Dwight Hemion, a TV producer and director who specialized in concert performance specials, died Jan. 28 as a result of renal failure in Virginia. He was 81.
Known as the most Emmy-nommed director and producer, Hemion received 46 nominations from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He won 18 Emmys in in a career that spanned more than 50 years, as well as five Directors Guild awards, six Ace awards and a Peabody award.
Hemion directed specials for artists including Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, Bette Midler and Bing Crosby as well as inaugural galas for Presidents Reagan and Clinton.
Born in New Haven, Conn., he served as an Air Force belly-gunner on bombers in the Pacific during WWII. He started his career as a go-fer at ABC and then became director of the “Tonight” show with Steve Allen. He also directed the “Perry Como” series for 11 years.
He established himself as an award-winning director with Frank Sinatra’s “A Man and his Music” and a series of Barbra Streisand specials, beginning with her first two “My Name is Barbara” and “Color Me Barbara.” His special “Singer Presents Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass” was one of the highest rated performer specials ever.
In 1963 Hemion formed a partnership with Gary Smith and took over “Kraft Music Hall.” Their company moved to London in 1971, accepting an offer from British media mogul Lord Lew Grade. For the next four years they created shows for artists including Burt Bachrach, Jackie Gleason, Glenn Campbell, Julie Andrews, Sammy Davis Jr. and the Muppets. They also produced a new musical version of “Peter Pan” starring Danny Kaye and Mia Farrow.
His other credits include “The American Bicentennial Celebration from Ellis Island” in 1976, three Shirley Maclaine specials; “Pavarotti and Friends” and the original Screen Actors Guild Awards program.
In the 1990s he continued working on specials including the “Kennedy Center Honors” and the ‘Barbra Streisand Tour’ for which he won the Ace Award, an Emmy and the Directors Guild Award.
Hemion is survived by his wife, Katherine Hemion; a daughter; a son; three stepchildren; five granddaughters and a grandson.