Thu, 02/22/2007

Celebrate TV Legend Sheldon Leonard's Centennial

The Archive celebrates the 100-year anniversary of Sheldon Leonard's birth today. Sheldon Leonard (1907-97) was one of the first people interviewed when the Archive of American Television began its pilot project in 1996.

Although his interview is not yet online, here's a preview of part 3 of
Sheldon's Leonard's Archive of American Television interview. In this
Dick Van Dyke Show writer-producer Sam Denoff interviews
Leonard about
The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Spy.

Leonard was the executive producer of such classic television series as The Danny Thomas Show/Make Room for Daddy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and I Spy. He won two Emmy Awards— as director of Make Room for Daddy in 1961 and as producer of My World, and Welcome To It in 1970. In 1995 he was named an Honorary Life Member of the Directors Guild of America for his long-time services to the DGA as treasurer.

Carl Reiner (Creator, The Dick Van Dyke Show)

Sheldon was a great pedagogue, a great teacher. He had taught more people how to handle themselves as producers, writers, executives on television… everybody who ever came in Sheldon’s purview, they loved him because he was so good. If you talk to any of the people who ever worked with him, they’ll all have the same thing to say.

Aaron Ruben (Producer-Director, The Andy Griffith Show)

Sheldon Leonard was an actor, turned director, turned writer, turned producer, turned entrepreneur. He started on Broadway and appeared always as a gangster and in films… he was always a gangster because he talked out of the side of his mouth, even though he was very well educated and very articulate. Grant Tinker once said about Sheldon Leonard and the way he talked, he said he talks like a New Jersey longshoreman, using the words of William Buckley and it's true.

Grant Tinker (Television Executive)

Sheldon Leonard, who was a brilliant guy, instantly recognizable from playing sort of a Brooklyn tough guy in many movies and television shows, but off camera a very bright, creative director/writer. He didn’t actually sit at a typewriter and write but he contributed a great deal to the shows that he was involved with.

Andy Griffith (Actor)

I remember the first day [on The Andy Griffith Show]… Sheldon was a very bright astute man. The first day they shot with three cameras and the first day was always spent on the script. So that day I didn't have much to say at all. Artie Stander, Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard yelled at one another all day. I asked Sheldon if I could talk to him at the end of the day and he walked me to the gate. I said, if this is what television is, I don't think I can handle it. He said, "Andy, the, the star dictates what the attitude will be on the set. Danny likes to yell so we all yell [on The Danny Thomas Show]. If you don't want to yell, nobody will yell." That's the way it was.