You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Karl Genus

Television production pioneer

Emmy-nommed Karl Genus, a pioneer in television production and active in the reorganization that formed the Directors Guild of America, died May 29 of a heart attack at his Asheville, N.C., home. He was 84.

Born Genus Carl Benson to Swedish-American parents in Bridgeport, Conn., he was raised in Detroit, where he developed a theatrical bent. After attending Albion College and graduating from the Pasadena Playhouse (where he took the stage name Karl Genus), he worked with the National Catholic Dramatic Movement in Milwaukee and directed at the Michiana Shores Summer Theater (with Richard Kiley and Steve Allen as apprentices).

WWII intervened, during which he served in the Army Air Corps, running the “Chinese Detachment” that taught 10,000 Nationalist Chinese enough English to take flight training from American instructors.

After the war, he became principal director at the Kalamazoo Civic Theater and the Harrisburg Civic Theater. With his wife Muriel and children, he founded and for three summers ran the Totem Pole Playhouse (now in its 53rd year) in Fayetteville, Penn., before coming to New York in 1952 and joining CBS during the movement of theatrical directors and stage managers into the new medium of television.

He subsequently directed hundreds of programs during the “golden age” of early television, including soap operas, “Studio One,” “Playhouse 90” and “Westinghouse Summer Theater.”

Credited as the first to take early videotape recorders out of the studio for major productions, he shot on remote the drama “A Sleep of Prisoners” with John Voight 1965 for National Educational Television, a full-length dance (“Carmina Burana,” 1964, also for NET) and music documentary (“New Orleans Jazz,” 1962 for WYES and NET). In 1966 he directed Maxwell Anderson’s “The Star Wagon” with Dustin Hoffman, Orson Bean and Eileen Brennan.

A lifelong organizer (including his student days), he was a shop steward at CBS and later president of the Radio and Television Directors Guild. In the early 1960s, he was the lead Eastern director in the merger of Eastern and Western directors into the Directors Guild of America and served as a vice president of the DGA for 26 years.

During his career, he received six Emmy noms, 19 Clios, a Finlandia Award for “Sibelius, A Symphony for Finland,” and an Intl. Golden Eagle.

The last 20 years of his life were devoted to developing spiritual film projects, a quest which took him to India, England, Florida and Black Mountain, N.C.

He is survived by his partner, Beverly Jones; his former wife, Muriel Benson; two children, Terry Benson, a stage manager in New York City, and Tiane C. Benson of Washington; and two grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the Caledonia Theater Co. (the foundation at the Totem Pole Playhouse) P.O. Box 603, Fayetteville, PA 17222-0603.

More Scene

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron attends the 44th Annual

    Alfonso Cuarón to LAFCA: 'Thanks to Your Help We Can Break Down Walls'

    Inclusion was the big winner at the L.A. Film Critics Association Awards, which was held Saturday night at the InterContinental in Century City. “This year’s winners are the most diverse in LAFCA’s 43-year history,” announced its president, Claudia Puig, adding that 14 out of their 18 awards were won by women and people of color. [...]

  • Mandatory Credit: Photo by Max Malandrino/REX/Shutterstock

    Hollywood Power Players Assemble to Save Iconic Deli Nate 'n Al

    A group of Hollywood executives and celebrities have banded together with the intent to save Beverly Hills deli and star haunt Nate ‘n Al, a stone’s throw from tourist destination Rodeo Drive. A consortium of investors including music kingpin Irving Azoff and wife Shelli, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Jeff Shell, and Rande Gerber and [...]

  • Charlie Collier, FOX Chief Executive Officer

    'The Passage' Team Talks Diversifying Races, Genders and Ages of Book Characters

    “The Passage” star Saniyya Sidney was unaware that the book version of her character was originally white until her father, a fan of Justin Cronin’s apocalyptic trilogy, informed her during the audition process. “I was like, ‘Oh, she is?'” Sidney told Variety at Thursday’s series premiere in Santa Monica, Calif. “And when I got it, [...]

  • KiKi Layne and Stephan James'If Beale

    Regina King Praised by 'If Beale Street Could Talk' Co-Stars for New 50/50 Initiative

    Two days had passed since Kiki Layne and Stephan James had attended their first Golden Globes and the “If Beale Street Could Talk” co-stars were still trying to wrap their heads around having been there. “It was such a special night — and pretty unreal,” says James, who was also nominated for his work opposite Julia Roberts [...]

  • Steven Van Zandt, Edie Falco, Tony

    'The Sopranos' 20th Anniversary Reunion: Cast, Producers Remember James Gandolfini

    Jan. 9’s 20th anniversary reunion of the cast and producers of HBO’s “The Sopranos” was a raucous family gathering from its first moments. “I saw a picture of myself in the newspaper,” series creator David Chase said at the start of the event. “And I thought, 20 years. Jesus Christ.” “People come up to me,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content