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January 25, 2011
Earle Hagen Inducted into TV Academy Hall of Fame
Prolific TV composer is first to receive Acad's top honor by Jon Burlingame
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Earle Hagen, who wrote the iconic themes for the Andy Griffith and Dick Van Dyke Shows, became the first TV composer to be inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in ceremonies Thursday night, Jan. 20, at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Hagen joined actresses Diahann Carroll and Cloris Leachman, writer-producer Susan Harris, newsman Peter Jennings, game-show pioneer Bill Todman and MTV executive Tom Freston as this year's honorees. Hagen died in 2008, Jennings in 2005 and Todman in 1979 and so were inducted posthumously; the others all attended.
John Shaffner, chairman and CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, introduced the evening and explained that, while an Emmy is for excellence within a single program year, the Academy Hall of Fame is "the single highest honor that the Television Academy can bestow." It honors, he said, "a lifetime of achievement."
Host Jeff Probst remarked that "if you could put these people into a room for an hour, you'd probably change the face of television. Among the most influential of their peers," he added, they are "among the few who have enriched television" with their work.
Hagen was the first honoree of the evening. Van Dyke was expected to make the induction speech, but health problems precluded him from attending, so his Van Dyke Show producer Carl Reiner agreed to pinch-hit for Van Dyke "with great pride and emotion." He called Hagen "an extraordinary musician. I knew the man and I loved him."
Reiner cited Hagen's unique contributions as a pioneer of original music for television, including the themes and scores for Make Room for Daddy, the Griffith and Van Dyke Shows, plus Gomer Pyle USMC, I Spy, That Girl, The Mod Squad, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and many others during a career spanning more than three decades and 3,000 individual episodes — "a staggering body of music for television," Reiner added.
After his retirement in 1986, Hagen became "the dean of screen music educators," Reiner noted, explaining that Hagen wrote two widely used textbooks and taught young composers the nuts and bolts of writing music for movies and TV.
Reiner encouraged Hagen's widow Laura, in accepting the award, to sing Morey Amsterdam's rarely heard lyrics to the Dick Van Dyke Show theme (which Van Dyke himself often sings in public appearances). She said that Hagen, if he had been there, would have "acknowledged with sincere respect and gratitude all the wonderful people he worked with," notably producer Sheldon Leonard who had become a close friend and gave Hagen free rein to supply the right music for all of his shows.
"Earle was, without question, the 'real deal,'" Mrs. Hagen said. "He consistently held himself to a higher standard. He was a prolific music composer, arranger, teacher, mentor, author, golfer, father and grandfather, and a sweetheart of a husband."
She added her personal thanks to the Academy "on behalf of all composers, arrangers, songwriters and players, both present and future. This recognition gives a much welcomed boost to our unseen members of the music community who work hard behind the scenes, setting the mood, creating the atmosphere, and helping deliver the story so beautifully with their talents."
The 23-minute Hagen segment also included a video illustrating Hagen's artistry, featuring clips from many of his classic shows along with rare footage of Hagen at work and accepting his 1968 Emmy for music on I Spy. In the audience were composers Bruce Babcock (who worked with Hagen on Mike Hammer), Ray Colcord (who served on this year's Hall of Fame committee), Mark Watters and Mark Adler (governors of the Academy music branch), and Dan Foliart (president of the Society of Composers & Lyricists).
This was the 20th annual Hall of Fame event. The only other musician in the Hall of Fame is Leonard Bernstein, whose appearances on Omnibus and as host of Young People's Concerts were in an educational capacity. Hagen is the first working TV composer to achieve this honor.
©2011 Jon Burlingame
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