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August 20, 2007

Golden Era Scribe David Shaw Dies

Beverly Hills, CA — David Shaw, a prolific writer from television’s golden age who also wrote films and Broadway plays died at his Beverly Hills home on July 27. Shaw, who was 90, had been battling a long illness.

Shaw, the younger brother of novelist and playwright Irwin Shaw, moved to Los Angeles from New York City in the 1940s and began writing for television during the medium’s infancy.

Playhouse 90, Controversial CBS
Series The Defenders, More

In the 1950s and ’60s he earned acclaim for his work on such anthology series as Playhouse 90 and the Philco TV Playhouse, to which he contributed more teleplays than any other writer, according to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s Archive of American Television.

In the early 1960s, Shaw was a writer and story editor for the The Defenders, starring E.G. Marshall. The CBS legal drama was known for taking on controversial subjects, including abortion and euthanasia, at a time when most TV shows eschewed such material.

His Broadway highlights included writing the book for the 1959 musical comedy Redhead, which earned a Tony Award for its star, Gwen Verdon, and another for best musical. Actress Vivien Leigh also won a Tony for Shaw’s play Tovarich, about nobility exiled after the Russian Revolution.

His feature film credits included the 1969 comedy If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, which starred Suzanne Pleshette and Tuesday Weld.

World War II Vet-Turned-Radio Writer

He was born Samuel David Shamforoff on August 27, 1916, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Russian-Jewish immigrants. In his teens, the family name was changed to Shaw.

In 1936, Shaw graduated from the Pratt Institute of art in Brooklyn, where he met his first wife, Vivian Rosenthal, who died in 1969.

During World War II, Shaw served as a Morse Code operator in Africa in the Army Air Forces. When the war ended he became a writer for episodic radio in New York, then moved to Los Angeles in hopes of making it as a comedy writer.

For decades, Shaw and Frank Tarloff—a fellow writer and his best friend since junior high school—met for lunch every Tuesday at the Mulholland Tennis Club with a group of longtime Hollywood writers and producers.

Their weekly ritual was chronicled in filmmaker David Zeiger’s 1998 documentary Funny Old Guys, which also highlighted how they dealt with Tarloff’s impending death from cancer, including staging Tarloff’s memorial service while he was still alive.

Shaw’s last television credit was writing for The Mississippi, an early-1980s CBS series that starred Ralph Waite.

In retirement, the former art student returned to his canvases and brushes, and had several exhibitions of his Impressionistic-style work.

Shaw is survived by his wife, Maxine Stuart, two daughters, a stepdaughter and four grandchildren.

Archive of American Television talks with David Shaw

On August 31, 2004, the Archive of American Television sat down with television writer David Shaw.

During the extensive interview, Shaw discussed his prolific career as a television writer, which began in 1949 for the ABC “live” dramatic anthology series Actors Studio.

He spoke in great detail of his work on the Philco-Goodyear Playhouse series, for which he contributed the most teleplays of any writer. He touched on several of his individual Philco-Goodyear teleplays and his experience working with legendary producer Fred Coe.

Shaw described knowing and working with other figures of the “Golden Age of Television Drama,” such as director Delbert Mann, writer Paddy Chayefsky, and actress Eva Marie Saint.

He also talked about his Emmy-nominated adaptation of Our Town, just one of his many teleplays for Producer’s Showcase. Plus, he discussed several series for which he served as a story editor, including Mr. Peepers and The Defenders.

The complete interview is available for viewing at the AAT office, located on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences plaza in North Hollywood. You may also view it view the entire interview here at Google Video. Contact the Television Archive at (818) 754-2800 for more information.

To learn more about this life and works of this American Archive of Television personality online, please visit the Archive of American Television Update blog.

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