Sol Saks, a veteran television writer and playwright who created the classic 1960s sitcom “Bewitched,” has died. He was 100.
Saks, a longtime Sherman Oaks resident, died Saturday of respiratory failure as a result of pneumonia at Sherman Oaks Hospital, said his wife, Sandra.
Although Saks wrote the pilot script for the sitcom “Bewitched,” he never penned another episode of the popular series about a witch married to a mortal. It ran on ABC from 1964 to 1972 and starred Elizabeth Montgomery and, originally, Dick York.
“That was it: He just sat back and took in the royalties,” said Paul Wayne, longtime friend and a writer who freelanced on “Bewitched” for two seasons.
In writing the pilot, he was inspired by the movies “Bell, Book and Candle” (1958) and “I Married a Witch” (1942), Saks later recalled.
“He was pretty honest about the fact it wasn’t a particularly original idea,” said Wayne. “He came in with both of those thoughts and wrote the pilot and sat back and just became a millionaire on ‘Bewitched.’ It was absolutely marvelous. He was very open about just being hit by a lucky stick, so to speak.”
In a radio career that began in Chicago in the late 1930s and continued after he moved to Los Angeles in 1943, Saks wrote for shows including “Duffy’s Tavern,” “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” “The Baby Snooks Show” and “The Beulah Show.”
He moved into television in 1953 with “My Favorite Husband,” a CBS situation comedy based on the radio series. He also developed the situation comedy “Mr. Adams and Eve” and wrote for series including “I Married Joan,” “Alcoa Theatre” and “Ford Startime.”
Saks, who had a stint in the 1960s as a CBS executive in charge of comedy series, also wrote the screenplay for “Walk, Don’t Run,” a 1966 comedy starring Cary Grant in his final film role.
Grant and Saks became friends during filming and later attended Dodger games together. Sartorially speaking, the writer was no match for the always-dapper star.
In a 2009 interview with the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television, Saks recalled that during the shooting of “Walk, Don’t Run” in Japan, his hotel “closet was in a dark corner and sometimes in the restaurant with Cary Grant I’d look down and I’d see I’ve got the wrong pants with the wrong coat.
“And after I got to know him well, I said, ‘Cary, do you notice that sometimes my coat doesn’t match my pants?’ He said, ‘Sol, on you, I only notice when they do.'"
Saks was a longtime member of Theatre West, the nonprofit arts organization in Hollywood.
“Sol was the elder statesman of the group, an amazing man,” said Stu Berg, who directed several of Saks’ plays at the theater, including “A Dream of Butterflies,” in 2003.
“One of the interesting things about him was the incredible amount of energy he had and how sharp he was well into his 90s,” said Berg. “He was working on new things and sharpening up some things he had previously worked on. He was always busy. He was kind of an inspiration to all of us.”
Born in New York City on Dec. 13, 1910, Saks moved with his family to Chicago when he was about 2.
While attending Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, he became a reporter for a local weekly newspaper and occasionally sold short stories before moving into radio.
His book, “The Craft of Comedy Writing,” was published in 1985.
His first wife, Anne, died in 1972.
In addition to his second wife, Sandra, he is survived by his daughter, Mary Spivey; his son, Daniel Saks; two granddaughters; and two great-grandsons.
No services will be held. “Since we had a lavish 100th birthday party for him, he considered that his living memorial,” his wife said.