IN REMEMBRANCE: 8-29-2010

JACKSON GILLIS, PROLIFIC TV WRITER

By BRUCE WEBER

Published: August 28, 2010
Cops and detectives, doctors and lawyers, spies and cowboys, heroes, superheroes and semi-superheroes. These are staples of television drama, and one of the unsung people who stapled them was Jackson Gillis, a prolific slogger in the trenches of television writing whose career spanned more than four decades and whose scripts put words in the mouths of Superman, Perry Mason, Columbo, Wonder Woman, Zorro, Tarzan, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, Jessica Fletcher and, in a manner of speaking, Lassie.
 
August 29, 2010    

Jackson Gillis

Mr. Gillis died of pneumonia in Moscow, Idaho, on Aug. 19, his daughter, Candida, said. He was 93.

Mr. Gillis was not an award winner — he was nominated for a single Emmy, in 1972, for an episode of “Columbo” — but his résumé traces a remarkable path through the evolution of prime time. His niche was the plot-driven tale of distress, in which danger disturbs the serene status quo, is cranked up to crisis dimensions and is resolved with dispatch by the protagonist, all in a neat half-hour, or, more often, an hour.

The formula, of course, stayed remarkably consistent during his career — and it has remained so — but Mr. Gillis showed he could adapt to the tenor of the times.

In the 1950s, his dialogue, in “The Adventures of Superman” and “Lassie,” for example, was replete with homespun clichés (if sometimes winkingly so) and not especially subtle repartee. In the 1960s, when he wrote for shows like “I Spy” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” with their wisecracking secret agents, he incorporated the hip lingo that television, however tentatively, invoked to reflect the decade. Later, in “Columbo,” he helped define the low-key nature of the title character (played by Peter Falk), with lines that were understated and wry.

Jackson Clark Gillis was born in Kalama, Wash., on Aug. 21, 1916. His father, Ridgway, a highway engineer, moved the family to California when Jackson was a teenager; his mother, the former Marjorie Lyman, was a piano teacher. He went to Fresno State University and graduated from Stanford. He acted after college, working in Britain and at the Barter Theater in Virginia. (Gregory Peck was also in the company at the time.)

“One play he did was by George Bernard Shaw, who came to see the play and sent him a postcard afterward criticizing his exit,” his daughter wrote in an e-mail. “I have the postcard.”

Mr. Gillis served as an Army intelligence officer in the Pacific during World War II. After his discharge, he and his wife moved to Los Angeles, and he began writing for radio, including the mysteries “The Whistler” and “Let George Do It.”

He shifted to television in the early 1950s; his first regular assignment was for a cop show, “I’m the Law,” which starred George Raft as a New York City police detective. He wrote numerous episodes of “The Adventures of Superman,” beginning in 1953, and from 1954 to 1960 he was a frequent contributor of heroic canine feats and communicative barks for “Lassie.”

He spent several years writing for “Perry Mason,” beginning in 1959. He also wrote popular serials for children that appeared on “The Mickey Mouse Club”: “The Adventures of Spin and Marty,” about boys living on a ranch, and two adventures featuring the teenage amateur detective brothers the Hardy Boys, “The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure” and “The Mystery of the Ghost Farm.”

Mr. Gillis’s 62-year marriage to Patricia Cassidy, whom he met when they were fellow actors at the Barter Theater, ended with her death in 2003. In addition to his daughter, who lives in Moscow, he is survived by a brother, William, of Walnut Creek, Calif., and a grandson.

Candida Gillis said in a telephone interview that as she was growing up, the soundtrack of the house was the constant rat-a-tat of her father’s typewriter, and certainly what is most impressive about Mr. Gillis’s career is its sheer breadth. He worked on “Racket Squad,” “Sugarfoot,” “The Fugitive,” “Lost in Space,” “The Wild, Wild West,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Mannix,” “The Mod Squad,” “Bonanza,” “Ironside,” “Land of the Giants,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Medical Center,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Police Woman” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

His daughter described him as a freelance worker bee who was never a Hollywood insider. When he brought her to the studio, he would warn her not to stare at anyone she recognized.

“He was not impressed by the business,” she said, adding that he didn’t watch much television himself.

“He watched football,” Ms. Gillis said. “He thought most of what was on TV was junk.”

SOURCE

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GLORIA WINTERS, ACTRESS IN 1950s’ ‘SKY KING’

Published: August 27, 2010
Gloria Winters, who personified youthful, clean-cut American innocence in the 1950s children’s television series “Sky King,” died on Aug. 14 at her home in Vista, Calif., just north of San Diego. She was in her late 70s.
August 28, 2010    

ABC, via Photofest

Gloria Winters with Kirby Grant, center, and Ron Hagerthy, two of her co-stars in the children’s television series “Sky King.”

The cause was complications of pneumonia, her family told The Los Angeles Times.

“Sky King” was a contemporary western about an Arizona rancher and pilot, the title character, who ran into the likes of jewel smugglers, bank robbers and gangsters. Ms. Winters played Sky’s blond, baby-faced, perky but earnest and unfailingly helpful teenage niece, Penny, who often became involved in the adventures.

She played the role in 72 episodes from 1952 to 1959. (Kirby Grant, who played Sky King, died in 1985.)

Although she retired from show business after “Sky King” went off the air, during its run Ms. Winters also did guest acting roles in numerous 1950s series, including “Richard Diamond, Private Detective,” “Racket Squad” and “Death Valley Days.” She had made her credited television debut as Babs, the dreamy-eyed teenage daughter, in the first season (1949-50) of the working-class sitcom “The Life of Riley,” when Jackie Gleason played Riley. William Bendix played the role in later seasons.

Ms. Winters was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 28 — sources disagree on whether the year was 1931 or 1932 — and began acting as a child. She found love through her most famous role, marrying Dean Vernon, a sound engineer on “Sky King.” He died in 2001.

Some five years after the series ended, Ms. Winters wrote an etiquette book for young girls, “Penny’s Guide to Teenage Charm and Personality.” That book led to a more recent claim to fame.

In the mid-1990s the alternative rock group Nada Surf used text from the book for its song and video “Popular.” Along with advice on breaking up with a boy (if you are straightforward, he’ll “respect you for your frankness”), Ms. Winters declared, “Being attractive is the most important thing there is.”

SOURCE

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ROBERT INGERSOLL, WHO SERVED AS ENVOY TO JAPAN

By DENNIS HEVESI

Published: August 28, 2010

August 29, 2010    

Associated Press

Robert S. Ingersoll was named ambassador to Japan in 1972.

His daughter Nancy Ingersoll Foster confirmed his death.

Mr. Ingersoll was chairman and chief executive of the Chicago-based Borg-Warner Corporation when President Richard M. Nixon appointed him ambassador to Japan in 1972. He was the first business executive named to the post since World War II; all but one of the others had been career diplomats.

The appointment came at a time of strained relations between Washington and Tokyo, primarily over economic issues. Mr. Ingersoll’s company had long had joint ventures and licensing arrangements with major Japanese companies.

With Japan’s economy booming, the primary source of tension was its $3.5 billion trade surplus with the United States. In 1972, after negotiations with Mr. Ingersoll, Japan agreed to import $750 million in American manufactured goods and another $390 million in agricultural products.

Mr. Ingersoll was promoted to assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in 1974 and a year later was named deputy secretary of state, a post he held for two years.

He was the State Department’s lead voice in 1976 when foreign governments sought the identities of officials in their countries who were suspected of receiving millions of dollars in bribes from the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Mr. Ingersoll said the accusations had done “grievous damage” to United States foreign relations and promised to provide information about the payoffs.

The scandal led to the resignations, but not prosecutions, of two top Lockheed officials; the resignation of a Dutch prince from his military and business positions; and the conviction of a Japanese prime minister.

As head of Borg-Warner, Mr. Ingersoll presided over a diversified corporate empire that in 1972 had $1.15 billion in annual sales and 38,000 workers in 22 countries. The company primarily manufactures automotive products, including transmissions. As American automakers turned from Borg-Warner to their own subsidiaries for transmissions, the company expanded its sales to foreign companies, and its transmission business jumped from 42,000 units in 1962 to 487,000 in 1971.

Robert Stephen Ingersoll was born in Galesburg, Ill., on Jan. 28, 1914, one of four children of Roy and Lulu Ingersoll. He graduated from Yale in 1937. In 1939, after working at another company, Mr. Ingersoll joined the Ingersoll Steel and Disc Company, which was owned by his father and later merged with Borg-Warner. He was selected to succeed his father as chairman and chief executive in 1961.

Mr. Ingersoll’s wife of 63 years, the former Coralyn Reed, died in 2001. In addition to his daughter Nancy, he is survived by two other daughters, Gail Ingersoll Ransom and Elizabeth Ingersoll Carroll; a brother, James; 11 grandchildren; and 21 great-grandchildren.

Before and after his diplomatic career, Mr. Ingersoll served on the boards of numerous corporations, foundations, and arts and educational institutions. He also taught Sunday school at the Winnetka Congregational Church.

 

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