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
Joy Page
(m. 1945; div. 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 serviceEdit

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

Production careerEdit

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 lifeEdit

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
1938 Touchdown, Army Cadet Beale Uncredited
1938 Brother Rat Member of the Guard Uncredited
1939 The Hardys Ride High Dick Bannersly
1939 Invitation to Happiness Bellboy Uncredited
1940 Those Were the Days! Minor Role Uncredited
1940 The Mortal Storm Erich Von Rohn
1940 My Love Came Back Paul Malette
1941 Honeymoon for Three Arthur Westlake
1941 Thieves Fall Out George Formsby
1941 Three Sons o' Guns Kenneth Patterson
1941 Navy Blues Mac
1941 Unholy Partners Thomas 'Tommy' Jarvis - an alias of Tommy Jarrett
1942 The Gay Sisters Dick Tone
1942 The Big Street Decatur Reed
1943 He Hired the Boss Don Bates


  1. ^ "William Orr, 85; Had Hit TV Shows in 1950s, '60s for Warner Bros". 2002-12-28.
  2. ^ IMDB bio, written by his son.[unreliable source?]
  3. ^ The view of MoTR curator, Ron Simon.
  4. ^ http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Quirks/2002/12/27/people/2957/ Daily, Dennis. "TV Producer William Orr Dies". United Press International. 27 December 2002.
  5. ^ http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,826002,00.html?promoid=googlep "'Unhappy People'—with Spurs". Time Magazine. 30 November 1959.
  6. ^ Weaver, Tom (2009-12-11). I Talked with a Zombie: Interviews with 23 Veterans of Horror and Sci-Fi Films and Television. ISBN 9780786452682.
  7. ^ William T. Orr at Find a Grave
  8. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated

External linksEdit