William Asher

William Milton Asher (August 8, 1921 – July 16, 2012) was an American television and film producer, film director, and screenwriter. He was one of the most prolific early television directors, producing or directing over two dozen series.[1]

William Asher
Asher with second wife, Elizabeth Montgomery, in 1964
William Milton Asher

(1921-08-08)August 8, 1921
DiedJuly 16, 2012(2012-07-16) (aged 90)
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1948–1990
Danny Sue Nolan
(m. 1951; div. 1961)

Elizabeth Montgomery
(m. 1963; div. 1973)

Joyce Bulifant
(m. 1976; div. 1993)

Meredith Coffin
(m. 1998; his death 2012)

With television in its infancy, Asher introduced the sitcom Our Miss Brooks, which was adapted from a radio show. He began directing I Love Lucy by 1952. In 1964, he produced and directed Bewitched, which starred his then-wife Elizabeth Montgomery. As a result of his early success, Asher was considered an "early wunderkind of TV-land," and was hyperbolically credited in one magazine article with "inventing" the sitcom.[2]

Asher was nominated for an Emmy Award four times, winning once for directing Bewitched in 1966. He was also nominated for the DGA Award in 1951 for I Love Lucy.[3]

Early life

Asher was born in New York City to stage actress Lillian Bonner and producer Ephraim M. Asher (1887–1937), whose movie credits were mostly as an associate producer. His sister, Betty Asher, was an MGM publicist for Judy Garland.[4] His father was Jewish, his mother Catholic.[2] Asher's family moved to Los Angeles when he was 10, where he often accompanied his father to the movie studio.[5]

Asher's parents divorced when he was 11, resulting in a return to New York with his mother. He later recalled that this period was filled with turmoil, as his mother was abusive and an alcoholic.[5] As a result of having to live in New York with his mother, he dropped out of school and served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II.[2]


Asher returned to California to direct Leather Gloves (1948), a low-budget film. He eventually gravitated to television (then a new medium),[6] and got a job writing short story "fillers" for various programs, which evolved into a series called Little Theatre. From this work, he gained a contract with Columbia Pictures to work on a film musical for Harry Cohn.[5]

Asher received an offer from CBS Studios to direct Our Miss Brooks, starring Eve Arden, a television version of the popular radio show. In 1952, Desi Arnaz asked Asher to direct an episode of his series I Love Lucy; by that show's end in 1957, Asher had directed 110 of the series' 179 episodes,[2] Asher later commented that even though the creators knew the show was good, they did not believe it would become an American icon. "When we did the show, we thought, 'That's it, we're done with it.' We never dreamed it would last this long. Lucille Ball, obviously, was one of TV's true pioneers."[7]

Asher was considered an "early wunderkind of TV-land, blazing a path in the new medium" of television.[2] Writer and producer William Froug described Asher as a "hyphenate of a different stripe, a director-producer", commenting that he was one of many "restless Hollywood professionals who, like nomads, drifted from job to job, always delivering competent, if not inspired work".[8]

In addition to Our Miss Brooks and I Love Lucy, Asher directed episodes of The Colgate Comedy Hour, Make Room for Daddy, The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series), The Patty Duke Show, Gidget, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Alice. Asher and Montgomery befriended President John F. Kennedy, and, together with Frank Sinatra, planned Kennedy's 1961 inaugural ceremony.[2]

Asher's best-known work was Bewitched, which he produced for its entire eight-year run. At that time, he was married to the show's star Elizabeth Montgomery. They divorced soon after the series' cancellation in 1972.[2][9][10]

Asher also directed several films, including Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, and Beach Blanket Bingo. Television historian Wheeler Dixon later suggested that the Beach Party films were not only "visions of paradise" for the audience, but also for Asher, who used them "to create a fantasy world to replace his own troubled childhood."[5]

Asher later recalled his directorial years:

When I look back at my own work, Bewitched stays with me the most, and Lucy, and the Beach Party pictures. The scripts of the Beach Party films were sheer nonsense, but they were fun and positive. . . . When kids see the films now, they can get some idea of what the '60s were like. The whole thing was a dream, of course. But it was a nice dream.[5]

Asher received a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in November 2003.

Personal life

Asher was first married in 1951 to Danny Sue Nolan, with whom he had two children; the couple divorced in 1961. Asher then married Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery in 1963. They had three children and divorced in 1973 (soon after the series' cancellation). His third marriage was to Joyce Bulifant from 1976 to 1993. He adopted her son, actor John Mallory Asher. This marriage also ended in divorce. In his later years, Asher resided in Palm Desert, California with Meredith Coffin Asher, his fourth and final wife.[11]


Asher died from complications of Alzheimer's disease at age 90 on July 16, 2012.[12]

Television filmography

Year series began TV Series
As director
1950The Colgate Comedy Hour
1951Racket Squad
1951I Love Lucy
1951The Dinah Shore Show
1952Our Miss Brooks
1953Make Room for Daddy
1953The Ray Bolger Show
1954The Lineup
1957The Thin Man
1958The Donna Reed Show
1959Fibber McGee and Molly
1959The Twilight Zone
1963The Patty Duke Show
1972Temperatures Rising
1972The Paul Lynde Show
1979The Dukes of Hazzard
1979The Bad News Bears
1984Crazy Like a Fox
1986Kay O'Brien
As producer
1960The Land of Oz
1963The Patty Duke Show
1972Temperatures Rising
1972The Paul Lynde Show
1980Here's Boomer
1986Kay O'Brien
As writer
1973The Young and the Restless (1988)

Cinema filmography

Year Title Role
1957The 27th DayAs director
1963Johnny CoolAs producer and director
1982Night WarningAs director


  1. Obituary Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2012; p. AA5.
  2. "William Asher – The Man Who Invented the Sitcom", Palm Springs Life Dec. 1999
  3. "Bill Asher, famed 'I Love Lucy' and 'Bewitched' director, dies in Palm Desert" My Desert, July 16, 2012
  4. Fleming, E.J. The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling, and the MGM Publicity Machine, Mcfarland (2005) p. 193
  5. Dixon, Wheeler W. Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood, Southern Illinois Press (2005) pp. 169-76
  6. Ashmont Archived 2010-05-29 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Karol, Michael. The Comic DNA of Lucille Ball, iUniverse (2006), pg. 4
  8. Froug, William. How I Escaped from Gilligan's Island: and other Misadventures of a Hollywood Writer-Producer, Popular Press (2005), p. 230
  9. Berard, Jeanette M., Corwin, Norman. Television Series and Specials Scripts, 1946–1992, McFarland (2009)
  10. Bathroom Reader's Institute. Uncle John's Third Bathroom Reader, (1990) p. 145
  11. "William Asher, 1921-2012", obituary, digital archives of The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California), September 20-22, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  12. "R.I.P. William Asher". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media, LLC. 16 July 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
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