William T. Orr
|William T. Orr|
September 27, 1917|
New York City, U.S.
|Died||December 25, 2002
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)|
|Occupation||film and television producer
|Spouse(s)||Joy Page (1945–1970)|
|Awards||Golden Boot Award, 2002|
As the first head of Warner Bros. 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.
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 consisting entirely of content wholly exclusive to television.
A curator at the Paley Center for Media, previously called The Museum of Television and Radio once encapsulated Orr's importance to Warner Bros. 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." 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.
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 co-architects of unfair contracts during late-1950s pay disputes waged by Warner Bros. star television actors Clint Walker, James Garner, and Edd Byrnes.
In 1963, towards the end of the 5th season, Jack Webb replaced Orr as executive producer of ABC's 77 Sunset Strip detective series. For the 6th season, Webb completely changed the theme song and 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 was hired by Frank Sinatra's Essex Productions.
An elementary school and street in Norwalk, California, are named for him.
- IMDB bio, written by his son.
- The view of MoTR curator, Ron Simon.
- http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Quirks/2002/12/27/people/2957/ Daily, Dennis. "TV Producer William Orr Dies". United Press International. 27 December 2002.
- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,826002,00.html?promoid=googlep "'Unhappy People'—with Spurs". Time Magazine. 30 November 1959.
- William T. Orr at Find a Grave
- Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
- William T. Orr at the Internet Movie Database
- Classic TV Archive listing of Orr's western and comedy series with Warner Brothers
- Roy Huggins touches on Bill Orr in Archive of American Television interview
- James Garner touches on Bill Orr in Archive of American Television interview