Director Alex Grasshoff dies at 79

Won, returned Oscar in 1969

Director Alex Grasshoff, who won the feature documentary Oscar in 1969 but later had to return it on a technicality, died April 5 after complications from surgery in Los Angeles. He was 79.

Grasshoff and producer Robert Cohn’s film “Young Americans” about the popular singing group, were disappointed when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences disqualified their Oscar win, saying their film had been shown in a theater in 1967 in a test engagement, but was entered in the 1968 Oscar race.

His docus “The Really Big Family” in 1966 and “Journey to the Outer Limits” in 1973 also won Oscar noms. “Journey to the Outer Limits” went on to win an Emmy for documentary program achievement.

He made documentaries throughout the 1960s including the TV series “Hollywood and the Stars” and “National Geographic Specials,” and directed episodic TV such as “ChiPs” and “The Rockford Files.”

He also directed feature films including “The Last Dinosaur” and “Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws.”

Born in Boston, Grasshoff attended Tufts College and USC, and started his career in the Paramount mail room. He worked as an editor at the studio before making his directing debut when he wrote, produced and directed independent film “The Jailbreakers.”

His 1981 film “The Wave” won a Peabody award and an Emmy for children’s program.

He is survived by his wife Madeline and two sisters.

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