Ralph Senensky

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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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."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Ralph Senensky on meeting Norman Felton and how he got his first directing assignment - for Dr. Kildare
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Metamorphosis" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on Ron Howard guest-starring on the episode "The Gift" on The Waltons
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Grandma Comes Home" episode of The Waltons
Ralph Senensky on directing four episodes of The Fugitive starring David Janssen
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

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Ralph Senensky on directing Arrest and Trial starring Ben Gazarra and Chuck Connors
Ralph Senensky on a story from directing Arrest and Trial

Barnaby Jones

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Ralph Senensky on directing Buddy Ebsen in Barnaby Jones

Big Valley, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing Barbara Stanwyck in The Big Valley

Bill Cosby Show, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing several episodes of The Bill Cosby Show

Breaking Point

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

Courtship of Eddie's Father, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing The Courtship of Eddie's Father

Dr. Kildare

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Ralph Senensky on meeting Norman Felton and how he got his first directing assignment - for Dr. Kildare
Ralph Senensky on directing Dr. Kildare
Ralph Senensky on the editing room of Dr. Kildare
Ralph Senensky on directing Carolyn Jones and building a relationship with James Komack that led to directing The Courtship of Eddie's Father

Dynasty

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Ralph Senensky on his role in the creation of Dynasty

Eight Is Enough

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Ralph Senensky on the death of Eight Is Enough's Diana Hyland

FBI, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing sixteen episodes of The F.B.I. starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
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"

Family

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Ralph Senensky on actors winning Emmys for the episode of Family he directed 

Fugitive, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing four episodes of The Fugitive starring David Janssen and the success of the series

Hart to Hart

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Ralph Senensky on the chemistry between leads Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on Hart to Hart

Insight

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Ralph Senensky on directing several episodes of Insight, shot on tape

Ironside

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Ralph Senensky on directing Raymond Burr in Ironside

Lou Grant

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Ralph Senensky on directing Ed Asner in Lou Grant

Mission: Impossible

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Ralph Senensky on the difficulty of directing Mission: Impossible; on working with the stars of the show

Naked City

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Ralph Senensky on directing Naked City

Nanny and the Professor

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Ralph Senensky on directing The Partridge Family and Nanny and the Professor

Paper Chase, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing The Paper Chase on Showtime

Partridge Family, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing The Partridge Family

Playhouse 90

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Ralph Senensky on his first job at Playhouse 90 and becoming Production Supervisor
Ralph Senensky on the Playhouse 90 production of "The Death of Manolete"
Ralph Senensky on his on-the-job training at Playhouse 90 and the production process
Ralph Senensky on difficulties on a production of "Last Clear Chance" on Playhouse 90
Ralph Senensky on the legacy of Playhouse 90
Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 and how to direct comedies and dramas

Playhouse 90: "The Death of Manolete"

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Ralph Senensky on the Playhouse 90 production of "The Death of Manolete"

Route 66

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Ralph Senensky on directing Route 66; on shooting on location

Star Trek

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Ralph Senensky on directing six episodes of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Metamorphosis" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Obsession" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Return to Tomorrow" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Bread and Circuses" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on controversy over a prop when directing the "Is There No Truth in Beauty?" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on directing "The Tholian Web" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek; on the legacy of the show

Star Trek: "Metamorphosis"

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Ralph Senensky on directing the "Metamorphosis" episode of Star Trek

Star Trek: "This Side of Paradise"

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Ralph Senensky on directing "This Side of Paradise" episode of Star Trek

Twilight Zone, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing Burgess Meredith in "The Printer's Devil" episode of The Twilight Zone
Ralph Senensky on directing Burgess Meredith in the "Printer's Devil" episode of The Twilight Zone

Waltons, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing "The Gift," "The Conflict," "The Marathon," "The Pony Cart" episodes of The Waltons
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

Wild Wild West, The

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Ralph Senensky on directing The Wild, Wild West starring Robert Conrad
Topics

Anthology Drama

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Ralph Senensky on working on Playhouse 90

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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

Diversity in Television

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

Historic Events and Social Change

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Ralph Senensky on serving in World War II
Ralph Senensky on an episode of Arrest and Trial shutting down because of JFK's assassination

Hollywood Blacklist

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Ralph Senensky on his experiences with McCarthyism and the Blacklist

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Ralph Senensky on an episode of Arrest and Trial shutting down because of JFK's assassination

LGBTQ

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

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

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Ralph Senensky on working on Playhouse 90

Technological Innovation

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Ralph Senensky on shooting in color on The Wild, Wild West
Ralph Senensky on how technology has influenced his directing

Television Industry

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

War

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Ralph Senensky on serving in World War II

We Cried

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Ralph Senensky on directing the "Grandma Comes Home" episode of The Waltons

World War II

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Ralph Senensky on serving in World War II
Professions

Directors

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

Adventure/Espionage Series

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Ralph Senensky on the difficulty of directing Mission: Impossible; on working with the stars of the show
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"

Classic Anthology Series

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Ralph Senensky on working on Playhouse 90

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Ralph Senensky on directing four episodes of The Fugitive starring David Janssen and the success of the series

Daytime/Primetime Serials

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Ralph Senensky on his role in the creation of Dynasty

Drama Series

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Ralph Senensky on directing Raymond Burr in Ironside
Ralph Senensky on directing several episodes of The Waltons

Medical Dramas

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Ralph Senensky on directing Dr. Kildare

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

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Ralph Senensky on directing Star Trek, working with the actors, and the enduring nature of the show

Western Series

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Ralph Senensky on directing The Wild, Wild West starring Robert Conrad
People

Alan A. Armer

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Ralph Senensky on Alan Armer's contributions to the success of The Fugitive

Edward Asner

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Ralph Senensky on directing Ed Asner in Lou Grant

Ed Begley

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Ralph Senensky on directing Route 66

Bill Bixby

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Ralph Senensky on directing Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz on The Courtship of Eddie's Father

Herbert Brodkin

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Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer Herbert Brodkin

Raymond Burr

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Ralph Senensky on directing Raymond Burr in Ironside

David Cassidy

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Ralph Senensky on directing the musical numbers on The Partridge Family

Richard Chamberlain

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Ralph Senensky on working with Richard Chamberlain on Dr. Kildare

Fred Coe

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Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer Fred Coe

Chuck Connors

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Ralph Senensky on directing Arrest and Trial starring Ben Gazarra and Chuck Connors

Robert Conrad

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Ralph Senensky on directing The Wild, Wild West starring Robert Conrad

Gene Coon

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Ralph Senensky on directing Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on directing the "Metamorphosis" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on the enduring nature of Star Trek

Ellen Corby

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Ralph Senensky on directing the "Grandma Comes Home" episode of The Waltons

Bill Cosby

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Ralph Senensky on directing several episodes of The Bill Cosby Show

Douglas S. Cramer

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Ralph Senensky on directing "The Tholian Web" episode of Star Trek and getting fired

Brandon Cruz

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Ralph Senensky on directing Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz on The Courtship of Eddie's Father

Bette Davis

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Ralph Senensky on Bette Davis not getting approved by the F.B.I. to appear on The F.B.I.

James Doohan

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Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek

Buddy Ebsen

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Ralph Senensky on directing Buddy Ebsen in Barnaby Jones

Norman Felton

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Ralph Senensky on meeting Norman Felton and how he got his first directing assignment - for Dr. Kildare
Ralph Senensky on working with Norman Felton

John Forsythe

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Ralph Senensky on John Forsythe replacing George Peppard as "Blake Carrington" on Dynasty

John Frankenheimer

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Ralph Senensky on the Playhouse 90 production of "The Death of Manolete"
Ralph Senensky on learning from Playhouse 90 director John Frankenheimer

Ben Gazzara

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Ralph Senensky on directing Arrest and Trial starring Ben Gazarra and Chuck Connors

Earl Hamner, Jr.

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Ralph Senensky on directing The Waltons

Steven Hill

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Ralph Senensky on directing the cast (Steven Hill, Martin Landau) on Mission: Impossible

George Roy Hill

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Ralph Senensky on difficulties on a production of "Last Clear Chance" on Playhouse 90
Ralph Senensky on learning from Playhouse 90 director George Roy Hill

Herbert Hirschman

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Ralph Senensky on producer Herbert Hirschman getting him the job on The Twilight Zone

J. Edgar Hoover

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Ralph Senensky on actual F.B.I. input on The F.B.I.

John Houseman

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Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer John Houseman
Ralph Senensky on directing The Paper Chase on Showtime

Ron Howard

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Ralph Senensky on Ron Howard guest-starring on the episode "The Gift" on The Waltons

Diana Hyland

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Ralph Senensky on the death of Eight Is Enough's Diana Hyland

Dean Jagger

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Ralph Senensky on "The Assassin" episode of The F.B.I.

David Janssen

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Ralph Senensky on directing four episodes of The Fugitive starring David Janssen

Shirley Jones

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Ralph Senensky on directing the musical numbers on The Partridge Family

Carolyn Jones

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Ralph Senensky on directing Carolyn Jones and building a relationship with James Komack that led to directing The Courtship of Eddie's Father

DeForest Kelley

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Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek

James Komack

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Ralph Senensky on directing Carolyn Jones and building a relationship with James Komack that led to directing The Courtship of Eddie's Father

Martin Landau

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Ralph Senensky on directing the cast (Steven Hill, Martin Landau) on Mission: Impossible

Al Lewis

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Ralph Senensky on his experiences with McCarthyism and the Blacklist

Ida Lupino

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Ralph Senensky on directing an episode of The Wild, Wild West with Ida Lupino

Delbert Mann

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Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer Fred Coe and Delbert Mann

Martin Manulis

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Ralph Senensky on difficulties on a production of "Last Clear Chance" on Playhouse 90
Ralph Senensky on Playhouse 90 producer Martin Manulis

Quinn Martin

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Ralph Senensky on Quinn Martin's contributions to the success of The Fugitive

Burgess Meredith

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Ralph Senensky on directing Burgess Meredith in the "Printer's Devil" episode of The Twilight Zone

Paul Muni

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Ralph Senensky on difficulties on a production of "Last Clear Chance" on Playhouse 90

Leonard Nimoy

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Ralph Senensky on directing "This Side of Paradise" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on controversy over a prop when directing the "Is There No Truth in Beauty?" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek

George Peppard

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Ralph Senensky on George Peppard being the original "Blake Carrington" on Dynasty

Stefanie Powers

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Ralph Senensky on the chemistry between leads Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on Hart to Hart

Robert Redford

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Ralph Senensky on Robert Redford being the first choice for the psychiatrist in "The Bull Roarer" episode of Breaking Point

Gene Roddenberry

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Ralph Senensky on controversy over a prop when directing the "Is There No Truth in Beauty?" episode of Star Trek

Ruth Roman

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Ralph Senensky on directing Route 66

Mickey Rooney

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Ralph Senensky on an episode of Arrest and Trial shutting down because of JFK's assassination

Meta Rosenberg

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

Franklin J. Schaffner

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Ralph Senensky on learning from Playhouse 90 director Franklin J. Schaffner

Rod Serling

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Ralph Senensky on Rod Serling

Richard Shapiro

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Ralph Senensky on his role in the creation of Dynasty

Esther Shapiro

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Ralph Senensky on his role in the creation of Dynasty

William Shatner

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Ralph Senensky on controversy over a prop when directing the "Is There No Truth in Beauty?" episode of Star Trek
Ralph Senensky on directing "The Tholian Web" episode of Star Trek and getting fired
Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek  
Ralph Senensky on William Shatner controversy on Star Trek

Herbert F. Solow

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Ralph Senensky on directing the "Obsession" episode of Star Trek and Herb Solow adjusting Senensky's schedule for Jewish holidays
Ralph Senensky on directing "The Tholian Web" episode of Star Trek and getting fired

Barbara Stanwyck

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Ralph Senensky on directing Barbara Stanwyck in The Big Valley; on how she was a class act

George Takei

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Ralph Senensky on directing the cast of Star Trek

Robert Wagner

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Ralph Senensky on the chemistry between leads Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on Hart to Hart

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

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Ralph Senensky on directing sixteen episodes of The F.B.I. starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
Ralph Senensky on "The Death Wind", "The Assassin" episode of The F.B.I.

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