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Backus, Jim (25 February 1913–03 July 1989), actor, comedian, and author, was born James Gilmore Backus in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Russell Gould Backus, a mechanical engineer and president of a local heavy-machinery company, and Daisy Gilmore-Taylor. They lived in Bratenahl, an upper-class borough of Cleveland. Jim attended the Bratenahl School, then as a teenager went to Kentucky Military Institute, but when he tried to enlist, the army rejected him, telling him that he had a vertical stomach and would have to eat six times a day to stay nourished. However, at school he began a lifelong friendship with fellow cadet and future movie actor ...

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Berg, Gertrude (03 October 1899–14 September 1966), actress, writer, and producer of radio and television programs, was born Gertrude Edelstein in the Harlem district of New York City, the daughter of Jacob Edelstein, a Catskills resort hotel owner, and Diana Netta Goldstein, a bookkeeper and hotel kitchen manager. She was educated in public schools and showed interest in acting as a child, performing comic skits at her father’s hotel. As a teenager, she took several extension courses in playwriting at Columbia University. In 1918 she married Lewis Berg, a mechanical engineer, whose work took the couple to a sugar refinery in Reserve, Louisiana. In 1921 they returned to New York, where they would live for the rest of their lives. The couple had two children....

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Bradbury, Ray (22 August 1920–05 June 2012), writer, poet, screenwriter, and cultural critic, was born in Waukegan, Illinois, the third (and second surviving) child of Leonard Spaulding Bradbury, a telephone lineman, and Esther Marie (Moberg) Bradbury. He became interested in science fiction in 1928, during convalescence while recuperating from whooping cough; other childhood interests that endured included the wonders of magic, drama, carnivals, and motion pictures. In 1934 his family moved to Los Angeles as Leonard Bradbury looked for work around the movie studios. Ray Bradbury’s first publication, the poem “In Memory of Will Rogers,” appeared in the 18 August 1936 ...

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Carrington, Elaine Sterne (14 June 1891–04 May 1958), author and radio scriptwriter, was born in New York City, the daughter of Theodore Sterne, a merchant, and Mary Louise Henriquez. Even as a young child, Elaine displayed a natural talent for storytelling. Before writing her first words she created fanciful tales to tell her grandmother and romantic stories for her father’s dinner guests. In her teens Elaine began writing instead of telling. A deluge of manuscripts arrived at publishing houses from Elaine Sterne, G. A., the initials standing for “Great Author.” A novel, a musical comedy, and many other stories were all rejected until she sold “King of the Christmas Feast” to ...

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Chayefsky, Paddy (29 January 1923–01 August 1981), writer for stage, screen, and television, was born Sidney Chayefsky in the Bronx, New York, the son of Harry Chayefsky, at the time an executive with a dairy, and Gussie Stuchevsky. After school at DeWitt Clinton High School and City College of New York, where he graduated in 1943, Chayefsky was drafted into the army and shipped to Germany. A notoriously sloppy and lazy soldier, Chayefsky earned his nickname, Paddy, when he tried to get out of kitchen duty to attend Catholic mass. After he was injured by a land mine he was shipped to a London hospital, where he and a composer friend wrote a musical, ...

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Fast, Howard (11 November 1914–12 March 2003), writer, was born Howard Melvin Fast in the Bronx, New York, to Barney Fast (né Fastov), a Ukrainian-Jewish immigrant, and Ida Miller Fast, a Lithuanian-born immigrant from London. Barney Fast worked as a laborer, initially at a tin factory and later in the garment district. There was little money, but Ida Fast held the family together with abundant love and prudent household management. Young Howard and his three surviving siblings were therefore devastated by the death of their mother in 1923. Without her to look after them, the family quickly sank into desperate poverty....

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Fletcher, Lucille (28 March 1912–31 August 2000), writer, was born Violet Lucille Fletcher in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Matthew Emerson Fletcher, a marine draftsman, and Violet Anderson. She attended local schools and won a scholarship to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, from which she graduated in 1933 with a B.A. in English. Aspiring to a career as a in 1934 Fletcher secured a $15-a-week job in New York City with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) as a receptionist and typist for the head of the music clearance department; she hoped that there she would find a position as a music critic. She never got that job, but she advanced to a place in the CBS music library, and by 1937 she was writing publicity for CBS. She was also achieving moderate success as a freelance writer with articles and stories for the ...

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Leonard, Sheldon (22 February 1907–10 January 1997), performer, director, producer, and writer, primarily for television, radio, and film, was born Sheldon Leonard Bershad in New York City, the only child of Frank Bershad, a salesman, and Anna Levitt Bershad, an immigrant from Russia whose father had been a scribe to the Romanoff court. The family lived in the polyglot Morrisania section of the Bronx except for a period of three years during Leonard's early teens, when they lived in Belleville, New Jersey. In his autobiography Leonard describes Belleville as a "WASPy suburb" that made him self-conscious of the urban working-class accent and mannerisms that would become his trademarks as a performer as well as his Jewish background....

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Levinson, Richard Leighton (07 August 1934–12 March 1987), writer, creator, and producer of television programs, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Levinson, a businessman, and Georgia Harbert. He received a B.S. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1956 and served in the U.S. Army during 1957–1958. Levinson developed a lifelong partnership with William Link, his boyhood friend and college roommate. The two began collaborating on class skits and mystery stories as junior high school students. Levinson continued his personal and professional alliance with Link for over four decades....

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Levy, David (02 January 1913–25 January 2000), advertising and broadcasting executive, television producer, and writer, was one of twin sons born to Benjamin Levy, an accountant, and Lillian Potash Levy of Philadelphia. He excelled as a student, especially in mathematics and writing, both of which would remain lifelong pursuits. An economics major at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, he received a B.S. degree in 1934 and an M.B.A. in 1935....

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Moore, Donald Wynkoop (1905?–07 April 1986), magazine editor and writer, best known for his work on comic strips and teleplays. His birthplace and his parents’ names and occupations are unknown. He graduated second in his class with a bachelor’s degree in English from Dartmouth College in 1925. For several years after graduation he worked as a journalist, first in his parents’ hometown of Miami, Florida, at the ...

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Oboler, Arch (06 December 1909–19 March 1987), radio writer and dramatist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Leo Oboler and Clare Obeler (her maiden name was spelled slightly differently from her married name). As a boy he had a strong desire to be a naturalist and kept a sizable zoo of animals in his home, including frogs, turtles, salamanders, snakes, and scorpions. Drawing on his experiences with some of these animals, he sold his first story at age ten. He continued to write for the rest of his life....

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Phillips, Irna (01 July 1901–22 December 1973), radio and television writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of William S. Phillips, a grocer, and Betty Buxbaum. Her father died when she was eight. In later years, Phillips described herself as “a plain, sickly, silent child with hand-me-down clothes and no friends” ( ...

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Rhymer, Paul (28 April 1905–27 October 1964), radio writer, was born Paul Mills Rhymer in Fulton, Illinois. His family moved to nearby Bloomington when he was a child, and he attended local schools. He was already a confirmed writer by the time he was in Bloomington High School, where he wrote for the school yearbook, served as president of the short story club, and won the school's Merwin Cup for short-story writing. After graduating in 1922 he went to Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, where he was a member of the Black Bookmen, the Bookfellows, and other literary clubs, and in his second year he sold his first story, "Hen," to the magazine ...

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Serling, Rod (25 December 1924–28 June 1975), television writer and producer, was born Rodman Edward Serling in Syracuse, New York, the son of Samuel Serling, a grocer and butcher, and Esther Cooper. In 1926 Serling’s family joined a growing Jewish community in Binghamton, New York. As editor of ...

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Tarloff, Frank (04 February 1916–25 June 1999), screen and television writer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Samuel Tarlovski and Rachel Yelin Tarlovski, Polish-Jewish immigrants who operated a small newspaper and penny candy store. (The family name was mistakenly recorded as Tarloff by an immigration officer at Ellis Island and was retained by the couple.) They made a modest living until Samuel Tarloff's death in 1928, when the business faltered. “We were poverty-stricken a year before everyone else,” Tarloff quipped, making reference to the Great Depression, which began after the stock market crash of 1929....

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Teichmann, Howard Miles (22 January 1916–07 July 1987), biographer and writer for stage, screen, and radio, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Teichmann graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1938. He then moved to New York City, where he began his professional career as a stage manager for ...

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Todman, William Selden (31 July 1916–29 July 1979), radio and television writer, director, and producer, was born in New York City, the son of Frederick Simpson Todman, an accountant, and Helena Diana Orlowitz. Todman received a bachelor of science in 1938 from Johns Hopkins University and earned a bachelor of arts from New York University in 1941. While at New York University, he was employed as a freelance radio writer and producer for several New York stations, and in 1941 he was offered a permanent position with WABC radio. During his tenure with that station, Todman wrote for and directed “The Connee Boswell Show,” “Anita Ellis Sings,” and “Treasury Salute Dramas.”...