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The Religious Affiliation of TV Writer
John T. Kelley


Patrick McGilligan, Robert Altman: Jumping Off the Cliff, St. Martin's Press: New York (1989), page 148:
At least one significant relationship for Altman evolved out of The Millionaire, and that was his friendship with involvement with writer John T. Kelley.

A Catholic, Kelley had been a writer-director of the Family Theatre radio series on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Altman had picked up and read a screenplay of Kelley's called The Enemy, about a World War II regiment befriended by a spy. Altman was very enthusiastic about the script and gave Kelley an idea. The central character, Altman suggested, ought to be a black man. Much later, Kelley's script, which never sold to movies, was produced on The Danny Thomas Hour with Sammy Davis Jr. in the lead.

At the time Altman met him, Kelley was a relative nonentity, in Hollywood's terms. He liked and needed Altman as much as Altman needed him--needed a writer to latch on to. Kelley's scripts for The Millionaire were his entree into serial television, after which he followed Altman into The Troubleshooters, Bonanza, the Kraft anthology serials, and more.

But independent of Altman, Kelley came into his own--as a writer of television episodes (he wrote a celebrated segment of Dr. Kildare called "Shining Image," which earned for its star, Suzanne Pleshette, an Emmy nomination) and as an often anonymous "script doctor" brought in to revise or patch motion pictures alredy in production.

McGilligan, page 183:
Within a few months of the success of M*A*S*H (on which [John T.] Kelley did some uncreditd 'n' polish), Kelley was diagnosed with cancer. In 1972, he died.

Kelley and [Davis] Dortort had remained in touch. Dortort and his wife went to the funeral ceremony at a Catholic church in Beverly Hills. Everyone was waiting for Altman, the newly crowned king of Hollywood, with his dread of death and funerals, his love for and his complicated relationship with Kelley, to show up. He didn't appear.

It was kind of indicative," is what Dortort says.

After the memorial was over and people were getting into their cars to leave, Altman pulled up with a squeal of tires, as if making a grand late entrance, slammed the door of his car, and lurched out, asking, "Am I late?" Abigail Shelton Kelley just looked at him and said nothing.

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