Juanita Bartlett

Juanita Bartlett

San Francisco, California
November 08
Date of passing: 
February 25, 2014





Juanita Bartlett was a Primetime Emmy-winning writer-producer who worked on dozens of TV series and telefilms from the 1970s through the 1990s. She is best known for her work on The Rockford Files and several other collaborations with actor James Garner. 

Bartlett was born in San Francisco, but spent her early years on the Dole Pineapple Plantation with her family after they moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. Early on, she had aspirations to be an actress, and at age 10 she convinced her family to move back to California so that she could pursue a career in the movies.

While trying to break into show business, Bartlett began writing stories and submitting them to magazines. Although the stories were all rejected, she was determined to work in the entertainment industry. Thus, when the opportunity arose in the script-writing department for a radio interview show in New York City, she took it.

Eventually, she found herself working as a secretary, and later as office manager, for singer Pat Boone. After several years on the East Coast, she returned to California, where she landed a job as a secretary for actor Richard Crenna. All the while, she continued to pursue her writing, submitting story ideas, scripts and treatments

A turning point came while she working as a secretary for Meta Rosenberg, who was James Garner’s agent at the time. In 1970, Rosenberg became the head of Garner’s Cherokee Productions, and one of Bartlett’s jobs was reading scripts that were submitted for Garner’s approval. During this time, Bartlett kept her writing ambitions a secret, but was barely earning enough to support her family.

After repeatedly refinancing her car, which was in such bad shape she was afraid to wash it, fearing that the car’s dirt was the only thing holding it together, she took a gamble and asked Frank Pierson, the producer of the series Nichols — a western drama set in the early 20th century, in which Garner played the lead — if she could submit a story idea. Pierson said that she could not only submit an idea, but allowed her to write the script.

Weeks went by before she heard anything from Pierson, and she grew increasingly nervous. But in the end, Bartlett’s gamble paid off — her script was accepted, and she became a staff writer on the show. She went on to write several of the scripts for Nichols, and as a freelance writer, she sold scripts to Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, Paper Moon, Cool Million, Alias Smith and Jones, Toma and The Cowboys.

After Nichols was canceled, Rosenberg assembled a group of writers together for The Rockford Files, which included Bartlett as a story editor. She wrote more than 30 episodes of the popular detective show, and earned Emmy nominations in 1979 and 1980, when it was among the nominees for outstanding drama series.

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation's Archive of American Television, Rockford Files creator Roy Huggins said Bartlett was the only writer who changed the structure of some of his' stories and actually improved them.

She was also a writer-producer on four made-for-TV movies based on Garner's Jim Rockford character — The Rockford Files: A Blessing in Disguise, The Rockford Files: Friends and Foul Play, The Rockford Files: Punishment and Crime and The Rockford Files: If It Bleeds...It Leads.

In addition, Bartlett and Garner worked together on the 1978 telefilm The New Maverick, a reboot of his popular western series from the late 1950s.

Bartlett eventually formed her own production company, JADDA Productions, later renamed Juanita Bartlett Productions.

Her other TV credits included The MagicianThe Greatest American Hero, Tenspeed and Brownshoe, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, The Quest, Spencer: For Hire and In the Heat of the Night.

In addition to her Emmy nominations, she was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and an Edgar Allan Poe Award. 

Bartlett died February 25, 2014. She was 86.



2 Nominations No Emmys

Outstanding Drama Series - 1980

Outstanding Drama Series - 1979