Ralph Senensky

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, Ralph Senensky recalls his childhood in Iowa and his early experiences directing community theater in his home state. He describes his move to Los Angeles, directing at the Pasadena Playhouse, and getting his first job in television at CBS' Playhouse 90. He reflects on what he learned from watching established Playhouse 90 directors Franklin J. Schaffner, John Frankenheimer, and George Roy Hill, and shares how he was asked to begin directing the medical drama Dr. Kildare. Senensky then comments on several series he directed for, including Mission: Impossible, The Fugitive, The Partridge Family, and The Wild, Wild West. He details directing memorable episodes of Star Trek, including "Metamorphosis" and "Obsession"; discusses directing episodes of The F.B.I., and speaks at length about directing The Waltons. He also talks about his contributions to Dallas. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on August 23, 2011 in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA.

"[Earl Hamner] and I were raised in very like periods and 'The Waltons' was just like putting on an old pair of shoes."

Highlights
Ralph Senensky on meeting Norman Felton and how he got his first directing assignment - for Dr. Kildare
04:22
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Metamorphosis" episode of Star Trek
02:55
Ralph Senensky on Ron Howard guest-starring on the episode "The Gift" on The Waltons
01:50
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Grandma Comes Home" episode of The Waltons
03:59
Ralph Senensky on directing four episodes of The Fugitive starring David Janssen
07:27
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on playing piano and being the director's assistant in a high school play in Iowa and falling in love with directing; on serving in World War II; on his favorite movies; on directing community theater in Iowa; on his first professional directing job in Chicago and moving to Los Angeles
On television shows he watched when he was young; on working at the Pasadena Playhouse; on working for CBS radio and transitioning to television; on CBS' Television City; on his first job at Playhouse 90; on the Playhouse 90 production of "The Death of Manolette"; on his on-the-job training at Playhouse 90 and the production process
On difficulties of live production at Playhouse 90; on Playhouse 90 producers Martin Manulis, John Houseman, Herbert Brodkin, and Fred Coe; on learning from directors Franklin J. Schaffner, John Frankenheimer, and George Roy Hill; on the legacy of Playhouse 90
On becoming production supervisor on soap opera Full Circle; on working for game shows; on on meeting Norman Felton and how he got his first directing assignment - for Dr. Kildare

Chapter 2

On directing Dr. Kildare; on working with Richard Chamberlain; on being an "actor's director"; on what he learned from the crew of Dr. Kildare; on directing an hour-long episode of The Twilight Zone; on working with Norman Felton; on the editing room of Dr. Kildare
On directing Burgess Meredith in "The Printer's Devil" episode of The Twilight Zone; on different lighting setups for the episode; on Rod Serling; on producer Herbert Hirschman getting him the job on The Twilight Zone; on directing Route 66 and Naked City; on directing Breaking Point and "The Bull Roarer" episode in which a young man thinks he might be gay
On directing Arrest and Trial starring Ben Gazarra and Chuck Connors; on directing Barbara Stanwyck in The Big Valley; on Stanwyck being a class act; on directing Westerns; on directing four episodes of The Fugitive starring David Janssen; on the success of The Fugitive; on directing sixteen episodes of The F.B.I. starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Chapter 3

On actual F.B.I. input on The F.B.I.; on Bette Davis not getting approved by the F.B.I. to appear on The F.B.I.; on sponsor Ford Motor Cars; on specific episodes of the show: "The Death Wind" and "The Assassin"
On his experiences with McCarthyism and the Blacklist; on directing The Wild, Wild West starring Robert Conrad; on shooting in color on The Wild, Wild West; on directing Raymond Burr in Ironside; on Universal wanting people to be loyal to the studio
On the difficulty of directing Mission: Impossible; on directing Star Trek episodes "This Side of Paradise", "Metamorphosis", "Obsession", "Return to Tomorrow", "Bread and Circuses", "Is There No Truth in Beauty? and "The Tholian Web"; on getting fired from Star Trek
On directing the cast of Star Trek; on the legacy of the show

Chapter 4

On directing The Courtship of Eddie's Father; on directing several episodes of The Bill Cosby Show and The Partridge Family on Playhouse 90 and how to direct comedies and dramas; on directing The Waltons; on Ron Howard guest-starring on the episode "The Gift" on The Waltons; on "The Conflict," "The Marathon," "The Pony Cart," and "Grandma Comes Home" episodes of The Waltons
On changing the "Goodnight, John Boy" ending in the "Grandma Comes Home" episode of The Waltons; on directing Buddy Ebsen in Barnaby Jones; on the death of Eight Is Enough's Diana Hyland; on directing Ed Asner in Lou Grant; on directing several episodes of Insight, shot on tape; on the chemistry between leads Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on Hart to Hart
On his role in the creation of Dynasty; on George Peppard being the original "Blake Carrington" on Dynasty; on his short tenure with the show
On directing The Paper Chase on Showtime; on how technology has influenced his directing; on his proudest achievement; on advice to aspiring directors; on how he'd like to be remembered
Shows

Arrest and Trial

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Arrest and Trial starring Ben Gazarra and Chuck Connors
03:20
Ralph Senensky on a story from directing Arrest and Trial
03:42

Barnaby Jones

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Buddy Ebsen in Barnaby Jones
00:59

Big Valley, The

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Barbara Stanwyck in The Big Valley
05:02

Bill Cosby Show, The

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing several episodes of The Bill Cosby Show
02:57

Breaking Point

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Breaking Point and "The Bull Roarer" episode in which a young man thinks he might be gay
03:52
Ralph Senensky on directing Breaking Point and "The Bull Roarer" episode in which a young man thinks he might be gay
02:41

Courtship of Eddie's Father

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing The Courtship of Eddie's Father
03:28

Dr. Kildare

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on meeting Norman Felton and how he got his first directing assignment - for Dr. Kildare
08:32
Ralph Senensky on directing Dr. Kildare
08:03
Ralph Senensky on the editing room of Dr. Kildare
00:34
Ralph Senensky on directing Carolyn Jones and building a relationship with James Komack that led to directing The Courtship of Eddie's Father
02:18

Dynasty

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on his role in the creation of Dynasty
14:56

Eight Is Enough

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on the death of Eight Is Enough's Diana Hyland
00:51

FBI, The

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing sixteen episodes of The F.B.I. starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
01:53
Ralph Senensky on actual F.B.I. input on The F.B.I.; on sponsor Ford Motor Cars; on specific episodes of the show: "The Death Wind", and "The Assassin"
17:26

Family

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on actors winning Emmys for the episode of Family he directed 
00:28

Fugitive, The

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing four episodes of The Fugitive starring David Janssen and the success of the series
07:27

Hart to Hart

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on the chemistry between leads Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on Hart to Hart
00:34

Insight

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing several episodes of Insight, shot on tape
01:34

Ironside

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Raymond Burr in Ironside
04:02

Lou Grant

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Ed Asner in Lou Grant
00:54

Mission: Impossible

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on the difficulty of directing Mission: Impossible; on working with the stars of the show
04:02

Naked City

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Naked City
01:23

Nanny and the Professor

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing The Partridge Family and Nanny and the Professor
02:07

Paper Chase, The

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing The Paper Chase on Showtime
02:38

Partridge Family, The

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing The Partridge Family
03:54

Playhouse 90

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on his first job at Playhouse 90 and becoming Production Supervisor
02:30
Ralph Senensky on the Playhouse 90 production of "The Death of Manolete"
04:23
Ralph Senensky on his on-the-job training at Playhouse 90 and the production process
02:10
Ralph Senensky on difficulties on a production of "Last Clear Chance" on Playhouse 90
04:33
Ralph Senensky on the legacy of Playhouse 90
00:21
Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 and how to direct comedies and dramas
02:59

Playhouse 90: "The Death of Manolete"

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on the Playhouse 90 production of "The Death of Manolete"
04:23

Route 66

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Route 66; on shooting on location
09:23

Star Trek

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing six episodes of Star Trek
03:04
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Metamorphosis" episode of Star Trek
00:41
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Obsession" episode of Star Trek
01:08
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Return to Tomorrow" episode of Star Trek
02:16
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Bread and Circuses" episode of Star Trek
02:00
Ralph Senensky on controversy over a prop when directing the "Is There No Truth in Beauty?" episode of Star Trek
02:14
Ralph Senensky on directing "The Tholian Web" episode of Star Trek
04:14
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek; on the legacy of the show
05:38

Star Trek: "Metamorphosis"

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Metamorphosis" episode of Star Trek
02:55

Star Trek: "This Side of Paradise"

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing "This Side of Paradise" episode of Star Trek
02:18

Twilight Zone, The

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Burgess Meredith in "The Printer's Devil" episode of The Twilight Zone
00:24
Ralph Senensky on directing Burgess Meredith in the "Printer's Devil" episode of The Twilight Zone
08:23

Waltons, The

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing "The Gift," "The Conflict," "The Marathon," "The Pony Cart" episodes of The Waltons
09:17
Ralph Senensky on directing "Grandma Comes Home" episodes of The Waltons; on changing the "Goodnight, John Boy" ending in the "Grandma Comes Home" episode of The Waltons
05:23

Wild Wild West, The

View Show Page
Ralph Senensky on directing The Wild, Wild West starring Robert Conrad
02:57
Topics

Anthology Drama

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on working on Playhouse 90
23:31

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on censorship when directing Breaking Point and "The Bull Roarer" episode in which a young man thinks he might be gay
02:27

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on censorship when directing Breaking Point and "The Bull Roarer" episode in which a young man thinks he might be gay
02:27

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on serving in World War II
02:23
Ralph Senensky on an episode of Arrest and Trial shutting down because of JFK's assassination
02:18

Hollywood Blacklist

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on his experiences with McCarthyism and the Blacklist
01:49

JFK Assassination and Funeral

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on an episode of Arrest and Trial shutting down because of JFK's assassination
02:18

LGBTQ

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on directing Breaking Point and "The Bull Roarer" episode in which a young man thinks he might be gay
03:52

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

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on working on Playhouse 90
23:31

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on shooting in color on The Wild, Wild West
01:01
Ralph Senensky on how technology has influenced his directing
01:38

Television Industry

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on censorship when directing Breaking Point and "The Bull Roarer" episode in which a young man thinks he might be gay
02:27

War

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on serving in World War II
02:23

We Cried

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Grandma Comes Home" episode of The Waltons
05:23

World War II

View Topic
Ralph Senensky on serving in World War II
02:23
Professions

Directors

View Profession
Ralph Senensky on being the director's assistant in a high school play in Iowa and falling in love with directing
05:34
Ralph Senensky on how he got his first directing assignment - for Dr. Kildare
08:32
Ralph Senensky on advice to aspiring directors
00:30
Genres

Adventure/Espionage Series

View Genre
Ralph Senensky on the difficulty of directing Mission: Impossible; on working with the stars of the show
04:02
Ralph Senensky on actual F.B.I. input on The F.B.I.; on sponsor Ford Motor Cars; on specific episodes of the show: "The Death Wind", and "The Assassin"
17:26

Classic Anthology Series

View Genre
Ralph Senensky on working on Playhouse 90
23:31

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
Ralph Senensky on directing four episodes of The Fugitive starring David Janssen and the success of the series
07:27

Daytime/Primetime Serials

View Genre
Ralph Senensky on his role in the creation of Dynasty
14:56

Drama Series

View Genre
Ralph Senensky on directing Raymond Burr in Ironside
04:02
Ralph Senensky on directing several episodes of The Waltons
15:08

Medical Dramas

View Genre
Ralph Senensky on directing Dr. Kildare
32:32

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

View Genre
Ralph Senensky on directing Star Trek, working with the actors, and the enduring nature of the show
23:29

Western Series

View Genre
Ralph Senensky on directing The Wild, Wild West starring Robert Conrad
02:57
People

Alan A. Armer

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on Alan Armer's contributions to the success of The Fugitive
01:26

Edward Asner

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Ed Asner in Lou Grant
00:54

Ed Begley

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Route 66
08:37

Bill Bixby

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz on The Courtship of Eddie's Father
01:10

Herbert Brodkin

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer Herbert Brodkin
01:07

Raymond Burr

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Raymond Burr in Ironside
04:02

David Cassidy

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the musical numbers on The Partridge Family
01:09

Richard Chamberlain

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on working with Richard Chamberlain on Dr. Kildare
00:31

Fred Coe

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer Fred Coe
02:59

Chuck Connors

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Arrest and Trial starring Ben Gazarra and Chuck Connors
01:02

Robert Conrad

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on directing The Wild, Wild West starring Robert Conrad
01:56

Gene Coon

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Star Trek
02:15
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Metamorphosis" episode of Star Trek
02:55
Ralph Senensky on the enduring nature of Star Trek
01:42

Ellen Corby

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Grandma Comes Home" episode of The Waltons
11:57

Bill Cosby

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing several episodes of The Bill Cosby Show
02:57

Douglas S. Cramer

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on directing "The Tholian Web" episode of Star Trek and getting fired
04:14

Brandon Cruz

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz on The Courtship of Eddie's Father
01:10

Bette Davis

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on Bette Davis not getting approved by the F.B.I. to appear on The F.B.I.
03:13

James Doohan

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek
00:41

Buddy Ebsen

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Buddy Ebsen in Barnaby Jones
00:59

Norman Felton

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on meeting Norman Felton and how he got his first directing assignment - for Dr. Kildare
04:22
Ralph Senensky on working with Norman Felton
01:45

John Forsythe

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on John Forsythe replacing George Peppard as "Blake Carrington" on Dynasty
01:48

John Frankenheimer

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on the Playhouse 90 production of "The Death of Manolete"
04:23
Ralph Senensky on learning from Playhouse 90 director John Frankenheimer
00:46

Ben Gazzara

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Arrest and Trial starring Ben Gazarra and Chuck Connors
01:02

Earl Hamner, Jr.

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on directing The Waltons
01:09

Steven Hill

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast (Steven Hill, Martin Landau) on Mission: Impossible
01:18

George Roy Hill

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on difficulties on a production of "Last Clear Chance" on Playhouse 90
04:33
Ralph Senensky on learning from Playhouse 90 director George Roy Hill
00:37

Herbert Hirschman

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on producer Herbert Hirschman getting him the job on The Twilight Zone
00:51

J. Edgar Hoover

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on actual F.B.I. input on The F.B.I.
00:17

John Houseman

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer John Houseman
01:34
Ralph Senensky on directing The Paper Chase on Showtime
02:38

Ron Howard

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on Ron Howard guest-starring on the episode "The Gift" on The Waltons
01:50

Diana Hyland

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on the death of Eight Is Enough's Diana Hyland
00:51

Dean Jagger

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on "The Assassin" episode of The F.B.I.
04:14

David Janssen

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing four episodes of The Fugitive starring David Janssen
56:36

Shirley Jones

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the musical numbers on The Partridge Family
01:09

Carolyn Jones

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Carolyn Jones and building a relationship with James Komack that led to directing The Courtship of Eddie's Father
02:18

DeForest Kelley

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek
00:10

James Komack

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Carolyn Jones and building a relationship with James Komack that led to directing The Courtship of Eddie's Father
02:18

Martin Landau

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast (Steven Hill, Martin Landau) on Mission: Impossible
01:18

Al Lewis

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on his experiences with McCarthyism and the Blacklist
01:49

Ida Lupino

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing an episode of The Wild, Wild West with Ida Lupino
00:45

Delbert Mann

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer Fred Coe and Delbert Mann
02:59

Martin Manulis

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on difficulties on a production of "Last Clear Chance" on Playhouse 90
04:33
Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer Martin Manulis
00:37

Quinn Martin

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on Quinn Martin's contributions to the success of The Fugitive
01:46

Burgess Meredith

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Burgess Meredith in the "Printer's Devil" episode of The Twilight Zone
06:17

Paul Muni

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on difficulties on a production of "Last Clear Chance" on Playhouse 90
04:33

Leonard Nimoy

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on directing "This Side of Paradise" episode of Star Trek
02:18
Ralph Senensky on controversy over a prop when directing the "Is There No Truth in Beauty?" episode of Star Trek
02:14
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek
01:10

George Peppard

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on George Peppard being the original "Blake Carrington" on Dynasty
13:43

Stefanie Powers

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on the chemistry between leads Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on Hart to Hart
00:34

Robert Redford

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on Robert Redford being the first choice for the psychiatrist in "The Bull Roarer" episode of Breaking Point
11:12

Gene Roddenberry

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on controversy over a prop when directing the "Is There No Truth in Beauty?" episode of Star Trek
02:14

Ruth Roman

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Route 66
08:37

Mickey Rooney

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on an episode of Arrest and Trial shutting down because of JFK's assassination
02:18

Meta Rosenberg

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Breaking Point and "The Bull Roarer" episode in which a young man thinks he might be gay
03:52

Franklin J. Schaffner

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on learning from Playhouse 90 director Franklin J. Schaffner
01:54

Rod Serling

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on Rod Serling
02:06

Richard Shapiro

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on his role in the creation of Dynasty
13:43

Esther Shapiro

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on his role in the creation of Dynasty
13:43

William Shatner

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on controversy over a prop when directing the "Is There No Truth in Beauty?" episode of Star Trek
02:14
Ralph Senensky on directing "The Tholian Web" episode of Star Trek and getting fired
04:14
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek  
01:01
Ralph Senensky on William Shatner controversy on Star Trek
00:40

Herbert F. Solow

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Obsession" episode of Star Trek and Herb Solow adjusting Senensky's schedule for Jewish holidays
02:26
Ralph Senensky on directing "The Tholian Web" episode of Star Trek and getting fired
04:14

Barbara Stanwyck

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing Barbara Stanwyck in The Big Valley; on how she was a class act
08:08

George Takei

View Interview Page
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek
00:14

Robert Wagner

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on the chemistry between leads Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on Hart to Hart
00:34

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

View Person Page
Ralph Senensky on directing sixteen episodes of The F.B.I. starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
00:53
Ralph Senensky on "The Death Wind", "The Assassin" episode of The F.B.I.
07:31

All Interviews

Q
S