My dad, Hal Schaffel was a man who was the embodiment of grace and charm who could gravitate from schmoozing with his teamsters on a production to charming the President of the United States (Kennedy) in the same day and felt equally as comfortable in the company of both. When I was a little boy, and my friends would come over to the house, he would make sure that they felt welcome....they always would say "what a cool dad!" He was friendly, VERY out going, and intelligent beyond belief....I mean this guy could do the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle IN PEN!!!! He credited his intelligence with the fact that he was a voracious reader....sadly, a lost art in this day and age.
Born in his beloved Brooklyn NYC on April 14th, 1914, he went to Boys High School where he was an honor student who wanted to study law. After graduating from Brooklyn Law with honors, he went into practice with his uncle Sydney Silverman.
He left a law practice to go into the Army during WWII and became an intelligence officer, negotiating the treaty that returned Bora Bora to the French after the war. After the war, a war buddy (Martin Stone) wrangled him to become a radio producer and the rest, as they say...is history. Upon his death in 1993, he left many friends, colleagues and two sons who adored him. His like will not be found again personally or professionally. Here is his story.
Kenny Morse (Schaffel)
Hal Schaffel began his career as a lawyer, but decided that show business was his goal and started out as a radio producer in New York City. He produced for Martin Stone Productions, a radio & TV show called "AUTHOR MEETS THE CRITICS" on WMCA radio. This show was the "Politically Incorrect" of its day.
He then went to work for famed TV game show producer Mark Goodson and had an idea for a television show...one where people's profession was guessed by a celebrity panel....it was called
but never really
was given credit for its creation as he was an employee of Goodson at the
time.......Goodson has historically been credited with the show. It was ok
with Hal......he knew that the people at the time knew who the idea came
from. There are a couple of websites that acknowledge this creation as
Hal then went
to NBC where he became the Producer of
"THE PATTI PAGE SHOW"
....but his friend Marty Stone asked him to come produce another show with him.....
a little show called
"HOWDY DOODY."( for a Buffalo Bob tribute)
From there, Hal
was made the head of business affairs at SCREEN GEMS
(the television arm of Columbia Pictures). After working for a couple of seasons at 711 5th Avenue, the headquarters of Screen Gems, in 1958, Screen Gems asked him to Production Manage their Florida television series "TALLAHASSEE 7000" starring Walter Matthau and DeForest Kelley
(of "Star Trek" fame).
This led to him
becoming the famed and celebrated location and production manager of the
seminal police television series of the 60's, "NAKED
Paul Burke & Horace McMahon
Hal, Horace McMahon (star of "Naked City") and my mom, Sylvia
dad was featured in the 1961 two part series on NAKED CITY done in TV GUIDE.
CLICK on the cover to read the entire feature (downloaded as a ZIP file with 4 GIFS).
was finally cancelled, he was
immediately hired by Herb Brodkin to be the Production
Manager of the Emmy Award winning television
"THE DEFENDERS" for which he was honored by
the Television Academy with a special Emmy
for his work on the series.
The rest of the
60's were spent Production Managing television series such as "THE
DOCTORS & THE NURSES," (1965-67)
(Zina Bethune and Shirl Conway)
the now cult classic "CORONET BLUE,"(1965)
"FOR THE PEOPLE"
Shatner's first TV series) (1965)
(William Shatner as ADA David Koster)
and "HAWK" starring
Burt Reyonlds (1966).
feature film career with a small film called
"THE ANGEL LEVINE"
starring Zero Mostel and
But the film that would change Hal's career came along in 1968 and ended up becoming the most controversial (the FIRST film to be rated "X" by the MPAA) and wonderful Academy Award Winning
John Schlesinger (Dir.), Hal and Associate Producer Kenny Utt (my dad's best friend) during "Midnight Cowboy."
This is a shot taken in-between scenes during the filming of "Cowboy."
That is Jon Voight and Sylvia Miles
Hal actually appeared
IN "Midnight Cowboy"
as the boyfriend of Sylvia Miles. He only appeared in an 8x10 photo
by the side of her bed, but it was seen in the film.
Hal & Sylvia Miles with Sylvia standing by the table in-between scenes
This was a birthday celebration for Dustin Hoffman during the filming.
That's me over his left shoulder and my brother Bob in the suit.
Hal moved on to UPM (Unit Production Manager) many other films LIKE:
HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (THE FIRST VAMPIRE TV/FILM CULT CLASSIC IN 1970)
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
"The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"(1971)
Writer Israel Horovitz, Irwin Winkler & Hal
"Believe In Me" (1971) MGM
Michael Sarrazin & Jacqueline Bisset
During the filming, they wanted to shoot outside of the famous FILLMORE EAST, but Bill Graham wanted $1000 and they didn't want to pay it, so they said they'd shoot around the theatre.
In response, Graham did this:
and then back to TV as the
Production Manager of SHOWS LIKE:
(Claude Rains & Frank Converse)
and even a stint on "HAWAII 5-0"
for a season (my dad used to say, if Jack
Lord was walking down one side of the street and Jesus was walking down
the other, say HELLO to Jack Lord because Jesus forgives!).
Then moving to Los Angeles in 1976, became the Head Of Production for Viacom Productions, (when Viacom was only a small production entity) and did many TV pilots,
then more films like Barbra Streisand's
"THE MAIN EVENT."
In the summer
of 1978, Hal Production Managed Frank Sinatra's first TV movie CONTRACT ON
and I was the location manager (nothing wrong with nepotism, just so long as you keep it in the family!). CLICK on the picture of Sinatra for a great behind the scenes account of a day on the set with this legend.
After UPM/Producing many television movies for Factor/Newland Productions in the early 80's.
Here he is appearing in one TV movie himself, MARILYN THE UNTOLD STORY, where he played Marilyn Monroe's lawyer Jerry Geisler.
But Hal got an offer he couldn't
refuse and became a Production Executive for THE COMPLETION BOND
COMPANY later in the 80's.
Here is an ad they took in the trades for Hal:
This was the job Hal did until his death in 1993 and he LOVED his job, overseeing and SAVING many hit films, not the least of which was DANCES WITH WOLVES, which was in big trouble financially until Hal helped first time director Kevin Costner to save the film.
He was what is called in Yiddish...a "Mensch." Loved by all who knew him, very loved by his family.
He really enjoyed using his computer (he had one WAY before I ever did). He would love that he is on the internet.
His filmography can be found at:
HAL WAS VERY PROUD OF HIS FIRST COUSIN, THE
AMAZING OPERA SUPERSTAR, BEVERLY SILLS.
THEN...AT HER LAST PERFORMANCE IN 1980 Bubbb
My dad is somewhat of a legend in the world of Production Management as he was one of the first UPM's to be invited to join The Directors Guild. He lived to tell a joke, or do a rope trick, and was proud of his boys, me and my brother Bob. His loss in 1993 was a huge one for us, but we are also proud to say, that we ARE the sons of Hal Schaffel in every way that is important, and he and my mom Sylvia helped to make us the people we are today.... The menches he wanted us to be.
With love..........your proud son,
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE HAL BEING INTERVIEWED ON MY 1990'S LOS ANGELES CABLE SHOW, "IN THE BIZ"....YOU CAN FIND THE CLIPS ON YOU TUBE BY CLICKING HERE. ENJOY.