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William T. Orr
Born September 27, 1917(1917-09-27)
New York City
Died December 25, 2002 (aged 85)
Los Angeles
Occupation film and television producer
actor
Years active 1930s—1970s
Spouse(s) Joy Page (1945—1970)

William T. Orr (September 27, 1917 - December 25, 2002) was an American television producer associated with a series of western and detective programs of the 1950s-1970s.

Orr began his career as an actor; his film credits included The Mortal Storm, The Gay Sisters, and The Big Street.

As the first head of Warner Brothers Television department, Orr forged a fruitful alliance with ABC, which resulted in the network having a number of prime time hits, such as Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, and F Troop. At the height of this relationship in the early 1960s, Orr had nine programs in prime time simultaneously.[1]

Of these, though, no program was more significant than one of his earliest, Cheyenne. It was a groundbreaking series that was both the first hour-long western and the first series of any kind made by a major Hollywood film studio comprised entirely of content wholly exclusive to television.

A curator at the Museum of Television and Radio once encapsulated Orr's importance to Warner Brothers by saying, "Television began as a step-child. But because of Orr, it became equal with film in creating revenue and jobs for the studio."[2] One of the key reforms he made to effect this change was to move Warner's nascent television department from cramped quarters in New York City to Los Angeles studios separate from the film division.[3]

His impact on the genre of western fiction was recognized with a Golden Boot Award upon the announcement of his death.

Despite broadly positive posthumous recognition for his work as a whole, Orr did receive negative press during the height of his career. Time Magazine characterized Orr and Jack Warner as a co-architects of unfair contracts during late-1950s pay disputes waged by Warner Brothers star television actors Clint Walker, James Garner, and Edd Byrnes.[4]

In 1963, Jack Webb replaced Orr as executive producer of ABC's 77 Sunset Strip detective series. Webb completely changed the format and retained only Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., in the role of Stuart Bailey. The revision was a disaster, and the program was cancelled even prior to the end of the sixth season.

Orr married Jack Warner's stepdaughter Joy Page in 1945. The couple divorced in 1970. Their son Gregory is a writer and producer.

External links

References

  1. ^ IMDB bio, written by his son.
  2. ^ The view of MoTR curator, Ron Simon.
  3. ^ http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Quirks/2002/12/27/people/2957/ Daily, Dennis. "TV Producer William Orr Dies". United Press International. 27 December 2002.
  4. ^ http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,826002,00.html?promoid=googlep "'Unhappy People'—with Spurs". Time Magazine. 30 November 1959.
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