Sherwood Schwartz, Thank You and Rest in Peace

SherwoodSchwartzEveryone at the National Center for Public Policy Research was saddened to learn yesterday of the passing of one of the National Center’s supporters, Sherwood Schwartz.

In grateful appreciation for his support, his commitment to property rights, and his life’s work, the National Center last year ran a featured article about Mr. Schwartz in the Summer 2010 edition of our newsletter (page 6).

I’m reprinting the article here now in memory of Mr. Schwartz.

Donor Profile – Sherwood Schwartz

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale… a tale of National Center supporter and Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz.

Born in Passaic, New Jersey in 1916, Schwartz gained notoriety by writing scripts and jokes for radio and television. He wrote for The Bob Hope Radio Show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, My Favorite Martian, and The Red Skelton Show. He’s probably best known, however, for his work on Gilligan’s Island and the Brady Bunch.

During World War II, Schwartz was assigned to the Armed Forces Radio Network, where he wrote for such shows as Command Performance. This allowed him to work with many major stars of the era, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland.

Schwartz first donated to The National Center for Public Policy Research after reading about our work to defend property rights. He knows first-hand that without clear rights to your property – including your intellectual property – you don’t control it.

Gilligan’s Island almost didn’t make it to network television for this very reason. The show was headed toward the trash after test audiences rejected three versions of it.

Mr. Schwartz says that the audiences rejected it because none of the pilots were true to his vision. He didn’t own the project, so network executives called the shots.

“It was my concept, my show, my script,” said Mr. Schwartz in his 1988 book Inside Gilligan’s Island. “But I couldn’t edit it the way I wanted.”

Mr. Schwartz traces his difficulties to a 1961 speech by Newton Minow, then-Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Calling television a “vast wasteland” filled with “violence… formula comedies… [and] mayhem,” Minow warned networks to either take responsibility for what they aired or lose their licenses.

The networks continued to air violence, formula comedies, and mayhem, of course, but they used Minow’s words as an excuse to take complete creative control over scripts, casting, directing, editing and everything else.

Schwartz was so convinced that Minow was the source of the problem that he took a subtle jab at him by naming the ship wrecked boat on Gilligan’s Island “S.S. Minnow.”

Schwartz eventually convinced United Artists to release Gilligan’s Island to him so that he could re-cut it at his own expense. It’s been on the air constantly ever since, broadcast in at least 30 languages and in more than 70 countries.

James Madison wrote that without property rights, “No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.”

That’s why we’re so committed to preventing the erosion of this constitutional right. And it’s why we’re very grateful to supporters like Sherwood Schwartz… and you.

The article was written by the National Center’s Deputy Director of Development, Stephen Saunders. Stephen is a big Sherwood Schwartz fan – as are we all.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.