John Vlahos

John Vlahos (26 December 1917 8 April 2004) was, along with his contemporaries Horton Foote, Reginald Rose, and Rod Serling, one of the leading screenwriters of the 1950s and 1960s, writing for such series as The Philco Television Playhouse, Studio One, Robert Montgomery Presents, Goodyear Television Playhouse, The United States Steel Hour, Climax!, Playhouse 90, The Alcoa Hour, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, Route 66, The Defenders, The Nurses, Doctor Kildare, and Marcus Welby, M.D..[1]

His credits include 17 film screenplays, 70 radio scripts, 52 network television live and film dramas, and more than 200 episodes for various daytime shows. Among the honors he received are the Sylvania Award in 1958 (for Beaver Patrol, a comedy for the U.S. Steel Hour) and an Emmy Award in 1962 (for Killer Instinct, an episode of The Defenders). He also received an Ohio State Radio-TV Award for Best Documentary, a Freedom Foundation Award for Best Historic Family Series, an Institution for Education Award for Distinguished Radio Writing, and the 1959 Ford Foundation Award for playwriting.[2]

Born in Springfield, Ohio to Greek Orthodox parents, Vlahos worked in the family restaurant as a youth. He attended Wittenberg University and Carnegie Tech (class of 1939), where he majored in drama. In 1941, moved to West Coast and wrote for a series of Range Busters westerns for Monogram Pictures.[3] During World War II, he served in the Navy in the South Pacific. After World War II, he spent seven years with the Armed Forces Radio Service.[4] He turned his hand to television in 1952, when Hal Peary, best known for his role as the Great Gildersleeve, commissioned him to write episodes of a planned series called Call Me Papa; or, Pigeon Point.[5] After several years in Hollywood, Vlahos moved in 1958 to Westport, Connecticut, where he lived the rest of his life.[6]

Vlahos excelled especially in plays broadcast live. Among Vlahos’s early successes was A Business Proposition (1955), "a tender tale or two middle-aged people who attempt to establish a business despite tremendous odds,"[7] and A Bend in the Road (1957), which he described as being "about a Protestant minister’s search for his usefulness. He's an old man in a nation of youth and youth's success. What can he contribute. He goes through a spiritual evaluation of himself, to the world, to himself, and to his family."[8] Other notable early works include Tongues of Angels (1958), a drama about a farmer who feigns muteness to hide his severe stutter, and Beaver Patrol (1958), a comedy about a retired New York businessman who assumes leadership of a Cub Scout pack. His Cold War drama, The Brandenberg Gate, set in Berlin, was produced for television three times in eight years -- first for Motorola TV Hour with Jack Palance and Maria Riva (1953), then with Climax! (under the title The Largest City in Captivity) with Franchot Tone and Viveca Lindfors (1957), and finally for the United States Steel Hour with Richard Kiley and Dina Merrill (1961).[9]

Among other notable works were his script for the television film Silent Night, Lonely Night (1969), starring Lloyd Bridges and Shirley Jones, and Act of Reprisal (1964), a feature film on the Cyprus dispute that starred a young Jeremy Brett. A 1991 review of a revival of the film noted "a certain lustiness and clarity in its storytelling."[10]

Vlahos’s play The Golden Age of Pericles Pappas, for which he was awarded a fellowship from the Ford Foundation, was produced at the Tulsa Little Theater in 1959.[11] His biopic on labor leader Samuel Gompers rooted his activism in the study of the Talmud.[12] He also wrote a promotional film, The Big Decision, for Wittenberg University, which awarded Vlahos an honorary doctorate in 1958, and he developed poetic liturgies performed at the Unitarian Church in Westport.[13]

Vlahos worked alongside the leading writers and producers of the early years of television. His agent, Lucy Kroll, also represented Horton Foote. His co-writers for the United States Steel Hour, included such luminaries as Foote, Arnold Schulman, Arthur Hailey, Tad Mosel, Rod Serling, and Ira Levin.[14] He wrote episodes for the Emmy Award-winning courtroom series The Defenders, created by Reginald Rose. Recalling his work with Rose, Vlahos noted, "In my case I get so involved with the people, I have practically no story. He’s always sending me back to put the story in."[15]


  1. "John Vlahos, 87; Won Emmy for Script of The Defenders," Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2004, p. B9; Variety, 26 April 2004, p. 64.
  2. "John Vlahos," Connecticut Post, 13 April 2004.
  3. Brainard Platt, "Tops on Airwaves," Dayton Daily News, 11 March 1958, p. 31; Andrew McGinn, "Springfield singer had incredible range," Springfield News-Sun, 16 June 2007, p. 5.
  4. Gee Mitchell, "Dialing: Pay Television Criticized by CBS Network Official," Dayton Daily News, 19 February 1956, p. 68.
  5. Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third series (Library of Congress, 1952), p. 151; Harold V. Cohen, "The Drama Desk," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 13 April 1953, p. 10
  6. Dick Kleiner, "TV Scripter John Vlahos Moves East," Times Record (Troy), 7 March 1958, p. 10.
  7. Win Finning, "Maybe Ferrer Was Tired", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 19 October 1955, p. 31.
  8. Charles Mercer, "Problems in Growing Old to be Dramatized on TV," Asbury Park Evening Press, 4 November 1957, p. 14
  9. Val Adams, "TV Show Revived by Berlin Crisis: Vlahos' Brandenburg Gate Sold 3d Time in 8 Years", New York Times, 21 August 1961, p. 45.
  10. Michael Wilmington, "A Crash of Symbols in Act of Reprisal,," Los Angeles Times, 13 September 1991, p. 521.
  11. "Pericles Pappas: Tulsa Theater to Give Ford Foundation Drama," Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), 11 October 1959, p. 67.
  12. "Formation of AFL Dramatized," Longview News-Journal, 11 December 1966, p.96.
  13. William A. Kinnison, Modern Wittenberg (Xlibris, 2011), pp. 145-156; "John Vlahos," Connecticut Post, 13 April, 2004,
  14. Harvey Pack, "Final Curtain for Dramatic Show," Arizona Republic, 9 June 1963, p. 105.
  15. Tom Stempel, Storytellers to the Nation: A History of American Television Writing (Syracuse University Press, 1996), p. 87.
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