Frank Satenstein

Active - 1948 - 1948  |   Genres - Comedy

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Thanks to his having directed the "classic 39" filmed episodes of The Honeymooners -- and their seemingly endless reruns on television for 50 years -- Frank Satenstein is one of the most familiar names in television directing. The irony is that those Honeymooners shows were only a two-year sliver out of a very busy career that carried Satenstein from theater to movies to the small-screen. Born in New York City to Louis and Harriet Satenstein, Frank P. Satenstein attended the Ethical Culture Schools and later studied at Cornell and Columbia universities. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and, after returning to civilian life, went into theater as a producer, in partnership at various times with Richard Krakaur and Edgar Luckenbach, Richard Kollmar, Eddie Dowling, and John Wilberg. He also founded a movie company, Marathon Productions, that made two very important topical films in 1948, Close-Up (co-starring Kollmar and filmed in New York City) and Open Secret, the former dealing with neo-Nazis in America and the latter attacking working class anti-Semitism, both distributed by Eagle Lion. He stuck with theatrical production into the early '50s, when television -- which was mostly based in New York in those days -- beckoned. It was there that Satenstein found his niche, helming such successful game shows as What's My Line and I've Got a Secret and the renowned comedy program Your Show of Shows. He also directed the first television appearances of Elvis Presley and Pat Boone, and worked with Connie Francis. His most important and visible work, thanks to reruns, however, was for The Honeymooners -- Satenstein's direction of the 39 filmed shows from 1955 to 1956 was seamless and made them work infinitely better than the live "lost" episodes that were rescued from oblivion in the '80s. His task was made even more daunting, working on film, by the fact that series star/producer Jackie Gleason hated to rehearse and almost never did. His pace of work slackened as the television industry left New York for California in the early '60s. Satenstein died of lung cancer in 1984 at age 59 -- the classic 39 Honeymooners episodes are his major legacy.