David Greene, Emmy-winning British director whose work includes landmark ’70s miniseries “Roots” and “Rich Man, Poor Man,” died April 7 of pancreatic cancer at his home in Ojai, Calif. He was 82.
Manchester, England, native began his showbiz career as an actor. In 1951, he appeared in the Stateside tour of “Antony and Cleopatra” with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. After the production’s close, he stayed in North America, pursuing work as a helmer in Canada and later the U.S.
He began directing TV episodes of “Playhouse 90” in the 1950s and later worked on such series as “The Twilight Zone” (“A Piano in the House”), “The Defenders,” “The Nurse” and “The Saint.”
In the mid-’60s, he directed his first feature, the deranged-twin-sister-in-the-attic horror film “The Shuttered Room” (1967), with Gig Young and Oliver Reed. He followed up with spy spoof “Sebastian” (1968), with Dirk Bogarde and John Gielgud; gritty cop drama “The Strange Affair” (1968), co-starring Michael York and Susan George; and 1969 slasher pic “I Start Counting,” featuring Jenny Agutter.
In 1970 he helmed “The People Next Door,” about a couple with a drug-addicted daughter. He returned to the bigscreen for the adaptation of legit tuner “Godspell” (1973), which he also co-wrote.
After 1975 telepic “The Count of Monte Cristo,” Greene directed four segments of eight-parter “Rich Man, Poor Man.” (Boris Sagal helmed the other four.) He followed that by directing the first episode of “Roots,” the adaptation of Alex Halley’s book that ran for eight consecutive nights on ABC in 1977 and was viewed by a record 100 million people. His work brought him one of his several Emmys.
In 1979, Greene would win another Emmy for “Friendly Fire,” a drama about parents (Carol Burnett and Ned Beatty) trying to find out about how their son died in Vietnam.
He then worked on such fact-based projects as “Fatal Vision” (1984), “The Betty Ford Story” (1987), the Liberace segment of “Behind the Music” in 1998 and “Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story” in 1992. He continued to direct into his mid-70s.
Off the set, Greene was involved in civil rights orgs including Amnesty Intl., the American Civil Liberties Union, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Native American Rights Fund and the Campaign for Economic Democracy.
Greene is survived by wife Kelly and four children.