Emmy winner Fielder Cook, director of hard-hitting and warmhearted dramas during TV’s early golden age and who continued in later years into film and miniseries, died Friday June 20 in Charlotte, N.C., after suffering a stroke. He was 80.
Among his many classics were Rod Serling’s “Patterns” (both the TV drama and its 1956 film version), a drama about corporate abuse, starring Van Heflin and Ed Begley; 1986’s “Seize the Day,” starring Robin Williams in the adaptation of Saul Bellow’s 1956 novella; Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”; “Will There Really Be a Morning?” about actress Frances Farmer; “Miles to Go Before I Sleep”; and episodes of “The Defenders,” “Ben Casey” and other TV classics.
But he also branched out with comedy western “A Big Hand for the Little Lady,” starring Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward; sex farce “Prudence and the Pill” (1968), starring Deborah Kerr and David Niven; and heartwarming telepic “The Homecoming,” which turned into the long-running 1970s series “The Waltons.”
He won Emmys for a TV version of the Lerner & Loewe musical “Brigadoon,” starring Robert Goulet, and for Arthur Miller’s “The Price.” His last gig was 1997’s USA Network remake of Carson McCullers’ “The Member of the Wedding,” starring Anna Paquin and Alfre Woodard. Remembered as quick, witty, efficient and yet the quintessential gracious Southern gentleman, he was also known for his taste (in clothes, life and pics) and a knack for crafting smaller films and TV programs.
Atlanta native grew up in Tampa, Fla., and graduated from Washington and Lee U. He served in the Navy during WWII, after which he took up directing in New York City, helming such TV classics as “Kraft Television Theatre,” “Playhouse 90” and “Kaiser Aluminum Hour.” (He happened to direct the last “Kraft” and the last “Playhouse 90” productions.)
He is survived by wife Katherine, two daughters and four grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for the fall.