Emmy award-winning helmer Alan Rafkin, one of television’s most prolific sitcom directors, died Monday of complications during heart surgery at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 73.
In a career that spanned four decades, Rafkin directed numerous episodes among more than 80 TV series, from “77 Sunset Strip” and “The Andy Griffith Show” to “Suddenly Susan” and “Friends” — seemingly every major skein during the 1960s and ’70s as well as some of the top series of the ’80s and ’90s.
In addition to winning an Emmy in 1982 for “One Day at a Time,” he earned critical acclaim for his work on such shows as “MASH,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Murphy Brown” and more.
After serving in the Korean War, the Long Island native began working in Gotham-based television as assistant stage manager on “Captain Kangaroo,” an experience that inspired the title of his bestselling 1998 memoir, “Cue the Bunny on the Rainbow: Tales from TV’s Most Prolific Sitcom Director.”
His directorial debut came in 1960 when he left his position as an assistant producer on “The Arthur Godrey Show” to follow “The Verdict Was Yours” to Los Angeles. Becoming acquainted with producer Sheldon Leonard, Rafkin was hired to direct such sitcoms as “Make Room for Daddy,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”
He parlayed his TV experience into feature films, where he helmed such Don Knotts vehicles as “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” and “The Shakiest Gun in the West,” as well as “Angel in My Pocket,” starring Jerry Van Dyke and Andy Griffith.
His producing credits include “Love, American Style,” “Fantasy Island” and “Me and the Chimp.”
A mentor to such directors as James Burrows and Jamie Widdoes, he lectured at Northwestern U., the U. of Michigan and his alma mater, Syracuse U.
Rafkin is survived by two daughters, two grandchildren, a brother and a sister.
A celebration of his life will be held at noon on Sept. 9 at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles.