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.

"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
William Link on moving to Los Angeles and writing for Four Star Playhouse
William Link on the influence of mystery novels on the creation of Columbo
William Link on "Columbo's" catch phrase on Columbo, "Just one more thing"
William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
William Link on the impact Columbo has had on real-life police work and on the legacy of the show
Full Interview

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

Burke's Law

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

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
William Link on the influence of mystery novels on the creation of Columbo
William Link on casting Peter Falk as "Columbo" on Columbo and what he brought to the role
William Link on his working relationship with Peter Falk on Columbo
William Link on the logic behind writing shows like Columbo
William Link on how Columbo developed from a television movie to a series, and on casting Peter Falk as "Columbo"
William Link on critical reaction to Columbo
William Link on creating the character of "Columbo," played by Peter Falk, on Columbo
William Link on the structure of Columbo, and what made it different from other detective series at the time
William Link on "Columbo" never having a first name on Columbo
William Link on the basic format for every episode of Columbo
William Link on Columbo's unusual air schedule
William Link on the process of casting guest-stars on Columbo
William Link on Jack Cassidy guest-starring on several episodes of Columbo
William Link on Robert Culp guest-starring on several episodes of Columbo and on the appeal of the show
William Link on George Hamilton guest-starring on several episodes of Columbo
William Link on Roddy McDowell, Leslie Neilson, Vincent Price and Lee Grant appearing on Columbo
William Link on the directors of Columbo including Steven Spielberg
William Link on what a director could bring to Columbo
William Link on "Columbo's" raincoat on Columbo
William Link on "Columbo's" cigars on Columbo
William Link on Columbo being sloppy and disheveled on Columbo
William Link on "Columbo's" unseen wife on Columbo
William Link on "Columbo's" catch phrase on Columbo, "Just one more thing"
William Link on favorite Columbo episodes
William Link on how the format of Columbo remained the same when it was brought back in the '80s
William Link on the international appeal and legacy of Columbo
William Link on the impact Columbo has had on real-life police work and on the legacy of the show

Cosby Mysteries, The

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William Link on producing The Cosby Mysteries

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

Execution of Private Slovik, The

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William Link on writing and producing The Execution of Private Slovik

Four Star Playhouse

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

Fugitive, The

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William Link on being a freelance writer on The Fugitive

Gun, The

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William Link on the controversial TV movie, The Gun

Honey West

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William Link on writing for Honey West

Jericho (1966-67)

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William Link on writing for Jericho

Johnny Ringo

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

Mannix

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William Link on the genesis and production of Mannix

McCloud

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William Link on writing the pilot of McCloud

Michael Shayne

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William Link on writing for Michael Shayne

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

My Sweet Charlie

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

Storyteller, The

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

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

That Certain Summer

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer

Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse

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William Link on trying to write for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse
William Link on writing "Chain of Command" for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer

Characters & Catchphrases

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

Diversity in Television

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer

Emmy Awards

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

Historic Events and Social Change

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William Link on his family's experience of World War II
William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer

Hollywood Blacklist

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William Link on the Hollywood Blacklist

Industry Crossroads

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William Link on the Hollywood Blacklist

LGBTQ

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer

Pop Culture

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

Television Industry

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

War

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

World War II

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

Writers

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

Classic Anthology Series

View Genre
William Link on writing for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse and Four Star Playhouse
William Link on writing for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
William Link on writing for Honey West
William Link on writing for Jericho
William Link on the genesis and production of Mannix
William Link on the genesis and production of Mannix
William Link on the influence of mystery novels on the creation of Columbo
William Link on writing for Michael Shayne
William Link on creating and writing Columbo
William Link on the impact Columbo has had on real-life police work and on the legacy of the show
William Link on writing the pilot of McCloud
William Link on the creation of Murder, She Wrote and originally considering Jean Stapleton for the lead role
William Link on producing The Cosby Mysteries

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
William Link on various made-for-television movies he wrote with Richard Levinson
William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer
William Link on My Sweet Charlie
William Link on writing and producing The Execution of Private Slovik
William Link on the controversial TV movie, The Gun
William Link on the anti-violence TV movie, The Storyteller
William Link on Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami
William Link on his and Richard Levinson's affinity for writing mystery made-for-television movies
People

Jack Cassidy

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

Mike Connors

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

Bill Cosby

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William Link on The Cosby Mysteries

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

Barry Diller

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William Link on writing and producing That Certain Summer supported by then-ABC executive Barry Diller

Peter Falk

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

Lee Grant

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William Link on Lee Grant appearing on Columbo

Hal Holbrook

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

Lamont Johnson

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

Jennings Lang

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

Richard Levinson

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William Link on his partnership with Richard Levinson
William Link on his and Richard Levinson's relationship with Dick Powell, one of the main partners at Four Star Productions
William Link on various made-for-television movies he wrote with Richard Levinson
William Link on writing Terrorist on Trial with Richard Levinson
William Link on the death of his writing/producing partner Richard Levinson
William Link on his favorite Richard Levinson story

Norman Lloyd

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

Roddy McDowall

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William Link on Roddy McDowell appearing on Columbo

Leslie Nielsen

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William Link on Leslie Nielsen appearing on Columbo

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

Vincent Price

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William Link on Vincent Price appearing on Columbo

Martin Sheen

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

Aaron Spelling

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

Steven Spielberg

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William Link on the directors of Columbo including Steven Spielberg

Jean Stapleton

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

Lew Wasserman

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

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