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
Although IMDb is far from complete on live television credits, it lists Shaw
with six "Playhouse 90" scripts to Rod Serling's eleven, and two "Philco TV
Playhouse" scripts to Paddy Chayefsky's eleven. The Archive of American
Television may well have gotten the "more teleplays than any other writer"
tidbit from Shaw's own mouth, since he's one of the people who have done
video oral histories for the Archive. He may well have written more than
anyone, but the easily available records don't support that.
I knew David. I'd not had any luck contacting him through the Writers
Guild, when by coincidence I recognized his wife, the actress Maxine
Stuart, in the Century City mall one day and introduced myself to
them. He was indeed a modest man, and as such difficult to interview;
I'm sure that Jon Krampner (for his excellent Fred Coe biography) and
the Television Academy got more out of him than I did. We tend to
think of all the live TV playwrights as brooding kitchen sink
dramatists, but one of the reasons Shaw has probably received less
attention than his contemporaries is that he was something of a
journeyman, adept at drama but specializing to a certain extent in
light comedy (he was a story editor on "Mister Peepers," and a lot of
his Philcos were comedies).
Having done the research for this interview, I found that Shaw wrote
at least 21 shows for Philco Playhouse and 7 additional shows for
Goodyear Playhouse at the time that Philco and Goodyear alternated in
the same timeslot, as follows:
Philco TV Playhouse: "Damion's Daughter" (airdate: 10/30/49)
Philco TV Playhouse: "The Wonderful Mrs. Ingram" (airdate: 11/27/49)
Philco TV Playhouse: "Uncle Dynamite" (airdate: 1/29/50)
Philco TV Playhouse: "Dirty Eddie" (airdate: 4/9/50)
Philco TV Playhouse: "The Bump on Brannigan's Head" (airdate: 6/11/50)
Philco TV Playhouse: "A Husband for Mama" (airdate: 10/15/50)
Philco TV Playhouse: "I'm Still Alive" (airdate: 11/19/50)
Philco TV Playhouse: "Confession" (airdate: 1/21/51)
Philco TV Playhouse: "Rescue" (airdate: 5/27/51)
Philco TV Playhouse: "Pretend I Am A Stranger" (airdate: 7/22/51)
Philco TV Playhouse: "The Wayward Season" (airdate: 9/16/51)
Philco TV Playhouse: "Education of a Fullback" (airdate: 11/4/51)
Philco TV Playhouse: "Flight Into Darkess" (airdate: 6/15/52)
Philco TV Playhouse; "Double Jeopardy" (airdate: 1/4/53)
Philco TV Playhouse: "Mr. Penttengill Here" (airdate: 2/15/53)
Philco TV Playhouse: "The Reclusive" (airdate: 4/12/53)
Philco TV Playhouse: "The New Process" (airdate: 8/23/53)
Philco TV Playhouse: "0 for 37" (airdate: 9/27/53)
Philco TV Playhouse: "The Glorification of Al Toolum" (airdate:
Philco TV Playhouse: "Play Me Hearts and Flowers" (airdate: 3/6/55)
Philco TV Playhouse: "Total Recall" (airdate: 6/12/55)
Goodyear TV Playhouse: "A Little Night Music" (airdate: 11/18/51)
Goodyear TV Playhouse: "The Lantern Copy" (airdate: 5/25/52)
Goodyear TV Playhouse: "The Search" (airdate: 12/7/52)
Goodyear TV Playhouse: "Nothing to Sneeze At" (airdate: 7/12/53)
Goodyear TV Playhouse: "The Huntress" (airdate: 2/14/54)
Goodyear TV Playhouse: "The Power of Suggestion" (airdate: 8/29/54)
Goodyear TV Playhouse: "Last Boat From Messina" (airdate: 12/5/54)
The LA Times article DOES mean to indicate that Shaw wrote the most
Philco shows, as opposed to the most Playhouse 90s and Philcos. In
fact, Rod Serling DID do the most Playhouse 90s according to the
credits listed in Variety reviews at the time (Variety reviewed every
single Playhouse 90) [although I believe he did 10 and that imdb might
be wrong about "Nightmare at Ground Zero" which Variety reviews credit
to Paul Monash].
David Shaw and James P. Cavanaugh tie for second most teleplays of
Playhouse 90 with six each.
IMDb is a work-in-progress, conducted and informed (or misinformed) by its
users. Ten years ago, there were virtually NO credits for live TV, so
something has improved. At any rate, it's an area I try to support whenever
I find data, but even with a couple of thousand volumes of film and TV
credit resources at home, I'd have to go elsewhere to find much in the way
of live TV credits. I'm glad for the information you've provided. It
points up how much work needs to be done to bring online resources up to
speed. A daunting task, but one I feel inclined to participate in.
Wonderful information. I've submitted these to IMDb updates.