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Herbert Finn, 89; Wrote for Bob Hope, Classic Sitcoms

June 08, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Herbert Finn, 89, who wrote for such classic sitcoms as "The Honeymooners" and "Gilligan's Island," died May 28 of respiratory failure at Providence St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank. He was a longtime resident of Studio City.

The Boston native began his career in radio as a contributor to "Amos 'n' Andy," "Duffy's Tavern" and other shows. He worked alongside a young Neil Simon, whom he advised to "get out of writing and earn a real living!"

In TV, he wrote for Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, as well as for "The Flintstones," "Dennis the Menace, "The Garry Moore Show" and "The Brady Bunch."

On "The Honeymooners," Finn was a member of a three-person writing group that alternated with other writers, producing scripts every other week for the sitcom starring Jackie Gleason.

In an article he wrote for "On Cable" magazine in 1985, when 75 lost episodes from the 1950s were shown on Showtime, Finn said that Gleason was generous with his writers, who appreciated his unerring sense of comedy.

"Jackie Gleason was by far the best sketch man I ever saw," Finn wrote. "You could put Milton Berle or Jack Benny in sketches, but they were really just playing themselves. When Gleason did a sketch, he became the character he was portraying."

In 1985, Finn won a Mobil playwriting award for an Irish comedy called "The Almoster." Finn, who received the award at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England, had never set foot in Ireland. It was his first play.

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