William T. Orr

William T. Orr (September 27, 1917  December 25, 2002) was an American television producer associated with a series of western and detective programs of the 1950s-1970s. Born William Ferdinand Quinn Jr., he took his stepfather's last name in childhood, and adopted the middle initial 'T' in honour of the maiden name of his mother, Gladys Turney. On most of his Warner Bros. series, he was billed as "Wm. T. Orr."

William T. Orr
William Ferdinand Quinn, Jr.

(1917-09-27)September 27, 1917
DiedDecember 25, 2002(2002-12-25) (aged 85)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Occupationfilm and television producer
Years active1930s–1970s
Spouse(s)Joy Page (1945–1970)
ChildrenGregory Orr
AwardsGolden Boot Award, 2002

Orr began his career as an actor; his film credits included The Mortal Storm, The Gay Sisters, and The Big Street.

Army service

During World War II he was an officer in the Army Air Force. He was assigned to the First Motion Picture Unit.[1]

Production career

As the first head of Warner Bros. Television department, Orr forged a fruitful alliance with ABC, which resulted in the network having a number of prime time hits, such as Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, and F Troop. At the height of this relationship in the early 1960s, Orr had nine programs in prime time simultaneously.[2]

Of these, though, no program was more significant than one of his earliest, Cheyenne. It was a groundbreaking series that was both the first hour-long western and the first series of any kind made by a major Hollywood film studio consisting entirely of content wholly exclusive to television.

A curator at The Paley Center for Media (previously named The Museum of Television and Radio) once encapsulated Orr's importance to Warner Bros. by saying, "Television began as a step-child. But because of Orr, it became equal with film in creating revenue and jobs for the studio."[3] One of the key reforms he made to effect this change was to move Warner's nascent television department from cramped quarters in New York City to Los Angeles studios separate from the film division.[4]

His impact on the genre of western fiction was recognized with a Golden Boot Award upon the announcement of his death.

Despite broadly positive posthumous recognition for his work as a whole, Orr did receive negative press during the height of his career -- as well as afterwards -- for his business practices. Time Magazine characterized Orr and Jack Warner as co-architects of unfair contracts during late-1950s pay disputes waged by Warner Bros. star television actors Clint Walker, James Garner, and Edd Byrnes.[5] Orr's series were also noted for the cost-saving practice of recycling scripts from one series to another, switching only character names; during a writers' strike, such repurposed scripts were credited to "W. Hermanos".[6]

Orr's star dimmed by 1963, as almost all of his series had run their course and had been cancelled. In 1963, towards the end of the 5th season, Jack Webb replaced Orr as executive producer of ABC's 77 Sunset Strip detective series. For the 6th season, Webb completely changed the theme song and format and retained only Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., in the role of Stuart Bailey. The revision was a disaster, and the program was cancelled even prior to the end of the sixth season.

Orr was hired by Frank Sinatra's Essex Productions, and continued as a television producer through 1966, including a stint as the executive producer of the first season of F Troop. After 1966, his only production credit was on the 1973 film Wicked, Wicked.

Personal life

Orr married Jack L. Warner's stepdaughter Joy Page in 1945. The couple divorced in 1970. Their son Gregory Orr is a writer and producer.

Upon his death in 2002, Orr was interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles.[7]


In 1994, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[8]

An elementary school and street in Norwalk, California, are named for him.

A middle school in Las Vegas is named for him.


Year Title Role Notes
1938Touchdown, ArmyCadet BealeUncredited
1938Brother RatMember of the GuardUncredited
1939The Hardys Ride HighDick Bannersly
1939Invitation to HappinessBellboyUncredited
1940Those Were the Days!Minor RoleUncredited
1940The Mortal StormErich Von Rohn
1940My Love Came BackPaul Malette
1941Honeymoon for ThreeArthur Westlake
1941Thieves Fall OutGeorge Formsby
1941Three Sons o' GunsKenneth Patterson
1941Navy BluesMac
1941Unholy PartnersThomas 'Tommy' Jarvis - an alias of Tommy Jarrett
1942The Gay SistersDick Tone
1942The Big StreetDecatur Reed
1943He Hired the BossDon Bates


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