Richard Levinson

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Richard Levinson

Born

8/7/1934

Died

3/12/1987

Birth Name

Gender

Male
10
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User Rating
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Biography

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Richard Levinson was one of television's most famous writers and producers. Along with his writing partner William Link, Levinson created some of TV's most memorable detectives. Jessica Fletcher, Joe Mannix, and Lt. Columbo all sprang from their fertile imaginations. The two began their collaborations as students at the…more

Credits

Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • In the Columbo episode "Murder By the Book," the mystery writing team of Franklin and Ferris is a reference to Richard Levinson and William Link. In fact, when preparing to play a scene as mystery writer-turned-murderer Ken Franklin, Jack Cassidy would ask aloud to anyone within earshot, "Who am I playing in this scene, Levinson or Link?"

    • Before his death, Richard Levinson was very involved in the day-to-day aspects of producing Murder, She Wrote. Angela Lansbury later recalled that she and Levinson "got on like a house on fire."

    • In his career, Richard Levinson contributed scripts to over 100 different series, in addition to writing TV movies and plays.

    • The Boys, the 1991 TV movie written by William Link, was based on the partnership between Richard Levinson and Link. It dramatized Levinson's illness and death from lung cancer.

    • Richard Levinson and his wife, Rosanna Huffman, married in 1969 and had one child, Christine.

    • Richard Levinson and William Link were known as "the boys," a nickname given to them by their fellow writers and the actors who worked with them.

    • In 1989, Richard Levinson and William Link received a special Ellery Queen Award from the Mystery Writers of America for lifetime contribution to the mystery genre.

    • Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami, the final project Richard Levinson worked on, was dedicated to him when it aired after his death.

    • Along with William Link, he won three Edgar Allan Poe Awards (Best Television Feature or Miniseries, 1979, 1983, 1986).

    • In 1959 Richard Levinson and William Link's drama of army life, "Chain of Command", was produced as an installment of Desilu Playhouse, then chosen by TV Guide as one of the best programs of the season.

    • He served in the United States Army from 1957-1958.

    • In 1979, Richard Levinson and William Link received a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for their work on Ellery Queen and Columbo.

    • His life-long collaboration with William Link began writing sketches together at summer camp, then at the University of Pennsylvania in their native Philadelphia.

  • Quotes

    • Richard Levinson: One of the lessons we learned [on Ellery Queen] was not to be too tricky. Some people say, "We can guess Murder She Wrote." We say, "Good!" We also learned that Angela Lansbury has a drive we didn't have in Ellery Queen, just by the nature of her personality. We also did EQ a little bit '40s, a little bit campy, so we deliberately made Murder She Wrote a very old-fashioned, very straight, even very square show. We didn't give Angela any eccentricities. We said, "Just be yourself, because you're so charming."

    • Richard Levinson: What we try to do is the highest quality popular entertainment we can do, with an occasional thought sticking through.

    • Richard Levinson: (asked about the popularity of mystery shows in the 1980s) There is a theory that during a time of chaos, the orderly procedures of the classic mystery have renewed appeal. I'm not sure I subscribe to that theory. I just think the form has a lot of juice to it. People keep rediscovering it.

    • Richard Levinson: (describing to the New York Times the early stages of Murder, She Wrote, which ran 12 seasons) We were getting condolences before we even went on the air. At best, we hoped that it would be a marginal success. We wanted Angela to be herself - not eccentric Miss Marple, Mame, Mrs. Lovett. People who are too hot wear out their welcome on television. They get on your nerves. Angela protested, "If I'm myself, I'm boring." She isn't.

    • Richard Levinson: Columbo was a conscious reaction against the impetuous force of Joe Mannix.

    • Richard Levinson: To me the novel is the highest form of art. No two people can write a great novel. But in a medium of popular entertainment, when you're collaborating with actors, directors and everyone else anyway, I see nothing wrong with a writing team. Bill and I have no pretensions to be artists. We are not Gunter Grass or Vladimir Nabokov. What we try to do is the highest quality popular entertainment that we can do, with an occasional thought sticking through.

    • Richard Levinson: The idea of the show [Murder, She Wrote] is to imagine what might happen if Agatha Christie were alive today and people came to her to solve mysteries.

    • Richard Levinson: Helen Hayes as Miss Marple did well in the ratings. Bill and Peter Fischer and I got together and decided, "Let's not do Miss Marple. Let's make her a mystery writer, like Agatha Christie." Then it was a question of who could play Agatha Christie. Only one person - Jean Stapleton. CBS loved the idea. Jean loved the idea. Jean didn't like the script. She didn't understand the character. I think after playing Edith Bunker she wanted something more sophisticated than this bicycle-riding widow from Maine.

    • Richard Levinson: Car chases are becoming too expensive to film. On shows like Murder, She Wrote or Columbo, most of the scenes are just two or three people in a room talking.

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