WGA Award-Winning TV Comedy Writer Jack Elinson Dies at 89
LOS ANGELES -- Veteran television comedy writer Jack Elinson, whose prolific career in entertainment spanned over five decades, died on Thursday, November 17, at his home in Santa Monica of natural causes at the age of 89.
Serving as executive producer or producer on many of the hit TV shows for which he also served as writer, Elinson penned innumerable episodes of many popular series over 50 years in television, a fixture in the writers’ room from the “Golden Age” of TV to well past the millennium.
During the 1950s, Elinson’s TV writing credits included series such as All-Star Revue, The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Duke, The Jimmy Durante Show, Hey, Jeannie!, The Johnny Carson Show, and The Real McCoys. During the 1960s, Elinson’s TV writing credits included series such as The Danny Thomas Show (aka Make Room for Daddy), The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan’s Heroes, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (producer), Run, Buddy, Run (producer), and That Girl (producer).
In the ’70s, he wrote for and played an integral part of such hit shows as Good Times (producer), and One Day at Time (executive producer), as well as The Doris Day Show (producer), Arnie, and the animated sitcom Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. During the ’80s, his TV writing credits included The Facts of Life (executive producer) and 227, the Marla Gibbs-starring comedy series which Elinson developed (created by C.J. Banks and Bill Boulware, based on the play by Christine Houston) and executive produced for several seasons.
In 1961, Elinson received an Emmy Comedy Series nomination (shared with Charles Stewart) for his work on Make Room for Daddy (aka The Danny Thomas Show). A four-time Writers Guild Award nominee, Elinson shared a WGA award for co-writing The Andy Griffith Show episode “Manhunt” (1962, Television: Comedy/Variety, Any Length). In addition, Elinson received WGA nominations in 1960 for the Make Room for Daddy episode “Terry’s Crush” (Written by Charles Stewart & Jack Elinson; Television: Script, 30 Minutes or Less in Program Length), in 1961 for the Make Room for Daddy episode “Linda Wants to Be a Boy” (Written by Charles Stewart & Jack Elinson; Television: Episodic Comedy), and in 1989 for his work on Jay Leno’s Family Comedy Hour (shared with writers Jay Leno, Martin Silbermintz, Jay Teitzell, Ted Hermann, with special material by Wayne Kline; Television: Comedy/Variety: Special – Musical/Award/Tribute).
Born on April 21, 1922, in New York City, according to his family, Elinson delivered his first known joke as a kid in the second grade in the Bronx: He told his teacher he needed to go home; when the teacher asked why, young Jack quipped, “I didn’t finish my egg.”
After being drafted into the Army, Elinson served his country during WWII, stationed in Italy for several years during the ’40s. Once back in the States, he promptly married his sweetheart, Katie Liss, and made the leap from armed forces to entertainment, following his brother Izzy into show business. Elinson launched his career as a comedy writer first penning jokes for Walter Winchell’s newspaper column, followed by steady stints on radio shows, soon rising up the ranks as part of a small group of in-demand gag writers during the advent of television. Early on, Elinson was hired to be part of the writing team for The Colgate Comedy Hour. Soon after, he found work creating comedic sketches for The Ed Wynn Show, The Jimmy Durante Show, The Garry Moore Show, and even the original Johnny Carson Show, years before Carson’s iconic hosting gig on The Tonight Show.
A Writers Guild of America, West member since 1948, Elinson’s Guild service over the years included serving on several WGAW committees, including TV Credits, TV-Radio Grievance, and Hyphenate Staff Steering committees.
Jack was predeceased by his first wife, Katie, and is survived by his four children: Michael (Meryl), David (Barbara), Robbie (Dorothy), and Ethel (David); his second wife, Estelle, her three children: Marcy (Steve), Claudia (Brian) and Valerie (Adam); and 12 grandchildren.
A private memorial service was held Monday, November 21, in Mission Hills, California.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations may be made in Jack Elinson’s name to OPICA Daycare and/or Skirball Hospice, both in Los Angeles County.
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