Gilbert Ralston

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Gilbert Ralston
Born Gilbert Alexander Ralston
(1912-01-05)January 5, 1912
Newcastle, Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Died March 18, 1999(1999-03-18) (aged 87)
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, United States
Occupation Screenwriter

Gilbert Alexander Ralston (January 5, 1912–March 18, 1999) was a British-American screenwriter,[1] journalist and author. He was a television producer in the 1950s and a screenwriter in the 1960s. He created the television series The Wild Wild West and wrote scripts for Star Trek, Gunsmoke, Ben Casey, I Spy,[1] Hawaii Five-O, and The Naked City. He wrote the screenplay for the 1971 movie Willard,[2] which was based on the 1968 novel Ratman's Notebooks written by Stephen Gilbert.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Ralston was born in 1912 in Newcastle, Ireland (now Northern Ireland) in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

In the 1950s he worked as a television producer in the United States. In the 1960s, he worked as a television screenwriter, according to the IMDB website. Willard was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1972 for Best Motion Picture.

He died on March 18, 1999, in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, of congestive heart failure.

Television screenwriter[edit]

Ralston was a screenwriter for many of the top television shows in the United States in the 1960s. He wrote the 1967 Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?", which is a line from the 1821 elegiac poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais. He also wrote scripts for Ben Casey, Laredo, I Spy, The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, The Naked City, Combat, Hawaii Five-O, and The Wild Wild West, a series which he also created.

Wild Wild West[edit]

Ralston helped create the television series The Wild Wild West and wrote the pilot episode, "The Night of the Inferno". In 1997, aged 85, Ralston sued Warner Brothers over the upcoming motion picture based on the series. (Wild Wild West was released in 1999.) In a deposition, Ralston explained that in 1964 he was approached by producer Michael Garrison who '"said he had an idea for a series, good commercial idea, and wanted to know if I could glue the idea of a western hero and a James Bond type together in the same show."[3]

Ralston said he then created the Civil War characters, the format, the story outline and nine drafts of the script that was the basis for the television series. It was his idea, for example, to have a secret agent named Jim West who would perform secret missions for President Ulysses S. Grant.

Ralston's experience brought to light a common Hollywood practice of the 1950s and 60s when television writers who helped create popular series allowed producers or studios to take credit for a show, thus depriving the writers of any royalties.

Outcome of court case[edit]

Ralston died in 1999, before his suit was settled. Warner Brothers ended-up paying Ralston's family between $600,000 and $1.5 million.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Gilbert Ralston". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (June 19, 1971). "Willard (1971) Screen: Affinity for Rats:Davison Plays Lead in Horror Film 'Willard'". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ The New York Times, 8 July 1999
  4. ^ The Wall Street Journal, 15 July 2005

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