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Herbert F. Solow

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Herb Solow
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Herbert F. Solow

Birth name: Herbert Franklin Solow
Gender: Male
Date of birth: 14 December 1930
Roles: Producer, Star Trek author

Herbert "Herb" Franklin Solow (born 14 December 1930; age 84) was a studio executive serving on behalf of Desilu Studios on the first and second seasons of the original Star Trek show, Star Trek: The Original Series, officially credited as "Executive in Charge of Production".

As assistant to Vice-President of Programs Oscar Katz, both men were seeking new television properties for their employer and it was to them that Gene Roddenberry made his original early April 1964 "Wagon Train To The Stars" pitch. Desilu picked up the proposition and together with Roddenberry, Solow made the rounds of the three television networks to pitch the proposition to them, ultimately finding his former employer NBC interested in early May 1964. Prior to this pitch, it was Katz who took Roddenberry to CBS, the network that traditionally aired Desilu's television productions, but Roddenberry botched his presentation on that occasion. Not backed-up on that occasion by Katz (already foreshadowing things to come), Roddenberry was groomed and extensively prepared by Solow for his meeting with NBC, which represented the last chance to sell the show. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 13-23) Solow was subsequently heavily involved with the studio oversight and marketing to NBC of the two pilot episodes, "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

During the production of the two pilot episodes, it was discovered that Katz, who had no prior experience with television production, was unsuited for the position and was subsequently let go. At the start of the production of the regular series, Solow was promoted into his position instead with the official title "Vice-President of Programs". Unlike Katz, Solow was a very hands-on executive and closely collaborated during his entire tenure on The Original Series with producers Roddenberry and Robert Justman in particular. As he had described in his book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, his input was especially required to keep Roddenberry's perceived eccentricities in check and to run interference for him and the upper echelons of the studio and the network. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 25, et al.)

Halfway through the production of the second season of The Original Series Desilu was sold to the conglomerate Gulf+Western, formalized on 27 July 1967, which choose to merge their acquisition with the hitherto relatively small television department of their subsidiary, Paramount Pictures, to form Paramount Television. While many former Desilu executives were let go, Solow was asked to remain in the employment of the new owner, which he agreed to by becoming "Vice-President of Programs Paramount Television", answerable to his new boss, Paramount Television President John Reynolds.

Nevertheless, Solow found himself increasingly dissatisfied with the more businesslike approach Gulf+Western financial executives wanted to impose on the production of the television series he was responsible for, including Star Trek, which in practice resulted in ever increasing budget cuts and near obligatory creative meddlement. It was therefore that Solow choose to tender his resignation upon completion of the second season production of The Original Series. Solow's departure had consequences for Roddenberry as well, as the latter was now no longer able to maintain his position and was superseded by Fred Freiberger. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 365, et al.)

Formally, studio executives are not entitled to official production credits, as they, as overhead, are not supposed to be involved with the actual creative aspects of productions, they being the purview of producers as highest actual operation managers. Yet, Solow, together with his successor for the third season, Douglas S. Cramer, hold the rare distinction of becoming the only Star Trek-affiliated studio executives receiving one, that of "Executive in Charge of Production" (displayed on the very last end title credit card of each regular episode) in both cases.

Herb is married to Yvonne Fern Solow and has co-authored two Star Trek-related books: The Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook (with Yvonne) and Inside Star Trek: The Real Story (with Robert Justman). He also co-produced and hosted the documentary based on the latter book.

In the Errand of Fury book series, Colonel West is on the staff of an Admiral Herbert Solow, named after after the executive.

Career outside Star TrekEdit

Herbert Solow got started in show business in an inauspicious fashion, starting in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency in New York City shortly after his graduation from Dartmouth College in 1953. After his promotion to the position of talent agent in 1956, Solow moved to NBC as Program Director of California National Productions which included managing the NBC Film Division. In 1960 Solow was transferred to Los Angeles, shortly before NBC, responding to government regulations dissolved the NBC Film Division. Solow then joined CBS as Director of Daytime Programs for the West Coast, and then subsequently returning to NBC a year later as Director of Daytime Programs.

He left his NBC Daytime Programs position and joined Desilu Studios in early 1964, hired by Oscar Katz as his assistant and who was urgently charged to find new television properties to develop, as the studio found itself in dire straits with only one property, The Lucy Show, left in production at the time. Appointed Vice President of Programs a year later, Solow personally oversaw the development, sales, and production of Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Mannix.

After he had quit his job at Paramount Television, Solow joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as Vice President of Television Production, overseeing the development and series production of Medical Center, The Courtship of Eddie's Father (produced by and co-starring James Komack), and Then Came Bronson (produced by Robert Justman and Robert Sabaroff).

After this, Solow was appointed Vice President of Worldwide Motion Picture and Television Production for MGM. During this stint, he hired Gene Roddenberry to write and produce a theatrical film, Pretty Maids All in a Row, based on the novel by Francis Pollini and directed by Roger Vadim. The film featured James Doohan, William Campbell and Dawn Roddenberry in the cast. Other films made under his helm included Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud (1970, with Sally Kellerman, William Windom, Rene Auberjonois, John Schuck and Bert Remsen), Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point (1970, with Paul Fix and Lee Duncan), Kelly's Heroes (1970, with Perry Lopez, Tom Troupe and David Hurst), The Strawberry Statement (1970, with Kim Darby and Bert Remsen), Alex in Wonderland (1970, with Dick Geary) and The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971, with Harry Basch, James Sloyan and directed by James Goldstone).

In 1973, he left MGM to become an independent filmmaker and formed Solow Productions. He co-created and produced the television series Man from Atlantis. He was also involved in the production of the English movie Brimstone and Treacle. His last feature film production was Saving Grace, co-starring Edward James Olmos.

Solow is a member of the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America and serves on the Foreign Film, Documentary, and Special Effects Committees of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is currently an independent writer-producer and also lectures on television and film production.

Bibliography Edit

Star Trek interview Edit

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