Versatile Amateau, 79, straddled pic, TV biz

Writer, producer and director

Writer, producer and director Rod Amateau died June 29 in Los Angeles at Cedars-Sinai Hospital of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He was 79.

Born in New York City, he started his career as a writer for CBS Radio, later moving to California, where he worked as a stunt double for Humphrey Bogart (and later for James Dean on “Rebel Without a Cause”).

He quickly moved up the ladder at 20th Century Fox, from junior writer to dialogue director to test director and second-unit director, a post in which he worked with Robert Rossen, Nicholas Ray and Sam Peckinpah.

Amateau made his directorial debut with “The Bushwackers” in 1952 and then went to India to direct “Monsoon.”

He also carved out a substantial career in television as a producer, director and writer of CBS skeins such as “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show,” Ann Sothern starrer “Private Secretary,” “Dobie Gillis” and “The Phil Silvers Show” as well as NBC’s “The Bob Cummings Show.”

Amateau also directed the pilot for “Gilligan’s Island” as well as various telepics and segments of “General Electric Theater” with Joan Crawford, Ronald Reagan and Lee Marvin.

Returning to the bigscreen, he directed films both in the U.S. and in Europe, including Peter Sellers’ “Where Does It Hurt?” (1972). He wrote “The Wilby Conspiracy” (1975), which starred Michael Caine and Sidney Poitier, and directed the action sequences for the film.

Amateau wrote an unpublished novel about Tom Mix called “Sunset,” which was made into a feature helmed by Blake Edwards starring James Garner and Bruce Willis. He returned to television producing with “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Amateau retired after directing “The Garbage Pail Kids Movie,” which starred Anthony Newley.

He was married four times: to actress Coleen Gray; Broadway musical performer Joan Andre; Sandra Burns (daughter of George Burns and Gracie Allen); and to his surviving wife of 42 years, Charlene Schneider, a wardrobe supervisor. Amateau also leaves two sons two daughters and four grandchildren.

At the request of the family, there will be no public memorial.

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