Sheldon Leonard’s Wonderful Life
Sheldon Leonard produced such iconic sitcoms as Make Room For Daddy, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show, as well as the globetrotting adventure series I Spy. This documentary looks back on Leonard’s enduring achievements and features footage of stars Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, Danny Thomas, Milton Berle, Don Knotts, Bill Cosby, Gene Hackman, and Carroll O’Connor. It boasts personal interviews with Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Robert Culp, and Sheldon Leonard himself. The accomplished producer recounts the troubles of getting a television show made in the 1950’s and 60’s. This was often due to studio politics and social (read: racial intolerance) setbacks. Leonard discusses his not-so-secret and surprisingly simple format of making a successful television show with an effective leading man: If the star is an entertainer, make his character an entertainer (Jack Benny, Make Room For Daddy); if he’s a country boy, make him a country boy (Andy Griffith, The Andy Griffith Show). Mr. Leonard’s death in 1997 was the inspiration for making this film. Luckily, he was one of the first 6 interviews from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Archives. Over the next decade and a half, the film has been updated with TV Academy Archive interviews with those whose lives he touched so deeply and happily.