MINER, WORTHINGTON

U.S. Producer/Director

Worthington Miner had an outstanding career in both the theatre and television, as well as working for a brief period as a producer of feature films. At the age of thirty-nine, Miner abandoned his successful career as a theatre director to enter the fledgling television industry, becoming General Director of Television at CBS on 28 August 1939. His work in television has been recognized by his contemporaries and followers as crucial in creating the foundations of television as we know it today.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed limited commercial television broadcasting to begin in July 1941, despite the outbreak of war and legal battles over technical issues related to a color system which had delayed the introduction of television in the United States. For the first ten weeks, Miner produced and directed the entire fifteen hour weekly schedule at CBS, and eight to ten hours a week thereafter, until the war forced live television off the air again in late 1942.

It was not until the regular schedule returned in 1948 that Miner developed his first major success, The Toast of the Town, emceed by Ed Sullivan. This program, later under the title The Ed Sullivan Show, went on to run for twenty-three seasons. It was followed closely by the much-acclaimed Studio One, which Miner produced and often wrote for and directed as well. He also produced The Goldbergs and the award-winning children's program Mr. I. Magination, both well-known examples of the "golden age" of television.

It has been said by insiders that the real "Mr. Television" was not Milton Berle (as he was called in the 1950s), but Worthington Miner. This judgment stems primarily from Miner's development of the basic techniques used in television. In addition to being a major creative force as a writer, producer and director, Miner is credited with establishing the crew positions and production responsibilities for those positions that are still in use in television today. Working in what was virtually an untried medium, Miner, drawing on his technical and operational experience in the theatre, developed new staging practices and created camera techniques that exploited the limited technical and financial resources available to television during its earliest stages of growth.

In contrast to his famed producer counterpart Fred Coe at NBC, who sought to develop a stable of television writers, Miner concentrated on the technical and aesthetic problems of mounting and broadcasting a production, particularly from a directorial point of view. In the process, he discovered what became known as "Miner's Laws," which were adopted by directors throughout the television industry. He fostered the directing talents of such luminaries as Franklin Schaffner, George Roy Hill, Sidney Lumet, and Arthur Penn, all of whom went on to achieve fame in television and other media.

In 1952, as a result of a contract dispute, Miner left CBS for NBC. His hopes for achievements there were dashed with the firing of creative head Pat Weaver, and Miner languished under NBC's employ. Despite producing two series, Medic and Frontier, and a few stunning successes with the drama anthology Play of the Week (most notably Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh), Miner left television in 1959. disappointed with the direction the medium had taken by that time.

Miner's achievements in television cannot be overestimated. He did not change the face of television; he created it. No one in his time had an equal grasp of both the creative and technical dimensions of the television medium. Many, if not all, of his ideas remain in use today, warranting the claim that Miner was a true television pioneer.

-Kevin Dowler

 

WORTHINGTON MINER. Born in Buffalo, New York, U.S.A., 13 November 1900. Educated at Kent School in Connecticut; Yale University, 1922, Cambridge, 1922-24. Married: Frances Fuller; children: Peter, Margaret, and Mary Elizabeth. Served in Army during World War I with the 16th Field Artillery, 4th Division, served in Army of occupation in Germany, 1918-1919. Faculty of English department at Yale, 1924; acted in stage plays, 1925; assistant to producers of Broadway plays, 1925-29; directed plays, 1929-1939; writer and director, RKO Radio Pictures, 1933-34; program development department, CBS, 1939-42; manager, CBS television department, 1942-52; worked for NBC, from 1952; left NBC to become a freelance producer; worked in motion pictures. Died in New York City, 11 December 1982.

FURTHER READING

Hawes, William. The American Television Drama: The Experimental Years. University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1986.

Kindem, Gorham, editor. The Live Television Generation of Hollywood Film Directors: Interviews with Seven Directors. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1994.

Skutch, Ira. Ira Skutch: I Remember Television: A Memoir. Foreword by Delbert Mann. Hollywood, California: Directors Guild of America; Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1989.

Stemple, Tom. Storytellers to the Nation: A History of American Television Writing. New York: Continuum, 1992.

Sturcken, Frank. Live Television: The Golden Age of 1946-1958 in New York. Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland, 1990.

Wicking, Christopher, and Tise Vahimagi. The American Vein: Directors and Directions in Television. New York: Dutton, 1979.

Wilk, Max. The Golden Age of Television: Notes From the Survivors. New York: Dell, 1977.

Worthington Miner--Interviewed By Franklin J. Schaffner. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1985.

 

See also Anthology Drama; Ed Sullivan Show; Goldbergs; Golden Age of Television; Medic; Schaffner, Franklin