Aaron Ruben, a producer, writer and director for some of the most popular television comedies of the 1960s and ’70s, died January 30, 2010, at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 95.
The reported cause was complications of pneumonia.
Ruben was best known for his work on such series as The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Sanford and Son.
He was born March 1, 1914, in Chicago. After dropping out of college to find work, he was drafted into the Army in 1941 and stationed in Southern California.
After being discharged from the Army in 1943, Ruben, who had done some acting and writing in Chicago, stayed in Los Angeles and found work writing comedy sketches for Wally Brown, a comedian on Dinah Shore’s radio show. After nine weeks he was offered the chance to write for George Burns and Gracie Allen, which led to jobs writing for Fred Allen and Milton Berle.
In the early 1950s he started writing for various television shows, including Caesar’s Hour and The Phil Silvers Show, which he also directed for two years.
A major breakthrough came with The Andy Griffith Show. Ruben served as producer and, on occasion, a writer and director, for the series. The show starred Griffith as sheriff of the fictitious small town of Mayberry, North Carolina. The cast included Don Knotts, Jim Nabors and Ron Howard.
Further success came with Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., an Andy Griffith Show spin-off starring Jim Nabors, who appeared on Andy Griffith as a naïve gas station attendant, as a greenhorn in the Marine Corps. The show ran from 1965-69.
He later produced another popular comedy, Sanford and Son, which starred Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson. Later credits included The Headmaster, C.P.O. Sharkey, Teachers Only, Too Close for Comfort and The Stockard Channing Show.
He also reunited with Griffith as a writer for the actor’s legal drama Matlock.
In his later years, Ruben was a court-appointed special advocate for abused and abandoned children.
His first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, two sons, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Aaron Ruben had the distinction of being interviewed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s Archive of American Television. During the four-and-a-half-hour interview, conducted by Morrie Gelman on February 25, 1999, in Beverly Hills, Ruben discussed his start as a radio writer for many popular stars, including Dinah Shore, Burns and Allen, Fred Allen, Henry Morgan and Milton Berle. He talked about the first time he worked in television on The Sam Levenson Show with writer Selma Diamond, and his television directorial debut on The Phil Silvers Show. In 1960, he produced his first television show, The Andy Griffith Show. Ruben talked about other television shows he produced, including Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (which he also created), CPO Sharkey, Sanford and Son and his work writing for Matlock. He also discussed his longtime philanthropic work with at-risk children.
The entire 10-part interview is available online here (http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/aaron-ruben)