Notebook Warrior

At the tail end of the Korean War – and on the eve of publication of 23 year old Levin's first novel A Kiss before Dying – he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He found himself ultimately assigned to the Signal Corp's radar school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. The creative-minded Levin was something of a fish out of water, ill-suited to the highly technical demands of the field into which he'd been placed.

The war having ended while he was still in basic training, Levin pitched a peacetime idea to the army: “I'd already had a few scripts on television, and I went over to the public information office at Fort Monmouth and persuaded them that, given the time, I could write a television play about the schools at Fort Monmouth and there was a chance that it would get on commercial television.” —Levin (NYPL Interview, 1992)

The army said yes – and with their cooperation, and the assistance of personnel at Fort Monmouth, Levin wrote Notebook Warrior – an essentially autobiographical drama concerning a draftee violinist plucked from his fledgling concert career, who struggles with the highly technical demands of the radar school at Fort Monmouth. (Write what you know!)

Notebook Warrior aired live in September, 1954 on ABC's U.S. Steel Hour, inaugurating that revered anthology's second season. It starred a young Ben Gazzara and, as his father, Sidney Blackmer – a.k.a. later Roman Castevet.

Notebook Warrior was a success for all, seen by millions, and later re-staged on NBC's Matinee Theater – in addition to being featured in the textbook "Adventures in Modern Literature" as a sample of top-grade video writing. (Having been written on 'company time' as it were, Levin split his writer's fee with the Combined Charities at Fort Monmouth.)

Equally impactfully for Levin, given Warrior's success, the army decided to reassign him from radar school to the writing of training films. The experience also made the private first class a logical choice to script the original one-hour television adaptation of No Time For Sergeants.

Notebook Warrior is the first of a triad of military-themed plays by Levin – the others being No Time For Sergeants and General Seeger.

  • 1954: U.S. Steel Hour
  • 1956: Matinee Theatre (NBC)
  • Netflix recently purchased the Fort Monmouth grounds to build a massive production studio
  • The U.S. Steel Hour archive at the UCLA Library Film & Television Archive
  • Gallery

    (Above) Production script

    (Above) Newspaper clipping (Asbury Park Press)

    (Above) Newspaper clipping (Daily Register)

    (Above) Newspaper clipping (Asbury Park Press, 1955)

    (Above) Original TV ad