July 18, 1914|
Littell, Washington, US
|Died||April 3, 2002
Santa Monica, California, US
Roy Huggins (July 18, 1914 – April 3, 2002), pen name John Thomas James, was an American novelist and an influential writer/creator and producer of character-driven television series, including Maverick, The Fugitive, and The Rockford Files.
Education and pre-Hollywood employment
Huggins was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles, 1935-41. After graduation, he worked as a special representative of the U.S. Civil Service, 1941–43, and later as an industrial engineer, 1943-46.
Novels and television series
Huggins' novels include The Double Take (1946), Too Late for Tears (1947) and Lovely Lady, Pity Me (1949).
When Columbia Pictures purchased the rights to Huggins' novel The Double Take in 1948, Huggins signed a contract with the studio to adapt the script into the movie I Love Trouble. From here he entered the movie industry, working as a contract writer at Columbia and RKO Pictures. In 1952, he wrote and directed the film Hangman's Knot, a Randolph Scott western. Afterwards, he worked as a staff writer at Columbia until 1955.
Huggins moved to television in April 1955, when Warner Brothers hired him as a producer. He is best known as the creator of long-running shows such as Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Fugitive, all on ABC.
Huggins left Warner Brothers and in October 1960 became the vice-president in charge of television production at 20th Century-Fox. Once Huggins moved into an executive role, he generally used pseudonyms on stories or teleplays he created for episodic television, usually only taking credit under his real name for producing and/or creating a show. In the early 1960s, when writing for TV, Huggins alternated between the pseudonyms Thomas Fitzroy and John Francis O'Mara, generally maintaining a policy of using one pseudonym and then the other, in strict rotation from one script to the next. These pen-names were partly derived from the names of the eldest two sons from his second marriage (to Adele Mara).
In the 1961-1962 season, Huggins created Bus Stop, an ABC drama based loosely on William Inge's play of the same name, with Marilyn Maxwell in the role of Grace Sherwood, owner of the bus station and diner in fictitious Sunrise, Colorado.
In 1963, Huggins took a job as a vice president in the television division at Universal, where he spent the next 18 years. At Universal, he co-created The Rockford Files and produced The Virginian, Alias Smith and Jones and Baretta, among other series. Beginning in the late 1960s, Huggins phased out his other pen-names and began using the pseudonym John Thomas James for virtually all of his television scriptwriting, usually on the shows he was producing. The name was a composite of the names of all three of his sons from his second marriage.
Huggins worked in TV through the 1980s, and served for three years as the executive producer of Hunter. Stephen J. Cannell said of Huggins' time on Hunter: "Roy was in the driver's seat where he belonged. Nobody does it better or with more style...Roy Huggins is my Godfather, my Hero and my Friend. They don't come any better."
A member of the Communist Party USA until the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, Huggins appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, where he named 19 former comrades who had already been named before the Committee.
Huggins was married to artist Bonnie Porter and later to actress Adele Mara.
'The Huggins Contract'
At Warner Brothers television, Huggins was repeatedly denied credit and compensation as the creator of several television programs. A Warner-owned property was used as the basis of the script for the first broadcast episode of Maverick, substituted for the actual pilot, which was run second in order to cheat Huggins out of his creator residuals. Perhaps most famously, Jack Warner deliberately had the pilot to 77 Sunset Strip screened briefly at movie theatres in the Caribbean in order to legally establish that the television series derived from a film, rather than, as was actually the case, several books and novellas Huggins had written in the 1940s. Since these were not the only occasions on which Warner had found a way to circumvent Huggins' creative rights, he left the studio soon thereafter.
Following this experience, he increasingly demanded ownership of all television concepts he authored. By the mid-1960s, he had distilled this demand into a standard part of all contracts into which he entered.
I was getting paid my royalty and my fee whether I did the show or not. If I conceived the show, and got it on the air, anyone could produce it and I would still get paid just as if I was doing it . . . That became known as "the Huggins Contract". Every producer in television would say 'I want the Huggins contract', and some of them got it.—Roy Huggins, interview with the Archive of American Television, July 21, 1998
A notable early example of a show created under 'the Huggins Contract' was The Fugitive. Not only was the production carried out by Quinn Martin, but he only gave limited television rights to United Artists Television. He reserved other rights, such as those he would later exercise to allow for a 1993 film.
- "Roy Huggins, Creator of Hits In TV's First Years, Dies at 87". The New York Times. 6 April 2002.
- thrillingdetective.com Obituary
- Pierce, J. Kingston. "The Book You Have to Read: 'The Double Take,' by Roy Huggins." The Rap Sheet, January 9, 2009.
- Stephen J. Cannell obituary of Roy Huggins.
- Huggins interview at American Archive of Television.
- Stephen J. Cannell's Archive of American Television explanation of Huggins' approach
- Roy Huggins Biography at The Museum of Broadcast Communications
- Thrilling Detective
- The Caucus for Television Producers, Writers & Directors
- Roy Huggins at the Internet Movie Database
- Roy Huggins interview video at the Archive of American Television