Leo Penn, an Emmy-winning television director and actor, died Saturday of cancer in Los Angeles. He was 77.
Father of actor-director Sean, Penn won his Emmy in 1973 for directing a two-hour episode of “Columbo” called “Any Port in a Storm.”
Best known for directing more than 400 hours of primetime television, his credits include “I Spy,” “Matlock,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Magnum, P.I.” and “Diagnosis Murder.”
In addition to his work in television, Penn also directed two feature films, “A Man Called Adam” (1966), starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Cicely Tyson, and “Judgment in Berlin” (1988), starring Martin Sheen.
Penn began his career as an actor on stage and in films. He met the woman he would marry, Eileen Ryan, when the two had leading roles for the 1950s Broadway production of “The Iceman Cometh.” He appeared in several other plays, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Of Mice and Men.”
Penn also had a contract with Paramount, the result of his appearance in a college play. He studied drama at UCLA.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Penn was blacklisted from Hollywood for a decade, after attending meetings of actors sympathetic to the trade union and speaking out in support of the Hollywood Ten.
He made a living during those years by working as an actor in television.
After returning to films in 1959 as an actor in “The Story on Page One,” Penn decided that he wanted to pursue directing and got a job on the new television series “Ben Casey.”
From there he went on to direct for several television series, including “Little House on the Prairie,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Hart to Hart,” “Cagney & Lacey,” “Remington Steele” and “In the Heat of the Night.”
In recent years, Penn returned to acting, appearing with his wife in the 1995 film “Crossing Guard,” which was directed by son Sean. His latest performance was in the 1997 play “Remembrance,” which Sean produced at the Odyssey Theater in West Los Angeles.
In addition to his wife and Sean, he is survived by two other sons, Michael, a singer-songwriter, and Chris, an actor.