Aaron Ruben dies at 95; 'Andy Griffith' producer was an advocate for
The veteran comedy writer and director launched hit TV shows 'Gomer
Pyle' and 'Sanford and Son.' He credited his longevity to working with
By Dennis McLellan
6:45 PM PST, February 1, 2010
Aaron Ruben, a comedy writer, producer and director whose five-decade
career included producing "The Andy Griffith Show" for the first five
seasons and creating the spinoff series "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," has
died. He was 95.
Ruben, who devoted much of his later life to being a court-appointed
advocate for abused and abandoned children, died Saturday of
complications from pneumonia at his home in Beverly Hills, said his son
A Chicago native who began his comedy writing career in radio after
serving in the Army during World War II, Ruben helped write radio shows
for Dinah Shore, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Fred Allen, Henry Morgan
and Milton Berle.
Moving into television in the early 1950s, he was a writer on specials
starring Danny Thomas, Ed Wynn and Eddie Cantor. He wrote for "The
Milton Berle Show," "Caesar's Hour" and "The Phil Silvers Show," where
he also began directing.
Ruben produced "The Andy Griffith Show" from 1960 to 1965 and also wrote
and directed some of the episodes of the popular CBS series.
"I'm frankly surprised at this show having become an icon, really,"
Ruben said in a 1999 interview with the .
He recalled receiving letters from older fans at the time saying that
the series spurred nostalgic memories of their own experiences growing
up in small towns like the show's Mayberry, N.C. "And my theory," Ruben
said, "is that the Griffith show is like the grown-ups' Oz. It's the
land of, 'Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a town with no drugs,
no crime, no gangs, no violence, [a place where] people greet each
other, people are kind to each other.' . . . That's why grown-ups love
Movie director Ron Howard, who played young Opie on the show, recalled
that Ruben gave him his first 8-millimeter movie camera on his eighth
birthday, "which turned out to be really significant because I actually
did get into it and started making little movies almost right away."
"My recollection of Aaron was he took a tremendous amount of pleasure in
collaborating with the cast and encouraging creative input in the
scripts from all of us, even me as a kid," Howard told The Times on
As the show's producer and head writer, Howard said, Ruben "was
relentless in trying to fulfill the potential of a story or a scene or a
Jim Nabors' lovably naive filling station attendant Gomer Pyle proved
such a popular character on the show that Griffith pressed Ruben for a
spinoff series for Nabors.
In the 1999 interview, Ruben recalled: "I had been thinking about a
notion of where do you put Jim, where do you put this guy -- this, as
somebody said, this Christlike character, who was so good as almost not
to be believed, decent, kindly -- where do you put this guy except in
the greatest war machine ever invented, the Marines."
"Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," with Ruben as executive producer, aired on CBS
from 1964 to 1970 and was the No. 2 top-rated program in the Nielsen
ratings for the 1965-66 season.
Teaming up with Carl Reiner, Ruben co-wrote and co-produced "The Comic,"
a 1969 movie directed by Reiner about the rise and fall of a silent film
comedianstarring Dick Van Dyke.
In the 1970s, Ruben was the initial producer of "Sanford and Son," the
hit 1972-77 series starring Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson for which Ruben
wrote many early episodes.
Among his other credits as a producer or executive producer are "The
Headmaster," "C.P.O. Sharkey," "Teachers Only," "Too Close for Comfort"
and "The Stockard Channing Show."
"Aaron Ruben was one of the wittiest and most gifted comedy writers,"
Reiner told The Times on Monday. "Besides that, he had a very warm
"If he came to somebody's house for dinner, after the perfunctory
hellos, you always found him on the floor with the kids. He had a gift
for entertaining little kids. That's an indication of what kind of man
Indeed, for several decades, Ruben devoted himself to being an advocate
for troubled children and doing hospice work.
His involvement with children's causes reportedly began in the late
1970s when he and his wife, actress Maureen Arthur, dropped off
Christmas presents for children at Los Angeles County-USC Medical
Passing out the gifts inspired the Rubens to put on skits for the
children on weekends. After eight years of weekly visits to hospitals
and children's shelters, Ruben became a court-appointed special advocate
representing abused and abandoned children in Juvenile Court. He also
volunteered for the Hospice Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
In 1999, Ruben was named volunteer of the year by the Los Angeles Child
Advocate's Office and established the Aaron Ruben Scholarship Fund.
Ruben, who was born March 1, 1914, attributed his longevity to his work
"I have this fantasy," he told Daily Variety in 2003, "that once a year
St. Peter appears before God and they go over the list of people that
they're ready to take and my name comes up. God says, 'Is he still doing
that work with the kids? Ah, let him stick around a little longer.' "
Ruben was divorced from his first wife, Sandy, with whom he had two
sons, Andy and Tom.
He is survived by his wife, Maureen; his sons; two grandchildren and
Born: 3/1/1914, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Died: 1/30/2010, Beverly Hills, California, U.S.A.
Aaron Ruben's western - producer, screenwriter:
Cat Ballou (TV) - 1971