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August 19, 2009

Writer Tad Mosel Dies

Golden Age Master Was 86


Tad Mosel, whose dramatic scripts for live television were regularly featured in primetime programming in the 1950s and whose play All the Way Home won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1961, died on August 24, 2008, in Concord, New Hampshire. He was 86.

Mosel, along with Paddy Chayefsky, Gore Vidal and Rod Serling, is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the so-called golden age of live television. Beginning in 1947 and ending a decade later, dramatic plays performed live were a staple of network broadcasts.

Mosel wrote more than 20 original television scripts, not always credited, for shows like Playhouse 90, Studio One and Philco Television Playhouse. For Producers’ Showcase, he adapted The Petrified Forest, the Robert Sherwood play about customers in a remote cafe being held hostage by a gang of outlaws. It starred Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in a reprise of the bad-guy role, Duke Mantee, he played in the 1936 film.

Mosel’s affinity for intimate stories, many of which centered on families, were ideally suited for the early days of live television. The included the 1953 productions The Haven and Other People’s Houses.

Mosel was a frequent collaborator of pioneering producer Fred Coe, who asked him to adapt James Agee’s autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family, for the stage. Agee died in 1955, but the book, published in 1957, won the Pulitzer Prize the following year. Mosel’s adaptation, retitled All the Way Home, earned widespread acclaim and a Pulitzer of its own.

Born George Ault Mosel, Jr., in Steubenville, Ohio, on May 1, 1922, Mosel acquired the nickname Tad from his father, who ran a wholesale grocery business. Following the 1929 stock market crash, the family moved to New Rochelle, N.Y.

At age 14, he was deeply affected by a Broadway performance of George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan, which inspired a love of theater and performance.

He matriculated at Amherst College, but left school following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor to enlist in the Army. After three years in the military, one in the South Pacific, he completed his studies at Amherst, after which he went on to Yale Drama School and Columbia.

Early in his career, Mosel was an actor as well as a writer. In 1949 he scored a small role in the Broadway comedy At War with the Army. His first teleplay was produced the same year.

Mosel earned a Primetime Emmy nomination for the 1976 miniseries The Adams Chronicles and a Writers Guild Award nomination for the 1967 feature film Up the Down Staircase.

Upon his death, Mosel left no immediate family members.

On October 18, 1997, Mosel was interviewed by the Telvision Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television. During the six-and-a-half-hour interview at his home in Concord, N.H., he spoke about the challenges and thrills of writing for Fred Coe and David Susskind on such live dramas as The Philco/Goodyear Playhouse, Playhouse 90, and Studio One. He also spoke about many of his teleplays, including his first original television play, Ernie Barger is 50, which appeared on Philco.

The interview is available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ccxeNUlrCA&feature=related.

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