Tony Scott, longtime TV critic for Daily Variety, died Tuesday in Los Angeles after several years of declining health. He had suffered a fall in June, striking his head. He was 85.
Scott, whose signature byline was Tone, worked at Daily Variety for 30 years. He was working at a local community paper in 1967 when he got a call from Daily Variety editor Tom Pryor, who’d seen his reviews. Scott remained the trade paper’s senior TV reviewer until his retirement in 1997.
Scott often put in hours of research before reviewing shows, especially those based on historical events or true stories. One of the reviews of which he was most proud was of Steven Spielberg’s first TV movie, “Duel,” which starred Dennis Weaver in a suspense tale of man vs. truck.
“Film buffs rightfully will be studying and referring to ‘Duel’ for some time,” he wrote in his 1971 review. “Finest so far of the ABC Movies of the Weekend, the film belongs on the classic shelf for top suspensers. Director Steven Spielberg builds step by logical step toward the exquisitely controlled climax and symbolic conclusion of Richard Matheson’s teleplay. Anyone switching channels after the first five-minute hooker is in need of whole blood.”
In 1969, the California Assembly commended Scott for “his many contributions to his profession and his community,” citing his work in “the fight for civil rights” and his many philanthropic endeavors, including his volunteer work for the L.A. County Heart Assn. and the Wilshire Center Chamber of Commerce.
Scott served in WWII, seeing combat in France and Germany. He was part of the reconnaissance squad that discovered the Ohrdruf concentration camp, the first such Nazi camp liberated by American forces.
Assigned to the U.S. embassy in Paris immediately after the war, he befriended expatriates Thornton Wilder, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and kept up a lively correspondence with each of them until their deaths. Returning from the war, he graduated from Pomona College and began his career as a writer — writing plays and novels before settling into journalism.