Science + Technology

UCLA Library Acquires Papers of Television Pioneer Harry Crane


TheUCLA Library has acquired the papers of Harry Crane (1914–99), creatorof "The Honeymooners" and a prolific writer of radio, television and filmcomedy. The collection encompasses scripts, correspondence, photographs,topical humor publications and awards spanning his career from the 1940sthrough the 1990s.

"Weare honored to receive this extraordinary collection reflecting the career ofone of the major early figures in television scriptwriting," said UniversityLibrarian Gary E. Strong. "These uniquematerials complement the UCLA Library's holdings in television writing andproduction, particularly in the area of comedy, and will provide a richresource for students of comedy and television, radio and film history."

Thecollection has been donated to UCLA by Stephanie Crane and Barbara GilbertCowan, Crane's daughters. Barbara Cowan is the wife of Warren Cowan, who is aUCLA alumnus and member of the Dean's Advisory Board in the School of Theater,Film and Television.

"Television is a defining force in20th-century culture, and Harry Crane is a defining creative force in theevolution of television," said Robert Rosen, dean of the UCLA School ofTheater, Film and Television. "We owe the Crane family a debt of gratitude forhaving made these important historical documents a permanent part of the UCLAcollections to be studied now and by future generations."

Bornin Brooklyn, N.Y., Crane started his entertainment career as a stand-upcomedian in the Catskills. MGM brought him to Hollywood in 1943, where heearned his first writing credit for "Air Raid Wardens" (1943) with Stan Laureland Oliver Hardy, a script that is in the collection.

Subsequentscreenwriting credits included "Lost in a Harem" (1944) for Bud Abbott and LouCostello; "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946) with Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball and FannyBrice; and "The Harvey Girls" (1946) with Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury.Crane also contributed dialogue to "Song of the Thin Man" (1947) with Myrna Loyand William Powell and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (1942) with Gene Kelly,Frank Sinatra and Esther Williams. Thecollection contains script materials relating to several of these films.

Craneknew Jackie Gleason from his days in New York, and he recommended Gleason tothe DuMont Television Network to host the program "Cavalcade of Stars." In 1951Crane presented Gleason with an idea for a sketch about a working-class manliving in a small Brooklyn flat; the two main characters were based on Craneand his wife, Julia. Although Gleason didn't think the sketch was funny, Cranetalked him into trying it. From a bit on that program to a recurring segment on"The Jackie Gleason Show" to a stand-alone series during the 1955–56 season,"The Honeymooners" grew into a beloved American classic.

Cranewas the exclusive writer on "The Honeymooners" throughout its first year, andhe also created several other memorable Gleason characters including Reggie VanGleason and "The Loudmouth." The collection contains script material for some35 "Honeymooners" segments as well as monologues, sketches and other bits forGleason's signature characters.

Cranebegan working with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis while they were appearing at theLos Angeles nightclub Slapsie Maxie's. The collection holds some 30 pieces fromvarious Martin and Lewis appearances and projects including "The Colgate ComedyHour."

Cranecontinued to write for Martin in ensuing years and was the head writer for "TheDean Martin Comedy Hour" and "The Dean Martin Show." The collection alsocontains a significant amount of script material for "The Dean Martin CelebrityRoasts," poking fun at stars including Lucille Ball, George Burns, JoanCollins, Sammy Davis Jr., Gleason, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart and DannyThomas, and for Martin's special appearances.

Thecollection contains pieces Crane wrote for Sinatra for "The Frank SinatraShow," "Meet Frank Sinatra" and special appearances. Crane also had a lengthyworking relationship with Andy Williams, and the collection includes more than100 scripts for "The Andy Williams Show." In addition, it contains some 50items from the television specials Crane created for Steve Lawrence and EydieGorme, as well as material he wrote for Joey Bishop, Perry Como and Alan King,among others.

Cranewrote for radio programs featuring Abe Burrows (26 items), Joan Davis (morethan 100 items), Jimmy Durante (90 items) and Groucho Marx (40 items). Thecollection also includes some 50 scripts for major award programs such as theAcademy Awards, Emmy Awards and Golden Globes.

Alongwith script materials, the collection contains Crane's unique gag files. Theseare organized into the subject areas he created, such as Accidents, Actors,Bathing Suits, Music, Nudists, Off Color, Old Maids, Seances, Superstitious,Woman and You Tell 'Em.

Italso encompasses a broad selection of the humor publications Current Comedy,Fun Master Monthly and The Comedian.

Correspondencein the collection comprises a limited number of both personal and professionalnotes, cards and letters to and from Crane. The collection also contains asmall selection of photographs that offers a rare, behind-the-scenes view ofthe entertainment industry. Included are images of Crane, his family andentertainers such as Milton Berle, Durante, Lewis, Martin, Sinatra and Thomas.

TheArts Library Special Collections houses rare and unique materials in the visualand performing arts, with particular strengths in film and television, radio,Los Angeles theater and art. Major collecting areas include archival records ofleading Southern California film and television studios; artists' books; filmpublicity ephemera such as photographs and publicity stills, posters, lobbycards and press kits; film, television and radio scripts; personal papers ofprominent writers, directors, producers and performers; West Coast theaterplaybills and women in entertainment. These primary sources support researchand instruction by UCLA students and faculty and are also used by scholars andresearchers from around the world.

TheHarry Crane Collection complements the library's extensive holdings intelevision and radio writing and production, particularly comedic material byand for Durante, Larry Gelbart, Hal Goodman and Rosalind Russell.



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