MARTIN, QUINN

U.S. Producer

Quinn Martin, among the most prolific and consistent television producers, helped to create and control some of television's most successful and popular series from the 1950s through the 1970s. At various times in the 1960s and 1970s, Martin simultaneously had as many as four series on various networks.

Martin's early television career consisted of writing and producing for many shows at Ziv Studios and at Desilu where he was given the production chores for the Desilu Playhouse production of the two-hour television movie, "The Untouchables," which served as the basis for the series. Under Martin, The Untouchables became a huge hit for ABC. Martin left after the first two seasons to form his own production company, QM Productions. The first series from QM, The New Breed, was unusual in that it was unsuccessful. But during the years at Desilu and during the first years of QM, Martin surrounded himself with a cadre of writers, directors, and producers who would later ably serve him when he was juggling the production schedules of several series. Alan Armer, George Eckstein, Walter Grauman, and John Conwell are but a few of the names to appear again and again in the credits of QM productions.

QM and Martin entered into an era of considerable success during the 1960s. Among the shows to come from QM during this period was The Fugitive, Twelve O'Clock High, The F.B.I., and The Invaders, all broadcast on ABC. Indeed, the relationship between QM and ABC was enormously beneficial to both, despite repeated charges that both the production company and the network rode to their mutual successes upon a wave of violent programming begun with The Untouchables and continuing as a central stylistic feature in QM programs.

It was also during this period that two aspects of Quinn Martin's approach to television production emerged. First was the QM segmented program format: a teaser; an expository introduction which often employed the convention of a narrator; a body broken into Acts I, II, III, and IV; and an epilogue, again using an off-screen narrator to explain or offer insight into the preceding action. So recognizable did this convention become that it was parodied in the 1982 sitcom, Police Squad. Second, Martin compartmentalized his productions. This was done not only out of necessity resulting from the volume of television being produced by the company but also because of the trusted individuals with whom Martin populated QM. At QM, the writers, producers, and post-production supervisors had very well-defined tasks and would rarely stray beyond the parameters established by Martin. John Conwell, casting director and assistant to Martin for years, often referred to Martin as "Big Daddy" because of his paternalistic approach to production.

Additionally, as Cooper reports, Alan Armer credited Martin with changing the face of the telefilm by moving from the soundstage to the outdoors and by ensuring authenticity by employing night-for-night shooting, as described in, The Fugitive. Too often producers would save a few dollars by simply darkening film footage shot during the day to simulate night time. Not Quinn Martin. He made money and he spent money. In 1965, Television Magazine, quoted Martin as saying that the 10% he would have paid an agent (if he had retained one) was simply rolled back into production.

The success of QM and of Martin continued well into the 1970s. Preeminent and longest running among the QM shows of this era were The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, and Barnaby Jones, itself a spin-off of Cannon. Martin had at least a half dozen other series in prime time during the 1970s. During this period virtually every QM show dealt with law enforcement and crime.

Since the first days of The Untouchables Martin had been criticized for using excessive violence in his productions. A new criticism was now mounted against Martin's work because of the subject matter. Critics claimed that Martin's shows enforced the dominant ideology of the inherent value of law and order. They suggested that the bulk of Martin's work legitimized a right-wing, conservative agenda. As Newcomb and Alley indicated in The Producer's Medium, Martin openly acknowledged his fondness for authority and his positive presentation of institutions of police powers--individual, state, and federal.

Martin sold QM Productions to Taft Broadcasting around 1978. Part of the agreement was for Martin to leave television production for five years and not to compete with Taft. Martin became an adjunct professor at Warren College of the University of California, San Diego. In the late 1980s Martin headed QM Communications in order to develop motion pictures for Warner Bros. He died in 1987 leaving behind a production legacy of 17 network series, 20 made-for-television movies, and a feature film, The Mephisto Waltz. No one has yet surpassed his streak of 21 years with a show in prime time.

-John Cooper

 


Quinn Martin
Photo courtesy of Broadcasting and Cable

QUINN MARTIN. Born Martin Cohn. Born in New York City, New York, U.S.A., 22 May 1922. Educated at University of California, Berkeley, B.A. 1949. Married: 1) Madylon Pugh, 1958; child: Michael; 2) Muffet Webb, 1961; children: Jill and Cliff. Served in U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Began career as apprentice editor for MGM; worked as film editor, writer, and head of post-production for various studios, including Universal, 1950-54; writer and executive producer of Desilu Productions' Jane Wyman Show, The Desilu Playhouse, and The Untouchables, 1957-59; founder, president, and chief executive officer, QM Production, 1960-78; sold QM Productions to Taft Broadcasting, 1978; chair of the board, Quinn Martin Films; president, the Quinn Martin Communications Group, 1982-87; adjunct professor of drama, and in 1983 endowed the Quinn Martin Chair of Drama, Warren College, University of California, San Diego; president, Del Mar Fair Board, with jurisdiction over Del Mar Race Track, 1983-84; president, La Jolla Playhouse, California, 1985-86. Trustee: Buckley School, North Hollywood, California; La Jolla R Playhouse. Recipient: TV Guide Award, 1963-64; Emmy Award, 1964. Died, in Rancho Santa Fe, California, 6 September 1987.

TELEVISION SERIES

1957 The Jane Wyman Show (writer)
1958 The Desilu Playhouse (writer)
1959-63 The Untouchables
1961-62 The New Breed
1963-67 The Fugitive
1964-67 12 O'Clock High
1965-74 The FBI (producer)
1967-68 The Invaders
1970-71 Dan August
1971-76 Cannon, The Manhunter
1972-73 Banyon
1972-77 The Streets of San Francisco
1973-80 Barnaby Jones
1974 Nakia
1974-75 The Manhunter
1975 Caribe
1976 Bert D'Angelo/Superstar
1976-77 Most Wanted
1977 Tales of the Unexpected

MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIES (selection)

1970 House on Greenapple Road
1971 Face of Fear
1971 Incident in San Francisco
1974 Murder or Mercy
1974 Attack on the 5:22
1975 The Abduction of St. Anne
1975 Home of our Own
1975 Attack on Terror
1976 Brinks: The Great Robbery
1978 Standing Tall

FILM

The Mephisto Waltz, 1971.

FURTHER READING

Barnouw, Erik. Tube of Plenty. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975; revised edition, 1990.

Cooper, John. The Fugitive: A Complete Episode Guide, 1963-1967. Popular Culture Ink, 1994.

Marc, David and Robert J. Thompson. Prime Time, Prime Movers New York: Little, Brown, 1992.

Newcomb, Horace, and Robert S. Alley. The Producer's Medium: Conversations with Creators of American TV. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Robertson, Ed. The Fugitive Recaptured. Los Angeles: Pomegranate, 1993.

 

See also Arnaz, Desi; FBI; Fugitive; Producer in Television; Untouchables; Westinghouse-Desilu Playhouse