David Shaw, a prolific writer from television's golden age who also
wrote the film "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" and Broadway
plays, has died. He was 90.
Shaw, who was featured in the HBO documentary "Funny Old Guys," died
in his sleep Friday at his home in Beverly Hills after a long illness,
his family announced.
In the late 1940s, he followed his older brother, novelist and
playwright Irwin Shaw, to Los Angeles and soon started working in
He had his greatest success in the 1950s and '60s, writing for such
dramatic anthologies as "Playhouse 90" and the "Philco TV Playhouse,"
to which he contributed more teleplays than any other writer,
according to the Archive of American Television.
For "Playhouse 90," Shaw adapted "The 80-Yard Run," a short story by
his brother that told the tale, in flashbacks, of a wife who matured
while her husband remained a college boy. The Times' 1958 review said
the "remarkable story," starring Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, had
"the ingredients of a great show."
In the early 1960s, Shaw was a writer and story editor for "The
Defenders." The CBS show starred E.G. Marshall and was known for
addressing such issues as abortion and mercy killing at a time when
most TV shows tried to avoid controversial topics.
Writer Frank Tarloff, Shaw's best friend since junior high, credited
Shaw with helping save his career after Tarloff was blacklisted. Shaw
and "Defenders" producer Reginald Rose hired blacklisted writers
"every chance they got," Tarloff told the Hollywood Reporter in 1997.
For decades, Shaw and Tarloff had lunched every Tuesday at the
Mulholland Tennis Club with a group of about eight veteran Hollywood
writers and producers. In 1998, filmmaker David Zeiger made a
documentary about the group, "Funny Old Guys" that also highlighted
how they dealt with Tarloff's impending death from cancer, including
staging Tarloff's memorial service while he was still alive.
"For lack of a better word, David was the most humble of all of the
guys who were in the film," Zeiger told The Times on Sunday.
"None of them were trained writers, and this was actually a relatively
easy way for them to make a living."
On Broadway, Shaw wrote the book for two original musical comedies,
including "Redhead," which starred Gwen Verdon in a Tony Award-winning
role and was named best musical in 1959. Vivian Leigh also won a Tony
for Shaw's "Tovarich," a play about nobility exiled after the Russian
Among the few film scripts Shaw wrote was "If It's Tuesday, This Must
Be Belgium," which starred Suzanne Pleshette. The Times' review
praised the 1969 film about a whirlwind tour of Europe as "sharply
observed and inventive without getting farcically impossible."
He was born Samuel David Shamforoff on Aug. 27, 1916, in Brooklyn,
N.Y., to Russian-Jewish immigrants. His father, William, was a
milliner and his mother, Rose, was a homemaker. When he was a
teenager, 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. She died in 1969.
After serving as a Morse Code operator in Africa in the Army Air
Forces during World War II, he became a writer for episodic radio in
New York, then moved to Los Angeles because he thought he could make a
living as a comedy writer.
His last television project was writing for "The Mississippi," an
early-1980s CBS series that starred Ralph Waite.
Asked how he wanted to be remembered, Shaw, then 88, told the American
Archive of Television interviewer, "As a painter."
After retiring, Shaw had returned to the medium he considered his
first love and regularly showed his Impressionistic-style work.
Shaw is survived by his wife, Maxine Stuart, an actress whom he
married in 1973, and two daughters, Liz Baron of Dallas, owner of the
Blue Mesa Grill restaurant chain, and Ellen Agress of New York City,
deputy general counsel of News Corp.; a stepdaughter, Chris Ann
Maxwell, vice president of Fox Searchlight Pictures; and four
Services are pending.
By Valerie J. Nelson, Times Staff Writer
July 30, 2007