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OBITUARIES : Oliver K. Crawford, 1917 - 2008

Television writer overcame 1950s blacklisting

September 30, 2008|From the Associated Press

Oliver Kaufman Crawford, who overcame the blacklist of the 1950s to become one of television's most successful writers, has died. He was 91.

Crawford, who wrote for such shows as "Star Trek," "Bonanza," "Perry Mason" and "Kraft Television Theatre," died Wednesday in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia, his daughter Vicki Crawford told the Associated Press.

Crawford was just beginning to launch a successful writing career in Hollywood and had landed a two-picture deal when he was contacted in 1953 by the House Un-American Activities Committee, then looking into allegations of Communist influence in the entertainment industry. He was blacklisted after refusing to reveal names of suspected Communists, his daughter said.

"People have often said, 'How could the blacklist happen?' But it's amazing what can happen, what form intolerance can take," Crawford said in a statement posted with his listing on the Internet Movie Database, imdb.com.

He estimated that only about 10% of blacklisted writers from that era managed to return to their professions.

After being blacklisted, Crawford moved to New York, where he took a variety of jobs to make ends meet over the next several years, his daughter said. At one point he designed window displays for major department stores and at another he stayed home and watched his children while his wife worked.

He got back into the business after a friend, actor Sam Levene, helped him land a job as a writer for "Playhouse 90."

His career flourished in the 1960s as he wrote for such popular shows as "Rawhide," "Lawman," "The Rifleman," "Ben Casey" "The Outer Limits" and "I Spy." Still other credits were for "Gilligan's Island," "The Big Valley," "The Wild Wild West" and "The Fugitive."

He remained busy throughout the 1970s, writing for "Mannix," "Kojak," "Ironside," "Love, American Style," "The Bionic Woman" and other shows.

He also served as an associate professor of filmmaking at Loyola Marymount University.

Crawford was born in Chicago on Aug. 12, 1917. After graduating from high school, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Goodman Theater, where his classmates included Karl Malden and Sam Wanamaker.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a son, Kenny Crawford; another daughter, Jo Crawford; a sister, Gladys Palast; and a brother, Ernest Kaufman. He was preceded in death by his wife, Bert.

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