About William Milton Asher
One of the most prolific early directors in the budding television industry, William Asher produced or directed over two dozen of the leading television series. He introduced the early sitcom Our Miss Brooks, adapted from the radio show, and then became the leading director of I Love Lucy, in 1952, directing most of the episodes over the next 5 years. In 1964 he produced and directed Bewitched, which became one of the leading shows on television, and starred his wife, Elizabeth Montgomery. As a result of his early success, he was thought of as an "early wunderkind of TV-land," and is today considered "the man who invented the sitcom."
He was born on August 8, 1921 in New York. He and his older sister were raised in California where his father, Ephraim M. Asher was a film producer whose credits include Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) and his mother Lillian Bonner was an actress. When his father died suddenly of a stroke in 1937, the Asher family moved back to New York.
As a teen-ager, Asher returned to Hollywood where he worked in the mailroom at Universal studios and aspired to become a filmmaker in his own right.
During WWII Asher served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and was stationed stateside in Astoria, New York. After the war Asher returned to Universal where he worked as an assistant cameraman and editor.
In 1948, Asher co-wrote, co-produced and co-directed a low-budget boxing drama, Leather Gloves in collaboration with actor Richard Quine. But he soon found himself drawn away from feature films and into the new medium of television.
After working as a director on series such as Big Town and Racket Squad, Asher directed the pilot and first ten episodes of Our Miss Brooks starring Eve Arden.
In 1952, Desi Arnaz asked him to also direct a few episodes of the recently started series, I Love Lucy, and the show survived its first season. By the time the show was discontinued in 1957, Asher had directed 110 out of the show's 179 episodes, along with a large portion of Our Miss Brooks, which stayed on the air until 1956.
Throughout the 50's Asher's career as a television director prospered, he also directed three feature films in this decade; Mobs, Inc. (1956), Shadow on the Window (1957) and The 27th Day (1957).
During his career he collaborated with many television writers, directors and actors, including Sidney Sheldon, Dick Van Dyke, Jim Backus, Telly Savalas, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Blake Edwards and Judy Garland. He also befriended President John F. Kennedy, and together with Frank Sinatra, planned Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural. However, he considers his "glory days" in television to have been the time he spent producing and directing his "creation," Bewitched, starring his wife Elizabeth Montgomery. Montgomery played the part of Samantha, and Bewitched became "the hottest new show of 1964," staying in the top 10 for 5 straight years
He also directed several movies, and wrote and directed the popular beach movies starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon - Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). Television historian Wheeler Dixon suggests 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."
Asher recalls the highlights of his years as a director: "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 like. The whole thing was a dream, of course. But it was a nice dream."
- Dani Sue Nolan - Actress. Married in 1951. They had two children, Liane (b. 1952) and Brian (b. 1954)
- Elizabeth Montgomery - Actress. Married in 1963. They had three children and divorced in 1973.
- Joyce Bulifant - Actress. Married in 1976. Adopted John Asher, from Bulifant’s previous marriage.
- Meredith – Married 1998 to present.
William Asher's Timeline
August 8, 1921
New York, NY, USA