Talent Associates, Ltd. (also known as Talent Associates-Paramount, Ltd. and Talent Associates-Norton Simon, Inc.), was a production company headed by David Susskind, later joined by Daniel Melnick, Leonard Stern and Ron Gilbert.
In the years after World War II, Susskind was a talent agent for Century Artists, ultimately ending up in the powerhouse Music Corporation of America's fairly newly minted television program department, managing Dinah Shore, Jerry Lewis, and others. He then went to New York and formed Talent Associates, representing creators of material rather than performers. Susskind converted Talent Associates into a packaging company for new programs in 1952.
Golden Age television
Talent Associates produced some of the classic series of the Golden Age of Television, such as the Wally Cox comedy Mr. Peepers, the anthology teleplay series The Goodyear Television Playhouse/The Philco Television Playhouse and Armstrong Circle Theatre. In 1953-54, Talent Associates produced Jamie starring a young Brandon deWilde, fresh off his success in George Stevens' Shane (1953), for ABC. De Wilde together with veteran character actor Ernest Truex, told the story of aging Grandpa McHummer striking a bond with young Jamie, his recently orphaned grandson.
Talent Associates was structured like a small, family-run firm; Susskind deliberately chose young and inexperienced associates, many of them women, who would learn on the job.
Susskind began to branch out, putting together Broadway shows (“Mr. Lincoln”) and feature films (A Raisin in the Sun). In 1958, Susskind became the host of Open End, one of the first major TV talk shows. By 1963, Susskind had a reputation as a maverick, one of the last producers willing to stand up to the ever more powerful TV networks; his East Side/West Side, a hard-hitting dramatic series starring George C. Scott, began on CBS in 1963 and won fairly high critical praise.
East Side/West Side
In an era where race relations was a volatile subject in the United States, East Side/West Side featured Cicely Tyson in one of the first major regular roles for an African-American actress in a primetime drama, and the series dealt a few times with issues facing African-Americans, as well as other urban issues such as drug addiction and abortion, leading to some affiliates in Southern states not clearing the program. East Side/West Side also had trouble attracting advertisers. The drama was canceled by CBS after only one season, due also in large part with CBS programming head James Aubrey's discomfort with the socially conscious subject matter, as well as Aubrey's conflicts with Scott and Susskind over the direction of the series.
After East Side/West Side, Talent Associates continued in television and motion picture projects, winning more than 20 Emmy awards as the 1960s and 1970s progressed; one of its most enduring legacies was the sitcom Get Smart, a spoof of the then-popular secret agent genre, which premiered in 1965 on NBC and starred Don Adams and Barbara Feldon; it spawned sequels, reunion shows and even major Hollywood feature films decades after its premiere.
Talent Associates also had a record division which released a total of only 4 LP titles. The soft rock duo Seals and Crofts were signed to TA Records in 1969. After releasing two albums on TA which received little attention the group moved to Warner Bros. Records in 1971 where they recorded a string of hit albums and singles during the mid-1970s. Another TA Records group, The Original Caste, reached #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with the original recording of One Tin Soldier in 1970.
In August 1968, Talent Associates was acquired by industrialist Norton Simon. The company became known as Talent Associates-Norton Simon, Inc. until 1974, when Susskind and Gilbert bought the company back from Norton Simon. In 1977, the company was sold to Time-Life Films. Time Warner's HBO currently owns the copyrights to the Talent Associates library, with TV distribution rights handled by CBS Television Distribution. There are a few exceptions—for instance, McMillan & Wife is owned by Universal Television, which co-produced the show with Talent Associates.