope's involvement with Goldenson's foundation for Cerebral Palsy
02:12

Roy Huggins

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Leonard Goldenson on The Fugitive
02:09

Howard Hughes

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Leonard Goldenson on others' attempts to take over ABC (including Howard Hughes)
02:13
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
00:45

Peter Jennings

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Leonard Goldenson on Peter Jennings becoming news anchor at ABC
00:43
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
00:11
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Peter Jennings
00:18

Lyndon B. Johnson

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Lyndon B. Johnson
03:24
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Lyndon B. Johnson
03:01

John F. Kennedy

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - John F. Kennedy; on his dealings with Joseph Kennedy
02:12
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with JFK and Jackie Kennedy in 1960
00:20
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with John F. Kennedy and others at a Boston Children's Hospital event
03:23

Henry Kissinger

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Henry Kissinger and Howard Cosell at a United Cerebral Palsy event
02:16

Ted Koppel

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Ted Koppel and Tom Murphy
02:09

Abe Lastfogel

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Leonard Goldenson on William Morris' Abe Lastfogel helping ABC acquire talent
00:41

Norman Lear

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Leonard Goldenson on asking Norman Lear to adapt the British show 'Til Death Do Us Part, in what became All in the Family, and passing it up
00:43

Jerry Lewis

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's deal with Jerry Lewis
01:08

Joseph McCarthy

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Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC
01:16

Rupert Murdoch

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Leonard Goldenson on a career regret - selling stock in Rupert Murdoch's company
00:55
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Rupert Murdoch
01:33

Thomas Murphy

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Ted Koppel and Tom Murphy
02:09

Richard M. Nixon

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Richard M. Nixon
01:13
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Richard Nixon
00:38
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Richard M. Nixon
02:23
Leonard Goldenson on a photo of Richard Nixon; on his working relationship with Nixon and the Nixon-Kennedy debates
03:21

Edward J. Noble

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Leonard Goldenson his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC
05:48

William S. Paley

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Leonard Goldenson on his relationship with NBC's David Sarnoff and CBS' William Paley
01:11
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with CBS' William Paley and NBC's David Sarnoff
01:08

Ronald Reagan

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Ronald Reagan
00:34

Harry Reasoner

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Leonard Goldenson on the ABC anchor team of Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters
01:26

Eleanor Roosevelt

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Eleanor Roosevelt
01:46

Elton H. Rule

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Leonard Goldenson on Elton Rule's contributions to ABC 
01:52
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
00:03
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Elton Rule
00:25

Anwar Sadat

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Anwar Sadat
01:11

David Sarnoff

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Leonard Goldenson on acquiring ABC and having a conversation with NBC's David Sarnoff
01:42
Leonard Goldenson on his relationship with NBC's David Sarnoff and CBS' William Paley
00:43
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with CBS' William Paley and NBC's David Sarnoff
01:08

Edgar J. Scherick

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Leonard Goldenson on Roone Arledge's impact on ABC and sports and recruiting Edgar Scherick
01:48
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
00:06

Fred Silverman

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Leonard Goldenson on the decision to air Roots on consecutive nights
01:22

Howard K. Smith

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Leonard Goldenson on Howard K. Smith wanting to do a story on Nixon
01:46

Aaron Spelling

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Leonard Goldenson on believing in Aaron Spelling
03:55

Frank Stanton

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Leonard Goldenson on Frank Stanton's unsung achievements at CBS
00:42

Elizabeth Taylor

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Elizabeth Taylor
00:34

Marlo Thomas

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Marlo Thomas
00:20

Danny Thomas

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Leonard Goldenson on William Morris' Abe Lastfogel helping ABC acquire talent
00:41

Larry Tisch

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Leonard Goldenson on making a deal to merge with ITT (which fell through)
03:08

Oliver E. Treyz

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Leonard Goldenson on hiring young executives that would become instrumental to the television industry
01:30
Leonard Goldenson on Oliver E. Treyz's contributions to ABC
01:20
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
00:22

Donald J. Trump

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Donald Trump
00:42

Barbara Walters

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Leonard Goldenson on the ABC anchor team of Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters
01:26

Jack L. Warner

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Leonard Goldenson on making a deal with Jack Warner
00:40
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
00:14
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Jack Warner
03:10

Lew Wasserman

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Leonard Goldenson on negotiating movies of the week with Lew Wasserman
01:07
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
00:32

Sylvester L. Weaver

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Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues - Pat Weaver
00:15

Lawrence Welk

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Leonard Goldenson on getting Lawrence Welk on the air
00:49

Adolph Zukor

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with his wife and Adolph Zukor
01:41
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Adolph Zukor and Barney Balaban
01:31

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