Writer, director and occasional producer Walter Doniger, who helmed numerous episodes of ABC’s 1960s primetime soap “Peyton Place,” died Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 94 and had Parkinson’s disease.
During the 1964-69 run of “Peyton Place,” Doniger directed 64 episodes of the show, based on the successful movie of the same name and starring a young Ryan O’Neal.
Doniger began his career working in film starting in the early 1940s, first penning “Mob Town,” “Danger in the Pacific” (both for Universal) and Edgar G. Ulmer’s “Jive Junction.” During WWII the New Yorker helped make training films for the military. In 1949, after an absence of six years, he return to bigscreen work by writing Burt Lancaster starrer “Rope of Sand” and adapting Humphrey Bogart film “Tokyo Joe.”
Over the next several years he scripted films including Raoul Walsh’s “Along the Great Divide,” with Kirk Douglas; “Desperate Search”; Korean War re-creation “Cease Fire!”; and “Alaska Seas,” with Robert Ryan. He also wrote, directed and produced “Duffy of San Quentin”; directed, co-scripted and co-produced “The Steel Cage”; wrote and helmed “The Steel Jungle.” His last bigscreen script was for the 1957 Audie Murphy Western “The Guns of Fort Petticoat.”
By then he had transitioned to the smallscreen and was spending more time directing than writing. During the late 1950s Doniger helmed multiple episodes of “Cheyenne,” “Conflict,” “The Web,” “Tombstone Territory,” “Bold Venture,” “The Rough Riders,” “Bat Masterson” and “Men Into Space.”
In 1962 Doniger returned briefly to feature directing with a pair of films: “House of Women” and the baseball-themed “Safe at Home!,” featuring Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris as themselves.
With much of the next decade largely spent on “Peyton Place,” Doniger directed episodes of “Kung Fu,” “McCloud,” Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “Ellery Queen” and “Black Sheep Squadron,” among other shows, during the 1970s.
In 1983 he wrote, directed and produced the CBS telepic “Kentucky Woman,” starring Cheryl Ladd and Ned Beatty. Doniger’s last credit was as writer-exec producer of the 1991 action feature “Stone Cold,” starring Brian Bosworth.
He is survived by his wife, Susan Stafford Doniger; a son, Tom; and a grandson, Sam.