Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Herbert B. Leonard R.I.P.

Television producer Herbert B. Leonard died at age 84 on October 14. Among the series he produced were Naked City and Route 66.

Leonard was born in New York City on October 8, 1922. His first major job in the film industry was as a Production Manager on the serial The Vigilante: Fighting Hero of the West in 1947. Over the next several years he would work as a Production Manager on such serials and B movies as Batman and Robin (1949), Pirates of the High Seas, Atom Man Vs. Superman, The Golden Hawk, and The Law Vs. Billy the Kid.

Leonard entered television in 1954 as a executive producer on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. He also produced Circus Boy (the first major vehicle for Monkee Micky Dolenz, then billed as Micky Braddock), Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers, and Rescue 8. It was with the Sixties that Leonard's career really took off. He produced two hit series, Route 66 and Naked City. Route 66 followed the adventures of two young men wandering the highway of that name in a Corvette. Naked City was one of the earliest examples of the gritty police drama. From television Leonard moved into movies, although he had little success there. Among the films he produced were The Perils of Pauline in 1967 and Popi in 1969. He returned to television, producing TV movies and a few short lived series, although he would never have another hit like Route 66 or Naked City.

Leonard also tried his hand at directing. He directed the 1967 version of The Perils of Pauline and the movie Going Home (both of which he also produced).

Leonard produced some of the best television in the Fifties and Sixties. The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin was a hit and would be rerun for years after its initial run. Both Route 66 and Naked City were roaring successes and are considered classics to this day. With three hit series under his belt, Leonard could be argued to be one of the more successful TV producers in the history of the medium (most producers are lucky to have even one hit series). While I seriously doubt the average person even recognises his name, I rather suspect the shows Herbert B. Leonard produced will be remembered for a long time to come.

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