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Fred de Cordova

Fred de Cordova
Frederick de Cordova
Born Frederick Timmins de Cordova
(1910-10-27)October 27, 1910
New York City, New York
Died September 15, 2001(2001-09-15) (aged 90)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles
Occupation Director, producer

Frederick Timmins "Fred" de Cordova (October 27, 1910 – September 15, 2001) was an American stage, motion picture and television director and producer. He is best known for his work on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Early life

De Cordova was born in

External links

  • Bernstein, F., "Traffic cop, talent scout, critic. Fred De Cordova keeps Carson's Tonight Show on track" People Weekly, 22:131-2. October 8, 1984
  • de Cordova, Fred, "Johnny Came Lately: An Autobiography". New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988. ISBN 0-671-55849-8 (hardcover); paperback reprint edition, Pocket Books, 1989, ISBN 0-671-67082-4.
  • Bennett, Mark, "The Big Show: A tribute to my mentor and friend, Fred de Cordova". Hawaii: The Larry Czerwonka Company, 2013. ISBN 0615856403, 978-0615856407.

Further reading

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He married former actress Janet Thomas (b. 1919, d. 2009)[15] in 1963, and they remained married for the rest of his life. He died of natural causes at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, California on September 15, 2001.[16]

Personal life

Martin Scorsese's 1983 film, The King of Comedy, about a delusional fan (Robert De Niro) who kidnaps a late-night talk-show host (Jerry Lewis), cast de Cordova as the show's producer.

In 1995 and 1998, respectively, de Cordova appeared as himself on The Larry Sanders Show in the fourth season episode, "Eight", and in the sixth season episode, "As My Career Lay Dying".

During guest appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, comedian Will Ferrell played the role of a deluded Robert Goulet, who believed himself to be a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Ferrell's fictional Goulet made references to de Cordova, insisting that de Cordova owed him money (or, conversely, that Goulet owed de Cordova money).[13][14]

In July 1991, Carson paid tribute at the end of a show to his son Ricky Carson, who had died the month before in an automobile accident. De Cordova was aware that the show was going long and gave Carson the "wrap it up sign." This infuriated Carson, and from that point forward de Cordova was no longer permitted to be in the studio during the taping of the show, although he remained the show's executive producer.[12]

These awkward exchanges became an object of parody. An episode of SCTV aired in 1981 featured a sketch of "The Freddie de Cordova Show".[11] The segment was almost an exact copy of the Tonight Show, except the host's desk was empty; de Cordova conducted all of his interviews from his usual perch off-camera. On the real program in 1988, as a takeoff on the installation of lights in Wrigley Field, Carson ceremonially installed a light on the edge of the set so that de Cordova could finally be seen.

During tapings of the Tonight Show, de Cordova would sit in a chair just beyond the guests' couch so that he could cue Carson directly and speak with him during commercial breaks. By the 1980s Carson would occasionally speak to de Cordova during the show, although usually the moment would pass so quickly that there would be no time to give de Cordova a microphone or catch him on camera.

He turned to directing television when there was less need for low-budget movies to serve as the second half of a December Bride, Leave It to Beaver, My Three Sons (103 episodes), and The Smothers Brothers Show. He directed and/or produced more than 500 TV series or segments. He produced The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson starting in 1970.[8] using the name Fred de Cordova.[7][9] He became producer of the show in 1970 and executive producer in 1984. He described his job as “..chief traffic cop, talent scout, No. 1 fan and critic all rolled into one" in a 1981 interview.[4] de Cordova was described as “.. a large, looming, beaming man with horn-rimmed glasses, an Acapulcan tan, and an engulfing handshake that is a contract in itself, complete with small print and an option for renewal on both sides.”[10] He was executive producer when the final Carson Tonight Show signed off on May 22, 1992. He won five Emmys for his work on the show.

He was a dialogue director in five films, including To Have and Have Not (1944). His first film directing job was “Too Young To Know" (1945) for Warner Brothers. He directed 23 movies. One of the better known was Bedtime for Bonzo (1951) starring a chimpanzee and future President Ronald Reagan. He also directed Rock Hudson, Errol Flynn, Tony Curtis, Audie Murphy, Yvonne de Carlo, Bob Hope and Humphrey Bogart. Much of his career was at Universal Studios, where he was known for turning out entertaining pictures quickly, even with difficult actors, and on a low budget.[6] His last film was Frankie and Johnny (1966) with Elvis Presley.[7]

[5] He was variously a performer, stage manager, stage director, and finally dialogue director, the last in "Ziegfeld Follies of 1943".[4] His first theater credit was as a performer in "Elmer the Great" (1928). After his graduation from


[3][2].Northwestern University in 1931 from liberal arts In his 1988 autobiography, de Cordova described his parents as con artists who, during his early years, lived well and skipped town without paying. He received an undergraduate degree in [1]

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