Writer Oliver Crawford, 91; Was Blacklisted in Red Scare

Oliver Crawford was a prolific contributor to TV shows, including
Oliver Crawford was a prolific contributor to TV shows, including "Star Trek." (Family Photo)
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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Oliver Crawford, 91, an author who overcame the Red Scare blacklist of the 1950s to become a prolific contributor to television shows, including "Star Trek," "Bonanza" and "Perry Mason," died Sept. 24 at a hospital in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia.

Mr. Crawford was just starting a writing career in Hollywood when he was contacted in 1953 by the House Un-American Activities Committee, then looking into allegations of communist influence in the entertainment industry.

He was blacklisted after refusing to reveal names of suspected communists, said his daughter, Vicki Crawford. He got back into the business in 1957 after a friend, actor Sam Levene, helped him land a job as a writer for "Playhouse 90."

His career flourished in the 1960s as he wrote for such popular shows as "Rawhide," "Lawman," "The Rifleman," "Ben Casey," "The Outer Limits" and "I Spy." Still other credits were for "Gilligan's Island," "The Big Valley," "The Wild Wild West" and "The Fugitive."

He remained busy throughout the 1970s, writing for "Mannix," "Kojak," "Ironside," "Love, American Style," "The Bionic Woman" and other shows.

His 1978 novel "The Execution," about a group of Nazi prison camp survivors living in San Diego who plot to kill a former prison guard, was made into a TV movie in 1985 with Loretta Swit and Rip Torn.

Mr. Crawford also was a longtime member of the Writers Guild of America's board of directors and lobbied to remove the anti-communist loyalty oath from the guild's membership application, his daughter said.

Oliver Kaufman -- who took Crawford as his professional name -- was born in Chicago on Aug. 12, 1917.

After graduating from high school, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Goodman Theater, where his classmates included Karl Malden and Sam Wanamaker.

His wife, the former Bert Pikus, whom he married in 1941, died in 1986.

Besides his daughter, survivors include two other children, Kenny Kaufman and Jo Kaufman, all of Los Angeles; a sister; and a brother.

-- From staff and wire reports

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