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Wednesday, October 19,2011

Meet Loring Mandel

by Paul Wozniak

Chicago native Loring Mandel never
imagined his profession might be writing for television. Mandel, 83,
wrote his first closed-circuit radio productions for fun when he was 6
years old; when he needed money for graduate courses in music at
Northwestern University, Mandel discovered he could make a living from
fun. Since the early 1950s, Mandel made a career writing for radio, TV
and stage, earning numerous accolades along the way. 


According to his interview with the
Archive of American Television, Mandel says he cut his teeth early on
in Chicago by writing radio programs before transitioning into
television. Educated in writing and drama at the University of
Wisconsin, Mandel soon moved to New York, where he wrote for the CBS
anthologies “Studio One in Hollywood,” “The Seven Lively Arts” and
“Playhouse 90,” which presented dramatic or comedic works live for a
broadcast audience. He worked with actors like Paul Newman and Lee
Marvin and directors such as Sidney Lumet.


While many writers sought their fortunes
by relocating to California, Mandel stayed in New York. “I never wanted
to move (to California) because it’s a company town,” he said in a
phone interview.


He describes the culture there as
cliquish, with writers only mingling with other writers. It was not
representative of the ordinary people he wanted to write about. “I felt
I probably would have a much better fix on them by living among them
(in New York) than by living in Los Angeles and getting my idea of what
people were like from other movies,” he said. 


As studios expanded operations beyond
the Hollywood soundstages and came back to cities like New York, Mandel
says the shrunken talent pool on the East Coast worked to his
advantage. “A lot of the writers moved to California, but didn’t make
it. Those of us who stayed in New York worked all the time,” he said.


Although Mandel’s television work
consisted mostly of prime-time dramas, he was also the head writer of
the daytime soap opera “Love of Life” in the early 1970s.Mandel’s best
known and most acclaimed work to date, however, is “Conspiracy,” the
2001 HBO film that inspired the Riverwalk Theatre premiere.


He says that although the film’s success
was an incredible high, it also made him a sought-after commodity. “One
of the things that happens in this business is when you have a very
successful show on a particular subject, you suddenly get deluged with
offers to do things on the same subject. I was really not interested in
doing more shows  (like “Conspiracy” or on the Holocaust) on that subject.  I did what I had to say on it. And I wanted to strike out on something new.” 


Over the years, his writing earned him
five Emmy nominations and two wins, the Sylvania Award, two Peabody
awards and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for
his original dramas. In 2004, Mandel received the Paddy Chayefsky
Lifetime Achievement Award at the 56th Writers Guild of America Awards.
 


On his approach to writing, Mandel says
his only motivations are whether a subject or character involves and
interests him. “I’ve been doing it all my life and it was always what I
did for fun. If I can continue to live, I want to keep doing what I
like. Why do something else?”

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