Susan and Kent McCray

About Susan and Kent McCray

Born to a musically gifted family, Susan Sukman grew up on the West Side of Los Angeles. She attended University High School, then UCLA with major’s in Art History and Psychology. Susan’s talent as a singer was discovered by Fred Foster, President of Monument Records, who dubbed her Susan Sands and signed her to a contract where she would record four sides for the company.

Her recording of Say A Prayer for Michael appeared on the charts nationwide and Susan’s touring increased her popularity. But because of the grueling schedule, she rejected life “on the road” and returned to California. Unsure of her next move, Susan’s father, composer Harry Sukman, was aware a new position as secretary/receptionist had become available for the two shows he was working on; NBC’s Bonanza and The High Chaparral at Paramount Studios. She interviewed and was hired by Executive Producer David Dortort.

After a year, Milt Hamerman, the show’s casting director, offered her a position as his secretary/assistant. By the time The High Chaparral and Bonanza concluded, Susan had worked in the show’s casting, production and editorial offices. Experienced in every aspect of the business, Susan left Parmount for Warner Brothers, where she worked casting for hit series Kung Fu, The New Land and other network productions..

Her work with numerous production companies eventually led her back to the casting office at Paramount. There she worked for such shows as Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mannix, and The Odd Couple. Not long after, she received an incredible phone call from Michael Landon. Landon offerred McCray the position of casting director for his new NBC series, Little House on the Prairie. During the nine years casting Little House, Susan’s casting assignments included Hawaii 5-0, Father Murphy, Freestyle (PBS children’s series) and television movies including the acclaimed Diary of Anne Frank, The Five of Me, Rodeo Girl, Killing Stone, The Loneliest Runner, and Mark Twain; Beneath the Laughter for PBS.

Susan cast the feature film Sam’s Son, a semi-biographical story about Michael Landon which was also released as a movie of the week on NBC. Susan then cast the NBC series Highway To Heaven which ran for five years. Susan was then given the opportunity to cast a life long favorite performer, Art Carney in the movie of the week, Where Pigeons Go To Die. That role won Mr. Carney an Emmy nomination. Her work on the two hour movie for television/pilot entitled US starring Michael Landon, was on the CBS schedule to begin a new Landon series for the fall. Sadly, due to the sudden passing of Michael Landon, Susan with partner/producer Kent McCray found themselves producing the acclaimed television movie tribute to their dear friend entitled Memories with Laughter and Love.

Two Bonanza movies of the week for NBC followed. The first starred Oscar winning actor Ben Johnson with co-stars Linda Gray, Dean Stockwell and Richard Roundtree. The second Susan was pleased to cast two major television stars who up to that time, had never been given the opportunity to work on a western – Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy and Law and Order’s Dennis Farina.

When looking at the shows Susan McCray has cast, you can see why she is credited with being responsible for launching numerous television and film careers. Currently with her partner/husband Kent McCray, Susan is developing new motion picture and television projects under the banner of their production company, Ten-K Productions.

Though born in Connecticut, Kent McCray developed his skills nationally; having majored in Theater Arts at the Julius Hart College of Music to then move on to be the only pupil of the legendary Dr. Nagy (formerly of Yale).

Mr. McCray began his career at NBC in 1951 with work on the Colgate Comedy Hour during television’s Golden Age. He later worked with Red Skelton, Ralph Edwards’ This is Your Life and later Bob Hope (including his famed overseas trips).Mr. McCray has worked in all phases of filmmaking; production, post-production, scoring (choosing music for films) and supervising the scoring and dubbing sessions.

Mr. McCray teamed with Michael Landon when he joined Bonanza as Associate Producer and then went on to produce The High Chaparral. Kent ran Michael Landon’s production team for Little House on the Prairie at the behest of Mr. Landon. Mr. McCray later produced Movies of the Week: The Loneliest Runner, Killing Stone and two seasons of the NBC series Father Murphy. Other activity included the feature film Sam’s Son, the Emmy nominated Where Pigeons Go to Die and the CBS/Columbia pilot Us.

After Michael Landon’s death, Kent and his partner/wife Susan McCray, produced the highly acclaimed tribute to Michael Landon, Memories with Laughter and Love.  Mr. McCray is also Co-Partner and Co-Executive Producer of all Adobespaceship Productions.

In May of 1999, Ms. McCray was so impressed with the programs, the students and the rapid growth of the institution at Eastern Connecticut State University, she soon thereafter established The Susan McCray Account for The Theatre Arts via the ECSU Foundation. It was set up to support special initiatives and programs for students within the theatre arts program at Eastern. The following year, Susan made it possible for the ECSU theater students to meet playwright Maggie Brown and produce/perform Ms. Brown’s original play Sophisticated Nuts and Dried Fruits. Ms McCray brought Emmy award winning actor Henry Darrow to Eastern where he not only spoke to Theatre students, he performed his one act play Cervantes on campus.

In May of 2004 The Harry Sukman Master of Music Collection was donated to Eastern Connecticut State University by Ms. Sukman. The collection contains Music scores from well-known composers; Franz Liszt, George Gershwin, Brahms, Beethoven as well as from such lesser known composers as Dimitri Kabalevsky, Abram Khachaturian and Joaquin Turina. Susan felt that the music that inspired her father as a pianist and composer, should be available at Eastern in order to inspire its students, staff, faculty, and friends of the University and its library.

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Maggie Brown
Henry Darrow