Kallen, Lucille

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Lucille Kallen (1922 - 1999) was a prolific writer, proficient in many genres, who helped shape the early direction of American television humor, but is perhaps best remembered as the author of the C.B. Greenfield mystery novels.

Kallen, who was was the only female writer on the staff of Your Show of Shows in a time when men dominated the industry, also wrote for radio, theater, and television. While still establishing herself as a radio writer in the late 1940s, Kallen was teamed with Mel Tolkin as a writing partner at the Tamiment Playhouse, a summer theater in the Poconos run by producer Max Liebman. It also was at Tamiment that Kallen first met the comedienne, Imogene Coca. By 1949, Kallen was working in New York with Tolkin as co-writers for a new television program, the Admiral Broadway Revue, which featured Sid Caesar as host and a cast that included Coca. The show was reincarnated the following season as Your Show of Shows. Kallen, who was joined in the writers' room by such notables as Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, was the only female writer during the entire run of the show. She developed material primarily for Coca and was credited with creating some of her best writing in sketches concerning the bickering married couple, the Hickenloopers. When Your Show of Shows went off the air in 1954, Kallen was chosen to become head writer for the short-lived Imogene Coca Show.

Kallen remained in New York even after many television studios moved their primary operations to the west coast and continued to submit scripts to television series. She also worked on a variety of theater projects. During the 1960s, Kallen began writing fiction for publication. In 1964, her novel, Outside There Somewhere!, was published. Although the comic, feminist novel was critically praised by the likes of Betty Friedan, it was not a huge success. In 1979, however, her first detective novel, Introducing C.B. Greenfield, was nominated for the American Book Award. This mystery novel spawned a series of five books featuring the characters, C.B. Greenfield and Maggie Rome, that became internationally popular. After the Greenfield books, in later years Kallen worked on an uncompleted novel titled, Sacred Bull. Her final work in progress, Fannie DeWitt, appears to have been inspired by her hospital experiences while being treated for an illness. Kallen died on January 18, 1999.

From the description of Lucille Kallen papers, 1938-1999. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 79409386

Lucille Kallen was a prolific writer who helped shape the early direction of American television humor. While she wrote for radio, theater, television, and publication, and served as the only female writer on the staff of the television classic Your Show of Shows, today she is best known as the author of the C. B. Greenfield mystery novels.

Lucille Kallen was born Lucille Eve Chernos in Los Angeles on May 28, 1922. When she was three years old, her parents moved the family to Toronto. In the 1930s, she attended the Harbord Collegiate Institute where she performed the role of one of Major General Stanley’s daughters in the school production of Pirates of Penzance .

She was trained as a concert pianist under Naomi Yanova Adaskin and at the Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1941, she studied at the Music School of the Henry Street Settlement in New York City. She eventually decided against a career as a solo pianist and returned to Canada. On February 19, 1943, she married Leo Allen Orenstein. By 1945, Lucille Chernos chose to utilize her mother’s maiden name, Kallen, as her professional name.

During 1946 she wrote radio scripts for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1947, she submitted a script to a contest held by the Helen Hayes Radio Show . The prize being that the winner’s script would be produced as an episode of the show. Kallen’s script was chosen and she was brought to New York for the show’s production. She later remembered that she came to New York with only two copies of her script. When both copies were lost before production, she was forced to recreate the script from memory.

During the 1940s, Lucille Kallen and a friend, Marsha Sands, formed a small nightclub act. Kallen wrote sketches, played the piano, and introduced the sketches for a cast that included Martin Balsam. They were noticed by legendary theater producer Max Liebman and hired to join the summer cast of Liebman’s Tamiment Playhouse at Camp Tamiment in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. Lucille Kallen was hired as a writer; she subsequently worked at the Tamiment Playhouse during the summers from 1947 to 1950. One summer she roomed with comedienne Louise Hoff, another year her roommate was Barbara Cook. It was at Tamiment that Lucille Kallen first worked with Imogene Coca and Mel Tolkin. Tolkin would be her primary writing partner during her years working for Max Liebman.

In 1949, Lucille Kallen served with Mel Tolkin as co-writer for the new television program, the Admiral Broadway Revue starring Sid Caesar as host and a cast that included Imogene Coca. When, despite great success, the Admiral Corporation discontinued its funding after one season, the show was reincarnated as Y our Show of Shows . Lucille Kallen and Mel Tolkin, with Tolkin as head writer, continued to write for a cast including Caesar, Coca, and Carl Reiner, as well as weekly guest stars. Kallen and Tolkin were joined in the writers’ room by Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. Kallen was the only female writer during the entire run of the show and one of few women at the time to hold such a position. She was credited for creating some of her best writing in sketches concerning the bickering married couple, the “Hickenloopers” as well as material for Imogene Coca. When Your Show of Shows went off the air in 1954, Lucille Kallen was chosen as head writer for the short-lived Imogene Coca Show .

In 1951 Kallen divorced Leo Allen Orenstein. She married Herbert Engel on August 22, 1952. The couple had two children: a son, Paul, and a daughter, Lise. The family eventually left New York City and moved to Ardsley, New York. Kallen enjoyed the summer music season at Tanglewood and often stayed at the historic Wheatleigh hotel. In later years she spent portions of the winter on Sanibel Island off of the Southwest Coast of Florida. Both of these locations served as settings for her mystery novels.

Even when television production moved primary operations to the west coast, Lucille Kallen remained in New York. She continued to submit scripts to television series. In 1957, she served as writer for the short-lived Buddy Hackett series, Stanley . During the 1960s, she wrote forty shows for the critically praised series The Bell Telephone Hour . She also collaborated on the 1967 NBC special We Interrupt this Season: An NBC Experiment in Television . Her final television project was the 1973 talk show starring Dr. Joyce Brothers titled Living Easy .

Lucille Kallen’s theater experience was also varied. After four years of writing for the Tamiment Playhouse, in 1950 she contributed sketches to Tickets Please, a revue starring Grace and Paul Hartman. In 1958, she collaborated with Mel Tolkin on the short-lived Broadway comedy Maybe Tuesday . In 1963, she served as script doctor on the equally short-lived musical Sophie . She also wrote the book for the film portion of the Chrysler Show-Go-Round at the 1964 World’s Fair. In 1969, she wrote the book for the first stage production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair as presented at the St. Louis Municipal Opera. In 1974, she collaborated with Mel Tolkin, Max Liebman, Sid Caesar, and Imogene Coca on Double Take, a theatrical presentation of Your Show of Show’s “Hickenlooper” sketches. In 1979, she adapted a teleplay titled See How She Runs into the book for a musical titled Long Way to Boston . Several other plays, including 1973’s The Jungle Gym written with Brett Somers, were never produced.

In the 1960s, Lucille Kallen began writing for publication. In 1963, Co-ed Magazine published her short story Tangled Web . In 1964, her novel Outside There Somewhere was published. This comical feminist novel about a married woman with two children attempting to balance a return to work with her family responsibilities was critically praised by the likes of Betty Friedan, but due to poor advertisement, was not a huge success. It was published in paperback in Great Britain in the 1970s as Gentlemen Prefer Slaves . In 1969, Mademoiselle published her story Sex and the Suburbs-or, Meet Me at the A & P .

In 1979, her first detective novel Introducing C. B. Greenfield was published. This was the first of five novels involving her detective team of newspaper owner and editor C. B. Greenfield and his chief writer Maggie Rome. With this team, Lucille Kallen returned to her roots and chose to have her detectives be passionate about classical music. This is most reflected in the second Greenfield book, which she set in Tanglewood amongst her much loved summer music season. Introducing C. B. Greenfield was nominated for the American Book Award for 1979. The Greenfield books were later published in Great Britain, France, and Italy, amongst others. Ever anxious to get the facts correct in her writings, in the 1980s she established correspondence with two men who could help her understand the police and military procedure that was central to her writings. Captain Bill Trefny of the Sanibel Island Police helped her with C. B. Greenfield: The Piano Bird and Lt. Colonel Myron Donald, USAF helped her with C. B. Greenfield: A Little Madness . Both men remained correspondents for several years.

After the Greenfield books, Kallen worked on multiple drafts of a never completed novel titled Sacred Bull . Her final work in progress during the 1990s, Fannie DeWitt, appears to have been inspired by her hospital experiences while being treated for an illness.

During the 1980s and into the 1990s, Kallen gave speeches and interviews at several events regarding her Greenfield books as well as her years on Your Show of Shows . She was interviewed for the Tamiment Playhouse Archives and the Archives of the Academy of Arts and Television as well as for tributes to Sid Caesar. As she looked back upon her years writing for Max Liebman, she became increasingly cynical about her previous acceptance of the past treatment of women in the workplace. She also disliked what she saw as an increased mis-remembering of history in regards to her contribution to the Your Show of Shows and the correct listing of known writers who worked with her on that show compared to those who worked on the Sid Caesar Show .

Lucille Kallen died of cancer on January 18, 1999.

From the guide to the Lucille Kallen papers, 1938-1999, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lucille Kallen papers, 1938-1999 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Sid Caesar Papers, 1950-1963 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Kallen, Lucille. Lucille Kallen papers, 1938-1999. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Caesar, Sid, 1922-. Sid Caesar papers, 1950-1963. Library of Congress
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Caesar, Sid, 1922- person
associatedWith Coca, Imogene. person
associatedWith Tamiment Playhouse. corporateBody
associatedWith Tolkin, Mel. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Television comedy writers
Women novelists, American
Occupation
Television comedy writers
Activity

Person

Active 1938

Active 1999

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