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William (Bill) Froug (1922–2013)

Emmy Award–winning Bill Froug was a writer, producer, author, educator, and television executive whose career in radio and television had a significant impact upon the entertainment industry. Film critic Roger Ebert once said of Froug, “He is not merely as sharp as a tack; he is the standard by which they sharpen tacks.”

William (Bill) Froug was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 26, 1922. He was raised by adoptive parents Rita and Bill Froug in Little Rock (Pulaski County), residing first in Hillcrest and later in the Quapaw Quarter. Froug attended Rightsell Elementary School, East Side Jr. High, and Little Rock Senior High School (now Central High). Summer breaks were often filled with Arkansas Travelers baseball games and occasionally helping in the family business, Froug’s Department Stores in Little Rock and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Froug was introduced to movies at the age of four, and going to the movies became a Friday night ritual for the family. He credits this early exposure for piquing his interest in film and the art of storytelling.

In high school, Froug was a popular student and member of the glee club and pep squad. After graduation in 1939, he enrolled in the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. He co-wrote the annual school play and served on the staff of SHOWME magazine.

Froug graduated from the University of Missouri in 1943, missing the ceremony to attend the Navy V-7 Officer Training Program at Columbia University in New York. After receiving his commission as ensign and undergoing further training at the Submarine Chaser Training Centers in Miami and San Francisco, he was assigned to Sub Chaser (PC 1077) at Pearl Harbor for duty in the Central Pacific. In 1945, he was given command of the PC-800 and became one of the youngest captains in the U.S. Navy. While awaiting discharge after the war, Froug spent his off-duty hours honing his writing skills. His first novella was published in True Detective magazine in 1946.

While in the U.S. Naval Reserves, Froug was a press agent and radio writer before moving into full-time radio work—writing, producing, adapting, and directing. By 1956, he had been named vice president of programs for CBS Radio in Hollywood, California. Among his works were The Green Lama, The Hallmark Hall of Fame, and an acclaimed adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Froug made the transition into the new medium of television, winning both an Emmy Award and a Screen Producers Guild (now the Producers Guild of America—PGA) award in 1958 for the Alcoa-Goodyear Theatre production of Eddie, starring Mickey Rooney. He went on to write and/or produce for television series such as Playhouse 90, Adventures in Paradise, The Twilight Zone, The Dick Powell Theatre, Bewitched, and Gilligan’s Island, as well as scriptwriting for many other popular series. He was nominated for another Emmy for his work on Bewitched. He was nominated three more times for the Producer of the Year Award by the PGA, for Mr. Novak, Playhouse 90, and The Twilight Zone. In 1964, Froug was made executive producer in charge of drama for CBS.

On the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, November 22, 1963, Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame and Froug, who was series producer that year, received a call from the United States Information Agency (USIA) asking them to write and produce a documentary introducing new president Lyndon Baines Johnson to the world. Serling and Froug quickly completed the film Let Us Continue, which USIA director and newsman Edward R. Murrow pronounced “a superb job.”

Froug found his second calling when he joined the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Art as adjunct professor in 1968, where he remained until joining the Department of Motion Pictures, Television and Radio at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1975. While there, he revamped the screenwriting program and implemented graduate course work, elevating it to one of the best programs in the nation. He retired as a full professor in 1987. After retirement, he continued to hold seminars and lectures throughout the United States and abroad. Many of his students became successful filmmakers and writers in television and in motion pictures, as well as authors, journalists, and educators.

A lifelong industry activist, Froug was one of the founders of what is today the PGA and was the founder, chair, and co-chair of the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors. He was also a PGA board member for many years and a longtime Writers Guild of America, West, member and board member. In 1987, Froug 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.

Seeing a void in the market for books on screenwriting, Froug wrote a number of books that became bestsellers in the trade and required reading in film schools worldwide. His Screenwriting Tricks of the Trade has been consistently ranked among the top screenwriting books.

On August 25, 2013, Froug died in Sarasota, Florida.

For additional information:
Froug, William. The Screenwriter Looks at the Screenwriter. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, April, 1991.

———. The New Screenwriter Looks at the Screenwriter. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 1992.

———. Screenwriting Tricks of the Trade. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 1993.

———. Zen and the Art of Screenwriting Volume 1: Insights and Interviews. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 1996.

———. Zen and the Art of Screenwriting 2: More Insights and Interviews. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 2000.

Let Us Continue: LBJ Presidential Library.” Texas Archive of the Moving Image. http://www.texasarchive.org/library/index.php/Let_Us_Continue (accessed June 21, 2016).

Stedman, Alex. “Writer-Producer William Froug Dies at 91.” http://variety.com/2013/tv/news/writer-producer-william-froug-dies-at-91-1200600523/ (accessed June 6, 2016).

William Froug Interview. Archive of American Television. www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/william-froug (accessed June 6, 2016).

William Froug Papers, 1950–1981. Performing Arts Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles, Library.

Bob Widding
Conway, Arkansas

Last Updated 6/22/2016

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