Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writers Aleen Leslie and Barry Blitzer Pass On

Aleen Leslie

Aleen Leslie, creator of A Date with Judy and the oldest living member of the Writers Guild of America, passed on February 2. She was on 101 years old, just a few days shy of her 102nd birthday. The cause was pneumonia.

Aleen Leslie was born on February 5, 1908 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She attended the Ohio State University. She studied playwriting, but the Depression cut her studies short when she could not afford to finish college. It was not long after she had become the secretary for the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment that she started writing the column "One Girl Chorus" for The Pittsburgh Press. She wrote the column for close to a decade. Using a press pass she gained access to Columbia Pictures. She started out writing Three Stooges shorts before going onto feature films. She wrote the stories for the films Doctor Takes a Wife (1940) and Affectionately Yours (1941), and the screenplay for The Stork Pays Off (1941).

It was in 1941 that Aleen Leslie created the radio show A Date with Judy. It was originally conceived as a vehicle for actress Helen Mack, but by the time the show debuted she was too old for the part. A Date with Judy debuted as a summer replacement for Bob Hope's show. A Date with Judy proved enormously successful. In 1948 a movie based on the radio show was released, starring Elizabeth Taylor. A comic book based on the radio show was published by National Periodical Publications (now DC Comics) from 1947 to 1960. The radio show ended its run in 1950, although a TV show based on the radio show debuted in 1951. It ran on and off until 1953 on ABC.

Throughout the Forties Aleen Leslie wrote several screenplays, many in the "Henry Aldrich"s series. She wrote the screenplays for Rosie the Riveter (1944), Father was a Fullback (1949), and Father Is a Bachelor (1950), and the stories for Go Chase Yourself and The Living North.

Aleen Leslie also wrote two novels, The Scent of Roses (1963) and The Windfall (1970). She also wrote a number of plays, one of which (Slightly Married) ran on Broadway for a short while.

 Aleen Leslie created one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. Although it is largely forgotten today, A Date with Judy ran for nine years and both a comic book and a movie were spun off from it. Among fans of Old Time Radio it still remains one of the most popular radio shows to have been produced.

Barry E. Blitzer

Television writer Barry E. Blitzer passed on January 27 at the age of 80. The cause was complications from abdominal surgery.

Barry Blitzer was born on April 21, 1929 in New York City . He grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan. He attended the University of Georgia to major in journalism. During the Korean War he served in the United States Army. He was stationed in Germany and assigned to Armed Forces Radio.

Barry E. Blitzer's career in television began on the legendary sitcom The Phil Silvers Show (also known as Sgt. Bilko). He wrote his first episode for the series in 1955 and was one of the group of writers who collectively won an Emmy for the show in 1956. Blitzer went onto write episodes of The Ann Southern Show, I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, and Broadside. He was a frequent contributor to McHale's Navy, The Flintstones, and Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. He also wrote episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and Get Smart.

The Seventies saw Blitzer write episodes of Barefoot in the Park, The Paul Lynde Show, Good Times, and Hot L Baltimore. The Seventies also saw Blitzer's career shift towards Saturday morning television. He wrote episodes of The Roman Holidays, The Lost Saucer, Land of the Lost, and Uncle Croc's Block. He was a story editor on The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang. In the Eighties he wrote for Love Boat and Too Close for Comfort.

In addition to the Emmy he shared with the other writers on The Phil Silvers Show, Blitzer also shared a Writers Guild Award nomination for an episode of Get Smart in 1968. He was also a guest lecturer at the University of Texas. Beginning in October, 1993 he wrote a humour column for The Pacific Palisades Post.

Barry E. Blitzer was one of the last great comedy writers of the Fifties. Indeed, he was the last surviving member of the Phil Silvers Show who shared the Emmy in 1956. His scripts were always exceedingly funny, possessed of a wry sense of humour. If The Phil Silvers Show is still remembered as one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, it is because of men like Barry Blitzer.

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