Harry Ackerman is one alumnus you’ve probably never heard of, but probably should have. He was a high executive at Screen Gems, a company owned by Columbia Pictures, and during his prime was responsible for up to seven popular TV shows at a time on the network. His life is documented through his papers which are all housed at Rauner. Although his correspondence and pictures are interesting, what’s really unique is the scripts that we have. The collection includes numerous pilot scripts, from flops you never knew were written to the origins of smash hits.
One of the pilot scripts is Archie by Ray Allen. Although Archie wasn't quite a hit, this 1962 script was the prelude to the 1964 movie of the same name. It’s bizarre to read the script without the visual presentation that the comic provides. Bits that would usually be resolved at the end of a strip are awkwardly connected to a larger plot. In case you were wondering, Archie doesn’t end up with Betty or Veronica this time. He takes Mildred to the dance.
Another curiosity is the pilot script for Bewitched. It turns out Samantha, the witch who charmed television screens for eight years starting in 1964, was actually originally named Cassandra. This script is from a little under a year before the air date. The title is penciled in, so it may be this copy is one of the first with the actual title “I Darrin, Take This Witch Samantha.”
Ackerman's legacy that you’re probably most familiar with is I Love Lucy. Ackerman saw Lucille Ball ad libbing on a charity show and wanted her for the part. He was an exec at the time, and in an article he wrote titled “The Legacy of Lucy,” he talks about how she was terrible during rehearsal, but completely stepped it up for the live performance. We have an early draft of the article, and it seems it was Ackerman who decided I Love Lucy had to be taped live. This, in combination with the filming style, led to the three-camera technique that has become a staple of the industry.
We also have the pilot of Dennis the Menace, which, aside from being really cool, includes a list of “don’ts” during shooting, ranging from “No drunkenness” to “No shaving or display of shaving equipment.”
The collection is housed under ML-81
For Archie, ask for Box 8 folder 24
For Bewitched, ask for Box 8, folder 40
For I Love Lucy, ask for Box 12, folders 17-21
For Dennis the Menace, ask for Box 10, folders 7-8
Posted for Maggie Baird '18