Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TV Director Lamont Johnson R.I.P.

Lamont Johnson, an actor who became an award winning television director, passed on October 24, 2010 at the age of 88.

Lamont Johnson was born in Stockton, California on September 30, 1922. He grew up in Pasadena, California, and attended Pasadena City College. It was while there that he began acting in radio shows. He studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse and attended UCLA prior the outbreak of World War II. Because of his health Mr. Johnson was unable to serve in the military during the war, but became part of the USO. He performed for troops in Europe. Following World War II he directed plays in California. As an actor he made his film debut in 1951 in an uncredited role in Up Front. He made his television debut in an episode of The Lone Wolf in 1954. During the Fifties he appeared in such films as Retreat, Hell (1952), Sally and Saint Anne (1952), The Glory Brigade (1953), The Human Jungle (1954), Please Murder Me (1956), The Brothers Rico (1957), and Jet Pilot (1957). He appeared in such shows as The Loretta Young Show, Justice, Schlitz Playhouse, Climax, Norby, The Millionaire, Stage 7, Ford Television Theatre, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Treasury Men in Action, Goodyear Playhouse, Cavalcade of America, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Matinee Theatre, Steve Canyon, and Alcoa Theatre.

In 1955 Lamount Johnson directed his first television episode, an episode of Matinee Theatre in 1955. He would go onto direct several episodes of Steve Canyon and several episodes of Have Gun--Will Travel. He also directed episodes of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Johnny Ringo, Five Fingers, Mr. Lucky, Peter Gunn, and Naked City. In the Sixties his career shifted primarily to directing. He directed episodes of such shows as The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, The Rifleman, Bus Stop, Dr. Kildare, The Twilight Zone, The Richard Boone Show, The Defenders, Coronet Blue, The Name of the Game, and Judd for the Defence. In 1970 he directed the award winning telefilm My Sweet Charlie, which dealt with an interracial romance. He directed his first feature film, McKenzie Break, released in 1970. Mr. Johnson continued to act occasionally, guest starring on Profiles in Courage, The Blue Light, The Big Valley, Felony Squad, and Gunsmoke.

In the Seventies Lamont Johnson directed the feature films A Gunfight (1971), The Groundstar Conspiracy (1972), You'll Like My Mother (1972),The Last American Hero (1973), Visit to a Chief's Son (1974), Lipstick (1976), One on One (1977), and Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978). He directed the award winning, critically acclaimed TV movie That Certain Summer in 1972, which dealt with homosexuality, as well as the critically acclaimed telefilms Fear on Trial (1975) and The Execution of Private Slovik in 1976. He acted one last time in the feature film One on One.

In the Eighties Mr. Johnson directed several TV movies, including Off the Minnesota Strip, Cattle Annie and Little Britches, Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter, and Lincoln. He also directed the mini-series The Kennedys of Massachusetts and an episode of Fairie Tale Theatre. He also directed the feature film Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. In the Nineties he directed such telefilms as The Broken Chain, The Man Next Door, and All the Winters That Have Been. His last work was directing an episode of Felicity in 2000.

Lamont Johnson was a very talented directed who was skilled in dealing sensitively with controversial subjects. My Sweet Charlie dealt with an interracial romance. That Certain Summer dealt with homosexuality. The Execution of Private Slovik dealt with the only soldier executed for desertion since the War Between the States. He was also able to deal quite well with historical subjects, from the Hollywood blacklist (Fear on Trial) to Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln). While most TV movies are forgettable, those directed by Lamont Johnson will be remembered for years to come.

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