George Kirgo

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George Kirgo
George Kirgo book cover (cropped) with picture.jpg
George Kirgo, as photographed by Elliott Erwitt, on the cover of his second book, published at the height of the author's early sixties celebrity.
Born George Blumenthal [1]
(1926-03-26)March 26, 1926
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Died August 22, 2004(2004-08-22) (aged 78)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.[2]
Occupation Screenwriter, author
Years active 1954–2001

George Kirgo (born George Blumenthal, March 26, 1926 – August 22, 2004) was an American screenwriter, author and humorist.

Early life[edit]

Kirgo was born George Blumenthal in Hartford, Connecticut, the middle child of three born to Russian immigrants Isadore and Anna Blumenthal.[3] While attending Hartford Public High School,[1] he worked as a movie usher and as a reporter for The Hartford Times;[4] graduating in 1943, he was dubbed "the Orson Welles of HPHS" by his high school yearbook.[1]

In April 1944, while attending Wesleyan University, Blumenthal enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve,[5] eventually serving in the USAAF [2] during the final few months of World War II, in the South Pacific and Japan.[4] It was sometime after his return, but prior to his brief emergence in the early 1950s as a small book seller and publisher, that Blumenthal became George Kirgo,[6][7][8] officially adopting his erstwhile nickname.[1]

Career[edit]

A screenwriter since 1954, Kirgo's many credits encompass a wide variety of TV series, ranging from Kraft Suspense Theatre to The New People, from Run for Your Life to Room 222, from Mary Tyler Moore to My Mother the Car to The Feather and Father Gang. He scripted or co-scripted such feature films as Red Line 7000, Spinout, Don't Make Waves, and Voices, as well as TV movies such as Get Christie Love!, The Man in the Santa Claus Suit, and the American Playhouse production, My Palikari. He was a producer for the short-lived 1978 situation comedy Another Day.

Kirgo also appeared onscreen on occasion, primarily in the early 1960s, with a flurry of talk and game show appearances between 1959 and 1964. The first of these came shortly after the publication of his first book, the comic novel Hercules, the Big Greek Story. Some glowing notices notwithstanding,[9][10][11] not much notice was paid; nonetheless, the book impressed Tonight Show host Jack Paar sufficiently to secure Kirgo a guest spot;[a] the ensuing appearance sufficed to earn the fledgling novelist several such invitations over the next two seasons.[2][4] During this period, Kirgo published his second book, similarly satirical in nature, though this time non-fiction.[4] On January 2, 1962, Kirgo made his daytime TV debut as one of the regular panelists, alongside Dennis James, on Monty Hall's new game show, Your First Impression.[13][14]

By mid-1964, the show was cancelled, but writing assignments, for both big screen and small, quickly filled the void. From that point on, for more than two decades, Kirgo's screen appearances were confined to bit roles in a handful of TV shows and one feature film, The Best Man, a political drama scripted by Gore Vidal, in which Kirgo's character interacts, albeit briefly, with the President of the United States, portrayed by Henry Fonda.[b] It would be the early 1980s before Kirgo's writing workload lessened, and it was not until 1987 that he was briefly resurrected as an on-air personality, the TV/movie critic for The Morning Program, CBS's ill-fated alternative to ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today.[17][18]

From 1987 to 1991, Kirgo was president of the Writers Guild of America, West, most notably during the contentious 150-day-long strike over compensation from home video sales, which took place between March and August 1988.[19] He also served as vice president of the Writers Guild Foundation between 1995 and 2001.[20] In addition, Kirgo helped script the WGAW's Annual Awards show from 1979 through 1998, and from 1991 through 2001, he produced it.[21]

In 1988, Kirgo received PEN Center USA's president's award,[22] and, in 2001, the WGAW's Morgan Cox Award, for his years of service to the Guild.[23] Kirgo was also a founding member of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress.[24]

Death[edit]

In 2004, following a long illness, Kirgo died at age 78, having lost his wife of 38 years (and mother of his three children), Terry Newell, nearly two decades earlier. He was survived by his second wife, Angela Wales, then director of the Writers Guild Foundation (previously executive director of the Australian Writers Guild), and three children from his first marriage – screenwriters/producers Dinah Kirgo and Julie Kirgo, and musician-songwriter Nick Kirgo.[24] In addition, Kirgo left behind a stepson, Alec Perrin, his sister Rita Lapp, four grandchildren,[2] a niece, Tyne Daly, and a nephew, Tim Daly.[20]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Well before Paar's revelation, an equally notable head had been turned. In the summer of 1958, theatrical producer David Merrick discerned in Kirgo's under-exposed Hollywood satire the seeds of a hit Broadway musical. News reports notwithstanding, nothing seems to have come of these plans.[12]
  2. ^ At least in in the case of The Best Man, Kirgo appears to have improvised his own dialogue.[15][16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Vasquez, Enid. "Hartford Public's Class of' 43 Returns for Updated Fun". The Hartford Courant. October 30, 1983. "Blumenthal, who formally took his nickname and is George Kirgo, a movie and television scriptwriter in Los Angeles, updated the class 'History, Prophecy, Will' - a high school tradition in those days [...] "I think everybody expected Kirgo to be doing the kind of things he's doing,' said [John C.] Lennoff" [then vice president of financial affairs at Connecticut Public Broadcasting] [...] His class yearbook called him the 'Orson Welles of HPHS.'" Retrieved 2014-02-09 via ProQuest.
  2. ^ a b c d Oliver, Myrna. "George Kirgo, 78; Led '88 Writers Strike Against Studios". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
  3. ^ George Blumenthal in household of Isadore Blumenthal, "United States Census, 1930". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2014-02-08
  4. ^ a b c d "Nothing Succeeds Like Failure, Kirgo Claims". The Binghamton Press. February 10, 1962. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  5. ^ George Blumenthal, "United States World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  6. ^ Search results for "Kirgo Books". Worldcat. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
  7. ^ "Register of the Witter Bynner Letters to George Kirgo, 1949-1953"
  8. ^ Olson, Charles (1985). "Notes". Charles Olson & Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence, Volume 6. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press. p. 337. ISBN 0-87685-585-0.
  9. ^ Stone, Leonard W.. "Subtle Satire". The Hartford Courant. June 15, 1958. "Funny, funny, funny! [...] Kirgo tells his story with the spice of a Balzac and the zany atmosphere that the best comedians in Hollywood would find difficult to reproduce. Kirgo's is a subtle type of humor for the most part. Yet more often than not, he hits you smack on the funny bone and you find yourself laughing aloud." Retrieved 2014-02-06 via Proquest.
  10. ^ Hirsch, Robert R.. "The Marxman Hits Humor Bull's-eye". The Los Angeles Times. July 13, 1958. "Any resemblance between this novel and what goes on in Hollywood is purely the figment of a press agent's imagination but it is genuinely funny in the Rabelaisian tradition." Retrieved 2014-02-06 via Proquest.
  11. ^ Geller, Leon "Something Personal: 'The Big Greek Story'". The Sydney Morning Herald. October 18, 1958. Retrieved 2014-02-06.
  12. ^ Walker, Danton. "Broadway". The Reading Eagle. October 16, 1958. "David Merrick scheduling George Kirgo's "Hercules - The Big Greek Story" for a Broadway musical." Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  13. ^ Danzig, Fred. "Emotional Striptease Popular, Writer Reports". The Reading Eagle. January 3, 1962. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  14. ^ Connolly, Mike. "Mike Connolly in Hollywood". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 7, 1962. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
  15. ^ Kael, Pauline (1982, 1984, 1991). "The Best Man (1964)". 5001 Nights at the Movies. New York: Henry Holt & Company. p. 65. ISBN 9780805013672.
  16. ^ Email correspondence with Julie Kirgo. Retrieved 2014-02-04. "[W]hile I'd love to award my Dad a truckload of posthumous credits, in all honesty, I can't confirm any of these...except for THE BEST MAN, where his ad-libbed lines really can't be considered "writing"--and believe me, he'd say so himself!"
  17. ^ "CBS Unveils 'Morning' Plans". The Philadelphia Inquirer. December 17, 1986. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
  18. ^ Champlin, Charles. "'Morning' at CBS: Hold the Toasts". The Los Angeles Times. February 5, 1987. Retrieved 2014-02-05.
  19. ^ Horn, John. "Striking Writers Reach Agreement". The Gettysburg Times. August 4, 1988. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
  20. ^ a b Royal, Susan. "Writers Guild Hands Out Honors". Indie Film Online. 2001. Retrieved 2014-02-09.
  21. ^ Scott, Gabriel. "WGAW News & Events: George Kirgo Dies". WGAW. August 23, 2004. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
  22. ^ "PEN Will Honor 10 Writers at Banquet Scheduled Tonight". The Los Angeles Times. September 30, 1998. Retrieved 2014-02-09.
  23. ^ "Previous Morgan Cox Award Recipients". WGA. Retrieved 2014-02-09.
  24. ^ a b McNary, Dave. "Wx-WGA prexy Kirgo dies; Guild mainstay a screenwriter, TV scribe since '54". Variety. August 22, 2004. Retrieved 2014-02-04.

Further reading[edit]

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