The Theatre/Cinema/TV Shelf
P. O. Box 1129, Duncan, OK 73534-1129
9781629331645, $40.00, HC, 376pp, www.amazon.com
The Mr. Novak television series was a landmark in the development of dramatic television. It starred James Franciscus with Dean Jagger and featured cutting-edge scripts, first-class production values and exceptional acting. It was the first program to portray teachers and students realistically. “Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series” by author, musician and popular culture consultant Chuck Harter is a profusely illustrated study that features: Comprehensive coverage of the original filming and air dates; An episode guide with vintage reviews and fresh perspectives; Interviews with over 35 actors who appeared on the show including Walter Koenig, Martin Landau, Beau Bridges, Tony Dow, Ed Asner, June Lockhart, and Sherry Jackson; Archival interviews with the series’ stars and producers; A complete list of the many awards the series received, and so much more. Exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, “Mr. Novak” provides the reader with a complete and comprehensive profile of one of the finest TV series that ever aired. “Mr. Novak” is especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Television History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that “Mr. Novak” is also available in a paperback edition (9781629331638, $30.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).
Midwest Book Review – Volume 13 – No. 3 March 2018
RETURN TO JEFFERSON HIGH: REMEMBERING “MR. NOVAK” ON ITS 55TH ANNIVERSARY by Michael Coate
“The Mr. Novak series is among the finest programs to be produced in the 1960s. It ranks with The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Defenders and others as an absolute pinnacle of television production.” — Chuck Harter, author of Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series.
Click Here to read this great review on Digital Bits website.
Mr. Novak Teaches Mr. Harter – and the Rest of Us
A new book about a classic TV series geared toward school life in the early 1960s serves as learning curve for contemporary times, academic and otherwise.
Herbie J Pilato
The television drama Mr. Novak originally aired on NBC, 1963-1965, and starred James Franciscus as teacher John Novak, and Dean Jagger as Principle Albert Vane, and later Burgess Meredith as Principal Martin Woodridge.
Author Chuck Harter has chronicled this ground-breaking program in his aptly-titled new book, Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series (BearManor Media, 2016).
Mr. Novak was indeed acclaimed and remains so with Harter’s new literate companion book and a soon-to-be-reissue of the series on DVD.
The show featured top quality scripts, actors and production and earned countless accolades during its two year run including a Peabody Award for excellence. This trendsetting TV production was the first to depict both teachers and students in a dramatic and realistic manner and was influential in the educational community.
Harter’s new book about Mr. Novak contains exclusive interviews with over 40 of the show’s guest-stars including Martin Landau, who wrote the Foreword, and Walter Koenig, who penned the Afterword, while celebrated director Richard Donner, who guided several episodes, offers the Introduction.
The details of how Chuck Harter came to document Mr. Novak and the show’s significant place in television history are explored in conversation between Harter and Herbie J Pilato, Founder and Executive Director of the Classic TV Preservation Society nonprofit organization.
Why did you decide to write a book about Mr. Novak?
I was just a young lad when the show originally aired from ’63 to ’65. It was broadcast opposite the very popular Combat! series and as my Dad was in the Air Force, we watched Vic Morrow’s show on our single television set. As a result, I never saw it in the original run.
Novak’s star was the handsome James Franciscus, who became a teen idol and was featured in the fan periodicals of the day. The girls in my classroom would bring in their magazines so I was aware of him being the lead in Mr. Novak. The series never went into reruns in the following decades so it subsequently disappeared except for the occasional mention in books on television history.
The show was always referred to as a great dramatic program about high school life with progressive scripts and realistic production. About three years ago a friend in New York sent me a package of DVDs that contained 24 episodes of Mr. Novak. He informed me that as I favored music from the ’60s, I would probably like this show.
I hesitated to watch any episodes as I figured they would be dated and wouldn’t hold up. Just before I was going to pack them away, I decided to watch at least one as my friend had extended the gesture. I viewed the pilot “First Year, First Day” and was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was the show not dated, but the acting, scripting and production were excellent.
I then watched a second episode, “The Risk” which concerned a teacher who had been a former alcoholic and now wished to return to teaching at Jefferson High School. This was even better than the pilot. It was puzzling to me that such an outstanding TV series had been forgotten.
I attempted to buy a book on the show and found that none existed. After this disappointment, I attempted to find a biography on star James Franciscus and found that there wasn’t one. I then decided to write a book about this unjustly forgotten series. It was the superior quality of all aspects of the program that prompted my journalistic journey.
What made Mr. Novak stand out from other TV drama of its time?
The series was the brainchild of writer-producer E. Jack Neuman who had worked for many years in both the radio and television mediums. He was a creative artist who always did his research and strove for the best possible results in scripting and production. Neuman was respected in the industry as a creator of integrity and outstanding talent.
When he and co-creator Boris Sagal conceived the idea of a series set in a high school, they wanted a realistic and dramatic program unlike the previous situation comedies that had been produced. Both Mr. Peepers and Our Miss Brooks had been successful but Neuman wanted to advance the concept to a higher level.
He visited high schools and spoke to principals, teachers and students to find out their concerns in the world of education. Neuman also contacted the National Education Association for advice and requested a five person panel of teachers to oversee future scripts for accuracy. The show was cast with great care and the leads of James Franciscus as teacher John Novak and Dean Jagger as Principal Albert Vane brought genuine integrity to the program.
The other actors, including the rest of the faculty, guest stars and the students were all top level thespians. The Mr. Novak series became a prestige program for NBC. Another outstanding aspect of Mr. Novak was the superior production. The series was filmed at the MGM studios which by 1963 has downsized the number of new productions.
As a result, their A list crew of technicians, who were on salary, had to be put to work. The result was that the cinematography, sound, set design and more were all done by top level film technicians. The result is a series of mini movies as opposed to most of the other programming of those years.
What are some of your favorite episodes of Mr. Novak and why?
In the course of writing the book I was able to view 55 out of the 60 episodes produced and had scripts of the remaining five. There were a couple of subpar episodes but nearly all were very good to excellent. The quality of the series was maintained for its two seasons. There were a few that personally resonated with me, and they included “The Risk” which was mentioned above.
This contained an outstanding performance by character actor Alexander Scourby as the former alcoholic teacher with fine support by Sherry Jackson as his wife with a drinking problem of her own.
“A Single Isolated Incident” is a great show about racial prejudice that is still effective in the current day. It is both realistic and dramatically powerful and Dean Jagger is magnificent as the Principal.
“The Boy without a Country” is the story of a Russian exchange student, played by young Walter Koenig, who has trouble adjusting to the ways of an American high school. He is excellent, and this role, in part, later led to his being cast as Ensign Chekov on Star Trek.
“Death of a Teacher” is another outstanding story which reveals that the fatal heart attack of a popular educator was brought on by the typical overworked schedule of the time. It was expertly directed by Richard Donner, who did several Novaks and went on to a distinguished career in motion pictures.
“Sparrow on the Wire” concerns anti Semitism and features Beau Bridges in one of his first roles as the bigoted student. While these and other episodes feature hard hitting stories with a moral lesson, it was always Neuman’s intention to entertain as well as educate. This is yet another reason why the series holds up so well in the modern day.
Did Mr. Novak prove to be a positive influence for viewers? In other words, are there teachers in America who became teachers because they were inspired by Mr. Novak?
Mr. Novak received a total of 47 awards during its two year run [including four Emmy nominations]. The majority of these came from educational institutions such as the National Education Association, California Teachers Association, The National Association of Secondary School Principals and the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award. The complete list of awards is depicted in the appendix of the book.
Many graduates of the day became teachers because of the positive influence of the series. Fledgling teachers became better educators as a result of watching the program.
How does Mr. Novak differ from other school-related TV shows, specifically Room 222?
Mr. Novak was the first program to realistically portray the high school life and therefore was a pioneer. Room 222 followed four years after the cancellation of Mr. Novak and continued the truthful depiction of academic life. Their stories went even further into the realm of dramatic situations because society in America had changed so radically between the mid and late 1960s.
In ensuing years there have been several exceptional programs about the field of education including The Paper Chase and others. Mr. Novak created a template that continues to be refined and exhibited in television programming.
Let’s talk about James Franciscus and the entire regular cast of Mr. Novak. What are your thoughts on their performances on the show?
E. Jack Neuman had previously conceived and developed the Dr. Kildare series. His first choice for the lead was James Franciscus who unfortunately was contractually obligated to a pilot. When he was still unavailable, Neuman cast Richard Chamberlain and the new show was a success.
When it was time to cast the young idealistic teacher, Neuman remembered the talented and professional Franciscus and his Mr. Novak came to life. James Franciscus took the role very seriously and was always letter perfect in his dialogue. He became very popular and appreciated the interest of his many youthful fans.
The actor even wrote a series of advice columns for teenagers. His performance grew between the two seasons and he went from the naïve newcomer to a more confident and successful educator. Dean Jagger, who had won an Academy Award for Twelve O’Clock High, was Neuman’s only choice for the Principal.
The actor had not appeared in many television programs but was so impressed with the concepts of the series that he agreed to participate. Jagger brought a real air of authority and humanity to his portrayal of the Principal and was extremely popular with viewers and critics alike.
In the middle of the second season, he had to leave the series due to an attack of ulcers and was replaced by Burgess Meredith. The actor portrayed his character of Martin Woodridge as a more aggressive and harsh administrator. Just about the time he began to get a handle on the role, the series was cancelled.
I believe that if the show had continued for a third season he would have reached the heights of Jagger’s excellent portrayal.
Jeanne Bal portrayed Assistant Principal Jean Pagano in the first season and became a real favorite with both production and audience. She also brought an air of authority and her part was built up as the first season progressed. Sadly she left the production due to a salary dispute prior to the second season and her comforting presence was missed.
There were several actors who appeared as members of the faculty on a regular basis. They included Marian Collier as Home Economics teacher Marilyn Scott; Steve Franken, Andre Phillipe, Stephen Roberts and Vince Howard, who was the first African American actor to be cast as a regular on a television series two years before Bill Cosby on I Spy. They were all excellent and really brought the faculty to life.
What about the guest stars? How many relatively unknown actors went on to fame after making early guest-appearances on Mr. Novak?
Since Mr. Novak had many parts for students, it was a real source of opportunity for the young actors in Hollywood. It was both an excellent series as well as a prestigious one. Some of the youthful actors who advanced their careers by appearing on the show were Beau Bridges, Tony Bill, Brooke Bundy, Kim Darby, Shelley Fabares, Joey Heatherton and Marta Kristen. Walter Koenig’s advancement has been mentioned.
There were other young actors who had been previously working in the industry that grew in stature and experience due to their appearances on Mr. Novak. These included Johnny Crawford, Tony Dow, Don Grady, Sherry Jackson, Tommy Kirk, Beverly Washburn and others.
Among the adult guest stars were such talented professionals as Eddie Albert, Ed Asner, Diane Baker, Lillian Gish, Celeste Holm, Martin Landau, Cloris Leachman, Vera Miles, Ed Platt and Gloria Talbot. The performances on the show are always of a high caliber. This is among the many factors that cause the program to remain fresh and undated in the modern day.
What are your closing thoughts about Mr. Novak the series, and how does your book fully capture the essence of the show?
The show is an unjustly forgotten classic. It ranks with the finest productions of ’60s television such as The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Defenders and others. In fact, it stands among the best programs in the history of television. It broke ground in the realistic depiction of high school life and maintained its superior quality throughout the run.
The show received dozens of awards and was tremendously influential on both its audience and the educational community. In the course of writing my book I interviewed over 50 people who included actors, technicians, writers, educators and fans of the series. Every single one of them was interested in participating.
In many cases the actors had not seen their respective episodes for over 50 years or had never seen them. Upon viewing the shows, everyone commented on how well the series holds up and that it isn’t dated or redundant as can often happen with vintage productions. They all hoped the show would be officially released and it looks promising that Warner Archive is going to release the first season as a DVD set this year.
I feel confident that once people start viewing the show they will appreciate its timeless qualities. My book contains fresh interviews with those mentioned before as well as archival interviews with all of the major players in the production of the series. There is complete coverage of the conception of the series, production, airing, reception and tragic cancellation.
There are hundreds of illustrations, a comprehensive episode guide, a list of all the awards the show won and much more.
Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series by Chuck Harter is published by Bearmanormeida.com and is available in hardback, paperback and e-book editions from the publisher as well as amazon.com. Check out the book’s web site here.
Herbie J Pilato is the author of several classic TV/media tie-books, and is the host of the upcoming classic TV talk show, Then Again with Herbie J Pilato, which will debut on the Decades network later this year. For more information, log on here
In Conversation With Author, Musician and Popular Culture Consultant, Chuck Harter
By Norm Goldman
Published on February 2, 2018
Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest, author, musician and popular culture consultant, Chuck Harter.
Chuck is the author of the new book Mr. Novak An Acclaimed Television Series and has written four previously published books which include, Superboy & Superpup: The Lost Videos, Superman on Broadway – Co-Authored with Bob Holiday, Johnnie Ray: The Year of the Atomic Ray and Little Elf: A Celebration of Harry Langdon – Co-Authored with Michael J. Hayde.
Chuck wrote the acclaimed Television Documentary Hey! Hey! We’re the Monkees – Rhino/Disney Channel and…among others… Gossip: Tabloid Tales for A&E.
He has appeared as a commentator on such TV programs as North Mission Road, Cops: America’s Most Wanted, Places of Infamy, A&E Biography, Mysteries and Scandals and Unsolved Mysteries.
Under his musical performing name of Chuck Winston he has produced four CDS of musical recordings and recently finished a compilation CD of the best previously released material The Best of Chuck Winston – Kickz Records.
He has performed in concert many times in the Los Angeles area. Chuck’s current book is Mr. Novak An Acclaimed Television Series which covers the 1960’s program about education.
His next project will be a book on the 1961 Horror TV series Way Out in which he will partner with author Martin Grams, Jr. Publication is scheduled for September of 2018.
Norm: Good day Chuck and thanks for participating in our interview.
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your various careers?
Chuck: In my musical career, I have worked with many outstanding and talented musicians, producers and engineers. I’ve performed in many concerts and have entertained audiences. I’ve also produced several cds of my musical performances.
In the field of television, I’ve written documentaries, consulted on many types of programs and have been often featured on camera as a commentator.
I’ve written 5 books that have all been published to critical acclaim. They have sold well enough for the niche markets that they were intended for. Each book was a learning experience in research, preparation, editing and presentation. Each one has been better than the last. I am looking forward to the next project as it will be my first self published effort.
Norm: What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today?
Chuck: I would say it was to acquire confidence in my own judgment. In creating a book one must always please him or herself first, then adapt according to the requirements of the publisher. At first I would acquiesce completely to the demands of the various companies. I learned to be more forceful and to pick and choose my battles for my concepts.
Norm: Why do you write? Do you have a theme, message, or goal for your books?
Chuck: I write because I enjoy it. As a creative artist, I enjoy the journey of discovery in a new subject. Sometimes I feel like an amateur detective in my research pursuits. People really interest me. There is always a humanistic side to any situation that is both compelling and emotionally moving. My goal is to do the best job that I can in creating a book. Since my books have tended to showcase popular culture, it has been my goal to produce a great book. If my efforts have been successful, then the reader will seek out aspects of the subject to further their awareness of it. I have found that this has been true of all my written tomes and that has been most gratifying to me.
Norm: Why have you been attracted to Pop Culture?
Chuck: I was an only child with few relatives who was the son of parents in the Air Force. We moved every few years and it was difficult to make friends. Music, books, film and television became friends of a sort and my interest grew as I discovered so many interesting and enlightening aspects of popular culture. After I grew up and did make friends, have relations ships and so on, my interest in popular culture continued to the present day.
Norm: What advice can you give aspiring writers that you wished you had gotten, or that you wished you would have listened to?
Chuck: My main advice would be to work as hard as you can on your creative project. Positive reception to any such effort is extremely gratifying and to know that people have been moved by your efforts is almost euphoric. I also advise any writer to do as much research as possible and to follow any lead, no matter how small. Many times I have persevered on a seemingly trivial source and been pleased to find a goldmine after the trek. Be courteous, patient and professional with anyone you wish to involve. Know that they might not be into the project as much as you. Be persistent but fair.
Norm: How many times in your career have you experienced rejection? How did they shape you?
Chuck: I have rarely experienced rejection as I have always had confidence in my own skills. I haven’t put forth any projects without a lot of careful consideration. The problems have been more in the nature of a lack of control or what I felt were unnecessary changes to my efforts.
Norm: How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your latest book Mr. Novak An Acclaimed Television Series?
Chuck: I hadn’t seen the show as a youth since it was broadcast opposite the popular Combat series. My father wanted to watch the war series as he was in the military. The show never reran in the 70’s and 80’s so I was only vaguely aware of it. About three years ago a friend sent me episodes of Mr.Novak on some DVDS. I watched them and was very impressed by the overall excellence of the production. After an attempt to buy a book on this unjustly forgotten series, and finding none, I decided to write my own book to make others aware of this amazing show. It was also to be a creative project.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Chuck: My goal was to discover and report on all aspects of this quality TV series from the past. It was my intention that readers would become aware of this forgotten series and that there might be a possibility of an official DVD release. It looks like Warner Archive could very well be releasing the first season of Mr. Novak this year in a DVD set. The reviews have been 100% positive for my book so I feel that I did achieve my goal.
Norm: What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
Chuck: I belong to four vintage newspaper sites including Newspapers.com and some others. There is a wealth of material from the past in the pages of old newspapers. I also conducted research at the Margaret Herrick Library (Motion Picture Academy) in Beverly Hills. They have microfilm on Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and many vintage publications that dealt with film and television.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Chuck: The most difficult aspect for me was to sustain a level of interest and intent over three years. Writing a book like Mr. Novak is a long, arduous effort and one can get burned out if not careful. I found at times I would have to step away from the project for a week or two and would then return with fresh energy and enthusiasm. It was best to have a sustained enthusiasm that bubbled along.
Norm: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Chuck: I met many wonderful people in the course of working on the book. They shared memories of the show but also told me some of the things that were going on in their lives. Some also took an interest in what I was doing apart from the book project. I can say that I have made some genuine friends and that our friendship will endure even after the project is technically over.
Norm: What is the most important thing that people don’t know about your subject of Mr Novak that they need to know?
Chuck: As the show was forgotten for so many years, I feel that people being aware of both its existence and superior quality is the most important thing.
Norm: What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?
Chuck: I didn’t really begin promoting the book until it was finished and accepted by my publisher BearMamormedia. Once that had occurred, I set up a WEBSITE for the book and began adding content from the book’s material. I searched the internet for any bloggers or podcasters who might be interested in vintage television, 1960’s pop culture, education, fan sites for the stars of the show and bloggers who revue books. I also posted on many Facebook pages of any similar themed pages. In addition I provided promotional postcards to dealers in vintage DVDS, memorabilia and collectibles to include with their shipped merchandise.
Norm: How would you compare television writing today as compared to the 1960’s and 70’s?
Chuck: The writing of 60’s television was perhaps more literate than what followed. People read more in the 60’s and 70’s than they do in the modern day. Note that Newsweek Magazine is very small compared to issues from these previous decades. Due to the great influence of social media, the internet and a trend for multi tasking, the television of today may be more for the eye than the ear. Quicker editing and faster action seem to be providing a more visceral experience than the slower paced cerebral shows of the past. It is indeed a different world and many productions from the past could not interest a modern audience due to dated presentation.
Norm: Do you believe that if Mr. Novak were on television today, it would be as popular as it was when it was first aired?
Chuck: The themes of the majority of the Mr. Novak episodes are completely relevant to the modern day. So the basic scripts and situations could easily be adapted for modern audiences. It would be in the production and presentation that some updating would be advisable. Perhaps some quicker editing and a little more action would appeal to an audience of today. The hairstyles, apparel and dialogue of the high school students would have to be updated and of course cell phones would have to be seen and used in abundance. It would be wonderful if after the reissue of the series on DVD, that NBC would commission a new series. I feel strongly that if the same dedication to scripting, production, acting and direction were applied in the spirit of E. Jack Neuman’s vision, that it could be a popular show.
Norm: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Chuck: If you want to write…then write! Anyone who puts forth a creative effort is a person of value. Sometimes the struggle may be the reward. Don’t ever consider if you are good enough…just do it! You will get feedback…and if it is negative or overly critical…then learn from it…improve and go again. Never give up. Everyone has something to say and there are surely those that would like to hear it. Everyone has a story and everyone can learn from a story. Keep on keeping on!
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Mr. Novak An Acclaimed Television Series?
Chuck: The WEBSITE for the book, my Facebook page and the FACEBOOK page for Mr. Novak An Acclaimed Television Series. People can also google Mr. Novak and will find many blog reviews and such. They could also purchase a book from BearManormedia and AMAZON.
Norm: Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)
Chuck: I will be partnering with a fine writer named Martin Grams, Jr. to self -publish a book on the classic Horror television series ’Way Out.
It was a 14 episode program that aired in the Summer of 1961 and was produced by David Susskind for Talent Associates and hosted by famed British writer Roald Dahl.
The show was taped live in New York City and was broadcast on Friday nights just before The Twilight Zone.
In a way, it could be considered a cousin of the The Twilight Zone. The others Horror/Fantasy/Sci Fi series of the time included Zone, The Outer Limits, Thriller, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. ‘Way Out is the one that hasn’t been covered. All 14 episodes exist and 10 of them are available for viewing on Youtube.
Martin and I have just begun a WEBSITE for the forthcoming book.
We hope to have the book released in September of 2018. It will be issued on our Hargram Books label.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your latest book, but nobody has?
Chuck: Where can I buy 25 copies of your book?
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Mr. Novak, a Piece of Television History and a Piece of Personal History
Posted: Friday, January 26, 2018 – 4:19 PM
By Victoria Talbot
I rarely speak from a personal point of view, as journalism calls for objectivity. And I never insert myself into a story.
But this time it’s almost personal. This book, Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series, is about a series my dad created which, in a big way, framed my childhood. And the book reframed the events that charted the course of my family’s life. The point is, that through his painfully meticulous process of gathering information, author Chuck Harter filled in a lot of blanks.
The Novak series was highly acclaimed, though it only ran two years. A casualty of bad placement in the TV lineups, and, – I’d like to believe – because my father was no longer in control of content in the second season. This coincides with the sense I had even as a child- that he was extremely proud of the series and deeply disturbed that it was cancelled.
Yes, it is a detailed history of the series; but it is so much more.
Harter has captured the era, which was a near-golden time in education. In those days, teachers were often idealists like the youthful Novak. Education was under local control and schools (teachers) had a more hands-on, integrated involvement in education.
Educators would find this book fascinating.
My father traveled all over the country visiting high schools and meeting with educators and students to understand their very real issues. As he was rarely present in our household for a significant period of my youth (which had disastrous consequences for our family) – I’d like to believe it was not in vain. This book actually restores the integrity of his work, and of his vision – to promote the cause of education and educators.
On the cusp of the sixties revolution, still bathing in the post-war hues of the 1950s, the series did not shy away from racism, bullying, drugs, drop outs, teen pregnancy, faculty affairs and foibles and other issues that were ignored by the feel-good Our Miss Brooks, Donna Reed, My Three Sons, Leave it to Beaver – types of shows. This was hard-hitting, truly investigative, and above all, real.
Harter’s analysis is vivid, with episode-by-episode enhancements that examine not only the scripts – but the events occurring among the cast and crew to give context to the story. Using an incredible volume of archival research, exhaustive interviews of anyone associated with the project who is still living, including surviving family and spouses, he pieces together a narrative that is complex and deeply revealing.
For the uninitiated, those who never saw the show, it is a historical journey that leaves an open-ended question about how we arrived here, today, with our broken educational system. That is a question for politicians and administrators to answer.
And the good news is that the series will become available again sometime this year. It has not been shown in reruns, so the boxed set will be an experience. Recently, I had the opportunity to watch some bootlegged copies of the show – and I was flabbergasted at how prescient and timeless it was. Nothing has changed. Kids will be kids. Fashions, cars, and faces change, but the issues remain. Only now, it seems, we are more violent, more careless with life.
The honesty that was the hallmark of the show makes the episodes come alive, and again, leaves us asking how we got here today.
Harter did a masterful job of researching and providing the background and understanding of the people and the forces, including network censors, that drove the story.
My dad would be so pleased, and I would like to think that he is somewhere smiling.
My father later married one of the principals on the show, Marian Collier, and they were happily married and deeply in love, until his death. My father kept copious notes, and detailed files on everything. He was the quintessential researcher and writer, always gathering information. I hope it helped Harter, but he already had more than enough material to write a book. His information is breathtaking.
Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series has a 5-star, 100% rating on Amazon, with 32 reviews. I highly recommend it.
Beverly Hills Courier
Reviews of Mr. Novak Book
Classic TV Preservation Society Says Mr. Novak Book is “Epic”
Review From Shock Cinema Magazine
Great Review by Mitchell Hadley
For a series that lasted only two seasons and was seldom seen thereafter in syndication, it’s remarkable how fondly Mr. Novak is remembered. Until recently, I’d never seen an episode myself, and yet I knew about the show, that it starred James Franciscus, that it was about a high school teacher, that Dean Jagger, whom I had enjoyed immensely in White Christmas, played the principal, and that the series dealt with the typical issues that confronted high school students in the early 1960s. That was about it, but one can say that this is about all that most people know about most television shows. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the Review.
David Sheiner, Actor on Mr. Novak TV Show
David Sheiner is a veteran character actor who has appeared in numerous TV shows and films. Momentous film appearances were as Roy…the poker playing friend in “The Odd Couple” and as James the Elder in “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” He appeared on the Mr. Novak program as a doctor and as music teacher Paul Webb. Ninety years young, he said he “really likes the book” and “hopes I make a lot of money.” Thanks to a real gentleman…
Chuck Harter Interviewed on “TV Confidential Radio Talk Show”
Chuck Harter: “Did an interview yesterday (November 9th) with Ed Robertson in South Pasadena. It went very well and he was very intuitive about the book and the Mr. Novak show. His professionalism, enthusiasm, curiosity and hospitality was very refreshing. The interview will be broadcast in two parts in December on his TV Confidential Radio Talk Show about Television and dates will be announced when closer to airtime…”
Emmy Award Winning Actor Ed Asner
Chuck Harter personally presented a copy of the book to Mr. Asner in his office. Ed Asner appeared in the pilot for Mr. Novak and returned for additional roles as the series progressed. He said the book “looked real good” and was “glad to get a copy.” A fine actor who was grumpy-funny, hospitable and above all a class act. There were MANY EMMY Awards in his office along with numerous other awards for his acting excellence. A great day!
The Writer’s Guild Foundation Library
Diane Albert, Co-Publisher of “The TV Collector”
Never judge a book by its cover? Really? Well, every rule has its exceptions and this is the best example.Unless The Beatles were on the cover, this is the most visually appealing book cover I have ever seen, and the promise of its cover delivers tenfold.There are some television series that fall into obscurity after their initial run, for no humanly explainable reason.”Mr. Novak” ran for two seasons and then vanished from existence.A handsome star; the 1963 high school experience addressed in an adult way, its plots stepping into uncomfortable and even taboo territory; teenage guest stars, some already known and others who would become known. How did it disappear?This show was responsible for countless teens deciding to become teachers. Every episode was compelling realistic drama. And the topics and writing hold up even fifty-plus years later.Chuck Harter has squeezed every possible seed of interest from this show and presented it in a conversational way that makes it soooo easy to read.I saw his labors in the making, and I can safely attest that if he’d had to go on an African safari to get a quote from an obscure actor who had appeared in one scene, he would have done so.But still, when he sent me my copy, it took my breath away to see what he had accomplished.I leafed through it and was astonished to see a photo on almost every page..Rarely do you see a book that makes you want to inhale every page at once, which you just keep opening to random pages because you can’t wait to have read it all. This is that book.I am honored to have been included in it. The only thing wrong with it is that Jim Franciscus isn’t here to see how Chuck has honored him.
Randall Burrows, Canadian Collector and Researcher on Cinema and Television History
Randall Burrows is a Canadian with an appreciation for both the cinematic and television arts. He has a huge library with many books on these subjects. He said this about my new book…”It is a rare occasion when such an engaging, entertaining and profoundly researched history and analysis of a classic television drama is published. It is a real and unexpected achievement, and a testimony to the author’s own hard work and dedicated passion.” Randall has continued to help me publicize the book. Thanks to my Canadian Soul Brother…
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library
Chuck Harter: My new book has been accepted at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library and will be available for researchers. A great library in Beverly Hills with an excellent staff who were most helpful in my own research efforts….
Actor/Screenwriter Sam Gasch
Sam Gasch is a rising young actor/screenwriter in Hollywood. He had this to say about the new book. “Modern writers should always check the giant’s shoulders they’re standing on. Mr. Novak is one of the giants. It is a television classic and one of the more cleverly written ones at that! The new book is AWESOME!” — Sam Gasch.
Lovely “Lost In Space” Marta Kristen on Mr. Novak book
Marta Kristen is known for her role as Judy Robinson in the cult favorite TV series…”Lost in Space.” She had one of her first TV leading roles in the “Senior Prom” episode of “Mr. Novak.” The new book has exclusive photos of her and details on this early effort. Marta pronounced the book as “amazing”…and remarked “wasn’t Jim Franciscus handsome!”…and was “looking forward to reading it.” Marta’s episode will be included in the Warner official DVD release of Mr. Novak in Spring 2018.
Check out the wonderful new review by Ivan G. Shreve, Jr on Thrilling Days of Yesteryear!
Breaking News! 2 Five Star Reviews of Mr. Novak Book are now on amazon.com
Click Here to Read the Great Reviews on amazon.com
Review of Mr. Novak Book by Prof. John T. Taylor, Florida State College
Finally, today is October 15th, 2017. The book is published four years after Chuck Harter ‘cold’ called me from L.A. He had been to my web site for my Mr. Novak friends who have been trading episodes of this first TV drama series about schools and education for the last 20 years. Chuck is a successful writer about the silent movie era and classic TV.
Four years ago, He suggested I write a book about Mr. Novak and how it affected my life as a teacher. Great idea but I am not an author, just a chemistry teacher. I finally said I would write the book if he would co-author. I was 72 at the time and an educator for 50 years still working full time teaching. Not being a writer and at this stage of my life could not devote years to this project and still teach fulltime, I knew I could not co-author. Even though he was finishing his then current book, we kept talking about his discoveries about the program.
As we were assembling artifacts, memorabilia, pictures. original scripts, and articles about the series he became more and more excited. Finally, after a year he decided to jump in 100% and write this book himself and I could just help on the side when he needed me. The rest is now history. He has produced a crown jewel about a superb television series long forgotten and not seen even in reruns since the middle 1980s.
If you google teaching and television series you will have a list of nearly 120 series, but less than a handful demonstrate that there is interesting real drama in the lives of teachers (and students). Mr. Novak (1963-1965) was the first and Boston Public (2001-2004) was the last. A few, focus the drama from the eyes of the students. Maybe the long running 15 year Degrassi, The Next Generation(2001-2016) (one of four Degrassi series) on Canadian TV is the most outstanding. The short lived less than a season Freaks and Geeks is probably the best on U.S. television.
For three years Chuck has been producing this real gem. Being in Los Angles, he was able to track down many stars, writers, directors, camera crews, and even student ‘extras’ cast from 1963-65. Most are in their 80s, and the ‘kids’ in their 60s. Every week or two he would call and tell me his latest discovery or contact from the show.
This book is already the catalyst for Warner Home Video to release the first season on TV. A dream come true for me and all because of one man, Chuck Harter, who spent three years knocking on Hollywood’s doors. This is a great book, well written, and we first must buy the book, then we must purchase the First Season restored from the original 35 mm film.
The book has its own web site: https://mrnovakbook.com
The web site has many links to videos, picture, and additional information with the following links:
Introduction By Richard Donner (director), Forward By Martin Landau (actor); Afterword By Walter Koenig (actor), Several Photos (Some not in the book); List of Actors/Crew Interviewed For Book (Interview in the Book), Sample Chapter Pages (Additional Pages on Amazon.com); List of Awards Won by Series (47 identified so far); Progressive Themes of Mr. Novak Television Series
Progressive Themes of Mr. Novak Television Series (Top 10 from each season), Reviews (10 so far), and several other sections.
I cannot praise Chuck enough for devoting three years of his life to producing the book and achieving one additional goal, get the series released to all of us. Hopefully the future DVD set will be in the $30 range, but I will pay $500 just for clear crisp original 30 episodes of the first season.
There are 3 million teachers in the United States, hundreds of thousands of retired teachers and I urge all of them out there to buy this book, either hard cover or soft cover paperback. Please reward Chuck for his efforts.
I also ask you to join my Mr. Novak fans and friends web site so that I can publish on my web site your essays on your favorite episode or episodes that remind you of one time in your life as a teacher or a teacher made a difference in your life:
From Ben Ohmart, President of Bearmanormedia.com
“It’s a GREAT book…very informative and has an easy conversational style that I find refreshing…looks and reads quite well.”
From Sandy Grabman, Bearmanor Media
Sandy Grabman is the secretary for publishing house…Bearmanor Media and is the author of the forthcoming (12/17) “Petrocelli: An Episode Guide and More” which will cover the TV series starring Barry Newman. It will a great book! Sandy was very helpful to me in the Mr. Novak journey and has called my book “very detailed”…”a Mr. Novak fan’s Garden of Eden of Info”…thanks to you Sandy…good luck with Petrocelli.
Nice Blog Review From “Mike’s Take on the Movies”
Check out Mike’s review of Mr. Novak An Acclaimed Television Series, Click Here.
From Actress Alison Mills (Newman)
Alison Mills (Newman) is an actress…a Minister and CEO of Keep the Faith Ministries…and a respected Independent Film Maker whom lives in Georgia. She made her TV debut at 14 years old on the Mr. Novak series. This led to other roles including that of teenage babysitter Carol Deering on the “Julia” TV series with Diahann Carroll. Her story of that first role on the Novak show is a beautiful one and is in the book. Alison said my book was “Awesome”…”Absolutely Marvelous”…and “Worthy of Major Awareness and Success.” Thank you Alison…a Lady of Faith, Creativity and Spirit…..
From Actor Martin Grams, Jr.
Martin Grams, Jr. holds the “no hack job” tome by myself…Thanks again…..
From Actor Peter Helm
Peter Helm was a prolific actor who appeared many times on TV in the 60’s and 70’s. Among his credits were Combat!, Wagon Train, Bonanza…etc. and films such as The Longest Day and Inside Daisy Clover. He appeared…to great effect…in 3 episodes of the Mr. Novak series. These days he’s part of the Teamsters and drives trucks with equipment for TV film shoots. He “loved the book”…called it “GREAT”…and has been showing it to many of his fellow technicians in the industry and “everybody loves it and asked where to get a copy.”
From Ned Comstock
Saw Ned Comstock…of the Cinematic Arts Library at the University of Southern California. Ned helped with the Mr. Novak book and has contributed to 100’s of books on film and TV. He like “the book’s larger size” and “beautiful cover” and while flipping through it…was “amazed with😃 all the illustrations and great design.” Ned has seen many books so his words of praise carried considerable weight. Thanks Ned…
From Actress Beverly Washburn
Received a beautiful thank you card from Beverly (Spider Baby, Star Trek) Washburn after I sent her a book…She is a truly classy lady…
From Actor Beau Bridges
“Got the book Chuck. It was fun looking through…lots of memories!”
Youtube Review from Keepthefaithfilms:
Really excited about Chuck Harters book. Really wonderful historical and important book for anyone interested in the beauty of television. Mr Novak afforded me my debut performance on national television. I appeared in the title role of Billie, in the segment titled “Where Is There to Go Billie But Up?” It was a performance acclaimed by many and watched by all the African Americans believe me. There were very few black folks on television back then, and when we did show up trust me, it was a big deal. It was such an honor to work with James Franciscus, and Lois Nettleton. I had some touching scenes and moments with Lois on set. Please get a copy of the book. It explores an era of television history that is very important and inspiring during a time when television touched on meaningful and important subjects with integrity and fairness.
—Alison Mills Newman, July 30, 2017
Review From MartinGrams.blogspot.com
Mr. Novak: The Television Series
Mr. Novak makes a comeback. Rarely broadcast in reruns during the last three decades, the 1963-65 television series provided a realistic rendition of school teachers and the social problems faced by their students. Comedic elements ala
Our Miss Brooks or Dobie Gillis were not part of E. Jack Neuman’s grand design when he created a series that took place in a high school. Gaining insight to the educational system, he quickly developed a program that — he hoped — would provide social commentary with no interference from the executives at NBC. Dramatic storytelling was never better — sometimes equalled with such greats as The Defenders, Sam Benedict, Naked City and Route 66. Sadly, the last this program aired over television was in the 1980s over TNT. According to offside sources, music rights have held up a commercial DVD release of this groundbreaking series.
Chuck Harter, co-author of the telephone book-sized tome about Harry Langdon (a book I recommend), wrote this 372 page tome, available in paperback and hard cover. He covers all of the bases, in extraordinary detail. From a biography of E. Jack Neuman, filming the television pilot, controversies that arose from various productions, memories from cast and crew, a list of the awards the series garnered, columns as they appeared in
Teen magazine, and a novelization of the two-part Mr. Novak/Dr. Kildare crossover teleplay, “The Rich Who Are Poor.”
What appealed to me the most — and was a fascinating read — was the history of the program in chronological order. Episodes that generated vast mail from viewers, how teachers across the country endorsed the program for the authenticity portrayed on camera, makeup magic, charity benefits, cast changes between seasons, fan mail, how one script was initially rejected by the network because the subject matter dealt with drug addiction and venereal disease, a spoof sketch on
The Danny Kaye Show, LP records and premiums, and details about the episode I first saw twenty years ago on VHS — the death of a school teacher as a result of a heart attack and how the students and other teachers coped. Yeah, this was serious stuff.
Reviews from critics, commentary from directors who lensed some of the episodes, behind-the-scenes photos, and the board game are all included. Harter tracked down Neuman’s family to seek out information not found available anywhere. This is the kind of book I wish were assembled for every television program out there — no hack job here. It portrays an insightful viewpoint of how
Mr. Novak came to be, the battles Neuman had with the network to ensure social commentary was evident, and is the kind of book you would consult piece meal — watching one episode at a time while reviewing the write-up to gain deeper insight. My only complaint is not of the book but rather the film studio. I understand why the television series has never been released to DVD — music rights take time to clear because third parties believe they have million dollar properties. If anything this book makes me want to petition the studio to make the series available for everyone to sample and enjoy. As of present, until a commercial DVD release happens, this book is the next best thing.
Chuck spent considerable time seeking out cast and crew who were still alive to gather any recollections they had during their film shoots. Beau Bridges, Richard Donner, Diane Baker, Frankie Avalon, Ed Asner, Brooke Bundy, Johnny Crawford, Patricia Crowley, Tony Dow, Sherry Jackson, June Lockhart, Walter Koenig, Tommy Kirk, Buck Taylor, Beverly Washburn, and many others. The late Martin Landau wrote a foreword for the book, who aptly mentioned: “The work that Chuck Harter has been doing over the last several years in researching his book deserves to be rewarded.” I could not describe a book review any better than Mr. Landau.
Visit author Martin Grams official website at: www.MartinGrams.com
A Fantastic New Book on a Television Classic
I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Mr. Novak, an Acclaimed Television Series by Chuck Harter. Once I began reading, it was impossible to put it down! This is one of the finest books I have ever read. The story unfolds in perfect order and builds in amazing ways as you read. The beautiful illustrations, anecdotes, interviews, episode guides & episode reviews come together in an extremely satisfying manner. I love the way the book is based on a school year and plays out logically but with surprises popping up too! Mr. Harter is a gifted writer who lets the key characters tell the story as he guides them along. Mr. Novak was my favorite TV series as a teenager and I still cherish the memories–and the show itself–today. It was an honor to be involved in Mr. Novak as an extra! I am thrilled to see this TV series being brought into the public eye again by a writer who knows exactly how to do so. Fingers crossed that the series will be brought out on DVD; that step is long overdue and I believe this book will help make that happen.
Laure-Elise (Georges) Gonzales – Arlington, Texas – 8/19/17
Review by Randall Burrows, Alberta, Canada
It has been my great pleasure to read Chuck Harter’s brilliant new book, ‘Mr. Novak – An Acclaimed Television Series’ (BearManor, 376 pgs., profusely illustrated with photos, fully indexed)…it is indeed a rare occasion when such an engaging, entertaining and profoundly researched history and analysis of a classic television drama is published. The TV series itself belonging to televisions’s first great era of filmed, Los Angeles produced prime time drama. Mr. Novak (NBC, 1963-65) centered around a dedicated and self sacrificing high school teacher (played by James Franciscus), newly assigned to a middle class and fully integrated Los Angeles High School. His Principal and Mentor played by the great Oscar winning actor, Dean Jagger. ‘Mr. Novak’ story lines touched upon many progressive, and even, daring societal and socio-political issues of JFK Era, New Frontier America…racism, civil rights, teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, cheating, technological change, teacher salaries, the Cold War, bullying, poverty and child abuse…with realism and authenticity, but remaining tremendous and inspiring entertainment as well.
What elevates Chuck Harter’s book to a supreme level is his obvious hard work and dedication in uncovering a rich motherlode of primary sources…he gained access to Mr. Novak Producer and co-creator E. Jack Neuman’s personal archive, courtesy of his widow, actress Marian Collier (who appeared in the regular supporting cast as the home economics teacher, Miss Scott)…Chuck Harter also sought out and gained over 40 interviews with guest stars and crew, certainly not easily accomplished for a show of this vintage…among the many interviews…Martin Landau (who also contributes the foreword), Walter Koenig (who provides the afterword of this book), Director Richard Donner (who provides the introduction), Ed Asner, Frankie Avalon, Dianne Baker, Barbara Barrie, Beau Bridges, Johnny Crawford, Pat Crowley, Tony Dow, Sherry Jackson, Tommy Kirk, Louise Latham, June Lockhart, Tom Lowell, David Sheiner, Julie Sommars, Buck Taylor and Beverly Washburn…he also interviewed script writer John D. F. Black, who won a writer’s guild award for his work on Mr. Novak…and MGM Culver City Property Master Bob Schultz contributes his unique and valuable memories on the cast and behind the scenes production history of Mr. Novak.
The first 200 or so pages are devoted to a detailed, profusely illustrated and lively history of the origins and production of Mr. Novak…how the series was conceived, brought to a pilot and sold to the network, and the weekly struggle to produce a high quality hour drama. The critical and popular audience reaction to the show is also examined, in context to the contemporary New Frontier times the show was aired in. The enduring legacy of Mr. Novak is also elaborated upon…it has also proven itself still relevant to our times…another 100+ pages are devoted to a detailed chronological episode guide, also well illustrated, complete with full cast and production credits, airdates and episode synopsis. Archive critical reviews and entertainment trade paper notices are included, as well as author Chuck Harter’s own insightful analysis and appreciation of each episode.
Adding also to the human dimensions of this story…the contributions of John Franciscus, brother of the late James Franciscus…Kitty Wellman, who was the wife of James Franciscus at the time of the show…and the charming and warm memories of John Marshall High School Alumni who appeared in backgrounds of the show’s location filming and remember that magic time when they were part of television history during their own high school years…
Several valuable appendices are also included:
1) Mr. Novak TV Series Awards, 1963-65. (a list of the many accolades awarded to the show).
2) Producer E. Jack Neuman’s Writer’s Guide for Mr. Novak. (his vision of Mr. Novak’s world, for scriptwriter’s story guidance and continuity).
3) Mr. Novak’s Graduation Advice : Think (written by James Franciscus, and because of it’s inspirational nature and the popularity of the show, was distributed nation wide for graduating high school seniors).
4) Principal Vane’s Speech to New Teachers ( a transcript of Dean Jagger’s inspiring welcoming speech to new faculty as presented in the pilot episode, ‘First Year, First Day’).
5) James Franciscus columns for ‘Teen Magazine, 1963-65.
6) Novelization of the rejected two part ‘Mr. Novak / Dr. Kildare’ crossover episode scripts, “The Rich Who Are Poor”.
7) The Mr. Novak board game. (yes, there was a board game tie-in).
A full and comprehensive index is included, as well as the Author’s Acknowledgements for his many sources.
Mr. Novak – An Acclaimed Television Series by Chuck Harter is worthy of joining the ranks of the very rare and finest popular histories and scholarly works on American classic television ever published. It is a real and unexpected achievement, and a testimony to the author’s own hard work and dedicated passion for a much beloved television show. To quote the late Martin Landau, ” a TV gem of the 1960s”.
Mr. Novak is hopefully to be rediscovered soon in DVD releases by Warner Archive, who own the show. Warner Archive have already given high quality DVD releases to other early ’60s MGM TV shows…Dr. Kildare, Sam Benedict, The Lieutenant among them…hopefully the music rights complications are resolved soon…so Mr. Novak will finally receive the worthy home video, streaming and cable treatment it deserves.
Randall Burrows – Alberta, Canada – 9/3/17
Check Out The Review of Mr. Novak Book on Poseidon’s Underworld Blog:
Mystery*File Blog Reviews Mr. Novak Book
” I’ve asked Chuck Harter, the author of the following book to tell us more about it. He’s most graciously agreed:”
Click Here to read entire review.