William Asher
Asher-liz2.jpg
Asher with his second wife, Elizabeth Montgomery, in 1964
Born
William Milton Asher

(1921-08-08)August 8, 1921
New York City, U.S.
DiedJuly 16, 2012(2012-07-16) (aged 90)
Resting placeDesert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California
Occupation
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1948–1990
Spouse(s)
(m. 1951; div. 1961)
(m. 1963; div. 1973)
(m. 1976; div. 1993)
Meredith Coffin
(m. 1998)
Children6

William Milton Asher (August 8, 1921 – July 16, 2012) was an American television and film producer, film director, and screenwriter. He was one of the most prolific early television directors, producing or directing over two dozen series.[1]

With television in its infancy, Asher introduced the sitcom Our Miss Brooks, which was adapted from a radio show. He began directing I Love Lucy by 1952. As a result of his early success, Asher was considered an "early wunderkind of TV-land," and was hyperbolically credited in one magazine article with "inventing" the sitcom. In 1964, he began to direct episodes of Bewitched, which starred his wife Elizabeth Montgomery.[2] He produced the series from the fourth season.

Asher was nominated for an Emmy Award four times, winning once for directing Bewitched in 1966. He was also nominated for the DGA Award in 1951 for I Love Lucy.[3]

Early life

Asher was born in New York City to stage actress Lillian Bonner and producer Ephraim M. Asher (1887–1937), whose movie credits were mostly as an associate producer. His sister, Betty Asher, was an MGM publicist for Judy Garland.[4] His father was Jewish and his mother was Catholic.[2] Asher's family moved to Los Angeles when he was around 3, where he often accompanied his father to the movie studio.[5][6]

Asher's parents divorced when he was 11, resulting in a return to New York with his mother. He later recalled that this period of his life was filled with turmoil, because his mother was an abusive alcoholic.[5] As a result of having to live in New York with his mother, he dropped out of school and, after working in the mailroom at Universal Studios in Los Angeles,[6] he joined the Army in 1941. He served in the Army Signal Corps for four years,[2] stationed in Astoria, Queens New York City as a unit photographer.[6]

Career

Asher returned to California to direct Leather Gloves (1948), a low-budget film. He eventually gravitated to television (then a new medium),[7] and gained a job writing short story "fillers" for various programs, which evolved into a series which was titled Little Theatre. From this work, he gained a contract with Columbia Pictures to work on a film musical for Harry Cohn.[5]

From CBS Studios, Asher received an offer to direct Our Miss Brooks, starring Eve Arden, a television version of the radio show. In 1952, Desi Arnaz asked Asher to direct an episode of his series I Love Lucy; by that show's end in 1957, Asher had directed 110 of the series' 179 episodes,[2] Asher later commented that even though the creators knew the show was good, they did not believe it would become an American icon. "When we did the show, we thought, 'That's it, we're done with it.' We never dreamed it would last this long. Lucille Ball, obviously, was one of TV's true pioneers."[8]

Asher was considered an "early wunderkind of TV-land, blazing a path in the new medium" of television.[2] Writer and producer William Froug described Asher as a "hyphenate of a different stripe, a director-producer", commenting that he was one of many "restless Hollywood professionals who, like nomads, drifted from job to job, always delivering competent, if not inspired work".[9]

In addition to Our Miss Brooks and I Love Lucy, Asher directed episodes of The Colgate Comedy Hour, Make Room for Daddy, The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series), The Patty Duke Show, Gidget, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Alice. Asher and Montgomery befriended President John F. Kennedy, and, together with Frank Sinatra, planned Kennedy's 1961 inaugural ceremony.[2]

Asher's best-known work was Bewitched, which he directed regularly over its entire eight-year run, although he was only credited as producer for its last five seasons. At that time, he was married to the show's star Elizabeth Montgomery. They divorced soon after the series' cancellation in 1972.[2][10][11] In 1986, he attempted to return to television, this time, with Fred Whitehead, Orion Television executive to set up Asher/Whitehead Productions, and the only TV project to came out was Kay O'Brien, which was canned after only one season on the air.[12]

Asher also directed a number of theatrical release films, including Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo, and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, for all of which he was also a co-writer. Critic Wheeler Winston Dixon later suggested that the Beach Party films were not only "visions of paradise" for the audience, but also for Asher, who used them "to create a fantasy world to replace his own troubled childhood".[5]

Asher also directed movies made for TV. He later recalled his directorial years:

When I look back at my own work, Bewitched stays with me the most, and Lucy, and the Beach Party pictures. The scripts of the Beach Party films were sheer nonsense, but they were fun and positive. ... When kids see the films now, they can get some idea of what the '60s were like. The whole thing was a dream, of course. But it was a nice dream.[5]

Asher received a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in November 2003.

Personal life

In 1951, Asher married Danny Sue Nolan, with whom he had two children; the couple divorced in 1961. Asher then married Elizabeth Montgomery in 1963, just before Bewitched began its run. They had three children and divorced in 1973. His third marriage was to Joyce Bulifant and it lasted from 1976 to 1993. He adopted her son, actor John Mallory Asher. This marriage also ended in divorce. In his later years, Asher resided in Palm Desert, California, with Meredith Coffin Asher, his fourth and final wife.[13]

Asher counted Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. as his friends, and sometimes, he caroused with them in Las Vegas, flying there from Hollywood in Sinatra's plane, and then flying back in order to be at work at the studio at 5 AM.[6]

Death

Asher died from complications of Alzheimer's disease at age 90 on July 16, 2012.[14]

Television filmography

Year series began TV Series
As director
1950 The Colgate Comedy Hour
1951 Racket Squad
1951 I Love Lucy
1951 The Dinah Shore Show
1952 Our Miss Brooks
1953 Make Room for Daddy
1953 The Ray Bolger Show
1954 Willy
1954 The Lineup
1957 The Thin Man
1958 The Donna Reed Show
1959 Fibber McGee and Molly
1959 The Twilight Zone
1963 The Patty Duke Show
1964 Bewitched
1965 Gidget
1972 Temperatures Rising
1972 The Paul Lynde Show
1976 Alice
1977 Tabitha
1979 The Dukes of Hazzard
1979 Flatbush
1979 The Bad News Bears
1984 Crazy Like a Fox
1986 Kay O'Brien
As producer
1960 The Land of Oz
1963 The Patty Duke Show
1967 Bewitched
1972 Temperatures Rising
1972 The Paul Lynde Show
1980 Here's Boomer
1986 Kay O'Brien
As writer
1973 The Young and the Restless (1988)

Cinema filmography

Year Title Position
1948 Leather Gloves Director
1957 The Shadow on the Window Director
1957 The 27th Day Director
1963 Beach Party Director and co-writer
1963 Johnny Cool Producer and director
1964 Bikini Beach Director and co-writer
1964 Muscle Beach Party Director and co-writer
1965 Beach Blanket Bingo Director and co-writer
1965 How to Stuff a Wild Bikini Director and co-writer
1966 Fireball 500 Director and co-writer
1982 Night Warning Director
1985 Movers & Shakers Co-producer and director

References

  1. ^ Obituary Los Angeles Times. July 18, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Boom, B.W. (January 6, 2006) "William Asher – The Man Who Invented the Sitcom", Palm Springs Life
  3. ^ "Bill Asher, famed 'I Love Lucy' and 'Bewitched' director, dies in Palm Desert" My Desert July 16, 2012
  4. ^ Fleming, E. J. (2005) The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling, and the MGM Publicity Machine, Mcfarland p.193
  5. ^ a b c d e Dixon, Wheeler W. (2005) Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood, Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois Press pp.169-76 ISBN 9780809326549
  6. ^ a b c d Grady, Denise (July 17, 2012) "William Asher, Director of Classic TV Comedies, Dies at 90" The New York Times
  7. ^ "Ashmont" Bob's Bewitching Daughter Archived May 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Karol, Michael (2006) The Comic DNA of Lucille Ball, iUniverse pg.4
  9. ^ Froug, William (2005) How I Escaped from Gilligan's Island: and other Misadventures of a Hollywood Writer-Producer, Popular Press p.230
  10. ^ Berard, Jeanette M. and Corwin, Norman (1990) Television Series and Specials Scripts, 1946–1992, McFarland (2009)
  11. ^ Uncle John's Third Bathroom Reader, p. 145. Bathroom Reader's Institute.
  12. ^ "Asher And Whitehead Set Up On Hollywood-Based Prod. Co". Variety. 1986-08-06. p. 68.
  13. ^ "William Asher, 1921-2012" The Desert Sun. September 22, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  14. ^ "R.I.P. William Asher". Deadline Hollywood. July 16, 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  15. ^ "William Asher" at AFI Catalog