Sol Saks

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

Sol Saks (1910-2011) learned early that "…with writing, when it 'works' you're anonymous.  When it doesn't work you're fired."  Sol Saks was a comedy writer during radio days ("Duffy's Tavern") and transitioned to TV (My Favorite Husband), best-known as the creator of the long-running and popular series Bewitched. In his two-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Saks talks about his early years breaking into radio writing in Chicago and Los Angeles.  He gives his impressions of such radio personalities as Dinah Shore, Ozzie Nelson, Fanny Brice and Hattie McDaniel. On "Duffy's Tavern" he recalls the long workdays and his run-ins with head writer Abe Burrows and recites a memorable joke he wrote for the show. He describes breaking into TV with My Favorite Husband and how the series cast actors, as opposed to comics, in the lead roles. He humorously recounts writing for seven weeks for the Joan Davis series I Married Joan, for the expressed purpose of paying for his swimming pool. He discusses in detail his work on the sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve, which starred Ida Lupino. Among the stories he tells are how he and Lupino would come up with show premises over martinis and when producer Fred De Cordova was hired, how he tried to throw out scripts Saks had written. He notes how he came to write the Bewitched pilot and why he felt the show was popular.  Lastly, he outlines his short tenure as a CBS executive (in comedy development) and reminiscences about socializing with Cary Grant during the shooting of the feature film Walk, Don't Run. He humorously recalls: "my closet was in a dark corner and sometimes in the restaurant with Cary Grant I'd look down and I'd see I got the wrong pants with the wrong coat. And after I got to know him well, I said 'Cary, do you notice that sometimes my coat doesn't match my pants?' He said, 'Sol, on you, I only notice when they do.'" Throughout the interview, Saks shares his thoughts on comedy writing, his disregard of writer's block and his belief in honesty in one's writing and life in general. Bill Freiberger conducted the interview in North Hollywood, CA on May 21, 2009.

"Writer's block is when you think your ideas aren't good and you get stumped.  And I figured out… that you write it the way you would write badly, the way you wouldn't turn it in.  And as soon as you start, your writing becomes better.  Because you've tackled the subject."

Highlights
Sol Saks on working with Fanny Brice during the radio days
00:58
Writer Sol Saks on his philosophy of comedy writing and writing in general
02:09
Sol Saks on coming up with episode premises with series star Ida Lupino for Mr. Adams and Eve
02:11
Sol Saks on quitting My Favorite Husband, and how this led, years later, to getting an offer to write a pilot that became Bewitched
03:07
Writer Sol Saks on learning his first (amusing) lesson— in the 8th grade— on how writers are treated
01:37
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his family background; on his early interest in writing; on breaking into radio comedy writing; on moving to Los Angeles and getting a job with Red Skelton; getting hired on radio's "Duffy's Tavern"
On working on "The Dinah Shore Show" (radio); on Dinah Shore as he knew her from her '40s-'50s radio show; on working with Hattie McDaniel on the "Beulah" radio show; on his difficult workweek on the "Beulah" radio show and the issue that resulted from the lack of writing credits
On the treatment of the writers while working on radio's "Duffy's Tavern"; on working on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" radio show and Ozzie Nelson's view on giving writers credit; on writing the pilot for My Favorite Husband and his desire to do a sitcom with actors instead of comedians, and an experience he had being pulled away from rehersal
On how he wrote for I Married Joan for 7 weeks to pay for his swimming pool; on coming up with episode premises with series star Ida Lupino for Mr. Adams and Eve;  on the creation of Mr. Adams and Eve and working with co-star Howard Duff; on how the long hours on radio's "Duffy's Tavern" became too difficult for him (and his wife)
On quitting My Favorite Husband, and how this led, years later, to getting an offer to write a pilot that became Bewitched;  on why he was credited on the second episode of Bewitched

Chapter 2

On writing the pilot episode (and creating) Bewitched; on his philosophy of comedy writing and writing in general; on discovering the effectiveness of using simple language in (comedy) writing; on the Bewitched pilot's appeal
On not believing in writer's block; on learning his first (amusing) lesson— in the 8th grade— on how writers are treated; on being offered to write the pilot for the Bewitched spin-off Tabitha, which he refused; on his suggestion that they play the real-lie pregnancy of Elizabeth Montgomery on the show in Bewitched;
On his acceptance of Fred de Cordova as a producer of Mr. Adams and Eve, until de Cordova interfered with the scripts; serving as a CBS executive (in comedy programming); on how producer William Froug was considered to replace Sherwood Schwartz on Gilligan's Island, and how Saks himself didn't like the pilot script
On "learning how to be an executive producer" while working on The Baileys of Balboa; on leaving Mr. Adams and Eve, but still thinking of premises for comedy shows

Chapter 3

On the casting of the feature film Walk Don't Run (which he wrote), and the role initially offered to Spencer Tracy but given to Cary Grant; on working and socializing with Cary Grant (and witnessing his celebrity) on location for the film Walk, Don't Run
On using "Cary Grant" lines on women after having written Walk, Don't Run which starred Cary Grant; on two favorite jokes, one he devised himself for radio's "Duffy's Tavern" (and the lesson her learned about delivering good material late in the workday)
On what was the most difficult part of writing for radio and TV comedy (and the arrival of the laugh machine); on his career achirvements and regrets
Shows

Adventures Of Ozzie and Harriet, The

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Writer Sol Saks on working on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" radio show and Ozzie Nelson's view on giving writers credit
02:08
Writer Sol Saks on Ozzie Nelson (on radio's "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet") and Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll (on radio's "Amos 'N' Andy") and their knowledge of what worked in a script
00:32

Baileys of Balboa, The

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Writer Sol Saks on "learning how to be an executive producer" while working on The Baileys of Balboa
03:00

Beulah

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Writer Sol Saks on working with Hattie McDaniel on the "Beulah" radio show
01:15
Writer Sol Saks on his difficult workweek on the "Beulah" radio show and the issue that resulted from the lack of writing credits
02:13

Bewitched

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Writer Sol Saks on quitting My Favorite Husband, and how this led, years later, to getting an offer to write a pilot that became Bewitched
03:07
Series creator Sol Saks on why he was credited on the second episode of Bewitched
00:57
Sol Saks on writing the pilot episode (and creating) Bewitched
02:04
Writer Sol Saks on the Bewitched pilot's appeal
01:17
Writer Sol Saks on being offered to write the pilot for the Bewitched spin-off Tabitha, which he refused
00:40
Show creator Sol Saks on his suggestion to producers that they not use magic too much on Bewitched
00:25
Show creator Sol Saks on his suggestion that they play the real-lie pregnancy of Elizabeth Montgomery on the show in Bewitched
01:36

Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The

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Writer Sol Saks on Dinah Shore as he knew her from her '40s-'50s radio show
01:53

Duffy's Tavern

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Writer Sol Saks on getting hired on the radio version of Duffy's Tavern
02:28
Writer Sol Saks on working with Abe Burrows on the radio version of Duffy's Tavern
01:00
Sol Saks on the treatment of the writers while working on radio's "Duffy's Tavern"
01:14
Writer Sol Saks on how the long hours on radio's "Duffy's Tavern" became too difficult for him (and his wife)
02:39
Writer Sol Saks on two favorite jokes, one he devised himself for radio's "Duffy's Tavern" (and the lesson her learned about delivering good material late in the workday)
02:53

Gilligan's Island

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Then CBS executive Sol Saks on how producer William Froug was considered to replace Sherwood Schwartz on Gilligan's Island, and how Saks himself didn't like the pilot script
02:54

I Married Joan

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Sol Saks on how he wrote for I Married Joan for 7 weeks to pay for his swimming pool
01:49

M*A*S*H

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Writer Sol Saks on regretting that he had not stayed longer in his executive position at CBS (in comedy programming), so that he might have overseen M*A*S*H
01:06

Mr. Adams and Eve

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Writer Sol Saks on coming up with episode premises with series star Ida Lupino for Mr. Adams and Eve
02:11
Writer Sol Saks on the creation of Mr. Adams and Eve and working with co-star Howard Duff
01:32
Writer Sol Saks on his acceptance of Fred de Cordova as a producer of Mr. Adams and Eve, until de Cordova interfered with the scripts
03:52
Writer Sol Saks on leaving Mr. Adams and Eve, but still thinking of premises for comedy shows
01:25

My Favorite Husband

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Sol Saks on writing the pilot for My Favorite Husband and his desire to do a sitcom with actors instead of comedians
01:08
Sol Saks on noticing that on My Favorite Husband he was distracted from the set so he wouldn't interfere with production regarding changes in the script
01:23
Writer Sol Saks on quitting My Favorite Husband, and how this led, years later, to getting an offer to write a pilot that became Bewitched
03:07

Norman Corwin Presents

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Writer Sol Saks briefly on his work on an episode of Norman Corwin Presents ("Bingo Twice a Week")
00:56

Tabitha

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Writer Sol Saks on being offered to write the pilot for the Bewitched spin-off Tabitha, which he refused
00:40
Professions

Writers

View Profession
Sol Saks on breaking into comedy writing, during the radio days
01:38
Sol Saks on noticing that on My Favorite Husband he was distracted from the set so he wouldn't interfere with production regarding changes in the script
01:23
Writer Sol Saks on his philosophy of comedy writing and writing in general
02:09
Radio and TV writer Sol Saks (Duffy's Tavern, Bewitched) on not believing in writer's block
00:56
Writer Sol Saks on learning his first (amusing) lesson— in the 8th grade— on how writers are treated
01:37
People

Fanny Brice

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Writer Sol Saks on working with Fanny Brice during the radio days
00:58

Abe Burrows

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Writer Sol Saks on two favorite jokes, one he devised himself for radio's "Duffy's Tavern" (and the lesson her learned about delivering good material late in the workday)
02:53

Fred de Cordova

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Writer Sol Saks on his acceptance of Fred de Cordova as a producer of Mr. Adams and Eve, until de Cordova interfered with the scripts
03:52

Howard Duff

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Writer Sol Saks on the creation of Mr. Adams and Eve and working with co-star Howard Duff
01:32

Cary Grant

View Person Page
Writer Sol Saks on how Cary Grant played the role originally offered to Spencer Tracy in Walk, Don't Run
02:57
Writer Sol Saks on working and socializing with Cary Grant (and witnessing his celebrity) on location for the film Walk, Don't Run
04:00
Writer Sol Saks on using "Cary Grant" lines on women after having written Walk, Don't Run which starred Cary Grant
01:15

Alan Jay Lerner

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Writer Sol Saks on Alan Jay Lerner working as a writer on radio's "Duffy's Tavern"
00:47

Ida Lupino

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Writer Sol Saks on coming up with episode premises with series star Ida Lupino for Mr. Adams and Eve
02:11

Hattie McDaniel

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Writer Sol Saks on working with Hattie McDaniel on the "Beulah" radio show
01:15

Ozzie Nelson

View Person Page
Writer Sol Saks on working on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" radio show and Ozzie Nelson's view on giving writers credit
02:08
Writer Sol Saks on Ozzie Nelson (on radio's "The Adventues of Ozzie and Harriet") and Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll (on radio's "Amos 'N' Andy") and their knowledge of what worked in a script
00:32

Dinah Shore

View Person Page
Writer Sol Saks on Dinah Shore as he knew her from her '40s-'50s radio show
01:53

Bob Sweeney

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Writer Sol Saks on "learning how to be an executive producer" while working on The Baileys of Balboa (and meeting with Bob Sweeney)
03:00

Danny Thomas

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Writer Sol Saks on working with Danny Thomas during the radio days
01:10

Spencer Tracy

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Writer Sol Saks on meeting with Spencer Tracy (and Katharine Hepburn) for what became a Cary Grant vehicle— Walk Don't Run
02:10
Writer Sol Saks on how Cary Grant played the role originally offered to Spencer Tracy in Walk, Don't Run
02:57

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