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Priscilla Morgan and Early Television

Reminiscence by Arthur Penn, Director

Technology, rather than content, was the emphasis in the postwar surge of television for the home. Programming consisted largely of comics, clowns, children’s shows and many people called “Uncle.” But fortunately there were dramatic programs too. I was associated with the remarkable producer Fred Coe, who had assembled a group of talented young writers who wrote beautifully of the lives of the generation recently returned from the war.

Sunday night was the one night when Broadway was dark in those days, so we had the opportunity to cast the brilliant actors who were desperate for relief from the eight performances a week they were obliged to give. The excellence of the television plays that Fred Coe commissioned certainly contributed to the actors’ willingness to trust themselves to the travails of television: no tape, no film, just direct live transmission.

Priscilla Morgan, who had her own talent agency and later joined the William Morris Agency, represented a number of writers and directors –and, I am happy to say–me as a director. She was a most unusual agent. She was not concerned with “the deal.” Priscilla ran a salon. Her instinct for introducing and encouraging talented people whom she perceived, in her magical way, would produce plays, musicals, films, festivals and chamber concerts was astonishing. Painters, sculptors, matchless designers graced her dinners. Her gift for lasting friendships is very much present. An invitation to Priscilla’s suggests an evening of good talk, sometimes heated, but always nourishing.

I believe a number of artists would acknowledge that their lives would have been different if they had not had the good fortune to know Priscilla.