Mr. Novak: Hollywood and National Education Association
In 1963, NEA teamed up with Hollywood to create Mr. Novak. The show was about an idealistic young high school teacher, played by James Franciscus, facing problems many teachers would recognize. As producer E. Jack Neumann described the show in interview with NEA Reporter, "[o]ur stories sometimes will be provocative and controversial, they'll sometimes show the bad as well as the good among students and teachers. But we aim to keep everything in its proper, true perspective."
By setting it in a high school, the show offered rich opportunities for drama created when young people find themselves facing the challenges of adulthood for the first time. In order to ensure realism, the producers asked NEA to provide them with a a panel of principals and classroom teachers to read first drafts of scripts. Some of the crises which confront him during the series include: students falling in love with teachers; nurturing highly talented, creative students; students considering quitting school; hazing; and teachers with the wrong priorities. The cast would feature such stars as Dean Jagger, Burgess Meredith, Jeanne Bal, and Marian Collier, and some famous guest stars included Walter Koenig, Beau Bridges, Ed Asner, and Martin Landau among others. Francisicus himself would attend the 1964 NEA Convention.
The NEA Collection in Gelman Library's Special Collections contains records of the Association's relationship with Hollywood. These include activities reports prepared for NEA's Press, Radio, and Television Relations Division, tracking how educators assisted with each episode, one of which can be seen to the side.
Those interested in viewing the Mr. Novak material, or anything else from the NEA Collection, should contact Vakil Smallen, the NEA Archivist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-994-1371.