We want to celebrate the life of Gary Armstrong (pictured on right), Retired Associate Member and Assistant Camera Lifetime Achievement Award Winner in 1999. We thank him for his contributions to the production community and his dedication to the Society. Our best wishes go out to his friends and family.
Gary was born June 2 in Fort Scott, Kansas, son of Alice Catt Armstrong, author-editor-publisher. Her great-aunt was Carrie Chapman Catt, one of four women suffrage leaders winning women’s right to vote.
Moving to California at age six, Gary started tap dancing at the age of seven. By age nine he started working in motion pictures, in numerous TV skits and shows “up the hill” (HOLLYWOODLAND), at Station W6XAO, the first TV station in Los Angeles. At that time there were about 300 TV sets in the Los Angeles area. In 1947, Gary won the national All-American Boy Contest at the Hollywood Bowl. He performed in half a dozen plays on the main stage at the Pasadena Playhouse between 1946 and 1950, and in 1946 did a radio show, The Smith Family on KGIL for about a year.
He started working with his mother, Alice Catt Armstrong, in her publishing business in 1948. For 22 years Gary worked as assistant editor of Who’s Who on Los Angeles County, Who’s Who in California, Executive Who’s Who, and Who’s Who — Dining and Lodging on the North American Continent, completing a total of twelve books with her during this period.
Camera work came to Gary in 1965, when he got his thirty days with Columbia Pictures thanks to a show called The Monkees. At 20th-Century Fox, Gary spent four years working on Felony Squad, Land of the Giants, and Tora, Tora, Tora. He then moved on to Dove Films, working on staff with Haskell Wexler for more than six years filming commercials (also The Conversation feature with Gene Hackman).
After Dove Films broke up, Gary worked at Universal Studios on It Happened One Christmas (remake of It’s A Wonderful Life), Operation Petticoat, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Battlestar Gallactica, the TV version of MacArthur, Sword of Justice, Story of Esther, Cliffhangers, Voyagers, Air Wolf. At Warner Bros there was Scarecrow and Mrs. King TV series, and at Disney Studios, Justin Morgan Had a Horse (TV), and Pete’s Dragon (feature). Gary worked with Ben Colman on Lucan and Mirror, Mirror and with Gerry Finnerman on Moonlighting, as well as the Woody Harrelson film Doc Hollywood and Death Wish II with Charles Bronson.
Gary entered the Sitcom arena in 1985, including Duet, Dear John, Tortelli’s, All Is Forgiven, Flesh ‘n Blood, Local Heroes, Hogan Family, My Sister Sam, Madman of the People, Something Wilder, Ned and Stacy, and Working. Gary found two happy homes, being on Cheers for eight years and Frasier for the last six years at Paramount Pictures (several Emmys).
Numerous Sitcom TV Pilots include Roc, Cafe American, Family Man, Julie, Down Home, Gloria Vane, Suddenly Susan, Pursuit of Happiness, Caroline in the City, Friends, Hudson Street, Preston Episodes, Almost Perfect, Style and Substance, Movie Stars, and Naked Truth.
Gary was one of the first ASSOCIATE members to join SOC in the 70’s, nominated by Owen Marsh. For 2 years, Gary served on the Local 659 Constitution & By-laws Committee and on the E-Board for 12 years. For 2 terms, Gary was Secretary of Local 659.