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William Froug

Arkansas native, William Froug, spent his life cultivating his two passions, producing popular television series like The Twilight Zone, The Dick Powell Theatre, Bewitched, and Gilligan’s Island and educating and mentoring screenwriting students at the University of Southern California and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

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William Froug was born on May 26, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York. He was raised by his adoptive parents, Bill and Rita Froug, in Little Rock, Arkansas, first residing in Hillcrest and later in the Quapaw Quarter. In Little Rock, Froug attended Rightsell Elementary School, East Side Jr. High, and then finally Little Rock Senior High School (now known as Central High School). At the age of four, Froug’s parents took him to his first movie. Consequently, both a passion for the movies and family tradition were born as going to the movies became the family’s Friday night ritual. In his youth, Froug spent his summers at Arkansas Travelers baseball games and in Pine Bluff and Little Rock, helping with the family business, Froug’s Department Stores. 

During his high school years, Froug was a member of the glee club and the pep squad. In 1939, after graduating from high school, Froug enrolled in the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. His love for storytelling grew as he served on the staff of the school’s SHOWME magazine and co-wrote the school’s play each year. 

In 1943, Frough graduated from college, but he missed his graduation ceremony to attend the Navy V-7 Officer Training Program at Columbia University in New York. Froug received his commission as ensign and then began training at the Submarine Chaser Training Centers in Miami and San Francisco. He was later assigned to the naval vessel Sub Chaser (PC 1077) at Pearl Harbor for duty in the Central Pacific in World War II. In 1945, he became the youngest captain in the U.S. Navy after he was given command of the PC-800. During this time, Froug honed his writing skills in his off-duty hours. In 1946, he was honorably discharged and published his first novella in True Detective magazine. 

Froug became a press agent and radio writer before moving into writing, producing, adapting, and directing for radio while he was in the U.S. Naval Reserves. By 1956, he had transferred those skills to Hollywood, becoming the vice president of programs for CBS Radio. At CBS Radio he produced The Green Lama, The Hallmark Hall of Fame, and an acclaimed adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World. 

Froug later transitioned into television. In 1958, he won an Emmy Award and a Screen Producers Guild (now known as the Producers Guild of America - PGA) award for the production of Eddie starring Mickey Rooney at the Alcoa-Goodyear Theatre. Froug wrote and produced television series, including  Playhouse 90, Adventures in Paradise, The Twilight Zone, The Dick Powell Theatre, Bewitched, and Gilligan’s Island. He was nominated four times for another Emmy for his work on Bewitched. He received three more nominations for the Producer of the Year Awards by the PGA, for his series Mr. Novak, Playhouse 90, and The Twilight Zone. He also wrote more than 200 scripts for other series like Bonanza, Quincy M.E., Paper Chase, and Charlie’s Angels. His shows were must-see TV viewed by millions of fans. In 1964, Froug became executive producer of drama at CBS. 

On November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Froug and Rod Serling, both producers on The Twilight Zone, received a call from the United States Information Agency (USIA) asking them to write and produce a documentary introducing the new president Lyndon B. Johnson. Serling and Froug quickly completed a film entitled Let Us Continue, which was praised as “a superb job” by the USIA director Edward R. Murrow.   

In 1968, Froug became an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California. In 1975, he joined the Department of Motion Pictures, Television, and Radio at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He updated the screenwriting program and created graduate coursework, elevating it to one of the best programs in the nation. In 1987, Froug retired as a full professor. After his retirement, he continued to lecture and hold seminars across the United States and abroad. Many of his students became successful filmmakers and writers in television and motion pictures. He also helped to produce many authors, journalists, and educators, as teaching and mentoring was Froug’s passion.

Froug was one of the founders of the PGA and was a founder, chair, and co-chair of the Caucus for Producers, Writers, and Directors. For many years, he served as a board member of the PGA and the Writers Guild of America, West. In 1987, he received the prestigious Valentine Davies Award from the Writers Guild of America, West. In 2011, the Archive of American Television selected Froug as one of the Emmy Legends of Television.

Froug wrote several educational best-sellers, including Screenwriting Tricks of the Trade, Zen & the Art of Screenwriting: Insights & Interviews, and The Screenwriter Looks at the Screenwriter. He also wrote an autobiography titled How I Escaped from Gilligan’s Island…And Other Misadventures of a Hollywood Writer-Producer.

Froug’s reputation and work in Hollywood earned praise from late film critic Roger Ebert, who said, “I know an old writer. His name is William Froug. He lives in Florida, and if you look him up on Amazon, you will see he is still writing brilliant and useful books about screenwriting and teleplays.” 

William Froug is yet another connection to the rich cinema legacy embedded in Pine Bluff’s soil that has produced many creative talents who have impacted the world for the better.

On August 25, 2013, Froug died in Sarasota, Florida at the age of 91. He is survived by his wife Christine Michaels, his four children: Suzy Allegra, Nancy Earth, Lisa Froug-Hirano, and Jonathan Froug, four grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.


Written by: Ninfa O. Barnard

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