Richard Lewis

Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his five hour Archive interview, Richard Lewis (1920-2009) discusses his early career as a director and later show creator in radio. He talks about his transition to television as a producer (which included Blind Date) and his role in the creation of the popular and long-running western series Wagon Train, as well as his work on the acclaimed anthology series Alcoa Premiere. He describes producing several successful pilots for series including Leave It To Beaver, Bachelor Father, and McHale's Navy. Lewis recalls becoming the Vice President of MCA's Revue Television, which later became Universal Television. He details producing one of the first television movies, The Borgia Stick, and his becoming an independent producer of feature films shortly thereafter. Karen Herman conducted the interview on March 8, 1999 in Brentwood, CA.

"Television was best represented by the early anthology series. We gave an awful lot to the public in terms of wonderful entertainment."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Richard Lewis on producing Blind Date with Arlene Francis
Richard Lewis on producing The General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan
Richard Lewis on producing the pilot Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer
Richard Lewis on the DuMont television studios at Wannemaker's
Richard Lewis on television production moving from New York to Los Angeles, and developing the feature film "A Lovely Way to Die" for MCA and on various other projects
Richard Lewis on MCA's reputation when he joined the company, and on the structure of MCA/Revue Productions
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his early interest in theater and movies, and getting interested in the entertainment industry; on his early education and how the Great Depression affected his family
On radio he listened to growing up; on his experiences at Yale University and studying drama there; on writing radio plays while at Yale University

Chapter 2

On his overall experience at Yale; on the first time he saw television, at the 1939 World's Fair; on going to work for an advertising agency and working with Phillip Morris
On on doing work for Orson Welles' "Mercury Theater" on radio; on directing the radio show "Crime Doctor" and other early radio shows; on Jack Benny and other stars appearing on the radio quiz show "Take It or Leave It"
On working on the radio show "Let Yourself Go," hosted by Milton Berle; on creating the radio show "Quick as a Flash"

Chapter 3

On creating and directing the radio show "Quick as a Flash"; on his experience during World War II; on creating various pilots for radio
On how he starting working in television, producing Take a Chance and Two Girls Named Smith; on the DuMont television studios at Wannemaker's; on producing the early sitcom Two Girls Named Smith
On producing Blind Date with Arlene Francis; on Grace Kelly being rejected on Blind Date, and on selecting contestants for the show; on the production aspects of the show and on the difference between producing for television and producing for radio

Chapter 4

On producing Who's There, starring Arlene Francis and Melvyn Douglas, who was blacklisted; on producing the television version of Quick as a Flash; on producing the pilot Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer
On the character of "Mike Hammer" making the transition from radio to television on Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and on William S. Paley refusing to air the show; on producing Crusader, starring Brian Keith

Chapter 5

On casting Brian Keith as "Mike Hammer" on Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer; on going to work for MCA/Revue as an executive producer; on MCA's reputation when he joined the company, and on the structure of MCA/Revue Productions
On working with Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman at MCA; on MCA's relationship with the television networks; on producing The General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan; on producing The General Electric Theater's production of "Clown," starring Henry Fonda and "The Blond Dog," starring Cornell Wilde

Chapter 6

On producing Studio 57 and M Squad; on producing Leave it to Beaver and making the pilot
On producing Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars and Tales of Wells Fargo; on producing the pilot for Bachelor Father and various other pilots; on what distinguished Wagon Train from other Westerns

Chapter 7

On producing Wagon Train; on various pilots he produced that were not picked up, including Portrait, starring Ronald Colman, which aired as a Studio 57 episode; on the deals that get made between networks and studios and on producing the series Checkmate
On attempting to produce a series for Edward G. Robinson; on producing Riverboat and various other shows; on the power of the networks in the 1950s and early 1960s, and the networks wresting control from producers; on producing Laramie

Chapter 8

On Revue/MCA becoming Universal Televison; on testifying to Congress about violence in television Westerns; on producing Alcoa Premiere, including the episodes "End of a World" and "People Need People"
On producing the Alcoa Premiere episodes "The Fortress" and "Family Outing"; on Alcoa Premiere staying on the air while other anthology series got cancelled; on his week-to-week duties on Alcoa Premiere
On producing various episodes of Alcoa Premiere; on the title design for Alcoa Premiere; on producing a pilot for Fred Astaire and Barrie Chase

Chapter 9

On his involvement in the made-for-television movie concept; on the process of filming made-for-television movies as opposed to feature films and on networks' reaction to the concept; on television production moving from New York to Los Angeles, and developing the feature film "A Lovely Way to Die" for MCA and on various other projects
On creating the series Mama Malone with playwright Terrence McNally; on producing shows with Jack Barry and Dan Enright; on then-recent activities
On the key to making a successful series and on what represents the best of television; on the then-future of television and how he'd like to be remembered; on various people with whom he's worked in his career

Chapter 10

On various people with whom he worked in his career
On various people with whom he worked in his career; on his family
On b-roll pictures from his career- on stage at Yale; newspaper clipping about "Quick as a Flash"; with Brian Keith; with Mickey Spillane; receiving an award for Wagon Train; with Jack Benny; with Fred Astaire and John Wayne; article about Mama Malone;; letter informing Richard Lewis he was a Vice President of Revue Productions
Shows

Alcoa Premiere

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Richard Lewis on producing Alcoa Premiere, including the episodes "End of a World" and "People Need People"
Richard Lewis on producing the Alcoa Premiere episodes "The Fortress" and "Family Outing"
Richard Lewis on Alcoa Premiere staying on the air while other anthology series got cancelled
Richard Lewis on his week-to-week duties on Alcoa Premiere
Richard Lewis on the Alcoa Premiere episode "Seven Against the Sea," which served as the pilot for McHale's Navy
Richard Lewis on the Alcoa Premiere episode "Flashing Spikes," directed by John Ford
Richard Lewis on the title design for Alcoa Premiere

Bachelor Father

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Richard Lewis on producing the pilot for Bachelor Father and various other pilots

Blind Date

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Richard Lewis on producing Blind Date with Arlene Francis
Richard Lewis on Grace Kelly being rejected on Blind Date, and on selecting contestants for the show
Richard Lewis on the production aspects of Blind Date

Checkmate

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Richard Lewis on the deals that get made between networks and studios and on producing the series Checkmate

Crusader

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Richard Lewis on producing Crusader, starring Brian Keith

General Electric Theater, The

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Richard Lewis on producing The General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan
Richard Lewis on producing The General Electric Theater's production of "Clown," starring Henry Fonda and "The Blond Dog," starring Cornell Wilde

Laramie

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Richard Lewis on producing Laramie, Riverboat, and various other shows
Richard Lewis on producing Laramie

Leave it to Beaver

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Richard Lewis on producing Leave it to Beaver and making the pilot
Richard Lewis on Leave it to Beaver writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher

M Squad

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Richard Lewis on producing Studio 57 and M Squad
Richard Lewis on the cast of M Squad, including Lee Marvin, and the directors of the show
Richard Lewis on the premise of M Squad

McHale's Navy

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Richard Lewis on the Alcoa Premiere episode "Seven Against the Sea," which served as the pilot for McHale's Navy

Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer

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Richard Lewis on producing the pilot Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer
Richard Lewis on the character of "Mike Hammer" making the transition from radio to television on Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and on William S. Paley refusing to air the show
Richard Lewis on casting Brian Keith as "Mike Hammer" on Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer

Riverboat

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Richard Lewis on producing Laramie, Riverboat, and various other shows

Schlitz Playhouse of Stars aka Celebrity Playhouse

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Richard Lewis on producing Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars and Tales of Wells Fargo

Studio 57

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Richard Lewis on producing Studio 57 and M Squad
Richard Lewis on various pilots he produced that were not picked up, including Portrait, starring Ronald Colman which aired as a Studio 57 episode

Tales of Wells Fargo

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Richard Lewis on producing Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars and Tales of Wells Fargo

Wagon Train

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Richard Lewis on producing Wagon Train, starring Ward Bond
Richard Lewis on the directors of Wagon Train
Richard Lewis on what distinguished Wagon Train from other Westerns
Richard Lewis on leaving Wagon Train and the death of star Ward Bond
Richard Lewis on the guest stars of Wagon Train
Richard Lewis on the budget of Wagon Train
Topics

1939-40 World's Fair

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Richard Lewis on the first time he saw television, at the 1939 World's Fair

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Richard Lewis on testifying to Congress about violence in television Westerns

Criticism of TV

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Richard Lewis on testifying to Congress about violence in television Westerns

Historic Events and Social Change

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Richard Lewis on the first time he saw television, at the 1939 World's Fair
Richard Lewis on his experience during World War II

Hollywood Blacklist

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Richard Lewis on producing Who's There, starring Arlene Francis and Melvyn Douglas, who was blacklisted

Industry Crossroads

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Richard Lewis on producing Who's There, starring Arlene Francis and Melvyn Douglas, who was blacklisted

Media Consolidation

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Richard Lewis on Revue/MCA becoming Universal Televison

Ronald Reagan

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Richard Lewis on producing The General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan

Sex & Violence

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Richard Lewis on testifying to Congress about violence in television Westerns

Technological Innovation

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Richard Lewis on the advent of color television and producing feature films

Television Industry

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Richard Lewis on producing Who's There, starring Arlene Francis and Melvyn Douglas, who was blacklisted
Richard Lewis on the different between television production in New York and in Los Angeles in the 1950s
Richard Lewis on MCA's relationship with the television networks
Richard Lewis on the deals that get made between networks and studios, and on producing the series Checkmate
Richard Lewis on the power of the networks in the 1950s and early 1960s, and the networks wresting control from producers
Richard Lewis on Revue/MCA becoming Universal Televison
Richard Lewis on testifying to Congress about violence in television Westerns
Richard Lewis on the then-future of television

Television and the Presidency

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Richard Lewis on producing The General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan

War

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Richard Lewis on his experience during World War II

World War II

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Richard Lewis on his experience during World War II
Professions

Producers

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Richard Lewis on the differences between producing for radio and producing for television
Richard Lewis on the deals that get made between networks and studios and on producing the series Checkmate
Richard Lewis on the key to making a sucessful series and on what represents the best of television
Genres

Adventure/Espionage Series

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Richard Lewis on producing Crusader

Classic Anthology Series

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Richard Lewis on producing The General Electric Theater
Richard Lewis on producing Studio 57
Richard Lewis on producing Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars and Tales of Wells Fargo
Richard Lewis on producing Alcoa Premiere

Comedy Series

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Richard Lewis on how he starting working in television producing Take a Chance and Two Girls Named Smith
Richard Lewis on producing Leave it to Beaver

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Richard Lewis on producing the pilot Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer
Richard Lewis on producing M Squad
Richard Lewis on the deals that get made between networks and studios and on producing the series Checkmate

Game Shows

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Richard Lewis on producing Blind Date

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Richard Lewis on his involvement in the made-for-television movie concept
Richard Lewis on the process of filming made-for-television movies as opposed to feature films and on networks' reaction to the concept

Western Series

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Richard Lewis on producing Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars and Tales of Wells Fargo
Richard Lewis on producing Wagon Train
Richard Lewis on producing Wagon Train
Richard Lewis on producing Laramie, Riverboat and various other shows
Richard Lewis on testifying to Congress about violence in television Westerns
People

Fred Astaire

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Richard Lewis on producing a pilot for Fred Astaire and Barrie Chase
Richard Lewis on Edward G. Robertson, Fred Astaire, and George Schaeffer

James T. Aubrey

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Richard Lewis on Burt Reynolds, John Willams, and James T. Aubrey

Jack Barry

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Richard Lewis on producing shows with Jack Barry and Dan Enright
Richard Lewis on Jack Barry, Dan Enright, and Lila Kaye

Jack Benny

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Richard Lewis on Jack Benny and other stars appearing on the radio quiz show "Take It or Leave It"

Milton Berle

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Richard Lewis on working on the radio show "Let Yourself Go" hosted by Milton Berle

Barbara Billingsley

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Richard Lewis on Barbara Billingsley, Jerry Mathers, and Boris Ingster

Paul Bogart

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Richard Lewis on Mel Tolkin, Prudence Fraser, and Paul Bogart

Ward Bond

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Richard Lewis on producing Wagon Train, starring Ward Bond
Richard Lewis on leaving Wagon Train and the death of star Ward Bond

Macdonald Carey

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Richard Lewis on MacDonald Carey, Kim Hunter, and Brian Aherne

Ronald Colman

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Richard Lewis on various pilots he produced that were not picked up, including Portrait, starring Ronald Colman which aired as a Studio 57 episode

Joe Connelly

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Richard Lewis on Leave it to Beaver writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher

Hume Cronyn

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Richard Lewis on Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and Norman Lloyd

Bill Cullen

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Richard Lewis on Bill Cullen and Lew Lahr

David Dortort

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Richard Lewis on Dale Robertson, John Payne, and David Dortort

Melvyn Douglas

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Richard Lewis on producing Who's There, starring Arlene Francis and Melvyn Douglas, who was blacklisted

Charles Dubin

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Richard Lewis on Charles Dubin and William S. Paley

Dan Enright

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Richard Lewis on producing shows with Jack Barry and Dan Enright
Richard Lewis on Jack Barry, Dan Enright, and Lila Kaye

Henry Fonda

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Richard Lewis on producing The General Electric Theater's production of "Clown," starring Henry Fonda and "The Blond Dog," starring Cornell Wilde

John Ford

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Richard Lewis on the Alcoa Premiere episode "Flashing Spikes," directed by John Ford

John Forsythe

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Richard Lewis on Taft Schreiber, Cornel Wilde, and John Forsythe

Arlene Francis

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Richard Lewis on producing Blind Date with Arlene Francis
Richard Lewis on producing Who's There, starring Arlene Francis and Melvyn Douglas, who was blacklisted
Richard Lewis on Bernard Schubert and Arlene Francis

Joan Harrison

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Richard Lewis on Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Harrison, and Ray Milland

Alfred Hitchcock

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Richard Lewis on Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Harrison, and Ray Milland

Earl Holliman

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Richard Lewis on Earl Holliman, Michael Landon, and Clifton Fadiman

Kim Hunter

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Richard Lewis on MacDonald Carey, Kim Hunter, and Brian Aherne

Brian Keith

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Richard Lewis on producing Crusader, starring Brian Keith

Grace Kelly

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Richard Lewis on Grace Kelly being rejected on Blind Date, and on selecting contestants for the show

Charles Laughton

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Richard Lewis on Charles Laughton, Howard Christy, and Darren McGavin

Norman Lloyd

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Richard Lewis on Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and Norman Lloyd

Lee Marvin

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Richard Lewis on the cast of M Squad, including Lee Marvin, and the directors of the show

Jerry Mathers

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Richard Lewis on Barbara Billingsley, Jerry Mathers, and Boris Ingster

Ray Milland

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Richard Lewis on Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Harrison, and Ray Milland

Bob Mosher

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Richard Lewis on Leave it to Beaver writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher

William S. Paley

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Richard Lewis on the character of "Mike Hammer" making the transition from radio to television on Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and on William S. Paley refusing to air the show
Richard Lewis on Charles Dubin and William S. Paley

Ronald Reagan

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Richard Lewis on producing The General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan

Burt Reynolds

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Richard Lewis on producing Laramie, Riverboat starring Burt Reynolds and various other series and pilots
Richard Lewis on Burt Reynolds, John Willams, and James T. Aubrey

Dale Robertson

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Richard Lewis on Dale Robertson, John Payne, and David Dortort

Edward G. Robinson

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Richard Lewis on attempting to produce a series for Edward G. Robinson
Richard Lewis on Edward G. Robertson, Fred Astaire, and George Schaeffer

Jules Stein

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Richard Lewis on working with Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman at MCA

Jessica Tandy

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Richard Lewis on Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and Norman Lloyd

Mel Tolkin

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Richard Lewis on Mel Tolkin, Prudence Fraser, and Paul Bogart

Lew Wasserman

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Richard Lewis on working with Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman at MCA
Richard Lewis on Oscar Millard, Lew Wasserman, and Alan Miller

Orson Welles

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Richard Lewis on doing work for Orson Welles' "Mercury Theater" on radio

John Williams

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Richard Lewis on Burt Reynolds, John Willams, and James T. Aubrey

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