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September 24, 2008

Writer Oliver Crawford Dies

From Blacklist to Star Trek

Oliver Crawford, a writer who endured the Hollywood blacklist of he 1950s and went on to become a frequent contributor to such television show as Star Trek, Bonanza and Perry Mason, died of complications from pneumonia September 24, 2008, at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 91.

In 1953, at the beginning of his writing career, Crawford was contacted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating allegations of communist influence in the entertainment industry.

When he refused to reveal names of suspected communists, Crawford was blacklisted. He got back into the business in 1957 after a friend, actor Sam Levene, helped him land a job as a writer for Playhouse 90.

His career flourished in the 1960s, when he wrote for such popular shows as Rawhide, Lawman, The Rifleman, Ben Casey, The Outer Limits and I Spy. Still other credits were for Gilligan’s Island, The Big Valley, The Wild Wild West and The Fugitive.

He continued to thrive in the 1970s, when he wrote scripts for Mannix, Kojak, Ironside, Love, American Style, The Bionic Woman and other shows.

Crawford’s 1978 novel The Execution, about a group of Nazi prison camp survivors living in San Diego who plot to kill a former prison guard, was made into a television movie in 1985 with Loretta Swit and Rip Torn.

A longtime member of the Writers Guild of America’s board of directors, Crawford reportedly lobbied to remove the anti-communist loyalty oath from the guild’s membership application.

He was born Oliver Kaufman in Chicago on August 12, 1917.

After graduating from high school, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Goodman Theater, where his classmates included actors Karl Malden and Sam Wanamaker.

His wife, the former Bert Pikus, whom he married in 1941, died in 1986.

He is survived by three children, a sister and a brother.

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