Norman Klenman was born in Brandon, Manitoba on August 2, 1923. In 1934, the family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. Klenman attended Kitsilano Junior and Senior High School, where he developed an interest in journalism, writing for the school’s monthly broadsheet KHS Life and reporting on junior sports for The Vancouver Province.
After graduating in 1942, he took first year Arts at the University of British Columbia (UBC) before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force in March 1943. In 1945 he graduated as a Pilot Officer, Observer (Navigator B Coastal Command), and briefly taught at Stevenson Field in Winnipeg. Klenman returned to UBC in September 1945 and majored in English and History.
Over the next few years he wrote sports columns for The Vancouver Sun, magazine articles and CBC radio dramas. After graduating with an M.A. in 1949, Klenman joined Reuters News Agency in London and also wrote a series of children’s plays for BBC Television. Upon the invitation of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), Klenman moved to Ottawa in 1952, and spent the next three years writing film documentaries and short dramas.
In 1954, he left the NFB and moved to Toronto to write freelance and to work for CBC Television as a series head writer (show-runner) for documentary, variety, public affairs and drama programs. In 1958 he formed Klenman-Davidson Productions Ltd. with William Davidson to produce two Canadian feature films, Now That April’s Here (1958) and The Fast Ones (1959). In 1964, Klenman was recruited by Westinghouse Network to write for the Steve Allen Show in Los Angeles, and later ABC Television invited him to write for the Les Crane Show in New York. The following year the Klenman family moved to Sherman Oaks, California, where they retained a residence until 1989, although Klenman spent the majority of his time in Vancouver after 1975.
In California, Klenman was primarily a freelance writer for television networks and film studios, although he worked for a short time as a writer for the 20th Century Fox Studio and became a series staff writer for Universal Studios, working on the serial drama The Survivors. He also wrote for the Canadian television series The Starlost in 1973.
Norman’s broad range of writing experience in Canada, the U.S. and Britain made him aware that writers for television in Canada were significantly undervalued, and over several years in the 1950s he was a leader in securing the formation of the International Writers Union, and having Canadian writers given the same recognition and respect as was accorded to the actors for whom they wrote. Norman was instrumental in achieving the signing of the first Writers contract with the CBC, under the umbrella of ACTRA, an achievement of which he was justly proud.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Klenman formed Galanty Productions Limited (Galanty Limited), Bull and Bear Productions, The Canadian Kinetoscope Company Limited, Canadian Cinematographic Productions Limited and The Canadian Talking Picture Company Limited, with Daryl Duke and Edgar Cowan. These Toronto-based companies produced several hour-long 3 documentary programs for CTV, and Galanty Productions Limited was a founding partner of CITY-TV in Toronto in the late 1960s.
In 1975, Klenman and Duke established Western Approaches Limited, which acquired a license to open the independent Vancouver television station CKVU-TV in 1976. In 1989, they sold their interest in the station to CanWest Broadcasting. In 1990, Klenman retired to Salt Spring Island and published the internet journal The Salt Spring Island Tatler for ten years. In retirement, Klenman continues to edit other screen writers’ work and has completed several original feature film screenplays of his own. He currently resides in Surrey, British Columbia
Our thanks to Melanie Hardbattle, Norman Klenman fonds,
Simon Fraser University Library, Special Collections and Rare Books