William Self

Producer / Network Executive


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, William Self (1921-2010) discusses his early career acting in movies and his friendship with Spencer Tracy, which led to his television producing career. He talks about producing the series Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, The Frank Sinatra Show, and the pilot of The Twlight Zone. He then discusses his brief executive position at CBS and his executive producer position at 20th Century Fox Television. Self talks about his promotions at Fox, eventually rising to President of 20th Century Fox Television and Vice President of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, where he oversaw shows including The Adventures of Dobie Gillis, Batman, Daniel Boone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Peyton Place, Lost in Space, M*A*S*H, Julia, and Room 222, among others. He concludes by discussing his relationships with various producers and directors and his partnership with actress Glenn Close on the Sarah Plain and Tall movies. Jeff Abraham conducted the interview on March 27, 2001 in Los Angeles, CA.

"Fox was not structured. We were much more casual about things. It didn't matter that your job was a casting director, if you had a story idea, you'd come in and see me. The table of organization was very flexible. I think that's kind of all gone."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
William Self on developing M*A*S*H with Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds
William Self on an unsold pilot, and on the difficulties he had with producing The Frank Sinatra Show
William Self on developing The Monroes, and on developing Julia, starring Diahann Carroll
William Self on executive producing the pilot for The Twilight Zone, and working with show creator Rod Serling
William Self on various episodes of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, including "The Unlighted Road," starring James Dean
William Self on moving to Hollywood, trying to get into acting, and his career as an actor in features
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his education, and on almost going into advertising; on moving to Hollywood, trying to get into acting, and his career as an actor in features
On appearing in Charlie Chaplin's feature film "Monsieur Verdoux"; on appearing as an actor in feature films with John Wayne, Howard Hawkes, and Spencer Tracy; on appearing in the feature film "The Thing," and on the end of his acting career
On assistant producing and assistant directing China Smith; on producing Schlitz Playhouse of Stars

Chapter 2

On producing the live anthology series Schlitz Playhouse of Stars; on finding the stories for Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, the various stars who appeared, and on his duties as producer of that show; on various episodes of the show, including "The Unlighted Road," starring James Dean
On Anthony Quinn appearing on Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and on dealing with bigger stars; on the Hollywood Blacklist; on the involvement of the sponsors with the production of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and on various actors who appeared on the show
On directing a few episodes of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars; on producing the unsold Frank Sinatra pilot Command Performance; on producing The Frank Sinatra Show

Chapter 3

On an unsold pilot, and on the difficulties he had with producing The Frank Sinatra Show; on executive producing the pilot for The Twilight Zone, and working with show creator Rod Serling
On being named vice president in charge of production for 20th Century Fox Television; on developing Margie, and on the team he brought to Twentieth Century Fox Television; on developing various shows, including Daniel Boone, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Chapter 4

On developing Irwin Allen's Lost in Space; on Edgar J. Scherick, vice president of programming for ABC, and various other network executives; on developing Peyton Place
On developing Batman and The Green Hornet; on developing The Monroes, and on developing Julia, starring Diahann Carroll; on developing Bracken's World

Chapter 5

On developing Land of the Giants with Irwin Allen, and on developing The Ghost & Mrs. Muir; on developing Room 222, starring Karen Valentine, and on developing Nanny and the Professor, starring Juliette Mills; on developing Anna and the King, starring Yul Brynner
On developing M*A*S*H with Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds; on the success of M*A*S*H, and on the format of the show; on the cast departures from M*A*S*H, and on Alan Alda's increasing role as the show went on
On leaving Fox Television to work in features, including "The Shootist," starring John Wayne, and on returning to CBS to head up the West Coast

Chapter 6

On being lured back to CBS, and eventually being named vice president in charge of movies and miniseries; on various movies and miniseries he developed for CBS, and the challenge of making made-for-television movies; on becoming head of the CBS theatrical division
On his retirement from CBS, and on forming a production company with Glenn Close; on his then-future; on how the business changed throughout his career, and on career achievements and regrets
Shows

12 O'Clock High

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William Self on developing The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Daniel Boone, and 12 O'Clock High

Anna and the King

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William Self on developing Anna and the King

Batman

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William Self on developing Batman

Bracken's World

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William Self on developing Bracken's World

China Smith

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William Self on assistant producing and assistant directing China Smith

Daniel Boone

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William Self on developing The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Daniel Boone, and 12 O'Clock High

Frank Sinatra Show, The (1957-58)

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William Self on producing The Frank Sinatra Show
William Self on an unsold pilot, and on the difficulties he had with producing The Frank Sinatra Show
William Self on the end of The Frank Sinatra Show

Ghost & Mrs. Muir, The

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William Self on developing Land of the Giants with Irwin Allen, and on developing The Ghost & Mrs. Muir

Green Hornet, The

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William Self on developing The Green Hornet

Hallmark Hall of Fame

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William Self on programming movies for Hallmark Hall of Fame

Julia

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William Self on developing Julia, starring Diahann Carroll

Land of the Giants

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William Self on developing Land of the Giants with Irwin Allen, and on developing The Ghost & Mrs. Muir

Lost in Space

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William Self on developing Irwin Allen's Lost in Space

M*A*S*H

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William Self on developing M*A*S*H with Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds
William Self on the success of M*A*S*H, and on the format of the show
William Self on the cast departures from M*A*S*H, and on Alan Alda's increasing role as the show went on

Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The

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William Self on developing The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Daniel Boone, and 12 O'Clock High

Margie

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William Self on developing Margie, and on the team he brought to Twentieth Century Fox Television

Nanny and the Professor

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William Self on developing Nanny and the Professor

Peyton Place

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William Self on developing Peyton Place

Room 222

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William Self on developing Room 222

Schlitz Playhouse of Stars aka Celebrity Playhouse

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William Self on producing Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
William Self on producing the live anthology series Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
William Self on finding the stories for the live anthology series Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, the various stars who appeared, and on his duties as producer of that show
William Self on various episodes of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, including "The Unlighted Road," starring James Dean
William Self on Anthony Quinn appearing on Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and on dealing with bigger stars
William Self on the involvement of the sponsors with the production of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
William Self on directing Thomas Mitchell and Mike Connors on Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and various other actors
William Self on working with John Ireland and Vera Miles on Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
William Self on directing a few episodes of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars

Twilight Zone, The

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William Self on executive producing the pilot for The Twilight Zone, and working with show creator Rod Serling
William Self on the reaction of the network and sponsors to The Twilight Zone pilot, and on parting ways with Rod Serling

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

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William Self on developing Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Topics

Hollywood Blacklist

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William Self on dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist as a producer

Industry Crossroads

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William Self on dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist as a producer

Television Industry

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William Self on dealing with the Hollywood Blacklist as a producer
William Self on being named vice president in charge of production for 20th Century Fox Television
William Self on leaving Fox Television to work in features, including "The Shootist" starring John Wayne, and on returning to CBS to head up the West Coast
William Self on being lured back to CBS, and eventually being named vice president in charge of movies and miniseries
William Self on becoming head of the CBS theatrical division
William Self on his retirement from CBS, and on forming a production company with Glenn Close
William Self on how the business changed throughout his career
Professions

Producers

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William Self on his retirement from CBS, and on forming a production company with Glenn Close
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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William Self on producing Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
William Self on producing and directing Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
William Self on executive producing the pilot for The Twilight Zone

Comedy Series

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William Self on developing The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Daniel Boone, and 12 O'Clock High
William Self on developing The Monroes, and Julia, starring Diahann Carroll
William Self on developing Land of the Giants with Irwin Allen, and on developing The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
William Self on developing Room 222 and Nanny and the Professor
William Self on developing Anna and the King
William Self on developing M*A*S*H

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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William Self on assistant producing and assistant directing China Smith
William Self on developing Batman
William Self on developing The Green Hornet

Daytime/Primetime Serials

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William Self on developing Peyton Place

Drama Series

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William Self on developing Bracken's World

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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William Self on producing The Frank Sinatra Show
William Self on an unsold pilot, and on the difficulties he had with producing The Frank Sinatra Show

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

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William Self on developing Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
William Self on developing Irwin Allen's Lost in Space
William Self on developing Land of the Giants with Irwin Allen, and on developing The Ghost & Mrs. Muir

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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William Self on various movies and miniseries he developed for CBS, and the challenge of making made-for-television movies

Western Series

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William Self on developing The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Daniel Boone, and 12 O'Clock High
People

Alan Alda

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William Self on the cast departures from M*A*S*H, and on Alan Alda's increasing role as the show went on

Irwin Allen

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William Self on developing Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
William Self on developing Irwin Allen's Lost in Space

Yul Brynner

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William Self on developing Anna and the King, starring Yul Brynner

Diahann Carroll

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William Self on developing Julia, starring Diahann Carroll

Charlie Chaplin

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William Self on appearing in Charlie Chaplin's feature film "Monsieur Verdoux"

Glenn Close

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William Self on his retirement from CBS, and on forming a production company with Glenn Close

Mike Connors

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William Self on directing Thomas Mitchell and Mike Connors on Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and various other actors

Michael Dann

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William Self on CBS head of programming Michael Dann, and other executives

James Dean

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William Self on various episodes of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, including "The Unlighted Road," starring James Dean

Larry Gelbart

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William Self on developing M*A*S*H with Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds

Hal Kanter

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William Self on his relationship with Hal Kanter

Vera Miles

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William Self on working with John Ireland and Vera Miles on Schlitz Playhouse of Stars

Thomas Mitchell

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William Self on directing Thomas Mitchell and Mike Connors on Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and various other actors

Anthony Quinn

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William Self on Anthony Quinn appearing on Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and on dealing with bigger stars

Gene Reynolds

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William Self on developing M*A*S*H with Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds

Edgar J. Scherick

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William Self on Edgar J. Scherick, vice president of programming for ABC

Rod Serling

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William Self on executive producing the pilot for The Twilight Zone, and working with show creator Rod Serling

Frank Sinatra

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William Self on producing The Frank Sinatra Show
William Self on an unsold pilot, and on the difficulties he had with producing The Frank Sinatra Show

Spencer Tracy

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William Self on appearing in several features with Spencer Tracy

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