William Link

Show Creator/ Writer/ Producer


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 interview, William Link (1933-2020) talks about his early years, and coming to television with his writing partner Richard Levinson at the tail end of the era of classic anthology series. He discusses writing for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Four Star Theater, and eventually Four Star Productions, which led to them writing for the Aaron Spelling created Johnny Ringo. He recounts writing for several series, including The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Fugitive, Mannix, and Michael Shayne. He details creating, writing and producing the classic detective series Columbo starring Peter Falk, and describes the plotting of the show, as well as the guest-stars, directors (including a very young Steven Spielberg,) and “Columbo’s” trademarks including his raincoat, cigars, unseen wife and “Just one more thing” catchphrase. He chronicles writing several acclaimed and culturally important television movies with Richard Levinson, including That Certain Summer, The Execution of Private Slovik, and The Storyteller. He concludes with his induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1995. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on August 23, 2002 in Beverly Hills, CA.

All views expressed by interviewees are theirs alone and not necessarily those of the Television Academy.

"The mysteries were intellectual exercises full of twists and surprises. We had fun doing them -- as much as you can have fun under very tight television schedules and budgets and trying to get the best work out of your actors."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
William Link on writing for the Four Star Productions series Johnny Ringo, created by Aaron Spelling
03:59
William Link on moving to Los Angeles and writing for Four Star Playhouse
02:56
William Link on the influence of mystery novels on the creation of Columbo
03:05
William Link on "Columbo's" catch phrase on Columbo, "Just one more thing"
01:34
William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
07:55
William Link on the impact Columbo has had on real-life police work and on the legacy of the show
06:53
Full Interview

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Chapter 1

On his early years and education; on meeting his future collaborator Richard Levinson on his first day of junior high; on his family's experience of World War II
On getting started as a writer; on his experience of being drafted, and seeing the world
On the disappearance of the classic anthology dramas; on writing spec scripts with his writing partner; on writing spec scripts with his writing partner

Chapter 2

On moving to Los Angeles and writing for Four Star Playhouse; on his partnership with Richard Levinson; on writing "Chain of Command" for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse
On the Hollywood Blacklist; on he and Richard Levinson being story editors at Four Star Productions, and on their workload at the time; on writing for the Four Star Productions series Johnny Ringo, created by Aaron Spelling
On adapting his stage play "Enough Rope" to the made-for-television movie Prescription: Murder the basis for the Columbo series; on writing for Honey West; on writing for Jericho

Chapter 3

On working at Four Star, writing for Michael Shayne; on what was expected of freelance writers; on writing for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Fugitive
On moving to Universal Studios; on the executives at Universal
On the creation and production of Mannix
On the influence of mystery novels on the creation of Columbo

Chapter 4

On the logic behind writing shows like Columbo; on how Columbo developed from a television movie to a series; on critical reaction to Columbo
On creating the character of "Columbo," played by Peter Falk, on Columbo; on the structure of Columbo, and what made it different from other detective series at the time; on casting Peter Falk as "Columbo" on Columbo and what he brought to the role
On his working relationship with Peter Falk on Columbo; on "Columbo" never having a first name on Columbo; on the basic format for every episode of Columbo

Chapter 5

On Columbo's unusual air schedule; on the process of casting guest-stars on Columbo; on the guest-stars of Columbo
On the directors of Columbo including Steven Spielberg; on the elements that made up "Columbo" including his raincoat, cigars, look, and unseen wife
On "Columbo's" catch phrase on Columbo, "Just one more thing"; on favorite Columbo episodes; on the international appeal and legacy of Columbo

Chapter 6

On the impact Columbo has had on real-life police work and on the legacy of the show; on his writing style; on his and his partner Richard Levinson's writing process
On how, as a writer, he creates suspense, fear, or tension; on whether or not writing can be taught; on projects he hasn't been able to get off the ground
On the importance of having an agent for a television writer, and on making it in television; on the process of creating a show; on various made-for-television movies he wrote with Richard Levinson

Chapter 7

On writing My Sweet Charlie
On writing the pilot of McCloud; on writing That Certain Summer starring Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen
On writing The Execution of Private Slovik; on writing The Gun; on writing The Storyteller; on writing Terrorist on Trial

Chapter 8

On the death of his writing/producing partner Richard Levinson; on his and Richard Levinson's affinity for writing mystery made-for-television movies
On the creation of Murder, She Wrote and originally considering Jean Stapleton for the lead role; on producing The Cosby Mysteries
On then-current projects; on career achievements and regrets

Chapter 9

On being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame; on how he would like to be remembered; on his favorite Richard Levinson story
On how writing on television can impact society
On b-roll footage- pictures from his career- with Richard Levinson; winning an Emmy Award with Bill Cosby; Link and Levinson holding Emmys for My Sweet Charlie; with Richard Levinson and Peter Falk; with Richard Levinson; mixed media cartoon drawn by Link- Writers Strike; another cartoon; another cartoon
Shows

Alfred Hitchcock Presents aka The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

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William Link on writing for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
03:36

Burke's Law

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William Link on writing for Burke's Law starring Gene Barry
02:33

Columbo

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William Link on adapting their stage play "Enough Rope" to the made-for-television movie Prescription: Murder the basis for the Columbo series
05:11
William Link on the influence of mystery novels on the creation of Columbo
03:05
William Link on casting Peter Falk as "Columbo" on Columbo and what he brought to the role
04:48
William Link on his working relationship with Peter Falk on Columbo
04:26
William Link on the logic behind writing shows like Columbo
01:29
William Link on how Columbo developed from a television movie to a series, and on casting Peter Falk as "Columbo"
08:03
William Link on critical reaction to Columbo
00:38
William Link on creating the character of "Columbo," played by Peter Falk, on Columbo
02:45
William Link on the structure of Columbo, and what made it different from other detective series at the time
02:52
William Link on "Columbo" never having a first name on Columbo
01:34
William Link on the basic format for every episode of Columbo
03:39
William Link on Columbo's unusual air schedule
02:12
William Link on the process of casting guest-stars on Columbo
01:15
William Link on Jack Cassidy guest-starring on several episodes of Columbo
00:50
William Link on Robert Culp guest-starring on several episodes of Columbo and on the appeal of the show
02:50
William Link on George Hamilton guest-starring on several episodes of Columbo
00:25
William Link on Roddy McDowell, Leslie Neilson, Vincent Price and Lee Grant appearing on Columbo
01:32
William Link on the directors of Columbo including Steven Spielberg
03:01
William Link on what a director could bring to Columbo
02:30
William Link on "Columbo's" raincoat on Columbo
02:21
William Link on "Columbo's" cigars on Columbo
00:56
William Link on Columbo being sloppy and disheveled on Columbo
00:38
William Link on "Columbo's" unseen wife on Columbo
02:21
William Link on "Columbo's" catch phrase on Columbo, "Just one more thing"
01:34
William Link on favorite Columbo episodes
03:25
William Link on how the format of Columbo remained the same when it was brought back in the '80s
01:45
William Link on the international appeal and legacy of Columbo
01:32
William Link on the impact Columbo has had on real-life police work and on the legacy of the show
06:53

Cosby Mysteries, The

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William Link on producing The Cosby Mysteries
04:30

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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William Link on My Sweet Charlie for which he and Richard Levinson won an Emmy
05:56

Execution of Private Slovik, The

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William Link on writing and producing The Execution of Private Slovik
06:08

Four Star Playhouse

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William Link on moving to Los Angeles and writing for Four Star Playhouse
02:56

Fugitive, The

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William Link on being a freelance writer on The Fugitive
02:32

Gun, The

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William Link on the controversial TV movie, The Gun
02:32

Honey West

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William Link on writing for Honey West
00:54

Jericho (1966-67)

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William Link on writing for Jericho
01:18

Johnny Ringo

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William Link on writing for the Four Star Productions series Johnny Ringo, created by Aaron Spelling
03:59

Mannix

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William Link on the genesis and production of Mannix
07:20

McCloud

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William Link on writing the pilot of McCloud
01:41

Michael Shayne

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William Link on writing for Michael Shayne
01:59

Murder, She Wrote

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William Link on the creation of Murder, She Wrote and originally considering Jean Stapleton for the lead role
07:08

My Sweet Charlie

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William Link on My Sweet Charlie for which he and Richard Levinson won an Emmy Award
05:56

Storyteller, The

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William Link on the anti-violence TV movie, The Storyteller
00:52

Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami

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William Link on Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami
03:27

That Certain Summer

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
07:55

Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse

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William Link on trying to write for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse
03:17
William Link on writing "Chain of Command" for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse
01:13
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
07:55

Characters & Catchphrases

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William Link on Lt. Columbo's trademark raincoat, car and cigars on Columbo
06:16
William Link on "Columbo's" catch phrase, "Just one more thing"
01:34

Emmy Awards

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William Link on My Sweet Charlie for which he and Richard Levinson won an Emmy
05:56

Historic Events and Social Change

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William Link on his family's experience of World War II
02:33
William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
07:55

Hollywood Blacklist

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William Link on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:11

Industry Crossroads

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William Link on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:11

LGBTQ

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
07:55

Pop Culture

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William Link on Lt. Columbo's trademark raincoat, car and cigars on Columbo
06:16
William Link on "Columbo's" catch phrase, "Just one more thing"
01:34

Representation on Television

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
07:55

Television Industry

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William Link on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:11
William Link on he and Richard Levinson being story editors at Four Star Productions, and on their workload at the time
01:53
William Link on moving to Universal Studios and on the executives there including Lew Wasserman and Jennings Lang
06:11
William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
07:55

War

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William Link on his family's experience of World War II
02:33

World War II

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William Link on his family's experience of World War II
02:33
Professions

Writers

View Profession
William Link on the logic behind writing shows like Columbo
01:28
William Link on his writing style 
06:11
William Link on his and his partner Richard Levinson's writing process
01:20
William Link on how, as a writer, he creates suspense, fear, or tension
02:42
William Link on whether or not writing can be taught
01:10
William Link on projects he hasn't been able to get off the ground
02:03
William Link on the importance of having an agent for a television writer, and on making it in television
03:55
William Link on the process of creating a show
01:00
William Link on how writing on television can impact society
08:48
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

View Genre
William Link on writing for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse and Four Star Playhouse
20:35
William Link on writing for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
03:36

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
William Link on writing for Honey West
00:54
William Link on writing for Jericho
01:18
William Link on the genesis and production of Mannix
07:20
William Link on the genesis and production of Mannix
07:20
William Link on the influence of mystery novels on the creation of Columbo
03:05
William Link on writing for Michael Shayne
01:59
William Link on creating and writing Columbo
30:13
William Link on the impact Columbo has had on real-life police work and on the legacy of the show
06:53
William Link on writing the pilot of McCloud
01:41
William Link on the creation of Murder, She Wrote and originally considering Jean Stapleton for the lead role
07:08
William Link on producing The Cosby Mysteries
04:31

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
William Link on adapting his stage play "Enough Rope" to the made-for-television movie Prescription: Murder the basis for the Columbo series
05:11
William Link on various made-for-television movies he wrote with Richard Levinson
04:56
William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
07:55
William Link on My Sweet Charlie
05:56
William Link on writing and producing The Execution of Private Slovik
06:08
William Link on the controversial TV movie, The Gun
02:32
William Link on the anti-violence TV movie, The Storyteller
00:52
William Link on Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami
03:27
William Link on his and Richard Levinson's affinity for writing mystery made-for-television movies
04:44
People

Jack Cassidy

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William Link on Jack Cassidy guest-starring on several episodes of Columbo
00:50

Mike Connors

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William Link on the genesis and production of Mannix starring Mike Connors
07:20

Bill Cosby

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William Link on The Cosby Mysteries
04:32

Robert Culp

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William Link on Robert Culp guest-starring on several episodes of Columbo and on the appeal of the show
02:50

Peter Falk

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William Link on casting Peter Falk as "Columbo" on Columbo and what he brought to the role
04:48
William Link on his working relationship with Peter Falk on Columbo
04:26
William Link on creating the character of "Columbo," played by Peter Falk, on Columbo
02:45

Lee Grant

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William Link on Lee Grant appearing on Columbo
00:24

Hal Holbrook

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer starring Hal Holbrook
07:55

Lamont Johnson

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William Link on writing and producing The Execution of Private Slovik directed by Lamont Johnson
06:08

Jennings Lang

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William Link on moving to Universal Studios and on the executives there including Lew Wasserman and Jennings Lang
06:11

Richard Levinson

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William Link on his partnership with Richard Levinson
02:30
William Link on his and Richard Levinson's relationship with Dick Powell, one of the main partners at Four Star Productions
00:36
William Link on various made-for-television movies he wrote with Richard Levinson
04:56
William Link on writing Terrorist on Trial with Richard Levinson
03:27
William Link on the death of his writing/producing partner Richard Levinson
05:36
William Link on his favorite Richard Levinson story
03:12

Norman Lloyd

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William Link on writing for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour produced by Norman Lloyd
03:30

Roddy McDowall

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William Link on Roddy McDowell appearing on Columbo
00:20

Leslie Nielsen

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William Link on Leslie Nielsen appearing on Columbo
00:18

Dick Powell

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William Link on his and Richard Levinson's relationship with Dick Powell, one of the main partners at Four Star Productions
00:36

Vincent Price

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William Link on Vincent Price appearing on Columbo
00:30

Martin Sheen

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William Link on writing and producing The Execution of Private Slovik starring Martin Sheen
06:08

Aaron Spelling

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William Link on writing for the Four Star Productions series Johnny Ringo, created by Aaron Spelling
03:59
William Link on Aaron Spelling
01:20

Steven Spielberg

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William Link on the directors of Columbo including Steven Spielberg
03:01

Jean Stapleton

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William Link on the creation of Murder, She Wrote and originally considering Jean Stapleton for the lead role
07:02

Lew Wasserman

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William Link on moving to Universal Studios and on the executives there including Lew Wasserman and Jennings Lang
06:11

All Interviews

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