Comedy scribe wrote for Bob Hope, Oscarcasts
Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Hal Kanter, who penned material for Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and numerous Oscarcasts and created the ground-breaking TV series “Julia,” died Sunday in Encino. He was 92 and died of complications from pneumonia.
Kanter shared Emmys in 1991 and 1992 for writing the Academy Awards after first contributing to the Oscarcast in 1952, a year before the ceremony made the transition from radio to television.
Kanter also directed a number of films, including 1957 Elvis Presley pic “Loving You.” In TV, he made his greatest mark with the comedy “Julia,” a landmark for the TV biz in starring African-American actress Diahann Carroll in a nonstereotypical role. She played a widowed nurse with a young son in the series that ran from 1968-1971 on NBC.
He also served as an exec producer on “All in the Family,” among other shows.
Born in Savannah, Ga., the son of Albert L. Kanter, who founded a successful comicbook line, Kanter began as a comedy writer for radio in the 1930s, then segued into TV as head writer for comedy-variety skein “The Ed Wynn Show” in 1949-50. The man who would later create “Julia” wrote in the early ’50s for “The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show,” a series scorned for the minstrelsy with which it depicted black characters.
Kanter began writing for the bigscreen in 1951. His first effort was “Two Tickets to Broadway.” Starting with “My Favorite Spy” that same year, he wrote or co-wrote a number of films starring Hope, including the 1952 Hope-Crosby effort “Road to Bali,” “Off Limits,” “Here Come the Girls” and “Casanova’s Big Night.” He also penned the 1953 Jerry Lewis-Dean Martin comedy “Money From Home” and later wrote the Elvis pics “Loving You” and “Blue Hawaii” and the Doris Day-James Garner vehicle “Move Over Darling.”
Showing a serious side, Kanter did the adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo” in 1955. Other screenwriting credits include George Cukor’s “Let’s Make Love,” with Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand, and the Frank Capra film “Pocketful of Miracles.”
In the mid-’50s, Kanter created, produced and wrote “The George Gobel Show,” winning his first Emmy for his efforts.
During the 1970s, Kanter wrote and produced for comedies including “All in the Family” and “Chico and the Man” but he gradually shifted focus to TV specials and awards ceremonies, writing “NBC Salutes the 25th Anniversary of the Wonderful World of Disney” and “AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Henry Fonda” in 1978. He began fairly steady work on the Oscarcasts in 1991 which he continued until 2008.
Kanter was heavily involved in activities at the Writers Guild of America, receiving the WGA West’s Valentine Davies Award (for industry/community service) in 1983, the WGA West’s Morgan Cox Award for service to the guild in 2005 and the WGA West’s Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television (a lifetime achievement nod) in 1989.
Kanter also hosted many Writers Guild and Directors Guild of America awards dinners.
Survivors include wife Doris, to whom he was married for 70 years; three daughters: Donna Kanter, a writer, producer and director and owner of the Donna Kanter Co., Lisa Kanter Shafer and Abigail Kanter Jaye; a sister; and a granddaughter.