Danny Arnold: Before and After “Barney Miller”

I’d long known about Danny Arnold (Arnold Rothmann, 1925-95) as the genius creator/producer of Barney Miller and Fish, but was delighted to learn that he had a background in variety entertainment as well.

After serving in World War II, Arnold performed in night clubs and with stock companies, which is surely how he forge a relation with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. He wrote and performed with the team on the Colgate Comedy Hour, and the films Sailor Beware (1952), Jumping Jacks (1952), Scared Stiff (1953), and The Caddy (1953). Later he came back for a bit part in Jerry’s Three On a Couch (1966). Early in Arnold’s career he wrote screenplays to several westerns and noir films, even as he was also contributing material to such variety programs as The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, The Rosemary Clooney Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, and Startime.

By the early ’60s, Arnold had settled into his niche: sitcoms. He wrote and produced for such shows as The Real McCoys, Bewitched, That Girl, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, and My World and Welcome To It. In 1972, he collaborated with Mel Shavelson to adapt James Thurber’s writings into the film The War Between Men and Women starring Jack Lemmon and Barbara Harris.

Then, in 1974, the smash success of Barney Miller, which lasted through 1982, and the spin-off Fish (1977-78) as a side project. He also created A.E.S. Hudson Street starring Gregory Sierra in 1978, but it only lasted a few episodes, and the similarly short-lived Joe Bash (1986) with Peter Boyle. After that he sold his production company for a huge payout. He was 70 when a heart attack took him in 1995.

For more on variety entertainment, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.