Roy Huggins

Roy Huggins

Roy Huggins was born in Litelle, Washington, on 18th July, 1914. After attending the University of Oregon he moved to Hollywood where he attempted to find work as a screenwriter. He joined the Communist Party because of his dislike of fascism. Huggins left the party after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in August, 1939.

During the Second World War Huggins wrote the crime novel, Too Late For Tears. He moved to Hollywood and his first script, Fuller Brush Man was filmed in 1948. This was followed by I Love Trouble (1948), The Lady Gambles (1949), Too Late for Tears (1949), Women in Hiding (1950), Good Humor Man (1950) and Sealed Cargo (1951).

When the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation into the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. Huggins was one of those named as a former member of the Communist Party. He appeared before the HUAC on 29th September, 1952, and during his testimony, named nineteen former comrades.

After his testimony Huggins was free to pursue his career in Hollywood. Other films that he wrote included Hangman's Knot (1952), Gun Fury (1953), Three Hours to Kill (1954) and Pushover (1954).

In the 1950s and 60s he concentrated on television writing, producing and directing episodes of Cheyenne (1955-63), Conflict (1956-57), Maverick (1957-62), 77 Sunset Strip (1958-64), The Fugitive (1963-67), Alias Smith and Jones (1971-73) and The Rockford Files. (1974-80). Whenever possible, Huggins employed writers and actors who had been blacklisted. Roy Huggins died in Santa Monica, California, on 3rd April, 2002.

Primary Sources

(1) Roy Huggins was interviewed by the House of Un-American Activities Committee on 29th September, 1952.

There is a great need for democracy to do something about the subversive drives which intend to overthrow it. This is one of the things that disturbed me deeply about the Communist Party, is that they do not believe in individual freedom, and yet they shout to the housetops in defense of individual freedom in all of the democratic countries in which they exist. They become champions of complete political freedom. It seems to be one more evidence of their complete lack of integrity or scrupulous or anything else.

It would be a terrible thing if we were to fight tyranny by becoming a tyranny ourselves, isn't that so. This would be a terrible thing if we are anti-Communist because we feel that Communists destroy individual freedom and liberty, and in fighting Communism, we destroy individual freedom and liberty. This would be a fight in vain.

(2) Roy Huggins was interviewed by Victor Navasky when he was writing his book, Naming Names (1982)

I decided that I would testify because I welcomed the opportunity to state the historical reasons for someone like me joining the Communist Party and also to state that the Committee was possibly defeating its own ends by its methods. I had no names to put into the record. By the time I got the subpoena, everyone had been mentioned many times. It didn't occur to me that I'd been double-crossed. I was unprepared. I ended up agreeing that people who had already been mentioned many times were indeed known to me as Communists.

(3) Variety Magazine, Roy Huggins, (5th April, 2002)

Huggins joined Warner Bros. in its early efforts to get into the booming television business, which at the time was entirely live-to-air. Huggins is often credited as the "father of filmed television," with such pioneering series as "Cheyenne," "Colt 45," "77 Sunset Strip " and a number of other highly successful detective series.

In 1962, he joined Universal Television in what would become a dynamic alliance lasting more than 15 years. He served as executive producer on the TV series "The Virginian" in its first year and launched it on a nine-year run. Huggins was the creative force behind many more series including "Run For Your Life," starring Ben Gazarra, and "Alias Smith and Jones."

During Huggins' 50-year career in the entertainment industry, he authored some 350 scripts for television and film, many of which were credited under the pseudonym "John Thomas James" after the names of three of his sons.

(4) Independent, Roy Huggins, (8th April, 2002)

He switched from films to television in 1955, when he joined Warner Brothers to produce King's Row (1955-56). After creating the series, he worked on Cheyenne (1956), saving the initially ailing programme by assigning it scripts recycled from from Warner Brothers films such as Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Starring Clint Walker as a drifting loner wandering around the frontier, it became the company's first television success.

The producer's golden touch meant that he was swiftly moved on to the drama anthology series Conflict (1956-57), where he met James Garner. On being asked by Warner to create a new programme, he tailored Maverick (1957-58) round the actor, making him a flawed anti-hero in the Old West. Huggins provided Maverick's writers and directors with a "Ten Point Guide to Happiness", which included:

Huggins brought Warner a further hit with the humorous crime drama 77 Sunset Strip (1958), loosely based on his own 1949 novel Lovely Lady, Pity Me, but worked on only the pilot episode. Refused a share in the profits from Warner Brothers' three most successful series, for which he was responsible, Huggins left the company.

After a short-lived job at Twentieth Century-Fox, he wrote a six-page idea for a television drama about a man wrongly convicted of his wife's murder who goes on the run in an attempt to find her killer and escape the death penalty. Inspired by Victor Hugo's Les Misérables and a real-life case in America, the programme became The Fugitive (1963-67) after Huggins sold the format to ABC, which brought in the producer Quinn Martin to make the series.

Its unrelenting tension and a dramatic, two-part finale in which Dr Richard Kimble (David Janssen) confronts the one-armed killer made it compelling viewing around the world. Indeed, it was watched by more people than any other programme until the shooting of J.R. Ewing in Dallas 13 years later. (So fondly remembered was the 120-episode drama that a feature-film remake, starring Harrison Ford, was released in 1993. Huggins also served as executive producer on a new television version of The Fugitive, in 2000.)

Meanwhile, over 17 years at Universal (1963-80), Huggins produced series such as The Virginian, before creating with Glenn Larson the tongue-in-cheek Alias Smith and Jones (1971-73), about two bank robbers trying to go straight. "The series deals with characters of the West and in the West," explained Huggins, "but, in reality, it is not a western but, rather, adventures full of humour that unfold in saloons between bandits and gunfighters."

The producer's most successful series at Universal was The Rockford Files (1974-75), a high point in television private-eye dramas. After sketching out the programme idea, Huggins brought in the writer Stephen J. Cannell, who broke all the rules of small-screen detective series in the way that its creator had done with Maverick. The star of that series, James Garner, was reunited with Huggins to play Jim Rockford – who operated from a mobile home parked on a beach – in detective stories that were exceptionally well plotted but equally character-driven. Huggins produced the first two series.