Sol Saks: 'Bewitched' -- and so much more
On Monday, the Opinion page ran an article headlined "Early retirement may be hazardous to your health."
Author Katherine Schlaerth, an associate professor emeritus at the USC School of Medicine, wrote:
As a geriatrician, I've come to believe that working longer is generally a good thing. Most people just plain do better, both intellectually and physically, when they continue to work. I've observed many times that mature patients who quit working -- whether they have been laid off or retired voluntarily -- are likely to gain weight, become hypertensive and even develop depression.
Katherine Schlaerth, meet Sol Saks.
You think you don't know Saks, but you do. His major claim to fame? He wrote the pilot for the classic 1960s sitcom "Bewitched.”
Oh, that guy! Loved the show. Who wouldn't want a wife who could get you into, and out of, trouble with just a wriggle of her cute nose?
Except, Saks only wrote the pilot. Then he was like a 49er who had struck the mother lode.
"That was it: He just sat back and took in the royalties," said Paul Wayne, longtime friend and a writer who freelanced on "Bewitched" for two seasons.
In writing the pilot, he was inspired by the movies "Bell, Book and Candle" (1958) and "I Married a Witch" (1942), Saks later recalled.
"He was pretty honest about the fact it wasn't a particularly original idea," said Wayne. "He came in with both of those thoughts and wrote the pilot and sat back and just became a millionaire on 'Bewitched.' It was absolutely marvelous. He was very open about just being hit by a lucky stick, so to speak."
But there's a lot more to the story than "Bewitched." You see, Saks died Saturday -- at 100. And his life seemingly gives credence to Schlaerth's observation on the benefits of working longer. As his obituary said:
Saks was a longtime member of Theatre West, the nonprofit arts organization in Hollywood.
"Sol was the elder statesman of the group, an amazing man," said Stu Berg, who directed several of Saks' plays at the theater, including "A Dream of Butterflies," in 2003.
"One of the interesting things about him was the incredible amount of energy he had and how sharp he was well into his 90s," said Berg. "He was working on new things and sharpening up some things he had previously worked on. He was always busy. He was kind of an inspiration to all of us."
We have a strange relationship to work these days. Those of us who have jobs have a kind of survivor's guilt: We complain as always, and dream of retirement, but we also know we're a lot better off than the many who lost their jobs during the recession.
And no one, save perhaps Rep. Paul Ryan and his GOP cohorts, savors the prospect of cuts to Medicare, Social Security or other programs designed to ease our golden years.
But perhaps we'd also do well to remember the guy who brought us "Bewitched."
It's as Schlaerth wrote:
From my end of the exam table, I'd say younger people shouldn't worry about having to work longer. Increasingly, it has become obvious that the old dictum "use it or lose it" definitely applies where humans are concerned.
Somewhere, Sol Saks is smiling at that.
-- Paul Whitefield
Photo: Sol Saks. Credit: Tory Von Wolfe