Nicolas Noxon

Documentarian / Executive


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Nicolas Noxon (1936-2016) speaks of his early interest in nature and studying at Antioch College. He details his time as a writer-producer for Wolper Productions, producing the documentary series Biography, Hollywood and the Stars, and Men in Crisis. He discusses his long association with the National Geographic Specials, beginning with the documentaries "The Voyage of the Brigantine Yankee" and "Dr. Leakey and the Dawn of Man." Noxon talks about his work as a writer-producer for MGM Studios, producing the GE Monogram series and other documentaries. He also touches on his work at his own company, Ronox Productions and on the series Ripley's Believe it or Not, hosted by Jack Palance and Marie Osmond. He details his continued work on the National Geographic Specials, which yielded the documentaries "Treasure!" "The Great Whales," "The Sharks," and "Secrets of the Titanic." He concludes by discussing the then-future of television, advice to aspiring documentarians, and his proudest career achievements. Kathy Levitt conducted the interview on October 5, 1999 in Los Angeles, CA.

"I think that really television is about being universal. And there's absolutely no point in doing things that appeal to a small number or are understood by a small number of people, because there's so much easier ways to reach them."

Highlights
Nicolas Noxon on how Secrets of the Titanic came to be
05:32
Nicolas Noxon on Orson Welles doing narration for National Geographic Specials
04:55
Nicolas Noxon on National Geographic's "Treasure!" and why he does not dive (despite his extensive work on underwater exploring)
07:54
Nicolas Noxon on how he knows when a documentary is complete
02:27
Nicolas Noxon on his pride in what his work accomplished in terms of ecology and environmentalism
01:22
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on the first time he saw television
On his first professional jobs in St. Louis; on his relationship with director John Korty; on moving to Los Angeles
On working with producer David Wolper; on working on the syndicated show Biography

Chapter 2

On the editing facilities at Wolper Productions; on working on the syndicated show Biography; on working with documentarian Irwin Rosten
On the biggest challenges in producing Biography; on the documentary series Hollywood and the Stars
On What a Way to Go: An Extravaganza in the Making; on "The Great Directors" episode of Hollywood and the Stars, and the notable directors he interviewed for it; on the documentary series Men in Crisis

Chapter 3

On the documentaries Prelude to War and The Epic of Flight; on the advent of National Geographic's  television specials
On his first film for National Geographic: "The Voyage of the Brigantine 'Yankee'"
On Orson Welles doing narration for National Geographic Specials; on National Geographic's "Dr. Leakey and the Dawn of Man"

Chapter 4

On National Geographic's "Yankee Sails Across Europe"; on working at MGM; on NBC's GE Monogram Series
On the GE Monogram Series documentaries "Once Before I Die" and "Wildfire"; on his relationship with filmmaker Irwin Rosten; on Burgess Meredith and E. G. Marshall as documentary narrators
On MGM documentaries In Search of the Lost World and Childhood: The Enchanted Years; on the feature documentary "Birds Do It, Bees Do It"; on MGM in the late 1960s and early 1970s

Chapter 5

On "America at the Movies"; on returning to National Geographic Specials, which had moved from ABC to PBS
On National Geographic's "Treasure!"; on National Geographic's "The Great Whales" and "The Sharks"
On National Geographic's "Animals Nobody Loves" and "This Britain"; on the logistics of shooting National Geographic Specials on location; on danger he's faced while shooting documentaries

Chapter 6

On filming in foreign countries; on the syndicated series, Sports Illustrated; on Ripley's Believe It or Not
On Secrets of the Titanic; on National Geographic's The Explorers: A Century of Discovery; on making documentaries for the ABC subsidiary, ABC/Kane

Chapter 7

On the National Geographic Society's split from KQED, and his role in National Geographic setting up an L.A. office; on National Geographic Specials moving from PBS to NBC
On National Geographic's "Cyclone!"; on how documentary-making has changed over time
On National Geographic's "Survivors of the Skeleton Coast" and "Jewels of the Caribbean Sea"; on his hatred of directing
On then-upcoming projects; on the process of producing a documentary

Chapter 8

On writing for documentaries and what makes documentaries work; on the editing process for his documentaries
On the use of music in documentaries; on how he knows when a documentary is complete
On the changes in documentaries on television over time; on whether documentaries belong on network television; on the power of television and its failings, and its then-current state

Chapter 9

On his ideas about the then-future state of television; on advice to aspiring documentarians; on the fact that the field of filmmaking has gotten more and more competitive
On objectivity and ethics in documentaries; on the closing of National Geographic's L.A. office
On his mentors; on how he would like to be remembered; on his pride in what his work accomplished in terms of ecology and environmentalism
Shows

Biography (1962)

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Nicolas Noxon on working on the syndicated show Biography  for producers David Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr.
07:46
Nicolas Noxon on doing research and cutting footage for the syndicated show Biography
01:25
Nicolas Noxon on his biggest challenges in producing the syndicated show Biography
02:07
Nicolas Noxon on some of the specific Biography episodes he produced and why the show ended
01:49

Ripley's Believe It or Not

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Nicolas Noxon on Ripley's Believe It or Not
10:20
Topics

Advice

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Nicolas Noxon on advice to aspiring documentarians
01:11

Pop Culture

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Nicolas Noxon on Secrets of the Titanic
07:35

Public Television

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Nicolas Noxon on National Geographic Specials  and its move from ABC to PBS
02:52
Nicolas Noxon on the difference between making documentaries for public television versus commercial television
01:34

Studio and Network Management

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Nicolas Noxon on working for MGM in the 1960s and 1970s and the state of the studio at that time
01:41

Television Industry

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Nicolas Noxon on working on the documentary series Hollywood and the Stars, and coming up against the movie studios' resistance to allowing movies (even just clips) shown on television
02:35
Nicolas Noxon on working for MGM in the 1960s and 1970s and the state of the studio at that time
01:41
Nicolas Noxon on MGM's attitude toward television during the time he worked there (from the late 1960s to the early 1970s) 
03:10
Nicolas Noxon on National Geographic Specials  and its move from ABC to PBS
02:52
Nicolas Noxon on the difference between making documentaries for public television versus commercial television
01:34
Nicolas Noxon on the changes in documentaries in television over time, including the use of recreations 
03:21
Nicolas Noxon on the challenge of creating documentaries for network television, and whether they belong on network television
07:26
Nicolas Noxon on his ideas about the then-future state of television
04:31
Nicolas Noxon on advice to aspiring documentarians
01:11
Professions

Documentarian

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Nicolas Noxon on the logistics of shooting National Geographic Specials on location
02:59
Nicolas Noxon on the process of producing a documentary
04:57
Nicolas Noxon on how he knows when a documentary is complete
02:27
Nicolas Noxon on advice to aspiring documentarians
01:11
Nicolas Noxon on objectivity and ethics in documentaries
03:20

Journalists & News Producers

View Profession
Nicolas Noxon on the logistics of shooting National Geographic Specials on location
02:59
Nicolas Noxon on the process of producing a documentary
04:57
Nicolas Noxon on how he knows when a documentary is complete
02:27
Nicolas Noxon on advice to aspiring documentarians
01:11
Nicolas Noxon on objectivity and ethics in documentaries
03:20
Genres

News and Documentary

View Genre
Nicolas Noxon on working on the syndicated show Biography for producers David Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr.
07:46
Nicolas Noxon on doing research and cutting footage for the syndicated show Biography
01:25
Nicolas Noxon on working on the syndicated show Biography for producers David Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. (part 2)
04:43
Nicolas Noxon on the NBC documentary show Hollywood and the Stars
05:32
Nicolas Noxon on the documentary series Men in Crisis
04:02
Nicolas Noxon on National Geographic Specials
23:38
Nicolas Noxon on National Geographic's  "Dr. Leakey and the Dawn of Man"
04:11
Nicolas Noxon on National Geographic Specials  (part 2)
02:12
Nicolas Noxon on NBC's GE Monogram Series, which was produced by MGM
08:24
Nicolas Noxon on the MGM documentary Childhood: The Enchanted Years and its narrator, Alexander Scourby
02:48
Nicolas Noxon on National Geographic Specials (part 3)
25:27
Nicolas Noxon on the syndicated series, Sports Illustrated
03:19
Nicolas Noxon on Ripley's Believe It or Not
10:20
Nicolas Noxon on Secrets of the Titanic
07:35
Nicolas Noxon on National Geographic documentaries
07:32

Sports

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Nicolas Noxon on the syndicated series, Sports Illustrated
03:19
People

Elmer Bernstein

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Nicolas Noxon on the score for National Geographic's  "The Voyage of the Brigantine 'Yankee'" and Elmer Bernstein composing the National Geographic theme song
01:24

Joseph Cotten

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Nicolas Noxon on Joseph Cotten, who was the narrator for "The Great Directors" episode of Hollywood and the Stars
01:50

Bob Doyle

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Nicolas Noxon on producer Bob Doyle's role in National Geographic Specials
00:35

Clark Gable

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Nicolas Noxon on Burgess Meredith as narrator for the MGM documentary Dear Mr. Gable about Clark Gable
01:06

Jack Haley, Jr.

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Nicolas Noxon on working on the syndicated show Biography for producers David Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr.
07:46
Nicolas Noxon on working on the NBC documentary series Hollywood and the Stars for producer Jack Haley, Jr.
05:32

Alan Landsburg

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Nicolas Noxon on working with producer Alan Landsburg on the documentary series Men in Crisis
00:34
Nicolas Noxon on one of his mentors, producer Alan Landsburg
00:32

John Lithgow

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Nicolas Noxon on what makes a good narrator for a documentary, with John Lithgow as an example
02:36

E. G. Marshall

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Nicolas Noxon on E. G. Marshall as narrator for the MGM documentary The Man Hunters
00:55

Burgess Meredith

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Nicolas Noxon on Burgess Meredith as narrator for the MGM documentary Dear Mr. Gable about Clark Gable
01:06

Don Ohlmeyer

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Nicolas Noxon on National Geographic Specials moving from PBS to NBC, and executive Don Ohlmeyer's role in this move
02:19

Marie Osmond

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Nicolas Noxon on Ripley's Believe It or Not, hosted by Jack Palance and, in a later season, Marie Osmond
03:36

Jack Palance

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Nicolas Noxon on Ripley's Believe It or Not, hosted by Jack Palance and, in a later season, Marie Osmond
06:05

Herbert F. Solow

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Nicolas Noxon on his regrets over turning down an offer from Herbert F. Solow at MGM
03:10

Mel Stuart

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Nicolas Noxon on what he learned from filmmaker Mel Stuart and Noxon's philosophy, "good is good"
03:08

Mike Wallace

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Nicolas Noxon on Mike Wallace's contribution as host and narrator of the syndicated show Biography
00:35

Orson Welles

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Nicolas Noxon on Orson Welles doing narration for National Geographic Specials
04:55

David L. Wolper

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Nicolas Noxon on working with producer David Wolper
01:48
Nicolas Noxon on working on the syndicated show Biography for producers David Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr.
07:46
Nicolas Noxon on documentaries he made for producer David Wolper: Prelude to War and The Epic of Flight
03:31
Nicolas Noxon on mogul John Kluge's buyout of Wolper Productions
01:36
Nicolas Noxon on the advent of National Geographic's television specials and producer David Wolper's role in the production of them
06:54
Nicolas Noxon on the feature documentary "Birds Do It, Bees Do It," produced by David Wolper
04:19

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