Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Godspeed Richard Donner

Richard Donner, who directed episodes of such classic TV shows as Wanted: Dead or Alive, Have Gun--Will Travel, and The Twilight Zone, as well as such movies as The Omen (1976), Superman (1978), and Ladyhawke (1985), died yesterday, June 5 2021, at the age of 91.

Richard Donner was born Richard Schwartzberg on April 24 1930 in New York City. He grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. He studied business an theatre arts at New York University. After a stint in the United States Navy, Mr. Donner appeared in small roles on Broadway. He also had small parts on television. It was director Martin Ritt who offered Richard Donner a job as an assistant director.

Richard Donner directed commercials, industrial films, and documentaries before breaking into television with an episode of Zane Grey Theatre in 1960. In the Sixties he would go onto direct several episodes of the shows Have Gun--Will Travel, The Loretta Young Show, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, Sam Benedict, The Twilight Zone, Mr. Novak, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., 12 O'Clock High, and The Banana Splits Hour. He also directed episodes of The DuPont Show with June Allyson, Route 66, The Tall Man, Wagon Train, The Detectives, The Eleventh Hour, Combat!, The Lieutenant, The Nurses, The Travels of Jamie McPheeters, Gilligan's Island, Perry Mason, Get Smart, The F.B.I., The Fugitive, It's About Time, Jericho, The Wild Wild West, and The Felony Squad. In 1961 he broke into movies with the feature film X-15. In the Sixties he also directed the films Salt and Pepper (1968), and Twinky (1970).

It was in the Seventies that Richard Donner became established as a movie director with the horror classic The Omen (1976). He followed it with another hit, Superman (1978). He directed a portion of Superman II, but was ultimately replaced by Richard Lester. He also directed the movie Inside Moves (1980). He continued to work in television, directing episodes of The Interns, Sarge, Bearcats!, The Sixth Sense, Cade County, Ghost Story, Banyon, Ironside, The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, Lucas Tanner, Sons and Daughters, Petrocelli, Kojak, and Bronk. He also directed the TV movies Hernandez, Nightside, Stat!, The Shadow in the Streets, and Sarah T.--Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic.

In the Eighties Mr. Donner directed the dark fantasy movie Ladyhawke (1985), Lethal Weapon (1987) and Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), and the parody of A Christmas Carol, Scrooged (1988). He also directed the films The Toy (1982) and The Goonies (1985). On television he directed episodes of the show Tales from the Crypt. In the Nineties he directed the movies Radio Flyer (1992), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), Maverick (1994), Assassins (1995), Conspiracy Theory (1997), and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). He directed an episode of Tales from the Crypt and the segment "Showdown" for the TV pilot movie Two-Fisted Tales (based on the EC comic book of the same name).

In the Naughts Richard Donner directed the movies Timeline (2003) and 16 Blocks (2006). He also served as a producer on many of the films he directed and as well as such diverse movies as Bordello of Blood (1996) and X-Men (2000). On television he served as a producer on the shows Tales from the Crypt and Perversions of Science.

Richard Donner was a remarkable director. With regards to television, he directed some of the best remembered episodes ever. He directed the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," in which William Shatner watched a gremlin on the wing of a plane. He also directed the second episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., "The Iowa-Scuba Affair," in which Napoleon Solo must travel to Iowa to stop a saboteur at a secret U.S. Air Force base. He directed episodes of such classic shows as Wanted: Dead or Alive, Have Gun--Will Travel, and The Twilight Zone. Beyond classic television show episodes, Mr. Donner also directed classic movies, including The Omen, Superman, Ladyhawke, Lethal Weapon, and Scrooged. What makes his work in both television and film remarkable is that Richard Donner worked in a variety of genres. He directed works of horror, comedy, science fiction, fantasy, and straight forward drama. He was very versatile as a director.

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