Thursday, October 2, 2008

TV Writer Oliver Crawford Passes On

Oliver Crawford, who wrote scripts for TV shows ranging from Bonanza to Kojak, passed on September 24 at the age of 91.

Oliver Crawford was born on August 12, 1917 in Chicago. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and later studied at the Goodman Theatre, where among his fellow students were future actor Karl Malden and future director Sam Wanamaker.

Crawford made his first sale to television in 1951, writing an episode of The Stu Erwin Show. He would also write episodes of Terry and the Pirates and Boston Blackie. He broke into motion pictures by writing the story for The Man From the Alamo, which was released in 1953. He also wrote one of the segments for the movie The Steel Cage. His career as a writer was on the rise, having scored a two movie deal when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) contacted him in 1953. After he refused to reveal the names of alleged Communists, he was blacklisted.

Crawford then moved to New York and worked a number of different jobs to make a living. It was his friend, actor Sam Levene, who got him back into writing by helpin him get a job. In the late Fifties he wrote episodes for Kraft Television Theatre, Lux Video Theatre, The Restless Gun, and Rawhide, among other shows. In the Sixties into the Seventies he would write episodes of Perry Mason, The Rifleman, Gilligan's Island, The Fugitive, Star Trek, Bonanza, I Spy, The Wild Wild West, Love American Style, Ironside, and Kojak.

Crawford was also an associate professor of filmmaking at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Oliver Crawford was among the most successful television writers of the Fifties and Sixties. He was also a very talented writer. He wrote some of my favourite TV episodes on TV shows in the Sixties: "Joe Cartwright, Detective" for Bonanza, "Night of the Sudden Death" for The Wild Wild West, "Case of the Tarnished Trademark" for Perry Mason, and "Incident of the Town in Terror" for Rawhide. Crawford had a talent for developing unique and interesting episodes for various TV shows--in fact, he was the first writer to write an episode in which the Galileo, one of the shuttlecraft of the Enterprise, played a central role. He was one of a generation of television writers who was not only prolific, but capable of some high quality writing as well.

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