Devery Freeman

TV and film writer

TV and film writer Devery Freeman died Oct. 7 in Los Angeles of complications from open heart surgery earlier this year. He was 92.

Services will be held at Mount Sinai Memorial Park at noon on Wednesday, October 12.

Freeman was one of the earliest activists in the Screen Writers Guild (now the Writers Guild of America) and participated in the guild’s first negotiation with the studios during which the guild won the right to exclusively determine writing credits. He was instrumental in the 1954 reorganization that created the Writers Guild of America.

Born in Brooklyn, he was a writer during television’s Golden Age, writing for “Playhouse 90,” “CBS Climax,” and “Desilu Playhouse.”

He received the Writers Guild Award for television drama in 1957 for his teleplay, “The Great American Hoax” (story by Paddy Chayefsky), as well as a nomination in 1958 for the motion picture, “The Girl Most Likely” (co-written with Paul Jarrico, with a story by Jarrico), a musical starring Jane Powell. He wrote and produced several television series, including “The Thin Man,” “The Ann Sothern Show,” “The Loretta Young Show,” and “Pete and Gladys,” and was appreciated as a producer who could take on a flagging series and turn it around. He created the TV western series, “Sugarfoot.”

He was a writer of some 20 motion pictures, including: “Main Street Lawyer,” “The Thrill of Brazil,” “Three Sailors and A Girl” and “Ain’t Misbehavin.” In “Miss Grant Takes Richmond,” he created an off-beat character for Lucille Ball, who until then had been cast only in ingenue roles. He also wrote several movies for Red Skelton and Francis the Talking Mule.

In the early ’70s, he wrote the novel “Father Sky,” which was adapted as the film “Taps,” with Timothy Hutton, George C. Scott, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise.

Freeman began writing professionally while attending Brooklyn College, working on short stories for magazines such as the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post and then was brought to the West Coast to be a staff writer at MGM.

During his years in television, he also served a three-year stint as an executive at CBS, with oversight of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Jack Benny,” “I Love Lucy,” “Sea Hunt” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

He served as secretary-treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the WGAw, playing a key role in securing the right of writers to determine motion picture credits — and then in establishing the system through which the guild makes such determinations. In 1982, he was honored with the Guild Service Award for his efforts on behalf of the WGA. He also served on the board of trustees of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, was a member of the Foreign Films Nominating Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in addition to the Student Film Committee. He was also a member of the board of the Writers Guild Foundation.

Freeman is survived by his two sons, Seth and Jonathan, and a granddaughter.

Donations may be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund or the Writers Guild Foundation.

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